Wednesday, October 30, 2013


November is National Novel Writing Month, when writers are challenged to create an entire novel in 30 days with a 50,000 word-count goal. I've loved hearing how many schools in my surrounding area are getting students involved by brainstorming plots (setting a lower word count) and providing time in the classroom each day to write stories. Though writing isn't for everyone, I wonder how many students will discover their love for words this month and someday break into publishing? To some, the experience will simply teach them what they like to read and birth a love for books that may have not been there before.

Unfortunately, I won't be participating in NaNoWriMo this year. My e-novella Bright Copper Kettles releases later this month, and I've recently finished a 90,000-word novel so I plan to take a break. But I'd love to hear from you!

Do you plan to participate in NaNoWriMo? What are you working on?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Modern-day Circuit Rider

Since the birth of our nation, a rugged breed of men have traveled America's wilderness to present the gospel to isolated parts of the frontier. Carrying only the possessions they could stuff in their saddlebags, they spread Christianity across the wild West, preaching where there was a need--as well as officiating baptisms, weddings, and funerals--traveling in circuits that ranged form 200-500 miles. Their pay was meager, if they received any at all. Many paid with their lives before reaching the age of 35. Since farms were wide-spread and travel wasn't as convenient as it is today, churches and meetinghouses were scarce--one serving a fifty-mile radius, for example. Circuit riders traveled from place to place, preaching in a church one Sunday then moving on to another meetinghouse to preach the next Sunday. When their circuit was complete, they'd begin again. Folks knew which Sunday to expect their pastor, and many would make the long journey each month to be fed.
Though I write contemporary, I love reading historical romance. This is where I was first introduced to the circuit rider. Upon research, I was delighted to find circuit riders still exist today.
For 54 years, Reverend David Iverson (80) and his wife Ella (77) have traveled their 200-mile circuit to three different churches in rural Montana. Once church still lacks plumbing and electricity. Iverson "preaches salvation and is faithful to the Bible's teachings," says one parishioner. Iverson's other occupation as a rancher helps him connect to his flock. "Sheep and people can be easily misled," says Iverson. "They both have to have care."

What a great ministry! For the full story of Reverend Iverson and his modern-day circuit-riding ministry, visit

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jessilyn Lassiter Series by Jennifer Erin Valent

As you know, I love to read books in a series. For me, the Jessilyn Lassiter series did it all--invoked every emotion from laughter to tears, took me back to thirteen and angst that came with it, made me reminisce over friendships, reminded me what a blessing my parents are, put me in Depression-era Virginia and made the tragic history of that time real for me, and contained a romance so beautiful, I sighed at the end.
Stick with me for just a few minutes as I introduce you to author Jennifer Erin Valent and the Jessilyn Lassiter series.


Jessilyn Lassiter never knew that hatred could lurk in the human heart until the summer of 1932 when she turned 13. When her best friend, Gemma, loses her parents in a tragic fire, Jessilyn's father vows to care for her as one of his own, despite the fact that Gemma is black and prejudice is prevalent in their southern Virginia town. Violence springs up as a ragtag band of Ku Klux Klan members unite and decide to take matters into their own hands. As tensions mount in their small community, loyalties are tested and Jessilyn is forced to say good-bye to the carefree days of her youth.

Publisher: Tyndale House
Awards: Fireflies in December won the 2010 Christy Award, is the 2007 winner of the Christian
              Writer's Guild First Novel contest, and won the Audie Award for Inspirational Fiction in

My Thoughts
I was immediately drawn into the story with the first sentence: "The summer I turned thirteen, I thought I'd killed a man." Jessilyn's spitfire character connected with me (and reminded me how glad I am that I'll never have to be thirteen again). Here, we're introduced to her older and loyal best friend, Gemma, Jessilyn's protective and loving parents, and the All-American guy, Luke Talley, her first crush who happens to be six years older than her. The Lassiter's accept Gemma and Luke as part of their family,while battling violent prejudice and losing innocence. I listened to Fireflies in December in audio-book format (Kate Forbes does an amazing job!) as I cooked and washed dishes in the evening. I found myself creating more work in the kitchen just so I could listen longer!


Jessilyn Lassiter and her best friend Gemma Teague have survived prejudice and heartache in their lifelong friendship, but the summer of 1936 threatens to tear them apart yet again. Gemma's job with the wealthy Hadley family leads to a crush on their youngest son. But Jessilyn's insistence that he's no good and that no rich white man would ever truly fall for a poor black girl like Gemma puts them at odds. Tragedy strikes when Jessilyn's cherished neighbor girl is hit by a car and killed. Things get worse when an elderly friend is falsely accused of the crime, and the only way to clear his name is to put her family's livelihood in jeopardy. For Jessilyn, this is a choice too hard to bear and she wonders where to turn for answers, especially when an angry mob threatens vigilante justice.

Publisher: Tyndale House

My Thoughts
Hatred consumes the town of Calloway again in Cottonwood Whispers. A friendship I thought could never be broken was. This book makes you feel the loss of a neighbor, the loss of a child. The characters were put into situations where decisions had to be made and no matter how they chose, tragedy would strike. It made me wonder what I would do in their shoes. As another of Jessilyn's summers crumbles around her, Luke Talley begins to see Jessilyn in a whole new way--as a woman. Cottonwood Whispers kicks everything up a notch, and I couldn't put it down!


Jessilyn Lassiter no longer has to convince people she's not a child. Having just turned 19 in the summer of 1938, her love for Luke Talley has never been more real. And Luke is finally beginning to care for her in the way she's always dreamed of. But their budding romance is interrupted when Tal Pritchett--a young, black doctor--comes to Calloway, stealing the heart of Jessilyn's best friend, Gemma, and stirring up the racial prejudice that's been simmering just beneath the town's surface. The tension starts to bubble over as Jessie's elderly neighbor Miss Cleta becomes the first towns person to accept Tal's treatment. And when a young black man is lynched, Calloway is brought to its knees once again as Jessilyn realizes that her anger can make her heart as full of hate as the klan members who have terrorized her town and her family.

Publisher: Tyndale House

My Thoughts
Just when I thought things in Calloway couldn't get worse, they do. Catching Moondrops took me inside the human heart and showed how bitterness and hatred poisons the soul. As Jessilyn battles her inner darkness and struggles to find the peace-filled faith in God her parents have, the romance between her and Luke blossoms into a love story I won't soon forget. (I won't say anymore, so I don't spoil how it all comes together.)

This series was so fantastic, I know I'll read it again. And from a writer's point of view, it encouraged me to dig deeper into my own plots and characters.

I gave all three books five out of five stars on Goodreads.

About the Author
Jennifer's sincerest hope is to glorify the Lord by writing quality Christian fiction that will inspire, encourage, and uplift readers of all ages. She began writing in her mid-twenties, which led to her acclaimed fourth novel Fireflies in December. She's also been a nanny for fifteen years. For more about Jennifer, her blog, and novels, visit

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Taming Rafe by Susan May Warren


In less than eight seconds, he lost his title, his career, and his best friend--all on the dirt floor of a noisy rodeo arena.

Katherine Breckenridge just wants to make a difference by running her mother's charity foundation. But the mysterious disappearance of half a million dollars has forced it to the brink of bankruptcy. Her last chance to save it is the annual fund-raiser, an event that's destroyed by an out-of-control Rafe Noble.

Desperate to rescue the foundation, Katherine heads to the Noble family ranch to enlist Rafe's help in raising the money he cost her in lost donations. What she doesn't know is that Rafe is broke--in cash and in spirit--and helping her could end up costing him his life.

Author: Susan May Warren
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007
Theme Verse: "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you  both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Phillipians 2:12,13

My Thoughts
This is book #2 of the Noble Legacy series. Though I started with the first book and read through the entire series--which was superb--Taming Rafe was my favorite.

The book opens in a rowdy arena and jumps right into the action with Rafe astride an angry bull in the holding pen, choosing to ride even though his gut is telling him not to. The tragedy that follows sets the tone for Rafe throughout the rest of the book. Like a mad bull, Rafe's wild nature can't be tamed... until Katherine Breckenridge comes along. Katherine desires more than anything to make her late mother's charitable foundation a success to help save sick children's lives in Guadalajara. But she'll never live up to her mother's memory and feels uncomfortable in her aristocratic world. Then Rafe crashes into her life--literally--and she discovers a man much like herself, a soul searching to connect to his roots and make a difference in the world. I loved Katherine's character as she would be the only woman who could wrangle this wild cowboy.

The plot held a unique angle I wasn't expecting which kept me turning the pages. Another romance blossoms throughout the story between diner-owner Lolly Stuart and rancher John Kincaid, whose had enough of Lolly turning down his marriage proposals. But John holds a secret card Lolly knows nothing about--he's a best-selling author or romance novels penned under the name B.J. King. He'd love to see Lolly's reaction to his latest novel, since it's about their twisted relationship, but Lolly refuses to read such an unrealistic time-waster. John's novel Unshackled unfolds throughout Taming Rafe which creates a teasing plot that comes together beautifully at the end. It's literally a book within a book.

I rated Taming Rafe 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

About the Author:
Award-winning author Susan May Warren recently returned home to her native Minnesota after serving for eight years with her husband and four children as missionaries with SEND International in Far East Russia. She now writes full-time from Minnesota's north woods. Visit her Web site at
Susan is also an instructor with My Book Therapy.