Tuesday, February 20, 2018

100 Steps to Freedom ~ Tamara Lynn Kraft

100 Steps to Freedom

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Before the Civil War, Ohio had the largest Underground Railroad of any state in the Union. It is believed that every county in Ohio had a route. Many slaves would escape over the Ohio River and through Ohio on their way to Canada. This was a dangerous undertaking because, even though Ohio was a free state, the Fugitive Slave Law made it so anyone helping escaped slaves could be fined and jailed.

One small town, Ripley, Ohio, is believed to have helped more slaves escape than any town in Ohio. Ripley is located on the banks of the Ohio River across from Mason County, Kentucky.

Image courtesy Pixabay
One man who helped slaves escape was a freed black man named John Parker. Parker was educated by his master in Virginia and eventually bought his freedom. He traveled to Ohio and opened a foundry on Front Street facing the Ohio River. He was the first black man to earn a patent for one of the inventions he used in his foundry. At night, he would search the Ohio River looking for escaped slaves and helping them find their way to an Underground Railroad Station.

Rev. John Rankin, a Presbyterian minister, owned a house on top of a hill in Ripley. He built one hundred steps to the house that could be seen on the other side of the river. At night, he would light a lantern and hang it from the porch to signal slaves that it was safe to cross. It is estimated that over 2,000 slaves escaped through the Rankin House. None of them were ever recaptured.

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote her famous novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, about the escape of the slave, Eliza, after hearing the story from Rev. Rankin. I also added John Rankin's house in my new novel, Red Sky Over America. The story takes place on the Ohio River where all these exciting events happened.

About Tamera's Book:
Red Sky Over America
Ladies of Oberlin Book 1
By Tamera Lynn Kraft
William and America confront evil, but will it cost them everything?

In 1857, America, the daughter of a slave owner, is an abolitionist and a student at Oberlin College, a school known for its radical ideas. America goes home to Kentucky during school break to confront her father about freeing his slaves.

America's classmate, William, goes to Kentucky to preach abolition to churches that condone slavery. America and William find themselves in the center of the approaching storm sweeping the nation and may not make it home to Ohio or live through the struggle.

Red Sky Over America tackles the most turbulent time in history with thorough research and fascinating characters. Tamera Lynn Kraft has woven a tale about the evils of slavery that should never be forgotten. -- Mary Ellis, author of The Quaker and the Rebel, The Lady and the Officer, and The Last Heiress.
You can purchase Red Sky Over America at these online sites:
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/2C6XIuq

About Tamera:
Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures. She loves to write historical fiction set in the United States because there are so many stories in American history. There are strong elements of faith, romance, suspense and adventure in her stories. She has received 2nd place in the NOCW contest, 3rd place TARA writer’s contest, and is a finalist in the Frasier Writing Contest and has other novels and novellas in print. She’s been married for 39 years to the love of her life, Rick, and has two married adult children and three grandchildren. 

Tamera has been a children’s pastor for over 20 years. She is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire for Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist and has written children’s church curriculum. She is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd’s Cup for lifetime achievement in children’s ministry.

You can contact Tamera on her website at http://tameralynnkraft.net.

You can contact Tamera online at these sites.
Word Sharpeners Blog: http://tameralynnkraft.com

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Focus on Love ~ Behind the Story ~ Candee Fick

Story Behind the Story of Focus On Love, by Candee Fick

Photo by Candee Fick
My latest release returns to The Wardrobe Dinner Theatre. The first book of the series featured a dancer while the third book will feature a singer. But when I needed a special talent for Liz in this second book, I didn’t have to look further than her hobby of photography.

Except uncovering her talent was only the beginning. Even through my father knew enough to teach a photography class before I was born, my personal experience was limited to older auto-focus cameras and more recently a phone app. However, both of my sisters-in-law have fancy cameras with fast-action shutters and zooming lenses. I’d seen close-up shots of my son playing basketball, so I knew what types of pictures could result with the best equipment. I also had an appreciation for those who could capture unique expressions in their subjects through powerful candid shots.

Knowing there was both technical skill and an art form involved, I set about doing enough research to make the story believable. (And I succeeded, because at least one beta reader asked how long I’d been doing photography!)

However, holding a camera wasn’t enough. When Liz uses her skill, she is also drawn into the realization that the ultimate Creator made her with the ability to express her own creativity through photography as well as acting. Except she’s pulled between being onstage or a life behind the lens. If given the choice, what dream would develop?

I believe God has a unique purpose for each of us. Liz lives out her creativity in a different way than I do through writing. Just like a nurse lives out her compassionate problem-solving skill differently than a teacher trying to reach the heart of a struggling student. The Creator has gifted each of us with a unique and special talent to then share with the world.

How are you uniquely wired?

Short Blurb for Focus On Love:
Free-spirited Elizabeth Foster turned her back on her father’s photography business to pursue musical theater, but with a one-show contract, she’s a few weeks from unemployment forcing her home. Meanwhile sought-after photographer Ryan Callahan has put his career on hold to help his sister’s family while her husband is deployed, but the promise of a bigger assignment could lure him away from building a family of his own. If given the choice, what dreams would develop? Or will they learn to focus on love instead?

Bio:  Candee Fick is a multi-published author in both fiction and non-fiction. She is also the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job, writing, or coaching other authors, she can be found cheering on the home team at sporting events, exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.

Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/Candee-Fick/e/B0056B94VE/
Sign up to get free first chapters - http://eepurl.com/1OSfH

Enter to win three autographed books and a Shutterfly gift card to celebrate as we Focus On Love https://candeefick.com/giveaways/focus-love-prize-bundle/ 
Drawing ends February 24th at midnight. 
Note: You have to go to Candee's site to enter...not here. However, both Candee and I would love to have you share your comments to this post in the section below. Thanks!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Love is in the Air ~ Tanya Eavenson

Love is in the Air!
by Tanya Eavenson

Can you feel it? Whether it’s a romantic kind of love or the parental kind, love is in the air! Even in my fictional world from my story To Gain a Valentine.

My second novella in the Gaining Love series entitled To Gain a Valentine, was so much fun to write. Why? Because I could relate to the hero, Patrick Reynolds, who works wonders with sick children as a pediatrician, yet when it comes to pets, he’s clueless.

That is so me! Several years ago we moved from the pastorium to the home we bought seven minutes away. Carrying all our possessions, including our cat, Woody, (he was named after Woody from Toy Story) I placed him in the garage. Little did I realize, I left the back door open.

Can you imagine my horror when I was the one who allowed my daughter’s cat, her best friend, to escape and wander around lost in a neighborhood during a rain storm? Yes, a storm! It was raining cats and dogs, pun intended. I could hardly see three feet in front of my face. I felt just awful! The way my eight-year-old cried, those tears, the words “he’s going to die out there!” just about killed me on the spot.

So me, who uses an umbrella at the first sign of rain or mist in the air, I charge out into the pelting rain in hopes of finding a cat and mending broken hearts—hers and mine. “Soaked through” wouldn’t even begin to describe my clothes, which clung to me seconds after stepping outside. Already exhausted from the move, I dragged myself through the process of combing the neighborhood.

But there, at last, was Woody, waiting under a stranger’s patio, sheltered from the storm. I still remember whispering a prayer of thanksgiving as I trespassed on this person’s yard with all intent to steal my own cat. But as I neared, he ran. And I chased.

Two blocks, yard after yard, calling his name. “Woody!”

Then, I lost him. What was I going to do now? How was I going to tell my daughter that not once but twice in one day I had lost her most beloved cat?

Heading back toward the house, I hung my sopping head and said another prayer that Woody would return, and soon.
Sloshing up the front steps, I heard my husband’s voice from the garage. It was better to tell him first, so I went to him. There, sitting in a folding chair next to our dresser, sat my daughter with a wide smile on her face, holding Woody against her chest.

Happy tears filled my eyes, but in the next breath I realized, seeing him in her arms, dry, I’d been running down the streets of our new neighborhood like a crazy person, chasing after another person’s cat! Needless to say, in life, you have to learn how to laugh at yourself. This was indeed one of those moments that will forever be etched in my daughter’s mind and heart, as well as my own. She saw, in action, how much I loved her.

Yes, I see a lot of myself in Patrick from To Gain a Valentine, his attempts to care for animals when he has no idea what in the world he’s doing. Granted, I had one cat in my care, and he had one dog, three fish, two— Well, you’ll have to read the story, but it was also his desire to forget what was safe and love others with action and abandonment. And like my ending, Patrick’s actions will forever last in Amabelle’s heart and mind. For them, it was the day when love took flight.

  About the book:

Pediatrician Patrick Reynolds works wonders with sick children, yet when it comes to pets, he’s clueless. But caring for his sister’s menagerie while she’s on vacation is the perfect answer to working through a broken engagement. Hoping to escape the memories, he returns to his hometown, the last place he'd expect to find love.
Life as a single mom is never easy, but pet shop owner Amabelle Durand has found contentment. When an old friend returns to care for his sister’s pets, he enlists her assistance to keep the animals alive. But when Amabelle's young daughter falls ill, she finds herself attracted to more than the handsome pediatrician’s medical skills.
As Valentine's Day approaches, will Patrick and Amabelle miss out on the love they've always desired? Or will their love take flight under the stars on this very special night? 


 About Tanya:

Tanya Eavenson is an international bestselling and award-winning inspirational romance author. She enjoys spending time with her husband and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. You can find her at her website http://www.tanyaeavenson.com/ on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google, or on Amazon.

Where to find Tanya:

Thursday, February 1, 2018

A Train Ride to Heartbreak ~ Donna Schlachter ~ Behind the Story

A Train Ride to Heartbreak: The Story Behind the Story

by Donna Schlachter

The idea for this story came from a love of a movie and a friend with a great story to share.

The movie was “The Fugitive”, both the original series pilot and the more recent remake. I loved the idea of a train ride leading to a second chance.

My friend had recently taken a train ride from Denver to San Francisco, and she shared several delightful stories. I wondered if a train ride might be like a cruise in that it would provide an insulated environment where the travelers might do something they’d never done before. If so, this was perfect fodder for a romance, much like the old TV show, “The Love Boat”.

And then I saw “Murder on the Orient Express”, and as a lover of anything Agatha Christie, decided to incorporate a few of the details in my story.

The result? A chance meeting, two characters with integrity, and a way for God to reach both of them.

1895, Train to California
John Stewart needs a wife. Mary Johannson needs a home. On her way west, Mary falls in love with another. Now both must choose between commitment and true love.

October 1895
Mary Johannson has scars on her body that can’t compare with the scars on her heart. She is alone in the world, with no family, no prospects, and no home.

John Stewart is at his wit’s end. His wife of three years died in childbirth, leaving him with a toddler and an infant, both girls. Theirs was the love of fairy tales, and while he has no illusions about finding another like her, his children need a mother.

Though separated by thousands of miles, they commit to a mail-order marriage. But on their journey to Heartbreak, they meet another and realize the life they’d planned would be a lie. Can they find their way back from the precipice and into the love of God and each other, or are they destined to keep their word and deny their heart?


Groverton, Pennsylvania
September 1895

Chapter 1

Mary Johannson plunged reddened hands into the dishwater and scrubbed at a crusty spot on the chipped china plate.

In the yard, the vicar, shoulders slumped from the cares of his congregation, held a small child in his arms while two toddlers clutched his pants leg. And Matron Dominus, the imposing head of the Meadowvale Orphan’s Home, towered over the small group huddled before her.

Mary checked the plate. Satisfied it would pass muster, she dipped it into the rinse bucket and set the piece into the dish rack to air dry. Next she set a burnt oatmeal pot into the water to soak while she dried her hands on her apron and surveyed the scene outside.

The vicar nodded and turned to walk the gravel path he’d traversed just minutes before, the wee ones in tow as he hoisted the child to his other hip for the mile-long trip back. No doubt he was waiting for space to open in the orphanage.

Her space.

Mary would turn eighteen in two months. And despite her desire to escape the confines of the orphanage, she wasn’t excited about making her own way in the world. The last girl who aged out—as the other orphans called the act of turning eighteen—now worked at the saloon.

And everybody knew what kind of girls worked there.

Mary swiped at the scarred worktable set in the middle of the kitchen floor, her washrag sweeping crumbs into her hand. She still needed to finish the dishes and report to Matron

Dominus for her next order for the day.

By the time she returned to the sink, the vicar and his charges were out of sight.

But Matron Dominus stood outside the tiny window staring in at her.

Checking up on her, no doubt. Making certain she wasn’t lollygagging. An activity all of the residents indulged in. According to Matron.

Mary hurried through the rest of the washing up. She swept the floor, put a pot of beans on to soak for supper, and shooed the cat out from under the stove. After checking the dampers to make certain the range wouldn’t needlessly heat the kitchen—another of Matron’s accusations—she hung her apron on a nail beside the back door.

Stepping out into the fresh air, Mary drew a deep breath and leaned against the clapboard siding.

Perhaps she could work at the seamstress shop. She was a fair hand with a needle and thread. Or maybe the general store.

“Mary Johannson.”

The screech like a rooster with its tail caught in a gate startled her, and she straightened. But in her haste, she overbalanced and stepped forward to catch herself, hooking her toe in the hem of her dress, which she’d just let down last week to a more respectable length.

The sound of rending cloth filled her ears as the ground slammed toward her. She got her hands out in front of her just in time to prevent mashing her nose into the soil. The toes of Matron Dominus’s boots filled her vision.

Mary pushed herself to her feet, wincing at an ache in her lower back not there a moment before. Tears blurred her vision when she checked her dress—she had a three-inch rip just above the hem.

“Are you lollygagging about? Sunbathing? Do you think you’re on the Riviera?”

Despite her imposing height and girth, the matron’s voice—particularly when she was irked—resembled the irksome peacock Mary had once seen in the zoo in Philadelphia. Why God would create such a beautiful bird with such a nasty voice was beyond her.

But if what Matron said was true, He’d created Mary, too, only to have her burned by the flames that killed the rest of her family. Angry red scars ran from her forearms to halfway up her neck, and a collar of white tissue, the result of an inept doctor sewing her back together again, ringed her neck and inched toward her ears.

No, if God really loved her, He wouldn’t have allowed that to happen.

About Donna:
Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick, her first-line editor and biggest fan. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts. She is a hybrid author who has published a number of books under her pen name and under her own name. She is a member of American Christian FictionWriters and Sisters In Crime; facilitates a local critique group, and teaches writing classes and courses. Donna is also a ghostwriter and editor of fiction and non-fiction, and judges in a number of writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is proud to be represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.

Where to find Donna: 
www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!
Other Books: Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ci5Xqq and Smashwords: http://bit.ly/2gZATjm

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

When it Feels Like Home ~ Alice K. Arenz ~ Giveaway

Please welcome friend and author Alice K. Arenz as she takes us behind the scene and into the Story Behind the Story of her recent release The Wedding Barter, a book I thoroughly enjoyed ... and reviewed. (see link below**) - AND a free book. Details below.

When It Feels Like Home

 by Alice K. Arenz

No, this is not Tarryton - image courtesy pixabay.com
Have you ever read a book where the place described feels so much like home that you’d actually like to live there—or, at least, read more about the people who do? I know I’ve felt that way and hoped one day to create just such a place for my readers. I just never thought about feeling so comfortable with one of these fictional communities I’d want to return there for a book totally unrelated to the reason it was invented in the first place.

Confused? That’s ok because it happens to me all the time! But, seriously, this was how I felt when I signed on to write a new Christian romance for a collection my publisher was putting together. After getting over the initial reaction of switching gears from mystery/suspense to romance, all I could think about was location, location, location! I was already stepping out of my comfort zone, so I knew there had to be a solution that could cushion me as I dared cross over into an unfamiliar genre. Then, suddenly, it came to me! Tarryton, Missouri, the fictional location from the Bouncing Grandma Mystery series was perfect...and my publisher agreed!

Tarryton already had a population of characters just waiting to pop out of the past and into the future—nine years older than when they were/are in the Grandma books, but still filled with an abundance of personality. Even the town had the requisite businesses—it was a place burgeoning with life and possibilities, a perfect setting for The Wedding Barter!

Tarryton was already on my mind when I signed on to join the novella collection—I’d recently re-read The Case of the Bouncing Grandma and The Case of the Mystified M.D. in preparation of beginning a third book in the series. It was long overdue, I know, but the excitement of revisiting that town and characters like Glory Harper with her insatiable appetite for solving mysteries had become all-consuming.

No, The Wedding Barter wouldn’t be a mystery and would be set in the present, but it would be able to borrow upon a foundation already established. From Randi’s Dandies Bakery to Kelly’s Garden and Landscaping, to Marcello’s Restaurant, Tanner’s Truck Stop, and Centerview Park, the town was waiting to be used and populated with another cast of characters. I could close my eyes and picture it even more clearly than where I lived now or had grown up. It was filled with friends and acquaintances who wanted to share their stories with new readers, waiting to charm, disappoint, and amaze. They were home . . . and they were ready to welcome us into their world.

I hope that you, dear readers, will feel the same about Tarryton as I do! God Bless.
The Giveaway: Alice is offering a free eBook copy of The Wedding Barter to one of my readers. Entering is easy ... just leave a comment below with your name and email (e.g. you(at)123xyz(dot)com). Followers of this blog will get an extra entry. Just let me know in your comment. Contest runs through Tuesday, February 6. 2018, at Midnight CST.

Though Alice K. Arenz is known for her cozy mysteries and romantic mystery/suspense novels, the Carol Award winning author has branched out with her newest release, The Wedding Barter, a romance that is both serious and funny.

Arenz is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Her first three novels were honored by two finals and one win in ACFW’s Carol Awards: cozy mysteries The Case of the Bouncing Grandma (a 2009 finalist), The Case of the Mystified M.D., (2010 winner), and mystery/suspense Mirrored Image (a 2011 finalist). These novels have been followed by An American Gothic, Portrait of Jenny, and short story, Home Cookin’.

Visit her at her website www.akawriter.com

**If you're interested in the review I wrote for The Wedding Barter, just follow this link.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Finding Joy in the Sunset ~ Patti Shene

Please welcome my good friend Patti Shene, and her beautiful article about sunsets and how they present something new every evening, revealing the magnificent and unmatchable artistry of the Great Creator.  Sit back and enjoy.

Every Sunset is New
by Patti Shene

They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy Psalm 65:8 (NASB)

I don’t live in a scenic part of Colorado. No towering mountains or sparkling lakes take my breath away when I gaze out my front door. The southeastern region of my state has for many years suffered the effects of drought, creating a thirsty, barren expanse of old sameness.
If one is not surrounded by the majestic and breathtaking nuance of natural splendor, the soul stalks the corners of creation to find its hiding places. I find new beauty in every sunset.
Whether the day is heavy with toil and trouble, or light with laughter of friends and love of family, God delights when He reveals another page from his divine coloring book at its conclusion. The sky takes on a life of its own as the heavens dance with the changing hues of pinks, purples, yellows, and oranges. Clouds of white blush with tints that morph from deep reds to soft pinks. Store windows and church steeples reflect God’s glory as His people prepare for rest and reflection.
Sunset touches everything old on this earth and transforms it into something new. The highway becomes a ribbon of liquid gold. Leafless trees spring to life against the backdrop of a vibrant sky. Clouds lose their threatening gloom when tempered with a silver lining. The sun paces its path across the heavens until it sinks below the horizon, leaving behind a gentle peace that day is done.
Just like the majestic grandeur of sunset changes our perspective on our familiar and old surroundings, so the supreme majesty of our Lord Jesus Christ changes our lives. He refines the path we follow by shining His light and guiding us to fulfillment. He bathes the barren branches of our lives with the light of purpose and makes them flourish. He comforts us with the light of His presence when clouds of fear threaten to steal our joy and renews our hope.
Observe the sunsets in life. 

In the words of the Psalmist, “the sunset shouts for joy.” Joy that God reigns supreme. Joy that colors our world. Joy in the promise of something new tomorrow. 

To learn more about Patti, Visit her on her website t: http://www.pattishene.com/about 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Life is a Puzzle ♦ Lillian Duncan Devotional

Life Is A Puzzle

1 Peter 1: 3 (NIV)
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life.

 Puzzles can be confusing but then again the same can be said about life. When we first dump out a puzzle all we see are hundreds or maybe thousands of pieces that make no sense. Often we can’t see the intended picture until the puzzle is close to being completed. When we’re in the middle of a puzzle it can seem like one big mess.
Sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it?

I’ve heard life described as a test, as a journey, as a learning experience. And, of course, we can’t forget that famous box of candy! In my recent novel, PUZZLE HOUSE the main character describes life as a puzzle. In fact, she believes that so much that she created Puzzle House, a place of healing and hope.

She refuses to call herself a healer. Instead she says she’s only there to help people with their puzzles. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a little help with this puzzle we call life?

The good news is that we do! The above verse assures us that through his divine power God will give us all we need for a godly life. Sounds great but as with most things in life it takes some effort on our part as well.

Life is filled with thousands or maybe millions of experiences. It’s almost impossible to understand where one little piece fits into the puzzle of our life at any given time. Things that we think are important turn out not to be and things we think are trivial turn out not to be so trivial after all.

It’s only after the puzzle is complete or at least that section is finished that we have our “aha” moment and can see the bigger picture.

As we experience life there will be times when we don’t always understand why certain things happen or don’t happen. It feels unfair. Why did this happen to me? Doesn’t God love me?

It’s in these times when our faith can begin to weaken if we allow it, but it can also be an opportunity to strengthen our faith. Which one depends on how you choose to react.
Notice I said choose to react. We don’t always have a choice about our circumstances, but we always have a choice about how we react. We can choose to react in a way that honors God or not.

 The choice is ours.

This devotion was adapted from Devotions from Puzzle House—a companion devotional to Puzzle House.

About Lillian:  
Lillian Duncan…Stories of faith mingled… with murder & mayhem.

Lillian is a multi-published author who lives in the middle of Ohio Amish country with her husband and a menagerie of pets. After more than 30 years working as a speech pathologist for children, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.

Lillian writes the types of books she loves to read—fast-paced suspense with a touch of romance that demonstrates God’s love for all of us. To learn more about Lillian, you may visit her at www.lillianduncan.net or www.lillian-duncan.com. She also has a devotional blog at www.PowerUpWithGod.com.