Wonderful New Titles for March!

March 2020 New Releases

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

Contemporary Romance:

Love & Liberty by Elsie Davis — A New Hampshire firefighter and an Audubon Society member go head to head when his work involving controlled forest fires threatens a rumored eagle nest. (Contemporary Romance from Sweet Promise Press)

Formula for a Perfect Life by Christy Hayes — College senior Kayla Cummings’ dreams are crushed by an unplanned pregnancy after a one-night stand with her secret crush. When she confronts the baby’s father, Ben Strickland, his destined life spins out of control. With the clock ticking and decisions to make, Ben and Kayla embark on a journey where falling in love might be the biggest surprise of all. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published )

Hill Country Redemption by Shannon Taylor Vannatter — When Rance Shepherd takes a job stocking cattle for a local rodeo, he’s shocked that his new client is his ex-sweetheart, Larae Collins. Now he’s determined to prove to the single mother that he isn’t the restless cowboy she remembers. But when he discovers her little girl is his, they both must forgive past mistakes for a second shot at a future together. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Spring Splash by Denise Weimer — An injured college swimmer volunteers to help with a Special Olympics swim team as a part of her sports marketing practicum and butts heads with the team’s handsome but stubborn coach. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)


Selah’s Stolen Dream by Susan Count — Thirteen-year-old Selah’s perfect life unravels when her beloved horse is stolen. Then ten-year-old Emma buys the dream of a lifetime at a horse auction. When she learns the horse was stolen, even removing her hearing aid won’t drown out the voice telling her to make it right.But two girls can’t divide the horse they both adore. So will life surprise them with an answered prayer? (Middle Grade from Hastings Creations Group)


Sorrento Girl by Dawn Klinge — It’s 1938, and Ann Brooks has big dreams of her new life as a Seattle College coed. She’s left the old-fashioned ways of her small country town behind to pursue higher education and a teaching career. But not everyone is ready for change. Society still preaches that a woman’s place is in the home. Some refuse to see Ann as an equal deserving of an education — let alone a career — and Ann’s friends think school is simply a springboard to pursue a marriage of wealth and convenience. When Ann meets Paul, an aspiring journalist with strong ideas of his own, she learns an unexpected lesson in courage and discovers what it really means to live her dreams. Will Ann give up everything she thought she wanted for love? Or can she have it all? (Historical, Independently Published)

The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear — Based on real events beginning in 1797 — Rachel Taylor lives a rather mundane existence at the way station her family runs along the Wilderness Road in Tennessee. She attends her friend’s wedding only to watch it dissolve in horror has the groom, Wiley Harpe, and his cousin become murderers on the run, who drag their families along. Declaring a “war on all humanity,” the Harpes won’t be stopped, and Ben Langford is on their trail to see if his own cousin was one of their latest victims. How many will die before peace can return to the frontier? (Historical from Barbour Publishing)

Roll Back the Clouds by Terri Wangard — Sailing on the Lusitania is a dream-come-true for Rosaleen and Geoff Bonnard, but their journey turns into a nightmare. Will they ever find their joy again? (Historical, Independently Published)

Historical Romance:

The Heart’s Stronghold by Amanda Barratt, Angie Dicken, Gabrielle Meyer, and Kimberley Woodhouse — Join four brave women making their mark on history at Colonial forts. Faced with tragedy and distrust they will fight to bring civility, family, and love to the frontier. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Hope in the Mountain River by Misty M. Beller — This epic journey is not at all what she expected. Joel Vargas can’t believe he’s lost his older brother in the wilds of the Rocky Mountains after surviving their harrowing voyage across the Atlantic. And he can’t shake the feeling that Adam—his only living relative—is in dire trouble. No matter what the cost, he and his band of friends won’t stop until Adam is found. He’s not sure if two Indian women they meet on the way will be a help or hindrance. After the devastating loss of her daughter and husband to a sickness that swept through their Nez Perce camp, Elan is desperate to find an escape from her grief. As she and her friend journey through the mountains toward the great river, a band of white men is the last thing she expects to find, especially as winter blows in full force. When the dangers increase, accomplishing Joel’s mission becomes the only hope for all their survival. If the elements don’t consume them, Elan has a feeling life will never be the same for any of them. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Out of the Embers by Amanda Cabot — Ten years after her parents were killed, Evelyn Radcliffe is once more homeless. The orphanage that was her refuge and later her workplace has burned to the ground, and only she and a young orphan girl have escaped. Convinced this must be related to her parents’ murders, Evelyn flees with the girl to Mesquite Springs in the Texas Hill Country and finds refuge in the home of Wyatt Clark, a talented horse rancher whose plans don’t include a family of his own. At first, Evelyn is a distraction. But when it becomes clear that trouble has followed her to Mesquite Springs, she becomes a full-blown disruption. Can Wyatt keep her safe from the man who wants her dead? And will his own plans become collateral damage? (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Woman of Sunlight by Mary Connealy — From a remote Colorado mountain to the bustle of Chicago. Ilsa finds herself married and dragged into rushing wagons and horses, high rise buildings and a ruthless killer who’s followed them across a country. (Western from Bethany House [Baker])

The Merchant’s Yield by Lorri Dudley — A debutant finds herself in a compromising situation with a Leeward Islander, which lands her in a marriage of inconvenience with the man who then carries her across the Atlantic to his home. When he learns of her weak constitution and believes she can’t survive the hardships of island life, she sets out to prove him wrong. (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)

A Love Not Forgotten by Linda Shenton Matchett — Allison White should be thrilled about her upcoming wedding. The problem? She’s still in love with her fiancé, Chaz, who was declared dead after being shot down over Germany in 1944. Can she put the past behind her and settle down to married life with the kindhearted man who loves her? It’s been two years since Charles “Chaz” Powell was shot down over enemy territory. The war is officially over, but not for him. He has amnesia as a result of injuries sustained in the crash, and the only clue to his identity is a love letter with no return address. Will he ever regain his memories and discover who he is, or will he have to forge a new life with no connections to the past? (Historical Romance by Shortwave Press)

Romantic Suspense:

Killer Harvest by Tanya Stowe — Can she stop a deadly crop virus from ending up in the wrong hands? Biologist and single mom Sassa Nilsson just witnessed her mentor’s brutal murder by environmental extremists. Now she’s the last link to a deadly pathogen they plan on unleashing—and their number one target! But can handsome border patrol agent Jared De Luca shield Sassa and her baby long enough to find a cure…before the entire world faces the unthinkable consequences? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Traces by Denise Weimer — When a failed romance and a $500,000 prize lure Kate Carson into participating in the reality TV show, Traces, the least she expects is to pick her partner. After all, she’s the PR spokeswoman of the company that derived a thirteen-lens, rotating camera from military use and installed it atop Atlanta’s tallest skyscraper. But she never would have chosen to evade techno hunters for twenty days with “G.I. Joe.” Stoic, ex-military Alex Mitchell is the sort of man she always vowed to avoid, while the shadows of Alex’s past cause him to spurn emotional involvement. When Kate’s insider knowledge makes her a target of someone more threatening than game show hunters, Alex offers her only hope to reveal the dark plans of proponents of The Eye. (Romantic Suspense from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Song in the Dark by Jessica White — After graduating from Juilliard, harpist Jenna Fields returns home to Albany to escape her manipulative ex and prove to her controlling mother that she can orchestrate her own life. Homicide detective Dean Blackburn spends his days seeking justice for the dead. But darkness taints everything, including him. When his three Dobermans lead him to Jenna playing in the park, he tries to resist the beautiful musician and focus on his cases. At least until he witnesses Jenna’s ex attempt to blackmail her and learns she’s being stalked, just like one of his homicide victims. When her world crumbles beneath her feet, and Dean learns she has her own dark secrets, he helps Jenna see that the key to escaping her mother’s gilded cage is already in her hands. (Romantic Suspense from Mantle Rock Publishing)

Secrets She Knew by D.L. Wood — Boston police detective Dani Lake dreads returning to her small hometown of Skye, Alabama, for her ten-year high school reunion–and not just for the normal reasons. At only fifteen, Dani tragically discovered the body of her murdered classmate, setting in motion the process that led to the unjust conviction of her dear friend and an unshakable burden of guilt she carries to this day. So when new evidence surfaces during her trip home which suggests the truth Dani’s always suspected, she embarks on a mission to expose the real killer, aided by Skye detective Chris Newton–who happens to be the man Dani’s best friend is dying to set her up with, and also the only person who believes her. But when Dani pushes too hard, someone pushes back, endangering Dani and those closest to her as she unearths secrets deeper and darker than she ever expected to learn—secrets that may bring the truth to light, if they don’t get her killed first. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)


Chasing the White Lion by James R. Hannibal — Rookie spy Talia Inger goes deep undercover in the world’s first crowdsourced crime syndicate to unveil a monster and rescue kidnapped refugee children. (Techno-thriller from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Kings Falling by Ronie Kendig — Leif Metcalfe and his team, dubbed Reaper, need to recover the stolen, ancient Book of the Wars if they hope to stop the Armageddon Coalition and their pursuit of global economic control. But their attention has been diverted by a prophecy in the book that foretells of formidable guardians who will decimate the enemies of ArC. While Iskra Todorova uses her connections in the covert underworld to hunt down the Book of the Wars, Leif and Reaper attempt to neutralize these agents but quickly find themselves outmaneuvered and outgunned. The more Reaper tries to stop the guardians, the more failure becomes a familiar, antagonistic foe. Friendships are fractured, and the team battles to hold it together long enough to defeat ArC. But as this millennia-old conspiracy creeps closer and closer to home, the implications could tear Leif and the team apart. (Military Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

Love & Hope by Elsie Davis, Contemporary Romance
Bite the Dust by Jackie Layton, Cozy Mystery
Jordan’s Arrow by Allen Steadham, Speculative
The Letters by C. Kevin Thompson, Suspense

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Loving a Harvey Girl Controversy

I had so much fun writing my contribution to The Cowboys novella collection because I got to play with the hero of this romance, Cal Stephens.

Actually, I did what most authors do these days and went very deep into his POV, writing all his scenes as if he were the one talking. And, since he’s a cowboy with limited education, his grammar is . . . shall we say rough?

Granted, not everyone who lives in the country and rides a horse has poor grammar, but I’ve personally known several who do. Relatives in Georgia, friends here in Texas—even my own husband, who was raised deep in the Texas countryside, has a questionable grasp on the English language.

Because I know all these people, I’m aware of how they talk. Their speech is not always correct, but that doesn’t reflect on their intelligence or sense of humor. My husband is the king of common sense. He just has his own way of expressing it.

So herein lies the controversy: Many of the people who reviewed The Cowboys dinged Loving a Harvey Girl because of Cal’s grammar. One reader said this: “I had a really hard time with this novella. The uneducated talk and slang of the cowboys did not make it easy to read and I felt some of it was overdone. ”

I’m not sure I understand. The heroine, Eva Knowles, has good grammar and just as much time on the page, so it’s not like the entire novella is rough. A friend of mine writes Historical Romances set in Scotland, complete with a depiction of the Scottish accent. Another writes Victorian Romances, complete with Cockney. Regardless of their chosen settings, many authors try to present characters’ speech patterns and dialects. Does everyone get dinged?

But one reviewer said this about Loving a Harvey Girl:

Linda Yezak’s Loving a Harvey Girl features big-hearted Cal Stephens who befriends Eva Knowles who needs a job to help her family make ends meet. The “cowboy language” used added authenticity to this story and it felt to me like at times I was right there with Cal riding the horse and hearing the creak of the saddle. This was a very well-planned historical love story as was evidenced by the mannerisms, foods, clothing, and many other touches artfully placed in this story.

This reader recognized what I was trying to do—bring “authenticity” to the story. She is now one of my most favoritist people.

Here’s the good news:

You have the opportunity to read—for free!—the entire collection, and when you get to mine (the last novella in the collection), you can decide for yourself whether I overdid it. Actually, drop me a note and let me know. I might have to adjust the way I write!

Good until February 17th!

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New Releases from Your Favorite ACFW Authors!

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

Contemporary Romance:

Hands of Grace by Brenda S. Anderson — She’s always looked for love in the wrong places. He wants nothing to do with love. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Desert Willow by Patricia Beal — A stubborn ballerina and a charming young officer are brought together by an old woman’s dying wish and last love letter. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

A Gift to Cherish by Victoria Bylin — Rafe Donovan, a cop from Cincinnati, is haunted by a recurring nightmare about the drug death of his high school sweetheart. Those nightmares force him to take leave from his job, seek help, and shelter in Refuge, where he pounds nails for his brother’s construction business. Rafe has no desire to stay in Wyoming. His goal is to get back to being a cop in Ohio as soon as possible. But then he meets Daisy Riley . . . When he finds her stranded late at night with a flat tire, he’s impressed by her courage. Daisy is equally impressed by him, but as a former victim of violence, she treasures her safe and secure life in Refuge. Together they navigate the road to love—one that’s complicated by the arrival of Daisy’s troubled best friend, online dating, and the impossible obstacle of 1,600 miles between her home and his. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Her Rocky Mountain Hope by Mindy Obenhaus — Learning to trust can be the greatest adventure. She’s always played it safe…Can he reach her guarded heart? Ready to open his camp for young cancer patients, Daniel Stephens must impress foundation overseer Blythe McDonald to ensure she approves funding for next year. But the cautious former cancer patient was once let down by a similar program, and she’ll leave no stone unturned in her evaluation. Can he convince her his camp is worthy of the money…and that he’s worthy of her love? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Story of Us by Teri Wilson — When a bookstore owner and an architect go head to head over a new development that threatens her store, they find a box of love letters from the past that may hold the key to their future. (Contemporary Romance from Hallmark Publishing)

General Split Time:

The Tea Chest by Heidi ChiavaroliBoston, 1773… Emma Malcolm’s father is staunchly loyal to the crown, but Emma’s heart belongs to Noah Winslow, a lowly printer’s assistant and Patriot. Her father has promised her hand to Samuel Clarke, a rapacious and sadistic man. As his fiancée, she would have to give up Noah and the friends who have become like family to her?as well as the beliefs she has come to embrace. After Emma is drawn into the treasonous Boston Tea Party, Samuel blackmails her with evidence that condemns each participant, including Noah. Emma realizes she must do whatever it takes to protect those she loves, even if it means giving up the life she desires and becoming Samuel’s wife. Present Day… Lieutenant Hayley Ashworth is determined to be the first woman inducted into the elite Navy SEALs. But before her dream can be realized, she must return to Boston in order to put the abuse and neglect of her childhood behind her. When an unexpected encounter with the man she once loved leads to the discovery of a tea chest and the document hidden within, she wonders if perhaps true strength and freedom are buried deeper than she first realized. Two women, separated by centuries, must find the strength to fight for love and freedom. . . and discover a heritage of courage and faith. (General Contemporary from Tyndale House)


Heavenly Lights by Barbara M. Britton — God gave Noah bat Zelophehad four sisters, a way with four-legged creatures, and a strong spirit. She will need all three gifts to thrive in the Promised Land of God and find love with a special shepherd. (Historical from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

Historical Romance:

Waltz in the Wilderness by Kathleen Denly — Eliza Brooks is haunted by her role in her mother’s death, so she’ll do anything to find her missing pa—even if it means sneaking aboard a southbound ship. When those meant to protect her abandon and betray her instead, a family friend’s unexpected assistance is a blessing she can’t refuse. Daniel Clarke came to California to make his fortune, and a stable job as a San Francisco carpenter has earned him more than most have scraped from the local goldfields. But it’s been four years since he left Massachusetts and his fiancé is impatient for his return. Bound for home at last, Daniel Clarke finds his heart and plans challenged by a tenacious young woman with haunted eyes. Though every word he utters seems to offend her, he is determined to see her safely returned to her father. Even if that means risking his fragile engagement. When disaster befalls them in the remote wilderness of the Southern California mountains, true feelings are revealed, and both must face heart-rending decisions. But how to decide when every choice before them leads to someone getting hurt? (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)

The Brightest of Dreams by Susan Anne Mason — Quinten Aspinall is determined to fulfill the promise he made to his dying father and keep his family together. To do so, he travels to Canada to find his younger siblings, who were sent there as indentured workers when Quinn was away at war. While overseas, he agrees to look for his employer’s niece who ran off with a Canadian soldier. If Quinn can bring Julia back, he will receive his own tenant farm, allowing him to give his ailing mother and his siblings a true home at last. Julia Holloway’s decision to come to Toronto has met with nothing but disaster. When her uncle’s employee rescues her from a bad situation, she fears she can never repay Quinn’s kindness. So when he asks for her help to find his sister, she agrees. The quest draws the two of them together, but soon afterward, Julia receives devastating news that will change her life forever. Torn between reuniting his family and protecting Julia, will Quinn have to sacrifice his own happiness to finally keep his promise? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Three Little Things by Patti Stockdale — Hattie Waltz should forget the troubled neighbor leaving for boot camp in 1917. He forgot about her ages ago. It had always been the Waltzs verses the Kregers, his family pitted against hers. When she hands him a farewell gift, a chemistry lesson unfolds. The good kind. Arno Kreger can’t leave Iowa or his old man fast enough. He’s eager to prove his worth on the battlefield and stop blaming himself for his brother’s death. Before entering the train, he bumps into Hattie. He’s loved her forever, always from the sidelines, because nobody crosses Hattie’s pa. One innocent letter soon morphs into many. Arno and Hattie share three little secrets in each letter and grow closer together. But he’s on his way to war across the ocean, and she’s still in her father’s house. Their newfound love will need to survive dangers on both fronts. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin — With his future stolen by his brothers’ betrayal, Private Clay Paxton trains hard with the US Army Rangers, determined to do his best in the upcoming Allied invasion of France. Leah Jones works as a librarian at the army base, hoping to find her lost sisters. A marriage of convenience binds them together, but will D-day—and a foreboding dream—tear them apart? (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Taming Julia by Jodie Wolfe — A gun-toting, breeches-wearing wife wasn’t what the minister ordered. In 1875, Kansas bachelor Drew Montgomery’s sole desire is to serve God, but his congregation’s ultimatum that he marry or leave, forces him to advertise for a wife by proxy. Jules Walker strides into Drew’s life wearing breeches and toting a gun and saddle–more cowboy than bride. After years on the trail, she’s not exactly wife material, but she longs for home and family, and will do anything to ensure Drew never discovers what she really is. (Historical Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])


Under Cover by Linda Shenton Matchett — In the year since arriving in London, journalist Ruth Brown has put a face on the war for her readers at home in the U.S. Thus far, juggling her career and her relationship with Detective Inspector Trevor Gelson hasn’t proven too challenging. The war gets personal for Ruth when her friend Amelia is murdered, and Trevor is assigned to the case. Life gets even more unsettling when clues indicate her best friend, Varis, is passing secrets to the enemy. Convinced Varis is innocent, Ruth must find the real traitor as the clock ticks down toward Operation Husky-the Allied invasion of Sicily. Circumstantial evidence leads Trevor to suspect her of having a part in Amelia’s death, and Ruth must choose between her heart and her duty. (Historical Mystery from Shortwave Press)

Romantic Suspense:

Legacy Reclaimed by Robin Patchen — She’ll risk anything to save the company her parents built. When someone makes threats on her life, he’ll risk anything to save her. But that someone will stop at nothing to make sure they both fail. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)


Cry of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse — Lady Selene Ravenwood has come into her full power as a dreamwalker just as the war with the Dominia Empire begins. Working with the other Great Houses, Selene and Damien use their gifts to secure the borders and save those devastated by the war. But conflict, betrayal, and hatred begin to spread between the Great Houses, destroying their unity as the empire burns a path across their lands. At the same time, Damien Maris starts to lose his ability to raise the waters, leaving the lands vulnerable to the empire’s attacks. The only one who can unite the houses and restore her husband’s power is Selene Ravenwood. But it will require that she open her heart to those who have hurt her and let go of her past, despite the one who hunts her and will do anything to stop her power. Will Selene survive? Or is she destined to fall like the dreamwalkers before her? (Fantasy from Bethany House [Baker])

Young Adult:

Follow the Dawn by Rachelle Rea Cobb — Anna Emory grew up the invisible, shy younger sister, and she prefers it that way. But when her father attempts to arrange an unsavory marriage, Anna learns that courage is sometimes found in adversity. Then she meets a boy and his father struggling in their relationship, and they tip her quiet world upside down. Captain Mathieu Tudder has run from responsibility, entrusting his young son’s care to another and devoting his Sea Beggar ship to the Dutch Revolution. After that cause fails, Tudder returns to England for the son he left behind. But his son seems to have given his heart to a unknown and quiet lady—a woman who reminds him of all he’s ever loved and lost. Will these two hearts—the battle-scarred and the broken—ever find true freedom? (Young Adult Historical from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

The Vault Between Spaces by Chawna Schroeder — Every legend must start somewhere… No prisoner who enters the gates of HopeWell ever leaves. But from the moment Oriel sets foot inside Anatroshka’s most formidable prison camp, she unsettles both commandant and prisoner alike with eyes that see beyond the surface and music that trails her everywhere. Petite and delicate though she appears, Oriel bows before neither threat nor punishment. Moreover, she makes no attempt to hide her intention: Oriel plans to escape the inescapable HopeWell. But when facades are stripped away and myth becomes clothed in flesh, what begins as a prison break becomes a mission to stop the invasion of evil itself. (Young Adult Fantasy from Enclave Publishing)

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

The Duke’s Refuge by Lorri Dudley, Historical Romance
Hannah’s Courage by Molly Jebber, Amish Romance
The Missing Manuscript by Sylvia A Nash, Cozy Mystery
Silvyn’s Tale by Sara Nicole, Fantasy
Freedom Lake Collection: Books 1 – 3 by Toni Shiloh, Contemporary Romance
Yellowstone Yondering by Kristen Joy Wilks, Contemporary Romance

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Review: Christmas in Love

Okay, so I’m late to be writing a review of a Christmas collection, but I was late reading it. In December 2019—Christmas had already passed—I found Jessica Ferguson’s book in my Kindle. Jess is a dear, personal friend of mine, and I can’t believe it took me so long to read her collection. But I’m sure glad I did.

Christmas in Love is a collection of Jess’s best Christian Christmas romances, and I loved them all. My favorite . . . well, first things first.

I love the theme running through each novella: Reconciliation. One of the characters in each story has or needs to reconcile with Christ, then prove themselves to and reconcile with the other MC. It isn’t always easy. Jesus is “faithful and just to forgive,” but it takes the rest of us a little longer when we’ve been hurt. Jess beautifully depicts the pain and confusion the injured party endures while at the same time showing the determination and self-kicking of the one who did the injuring. The pain runs both ways when two people in love split up.

All three stories, carefully crafted and beautifully presented by my friend and mentor, Jessica Ferguson, are worth the read—if not at this late date, save it for July. But my favorite is (drum roll, please) If You Believe. Oh, my! What a wedding that must’ve been!

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Review: Every Breath You Take

Occasionally, I like a break from reading romance, and Every Breath You Take was the perfect break I needed.

When I read the back-cover copy, I expected this to be a nail-biter of a suspense: “Detective Kristen Conner may not be able to figure out her own love life, but she is about to get a crash course on finding Mr. Right, even as she finds herself in the crosshairs of a determined killer’s gun.”

Based on that, I expected to be holding my breath until the end of the book. But that wasn’t the case.

According to one of the endorser’s comments, the book is an “intense roller-coaster ride.” But that’s not the case either. I never once felt on a roller coaster.

But the same endorser said this: “Gilroy’s writing feels effortless”—and that’s right on point. Even though I didn’t feel like it was a gripping book, I couldn’t put it down.

Every Breath You Take is book 2 of the Kristen Conner series, and I’m sorry I missed the first one (got it on my wish list). Kristen is a typical tough-as-nails, never cries, lives for a workout heroine found in police procedurals, but she has a charming soft-spot for her high-volume nephew and his soccer-princess sister. In fact, Kristen coaches her niece’s team, the Snow Flakes. Can you get any farther from “tough” than that?

Instead of reading like a driven, get-the-bad-guy mystery, Every Breath You Take is like reading a month in the life of a detective. There’s one primary case to keep the novel in the genre and a couple of side cases that illustrates to the idea that detectives often have more than one case file open. There’s an awkward romance, a family crisis, and lots of references to football. And lots of action.

In other words, the novel reads a lot like an episode of Rizzoli & Isles, Tess Gerritsen’s novel series-turned-TV show. And it competes well with it.

Then, as the novel draws to a close, all the clues start falling into place, and you experience the fun part of reading mysteries: Hot dog! I guessed right! or Wow, I didn’t see that coming! Followed by a gripping scene of catching the bad guys and a strong, satisfying conclusion.

Yep. I’m glad I read this one.


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Trad vs Indie Revisited

In December of 2018, I wrote “Trad vs Indie—again” and spoke of the temptation for me to try the traditional publication route. Then, I ended the post with “2019 should be an interesting year.” That last sentence was prophetic, but for a different reason. I didn’t get much work done last year.

But it doesn’t matter. My decision to go traditional with a major publisher all but bit the dust after the ACFW conference. One of the premier agents indicated that I don’t have a chance of getting with a major publisher.

So consider this a learn from my mistakes post.

I can’t stress enough the importance of starting your platform now and learning the business end of this business. It’s all well and good to write a book or two, but to make a career out of writing takes numbers: number of books, number of sales, number of fans.

I have several publications, both indie and trad, published with small houses. Most of the books I’ve entered for literary awards have either won or finaled, including an Honorable Mention in the Saturday Evening Post’s 2016 Great American Fiction contest. Being productive is nice. Being an award winner is nice. Neither will have a major agent gushing over me. And the reason is the “numbers of sales” mentioned above.

All of my books together don’t reflect a good sales record, and after all this time, they should. Sales should increase with each new publication because the fan base should increase. But the truth is, I just don’t know how to do internet marketing. I’ve studied all the right books and blogs, but I just can’t seem to find the magic formula.

That formula is vital. As the agent explained, the first thing she’d look at is sales, because it’s easier to sell to a major publisher if her client has the initiative to make a good go of it on her own. The major publisher wants someone who has a record of selling, because that’s the first thing bookstores will look at. As the publisher’s sales rep is reading through the list of new releases, the bookstore’s buyer is looking up the authors’ names to see if they sell well. A lousy record means the sales rep doesn’t sell, which means the publisher doesn’t make money, which means the agent doesn’t make money and you certainly don’t make money.

Writing is an art. Being a writer is an honor. Making a living as a writer means treating your art and honor as a business.

I always have treated it as a business, but some folks seem to understand how to do it better than I do. I’m not worried about myself, though, because I do have a publisher interested in my work. Not a major one, but a traditional publisher just the same. So when things settle down, I’m still going traditional, and I’m still going to aim for a major publisher someday. I have a game plan sketched out that I’m anxious to implement as soon as we’re settled in our new house and my office is in order.

But my advice to any newbie author who wants to make a living at this is to aim for the traditional market. I know that sounds hypocritical and heretical to some, but here’s my reasoning: a precious few indies make the kind of money that will attract a large publisher, which means precious few indies are making a living at this. The larger traditional publishers can put you places you can’t go as an indie and can provide a marketing budget to get you recognized in ways you can’t do yourself. Your efforts will supplement theirs, but incredibly few indies can match what they do.

I used to think if I couldn’t sell a book to a publisher, I’d just put it out myself. And I do. But for the newbie, I would recommend not doing this. If you fall as far from “brilliant” as I do as a marketer, your lack of sales can hurt you in the long run, just as they have me. Keep writing. While you’re hunting for an agent, keep writing. If the first book doesn’t sell, the next one might, then perhaps your first can follow.

For the most part, successful hybrid authors started as successful traditionally published authors who got the rights back on their books and revamped them for the market again. I’m not saying indies can’t be successful. I know too many of them who are. But it is a lot of work, and unless you’re a well informed Type A personality with excellent time management skills, you’re likely to fall into the same category as the rest of us: an indie or hybrid with low to marginal success.

A lot of authors are fine with having a few sales here and there. They just want to write and share their talent. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you want to make a living as a writer, have a game plan. Educate yourself. Think beyond the art of writing and become pragmatic about the business.

And be a better marketer than I am.


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To Be Judged

After we worked our fingers to the bones and our bodies into a state of utter fatigue, we finally had the house ready to be scrutinized by all those strangers who’d eagerly set up appointments to see it. We had four showings, to be exact, and we weren’t allowed to be here for them. Thank heavens, I say. The last thing I wanted was to see the faces of those whose sole purpose for being here was to judge the house and everything in it.

Have you ever watched those house-hunting shows on TV? More often than not, the couple seeking a new home has high hopes and limited funds. They want new or updated houses that match their tastes exactly and criticize everything from the carpet on the floors to the choice of color on the walls.

But not just that. When strangers come into your house, they’re seeing everything that makes it a home to you. The kinds of things you collect. The pictures of your family. Your taste in furniture and decor. Everything. And they judge it, even though it doesn’t come with the house. They see the things you’ve put up with all these years, and they wonder why you haven’t fixed it. The crack in the floor tile, the crack in the wall, the buckling carpet. They wonder why you’ve never repaired the _____ (fill in the blank). Some of the stuff is cosmetic; some create valid concerns, but we’ve dealt with them.

Our house has two strikes against it: It’s old and we’re the owners. It was built in the ’70s and looks it. I stink as an interior decorator. To me, it’s our home and it looks fine. To others, it’s supposed to be a showplace and it’s severely lacking. And it doesn’t help that all of our home improvement budget went to doctors and hospitals instead.

And, when we got to hear the opinions of those who came out, that’s what we heard: the house is dated. It would take too much to bring it up to “my standards.” “Goodness! Are they the original owners?” Which, of course, points to the fact that anyone else would’ve updated it.

I’m well aware of all the problems in this house, and being outdated is only part of it. I’ve been known to get splinters from the cabinets. The dark paneling shows dust something awful. The popcorn from the ceiling brushes off when I clean around the vents. The carpet in the bedrooms has been here since we moved in, and the only reason the carpet in the living and dining rooms is newer is because we had a little fire that burned holes in the old one. The windows aren’t sealed well enough, so there’s a bit of a draft. The drapes don’t close right. The tub has a stain that was here when we moved in, and I have yet to figure out how to get it out.

So, believe me, whatever words of criticism house-hunters express, I agree. But here’s the thing: it’s still our home and it hurts to hear the indictment against it. We’ve been here, broke but happy, for over twenty years. Things would’ve been different had I never gotten sick, but things are what they are. And if I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t move away from the view outside my window—the trees, all the birds and squirrels, the turtles sunning on the pond bank, the fading of the cypress trees in the fall from green to gold to rust. Our new house is in town, in a typical neighborhood, and that’s what we’ll see when we look out the windows there. Neighbors.

I think I’m still tired from all the work we’ve been doing the past several days. Ordinarily, I’m not so morose. We have a lot to be thankful for, so I really shouldn’t complain about anything. I’m certain God has softened the heart of whomever He has chosen to move into this beautiful place. And it is beautiful. Despite all the problems, it has great “bones,” as they call it in the business, and it’s surrounded by lovely woods and the peaceful pond. God knows who will love it as much as we do and will bring them here in time.

Meanwhile, I’ll pick out splinters and watch the fish play in the pond.

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Take My Advice

Saturday morning, I finally got to sit down to take a break from an arduous cleaning spree. I decided to memorialize the moment with a shot of a reasonably clean house—and Ree Drummond.

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have read all the times I whined about sore muscles and smelly oils like Scott’s Liquid Gold and WD40. Believe me, what I posted on Facebook doesn’t begin to match all the whining my body was doing.

As I mentioned in my last post about our goings-on, we had already made the decision to stay put when God nullified that decision for us. During the end of 2018, I thought we were going to move, so during that time and a few months in to 2019 I was packing and cleaning at my own pace, taking my time because we still had to build the house on the farm. Then, as everyone probably already knows, we got hit with a series of crises—not to mention the doubling in price of the house we wanted to build–and figured God didn’t want us to move. Come to find out, He did, just not to the farm, and far sooner than we expected.

Here’s the deal: I haven’t regained my strength since the big Crohn’s flare-up in 2011-2012, so my house hasn’t had a good spring-cleaning since at least 2011. What little I did in 2018-2019 didn’t amount to a hill of beans, because after the first crisis hit in March, all cleaning activity stopped. A fact I deeply regret today as I rub Aspercreme on my sore muscles and pop Tylenol for the added boost of pain-relief.

And, here’s my advice: As much as you’d love to skip spring cleaning—especially when you’re sick or busy or just don’t feel like it—don’t. Hire it done if you must, but don’t neglect it. If you get hit with a surprise move or some other event in your life that requires a clean house, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Dust bunnies multiply, yes, but worse: they dig in. They attach themselves until nothing but elbow grease will shoo them away. Grime gets  everywhere and makes for tedious work in corners and crevices. And don’t get me started on what you’ll find behind and under furniture. {{{SHUDDER}}}

Don’t wait until spring. Start now. Your muscles will thank you in the long run.

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First Titles of the New Year!

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

Contemporary Romance:

A Rancher to Trust by Laurel Blount — After learning his ex-wife isn’t so ex after all, rebel turned rancher Dan Whitlock is determined to prove he’s a changed man…but Bailey Quinn is just as set on finally ending their marriage. When tragedy makes Dan the guardian of little orphaned twins, he and Bailey are drawn back together. But can she forgive the past and open her heart to the family she’s always wanted? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

Star Rising by Janet W. Ferguson — Star Youngblood tries to protect her employer, Mrs. Priscilla Kelly, from the woman’s neglectful son, an aspiring flight instructor who has issues with religion, but finds her own heart is at the greatest risk. (Contemporary Romanc, Independently Published)

A Promise to Keep by Melony Teague — Savannah, a widowed research librarian, goes to her twenty year class reunion and gets reacquainted with Michael, a former troublemaker who is now a professional technical rescuer. Before the night is over, a pact between these two old friends will lead them on an adventure into uncharted emotional territory where Michael must confront his past regrets and find the courage to reveal the truth. But can Savannah fly from her sheltered nest and risk her heart on a real-life hero? (Contemporary Romance from Anaiah Press)

General Contemporary:

A Long Time Comin by Robin W. Pearson — To hear Beatrice Agnew tell it, she entered the world with her mouth tightly shut. Just because she finds out she’s dying doesn’t mean she can’t keep it that way. If any of her children have questions about their daddy and the choices she made after he abandoned them, they’d best take it up with Jesus. There’s no room in Granny B’s house for regrets or hand-holding. Or so she thinks. Her granddaughter, Evelyn Lester, shows up on Beatrice’s doorstep anyway, burdened with her own secret baggage. Determined to help her Granny B mend fences with her far-flung brood, Evelyn turns her grandmother’s heart and home inside out. Evelyn’s meddling uncovers a tucked-away box of old letters, forcing the two women to wrestle with their past and present pain as they confront the truth Beatrice has worked a lifetime to hide. (General Contemporary from Tyndale House)

Historical Romance:

Freedom in the Mountain Wind by Misty M. Beller — A young woman faces overwhelming odds to make her father’s dream come true before he dies of lung cancer, but paddling upriver through fierce rapids and fighting hungry grizzlies to follow the Lewis and Clark trail isn’t what terrifies her the most. Beaver Tail endured more than he can stand from the women in his Blackfoot camp, but the last disaster gave him the final shove he needed to join this band of brothers searching for one of their group who’s gone missing. The last thing he expected was to find a white woman and her sick father stranded at the base of a massive waterfall. His plan is to help them carry their oversize canoe and supplies, then leave them to their strange mission. Yet, the more he learns about the pair, the more he realizes his life is about to be derailed—again. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Uncharted Promises by Keely Brooke Keith — Sybil Roberts uses the warmth of delicious meals to lift the spirits of road-weary travelers at The Inn at Falls Creek. Her life at the inn would be perfect if she could just get her brothers and mother to move back home. And if she could see Isaac Owens again. He visited the inn once when he interviewed for the farm manager job, and she’s dreamed of his return to Falls Creek ever since. Isaac Owens knows how to run a farm. His family might not have faith in him, but if he succeeds at Falls Creek, he’ll prove them wrong. He arrives at the inn thinking the job is his, but the inn’s senile owner offered the position to another man too. Isaac must spend the winter competing if he wants to win the job… and Sybil’s heart. It will take more than warm meals on cold nights for Sybil and Isaac to find love while working at the isolated inn. (Historical Romance from Edenbrooke Press)

Forever Hidden by Kimberley Woodhouse, Tracie Peterson — Sybil Roberts uses the warmth of delicious meals to lift the spirits of road-weary travelers at The Inn at Falls Creek. Her life at the inn would be perfect if she could just get her brothers and mother to move back home. And if she could see Isaac Owens again. He visited the inn once when he interviewed for the farm manager job, and she’s dreamed of his return to Falls Creek ever since. Isaac Owens knows how to run a farm. His family might not have faith in him, but if he succeeds at Falls Creek, he’ll prove them wrong. He arrives at the inn thinking the job is his, but the inn’s senile owner offered the position to another man too. Isaac must spend the winter competing if he wants to win the job… and Sybil’s heart. It will take more than warm meals on cold nights for Sybil and Isaac to find love while working at the isolated inn. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock — On Blackwell Island, New York, a hospital was built to keep its patients from ever leaving. With her late father’s fortune under her uncle’s care until her twenty-fifth birthday in the year 1887, Edyth Foster does not feel pressured to marry or to bow to society’s demands. She freely indulges in eccentric hobbies like fencing and riding her velocipede in her cycling costume about the city for all to see. Finding a loophole in the will, though, her uncle whisks Edyth off to the women’s lunatic asylum just weeks before her birthday. Do any of Edyth’s friends care that she disappeared? At the asylum she meets another inmate, who upon discovering Edyth’s plight, confesses that she is Nellie Bly, an undercover journalist for The World. Will either woman find a way to leave the terrifying island and reclaim her true self? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

Secret Mountain Hideout by Terri Reed — Staying hidden has kept her alive… But now she’s been found. A remote Colorado mountain town and a fake identity have been Ashley Willis’s safe haven since fleeing after she witnessed a murder—but now the killer has found her trail. Desperate and terrified, she’s prepared to run again…but Deputy Sheriff Chase Fredrick won’t let her. With the lawman by her side, can she face danger head-on…and live long enough to bring a murderer to justice? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

50-50 by Roger Bruner, Contemporary
Shattered Treasure by Cindy Patterson, Romantic Suspense
The Contessa Is Missing by Linda Siebold, Romantic Suspense
The Forever Sky by Janalyn Voigt, Western Romance
Northern Hearts by Laurie Wood, Romantic Suspense

And don’t forget the 99c sale on the Kindle edition of A Southern Season!


Posted in ACFW Releases, Reading | Leave a comment

Another New Year, Another Set of Unknowns

Here we go again! God blessed us with a new start-over!

Every year, I write out my not-resolutions resolutions with full knowledge that they’re not going to happen. Oh, I’ll start out like a good girl, bound and determined to lose weight, write three books and four novellas, spend less, love more. Many of these don’t last the first week. Most don’t last the first month. In 2019, thanks to one major crisis after another, the only one I kept was regular Bible study. Not every single day, as I’d planned, but I didn’t miss often either.

This year, the only resolution I’m going to make is to keep my house clean, and I know I’ll be able to do that. We’re moving. This house will have to be ready to show at a moment’s notice, so I must keep it clean. I’ll keep my new house clean simply because it’s new. Until it starts feeling like a home, I’ll bond with it by lovingly decorating, mopping floors, and cleaning windows (when necessary—let’s not get too crazy).

We’re not going to the farm as we wished and planned. One of the things that dawned on us last year with MSB’s frequent trips to the emergency room is that it’s a 45-minute drive from the farm to the nearest hospital. Around seven minutes here, and where we’re moving to, it’s less than five. Although neither one of us consider ourselves old (until I’m trying to get up off the floor or out of a chair I’ve sat in too long), we are older, and something like proximity to hospitals is important.

So, we’re moving back to my hometown and the city where we met 28 years ago. Closer to my soon-to-be 88 year old mother, closer to many of our kids, grandkids, and great-grands, and closer to friends I’ve known since playground days. And only 45 minutes from the farm. What’s a long drive when rushing to the hospital is blink of the eye when going out for a day of fishing or grape-gathering.

I have no idea what other resolution to make and break for 2020. Since MSB retired last April, absolutely nothing of my regular schedule remains. I haven’t written anything but a series of first chapters and sketches of story ideas. 2019 brought only a couple editing jobs. The only thing I got to do more often is read. I shattered my 2019 goal of 20 books. And, going personal, I gained a ton of weight by stress-eating and lost it through stress not-eating, so at the end of the year I weighed the same as at the beginning of the year. I wanted to lose 20 pounds—only 20 more to go!

Having to move means there are a lot of unknowns for 2020. I’ll finally have an office in my new home, but will I ever get to work? Considering my editing business is booked through May, I’ll have to, but will I get to write? I’m still 55K words into a novel I’d intended to finish last year. Every time I thought I could work on it, I had to reread it, but had to quit before actually writing again. Also, a few friends and I have a tentative agreement to do a couple of novella collections together this year. I have chapter one written for one collection and scene one written for another, and I wrote them both early last year. Could it be that God wants me to give up writing? If so, He’ll have to help me. But considering He gave me a business plan around the middle of last year, I doubt He wants me to quit. Maybe just wait awhile.

Will we really have more time with the family, or will everyone be wrapped up in their own lives? We hope to become involved in family activities now that we’re all closer again. We also hope to get more involved in the farm community, where many of MSB’s extended family live. And he mentioned yesterday, we’ll be close to one of the best fishing lakes in Texas, so we just might buy a boat. He knows how much I love to fish! Will we get to?

One of the biggest lessons I learned in 2019 is to not jump ahead of God. Absolutely everything I planned last year bit the dust, from the big move to the farm (by August, we’d already decided to just stay here) to simpler things like driving Mom to her doctor appointments. I’d tell her I was coming, only to discover I couldn’t. As I mentioned, writing became impossible, despite my posts about pushing through the hard times. There is not a moment of the day that’s exclusively mine anymore, so even little personal goals were difficult to achieve.

But God was with us in amazing ways during the year, teaching us to trust Him, to listen for Him, to wait for Him to reveal His will.  He got us through my cancer, Mom’s cancer, Billy’s frequent misdiagnoses that complicated an otherwise simple issue, then zapped us the Sunday after Thanksgiving with the “okay” to move—but not to the farm.

Did I tell you the story?

We were sitting with Mom, having already decided we weren’t going to move and knowing how I felt about moving back to my hometown (didn’t wanna, since the area has grown so big), discussing how Mom could continue to live on her own despite her many handicaps, when my sweet husband announced that we needed to move closer to her. I’ve told God before that He needs to use the 2-x-4 method of communication with me. He doesn’t always. He’s often more quiet, that “still, small voice” you’ve read about in the Bible, but this time He made it 2-x-4-to-the-head clear that what MSB said was true and in keeping with His will.

So, that very morning, my hubby and I jumped in the car and drove around several nearby neighborhoods. We fell in love with the first house we found with a for-sale sign in front of it and made a bid on it that afternoon. My wise old man wanted to be sure we weren’t jumping ahead of our Father, so he prayed, “If this isn’t what You want, slam the door.”

Our closing date is set for the end of March.

Which brings me full circle. We’re moving.

Resolution #1: keep house clean. The photographer is coming next Tuesday to take pictures of each room for publication on the Realtor’s website. This place has to be spotless and remain that way until it sells.

There is no Resolution #2.

God bless your new year with health, happiness, and a bushel of loved ones around you.


And don’t forget the sale, which ends January 6, 2020!



Posted in Personal | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments