Preserving A Small Iowa Town’s Cultural Heritage

Yesterday at a book talk in Riceville, Iowa, library director Betsy Morse showed me a local artifact preserved and on display. What a heritage for this small northern Iowa town. Although we live only half an hour away, I was not aware of this tribute to an early Riceville citizen’s foresight.


The people of Riceville own this curtain, and five more used on the Brown Opera building stage, built after a fire devastated the town in 1901.

Frank A. Brown, livery merchant and hardware owner, added the Riceville community room above his store, and townsfolk enjoyed many events here. These hand-painted stage curtains were installed at some point and the room was decorated with stencil art.

Obviously the library views this work of art with great pride, and rightly so! The carefully preserved pull-down curtains stand as a great example of a small town preserving its artistic and culture heritage.

For views of the other five curtains people enjoyed as backdrops for plays and during intermissions, see the Riceville Public Library website.

Building Suspense Until It Explodes!

Janie Winsell writes in a genre I’ve never tried to write, and actually haven’t read, either. So we get to explore new territory this week. Janie, please tell us how you got started in this genre and about the process.

Romantic Suspense has tightened my focus and caused me to search deep within myself for my author voice. I love building the anxiety of my story until it explodes. But, writing Romantic Suspense is double duty, requiring equal parts Romance and Suspense. Some writers may argue that it’s more one than the other, but I believe in equal representation of both for the book to be considered a true Romantic Suspense.

The Romance part is formulaic. The Heroine meets the Hero within the first chapter. They either hit it off, or they don’t for some reason. By the middle, they end up together, but then something happens and they break up. Then, at the end they get back together. Simple, I know. And don’t get me wrong, I love reading pure Romance, but then I discovered Dee Henderson, and all bets were off.


Ms. Henderson wove such an intricate romantic story, but amped up the adrenaline with nail-biting suspense that had me flipping real pages faster than the Kindle feature. I was hooked. Still, I wasn’t sure I could pull that off in my own writing.

Then, my past crashed into my fiction writing, and a new series was born. The Singlehearted series is near and dear to my heart. Being a survivor of sexual abuse, I know all-too-well the struggles, insecurities, and anxieties that come with surviving. I wanted to write inspirational stories of survivors, but with the suspense that drove Ms. Henderson’s plots. I wanted readers to tear through my book’s pages, too.

Suspense is all about building up the tension in a story through multiple viewpoints: Heroine, Hero, and Villain. This gives the reader a broader story view. It’s not a mystery, so they aren’t trying to figure out who did what. In suspense, the reader knows who the villain is even if the heroine doesn’t. And that villain throws dilemmas in the heroine’s way.

Hunted Cover

Brooklynn, my series heroine, has finally picked her life up after a brutal rape three years ago. She’s met someone she can see herself dating, and she’s decided to go back to college and finish her degree.

Octavious (my villain) hates that Brooklynn lived, and now he’s come to finish the job. But he has another agenda: he wants her to pay for surviving first.

It becomes a cat and mouse game after that. Octavious does something, Brooklynn reacts, thinking she has the upper hand. But then another obstacle appears. Each obstacle becomes more dangerous until the tension explodes in the climax, and it looks as if Octavious has won.

All throughout this tension-filled plot, Brooklynn follows the romance guidelines–falling for the hero only to lose him and then get him back.

And now you know the ingredient list for my current Romantic Suspense series.

WOW — sounds like quite the challenge, Janie. One of my favorite quotes says, “Every once in a while, bite off more than you can chew.” I’ve found that we most often rise to the occasion! All the best to you in your writing career, and readers, Janie is giving a print copy of an inspirational novel she wrote to one of you who leaves a comment – enjoy! 

Writing Historicals withTamera Lynn Kraft

Using Historical Events to Create Fiction

By Tamera Lynn Kraft

I am sometimes asked why I write historical fiction. Many times, reading about historical events will get my creative juices flowing when I think about the lives and stories of people who lived during these times.


For instance, in Resurrection of Hope, my recently released novella, the historical backdrop helped me create the characters and the story events.

At the beginning (1919), Vivian is depressed, and with good reason. In the last year, her fiancé died in the Great War, influenza stold her family, and she was evicted from her family farm because of her alcoholic father’s gambling debts. Enough to depress anyone, but many post WWI families faced the same turmoil.

Many men had died in Europe. At the same time, the great influenza pandemic killed over twenty million people. Very few families had suffered no loss from one of these events. Some families were completely wiped out. Another tragedy of the period was the rise of alcoholism and gambling addiction. A number of men lost everything, leaving their families destitute. This motivated prohibition.

Henry, the male main character in the story, had been a WWI doughboy. He had just returned from the war with all the baggage that came with trench warfare. Many his problems  with Vivian stemmed from his experiences fighting and losing his best friend in the war. The stoic tough guy image most men tried to live up to during that period of time made things worse.

In addition, on Palm Sunday, 1920, one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in history swept the Midwest, especially Indiana and Western Ohio.

Pausing to announce Tamera’s giveaway of an e-book copy to one commenter!

Every story I write starts with reading about historical events and imagining people’s lives during that time. I’ve read historical fiction that could have taken place in any time period, but the writer loses an opportunity to make the stories come alive. Every good historical uses real events not just as setting, but as main characters.


Resurrection of Hope

She thought he was her knight in shining armor, but will a marriage of convenience prove her wrong?

After Vivian’s fiancé dies in the Great War, she thinks her life is over. But Henry, her fiancé’s best friend, comes to the rescue offering a marriage of convenience. He claims he promised his friend he would take care of her. She grows to love him, but knows it will never work because he never shows any love for her.

Henry adores Vivian and has pledged to take care of her, but won’t risk their friendship by letting her know. He believes she’s still in love with her late fiancé, and won’t risk heartache by revealing his true emotions.


Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures. She writes historical fiction set in the United States because of the multitude of stories in American history. Her stories feature strong elements of faith, romance, suspense and adventure. She has received 2nd place in the NOCW contest, 3rd place TARA writer’s contest, and is a finalist in the Frasier Writing Contest, with other novellas in print. Her first full length novel releases in April. She’s been married for 38 years to the love of her life, Rick, and has two married adult children and two grandchildren. You can purchase her latest novella, Resurrection of Hope at most online stores including Desert Breeze. Join Tamera on her website at, her blog at, Facebook or Twitter


Thanks, Tamera – all the best to you on your writing journey.

Smoky Mountain Author Lin Stepp


Today bestselling Tennessee author Dr. Lin Stepp visits us. She will give a print copy of her new book to one fortunate commenter here.

Author Photo

Lin, a native Tennessean, is a businesswoman, an educator, and an adjunct faculty member at Tusculum College, where she teaches research and psychology. Her business background includes over 25 years in marketing, sales, production art, and regional publishing. A New York Times USA Today, and Publishers Weekly best-selling international author, Lin has nine published novels. Her most recent titles, (Kensington Publishing) are Welcome Back (Feb 2016), Saving Laurel Springs (Oct 2015), Makin’ Miracles (Jan 2015), and Down by the River (May 2014) – with a new novel Daddy’s Girl, publishing April 1st. Lin and her husband J.L. also published a Smoky Mountain hiking guide in January of 2014, distributed through The University of Tennessee Press, titled The Afternoon Hiker, which includes 110 trail descriptions and over 300 color photos. Lin has two grown children and two cats – and she loves to hike, paint, read, teach, speak and share about her writing. Website:



Welcome, Lin.  Tell us about your writing journey and what inspired you to write books set in the Smoky Mountains.

I started writing at midlife and have had a glorious journey so far as an author. One of my favorite sayings, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been,” has proven so true for me!

I write Southern contemporary fiction. When people ask what I write I usually say contemporary romance with a touch of suspense to keep you guessing, a dash of inspiration, and a big dollop of Appalachian flavor.

When my husband and I started hiking the Smoky Mountains and working on a hiking guidebook in early 2000, I found myself stopping into many mountain bookstores and small shops looking for books set in the Smoky Mountains. An avid reader, I wanted contemporary books—set in today’s time—to add to the ambience of our weekend trips to the Smokies. Surprisingly, I found none in the shops I explored.

I asked a store owner one day, “Where are your contemporary books set in the Smokies…you know, good southern fiction with a little romance or a touch of mystery?” He shook his head. “I don’t have any. People ask me for them all the time. With the Smoky Mountains the most visited national park in America, you’d think someone would write some!” … So I did!

I loved the idea of taking the reader to a new place with fresh characters in every Smoky Mountain novel, and that’s what I’ve done. Each novel is a stand-alone book, visiting a new place in the mountains with a new storyline.

My published book titles:

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Please describe your new release, today – April 1st.

DADDY’S GIRL is set in Bryson City, North Carolina, a charming small town on the southern side of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Main character Olivia Benton owns a downtown florist shop and has always lived in Bryson City. She’s never gotten over her early love for neighbor Warner Zachery, who left Bryson City after high school, married, made a new life in New York, and found success—despite the fact that most everyone called him Weird Warner and thought he would never amount to anything. When he returns to Bryson City after ten years, famous and widowed, Olivia realizes as soon as she sees him that she still loves him … And thus begins the story of these two old friends, with a host of old memories and problems between them.

I had fun bringing in the intriguing stories of several side characters, dealing with issues of school bullying, and adding in an ongoing town mystery of a vandal defacing public property and upsetting the community. I think readers will love visiting the “real life town” of Bryson City and hiking in the Smokies with the characters.

How did your surgery and recovery period this fall impact your writing?

I am blessed to walk in wonderful health and am seldom sick. But in September the enemy got a little toehold into my life with a fall and surgery to repair a badly broken bone in my upper right arm. During recovery, I couldn’t type or write for about three months, except with my left hand—and I’m right-handed. I also couldn’t drive until January and required help with many ordinary daily tasks. This time really tested my patience … and I’m still in physical therapy with healing not totally manifested yet.

An old proverb says: When times get tough, the tough get going. And I was determined that the enemy wouldn’t score a “win” and keep me from moving on with my life and the plans God had laid for me. So I kept going throughout the fall months… continuing to travel  to scheduled book signings, speaking events, and literary festivals. Since I couldn’t write, I spent the time researching and planning a new trilogy of novels set on the South Carolina coast. In the new year, I was able to start writing the first of those books—finally!—and am halfway finished with that book now.

No one likes hardship and adversity, but what you do when they come your way shows your character, attitude, and faith in God. I wanted to make God proud I didn’t get negative, whiney, and unproductive through a bad time—that I gave even a bad time my best.
As a Christian author, how do you find your own unique way to bring your faith into your books?

I believe in everything we do we can “plant seeds of faith” and that is my goal in every one of my novels. Within my stories are always bits of faith. I believe God is a good God, and always try to show how those who lean to Him and rely on Him are helped in their daily life and through difficult times.

What few words of advice would you give to readers interested in writing a book?

This is a question I am often asked, and my standard answer is one fellow Tennessee author Carolyn Jourdan once wrote: Start your book; Write a whole lot; Finish your book. … Although humorous, this is really the key. For most authors, the difference between dreaming of writing and becoming an author lies in the daily discipline and effort of writing and finishing the book envisioned … and then writing another and another and another.

Thanks, Lin. It’s good to learn about your work, and readers, go for the prize!!

Life Is All About Choices…and Consequences – Lillian Duncan


Welcome, Lillian. Thanks for your GIVEAWAY OFFER, and now readers, let’s consider how Life Is All About Choices…and Consequences. And who knows, you may with an Amazon Gift Card!

That’s the theme of my new book, BROKEN TRUST. The main character is Chrysalis better known as Chryssie. A chrysalis is another name for a cocoon, one of the necessary steps for a caterpillar to become a butterfly.


Chryssie wants to soar like a butterfly but because of a lifetime of bad choices she seems to be stuck in the caterpillar stage. She knows good decisions can propel her forward but it’s not always easy to make them.

And isn’t that true for all of us? We know eating that second piece of cake isn’t a good choice but… We know buying that expensive “whatever” isn’t a good choice but…We know arguing with our spouse about insignificant things isn’t a good choice but…

Lots of times we don’t even think about what we’re doing, we are just stuck in a pattern of bad choices and then complain because we don’t like what’s happening in our life. If you want to change something in your life, start making better choices.

Chryssie is only days away from graduating when she witnesses a murder. Common sense would tell her to call the police, but she’s so focused on taking her final exam for nursing school, she decides to take the easy way out—again.

Life is all about choices…and consequences.

Chryssie makes a bad choice—and even worse consequences follow. Her easy way out puts everything she’s worked so hard for in jeopardy, including her very life!

Each day we make hundreds of decisions—they may not be life and death like Chryssie’s, but they either move us either toward or away from our goals. It’s not easy to break patterns and bad habits but it can be done—one choice at a time.

Life is all about choices…and consequences.

BUY LINK for Amazon:


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

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

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

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


Spring Storms

Spring is known for its surprises. My husband took these shots of birds surviving a final (hopefully) snowstorm.


This house finch fluffs its feathers in anticipation of a change in the weather. The prediction…snow.


Below, a robin joins him after the storm. And a whole lot of that robin’s buddies flock to our lilac bushes as well.



Such long migrations, only to wait out the cold. But spring often bears surprises.





At this time of year, this might be the last storm – maybe  the birds realize this, too.



Never Too Late for Friendship and Thanks

I just spent some extended time with a new friend, and she shared this little saying with me. We don’t know the author, but she/he certainly coined a powerful metaphor.


Note the essential elements:

focus – concentrate on a task or need

capture – this reminds me of “Carpe Diem”, seize the day

develop – use our creative abilities

The final verb, “take”, comes into play when plans go awry, as they often do. I hope to waste far less time bemoaning my failures and mistakes during the rest of my life than I have in the past. What a waste!

And I’d also like to practice gratitude far more faithfully. I can start easily this week: Thank you to everyone who helped me by hosting me on their blog or left an encouraging comment, posted a review, or bought my new release, With Each New Dawn, I’m truly grateful for all the support.

Just as it’s never too late to develop a new friendship, it’s always the right time to say a hearty thank you.


I’m so excited to host an Iowa writer today – Patti Stockdale, an Iowan hard at work on a manuscript that has yet to find a publisher. 

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Patti, tell us about your writing history, please. 
In high school, I wrote a short story, an English class assignment. My classmates submitted five or six pages. I handed in a whopping 28. Still, I didn’t know I was meant to write.

I returned to college in my thirties and enrolled in a creative writing class, the only nighttime class that fit my schedule and credit needs. That’s when I experienced my aha moment. In front of the class and on a chalkboard, a professor picked away at a portion of my first writing assignment. After that experience, I sharpened my pencil and had something to prove.

And here you are, writing away! Can you describe the significance of the novel you’re creating?

My novel is important to me because it’s personal, drawn from letters my maternal grandparents exchanged during World War I. I started the book 16 years ago in college. After I graduated, I shelved the manuscript to focus on my career. After my husband’s recent job transfer back to Iowa, I dusted off the manuscript and rewrote every page.

Last winter I joined a critique group – four retired businessmen and me. The first time my submission was reviewed, one participant said he hated romance.

Wait, what? I write historical fiction! It took time for the news to sink in because I didn’t see myself as a romance writer. Once I accepted the genre, I researched the fundamentals and guidelines and made the appropriate edits.

I can resonate to that. It took me years to figure out my genre, and knowing it certainly simplifies things! Do you infuse your work with aspects of your own life? 

When a person writes from a deep POV, the writer’s own personality, viewpoint, values, and interests end up on the pages of the manuscript. It’s nearly inevitable. It’s how my life colors my writing.

When I’m not writing fiction, I write for a local magazine and complete reading assessments for educational publishers. My other love is volunteering, a habit that started when my father forced me to babysit for a needy neighborhood family. Yep, without payment. I was 13, in need of spending cash, and failed to appreciate the valuable lesson at the time. Today, it makes a heap of sense.

How do you see your writing future?

My goal is to honor God with my writing, follow where He leads me. I don’t write every day. Some days I research or read. Before long, I hope to submit my revised manuscript to agents and find a publisher. I guess I’m still trying to prove something.


The second in my Women of The Heartland series has been released into the cold, cruel world. Actually, those adjectives describe a big swatch of the heroine’s  WWII experience. She endures great personal loss, plus Luftwaffe bombing in London, and then …  Well, I should let you discover the rest for yourself.

20170225_084318So why is this silly smile  still on my face? I’m smiling because Kate, a born risk-taker, still finds friendship and deepened faith in the very shadow of evil.

Don’t we all discover this truth in some of our most difficult experiences? At the time, we think all is lost, that we might not make it, but in retrospect, we see that we’ve grown like crazy. Wouldn’t want to repeat the experience, of course.

This morning, a friend from St. Ansgar texted me a photo of her newly-arrived copy of this book – wow, how fun to see it in someone’s hands!

This month I’m busy blogging to celebrate With Each New Dawn’s release, so if you’d like to learn more and perhaps win a copy of the novel, hop on over to one of these blogs:

Lighthouse Academy February 26, 2017

Jo Huddleston February 23, 2017

Where Faith And Fiction Collide February 21, 2017

Mary L. Ball February 15

Word Sharpeners February 8, 2017

Linda Brooks Davis February 1, 2017

Suzanne Bratcher February 2, 2017

Thank you all for your encouragement along the way.


More bird pictures… The wonderful thing about these creatures is they really don’t have to do a thing, and they still bring people pleasure.



My husband and I rarely paid much attention to them in years past, and had always heard that you know you’re old when you start bird watching.


These things slip on a person, you know? You focus on rearing a family and making a living and then, ta da … you suddenly find time to fill your camera with the likes of these.


Some folks take time sooner, and  circumstances can hurry this transformation along. Kate Isaacs, the heroine of my new release, would agree to that. Her World War II involvement produced changes in her perceptions of the world , her “take” on situations and people.



We might recognize alterations in our parents or grandparents due to that same war.



I hope  Kate’s dangerous wartime adventures will intrigue readers, and take them into a deeper understanding of how World War II affected their loved ones. If you cheered Addie on during the beginning of the war, don’t worry, she’s now in London, with a much brighter future. One way or the other, war has a way of turning things around.

FEBRUARY 24: release day.  Preorder at