Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Catherine West {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Catherine...

Award-winning author Catherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or reading books by her favorite authors. She and her husband have two grown children. Catherine’s novel, Bridge of Faith, won the 2015 Grace Award. Her new novel, The Things We Knew, releases July 12th, 2016, through Harper Collins Christian Publishing. Catherine loves to connect with her readers and can be reached at

Connect with Catherine...

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Get to know Catherine...

You and Writing

Lets talk about you and writing...

I’ve been writing for many years now. I started way back when my daughter was a baby. It was a few years after that, when both my kids were in school, that I began to pursue publication. At first I wasn’t sure I really wanted to get published, but the I shared my work, the more encouragement I received, and the dream was born. It hasn’t been an easy road at all, but there have been so many blessing along the way. I have the best agent, and she has been a great supporter of me from day one, and last year when we finally landed a 2 book deal with my dream publisher, Harper Collins, I think she was almost more excited than I was!

Your Writing

Let's talk about your book...

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why? 
I love all of the characters in The Things We Knew, but if I had to pick, I’d say Gray and Cecily are my two favorite characters. Cecily, because she’s so filled with hope and wisdom, she just makes you feel better. And she’s a great baker and cook. :-) And Gray. Oh, man is he a messed up soul in need of a come to Jesus moment. :-) But there’s something about him I identify with in a way. I know what it’s like to feel you don’t have much hope to hold onto, and I also know what it means to have friends and family come alongside and see you through those hard times.
What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with? 
As in most of my stories, hope and grace are very prevalent in The Things We Knew. Although all the characters in the book have their own struggles, there is always hope that things will get better. The story is really about seeking truth, and I think most of us can identify with this. Secrets and lies are dangerous, it really is the truth that sets us free.

Were your characters easy to pin down or did you discover them along the way as you wrote the book?
My characters always seem to take on a life of their own. This was true for all of them in The Things We Knew. Lynette grew the most, I kept having to write her differently in every edit, because she was growing stronger and I needed to make sure her personal growth was obvious. Each of the siblings have their own story, their own history. While we don’t get to see all of their stories in this book, I was always thinking about them, and hope perhaps one day I will get to share those with my readers as well.

What made you choose the setting for the book?
Because I live on an island myself, I felt the setting of Nantucket would be somewhat familiar. The story could really take place anywhere, I suppose, but as it turns out, the setting became a character too, playing a huge part in the mood of certain scenes, stormy weather especially. :-)


Let’s talk about your writing life...

How long did you write before you got published?
Years. LOL. Literally, it was years. I was almost at the point of thinking it wasn’t going to happen, and then I got my first contract for Yesterday’s Tomorrow back in 2011.

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”?
The biggest thing for me is learning to have faith in yourself. And for some people, this can be really hard. Especially if you’re facing rejection and you just don’t know why. But if you believe you’ve been gifted, you somehow find the strength to persevere and the faith to know that one day, it will happen.

Are you a Panster or Plotter?
Panstser all the way! I like to plot inasmuch as having a rough idea of where I am going with the story, occupations, ages of characters and good character sketches before I begin a story, but that’s about as far as I get, because the story always takes on a life of it’s own somehow. :-)

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
I love starting a story. That’s the most exciting part, when ideas are fresh and new and you just can’t wait to get it all written down. And then comes the middle . . . that’s not so fun. LOL! But once I can push through that part, the rest seems to flow naturally. Editing is my least favorite part, especially when you’re looking at cutting a lot of words. But I know it’s a necessary evil, so I suck it up and just get on with it.

What did you learn along the path to publishing that you’d care to share as encouragement? Patience!! Actually, I am not convinced I’ve learned that lesson yet. :-) But honestly, it’s very rare for an author to ‘make-it’ overnight. Often it takes several tries to land an agent, and even then, you don’t always get a contract right away. I think most new writers need to accept this going in, and understand that if they want to be traditionally published, they may be in for a wait. I’ve also learned how very important friendships with other authors are. You really need to be in community with people who truly understand this journey, and will walk it with you. That kind of support and encouragement is invaluable. And learning to write well is a process. I don’t believe even the best writers will ever get to the point where they feel they ‘know it all’. I’m constantly learning and trying to improve my work. The goal of course is to get better with each book, but most of all, have fun with it. :-)

How do you grow in your writing craft?
I maintain relationship with other authors, talk writing and craft and learn from those who’ve been at this a lot longer than me. Going to writers conferences is very important to me. I attend ACFW every year that I can. The teaching and fellowship found there is invaluable. I probably wouldn’t be published if I hadn’t found this wonderful organization!

How do you balance your writing life with “real” life? Any tips or tricks to share?
Ha. I think I’m still figuring this out!! Since being contracted, I really have to keep to a schedule, so I try to write as much as I can during the day, taking breaks to play with and walk my dog. I try to work out early, then go into my ‘office’ to work, rather than just lounging on the couch with my laptop. And when I’m on deadline, I turn off social media, and check in as a reward for however many hours I’ve worked. That’s probably my biggest challenge though, staying offline!

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How did you like to celebrate the 4th of July?
Bermuda is a British colony, so we don’t celebrate the 4th of July. :-)

What is your favorite activity during the summer?
Probably swimming. Mid-July through the end of September, it’s very hot and humid here, so the only way to really be outside is to be in the water.

Share a personal freedom you’ve experienced.
Last year was quite a challenging one for me. I’d received what we thought was really positive news regarding my writing back in the fall of 2014. By January 2015, we knew that wasn’t going to happen. And it hit me hard. I wasn’t exactly sure how it would all play out or where I was going with my writing. I’d been slogging away with my Indie books, but I knew that wasn’t where I really wanted to be. My dream had always been to write for a major publishing house. After a few really hard months, I finally surrendered everything, and I mean everything, to God. I told Him, “I don’t know what your plan is in all this, but I trust You with it.” I started to heal at that point, and life began to feel a little saner. It was literally about a month later that my agent contacted me to let me know I’d been offered a 2 book deal with Harper Collins. I think I stared at those words for a long time before I realized what had happened. As soon as I let go, I gave God room to move. It was an amazing lesson. One I should know, but obviously I needed that reminder. :-) The freedom in fully trusting God is really astounding, isn’t it?

What are you currently reading?
I just finished The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron, which was excellent, and I’m now reading The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah. I don’t have nearly as much time to read as I wish I had!!

Emilie here: Thank you for being my guest Cathy! I've enjoyed The Things We Knew so far - sadly I've been swamped with moving but I'll finish it soon!

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Changed Agent by Tracey J. Lyons | New Novel News

A Changed Agent
by Tracey J. Lyons

Published: July 19, 2016
From: Waterfall Press
Purchase: A Changed Agent

When schoolteacher Elsie Mitchell meets rugged William Benton on a train platform in Albany, it appears they have nothing in common. He isn’t the sort of fellow a proper young woman of the 1890s would ever speak to, much less become involved with. But when she arrives at her small town in the Adirondack Mountains, Elsie is offered a job as caregiver for this mysterious out-of-towner’s niece and nephew, who’ve been tragically orphaned. Heartbroken for them, she accepts.

Unknown to her, William is an undercover Pinkerton agent posing as a lumber-company foreman. He’s never wanted family—his work is too dangerous. Yet as Elsie transforms his house into a home and he spends time with the children, he feels drawn to family life—and to Elsie.

As a good Christian, Elsie is troubled by William’s secrets…though she does find him intriguing. And when a sinister figure from her past arrives, Elsie and William will have to trust in faith and newfound love to protect their unlikely family from danger.

Get to know Tracey...

Favorite place you’ve traveled to? 
I absolutely love staying in Key West. I like to think that my literary people are there! With all those Hemingway vibes I feel right at home.

What are you reading right now? 
Cindy Nord’s fabulous civil war novel, No Greater Glory.

Do you have a nickname? Yes Care to share?
My sister likes to call me spit fire!

An Amazon Top Ten bestselling historical romance author of the Women of Surprise series, Tracey sold her first book on 9/9/99! Her books have been translated into several languages and are available in print, digital and audio formats. Tracey lives with her husband in New York’s Hudson Valley region. She has appeared on the award winning Cox Cable Television show, Page One and on the stage of Lady Jane’s reading salon in New York City. She holds membership in Romance Writers of America, American Fiction Christian Writers and Novelists Inc. A true upstate New Yorker, Tracey believes you should write what you know. Her historical romances are all set in the New York State area. Tracey considers herself a small town gal who writes small town romances.

Connect with her on her webssite:

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Accelerant by Ronie Kendig | Cover Reveal

I am over-the-moon excited for Ronie Kendig's next fantasy release, Accelerant coming October 14,2016!

From Embers:


Haegan and Kaelyria Celahar are royal heirs of the Nine Kingdoms, but Haegan is physically crippled. What chance does he have against Poired Dyrth, the greatest enemy the kingdom has ever faced, who wields fire with a power none can match?

Their only hope is forbidden: Kaelyria must transfer her fire-harnessing abilities to Haegan. When she does it comes with a terrible price: Haegan's disability is healed, but only by being transferred to Kaelyria. This act unleashes their father-king's wrath.

Haegan must flee the kingdom alone with two impossible tasks: Find a cure for Kaelyria and stop the coming war with the omnipotent Poired Dyrth.

Book One in the "Abiassa's Fire" series.

Read my review of Embers here.

And now, because you've all been so patient, I'm excited to introduce you to Accelerant...

Ahhh! >Sits and stares at screen for several minutes< Isn't it stunning? Dare I say this cover is HOT! I mean, just wow. I loved the Embers cover so much and this is just as fantastic if not better. I don't know thought...I'm not sure I can make that call and thankfully I don't have to!

But wait, there's more!

Pre-Order NOW because the first 50 people who pre-order and send their receipt/proof of purchase to Ronie will get a fun goodie bag of bookish items. Woohoo!

And I'll let you in on a little secret...these items will come from my Etsy shop and will be specially designed by me! I'm super excited to partner with Ronie to create some fun Accelerant merch.

So make sure you go pre-order NOW and add this beauty to your Goodreads list HERE.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Karis Waters {Writer Wednesday}

I realize this isn't Wednesday...oops! But either way I'm excited for you to get to know Karis a little better. Enjoy!

A little bit about Karis...

Writer. Photographer. Globe-trotter. Believes dark chocolate aids creativity. Editor at Crosshair Press. Author of action and space opera.

Connect with Karis...

Crosshair Press:
Twitter: @CPKarisWaters
Instagram: Create.Explore.Illuminate.

Get to know Karis...

Let's talk about you and writing...
How did you start writing? 
When I was young I would mentally rewrite book endings that I didn’t like. In early high school a couple friends invited me to write stories with them, and I’ve been writing fiction ever since.

What has kept you writing? 
I love the power of words and character to ignite the imagination and transport you to someplace new. I love meeting new characters and seeing other people have the fun of getting to know my imaginary friends.

What or who is the biggest influence in your writing? 
Some people say my book reads like a movie, which makes sense because I draw inspiration from a variety of movies and tv shows. Other than that, my co-author, Carrie Lemke, and my best friend, Amy Williams (whose is also my business partner and I edit many of her books) have the most influence.

Why do you write? 
I love seeing worlds take shape and characters come to life. My imaginary worlds and friends are my safe place in a crazy world, and I just can’t stay away. It makes me sound crazy, but my characters feel like the type of friends who are family. I can’t stop writing, because as long as I keep writing, they keep living.

Your Writing

Let's talk about your book...

Do you have a favorite character in this work?
I love them all for different reasons—Stef’s hilarious antics, Jena’s kindness, Kris’s passion for her work, Eser’s snark, Savas’s grumpiness hiding the softie inside, Kenan’s…Kenan-ness…but Bener is perhaps a shade dearer than the rest. Tough, fiercely protective of his family, gentle, funny, thoughtful, smart. What’s not to love?

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
I hope readers are challenged to see people and stereotypes in a different light and remember we are all people in desperate need of a savior.

What’s the theme? How did you come up with it?
What was a challenge you faced while writing it? Carrie and I wrote the entirety of Kenan long-distance using Skype and Google docs. I lived in England and traveled frequently, and she was working night shift as a nurse at the time, so scheduling writing times was definitely a challenge!

Is there a funny story associated with writing the book?
This series actually began as a Star Wars fanfiction! After writing a four-book series, we decided we had something really special with the characters we’d created and “transported” them into a completely new universe with an original backstory. The initial legwork to shift the characters into a new context and find their new interpersonal dynamics has been a challenge and on-going process, but we are absolutely in love with the result.

Were your characters easy to pin down or did you discover them along the way as you wrote the book?
The base-line for the characters was very well established when we started writing Kenan, but the details and nuances of interactions have been pleasant surprises along the way.

What made you choose the setting for the book?
Due to current events, I was really interested in exploring the tensions between Europe and the Arab nations and how racial friction is shaping the landscape of these countries. This concept fit well with the characters and provided a backdrop conducive to the story we wanted to tell.

What's the most random thing you had to Google for the story?
Probably where to shoot a person so they don’t die immediately. We also used Google maps extensively to plan our routes and nail down a realistic timeline for the book as our characters went on the run across Europe.

What was one thing (or character) that surprised you while writing this book?
When we decided to “revamp” our characters into our own original storyline, we were worried we wouldn’t be able to capture the relationships and characters we fell in love with in our fanfiction series. To our surprise and delight, apparently they like having their own space to play and have brought even greater dimension to their story in “Kenan.”

What’s your favorite snack while writing?
Starbursts are my bread and butter. Cadbury Royal Dark chocolate is my special treat, and cold Pepsi over ice is my choice of desperation.


Let’s talk about your writing life...

How long did you write before you got published?
I’ve written fiction for 15 years, give or take, and completed 11 novels or novellas before Kenan was published May 2015.

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”?
Write the book you want to read. I struggled for a long time with feeling like my story and characters had to fit in a certain genre, had to have this incredibly complex plot like this or that popular writer. I love stories with action, romance, humor and strong characters tied together by deep and interesting relationships. I love books with fascinating settings that allow current events and life’s big questions to influence the characters. So, I wrote a character-centric action story interwoven with romance and humor that explores deep themes of stereotypes and racial prejudice. Because, why stick with one genre when you can have a bit of all of them? But seriously, your most valuable writing tool is your authentic voice.

How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
My publishing journey is a whole different story with many twists and turns and would probably be a whole blog post in and of itself! Lol! Suffice it to say, I didn’t take the usual road.

What does your writing process look like?
Usually Carrie and I determine the main story and themes for our books and hash out plot and character arcs using a few key scenes. Then we start writing and sort out chapters, scenes and finer plot points as we go. We don’t necessarily write linearly either. Sometimes we’ll jump around, writing the scenes that are clear in our minds and coming back to fill in scenes later.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
I love that moment when the characters just run with it and take over a scene, leaving you crying or laughing or a bit of both. I hate plotting and research, and having to slow down playing with the characters to make what’s happening actually realistic.

Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters?
I love to study character-centric movies and tv shows for their use of humor and character relationships (Firefly and Stargate: Atlantis are great examples). Carrie and I will also bounce ideas off each other and play the “What if” game. Our funniest scenes usually come from one or the other of us saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if CHARACTER A did/said A, B, and C?” And we find a way to fit it into the story.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share?
Pretty much any Skillet song is a Katiller theme song, but when I’m actually writing I listen to my vast soundtrack collection. My most recent favorite is the new Jungle Book movie soundtrack.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
Strive for professionalism and be willing to learn. The biggest problems we run into at Crosshair Press (where I’m the primary content editor) are young authors who don’t do their research on the fundamentals and/or aren’t willing to accept correction.
Are there any books or resources you could recommend to younger writers looking to grow in their craft?
“Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass is a good one. Amy Williams also has some great posts on writing on her blog,

How do you balance your writing life with “real” life? Any tips or tricks to share?
I’ll let you know when I figure it out! Seriously, it is a tricky balance that requires a great deal of organization. I definitely have to maximize my time and have one thing serve multiple purposes as much as possible. It can be tempting to isolate yourself to try and get writing done, but becoming a hermit isn’t the answer. If you’re not living life, how will you experience a story worth telling? But, on the other hand, life has a tendency to take over. Make time for the things that refresh your soul and are important, if not urgent.

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How did you like to celebrate the 4th of July?
I celebrated the 4th out at my grandma’s house in the country with fireworks, toasted marshmallows, and 35+ relatives. It was glorious, and now my introvert soul is going to become a hermit for the next few weeks.

What is your favorite activity during the summer?
Summer is my favorite! I love swimming, eating BBQ on the deck as the sun goes down, watching the fireflies dance in the ditches.

Share a personal freedom you’ve experienced.
The last three years I’ve spent living in England and traveling all over the world, mostly to Third World countries. Now that I’m back in the States I’m enjoying the freedom to walk the streets by myself without harassment, to dress comfortably in the way that I prefer, and to be valued as a woman in my society. These are freedoms I never realized I enjoyed until I had to give them up for the sake of the Gospel.

What are you currently reading?
I’m in the midst of reading and content editing “New Name,” book 3 in the Destiny trilogy by A.C. Williams that’s releasing from Crosshair Press in December. It’s awesome! If you love strong characters, adventure, and amazing space opera world-building (a la Firefly) you’ll adore it as much as I do.

Emilie here: Thank you so much for being my guest Karis! Loved getting to know more about you :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Art of the Author Photo: Why Headshots Matter To Writers

This one's for you, writers (or aspiring writers...or, well anyone who wants to have a professional presence on the interwebs). I'm passionate about having great headshots and I've outlined a few reasons why.

Common Complaints

I hear a lot of reasons why people don't want to get a professional headshot. Here are some of the most popular ones and why I don't think they stand up to the test of argument. Granted, these are my opinions so I could be wrong ;-)

I don't like my photo being on the internet...
Yes, this is a valid argument for many but I would counter that, if you really want to become a published author, there is a great likelihood that your photo will need to surface on the internet (and possibly the back cover of a book) at one point. Why not have a great photo of yourself when that becomes a reality?

People don't want to see me...
This argument is sometimes followed by "I want my work to speak for itself". Yes, your writing will speak volumes, but people are naturally curious about the author/artist behind the creation. You can make an even greater impact and connection point with a well crafted bio and professional photo of yourself.

But I love this selfie I took... Please, please, please no selfies!!! Sure, that photo will work for your personal FB profile and you do look cute, but is that close up, slightly grainy image of yourself what you want circulating on your professional profile? Nope! Trust me, it's not.

My >insert: husband, uncle, child, sister, coworker, dog< is a pretty good photographer...
A caveat: If they are a professional photographer, great! But, if they are just "dabbling" then chances are they won't know the best lighting, appropriate background options, or even the best settings to capture your professional headshot. Be their model, but be very picky about what images you post.

I don't have the money...
This can also be a really big roadblock to having great photos. Believe me, I understand how expensive professional photography is and I realize you can't always afford that, but be smart about what you pay for and it could be more affordable than you think. Find a special like what I offer for the ACFW and Realm Makers conferences! (Only $40 for 5 images--that's nearly a 70% discount on my regular headshot prices!)  Or save up and use those images for 1-2 years (as long as they remain current). It is worth the price, trust me.

I'm not photogenic...
I'd say this has two parts. One side of it is that you may not enjoy getting your photos taken which could make you feel uncomfortable. This will show through in your photos but not all hope is lost! Getting a great photographer who understands your discomfort and makes you feel comfortable is key. As for your part, when you are at your session do your best to relax. Think of your loved ones when you smile (or bring them along to smile at) and do your best to communicate with your photographer when you don't feel comfortable. That will be a great help to them.

I don't like how I look...
We are our worst critics! Self-image is probably one of the harder (if not hardest) things to overcome in regards to getting a good headshot. There is so much I could say to this but...honestly? You have intrinsic worth as a person because you bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26). It's not because you are trendy or have great hair or are a certain weight. It's because you are unique and made in His image. So, to this I would say it's not a roadblock to headshots so much as it's a roadblock to having confidence that comes from being loved by God for who he has made you to be. Turn to the Lord and your friends and family and be encouraged when they tell you they like how you look - because it's the truth!

The Reasons Why

I want to talk briefly about my reasons in favor of good headshots. I tried to come at these from a different perspective than just saying "because it's a good idea".

Think of business people you know. They most likely have a LinkedIn profile which necessitates a professional headshot. If you are hoping to make your writing into a career you are not so far from that business person! Your writing will be your career so you should treat it as such.

A face to the name...
Never underestimate the ability a great, smiling (or not smiling) picture of you! In our photo-saturated culture people are craving a personal understanding of their favorite authors. I personally believe that's why Instagram is so crucial to writers...but that's another post. Help your readers understand you (and your books) a little better by showing off a great, professional head shot.

At this point I'm actually not talking about you, dear writer. I'm talking about your audience. A professional headshot helps to create a sense of confidence in you as a writer and your work. I know that when I go to a well-crafted website with good quality photography I'm more inclined to look further. I see that they take their craft (whatever it may be) seriously and that they are willing to put in the effort (and resources) into creating a top quality product (either their website, product, or book).

All the cool kids are doing it...
Ha! And by "cool kids" I mean best selling authors (and I do). It is rare to find a best selling author who doesn't have a great headshot (though I have seen some...).

I realize you could be thinking: "Well, of course you think we should have good headshots, your a photographer!" Um...yup, that's right. But it's not so that I get more business (really, it isn't!). I feel passionately about great photography because of what I see it doing for writers and business professionals. You cannot beat a professional headshot that shows off the true character and personality of someone!

So, what do you all think? Readers: Do you like being able to see genuine images of your favorite authors? Writers: Do you have a professional headshot?

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Things We Knew by Catherine West | New Novel News

The Things We Knew 
by Catherine West

Published: July 12, 2016
From: Harper Collins Christian Publishing/Thomas Nelson
Purchase: The Things We Knew 

When their tragic past begins to resurface, can he help her remember the things she can’t?

After her mother’s death twelve years ago, Lynette Carlisle watched her close-knit family unravel. One by one, her four older siblings left their Nantucket home and never returned. All seem to blame their father for their mother’s death, but nobody will talk about that tragic day. And Lynette’s memory only speaks through nightmares.

Then Nicholas Cooper returns to Nantucket, bringing the past with him. Once Lynette’s adolescent crush, Nick knows more about her mother’s death than he lets on. The truth could tear apart his own family¾and destroy his fragile friendship with Lynette, the woman he no longer thinks of as a kid sister.

As their father’s failing health and financial concerns bring the Carlisle siblings home, secrets surface that will either restore their shattered relationships or separate the siblings forever. But pulling up anchor on the past propels them into the perfect storm, powerful enough to make them question their faith, their willingness to forgive, and the very truth of all the things they thought they knew.

Get to know Catherine...

Favorite season? 
Even though I live on an island, I have to say my favorite season is Fall. We lived seven years in Canada, and I absolutely love that feeling when the weather begins to change and the air holds a nip, first fires, apple picking, and the changing leaves. It also ushers in the start of the holiday season, which I love. :-)

Who is your favorite secondary character?
In The Things We Knew, I have to pick Gray Carlisle. He’s so broken, he’s really messed up his life, yet there’s just something loveable about him, and you want to see him redeemed somehow. Of course you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens!

What’s your favorite book? 
Gone With The Wind. I read the entire thing when I was thirteen, sitting in a very old and drafty library of my boarding school in the south of England. It was my first adventure into romance, and I think I caught the bug. :-) They showed the movie that term as well, and I was completely entranced. It’s one of my favorites and I watch it at least once a year!

Award-winning author Catherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or reading books by her favorite authors. She and her husband have two grown children. Catherine’s novel, Bridge of Faith, won the 2015 Grace Award. Her latest novel, The Things We Knew, releases July 12th, 2016, through Harper Collins Christian Publishing.

Catherine loves to connect with her readers and can be reached at

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg | RE:View

I laughed, I cried, I cheered, I hoped, but above all, I loved Like Never Before! 

Really guys. If you are looking for the perfect read for this summer look no further. Like Never Before, book two in Melissa's Walker Family series set in the small, quirky, and coffee loving town of Maple Valley, is just fantastic.

First off, we have the adorable and persistent Amelia Bently. This girl is as spunky and quirky as they come, but that's what makes her so likeable! She was such a real character to me--her struggles and her triumphs. I enjoyed watching how she grew throughout the story because I felt personally invested in her.

Then there's Logan Walker. *Sigh* Oh Logan, my fictional crush radar is zinging! Is there anything more attractive than a man who loves his daughter and is a great writer? He was also such a well fleshed out character. Amidst his strengths, his weaknesses made me want to take him by the fictional shoulders and give him encouragement. Yes, he was that real to me.

Put these two together and wowza! Chemistry, romantic tension, laughter, and a whole lot of turning pages because you have to know how it's going to end. I also loved the concepts Melissa addressed in this book. I liked how she brought up the reality of dreams and what it looks like in real life to face the decisions that will either take you to, or from, those dreams. She's not afraid to tackle some hard questions in the midst of all the fun and that gives this book such a great and refreshing quality.

Obviously, I enjoyed Like Never Before a lot! It's a major recommend read from me. I mean, to put it in perspective, there I was sitting on my couch on my birthday reading the last chapters of this and crying! Not because it was sad, mind you - just because it was a perfect ending to this sweet story. Do yourself a favor and add this to your TBR!

Rating: 5*
Purchase: Like Never Before

Book Description
(from Melissa's Website)
Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley’s haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But her new life as a newspaper editor is shaken when the small-town paper is in danger of closing. Her one hope: A lead on an intriguing story that just might impress the new publisher…if only she knew who he was.

After his biggest campaign success yet, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker now has the chance of a lifetime—a spot on a presidential campaign. But his plans are interrupted when he finds out he’s inherited his hometown newspaper. He travels home intent on selling the paper and spending some much-needed time with his young daughter before making the leap into national politics.

But instead of a quick sale and peaceful break from his hectic career, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She’s scrappy, but wounded. He’s dependable, but lost. They may butt heads more than expected, but a series of leads on Maple Valley’s quirky unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.
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.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

H. A. Titus {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about H.A....

H. A. Titus is usually found with her nose in a book or spinning story-worlds in her head. She first fell in love with speculative fiction when she was twelve and her dad handed her The Lord of the Rings. She lives on the shores of Lake Superior with her meteorologist husband and young sons, who do their best to ensure she occasionally emerges into the real world, usually for some kind of adventure. When she's not writing, she can be found rock-climbing, mountain biking, or skiing.

Connect with H.A....


Get to know H.A. Titus...

You and Writing

How did you start writing? 
I've always told myself stories. From as early as I can remember, I would make up bedtime stories at night. My mom suggested I write them down, so around the age of eight, I started to. Around the age of twelve, I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time, and the fantasy bug bit me hard. I couldn't get enough of it, so I started writing my own.

What has kept you writing? 
I'm stubborn. ;) Actually, it's a combination of that and my family pushing me to keep working at it. Sometimes, they understand better than I do how much being creative is ingrained in who I am as a person, and so they push me to continue when I'm ready to throw in the towel.

Emilie here: Ha!Love it - yes I'm stubborn too but having those around you who pester (in the nicest way) you to finish things also helps, doesn't it?

What or who is the biggest influence in your writing?
Music and the novels I'm reading all play a huge part in influencing and inspiring me, but lately, I've found a lot of my new story ideas are sprouted in the make-believe games I hear my three year old playing. Consequently, I expect I'll be writing a lot of middle-grade novels here in the next few years. ;)

Why do you write? 
I believe I've been created in order to create. I can't not write because it's so entwined into the fiber of who I am.

Emilie here: Amen!

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book....

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
Oh yes, definitely Eliaster Tyrone. He's snarky, angsty, and most of the time an all-around grouch, but I do love him. He has such a fantastic story and I'm excited to be able to elaborate on it in further books.

What was a challenge you faced while writing it? 
I kind of had two…the book came together over a period of about four years. In that time, it exploded from a novella to an entire series, and I was left scrambling, putting together the pieces of a much larger storyworld, and trying to figure out how to manage my first-ever series. The second challenge was that during the third year of working on Forged Steel, I had my first kid, and that threw my entire world for a loop. It was totally worth it, but it was definitely a rough few months shortly after he was born!

Did you get to do any fun research for the book?
Celtic mythology! I've always been of a fairytale/mythology buff, so getting to dig deep into Celtic legends and put my own little twist on them for my book was so much fun!

What made you choose the setting for the book? 
I grew up close by Springfield, Missouri, so when I chose to begin the book in a Midwestern setting, I automatically started filling in Springfield, intending to change it later. That never happened, because using a city I was familiar with was too convenient. ;) (I've never been to Chicago, though…which explains why they don't spend much time in the city.)

What’s your favorite snack while writing?
 Crunchy things. I've been on a recent chocolate-covered pretzel kick.

Emilie here: Yum! I love pretzel's of any kind. I also enjoy air popped popcorn. Perfect writing snacks!


Let’s talk about your writing life...

How long did you write before you got published?
Fourteen years since I'd begun writing "seriously". If you count all the way back when I first started writing stories, then it would have been eighteen years.

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”? 
You have to understand what kind of writer you are, first. Are you more of a hobbyist, or could you seriously see yourself doing this as a business? Do you have an indefinable itch that can only be scratched by writing? There's not really a "wrong" way and a million "right" ways to "keep writing", and you have to figure out what that looks like for your life.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process? 
My favorite is the first draft, because I'm discovering all these new characters and new places and a new magic system or political system…basically anything new. My least favorite is the rewrite phase, where I have to go into my scrambled first draft and assemble it into some kind of order. I actually kind of like the final edit drafts, because I'm making everything pretty, but that rewrite phase… *makes face*

Emilie here: I feel like I line up with you on this too. The first draft is so exciting and new! Rewrites...not as new and not as fun hehe. 

How long did it take to publish your first book? 
From beginning to end, Forged Steel took four years.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share? 
I listen to a ton of music and even create specific playlists for each book/series I write. The playlist for Forged Steel can be found here:

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
Network, network, network. My writing didn't start growing until I began attending conferences, taking classes, and critiquing/being critiqued.

Emilie here: Agreed!

How do you grow in your writing craft? 
I have to take intentional time nowadays, because my schedule is so busy. Podcasts have been a lifesaver since I've had kids. My favorites are Joanna Penn's The Creative Penn Podcast, Brandon Sanderson's Writing Excuses, Michael Hyatt's This Is Your Life, and (because I seriously can't handle nonfiction all the time), Cast of Wonders, PodCastle, and the Drabblecast. (Be warned, all of them besides Michael Hyatt's are secular so might contain things some folks might not like. I appreciate PodCastle because they include a rating system of all the stories they publish.)

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How did you like to celebrate the 4th of July?
We usually go to a parade in one of the small towns nearby, then head out to an inland lake with friends for a day of swimming, tubing, and jetskiing, topped off by fireworks over the lake.

What is your favorite activity during the summer? 
It's a tie between mountain biking and tubing.

Share a personal freedom you’ve experienced. 
I don't have to be it all. I don't have to be the perfect homeschooling mom, or housekeeper, or Pinterest crafter, or…whatever. I have different priorities and standards, and those should define what I'm striving to be, rather than trying to keep up with other people.

What are you currently reading?
I'm re-reading Steelheart for the third time. It's a fabulous twist on the superhero genre by Brandon Sanderson.

Emilie here: Thanks so much for being my guest H.A.!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mandy Fender | New Novel News

by Mandy Fender

Published: July 28, 2016
From:  Stouthearted Publishing 
Purchase: Sparrow (Defier Series Book Two)

The fight has only just begun...

Lennox Winters is guilty. She stood in defiance against the Regime when no one else would. Now she must train to become a Sparrow and fight for what she believes.

When the war breaks out in her hometown, she is forced to decide whether she will obey orders or rebel against the authority she respects. Either way, she must protect those she loves most, no matter the dangers.

As she navigates new territory with her loyal best friend, she’ll risk her life, and even her soul, for victory.

In war, sacrifice is inevitable.

Is her faith enough to get her through the fire?

Get to know Mandy...

What are the names of your pets? If you don't have any, what would you name your pets?
I have an Old English Bulldog named Ziggy Zoo. Sometimes I call her Zig-alag-a-ding-dong. LOL… If you knew her personality, you’d see why. She’s the best and lazy.

Do you have a nickname? Care to share?
Yes, I actually love it and I was only called it by my grandfather when I was a child. He called me Sadie-Lou-Ka-Diddle-Hopper and I have no idea why, but I cherish it!

Coffee or tea?
Both! Being from Texas, we drink sweet ice tea and I love coffee as long as it has sugar and cream in it. :)
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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Honest Thoughts: When Things Change

Life has a funny way of changing. I'm not sure if any of you have noticed this. No? Oh, well then, it must just be me.

It's strange really. At one moment you're heading in one direction thinking, well this is nice, and the next you're making a turn you never saw coming. It too can be nice--maybe even better than nice--but sometimes the unexpected nature of it overshadows its nice-ness. And sometimes it doesn't and that unexpected change is just the thing you've been wanting.

For me, one of those big changes came last year in May. Many of you were part of my journey when I made the big move from California to Washington, D.C. in July of 2014. Whew boy, that was a biggie. It was not only a change in location, but a coastal change, job change, and cultural change.

Then, in May, I felt called to switch churches. If you remember, I had moved out to DC to be a part of a church plant and to work with them as a photographer and writer (you can read more about opportunity here). It was a good experience but the Lord made it clear that I was to attend a different church--Redemption Hill Church in Capitol Hill.

Believe me, the change was not expected and for a time I found myself...floundering. The new church was great--wonderful even--but it wasn't what I was expecting. I felt as if suddenly everything I'd known had been snatched away and I was left bare and purposeless. Of course that was not the case, but it was a feeling I had to wrestle with. What was I supposed to do if I wasn't volunteering at church? If I wasn't working for a church? If I didn't know more than a handful of people? If I didn't know where or how I belonged?

I decided to embrace the sudden lack of direction and petitioned the Lord to show me what was next. Was I to plug in and volunteer immediately? Was I to wait? I spent time in this "limbo"attending the church but not in any other capacity. It was actually a very sweet time of learning, but I grew restless. I'm not one to sit by and not help when there is a need.

from @leighmunsil
Funny enough, a few weeks into this the worship pastor told the church that they were actively seeking out new members for the team. Then several of my friends "happened" to mention this to me at key points during the week. You see, I had also led worship at the church I'd moved to DC with, as well as leading at my previous church. I distinctly remember taking a run one morning and praying--asking the Lord if this was where He wanted me to plug in (if they could even use me) or if I still needed to wait. His answer was, "Go for it." So I did - and I've been serving on the worship team ever since. I've even gotten the chance to help with the women's conference (pictured to the left) and at another church plant in the area leading worship for them on a few Sunday's here and there.

You see, I wouldn't trade these last two years for anything, despite the fact they there were parts of them that were very hard. I'd left California with the phrase, "don't live safe" embedded in my mind and heart, and I think along the way, when things got hard, I forgot that. I sometimes forgot that God is the ruler and director of my life because, at those times, it felt like He'd forgotten that I needed Him. As if the tides of change had washed away His hold on me.That, of course, was not true.

He never let go.

Now, I'm facing another move. Yep, that's right, come August I will be moving to Dayton, Ohio. There'll be more details on that move come another post, but I want to encourage all who may be in a season of change to stop and reflect on what the Lord may be teaching you. I know He is teaching me patience and to release control because there are so many details to work out for this move that only He can control them. It's easy to forget in the moment though. To get side tracked by what would (in my mind) be best rather than what He knows is best.

I'm excited to share more as exciting things are on the horizon: the move, the Realm Makers Conference, the ACFW Conference, and fun things concerning my writing, but above all of that is the reality that, when things change, the Lord is in control of it all.

What have you learned from change in your life? I'd love to hear in the comments below!