Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday Fiction Friends - A Book Review

I didn't have anyone lined for today, so I thought a book review would fill the spot nicely.

A BEE IN HER BONNET by Jennifer Beckstrand ~ A Review

I don't usually read Amish fiction. Just not my cup of tea. But someone asked me to read this book and I was in the mood for a romance.I'm am ever so happy I decided to read it!!

This is the second book in the series but I didn't feel at all lost by not having read the first (I will go back and read that one, though). The Honeybee Sisters are three young women living with their aunt in a Wisconsin Amish community. The girls were orphaned at a young age and their aunt stepped in to raise them. The family is a little unconventional by Amish standards, especially Aendi Bitsy, who lived outside the Amish community for a long time. She's a big part of what made A BEE IN HER BONNET so enjoyable.

In this novel, Poppy Christner is determined to catch the vandal who has been terrorizing their farm. Their beehives have been tipped over, laundry torn from the line, and graffiti painted on the side of the barn. All of that happened in the first book. This one opens with Poppy confronting two people parked in a car on the road in front of the farm - and getting her hand stuck in the driver's side window as they start to drive away. Luke Bontrager comes along just in time to stop the car and force them to roll down the window, freeing Poppy. She doesn't appreciate his interference (she's convinced she was about to see the faces of the vandals). Luke thinks Poppy takes unnecessary risks.

All of Poppy's life, she's believed that she is not marriage material. Her grandfather told her she'd never get a husband if she stayed so stubborn. In school, she confronted bullies and was generally a tomboy. Now along comes Luke, echoing the same sentiment - who would want to marry such a contrary girl. For her part, Poppy concedes (privately, of course) that Luke is handsome but he's much too bossy.

The two are thrown together through various circumstances, each slowly realizing how special and wunderbar the other is. Luke obstinately sticks to his belief that some things are "men's work" and some work is for women. Poppy stubbornly sticks to her feeling that she can do anything any boy can do. Their clashes are humorous and tug at heartstrings as the reason behind each one's emotions is revealed. How will they ever overcome these obstacles to reach the love God surely has planned for them?

Throughout it all, Aendi Bitsy fills the pages with humor and love. She admonishes the girls for giving Luke some cookies as a thank you for saving Poppy in the car incident. "Boys are like stray cats. Feed them once, and they'll keep coming around." Her gruffness doesn't scare Luke, which is good because Bitsy actually has a warm and loving heart and wants only the best for her nieces.

When I finished reading A BEE IN HER BONNET the only thing I wanted to do next was read book 3! This is a fun romance with plenty of humor and loads of warmth. I definitely recommend it!!

All three of the Honeybee Sisters novels by Jennifer Beckstrand are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday Fiction Friends - Lillian Duncan

Today I am happy to welcome Lillian Duncan as my Friday Fiction Friends guest. Lillian is celebrating the release of her novel BROKEN TRUST with an Amazon gift card giveaway! Details on how you can be entered to win are at the bottom of the post.

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
available on Amazon 

Her new release is BROKEN TRUST
Life is all about choices…and consequences. Chryssie Mason longs to soar like a butterfly, but a lifetime of bad choices has kept her in the caterpillar stage. After years of struggling, her dreams are finally within her grasp. Her only goal is to graduate from nursing school so she can have a better life—so she can morph into a butterfly. With her final exam only days away, she witnesses a murder. A butterfly would call the police, but she decides to take the easy way out…once again. Life has taught her to never trust anyone, especially herself. With her freedom and her very life at risk, it’s time to trust. And that choice changes everything.

Tell us a little about you.

My husband and I live in a small town in Ohio. I mean small—we only have 1 traffic light. But I love being back home. I grew up in the area, but moved to the big city of Cleveland for many years. Like Dorothy, I love being home again.

When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?

That’s an interesting story. I was turning 40 and like lots of other 40 year olds, something was missing in my life. I was watching some show (probably Oprah) and her guest recommended writing your own obituary but not to include anything you’ve done up to that point. They said write in outlandish things that you couldn’t imagine.

One of the things I wrote was that I was an author. What? Up to that point, I’d never thought of writing a book in spite of how much I loved books. When I reread those words, something sparked.

And a writer was born.

What is your 'how I got published' story?

I only need two words to tell that—hard work…and perseverance. OK, technically that’s four words. It actually took me fifteen years to get a traditional contract. I can’t tell you how many times I quit writing but I always started back up which is why I always tell writers—DON’T QUIT!

How did you develop your love of story?

From my love of reading. From the moment I learned to read, I loved stories. From the time I learned to read, I rarely went anywhere without a book. To the grocery store, to my relatives’ houses, camping. And yes, I was one of those people that read under the covers and in a car.

What is your favorite genre to read? To write?

The answer to both is Christian mystery and suspense with a little horror thrown in from time to time. I guess writing is sort of like eating. You are what you read, and for me that means I’m a suspense/mystery writer.

Most people don’t think of murder mysteries and suspense novels as Christian Fiction. What do you say to them?

I can certainly understand their point of view. And for some readers my stories might be a bit too graphic or edgy and that’s okay, I would say my readers are those who like traditional suspense and mystery novels but are tired of all the explicit language and sex scenes that aren’t necessary to a good story.

I don’t promote or glorify violence in my stories and show characters experiencing the natural consequences of their bad choices and bad actions. My characters are usually on a spiritual journey as well—but some are further along than others.

Tell us about BROKEN TRUST.

BROKEN TRUST is my latest book, releasing March 17. There’s lots of action but it will also make you go…aww. It explores the issues of trust (of course) but also choices and how one choice can change your life—for better or for worse.

BROKEN TRUST is Chryssie’s story. Her complete name is Chrysalis which is another name for a cocoon. Chryssie wants to soar like a butterfly but she keeps making choices that keep her stuck in the caterpillar stage.

She’s days away from graduating from nursing school when she witnesses a murder. Once again she takes the easy way out and once again she has to face the consequences of her choice—this time with life and death consequences.

What’s the setting for BROKEN TRUST?

Broken Trust is set in Cleveland, mostly in the Ohio City area and the Flats.

What’s your day job? Tell us a little about it.

I retired as an SLP from a large city school district in Ohio then spent several more years working part-time in smaller, rural districts near where I live. Between the two jobs, I don’t think there is any type of child I haven’t worked with at least once.

I loved my job and miss it. Mostly I miss the children, not the paper work. If it weren’t for serious health issues, I would still be working.

What sort of serious health issues?

In 2012 I was diagnosed with bilateral brain tumors and subsequently a genetic disorder called Neurofibromatosis Type 2. A long name that basically means I can develop tumors at any time on my nerves but especially in the brain.

It’s been a long, long journey but God is good. There’re a lot of things I can’t do these days, but I can still write! And for that I’m very thankful.

What do you want readers to take away from BROKEN TRUST?

We all make bad choices and then have to face the consequences of them but God is a God of second chances and third and fourth and… We do not have to let our past dictate our future.

What is your writing process?

I never know what is going to happen in my story on any given writing day. It’s as if my mind is a movie screen and I watch that day’s events and then I write it.

When I start a new story I usually have a clear picture of the main character in mind and what obstacle he/she will face, but anything goes after that. If I’m writing and start to feel bored—then I kill someone or blow something up. And that way it’s a surprise to me and to my readers.

Do you know who the bad guy is when you begin your story?

Not usually. Most of the time I have several characters who it might be and as the story comes to a conclusion, I’m surprised right along with my readers.

How does faith play a part in your writing?

That’s changed a lot over the years. When I first started writing, I wrote mainstream (secular) mysteries and suspense. As I grew closer to God in my daily walk, my writing began to reflect that and so I started writing Christian mysteries and suspense. In 2012, I was diagnosed with bilateral brain tumors and have had to learn to rely on God in a whole different way and so my writing reflects that now as well by having a deeper spiritual message than before.

In fact, I have my first non-suspense novella scheduled to be released in October of this year. PUZZLE HOUSE is a complete departure from what I usually write. I would classify it as simply Christian Fiction, a story about a woman who is asked the question, ‘Do you want to be healed or to be a healer?” by a very important person.

What inspired you to write this series, or this novel in particular?

I first “met” Chryssie in a short story I wrote but I wanted to learn more about her and her story so….BROKEN TRUST is the result.

Do you have personal experience with any of the events in Broken Trust, and if so, could you share about that?

Only in that I worked and lived in Cleveland for many years as a school speech pathologist.

Paper or e-reader? There are certainly pros and cons to each. Which is your favorite?

I prefer a “real” book with paper. Unfortunately, I don’t read them that way very often because of my eyesight. So, I use an e-reader almost exclusively these days.

Do you have a favorite or “life” verse? Why is that one important to you?

Romans 8: 28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

In 2012, I was diagnosed with brain tumors. The treatments and the side effects wreaked havoc on my health! I was very sick but I kept repeating this verse over and over. It kept me trusting God and it kept me in peace and joy in spite of how bad I felt at the time.

How did your education or previous career impact your journey to publication and where you are now?

My day job was as a school speech pathologist, better known as a speech therapist. So for more than 30 years I listened…and listened…and listened some more. I think it helped me in a lot of areas but certainly with writing dialogue of my characters.

If you could offer a word of encouragement to an aspiring author, what would you say?

DON’T GIVE UP! It took me 15 years to get a traditional contract, and now I have almost 20 books published! If I can do it, so can you. But not if you give up. KEEP WRITING!

What are you working on now?

I already mentioned my next release, PUZZLE HOUSE—the tagline is Life isn’t a box of candy, it’s a puzzle. At the moment, I’m working on a sequel for it called THE DAVID YEARS. I’m also in the middle of revising and editing another book, ENCOUNTERS, that explores several issues including how our encounters with others is like a spider web. They link us to each other in ways we don’t always understand. Plus I have a couple ideas for new suspense books swirling around in my brain as well. So many ideas—not enough time!

And now about that giveaway! To enter, just hop over to Lillian's blog, Tiaras & Tennis Shoes at and leave a comment under one of the Broken Trust posts and you’re entered. Easy Peasy! (remember, only comments on Lillian's blog will enter you in the drawing - but we'd love you leave a comment here to let us know you visited!) And get your copy of BROKEN TRUST on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Fiction Friends - Emily Reynolds

This week Friday Fiction Friends spotlights Emily Reynolds' debut novel, PICTURE PERFECT. 

Seven years ago, I met Emily through an ACFW critique group. Together with Sally Bayless, we dubbed ourselves "The Three Musketeers" and determined to encourage each other to publication. Life happened and each of us has journeyed different roads to our dreams. Yet we are all three published!

Back then, Emily's WIP (work in progress) went by other names but her main characters were Lily and Micah. I fell in love with them from the start. Lily is spunky, determined, yet caring and full of compassion. She's pursuing her dream of opening a photography studio and has finally found the perfect location. Micah has a past he's not proud of - would love for no one to know about, in fact. A personal tragedy brought him to Christ and now he wants to open a martial arts dojo to teach jujitsu to teens at risk.

Micah just found the perfect location for his dojo. Uh-huh, you guessed it!

That's not what has sparks flying between Lily and Micah, though. Micah gets drafted to help Lily learn swing dancing for her cousin's wedding. Their time on the dance floor heats up their romance but their pasts are about to collide. Again.

Micah is such a wonderful hero. He wants to improve the lives of teens. He's strong yet not a brute. He can dance! He's considerate. And flawed. When he gets frustrated, he stops talking to Lily, which only makes matters worse. So true to life. Lily, for her part, doesn't always open up and share her thoughts and concerns. Which makes matters worse. More real life, right there. Lily sees the good in Micah but she can't quite let go of the past and trust him.

Added to the mix is Lily's best friend, Erica, and her boss, Ian, who owns/runs the local coffee hot spot. Then there's Jeff, the youth pastor. And Myrtle Boralis, a wealthy elderly lady in church who has rubbed a few people the wrong way. We all know someone like her - she means well but is abrasive anyway.

PICTURE PERFECT is a delightful read, full of real life and plenty of romance. Get your copy today, for Kindle or in print.

Emily Reynolds writes contemporary, faith-filled romance novels filled with laughs and small-town charm. She loves exploring the mystery of falling in love, God's redemptive grace, and laugh-out-loud humor. Visit her website to learn more: 

For more incredible contemporary romance novels, check out BLING! Romance, a division of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Fiction Friends - Laura Hilton

Today kicks off a new feature for my blog - Friday Fiction Friends. I'll be spotlighting my fellow Christian authors in the coming weeks and months. I hope you enjoy & maybe find a new author to enjoy!

A warm, Naultag welcome to Laura Hilton.  Laura lives in rural Arkansas with her pastor-husband and their five children (and a hyper dog named Skye). She knows all about small town life, I'm sure. This month, Laura is celebrating the release of THE AMISH WANDERER.

Bethany Weiss has been fascinated by Silas Beiler since he spent a couple of years in Jamesport, Missouri, before he and his family moved to another Amish community. They hadn’t kept in touch, but she hasn’t forgotten the friendly young man who brought her lemonade and took her home once from a Singing years ago. When she finds a man sleeping in her family’s barn, like Jesus sleeping in the hay, she is stunned to recognize Silas. He’s left the Amish and is backpacking across the country. She talks him into staying, at least until after Christmas.

Silas’ family has never been happy living in one area for long, and their vagabond ways are wearing on him. He’s lived in Amish communities all over the nation, moving whenever his daed became disgruntled with the leaders, and he’s looking for some sense of stability. His intentions are to make it back to Pennsylvania and stay with his Englisch onkle and his family—and pursue an education. Will Bethany be the one to bring Silas in from the cold? Or will he continue on his way to his extended family and become Englisch? 

How did Amish Wanderer get started?

Romans 8:38-39. I had no idea what Amish Wanderer would be about. I knew a blurb. I knew the characters names. I knew they used to be “sweethearts” before he moved away. That is all I knew. God usually gives me the verses in the middle or end of a book and this time, He dumped it out on my lap. Romans 8:38-39. I looked it up. Read it. And I looked at it and said “What am I supposed to do with that?” So I was driving somewhere and my daughters were listening to a cd. I don’t remember what song we were listening to. But when we got home, I knew the opening line of the story. The sky is falling and I’m searching for somewhere to hide.

How do you see yourself in your character’s story, if at all? 

When I started writing Amish fiction, everyone said, you need to write your family’s story. And I said no. I would never write my family’s story. It is awful. Beyond awful. No. But while Amish Wanderer is not my family’s story, it is the closest I will ever come. Ever. It ripped my heart out writing this story. I imagined myself in my Grandmother’s eyes as she went through a similar nightmare. I know—or think I know—the horror she must’ve felt, living in fear of the person who was hurting her. That she eventually came to Christ is a miracle.

Will we know what happens to your character after the end of the book? 

Yes, if you know how to read between the lines. I don’t actually come out and say where they end up and do in this book, but it is very broadly hinted. And if you read my next book coming in the fall of 2017 (stand alone) there is a mention of Bethany and where she ended up. My books are all stand alone. But there might be some overlapping of characters, Just like in real life.

Both of your lead characters have “baggage” that keeps them from wanting to pursue a new relationship. Do you think sometimes we let our past get in the way of what God has planned for our futures?

Most definitely. The Amish book releasing in the fall of next year has a line the preacher in the book says – I don’t remember the exact words that I used - but something about what if the future God has for you is wrapped up in your worst nightmares, your biggest fears? Sometimes, you have to face the past in order to move past it to a brighter future. 

Where do you like to write?

Oh, I have dreams of writing at Starbucks like so many authors do. Alas, I live in rural Arkansas, there is no Starbucks within a 150 miles or more, and I am a stay at home mom with five children and I homeschool – two of them. Three are homeschool graduates. I write in the living room. With my children beside me so I can help with their school work – or explain it. 

How do you handle distractions?

Since it seems like I am trying to write at the busiest spot in “Grand Central Station” some days, I am envious of authors who say “I only got 5,000 words written today.” Only!? I’m happy if I get 500 words written a day. Over the moon ecstatic if I reach 1,000! 

If someone else were sitting at your desk right now, what would they see?

Ha ha. They would see my three daughters sitting on the couch, watching a DVD of an old movie. We don’t have TV. They would see my to-do-list and the ARC of my upcoming book on my right, and a manuscript that I need to endorse for another writer on my left. And some sore throat spray because my youngest daughter says she has a sore throat. The medicine tastes yucky. She wants me to throw it away and buy the good tasting throat drops.

When you’re working on a project, how do you keep the immensity of it from getting you down?

If it is hard to write and depressing me, like Amish Wanderer was, I have to physically remove myself from it, read a happy book. Something that takes me away from it until I can focus on it.

Both of your lead characters have “baggage” that keeps them from wanting to pursue a new relationship. Do you think sometimes we let our past get in the way of what God has planned for our futures?

Most definitely. The Amish book releasing in the fall of next year has a line the preacher in the book says – I don’t remember the exact words that I used - but something about what if the future God has for you is wrapped up in your worst nightmares, your biggest fears? Sometimes, you have to face the past in order to move past it to a brighter future.

Do you think there’s any reason in particular some people have one reaction versus the other when something bad happens in their life?

I am not going to attempt to play psychologist, but Bethany reacted by pulling away from God and having a stand-off until He does what she wants. Silas reacted by turning to the scriptures and trying to trust God knows what He’s doing even though he doesn’t like it. That God has a reason for putting him through the refiner’s fire.

Has there been a time in your own life where you could really sense God was putting you in a situation for a reason?

Oh, so many. As most of my readers know, I was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago. I went into it shaking, like most people do. I had a three year old, I didn’t have time for cancer. But someone sent me an i-pod shuffle loaded with praise and worship songs for me to listen to during chemo. I read, a lot, and God was drawing me deeper into His word. I prayed a lot. I’m not going to say that it was a walk in the park. And I am still suffering side effects from it. BUT I learned to listen to God. I grew as a Christian. I grew as a writer. And I believe God put me through it so I would become the writer that I wouldn’t have been if He hadn’t refined me.

Laura V. Hilton is an award-winning, sought-after author with almost twenty Amish, contemporary, and historical romances. When she’s not writing, she reviews books for her blogs, Lighthouse Academy and Laura V. Hilton, and writes devotionals for blog posts for Seriously Write and Putting on the New.

Laura and her pastor-husband have five children and a hyper dog named Skye. They currently live in Arkansas. One son is in the U.S. Coast Guard. She is a pastor’s wife, and homeschools her two youngest children.

When she’s not writing, Laura enjoys reading, and visiting lighthouses and waterfalls. Her favorite season is winter, her favorite holiday is Christmas.

Visit Laura on Facebook and Twitter and check out her Pinterest page, too!
Grab your copy of THE AMISH WANDERER on Amazon, CBD, or Barnes & Noble