Engaged: Surrendering the Future

NOTE: Julie Arduini tells about her latest novel here, and is giving one away to a commenter. Enjoy! 

EngagedFinal-page-001_editedLast year I led a ladies Sunday School group through Lysa TerKeurst’s Uninvited. We shared personal stories, so I recalled a time I thought my future was all lined out. I was so certain I knew what God had for me that I went to the library to read up books on my calling. Granted, I had no confirmation in any way this was where my life was headed.

I was a new Christian who thought I knew everything, most of all, the course for my life. When I was wrong, so very wrong, I told the class that I didn’t even cry. I had a peace that I now know came from God. I ended that season by saying if that path wasn’t for me, and it had been so nice, then I looked forward to what WAS His plan. His answer and very obvious plans for me came to pass not even a year later.

That’s why I related to the heroine in ENGAGED: Surrendering the Future. Trish Maxwell thought she had everything figured out for herself. As a little girl in the mountain village of Speculator Falls, her eyes focused on living in New York City. When the job offer came, Trish left her hometown without even saying goodbye. She left her position at the senior center, all the seniors, and even her high school sweetheart, Ben Regan.

Trish was part of ENTRUSTED, and she played a mean girl of sorts. She felt the small village was beneath her, and she had no idea how hurt everyone was about her leaving. When ENGAGED began, Trish changed. The dream job was a nightmare, and it didn’t last. She returned to Speculator Falls, living with her parents. She worked at the department store. Ben married the city-girl who replaced Trish at the senior center. And a lot of people weren’t thrilled to see Trish return.

The heart of ENGAGED explores what God can do when we surrender failed dreams for His plans. When Trish met paramedic Wayne Peterson, she didn’t know about his growing faith borne out of surrender. He had to give up childish plans for what was best. Trish didn’t have a “Plan B,” and her faith was more about doing whatever her parents did. She had a bit of maturing to do, but was willing. It was such a fun story to write.

I’ve been asked about my favorite part to write, and I loved the entire story. Not only did the story come full circle, I was able to wrap up the Surrendering Time series, too. However, when I needed to pick one thing, I admitted every scene with Trish and senior volunteer extraordinaire Shirley McIlwain together wrote itself. Shirley took her duties at the senior center seriously and when Trish left, Shirley couldn’t shake the betrayal. As ENGAGED moved forward, the two interacted a lot. When they attended a baby shower, it was a sweet moment that I’m proud of.

Trish, of course, encountered romance along the way. Wayne, a single-dad, took that role seriously, which wasn’t always the case. Wayne listened to the gossipy whispers that Trish would leave town as soon as the opportunity came, so their romance had conflict from the beginning. Did they work out their issues? I hope you’ll read ENGAGED to find out!

I have ONE copy of ENGAGED to give to a North American winner.

Did you miss reading Book 1, ENTRUSTED? Read the e-Version for FREE at juliearduini.com.

Julie ArduiniJuly2017 loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. The last book in the series, ENGAGED: Surrendering the Future released in June. She also shares her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read, and also is a blogger for Inspy Romance. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities.


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Undiscovered Treasure in our Back Yard

Who knew? Purslane, a native Arizona plant I included in one of my novels, also grows in our Iowa back yard. But I only recently discovered at the Des Moines farmers’ market that purslane is edible and also offers a TON of health benefits.


Suffice it to say I’ve now re-instated  a weed into my vegetable patches. And we’re eating purslane in salads, soups, and a truly delicious pesto.

Sometimes we say, “Who knew?” about other treasures hidden in our own heritage. Maybe a fresh whiff of wisdom reveals a different side of a conundrum that has puzzled us for years, and we grasp the meaning behind someone’s behavior.

Maybe even our OWN behavior . . . life’s journey finally exposes a facet that we’ve missed until now. In the past couple of years, for example, my husband has discovered amazing sights, simply by taking the time to look  up.


IMG_9379Until Now might make a good title for a novel some day … Kate, the heroine of With Each New Dawn, experiences many until now moments. Maybe that’s because as an orphan, she entertains so many questions about her past.

What a positive thought–the more questions we have, the more opportunities for new discoveries. May the rest of your summer send some your way! (Just found a purslane plant with bright yellow blossoms!)


Why Write Fiction?

Why Write Fiction

Janet Sketchley, author of the Redemption’s Edge Christian suspense series and the devotional collection, A Year of Tenacity joins us today with a question: Why Write Fiction?  Janet Sketchley headshot 350x350

Historical author Janice L. Dick asked this question recently on her blog, and it’s one that always gets me thinking.

There’s a half-joking piece of advice, “If you can stop writing, then stop.” If you’re not compelled, maybe even obsessed with a story, or if you don’t sense a strong call from God to write, why make the effort?
Writing and revising is hard, even discouraging work, and if you can quit, you might as well do it early on and save yourself the struggle.
I did quit a few times on the road to publication, but each time, I either started missing my characters, or God administered a gentle but pointed “kick of love” to get me going again.
My first novel, Heaven’s Prey, happened because I couldn’t get the characters and their situation out of my head. It’s about the redemption of a serial killer (now you know why I was uncomfortable), and the underlying theme that God’s love is great enough to save even the people we want to write off. This is something I strongly believe, but that belief wouldn’t make me work on writing and revising this story for so many years. Only the characters could motivate me to do that.

My stories are still suspenseful, but less intense. I’m also learning to discover more of the story before writing. That still doesn’t mean I’ll know a theme, but in better understanding the characters, I look to see what they believe about themselves, or about others, or about life. What are they going to learn? That truth will be part of the story, and I’d like to express it in the most natural way possible.
Back to the original question: why write fiction? Well, sometimes it’s just plain fun. (Sometimes it’s hard work, but so is anything else worthwhile.) For me, it’s part of what makes me feel alive. It’s a way that God has gifted me, and even if it’s only for my own edification (you learn a lot, writing about other people) I need to embrace the gift.
What about you? Readers, why do you think people write fiction? Writers, why do you do it?


Heavens_Prey_Front_Cover 300x465

Janet is offering a free ebook: Heaven’s Prey, or if the winning commenter prefers, one of her other books.
Website: janetsketchley.ca
Email: janet@janetsketchley.ca

The Adventure of Writing

“Fiction is art and art is the triumph over chaos… to celebrate a world that lies spread out around us like a bewildering and stupendous dream.”

― John Cheever

Since I’ve never thought of myself as very organized, it’s interesting to ponder writing fiction as triumphing over chaos. But for any of us who has  attempted to control circumstances and people, it makes perfect sense to strive over what T.S. Eliot terms the general mess of imprecision of feeling, Undisciplined squads of emotion.



Isn’t that what wrens do when they set up housekeeping in a world of predators ready to disrupt their nesting?

Ah, yes. That’s what control freaks try to manage–the inner chaos. Of course, our actions spread out to those around us, and we get the sense we’re doing well, even if everyone else is chafing at the bit.

Anyway, writing fiction helps this type of personality by giving us a whole set of characters to manage. To bring to life on the page, with all their secrets and foibles, passions and dreams.

I just read about an author hard at work on a sequel to her first novel. This past year, life has given her more than a full platter of challenges, including grief, but she’s finding joy in working with her characters.


Kind of like gardening…cooperative plants like ajuga grow just about anywhere with relish,




same for Shasta daisies–we can count on them to flourish and multiply with little care,



while others require a gentle hand, lots of water, and shade.



But the act of tending these plants nurtures us. What a gift–glorious July blossoms to delight the eye!

Much like flowers, the gift we receive in focusing on our stories nurtures us, too. What can we say but thanks?





Summer Splash and Doldrums…

Well, it’s mid-July already. Somebody told me the other day that as you age, seasons go even faster, even though you have more time to relax and enjoy them. One of the truths of life we’d rather not face.


But we keep our eyes on the blossoms:


Every summer offers many to delight in, but certain ones seem extra spectacular.




Last night I shared a book talk at the Clear Lake Public Library with Jerry from the Algona POW Museum. Wow – a great crowd, and our audience included a World War II veteran.

When I asked where he was during the war, he said, “I was stationed in England as a pilot.”

Oh my goodness… needless to say, we dropped everything and gave him a round of applause. Takes me back to a fabulous novel someone gave me for my birthday — ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE — such a worthwhile read!

Also reminds me of my Women of the Heartland series . . . two books out already, and one scheduled for release this fall. I haven’t  heard yet about the exact release date for A Purpose True, but it’s coming! 

Can’t get enough of this incredible World War II era, and there’s no time like the summer doldrums to plunge into a meaningful new read.

Happy July 4th- Starbucks card giveaway!


Welcome to Kansas author Barbara Fox, who is offering a commenter a ten-dollar Starbucks card.

I learned a lot here about using Pinterest here, and hope you will, too. Take it away, Barbara!

At first glance, Pinterest looks like an image rich sharing media limited in the use of words, so how can it be of value to a writer?

I live a double-sided writer’s life with my more recent side being inspirational romance. My other side helps riding instructors develop their teaching abilities. I use Pinterest for both venues with a mix of public and private boards. Starting with a private board, I can switch the setting to public once I’m ready to share with potential readers. Private boards are a safe place to develop my concept.

  1. Visuals to Build Your Characters and Their world.

The simplest writer’s use for a board is to collect visuals of people, places and things that represent the characters and settings for your wip. I start with a board devoted to my hero, Jason Hughes. Since his board is private, I can pin hundreds of images of Jason without appearing obsessive! To find my Jason, I entered his qualities into search bar at the top of the page and chose heart throb, Henry Cavill (Superman.) I’m careful to leave Henry’s name on his pictures and just add my character’s name for reference. Since charming Jason doesn’t always have his best foot forward I don’t just look for the gorgeous pictures of Henry Cavill. I search for mad or annoyed Henry, sweaty Henry, clean shaven and bearded Henry.

And Henry doesn’t always dress like my hero, either, so I add pictures of Jason’s style and continue to add more of his personal items, such as his home or horse, the vehicle he drives and anything else that represents him. This gives me the opportunity to see my character on a different level and helps me flesh out my scenes.

Next I add my character’s activities. Jason was in Special Forces and has to make a rescue, so I added night vision goggles, weapons, typical Army gear and possible harnesses he might use in the rescue. And Jason’s Myers Briggs personality test results are on his board, along with more about his personality type.

Collecting anything that shows me who Jason is makes him clearer in my mind and as he develops more fully I delete the pins that no longer fit his image. Sometimes, I’ll browse Jason’s board before writing a scene from his POV to help put myself in his place.

Each of my main characters gets their own private board. If I’m unable to find an exact representation for a character, I’ll use multiple people. I might get facial expression from one person and body language from another. I’ll also add their love interest and any other important people so I can see them together.

I love the quotes on Pinterest and will include one that suits my character. For instance my heroine, Rylie, rides horses. The quote I chose for her reads, “Beware I ride horses which means I own pitchforks, have the strength to haul hay, have the guts to scream a half ton animal after being kicked — YOU will not be a problem.”

  1. Visuals for Writing Description

Being able to stare at a picture and describe what you see is more effective than trying to write a picture from memory. Sometimes I study a picture, describe the facial expression and save it in a file. Later when I need beat ideas, I can access the collection I’ve written for my character. Or I might just write a description based on a pin as a warm-up before I start writing.

Writing from pins is also great for activity. For instance, one of my public boards is Great Kisses, Romance and Dance. If I’m writing a dance scene I’ll look through the pins I’ve collected to see where partners place their hands, how they hold one another, or how their head angles as they gaze into each other’s eyes. Hand-holding has its own expression, whether fingers are entwined just a little or deeply and desperately clasped. The pictures reveal more detail than does our foggy memory or imagination. I have private boards for facial expression, body language, and helps with beats.

  1. Making a Main Board for My Story.

When I’m ready, I move my favorite pictures representing each character and activity to a main board for my wip. When I want to share, I make the board public. Then I’ll use Facebook to attract readers to the Pinterest board where they are drawn into the story. It’s a great way to engage people and receive feedback and they will want to know when your story will be published. Beta readers will enjoy seeing the story from your perspective. Currently I use a working title so as not to interfere if I enter a contest.

There are so many good ways to use Pinterest and this post doesn’t scratch the surface. It would take a series to cover everything. I love Pinterest for its creative stimulus, but it’s also a terrific marketing tool. Pinterest claims 1.75 million active member users each month. In my personal experience, it is the number three portal for entry to my site for riding instructors. For a good post about using Pinterest to promote your book, check out DiAnn Mills’ article, The Power of Pinterest http://www.novelrocket.com/2017/06/the-power-of-pinterest.html

This Pinterest For Creatives post comes with a warning: Beware. Pinterest can hold your attention for hours. It’s easy to start out look at Henry Cavill’s handsome face and end up reading a recipe for gluten free pancakes or unstuffed cabbage rolls.

You can check out my Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/barbaraellinfox/. Look for Rylie and Friends.

Tell us how you use Pinterest as a writer or a reader and we’ll put your name in the bucket for a $10 Starbucks card.

Barb Red Vest 2 copyI write stories about love, hope, healing and horses through contemporary Christian romance. My lifetime experience teaching riders and training horses brings authenticity to my stories about horse lovers in love. My web site is devoted to helping riding instructors with lesson plans, ideas and encouragement for their teaching careers. I live in the Mid-West with an assortment of horses including, my American Mustang, Reno. You can visit me at TheRidingInstructor.net or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/barbaraellinfox


Catching Up With Daylight -MASSIVE GIVEAWAY!

Welcome to the WhiteFire Publishing Scavenger Hunt! If you’ve just discovered the hunt, be sure to go back to stop #1 and collect all the clues in order. Once you have them all, you’ll have uncovered a secret message. Turn that in at the final stop for a chance to win one of THREE amazing prize packages!

The Hunt begins at Roseanna White’s site

  • Take your time! You have all weekend to complete the Hunt—entries will be counted until Monday June 26—so have fun reading all the posts along the way and getting to know each author
  • Lots of extra prizes! Many of the authors are featuring unique giveaways as well, for even more chances to win!
  • Submit your entry for the grand prizes back at Roseanna White’s blog.

On an evening flight from Des Moines, Iowa to Colorado Springs, the man in the seat behind me quipped, “We’ll be catching up with daylight on this trip.” Voila! The perfect title for my memoir.

A few years later, WhiteFire Publishing issued me a contract for this manuscript, a compilation of essays, quotes, and women’s stories. The process of nurturing this work to publication taught me so much about life, even though I was a late bloomer with my writing.

I learned that memoir borrows some fiction techniques, such as grounding the reader in each new chapter. And of course, the genre requires imagination



You may be singing your heart out like this little wren in our back yard, but must alert the reader to the whys and wherefores.


Memoir relays one’s unique journey, but mine definitely benefitted from editors’ objectivity. In the end, the published books delivered to my door one day gave me deep satisfaction. I believe I may have hugged the Fed Ex man.

CUwD 3D3


Taking the journey is one thing, but turning your private writing into public writing entirely another, and I’m so grateful WhiteFire gave me the opportunity.

From there, the road has stretched on to writing World War II fiction focused on characters’ journeys. Their joys and sorrows become as real to me as my next door neighbor’s.

But for me, memoir needed to come first – making meaning of my own experiences.  Eudora Welty wrote, “To imagine yourself inside another person…is what a story writer does in every piece of work; it is his first step, and his last too, I suppose.”

Here’s the Stop # 7 Scoop:

You can order my book at: http://amazon.com/author/gailkittleson

Clue to Write Down: imagination

Link to Stop # 8, the Next Stop on the Loop: Joy Palmer

Need the full list of stops?


Roseanna M. White

April McGowan

Cara Luecht

Christine Lindsay

Debra Marvin

Dina Sleiman

Gail Kittleson

Joy Palmer

June Foster

Melody Carlson (hosted)

Nelson Hannah

Rachelle Rea Cobb

Sara Goff

Susie Finkbeiner

Susanne Dietze

Suzie Johnson

All finished? Submit Your Entries!

And now, for my own little giveaway! I’m adding a World War II replica flour sack dishtowel to our group giveaway, since that era affected my childhood so much, and therefore plays into Catching Up With Daylight.


Jot a comment here, perhaps about how memoir has touched you, and leave a LIKE or a smile on my FB author page (if you’ve already LIKED it) to qualify.


It’s HOT outside! Add a strong wind, and most people choose to stay indoors. Even the little wren outside our back door seems to have the same idea, although she still sings her cheery songs.



The flowers are blooming like crazy – that’s the glory of summer, with trees leafed out in full and grass growing an inch in a few hours.



IMG_4982This year, our daughter gave us a new idea – growing potatoes in a garbage can. You plant a layer, cover them as usual, and wait for them to sprout. Then cover them again.  Keep repeating as the potatoes plants show their leafy heads, and of course, water liberally.  Hopefully you’ll reap a barrel full of potatoes at harvest time.


We’ll see. Sounds like a winner, but time will tell.This brings to mind my latest World War II story, With Each New Dawn. If you need a compelling read this summer, this one’s for you.


This “We’ll see” attitude prevailed during that era when armies tried various tactics, hoping their latest strategy would work. Sometimes they met with success, sometimes not. And my heroine and hero lived through the waiting. 



Today, we welcome debut author, Suzanne Bratcher, whom I met a few winters ago in Arizona. I’ve visited Jerome, the setting for her mystery, and even read a bit of the story early on. Suzanne is offering a free print copy of her novel to one fortunate commenter. Enjoy! 

Suzanne, I’d like to know how the plot idea came to you, and if you saw the ending from the start, or if the story evolved as you wrote. 

The plot grew out of the setting. Jerome, Arizona advertizes itself as “the largest ghost town in America” and “the billion dollar copper camp.” From my many visits to Jerome, I knew it would be the perfect place for a mystery, particularly a mystery with a connection to the past. I wanted to use the copper connection, which is so apparent in Jerome, so a copper box became the object someone was willing to kill for. I think of mystery writing as telling a story upside down and backwards. To do that I have to know the ending before I start writing.

Tell us how the setting influenced the characters of your novel. 

Because Jerome is a ghost town, I imagined characters who had come to Jerome to face ghosts from their own past. Marty Greenlaw’s ghost was a four-year-old girl with golden hair who appeared in a recurring nightmare, a child who turned out to be Marty’s little sister who died twenty-two years before. Paul Russell’s ghost was his dead wife Linda, killed in a car wreck Paul blamed himself for. He was in Jerome for the summer doing his best to fulfill Linda’s dream of rebuilding an old house across the road from Marty’s grandmother’s house.


Your title and cover certainly attract the reader – please explain how they came to be. 

I wanted a title that would make a reader wonder what the book was about. Boxes always make me curious because I wonder what might be in them. The cover was designed by Diane Cretsinger Turpin of Mantle Rock Publishers. Diane read a synopsis of the book and then asked me about covers I liked on books I’d read. I sent her several, and she went to work. She sent me three or four ideas, and I picked the concept of the young woman and the copper mine. This cover is what she came up with. I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Do you have another book in the works? Tell us how it compares to The Copper Box

I’m finishing a romantic suspense novel called Guardians of the Canyon. I started it while my agent, Jim Hart, was looking for the right publisher for The Copper Box. Guardians is set in Arizona, and the two main characters are a woman and a man who fall in love, but the plot isn’t a mystery; it’s suspense. I’m also starting to consider possibilities for a sequel to The Copper Box. Jerome is a perfect setting for a series of mysteries, and Marty and Paul make a good team.

Any advice you’d give fledgling authors, and lessons you’ve learned along the way that might help others avoid pitfalls? 

Read, read, read! Find contemporary books you wish you’d written and study how the writer put the story together. When an agent or an editor makes suggestions about your writing, don’t get defensive. Listen and take it to heart. The published version of The Copper Box is very different—and much better—then my first vision of the story. The dual point of view, the starting point, and even the genre all grew out of comments I first took as criticism. But the more I thought about each comment, the more I saw new possibilities for the story.

Thanks so much for being my guest, and congratulations on your DEBUT AUTHOR DAY!!!  

Thanks for having me. I’d like to let your readers know of an early order incentive I’m offering. Anyone who orders the paper copy of The Copper Box by June 12 and sends a copy of the receipt to suzannebratcher@gmail.com will receive the free feature article, “The Story Behind the Story.” It tells about my personal connection to Jerome and goes into more detail about how The Copper Box came to be written.


I’m glad to welcome Cynthia Roemer as she celebrates the publication of her first historical novel. Cynthia, please tell us about your experience researching this story.

Book cover - final

I’m as old-fashioned as they come, so historical novels are a perfect fit for me—both reading and writing. As a reader, I love the nostalgia and all the life lessons one can learn from those who’ve gone before us. But as a writer, I enjoy delving into the past and researching the time period, more specifically the nineteenth century. When writing a historical/historical romance novel, research is a must to ensure the book is true to the time period.

My debut novel, Under This Same Sky, which released in late April, took place in 1854. I’ve been thrilled at some of the comments thus far by reviewers stating the novel “makes you feel exactly like you lived back in those days”. How gratifying such comments are to an author who’s spent countless hours trying to be certain every detail is true and accurate.

The well-known facts are easy to achieve. Under This Same Sky took place on the Illinois prairie in the mid-1800s. Most everyone knows settlers lived in log cabins, but do they know how the cabins were erected and what materials were used to chink the log walls? It’s widely known that covered wagons were often used when traveling across the prairie, but not many will know that a bucket of tallow was kept handy so that when the wheels began to squeak and squeal they had to be greased much like a car engine needs oil to run smoothly.

There were so many questions I had to ask as I wrote the novel: What type of clothing was worn in 1854? What farming equipment was available? Had screen doors been invented? How would my characters cross the Mississippi? What would the city of St. Louis have looked like back then? What type of lighting was used? It’s these fine details that make a novel either believable or, if left out, leave readers with a less than satisfied reaction.

Though research is a vital part of writing a historical novel, that’s not to say a writer can’t have a little fun creating fictional people and places along with the true ones. Under This Same Sky is a blend of fictional and real. My main character, Becky Hollister grows up a few miles outside of the fictional town of Miller Creek, IL, but later travels to the very real town of St. Louis, Missouri. Only one of my characters is based on a real person. The others are products of my imagination.

What’s wonderful about historical fiction is that we can have the best of both worlds—the reality of the past blended with the creativity of fiction. A match that—in this author’s opinion, can’t be beat!

            ~ She thought she’d lost everything ~ Instead she found what she needed most. ~

Illinois ~ 1854

Becky Hollister wants nothing more than to live out her days on the prairie, building a life for herself alongside her future husband. But when a tornado rips through her parents’ farm, killing her mother and sister, she must leave the only home she’s ever known and the man she’s begun to love to accompany her injured father to St. Louis.

Catapulted into a world of unknowns, Becky finds solace in corresponding with Matthew Brody, the handsome pastor back home. But when word comes that he is all but engaged to someone else, she must call upon her faith to decipher her future.


Cynthia Roemer is an award-winning inspirational writer with a heart for scattering seeds of hope into the lives of readers. Raised in the cornfields of rural Illinois, Cynthia enjoys spinning tales set in the backdrop of the 1800s prairie. She writes from her family farm in central Illinois where she resides with her husband and their two college-aged sons.

 Contact Info:

Website: http://cynthiaroemer.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCynthiaRoemer/

Twitter: https://twitter.com@cynthiaroemer


Purchase Info:

Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Under-This-Same-Cynthia-Roemer/dp/194509415X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494271640&sr=8-1&keywords=under+this+same+sky