Audra Jennings is a publicist with Litfuse Publicity Group.
Posted 9/19/12 at 4:56 PM | Audra Jennings
Combining a flair for romance with exceptional research and attention to detail, Sarah Sundin vividly brings to life the perilous challenges of World War II aviation and nursing in her latest release. With Every Letter (Revell) launches Sundin’s new Wings of the Nightingale series in which three WWII flight nurses will discover friendship, love, and peril in the skies and on the shores of the Mediterranean.
With Every Letter takes place in the fall of 1942, and follows the events of the war, including Operation Torch (the Allied landings in North Africa on November 8). Sundin shares more about the background and research behind With Every Letter in the interview below.
Q: All of the books in your last series, and your new release, With Every Letter, are set in the World War II era. What draws you to writing books set during the war?
Not only do I love the clothes, uniforms, and music, but there’s an inexhaustible supply of dramatic stories and settings—a novelist’s dream. This was a time when ordinary men had to do extraordinary things, and when women explored non-traditional roles—while remaining ladies. Plus, I’ve always been fond of that generation. As a pharmacy resident at a VA hospital, I had the honor of caring for many World War II veterans. As a rule, they were cheerful, kind, and chivalrous, with the solid strength of someone who has been tested—and passed. What more could you want in a hero?
Q: You went to school and trained to be a pharmacist, in fact, that is still your profession. How did you make the leap to author?
I certainly never planned a writing career. In 2000, I was working on-call as a hospital pharmacist and staying home with our three young children, when I had a dream with such intriguing characters that I felt compelled to write their story. That first novel will never be published, nor should it, but it got me started.
However, my pharmacy background has helped me write the Wings of the Nightingale series with its focus on nurses and medical care. Although medications have changed significantly in the past seventy years, the basic concepts remain. Also the hero of the second book in the series, On Distant Shores (June 2013), is an Army pharmacist, so I had fun with that.
Q: Do you enjoy the research process? What were some of the unique aspects of the research for this story?
I adore research. Often I have to force myself to stop and actually write the story. With Every Letter presented unique research challenges. The story is very mobile, since Tom builds airfields just behind the front lines, and Mellie flies into those airfields. There are twenty-five separate settings in With Every Letter, from Kentucky to Liverpool to Algiers to Sicily.
Also, both flight nursing and aviation engineering appealed to me because they don’t get much attention. On the flip side, few research materials are available. I had to do some sleuthing, which led to some fun moments. An obscure website led me to the grandson of an aviation engineer who had served in North Africa. The man sent me a box full of materials—copies of his handwritten narrative, personal letters to his little daughter, and photographs. Priceless!
Q: How historically accurate are your novels (locations and events)? Are the stories based on real people?
I try to make my stories as historically accurate as possible. With Every Letter follows the US Army from the landings in North Africa in November 1942 through the campaign in Sicily in the summer of 1943. The 802nd Medical Air Evacuation Transport Squadron was a real unit that flew the first official air evacuation flights, but all characters and stories are fictional. Tom’s unit is based as closely as possible on the actual 809th Engineer Aviation Battalion. However, the highly mobile nature of this story and my desire to place Tom and Mellie together at certain places and times created a plot nightmare. To save myself hours of therapy, I created the fictional 908th Engineer Aviation Battalion.
Q: Is there a spiritual lesson or analogy within the story you hope readers will walk away with?
Mellie has always seen herself as merciful as she cares for the sick and wounded. But story events stretch her understanding of mercy. Both Tom and Mellie learn new depths to the meaning of forgiveness.
Also, at the start of the story, both Tom and Mellie are uncomfortable in their own skins. They both have to learn to see themselves as God sees them and grow into the people God wants them to be.
Posted 9/7/12 at 8:25 PM | Audra Jennings
Combining a flair for romance with exceptional research and attention to detail, Sarah Sundin vividly brings to life the perilous challenges of World War II aviation and nursing in her latest release. With Every Letter (Revell, September 1, 2012) launches Sundin’s new Wings of the Nightingale series in which three WWII flight nurses will discover friendship, love, and peril in the skies and on the shores of the Mediterranean.
In With Every Letter, readers meet Lt. Mellie Blake who is looking forward to her training as a flight nurse. What she’s not as enthusiastic about is writing a letter to a man she’s never met as a part of a morale-building program, even if it is anonymous. The recipient of Mellie’s letters is Lt. Tom MacGilliver, an officer stationed in North Africa. Tom welcomes the idea of anonymous correspondence, especially since he’s been trying to escape his infamous name and family history for years.
With every letter written back and forth across the Atlantic, Tom and Mellie get to know one another and develop a unique friendship despite not knowing the other’s true identity. Each has always felt uncomfortable in his/her own skin, but the letters allow them to shed some of their insecurities. However, when both are transferred to Algeria, the two are poised to meet face-to-face for the first time. Will they overcome their fears and reveal who they are, or will their future be held hostage by their pasts?
In addition to the war raging around them, both Tom and Mellie face the inward battle of learning to see themselves as God sees them and grow into the people God wants them to be. Mellie has always seen herself as merciful as she cares for the sick and wounded, but the brutal events surrounding her stretch her understanding of mercy. Both Tom and Mellie also learn new depths of the true meaning of forgiveness.
With the Wings of the Nightingale Series, Sundin is able to uniquely combine her affinity for the WWII era with her medical knowledge and training as a pharmacist. “Although medications have changed significantly in the past seventy years, the basic concepts remain,” explains Sundin. When asked about what draws her to writing about this particular period of time, she shares, “Not only do I love the clothes, uniforms, and music, but there’s an inexhaustible supply of dramatic stories and settings—a novelist’s dream. This was a time when ordinary men had to do extraordinary things, and when women explored non-traditional roles—while remaining ladies. As a pharmacy resident at a VA hospital, I had the honor of caring for many World War II veterans. As a rule, they were cheerful, kind, and chivalrous, with the solid strength of someone who has been tested—and passed. What more could you want in a hero?”
The book launch promotion for With Every Letter will include a Kindle Fire social media giveaway. Readers and fans will also be able to join Sundin in a live chat on Facebook on September 27. During the Facebook party, prizes will include copies of With Every Letter, Mellie’s First Aid Kits made from vintage fabrics and loaded with Starbucks Via Coffee, and gift certificates. Watch Sarah Sundin’s Facebook page for more details.
Posted 9/6/12 at 3:40 PM | Audra Jennings
Thomas Nelson Author and Hoops of Hope founder, Austin Gutwein, to host September 6 online event to focusing on themes his latest release, Live to Give.
On September 6 at 8 PM EDT, Austin Gutwein will be hosting a live Facebook web event to encourage participants to conquer their fears and use their talents to help others. The webcast will center on the themes Gutwein writes about in his latest release “Live to Give: Letting God Turn Your Talents into Miracles” (Thomas Nelson/August, 2012). At the conclusion of the webcast, the winners of a month-long social media fueled “Get and Give” contest will be announced, including the winner of a Kindle Fire and $250 donated to the winner’s charity of choice. FULL POST
Posted 9/5/12 at 2:03 PM | Audra Jennings
This fall, Kregel Publications is releasing new books for women, addressing issues that are often too painful and difficult to discuss. Topics such as miscarriage, abortion and abuse are sadly prevalent in the lives of so many women, but often times women keep silent out of shame, hurt, or grief and find themselves unable to talk to anyone, even among trusted friends and their sisters in Christ. These women are desperately seeking support, understanding and healing, but often don’t know where to turn.
“Kregel Publications has always strived to develop and distribute books that will help individuals grow in their personal relationship with Christ. Most recently, we’ve focused on providing quality resources on topics that are all too common, but very often ignored by both the reader and the church at large,” explains Cat Hoort, Marketing and Publicity Manager for Kregel Publications. “Abuse, abortion, and miscarriage, for example, are common challenges for even the most committed Christian. Yet fear, embarrassment, or a lack of knowledge on these issues has kept people silent far too long.”
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. "