Monday, 30 April 2007

Reluctant Runaway by Jill Elizabeth Nelson and Aussie Giveaway

4 1/2 Stars

Security expert Desi Jacobs is back with the roar of a Harley and the cry of a baby, ringing in her ears!

Priceless Indian artifacts have been stolen from a museum protected by Desi's security company which has Desi travelling to New Mexico with her faithful assistant, Maxine Webb, whose niece has mysteriously disappeared leaving a distraught husband and beloved baby boy.

With the determination and curiosity that terrifies her FBI boyfriend, Tony Lucano, Desi soon finds herself embroiled with unsavory bikers, a heretical religion and a stand-off with Tony which has her doubting their relationship can ever survive.

Jill Elizabeth Nelson has outdone her first book in the To Catch A Thief series, intensifying the intrigue, action and attraction in a terrific sequel that will leave you exhausted and invigorated simultaneously!

The suspense is tight and entertaining keeping the reader constantly guessing as to many a characters' motive and loyalty. The developing relationship between Tony and Desi is fraught with tension due to issues of trust and dependency and enables the reader to understand the characters more fully ~ I was never sure whose side I was on in the game of romantic cat and mouse! Despite the significant entertainment value of this book, Jill blends deep spiritual truths that are both pertinent and challenging.

Reluctant Runaway is a wonderful read and I can't wait to see where Jill takes her characters, physically and spiritually in Reluctant Smuggler, releasing in October, 2007 by Multnomah.



Note to my Australian readers ~ I have two copies of the first in The Catch A Thief series, Reluctant Burglar, to give away. Post a comment and be entered into the draw which will close at midnight on Monday 7th May, 2007.

Veil of Fire by Marlo Schalesky and Giveaway!


book cover

Veil of Fire

by Marlo Schalesky

ISBN: 1-5891-9077-7

$13.99

320 pages

Cook Communications Ministries

Available: May 2007

HISTORICAL FIRE

PROVIDES BACKDROP FOR MYSTERY

Marlo Schalesky Paints Compelling Word Picture in

VEIL OF FIRE

(NASHVILLE, TENN.) - Hinckley, Minnesota is going up in flames and a mysterious "being" sets up camp at the edge of town in Marlo Schalesky's May 2007 release, VEIL OF FIRE. Coping with the loss of loved ones and belongings is hard enough, but Hinckley citizens are also encountering a monster. Or is it a ghost? Something didn't burn up in the fire and Hinckley folks aren't quite sure if that's a good thing or bad.

Marlo Schalesky explores the great Minnesota firestorm of 1894 as the backdrop for VEIL OF FIRE. The initial story idea came from a legend passed down in her husband's family. Schalesky researched the subject, and then novelizsed the story to cover the "what ifs."

Her lyrical prose is woven deftly into the harsh reality of a fire that consumed 400 square miles and killed 418 people in just four hours. Hinckley of today still isn't sure what or who the monster was that the fire left behind. Perhaps, though, Schalesky's story can solve that mystery once and for all.

Marlo Schalesky has authored five books and was named 2001 Writer of the Year at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers' Conference. Over 500 of her articles have been published in various magazines, and in compilations such as Dr. Dobson's Night Light Devotional for Couples. She is a regular columnist for Power for Living. The author recently earned her Masters degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and is currently working on three contemporary novels for Multnomah-Waterbrook Publishers, a division of Random House. She lives in Salinas, California with her husband and four daughters.

author photo

A Visit With Marlo


Where did you birth the idea for this book? When? How did it come about?

People often ask where I get my ideas for my books. My answer? You never know! For Veil of Fire, the idea was birthed at my favorite Mexican restaurant in the mission town of San Juan Bautista. There I was, sitting with my family, nibbling chips and salsa, when a wedding party came by. The bridesmaids were dressed in beautiful turn-of-the-century style gowns. As they passed, my mother-in-law began to tell me of the dresses that her great grandmother, who lived in Hinckley, used to sew for the rich ladies in Minneapolis and St. Paul. From there, came the story of the great Hinckley fire and the rebuilding that this woman, my husband's great-great-grandmother, was a part of. And finally, I heard the tale of the mystery figure in the hills, a person burned beyond recognition. A person never identified, living as a hermit until one day he just disappeared. At that moment, the first inklings of the story that would become Veil of Fire were born in my heart. Who was the hermit in the hills? What happened to him? And how would I solve the mystery if I could? As I pondered those questions, I knew that I had to write the hermit's story. Had to explore what it would be like to lose everything, even your identity. Had to hear the hermit's voice in my mind, and hear the story for myself. So, the writing of the book became for me a process of discovery, as I hope it will be for my readers. I hope that as the mystery of the hermit drew me, so too it will draw others to this story of how fire can change you, take from you, and in the end, may just set you free.

Can you explain the research process, since this is such a historical novel?

The research for Veil of Fire was particularly fascinating not only because of its link to my personal family history, but also because of the incredible first-person accounts of the fire that were written by people who were actually there. These stories are compiled into a book written entirely by survivors who recount their personal experience of living through the firestorm that swept through their town. I read about a man whose hat lifted from his head and exploded above him as he ran through wind and fire. I read about another whose horse raced beside the Eastern Minnesota train as fire billowed around him. The horse swerved into the smoke, and the man was never seen again. I read about a boy racing down the tracks, falling, and surviving as the fire roared over him. I read about fire on the surface of the Grindstone River, darkness broken only by bursts of flame, the St. Paul and Duluth engine backing up to Skunk Lake through blinding heat and smoke. I read about a train trestle disintegrating into flame moments after a train passed, about Jane Tew praying on that train, and the brakemen who saved them all. Those eyewitness accounts, as well as information gathered about the fire from other sources, created the realistic feel of the fire and its aftermath in Veil of Fire. Plus, you can be sure that if something seems almost beyond belief in Veil of Fire, it will be drawn from an actual account that came directly from the research, so amazing were the real stories of the fire on that day! Today, a number of books about the fire, as well as artifacts, photos, and other articles can be seen at the Hinckley Fire Museum in Hinckley.

What takeaway points do you hope your readers pull from this book?

Once, when we were children, we believed in miracles. The impossible was only a prayer away. Fairy tales were real, and dreams were free. Where did we lose the ability to trust? When did we stop daring to believe? What happened to us? Life happened. Failure, discouragement, pain, loss. Somewhere, somehow, life burns us all. And we realize that this life we live is not the one we once dreamed. The realities of life scar us. Doubts rise. Fear whispers that hope is gone. And what was once a simple faith can fail in the face of that fear. In the midst of life's disillusionment, choices appear. Do we retreat? Hide our hurts far from probing eyes? Do we embrace bitterness and cynicism? Do we use deceit to try to obtain our goals? Do we give up, give in, forget that we ever dared to dream? Or is it possible to reach the high places of faith in the low valleys of life's reality? Can we still live a life of bold faith, of fierce hope, when fairy tales don't come true? How do we live this life that God has given us when it's not the life we dreamed? These are the questions I wanted to explore in Veil of Fire. These are the questions which underlie each character's journey in the aftermath of the great fire of 1894. So, for those burned by life, for those who carry scars that cannot be seen, for those who have retreated for fear of more pain, this story is for you, this journey from the hidden places of pain to a new hope in the unhidden truth of Christ's love.

Can you share with your readers something God has been teaching you lately?

Through some recent tragedies and through writing Veil of Fire, God is showing me that I cannot measure his love by my successes and failures, or even by my happiness. Who I am on the inside, how I am being shaped into the likeness of Christ, the character of my life - the color and beauty of it - are what are important to God. And to create that color and beauty, sorrow is necessary. Hurtful things happen. So, I'm starting to understand that my life, too, is a story that God is writing. And since the best stories have conflict, disappointments, and plenty of action, I shouldn't be surprised when my life takes a turn and my faith is challenged once again. And yet, my sorrow matters to God, my tears are counted by him as precious. He does not leave me alone in my hurt. He touches me, he heals me, he creates beauty from the ashes of my pain. So I'm learning to walk through the fires in my own life. And to dig deeper - not to answer the question of why but the question of who - who is God really, who am I, and who is he making me to be? Those are the questions that matter. Those are the things that help me to face my own fires, accept my own scars.

What book are you currently reading?

Why, the New Testament, of course . . . in Greek! Now, before you start thinking that loving Greek makes me too scholarly to write a decent novel, you should know that even though I just completed my Masters at Fuller (that's a Masters in Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary - so cool!), it wasn't my desire for an "A" that made me fall in love with New Testament Greek. After all, most students get through Greek class as fast as they can and then forget it. I might have too. But one day, as I was sitting there in class, learning forms and tenses, my professor happened to mention something interesting. "Did you realize," he said, "that the Greek word for truth and the word for unhidden share the same root." Ah, in that moment an idea came to me, a little whisper from the heart of God. Truth. Unhidden. Truth. And I began to see the connection between truth and what it means for those who hide in their pain. That idea became the basis for the theme in Veil of Fire. So you see, I can't help loving the Greek. I can't help wanting to read the New Testament that way. After all, who knows what I might discover next.

Which character in Veil of Fire do you most relate to, and why?

Even though I base no character on myself, they all reflect a little of me - my questions, my struggles, the issues that have shaped and molded me. In Veil of Fire, this is particularly true for the hermit in the hills. Just as the hermit questions God's love, believes "I am Esau, unchosen, unloved," so I too have struggled with those same feelings, doubts, and questions. I, too, have cried out to God, "Why don't you love me?" For the hermit, it was a question born out of fire, abuse, and disfigurement. For me, it was a question that came out of failure, infertility, and miscarriage. So, in many ways, the hermit's questions were my own, the answers mine, the external scars reflections of my internal ones, and in turn, I think, symbols of the scars of us all.

When writing Veil of Fire, did you plan the plot before sitting down to write the story, or did the plot develop as the story progressed?

I am a "headlights" writer, which means I can see the chapter I'm writing and a few chapters ahead. I may also glimpse a few "signposts" in the distance. The funny thing about Veil of Fire is that I wrote three quarters of the book thinking the hermit in the hills was one character only to find out as I neared the end that I was wrong! And the impact of that discovery was both a shock and a delight. Suddenly, I understood what God was getting at through the theme and nuances of character in the book. And truly, while I may complain that it would be easier to write a book if it were all mapped out (it certainly would be quicker!), this sense of surprise and delight is one of things that I love about the writing process. I love when the story and characters take on a life of their own. I love to discover what God has been planning for a story all along. And I love to be surprised by a sudden turn of events. And I know if I'm surprised and delighted, my readers will be too.

What book project can we expect from you after Veil of Fire? Can you give us a sneak peak of the storyline?

After Veil of Fire, I'm writing 3 contemporary novels for Waterbrook-Multnomah. All of them are "Love Stories with a Twist!," a new type of story that I think will knock readers' socks off. The first, Beyond the Night, releases in May 2008. With groovy 70's trivia and a whopper of an ending twist, this one was as fun to write as it will be to read. Here's a blurb about it: They say love is blind. This time, they're right. A poignant love story. . . A shocking twist . . .Come, experience a love that will not die. Nicolas Sparks (The Notebook) meets M. Night Shymalan (The Sixth Sense) in this moving story of two people trying to find love in the dark. A woman going blind, a man who loves her but can't tell her so, a car crash, a hospital room, and an ending that has to be experienced to be believed. Watch for it next May!


Post a comment to be entered into the draw for a copy of Marlo's book, Veil of Fire! Contest open until midnight on Monday 7th May, 2007 and all are welcome to enter!

Saturday, 28 April 2007

The winner of Crime & Clutter is...

Cherie J ~ pulled out of the hat by my daughter, Erin!

Congratulations Cherie - please provide me an email address so I can contact you and arrange for your book to be sent!

Remember the draw for my Australian readers only:~

A Bigger Life
by Annette Smith, open until midnight Tuesday 1st May with two copies available!

And for all my readers:~

Lightning & Lace by DiAnn Mills, open until midnight Saturday 5th May

Love Me If You Must by Nicole Young

4 Stars

A run down Victorian house, a town with many secrets and a young woman searching for a future while trying to elude her past collide in this debut novel by writer and musician, Nicole Young.

Tish Amble is renovating her newly purchased home, hoping to sell it for a profit and move on to the next project. She is slowly drawn to the inhabitants in the small town of Rawlings, none more so than her attractive neighbour, David and his to die for British accent! When Tish starts hearing voices and faints dead away at a startling vision in her creepy basement, another neighbour reaches out to her, Brad Walters, but his occupation is enough to make Tish supremely suspicious of his motives.

When a man is murdered, as the newcomer in town, Tish quickly becomes the police's number one suspect. Compelled by an inquisitive and imaginative mind Tish begins her own investigation with staggering results!

Nicole Young has perfected Tish's first person voice, creating an appealing and vivacious character whose search for truth, regarding the eerie death and her own spiritual journey, is enthralling and compelling. The book is filled with humour, intrigue and some good old-fashioned hiding under the bed sheets moments! David and Brad are a study in contrasts, both attractive and charismatic yet their inner qualities put them poles apart. The dilemma this creates for Tish is genuine and revealing, enabling the reader to connect even more to Tish's emotions. The ending is surprising, yet wonderfully refreshing.

Love Me If You Must is a fabulous debut and I look forward to reading more of Tish's adventures soon! Available now from Revell.

Interview with DiAnn Mills and Giveaway


Welcome to DiAnn Mills, prolific author with over a million copies sold, including the recently released Lightning & Lace, the third installment in the popular Texas Legacy series. Thanks DiAnn for spending some time at Relz Reviewz. My readers would love to hear your thoughts:~

ON WRITING...

Please share some of your writing/publishing journey with us

In 1996 my husband challenged me to write a book. I took him seriously and launched my career in 1998 with the publication of my first book. Currently I have over 40 books in print and have sold more than a million copies. I believe my readers should "Expect an Adventure."

Why Christian fiction?

I believe that the Christian theme of how we are to react and respond to the problems in our lives is best said in a fiction book. It's a non threatening environment in which the reader can note the difference between the believer and non believer. Honestly, I love writing fiction.

You write historicals, suspense, contemporary and romance novels. Do you have a favourite genre?

It depends on the story. I do try to add some suspense to every novel.

When The Lion Roars is a favourite of mine ~ will we see more of this kind of book from you in the future?

Yes! When the Nile Runs Red is a September '07 release by Moody Publishers. I have a passion for the Sudanese and the critical situation in their country. This new novel is the result of a personal visit to southern Sudan.

What gets you through those difficult writing days?

Prayer. It's not that the writing process is difficult because I love a challenge. It's the demands I make on myself to write a better book.

What project or book are you working on now?


A historical for Avon, a new inspirational line for Harper Collins. The book is entitled Awaken My Heart.


ON LIGHTNING & LACE...


Did the plotline or characters come first?

Characters - and as John Gardner instructed: "Create the best possible characters and allow the worst possible things happen to them." I wanted unlikely people - good people who had serious baggage.

Do we "see" some of you in your characters?

Not intentionally! If there is a hint of me in any of my characters, it's an accident. But to be honest, I think there is a little of every writer in the characters.


If you were casting actors for a movie of Lightning & Lace, who would you choose?


For Bonnie - Kate Hudson For Travis - Matt Damon

When writing a trilogy do you have all the books characters determined before you start or do the main characters for the sequels appear as you write the first book?


They appear as I write the first book. They sort of slip in unannounced and take a role.

ON MATTERS PERSONAL...

What are you reading at the moment?


The Count of Monte Cristo
and Bad Girls of the Bible

Where is your favourite place to read a book?


Stretched out on my sofa with a huge cup of coffee.


Who inspires you?


Everything that is around me - God, my family, friends, media news, TV and movie shows, dreams, different cultures etc. Every bit of information has potential of a story.


Please share some of your faith journey


I became a Christian when I was 19 while watching a Billy Graham crusade. I was alone in my home, feeling very low, and the Holy Spirit nudged me at just the right time. However, I was in my late 30's before I realized that God wanted all of me, not just what I was willing to give.


Any last words....

Whether I write contemporary, historical, suspense, or romance, my desire is for the reader to be swept away with the story. I want to keep them up all night and missing meals. :) For those aspiring writers, don't give up on your dream. Work at the craft, read, write everyday, and do not give up.

DiAnn ~ Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! I look forward to reading more of your wonderful books.

GRPR have once again provided a book to give away! Please post a comment to enter the draw for a copy of Lightning & Lace. This contest will be open until midnight on
Saturday 5th May, 2007 and is open to my readers in both hemispheres:)

Friday, 27 April 2007

Spring Reading Thing, 2007


Ok, so I'm a bit slow on the uptake for the Spring Reading Thing at Katrina's Callapidder Days ~ my excuse is that where I live it is Autumn (or Fall for you North Americans)!

I will be reviewing each one of these books so check back for those. Titles in bold I have read and a review is posted or in the pipeline!

Here are my books:~

  1. Blood Evidence by Mel Odom ~ review
  2. The Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka
  3. In High Places by Tom Morrisey
  4. A Bigger Life by Annette Smith ~ review
  5. Dominion by Randy Alcorn
  6. Speak Through the Wind by Allison Pittman
  7. The Divine Appointment by Jerome Teel
  8. Autumn Blue by Karen Harter ~ review
  9. Full Disclosure by Tamara Tilley ~ review
  10. The Secret of Us by Roxanne Henke
  11. The Scarlet Trefoil by L A Kelly ~ review
  12. Head Game by Tim Downs
  13. All I'll Ever Need by Harry Kraus
  14. Reluctant Runaway by Jill Elizabeth Nelson ~ review
  15. Return to Me by Robin Lee Hatcher ~ review
  16. Island Inferno by Chuck Holton ~ review
  17. Skin by Ted Dekker
  18. Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man by Claudia Mair Burney
  19. Watching the Tree Limbs by Mary DeMuth
  20. Wishing on Dandelions by Mary DeMuth
  21. Love Me If You Must by Nicole Young ~ review

The winner of Bygones is....



Becky Mahan - congratulations!

Please send me an email with your address so I can ensure your copy gets to you!

Check back for the winner of Crime & Clutter tomorrow.


Thursday, 26 April 2007

Don't forget my giveaways!

For all my readers, international and otherwise:~

Bygones
by Kim Vogel Sawyer, open until midnight tonight!


Crime & Clutter
by Cyndy Salzmann, open until midnight Friday 27th May


For my Australian readers only:~

A Bigger Life
by Annette Smith, open until midnight Tuesday 1st May with two copies available!

If you haven't already done so, leave a post to be included in any or all of the draws, subject to restrictions as outlined above!

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

CFBA Blog Tour of The Heir by Paul Robertson

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

THE HEIR
(Bethany House March 1, 2007)
by

Paul Robertson

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Paul Robertson is a computer programming consultant, part-time high-school math and science teacher, and former independent bookstore owner in Blacksburg, Virginia. This is his first novel.





ABOUT THE BOOK:


Jason Boyer Just Got an Inheritance to Die For
The fortune wasn't supposed to befall him. Jason Boyer had known all along his father's business empire would pass to different hands. Which suited him just fine. The money was crooked and the power corrupt. But when an accident claims the old man's life, everyone is stunned by the unveiling of the will. With the passing of the Boyer crown, power-hungry politicians and shady business partners all try to force Boyer's hand. Fighting the temptation of influence and riches, he simply wants to be a better man than his father--but attempting to stand for what’s right soon brings murderous consequences. As those closest to him are endangered--and news emerges that his father's accident may be something more sinister--Boyer finds himself fighting for his soul…and his life!

Is There Any Escape for The Heir?
All the money he could ever crave. In the splintering crash of a car plunging through a railing, Jason Boyer's life is changed. All the fame he could ever desire. But the last thing he wanted was the throne of his father's corrupt business empire. All the power he could ever wield.

The estate should have gone elsewhere, but the will was changed. And now everything is Jason's. But gaining the whole world just might cost him his life.

THE HEIR is a Gresham-like tale of intrigue and murder with a lot of humor and well-drawn minor characters.

Endorsement:

"In THE HEIR, Paul Robertson serves up politics, privilege, and murder with a side of acerbic wit. What a fabulous book--a great mix of angst, humor, and ultimately, hope."
T.L.HINES--author of Waking Lazarus and The Dead Whisper On

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

A Bigger Life by Annette Smith

5 Stars

Joel Carpenter is a devoted father to Colton, a barber turned hair stylist, a loving but flawed husband to Kari and a man whose life will be changed forever by poor choices and a cruel tragedy.

With his marriage in pieces, Joel struggles with his new found life as a single dad, having to share custody, juggle work and daycare and attempt to make decisions about his son's needs he feels ill-equipped to do. He gains support and encouragement from his friends, single dads Abe, Pete, Sean and Casey, all trying to survive broken relationships and raise their kids well.

His life is thrown into further turmoil when tragedy forces Joel to take on a role he never imagined and gives him a second chance he never thought possible.

A Bigger Life is a powerful and moving story of a man who is stuck with the awful consequences of his choices but strives to heal the wounds he has caused by a love greater than he ever believed was in him. Annette Smith writes Joel's story in the first person brilliantly and without apology. Joel is one of the deepest and well described characters I have ever read and his heartache, joy and love are palpable to the point I almost had to remind myself it was not an autobiography! Joel is a true bloke who thinks like a man, providing a glimpse into the soul of devoted father's everywhere. Too often single dad's get a bad rap for being estranged and distant from their kids. Annette has tipped the scales a little for the many fathers who adore their children and participate as much as they can within the constraints of court orders and the like.

The love story is unexpected and captivating, the friendships among the men engaging and the message of the power of unconditional love and faith, incomparable. Beautifully done, Annette! I hope we get to return to Eden Plain soon.

I am delighted to say I have two copies of this wonderful book to give away to my Australian readers! Please post a comment and I will include you in the draw which will close at midnight on Tuesday 1st May, 2007.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Full Disclosure by Tamara Tilley

4 1/2 Stars

Full Disclosure introduces Ciara Arden and Danny Janzen who share a special bond, established when they met as orphaned young girls at the Marriot House for Children. Danny is now a successful artist and Ciara manages the business side of things. Their peaceful life is shattered by an assassin's stray bullet which blinds Danny and threatens her burgeoning career.

Jack Campbell is a man devoted to his job, a Secret Service agent assigned to protect the President's son so when an assassination attempt seems to have gone awry, Jack intends to unearth the killer.

Sparks fly as Jack's heavy handed approach frightens and infuriates the independent Ciara who dislikes the intrusion upon her and Danny's private lives. For the first time Jack's tunnel vision approach to his career is under threat as he finds himself distracted from his official duties with thoughts of Ciara and her safety. When a mystery friend returns and the killer strikes again, Jack and Ciara's faith and relationship hang in the balance.

Tamara Tilley has penned a riveting novel of suspense and romance that will satisfy fans of either genre. Jack and Ciara are well-developed characters and while their relationship starts with predictable distrust and angst, there is nothing passe about their interaction. Their dialogue remains true to their vibrant personalities and their attraction is electric! Tamara's minor characters add a further dimension to the story with the issue of Danny's blindness providing an extra emotional twist.

Tight suspense, enthralling romance and appealing characters all add up to a terrific debut novel from an author I will seek out again. Tamara's second novel, Abandoned Identity, releases later this year by Evergreen Press and I can't wait!

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Ransomed Dreams & Amy Wallace

When I first saw the cover of Ransomed Dreams on CBD's website and read the premise, I was hooked! Finding her website, I emailed Amy to let her know I was keen to read her book when it made its way Down Under and Amy graciously responded! That has now led to a lovely friendship (via the internet but I slowly convincing Amy of the wonders of an Australian holiday!) so I am thrilled that Amy decided to make her final stop in Melbourne, Australia to chat about Ransomed Dreams in book stores in the US now!

Welcome, Amy:)

Thanks for inviting me to come Down Under. I'm looking forward to the day my family and I get to do that in real life!

Wouldn't that be fun – we could provide great fodder for another novel – LOL!

Now to Ransomed Dreams...

Amy, as I expressed to you after reading RD, the most powerful element about your book is God's message about guilt and forgiveness and that is something that I rarely experience. Usually the characters are the best part of a book or an intriguing storyline but your message hit me right between the eyes and somehow knowing what I do of you from our friendship that was the important bit - am I right?

I'm thrilled the most powerful thing about my book was God's message about guilt and forgiveness! To me that says I listened to the Spirit and He'll use this book to reach people with its theme, which ultimately is its highest purpose. I do still hope the characters and story were interesting too. ;-)

Absolutely :) I loved Gracie and Steven's authenticity , due to their imperfections as well as their appealing personalities. They were characters that I easily connected with and that makes the read all the more enjoyable.

You highlight the destructive nature guilt can play in our lives as well as the freedom God's forgiveness brings. Was this a theme you started with or that developed while writing the story?

The theme that became so clear as I wrote the first and very rough draft for Ransomed Dreams was one of forgiveness. The idea was there with the initial glimpse of a story idea, but it grew stronger the more I typed.

Gracie and Steven both battle with forgiveness. Gracie needs to forgive another for the loss of her family and Steven battles to forgive himself for his own failings. Did you identify with one character more than the other?

Gracie's and Steven's battle with forgiveness was so different, but equally mine. I've never worked a job where someone's life was in my hands like Steven, but the issue of self-hatred for very bad choices is something I've wrestled with God about on a number of painful occasions. And like Gracie, there were people in my past who had taken some very precious things from me who I struggled to forgive, especially when that offer of forgiveness was in essence spit upon. Forgiveness is such a tough issue to address, but my prayer is that through Gracie and Steven readers will catch a glimpse of what forgiveness looks like with skin on so to speak, and that God will draw them closer in the process.

How has God's forgiveness impacted your own life so far?

The verses in Matthew 18 that talk about how when we don't realize how forgiven we are we fail to extend that forgiveness to others have penetrated my heart. God has graciously shown me that my extending forgiveness to others~ forgiving from my heart~ has only come after I've spent time in His presence feeling the weight of my own sins and the preciousness of His complete forgiveness toward me.

I love that you didn't tie up all the loose ends in story - the realism in your story is one of its many strengths - do you feel pressure to finish with, say the "perfect, happily ever after" or dramatic conversion scene for all your characters?

Thank you! Writing real is something every writer wants to hear they've accomplished. It's good to know Gracie and Steven and their journeys are as real to readers as they are to me.

I don't really feel the pressure to tie everything up or make it perfect. Life's not like that. What I do want is to give readers a satisfying ending that evokes a smile and maybe, hopefully, raises some questions that readers will talk over with God.

What was your favourite scene to write?

I loved writing the scenes with Steven and Clint ribbing each other. Their friendship and dialogue made me laugh. But my favorite scene in Ransomed Dreams is the very last one. I'd say more, but I don't want to give anything away. ;-)

Loved it too :)

RD packs an emotional punch from the prologue and doesn't let up. How do you transition back to being a mum to your three precious daughters after writing such heartrending scenes that must be so draining?

So many of the scenes in Ransomed Dreams were hard to write. I still cried reading them in galley form even after I'd memorized the book forward and backward. But transitioning back to real life wasn't all that hard because I write one very long day a week. My kids are in bed before I finish working and when I see them the next day my writing hat is tucked away with my notes for the next week. Writing on Saturdays has really helped me to snap out of my fiction world and not let it intrude on family life.

Some fun stuff now ;-)

When you make the trip Down Under what do you want to see first? A platypus or a koala?

You know how I always say the platypus is proof positive that God has a sense of humor. But I think my family would overrule that choice and so I'll go with the cuddly, but clawed, Koalas.

Vegemite or Peanut Butter?

I'm game for some Vegemite. I'll just blame Men At Work if their romanticizing all things Aussie doesn't make vegemite taste as fun as it sounds. What does it taste like anyway? Please don't say chicken. LOL

Mmmm...vegemite is an acquired taste that we ingrain inour children from birth! It is very likely to be the first topping they experience on bread or toast. It is quite strong, salty and with a beef like taste and it is best used sparingly. Though you will find some courageous Aussies who eat it by the teaspoonful !

Favourite line from "The Princess Bride".

Probably not a surprise here, but my fave line would have to be, "Wuv, Twue wuv." I'll add too that I just so happened to be married to a real life Wesley~ blond hair, blue eyes, great smile. He doesn't have the "as you wish" down yet, but we're working on it. ;-)

Inconceivable! I guess you have had to get used to disappointment!

Best read for 2007 so far...

Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man by Claudia Mair Burney is without question one of the best books I've read, and it was my first read for 2007. Running a close second place would be some of the homeschool books my girls and I have enjoyed: The Door in the Wall about Medieval England during the Plague, Ink on His Fingers about Johann Gutenberg, and If All the Swords in England about Thomas a'Becket.

Any final words...

Thanks, Rel, for a fun virtual time in the great land of Oz! Not only are
you a great friend, but you're an awesome blog hostess. And to all my traveling buddies (commenters and readers both) as well as the great blog tour lineup of bloggers- THANK YOU! You guys and gals have been awesome and made this tour over the top wonderful.

If you're not on Amy overload, I hope you'll make one more stop over to the Defenders of Hope site (link:
http://www.defendersofhope.com/newsletter.html) and sign up for my newsletter. Every other month I share some Heart Chocolate, a kid friendly recipe and a glimpse into the writing life as well as tips for protecting our kids. Abundant blessings to you all! Dream Big and rest safely in the hands of our wonderful God.

Thanks Amy ~ it has been an absolute pleasure once again to chat with you :)

Read my review of Ransomed Dreams here and my first in-depth interview with Amy here!

Friday, 20 April 2007

Friday Afternoon Blog Tour with Cyndy Salzmann

Welcome to my Friday Afternoon Blog Tour with Cyndy Salzmann, author of newly released Crime & Clutter! Read below for something really special!
  • Chocolate
  • Household Tip
  • Organization Tip
  • Girlfriend-style Interview
  • A Prize!
book cover

Triple Chocolate Pecan Brownies
1 package brownie mix

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

1/2 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare brownie mix as directed on package. Add remaining ingredients to batter.
3. Put batter in greased 9 x 9 pan. Bake 40-45 minutes until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.


HOUSEHOLD TIP:

Uses for salt...

  • Add a pinch of salt to your coffee basket before brewing. This will make the coffee less acidic tasting.
  • To clean silk flowers and plants, place them in a large bag with one cup of salt. Shake vigorously for a few minutes. Your plants will come out dust free.

  • Remove rust from household tools by making a paste with salt and one tablespoon of lemon juice. Apply to rusted area with a dry cloth and rub.

ORGANIZATIONAL TIP:

Too many books?

If you find your shelves overflowing with books, consider donating them to your church library. If you want to read a book again, you can always check it out.

Another handy tip is to slip a box in your closet to stash novels you've read. Then when a friend or family member who likes to read stops by, pass it along.

For the books you do decide to keep, categorize them according to subject so you'll be able to find the book when you need it.

author photo

Cyndy Salzmann

Author,

Crime & Clutter

GIRLFRIEND-STYLE INTERVIEW WITH CYNDY


How many days do you wear your blue jeans before they go in the laundry?

Jeans are so much more comfortable on the second day. Plus, laundry is the bane of my existence. I am always behind. My only solace comes from Gen 2:25, "They were naked and not ashamed."


How many sizes of clothing do you have in your closet? In storage?

I sometimes think I should have those little size rings in my closet 8, 10, 12, "none of your business."


What is your comfort food?

My mom's fried chicken and cream gravy. Especially in the summer when she serves it with homegrown tomatoes, green beans fresh from the garden and creamy mashed potatoes. Maybe this is why I should have those size rings in my closet...


White chocolate? Milk chocolate? Dark chocolate?

Definitely dark chocolate now that researchers say it is a "super food" that's better for you than blueberries. Plus I just found out that Harry & David sells dark-chocolate-covered blueberries. I can just feel the vitamins coursing through my body when I pop one of those babies into my mouth.


What's your favorite mode of communication?

E-mail, Instant Message, Land Line Phone, Cell Phone, Old-Fashioned Snail Mail Letter?

I adore receiving a snail mail note or letter. There's something special about seeing someone's handwriting and knowing they took the time to write and post a letter. However, thoughtless person that I am, I always use email.


What's your idea of a day of relaxation?

Massage. Pedicure. Lunch. Movie. Bath. Bed. Ahhh...


When you are stressed, who's the first person you call?

I have this reminder on my fridge... "Go to the throne before you go to the phone." But I usually call my hubby at work to whine - unless it's Friday. Then I can make it to 4:30 and whine to my FAC friends.


What's your biggest pet peeve?

My husband and son's channel surfing. I want to scream, "Just make a decision and stick with it!"


Who would play you in the Cyndy Salzmann Movie of the Week?

My friend Marilyn recently told me that my new hairstyle makes me look like Renée Zellweger. (Marilyn is now my very favorite friend.) So, I guess I'd have to let Renee at least audition for the part...


If you could do one thing over in life, what would it be?

Work less. Play more. That is so shallow...


Contest!


Win two days of personal consulting from author and professional organizer Cyndy Salzmann.


When she's not plotting a juicy mystery, Cyndy helps people bring order to their homes and sanity to their schedules. In conjunction with the release of Cyndy's latest mystery, Crime & Clutter, one lucky reader will win two days of personal organizing. Cyndy will travel to the winner's home and work with them for two days on the area of the winner's choosing. Maybe you need to tackle an overflowing storage area or the kids' toy room. Perhaps you'd like help setting up a system to deal with the paper that comes into your home. Or maybe you'd like to have Cyndy whip up a month's worth of meals for your freezer. Whatever you need - she is ready to help!


So how can you win? Read on to find out!

The goal of the contest is to get the word out about Cyndy's new mystery, Crime & Clutter. Each thing you do from the list below to help spread the word, entitles you to submit an entry. So the more people you tell about Crime & Clutter, the better chance you'll have of winning.

Here's a list of promotional activities but feel free to use you imagination...

  • Send an e-mail to friends or family members telling them about the book (one entry for each 25).
  • Mail postcards (supplied by our office with postage paid) to your friends or family with a note about the release of the book (one entry for every 10).
  • Post a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, www.christianbook.com, your blog or website (one entry each).
  • Send a review to your local newspaper (two entries) and if it's published (an extra 10 entries).
  • Recommend Crime & Clutter to your book club (two entries) and if they add it to their schedule (five extra entries).
  • Request that your library order a copy of Crime & Clutter for its collection (two entries).
  • Ask a bookstore employee if they have Crime & Clutter (two entries). If you take a picture of the book on the shelf, you get an extra entry.
  • Interview Cyndy about her book for your blog or website (five entries).
  • Set up an interview for Cyndy with a newspaper reporter or radio station - or do one yourself (10 entries).
  • Set up an event for Cyndy to speak to your church or community group when she is in your area (10 entries).
  • Host a Friday Afternoon Club at your home and inviting Cyndy via speaker phone (five entries).
  • YOUR IDEA (e-mail info@cyndysalzmann.com to ask how many entries your idea will entitle you).
HOW TO ENTER!

Just e-mail some sort of verification of the promotional activities you completed along with your name, mailing address, phone and preferred email address to info@cyndysalzmann.com.


Sadly Cyndy is not planning to make a trip to Australia for two days (LOL!)so while my American readers can enter the above contest, here is another for all my readers ~ a giveaway of a copy of Crime & Clutter.

Post a comment and I will enter you in the draw! Entries close on Friday 27th April, 2007.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Book Giveaway ~ Bygones


Another fantastic giveaway from GRPR for my readers! Post a comment to enter the draw for a copy of Bygones by Kim Vogel Sawyer. This contest is open to all my readers, not just Aussies and will close at midnight on Thursday 26th April, 2007.

So post away!

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

CFBA Blog Tour of A Bigger Life by Annette Smith


This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


A BIGGER LIFE
Navpress Publishing Group (January 15, 2007)
by


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

In 1997, Annette was working as a home health nurse. She traveled the back roads from house to house, caring for ill and injured, homebound people. Because of her unique position in the lives of relative strangers, she often found herself bearing solitary witness to intimate behind-the-scenes situations full of grace and meaning. The desire to honor both a particular patient and a poignant scene involving the woman and her husband prompted Annette to write a fictionalized story, The Anniversary.

That first story appeared as a column in the Houston Chronicle newspaper and as an essay in Today’s Christian Woman magazine. Later it became a chapter in Annette’s first and best-selling book of short stories, The Whispers of Angels, that has sold more than 100,000 copies

Since then, Annette has penned four more books of stories, two volumes on parenting, and the Coming Home to Ruby Prairie trilogy.

Annette and her husband Randy, a High School teacher and coach, make their home on a wooded lot in Quitman, Texas. They are the parents of two young adult children, Russell and Rachel, both out on their own. Wally, a grateful, rescued mutt provides warmth and entertainment and keeps the Smith’s empty nest from feeling too lonely.

In addition to writing, Annette continues to serve part-time as a registered nurse. She finds the people she works with and the patients she cares for provide great inspiration for her fiction.

ABOUT THE BOOK:


Joel Carpenter did not plan for his life to turn out like this. He never meant to be a single dad, working at a hair salon in Eden Plain, Texas. But after making a careless choice four years ago, his marriage was permanently shattered. Now at twenty-seven, he finds himself juggling custody of his preschool son with Kari, the ex-wife he still loves, and sharing Sunday dinners with a group of other single dads.

Joel regrets the choices that brought him to this place, but it's not until the worst happens that he learns how much he still has to give. In the midst of deep tragedy, he learns that forgiveness is way more important than freedom. Hopefully it's not too late!

A BIGGER LIFE is a story of love in the midst of heartache, and friendship in the midst of real, everyday life.

Check back soon for my review and book giveaway!

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Interview with Kim Vogel Sawyer

Kim Vogel Sawyer, author of the newly released Bygones, took time out from her busy writing schedule to chat with me. Enjoy :)

Kim ~ Thanks for spending some time at Relz Reviewz. My readers would love to hear your thoughts:~

ON WRITING...

Please share some of your writing/publishing journey with us

From my earliest memories, I've dreamed of being an author. I tried for three years in the mid-1990's to find a publisher, but a series of rejections defeated me. So I stopped submitting proposals, but I didn't stop writing. In 2002, I "stumbled" upon the American Christian Fiction Writers on the Internet, joined, and began attending their conferences. My goal at that point was "learn about the publishing world and GET PUBLISHED," but God had so much more planned... Following the Denver conference in 2004--where He led Ruth Seamands to "insist" *smile* I allow her daughter (Brandilyn Collins) to pray for me and subsequently healed me from a life-long burden of shame that was literally making me ill--I truly believed He had placed me on the writing pathway just so I could be at that conference at that time to receive His healing touch.

I did a lot of questioning following the Denver conference about my call to write, and whether or not publishing was something I was meant to continue to pursue. I eventually came to the conclusion that being made whole emotionally and physically was more than enough, and if that was what all the writing was about, then I was satisfied. I mean, think about it--juxtapose healing from constant pain against a writing contract... Which would you choose? Truly, it's a no-brainer. :o) From there I began questioning what I was to do with the healing He had given me.

Because of my health, I had been forced to teach part-time rather than full-time, so I wondered if I was supposed to return to full-time teaching or do something else. In January of 2005, God began prompting me to leave my classroom. I still had no idea where He was taking me, but I stepped out in obedience and told my principal I would be resigning at the end of the school year.

In March I received two contracts--one through Heartsong Presents and one through Bethany House for two full-length historical novels. That was the start of a nine-month floodgate of contracts that resulted in the sale of ten novels. God answered my question resoundingly: I healed you to write. And so, now I write.

(Of course, you realize you've been given the nutshell version of my story! I love sharing the entire story of my healing with women's groups--I get to celebrate it all over again with each telling. *smile*)


Why Christian fiction?


I love being able to include a spiritual thread in my stories. Entertainment is wonderful, and I hope my stories provide entertainment, but I see my writing as a ministry, therefore I want to edify as well. There is nothing of this world that is eternal EXCEPT our relationship with our heavenly Father, so to me it's very important for Him to play a major role in my stories.

What gets you through those difficult writing days?

A whole lot of prayer! I start every day with Bible study and prayer, and it keeps me on course. When I need a break, my four adorable grandsons provide comic relief, hugs, and giggles. What a blessing they are!

What project or book are you working on now?

I am currently completing the sequel to my first historical, Waiting for Summer's Return.

ON BYGONES...

Did the plotline or characters come first?

For me, characters always come first. These people introduce themselves to me, tell me their goals and why they want that particular goal, and the plot comes into play around them. I am very much a character-driven writer.

Do we "see" some of you in your characters?


Since writing is such an intensely personal activity, I'm sure a hint of "Kim" hides in many of my characters. What I find interesting is how often, as I'm writing a story, God uses the character's journey to minister to me and "grow" me in my Christian walk. He is never wasteful!

Marie and Beth are both strong women who have overcome great hardship yet remain vulnerable. Did you intend to write them thatway or do their characters develop in your mind with each chapter?


I knew Marie would have to be strong--raising a child on her own without the support of family, she would have no choice but to be strong. Yet that lack of familial support created a deep hurt in Marie, giving her a vulnerability. Beth, however, took me by surprise. She grew and changed in ways I didn't expect as the story progressed. She wasn't terribly likable, even to me, when I started the story, yet her mother's influence reached her heart, changing her angry hurt to a recognized need. I ended up liking Beth as much as Marie--so much that she stars in Book Two. :o)

If you were casting actors for a movie of Bygones, who would you choose?


Oh, my, I've always said I would need to be in any movie made from one of my books! So, since I'm close to the right age, I'd want to play Marie. :o) As for Henry...Tom Selleck or Tom Hanks would do nicely since John Wayne isn't available.

Why do you write about the Mennonite people?

I come from a Mennonite background, although I was raised Mennonite Brethren rather than Old Order. Still, I admire these gentle people, who live their faith literally on their shirt sleeves and right to their core. Their simpler lifestyle is intriguing to readers, and I hope readers will learn the subtle differences between Amish and Mennonite as they read the stories.

ON MATTERS PERSONAL...

What are you reading at the moment?

Currently I am reading Eye of the Oracle by Bryan Davis.

Where is your favourite place to read a book?


When the weather is nice, I like to be in the screened in porch on the swing hubby built for me. When the weather isn't nice, I curl up in my recliner or snuggle in my bed with a pile of pillows and a quilt. Regardless, I like munching chocolate while I read. :o)

Who inspires you?


GOD inspires me most of all--He brings my story seeds to fruit. Writing truly is a time of worship for me--a time of connection with God. I've also been blessed with a number of human "inspirers," mostly notably my parents, who always encouraged me to write, as well as a handful of teachers and friends who helped me nurture my dream.

Please share some of your faith journey


I had the privilege of being raised in a Christian home and came to the knowledge of my need of a Savior when I was pretty young--eight years old. I'm so grateful for the Holy Spirit's presence in my life. Having been a Christian for so many years, my faith is an integral part of who I am, and every year serving Him is more precious. When I was a little girl, my step-grandma had several wooden plaques hanging on her bedroom wall. One read, "Only one life will soon be passed; only what's done for Christ will last." When I was little, I didn't understand, but now I do, and my goal is to make my life's work count...for Him.

Any last words...

Whatever you are called to do, do it for the Lord's glory rather than to please yourself or gain earthly accolades, and you will be blessed!

Thanks Kim for you willingness to share from your heart ~ it has been lovely getting to "know" you :)


Check out Kim's website for more books and information, here!

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