Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review- Destiny's Dream by Delia Latham

I was drawn to Destiny's Dream by the irreverant humor of the back cover blurb. But this didn't turn out to be the romantic comedy I was expecting. The novel opens with a truly heartbreaking prologue (really well done, but totally unexpected) then continues with a funny first chapter. But pretty soon after that, the tone of the book changes and this story evolves into a romantic suspense.

The hero and heroine get together pretty early on, so the suspense doesn't involve questions about their relationship. Instead there is a big baddie and our heroine is put into some pretty dangerous situations.

One aspect I found interesting about this book was Destiny's supernatural connection to God. He communicates with her in some pretty real ways and that is not something you often see in Christian fiction. I appreciated the unique-ness of the plot.

Overall, this was a solid story, but my personal taste runs more toward a heavier angst ridden romance or romantic comedy and less toward thriller/suspense. However, if you are a fan of light romance and lots of suspense, this might be the perfect book for you.

Want more info? Here's the back cover blurb:
Is a little respect too much to ask at a parent's funeral?

Apparently it is for Destiny May. Her mother's "going away party" is crashed by a totally irreverent stranger. Clay Gallagher is built like a small mountain and far more vocal than is fitting. When it turns out he's not even at the right funeral, Destiny demands retribution in the form of an escape from the day's dreary proceedings.

Their relationship has some kinks - starting with Destiny's determination to found a Christian dating service in their conservative town of Castle Creek. Clay has little respect or patience for such a frivolous profession. But when Destiny is threatened by an anonymous caller who deeply resents her and what she does for a living, Clay makes it his business to keep the saucy redhead out of harm's way.

Trouble is, spending time in her company weakens his defenses...and Cupid's arrows are known to fly straight to the heart.

My Rating:


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book Club- Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes



The January book club pick was Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes. Participants read the novel and chose one or more discussion questions from the back of the book to address in a blog post. This month's host is Lydia from The Overweight Bookshelf. To join our discussion, link up your post at her website.

This book club discussion is courtesy of contributor Serena Chase:


Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes is one of those rare novels – a book that gouges itself into your heart so completely – and in so many different ways – that you ache with the desire to put it down, but can’t seem to rip yourself away. If you finally do manage to pull yourself away (you must, after all, sleep!) you hesitate to pick the novel back up because you’re not sure you have anything left in your emotional reserves to give.

But you can’t stay away forever. The story is too compelling – too rich -- and the characters are too vulnerable and all too real to dismiss because of your own fear and weakness. So you pick up the book, cuddle up with your tissues, and dive back into Gina Holmes’s amazing debut.


The Sitch:
Jenny Lucas left home when her unexpected pregnancy became the insurmountable obstacle in her already tense relationship with her father. Almost six years later Jenny is forced to go back home and face not only her father, but David Preston, the high school sweetheart who rejected Jenny before he even knew she carried his child. As love and tragedy chase the Lucas family anew Jenny must decide what is best for her daughter – even if what is best for her child ends up breaking her own heart.

How it hit me: Like a cannon loaded with onions. (In other words, I cried a lot and felt, at times, like my chest was going to cave in.)

Something gleaned from the Book Club Discussion: For those of you who have not read this book yet, I tried to pick a question that wouldn’t require a spoiler alert. Here it is:

When David (Jenny’s first love/Isabella’s father) comes to pick up Isabella, he stops in the driveway and honks as he used to when he and Jenny were dating. Jenny tells us, “For the first time, I understood why the gesture used to infuriate my father.” What are some things you see differently as a parent, or simply as an adult, than you did as a child?

The honking Jenny once found to be an endearing announcement of her love’s arrival now reveals David’s lack of courtesy. In the eyes of a grown-up it is not evidence of “coolness” – rather, it is informative to David’s character in a less positive way. David believes he is the center of the universe and the honking is just a symptom of his expectation that when David Preston says, “Jump.” the world should respond with a collective “How high?”

As an adult I think we tend to more easily see through those mannerisms and behaviors we might have once interpreted as “cool.” With a more mature eye we are able to identify disrespect and discourtesy for what they really are: selfishness and insecurity. As a parent, I want more for my daughter than a self-centered ego maniac who expects her to cater to his schedule and whim. If he lacks the courtesy to even come up to the house, how will he respect her otherwise?

A lot of authors and screenwriters have tried to portray this sort of character by keeping them fixated on reliving their “glory days”, but in Crossing Oceans, Gina Holmes portrays that “cool kid” who never matured past adolescent self-centeredness in a fresh, more believable way.

To read or not to read; that is the question: Well, duh. Read it. JUST READ IT, ALREADY!!!!

This is a fantastic book. Gina Holmes has firmly snagged a spot on my list of favorite authors. BUT (and there’s almost always a “but”, isn’t there?) I must add a warning to my hearty recommendation: if you’re looking for a light romance or a humor-ridden tale, this is not the book for you. Though it has its lighter moments, Crossing Oceans is the kind of novel which requires a personal investment of emotion. And if you have experienced the loss of a loved one recently, do be prepared to relive some of those emotions.

But that is, in part, why we read, isn’t it? To know that, in our darkest moments, we are not alone.

And finally, in the words of Inigo Montoya, “No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” Gina Holmes’s debut novel will take your emotions to the breaking point -- but leave your heart open and changed by the splendor and hope within. Crossing Oceans is a beautiful and unique coming-of-age story that should not be missed.

Serena's rating:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review- Defending Glory by Anne K. Albert


Julia Dixon reviewed Defending Glory by Anne K. Albert:

You can visit the author's website at www.annekalbert.com

Mac McKeown is the cutest darn contractor that Piedmont Island has ever seen! At least that’s how I see it! Mac is a former FBI agent who was injured in the line of duty and recovering physically as well as mentally from an ambush that sent him out the bureau doors and left his partner dead.

Glory Palmer is a sweet little thing straight from California. She’s wanted for nothing in her life and has recently developed a relationship with the Lord. She is coming to Piedmont Island to build a retreat.

Fate pulls these two together in this quaint little town in what would seem like a classic love story until a man is found dead and floating tied to the dock of Glory’s property. To make matters worse, Mac knows who the dead man is.. The possible scenarios are endless and puts each character on guard with the other.

Between dead bodies, spiritual differences and threats, Mac and Glory try to stay on target with her construction goal. Each have their own struggles personally in this story to go along with the struggle against the flame of desire that neither of them want for the other.

Will Glory be able to keep her head straight despite her natural tendency to run home when the going gets tough? Can Mac face his demons? What about his love for his former life with the FBI? Can the two become one or would going their separate ways be a happier ending?

Julia's rating:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011 State of the Blog Address

Thanks to everyone who took my reader feedback survey a couple of weeks ago. I found the info fascinating. Here are some of my results:

1. Reader Demographics

Haven't you ever wondered who's reading?

Since I'm a Christian and a mom, when I first started blogging, I aimed my site toward Christian mommy bloggers. Unfortunately, I had a hard time gaining a foot hold in that demographic.

Then I discovered book bloggers. When I started Edgy Inspirational Romance, I had no idea there was such a huge community of people who blogged about books. I thought I'd be the only one!

Here's how my audience breaks down. I estimated about 75% of my followers were readers and 25% writers, so I was pretty close. I am surprised that I have so many visitors who aren't bloggers at all. I didn't really read blogs until I started writing one myself.



96% of my readers identify as Christians and those that don't said they visit because of the "friendly atmosphere" and "it's different in a good kind of way."



2. Reader Interests

I asked participants to rate how interesting they found these types of posts on a scale from 1-5. The results were surprising.



Clearly, book reviews are the main event around here. But I'm surprised that personal posts made such a strong showing. I can count on one hand how many of those I've written. Based on these results, I'll make a point of sharing more about my life in the future.

What was truly shocking is how low the Author's Studio posts were rated. The survey results don't match the statistics I see on Stat Counter either. The Outside the Author's Studio posts get some of my highest hits, especially when combined with a giveaway or when the author pops in to respond to comments.

I also polled participants on their favorite genres:




3. Reading and Buying Habits

I wanted to know if blogging about books translates into actual sales so I asked:

Have you ever purchased a title based on a review or author interview seen here?

34% responded "Yes, I have purchased books based on your content."
66% responded "No, I have not purchased books (but may have sought them from other sources like the library or paperbackswap)"

I didn't expect as many as 34% of participants would check yes. I figured if most of my readers were other book bloggers, they'd get their books for free. But from my results it seems book bloggers also buy a lot of books.

I would love to know if authors ever notice spikes in their sales that correlate with blog appearances or reviews. Not my blog in particular, but in general. Feel free to email me if you'd like to share some numbers.


I make a conscious decision to promote e-books. So I asked:

How often do you read e-books?

50% of responses indicated "never" or "one book every couple of months." (Joy faints here).

There is clearly more work to do in this area. I'm on a mission to convert you all. :)


4. Final Words

Some of the great comments I received:

"I enjoy your reviews, but actually the thing I enjoy most about each of your posts is your personality. That's why I stick around!" (I'm blushing.)

"Your blog is fun, fresh, and relevant."

"I love your blog posts and enjoy your sense of humor. Visiting your blog is like visiting an old friend." (Yay! Exactly the vibe I'm going for!)

Re: the blog design:

"Taste is personal, but I'd like something a little more romantic."

(LOL! Can you believe initially I told my designer I didn't want her to use any hearts at all? I'll keep this in mind if I ever go for a redesign.)


"I think it's user friendly. The google search is what I use most often when I'm not simply reading a blog, and it's close to the top."

Thanks for reading everyone!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stalking Kristin Billerbeck!


I discovered Kirstin Billerbeck about five years ago when I saw her on the Today Show talking about What a Girl Wants. I ran right out to buy her book and I've been a fan ever since. Stalker that I am, I searched YouTube for a clip of her and Matt Lauer to include in this interview, but couldn't come up with anything (Kristin must have all the copies at her house).

The last thing you threw away:

Leftover red velvet cake that sat on my desk all day.

A brand of breakfast cereal in your pantry:

Lucky Charms. ( I don't eat breakfast either -- Iced Grande Soy Mocha -- breakfast of champions.)

Three things in your purse:

BlackBerry, a Kindle, Laura Mercier compact

Something that will fall out of your medicine cabinet when I open it:

Something organic. I'm allergic to everything.

A sentence from your rough draft that didn't make the novel:

I work with my editors on bigger concept edits usually. So sentences aren't usually a problem, it's an overall issue. The publisher wanted a billionaire idea, and I said fine, but I didn't want to make them high tech, since I live in Silicon Valley and the nerds driving around out front on their Segways are NO heroes. (I live a block from the Apple building.) So I made him own a chain of organic grocery stores (ie., Whole Foods) -- which of course, wouldn't probably be a billionaire, so we made him a multi-millionaire and Katie jokes with him the whole time about how it really doesn't matter to a special ed teacher if he has millions or billions...


The name of every book you've ever published (so we can track 'em all down):


A Billion Reasons Why
Perfectly Dateless
Perfectly Invisible
Trophy Wives Club
Back to Life
Split Ends
Calm Cool & Adjusted
A Girls Best Friend
She's All That
With This Ring I'm Confused
She's Out of Control
What a Girl Wants
San Francisco
Love Online
An Unbreakable Hope
Blind Dates Anthology
California!
Victorian Christmas Keepsake
Grace in Action
The Prodigal's Welcome
Storytellers Collection II
Heirloom Brides
As American As Apple Pie
Storytellers Collection
Lessons of the Heart
Landlord Takes a Bride
Forever Friends
Fireside Christmas
Meet My Sister, Tess
To Truly See
Strong as the Redwood
Facing Terror (non fiction)

Your favorite not-quite-a-curse word:

Crap. Says it all -- I don't usually use it as a curse word though, I use it more like "stuff" -- Rather because of all the brain books I've read for research, I'm more likely to label an action, OCD, ADD, Narcissistic, etc. Why swear when you can diagnose, know what I'm sayin?

One lousy job from your past:
Customer service for a check printing service where no one in the plant spoke English. (This is my heroine's job in Perfectly Dateless.) I had better jobs but worked for crazy people, so those were actually worse. There are people out there who have no respect for others. One thing I've learned working since thirteen is that how you treat the "little" people is WHO you are.

What sounds would a feline stalker hear while hanging around outside your kitchen window?

Me complaining about my kitchen and how much I hate to cook. Next question...

What would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Well done my good and faithful servant -- oh and cute shoes!

Kristin Billerbeck is a best-selling author of over thirty novels, including What a Girl Wants. She is a Christy Finalist, a two-time Carol Award Winner and currently brings her passion for the 1940's era to the contemporary romance, A Billion Reasons Why. She's a fourth generation Californian and currently lives in the Silicon Valley with her family, which includes four kids and one princess dog named Fiona. Fiona, incidentally is named after the mother in The Thorn Birds, not an ogre.


You can find Kristin at:
www.kristinbillerbeck.com
www.girlswriteout.blogspot.com

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I'm published (kinda)



Have you heard you can now publish your blog on Kindle? One of my goals during this weekend's Bloggiesta was to look into the process.

I found it pretty simple, after a few clicks of the mouse, Edgy Inspirational Romance was listed at Amazon. I didn't get to choose the price point, Amazon set it at $1.99 a month with a 14 day free trial.

Now I can't imagine anyone other than my mother actually paying for a subscription. The expression, "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" comes to mind. But maybe I can rustle up a handful of other relatives who'd like the convenience of reading my work on their e-readers (and Lord, please don't let this be the closest they ever get to seeing me in print).

So, I feel obligated to disclose that funds I receive from this endeavor will go toward postage costs for the book giveaways we do around here. The 80 cents I'll net from Mom's subscription will barely make a dent.

If you follow this link you'll see my sparkling new listing:

Subscribe to this blog on Kindle

The only problem is it looks pretty lonely there without any reviews. Anyone willing to help a sister out? If you read my blog and enjoy it, would you consider writing a review for me? Maybe tag it with a few keywords while you're at it?

Let me know when you list your blog and I'll be sure to return the favor. Thanks friends!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bloggiesta Challenge: 10 Things Bloggers Should Not Do



Hannah from Word Lily is hosting a Bloggiesta challenge based on the post 10 Things Bloggers Should Not Do at Daily Blogging Tips. Here are the rules:


1. Read the post, 10 Things Bloggers Should Not Do.
2. Rate yourself (on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being muy excellente) on each point. How are you doing?
3. Brainstorm examples of what you can/will do to improve your ratings in those areas that could use improvement. And/or:
4. If you feel you’re doing particularly great in one area, share examples of how you’ve reached such excellence.

Once you’ve done that, post it on your blog and come back here to leave a link, or at least share the highlights in a comment here.


By now my eyes are crossed from working on my blog all weekend, but I thought this challenge was too good to pass up.

1. You must not expect results overnight.

True. But I have something to add to this one. You must not be surprised if things happen faster than you expected. I started this blog with the expectation it would take years to build a following. I was completely unprepared for how fast things took off around here. So, I don't think my expectations were too high. If anything, they were too low.

My personal rating: 5

2. You must not ignore your readers.

Wow, I could not agree more! (Mini rant ahead) Nothing burns my biscuits faster than bloggers who do not respond to emails or comments. I know people are busy, but I'm not talking about temporary situations. I've met some people online for whom this is a perpetual problem. No matter how interesting I think a blogger is, I'm just not interested in being anyone's groupie. I'm here to build relationships, and that's kinda hard to do if the conversation is one sided.

So how do I fare in this area? You readers are the best ones to rate me. I try to respond to comments as often as possible (fell behind this week, but I intend to catch up).

Anyone out there feeling ignored? Leave me a shout out in the comment section and I'll be sure to say hello. :)

My personal rating: 4

3. You must not scrape another blogger's content.

I'm pretty sensitive to this because it happened to me. I put my blog name on my feature logos and a book blogger actually took my photo with my blog name and posted it on her blog. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...I think.

One thing I'm guilty of doing is finding photos on google. I grab them from clip art sights and not people's blogs. But I should check into the ethics of doing that as well.

If you ever see anything suspicious here, call me out!

My personal rating: 3.5

4. You Must Not Expect Success Without Promoting:

I actively promoted my blog the first month or two, and since then I've done a few interviews here and there. But other than the interviews, I haven't intentionally promoted this place much since the start-up. The main reason is I'm overwhelmed with the pace of things right now and need to catch my breath.

When I have a novel to announce (or when Serena or Julia have novels to announce) the promoting will kick into high gear again.

My personal rating: 2 (in moratorium)

5. You Must Not Be Another Blogger.

True confession time.

I wanted to be another blogger. I admired this blogger's voice and wished I could write like her. When I realized I couldn't handle the work load around here alone, I did the next best thing...I begged her to come join us.

Her name is Serena Chase, and she hasn't posted much yet, but you all are gonna love her. So let's amend this rule, to "If you absolutely must be another blogger- beg, plead or cajole her to come join you."

My personal rating: 2...But hopefully I'll get over my Serena envy now that she's here. :)

6. You Must Not Fail To Update Your Blog Regularly

I don't have a set schedule, but I post three times a week pretty regularly.

My personal rating: 5

7. You Must Not Ignore SEO

What's SEO?

My personal rating: 1

8. You Must Not Ignore Networking

I'm active on discussion boards and twitter, but I do tend to ignore my Facebook presence.

My personal rating: 3.5

9. You Must Not Have An Unreadable/Unnavigable Site

Not too shabby, huh?

My rating: 5

10. You Must Not Throw Mud Around

All right, I'll deduct a point for the mini rant in number two. But otherwise, I think I'm pretty good.

My rating: 4

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ready, Set....Olé

Bloggiesta starts today! This is a marathon blogging event hosted by Maw Books where book bloggers unite in a common goal to update and organize their little corners of the web.

I have a ton of items on this weekend's bucket list:

1. Weed the feed (delete blogs from my Google Reader that are no longer active or no longer interesting).

Whew! This took hours. But I culled about 100 blogs from my feed, cutting those I follow by almost 25%. Another huge step toward reordering my priorities. I don't have time to scroll past all those posts everyday.

2. File remaining blogs into correct feed folders.

I'm proud to say every single blog I follow is now placed in its appropriate folder. The biggest folder? Inspy Book Bloggers, of course. But Mainstream Book Bloggers and Writing Blogs make a pretty big showing too.

3. Update contributors page to reflect my new blogging partners.

4. Type and schedule Kristin Billerbeck's interview.

Just got this done under the wire. The post runs tomorrow.

5. Contact an author for February's Outside the Author's Studio.

Check. Just waiting for a response.

6. Create logos for the two new features I've had in mind (being intentionally vague here).

Never mind. I think I'll have to get at least one of the feature buttons custom designed because I'm having a hard time coming up with a photo I'd like to use. This might delay the introduction of the features for a little bit. I put out feelers for a designer.

7. Write and schedule introductory posts for the new features.

8. Make sure all my reviews are published at Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Geez Louise, I did not realize I'd fallen so behind with posting reviews at the big three. I'll try to be better, but I'm not opposed to a gentle nudge from authors in the future.

9. Update the About Me page.

10. Update the url in my email signature

11. Publish my blog on Kindle (or at least look into the process).

Done. Edgy Inspirational Romance is coming to a Kindle near you. You'll have more info in 72 hours.

12. Create a few rainy day posts.

13. Update labels.

Check back this weekend to follow my progress!

Whew. I'm bleary eyed and exhausted, so it's time to throw in the towel. I didn't finish everything on my list but I got some pretty big projects done like the Kindle and the feed weed. I participated in one bloggiesta challenge too. Overall, this was a successful weekend. Now I could use a siesta!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Michael Phillips shares his connection to Scotland

Angel Harp is the story of a widow who travels to Scotland to pursue her dreams. Last week author Michael Phillips spoke about the inspiration behind the story. Today, I asked him about his special connection to Scotland.

You have written many books that take place in Scotland. What is your special connection to that country?

The answer is a simple one and only takes two words: George MacDonald.

Many of my readers know all about MacDonald. In fact many of my readers discover my books because they have first been reading George MacDonald. Anyone who is interested in learning more about MacDonald and his books can find out everything on our website.

Briefly, for those unfamiliar with the name…George MacDonald was a 19th century Scottish Victorian writer. It was MacDonald’s books that began C.S. Lewis’s spiritual pilgrimage out of atheism and into Christianity. All his life, Lewis considered MacDonald his spiritual mentor, and even went so far as to call MacDonald his “master.”

However, in the 20th century MacDonald’s books went out of print and became more and more difficult to find. After Judy and I discovered the writings of George MacDonald in the 1970s, it became my passion to do what I could to bring his books back into print, and to inform the public about the spiritual connections between C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald.

To accomplish this, I edited a number of MacDonald’s longer novels that had originally been written in heavy Scottish dialect. These were published in the 1980s and 1990s by Bethany House Publishers. We also published full length originals of MacDonald’s works through our own publishing company, Sunrise Books. And I wrote a biography of MacDonald called George MacDonald, Scotland’s Beloved Storyteller.

That is in brief our connection with George MacDonald. It was because of him, and inspired by his writings, that I began writing novels of my own. My first books were all set in Scotland because, through MacDonald, that was a setting and kind of writing I was familiar with and loved.

When we closed our Christian bookstore several years ago after 35 years, we decided to fulfill a lifelong dream and purchase a small home in Scotland, in the heart of George MacDonald country. It is about twenty miles from MacDonald’s birthplace, and in the same village where MacDonald wrote and set what is my favorite of all his novels, Malcolm. When I am there, I feel the ambiance of MacDonald’s influence, and I feel very creatively stimulated.

Except, of course, when I get writer’s block!

Want more information about Angel Harp? This is the summary from Amazon:

Widowed at 34, amateur harpist Marie "Angel" Buchan realizes at 40 that her life and dreams are slowly slipping away. A summer in Scotland turns out to offer far more than she ever imagined! Not only does the music of her harp capture the fancy of the small coastal village she visits, she is unexpectedly drawn into a love triangle involving the local curate and the local duke.

The boyhood friends have been estranged as adults because of their mutual love of another woman (now dead) some years before. History seems destined to repeat itself, with Marie in the thick of it. Her involvement in the lives of the two men, as well as in the community, leads to a range of exciting relationships and lands Marie in the center of the mystery of a long-unsolved local murder. Eventually she must make her decision: with whom will she cast the lot of her future?


Michael Phillips has been writing in the Christian marketplace for 30 years. All told, he has written, co-written, and edited some 110 books. Phillips and his wife live in the U.S., and make their second home in Scotland. His latest release, Angel Harp releases January 26 from Faithwords. You can reach him at his website macdonaldphillips.com




It's giveaway time!

Faithwords has offered to give away a copy of Angel Harp to one lucky reader. The contest is open to residents in the US and Canada. To enter, leave a comment for Michael with your email address. The winner will be chosen February 3.

To earn bonus entries, read and respond the other installments of Michael's interview. Click here if you missed part one.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review- I Lift Up My Soul by Charles Stanley

I've swapped blogs for the day with Larri from Seams Inspired. While I'm over there reviewing romance, Larri is here reviewing a devotional.

I've been looking for a new devotional book, and thought this might be a good choice because I really love the perspective of Charles Stanley. I understand what he's saying during his Sunday sermons, and tend to mull over those thoughts during the rest of my week.

This devotional begins with January 1st, and has one page dedicated for each day of the year. There is a themed title, a passage of scripture noted, and a key verse for that day. Unless your memory of the Word is superb, you'll need your Bible to look up the scripture readings. While not an absolute necessity, I've found beginning with the Bible verses has helped me soak up the daily devotions.

Following the scripture readings are three to four paragraphs that pertain to the verses above it. I immediately connected with Charles Stanley's words and could hear his voice as I read the passage. Sometimes it's a historical reference, and other times he may use a Sunday school anecdote. The last line or two is a prayer. I like that I can finish with this prayer, or if I feel compelled, I can use it as the beginning of a longer chat with God. The format of this book is definitely easy to read. You could use this devotional for yourself or in a group setting. Right now, we're using it for our family devotion. With children ages 12, 10, and 7, we haven't come across any devotion that is above their heads.

The back of the book contains lined pages for your personal notes. This could be used for anything from prayer requests, answers from God, or even scripture that has stood out to you. All in all, I'm pleased with this devotional. I like its size (about 5x8), print, and hardbound cover.

I Lift Up My Soul would make a great gift any time of year, as you can open it to the current date and start reading. And even though the subtitle states "Devotions to Start Your Day with God", you can definitely read the daily passages at any time of day. We use ours at night before the children go to bed. If you're looking to enhance your quiet time with God, or wanting to draw your family closer while discussing your faith, I highly recommend this book. Happy Reading! :o)

Larri is a Jesus-Praiser and homeschooling, public schooling, sewing, baking, blogging, and crafting wife to the best husband ever, and mom of three fabulous kids. You'll find her most often at home in her sewing studio creating fashions for her family and LittleGirl's AG Doll. She finds much joy in trying new crafts, and is currently stitching up her first quilt, as well as learning to design and draft her own patterns. While sewing and crafting, you'll most likely hear Larri singing her heart out to her Lord or humming praise and worship songs.

Thank you so much, Larri for swapping with me! Sometimes we book bloggers get stuck in our niche and rarely venture out, but your eclectic blog has been such a blessing to me! I encourage all my friends to head over there and check it out. :)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I've changed domain names

This has been a week of changes at Edgy Inspirational Romance. Wednesday I introduced the two new contributors to this blog, Serena Chase and Julia Dixon. Please pop over to say hello, if you missed them.

I also changed domain names this week. Our new URL is www.edgyinspirationalromance.com (we added the word romance and deleted blogspot).

The change should be seamless. The old URL forwards to the new one. You don't need to take any action to continue receiving my feeds in your reader or inbox, but let me know if you find any glitches.

Finally, if you haven't had a chance to weigh in on my Reader Feedback Survey, I'd appreciate your thoughts. It will help me make content decisions in the future. I'm re-posting the survey here for those who haven't seen it yet.




Friday, January 14, 2011

Serendipity by Cathy Marie Hake

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Serendipity
Bethany House (August 1, 2010)
by
Cathy Marie Hake




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





Known for surfing across the kitchen on a dropped dill pickle slice, waterskiing on sea anemone spit, and using Right Guard® as hair spray; she considers herself living proof that God does, indeed, possess a healthy sense of humor.



Cathy loves classical music, romantic getaways with her husband, and Diet Pepsi Free®. "I need chocolate to survive, love my friends, and enjoy a deep personal relationship with the Lord. Although an extrovert, I'm very conservative on a personal level."



In her writing, Cathy attempts to capture a unique glimpse of life and how a man and woman can overcome obstacles when motivated by love. In her inspirational pieces she enjoys the freedom of showing how Christ can enrich a loving couple's relationship.



Cathy Marie Hake is a registered nurse who worked for many years in an oncology unit before shifting her focus to perinatal care. The author of over twenty novels, she lives with her husband and two children in Anaheim, California.





ABOUT THE BOOK

Todd Valmer should have known better. A farmer who's been through several disasters, he travels to Virginia to fetch his widowed mother to cook and help him around his Texas farm...or that was the plan until she keels over on the train and they get kicked off.



Maggie Rose barters for a living and also makes soaps, lotions, and perfumes with a special rose recipe passed down from mother to daughter for generations. She hasn't wanted to marry...until that handsome Texan shows up.



Her heart skips a beat, and when he proposes, a hasty marriage follows. What ensues, however, is a clash of culture and a battle of wills--and it's clear they both mistook instant attraction and infatuation for love. As their marriage loses its sparkle and fills with disillusionment, Todd and Maggie must determine what is worth fighting for. He dreams of a farm. Maggie wants to fulfill the family tradition with her rose perfumes.



Todd's mother, however, has entirely different plans for her son that do not include Maggie. In light of their hasty marriage and mistaken dreams, is there any hope of recapturing their love and building a future together?



If you would like to read the first chapter of Serendipity, go HERE.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Michael Phillips shares the inspiration behind Angel Harp

I asked prolific author, Michael Phillips to stop by and tell us a little bit about his new release Angel Harp.

To tell you about Angel Harp I have to tell you about my own angel harpist, my wife Judy.

Judy has been playing the harp for some forty years. We home schooled our three sons, and after they were grown Judy began teaching harp lessons. She has a harp studio in our home and she has now been teaching harp lessons for fifteen years. She is really a gifted teacher. During that time she has probably taught the harp to more than a hundred young people. Some of them have gone on to become very accomplished musicians. Judy’s harp studio has added such a wonderful dimension to our home through the years. Can you imagine what it’s like to be writing…or going to bed (I’m the proverbial morning person and usually drift off at night hours before Judy) with harp music in the background. It’s pretty great.

We have a small home in Scotland where we spend the summer. I write and Judy works on her harp program and studies and curriculum. She does some playing there in the local 12th century church, and a little teaching, but most of her teaching takes place back home in the States.

A few years ago our schedules were such that I went to Scotland about a month before Judy. I had planned to do massive amounts of writing and expected the creative juices to flow like a tidal wave.

But I got to Scotland and hit a brick wall. My brain was empty. It was one of the worst cases of writer’s block I had ever experienced. I walked around the village, moped about the house, and got more and more depressed. I had time on my hands and was in the perfect environment to write…but creatively I was all dried up. I began to wonder if it was over…if I would ever write again.

What it boiled down to was probably no more complicated than that I missed Judy! I don’t know that I would say that I was love sick…that’s a little melodramatic. But I was definitely longing for my other half!

I went out for a long bike ride one day. On the way home I stopped and sat for a while on a bench overlooking the North Sea. As I sat there, from out of nowhere a sentence came into my brain: It is a terrible thing when dreams die.

I hadn’t a clue what it meant. But it was a mysterious enough sentence and it grabbed my attention. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

By the next day another thought came into my mind along with that mysterious sentence—what if someone were to come to Scotland as a tourist…even right to the very part of Scotland where I was at the time…and had an adventure? What if he or she did so in order to keep a dream in their life from dying? Maybe that’s what the sentence is supposed to mean.

Hmm, I thought to myself. What if that unknown someone was a harpist…even a harp teacher?

Hey, this sounds good, I thought!

I wrote down the mysterious sentence, continued to ponder what it meant, and waited to see what would come next.

I didn’t consciously begin to write a book about Judy. But the fact that she was on my mind so much began to prompt more and more ideas. Before long I had a fictional harpist and that one sentence had become a page…and before I knew it the story was taking shape before my eyes. I never knew what was going to take place next until it started to happen. I came to the manuscript every day wondering myself what was going to happen!

By the time Judy arrived, I was well on my way.

She always says I’m a romantic. I don’t know if that’s true or not—do men ever know those kinds of things! But Angel Harp was a romance that was really fun to watch develop…even if I didn’t know what was going to happen in the end.

The harpist of the story has an adventure, gets involved in a complicated love triangle, and…

What am I doing! I can’t give it away! Anyway, that’s how Angel Harp came into being.


Want more information about Angel Harp? This is the summary from Amazon:

Widowed at 34, amateur harpist Marie "Angel" Buchan realizes at 40 that her life and dreams are slowly slipping away. A summer in Scotland turns out to offer far more than she ever imagined! Not only does the music of her harp capture the fancy of the small coastal village she visits, she is unexpectedly drawn into a love triangle involving the local curate and the local duke.

The boyhood friends have been estranged as adults because of their mutual love of another woman (now dead) some years before. History seems destined to repeat itself, with Marie in the thick of it. Her involvement in the lives of the two men, as well as in the community, leads to a range of exciting relationships and lands Marie in the center of the mystery of a long-unsolved local murder. Eventually she must make her decision: with whom will she cast the lot of her future?


Michael Phillips has been writing in the Christian marketplace for 30 years. All told, he has written, co-written, and edited some 110 books. Phillips and his wife live in the U.S., and make their second home in Scotland. His latest release, Angel Harp releases January 26 from Faithwords. You can reach him at his website macdonaldphillips.com





It's giveaway time!

Faithwords has offered to give away a copy of Angel Harp to one lucky reader. The contest is open to residents in the US and Canada. To enter, leave a comment for Michael with your email address.

Michael will stop by a few more times this month to share about his writing and his special connection to Scotland. For extra entries, leave comments his other posts. The winner will be drawn February 3.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Meet Julia Dixon!

This morning I introduced the first new contributor to Edgy Inspirational Romance, Serena Chase. Now I'm excited to reveal the second new face around here. Her name is Julia Dixon, and she's no stranger to book bloggers. Julia joined our Christian Fiction Book Club discussion not too long ago. Please give her a warm welcome!

JOY: Where can stalkers find you online other than here?

JULIA: You can find me almost daily at my blog Thou Art Jules, on Twitter @thouartjules and on Facebook


JOY: Mostly a writer or mostly a reader?

JULIA: At this stage in my life I am mostly a reader. I do write regularly and am working on some research for a new project.


JOY: Why’d you agree to sign on to Edgy Inspirational Romance?

JULIA: I agreed to sign on with Edgy Inspirational Romance for several reasons. #1 I have really appreciated the way Joy manages her priorities! It is so hard to keep your priorities in order not only in this day and age but online as well. #2 I LOVE Inspirational Romance and certainly appreciate the Edgy ones too! #3 I love making new friends online and working with someone on a goal! I believe EIR is bringing a voice to this niche and hope that Joy’s readership will grow and prosper.


JOY: Share the 25 Random Things about Me that you posted on Facebook:

JULIA: 25 random things could be difficult! Lets see…

1. I love fuzzy socks.

2. My bedroom is red.

3. I have 4 children.

4. I really really do not like laundry.

5. I really really do like snow!

6. I talk to myself A LOT.

7. I like to repeat random things I hear on the radio whether it’s part of a song or a commercial.

8. I often laugh so hard that I cry.

9. I love to cook (especially things that make the house smell delicious).

10. Calla Lillies are my favorite flowers.

11. I like to paint murals.

12. I like to research unusual things for my books (things I’m not familiar with).

13. My dog's name is Jude.

14. I rescue kittens.

15. I actually put plastic on my windows this winter to save money.

16. I drive a ’91 Jeep and love it.

17. I enjoy doing household repairs (I’ve wired switches, put in new light fixtures, wired a phone jack etc.).

18. I love taking a long HOT bath.

19. My favorite smell is violet.

20. I have too much furniture in my bedroom.

21. I wear my seat belt.

22. I’ve been to Las Vegas.

23. I’ve moved to a place and stayed there less than 30 days.

24. I don’t like reality TV.

25. My children think I’m weird.


JOY: Name your top five books ever:

JULIA: Ok, I don’t know about all time books but I went through my Goodreads list and these five were my favorites in no particular order

The Topkapi Secret - Terry Kelhawk

Emily of Deep Valley - Maud Hart Lovelace

The Wednesday Letters - Jason F. Wright

Kushiels Legacy series - Jacqueline Carey

The Twilight series - Stephenie Meyer

Julia Dixon is a self proclaimed small town girl, wife and mother of 4. She is passionate about her family. She loves children and cannot stand to see them mistreated, lonely or hurt. This often goes for animals as well. Julia loves breezy fall days where the sun is bright but the air is crisp. Her favorite colors are the leaves in Autumn. She drives an old 1991 Jeep and wouldn’t trade it for the world! She is a little quirky, too big for her britches and strong willed. She can find a radiator leak, wire a three way switch and sharpen a lawnmower blade. She can also curl up with a good book, cry at a chick flick and cook better than your Momma!

Meet Serena Chase!



Last month I hung a help wanted sign in the window of this blog. I tweeted and Facebook-ed about the job listing and even poked around at a couple of the discussion boards I frequent looking for help.

I'm happy to say I've found two blog partners who've signed on to ease some of my reading load. First up, is my friend Serena Chase. Please give her a warm welcome and then, come back later this afternoon to meet the second sweetheart joining our fold, Julia Dixon.


Serena Chase



Joy: How do we know each other, again?

Serena: Ah, hearken back to the days long ago when you and I colored next to each other in preschool. You always fought me for the blue-green crayon. Or was it the green-blue? I don’t remember. Oh, wait. That wasn’t you. That was that other kid. Seriously now, I believe we met about two years ago within the not-too-constrained constraints of an online writers’ community. Shortly after, we bonded over a shared love of sarcasm, edgy Christian fiction, and witty banter -- as well as the desire to be published and to keep our sanity. The first four have remained constant. The sanity, however, is a day-to-day thing. At least for me.

Joy: So what’s up with the whole writing thang?

Serena: Some may consider it a mental disorder. I mean, I'm in my thirties and still play with imaginary friends!

In real life, however, I have a job, a husband, and two kids -- but if I average the hours I’ve spent writing over the past four years I'm pretty sure I could consider writing to be the most fulfilling, worst-paying full-time job I've ever had. I love it. I wouldn't give it up for the world -- even if I never make a dime.

So what have I done it all that time spent over a keyboard? Well, I’ve completed two novels through the proposal stage and am working on the proposal for my third. I have a fourth novel about halfway through the first draft and numbers five and six not far behind.

While my current project (a coming-of-age novel for young adults) is the first I would categorize as an “Inspirational YA Romance”, all of my fiction thus far has contained strong elements of romance. Regardless of the sub genre in which I write, all my plots are relationally driven and all, in one way or another, have a certain “fairytale romance” aspect about them. I can’t help it. It’s who I am.

Joy: What made you accept my offer to join Edgy Inspirational Romance-besides the desperation in my voice?

Serena: I must admit, the desperation in your voice was fairly persuasive. However, I believe it was the blatant flattery and bribery that sold me on the whole thing. (Just kidding.)

But seriously, now: I believe that romantic literature (especially Christian and/or Inspirational Romance) has a unique ability to speak truth into a woman’s heart. (On a side note: It is quite possible that romance literature speaks truth into a man’s heart as well; but not being a man – or even personally knowing a man who reads Inspirational Romance – I cannot, in good conscience, confirm that hypothesis.)

The ability to appreciate and long for romance is a divine gift. After all, we have a terribly romantic, relationally-driven God. He is our Bridegroom -- the True Wooer of our souls. Regardless of the labels we attach to stories of a romantic nature (Christian/Secular, Comedy/Drama, etc.) I think that when relationally-driven fiction is written well -- or inspired, rather -- we can catch a fresh glimpse of The Great Romance; a glimpse we may miss in the mundane busyness of our ordinary lives.

The growing popularity and acceptance of “EDGY” Inspirational Romance has enabled both new and established writers to give a truer representation of the human condition.

In short (really??? This is short? You’d hate to see me long winded, wouldn’t you?) I accepted your invitation because I want to help take these edgier stories to a greater audience and I think by joining you here I can be a part of that push.

Joy: Using each letter of your first name, create an acrostic that describes you (does this feel less like an intro and more like a hazing?)

Serena:

Sarcastic

Entertainer

Relatively harmless

Exercise avoidance issues

Necessary nom de plume

Aspiring author

Joy: Name your top five books ever:

Serena: EVER????? Just five? Really????? Well, okay. These are in no particular order and some are series that I love, so they just get one listing.

1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
2. Evergreen Castles by Laurie B. Clifford
3. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
5. Secrets by Kristen Heitzmann (okay, the whole Michelli Family series. And a bunch of her other books, too. I’ll read anything Ms. Heitzmann writes. She makes me use the poetic part of my brain and I love her better for it!)


Serena Chase is the pen name of an aspiring author whose real name was already taken by another (published) writer. A lifelong reader, writer, and performer who believes in the innate power of Story, Serena is active in her local community theater, currently rehearsing for the role of “Eliza Dolittle” in My Fair Lady. Now a thirty-something (heavy on the “something”) mother-of-two, Serena lives in a small Midwestern town but dreams of someday writing her novels from a comfy seat on the deck of her dream-cottage on the beach. At this point, however, the cottage is just a dream and she’s keeping her day job. You can find Serena’s weekly (or sometimes daily) attempts at wit and inspiration at her new devotional-ish (heavy on the “ish”) blog. Serena’s new blog is aimed at teens, but welcomes romantic hearts of any age. Find her at: serenachase.com





Wait!!! Have you taken my First Annual Reader Feedback Survey?

Whatd'ya miss the 193 reminder tweets I sent out this weekend?

If you haven't gotten a chance to take the survey, I'd really love to have your input. It's completely anonymous and should only take a minute or two. Easy Peasy.

The results will help us make programming decisions in the future. My goal is 100 responses, which is just over a quarter of my followers. We want to hear from you!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Please complete my reader feedback survey!

I appreciate everyone who reads, follows, or pops in to visit my blog every once in a while. Thank you all so much! As we head into the new year, I'd like to assess what's working here and what's not, then use the results to help guide content decisions in the future.

If you don't mind, could you take a few minutes to fill out this anonymous survey? It will really help me out. These fourteen questions took me hours to create but I'm sure it won't take you that long to answer them. :)

Thanks friends!




Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Review- The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

The author's bio on the back of this book says, "Julie Klassen loves all things Jane- Jane Eyre and Jane Austen."

...And I love all things Julie Klassen.

The Girl in the Gatehouse is the third novel I've read by this author and each has been fantastic. I actually snuck this one to work in my purse to read during my free periods instead of photocopying worksheets for my students.

The Auten-esque feel of this Regency romance starts with the beautiful cover and continues into the storyline which is about a disgraced woman who's fallen from her place in society-a recurring theme in Jane Austen books.

I would not consider this novel edgy in any way, but I was surprised by the level of disgrace the heroine endured in her backstory. I kept thinking she must be remembering things as worse than they were-but no, she really went there. In my opinion, the harder the characters fall, the sweeter the redemption, and Klassen does a great job weaving a theme of forgiveness throughout the book.

Another thing she weaves throughout the book is mystery. She crafted a tranquil, romantic setting, filled it with an eccentric cast of characters who aren't always what they appear, and turned their quiet lives into an adventure I couldn't put down.


Want more info? Here's the back cover blurb:
Mariah Aubrey lives in seclusion with her secrets. Will an ambitious captain uncover her identity...and her hidden past?

Banished from the only home she's ever known, Mariah Aubrey hides herself away in an abandoned gatehouse on a distant relative's estate. There she supports herself and her loyal servant the only way she knows how-by writing novels in secret.

When Captain Matthew Bryant leases the estate, he is intrigued by the beautiful girl in the gatehouse. But there are many things he doesn't know about this beguiling outcast. Will he risk his plans-and his heart-for a woman shadowed by scandal?

Intriguing, mysterious, and romantic, The Girl in the Gatehouse takes readers inside the life of a secret authoress at a time when novel-writing was considered improper for ladies and the smallest hint of impropriety could change a woman's life forever.

Want to read the first chapter? Go HERE

My rating:











(Thanks to Bethany House and to Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing a review copy).


CymLowell

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