Wednesday, November 30, 2011

6 Innovative Ways to Help Your Favorite Charity This Holiday Season – Without Spending A Dime!

New report says almost 70 percent of people will give less this holiday season and so supporters are getting creative with their giving

Los Angeles, CA – November 15, 2011 – As the economy continues to squeeze donors, a recent report conducted by Campbell Rinker showed disturbing results—that nearly 7 in 10 Americans say they will give more sparingly to charities in the coming months. As a result, people are looking for other ways to support their favorite causes this holiday giving season.   Here are five ways people can “give without giving”: 
Shop online. works with more than 2,500 retailers (including AmazonGapTargetStaples and Macy’s) to give a percentage of almost every purchase back to the shopper’s favorite charity.  In addition, GoodShop lists more than 100,000 coupons so that shoppers can save money and do good at the same time!  GoodShop currently works with more than 102,000 charities and schools.  We can provide you with a list in your area. See how it works here!
Search the Internet: donates about a penny per search to the charity the user designates.  It’s powered by Yahoo so users get great search results!  Together with GoodShop, GoodSearch has raised more than $8 million for charity! See how it works here!
Redeem credit card points. Ask members to turn their unused credit card points into a charitable donation to your cause. Both American Express and Citi Card offer this program.
Volunteer: There are a handful of companies that match volunteer hours with funds. For example, Microsoft will match volunteer time at $17 an hour through its Volunteer Time Matching program. BoeingExxonIntel, Chevron, and Bank of America have similar programs.
Dine out: works with more than 10,000 restaurants across the country and each time you dine, up to 6% of what you spend is donated to your favorite charity. We can provide you a list of restaurants in your area.
Recycle your old electronics:  Send your electronics to and cash generated from that will be donated to charity.
About GoodSearch
Headquartered in San Francisco, CA, GoodSearch empowers people to change the world through simple everyday actions that raise money for causes people care most about.  Launched in 2005, the service currently includes GoodSearch, a Yahoo-powered search engine and GoodShop, an online shopping and coupon portal which works with more than 2,500 top merchants including jcpennyLands' EndStaples, and HP, and now GoodDining. To date, GoodSearch has donated more than $8 million to over 102,000 charities and schools designated by its users.

For press inquiries, contact:
JJ Ramberg
Co-Founder, GoodSearch

Monday, November 28, 2011

Meet Christian Author Beverly Varnado

Sharon: Please welcome my friend  Beverly Varnado to our Meet the Author Day. (Wait for applause to die down.)

May I get you a cup of coffee Beverly?

Beverly: Better skip the coffee. I save my caffeine allowance for chocolate consumption.

Sharon: All right. When and how did you get interested in writing?

Beverly:  I started a little magazine when I was eight years old and sold it door to door. The magazine quickly folded.

Sharon: Awww.

Beverly:  I continued writing and through the years filled up boxes of journals. During that time, my writing was quite private, but about a dozen years ago, I felt God calling me to start this adventure of writing for others to read.

Sharon: That is a little scary, isn’t it? Who has been one of your best encouragers on your writing journey?

Beverly: In 1999, I wrote Jan Karon and told her how much her “Mitford” books had meant to me while I was recovering from Post Traumatic Stress after a trauma. Karon’s fiction seemed a balm to my soul.

In December, I received a note from Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Karon took the time to respond to my letter, and encouraged me to pursue writing myself.            Her letter now hangs on my office wall.

Another mentor is Madeleine L ‘Engle. Her practical writing advice has sustained me through many a downward turn. I keep an anthology of L ‘Engle’s writing instruction, Herself, on my desk at all times.      

Sharon: Even though you’ve won awards and you are now published, do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Beverly:  I’m not sure I’ve ever met a writer who does not deal with self-doubt on some level. I recently read that Harper Lee in the days before To Kill a Mockingbird was released only hoped the book would die a quick death at the hands of the reviewers. Not to compare myself to her in any way, but that sentiment gives me hope that even the best struggle with doubts.

Sharon: What keeps you writing in times of uncertainty?

Beverly:  In this past year, while I’ve been trying to get this book out, both my husband and my father have been diagnosed with cancer. I’ve also faced another serious continuing challenge, and if any word has characterized my life, it would be “uncertain.”

Sharon: Oh, Bev, I am so sorry!

Beverly: Writing is what I do. It doesn’t matter if the day is rosy or gray, I just keep writing. Writing is for me what a missionary friend in Ethiopia calls a “constant in a sea of change.” The rejections come and I keep writing. The disappointments mount and I keep writing. I place in a contest, and I keep writing. I get an option on a screenplay and I keep writing.

In this way, I’d compare it to faith. We believe not because of our feelings, or what we see, but because of our relationship with and our faith in God. If we didn’t, we’d turn back in times of difficulty. If writing is a calling, it doesn’t matter how we feel about it, we press on and write in faithful obedience to the one who has called our name and leads us on this journey.

Sharon: What can a reader expect every time she picks up one of your books?

Beverly: In the movie Becoming Jane, after being disappointed in love, Jane Austen is asked how it will turn out for her characters. I’m paraphrasing here, but how she answered is that she’d give her characters some trouble, but in the end they’d get what they want.

I write to give readers hope. And I believe what readers will walk away with in my stories is a renewed confidence in God’s redemptive power.

Sharon: I’m a sucker for happy endings. So what gave you the inspiration for Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees? How was this story placed on your heart?

Beverly: The story line of Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees emerged from research I was doing in some nineteenth century primary sources about the poet Sidney Lanier. That material connected with the story of a chestnut pen I’d bought from a local artist, and then I began to hear a fourteen-year-old girl telling this story. Somehow, it all came together as I wrote the screenplay and the novel.

Sharon: And your character,  Mary Helen had that chestnut pen. I remember that. I think that’s the best way to get a title. When it’s somehow connected or organic to the story.

How can readers find you on the Internet?

Beverly: At my blog One Ringing Bell or my website. 

Sharon: Great. I’ll have to check it out myself.

Any parting words?

Beverly: I love the characters in this book. When I was editing, I still cried even though I knew what was going to happen.

I quote from movies a lot, because I’m also a screenwriter. Beatrix Potter said in Miss Potter that her characters were her friends. I’m hoping that my friends become my readers’ friends, as well.

Sharon: Spoken like a true writer. Our characters are our friends!

Book Contest: Just a reminder that we are featuring Bev Varnado’s book Give My Love to the
Chestnut Trees
 this week.

Book Contest weeks are from Saturday through Friday of the following week. A new book review is posted each Saturday which may or may not have a contest connected with it. See the Book contest information on the side bar.

Leave a comment on any of my blog my posts this week along with information how to get hold of you if you are the winner. Each post gives you one chance to win the book.

I am sorry, but posts on facebook are easily lost so they do not count toward the contest.

Q4U: Are you a reader? What is the first thing you look for in a novel?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees

by Beverly Varnado

About the Author:
I first met Bev at a Christian Writers conference in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Then later she met with me in the prayer room of the ACFW conference in the fall. She asked who I was meeting (Agents ~ Editors?) When I said I wasn't ready she scolded me and prayed for me.

Today we celebrate together over Beverly Varnado's debut novel Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees. 

Her passion for writing began at an early age when at eight she published her first magazine which she sold door to door for a nickel. She also received a long awaited present of a journal for her birthday that year. The magazine folded in the first week, but the journal writing continues to the present day, filling her closets to overflowing with decades of reflections.

Born in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Beverly graduated from college cum laude with a degree in art, which helps her write a more painterly world. Her Southern fiction emanates from her soul and reflects her love of the arts and nature as well as her desire to glorify God in all that she does.

Beverly writes to give readers hope in the redemptive purposes of God. She has spoken and sung about this hope for many years in churches and civic clubs at the local and state level in Georgia. She has been a songwriter for twenty-five years and produced two projects composed of her own compositions. She led worship services in her church for and in maximum-security prisons for women for many years. Across the years, she has had the privilege of seeing hundreds of women make decisions for Christ in these institutions.

In addition to the ten years she spent working in the fashion industry, the two years directing a ministry, and nine years home schooling her children she has also been involved in many volunteer efforts which have included: former President of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church Clergy Spouses, Lay Witness Mission Movement participant, certified lay speaker in the United Methodist Church, board member for the University of Georgia Wesley Foundation and a participant in the Athens Symphony Chorus.

At the 2005, Blue Ridge Mountain Conference Beverly received three awards in the unpublished author’s contest. Since that time, she has received two honorable mentions in the 2007 Writer’s Digest Competition, and was a finalist in the 2008 and 2009 Gideon Media Arts Screenplay Contests. In 2009, Beverly was named a finalist in the international screenwriting competition, the Kairos Prize. She’s included in a book released in 2010, Faith and Finance. In addition, in 2010 she placed in the top ten for the Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel. Among her other writing credits are Focus on the Family parenting magazines, and the Upper Room. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Most recently, she’s signed a contract with Elevating Entertainment Motion Pictures to produce her screenplay, “Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees.”

Due to a writing competition sponsored by the East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers, Beverly was awarded a book deal with Westbow/Thomas Nelson. Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and the book was released in October 2011.

She lives in North Georgia with her husband, Jerry, their two children, two dogs, and several cats.

The Blurb:
When an accident causes the loss of a treasured vintage pen, Mary Helen Reynolds relives the summer of 1988 …

Fourteen-year-old Mary Helen wants life to stay the same—small, safe, and protected—but her world starts to unravel when cancer strikes her mother. Mary Helen is sent from her home in Asheville, North Carolina, to St. Simons Island, Georgia, to live with her eccentric artist aunt. The island, Mary Helen soon discovers, is surrounded by the marshes made famous by poet Sidney Lanier.

Surprised by her aunt’s ways and island culture, all Mary Helen wants to do is return home, but then she meets Ben, whose passion for the island opens her mind to new possibilities. What happens next sends her on a challenging journey of self-discovery. Will Mary Helen embrace the changes in her life, which may lead to something greater than she’s ever dreamed, or will she continue to cling to all that’s familiar?

Whichever she chooses, one thing’s for sure—she’ll never forget the summer she first saw the Marshes of Glynn.

What Others Say:
 By Eddie "Eddie" (Georgia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees (Kindle Edition)
It's not often I'm surprised by a book, but this book captured me from the beginning. I knew early on I would like this story. In fact, out of the hundreds of novels I've read, I'd rank this book in my top 10 fiction books.

Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees is a rich, character based novel. Each of the characters came alive and seemed real enough to know and care about. The setting is in small-town St Simons. It's easy to believe this town's setting as a young teen experiences the flavor of the past and carries it with her into the future. Each person came alive on the page with so many different personalities, quirks, and qualities. It was nice to watch a self-centered girl transform through the difficulties of life and through the influence of an eccentric aunt who cares for her during a summer when her mother was ill.

One thing I appreciate about this novel is that it has a strong Christian message, yet without being preachy. It's real people with real struggles. People I believe you will also enjoy getting to know and care about as the story moves along.

I can't say enough good things about this book. The writing is exceptional, as is the storytelling and the development of the characters. There wasn't any point in the novel when the story lost momentum. It's a clean read and kept my interest from beginning until the end. I suspect we'll be seeing great things from this author in the future. It's an excellent debut novel and hopefully the first of many. I'd give it 6 stars if I could. Highly recommended!

My Take:
Life is about relationships. I believe people are more improtant than things. We all deal with family, neighbors, workmates. And learning to understand and grow in our relationships is what makes life worth living. So I picked up Bev’s book and begin to read. And I met Mary Helen who is sent away from home at a very vulnerable time in her life. She’s a fish out of water and can’t help but resent it. But then things happen that take her out of herself and she responds and learns and grows.  This book has take home value and I highly recommend it.

Purchase The Book At: 
Barnes and Noble:

Or Ask Your Local Library To Order The Book In For You!

Book Contest: 
My friend Beverly sent me a copy of Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees. I'll offer to pass it on to one blessed reader this week.

Book Contest weeks are from Saturday, when the review is posted through Friday. A new book review is posted each week which may or may not have a contest connected with it. See the Book contest information on the side bar.

Leave a comment on any of my blog my posts this week along with information how to get hold of you if you are the winner. Posts on facebook do not count. We only check the messages on the blog to pick a winner.

We will send one special person a copy of Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees

Q4U: Do you read Women's Fiction? What favorite books have you read so far this year?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving in Early America

by Elaine Marie Cooper
When we sit down at our Thanksgiving meal this month, we’ll be recreating a celebration that is as old as our country: sharing food with loved ones while thanking the God Who has provided the abundance.
While we understand that the First Thanksgiving was celebrated here by the Mayflower survivors along with the Indians that had helped them, the first official proclamation that was decreed to celebrate such a holiday was in 1777. It was a recommendation to the thirteen states by the Continental Congress to set aside December 18th that year as a “solemn thanksgiving” to celebrate the first major victory for the Continental troops in the American Revolution: the Battle of Saratoga.
The Battle of Saratoga has significant interest for my own family since one of my ancestors was a soldier there. But he was not on the American side—he was a British Redcoat. After surrendering to the Americans, he escaped the line of prisoners and somehow made his way to Massachusetts and into the life and heart of my fourth great-grandmother. *SIGH* L’amour!
This family story was the inspiration for my Deer Run Saga that begins in 1777 with The Road to Deer Run. There is an elaborate Thanksgiving meal scene in this novel as well as in the sequel, The Promise of Deer Run.
Some may wonder why such detail was afforded this holiday in my novels set in Massachusetts, while Christmas is barely mentioned. The reason is simple: Thanksgiving was the major holiday in the northern colonies, with Christmas considered nothing more special than a workday. According to Jack Larkin in his book, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, “The Puritan founders of New England and the Quaker settlers of Pennsylvania had deliberately abolished (holidays) as unscriptural.”
But Thanksgiving was begun as a way to give thanks to God for His provision. It usually began with attending church services in the morning, followed by an elaborate feast in the afternoon. The food for this meal was prepared for weeks in advance.
Since the individual state governors chose their own date to celebrate the holiday, it was theoretically possible for some family members—if they lived in close proximity—to celebrate multiple Thanksgiving meals with family and friends across state borders. The dates chosen could be anywhere from October to December, according to Dennis Picard, Director of the Storrowton Village Museum in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
Chicken was most commonly served, said Picard, as it was readily available in the barnyard. And the oldest woman in the home had the honor of slicing the fowl for dinner.
Pies were made well in advance of the holiday and stored and became frozen in dresser drawers in unheated rooms.
“I like the idea of pulling out a dresser drawer for, say, a clean pair of socks, and finding mince pies,” said Picard, tongue in cheek.
Have a BLESSED Thanksgiving!

Author Bio

Elaine Marie Cooper
Elaine Marie Cooper grew up in Massachusetts but now lives in the Midwest with her husband, her three dogs and one huge cat. She has two married sons and triplet grandchildren who are now one years old. The Promise of Deer Run is dedicated to the triplets and to veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.Elaine has been a magazine freelance writer for many years, and is a regular contributor to a blog on the Midwest called The Barn Door ( and a blog on Christian living called Reflections In Hindsight ( She is the author of The Road to Deer Run and the sequel, The Promise of Deer Run. Prior to becoming an author, Elaine worked as a registered nurse.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


This guy continues to amaze people with his sidewalk 3D chalk drawings.


Remember, these pictures are actually flat.


Remember, these pictures are actually flat.

Remember, these pictures are actually flat.

   This man is artistically talented beyond the visual boundaries of sight!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Character Interview

Today’s visitor is one of the characters from Sharon A. Lavy’s first novel Dreaming Of A Father's Love.

After Sharon first gave her permission, and asked her character, Roberta Mona Alexander has agreed to let us interview her today.

Roberta: Oh, please. Everyone calls me Birdie.

Q: Why is that?

Birdie: It’s all I remember anyone calling me. Except for Mom, of course. She named me Roberta and likes it.

Q: You don’t like your name?

Birdie: It sounds like a boys name. A stuffy boy’s name at that. [She flinches, then sits taller in her chair.] Wow! Maybe Dad would have paid more attention to me if I’d insisted on using my given name. I never once thought of it.

Q: Is that what the story’s about? Your relationship with your father?

Birdie: I’ve always been “Daddies Girl.” Working with him is what I’ve always wanted.

Q: And I understand you do work in your father’s business. What is it?

Birdie: Alexander’s Nursery and Greenhouse. But he won’t give me any say in the big things.

Q: What big things do you want to take part in?

Birdie: My twin brothers and I grew up working in the business. I actually started working in the seventh grade. Nathan. Well, he’s a genius with creating and making things work. And Jason, he’d rather be a carpenter, but Dad insists he go to college for a business degree and take over the business.

Q: Does this cause problems between you and the twins?

Birdie: Let’s just say it causes some discussions.

Q: I’m sure it does. How long have you been working with Sharon on this story?

Birdie: Would you believe we met in 1997?

Q: How did you meet?

Birdie: It’s a long story. The short version is she looked through a catalog and found me. Cut out all the pictures she could find of me and made a collage. Then she studied and learned about me.

Q. How did she do that?

Birdie: Oh, she’s really into the personalities and temperaments. And about that time she took a color co-ordinating class. The instructor thought even our coloring, skin, hair, and eyes pointed to our personality types.

Q: Are you saying she chose your personality? How did that work for you?

Birdie: She didn’t choose my personality, she just tried to determine it. And as we worked together she learned more about me.

Q. Did she ferret out all your secrets?

Birdie: I hope not. I’d like to think I have more than one story to offer.

Q. What’s the hold up in getting your story published?

Birdie: That’s a good question. I learned so much in the process and I feel I have a message to convey to others who may find themselves in a similar situation.

Q: You mean with your relationship with your father?

Birdie: That’s what I thought at the beginning. That Sharon could tell my story. Could help me through the story. Well, to get through to my Dad what I needed. Little did I know how much God wanted to teach me.

Q. Can you describe the setting of the story and what it means to you?

Birdie: Dreaming Of A Father’s Love takes place in 1973. We started out using 1979 because Sharon had young teenagers in those years and was very familiar with the clothing styles the kids wore in this part of Ohio.

Q. So why did the date change to 1973?

Birdie: Sharon had a couple of critique partners from the east coast who thought the styles better represented the early 70's better than the later 70's. Sharon had this elaborate calender to make sure the dates of certain events and everything. Well it turns out the 1973 calendar and the 1979 dates fit the same days of the week. So it wasn’t a hardship to change.

Q. Was there something important about the clothing style that made such a big difference to the story? Why couldn’t your story take place in a more contemporary time?

Birdie: The dynamics of my story, my dad’s attitude really don’t fit as well in a different time frame. And it doesn’t fit the German Baptist thread in the story either.

Q: Oh, there’s a German Baptist thread?

Birdie: Yes, and I still can’t believe Sara joined that church.

Q. Why is that?

Birdie: Oops! I think that’s one of the “spoilers” I wasn’t supposed to talk about. I guess I’ve talked too long.

Q. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to ask the type of question that would provoke a spoiler. Can we get back together another day?

Birdie: If Sharon agrees.

Q: Will you ask her if we can talk about your relationships with the other characters in the story next time?

Birdie: Sure. Gotta run now.

Photo credit for Birdie:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

National Aviation Month

November is officially Aviation Month, but husband celebrates it everyday.
Husband and Charley at a fly-in
Life is good above the clouds
And on the ground.
With a granddaughter.
 Or a grandson.

Q4U: How do you like to travel? What do you do to relax? 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

5 Steps To Jumpstart Your Writing Career

Alyice Edrich

Article Body
Writing is probably one of the easiest and the hardest things to do. It is easy because writing is all about thoughts and ideas and we all have them. It’s hard because putting those thoughts and ideas down on paper can be quite scary; especially if you want others to read those words. And scarier, yet, if you want a publisher to pay you for those words because with payment comes constructive criticism and often, rejection.

There is no quick and easy way to get published, but it is possible if you tackle your goals of getting published in five steps.

Step One: Write Every Day
It’s true that life can be one huge balancing act and that you will often find you have less time in your day than you realized. So the first step should be to carve out some time in your day just for writing. Whether it is five minutes or one hour, make it a priority to write something every single day.

Write about what matters to you in a personal journal. Write a letter to a friend. Write a paragraph in an article. Write a page in a book. Just write. Actively working towards your goal of becoming a writer, by actually writing, will help build the confidence you need to begin the submission process.

Step Two: Join Writers' Groups
Join a local writers’ group. If there is not a local writers’ group in your area, look online. It is important to have an accountability group—having someone to be accountable to can help keep you from pushing your writing dreams to the sideline. And having a support system in place that truly understands your struggles as a writer can help you succeed when the rejections come in. And trust me, they will. Rejections are a huge part of a writer’s life. Writers get rejected for bad timing, lack of interest, and even poor writing. Writers get more rejections in a single year than most people do in a life time.

Step Three: Read About Writing
Subscribe to magazines and free newsletters geared towards writers. Receiving a weekly or monthly boost of inspiration may be what you need to stay on path. When I first began writing, as a professional, I found inspiration in the successes of other writers. I found inspiration in learning from other’s mistakes. And I found inspiration in many of the “you can do” how to articles. After writing became more natural, I cut back on many of the writing magazines, and now only subscribe to a small handful of writing newsletters. I find that they keep me on track and push me to succeed; especially when I see names in the industry that I recognize or names of writers I’ve personally met.

Step Four: Pitch Your Ideas
Purchase a copy of The Writers’ Market, or sign up for the online database ( The Writers' Market is filled with submission guidelines, addresses, and editorial information for magazines, websites, and book publishers. It’s a great place to start your writing career. Locate a publisher interested in what you have to offer and practice writing query letters that tailor to the needs of the publication.

Step Five: Submit Queries
Submit one query letter or article (based upon submission guidelines) a week. As you begin to feel more comfortable, step it up a notch and submit one query a day.

What are you waiting for? Jumpstart your writing career today. Check out the writing articles at

Alyice Edrich is a freelance writer and mixed media artist. Stop to learn how you can hire her for your next project to read her articles on crafting, parenting, home business, and writing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Meet Author Alicek K. Arnez

Sharon: Please welcome Alice K. Arenz to our Meet The Author Day.

(Wait for applause to die down.)

May I get you a cup of coffee Alice?

Alice: Thanks, but no thank you.  I don’t drink coffee.  Water would be fine.

Sharon: You are easy enough to please! Here you go.

I’ll begin by asking when and how you got interested in writing.

Alice: I’d always loved making up stories, so it seemed natural to start writing them down. I got serious about it when I was around twelve---a VERY long time ago. 

Sharon:  So you’ve always been a story teller!
Who has been one of your best encouragers on your writing journey?

Alice: I’d have to say my daughters—my oldest, Kelly, has been my “first” editor since she was around fifteen.                

Sharon: Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Alice: A lot of people have wondered if after winning the 2010 ACFW Carol Award for my cozy mystery, The Case of the Mystified M.D., if I continue to be doubtful in regard to my work. They always appear to be surprised to hear that I experience more self-doubt now than I ever have.  I don’t know if that is normal, but it’s me.

Sharon: What makes your writing different that of other writers?

Alice:  I’ve been told that none of my books sound alike/have the same voice—except for the Bouncing Grandma Mysteries. I’m not sure if that answers your question, but it’s what came to mind. 

Sharon: What is your brand? What can a reader expect every time she picks up one of your books?

Alice: My tagline is MYSTERIES & SUSPENSE . . . a Pinch of Humor, a Dash of Romance, & a Twist of Faith.  I hope that every time a reader chooses one of my books that they are, above all else, entertained.

Sharon: What gave you the inspiration for Mirrored Image? How was this story placed on your heart? 

Alice: As with all the things I’ve written, the inspiration comes from God—I know that might sound odd to some people, but it’s the only explanation I have.  I originally wrote Mirrored Image in 1986, the year the book is set in.  It’s been rewritten nearly every year since—waiting for God’s timing for it to be published.

Sharon: In Mirrored Image, What was your favorite scene to write?

Alice: Um, if I answer that it will spoil the book for others.  So, I’ll just say that it was an event on the island.  When you read the book, you’ll understand.

Sharon: Are you planning another book?

Alice: I hope so. I’m currently seeking an agent. 

Sharon. What is the next story about?

Alice: The title of the manuscript is An American Gothic. It’s what I call a classic romantic suspense in the tradition of writers like Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Stewart, or Victoria Holt.

Gothic gives a little “added bonus” of a story within the story.  The gothic is actually the manuscript the heroine is writing. A paragraph or two of that story begins each chapter, foreshadowing the events in the main story.

Sharon:  The excerpt you have at the end of Mirrored Image whets my readering appetite to read this next story as well.

Who are your favorite authors or books both Christian and/or secular?

Alice:  I love the authors I mentioned above, Whitney, Stewart, Holt. I’d add Dean R. Koontz, James Patterson, Colleen Coble, Terri Blackstock, Alton Gansky—the list just goes on and on!

Sharon: I read those authors too. Who most inspires you? 

Alice: Definitely God and my family.

Sharon: What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Alice: Honestly?  My children.

Sharon: How can readers find you on the Internet?

Sharon: Any parting words?

Alice: Thank you so much for inviting me to join you!

Sharon: You are welcome Alice, the pleasure was all mine!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mirrored Image

by Alice K. Arenz 

About the author:
Besides writing cozy mysteries under A.K. Arenz, I also write mystery/suspense - or classic romantic suspense under Alice K. Arenz - just a way to differentiate between the more humorous mysteries and the bit more serious ones. Mirrored Image released on October 1, 2010, and if you liked the Bouncing Grandma mysteries, I hope you'll give MI a try! It's a 2011 ACFW Carol Award Finalist--and a book after my own heart.

I've been writing since I was a child. My first published pieces were in the weekly newspaper my parents owned. Years later, I had poems published in a local paper, won honorable mention in a regional contest with a short story that was then published in their chapbook, and began my journey toward becoming a published novelist. In the mid 90s, I signed with a big New York literary agency. I remained with the agent for five years. Though things didn't work out, and there was a period of time I didn't write, this experience is responsible for where my career is now.

I joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) after exchanging a few emails with author Brandilyn Collins. The connections and friends I made in the group led me to editor and publisher, Joan M. Shoup and Sheaf House.

The Case of the Bouncing Grandma was a 2009 Finalist in ACFW's Carol Award contest. The Case of the Mystified M.D. is the winner of the 2010 ACFW Carol Award in the mystery category. These incredible honors are still a bit of a shock. I thank God, my wonderful family, Sheaf House and Joan M. Shoup, and ACFW for believing in my books --- and in me!

The Blurb: The uncanny resemblance between eccentric newspaper columnist Cassandra Chase and a murder victim gives Detective Jeff McMichaels the haunting suspicion there is a link between the two women . . . a link that may only exist in the murderer's mind.

What Others Say:
 By Bonnie Engstrom "Christian Writer" (Scottsdale, AZ USA)
This review is from: Mirrored Image (Paperback)

Be prepared to come up for air after reading this book. Unlike Arenz' previous cozy mysteries, there's nothing cozy about Mirrored Image. Intrigue is woven like fine lace from the very first page.

There's an old adage that everyone has a double, an exact look-a-like. But, in the same town? Cassandra Chase is a feisty reporter. Lynette Sandler was a beloved schoolteacher. The two women couldn't have been more diverse in personalities, tastes and lifestyles. Except for their faces. Why was the sweet-natured schoolteacher murdered so cruelly? Could it possibly have been a case of mistaken identity? When Detective Jeff McMichaels reluctantly listens to the information his partner has dug up about the Chase family his interest is piqued. He leans forward with hands folded to quietly announce, "The plot sickens."

The author is truly masterful at twists and turns and innuendoes. That may sound simplistic; but there is nothing simple about the plot.

I highly recommend this engrossing book. Just don't expect its mystery to be cozy.

My Take: A mystery lovers dream
Like most lovers of mystery stories, I like to guess where the author is going. But from the first few chapters I found myself asking. “Where did Alice come up with all these twists and turns?” She kept me guessing until the very last page.

Purchase The Book At:

Barnes and Noble:

Or Ask Your Local Library To Order The Book In For You!

Book Contest: 

I purchased this book in September at the ACFW conference. I’ll offer to pass it on to one blessed reader this week.

Book Contest weeks are from Saturday, when the review is posted through Friday.

Leave a comment on any of my blog my posts this week along with information how to get hold of you if you are the winner. Posts on facebook do not count. We only check the messages on the blog to pick a winner.

We will send one special person a copy of Mirrored Image

Q4U: Do you read mystery/suspense novels? What favorite books have you read so far this year?

Friday, November 11, 2011

In Appreciation of Our Veterans
The Viet Nam Wall 

Today we pause to honor the veterans of all the wars that have been fought to protect and preserve the freedoms that we have today. The following article about the people behind the names on the Viet Nam Wall, is just a reminder of the depth of the sacrifices that have been made for us all. Please remember to thank a Veteran today.

For most Americans who read this they will only see the numbers that the Vietnam War created. For those who survived the war, and to the families of those who did not, we see the faces, we feel the pain that these numbers created. We are, until we too pass away, haunted with these numbers, because they were our friends, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters. There are no noble wars, just noble warriors.

There are 58,267 names now listed on that polished black wall, including those added in 2010.  The names are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us by date and within each date the names are alphabetized. It is hard to believe it is 36 years since the last casualties.
Beginning at the apex on panel 1E and going out to the end of the East wall , appearing to recede into the earth (numbered 70E - May 25, 1968), then resuming at the end of the West wall, as the wall emerges from the earth (numbered 70W -continuing May 25, 1968 ) and ending with a date in 1975. Thus the war's beginning and end meet. The war is complete, coming full circle, yet broken by the earth that bounds the angle's open side and contained within the earth itself.  The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon, of North Weymouth , Mass . Listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having been killed on June 8, 1956 . His name is listed on the Wall with that of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, who was killed on Sept. 7, 1965 .

There are three sets of fathers and sons.

39,996 on the Wall were just 22 or younger.

8,283 were just 19 years old.

The largest age group, 33,103 were 18 years old.

12 soldiers on the Wall were 17 years old.

5 soldiers on the Wall were 16 years old.

One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock was 15 years old.

997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam .

1,448 soldiers were killed on their last day in Vietnam .

31 sets of brothers are on the Wall.

Thirty one sets of parents lost two of their sons.

54 soldiers on the Wall attended Thomas Edison  
High School in Philadelphia .

8 Women are on the Wall. Nursing the wounded.

244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War; 153 of them are on the Wall.

Beallsville , Ohio with a population of 475 lost 6 of her sons.

West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita in the nation. There are 711 West Virginians on the Wall.

The Marines of Morenci - They led some of the scrappiest high school football and basketball teams that the little Arizona copper town of Morenci (pop. 5,058) had ever known and cheered. They enjoyed roaring beer busts. In quieter moments, they rode horses along the Coronado Trail, stalked deer in the Apache National Forest . And in the patriotic camaraderie typical of Morenci's mining families, the nine graduates of Morenci High enlisted as a group in the Marine Corps. Their service began on Independence Day, 1966. Only 3 returned home.

The Buddies of Midvale - LeRoy Tafoya, Jimmy Martinez, Tom Gonzales were all boyhood friends and lived on three consecutive streets in Midvale, Utah on Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues. They lived only a few yards apart. They played ball at the adjacent sandlot ball field. And they all went to Vietnam . In a span of 16 dark days in late 1967, all three would be killed. LeRoy was killed on Wednesday, Nov. 22 , the fourth anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. Jimmy died less than 24 hours later on Thanksgiving Day. Tom was shot dead assaulting the enemy on Dec. 7 , Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

The most casualty deaths for a single day was on January 31, 1968 ~ 245 deaths.

The most casualty deaths for a single month was May 1968 - 2,415 casualties were incurred.
God Bless America

Monday, November 7, 2011

Meet Author Jenny B. Jones

Sharon: Please welcome Jenny B. Jones to our Meet The Author Day. This is her second time to visit us this year.(Wait for applause to die down.)

Thank you so much for coming, Jenny. Can I get you something to drink? Tea? Or just plain water?

Jenny: I'm gonna be one of "those" guests and ask for something else–Do you have any Dasani?

Sharon: Not plain old water then. Lucky for me I learned your brand before you came. Here you go. And here’s some M&M’s too.

Now, tell us all about There You’ll Find Me. 

Jenny: Finley Sinclair is witty, tough, and driven. With an upcoming interview at the Manhattan music conservatory, she needs to compose her audition piece. But her creativity disappeared with the death of her older brother, Will.

She decides to study abroad in Ireland so she can follow Will's travel journal. It's the place he felt closest to God, and she's hopeful being there will help her make peace over losing him. So she agrees to an exchange program and boards the plane.

Beckett Rush, teen heartthrob and Hollywood bad boy, is flying to Ireland to finish filming his latest vampire movie. On the flight, he meets Finley. She's the one girl who seems immune to his charm. Undeterred, Beckett convinces her to be his assistant in exchange for his help as a tour guide.

Once in Ireland, Finley starts to break down. The loss of her brother and the pressure of school, her audition, and whatever it is that is happening between her and Beckett, leads her to a new and dangerous vice. When is God going to show up for her in this emerald paradise?

Sharon: I enjoyed reading this story Jenny. What inspired it?

Jenny: My Winter 2011 release Save the Date, a women's romance, was about Alex and Lucy. Alex was reeling from the loss of his brother, and we see Alex's teenage sister dealing with some grief on her own in a few scenes. I decided she needed her own book. Throw in my newly acquired love for Ireland, and a book was born.

Sharon: Of course your story is fiction, but what real life elements can we find in the book ?

Jenny: I traveled to Ireland a few years ago and knew I had to set a book there. Other than that, I wanted to write about that point in adolescent life when a kid suffers their first loss of a family member and realize the fragility of life, that things won't always be the same.

Sharon: The beauty of fiction is that you can take some liberties with the facts. Can you tell us about some of these items?

Jenny: The town in There You'll Find Me, Abbeyglen, is based off of a little place in Ireland called Doolin. The major tourist sites in the book are real though. The cemetery that's so significant to the finale is real as well.

Sharon: What do you want readers to take away from your book?

Jenny: I hope they have fun, have some laughs, and come away with hope and something to think about.

Sharon: I like a story that makes me stop and think.

How do you choose which story to write?

Jenny: God gives me one idea--and only fragments of that. I'd love to be one of those authors whose brain is just overflowing with ideas. Sadly, I'm one of those authors whose brain is overflowing with sugary lightning bolts from all the M&Ms I've eaten.

Sharon: Well if you come up with a solution to getting ideas to click sooner, please let me know.  I have a bit of a hard time with jealousy of those who have so many ideas they don’t know which to choose.

Did you have a favorite character in this story? If so, why?

Jenny: I have lots of favorite characters, but they are never the lead hero/heroine. It's always a quirky supporting cast member who gets the stage for the humor. They are my absolute favorite to write. In There You'll Find Me, the fun I'll-Say-Anything characters are Clare Deveraux and her male companion/personal assistant, Julian. So much fun to write. In There You'll Find Me, one of my faves is Beckett. He's a nineteen-year old actor made famous by a string of successful vampire movies. But what's the flip side to this character? Who is he when the cameras are off? I had a lot of fun with those questions in the book. Because Beckett is definitely not who he seems.

Sharon: Thanks for coming, Jenny. Maybe we will see some of these characters in a future book.

How can readers find you on the Internet?

Jenny: Readers can find me at my website. From there they can easily find me on Twitter (my second home) and Facebook.

Q4U: Have you read any of Jenny’s other books? Which story is your favorite? Which character?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

There You’ll Find Me

by Jenny B. Jones

About the author:
I write Christian fiction with a few giggles, quite a bit of sass, and lots of crazy. My novels include the Katie Parker Production series, A Charmed Life series, and my first contemporary romance, Just Between You and Me.  I would also like to take credit for Twilight , but somewhere I think I read you’re not supposed to lie.

When I’m not typing my heart out (or checking email), I teach at a super-sized high school in Arkansas.

My students are constantly telling me how my teaching changes their lives and turned them away from drugs, gangs, and C-SPAN.

Okay, that’s not exactly true.

Some facts that are true include:

A. I got my camera confiscated by big boys with guns at the American  Embassy in Europe this past summer. O la la!
B. I once worked in a seed mill office and cleaned out mice on a regular basis. Ew.
C. I’m a former drama teacher.
D. I didn’t pass my drivers test the first time. Or the second…
E. I attract stray animals like a magnet.
F. I used to assemble and test paint ball guns for a local factory.

Since my current job leaves me with very little free time, I believe in spending my spare hours in meaningful, intellectual pursuits such as:
watching E!
updating my status on Facebook
catching Will Ferrell on YouTube and
writing my name in the dust on my furniture

Book Trailer:

The Blurb:
Finley Sinclair is not your typical eighteen year old. She’s witty, tough, and driven. With an upcoming audition at the Manhattan music conservatory, Finley needs to compose her audition piece. But her creativity disappeared with the death of her older brother.
She decides to travel to Ireland following his travel journal. It’s the place he felt most alive – and she desperately needs to feel alive again. So she agrees to an exchange program and boards the plane. Beckett Rush, teen heartthrob and Hollywood bad boy, is flying to Ireland to finish filming his latest vampire movie. On the flight, he meets Finley. She’s the one girl who seems immune to his charm. Undeterred, Beckett convinces her to be his assistant in exchange for his help as a tour guide.

Once in Ireland, Finley starts to break down – the loss of her brother and the pressure of school, her audition, and whatever it is that is happening between her and Beckett, leads her to new – and dangerous – vices.

Then she comes across something that changes her perspective irrevocably. Is it enough to convince her that everything she’s been looking for has been with her all along?

What Others Say:
 By Laura A. Jackson "laurelprincess" (Houston, Tx, USA)  
This review is from: There You'll Find Me (Paperback)

I have been waiting for this type of book since I became a teacher and lover of YA literature. A beautiful coming of age story from a Christian perspective. It's finally here.

Finley Sinclair heads to Ireland to find herself by following her brother's steps from his travel journal. In retracing his adventure, she hopes to find peace from the turmoil of her life since his death. When she meets a movie star, her journey to healing becomes even more complicated.

From the first page of the book, I loved Finley Sinclair, a girl who has more issues than she does hope. Her growth throughout the story is a beautiful tale of loss and healing. As usual, Jenny B. Jones adds enough humor throughout the book to keep the tale from becoming morose or gloomy.

What sets this book apart from books of its type (think Sarah Dessen) is that not only does Finley find herself and the guy she didn't know she wanted, but she finds the One who loves her so much that He orchestrated her life and her trip to Ireland so that she might find Him. That is the most important love story of all time, and teen readers will walk away from reading this book with more than just a cute romance (although the character of Beckett is definitely crush-worthy). :)

My Take:
This Book Has Take Home Value. I highly recommend it.
I love Jenny and her writing. She is so funny and snarky. Her characters are too. However Finley is one troubled young girl searching for answers. Searching for God. Why doesn’t He talk to her anymore? I enjoyed watching her grow and mature as I read the book.

I started reading There You’ll Find Me November 2, 2011.  I had to take several breaks while reading this one and post my delight on Twitter.
Twitter Nov 2~ I am reading Jenny B. Jones: There You’ll Find me~~Her best book ever. You have got to read it!!!

Twitter 2 hours later:
I love it when that happens!!! I guessed part of what happened. But I am not telling. Jenny B. Jones There You’ll Find Me Love the book!

Twitter: later
Jenny B. Jones does it again!!!  There You’ll Find Me.

Twitter: Even later
Just read the last page. I did not expect that last twist. You have got to read this awesome book by Jenny B. Jones. There You’ll Find Me.

Purchase The Book At:

Barnes and Noble:

Or Ask Your Local Library To Order The Book In For You!

Book Contest: 

Jenny sent me a reviewers copy of There You’ll Find Me and I'll offer to pass it on to one blessed reader this week.

Book Contest weeks are from Saturday, when the review is posted through Friday of the following week.

Leave a comment on any of my blog my posts this week along with information how to get hold of you if you are the winner. Posts on facebook do not count. We only check the messages on the blog to pick a winner.

We will send one special person a copy of There You’ll Find Me.

Q4U: Have you ever read a Jenny B. Jones book? Which is your favorite one?