Audra Jennings is a publicist with Litfuse Publicity Group.
Posted 8/29/12 at 3:54 PM | Audra Jennings
An Interview with Sibella Giorello, author of The Stars Shine Bright
Q: The Stars Shine Bright takes place at a race track. What drew you to that setting?
Here's one key for writing fiction: Don't squash the "weird idea." Sometimes that weird idea is your best friend.
Last year, the weird idea was gambling and horses. Aside from driving around Seattle in the rain, I don't gamble. And I'm not a "horse-girl." But this idea kept pulling at me. When I mentioned it to my husband, he said: "I got a guy."
Note: My husband is from New York City, he's "got a guy" for everything.
But this guy turned out to be a former jockey, who now owns part of a race horse. He spent weeks showing me the local track, including the back barns. He also introduced me to the track vet, who was invaluable. The vet told me to come on his rounds, starting at 5 A.M.
It was all a gift, because it's difficult for strangers to get inside barns at most big race track. Trainers and owners are wary -- justifiably so -- that somebody will steal their training secrets or use the information to sway the betting odds.
But with these two guys, doors opened.
And from there, the "weird idea" started to unfold like a map.
Q: Your books are known for in-depth research, especially with geology. Beside horses, what kind of research went into The Stars Shine Bright?
My kids have gotten used to piles and piles of books in my office. It looks like a cave with stalagmites made of paper.
Before starting each book I comb through Forensic Geology by Ray Murray. It's the definitive textbook on the subject, and a really great read even for the layman.
For this book specifically, I read several autobiographies of agents who went undercover, including The Last Undercover by Bob Hamer. Then a bunch of books on wagering, which were colorful and often funny. How odds are determined, what constitutes a long-shot. I still don't understand wagering entirely. It's like some intuitive calculus with greed as one of the variables.
But I also read a half dozen astronomy books, trying to understand something about space and getting to know constellations. I wasn't sure how this title -- The Stars Shine Bright -- fit into the story, but the more I read, the more clear it became.
Q: The Stars Shine Bright has Raleigh Harmon going undercover for the FBI. Why did that situation appeal to you as an author?
Raleigh Harmon's been undercover most of her adult life--she just wasn't getting paid for it.
Right out of college, she started working for the FBI as a forensic geologist. Then her father was murdered, and she chose to become a special agent. But she never told her mother about the FBI, because her mom's mentally ill. She suffers from paranoid delusions. Raleigh's only said she's a geologist. Which is true, but not totally true. That's why I mean when I say she's always been undercover.
But now the jig's up. In The Stars Shine Bright, her mother's been sent to the state mental hospital, and Raleigh's decided, finally, to be honest with her--right when the FBI tells her to start lying.
That whole double-life (or double-double-life) was a terrific challenge, especially since Raleigh is so blunt about everything else. Really fun to write about.
Q: After four Raleigh Harmon novels, did you approach this fifth book any differently?
Every book is written on my knees. I am not kidding.
They all begin with that "weird idea," followed by a bunch of imaginary friends who have personality issues and who all demand to join the adventure. And since it's crime fiction, somebody's going to die.
If that doesn't drop a writer to the floor, they're either dumb or bulletproof.
But there was one difference with this fifth book. Music. In particular Herb Alpert's "This Guy's in Love with You." I didn't know why that song was important until the book's second-to-last chapter.
Which brings me back to my first point: Every book is written on my knees. The unknown is just too overwhelming otherwise.
Q: So what's next for Raleigh Harmon?
I'm writing two new series.
One picks up where this book leaves off. As readers will discover, she has a whole new life after The Stars Shine Bright.
The other series is a prequel. Her life before she became a forensic geologist, before she joins the FBI, before her father dies.
I'm thrilled with both series, and I hope readers will be too.
Posted 8/27/12 at 7:01 PM | Audra Jennings
Austin Gutwein has a message to share with his fellow teens: God made each of you unique so that He can use you for a special purpose. In his book “Live to Give: Letting God Turn Your Talents into Miracles”, Gutwein challenges that regardless of age and talent, God can use you to make a difference. Though He could do it all Himself, God created humankind with a mission: to take care of His creation.
Q: You start off Live to Give talking about how God does not need us, but He wants to use us to help others and take care of His creations. It’s a profound thought. How did you come to this realization?
To be honest, just reading about the creation of the world in Genesis made me realize just how incredible God is. God is so amazingly powerful, and the Bible shows us this many times. It just hit me one day while reading through the Bible, God doesn't need me, or any of us for that matter, but He wants to use us. Sure God could solve all the world’s problems without having to think about it, but each of us were created for a purpose. We are made in the image of a perfect God and when we use what God has given us to make a difference, incredible things happen. FULL POST
Posted 8/27/12 at 4:06 PM | Audra Jennings
Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher intrigues and delights readerswith a story that explores the bonds of friendship, family and true love in the second installment of the Stoney Ridge Seasons, The Haven (Revell/August 2012). Fisher artfully weaves themes such as forgiveness and God’s mercy into an entertaining tale full of humor and romance. Fisher’s heroine even finds herself in the middle of a love triangle—Amish style!
The Haven features Sadie, the second of the Lapp sisters. When Sadie Lapp steps off the bus in Stoney Ridge after being in Ohio for the winter, she is faced with a decision that goes against her very essence. But, it's the only way she can think of to protect a loved one.
“The story is essentially about the blossoming of a shy young woman who sorely lacks self-confidence, yet has an intuitive sense of wisdom and common sense,” shares Fisher. “Others see these qualities in her, but she doesn’t realize the effect she has on people. Actually, that’s part of Sadie’s charm.”
Not one, but two young men become drawn in by Sadie’s charm. Schoolteacher Gideon Smucker has been crazy about Sadie since boyhood. But his response to her surprising decision undermines his own reputation--and his relationship with Sadie. On the other side is college student Will Stoltz who is spending the spring at the Lapp farm as a guard for a pair of nesting Peregrine Falcons—courtesy of the Lancaster County Game Warden. Will needs to get his life back on track, but his growing friendship with Sadie threatens his plans.
Readers will be drawn in as the lives of these three individuals intertwine, and then unravel as unexpected twists create ripples through the town of Stoney Ridge . . . and through Sadie's heart.
In addition to her gifted storytelling, Fisher has a unique insight into the Amish way of life that makes her stand out from her fellow authors. “My grandfather was raised Plain and I grew up interacting with my Old Order German Baptist relatives,” explains Fisher. “I was always intrigued by them—lovely, gentle, kind, faithful people. I admired their simple life—their homes, their gardens, their interest in things without the need to own them.”
Fisher’s family connections have opened doors to research and resources she may not have had access to otherwise. These opportunities have allowed her to become not only a credible author of Amish fiction, but of non-fiction as well. Several of her fiction and non-fiction releases have been award finalists.
Fisher hopes her readers see that you don’t have to “go Amish” to incorporate many of their principles—simplicity, living with less, appreciating nature, forgiving others more readily—into your life.
Posted 8/10/12 at 11:50 AM | Audra Jennings
Austin Gutwein has a message to share with his fellow teens: God made each of you unique so that He can use you for a special purpose. In his book “Live to Give: Letting God Turn Your Talents into Miracles” (Thomas Nelson/August 7, 2012/208 pages/ISBN 978-1400319930), Gutwein challenges that regardless of age and talent, God can use you to make a difference. Though He could do it all Himself, God created humankind with a mission: to take care of His creation.
At eighteen years old, Gutwein speaks with wisdom and has the experience to reinforce his message. When Austin was just nine years old, he watched a video that showed children in Africa who had lost their parents to AIDS. Gutwein realized these kids weren’t any different from him—except they were suffering. Feeling called to help, Austin took his love of basketball and decided to shoot free throws to raise money for orphans in Zambia. On World AIDS Day in 2004, he shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during his day at school. Through sponsorship from parents and friends, Austin raised over $3,000 that day to give hope to eight orphans in Zambia. FULL POST
Posted 8/3/12 at 5:20 PM | Audra Jennings
by Money Saving Mom Crystal Paine
1. Start Early
Don’t wait until the last minute to get your back-to-school shopping done. Not only is it stressful to wait until the last minute to shop, but you’ll also spend a lot more money.
Big store chains like Target and Walmart, drug stores like CVS and Walgreens, and office supply stores like Office Depot and Staples begin their back-to-school sales a number of weeks before school actually starts. Start picking up the best deals each week (like the $0.01 bargains at Staples or the free-after-rebate offers at Office Depot) and by the time when most people begin their back-to-school shopping, you will already have most of your shopping done -- and all for pennies on the dollar!
2. Buy Extras
When looking at the back-to-school sales, don’t just buy what’s on the required list from your local school. Buy extras of things like glue, crayons, paper, notebooks, markers, and other items you use on a regular basis around your home.
I look forward to the back-to-school deals each year so that I can stock up on office and craft supplies we use on a regular basis -- all at the cheapest prices I’ll be able to get all year. My philosophy: Why pay $1 or more for a bottle of glue in November, when you can stock up in August and only pay $0.25 per bottle of glue?
Plus, since many teachers have to pay for some of their classroom supplies out of pocket, consider buying extras of the great deals and donating them to your childrens’ classroom. Or, you could purchase them for local families who are struggling financially.
3. Price-Match at Walmart
Instead of going to 3-5 different stores each week to stock up on the amazing back-to-sale bargains, you can just stop by Walmart and price-match all of the local deals there. Just check the ads in your newspaper or online and make a list of local prices, take these to Walmart, and tell your cashier what local prices you’re price-matching your items to.
Walmart’s corporate coupon policy says you don’t need an ad in order to price-match. However, I usually bring the ads with me, just in case there’s any issue or confusion over what the price is.
Crystal Paine is a wife, mom of three, and the owner of MoneySavingMom.com. Check MoneySavingMom.com on Saturdays for the best back-to-school deals at Office Depot, Office Max, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Staples for each upcoming week.
Posted 7/31/12 at 3:16 PM | Audra Jennings
Popular suspense author Sibella Giorello gives her readers the mystery, intrigue and excitement they’ve been waiting for in The Stars Shine Bright (Thomas Nelson/July 17, 2012/ISBN: 978-1-59554-536-7). Known for her in depth research, the latest installment of Giorello’s critically acclaimed Raleigh Harmon series brings readers into the world of crime solving and forensics as well as the darker realms of horse racing and gambling.
The Stars Shine Bright explores the consequences of lying, especially those deceptions meant to protect someone you love. The story follows Raleigh Harmon, FBI Special Agent and forensic geologist, as she struggles to redeem her career and re-start her life following her suspension from the Bureau for bending its rules. Raleigh’s newest assignment sends her undercover to a thoroughbred horse track to uncover who’s fixing the races. But when horses start dying and her own life is threatened, Raleigh realizes something bigger and more sinister is ruining Emerald Meadows.
Living her double-existence undercover as a wealthy scion of the racing world, Raleigh’s never felt more alone. Or more pressure. Her fiancé wants them to begin their life together—now -- but she can’t make any contact with family during her assignment. Meanwhile her mother is confined to a state mental hospital, following a psychotic breakdown, and her one contact with the FBI is Special Agent Jack Stephanson, a guy runs the gamut from jerk to genuine friend at any given moment.
With just days left before the horse season ends, Raleigh races to stop the killing and find out who’s behind the deadly plot, while still trying to determine if Jack is friend or foe, and whether marrying her fiancé will make her life better—or worse.
Giorello puts a unique spin on the popular genre of forensics, focusing on forensic geology and mineralogy. With a background in geology, she shares with her heroine a belief that science and faith are not opposing studies but ideas that go hand-in-hand. “For evolution to work—for random chance to be the operating system in the universe—we should be witnessing tornadoes blasting through junk yards and building F-15 fighter jets. But we see the exact opposite. There’s a grand design to the natural world, and a design means there was a designer.”
Giorello credits her favorite mystery authors, such as John D. MacDonald, and growing up in a courtroom where her father served as judge as inspirations for writing crime fiction. Giorello’s also inspired by the Bible. “Whenever I say that, some people groan, but those 66 books are sheer poetry, and they cover the most crucial questions. Who is God? What's life all about? Why are we here and what's the plan—for individuals and for humanity?”
Giorello’s strong yet flawed heroine appeals not only to both male and female readers, but to Christian and mainstream audiences alike. As the Seattle Times once noted, “You don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy her books.” She hopes to bridge a gap between audiences. “There are readers who don't want to 'get inside the mind of a killer', and they don't want a lot of cursing and extramarital sex. At the same time, they want something gritty, something more than sugar-coated life. The Raleigh Harmon mysteries offer readers an intriguing puzzle with a smart and sensitive protagonist. She’s cool, honest and very real. She knows God exists, even as she manages to mess up her own life. "
Posted 7/31/12 at 12:58 PM | Audra Jennings
A story filled with beauty and wonder, Melanie Dobson's Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan (Summerside Press)transports readers to a magical place and time. The story begins in the 1890s at the end of the Gilded Age, a golden era of prosperity and growth. As the Gilded Age comes to a close, the kingdoms of many wealthy industrialists begin to collapse, including the once-wealthy Bissette family who has nearly lost its fortune.However, the Bissettes still own a home on the fashionable Mackinac Island, where they will spend one last summer in the hope of introducing their daughter Elena to a wealthy suitor. FULL POST
Posted 7/26/12 at 1:59 PM | Audra Jennings
An Interview with Cecil Murphey, Author of Making Sense When Life Doesn’t
Q: You open Making Sense When Life Doesn't with the concept that life is like cleaning the house. Explain what you mean by that.
We get the house cleaned and it looks quite nice. It doesn't stay that way. The tendency is to go back to our careless or hurried lifestyle and the same habits. Before long, the house is messy again.
That's how life works. We fret and struggle to clean up our current mess, assuming that once we accomplish that feat, it won't happen again. But it will. Unless we make changes, we'll go back to the same lifestyle.
Q: What are the three or four ways we can respond to crisis?
We always have choices even if we think we don't.
Q: It has been said that the only constant in life is change. Why is that such an important truth that we need to face?
We tend to think that if we can just push beyond this present, pervasive situation, life will be "normal" once again. Life doesn't work that way. Living means moving from one problem to the next.
If we accept that we'll always face opposition and grow in the process, we aren't overwhelmed when the next eruption of life takes place.
We learn to say, "This is how life works."
Q: You say you're not a person who likes to give advice, especially when people are hurting. Why not?
I suppose I like to give advice, but I avoid it. When people hurt or are going through difficult places, they don't need my advice. They need my support.
Through my own experiences, I realized people quickly gave me advice, quoted Bible verses, reminded me that God was with me, or told me how good life would be afterward. Their words didn't help; I already knew that. I also realized their words often came from their own discomfort and not from great wisdom.
What I needed—and what I want to offer others—is my concern. I don't have to give them answers.
Even if they ask questions, what they really need is for someone to show they care. I want to be with them while they figure out their own answers.
Q: Is it really okay for people to get angry or feel sorry for themselves when something bad happens? Is there a time limit for that kind of negative emotion?
Is it okay? It had better be because that's a natural reaction when life falls apart. That means we're aware of the seriousness of our situation. Not only is it all right, but it's important. Those feelings help us assess where we are. After that, we can begin to solve our issues.
Is there a time limit? We're all different. Some of us can hit the bottom and bounce up quickly. Others move slowly.
After the death of our son-in-law, it took our daughter three years before I felt she had decided to live again. (They had known each other since they were fourteen years old.)
Q: In one chapter, you say that only the strong can forgive. Isn’t that contrary to what society leads us to believe?
It's not natural or easy for most of us to admit our mistakes. But once we face our own shortcomings, we can accept others when they fail or don't live up to their highest standards.
We need a certain level of self-acceptance before we can forgive others. We don't have to wait for others to change, we can change and that means we can forgive.
Once I realized that God loves me, forgives me, and accepts me as I am—that took years for me to grasp inwardly—I understood the concept of grace. I know how it feels to be forgiven. I realized that Jesus Christ saw my motives and not just my actions. He knew my weaknesses and my blind spots. Because I know those things about myself and the overwhelming love of God, I can pass that grace or forgiveness on to others.
Too often I hear people say things like, "I don't forgive. I get even." Such an attitude weighs on our souls, and prevents our living in contentment.
Q: Explain what you mean by “letting go is vital to grabbing hold.”
Too many want to feel safe, so they grasp what they have. They want life to be the way it was (at least the good part) and they constantly look backward. If they're going to go forward, they have to release their past and say, "That's the way it was then. I'm now moving ahead."
When we do that, we're ready to grab hold and move forward. We can't appreciate what we have now if we constantly compare it to the way it used to be, especially if we've been forced to leave the old.
Q: One thing you had trouble understanding at first was the idea that we need the people who make our lives more difficult. Most of us likely have the same problem. Why do we need our enemies?
Our enemies force us to examine ourselves. They tell us things our good friends won't. Even if they exaggerate or are mistaken, we still need to ponder their accusations.
They push us to look at what I call the unexamined parts of our lives.
For more information about Cecil Murphey and his books, visit www.cecilmurphey.com.
Posted 7/12/12 at 9:51 PM | Audra Jennings
Not only does God love to create, He also loves His creation. This is the message author Melanie Dobson hopes that her readers gain from her latest release Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan (Summerside Press) that combines historical romance with her trademark element of mystery.
A story filled with beauty and wonder, Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan transports readers to a magical place and time. The story begins in the 1890s at the end of the Gilded Age, a golden era of prosperity and growth. As the Gilded Age comes to a close, the kingdoms of many wealthy industrialists begin to collapse, including the once-wealthy Bissette family who has nearly lost its fortune. However, the Bissettes still own a home on the fashionable Mackinac Island, where they will spend one last summer in the hope of introducing their daughter Elena to a wealthy suitor.
Not only is Elena is repulsed by the idea of marrying for money, she quickly grows tired of the extravagant balls and spends most evenings escaping back into Mackinac’s rugged forest. There she meets Chase, a handsome laborer who shares her love for the night sky. The two begin to meet in secret at an abandoned lighthouse where they discover a mysterious tattered diary.
As Elena falls in love with Chase, her mother relentlessly plots to introduce her to Chester Darrington, the island’s most eligible bachelor. While marriage to the elusive millionaire would solve the Bissettes’ financial woes, Elena is torn between duty to her family and true love.
The Love Finds You series from Summerside Press is a collection of novels that captures the flavor of towns and cities across the country with colorful histories. The towns become as much of a part of the stories as the characters themselves. Researching the towns in which her novels are set is the aspect of historical fiction that Dobson enjoys most. In writing Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan, she was able to explore the island that has intrigued her since her early years growing up in Ohio. “I've always been fascinated by Mackinac Island because I was told time seemed to stand still there,” explains Dobson. “From the moment I got off the boat, I could sense it was a magical place. There are no cars on the island so people ride bikes or horse-drawn carriages through the charming village and back into the forest. The island has been a popular vacation destination on the east coast since 1819, so it’s rich with fascinating history and lore.”
In the midst of writing this book, Dobson went to Haiti to help lead a retreat for the wives of Haitian pastors. Each member of their team spoke on a different name of God, and Dobson spoke about God as Mighty Creator. “As I researched God's passion for creating and the love He has for His creation, it was a joy for me to incorporate the wonder and beauty of the universe into this historical novel. I hope that readers leave with a sense of God's majesty on this beautiful island.”
For more about Melanie Dobson and her books, visit www.melaniedobson.com.
Posted 7/11/12 at 5:59 PM | Audra Jennings
An interview with Beth Guckenberger,
Author of Tales of the Not Forgotten
With the help of missionary and author Beth Guckenberger, parents and Sunday school teachers can introduce children to the wonderful things that God is accomplishing around the world through Tales of the Not Forgotten (Standard Publishing).
Q: Your previous books have worked in stories of your mission work to an adult audience? Why did you decide to write a book for a young audience this time?
It was a combination of motives. Being a mother, I see my own kids asking questions about the world and the issues they are aware of around the world. Also, as a missionary, we serve alongside so many families that travel here on a short-term trip. Those experiences provoke good discussions they take back home with them. I wanted a book that would spark those kinds of conversations of substance at the dinner table and in the minivan, but without having to travel. I had noticed a lot of missions’ material specifically geared towards kids was outdated, or a little cheesy, or primarily guilt-driven. I kept thinking while I was writing that I wanted a book that addressed was God was doing instead of what man wasn’t.
Q: When did you go on your first mission trip? What countries have you/do you do mission work in?
I went on my first missions’ trip when I was 16 to Costa Rica. I can remember at the end of the month, I wasn’t ready to come home!
My family and I have lived in Monterrey, Mexico for 15 years. Back2Back Ministries has sites in Jos, Nigeria, Hyderbaad, India, Mazatlan and Cancun, Mexico and a new work in Port au Prince, Haiti.
Q: What other resources are available to go along with Tales of the Not Forgotten? How are churches and other groups using the book and leader’s guide?
We have written a curriculum to accompany the book that is very user friendly. A parent, a Sunday school teacher, a VBS teacher, or a Christian school can use it. It has a guide, “If you have 15 minutes, if you have 30 minutes, if you have 60 minutes…” so you can pick and choose the activities depending if it’s a classroom lesson or an after dinner devotional. Many churches are already using it in regular classrooms, as a part of their summer programs, or missions’ emphasis months. Families are using it as their once a week devotional, homeschooling families are using it in their school day, there are many ways in which the activities can be incorporated into your already existing structure.
Q: Are you able to keep up with the children in the book to know how they are doing?
Since I live in Monterrey, I am absolutely able to keep up with Joel who lives here. The other three are in the lives of our staff who serve in those countries.
Q: What is the main thing you hope children will learn from your book?
That we trust them with these stories and many more like it. We believe in what their generation will learn and be called to and accomplish for the gospel around the world. Also, that they aren’t too young to be learning about, praying for and going as God’s ambassador.
Q: Tell us a little bit about Back2Back Ministries.
Our Mission: Back2Back Ministries is an international Christian non-profit organization that is dedicated to being a voice for orphans. We exist to love and care for orphans and impoverished children, by meeting their spiritual, physical, educational, emotional, and social needs that they may overcome their life circumstances and break free from the cycle of generational poverty.
Our Vision: We desire for every orphan and impoverished child to have the opportunity for success through “care for today and hope for tomorrow”. Our goal is that each child would experience restoration to a life of purpose in which they can become fulfilled and mature Christian adults.