Monday, October 28, 2013

When a Heart Stops

When I began reading When a Heart Stops by Lynette Eason, I expected medical examiner (ME) Serena Hopkins to be under duress in China . . . considering that’s what the epilogue of When the Smoke Clears, book one in the Deadly Reunions series, indicated.

At the very least, I expected her work with the earthquake cleanup in China to be mentioned sometime throughout When a Heart Stops.

Neither of those scenarios happened, but that didn’t distract too much from the whodunit suspense found upon the pages I kept turning long into the night. With each new twist and turn along the journey (none of which I’ll be sharing, so you’ll have to pick up a copy of the book to discover the sneakiness for yourself), my heart beat faster and faster as I attempted to anticipate what would happen next.

I was wrong so often!

But that’s part of the fun of reading a Lynette Eason novel. If they were predictable, they wouldn’t be so addictive.

Book three I recently purchased because I knew I’d want to read it after finishing this one. I was right. I want to read it NOW!

In When a Heart Stops, ME Serena Hopkins and FBI agent Dominic Allen are baffled to discover that the Doll Maker Killer is back—even though he’s sitting in prison. How is this possible? They aren’t quite sure, but you can be certain they’ll use all their knowledge and resources to find out!

This novel is an edge-of-your-seat suspense that will keep you up late, flipping pages while the moon inches higher and higher in the sky—not that you’ll notice. If you haven’t yet read any of Lynette Eason’s books, the Deadly Reunions series is a great one to start with. You’ll be hooked before you know it!

Have you ever read a book that you just couldn’t put down? What drew you into the story so thoroughly? What tips do you have for authors who want to write books that keep you flipping those pages?

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Grace that Leads Us Home

After reading What Once Was Lost, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on its prequel, The Grace That Leads Us Home.

This eShort claims new territory for Kim Vogel Sawyer. She had never before written a book of any size specifically for eReaders. It is my hope that she will continue to explore this venue to provide more inside looks into the characters that don’t get quite as much attention in the full-sized novels she releases.

In a time when an $18.00 debt was insurmountable, Oscar Deaton perishes, leaving his wife to repay a loan she knew nothing about. Atop that, she also has to raise their two young children. Times are tough and jobs are scarcely available. Will widow Alice Deaton find employment in time to pay the month’s rent and the loan looming over her? If she does find a position, will it pay enough to feed and clothe her children in the harsh winter months? Or will she have to resort to begging for her children’s supper?

My heart broke in two when Alice wondered, in chapter one, “How would she and the children survive without Oscar?” I’ve seen hard times before and relied on God to provide for my family, so I well understood the desperate place Alice found herself in. When you’re down and out, you face difficult decisions you never thought you’d have to make in your life. It’s times like those when we find out what we’re really made of. Do we have the courage to carry on when the outcome looks bleak? Do we have the strength to follow the instructions of Ephesians 6:13? “Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.” (ASV, emphasis mine)

It is my prayer for each of you to obtain the courage and faith it takes to stand firm when all else fails. May God be with you and your families during times of plenty and seasons of struggle.

The Grace That Leads Us Home is now available for your eReaders. Here is the link to purchase it on Amazon. Haven’t discovered Kim Vogel Sawyer yet? Learn more about this woman’s stories of hope at her website.

Tell us about a time in your life when all your attempts failed but God provided for your needs. What did you learn through that process?

I'm also a guest on Meghan Gorecki's Every Good Word blog today. Will I see you there?

Monday, October 14, 2013

My Hope is Found

“Letting go can be a harder way to love than holding on.”

That’s what was told to Gideon in chapter four of the final book in Joanne Bischof’s Cadence of Grace series. That line set up the struggles Gideon, Lonnie and Toby would all face throughout the pages and chapters of My Hope is Found.

As Gideon makes his way back to Fancy Gap and the family he was forced to leave behind all those months ago, he has no idea what awaits him. Toby has patiently waited for Lonnie to overcome the grief losing Gideon had caused, but his patience is wearing out. Lonnie feels torn between the man she knows she must let go and the man who offers her a bright future. Will these three sort out their differences and come to an understanding? Or will they trust that God has a plan for each of them through the trials ahead? Or will past mistakes catch up to them, stirring up trouble too overwhelming to overcome?

Although I was sad to learn My Hope is Found would be the last novel in Joanne Bischof’s debut trilogy, I must admit I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to Lonnie and Gideon and Toby, after having fallen in love with them in Be Still My Soul and Though My Heart is Torn. My only worry was if this tale of lost love and looming mistakes could possibly come to a satisfying conclusion. If I say whether or not I was satisfied by the end of the story, I might give away what happened. So, I suppose that means you’ll just have to grab a copy and read it to find out for yourself what transpired for Gideon, Lonnie and Toby. I suggest you begin with Be Still My Soul, and read the entire trilogy in order to get the full picture of where these characters started. Their journey is a powerful one, filled with trials that remind us of our humanity and need for saving. It makes us consider where we came from, what it took to get where we are now, and where we’re headed on our life journeys. Keep a notebook handy to jot down the things that come to mind about your own journey as you read about Lonnie’s. God might just meet you in the chapters of these books.

As for the author, JoanneBischof is a new favorite of mine. The subtle sweetness woven through the plot and characters—particularly the supporting characters of Jebediah and Elsie—touches the heart and moistens the eyes. The reminders to look for joy in our pain came easily as the story unfolded. What’s next for this author? I’m not sure yet, but I can hardly wait to see. It’s sure to be great!

When was the last time a book got you thinking about your spiritual life? What was it about the story or characters that had you looking deep inside yourself?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Author Interview with Melissa Tagg

This week, we have quite a treat. One of my Facebook friends, Melissa Tagg, author of Made to Last, has stopped by to chat with us. Her debut book is available now, and it's certain to wiggle into your heart with its small-town charm.

Andrea: Made to Last (MTL) is your debut novel. What surprised you most about your journey to publication?

Melissa: Ooh, interesting question. I think probably the thing that surprised me most was the incredible amount of relationships and friendships I’ve developed in these past few years. I had no idea when I started writing seriously in the fall of 2009 that God would bring such amazing people into my life. Mentors like Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck. An amazing craft partner and other writing friends. It really blows me away.

Andrea: Did any of your characters take the plot into their own hands while you were writing Made to Last? Or did you have everything well in control?

Melissa: Oh my goodness, yes, characters definitely mucked up my original plot plans. Haha! Probably my biggest surprise was when an important character showed up a couple chapters earlier than I’d planned…it was just the most perfect writing moment. I remember squealing at the timing of it. But it forced me to go back and change a lot of what I’d planned.

Andrea: Which character was the most challenging to write? Why?

Melissa: The most challenging character was also the easiest character. :) Miranda Woodruff is my heroine and she’s very different from me in terms of career, talents and skills. But her emotional journey very closely mirrors mine. So writing her was easy in that I felt like it was pretty natural to write her responses to situations, etc. But it was also challenging in that it meant going through those emotional highs and lows right alongside her.

Andrea: What piece of advice would you give to a writer suffering with writer's block?

Melissa: Just write. Truly, I think that’s the best cure for it. Sit down and write. I think a lot of times we wait for inspiration or muse or a magical burst of creativity. But those moments are going to come and go. We can’t depend on them. They’re fickle. If we really want to make progress, the best thing we can do is learn to write through those dry spells, be determined and keep going. We can always go back and revise later…but if we spend too much time waiting around for inspiration, we’ll never get to “the end.”

That said, I do think there are things we can do to refuel our creativity and inspiration. I like to take walks and bubble baths. Exercising is great thinking time for me, even though I don’t generally love the actual exercising part! And I love watching movies with good dialogue…that always sparks my own writing.

Andrea: In MTL, Miranda Woodruff volunteered with Open Arms, a shelter for children with special needs, giving of her time and talents to help those in need. Have you ever been a volunteer? If so, would you share with us something that surprised or inspired you along the journey?

Melissa: Well, I have volunteered before, yes, but probably the thing that even more inspired that storyline is my dayjob. I work at a Christ-centered nonprofit which provides food, clothing, shelter and long-term life-recovery for those who are homeless and hungry. Volunteers are vital to our work, so that’s always in my head. And then, too, my nephew Ollie was born with Down syndrome and multiple heart defects…so he inspired the shelter piece of the story. As I’ve watched my sister and brother-in-law take care of him, I’ve often thought, man, what is life like for children like Ollie who don’t have the same kind of awesome parents he does?

Andrea: Is Open Arms an existing organization, or was it a creation of your own imagination? If the latter, did any specific organization or person in your life inspire it?

Melissa: I made up Open Arms, but I know there are places like that which exist. And I’m glad they do. And I mentioned Ollie above…he definitely inspired that piece of the storyline. I’m convinced he’s the coolest kid in the whole world. :)

Andrea: Miranda has traveled to Brazil to build houses. Have you ever participated in foreign missions? Did it involve house building?

Melissa: Yes, as a teen I went down to Mexico with my church youth group and we built a house. It was definitely a cool experience. And then when I was reporting, I wrote several stories about Habitat for Humanity—I love what they and other organizations do to help families in need.

Andrea: Are you a DIY (do-it-yourself) expert, like Miranda? How did your experience with tools help you write Made to Last?

Melissa: Haha, I am not at ALL a DIY expert. I’m just not crafty…and my main experience with tools has been people taking them away from me. I’m very intimidated by stores like Home Depot. So in writing Miranda’s character, I had to do a fair bit of research. I watched quite a few This Old House how-to videos and spent a lot of time Googling this and that. I will admit, there are some tools mentioned in MTL which I couldn’t pick out of a lineup of tools, I’m sure!

Andrea: What do you hope readers take away from Made to Last? What did you learn as you were writing it?

Melissa: At its core, Made to Last is about discovering who we really are underneath the trappings of successes or failures or relationships or lack thereof. So I really hope readers walk away thinking about who they are through a new lens. For me personally, this story hit me right where I needed it. I am someone who does tend to determine my self-worth or identity by what I do or don’t do…so writing this story was one constant reminder that my real identity is found in Christ.

Andrea: What's up next for you? When can we expect your next novel, and may we have a hint at what it's about?

Melissa: My next book is called Here to Stay and it releases in May 2014. It’s all about Blake, the fake husband, from Made to Last. I just loved the guy more and more as I wrote MTL, so I knew his story had to come next. :)

Andrea: Thanks so much for hanging out with us today, Melissa! I enjoyed your debut book, Made to Last, and am eager to see what you'll come up with next.

Melissa Tagg is a former newspaper reporter and total Iowa girl. Her first novel, Made to Last, releases from Bethany House in September 2013. In addition to her homeless ministry day job, Melissa is also the marketing/events coordinator for My BookTherapy. Melissa blogs regularly and loves connecting with readers at

Ways to contact Melissa Tagg: