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Series Spotlight: The Scottish Lowlands

28 Mar

Looking back on past posts, I have noticed I have included an inordinate amount of suspense/mystery.  So for you historical fans — this one is for you.

Liz Curtis Higgs is by far my favorite contemporary author.  I have taught her Bible studies, watched her videos and have read all but one of her fiction books.  My book club read the Lowlands of Scotland series several years ago.  Although not all the members are fans of historicals, Higgs series was a BIG hit.  If you haven’t read these books yet, you need to add them to the top of your TBR list.

Based on the Biblical story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah, the Lowlands of Scotland series sets the story in Scotland of the 18th century.  Rich in historical detail, the characters come alive for the reader.  Make sure all three books are available to you, because you will not want a break between reading them.

From Liz’s website:

Thorn In My Heart – book 1

Two brothers fight to claim one father’s blessing. Two sisters long to claim one man’s heart.

In the autumn of 1788, amid the moors and glens of the Scottish Lowlands, two brothers and two sisters each embark on a painful journey of discovery.

Jamie and Evan McKie both want their father Alec’s flocks and lands, yet only one brother will inherit Glentrool. Leana and Rose McBride both yearn to catch the eye of the same handsome lad, yet only one sister will be his bride.

A thorny love triangle emerges, plagued by lies and deception, jealousy and desire, betrayal and broken promises. Brimming with passion and drama, Thorn in My Heart brings the past to vibrant life, revealing spiritual truths that transcend time and penetrate the deepest places of the heart.

An Enduring Story

Perhaps this tale of two brothers and two sisters sounds vaguely familiar…and no wonder! The lives of Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel can be found in Genesis 25 and 27-29. After carefully studying those passages of Scripture, then thoroughly researching eighteenth-century Scotland, I wrote Thorn in My Heart, hoping I might demonstrate the timeless nature of God’s truth. May their ancient stories set in bonny Galloway ring true for you!


Fair Is The Rose — book 2

Can a sister’s love endure the ultimate betrayal?

A year has come and gone since Jamie McKie fled for his life and arrived at Auchengray in search of sanctuary and a bonny wife. Young Rose McBride, as fair as any lass in Scotland, dearly loves her handsome cousin, Jamie McKie—but so does her older sister, Leana.

Desperate to have Jamie all to herself, Rose is unwittingly aided by Lillias Brown, a wise woman—a wutch,some say—still keen on the old ways. Leana cherishes her newborn son and clings to her hard-won sense of peace by a slender thread of faith. Jamie, meanwhile, longs to return home to Glentrool, yet is thwarted at every turn by his uncle Lachlan’s deceitful ways.

All three points of this thorny triangle soon grow as sharp as a Scottish dirk. Och, such heartache! And yet, amid the conflicts, hope burns bright.


Whence Came A Prince — book 3

A Prodigal Hero Returns . . .

Och, what a finale! Jamie McKie’s long-awaited return to his ancestral home of Glentrool tests the depth of his courage, the strength of his sword, and the tenacity of his vow to honor the Almighty, no matter the cost.

To claim his inheritance, Jamie must first outwit his devious uncle, Lachlan, then confront the two men he fears most: Evan, the brother whose blessing he stole, and Alec, the father he once deceived.

Jamie faces a perilous journey of the heart as well: The two women in his life, Leana and Rose McBride, each stake a tender claim on his affections. Quiet, gentle Leana is the mother of his firstborn, Ian. And Rose, her spirited younger sister, is expecting his second child. Honor and duty prevail but not without heartache. By the last page, tears of sorrow will turn to tears of joy as the story ends on the happiest of notes.

Historical detail and ageless truth are woven into a colorful tartan of a tale in Whence Came a Prince. Early readers have proclaimed Prince “the best of the three.” When you read this finale, I hope you’ll agree!

 

About The Author:

In her best-selling series of Bad Girls of the Bible books, workbooks, and videos, Liz Curtis Higgs breathes new life into ancient tales about the most infamous—and intriguing—women in scriptural history, from Jezebel to Mary Magdalene. Biblically sound and cutting-edge fresh, these popular titles have helped more than one million women around the world experience God’s grace anew. Her best-selling historical novels, which transport the stories of Rebecca, Leah, Rachel, Dinah, Naomi, and Ruth to eighteenth-century Scotland, have also helped her readers view these familiar characters in a new light. And her nonfiction book, Embrace Grace, winner of a 2007 Retailers Choice Award, presents her message of hope in an engaging and personal way, speaking directly to the hearts of her readers.

A veteran speaker, Liz has presented more than 1,600 encouraging programs for audiences in all 50 states and 11 foreign countries:  South Africa, Indonesia, Germany, France, England, Canada, Thailand, Ecuador, Scotland, Portugal, and New Zealand. In 1995, she received the Council of Peers Award for Excellence from the National Speakers Association, becoming one of only 32 women in the world named to their CPAE-Speaker Hall of Fame.

Feature articles about Liz have appeared in more than 250 major newspapers and magazines across the country, as well as online withSalon.com, Beliefnet.com and Spirituality.com. She has also been interviewed on more than 600 radio and television stations, including guest appearances on PBS, A&E, MSNBC, NPR, TBN with Kirk Cameron, CBC Canada, BBC Radio Scotland, Rhema Broadcasting New Zealand, Radio Pulpit South Africa, LifeToday with James Robison, Focus on the FamilyJanet Parshall’s America, 100 Huntley Street and Midday Connection.

Liz is the author of twenty-seven books, with more than three million copies in print.

Her nonfiction books for women include:
• Bad Girls of the Bible
• Really Bad Girls of the Bible
• Unveiling Mary Magdalene
• Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible
• Rise and Shine
• Embrace Grace
• My Heart’s in the Lowlands

Her fiction includes two contemporary novels, one novella, and five historical novels:

• Mixed Signals

• Bookends
• Fine Print
• Thorn in My Heart
• Fair Is the Rose
• Whence Came a Prince
• Grace in Thine Eyes
• Here Burns My Candle

And she has written five books for young children :

• The Pumpkin Patch Parable
• The Parable of the Lily
• The Sunflower Parable
• The Pine Tree Parable
• Go Away, Dark Night

Her children’s Parable Series was awarded the ECPA Gold Medallion for Excellence in 1998, her Scottish historical novel, Whence Came a Prince, won the 2006 Christy Award for Best Historical Fiction, and Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible received a 2008 Retailers Choice Award.

For ten years Liz was a columnist for Today’s Christian Woman magazine. Articles by Liz have also appeared in Faith&Friends in Canada, Woman Alive in Great Britain, and Enhance in Australia. And more than 4,000 churches nationwide are using her video Bible study series, Loved by God.

On the personal side, Liz earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Bellarmine College, and is married to Bill Higgs, Ph.D., who serves as Director of Operations for her speaking and writing office. Liz and Bill enjoy their old Kentucky home—a nineteenth-century farmhouse in Louisville—and are the proud parents of Matthew, a college grad, and Lillian, a college senior.


Series Spotlight: Chick Lit & Mystery

13 Mar

Looking for some Chick Lit with a mysterious twist?  Try Mindy Starns Clark’s Smart Chick Mystery series starring household hints columnist Jo Tulip.

From Clark’s website:

This series features household hints expert and amateur sleuth Jo Tulip. In each of the three books in the series, Jo finds herself caught up in a murder investigation, where she must use her resourcefulness and unique knowledge of household hints to save the day. Fortunately, Jo has her faithful dog Chewie and her best-friend-since-childhood, Danny Watkins, at her side to help out. As the series progresses, however, Danny’s feelings for Jo begin to deepen into love. Does Jo feel the same in return? Will they live happily ever after—if they don’t get killed first?

The first book in the series is The Trouble with Tulip —  Meet Jo Tulip—definitely a smart chick. She’s a 21st-century female MacGyver who writes a helpful hints column and stumbles on dead bodies in her spare time.

Meet Danny Watkins, Jo’s best friend. He’s a talented photographer who longs to have his work recognized but finds himself taking prom photos and pet portraits instead.

Together, this mismatched duo works to solve a local murder—much to the dismay of the police, who were hoping for an open-and-shut case. But there’s something not quite right about the evidence. Jo knows it and Danny believes her.

Turns out, sleuthing brings out the best and the worst in their relationship. As Jo tries to solve the mystery in her neighborhood, she realizes she’s facing an even bigger mystery: What’s going on in her heart?
Enjoy the fun, funny, and inspirational Smart Chick Mystery series, and pick up a few helpful hints along with an exciting roller-coaster ride of suspense and mystery.

First Chapter

Other book in the series:

Blind Dates Can Be Murder — Blind dates give everyone the shivers…with or without a murder attached to them. Jo Tulip is a sassy single woman full of household hints and handy advice for every situation. Her first romantic outing in months is a blind date—okay, the Hall of Fame of Awful Blind Dates—but things go from bad to worse when the date drops dead and Jo finds herself smack in the middle of a murder investigation.


With the help of her best friend, Danny, and faith in God, Jo attempts to solve one exciting mystery while facing another: Why is love always so complicated?

Elementary, My Dear Watkins When someone tries to push Jo Tulip in front of a New York train, her ex-fiance, Bradford, suffers an injury while saving her-and the unintentional sleuth is thrown onto the tracks of a very personal mystery.


Jo’s boyfriend, Danny Watkins, is away in Paris, so she begins a solo investigation of her near-murder. What secret was Bradford about to share before he took the fall? And when Jo uncovers clues tied to Europe, can she and Danny work together in time to save her life?

Enjoy this final, thrilling conclusion to the Smart Chick Mystery series!

My Impressions:

I found the Smart Chick Mystery series to be a fun read.  The characters are funny, quirky and loveable.  There is an element of romance that runs throughout the series too.  Best of all the series appeals to all ages — from college girls to the more mature reader!   So give the series a try, you will definitely like it.  Starns website is fun too — contests, freebies, info on other books, etc.

About The Author (from her website):

Mindy Starns Clark is the bestselling author of the inspirational Million Dollar Mysteries, the Smart Chick Mysteries, and three standalone mysteries, as well as the nonfiction books The House That Cleans Itself and A Pocket Guide to Amish Life. Her novels include A Penny for Your ThoughtsDon’t Take Any Wooden NickelsA Dime a DozenA Quarter for a KissThe Buck Stops HereThe Trouble with TulipBlind Dates Can Be MurderElementary, My Dear WatkinsWhispers of the BayouShadows of Lancaster County, and Under the Cajun Moon. Her next mystery, Secrets of Harmony Grove, will be released in October 2010.
Mindy is also the author of numerous plays and musicals which have been performed all over the United States. She has written textbooks, articles, short stories, and more than 75 computer software manuals. Other writings appear in the anthologies What the Wind Picked Up (Inspirational Fiction), Death Knell V (Mystery Fiction), Divine Secrets of the Yahweh Sisterhood (Inspirational Anthology), and A Novel Idea (Inspirational Nonfiction).

A former singer and stand-up comedian, Mindy lives with her husband and two teenage daughters near Valley Forge, PA. She enjoys speaking to churches, civic groups, and libraries across the country. Her unique blend of humor and insight make her an audience favorite.

Series Spotlight: Coffee Cup Bible Studies

6 Mar

Are you looking for a great Bible study for yourself or a group of co-workers or friends?  Then check out Sandra Glahn’s Coffee Cup Bible Study series.  Each study is 5-6 weeks long and focuses on a book of the Bible or a passage of Scripture.  I have led several groups using these studies with great results.  The format is great — spiral bound books with the entire Scripture included — easy for toting to work or appointments or school pick up lines.  The back ground information is well-researched and the questions really help the reader to dive into the verses studied.

There are eight studies to choose from:  Frappe with Philippians, Solomon Latte, Espresso with Esther, Kona with Jonah, Java with Judges, Cappuccino with Colossians, Premium Roast with Ruth, and Mocha on The Mount — a little something for everyone.  An upcoming study is titled Sumatra with The Seven Churches.

My favorite study so far is Mocha on The Mount.  My group really enjoyed it, and better still they stuck with it!

Imagine yourself having coffee with Jesus. What would you ask Him? What might He ask you? In this study we’ll consider His words in the Sermon on the Mount and explore how our righteousness can actually “exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees.”  Yarright.  Actually, we’ll explore how Jesus set the bar so high that to enter the kingdom of heaven we realize our deep need for grace and for someone else to bear the penalty of our sin. That’s the only way we get that kind of righteousness—His righteousness credited to our account.

This and all the Coffee Cup Bible Series books contain weekday Bible study questions and weekend devotional thoughts for lighter reading. Designed for group or individual study.

So choose a study, call up the girls and dive in!

 

Sandra Glahn, Th.M., is adjunct professor, Christian Education and Pastoral Ministries, at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), her alma mater, where she serves as editor in chief of Kindred Spirit magazine. She has completed her course work for the Ph.D. degree in Aesthetic Studies (Arts and Humanities) at the University of Texas at Dallas. A former board member of theEvangelical Press Association, she served as the 2010 convention chair. She also serves on the women’s leadership team for bible.org.

Sandra belongs to the Christian Authors Network, serves as the fiction panelist for The Writers View, and is a contributing blogger at Tapestry, the bible.org women’s site.

Sandra leads retreats as well as seminars and workshops on marriage, intimacy, infertility, rest, writing, and a variety of biblical books. She and her husband, Gary, have been married for thirty-one years and have one daughter, who joined their family through adoption.


Series Spotlight: Cape Refuge

5 Mar

Terri Blackstock is one of my favorite authors.  She has several series, but my favorite is the Cape Refuge series featuring the fictional island off the Georgia Coast.  This 4 book series will give you many hours of enjoyment

Cape Refuge, Book 1 — Two bodies, one spear gun, and a murder suspect. But did Morgan Cleary’s husband really kill her parents?

A brutal double-murder has struck fear into the heart of the peaceful Cape Refuge community. The crime weapon belongs to the victims’ son-in-law, but Police Chief Cade remains unconvinced that his best friend took the lives of Thelma and Wade Owens. The Owens’ ministry, a halfway house, shelters individuals far more questionable than Jonathan Cleary. Now people are concerned that it may house a murderer who could strike again.

Shattered by her parents’ deaths, Morgan Cleary struggles to keep Hanover House running while her husband sits in jail. Her sister, Blair, is no help. Blair wants no part of her dead parents’ ministry or their Christian faith. She wants to sell the house — until her determined search to find the true killer uncovers some startling findings. A lethal race against time ensues for Morgan, Blair, and Cade, with far more than Hanover House at stake.

Excerpt

The other books in the series are:

Southern Storm — First a dead stranger. Now a missing police chief. Did Chief Cade run off to elope? Or has he met with foul play?

The body in the morgue had no ID. No one knew who he was or where he came from when he walked out in front of Chief Cade’s car. And when Cade learns that the victim had a recent gunshot wound, finding his identity becomes even more urgent.

Then Cade himself vanishes. Authorities discover the victim’s name, and learn that the person Cade was last seen is the dead man’s wife.

Speculation abounds about Cade’s relationship to the woman and his part in the victim’s death. His disappearance makes him look even more suspicious.

Blair Owens doesn’t believe the rumors. Something has happened to Cade, and she’s determined to find him. Saving Cade’s life will take faith in a God Blair has always doubted — but He may be her only hope.


River’s Edge — The man Lisa Jackson loved most may have betrayed her. Another used deception to manipulate her. But did one of them kill her?

Morgan’s miscarriage sends her into deep depression. She turns to her friend Lisa Jackson, who has suffered multiple miscarriages, and who truly understands Morgan’s grief.

But Lisa has suddenly disappeared, and her husband Ben is certain she’s met with foul play.

When a psychic’s tip leads police to Lisa’s body, Police Chief Cade is convinced the seer had inside knowledge. Then Cade learns of the letters Lisa received from a woman claiming to be Ben’s lover. Blair Owens–in her new role as newspaper reporter–begins searching for the woman who wrote the letters. Could Lisa’s death have anything to do with Ben’s affair?

Meanwhile, Morgan and her husband begin seeing Lisa’s fertility specialist. As Chief Cade hears of what the doctor is telling his friends, he begins to wonder if Lisa’s death could be tied to her long quest to bear a child. Does the clinic hold any clues?

Breaker’s Reef — A Cape Refuge teenager is dead . . .Then another body is found . . .Will Sadie Caruso be the next to die?

When a famous myster writer moves to Cape Refuge, ex-con Sheila Caruso–mother to Sadie and Caleb–is thrilled to get a job working for him. But when a teenage girl is found murdered, Sheila discovers that a scene in one of the eccentric writer’s novels matches the crime scene. Exactly. Then a second dead girl is discovered by Police Chief Cade and Blair Owens. And when this murder mirrors a scene in another of the writer’s books, Cade is drawn into a web of trickery and deceit. Shockingly, evidence turns up in Cade’s truck–evidence that points to Cade himself as the number one suspect!

Cade tries to clear his name, but when eighteen-year-old Sadie Caruso disappears, tensions mount to a fever pitch. Can Cade find the real killer before Sadie winds up dead? Is the author a demented killer or a hapless victim? And what does Sadie’s own mother have to do with the crimes? Secrets are uncovered while lessons are learned about the sins of the fathers being visited upon their children. Will the consequences of Sheila’s poor choices in life be fatal, or is there redemption and mercy for her and her children?

Terri Blackstock’s books have sold six million copies worldwide. Her suspense novels often debut at number one on the Christian fiction best-seller lists, and True Light, published last year, was number one of all Christian books—fiction and non-fiction. Blackstock has had twenty-five years of success as a novelist.

In 1994 Blackstock was writing for publishers such as HarperCollins, Harlequin and Silhouette, when a spiritual awakening drew her into the Christian market. Since that time, she’s written over thirty Christian titles, in addition to the thirty-two she had in the secular market. Her most recent books are the four in her acclaimed Restoration Series, which includes Last Light, Night Light, True Light and Dawn’s Light. She is also known for her popularNewpointe 911 and Cape Refuge Series.

In addition to her suspense novels, she has written a number of novels in the women’s fiction genre, including Covenant Child, which was chosen as one of the first Women of Faith novels, and her Seasons Series written with Beverly LaHaye, wife of Tim LaHaye.

Blackstock has won the Retailer’s Choice Award and has appeared on national television programs such as The 700 ClubHome Life, and At Home Live with Chuck and Jenny. She has been a guest on numerous radio programs across the country and the subject of countless articles. The story of her personal journey appears in books such as Touched By the Savior by Mike Yorkey, True Stories of Answered Prayer by Mike Nappa, Faces of Faith by John Hanna, and I Saw Him In Your Eyes by Ace Collins.


2 Birds/1 Stone — All Things Austen/Series Spotlight

27 Feb

This week I decided to combine All Things Austen and Series Spotlight by featuring Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen Mysteries.

Series Inspiration (from the author’s website):

Pregnancy, I firmly believe, is a hallucinatory state.

When I was five months gone with my first son, I began to neglect my dog. I had repeated car accidents. I left the groceries standing by the side of the curb, while I drove away toward home; and I even managed to hear voices.

One of them was Jane Austen’s.

I had been rereading Austen’s oeuvre, as I do nearly every winter. Her prose is peculiarly suited to the winter months: to sharp frost twitching the nose, reddened fingers, a sofa or chair pulled up to a good fire, a glass of sherry at hand. I love to read Austen when it rains – particularly if the book is Persuasion, her last and most autumnal novel. The damp seems to seep directly from Kellynch and the shingle of Lyme, from the foxed pages of an old volume, to pool around one’s feet as the chapters slip by.

This particular winter – February, 1994 – I had read Austen to such an extent that her syntax and oddities of speech had infiltrated my own. The third-person narrative voice of Austen’s novels is passive in its construction; and the dialogue always operates on about four different levels, replete with meaning. It is utterly at variance with the operative mode of our day – the sound-bite – which in its didactic simplicity, communicates nothing. I reveled in Austen’s speech. I adopted it as my own.

I was, I am convinced, channeling Jane.

I sat down to write what she told me.

And what emerged was Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, a fictional edition of Austen’s long-lost journal, recently unearthed in the cellar of a Georgian manor on the outskirts of Baltimore.

(I am fortunate enough to possess a beloved friend by the name of Philip Carroll, whose Georgian ancestor, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, built just such a manor. It is the perfect sort of place for an American cousin to deposit, and forget, Jane’s private diaries.)

I had studied Napoleonic France during my undergraduate years at Princeton; I now undertook to master its corollary, Regency England. I knew Austen’s books, Austen’s characters – but very little about Austen’s life.

I turned to the primary source on Jane: her collected correspondence; and to the excellent secondary sources on her life that fill the bookshelves of most libraries in the world. In the letters, however, I discovered the best character of all: Jane herself.

Jane AustenWhen Austen wrote to an intimate – most frequently her sister, Cassandra – she was Jane Unbound: caustic, funny, judgmental, dismissive. She possessed and dominated everyone she knew by subjecting them to her wit – and she delighted in the past time. This was a Jane remarkably equipped to investigate murder, a Jane who understood the power of motivation and the essence of the human heart. She delighted in the absurd, punctured the ridiculous, and demurred for no man. She was heroine to die for. [This watercolor of Jane was done by Cassandra in about 1810, when Jane was 35; this is the only known representation of Jane’s features. Credit: The World of Jane Austen by Nigel Nicolson.]

I wrote Scargrave Manor well before any of the films of Austen’s work –Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, or Mansfield Park – appeared on the screen. But the book’s publication in the spring of 1996 appeared perfectly timed to capitalize upon the rediscovery of Austen’s fiction. For this apparent prescience and monetary aim, I was at times castigated; and at others, ignored. With each subsequent novel – there are presently eight, with a ninth currently in the works – Jane’s audience, however, has grown.

I think that she would have been delighted. Novel-writing, in Austen’s day, was regarded as a frivolity, for the simple reason that it depicted life as it was actually lived – and because its primary readers were women. Mystery novels fill a similar gap in the twenty-first century: in stories of detection, we study conflict and its resolution; we reimpose order on a chaotic world. Had she lived, Jane would be writing detective novels today. How much better, then, to star in them?

My Impressions:

Barron’s series now features 10 books, with the newest being Jane And The Madness of Lord Byron. I still have 5 books to go; 3 are on my TBR shelves. Barron’s mysteries are evocative of the time and life of Jane Austen. The fictional Jane is very believable — especially in her relations with family and the problem of her spinsterhood. Through the course of her travels, Jane encounters people and places that could easily have been the inspiration of the real Jane’s novels.  And if you love the romance that Austen described in her books, you won’t be disappointed in fictional Jane’s romantic encounters.  While the books will satisfy an Austen junky, the mysteries will keep you reading into the night.  Check out The Jane Austen Mysteries — you’ll love them.

About The Author (also from her website):

Stephanie Barron was born Francine Stephanie Barron in Binghamton, NY in 1963, the last of six girls. Her father was a retired general in the Air Force, her mother a beautiful woman who loved to dance. The family spent their summers on Cape Cod, where two of the Barron girls now live with their families; Francine’s passion for Nantucket and the New England shoreline dates from her earliest memories. She grew up in Washington, D.C., and attended Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, a two hundred year-old Catholic school for girls that shares a wall with Georgetown University. Her father died of a heart attack during her freshman year.
In 1981, she started college at Princeton – one of the most formative experiences of her life. There she fenced for the club varsity team and learned to write news stories for The Daily Princetonian – a hobby that led to two part-time jobs as a journalist for The Miami Herald and The San Jose Mercury News. Francine majored in European History, studying Napoleonic France, and won an Arthur W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship in the Humanities in her senior year. But the course she remembers most vividly from her time at Princeton is “The Literature of Fact,” taught by John McPhee, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and staff writer for The New Yorker. John influenced Francine’s writing more than even she knows and certainly more than she is able to say. If there were an altar erected to the man in Colorado, she’d place offerings there daily. He’s her personal god of craft.

Francine spent three years at Stanford pursuing a doctorate in history; she failed to write her dissertation (on the Brazilian Bar Association under authoritarianism; can you blame her?) and left with a Masters. She applied to the CIA, spent a year temping in Northern Virginia while the FBI asked inconvenient questions of everyone she had ever known, passed a polygraph test on her twenty-sixth birthday, and was immediately thrown into the Career Trainee program: Boot Camp for the Agency’s Best and Brightest. Four years as an intelligence analyst at the CIA were profoundly fulfilling, the highlights being Francine’s work on the Counterterrorism Center’s investigation into the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, and sleeping on a horsehair mattress in a Spectre-era casino in the middle of Bratislava. Another peak moment was her chance to debrief ex-President George Bush in Houston in 1993. But what she remembers most about the place are the extraordinary intelligence and dedication of most of the staff – many of them women – many of whom cannot be named.

She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Fifteen books have followed, along with sundry children, dogs, and houses. When she’s not writing, she likes to ski, garden, needlepoint, and buy art. Her phone number is definitely unlisted.

You can also find out more info at Barron’s blog.  Click here.

Series Spotlight: Thoroughly Southern Mysteries

25 Feb

Patricia Sprinkle has created a wonderful cozy mystery series, Thoroughly Southern Mysteries, set in a fictional town in middle Georgia.  MacLaren Yarbrough is co-owner of the Yarbrough Feed, Seed and Nursery and, since her husband was shot, serves as the town magistrate. If you like small town fiction combined with a great mystery, this series is for you.

The first two books in the series are When Did We Lose Harriet? and But Why Shoot The Magistrate?. Both were published by Zondervan and may be difficult to find.  If you can locate these two, please start at the beginning.  Otherwise, the third, Who Invited The Dead Man?, would be a good place to start.

Whether handling customer calls at the Yarbrough’s Seed, Feed, and Nursery or close calls while solving crimes, sixty-something Southerner MacLaren Yarbrough knows how to charm her way through anything.


When a local man is found murdered at her husband’s birthday gala, MacLaren sweet-talks clues out of affluent matriarchs, shady drifters, and even a disgruntled parrot to uncover the roots of the crime.


MacLaren Yarbrough succeeds in meddling in the crimes committed in her small town by virtue of her role as magistrate and her relationships with both victims and suspects.  Being from middle Georgia myself, I love the hometown southern feel of her novels, complete with garden clubs, women’s investment clubs, Junior League, etc. As a small business owner, Mac also has to deal with that killer of small town businesses, the big box store.  The series is currently 10 books strong, so it offers many hours of enjoyment.  Check them out today.

About the author:

My folks are North Carolinians, but lived in West Virginia just long enough to have my sister and me while my preacher dad served coal field churches. When I was two we moved to Loray, North Carolina, just outside of Statesville. My little sister and I did a lot of things the children do in my novels The Remember Box and  Carley’s Song. Five years later we moved to Wilmington, where we played in the Atlantic and promised we’d swim to France–tomorrow. When I was twelve, we moved down the coast to Jacksonville, Florida. I decided in ninth grade to become a writer, so after Robert E. Lee High, I headed to Vassar College, which had a great creative writing program.


After college I returned to my folks, by then in Miami, to work long enough to earn money for a serious test of my writing commitment. With $750, one suitcase, two coats and a portable typewriter, I headed to a Scottish Highland village where, at that time, room and board cost $14 a week. They called me “the daft American” because I had come from Miami to spend the winter in the Highlands.

Before the money ran out, I had sold one poem, one article, one short story, and a one-act play. Fortified by that major impact on British literature, I moved to Atlanta and started a series of writing-related jobs. In the next few years I wrote for religious magazines like Guideposts and also wrote a good bit of educational materials on the subject of hunger. But no matter what I was writing, what I was reading was mostly mysteries.

When I met and married Bob, he looked over our budget and demanded, “Why don’t you write a mystery to pay for all the ones you buy?” I immediately knew I wanted to put a body in a building where I’d once worked. However, being over-endowed with the Protestant ethic, I wrote “important” things first and only wrote the mystery in my spare time, so my first mystery, Murder at Markham (reissued by Silver Dagger in 2001), took thirteen years to complete. It took even longer for me to learn that any writing which gives me pleasure is important, whether fiction or non-fiction.

Since 1988 I have written twenty mysteries, four novels, and five non-fiction books. I am grateful to my readers and editors for letting me do what I enjoy most in the world. Bob has concluded that writing is not a profession, it’s an obsession–my favorite vacation is to go to a place where somebody else fixes my meals and where I can write more than I do at home, without interruptions. Thanks, if you are one of the readers who keeps my fingers on the keys. I enjoy spending time with you at conferences, book clubs, and signing events.

Bob is still my encourager and faithful patron of the arts. During our forty years together we have lived in Atlanta (four times), Chicago (twice), St. Petersburg (twice), Mobile, and Miami. Along the way we had two sons. Barnabas is married to Emi and they have two little boys. I’ll be glat to tell you about my grandsons! Our younger son, David, lives in Brooklyn, where he is engaged to Jackie, optimizes web sites in New York City, plays drums and a mean electric piano, and composes beautiful music.

The rest of what you want to know, you’ll find in my books. The people are different, but the basic stories are true. I always figure, why make up anything I can remember instead?


Sprinkle also leads women’s seminars and weekend retreats.  For more information, click here. Or you can reach her at thoroughlysouthern@earthlink.net.

Series Spotlight: Smart-Talking Sleuths

15 Feb

I love a mystery!  And I love when the sleuth is a smart, smart-talking woman!  But I also want a book that doesn’t have profanity.  So where do I go when I want a detective ala Stephanie Plum without the F bombs?  —  Ruby Taylor from Sharon Dunn’s Ruby Taylor mystery series.  And just like Ms. Plum, Ruby goes through her share of cars!

 

The series begins with Romance Rustlers And Thunderbird Thieves — No one makes a fool of Ruby Taylor…or her friends. A tough cookie with an attitude, but also a soft heart, Ruby finds herself in a perilous search for a young man who disapppeared just days before he was to be married. Her sometimes harrowing yet often hilarious quest to right the wrongs of love pit her against helicopters, wild buffalo, and some desperate people who have every reason to want Ruby to fail.


 


Book 2 is Cow Crimes And The Mustang Menace — Investigating a series of bizarre ranch thefts, dealing with the expectations of a Betty Crocker mom, and entering a recipe in the Potato Festival cook-off, have Ruby Taylor in over her flaming red head. When an outsider turns up dead, it’ll take more than a steaming mocha expresso, and her unpredictable yet intriguing Wesley, to save Ruby from the danger.

 



The final chapter in the series is Sassy Cinderella And The Valiant Vigilante — When a professor at a local university dies, Ruby Taylor is hired to fill his shoes. Along with a frozen corpse and midnight intruders, this sassy Cinderella has to deal with lost love and a family that defines the word dysfunctional. Deadly university politics turn personal as Ruby works to straighten out a mystery that has more twists than a silly straw.

 

 

I loved this series and I bet you will too.

 

Sharon Dunn is the author of the Ruby Taylor mystery novels including Sassy Cinderella, which was voted Book of the Year by American Christian Fiction Writers. She earned a BA in television production and a master’s in history from Montana State University, where she currently tutors and instructs. Sharon lives with her husband of nineteen years, three children, three cats, and lots of dust bunnies.

Series Spotlight: Sassy Seniors!

8 Feb

Wow, that sounds condescending doesn’t it!  But although I am a few years shy of the discount, a lot of envelopes with AARP’s return address have shown up in my mailbox lately.  So to start off a new post category, I thought I would highlight books featuring smart, active seniors who have not given up on life and adventure.  Because that is how it really is once you’ve passed that golden mark — a life still very much to be lived!

 

 

Charlene Baumbich

Dearest Dorothy series by Charlene Baumbich.

From the publisher: It would be easy to say “Welcome to Partonville.” But a far better orientation for this little circle-the-square town in southern Illinois is coming up the road. See that dust cloud yonder? That’s Dorothy; or, as folks around here are fond of saying, Dearest Dorothy, coming into town from her beloved Crooked Creek Farm. Dorothy Wetstra—that’s like “wet straw,” only without the “w” at the end—is an eighty-seven-year-old oldster (as she calls herself) who serves as Partonville’s ambassador to the rest of the world. You might want to take a step away from the curb—once Dorothy climbs behind the wheel of her 1976 Lincoln, The Tank, the only thing that can stop her is a brick wall. Or maybe a garbage truck. Anyway, armed with her faith in The Big Guy (the one upstairs, as it were) and a positive attitude seasoned by her nearly ninety years in this small town, Dorothy is a walking wonder. Retired bandleader, genuine firecracker, and perpetual cheerleader, Dorothy is brimming with life. And, oh, what a life.


The Dearest Dorothy series is set in a small town in southern Illinois. Reminiscent of Jan Karon’s Mitford, Partonville is filled with quirky, yet real characters.  Dorothy Wetstra is the glue that keeps the town together. Comprised of 6 novels, the series begins with Dearest Dorothy, Are We There Yet?

 

 

 

 

 

Lorena McCourtney

Ivy Malone Mysteries by Lorena McCourtney

From the back cover:  She’s not your average crime fighter! Meet Ivy Malone, an inconspicuous older woman who has a mutant curiosity gene that often lands her in trouble. Unlike most women her age, she snoops and pries her gray-haired self into one hilarious escapade after another. So when vandals romp through the local cemetery, Ivy can’t help but put her snooping eyes to work as she launches her own unofficial investigation. Despite her unconventional sleuthing, Ivy soon becomes discouraged by her failure to turn up any solid clues. And after Ivy witnesses something ominous and unexplained, she can’t resist putting her investigative powers to work again. Even the authorities’ attempts to keep her out of danger and her nosy neighbor’s match-making schemes can’t slow Ivy down. But will the determination that fuels this persistent, spunky sleuth threaten her very safety?


Ivy Malone proves that being a senior doesn’t mean sitting in one place! On the road in an RV, evading killers, Ivy manages to stumble on and solve mysteries as she travels cross country.  She even encounters a little romance along the way.  The 4 book series starts with Invisible.  (If you have a kindle, you can get it free!  Click here.)

 

 

 

 

 

McCourtney has another mystery series featuring a 60-ish character — the Andi McConnell series.

 

From the author’s website:  It’s been a bad week for Andi McConnell, and now, worst of all, is the Dead Body in her newly acquired limousine. Andi has never had any interest in being a sleuth, but, with her own name high on the list of suspects, she knows she’d better do something before the murder is pinned on her.

Enter Keegan “Fitz” Fitzpatrick, former TV detective, very interested in the case – and in Andi. As they work together to solve the crime, one big question becomes vitally important: are those windows in her limo really bulletproof?

YOUR CHARIOT AWAITS was named the Mystery “Book of the Year” by the American Christian Fiction Writers in 2008. It was also a finalist in the 2008 Daphne du Maurier Mystery/Suspense awards.

 

Just three series featuring sassy seniors, but a great start for reading adventure.  Be sure to check them out.