Thursday, April 26, 2012

Author Interview and Giveaway: The Good Fight by Shawna Williams

Welcome to the CBRB, Shawna! Thank you for being here! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Well, I'm a pretty regular gal. Apart from being a writer, I'm also a wife to one husband and mom to three teens. We live on a ranch in Arkansas and raise cattle for grass-fed beef. We have a variety of critters, including pygmy goats, miniature horses, cats and dogs. I collect rocks, make jewelry, edit for two publishers and work as a social media specialist for The Wordsmith Journal. When not doing those things I pet my dogs. It's good stress relief.

When did you first discover that you loved writing?

I first discovered my love of writing almost a decade ago, when I had a dream that inspired a story. I thought about the dream for about six months, filling in gaps and putting together pieces in my mind, but it eventually became too big to keep straight. I had to start writing. At first my writing was to solely satisfy my curiosity, but as the story formed, I grew to love the characters and writing itself.

Why do you write the type of books that you do?

I love history, especially the era between the 1920 and 1950s, and especially rural settings. The nostalgia of that time and setting seem to speak to my heart in a cozy sort of way. It's hard to explain, but I'm drawn to it. I do intend to eventually branch out into other eras and settings, though -- maybe even futuristic.

What was your greatest obstacle in writing and how did you overcome it?

I guess the biggest obstacle most anyone who wants to be a writer has is just getting started. It’s daunting; learning how, figuring out where to begin, and venturing out of one's shell to share what you wrote.

Once I decided to get serious I spent a lot of time online googling everything. I joined several online critique groups and bought hoards of books. The first couple of years I pretty much focused on education and trying my hand at short stories. There's a lot to navigate. One of the hardest things was putting myself out there with my first submission into a critique group. It stunk of course, but once I got past my hurt feelings I was able to take the criticism and learn from it. Got a little easier each time after.

I guess the key to overcoming was that tried and true quality known as perseverance. There's lots to learn and plenty of mistakes to be made, but you keep after it.
   
Has writing changed your life in any way?

Yes, my house is messier. Lol! I’m not happy about that! It's just very hard juggling deadlines, promotion and all the family's daily activities. On a more serious note, though, it’s given me a purpose, something I feel passionate about. I never really knew what I wanted to do until God dropped that dream/story in my lap. Writing has also put me in contact with so many people and I've developed some of my closest friendships through it. I feel truly blessed because of these relationships and that’s been a wonderful thing.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?

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.” This verse gives me great comfort. I’ve seen the truthfulness of it time and time again. My grandparents story is one of the most beautiful and served as inspiration for my book Orphaned Hearts. I believe so strongly in this verse that its woven into most of my story lines. I guess doing so is also a reminder to me in life.

Is there a book you’ve read that has been truly spectacular? 

Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion series is amazing. The story's setting is during the reign of the Roman Empire. She paints such an amazing picture of life during that time and the story is just truly beautiful. On the other spectrum, I recently read Freeheads by Kerry Nietz. This book is the third in a Christian Science Fiction trilogy. I'm now reading the others, and I'm just blown away. Amazing vision of the future, and relevant issues even for today. I've been recommending this series a lot lately.

Oh, I've been wanting to try the Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers!bWhat’s the funniest/quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?

I don't know about ever, but last time my daughter had a sleep over they stayed up watching scary movies, I talked hubby into joining me by putting on rubber monster masks and going outside to scare them through the window.

Ha! Ha! I wonder if they got scared:) Please tell us about the featured book.
Buy At Amazon

The Good Fight is the third book in a series. The first two books are No Other and In All Things. Initially I didn’t plan for this to be a series, but enough readers asked me if I planned to give the character of Roger his own book and I began to ponder on story ideas. I had several really good angles and the story that came forth seemed a very natural direction. While this book is the third in a series, it can be read as a stand alone.

Here’s the blurb:
Roger Talbot's life is defined by his devotion to public service. Having just successfully prosecuted a brutal murder case, Roger turns his attention to discovering the shady dealings of Niles Parker -- the town's former mayor, Roger's old boss and the father of the woman Roger almost married.

Pennye Carrington ran away from Port Delamar with plans never to return. However, learning that her brother had murdered a family member of a famous movie star changed those plans. Pennye comes back with the hope of bringing stability to a family in disarray, but facing the torment of her childhood may be more than she can handle.

Roger's mission to bring down Niles Parker and Pennye's desire to keep her brothers out of trouble create a middle ground, where two people who couldn't be further apart, embark on a danger-filled journey of discovery to find themselves and each other.

Can you please give us the first page?

This is the prologue. It’s actually a little over a page. This scene takes place ten years before the main story, but it ties the book to the series, sets up the reasons for Roger’s life choices later on, and is Roger’s first encounter, albeit unknowingly, with Pennye, the woman meant for him.

March 18th 1948

Had he really just thrown it all away? There was no career to go back to -- not that it really mattered. It had always been about her, and he'd just let her go back to... him. Taken her back, to that... that...
Roger slammed his hand against the steering wheel of his Lincoln. He couldn't even think of a word to describe Jakob -- a man he so despised he could almost feel hatred oozing from his pores. How had he lost the woman he loved to such a... nothing?
The man was a high school dropout. His family bore the stigma of having been held in an internment camp. He worked at a grocery store, for Pete's sake, and now she carried his child! Roger groaned and hit the steering wheel again. A jolt of pain radiated through his forearm. Was there anything about Jakob that wasn't an affront to his sense of honor?
Roger bit hard at the inside of his cheek. A metallic taste told him he'd drawn blood. How could she have let him touch her in that way? His blood burned with rage at the thought of it. What did she see that made her choose Jakob over himself? After all of the years he'd know Meri and planned their lives together. It wasn't supposed to be this way.
Why did you let her go?
Why did he? She would have been his if he'd just done what her father asked -- taken her to the airport and flown to Havana while they arranged the annulment. She might not have hated him for it. He wouldn't have made her give up the baby. He could have protected her instead, and even raised Jakob's child as his own. The child would have been better for it.
He slowed at a stop sign and breathed a defeated sigh. He could have had her, but he didn't want to see her disgust for him on a daily basis. She'd have been miserable, and he loved her too much to make her live that way. So instead he'd let her go. What the hell was wrong with him?
You're not like her father.
He wasn't like Niles Parker, and for the first time since knowing the man, he was glad. Roger started to accelerate through the stop sign, and a horn blared to his left. His heart leapt into his throat as he slammed on his brakes. A car sped through the intersection, too fast for him to make out the model. All he saw was the dark, flowing hair of a young woman poking her head out the passenger side window. She'd yelled something he didn't understand and then bit her thumb in an obscene gesture.
"How ladylike of you!" Roger barked within the confines of the cab of his car. That was the kind of girl Jakob should've ended up with. Not Meri. "Imbecile," he mumbled and watched the tail lights fade into the black. With a calming breath, he proceeded across the roadway.
There was no horn, only lights from out of nowhere and the squeal of brakes locking. Instinct pressed Roger's foot to the gas pedal as he raced to get out of the way. From his rearview mirror he watched a car spin about beneath the streetlight and skid sideways into the ditch.
"Great! Just what I need." Roger slowed and pulled over. Probably more idiotic children with bad manners. Since he'd suddenly become such a nice guy he might as well make sure they were all right -- even if their accident wasn't his fault.
He opened his door and stepped onto the gravel. The driver stumbled out of the other car, and a slur of curse words coarse enough to grind metal erupted into the night air, silencing Roger before he could ask the man if he was hurt. The man stepped toward Roger and lost his balance, falling sideways. He quickly got back up and continued with the verbal onslaught. His filthy, unkempt appearance made it hard to determine his age, but he was older -- late forties, fifties? Who knew or cared. It was obvious that he was drunk out of his mind and blind with anger. The man took two wavering steps closer, knelt over, and vomited in the grass, but even that was merely a brief interruption to his rampage.
Roger sneered and got back into his car. Pathetic, and not his problem. He'd lowered himself enough by handing Meri over to that dimwit she'd married. The riffraff in the ditch could dig his own way out, or sleep there, for all he cared.
He had enough on his mind with figuring out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life -- now that all of his plans were shattered. Roger shut the car door and drove away.

Thanks for the fun interview, Shawna. I'm still chuckling about your statement that petting dogs is good stress relief:) Readers, for more information on Shawna you can visit her website:  http://shawnakwilliams.com/

**********
GIVEAWAY!
Shawna has kindly offered the winner a choice of one of her three books: No Other, In All Things, and The Good Fight. All are available in eBook format and No Other is also available in print. Thanks Shawna for this great giveaway opportunity! Just leave a comment with your email address to be entered in the giveaway. Giveaway is available to the lower 48 U.S. states only.

For extra entries: 
~Be a follower +1 
~Add my button to your blog +1
 ~Post about this giveaway +2
~Tweet/Post on Facebook +2
(please leave a separate comment for each extra entry)

Giveaway ends at midnight (Eastern time) on Friday May 11, 2012. Winner will be chosen using Random.org.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Book Review: Echoes of Titanic by Mindy Starns Clark and John Campbell Clark

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:
 
Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Karri James Harvest House Publishers of for sending me a review copy.***

My Review:
**Guest review by Ali**

Echoes of Titanic was definitely a mystery/romance page turner! Most of the book took place during present time, but some of the book flashes back to the Titanic time period. Incorporating two different time periods, spanning from a hundred years, added a nice touch to the book, making it an interesting historical contemporary book.

The Clarks did a great job introducing me to the business world. Not knowing anything about business myself, I enjoyed the business aspect of the story. From the very first page, the author immersed me in action with anonymous characters. The twists and turns the authors added only deepened my curiosity level, making it hard to put down. Mindy and John started a portion in the story and would end at a crucial point swiftly changing characters or even time periods, leaving you in suspense.

I enjoyed their easy to read writing style. Their detailed descriptions of each place the characters visited, even their ever changing emotions, were very imaginable. You could easily picture the fresh bagels, beautiful Titanic dinning room, and even the feel of hurt and betrayal the characters experienced. I was thoroughly impressed with this book. It included everything I look for in a book--romance, mystery and suspense, and historical depictions.

I would recommend this book to readers of various tastes. It gets its well deserved 5 stars out of 5.

You can purchase this book at Amazon.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Mindy Starns Clark is the author of many books (more than 450,000 copies sold), which include A Pocket Guide to Amish Life, Shadows of Lancaster County, Whispers of the Bayou, and The Amish Midwife. In addition, Mindy is a popular inspirational speaker and playwright.


John Campbell Clark is an attorney and CPA who works in the Christian nonprofit field. Married to Mindy Starns Clark, he has served as her brainstorming partner, research facilitator, and first reader for many years. A lifelong Titanic buff, he is pleased to be coauthoring with her now. John and Mindy live with their two daughters near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

Visit the authors' website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Buy At Amazon
Kelsey Tate comes from sturdy stock. Her great-grandmother Adele endured the sinking of Titanic and made it safely to America, where she not only survived but thrived. Generations later, Kelsey works for the firm Adele founded nearly 100 years ago.

Now facing a hostile takeover, the firm’s origins are challenged when new facts emerge about Adele’s actions on the night Titanic sank. Kelsey tries to defend the company and the great-grandmother she has long admired, but the stakes are raised when Kelsey’s boss is murdered and her own life threatened. Forced to seek help from Cole Thornton, a man Kelsey once loved—and lost, thanks to her success-at-all-costs mentality—she pursues mysteries both past and present. Aided by Cole and strengthened by the faith she’d all but forgotten in her climb up the corporate ladder, Kelsey races the clock to defend her family legacy, her livelihood, and ultimately her life.



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Lower Manhattan, New York
April 3, 2012
Kelsey Tate glanced at the clock and then at the stack of files on her desk. It was three p.m., which meant she had thirty minutes before she’d need to start getting ready for the ceremony. She knew she should use that time to work on risk assessments, but something told her she’d be better off getting some fresh air and clearing her head. The assessments she could do later that evening, once the big event was over. For now, she wanted to run through her speech and somehow find focus. Today had been a busy day at the office, and at the moment all she felt was scattered.
Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, she made the decision. Air. Ceremony. Work. In that order.
She locked the files away, straightened her desk, and grabbed her Bluetooth headset for cover. The only way she’d get out of here without being pulled into half a dozen conversations en route to the elevator was to clip the device over her ear and pretend she was on an important call as she went. She loved her front office and the view it afforded her of the busy Manhattan streets below, but sometimes it was a pain having to run the gauntlet of a conference room, an administrative assistant area, and three other executive offices just to get away.
“Is there something proprietary about this?” she asked aloud as she stepped into the hall and pulled the door shut behind her. “Because otherwise, I’m afraid it’s just a little too early to buy in. At this point, there’s simply not enough data.”
Pausing at the desk of Sharon, her executive assistant—or “EA,” as she liked to be called—Kelsey told the nonexistent person on the other end of the line to hold on and then said in a low voice, “I’m running out for a few, but I’ll be back by three thirty if anybody needs me.”
“Got it, Chief,” Sharon replied with a brisk nod, her auburn, precision-cut bob swinging loosely around her face.
So far, so good. Continuing on toward the elevator, Kelsey spotted one of her more talkative coworkers coming up the hall, so before he could speak, she gave him a quick smile and continued with her faux telephone conversation.
“Look, we can’t justify a buy-in of that size. You know as well as I do that you’re estimating the value too high. A million and a half for ten percent is ridiculous.”
The coworker smiled in return and continued past her in the hall.
She finally made it to the elevator, pushed the down button, and punctuated her wait with several well-timed brief utterances. “Really?…With that price earnings ratio?…I don’t know, I’m not sure about that…How much?”
Finally, the bell dinged and the doors opened to reveal an empty elevator. She stepped inside with relief and removed the device from her ear as soon as the doors whisked shut again. She hated to admit it, but her nerves were more rattled today than she had anticipated, though she wasn’t sure why. The announcement she’d be making at the ceremony was an important one, yes, and something she’d been working toward for a long time. But she was no stranger to the podium. She had no fear of public speaking.
It was a more general, vague apprehension she was feeling, almost a foreboding about today’s impending event, though she couldn’t imagine why. Regardless, Kelsey had these thirty minutes to pull herself together somehow. Then she would return, get ready to go on, do her part, and be done with it.
If only the new public relations consultants hadn’t insisted on combining the two separate announcements into one big celebration, she thought as she reached the lobby and walked briskly toward the front door. Though she usually stopped to chat with her friend Ephraim, the building’s head of security, she moved on past with just a glance and a wave toward the front desk. Once she was outside, she exhaled slowly, grateful for the warm spring sunshine. Weather in April in New York City could go either way, but today was warm and dry, thankfully, with just a hint of a breeze.
Turning right, Kelsey merged into the foot traffic moving down the wide sidewalk toward Battery Park. On the way, she thought about the important part of today’s ceremony, the announcement of a brand-new scholarship program to be funded by her late great-grandmother’s foundation. Adele Tate had survivedTitanic and gone on to become a successful businesswoman in an era when women in business were practically unheard of. In her later years, she had created the foundation with the express purpose of empowering other women in business. This new program Kelsey would be announcing today was a perfect fit and would provide up to ten scholarships per year to outstanding young females majoring in business-related fields of study.
Kelsey had been pushing for this for a long time, but it wasn’t until recently, when her family’s firm, Brennan & Tate, had begun taking steps to improve their public relations, that the board was even willing to consider it. The fact that, in the end, the scholarship decision had come down to a PR move rather than any actual altruism didn’t bother her. She figured as long as the money was given out to deserving recipients, the end result was the same, regardless of motive.
Kelsey ran through her speech as she continued down the sidewalk and was pleased to get through the entire thing without once having to refer to the notes in her pocket that listed her key points. When she finally reached the corner at Number One Broadway, she looked ahead longingly at Battery Park, a fixture of the city for several hundred years and the perfect greenery-filled end cap to the island of Manhattan. More than anything, she wanted to make her way across the street and into the park to seek out one of her favorite spots in all of New York: the old family memorial stone that honored her two relatives who had perished on Titanic. Kelsey loved to visit the memorial, as it always left her feeling connected somehow to her many family members, both living and dead.
But there was no time for that now. Instead, she turned left, and once the light changed she moved with the crowd across Broadway to the triangular-shaped area on the other side known as Bowling Green. At the foot of the triangle was a sprinkling of vendors, and she took a moment to buy a bottle of water from a pretzel cart. Continuing onward, she tried some deep breathing exercises as she angled across the wide base of the triangle to tiny Bowling Green Park, another of her favorite places to go when she needed a quick breather during the workday. She loved the symmetry of the place and convergence of shapes: a circular fountain inside an oval park on a triangular piece of land. This was a little oasis of greenery in a landscape of cement, its current focal point a ring of vivid red tulips surrounding the fountain.
Kelsey wanted to sit for a while on one of the benches that lined the walkway and take it all in, but she knew she needed to keep moving. At the very least, she slowed her pace and sipped her water and forced herself to get down to what was really bothering her: the other purpose of today’s event, the part she wasn’t exactly jumping up and down about.
To be sure, she appreciated the honor that was about to be bestowed upon her, and she was proud of having reached this new level of achievement in her career. The problem wasn’t the award itself but the big public fuss that was being made over it. Others had earned membership in Brennan & Tate’s “Quarter Club” in the past, and the most they had received was a handshake and a little plaque.
She, on the other hand, was about to be trooped out front and center in what the PR firm was practically turning into a circus. Between the handwritten invitations and the catered munchies, they were going all out to promote something that should have happened far more quietly. The best Kelsey could do, she supposed, was to grin and bear it––and try as hard as she could to keep the focus on Adele and the foundation and the new scholarship program. The more publicity for that, the better.
Kelsey let out a deep sigh as she continued through the park. This was the price she paid for being not just an account associate in the company’s corporate finance division but an account associate in the corporate finance division who also just happened to be the great-great-granddaughter of the company’s founder and the daughter of its reigning president. If there was such a thing as reverse nepotism, she thought, she was living it now. She’d never expected her professional path to be made easier because of family connections, but she also hadn’t realized how much harder she’d have to work because of them.
At least she had her mentor and business-savvy friend Gloria to guide her through this current maze of public relations troubleshooting. But she’d be glad when this flurry of promotions was finally over and she could get back to business as usual. She loved what she did—and she was very good at it—but lately she’d spent more time authorizing interviews than she had authorizing investments.
Looking upward, Kelsey watched as a copter lifted off from the heliport at the water’s edge, probably taking some important executive to a business meeting. She picked up the pace, exiting the park at the northern end and making her way around a group of chattering tourists who were taking turns posing for photos beside the bronze bull, a statue that had become synonymous with Wall Street and the stock market. Crossing back to her side of the road, she retraced her steps to the office building, allowing herself to take in the sights and sounds and smells of the city that was always so utterly alive and invigorating: car horns blaring the ever-present soundtrack of New York, the doughy smell of pretzels warming in a vendor’s cart, businesswomen on their way to appointments in thousand-dollar suits and Uggs, their designer heels tucked inside briefcases for when they reached their destinations.
About twenty feet from her building, Kelsey spied a catering truck idling out in front and stopped short. From what she could see, Ephraim was holding open the door as a trio of uniformed workers dashed in carrying trays of food. Feeling a vague stir of nausea at the spectacle to come, she ducked into an alley on her left and made her way around to the back side of the building.
At the rear entrance, a solid metal door with a keypad above the knob, Kelsey typed in her security code, listened for the click, and stepped inside. Coming in this way, she’d have to take the stairs rather than the elevator, but she didn’t care. Right now she just couldn’t face the lobby and the excited chaos of the event that was being pulled together in her honor.
Kelsey’s office was on the fourth floor, but she continued up the back stairs to the fifth without stopping. Once there, she again had to type in her security code, and then that interior door unlocked with a soft click. The fifth floor back entrance opened into the executive conference room, but it didn’t occur to Kelsey until she was swinging the door wide that she might be interrupting some sort of meeting. Fortunately, however, she wasn’t. The room was empty.
Stepping inside as the door to the stairwell fell shut behind her, Kelsey paused, relishing in the peace and quiet of the empty space. The fresh air had done her good, but the busyness of the streets had managed to stir up the busyness in her soul. She still felt disquieted, unsettled.
Apprehensive.
Ignoring those feelings, Kelsey glanced around, trying to remember if there was a phone in here as there was in the conference room on the fourth floor. Sure enough, she spotted it on the back wall, mounted between the audio/video cabinet and the broad space where the projection screen hung when it was in use. Lifting the receiver, Kelsey dialed the extension for her EA and told her she was back in the building but would be upstairs with Gloria until it was time for the big event. Sharon read off several messages that had come in while she was gone, none of them urgent, and then said there was one more thing.
“Yes?” Kelsey looked around the room for a clock, hoping her assistant wouldn’t take much longer.
“Next time you fake a phone call as you’re leaving,” Sharon said with a chuckle, “make sure you actually bring your cell phone with you.”
Quickly, Kelsey patted her pockets, her face burning with heat when all she came up with was the headset.
“Busted,” was the best she could say, and then they both laughed. “So who else knows?”
“Just me. I was putting some files on your desk when I heard a ringtone coming from a drawer. I found your phone in your purse and put it on mute. Hope that was okay.”
“Of course. I appreciate it,” Kelsey said, grateful for the quick thinking—and discretion—of her faithful assistant. “Would you do me another favor and lock up my office before you head down to the ceremony?”
“No problem, Chief.”
They ended the call, and Kelsey decided that before she went to talk to Gloria she would take a few minutes to fix herself up for the ceremony. Hoping to avoid having to go downstairs to her office, she decided to pay a visit to the executive washroom instead, where she knew all sorts of necessities could be found.
Slipping from the conference room into the main hall, Kelsey walked toward the front of the building. Though she had to go past a reception area and several offices along the way, she made it to the primary executive suite without having to pause and chat with anyone. Fortunately, the door to the CEO’s office on her left was closed, and the EA that worked for the upper echelon, the exotically lovely Yanni, was busy talking on the phone and simply waved Kelsey on through to the right. With a smile and a nod, she turned and continued down the hallway, past the closed door of Gloria’s office, to the executive washroom.
As expected, inside were baskets of toiletries on the wide marble counter. She washed her hands and then helped herself to an individually wrapped toothbrush and a tiny, disposable packet of toothpaste. After brushing her teeth, she unwrapped a fresh comb and ran it through her hair, trying to neaten up the windblown look she’d earned from her walk outside. She followed that with a shot of hairspray, a little dab of face powder, and some lip gloss for the cameras’ sake, and then she stepped back, smoothed out her clothes, and studied the full effect in the mirror.
Whenever Kelsey looked at herself, the word that came to mind was “Irish”—not the red-headed, pale-skinned, green-eyed variety that most folks thought were the norm. Instead, she and her family sported a look far more common among the Irish: dark hair, even-toned skin, blue eyes.
Taking a cue from her mentor Gloria—and from her great-grandmother Adele, for that matter—Kelsey always bought the nicest clothes she could afford, knowing they were a business investment of sorts. Today she was sporting a new Hugo Boss suit in a soft gray pinstripe, accented with a red silk blouse and a pair of red Gaetano Perrone shoes. On her lapel was her favorite piece of jewelry, a hat pin she’d inherited from her great-grandmother and often wore as a stickpin instead. Purchased in London the day before Adele and her cousin and uncle set sail for America on Titanic, the top of the hat pin was in the shape of a tiny Irish harp, a lovely reminder of their homeland.
The overall look Kelsey always strived for was class, competence, and understated elegance. Examining her image in the mirror now, she felt that today’s outfit had really hit the mark. Her layered, shoulder-length brown hair nicely framed her face, and the touch of makeup emphasized her lips and gave a smooth, matte finish to her skin.
Now all she had to do, she decided, was to get through the big event. In the end, though she wasn’t looking forward to it at all, at least the new scholarship program made this trouble worthwhile.
Gloria’s door was still closed, so Kelsey knocked first and then cracked it open, peeking through to see if her friend was in there by herself or if she had company. Fortunately, she was alone, and though she looked quite startled for a moment, she invited Kelsey in.
“Well, if it isn’t the woman of the hour,” Gloria said. Papers were spread across her desk, but she quickly shoved them into a single file folder and slipped it in a drawer. “You look gorgeous. Is that a new suit?”
Grinning, Kelsey slowly turned in a full circle. “Gotta look good in the photos. It’s all about playing the game, right?”
“I’ve taught you well, my dear.”
Kelsey took her usual seat in one of the two leather chairs facing the desk—a move she’d done countless times before. Yet as she settled in, she detected an odd expression on the older woman’s face, as if she were more nervous and apprehensive than Kelsey herself. Worse, in fact. Though Gloria could usually be found looking perfectly polished, at the moment she was anything but, with dark circles under her eyes, rumpled clothing, and not a speck of makeup on.
“Are you okay?” Kelsey asked. She didn’t want to be rude, but clearly something was wrong. “You’re not sick, are you?”
“Just tired. I worked later than I should have last night. You know how it is.”
Gloria obviously didn’t want to talk about it, so Kelsey simply nodded and changed the subject, asking about the order of events for the ceremony. Gloria spelled things out, describing what sounded like a two-person show featuring Kelsey and the company’s CEO, Walter Hallerman.
Kelsey scrunched up her face in dismay. “What about a board member or two? And don’t we want to include somebody from the foundation?”
“Stop trying to deflect, Kels. You know as well as I do that this is all about you. That’s the whole point.”
Miserably, Kelsey slumped in her chair. “This is getting so old.”
Gloria pulled off her glasses and nervously cleaned them with the corner of her blouse. “Hopefully, it won’t be for much longer.”
Both women knew Kelsey really had no choice—both for her family’s sake and for the sake of the corporation. According to management, after Nolan Tate, Kelsey’s father and the firm’s leader, suffered a stroke last year, the company’s value had taken a serious nosedive and now they needed to show that someone else would be carrying on the Tate name, someone who possessed the same sharp gut instincts and business acumen for which the Tates had long been known. As Kelsey was the only other family member who currently worked here, she’d become the logical choice by default.
It was a heavy weight to bear, one that was feeling heavier all the time. She was happy to carry on the family legacy and didn’t mind doing her part to bolster the company’s image, but she was getting awfully tired of being the center of attention. Last week had been a feature article in the New York Times magazine section about the “up-and-comer with the Midas touch.” Prior to that, her name and face had been splashed across countless other newspapers and magazines, and she’d even appeared on a few local television and radio interview shows. Now she was about to go through this ridiculous ceremony, all for the sake of reassuring the public that even though Nolan Tate might be sidelined for now, another, just-as-capable Tate was ready to step up and prove that the family gift for investing was alive and well.
“I hope you’re right,” she said tiredly. “I don’t think I can stand much more.”
An odd look appeared on Gloria’s face, and Kelsey thought she was about to say something important. But then, after a moment, she simply cleared her throat and asked if Kelsey needed any last-minute help polishing her speech.
“No, thanks. It’s fine. But what were you thinking, just now? I can tell there’s something on your mind today.”
The older woman’s cheeks flushed. “It’s not important. I was…I was going to tell you not to worry, that the end is in sight. Maybe sooner than you think.”
“What do you mean?”
Gloria shrugged and looked away, her fingers nervously taking off her glasses, cleaning them again, and putting them back on. Before she replied, the phone on the desk buzzed, startling her so much she practically fell out of her chair.
Face flushing, Gloria resettled herself in her seat and pushed the button for the speaker. Out came the voice of Walter, their CEO.
“I just got downstairs and don’t see Kelsey. Have you talked to her?”
“She’s here with me now.”
“Good. Tell her to hurry up and get down here. We’ll be starting in ten minutes.”
“No problem.”
“Have her take the stairs and use the side door to go backstage. She can wait there until I finish my introduction.”
“Will do.”
With a click he was gone.
“You heard the man,” Gloria said, suddenly using her brightest pep talk voice, though it sounded strained and on edge. She rose, walked to the door, and stood there holding it open. “It’s showtime, kid. You’d better get downstairs. Break a leg, or whatever it is they say.”
Kelsey stood, feeling oddly dismissed. “Aren’t you coming with me?”
“I…uh…I’ll slip in the back later.”
“But I thought we could go down together.”
“I don’t think so,” Gloria responded without further explanation.
“Listen, are you sure you’re all right?” Kelsey pressed, moving closer.
The woman wouldn’t meet her gaze, though after a moment, much to Kelsey’s surprise, her eyes filled with tears. Cooing sympathetically, Kelsey pulled a clean tissue from her pocket and handed it over, asking again what was wrong, if Gloria wanted to talk about it.
“Is it something with work?”
Gloria didn’t reply.
“Maybe something personal? A problem with you and Vern, perhaps?”
Even though Gloria’s marriage wasn’t exactly known to be warm and fuzzy, she seemed surprised at the thought. Shaking her head, she blew her nose and said, “It’s…I…” Her voice trailed off as she dabbed at her tears. Then she took a deep breath and slowly let it out.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, looking down at the floor and speaking in a soft voice. “Have you ever done something bad out of good intentions?”
Kelsey was surprised. What an odd question for an ethical, no-nonsense woman like Gloria to ask.
“You mean, the ‘end justifies the means’?”
Gloria nodded. “Exactly.”
“Probably,” Kelsey replied, studying her friend’s face. “One time when I was a kid, my mother wouldn’t buy me the mini marshmallows I wanted from the grocery store, so while she was busy at the checkout, I went back and got a bag off the shelf, tore it open, and started eating them anyway. I figured that once they were open she’d have no choice but to buy them. Of course, I didn’t count on her making me pay her back out of my allowance—and then she didn’t even let me have the rest of the marshmallows.”
Both women smiled, but fresh tears filled Gloria’s eyes. “If only this were that simple.” She blinked, sending twin tracks of wetness down her cheeks.
Kelsey felt terrible for the poor thing, but she still didn’t have a clue as to what any of this was about. Of all the people in this office, Gloria was the very last person she’d ever expect to talk this way, much less to stand in an open doorway and cry.
Suddenly, before Kelsey could even think of how to reply, Gloria gripped her by both arms and spoke in an urgent whisper.
“You don’t have to go down there, you know,” she hissed. “You don’t have to do this at all. You could walk right out the back door and go home, and I could tell Walter you weren’t feeling well and had to leave.”
Kelsey was dumbfounded. What on earth was Gloria talking about?
“Why would I do that? It’s just a stupid ceremony. I’ll get through it, no big deal.”
Just as suddenly, Gloria let go of her arms, stepped back, and placed both hands over her eyes. “What am I saying? Don’t listen to me. I’m not myself today at all.”
Kelsey stood there amidst her friend’s meltdown, thinking, You can say that again. She wondered if perhaps Gloria had been drinking or something. She didn’t smell alcohol on her breath, but she certainly was acting strange—stranger than Kelsey could ever have imagined.
“Enough of this,” Gloria said finally, taking her hands from her face and giving Kelsey a broad, forced smile. “Are you ready to go? Because your time’s up. Come on, Tater Tot. Forget what I said earlier. I’ll walk you down myself.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Winner of "Almost Arizona" by Susan Page Davis

Just wanted to let you know that I've already contacted the winner, who is Wendy Newcomb. I didn't want you to wonder "did I win?" and "why hasn't she announced who the winner is yet?" So again, the winner of this giveaway was Wendy Newcomb. Thanks to all who participated in this giveaway! Remember to enter the current giveaway on the sidebar!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Litfuse Blog Tour: The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

Buy At Amazon
 About the Book
"One dress. Four women. An amazing destiny.

Charlotte Malone is getting married. Yet all is not settled in the heart of Birmingham's chic bridal boutique owner. Charlotte can dress any bride to perfection-except herself. When she discovers a vintage mint-condition wedding gown in a battered old trunk, Charlotte embarks on a passionate journey to discover the women who wore the gown before her.

Emily in 1912. Mary in 1939. And Hillary in 1968. Each woman teaches Charlotte something about love in her own unique way. Woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte's heritage, the power of faith, and the beauty of finding true love."

My Review
The Wedding Dress was a breathtaking romance- a butterflies-in-your-stomach romance. I loved the legacy of the wedding dress and how it was worn through four generations of women- the dress fitting each one perfectly. And I especially loved how the dress was used as a symbolism of the gospel of the
Christ.

Rachel weaved the story of the four women seamlessly together and I was shocked- and pleasantly surprised- how the pieces fit. And she did exceptionally well in not confusing the reader as to who of the characters was speaking. The plot itself was phenomenal. Very gripping- especially with Rachel's lovely writing style. The romantic tension was high and there were many obstacles in the characters way, which caused me to sigh with pleasure when I got my hoped for ending.

The characters were easy to bond with and love. I especially loved Charlotte and Emily (and Tim and Daniel:). The only thing that struck a wrong cord with me was Emily's emotions. Several times I muttered "stupid girl." And Phillip was really brazen, but then again, it fit his character well.

If your looking for a sweep-me-off-my-feet romance, with high romantic tension, mystery, and an edifying spiritual message, then look no farther than The Wedding Dress. I highly recommend it and give it 5 stars. It can be bought on Amazon.

**Thanks to the publishers through Litfuse for providing a free copy of this book in exchange of my honest review.

About the Author
Rachel Hauck is the bestselling author of Carol Award winner Sweet Caroline, and RITA Finalist Love Starts With Elle, and of the critically acclaimed fiction collaboration with multi-platinum country artist Sara Evans, The Songbird Novels.

She lives in sunny, though sometimes hurricane plagued, central Florida with her husband and their ornery pets.

Rachel earned a degree in Journalism form Ohio State University and is a huge Buckeyes football fan. She is the past President of American Christian Fiction Writers and now sits on the board as an Advisor. Visit her web site at www.rachelhauck.com to reader her blog, and to follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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What is "true" beauty? Join the conversation at Rachel's Author
Chat Party Event Page
. On the eventing of 4/19 we'll gather to talk about inner
and outer beauty and share moments of beauty in our lives.

In the meantime, celebrate with Rachel by entering her True Beauty
Giveaway!

One "beautiful" winner will receive:
  • A $200 Visa Cash Card (Treat yourself to a spa day or weekend
    get-away!)
  • The Wedding Dress (by Rachel Hauck)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends
4/18/12. Winner will be announced at Rachel's "True Beuaty" Author Chat Facebook Party on
4/19
. Rachel will be hosting an evening of beauty (inner/outer) chat, fun trivia,
laughter, and encouragement - bring your friends! She'll also be giving away some
GREAT prizes:
gift certificates, books, and a Book Club Prize Pack! (Ten copies of
the book for your small group or book club and a live chat with Rachel
via Skype.)

So grab a few of your friends and your copy of The Wedding Dress and join
Rachel on the evening of April 19th for an evening of fun.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 19th!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Author Interview and Giveaway: Lady Anne's Quest by Susan Page Davis

Welcome back to the CBRB, Suasan! Thank you for being here! For those who were not able to enjoy your last interview, can you again give us a little information about you?

Glad to be back! I’m a Yankee transplanted to western Kentucky, and I’ve written more than 40 novels. My husband Jim is a retired news editor, and he’s originally from Oregon, where the book we’re featuring is set. We lived out there for a while, when we were first married. We have six children and eight grandchildren, and right now we have two horses and a cat.

Is there a particular genre you enjoy reading/writing and why is it your favorite?

I love historicals. I also love mysteries. Old things and puzzles have always appealed to me. You’ll find both in Lady Anne’s Quest.

A historical mixed with a touch of mystery? Count me in! Can you tell us two or three things that most readers don’t know about you?

I used to have an interesting address in Maine. If people asked for it over the phone, I’d tell them I lived on Bush Road, like the president. Then I’d say, “In Clinton, like the other president.”
I’m a stroke survivor. It happened in January, 1997—that’s 15 years ago now. I’m thankful that the Lord spared me, and that the immediate effects didn’t last. I couldn’t read or write for a day or two. That was before I started writing fiction. I also had two toddlers at the time, and it was very scary.

What five things do you love/like the most?

Wow, you ask for five, when I have six children. But you DID say “things,” not “people,” so I’ll stick with non-humans. I love books, animals, traveling, and theater. I also love typing “The End” on a manuscript.

Ha! Ha! If you could meet one person (besides Jesus, because who doesn’t want to meet Him!), who would you choose?

Hmm, maybe Jenny Churchill, Winston’s mother. I think she could give me an earful.

That would be an interesting conversation, indeed! What is your favorite Bible story?

I love the account of Jonathan and his armor bearer taking on a Philistine garrison without backup.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

I have several methods, but even so I catch myself using the same names over again. I have about 3 baby name books, and I have several websites bookmarked for names, including the US Census one. I have been known to use the phone book, especially for last names, and to pull a name off a book spine when really desperate. I’ve also had several people ask me to include their names in books.

If you weren't an author, what would your dream job be?

Exercising horses.

Do you have any books that are soon-to-be-released that we should keep an eye out for?

Yes, Cowgirl Trail is also releasing in April. It’s the fifth in the Texas Trails series, which I authored with Darlene Franklin and Vickie McDonough. And there will be one more book in the featured series, Prairie Dreams. Watch in October for A Lady in the Making.

Buy At Amazon
Please tell us about the featured book.

Lady Anne believes her prayers are answered and she’s at last found her long lost uncle. Unwilling to let her meet him on her own, Dan Adams accompanies her to her uncle’s ranch. But instead of answers, Anne is left with more questions. Both are convinced the man introduced as her uncle is an impostor, and they continue searching for the new Earl of Stoneford.

But now the swindler is on their trail, hoping to steal Uncle David’s inheritance. Dan has his hands full trying to protect Anne, but he finds he must guard his heart just as carefully. Even though he’s good at keeping her safe, he knows he’ll never convince Anne to become a farmer’s wife in Oregon when she has her sights set on returning to her home in England. But as Anne’s quest becomes even more difficult—and dangerous—she begins to see Dan differently. Will she soon be envisioning a new life in America?
  
Interesting! Can you please give us a page from the story?

I love this, from the opening of Chapter Two:

Anne gulped. How could this man be her uncle? Impossible.
            She sucked in a deep breath. Though he repelled her, she must use her manners and greet him warmly. He was now her closest living relative. Or was he? Could there possibly be two men named David Stone in the territory? Perhaps this was all a mistake.
            Her stomach plummeted at the thought, but she pasted on a smile.
“Hello. I’m searching for Mr. David Stone. Would you happen to know where he lives?”
He laughed, a big, noisy guffaw. “Why, sweetheart, you’re lookin’ at him.” He moved down onto the next step, and Anne backed away, into the solid bulk of Dan Adams.
“Daniel,” she gasped.
Dan touched her back only for an instant, and she took comfort from that reassuring pat. He stepped around her, between her and the stranger.
“Howdy. Are you Mr. Stone?”
“Yes, I am,” the other man said. He held out a meaty hand. “I’m this little gal’s uncle. And who might you be, mister?”
“My name is Daniel Adams.”
Anne recovered at least a portion of her poise and moved up next to Dan. “I’m sorry, but you’re not at all what I expected.” She eyed the man. He was several inches taller than she was, but not nearly as tall as Daniel. She gazed at his fleshy face, his flinty eyes, and his slicked-back, badly barbered hair.
She longed to bring out the miniature portrait in her handbag, but an inner restraint told her not to. This man could not be the same one who posed for the portrait twenty years ago. Or could he?

Great page, Susan! Again, thank you for being here. It was a pleasure interviewing you! Come back anytime! Readers, to learn more about Susan you can visit her website: www.susanpagedavis.com

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GIVEAWAY!
Susan has kindly offered to giveaway a print copy of her book Lady Anne's Quest (second book in her Prairie Dreams series). Just leave a comment with your email address to be entered in the giveaway. Giveaway is available to U.S. and Canadian residents only.

For extra entries: 
~Be a follower +1 
~Add my button to your blog +1
 ~Post about this giveaway +2
~Tweet/Post on Facebook +2
(please leave a separate comment for each extra entry)

Giveaway ends on Sunday April 22, 2012 at midnight (Eastern time). Winner will be chosen using Random.org.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Litfuse Blog Tour: By the Light of the Silvery Moon by Tricia Goyer

Buy At Amazon
About The Book
Amelia Gladstone's hopes are tied up in the Titanic--hopes for a reunion with her sister and an introduction to an admirer. But when she offers a spare ticket to a down-and-out young man, her fate is about to change.


Quentin Walpole is stunned when a sweet lady secures his passage to America--and even more surprised to find his wealthy father and older brother on board the ship. Suddenly Amelia finds herself caught between the attentions of two men, but who should she entrust her heart to? As the fateful night arrives, will Amelia lose everything to the icy waters?

My Review
By the Light of the Silvery Moon was a lovely story! Tricia's descriptions of the Titanic were so vivid that I could picture it and I felt as if I was there with the characters. The characters! They were so easy to bond with. Amelia's sweetness/innocence and her I-speak-my-mind demeanor drew me to her. And I felt her turmoil concerning which man the Lord would have her marry.

Tricia did a wonderful job with the romance- especially since two of the prospects were estranged brothers-although, I did feel that Amelia's emotions were somewhat wishy-washy. And I enjoyed that she intertwined the parable of the prodigal son into the story of the two estranged brothers and the hurting father. She even incorporated some of the exact words from the parable in the Bible. The much-waited-for reunion between the "prodigal son" and his father was joyous.

Now, a Titanic story wouldn't be one without the sad happening of its sinking. Because I didn't know on which day the Titanic sank, the story seemed even more suspenseful. I was turning the pages, waiting for the climax that was sure to come- and Tricia didn't disappoint! There was action, anger, and, of course, the inescapable tears. But even admist the sadness, Tricia allowed me to close the pages of the book with a glimmer of hope... and a want to see these characters in future books. This was an excellent story for the 100th year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. I highly recommend it and gladly give it 5 stars. It can be bought at Amazon.


About The Author
Tricia Goyer is the award winning author of thirty-two books including Beside Still Waters, Remembering You, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences and is the host of Living Inspired. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife.

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Celebrate the release of By the Light of the Silvery Moon with Tricia by entering her giveaway and RSVPing to her Titanic party.



One "unsinkable" winner will receive:
  • Flip HD video Camera (Make your own dramatic saga!)
  • Titanic movies from the ages {Titanic (1953) Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), Titanic (1997)}
  • Secrets of the Titanic (Get the facts from National Geographic.)
  • And the Band Played On (Music Played on the Titanic.)
  • By the Light of the Silvery Moon by Tricia Goyer (Be swept away in this tale of love and courage.)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 9th. Winner will be announced at "Silvery Moon" Titanic Facebook Party on 4/10. Tricia will be hosting an author chat (on Facebook and Live from her website) and giving away books, gift certificates and a book club prize pack! (Ten copies of the book for your small group or book club). During the live chat Tricia will have a *special guest* join her. More details coming soon!

So grab your copy of By the Light of the Silvery Moon and join Tricia on the evening of the April 10th for a fun chat, trivia contest (How much do you know about the Titanic?) and lots of giveaways. 

Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 10th!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Winner of "Lethal Remedy" by Richard Mabry


The winner of Lethal Remedy by Richard Mabry is (*drum-roll please*)

Karenk!!!

Congratulations! Be expecting an email from me. Thanks to all who participated in this giveaway. Remember to enter the giveaway on the sidebar!