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Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Book Review and Giveaway

The Rhythm of Secrets by Patti Lacy
The Rhythm of Secrets revolves around the story of Sheila Franklin, wife of the prominent and conservative pastor, Edward Franklin. Unbeknownst to everyone around her, Shelia has secrets; secrets that she has kept even from her husband for many years. However, it takes only one little phone call for the carefully woven fabric of her past life to begin to unravel. At the risk of losing all she has attained and becoming an outcast and a pariah, Sheila makes the decision to reveal her secret past to her husband and, at the same time, embrace a family member from her past. Not only is Sheila's status in the life she has created at risk, the life of a young girl in the country of Thailand is also at stake.

Sheila hasn't always been the refined, well-dressed, dignified, lady-of-the-manor that we meet in the early pages of this book. In fact, the truth is that she hasn't always been "Sheila." At different stages of her life, Sheila's name changes periodically throughout the book. While her life has been one of turmoil and upheaval, the constant throughout is her love of music. It is her music and love of it that sustains her in times of hardship.

When we first meet Sheila, the year is 1969. The place is Chicago, Illinois. From there, we take a leap back in time to the year 1942 and find ourselves in New Orleans, Louisiana. At this time, Sheila, who is actually named Sheba, is thirteen years old, already skilled at the piano and has a burning desire to learn to play the clarinet. Horrible and tragic events jerk Sheba from the comfort of her happy home and force her to live with a grandmother who neither loves nor understands her. Thus the stage is set for the events that mold Sheba into the woman that we met in the opening pages.

The book jumps back and forth in time, each time revealing a little bit more of Sheila's past. The more we learn, the more we are able to understand the decisions that Sheila makes and the reasons for her willingness to sacrifice the safety and security of her life as the minister's wife.

Along with the music which is always the center of Sheila's life, another constant throughout is God's grace, His love and mercy, His forgiveness and His compassionate intercession.

As a rule, I generally don't care for books that jump back and forth from present to past. However, in The Rhythm of Secrets, this is a very effective means of telling the story and I immensely enjoyed the way that the back and forth helped the reader to slowly come to understand Sheila's choices and how she has evolved into the person who is willing to risk all in order to save a young girl that she has never met.

When I first heard of this book I knew that I had to read it. I am a musician and can appreciate how Sheila's love of music became the one constant in her life when she was surrounded on all sides by turmoil, heartache, and confusion.

In the book of Psalms, chapter 150, verses 3 and 4, we are told to "praise Him with the sound of the trumpet...praise Him with the psaltery and harp...praise Him with stringed instruments and organs..." Indeed, it is through playing music that I worship God and commune with Him on a spiritual plane.  So too, does Sheila use her musical talents to commune with God, relieve her anger or loneliness, and express her emotions.

In the pages of the Bible, we read much about King Saul. When an evil spirit was upon him, he called for David to play upon the harp and Saul was refreshed. There is much truth in the statement that music has the power to soothe the savage beast. The power of music cannot be denied and Patti Lacy skillfully demonstrates this truth in her book.

Is it a prerequisite that you must be a musician to enjoy The Rhythm of Secrets? Not at all! This is a strong story of faith, hope, and trust. All who read it will be captivated by the story and eagerly continue to turn the pages until they reach the satisfying conclusion. As I read this book, I was reminded on several occasions of the scripture in Romans 8:28 which says, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God..." 

I have an autographed copy of this book that is going to be awarded to one lucky reader. Please leave a comment which includes your email address in spam-proof format (yourname[at]provider[dot]com). For a bit of extra fun and an extra chance to win, have you ever played a musical instrument? If so, what instrument did you play? If you don't play an instrument, tell about a time that music played an important role in your life.  As always, this contest is limited to United States mailing addresses. The drawing will be held on April 3, 2011.

You can purchase The Rhythm of Secrets from the publisher, Kregel Publications, at Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, Barnes and Noble, or other online book stores.

I received this book from the author. I was not obligated to give a positive review and received no compensation for this review. All opinions stated are my own honest and truthful thoughts.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Author Interview ... C.J. Darlington

Please join me today in welcoming author C.J. Darlington to Write About Now. As you may be aware, a blog tour featuring her latest release, Bound by Guilt, is currently underway. (See previous post). Knowing how busy she must be, I appreciate her taking time out of her busy schedule to join us here.
 
Welcome, C.J.!  Why don't  you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about yourself before we leap into the Question and Answer  portion of the interview?

I’ve been writing for over fifteen years. It’s been an exciting journey and one I’m very thankful to be on. My family’s my biggest support. If you read the acknowledgments in one of my novels, you’ll see why. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. I started writing my first novel Thicker than Blood when I was fifteen, but it wasn’t published for another fifteen years. I consider that time my apprenticeship. I learned so much and continue to learn things every day. My background in antiquarian bookselling is something I have fun writing about in my books. One of the main settings of both Thicker than Blood and Bound by Guilt is a used and rare bookstore that’s based on the very first one I scouted for as a teenager.

That bookselling background certainly made Bound by Guilt  fascinating to read! What is your least favorite part of the writing process?

Plotting has always been a bit of a challenge, but it’s the kind of challenge that can be enjoyable too because you know there’s an answer. It’s just a matter of discovering it.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

The days when the words flow like water from my fingers and the picture I have in my head of a scene comes to fruition on the page exactly like I imagined it. These moments don’t usually happen everyday, so when they do it makes them extra special. I also love hearing from readers.

Tell us a bit about your typical (if there is such a thing as typical) day.

There really isn’t a typical day for me. I’m usually a night and weekend novelist due to my day job and other obligations, but it’s worked well for me. Ideally I will be at my writing desk five days a week at 7 pm writing until right before bed.

That sounds like a pretty rigorous schedule! Pretend you just finished your book several days before your deadline. How will you celebrate or reward yourself?

By picking up a good novel! I love to read. Or I might go out to the movies, something I really enjoy (if it’s a good movie). But really, I find the most satisfaction in writing. If I’m not writing I usually don’t know what to do with myself.

Lucky for us since that means another book will be on the shelves soon! What’s up next for your readers?

My novel Bound by Guilt has just released, so I’m very excited to begin hearing what folks think of it. I just finished the rough draft of a new novel, and I’m starting the next draft shortly. I can’t share much about the story yet, but if you liked Thicker than Blood and/or Bound by Guilt I think you’ll enjoy the next one too.

I'll be eagerly waiting for it! Do you focus on one project at a time or do you have multiple projects going simultaneously?

Usually only one book project, though sometimes while I’m writing one book I will be mulling ideas for another. However, generally I stick to one big project at a time. I do write articles, reviews and the like while I’m working on a manuscript.

What was your favorite subject(s) in school?

I loved creative writing! Surprise, surprise. Reading was huge for me as well. I also enjoyed science and astronomy. Surprisingly though, I hated grammar and was a horrible speller for many years.

Do you tend to turn to comfort food when on a deadline? Are you a nervous eater or do you become so engrossed in writing that you forget to eat? What would be your first choice of comfort food?

I can often be found with a cup of tea or a cappuccino by my side while I’m writing, but I don’t usually get the munchies when writing. I love to eat---just not while at my computer. That said, I love homemade macaroni and cheese, pasta, and junk food like chips and ice cream. I can chow down with the best of them but try to be good most of the time. My mom’s a personal fitness trainer, so she inspires me to be healthy!

What is your favorite meal?

A big, juicy hamburger with bacon, cheese, tomato and lettuce. French fries or home fries on the side. And a huge salad. I also love Italian food.

Ummm... my mouth is watering thinking about that hamburger! Do you have a favorite Bible verse?

Romans 5:6-8: You see, at just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this---while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Amen, we are so unworthy of His love! Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? And why?

I’m intrigued with Deborah, the Israeli judge. I sometimes wonder how she got there in a society where men were usually the ones in places of prominence. And yet she was an anointed judge who God used. She’s an inspiring role model for Christian women. 

I've alwyas wondered about a female judge too, especially in that era. Can you briefly describe your approach to beginning a new book?

I’m smiling here to myself at this question because I’m only now figuring out what process works for me in starting a new book, and it will probably change next time we talk! The past two books I’ve written have followed a similar pattern. I mull about the story for months, labor over the first few chapters and plot directions . . . only to write a fast rough draft and discover the story I wanted to tell was the original idea I’d thought of months before. So next book I want to cut out some of the mulling and get right down to business writing a fast first draft. It’s usually during that writing process where I find the important elements of the story I want to tell.

Sometimes I think I mull to much too; by the time I finally get it written down, it often seems to lose something in the process. Do you like music or some other form of white noise when you are writing or do you prefer solitude?

Usually I’ll listen to music. Sometimes a CD or the radio. Right now I’m listening to a Pandora station I’ve been tweaking for the past few weeks. But there are times when I need quiet to really get into a scene. That’s when everything goes off, I close the door, and basically become the characters I’m writing.

Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have a space that is all yours just for your writing? Can you describe your work area for us? If you don’t have a place of your own, can you describe what you would consider to be an ideal work area?

My work area is anywhere I can find the space! I have a fold-up laptop table I slip beside my dresser. Often you’ll find me in the corner of my bedroom working. Or at the dining room table. Ideally, I’d love to have a small room with a permanent desk, lots of bookshelves, inspiring art on the walls, and no internet access! Maybe a cabin in the woods would be nice too . . .

It never hurts to dream, does it? What methods do you employ to overcome writer’s block? Or is that a foreign concept to you?

Early on in my writing I asked my writing mentor James Scott Bell what to do when the words got stuck. I was having a particularly challenging time comparing myself to others, and that made me feel blocked. He told me the best cure to the writing blues was to write. Wise advice. It takes pushing through more often than not to prime the pump. Sometimes getting out and doing something completely unrelated to writing helps as well. Then when I get back to the keyboard I actually have a full well to draw from. Writers need to live full lives to write well.

Sounds like you have had some excellent mentors and advice along the way. Who (or what) inspires you?

Going to a good movie, reading an exciting novel, going camping. There are so many things that have the potential to inspire. Sometimes it’ll just be a person I see driving down the road. Or a thought I have while out walking in my back yard. The inspiration for part of the main character in my novel Bound by Guilt came to me this way.

It's surprising how the least little thing can become an entire novel, isn't it? I watched a little guy standing in the breakfast line at school one morning and suddenly my entire book flashed before me. Now if I can only get it written! If not writing, what would you rather be doing?

Playing with my dogs, or playing with horses! I’ve recently taken up horseback riding again, and I’m loving how learning to ride better and communicate with horses is something you can never stop learning about. Kinda like writing.

Now you're taking me back to the days when I owned a horse. Nothing can compare to that sense of freedom as you gallop across the fields! If you could choose when you were born, in what era would you prefer to live and why?

I’m happy to live in this era!

That makes two of us! I don't think I would have done well in the days of the early settlers. If you could pick your own name, would you keep your name or would you change it? If you changed it, what would you change to?

I like my own name, but the fun thing about writing is I get to name people all the time. I always pick names for my characters, even the bad guys, that I personally like.

How did you come to be a writer? Was this something that you always knew you were destined to be or did you arrive at this point via another path?

Growing up I did not know writing was something I’d pursue professionally. But looking back now I can see the seeds of it early in my life. I always loved to write stories, and I always loved to read. I believe God often plants dreams in our hearts at an early age to lead us into our callings. That’s what I feel He’s done for me. When I’m writing I’m the happiest, so I also use that to gauge where I’m supposed to be. Why am I happy? I think it’s because when I’m writing I’m in God’s will for my life.

What is your favorite genre to read?

Character-driven suspense. Though I also enjoy a good YA novel or contemporary read.

Where would be your favorite place to live?

Colorado! I’m a Western girl in an Eastern girl’s body. Since for now I’m living in the East, I decided on the next best thing---setting my books in the West!

The West is my first choice too, but perhaps a little further south where the winters aren't quite as severe. What place(s) have you not been that you would like to visit?

Alaska, Australia, New Zealand. Any place with big mountains (that’s not in a war zone!) is a place I’d like to see.

Do you have an words of wisdom for those who are just starting out on the path?

As I get further along in my career, I’m realizing something that is enormously important for new writers, and that is this: Write the book of your heart. Don’t worry about publishers, marketing, editors or readers AT ALL in the beginning. You’ll paralyze yourself. Instead, search inside and listen to that still small voice leading you to the story only you can tell. If you aren’t passionate about your story, it will show on the page. Then, once you finish your first book, get moving onto the next! Then whenever you do receive interest from a publisher you’ll have more than one thing to show them.

That sounds like some very sound advice. Thank your for sharing that with us. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thanks so much for having me here!

Thanks so much for joining us here today, C.J.! It has been my pleasure to have you here on my blog. May God richly bless you and your continued endeavors! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

TitleTrakk.com Blog Tours Presents:


Bound by Guilt
by C.J. Darlington
Published by Tyndale House

Shuttled between foster homes, Roxi Gold will do anything to fit in. Soon she’s traveling the country stealing rare books from unsuspecting bookstores. Police officer Abby Dawson has seen the worst of society—and not just at work. One fateful night, both their lives are changed forever. One searches for justice, the other finds herself on the run. Will the power of forgiveness set them free?
_______________________________________
 
I first heard of C.J. Darlington a few weeks ago when she asked for bloggers who were willing to post her book trailer on their blogs. I viewed the trailer, liked what I saw, and posted it here on Write About Now. Next came the opportunity to be a part of her blog tour. I had never participated in a blog tour prior to this but, since I liked her trailer, I agreed to be a part of her promotion. I am not sorry that I made this decision.
 
Bound by Guilt is an outstanding book.  It is the story of Roxi, a young girl who has never known the love that most of us take for granted. She was deserted and rejected by her mother and bounced around from foster home to foster home, always seeking a love that continued to elude her. In a misguided effort to earn that love, she is taken in by a relative and made to be an accomplice in a monetarily profitable rare book stealing trio. When theft turns to something far more serious, Roxi flees. She is taken in by a husband and wife who own a ranch and it is there that she finally learns the true meaning of love - unconditional love that loves no matter what the circumstances may be. She learns too about Christ's love, a love that is granted not, as the saying goes, because of who we are, but in spite of who we are.
 
The Biblical principles of love and forgiveness are prevalent throughout the pages of this book. From its beautiful cover to the final page, this book will draw you in and keep you captivated. I highly recommend Bound by Guilt and I will definitely be watching for future books from C.J. Darlington.
 
_____________________________________________

Great job! You kept me turning the pages.
--Francine Rivers, Internationally best selling author

C.J. is a wonderful, talented writer . . . extraordinary . . .
--Bodie Thoene, best-selling author of the A.D. Chronicles

This one engages your senses and reaches your heart.
--Jerry B. Jenkins, NY Times best-selling author & owner of The Christian Writers Guild

Watch the book trailer:


About the Author:
C. J. Darlington won the 2008 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest with her first novel, Thicker Than Blood. She has been in the antiquarian bookselling business for over twelve years, scouting for stores similar to the ones described in her novels before cofounding her own online bookstore. In 2006 C. J. started the Christian entertainment Web site http://www.titletrakk.com/ with her sister, Tracy, and has been actively promoting Christian fiction through book reviews and author interviews. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs and cats. Visit her website http://www.cjdarlington.com/

QUICK LINKS:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Review: Digitalis by Ronie Kendig

Digitaliswritten by Ronie Kendig, is the second book in the Discarded Heroes series. Each book in the series revolves around a different character who has served time in the military, seen action in various conflicts around the globe, and returned home, worn out, damaged in some way, and unappreciated for the service that they have given for our country and its people.  Each of the discarded heroes are recruited to serve as members of a very secret black ops group named Nightshade.

In Digitalis, we read about Colton Neeley who is an ex-marine and has left his military career to raise his precocious four-year-old daughter, Mickey. As a result of the events that he has lived through in the military, Colton suffers from terrible flashbacks; flashbacks that are so severe that they sometimes interfere with his ability to function in life's daily routines.

A shopping trip brings Colton in contact with Piper, a beautiful young woman with secrets of her own.  Without giving away too much of the plot, I will just say that a romance begins to bloom between Colton and Piper until the day that both of their pasts collide with the present and they must either overcome the obstacles or go their separate ways.

My review:

Did you ever read books by an author whose writing immediately struck home with you and every word resonated and leaped off the pages to form a picture so vivid that the line of demarcation between fiction and reality became so thin that it was nearly nonexistent? This is the case with me and Ronie's books. Ronie Kendig is a writer with a phenomenal talent and ability to capture the reader's attention with the first sentence of her books and never let go until the final page is turned.

At the risk of sounding trite, I would add that the characters become real and are not mere cardboard cutouts. The reader can readily sympathize with their plight and feel the anguish  along with Colton and Piper as they confront many precarious and hazardous trials.  The author also very capably demonstrates that it is only through faith in God, trust in his omnipotent power, and love, both divine and human, that Colton and Piper are able to overcome their pasts and the obstacles that are thrown in their paths.

Digitalis is the first book that I have read by Ronie Kendig. However, I am currently reading book one of this series, Nightshade, and I am finding it to be every bit as mesmerizing and riveting as was Digitalis.  While it is not essential to read the books in this series in sequential order, I would recommend that you begin with book one simply because it lays the groundwork for the Nightshade organization and gives a better understanding of the group's function in subsequent books.  Ronie Kendig has earned her place at the top of my list of "must read" authors and I eagerly anticipate future books by this gifted and exceptional writer.

A copy of this book for review purposes was provided to me by Barbour Publishing.  I received no compensation for this review nor was I under any obligation to provide a favorable review.  All comments are my own true and unsolicited observations.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Little Star by Anthony DeStefano ... Book Review

The book Little Star  by Anthony DeStefano is a book that is destined to become a Christmas standard for me. The book, published by WaterBrook Press is a poignant story about a star who was the smallest star in the sky. The story of Little Star is told by a father to his young son about a star  who was very sad. His sadness had its origin in the fact that Little Star was completely ignored by all of the other stars simply because he was so small and could add little to the night sky.

It quickly becomes apparent to the reader that Little Star became the star that shone to herald the birth of Jesus.  He gave his all to shine for that one special night so that the baby Jesus would be warm. He worked so hard to shine that he gave his life, completely burned himself out, and was seen no more. However, each Christmas he is remembered as people all around the world  place a star at the top of their Christmas trees.

The artwork in this story, while quite simplistic, is very appealing and will attract the attention of a small child. Even small children can readily see the lessons that are taught in this simple little tale. One lesson is that, no matter how small or insignificant we may feel, God can and will use us for His kingdom's work.  Each of us has a gift of some sort that can be used for God's service. Another lesson that a young child can learn from Little Star is that God will richly reward those who are willing to dedicate themselves to Him .

This book is one that I look forward to sharing both with my grandsons and the kindergarten students at school next Christmas. While it is obvious that the book does not adhere to the Biblical account, it is also plain to see that it is a work of fiction and that does not detract in any way from the lessons that are demonstrated.  It is a timeless tale that can be told anew each year and the story will remain fresh and its lessons will remain relevant.

I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not obligated to provide a positive review and I received no compensation in return for my review.

Announcing the giveaway winners ...

      Hear ye, 
       hear ye ...        

The winner of  the book by Kristen Heitzmann is ....

Nia for Jesus!


And the winner of Amy Inspired by Bethany Pierce is ...

lgm52


Congratulations to both of these winners!  I will be sending you an email shortly to request your mailing address so I can get these books to you. You will have one week, until March 13th, to respond. If I don't hear from you by this date, another winner will be drawn.

My apologies to all of you faithful followers for taking so long to announce the winners. Unfortunately, I have been quite ill for over two weeks now with the whooping cough and I ask your forgiveness and understanding for being so delinquent in posting these announcements.

More book reviews and new giveaways are coming in the near future. Don't forget to check back soon for a chance to win another good book!