The Bucket List Dare is Live!

tbld-no-commasThe Bucket List Dare is now live in both Kindle and print!

In this interlocking Christian Romance collection, four college friends are facing their 30th birthdays. To make the event momentous, they dare each other to do the biggest thing on their bucket list. What adventures await?

Arabel Milligan, recently unemployed and with a new genealogical certification to her name, takes off for Scotland to discover the answer to a mysterious missing branch in her ancestral tree. She also discovers Duff Barclay . . . (Her Impossible Dream, by Angela Breidenbach).

Annie Flowers, a wedding photographer whose reputation is her pride and her job is her life, crashes the most extravagant wedding in the country—and walks away with the groom. (Save the Groom, by Jessica Ferguson).

Kat Brownlee, an army veteran and amputee, has always dreamed of climbing the most challenging mountain she could find. Now that her life and body have been drastically altered—does she dare? Darin Peters makes certain she does. (What Lies Ahead, by Pamela S. Meyers).

Jojo Merritt is a country veterinarian who has never jumped out of anything higher than a hayloft, much less an airplane. So when she finds herself harnessed to Mitch O’Hara for the tandem jump, the only question is how far she will fall. (Skydiving to Love, by Linda W. Yezak).

Love comes, lives change—all on a dare.

Available on Amazon!


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Especially for Writers

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If you’ve read Give the Lady a Ride and/or The Final Ride, please review them for me. If you haven’t read them, maybe it’s time you did. They’re on sale for 99 cents each on Kindle.

End of shameless promotion.

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A Lesson in Finesse

mind-writerRinee Newburgh and Lori Bridgeport are mind writers, capable of the amazing feat of transferring the mind from a dying body to a young, healthy, blemish-free clone. Then the clone comes to life and goes about its business as if the mind’s owner had never been sick.

Great way for the ultra-rich and political elite to live forever.

Mind writers live in a beautiful environment, pay for nothing, and spend their lives being educated in medicine, history, political science, and who knows what else. If I remember correctly, they’re all orphans. And—spoiler alert—they’re all going to die.

But the authors of Mind Writer don’t tell you that for quite some time.

I love the opening chapters of this book because they’re so beautifully finessed. Advanced authors of thrillers, suspense, mystery, most any genre in which surprise is an element use finesse to guide their readers to conclusions. This adds to the readers’ experience because it engages the mind more than novels in which the author spells out everything. Advanced authorship challenges the reader to engage with the story. It leaves breadcrumbs on treacherous ground for the reader to follow to the adventure the author has created. And every breadcrumb trail comes with rewards.

How does the author do this? The first part of the answer is easy: He writes to his smartest reader. To the one who wouldn’t need explanation of clues on the breadcrumb trail and would probably resent it if the author did explain. This is part of the RUE rule: Resist the Urge to Explain. Your beta readers can let you know if you’re being too vague. Meanwhile, write to those who can figure out what you’re doing without being told.

Part two of the answer to how an author writes with finesse is more personalized to each story: You have to bake the bread from which the crumb trail is derived. The surprise itself is the loaf, so what’s your surprise?

In the opening chapters of Mind Writer, the surprise is that the mind writers die. This isn’t the overarching mystery, just the early fact of the novel that sets the tone, illustrates the backstory, and launches the reader into the depths of the plot.

Once you know this—once you’ve baked your loaf—what are the crumbs you leave behind for your reader? Here are Mike and Lisa’s crumbs:

Mind writers are discouraged from becoming too close friends with each other.

Facility supervisors and personnel are always distant and impersonal.

The man in charge is named Malotetnev. 

The mind writer’s goal is to finally put all their training into practice. To hear their name called, to head to the medical facility, and to be put to work.

Once they’re called, they finally graduate and leave the facility for Paradise Prime.

Graduates never come back or contact anyone within the facility. 

If I hadn’t already told you that mind writers die early in the story, you might look at all these crumbs and suspect that they do, but you wouldn’t know for certain until the authors revealed it to you. You’d have it as a niggling idea, but you wouldn’t know for sure.

And you certainly wouldn’t know why, because you’re not quite clear what a mind writer is, until Lori gets called down, and you get to see her at work.

Once she sees what she is to do, her mission becomes distasteful for her. She must be threatened before she’ll perform the service required, but the promise of Paradise Prime is always in the back of her mind.

She puts one bare hand on an older man and the other on a waxen clone, and within seconds, all the memories and knowledge the elder possessed mingled with her own mind before flowing through to the clone.

Once the procedure is complete, uniformed men come to escort Lori to the transport which will take her to Paradise Prime. As she goes—with each guard clamping a hand on her elbows and hauling her away—no one looks at her. The guards don’t smile at her. No one is encouraging or congratulatory or remotely happy for her.

By now, we’re pretty sure she’s going to die, but we don’t get our suspicions confirmed until later.

We also don’t have a clear idea as to why she must die. I’ve left enough breadcrumbs for you to figure it out, so I won’t tell you here. But this is what finesse entails—clues rather than outright disclosure. Illustration rather than information. Implied instead of expressed. And once you follow the breadcrumb trail that finesse leaves behind, you’re rewarded with having your suspicions confirmed or being utterly surprised. Either way, you as a reader are hooked.

Using finesse always enhances the readers’ experience.

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Emotion Conundrum

joss-whedon-quoteThe thing most writers are afraid of, and the one thing we must learn to master in our writing, is emotional truth. According to John Vorhaus, contributor to WriterUnboxed:

. . . we’re still afraid. 

In conveying emotional truth on the page, writers must take a certain leap of faith. Sooner or later we have to recognize that writing about emotional things will necessarily expose us to the very feelings we’re trying to express – feelings we might not be entirely comfortable with (“Emotional Truth Revisited,” September 24, 2016).

I’ve been through the exercises presented by both Tosca Lee and Donald Maass–exercises intended to force us to dig deep into our psyches and re-live some of our most intense emotions. It can be harrowing. I remember sitting in Tosca’s class, sniffing and dripping tears on my paper as I wrote about some of my more painful moments. I felt both vulnerable and self-conscious, but I did it. By the time Maass presented the same exercise in his course, I’d learned my lesson about going too deep into my emotions and restricted myself to a certain extent.

But exposing our own emotions on the page like that, presenting through our characters things we have felt ourselves, is what brings depth to our writing. Can I do it yet? Well, yes, I can and I have–which presents the conundrum. My stories are supposed to be light-hearted, but it seems they always have a darker turn as I reveal the heartaches and agonies my characters hide inside.

According to Vorhaus, you can discover for yourself how far down the road you are to “going deep; and having gone deep, going deeper still”:

If you want to see where you are on this road, just ask yourself the question, “What dark secret about myself, my beliefs, my understanding, or my experience would I not want anyone to know?” If you find that you can write about this secret, then you’re already writing within the realm of emotional truth.

See that? “Dark secret,” he says.

When I was taking Maass’s Early Bird course at the ACFW conference this year, I had a character and story plot in mind, and as I answered his questions, intended to take us “deeper still,” my story turned from being a light-hearted comedy to being more dramatic. Again. Just like all my stories so far.

So this is what I have to learn: How to maintain the light-hearted tone throughout a novel while still going deep.

This isn’t easy. Believe me, I’ve tried. Every time I reach the point when the MC must reveal or face the reason for her behavior, my novel starts getting darker and darker until she’s healed.

In a way, this is necessary because a well-rounded character is one whose backstory includes pain and fear, happiness and tears, love and loss. And each experience we imagine in their backstories color their behavior, attitudes, actions, and reactions in our stories.

For instance, in The Final Ride, Patricia discovers that Talon is lying to her–lying by omission, but lying just the same. And since her first/late husband lied to her on a regular basis, she applied that experience to her experience with Talon and blew the entire situation out of proportion. I personally am an expert at this, so I knew just how to write it.

But it was a turning point, and the novel got darker then. And I don’t know how to stop that from happening.

True comedy finds more amusing ways to solve problems and heal characters. Fortunately for me, comedy-drama is a real genre because that’s apparently what I write.

Once you learn to reach into yourself and present the “drama” part, it comes more naturally, even–dare I say it?–easily. You finally understand how to make your readers cry without telling them of the ocean of tears your character cried. You know how to make them feel what your character is feeling without naming an emotion.

Maintaining the light-hearted tone of my novel while presenting depth of character, depth of emotion, is far more challenging to me. I have so much to learn.

If you know of a novel that does precisely what I’m talking about, tell me what it is. I’d love to see how other authors do it.

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Especially for Writers

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Skydiving to Love

tbld-no-sealMonday, I told you about the novella collection, The Bucket List Dare, and promised to share part of my story Skydiving to Love for you.  Here’s the first scene . . .



Skydiving to LoveBreathe. Just breathe.

Jojo Merritt squeezed her eyelids tighter and clamped her hands onto the armrests. I can’t.

Inhale. There ya go. Good. Now exhale. Repeat.

What on earth had made her tell the girls that skydiving held top spot on her bucket list? As a veterinarian who owned a large animal practice, she was living her bucket list. Every calf she helped birth, every colicky horse she healed, fulfilled her dreams. But no—that wasn’t good enough for her old college quartet. She had to do something totally off the charts. What on God’s green earth had made her say skydiving?

The passenger jet’s engines revved. Her breath jerked from her lungs. All around her, bored businesspeople and cool-as-a-Popsicle travelers settled in with magazines and headphones. But for her, even this simple, normal flight had been a disaster so far.

“You going to be okay?”

The deep voice next to her pierced her panic. She lifted one lid for a peek at its source in the aisle seat. Any other time—like when her stomach wasn’t threatening to toss up everything she’d eaten in the past year—she would’ve found the man with the compassionate blue eyes attractive.

She slammed her lid shut. “I’m f-fine. Or I will be. Maybe. When we get where we’re going and land and I’m still in one piece, I’ll be fine. I-I think.”

Great. She wasn’t just stammering, she was throwing out more words than she’d spoken all week.

She peeked at him again. Great looking guy, square jaw, wavy dark hair. Too bad. If she didn’t turn him off by tossing her breakfast, she’d do it by jabbering like an idiot.

His gentle laugh caressed her like a velvet glove. “You’ll be fine. I know the pilot. Never lost a passenger.”

Yet. He forgot the yet. Always a first time.

The plane began moving, taxiing this way, then that. She had no clue where because all she could see were the backs of her eyelids. Soon the engines pitched to a high whine and the plane moved faster and faster and she couldn’t breathe and her heart lodged in her throat and threatened to choke her to death which didn’t matter because she couldn’t breathe.

The engines whined, her brain screamed—

Then the plane lifted, leaving her stomach back on the runway. No big loss. She was going to throw it up anyway.

They climbed and banked to the right. The engines fell quiet, and the muffled sounds of the other passengers reached through her fear. Her shoulders relaxed, her heartbeat returned to normal. Finally, she dared to open her eyes and look out the window. Puffy clouds drifted by, giving her only the occasional glimpse of the small towns and fields below. Before long, the ranchland scenery would shift to a cityscape as they flew over Austin and, soon after, over San Antonio. And then the pilot would land. God bless him.

“Feeling better?”

Mr. Dark-and-Handsome had traded the compassion in his eyes for humor. Kind humor, but humor just the same . . . okay, no. He was laughing at her. Who wouldn’t?

She flexed her cramping fingers and offered him a lame smile. “Yeah, I’m better. This is my first flight.”

“It’s not so bad once you get used to it.” He poked his hand out. “Mitch O’Hara.”

She shook with him. “Jojo Merritt.”

“Where you from, Jojo?”

Small talk. They would now drift into small talk, something she’d blissfully avoided in her day-to-day life. She said she was from Hereford; he said he was originally from nearby Amarillo. She told him she was a large animal vet; he worked as a seismic engineer in San Antonio, where they were headed. She stifled a yawn.

Had she remembered her iPad, she could’ve tuned him out with a great audio book while watching the clouds below. But in her rush to get this week over with, she’d forgotten it.
At least he was nice to look at, animated as he described whatever project he spoke of. Intelligent eyes. Amarillo was near enough to Hereford, they could visit when he came home, yet far enough away not to stumble over each other. But it didn’t matter. She wasn’t looking for male companionship, just to finish her mission so she could head back to more earthbound things like cattle, horses, and goats.

“I’ve bored you enough with my business talk,” Mitch said. “What about you? What are your plans while you’re in San Antonio?”

His friendly chatter had kept her nerves calm during the bulk of the flight, but now, as they jetted over more densely populated areas, he decided to include her in the conversation.

She sighed inwardly. Being rude was not an option.

“I’ve always wanted to see the River Walk,” which was why she chose the jumping school there instead of the one in Dallas. “Maybe take in El Mercado.”

“Sounds relaxing.”

Right. That part did sound relaxing. Jumping from somewhere in the sky, putting her trust in a parachute someone else packed—that didn’t sound relaxing.

“Maybe I’ll run into you,” he said. “I know a great restaurant—Mi Tierra. Ever hear of it?”

She shook her head.

“You’d love it. They have the best pork dish I’ve ever had. Like pork?”

The fasten-seat-belt sign dinged and her stomach clutched.

“They have traditional stuff too. Enchiladas, tacos, nachos . . .”

She felt queasy, was probably turning guacamole green.

“Great chicken dishes too.”

The wings tilted to the left. The plane slowed noticeably. Taking off had been horrid. Being up hadn’t been so bad—none of the plane-shuddering turbulence she’d heard of. But what would landing be like?

“You do like Mexican food, don’t you? I’m sure they have an American menu—”

“Please!” She shot her hand up and scrunched her eyes shut. “Just stop talking, okay? Please?”

“Oops. Sorry.” Humor laced his voice again. Fine. Let him laugh.

The plane had tilted deeper to the left and slowed further.

She slipped her hands under her thighs to keep them from shaking and dared a glance out the window at the city below.

The city.

Highways. Neighborhoods. Schools. Businesses.

No runways. No place to land.

And the plane kept getting slower.

Was the pilot out of his mind? There was no place to land!

She hunched her shoulders forward. If she could close in on herself, turn herself into a tiny ball, maybe the impact wouldn’t hurt so bad.

Well, that was stupid, wasn’t it? The impact would kill her! They were all going to die!

Mitch chuckled and said something along the lines of everything being all right. At least that was what it sounded like. Hard to tell over the blood rushing in her ears and the relentless we’re-gonna-die soundtrack.

The plane slowed more.

Her hands fisted.

The plane leveled and dropped lower.

Her stomach leapt to her throat.

Where were they going to land? There’d been no airport, no runway in sight. Maybe if she opened her eyes, she’d see one.

No. No, this was fine. If they were going to crash, she’d just as soon not see the ground rushing up to greet her.

Dear Father in Heaven, open the gates, I’m coming home.

The plane bounced slightly, the wheels screeched. The engine’s whine dropped from a high-pitched squeal to a lower, though not soothing, tone. The passenger jet slowed more and more, until it felt like the speed of a Sunday drive. People rustled around her, anxious to get their gear from the overhead compartments and move on with their day’s activities.

She just wanted the plane to stop so she could unclench her fists and catch her first glimpse of San Antonio. From the ground.

Mitch nudged her. “We’re at the terminal.”

With her stomach lodged in her throat, she could do nothing more to acknowledge him than nod crazily like a bobble-head.

“You can open your eyes now.”

“Oh, okay.” She’d had them squinched so tightly, the right lid began to twitch.

He stood over her in the aisle with his carry-on bag strapped over his shoulder. “Want me to get your bag?”

“If you wouldn’t mind.” Maybe that would give her a moment to flex her cramping fingers.

The door opened, the flight attendant spoke unintelligible words through a scratchy intercom, and restless travelers began to file out.

Mitch held up the line to let her in. “What did I tell you? We landed just fine. Flying’s not so bad.”

Matter of opinion.

She managed a feeble smile as she squeezed in front of him and followed everyone out and into the airport. Her nerves felt tight enough to tune, and her stomach threatened again.

How would she survive skydiving if she could barely survive a simple one-hour flight?

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The Bucket List Dare: A Christian Romance Novella Collection

tbld-no-sealEver since I participated in the box set, Much Ado About Love, I got the itch to join another collaborative effort. So, Angela Breidenbach, Pamela Meyers, and I joined with Jessica Ferguson, our idea lady, and created The Bucket List Dare.

I got an idea for my novella almost as soon as Jess told me about her concept. This was the easiest thing I’ve ever written, and the most fun. I can’t wait to share it with you!

Here’s the back cover copy:

Four best friends—Texas A&M grads—challenge each other to revisit the bucket list they made in college and tackle one daring item before they turn thirty. Living in different parts of the country and with birthdays on the horizon, the Aggie girls choose their adventure and work toward making it happen . . . with wonderful, unexpected results.

Arabel, recently unemployed and with a new genealogical certification to her name, takes off for Scotland to discover the answer to a mysterious hole in her ancestral tree.

Annie, a wedding photographer whose reputation is her pride and her job is her life, crashes the most extravagant wedding in the country.

Kat, an army veteran and amputee, has always dreamed of climbing the most challenging mountain she could find. Now that her life and body have been drastically altered—does she dare?

Jojo is a country veterinarian who has never jumped out of anything higher than a hayloft, much less an airplane. How did that get on her bucket list?

The young professionals, facing unknown dangers and risks, call on their strong faith and Aggie spirit, and walk away with love.

What did I tell ya? Fun, right? Read it, love it, write a review for us, okay?

Wednesday, I’ll give you the opening scene to my novella in the collection: Skydiving to Love.

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Especially for Writers

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The Cast-Character-Setting Interlock

setting post

How much time and effort have you put into your setting? Your secondary and minor characters? How much time and effort have you put into creating your story world?

I hope your answer is that you know every square inch of your setting, every distant star, every fallen leaf, every scrape in the linoleum under the kitchen table. I hope you know those who populate your world well enough to shake hands with their grandpas and hug their grandmas, squiggle kisses in their babies’ bellies and play tug-of-war with their Shelties.

Because this is the stuff that enhances the escapist experience.

Readers want to be fully enveloped in the world you’ve created for them. They want to be transported. They want realistic experiences that carry them away. It’s your job to give them what they want.

It doesn’t take long paragraphs of description and backstory, just artistically placed lines and words that paint pictures and resonate with the reader. Donate some time to this. What perfect word or sentence will plop the reader squarely into your scene’s setting? What perfect quirk will morph a minor or secondary character into a living human?

Where do your main characters fit into your creation? You have developed a realistic story world and realistic people to populate it, so does your POV character interact with them? Or is he under a dome on a flat, barren surface?

Issues to watch for:

  • Is your character involved in your setting?

Beautiful fall day. Golden leaves drift from sky-scraping tree limbs, air is crackly crisp, wispy clouds float across an otherwise stunningly blue sky. All that is great, but where is your character? Is he kicking at the leaves or watching his dog play in them? Does he squint at the sky through blood-shot eyes? Does she shiver and shrug on a sweater?

What is your character’s mood? Does it fit the setting’s ambiance? Is he the life of the noisy victory celebration, or the morose mourner in the corner?

As I discussed in “Studying Under Maass, (Part 2),” not only is it smart to put your character in the setting, but it’s also smart to play with the mood of the setting—compare, contrast, engage.

  • Can your character maneuver in your setting in a sensible way?

Have you described a day-long drive one way and a one-hour walk to return? Does the pen at the right hand on her desk now require her to stretch to retrieve it? Do chores get done in one minute when any normal person would require all morning?

Space and time matter. Understand the spatial distances in your setting, particularly when your character is required to travel that setting. Keep an eye on the expenditure of time—watch your timeline in general.

  • Does your character interact with other characters?

You’ve described your character and his girlfriend enjoying a leisurely dinner at her favorite restaurant. Someone passes by just as he’s about to raise his drink to his lips. He sloshes the liquid, glares at the offender—whom he suddenly recognizes as he watches him weave around tables of diners on his way to the back—reaches for his napkin, and discovers a note has been dropped in his lap. What does he do next?

A. Open the note, read it, and go into a long internal monologue?

B. Go into a long internal monologue about the person who passed by?

C. Respond to his girlfriend’s comment about rudeness and his well-being as he opens the note, reads it, and goes into a short internal monologue about the person who passed by and the meaning of the note?

D. Respond to his girlfriend’s comment about rudeness and his well-being as he opens the note, reads it, then discusses both note and offender with her?

If your answer is A or B, I hope you reconsider. Long internal monologues take the character—and thereby the reader—out of the story world. He’s no longer interacting with the characters and setting around him but centers himself in his own mind.

As an author, stand back and look at the scene. Consider what would most likely happen.

Here’s what I see:

He’s laughing at something she said as he raises his glass.

Someone bumps into him, and he sloshes his drink against his suit coat. He glares at the offender and recognizes him as his informant (or whatever. Pick what you’d like).

“Oh, how rude! Are you okay?” His girlfriend reaches past the centerpiece candle and dabs at the wet spot with her cloth napkin.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Some people have no manners, right?” he responds as he reaches for his napkin and discovers the note. He opens it under the table and reads “meet at the library at 9 p.m.” Joe must have something.

He slips the note into his pocket as he smiles at his girl. “I’m going to need another drink.”

Okay, you say, but what if he needs to mull the note over for a while? Have him receive it at a time when he’s not with someone else. Perhaps the note is dropped in his lap while she’s in the lady’s room or before she arrives or in an entirely different setting.

The point is, when he’s in a setting and mingling with other characters, don’t take him out of the setting to dwell in his thoughts. If you need a period of internalization, allow him to be alone.

Everything interlocks–characters, cast, setting. Everything has an effect on everything else. Keep that in mind as you revise your work. Your readers want and deserve realism.

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New Releases from Christian Authors

New Releases from my friends at

Writers on the Storm

(The Woodlands, Texas, chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers)

Due for release October 4.

Christmas at Stoney CreekWhen newspaper reporter Tom Whiteman befriends a homeless man named Joe, Tom decides to bring him home to Stoney Creek, Texas. Joe begins to work odd jobs around town and make new friends, but contradictions in the man’s manner and speech cause Tom to believe there’s more to the old man than meets the eye.
As Tom and his childhood friend Faith Delmont set out to learn the truth about the old man with the kind, sad eyes, Christmas in Stoney Creek becomes one they will never forget as they discover that God’s love can turn tragedy and loss to triumph and that true love comes to those who wait.
Janice Thompson’s New Christmas Novella

Return to Sender: A Christmas Love Letter NovellaHolly O’Brien’s plans are flipped upside-down when she receives what she believes to be a Christmas letter in the mail. Turns out, the letter is from a complete stranger, and is intended for someone else. The passionate note—written with shaky handwriting—clues Holly in to the fact that the writer wants to reconcile with her estranged family. Holly flies into action to find the sender of the letter. Getting it into the right hands is critical. Her journey leads her to the Shady Acres nursing home, where she meets Gertie, the writer of the cryptic letter. Only one problem: Gertie, who has Alzheimer’s, has no memory of writing it. Enter Liam, Gertie’s handsome grandson. Does he have to key to unraveling this mystery? When Liam and Holly come together, sparks fly, but not all of them in the right direction. Can they work together to solve the mystery behind the letter? And will Holly witness a Christmas miracle as she gets to know this wonderful family?


October 2016 New Releases

ACFW Authors

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Biblical Fiction:

Providence: Hannah’s Journey by Barbara M. Britton — When the prophet of Israel refuses to heal her, Hannah flees Jerusalem and is captured by an enemy with a curse all his own. (Biblical from Harbourlight [Pelican])

Shadow of the Storm by Connilyn Cossette — In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart’s calling to become an apprentice midwife. When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira’s people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she’s denied herself and embrace who she truly is? (Biblical from Bethany House [Baker])

Christmas Novella:

Christmas Lights by Chautona Havig, Vikki Kestell, Cathe Swanson, and April Hayman — From historical romance to contemporary cozy mysteries and Christmas wonder, these four “light” reads will warm your heart and ignite your Christmas spirit! (Christmas Novella, Mixed Genres, Independently Published)

Contemporary Romance:

Risking Love by Brenda S. Anderson — Can cautious bank employee Lissa Morgan risk falling in love with a former thrill-seeker, a widowed single dad, when she may have to foreclose on his house? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Mom for Christmas by Lorraine Beatty — Noah’s dream of a happy family and Beth’s dream of a continuing ballet career are both dashed, but when they come together they discover that the Lord might have a new dream for both of them. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Sleigh Bells Ring by Sandra D. Bricker, Barbara J. Scott, Lynette Sowell, and Lenora Worth — Santa Claus is coming to town, and so are the Tucker sisters. The girls have inherited their father’s run-down horse farm for Christmas. It needs some serious TLC in order to make it sell-ready. Joanna knows that by recruiting her sisters and one handsome ranch hand they can fix up the place and even celebrate one last Christmas while they’re at it. However, to Isabella, returning to their home in Kentucky bluegrass country for Christmas seems like an impossible hurdle. Can her Chicago boyfriend make life merry and bright again? One thing’s for sure: nothing is peace on earth for Sophia as a new beau brings up old wounds. And when the fate of the horse farm is put in jeopardy because Amy accidentally fraternizes with the enemy, tensions rise. But it’s not like the land developer stole Christmas . . . just her heart. Can the Tucker sisters have themselves a merry little Christmas? (Contemporary Romance from Gilead Publishing)

Do You Hear What I Hear? by Margaret Brownley — Stranded at the old Star Inn until the road back to his cabin reopens, lumber mill owner Rick Talbot suddenly comes face to face with the past. The only woman he’s ever loved is standing in front of the inn’s blazing fire trying to get warm. Both Rick and Sally regret what happened between them years ago, but his family lumberyard clashes with her tree-hugging ways and neither are willing to try again. It will take the storm of the century, one stage-struck young boy, a certain meddling “angel”–and even a cranky cat–to convince them that in matters of the heart, sometimes the second time around is best. (Contemporary Romance from St. Martin Press)

More Than a Tiara by Valerie Comer — Marisa Hiller abandoned her modeling career to nurse a broken heart in Montana, far from the photographer who ruined everything. Her family farm is now part of a CSA program teaching gardening and cooking to single moms, but when the coordinator begs her to represent the program in the Miss Snowflake Pageant, Marisa balks. God has forgiven Jase Mackie but hasn’t answered his prayer to bring Marisa back into his life… until Jase finds himself out West as the official photographer for a beauty pageant, face to face with the woman he’s never forgotten. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Room at the Inn for Christmas by Mary Connealy — Ambitious hotel executive Amanda Star’s has got her sights set on the CEO job at the multi-national Halston hotel chain. But then she inherits the Star Inn, a place her father had always wanted her to run alongside him. With no time to be away from her job, she rushes home to put the inn up for sale. Once there, she’s struggles against keen regret, sweet memories, and the longing to return, which grows stronger when she is reunited with an old classmate: Anthony Carter, a handyman with a guarded heart. (Contemporary Romance from St. Martin Press)

Can’t Help Falling by Kara Isaac — A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England. (Contemporary Romance from Howard [Simon & Schuster])

A Christmas Homecoming by Kimberly Rose Johnson — Interior design assistant Bailey Calderwood suspects the mysterious admirer sending her cards and flowers is none other than the son of her unpleasable, bed-ridden boss. When Stephen Belafonte’s mom demands he fire Bailey, can he find a way to heal the rift in his family as well his own heart, or will he be forced to let Bailey go? (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnson — When Caden Holt’s boss asks her to show off their own beautiful Prince Edward Island to impress a visiting travel writer and save the Red Door Inn, the reclusive executive chef is forced to face a world much bigger than her kitchen–and a man who makes her wish she was beautiful. (Contemporary Romance from Revell [A Division of Baker Publishing Group])

Trust My Heart by Carol J. Post — Grant McAllister, a jaded big-city lawyer and small-town reporter Jami Carlisle have no hope of finding true love–except for a zany old matchmaker who won’t give up. In the unspoiled beauty of the Smoky Mountains, there’s healing and forgiveness to be found. And for Grant, this unplanned detour may be just what’s needed to finally guide him home. (Contemporary Romance from Waterfall Press)

Insight by Deborah Raney — She’s having a baby. It’s a blessing that brings comfort to newly widowed Olivia Cline. Yet with no insurance, no job, and precious little money, how will Olivia care for herself and her child? The answer is a handsome and brooding artist seeking an assistant. Reed Vincent has recently regained his eyesight thanks to a donor. And through his eyes, Olivia begins to see all the possibilities before her. Before them. Until, in a flash of insight, she knows why his signature is so hauntingly familiar. (Contemporary Romance from Raney Day Press)

Silver Bells by Deborah Raney — As Elvis croons from the radio and Christmas descends upon a small Kansas town, two people find the miracle of love. (Contemporary Romance from Raney Day Press)

A Family Under the Christmas Tree by Terri Reed — In this heartwarming tale set during the Christmas season, a single father and a fashion photographer are brought together by a young boy and a mischievous Bernese mountain dog–but first they must learn to set aside their differences if they are willing to let their relationship bloom. (Contemporary Romance from Howard [Simon & Schuster])

Third Strand of the Cord by Catherine Richmond — Caroline will do anything to keep her ex-husband from putting her son with Down syndrome in an institution–even enroll the boy in a class taught by a know-it-all karate instructor. Lee Marivaux is an expert at reading people. He knows his feisty new student will thrive with firm guidance – and he’s right. He pegs the boy’s mother as a clueless socialite who loafs at the country club – and he’s never been so wrong. When Caroline’s abusive ex shows up, demanding custody, Lee and Caroline must join forces to keep the boy safe. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Buying Love by Toni Shiloh — Impatient for marriage, Nina Warrenton places an ad in the newspaper for a husband–attaching a monetary reward. But when she begins to fall for the small-town chef who answers her ad, she realizes how much she wants him to love her and not her money. Dwight Williams needs fast cash to save the family restaurant, but can he let it go to prove his love for Nina? (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit)

Moonlight Over Manhattan by Carrie Turansky — Professional organizer Sarah Montgomery is hired to organize her elderly neighbor’s cluttered apartment by Justin Latimer, her neighbor’s grandson. Sarah believes free-spirited Justin is a lazy, unemployed poet who is taking advantage of his grandmother’s generosity. Though attracted to him, she guards her heart against her growing feelings. As Sarah and Justin work together to help his grandmother and enjoy Christmas events in NYC, romantic sparks fly. When Sarah discovers who Justin really is, she must decide if she will continue to hide behind her protective wall or open her heart and embrace love. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Love Bears All Things by Beth Wiseman — Charlotte Dolinsky needs time to recover after breaking up with her boyfriend, Ryan. But when a surprise visitor shows up on her doorstep in Texas, she’s forced to put aside her own worries to help her Amish friends in Lancaster County. Daniel Byler struggles each day in his Amish community to heal from his fiancée’s betrayal. When he discovers that a member of his family is in danger of being shunned, his pain turns to fear. His only way to help is by partnering with Charlotte, a woman he barely knows who has already deceived them all before. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

General Contemporary (includes Women’s Fiction):

Paint The Storm by Dawn V. Cahill — When Meg is challenged to love her lesbian daughter as Christ would, she struggles to live out God’s command, and when her daughter goes missing, she finds herself joined with the unlikeliest of allies in her search for Linzee, and finally learns of God’s unconditional grace for sinners. (Contemporary Women’s Fiction from Spring Mountain Publishing)

Restoration Road by Elise Phillips — Mallory Andrews’s short trip back to Texas for her mother’s funeral quickly becomes a move home to help her grieving father with his contracting business. When her old crush, Tres, hires them for a restoration project Mallory falls in love with the crumbling old house. And when feelings bloom between her and Tres, she finds herself on the road to a brand new, unexpected life filled with faith, sweet tea, and fresh paint. (General Contemporary from Desert Breeze Publishing)

Above All Things by Deborah Raney — Expecting their first baby, Judd and Evette McGlin are thrilled to become parents. But the couple faces the ultimate test when Judd learns he already has a child: a six-year-old mixed-race girl born amid secrets and lies. Now, Evette must decide if she can accept the child. She thought she was open-minded–until hidden prejudices threaten the future of an innocent little girl, Evette’s marriage and the very notion of who she thinks she is. (Contemporary Women’s Fiction from Raney Day Press)

Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti — Alexis set out to restore a fieldstone farmhouse in need of repair. She didn’t expect to restore a life in the process. (General Contemporary from Worthy Inspired)

Strings of Faith by Terry Stafford — Darcy is a classically trained violinist who dreams of playing bluegrass and winning The National Oldtime Fiddle Contest in Weiser, Idaho. When tragedy strikes, Darcy lays her gift aside for her family and faces unimaginable pain and loss, leading to dissension with her husband, disappointing judgment from her church, and anger with God Himself. Can her gift of music survive when her life is turned upside down? (General Contemporary, Independently Published)


The Lost Generation by Erica Marie Hogan — On August 5th, 1914, the world changed forever. For John and Beth Young, it meant the happiness they finally achieved was snatched out from under them. For Emma Cote, it meant that her husband Jared would do his duty, despite her feelings. For Christy Simmons, it meant an uncertain future with the boy she loved. The lives of six people, spread across the British Empire to America were changed forever. (Historical from Elk Lake Publishing Inc.)

Aboard Providence by Keely Brooke Keith — When an accident forces Jonah Ashton to serve as a ship’s physician, he boards the Providence with the plan to escort a group of families to their new settlement in South America and then return to Pennsylvania to finish medical school before rumors of Southern rebellion erupt into all-out war. What he doesn’t count on is getting lost at sea… and Marian Foster. When the settlers finally reach land, Jonah makes a startling discovery that changes everything, but will it change his heart? (Historical from Crossriver Media Group)

Historical Romance:

The Rails to Love Romance Collection by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, Amanda Cabot, Lisa Carter, Ramona K. Cecil, Lynn A. Coleman, Susanne Dietze, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Connie Stevens, and Liz Tolsma — Journey the Transcontinental Railroad along with nine unlikely couples who encounter all the dangers and disappointments of traveling the rails in the late 1800s. From sight-seeing excursions to transports toward new lives, from orphan trains to circus trains, can romances develop into blazing love in a world of cold, hard steel? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Cowboy Christmas Homecoming by Mary Connealy, Ruth Logan Herne, Julie Lessman, and Anna Schmidt — For widow June Harper, another cold front is about to hit. Most call him Hugh. She’d call him Scrooge, except as the man ensures her needs are met, June can’t help but wonder how to meet the needs of his heart. Netty Lewis can take care of herself, has for a while now. And even if Roy, her hired help for the holidays, does take care of her, that doesn’t mean he cares for her or that he’ll stay past Christmas. Pastor Colton McCabe is not sure he’ll make it through the holidays with his new housekeeper. Grace can’t seem to do anything right but love. Perhaps being a homekeeper will earn her a permanent residence in his heart. Connie Lancaster is determined to return to St. Louis, and no cowboy can change her mind. But if Isaac can change her heart, maybe Connie will see the homecoming she’s been longing for isn’t to a place but a person. (Historical Romance from Gilead Publishing)

The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep — Stranded in a strange land, Eleanor Morgan faces starvation or marriage . . . but who wants to marry a murderer? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Rightful Heir by Angel Moore — Cowboy Jared Ivy must work with stranger Mary Lou Ellison until a judge comes to town and determines which one of them is the rightful heir to his family’s Texas newspaper. Intrepid reporter Mary Lou won’t lose the Pine Haven Record–the legacy he left her–without a fight. But when she and Jared stop sparring long enough to investigate a story together, they become a force to be reckoned with. Will they let their battle over the Record get in the way of something even more newsworthy: true love? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Christmas at Stoney Creek by Martha Rogers — When newspaper reporter Tom Whiteman befriends a homeless man named Joe, Tom decides to bring him home to Stoney Creek, Texas for Christmas. As Tom and his childhood friend Faith Delmont set out to learn the truth about the mysterious old man with the kind, sad eyes, they discover that God’s love can turn tragedy and loss to triumph, and that true love comes to those who wait. (Historical Romance from Realms [Charisma Media])


Another Day, Another Dali by Sandra Orchard — In order to regain her grandmother’s favor FBI Special Agent Serena Jones agrees to investigate a missing Salvador Dali painting. But when the evidence points to members of the owner’s own household, it becomes clear that Serena won’t be winning any popularity contests. Then Serena stumbles upon links to her grandfather’s unsolved murder. (Mystery from Revell [A Division of Baker Publishing Group])

Romantic Suspense:

Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon — After a disastrous Middle East mission ends his six-year Army Ranger career, Finn McGregor needs some downtime in the woods. But when someone threatens his neighbor, publishing executive Dana Lewis, Finn and Dana must work together to discover who wants her to leave her lakeside cabin before it costs both their lives. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [A Division of Baker Publishing Group])

Identity Unknown by Terri Reed — When a John Doe washes up on the shores of Calico Bay, no one knows who he is—including him. But one thing’s instantly clear to deputy sheriff Audrey Martin: the man’s marked for murder. And she’s the only one who can protect him from the assassins who lurk at every turn. The arrival of a team of men claiming he’s Canadian Border Services officer Nathanial Longhorn only further complicates the matter. As his memories slowly start drifting back, Nathanial and Audrey work to uncover who wants him dead and why. If they don’t, this Christmas might be their last. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


A Time to Rise by Nadine Brandes — What more can you sacrifice than your life? Parvin Blackwater is dead. At least that’s what the Council and the world thinks. But her sacrifice tore down part of the Wall long enough to stir up hope and rebellion in the people. Parvin and Solomon must uncover the mysterious clues that Jude left behind in order to destroy the projected Wall once and for all. Meanwhile, the Council schemes to new levels of technology in its attempts to keep the people contained. Can a one-handed Radical and a scarred ex-Enforcer really bring shalom to the world? (Speculative Young Adult from Enclave Publishing)

Unblemished by Sara Ella — Eliyana can’t bear to look at her own reflection. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world exists where her blemish could become her strength? (Speculative Young Adult from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Beast by Chawna Schroeder — For as long as Beast can remember, she has lived among her master’s dogs. With them, she sleeps. With them, she eats. With them, she fights and struggles to survive. But through hunger and cold, she dreams of one day becoming her master’s favorite, earning bones with meat and a place beside the fire. When her pack scatters after a surprise raid, Beast must defend herself against slavers, hunting down the loners. They are so strong, and she is only a beast . . . or is she? (Speculative Allegory from Enclave Publishing)

Accelerant by Ronie Kendig — He’ll destroy the world. But he must save it first. As the only able-bodied heir to the Fire Throne, Haegan, Prince of Seultrie must return to the Nine Kingdoms and fight for his people. But there are insidious forces at work. When reality itself falls into question, Haegan struggles to know where to fight, who to trust. Caught between duty to his country and duty to the world, Haegan must see clearly enough to choose the right path to save his devastated world. (Speculative High Fantasy from Enclave Publishing)


Death in the Mind’s Eye by Rick Acker — It knows what you’re thinking. It knows when you’re lying. Does it know how to kill? San Francisco attorney Mike Webster and Dr. Johanna Anderson, a brilliant and beautiful psychologist, must clear Jo’s name of a malpractice case before the controversial, technologically-assisted Mind’s Eye therapy is seized by a shadowy finance firm and used as a weapon. (Thriller/Suspense from Waterfall Press)

The Warrior’s Seal by Ronie Kendig — A Special Forces team is thrust into a war with the past to save the president after an artifact unleashes a deadly toxin. Special Forces operative Cole “Tox” Russell and his team are tasked in a search-and-rescue–the U.S. president has been kidnapped during a goodwill tour. The mission nosedives when an ancient biblical artifact and a deadly toxin wipe out villages. Tox must stop the terrorists and the toxin to save the president. This is a free e-novella prequel! (Thriller/Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Deadly Infiltration by W. Richard Lawrence — Infiltrators inside the American government are betraying undercover agents while helping sneak weapons of mass destruction across our borders. To keep their work hidden, they are willing to murder anyone who gets in their way. Sara, a brilliant computer expert working for the FBI, finds herself caught in the middle. Sara’s young faith in God is gravely tested when she is framed for the murder of an FBI agent, forcing her to go into hiding. Meanwhile, Sara’s fiancé Derry lives up to a promise he made to her and gives up his future to save her and hopefully the country. (Thriller/Suspense from Boarding House Publishing)

Western Historical:

Refining Fire by Carol Cox — Meet the Arizona Territory Brides. Four strong, independent women–each determined to stand on her own two feet, and not one of them looking for romance. But sometimes love shows up when you least expect it… (Western, Pioneer/Prairie, Independently Published)

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