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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Miracle of Life

I'm at the hospital welcoming our second little miracle into the world. Thanking God for this blessing hoping you all are touched with God's gift as well.

Eva Maria Hamilton is the author of Highland Hearts, a Love Inspired Historical novel published by Harlequin. Her novel, Highland Hearts, won 2nd Place in the Historical Romance, as well as the Traditional/Inspirational Romance Categories in the Heart of Excellence Reader’s Choice Awards, and was an Inspirational Series Finalist in the 2013 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.

Highland Hearts

Scotland 1748
The Battle of Culloden is over, but one Highlander’s fight has just begun…
Logan McAllister survived years of indentured servitude in the Americas to reach this moment. Now he’s returned to Scotland, ready to redeem the secret promise from Sheena Montgomery’s father – that his years as an indentured servant would earn him Sheena’s hand in marriage. But when he arrives home, he learns that Sheena’s father has died, his contract has been lost… and Sheena is engaged to another man.

To connect with Eva Maria Hamilton online, please visit her at

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Interview and Giveaway with Sandra Orchard!

LISA HARRIS: I recently chatted with our very own Sandra Orchard about her lasted book, Blind Trust. And trust me, if you haven’t read her Port Aster Secrets Series yet—starting with Deadly Devotion—you’re going to want to!!!

Here’s what Booklist had to say in their review: “Orchard infuses romance with suspense and keeps the excitement coming page after page.  Readers will love the ever-deepening mystery as Kate extends her investigation and finds herself and her long-dead father tangled up in an international corporate conspiracy.”

Sandra, I loved books one and two of this series and am so excited to get the word out, especially about your latest release Blind Trust! Tell us about this series.

SANDRA: I’ve had so much fun writing this series! Blind Trust is the second book in a three-part series, featuring herbal researcher, Kate Adams. And although each book has a standalone mystery, the romance and a suspense arcs the three books, so I highly recommend reading them in order to avoid spoilers. In this novel, Kate Adams is caught inadvertently passing counterfeit money while buying groceries for her elderly neighbor, landing herself in the middle of another one of Detective Tom Parker’s investigations. Determined to prove her neighbor’s innocence, Kate stumbles into a pit of intrigue that is far deeper than a two-bit counterfeit operation–and that strikes too close to home for comfort. As family secrets come to light, her world–and her budding romance with Tom–begin to crumble. To Kate, it’s clear that she won’t be safe until she uncovers all of Port Aster’s secrets. But is it too late for her and Tom?

LISA: Ah. . .readers will have to grab a copy to find out! So Sandra, what was your inspiration for this series and for your heroine, Kate Adams, in particular?

SANDRA: Believe it or not, the inspiration for the series started from a dream about how someone might smuggle explosive across the border in potted plants.

LISA: You definitely have interesting dreams, Sandra. J

SANDRA: I know, but at the time my kids were working at a greenhouse, so I seemed to dream about plants a lot. The story evolved from there, incorporating my interest in herbal remedies and teas into Kate’s background. The opening scene for this particular story was inspired by an incident my neighbor told me about in which someone in their ladies’ missionary meeting donated a counterfeit five-dollar bill to the collection. It inspired all kinds of questions. Who did she get it from? Did she know it was counterfeit? And that aspect of the story—readers have counted 3-4 mysteries in the story—spun from there.

LISA: I love hearing where authors come up with plot ideas. We have a lot of writers who read this blog. What is your advise for writers in weaving in red herrings into a mystery?

SANDRA: Look for toys you’ve left lying around in previous scenes that you haven’t incorporated into the story since and explore how you might pick them up and play with them. You’ll be surprised how many you find and the creative, unexpected ways you can make use of them.

LISA: That’s great advise! Did you learn anything (writing wise) in penning a series set around one heroine? How hard was this? (I’m actually doing the same thing right now, so I’m interested in your thoughts!)

SANDRA: I definitely learned a lot. For one, the final book has been a lot harder than I thought it would be. I have a lot of threads to tie up, which meant the main thrust of the story needed to allow for most of those threads to be incorporated if I was going to tie them up within a reasonable word count! And…as the first two stories evolved, a lot changed from my original proposal, which meant when I wrote the third book I needed to alter a lot to fit what had already been published and was therefore “written in stone.”

But those are things you’d imagine being challenging. The surprising challenge for me was realizing that I couldn’t give my heroine the same kind of character arc in each and every book that I would give a heroine in a standalone book or she would look like a psychotic with way too many problems!

LISA: While I’m only on book one in my series, I can see that this is going to a challenge for me as well. What do think is significant about Christian fiction?

SANDRA: For me Christian fiction invites readers to witness faith being modeled. I have often been inspired and encouraged to see how characters facing similar issues as I do wrestle through them and emerge triumphant or at least wiser. Because story allows the reader/hearer to walk in another person’s shoes and experience a situation from their point of view and feel what they’re feeling, it is also a wonderful vehicle for helping us to understand the struggles of others and hopefully respond in a more compassionate way as we have opportunity.

LISA: What has been the toughest part of your writing journey?

SANDRA: These past few months, actually. I had two contracted books to finish (one of which still isn’t finished) and despite putting in waaaay too many hours a day I just haven’t been happy with where the story is going or getting it going anywhere fast.

LISA: That is tough! You live near a place I’d really like to visit, so before I let you go, tell us a bit about where you are from?

SANDRA: I live about twenty minutes away from the world-famous Niagara Falls. Of course, since it’s overrun with tourists most of the time, we rarely visit. My husband and I prefer the quiet of a walk along any of the many forested trails in the Niagara, many of which include equally as picturesque waterfalls, thanks to the Niagara Escarpment. We also love to kayak along many of the scenic creeks and rivers. Um, to be technically correct, hubby kayaks and I come along for the ride. :D

LISA: Sounds stunning. I definitely need to visit. Thanks so much for taking the time to share with our readers.

GIVEAWAY: Sandra’s also offered to give away an ebook copy of Blind Trust. Leave a comment for Sandra below—including a way to contact you—and I will draw a winner after the drawing closes Saturday at 12:01 am, August 2nd.

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Watching those leaves pile up

One day during the recent school holidays, I received a phone call from one of our granddaughters.

‘Hello, Nanna. Can we please come over and visit you? We don’t have anything to do! We can come before or after lunch. What would be best for you?’

Now how could anyone resist a polite request like that? After our two granddaughters and our son arrived and we had finished lunch, eleven year old Amy wanted to teach me some card games—but eight year old Olivia decided she would prefer to play outside. A little while later, however, she came back in.

‘Nanna, do you have a rake? I want to rake up all those leaves and petals on the grass.’

Again, how could anyone resist a request like that? I duly found the rake but felt bad that there was Olivia, working so hard outside all by herself, putting her whole heart and soul into raking those leaves, while we sat inside, playing games and enjoying ourselves.

‘Don’t worry,’ our son told me. ‘Olivia likes doing things like that. And she likes being by herself.’

A little later, when I checked outside, there was a neat pile of leaves right in the middle of our front yard. Olivia had really applied herself, removing her jumper as she sweated away, working so hard. But she had enjoyed every minute of it, she told me. And anyone could see her pride in that neat pile of leaves she had created.

As I watched all this unfold, I found myself comparing the task Olivia had undertaken so happily with the task that had occupied me all morning before my visitors arrived—that of piling up leaves of a different kind. I had been busy editing my current non-fiction book, carefully raking through all those words and sentences and gathering them into much neater shape. How satisfying it was to watch those completed ‘leaves’ of my own mount up! Of course, I knew there would still be more cleaning up to do on this manuscript, but at least I could see something emerging now from all those hours of work I have put into it so far.

I had been happy to work on it by myself too, just as Olivia had been as she raked away. But had I been as joyful about it as she had? Her little face almost shone with delight at the change she had wrought in our yard. It was obvious she had truly enjoyed herself as she slaved away for our benefit. She even seemed to regard this task as a great privilege—to be allowed have fun while making Nanna and Granddad’s yard look so much better! Was that something I had lost sight of in my writing—that awareness of the privilege of doing something I love for God?

I wonder how you have felt lately as you try to amass those ‘leaves’ of your current writing project. It can be hard work, requiring much perseverance. But may you and I not lose that sense of privilege of serving the Lord in the unique way we have been given. And may we each continue to be filled with that same joy I saw in our granddaughter as we apply ourselves to our writing.

Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. For more information, please visit or

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Coming Up This Week


Jo-Anne Berthelsen


Lisa Harris: Interview with Sandra Orchard PLUS an ebook giveaway!!


Eva Maria Hamilton


Narelle Atkins: I Need a Hero (plus book giveaway)

Friday Devotion

Karen Rees: Living In An Out-of-Control World



Lisa Harris' novel, Dangerous Passage, is the winner of the Christy Award in the Contemporary/Romance/Suspense category - congratulations Lisa!


New Book Releases

Valerie Comer's fantasy romance novel, Majai's Fury, set in an alternate universe, releases independently in July 2014.


Upcoming Book Releases

Narelle Atkins' contemporary romance set in Australia, The Doctor's Return, will be an August 2014 release from Love Inspired Heartsong Presents.

Marion Ueckermann's debut contemporary romance novelette set in Finland, Helsinki Sunrise, releases 22 August 2014 from White Rose Publishing as part of the Passport to Romance series from Pelican Book Group.

Christine Lindsay's historical romance, Veiled at Midnight, Book 3 of Twilight of the British Raj series, will be a September 2014 release from WhiteFire Publishing.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance novella is included in Snowflake Tiara, releasing independently in September 2014. Her novella, The Model Queen, will be paired with author Angela Breidenbach's historical novella, The Debutante Queen, both set in the US.

Narelle Atkins' contemporary romance set in Australia, Her Tycoon Hero, will be a November 2014 release from Love Inspired Heartsong Presents.

Sandra Orchard’s romantic suspense set in Washington State, USA, Identity Withheld, will be a November 2014 release from Love Inspired Suspense.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Sweetened with Honey, Book 3 in the Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in November 2014.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense set in Georgia, USA, Hidden Agenda, Book 3 in her Southern Crimes series, will be a January 2015 release from Revell.

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense set in Paris, France, Taken, will be a February 2015 release from Love Inspired Suspense.

Narelle Atkins' contemporary romance set in Australia, Winning Over the Heiress, will be a February 2015 release from Love Inspired Heartsong Presents.

Sandra Orchard’s romantic mystery set in Niagara, Canada, title TBA, Book 3 in her Port Aster’s Secrets series, will be a June 2015 release from Revell.

To find more International Christian Fiction books, please visit our 2013 - 2015 Book Releases page and Backlist Titles.

Friday, July 25, 2014

DEVOTION: What's In A Name? ~ by Judith Robl

Focus verses:
Ruth 1:6-18

The story is that Naomi and Elimelech went to Moab with their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, during a famine in Judah. And the sons took wives named Orpah and Ruth.

Translating the names into their respective meanings we get: “MyDelight and MyGodIsKing went to Moab with their two sons, Sickly and Pining, during a famine in Judah. And the sons took wives named Gazelle and Friendship.

During their stay in Moab, MyGodIsKing died. And later both Sickly and Pining died as well. So MyDelight and Gazelle and Friendship were left as widows.

MyDelight decided to return to Judah, the home of her God. Both Gazelle and Friendship started back with her, but MyDelight told them to return to their homes in Moab. Gazelle did go back home (to her old gods), but Friendship had tasted the world of MyDelight’s God and would not leave.

She loved MyDelight and the ways of MyDelight’s God. She would not leave MyDelight’s side.

When we cultivate a friendship with God, nothing can induce us to leave that friendship. We can leave all that we ever knew to be close to God. We cannot pine for what is behind us. We only go on with God.

Whatever is in our past that is not of God deserves to be left behind without regret, without remembrance.

Father, God,
Help us to go on with You, leaving all else behind. Let us not be pulled back into our old ways and old habits.
In Jesus most precious name.

JUDITH ROBL is the founder of Reflected Light Ministries and speaks to women’s groups about prayer, forgiveness, and drawing closer to God. Trained as a secondary level English teacher, Judith has a heart for mentoring. She and her husband, Martin, have been married fifty years and have four children who have presented them with nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Her book, As Grandma Says, is a devotional gift book, incorporating her grandmother's adages with an appropriate scripture, a pertinent life lesson, and a word of prayer. Visit her at her website or on Facebook.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Where's the Squirrel?

Two years ago my husband and I visited Pershore Abbey in Worcestershire, England. Its history can be traced back to the seventh century when a monastic community was founded. In the tenth century the abbey came under Benedictine rule, and the Norman Abbey was built in 1090. The abbey was dissolved in 1539 and much of it was demolished and sold off as building material. The Pershore parishioners bought the remains and their church parish occupies it to this day. Although it is now a fraction of its original size, with only the original tower and south transept left, it is an awe-inspiring building.

Pershore Abbey
As we wandered around the Abbey and marvelled at its architecture, we came across these embroidered kneelers.

A plaque informed us that the designs on the kneelers are all taken from aspects of the Abbey's life and architecture. Several designs are based on carvings in the Abbey.

The kneeler below features a squirrel facing to the left and visitors to the Abbey are asked if they can find the carving used to make the design on the cushion.

We couldn't resist the challenge and searched for the squirrel. We got cricks in our necks as we looked up at the chancel ceiling. We strained our eyes as we sought the little creature in the carvings so far above us.

No signs of the little fellow, and soon our sore necks forced our gaze away from the lofty heights to the pillars which were nearer and not quite as high, although still out of our reach. But he was nowhere to be found.

Gothic arch

Eventually we almost gave up the search, but as a last resort turned our attention to the wooden pews next to us. We soon realised that  there was a carving at the end of each one.  Within a short time we found our elusive squirrel. All along the little fellow had been right next to us. He was not out of reach at all, in fact we could touch him and stoke the fine wooden grain of his glossy coat. We had spent a long time looking in all the wrong places. 

Squirrel carving on a pew
Sometimes I can't find God, I feel as though He is far away and out of reach, but then I realise that I'm not looking for Him in the right place. In Psalm 145:18 I read "The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him on truth." Wow! I only have to call on Him, I don't have to seek Him in all sorts of far-off places.

In fact, God is always near me, for He says, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28.20 and "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Doughnuts and Books

Last week, some poor teenagers were mugged for the boxes of doughnuts they'd bought at our new Krispy Kreme factory outlet which has just opened in Adelaide. In news reports, the robbers were hailed as the 'Krispy Krooks'. I'm not sure if they've been discovered and apprehended yet, but our city is going crazier over the new outlet than I ever would have expected, just because they are a well-known brand we've never had before.

 On Saturday, my teenage daughter and her best friend got caught up in the hype and decided to make a trip to the factory outlet. They had to catch a bus into Adelaide from the Hills where we live, followed by a tram to the suburb where the shop is situated. They found a line twisting and curling from the shop door way down the road. The girls decided that as they had already spent so long getting there, they might as well join the end of the queue.

The wait turned out to be almost three hours. As they inched closer to the door and into the shop premises, they saw a policeman on the job, striding around eating doughnuts the staff had given him. I don't think there would have been any risk from muggers in a crowd that size. He was probably there just to make the public feel safe. The two girls decided to buy a couple of boxes each, since they'd already put in such a lot of effort.

On the way back to the tram stop, they began feeling nervous that crooks might spring out at them from the shadows, to steal their doughnuts. By the time they'd caught the bus back to the Hills and made it nearly home, the winter night was pitch black and had started to rain. They had covered many kilometres in public transport for their treats.

I couldn't really blame my daughter when she snapped at her brothers not to dig into them straight away. 'You don't know what I've been through today to get these doughnuts. My feet are aching, I've spent heaps of money, and I was cold and bored. You can have some when I say so.'

When we did get a taste, were they any good? Well, I have to be honest and admit that they were okay, but nothing special. Certainly no better than the doughnuts we can buy from our local shopping centre. The boys agreed they were nice but nothing to rave about. If I'd done what the girls did, I might have considered it a bit of a wasted day.

In fact, the loveliest, most delicious cakes and doughnuts I've ever eaten were from an Aussie country town named West Wyalong. It's like a scrub oasis in the middle of New South Wales. We were on a tour of our country with our three children, aged 9, 5 and new born. We stopped to stretch our legs and chanced upon the bakery with these delicious goods. Even though it was 2004, I've never forgotten them. I'm afraid they were far more delicious than those from Krispy Kreme last week, but nobody hears about them.

How true such things are in all of life, including the books we read. We can't help hearing about the books which are at the top of the most well-known publishers' lists, because they tend to spread through the media. Maybe these are the equivalent of Krispy Kreme in the literary world. They are the books which we hear hype about, and can't help having our curiosity aroused. We may find it easy to forget that these are by no means the only books in the market.

I enjoy receiving recommendations of more obscure books from trusted reader friends who tell me, 'I'm sure you'll love this.' And I love stumbling across books I can spread the word about in turn. It is a joy to get stuck into fiction from different nations, which I can pass on to others, saying, 'You really get the feel of the setting from this story,' or 'You'll never think of the place in the same way again.' This blog is a good springboard for such unexpected, excellent discoveries. There are often guests, who let us know about their new books, and regular contributors whose engrossing published novels are set all around the world. The best thing about them is that, thanks to digital purchasing options of the 21st century, they are readily available, unlike the delicious doughnuts from West Wyalong.

Paula Vince is an award-winning author from South Australia. Her contemporary dramas and romances contain elements of mystery and suspense. She enjoys hanging out with her family, homeschooling her youngest son, and making the most of the four distinct seasons in her beautiful Adelaide Hills. Her most recent novel, 'Imogen's Chance' was published in April 2014. For more talk about books with Paula, visit her book review blog. Or catch up with her at her at It Just Occurred to Me