Posted in Christian

GIVEAWAY and Review: Whole Heart CD by Passion

cd

About Album

• Info about Passion

• “Rooted out of the Passion movement, we are committed to leading people towards renewed intimacy with God and fresh encounters of worship. Passion is more than music. More than events. Passion is a generation living for His name.”

• WHOLE HEART is the new live album from Passion—captured at Passion Conference 2018 in Atlanta, GA.

• Passion Conference 2018 was a beautiful worship experience, and the live album captures each powerful moment, allowing those who were not in attendance to experience it.

• Featuring Passion Artists: Kristian Stanfill, Melodie Malone, Sean Curran, Matt Redman, Crowder.

Buy Link: *This will be updated and active on 2/23 when the digital album release

Bio:
Rooted out of the Passion movement, Passion music is committed to leading people towards renewed intimacy with God and fresh encounters of worship. You can listen to Passion music here.

My Review: I often find myself loving a song on Pandora only to find out that it’s from a Passion cd, so when I had the opportunity to review a new Passion cd, I jumped on the chance. I must say, Whole Heart was everything I expected it to be. Plus it has one of my favorite songs, Great Are You Lord.
There’s a great melody is this collection of songs, making it easy for me to be swept away in the music. But more than a smooth tune is the truth they bring out. Here’s a sampling:

~ “You won’t share Your glory.” (Ever Almighty)

~ “If more of You means less of me, take everything.” (More Like Jesus)

~ “It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to You only.” (Great Are You Lord)

I highly recommend it to those who enjoy the praise and worship sound. Every song is designed to bring you back to your first love.
And it’s for that very reason that I decided to offer a giveaway on Valentine’s Day.

Giveaway Info: To enter, comment below with one of your favorite Bible verses featuring love. And don’t forget to add your email address. I’ll randomly select a winner on Monday morning (Feb. 19, 2018).

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification. *Continental U.S. residents only.

Advertisements
Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Until We Find Home by Cathy Gohlke

197For American Claire Stewart, joining the French Resistance sounded as romantic as the storylines she hopes will one day grace the novels she wants to write. But when she finds herself stranded on English shores, with five French Jewish children she smuggled across the channel before Nazis stormed Paris, reality feels more akin to fear.

With nowhere to go, Claire throws herself on the mercy of an estranged aunt, begging Lady Miranda Langford to take the children into her magnificent estate. Heavily weighted with grief of her own, Miranda reluctantly agrees . . . if Claire will stay to help. Though desperate to return to France and the man she loves, Claire has few options. But her tumultuous upbringing—spent in the refuge of novels with fictional friends—has ill-prepared her for the daily dramas of raising children, or for the way David Campbell, a fellow American boarder, challenges her notions of love. Nor could she foresee how the tentacles of war will invade their quiet haven, threatening all who have come to call Bluebell Wood home and risking the only family she’s ever known.

Set in England’s lush and storied Lake District in the early days of World War II, and featuring cameos from beloved literary icons Beatrix Potter and C. S. Lewis, Until We Find Home is an unforgettable portrait of life on the British home front, challenging us to remember that bravery and family come in many forms.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed the setting and historic angle Gohlke had for this novel. It was more than the beautiful town and descriptions. There was also the sprinkling of classic children literature. It brought a unique spin to the novel.
The Jewish refugees in England was another unique spin. I’ve read a lot of WWII fiction over the years, but this wasn’t a subject I’ve read about before. Gohlke really brings to life some of the hardships the children and their caretakers felt.
Sadly, I had some trouble connecting with the characters at times. The plot is spread over a long period of time and it caused me to lose touch with the characters since I sometimes felt like they were progressing without me.
Gohlke weaves all of this together with a sturdy message of faith and salvation. There is one point I feel obligated to make. She brought a lot of truth to the table, and I’m very grateful for that. But the actual moment of conversion was one that left me feeling uncomfortable. The character had enough knowledge beforehand to be saved, and she certainly showed fruit of conversion afterward. But the moment of surrender took place within a dream, and that’s the part that made me uncomfortable. That moment needs to be a conscious thought.
Overall, this is an enjoyable read that will likely send you to a new part of England with a new knowledge of the WWII home front.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving Until We Find Home 4 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy WWII fiction or Christian Historical Fiction.

~ I received a copy from Tyndale House. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

Christian Fiction Cover Wars: Valentine’s Edition

We’re long overdue for another round of Cover Wars! I’ll be pairing off two lovely covers. Vote for your favorites in the comments. In about a week, I’ll update the post to reveal the winners.

Red Dress: It wouldn’t be Valentine’s without the color red. Which cover featuring a red dress is your favorite?

 

Historic Couple: Two memorable couples, but which cover is your favorite?

 

Contemporary Couple: Another set of sweethearts. Which cover do you prefer?

 

Love: I searched far and wide for books with Love in the title. Which cover is your favorite?

 

Heart: Here are a couple books with Heart in the title. But which makes your heart sing?

 

Hugs and Kisses: What’s romance without a little Holding and Kissing? Which one of these covers is your favorite?

 

I never make these cover wars easy. But it’s time for us both to pick our favorites. These are mine: 
Red Dress: It seems near impossible to choose between the two…except The Lightkeeper’s Ball has a background that I’m smitten with.
Historic Couple: I’m going to go with Unrivaled. I love her dress and their expressions in the pic.
Contemporary Couple: There’s something so breathtakingly beautiful about Write Me Home that I can’t help but fall in love with.
Love: This was a hard one for me to choose between. I love the tiles and the muted coloring. But I also love the colors and sunspots. Hmmm I’m going to go with You’re Gonna Love Me. 
Heart: I super love both, but I’m going to choose A Heart Most Certain. LOVE the colors, dress, and backdrop on this one.
Hugs and Kisses: Just a Kiss. Both are fantastic and I love the bold colors on Tagg’s but they captured something ultra special in Hunter’s pic.

WINNERS ANNOUNCED:
Red Dress: The Lightkeeper’s Ball by Colleen Coble
Historic Couple: Tie
Contemporary Couple: Write Me Home by Crystal Walton
Love: You’re Gonna Love Me by Robin Lee Hatcher
Heart: A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears
Hugs and Kisses: Just a Kiss by Denise Hunter

**If you’re coming to the party later, feel free to share your opinions, but I’ll no longer be adjusting the votes. 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Reviews: January’s Backlist, 3 in 1 Review

One of my reading goals for 2018 is to cover more ground on the backlist. So many of my favorite authors have several previously published books that I haven’t had time for. I’m hoping to change that this year.

I decided to try something a little different. Instead of multiple posts, I’m going to collect the backlist titles and review them all at once. So here we go! These are the titles I read in January. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to all three books in audio as well and will rate the audio version.
*All links will take you to Goodreads.

198A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears:
Everett Cline will never humiliate himself by seeking a mail-order bride. Not again. He’s already been jilted by three mail-order brides and figures a wife just isn’t in his future. However, a well-meaning neighbor hasn’t given up on seeing him settled, so she goes behind his back to bring yet another woman to town for him.

Julia Lockwood has never been anything more than a pretty pawn for her father or a business acquisition for her former fiance. A mail-order marriage in faraway Kansas is a last resort, but she’ll do anything to leave her life in Massachusetts and the heartbreak she’s experienced there.

Although Everett doesn’t see how a beautiful, cultured woman like Julia could be happy sharing his simple life, he could really use a helpmate on his homestead. Determined to prove she’s more than just a pretty face, Julia agrees to a marriage in name only. Faced with the harsh realities of life on the prairie and hesitant to explore the tentative feelings growing between them, can Everett and Julia ever let each other in long enough to fall in love?

My Review: I’ve always wanted to come back to this series and I’m glad I finally did. This was a classic mail-order bride story. I enjoyed it and look forward to finishing the series.
I thought Jagears did a lovely job with the gospel presentation throughout the novel.
Rating: 4 stars
Audio Version: 4 out of 5 stars.

217Love on the Line by Deanne Gist:
In 1904 Texas Ranger Luke Palmer arrives in Brenham, Texas, with one goal–to capture the gang of outlaws led by Frank Comer. Undercover as a telephone repairman, he uses his days on the range to search, not realizing there’s another pair of eyes watching him. 

Georgie Gail, switchboard operator and birder, heads out on a birding expedition, but instead of sighting a painted bunting, her opera glasses capture her telephone man, armed and far away from telephone lines. Palmer is forced to take this alluring troublemaker into his confidence and unwittingly puts her in harm’s way. The closer he comes to the gang, the further she works her way into his heart–and into trouble. Soon it’s more than just love that’s on the line.

My Review: From page one, I was hooked and couldn’t put this one down!! I loved the mystery and I especially loved the ending. There was comedy, romance, tension,  and plot twists all rolled into the climax. It was great! The romance was really pretty clean, however, the characters tended to view each other in a lustful mindset most of the time. It’s not my preference, so I’ll just leave that note there for anyone who might appreciate the heads up. The kissing scenes didn’t go far at all, though.
Rating: 5 stars
Audio Version: 5 stars

218Until the Dawn by Elizabeth Camden: A volunteer for the newly established Weather Bureau, Sophie van Riijn needs access to the highest spot in her village to report the most accurate readings. Fascinated by Dierenpark, an abandoned mansion high atop a windswept cliff in the Hudson River Valley, Sophie knows no better option despite a lack of permission from the absent owners.

The first Vandermark to return to the area in sixty years, Quentin intends to put an end to the shadowy rumors about the property that has brought nothing but trouble upon his family. Ready to tear down the mansion, he is furious to discover a local woman has been trespassing on his land.

Instantly at odds, Quentin and Sophie find common ground when she is the only one who can reach his troubled son. There’s a light within Sophie that Quentin has never known, and a small spark of the hope that left him years ago begins to grow. But when the secrets of Dierenpark and the Vandermark family history are no longer content to stay in the past, will tragedy triumph or can their tenuous hope prevail?

My Review: I LOVED THIS BOOK! The family mystery was interesting, and so was the history of the Weather Bureau. But my favorite was the characters themselves. I can’t help but love the Grinch and Scrooge. I suppose there’s something about watching the cold and hateful grow warm and loving. I thoroughly enjoyed how Quentin and Sophie’s personalities played off of each other. And Sophie was a beautiful example of how a Christian ought to treat others. I would have liked for Camden to have been more clear about our worth being found in Christ and our worthiness/goodness being HIS imparted righteousness and the power of the Holy Spirit. Because Quentin starts out as an atheist there was a strong and sturdy thread about faith throughout the entire novel. I appreciated her work here, but it often felt like she started and stopped at God’s role in creation. There was room for her to be a bit more clear in Jesus’s role in our salvation and the Spirit’s role in sanctification.
Rating: 5 stars
Audio Version: 5 stars

Have you read any of these yet? Will you be adding any to your TBR list? 

Posted in About the Book

The Making of a Book Cover: Part 3: Finalizing the Cover and Runner-up Gallery

7Over the last two weeks, I broke down the process of a single book cover and shared some special moments behind my photoshoots. Today, I want to fill you in on what happens after the photoshoot.

The first step is to view the pictures. I’ve taken anywhere from 161 pictures to over 300 in a single photoshoot. After thumbing through them all, I sort through them again but this time I pull out anything that jumps out at me.
Then I sort through those pictures and try to narrow them down to one favorite pic per pose. If I can’t choose only one, I don’t stress it yet.
Taking the thinner selection, I thumb through them again and force myself to weed them down.

The Polls are Open: Now that I have a smaller selection, I share these with other people. I’ve shared them openly here on the blog in the past, but have recently moved the voting process to my Street Team as an added perk for them. I ask for their top 3 favorites and the reason why they chose them. It’s always interesting to hear why certain pictures draw people to them. I’ve received some very insightful answers over the years and it always helps me narrow down my search.
From there, I take the top picks and add the cover art to them. I typically have a personal favorite that didn’t get much love during the voting process and I always pass it through this round. It’s been surprising in the past to see what happens. Sometimes the overlooked one makes a great comeback and sometimes it continues to get ignored.
With the cover art (title, name, and series logo) in place, I ask them to vote for their favorite and to tell me why.
I take into consideration which pictures are more popular with the crowd, the reasons why certain pictures are drawing them in, or why some pictures are turning people away, and then which picture speaks the most to me.

Choosing the Winning Picture: I enlarge the photos and stare at them for hours. Lol No, I’m serious!! There’s a constant war of “This one? or That one?” going on in my brain. I keep flipping through them. Often times, I pull aside a close friend and make her thumb through them with me. Together, we pick apart the pros and cons for each and narrow them down even further. By the time I’m sitting with the final 2 or 3, I’m really about to lose my mind. It’s a big decision and I’m the one in charge of pulling the plug. The longer I scroll through them (keeping in mind the voters’ favorite and comments along with my pros and cons), the more obvious the winner becomes. Before you know it, I can’t keep that dumb smile off my face whenever I see my cover. And that’s when I know. Lol
Sometimes the popular vote wins. Sometimes the crowd persuades me to see something special in a picture that wasn’t my original favorite. But sometimes I step out on my own and select a picture that I feel best fits the story even though it didn’t win the popular vote. And you’d think the work would be over, but it’s just beginning . . .

Finalizing Cover Art: Once I have a final picture, the time comes to finalize the cover art. I know that I had mentioned that the cover art was already on the picture. But that was more of a draft. Now it’s time to get picky and make sure every detail is perfect. Unless you’ve done this sort of work, you’d be amazed at how tedious this process can be. Professionals that don’t seek outside opinion may make faster work of it, but since I work with the wise counsel of others it takes a TON of back and forth ideas before the cover art is finalized. Here’s a quick rundown of what it looks like:
Am I using the best font for the title? Or should I choose this one? Or this one? How about this one?
Is the title large enough? Too large?
Is the title in the best position? Or should I move it?
Am I using the right color of font on the title? Do I need a shadow?
Is my name in the right color?
Should I move my name here instead?
Is the series logo large enough? Too large?
How do the fonts look together? If I change this one should I change this one? How about this combination?
Color selections on the series logo: right or wrong? How about this change? Or this one? Does the picture need a filter?
Are there any sections of the picture that are too dark or too light or too blurry? Can it be fixed? Or over fixed?

After asking myself close to 600 questions in a matter of 24 hours, I finally have a cover I can be proud of. Again, this may not be every author’s experience. But this is mine. I hope you have enjoyed the sneak peek.
Was there any part of the process that surprised you?

For a special treat, I’m going to share the runner-ups and the reason each winning photo won. Please remember that ALL photos fall under copyright law and cannot be used for any reason outside of promoting the work of A.M. Heath.

1

 

Where Can I Flee: When it came down to the final two, the question was “Should he look down or up?” One of the other favorites was the shot I took from the other side of the creek. At the end of the day, the “looking up” pose won. There’s a sense of contemplation on Frank’s face and that’s perfect for the story! But I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I flipped back and forth between the up and down pose before selecting it.

2

 

In the Shadow of Thy Wings: The runner-up photos each captured that private moment where Sally is reading a letter from Frank. I didn’t go with the popular vote on this one but stepped out with my own selection based on the unique lighting and the building in the background that sets up the image that Sally had slipped away from her busy life to enjoy this particular letter.

3

 

Out of the Ashes: Again it came down to head up or down. Some of the other favorites included standing poses like this one against the tree. But in the end, the squatting pose best fit the rest of the series and the emotion and angle of the background was a winner. I can’t remember where the popular vote fell with this one.

4

 

His Love Endures Forever: The runner-up on the left was a fast favorite of mine. It was one that I knew would be in the running the moment I took it. One of the perks to the picture on the right was the view of the house. But in the end, I was drawn to the cover shot because the colors seemed to pop more. And this time around, it was also the popular vote.

3 (2)

 

Katherine’s Good News: Ahhh the picture of longing. Katherine is someone who had locked herself away but is missing someone. The picture on the left was a favorite of mine. But in the end, the close-up shot held more appeal. Plus, it didn’t require any photoshopping unlike the wedding photo seen in the runner-up shot. 😉

Final Liz

 

If Only It Were Yesterday: Sometimes the hardest shots to pick between are the ones that are nearly identical. That was the problem with WCIF’s cover and that was the problem with this one. While each photo carries a wistful longing in the face of Liz, in the end, I went against the popular votes and selected a picture that I felt captured the moment in an unstaged way. The finished product looked like a private moment which fits the story perfectly.

Mock finished 3

 

Yesterday’s Christmas: On the right was one of the popular votes. And on the left was my personal favorite. Sigh. I still can’t help but love that seemingly private moment between Glenn and Betty. For me, there were so many factors pulling for this one. Even when no one noticed it, I kept it in the running and had nearly selected it as the cover. After sleeping on the decision and praying the whole night, I woke up and selected the winning cover instead. We’ll certainly see this runner-up shot again in the advertisements. But what won me over was the appeal of the close-up shot and the Beauty and the Beast feel of the selected cover. And just in case you missed the memo, Yesterday’s Christmas is inspired by Beauty and the Beast so that factor was a rather important one.

Final Grace

 

The Birth of Grace: There was something just plain right about the picture on the couch. There was a strong coffee shop image here that I loved. I had a couple other poses on this couch up for consideration. And I loved the overhead shot. But in the end, the background was more interesting in the chosen picture versus the couch shot. And I LOVED having the tree in the background since so much of the story revolves around Kaitlin’s ancestors.

It amazes me, looking back at these runner-ups. I can remember being so torn between two pictures. But now, looking at them, I couldn’t imagine choosing anything differently.

How do you feel about viewing the runner-ups? Would you have chosen differently? And most importantly: Head up or head down? Lol

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White

196Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which makes her the perfect choice for a crucial task at the outset of World War I–to steal a cypher from a famous violinist currently in Wales. 

Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he’s won–until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father’s work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only light he finds is meeting the intriguing Willa Forsythe.

But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn’t–that she must betray him and find that cypher, or her own family will pay the price as surely as his has.

What I Loved: Sometimes book one of a series is so great that you almost have to expect some form of a let down in book two. This was NOT the case with A Song Unheard. White returned with the same loveable street-wise family and added to them another set of memorable, one-of-a-kind characters. One of my favorite characters, in particular, was Margot De Wilde. She seems to be autistic, although it wasn’t named. Either way, she had such a unique personality and gifting. I appreciated how White gave her, and other characters, such depth and yet it never felt like they slipped out of character.
The focus of the war was centered on the refugees and the homefront so there was little military focus. Homefront stories tend to be my favorite, so this was a treat for me.
I honestly loved every minute I spent in this book, and I can’t wait for the third in the series!

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving A Song Unheard 5 stars and recommending it to Christian Historical Fans, musicians, and fans of WWI fiction.

~ I received a copy from Bethany House. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Posted in About the Book

The Making of a Book Cover: Part 2: The Photoshoot

7Last week, I shared with you the early prep work that goes into the cover. Today, I want to share some of the special moments during the photoshoots themselves.
While walking into the shoot knowing that I have to leave with one perfect picture can create a bit of nerves, I try to remind myself that I only need ONE shot. Here’s a glimpse at what happened that day . . .

3 (2)

Katherine’s Good News:
Before I had published any book, I had planned to release KGN as a novella. It was meant to act as a prequel that would introduce readers to a brand new author. The rest of the series would come in behind it to fill in what happened before KGN. It may sound strange to publish them out of order but it would have worked . . . except that my critique team had seen something bigger for KGN and had challenged me to turn it into a full-sized novel, which I agreed to do. But at the time, KGN was to be my first published work and therefore was my first photoshoot.
Elizabeth Bowman sat for the cover as Katherine Bakeman. My only requirement was that I needed a pregnant model with brown hair and Elizabeth was perfect. We took the picture in her home and chatted about various things . . . including plastic flamingos. Lol To this day, I think of her when I see one.
Her husband Tyler Bowman walked in while we were working and offered to help me with anything else I needed. Little did he know that I had him on my list for models for Frank Harper. I took him up on that offer on the spot!!
Lesser known fact: Elizabeth has never taken off her wedding ring since the day of her wedding. Since the character is pregnant out of wedlock, we hid the ring in each of the poses.

1

Where Can I Flee:
As mentioned, Tyler Bowman sat for Frank Harper. We chose a day in Aug, an extremely hot day in Aug I might add. I packed a picnic lunch and met Tyler and a local Civil War reenactor, Joseph Byrd,  on a Saturday morning. The fellas set up two tents for my backdrop and took them down after the shoot.
The letter on the cover was fictionally written by Frank’s sister, Claire. But the handwriting belongs to Christina Gragg.
Memorable Moment: At the end of the shoot, I sat down on the ground and thumbed through some pictures when I felt something on my leg. I looked down and had this gigantic spider crawling on my leg. Needless to say, I screamed and jumped up – or I tried to. My legs were weak from squatting and standing over the past two hours that as soon as I jumped up, I collapsed. Lol But I couldn’t let that spider get me so I crawled away as best as I could. LOL I was a bit embarrassed once things settled down. But if it happened again, I would have done the same thing.

2
In the Shadow of Thy Wings:

Taylor Adcock sat for the character Sally Chandler. We had an early morning photoshoot since Taylor was newly engaged at the time and had a second photoshoot scheduled for that same afternoon for her engagement photos. We mostly had the area to ourselves that morning which is always helpful in a public area.
The letter on the cover was fictionally written by Frank Harper, but the handwriting belongs to Steve Flippo.
Lesser Known Fact: In preparation for her engagement photos, Taylor’s fingernails were SUPER red and had to photoshopped for the cover.

4

His Love Endures Forever:
Tiffany Hutchings sat on the cover for Allie Redman. This was my first time working with the Potts on Valley Home Farm but if you’ve read my post last week you’d already know that it wasn’t my last. In this cover, Allie is meant to be reading a letter written during the Civil War so not only did we create a letter but we had to age this one as well. The letter was fictionally written by Sally Chandler while the handwriting belongs to Sherry Williams.
Memorable Moment: Tiffany was under attack by bees almost the entire time. It doesn’t show in the picture but she was dodging them in between shots!

3

Out of the Ashes:
Zach Cartwright sat on the cover for Ralph Williams. We borrowed the uniform from a Cavalry reenactor, Guy Hill. This was another one of those sweltering shoots. By the end, both of us were red-faced and sweating. Lol We didn’t have to dodge bees during this one but I did have to dodge cars and people. There is a busy road in front of the cemetery. Some of the shots were angled toward the road so I had to keep an eye on traffic and angle the camera so as to miss the poles and wires in the background.
Fun Fact: We borrowed a wide-brimmed hat to go along with the uniform since they were more popular among the cavalrymen but chose not to use it since it made Zach look Amish. Lol Nothing against the Amish look, but it would have been misleading as a cover image. 😉
Try to imagine the cover image with the different hat. It’s amazing how the smallest details can change an entire image. Another hat-related fun fact for you: I had Tyler try some relaxing poses with his hat resting beside him during Where Can I Flee’s cover shoot. But every time he took his hat off, he ceased to be Frank and became Tyler instead. I eventually got the hint and we left the hat one for the remainder of the photos.

Final Liz

If Only It Were Yesterday:
Shelby Bramblett sat on the cover for Liz Cooke. Since I was offered a full tour of Valley Home during my first visit, I recalled seeing two dresses on display. So I knew where to look when I developed a cover that required an antique dress. In fact, the era in the novel was chosen specifically for the sake of using that dress.
While the Potts were overly generous, there was one major stipulation. We couldn’t touch the dress without gloves. Together, Shelby and I put gloves on and moved the dress, then stipped them off to take pictures, and put them back on to reposition the dress again.
Lesser Known Fact: Because we weren’t allowed to touch the dress, Shelby’s hand is actually hovering above it in the picture.

Grace Final 1600x2400

The Birth of Grace:
Veronica Bardoff sat for Kaitlin Jefferson. We met at the coffee shop that morning during the lull for pictures and, for the most part, had the place to ourselves. Just over Veronica’s shoulder on the far wall is an interesting picture of a frog. Lol I took several shots before I noticed him and afterward purposely angled him out of the shot. However, the tree in the background was a pleasant surprise. After the shoot, we sat down and enjoyed mochas and bagels.
Lesser Known Fact: Veronica’s daughter is playing on the floor during the entire photoshoot but you wouldn’t know that just by looking at the picture, would you? 😉

Mock finished 3

Yesterday’s Christmas:
In the fall of 2017, I set out to create these last three covers. Because there are so many factors to weave together to pull off any single shoot, I feel better about getting them done earlier rather than later. When I started the Ancient Words Series, I hadn’t expected to take a break in the publication so in order to pull off the next three releases, I needed three new covers. I knew up front that Yesterday’s Christmas was going to be the biggest challenge. But on the last Saturday in Oct, we set out to bring this image to life.
For the first time, I worked with a couple and I must say it was a wonderful experience. Real-life couple, Colt and Kayla Davis, sat for Betty and Glenn Tanner. These two played off of each other so well. The prep work was strenuous with this one. After searching the closets of our friends, we had Kayla’s skirt special made while the other items were easily collected. I used my own Christmas tree, some of my strands of lights, my mother’s ornaments, borrowed strands of bubble lights which were hugely popular in the 1950s, and bought a .99 pack of tinsel. Also for the first time, I worked with an assistant. Darla Damron tagged along to help me set up and take down the tree. She was a huge blessing, let me tell you!
Lesser Known Fact: We were working in a dim corner on a cloudy day, making the lighting a total nightmare. Majority of the pictures were trashed during my first viewing. But thanks to Amanda Tero and a little sharpening magic, we found an image that more than passed the test.

I hope you’re enjoying this behind the scenes look at the book cover. Did any of these behind the scenes details change the way you viewed the cover?

Join me next week and I’ll fill you in on what happens after the pictures are taken. AND for a special treat, I’ll share the runner-up covers and fill you in on why each particular cover was selected over the other favorites.

Posted in About the Book

The Making of a Book Cover: Part 1: Location and Set-up

7Cover art is the most recognizable factor of any book . . . unless the author’s name is so famous that no one looks beyond the name at the picture. Between today and the next two weeks, I want to take you behind the scenes and show you how these covers are made. Now,  you should know up front that this process will differ in some ways from author to author, especially if we’re comparing a traditionally published author to a self-published author. But many of these factors will be the same clear across the board. I’m not going to show you how others do it. I’ll show you how I do it. The first step is the dream stage . . .

Dreaming: Before I can capture an image, I first need an idea of what I’m looking for. Since I’m a self-published author, I have free reign here. It’s not uncommon for me to see glimpses of possible cover art during the earliest development of the story. Not all my story ideas have mental covers yet. But I can pretty well tell which of my story ideas are the most serious about finding paper based on whether or not I’m starting to visualize the cover.

During this dream stage, I think about the overall image of the cover, from the character I’d most like to see in the picture, to the backdrop, as well as the pose. Once I have a good idea in mind, I start creating my “shopping list.”

Shopping List: I make a list of everything that particular cover needs to come to life. And I do mean EVERYTHING. Things like: models with a particular look, wardrobe, location, and props.
Once I have a list in hand, I begin praying about how to gather these needs. I begin “browsing” for people who I know will fit the image I’m looking for. I also brainstorm location options. And in the case of the historical novels, I’m asking around for people with the proper props and/or wardrobe that I can borrow or rent for the shoot. This stage could take months or even years, pending on how soon I need the cover and what all stands in my way. The majority of this time is spent praying and waiting. But once I feel that I have the green light from God to move forward, I start contacting people and pulling strings together.

The Big Day: Since I do my own photography, there is nothing more thrilling or more nervewracking than the day of the photoshoot. Most of these cases, I have already taken pictures of the locations before the photoshoot to give me ideas on the specific areas I could work in as well as any complications I might encounter during the shoot.
Most of the locations “came ready.” However, Where Can I Flee and Yesterday’s Christmas required additional set-up in order to bring the backdrop to life.
Where Can I Flee, In the Shadow of Thy Wings, and His Love Endures Forever required a handwritten letter to grace the cover. These were crafted beforehand. You can’t view them well enough in the pictures to read them, but they ARE actual letters found in the books. And now they’re keepsakes on my shelf at home.

Location: I like to work on location, so every detail is important. When selecting a place to take Where Can I Flee’s photos, I had to pay close attention to my backdrop. We were fortunate to find a seemingly untouched area to work along the Duck River.
In the Shadow of Thy Wings, The Birth of Grace, and Out of the Ashes were taken in public areas where people were walking about. I had to pay close attention to the angle of my camera every time I moved around to make sure I didn’t pick up cars, people, telephone poles, etc.

Travel Behind the Scenes: Just for fun, I’m going behind the scenes to show you where each of these photos was taken. It’s interesting to see the same shot from a different view point.

 

 

Where Can I Flee was taken on Arrow Head Ranch in Normandy, TN. The Duck River cuts through the property. When I was exploring the area, I found a little creek jutting off of the river. The picture on the left was something I took early that morning before we set up the tents. On the cover, Tyler is sitting along the bank of the creek while I took the picture on the little island visible on the right-hand side of the first picture.

 

 

In the Shadow of Thy Wings was taken at Cannonsburg in Murfreesboro, TN. This particular photo was taken behind the row of buildings you see on the right-hand side of the first picture.

 

 

Out of the Ashes was taken at Stone’s River Battlefield in Murfreesboro, TN. There is a Union cemetery on the property.

 

 

His Love Endures Forever was taken at Valley Home Farm in Wartrace, TN. It’s a family-owned farm where you can pick your own berries in the springtime. They have restored this old home, turning it into a live-in museum.

3 (2)

Katherine’s Good News was taken inside the home of the cover model. I don’t have a location shot for this one. But I do have an interesting story that I’ll share with you next week. 😉

 

 

If Only It Were Yesterday was taken inside one of the rooms at Valley Home Farm. One of the most important factors on the cover was the dress which has also been restored and displayed at Valley Home Farm.

 

 

Yesterday’s Christmas was also taken at Valley Home Farm. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to the Potts family for being so gracious to me and allowing me to take not one, but three, photoshoots in their home. And I have a feeling we’ll see other corners of their property on future book covers.

 

 

The Birth of Grace was taken at a new coffee shop in Shelbyville, TN called Koffee Beanz. The coffee is as good as the atmosphere is lively!

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek behind the scenes. Next week, I’ll share more info about the models and some stories from the photoshoots.

 

 

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen

194Return to Ivy Hill in The Ladies of Ivy Cottage as friendships deepen, romances blossom, and mysteries unfold.

Living with the two Miss Groves in Ivy Cottage, impoverished gentlewoman Rachel Ashford is determined to earn her own livelihood . . . somehow. When the village women encourage her to open a subscription library with the many books she has inherited or acquired through donations, Rachel discovers two mysteries hidden among them. A man who once broke her heart helps her search for clues, but will both find more than they bargained for? 

Rachel’s friend and hostess, Mercy Grove, has given up thoughts of suitors and fills her days managing her girls’ school. So when several men take an interest in Ivy Cottage, she assumes pretty Miss Ashford is the cause. Exactly what–or who–has captured each man’s attention? The truth may surprise them all.

Meanwhile, life has improved at the coaching inn and Jane Bell is ready to put grief behind her. Now if only the man she misses would return–but where is he?

As the women of Ivy Hill search for answers about the past and hope for the future, might they find love along the way?

My Thoughts: The first book of the series had me beside myself in anticipation of the next book in the series. Sadly, I felt like so much of that tension was missing in The Ladies of Ivy Cottage. I think having that high expectation going into this one had hindered me in enjoying it as much as I had hoped. Setting aside my expectations, there IS a great story here in the inviting Regency era. Klassen draws out Biblical messages on trusting God and forgiveness. There are still some things left undone so there’s plenty to look forward to in the third and final installment. That being said, there were still plenty of romance here and happy endings for some of the characters involved. I enjoyed watching two separate mysteries unfold and come to light. And as always, I enjoyed visiting this charming village and those who live there.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving The Ladies of Ivy Cottage 4 stars and recommending it those who enjoy Christian Regency Fiction.
*You’ll want to read this series in order.

~ I received a copy from Bethany House through Net Galley. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Posted in Christian

The Truth Behind the SuperMom

SuperMom

The most common question I hear when people find out that I’m a writer and mother of 4 is, “How do you do it all?”

I’ll tell you how: I don’t!!!

I often catch women saying something like this:
“I never have enough time.” Neither do I.
“I feel like I’m spinning in circles.” Yep, me too!
“I clean all the time, but I feel like I never get past the day’s worth of laundry and dishes.” So do I!!

One of the biggest threats to women today is ourselves and how we view other women. Surely this has been a problem over the centuries, but I know it has to be an escalated problem today with our social media options. This is what we see on our newsfeed:
Our friend’s perfect family photo.
Our neighbor’s healthy made-from-scratch dinner.
Our cousin’s perfect marriage.
Our sister’s stunning vacation shots.
Our old classmate’s remodeled kitchen.
Our homeschooling friend’s latest crafts with the kids.

Meanwhile . . .
We’re struggling to get everyone together for a family photo, much less have them in perfectly matched clothing minus the last minute stains.
We’re picking up takeout and stocking up on frozen pizzas.
While we normally get along, we haven’t exactly gotten over that last tiff with the hubby.
We forgot to bring our camera on vacation but had a blast anyway.
Not only is our kitchen in need of new flooring but the dishes are piling up, not in the sink, but on the STOVE! Because those specialized dishes that never make it into the dishwasher, yeah, it turns out they don’t wash themselves.

I’m convinced that one of the biggest problems we have is the ability to take everything we see at face value while focusing on our own shortcomings. We see the perfection in everyone’s lives because it’s what they broadcast so we assume that they have it all together in every other area as well. While on the flipside of that, we can’t help but note every area in our lives that is falling apart or falling behind.

Still not convinced? Let’s try a little experiment . . .

I LOVE to garden! Flower gardens are my favorite. I enjoy vegetable gardening as well. Corn, okra, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, and peppers . . . I’ve grown them all and I’ve even canned pumpkin and butternut squash from my garden.
Now, I want you to picture my garden. What do you see? Seriously, take a moment to examine what you see in my garden.

Have you mentally examined my garden? If not, I’ll keep waiting . . . If you’re ready, let’s move on.

Now it’s your turn. I want you to picture your own garden. What’s in it? What’s it look like? What do you see?

Waiting . . . waiting . . .

Ok, if you’re ready, let’s compare:
When you imagined my garden, did you see weeds in my garden? Did you see bugs? Did you see half-eaten plants? Did you see animals stealing my veggies?
When you pictured your garden, did you see weeds? Did you see bugs? Did you see half-eaten plants? Did you see the pesky animals attacking your plants?
I’m not a mind reader, but I have a feeling the majority of you saw perfection in my garden while you were immediately reminded of the trouble areas in your own garden. Why is that? You were willing to see perfection in me, assuming that since I’ve done such-and-such that I must have it together in this area as well. Meanwhile, you couldn’t overlook your trouble areas. Why were you being unfair to yourself? Did you think weeds couldn’t grow outside of your yard?
Are you ready for a secret? Everything I wrote about my garden was absolutely true! I DO love to garden. Flower gardens ARE my favorite. I really did grow all of those veggies in my backyard and I have canned the winter squashes. But do you want to know something else? I’ve been too busy the last 4 summers so I haven’t even attempted a garden of any sort. I canned pumpkin one year and loved it, except that I found a black widow spider on one of the pumpkins and haven’t been too keyed up on growing anymore since then. (Judge me if you want. 😉 ) As much as I ADORE flower gardens and it would be my dream to have a really large one that you can walk through and even sit in, I CANNOT grow flowers!!!!! They die. They die so often, that one day when my son was reading his Bible he turned to me and said that I must be related to Cain since my plants are cursed!! LOL I often joke and tell people that I can grow kids and veggies but I can’t grow flowers. As for the vegetable garden . . . no matter how many times I promise myself that I’ll stay on top of the weeds before I know it, the garden is overrun and I’ve given up trying. It’s one of the reasons I stopped gardening. I was tired of seeing the weeds.

Did that little experiment open your eyes to your faulty viewpoint? But now what do you do about it? How do you become the Supermom you were striving for?

You become the Supermom by realizing that there is no such thing.

How do I do it all? Simple: I don’t.
The moment you understand that what you experience on a day to day basis IS normal is the day you set yourself free from this damaging cycle. We put so much pressure on ourselves to measure up to a standard that doesn’t even exist.

Yes, I have four kids. Yes, I work from home. Yes, I have a hectic ball schedule to keep up with while raising 3 boys. But I also have kids that fight. Children that disobey or disrespect. I have a stash of paper plates that I never let run empty. I have frozen pizza on my weekly grocery list. I know which drive-thru window is the fastest in my town. I have a laundry pile that, at times, is taller than my 6-year-old. (And, no, I’m not joking.) Yes, I often have a precarious stack of dishes on the stove that has to be hand-washed. Yes, I feel like I’m falling behind on life. Yes, I lose my keys more times than I can count. Yes, I forget things. No, I don’t get to volunteer at the school like I imagined myself doing. Yes, there are days when I lose my temper. Yes, there are days when I feel like I’ve wasted entire hours of my day. Yes, there are days when I look around and wonder what I had cleaned because I remember doing it but can’t see the results. Yes, I cut corners where I can to save time or my sanity. And, no, I don’t feel bad about that.

I’m not a Supermom because I do everything. I’m a Supermom because I keep getting up in the morning and trying again.

I encourage you to stop judging yourself so harshly. Stop feeling guilty about not checking off every box that YOU set down on your to-do list. Instead, seek God each and every morning. Seek Him each hour. Ask Him to direct your steps that day and put you where HE wants you to serve. If that means, you sit on the couch all day long and watch reruns of Mickey Mouse with your sick child, then don’t let those dirty dishes make you feel guilty about that. Be where GOD wants you to be and stop stressing over what you think you needed to do. Doubt and guilt don’t come from God. God gives us peace, love, and joy. So seek Him and rest, knowing that you’re doing exactly what He wanted from you on that day.
If you trace this problem back far enough, you’ll find pride at the root of it. Is it not pride that urges you to meet the standards of those around you? So treat this as the sin that it is.
It’s time to repent, ladies. I promise you, the moment you do, you’ll find freedom.

Pinnable, Sharable, Stealable Graphics:

SuperMom QuoteSuperMom Quote 2SuperMom Quote 3
SuperMom Quote 4