Thursday, April 20, 2017

Homeschool Mom and Author Kristen Kooistra

I am blessed to have yet another homeschooling/mom/author visit on the blog this week. Today we get acquainted with Kristen Kooistra, who is a fantasy writer.

How long have you been homeschooling?

This is my first year. My oldest is 4 years old and we’ve been tackling the challenges and joys of writing, phonics, counting, colors, shapes, opposites, etc. My mother homeschooled my four siblings and I for most of our school years. I experienced three and half years of non-homeschooling (2 years public school, one year of charter school, and ½ year of a Christian school), but homeschooling was my favorite.

I always knew that I wanted to homeschool my children too. I love being with them and seeing them learn.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve always dabbled a little, but I didn’t start writing seriously until 2014.

What gave you the writing bug?

Something inspired me and I decided to wing it, not thinking it’d actually pan out. But I kept going and the story grew. I fell in love with it and realized that for the first time I might actually get past the first chapter of a novel.

Do you remember the first story you wrote?

Definitely! When I was little I wrote two VERY short stories. One was about a turtle named Tiny and his family. My first novel ended up being the first one I ever finished and is published now as Heart of the Winterland.

What type of books do you write?

Fantasy. I love reading a couple other genres, but writing fantasy is my passion. I love being able to focus on characters and plot without being bogged down with keeping everything true to the time/area. I’d rather invent a world with all of those details than research ones for real world time periods and places.

How do you find time to write?

A lot of my writing happens after my kids and husband are sleeping. I spend a couple hours at night staying up late to write. I’ve been trying to find time during the day to write as well because there’s so many nights I’m too tired to stay up late.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Knowing what to keep and what to pitch. I write character-driven stories so I’ll have scenes that have little to no bearing on the plot, but they do so much for the characters and their story that I can’t imagine getting rid of them. It’s hard to know where that line is, especially when so many books are plot-driven and those are the examples that come to mind when I’m comparing.

Do your kids help with your creative process or give you ideas?

Not at all! Haha! I will say that I recently wrote a child for one chapter and she was the same age as my youngest so having a fresh, firsthand experience helped me bring the character to life. Most of my characters are much older than my children. If I ever wrote children’s books, I’d have plenty of ideas though.

What is the single most significant thing you can tell us about your writing career?

Oh, that’s a hard one. I’d say my writing career is insignificant in a lot of ways. I’d want to encourage people to never give up, find the method that works for you, and find a good group of people to encourage you and critique your work. Even if my book never goes far, I still get to say I finished and I’m proud of what I’ve done.

Can you tell us about a character in your current work in progress?

Yes! I’m working on books 2 and 3 of my series (that starts with Heart of the Winterland) and I have a new character, Damian, who’s been a lot of fun to write. I love most of my characters, but Damian’s chapters are the ones I’ve been working on recently so he’s fresh in my mind.
Damian is the cold, cunning, crown prince of Sjadia. Tragedy at a young age pushed him into a deep depression and he gave up on life. Someone pulls him out of it and he decides he’s going to hide who he is. He pretends to be ignorant and lazy (a peacock prince) so that his mother won’t suspect that he’s still just as deadly, more so, than he was before his depression.

Damian’s so smart and smooth, that it’s hard not to like him, despite his cruel nature. I’ve had some critiquers guessing at his end and hoping that somehow he reforms and has a happy ending. I don’t think that’s in the cards for him, but I’m glad to know that people are connecting with him. I’m a pantser, so I don’t even know what Damian’s fate is until the end.
Click on the cover
to go to Amazon

Read an excerpt from Heart of the Winterland

unlight glinted harshly off the blood-spattered snow covering the courtyard. Terrified screams, crackling flames, and the cries of wounded soldiers formed a strident cacophony that grated on the queen of Trabor’s ears. Through the castle window, she stared impassively at the pandemonium below.
Knights scrambled to escape their hoofed attackers and flames leapt high into the sky from the burning stables. A magical barrier cast by the leader of the attacking horde stood between the castle and the fighters, tinting the scene a poisonous green. Separated from the rest, two figures fought at the base of the castle steps. One darkness, the other sunlight. The black-clad witch beat back the fair-haired man.
None of this was going according to plan. At least, not according to the queen’s plan. But she had one last card to play.
Little arms wound around her neck. “Mama.” The queen didn’t look down, but pressed the child’s sunny head against her shoulder. “Shush now, darling. Everything will be fine.”
But everything wouldn’t be fine. Not for her, not for her husband, and not for the kingdom. None of that mattered though. Her daughter would survive, and that was the only life she cared about. Sure, it would’ve been nice to save herself, but she’d come to terms with the fact that her life was cursed from the start. At least she could do this one thing. At least she could save her daughter.
“We’re going to hide. You need to be a good girl and not cry.”
The princess looked up at her, wide eyes full of trust. She didn’t answer, only clung tighter to her mother.
The queen turned from the scene. The battle was lost. She didn’t need to see anymore.
With the princess in her arms, she fled across the stone floor. Her footsteps echoed as the noise of battle faded into the background. The twists of the castle corridors were familiar, and she reached the sanctuary quickly.
She rushed into the sparsely furnished chamber and slammed the door behind her. Shaky fingers fumbled at the latch as she secured the door. If attacked, it would not hold long. She rested her forehead against the smooth wood, closed her eyes, and tried to even her breathing. Distant screams filtered in through the solitary window.
The child squirmed in her arms. “Daddy?” Tears sprang to the queen’s eyes as the sweet voice tore at her heart. She stepped to the canopied bed and gently laid her daughter on the soft covers.
Too weak to stand any longer, she knelt on the cold floor and soothed her daughter. “I love you, my sweet princess.”
Hands shaking, she took a vial full of green liquid from the wooden chest of drawers next to the bed. She uncorked it, lifted her daughter’s head, and helped her swallow. Carefully she returned the bottle to its stand and lowered the child’s head to her pillow. The medicine would help her sleep, sparing her from the coming terror.
There had never been any real hope that the fight would go in their favor. The enemy was too powerful, and the queen had no doubt who would be the next person through the door.
As her golden-haired angel slept with her fist curled tightly around the blanket, the queen murmured, “She will never remember this; never know the terrible price I will pay for her life.”
She forced herself to turn her mind elsewhere and opened the silk purse on her hip. Inside laid her miracle, the final defense, and the one thing that would save her baby.
The timing had to be perfect to unleash such a powerful magic that would require no less than her life. Magic always needed a power source. Most of the time that power came from the caster, but this magic was not of her making, and it would require her life force and more. She needed the witch nearby to act as a power source.
A humorless laugh burst from her thin lips as she dropped the magic that altered her appearance. Luring the witch to her and dying would be easy. The enemy would be all too happy to oblige.
The sounds of battle ceased, and the smell of smoke reached her. Muscles taut with anxiety, she waited. Her heart thudded in her chest, and her breathing rasped, loud even to her own ears. Then she heard it: a single pair of boots marching towards her.
She placed herself between the door and her child, steeling herself for what she had to do. The boots halted, pausing outside her pitiful barrier.
 “Luku!” a triumphant shout rang from the other side. The door disintegrated into a pile of dust.
In the gaping doorway loomed the witch responsible for all the death and destruction. Her ebony hair escaped its long plait, trailing over her shoulders. Dark eyes screamed their victory as a cruel smile crossed her face. Her presence dominated the room, seeping into every corner like poison.
“It is over, Your Majesty. No one will be coming to your rescue, not even your feckless husband.” The witch’s eyes flashed with loathing and triumph. “I have annihilated everyone foolish enough to stand in my way. Now, at last, you will know my pain.”
The witch waited, but the queen had no interest in humoring her attacker. Finally, the witch drew a long, tapered finger along the stone wall and continued, “Do not fret; it will be over soon enough. You will perish knowing everything you loved is destroyed.” She glanced meaningfully at the bed. “Or soon shall be.”
The queen’s resolve hardened. She straightened. Careful not to draw the witch’s eyes, she reached into her pouch, withdrew the stone, and put all the disdain she could muster into her voice, “All this hatred and over something that was never yours. All this wanton destruction. And for what? You still will never get what you want.” Her fist clenched around the stone, now slick with sweat. “I will stop you at whatever cost.”
With a shriek, the witch jerked a dagger from her belt and threw herself at the queen. The sharp steel pierced the queen’s flesh, and she stumbled back.
The witch stepped away, her hard eyes emotionless. “It is over.”
The queen pulled the knife from her chest, despite the pain, before toppling to the floor.
“Yes, it is,” she said triumphantly, and thrust the stone before her. “Ola no ola!” A blinding light shot from the stone, throwing the witch against the wall and knocking her unconscious.
Using the last of her strength, the queen dug her nails into the cracks of the stone floor and dragged herself to her child’s bed. The stone lay forgotten, a tendril of light connecting it to the queen as it drained her.
She pulled herself up to touch her daughter one last time. “This gift I give you, my sweet. My life for yours. I pray you will grow into a wise and compassionate princess. One day you will be queen, and I hope a better one than I.”
Behind her the stone’s brightness intensified as its power built. Her vision grew dark as she struggled for the strength to continue. “I cannot protect you any longer, but you will not be alone. A companion—” Her voice rattled in her chest, and she fought for every word.“—will be given to you, a voice to guide you. Always know . . . you . . . are loved.” She fell to the cold floor, her body relinquishing its final breath.
The strand of light connecting queen to stone snapped and a blinding light flooded the land. When it faded, the kingdom lay empty of all human life, save the princess. Even the bodies of the slain had vanished from the land without a trace. The princess slept on, her hair now raven black, as a glowing orb hung over her head

Monday, April 10, 2017

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Homeschool Raised and Author Faith Blum

Today's homeschool author is from the other side of homeschooling...a student, Faith Blum. It's great to have you here, Faith!

I’m excited to be here. Thank you for offering this series of author interviews for homeschooling or homeschooled authors.

Some people reading this may not know you, so list three or four things about yourself to help them get a feeling for your personality. 

1.      I’m much more outgoing online than I am in person. Although, if you get me talking on the correct topic, I can talk quite a bit.
2.      I live at home with my parents and siblings
3.      I am the oldest of four, but there are 20 years between me and my little brother. Yes, he was a bit of a surprise.

How long does it take you to write a book?

That really depends on the book. My fifth novel, The Solid Rock took me 32 days to write the rough draft in July 1-August 1, edited in December through January, and then it was published on March 26, 2016. That was the fastest it’s ever gone for me though, unless the story was a novella or short story. Usually it takes longer. For example, my current WIP took me a couple months this spring to finish the rough draft and I’m taking a little more time to edit it than I did with The Solid Rock

Do you tell people much about your works in progress until the first draft is complete?

It depends on the work. Sometimes I talk about it and sometimes I don’t. There isn’t much rhyme or reason to it.

How did you feel when you got your first fan mail?

Thrilled, excited, and very encouraged. I don’t remember what it was actually, but I do know that any time I get fan mail, I am quite encouraged.

If you become well known someday, do you welcome fame or dread it?

Considering the blatant Christianity I put in my books, I doubt I’ll ever become incredibly well-known. That being said, I would dread it. I’m a very private person so having a lot of attention is difficult for me.

You self-publish – why?

*does best evil villain impression* I like ze control! It is all-consuming and gives me all my desires.
Ahem! Sorry about that, my inner evil personality just got loose. Truthfully, though, being able to write what I want rather than what is demanded of me, have the final word on covers, formatting, and content, and all of that really is one reason I chose to self-publish.

As I mentioned in the last question, I’m quite blatant and unapologetic about the Christianity I put in my books, and even most Christian publishers would probably want something more or less in them. For instance, the romance I have in my books is very light. Married couples do kiss, but it is said that way, not described in every juicy detail and that’s as far as it goes. I have read some Christian Romances that describe a LOT more.

It is my personal conviction that some of those details don’t need to be in the books. That being said, it is truly just MY personal conviction. If you are okay with reading and/or writing something else, that is fine.

Will you ever submit a book to a publisher, or stick with self-publishing?

I like self-publishing, so I’m going to stick with it.

Contact and follow Faith
Twitter: @Faith_Blum

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Homeschool Mom and Author Melanie D. Snitker

Melanie Snitker is the busy author/homeschool mom of the day:

How long have you been homeschooling?

This is our fourth year. I was homeschooled from the first grade through high school and it was something I’d always hoped to be able to do for my own kids. Our son has autism and was having a difficult time in the public school. At the end of the first grade, he wasn’t happy there and we were far from satisfied with the education he was receiving. We decided to homeschool over the summer in hope of helping him catch up academically. Things went so well, we’ve been going strong ever since. He’s now eleven and our daughter is six. Having the opportunity to stay home with them, watch them learn, and be a part of it all is a huge blessing.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a kid. I remember making up episodes for Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers. Later, it was screenplays for my own episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I even submitted one, though it was promptly returned. I still have that one somewhere. LOL I wrote my first book while I was in high school. I still have that science fiction novel and I hope to polish it up and publish it someday. Once I was in college, I became interested in writing inspirational romance.

What gave you the writing bug?

I enjoyed reading romance novels, but found it increasingly difficult to find books that didn’t contain sexual content or horrible language. In college, I decided that I wanted to write romance novels that had characters I loved, a storyline that tugged at the heartstrings, and was something I wouldn’t be embarrassed about if my daughter read it when she was older.

Do you remember the first story you wrote?

I wrote a lot of little things here and there, but my first short story was called The Witness. I wanted to illustrate how God can take something we do for others that seems meaningless and use it to change the life of another person.

What type of books do your write?

I write Christian romance novels. In about half of them, I include a suspense thread. All of them focus on love, faith, and family.

How do you find time to write?

There are some weeks that are easier than others. But right now, most of my writing time takes place after the kids go to bed. When I’m working on my first draft, especially, I try to stay up late every two or three days to get in some uninterrupted writing time.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Finding the time to write and really focus on it is probably the most challenging for me. I usually have way more ideas for stories than I have time to put them to paper.

Do your kids help with your creative process or give you ideas?

Our kids are inspirations to me. Sometimes they give me some great ideas when it comes to the children in my books. In my Love’s Compass series, one of the characters is Gideon, a little boy with autism. I wanted to show my readers the joys and challenges that can come with raising a child with special needs. Our daughter is the perfect combination of tomboy and princess. I love how confident she is of herself and what she can do. The main character in another book coming out next year was inspired by her attitude towards life.

I would say the kids help me the most by always bringing smiles and laughter to my day. I couldn’t write without those happy faces! 

What is the single most significant thing you can tell us about your writing career?

I write what’s in my heart and pray that God uses the stories for His purpose. I’m so thankful He’s given me the opportunity to see my dream come true. 

Can you tell us about a character in your current work in progress?

In Finding Joy, the fifth book in my Love’s Compass series, Parker Wilson grew up shadowing his dad as he worked their family ranch. Parker’s world was turned upside down at the age of seventeen when his dad died. Unable to bear the echoes of how things used to be, he left the ranch at eighteen and never looked back. Eight years later, a horrific accident ends his career and leaves him struggling with his lack of control over the direction his life has taken. Against his better judgement, he goes back to the ranch to face both his past as well as an unknown future.

It’s been a long time since Parker has let God into his life. Now He realizes that God’s the only one who can help Parker overcome his past and open up his heart to new possibilities and love.

Read and excerpt from  Finding Peace (Love’s Compass: Book One)

Click on the cover to
go to Amazon
Book Blurb:

Police Officer Tuck Chandler is good at his job. He’s also good at holding women at arm’s length. Jilted by his fiancĂ©e for his dedication to his job, he’s not about to open himself up to hurt like that again.

Laurie Blake is a struggling photographer. After growing up in a wealthy family, she’s determined to make it on her own, even if it means doing it the hard way.

When Tuck is assigned to a puzzling burglary involving Laurie’s fledgling photography business, he goes into it with his usual perseverance. He wants to help her – if she’ll let him. As the case unfolds and the mystery deepens, another question arises.

Will the past get in the way of their future?

Book Excerpt:
Laurie Blake fumbled to fasten the buttons on her jacket. When she was finished, she plunged her stiff hands into the welcome warmth of the pockets. It was January in north Texas and cold weather was to be expected. But these exceptionally low temperatures almost made her want to dig out her gloves. Almost.
Each breath turned into a puff of fog that preceded her down the street. She chose her steps carefully to avoid the uneven sections of pavement.
Walking the two buildings between Daisy Belle’s Diner and the apartment above her photography studio, she was glad she chose a small bowl of vegetable beef soup for dinner. It would help keep her warm until she got home.
The evening sky bore hints of orange as the sun readied for bed. Perfect timing. She hated to be out after dark.
The neighborhood wasn’t in the best part of town. And that was an understatement. Most of the buildings were in dire need of a fresh coat of paint and the storefront for Capturing the Moment Photography was no exception. She was thankful that at least her building didn’t sport any of the paint tags many of the others did.
Her eyes flitted to her dusty-looking Honda Accord before turning towards the door of her place. Something snagged her attention and her head whipped back around, eyes quickly honing in on the trunk. It wasn’t latched. Thinking little of it, she went to shut it completely and that’s when she noticed that the passenger side window had been broken.
A groan came from her throat as she stood and stared at the damage. Tears gathered in her eyes.
This was fantastic. Just what she needed – to pay for repairs to her car. Because there was nothing else to use her limited funds on.
Shoulders slumped, Laurie unlocked the door to her studio, turned the lights on, and stepped inside. She pulled a cheap cell phone out of her pocket and dialed the police station. After reporting the damage, she was told to expect an officer to stop by.
Many of the portraits on the walls of her studio smiled at her. However, not even the photo of the cherub-faced baby sitting in a flower pot could lighten her mood.
By the time a truck pulled up in front of her place almost an hour later, the tears had disappeared. She stopped her swift pacing and looked past the reflection of herself in the window as an exceptionally tall man got out of a black truck.
She stepped out into the cold air, leaving her jacket hanging on a chair inside. Arms crossed in front of her, she watched as the man approached her. He wore the two-toned blue Kitner Police Department uniform which included a heavy coat. At over six feet tall, he was the definition of confidence.
He gave her a nod. “Hello, Ma’am. I was told that a car had been broken into. Was it you who made that call?”
“Yes, it was.”
He looked like he was expecting her to say something else. She raised an eyebrow at him.
The officer cleared his throat and reached for a small notebook in one of his coat pockets. He pulled it out along with a pen and flipped open to a blank page.
“I’m Officer Chandler. Can I have your name?”
“Laurie Blake.”
“Is it your car that has been damaged?”
She gave him her contact information and answered a few other questions before he motioned to the car.
“Laurie, I would like you to show me the damage and make a list of anything that might be missing from your car.”
“Nothing was stolen.”
“You already went through everything?” His brown eyes looked surprised and she realized that they were the exact same shade as the close-cropped hair on his head.
“I don’t keep anything in my car. I know what part of town I live in.”
Officer Chandler’s eyes went to her crossed arms. She had been rubbing them to keep warm and stopped immediately under his gaze.
“You should go inside and get a coat. This could take a few minutes.”


Laurie’s arms dropped to her sides and she pierced Tuck with a glare. She turned on a heel and went inside the studio behind her. He followed at a distance and stopped just inside.
He watched her shrug on a dark green jacket. Hair hung to the middle of her back, the ringlets tangled together in a mess of copper red.
He stared at her eyes. They were so green, they reminded him of jade. 
“My jacket’s on. Let’s go.”
He moved out of her way as her shoulder brushed his chest. He raised an eyebrow. If she was this frigid with the guy who was here to help, then it was a good thing the person who broke into her car was long gone. Tuck might have been called in to investigate a homicide instead.
Black boots that looked tiny compared to his own carried her around the car to the passenger side. She gestured to the broken window and buried her hands in her pockets.
Tuck reached for a small camera in his coat and took a few photos before pulling on the handle. The car door yielded with a creak and he leaned inside.
His gaze swept over the faded seat covers, the stained floorboards, and landed on the dash.
“That’s odd, the stereo is still here. It’s usually the first thing they take.” He stood up again. Laurie was watching him. “If you had nothing stashed in the car, what was the point?”
She shrugged. “They checked the trunk, too. It’s an old car. Probably wasn’t worth their time.”
“Maybe.” He examined the trunk and made a few more notes. “At this point, all you can do is make a claim with your insurance company to get the window repaired.”
At his words, a look of defeat crossed her face.
“What is it?”
“I have liability only.”
He gave her a nod. He remembered when Capturing the Moments Photography had opened up about six months ago. He had even commented to his partner about how the area of town was an unusual place for a business like that. Looking at Laurie’s car, he assumed she was here because it was all she could afford.
He rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. “We will investigate this. If we can find the guy who did it, we’ll let you know. I’m sorry there’s not much else I can do.”
The light from the studio reflected in her eyes. The frown on her face softened as she kicked one of the car’s tires with the toe of a boot.
His eyes were drawn to her mouth as she worried her lower lip with her teeth.
 “Do you have any trash bags?”
Her brows came together. “What?”
“If you have a trash bag and some packing tape, I’ll help you cover up that window.”
Her pretty eyes opened wide and she blinked at him as if she were seeing him for the first time.
“Um. Yeah. I do.”
Without another word, she disappeared into her studio. As he waited for her to return, Tuck wondered about Laurie Blake. Her emotions seemed measured and she certainly was a woman of few words. But he had seen vulnerability – even if it was only for a moment.
She came back with the materials he needed. Together, they sealed off the broken window. When they were finished, he nodded towards her place. “It’s getting colder out here and you have to be half frozen. You should go in for the night. I’ll file all of this first thing in the morning.”
He half expected her to argue with him. Instead, she took the tape back from him and jabbed a thumb at her car. “Thanks for the help.”
“You’re welcome.” He withdrew a card from his wallet and handed it to her. “If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call me.”
Their fingers brushed as she plucked the card from his hand. The warmth he felt at the touch surprised him.
Without looking at the card, she slipped it into her jacket pocket. She walked to the door and turned slightly towards him again.
The light lit her face and he admired the smattering of freckles across her nose. “I’m sorry this happened to you.”
She shrugged her shoulders, copper curls falling forward to frame her delicate face. “It is what it is.”

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

New Release from Laura V. Hilton

Today I have the honor of hosting my writing friend, Laura V. Hilton. She has a new release entitled Amish Wanderer. I had read this book a while ago for my job as book reviewer with another company and thoroughly enjoyed it! So when she needed blog hoster, it was a no-brainer for me.

About Laura:

Laura V. Hilton is an award-winning, sought-after author with almost twenty Amish, contemporary, and historical romances. When she’s not writing, she reviews books for her blogs, and writes devotionals for blog posts for Seriously Write and Putting on the New.

Laura and her pastor-husband have five children and a hyper dog named Skye. They currently live in Arkansas. One son is in the U.S. Coast Guard. She is a pastor’s wife, and homeschools her two youngest children.

When she’s not writing, Laura enjoys reading, and visiting lighthouses and waterfalls. Her favorite season is winter, her favorite holiday is Christmas.

About Amish Wanderer:
Click on the cover
to go to Amazon

Bethany Weiss has been fascinated by Silas Beiler since he spent a couple of years in Jamesport, Missouri, before he and his family moved to another Amish community. They hadn’t kept in touch, but she hasn’t forgotten the friendly young man who brought her lemonade and took her home once from a Singing years ago. When she finds a man sleeping in her family’s barn, like Jesus sleeping in the hay, she is stunned to recognize Silas. He’s left the Amish and is backpacking across the country. She talks him into staying, at least until after Christmas.

Silas’ family has never been happy living in one area for long, and their vagabond ways are wearing on him. He’s lived in Amish communities all over the nation, moving whenever his daed became disgruntled with the leaders, and he’s looking for some sense of stability. His intentions are to make it back to Pennsylvania and stay with his Englisch onkle and his family—and pursue an education. Will Bethany be the one to bring Silas in from the cold? Or will he continue on his way to his extended family and become Englisch?

My Review:

Bethany finds her life turned upside down when her brother ends up dead, her father ends up in a mental hospital, and Hen, her betrothed, ends up in jail. Things show a little promise of hope when Silas returns the community, even if it is only briefly. But, worse things are to come.

The plot keeps moving along at a good pace. Many readers will find bits of themselves in the realistic characters. Bethany feels that God is no longer listening to her because of her past mistakes. Silas strives to overcome his past as well, but with God's help. While some of the plot line is predictable, this is still a good story for all who enjoy Amish fiction.

Read an Excerpt:


An unidentified sound, loud in the relative silence, jarred Bethany. Her blue pen made a squiggly line across the page in the fat little notebook where she wrote her thoughts. Maybe she should’ve found a more secluded place than the hay pile beside the loft ladder, but she rarely was disturbed. She raised her head and listened.
Nothing, except the squeak of the wood doors in the back of the barn as her younger brother, Timothy, put the cows out to pasture. The soft lowing of cows. The clucking of free-range chickens.
Hopefully, he was too busy to notice she’d left—and wouldn’t look for her.
But there it was again. From somewhere overhead. A sound that didn’t belong. A creak and a thump.
Hopefully, it wasn’t Hen. She’d hear if he were out of jail, ain’t so? A thread of fear ripped through her, unraveling the tiny bit of peace she’d been able to find.
Bethany capped the pen, shot to her feet, and hid the notebook under a loose piece of wood in the floor. Then she scampered up the ladder to the lower loft.
She climbed higher, to the upper one, some thirty feet from the ground.
Peeking over the edge, she scanned the open floor. And… there… someone was wrapped in the old ratty blanket Daed kept in the barn for strays, as he called them. Mamm called them wanderers. She wouldn’t be happy to learn one bedded down in their loft while Daed was gone—incarcerated, of sorts, in a mental hospital, after he tried to kill all the black cats in their district.
The cats lived. They had nine lives, ain’t so? But Daed was institutionalized and his assistant, the one who actually carried out Daed’s deranged wishes, Hen Stutzman, was locked up in jail awaiting trial for arson. As if a man should be punished for obeying crazy orders. Well, they had been horrible things, so it was warranted.
And here she’d thought Hen came around so often to see her. Though she’d come to dread his visits.
Her head, and heart, were permanently bowed in shame. Now no one would ever come calling.
Especially if they ever found out… Nein. They couldn’t. She’d never tell.
Life would never be the same.
Okay, maybe that was a bit overly dramatic. But still…
Bethany’s eyes burned. She blinked to clear the watery haze.
What were they going to do with Daed gone?
A black Amish hat covered the face of whoever slept up on the hay-strewn floor of the loft. His body was swaddled like a newborn boppli in an effort to keep warm, most likely. Almost like Baby Jesus in the manger. Except it was a man. Not a boppli.
And definitely not Hen. This man was taller and much thinner. Relief flooded her.
She started to descend the ladder. It wouldn’t do for a vagabond to discover her alone, almost in the loft with him. Not even if something about it reminded her of the live nativity scenes she’d seen downtown at one of the Englischer’s churches.
Little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay… The tune ran, uninvited, through her thoughts.
A board on the ladder creaked and snapped under Bethany’s weight. She dangled, her feet flailing, from the top of the ladder. Too far to fall without breaking something. Or killing herself.
Why hadn’t she noticed the crack in the wood when she’d climbed up?
She let out a strangled cry when her fingers started slipping from the worn wood. The man blasted upright, his hat falling away to reveal shocks of sun-streaked light brown hair. He struggled free of the blanket, and half-crawled to the edge of the loft.
“Are you okay?” His warm, callused hands closed around hers.
His hand was strong. Warm. Work-roughened. She glanced at his fingers, curled around hers. Unexpected sparks shot up her arms. It had nothing to do with her life hanging in the balance. Or maybe it did. She looked down at the floor thirty feet below again. And whimpered.
“Grab my hands. I’ll pull you up.”
Up. In the loft. Alone with him?
Clinging to him seemed a gut idea though. And if it’d save her from falling…
Her shin made contact with the broken rung a moment before her tennis shoe found another ladder rail. She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she held. “I’m fine.” Now. She pulled her hands free one at a time and lowered herself. A step. Two. Three…
He stepped out onto the ladder and started down after her.
Nice looking… Wait. He followed her? She needed to find her brother. Or call for him. “Timothy!” There was safety in numbers. Sidetracked watching his quick descent instead of concentrating on her own in her hurry to escape, her feet slipped off the rung. Her hands caught only slivers and—
A far away scream reached her ears. She recognized it as her own as she plunged through the air.
“Hey, wait,” the stranger called after her.
As if she could.
Her body hit something. The hay she’d been sitting on? “Ooof.” Arms wrapped around her, then… darkness.
“You shoved her!” Timothy’s voice sounded from somewhere above her, filled with anger—and fear.
Gut. She was safe. She dared relax.
Hands ran roughly over her arms and legs. Not Timothy’s hands. These hands were bigger, stronger… yet gentle, too. Hands that left tingles where they touched. Strange, this reaction to a stranger. To anyone.
“Nein, I didn’t. She slipped. I was trying to help.”
“If I hadn’t almost caught her, she would’ve died. Her blood would be on your hands,” Timothy almost shouted.
Her head throbbed. The front of her head ached, not from the fall but tension. Maybe. It might’ve been from the fall. She must’ve fainted.
“Who are you anyway, and what are you doing in our barn?” Timothy’s voice cracked and the pitch changed, the way buwe voices did in adolescence.
“I don’t think she broke anything.” The stranger, whose voice seemed familiar in some way, rolled her over and slid his hand down her spine. As if he’d be able to feel a broken back.
He moved her back again, his hands investigating her ribs, brushing against her... This went way too far. Too intimate. Who gave him such liberties anyway?
She forced her eyes open.
The stranger’s gaze, just as lost and confused as everyone else’s, fixed on hers.
She sat up, ignoring the wave of dizziness as she stared into hazel eyes. Something…
She tried to think of something witty to say. Failing that, she lapsed into silence and studied him closer.
Memories of a lemonade summer, one or two years ago, flashed as he withdrew his hands. His image waved, swayed, doubled.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Giveaway from Lillian Duncan

Click on the cover to
go to Amazon
Everybody likes a giveaway, and my writing friend Lillian Duncan is having one!

To celebrate the release of BROKEN TRUST, she is giving away Amazon Gift Cards. All you have to do is hop over to her blog, Tiaras & Tennis Shoes at and leave a comment under one of the Broken Trust posts and you’re entered. Easy Peasy!


Life is all about choices…and consequences. Chryssie Mason longs to soar like a butterfly, but a lifetime of bad choices has kept her in the caterpillar stage. After years of struggling, her dreams are finally within her grasp. Her only goal is to graduate from nursing school so she can have a better life—so she can morph into a butterfly. With her final exam only days away, she witnesses a murder. A butterfly would call the police, but she decides to take the easy way out…once again. Life has taught her to never trust anyone, especially herself. With her freedom and her very life at risk, it’s time to trust. And that choice changes everything.

Lillian Duncan…Stories of faith mingled… with murder & mayhem.
Lillian is a multi-published author who lives in the middle of Ohio Amish country with her husband and a menagerie of pets. After more than 30 years working as a speech pathologist for children, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.
Lillian writes the types of books she loves to read—fast-paced suspense with a touch of romance that demonstrates God’s love for all of us. To learn more about Lillian, you may visit her at or She also has a devotional blog at


Tell us a little about you.
My husband and I live in a small town in Ohio. I mean small—we only have 1 traffic light. But I love being back home. I grew up in the area, but moved to the big city of Cleveland for many years. Like Dorothy, I love being home again.

When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
That’s an interesting story. I was turning 40 and like lots of other 40 year olds, something was missing in my life. I was watching some show (probably Oprah) and her guest recommended writing your own obituary but not to include anything you’ve done up to that point. They said write in outlandish things that you couldn’t imagine.
One of the things I wrote was that I was an author. What? Up to that point, I’d never thought of writing a book in spite of how much I loved books. When I reread those words, something sparked.
And a writer was born.

What is your 'how I got published' story?
I only need two words to tell that—hard work…and perseverance. OK, technically that’s four words. It actually took me fifteen years to get a traditional contract. I can’t tell you how many times I quit writing but I always started back up which is why I always tell writers—DON’T QUIT!

How did you develop your love of story?
From my love of reading. From the moment I learned to read, I loved stories. From the time I learned to read, I rarely went anywhere without a book. To the grocery store, to my relatives’ houses, camping. And yes, I was one of those people that read under the covers and in a car.
What is your favorite genre to read? To write?
The answer to both is Christian mystery and suspense with a little horror thrown in from time to time. I guess writing is sort of like eating. You are what you read, and for me that means I’m a suspense/mystery writer.

Most people don’t think of murder mysteries and suspense novels as Christian Fiction. What do you say to them?
I can certainly understand their point of view. And for some readers my stories might be a bit too graphic or edgy and that’s okay, I would say my readers are those who like traditional suspense and mystery novels but are tired of all the explicit language and sex scenes that aren’t necessary to a good story.
I don’t promote or glorify violence in my stories and show characters experiencing the natural consequences of their bad choices and bad actions. My characters are usually on a spiritual journey as well—but some are further along than others.

Tell us about BROKEN TRUST.
BROKEN TRUST is my latest book, releasing March 17. There’s lots of action but it will also make you go…aww. It explores the issues of trust (of course) but also choices and how one choice can change your life—for better or for worse.
BROKEN TRUST is Chryssie’s story. Her complete name is Chrysalis which is another name for a cocoon. Chryssie wants to soar like a butterfly but she keeps making choices that keep her stuck in the caterpillar stage.
She’s days away from graduating from nursing school when she witnesses a murder. Once again she takes the easy way out and once again she has to face the consequences of her choice—this time with life and death consequences.

What’s the setting for BROKEN TRUST?
Broken Trust is set in Cleveland, mostly in the Ohio City area and the Flats.

What’s your day job? Tell us a little about it.
I retired as an SLP from a large city school district in Ohio, then spent several more years working part-time in smaller, rural districts near where I live. Between the two jobs, I don’t think there is any type of child I haven’t worked with at least once.
I loved my job and miss it. Mostly I miss the children, not the paper work. If it weren’t for serious health issues, I would still be working.

What sort of serious health issues?
In 2012 I was diagnosed with bilateral brain tumors and subsequently a genetic disorder called Neurofibromatosis Type 2. A long name that basically means I can develop tumors at any time on my nerves but especially in the brain.
It’s been a long, long journey but God is good. There’s a lot of things I can’t do these days, but I can still write! And for that I’m very thankful.

What do you want readers to take away from BROKEN TRUST?
We all make bad choices and then have to face the consequences of them but God is a God of second chances and third and fourth and… We do not have to let our past dictate our future.

What is your writing process?
I never know what is going to happen in my story on any given writing day. It’s as if my mind is a movie screen and I watch that day’s events and then I write it.
When I start a new story I usually have a clear picture of the main character in mind and what obstacle he/she will face, but anything goes after that. If I’m writing and start to feel bored—then I kill someone or blow something up. And that way it’s a surprise to me and to my readers.

Do you know who the bad guy is when you begin your story?
Not usually. Most of the time I have several characters who it might be and as the story comes to a conclusion, I’m surprised right along with my readers.

How does faith play a part in your writing?
That’s changed a lot over the years. When I first started writing, I wrote mainstream (secular) mysteries ad suspense. As I grew closer to God in my daily walk, my writing began to reflect that and so I started writing Christian mysteries and suspense. In 2012, I was diagnosed with bilateral brain tumors and have had to learn to rely on God in a whole different way and so my writing reflects that now as well by having a deeper spiritual message than before.
In fact, I have my first non-suspense novella scheduled to be released in October of this year. PUZZLE HOUSE is a complete departure from what I usually write. I would classify it as simply Christian Fiction, a story about a woman who is asked the question, ‘Do you want to be healed or to be a healer?” by a very important person.

What inspired you to write this series, or this novel in particular?
I first “met” Chryssie in a short story I wrote but I wanted to learn more about her and her story so….BROKEN TRUST is the result.

Do you have personal experience with any of the events in Broken Trust, and if so, could you share about that?
Only in that I worked and lived in Cleveland for many years as a school speech pathologist.

Paper or e-reader? There are certainly pros and cons to each. Which is your favorite?
I prefer a “real” book with paper. Unfortunately, I don’t read them that way very often because of my eyesight. So, I use an e-reader almost exclusively these days.

Do you have a favorite or “life” verse? Why is that one important to you?
Romans 8: 28:   And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
In 2012, I was diagnosed with brain tumors. The treatments and the side effects wreaked havoc on my health! I was very sick but I kept repeating this verse over and over. It kept me trusting God and it kept me in peace and joy in spite of how bad I felt at the time.

How did your education or previous career impact your journey to publication and where you are now?
My day job was as a school speech pathologist, better known as a speech therapist. So for more than 30 years I listened…and listened…and listened some more. I think it helped me in a lot of areas but certainly with writing dialogue of my characters.

If you could offer a word of encouragement to an aspiring author, what would you say?
DON’T GIVE UP! It took me 15 years to get a traditional contract, and now I have almost 20 books published! If I can do it, so can you. But not if you give up. KEEP WRITING!

What are you working on now?
I already mentioned my next release, PUZZLE HOUSE—the tagline is Life isn’t a box of candy, it’s a puzzle. At the moment, I’m working on a sequel for it called THE DAVID YEARS. I’m also in the middle of revising and editing another book, ENCOUNTERS, that explores several issues including how our encounters with others is like a spider web. They link us to each other in ways we don’t always understand. Plus I have a couple ideas for new suspense books swirling around in my brain as well. So many ideas—not enough time!

How can readers find you on the Internet?

My website is and I have a devotional blog at My blog is TIARAS & TENNIS SHOES at  I’m also on Twitter as @LillianDuncan and on Facebook at