Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Ahead to 2012

I love the start of a new month and a new year! In the words of Anne of Green Gables:

"Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?"

Yes, it is very nice indeed! And what's nicer still is to know that God's grace is sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9), even when I fail.

Before I talk more about 2012, I thought I would share a few pictures from Christmas 2011:

Aren't these pajamas fabulous?? A reader/writer's delight! Love 'em! (Thank you, Mom and Dad!)

Oh, nothing beats my grandma's Texas cake! And isn't this one just beautiful? A wonderful Christmas Eve treat!

Muffin Man had such a fun time with the wrapping paper and boxes!

Here comes 2012!

Now, ready or not, 2012 is upon us. Last year in my Countdown to 2011 I wrote separate posts to talk about my blog plans and my New Year's resolutions.

Today, I'm avoiding the specific.

Thinking about this coming year is sometimes scary. I'll be graduating from college in May - and before you ask me what I plan on doing, the answer is that I'm not sure. It feels like 2012 will be full of uncertainty.

But the truth is, no matter what day or month or year it is, there will always be uncertainty, because we just don't know what tomorrow will bring:

"Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that."
~ James 4:13-15

I take comfort in God's sovereignty, as well as His love for me. He has a plan (Jeremiah 29:11), and in all things He is working for the ultimate good (Romans 8:28).

So, without knowing right now how busy I might be or where God will lead me in the coming year, I don't want to commit to hosting certain blog events or posting a set amount of times a week. I'm hoping to write more devotional posts and maybe do some themed weeks - and of course more books reviews! We'll see how it goes, one day at a time. =)

I really appreciate your friendship, and I hope you'll enjoy the ride this year, wherever we end up!

As for resolutions, while I'm hoping to get back to more writing and exercising, I think the one resolution I really want to make is to trust God. I don't have to be afraid of 2012 and what it might bring, for I have hope in God, and the future is bright indeed through an eternal perspective. I hope the new blog design for winter 2012 conveys excitement for the journey and peace in God's guidance. (The main picture is one I took at Fort Humboldt here in Northern California.)

So, 2012 - I'm ready when you are!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Favorites of 2011

I'm sorry I haven't been around here as much lately... I think I'm going to blame it on Christmas-break laziness. ;) I just haven't had as much energy for blogging lately, but I've been enjoying the time with my family. I am hoping, though, that the new year will bring a new beginning for my blog - hopefully with some more new posts!

But looking ahead to 2012 is for tomorrow. Today I'm looking back on 2011, remembering some of my favorites!

Favorite Books

These are my favorite Christian fiction books published in 2011. I chose 11 for 2011 - but don't let the ranking fool you, as these are all great books!

#11 Torrent

Such a fun time-travel series - full of romance and adventure! Love the quote from this third installment that encompasses the titles of the books in this series (Waterfall, Cascade, and Torrent):

"My eyes shifted to the trickling river. Come spring, it would be ten times as wide and just as deep. On and on it went, rushing toward the distant horizon. Like time. Like life. Sometimes gently falling from one pool into the other, other times fast and cascading, and still other times narrowing into a funnel, a torrent of knots and waves."

#10 Blue Skies Tomorrow

Sundin's writing is so engaging, full of great imagery. Love the characters - American heroes from WWII!

#9 A Wedding Invitation

Wisler's writing strikes a chord with me - especially with the heroine in this book! Unique style and great descriptions make this a sweet, meaningful read.

#8 Undercurrent

After devouring Griep's first book (Gallimore) a while back, it came as no surprise that I fell in love with this book, too! Another time-travel book, this one has vikings, exciting romance, and a message about sacrificial love. Awesome!

#7 The Search

Fisher's writing is so down-to-earth, but also surprising and lovely! This one is my favorite of hers so far, but I do have The Keeper to review soon, so we'll see how it goes... =)

#6 The Colonel's Lady

The story is just as beautiful as the cover! Great historical romance.

#5 A Lasting Impression

Just like The Colonel's Lady - an historical romance that is as lovely as its cover! Very well-done! (In my opinion, it's hard to go wrong with a Laura Frantz or Tamera Alexander book - they're both such talented authors!)

#4 Spring for Susannah

Most of the books on this list are by authors whose work I've loved for a while - so it's not much of a surprise that their more recent works blessed me. But Spring for Susannah was an unexpected treat from a new author - something fresh, different, and oh-so wonderful!

#3 Surrender the Night

Tyndall writes such thrilling sea-faring romance - but how wonderful to discover that she writes great romance on land, too! This is my favorite of the "Surrender to Destiny" series - full of romance, danger, and (of course!) destiny. Loved it!

#2 Yesterday's Tomorrow

When my blogging friend Renee raved about this book, I knew I wanted to read it - and it certainly didn't disappoint! This is a bold, moving look at the Vietnam War with a unique romance story.

#1 There You'll Find Me

Another sweet, sweet surprise! (Well, not a surprise in the sense that others have been praising Jones' work for a while, but a surprise in the sense of how much I loved it!) This book is just so well-written - humorous, romantic, but with a slow-building seriousness and a powerful ending.

Favorite Blog Posts

While I'm discussing favorites, I thought I'd share with you 11 of my favorite posts that I wrote in 2011. I'd love to hear if you have any favorites!

Blogging has been such a blessing to me, and I'm so glad to know all of you because of it!

Last year I also had a post for my favorite movies of 2010, but I decided to skip that this year. I'd love to hear about your favorites of 2011, though - books, blog posts, or movies!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Review of Love Finds You in Folly Beach

Here's a description of the book from Summerside Press:

"First impressions, thank goodness, really can’t be trusted!

When marine biologist Holly Leonard agrees to help Parker Brant write a book on giant sea turtles, she expects a charming and charismatic charter boat captain—not the strait-laced, all-business dud who greets her.

For his part, Parker is surprised to find that Dr. Leonard is not the matronly grandmother he expected but a blue-eyed beauty who’s lively, fun— and a total klutz. Unfortunately, the harder Holly tries to shed her “Holly Folly” nickname, the clumsier she becomes.

Holly has breezed into Parker’s well-ordered world like a hurricane—but will he welcome the disruption?"

My Rating: Spring

My Review:

Love Finds You in Folly Beach, South Carolina is your ticket to fun in the sun this winter! Holly Leonard may be a scientist, but she's not the lab-coat-wearing, stereotypical scientist. She's a marine biologist with a chipper attitude and a penchant for falling and tripping - which Parker Brant finds absolutely irresistible. It's rather enjoyable to read about a former military man with a heaping dose of "un-chipper" in his life who can't help falling in love with a kind girl who can't help falling!

Right away this book charmed me with chuckles and cheer. Unfortunately, as the story continued I found that I didn't always understand the characters. There seemed to be some inside jokes and mutual feelings among the characters that didn't always translate well. However, while being a bit frustrating in that sense, this book still has a lot to offer in terms of sweetness, setting descriptions, and lessons on love. And there are enough laughs to go around, even without "getting" everything.

With its combination of humor and more somber emotions, Love Finds You in Folly Beach is a bit reminiscent of Lough's Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska. But with a very different (much warmer!) setting and some unique plot twists, this book stands out as a great addition to the "Love Finds You" series.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Monday, December 26, 2011

One Last Contentment Reading Challenge Post!

The year 2011 is coming to an end. So before we begin the countdown to 2012, let's wrap up the Contentment Reading Challenge 2011! The winner of her choice of a Kindle e-book copy of one of the books in the "Legacy of the King's Pirates" series by MaryLu Tyndall is...


Congratulations, Katie! (Since you said you wanted a copy of The Restitution, I'll get that e-mailed out to you ASAP!)

And yes, that means that this series is now available through Kindle!!

Thank you again to everyone who participated in the challenge! And don't forget to sign up for the Contentment Reading Challenge 2012 over at Katie's blog if you want to join in the re-reading fun!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Something Sweet

The holiday season - filled with sweets of all kinds! Fudge, candy canes, frosted sugar cookies, and even graham-cracker houses, such as the one below:

I made this graham cracker house (actually a church, in this case) at a friend's home the weekend before finals. Friendship is such a sweet gift, and spending some time with dear friends decorating graham cracker houses, watching It's a Wonderful Life, eating delicious food, going to church together on Sunday, and more was a very special treat! With all the stress of the last couple weeks of the semester, the laugh-a-lot, talk-a-ton weekend among friends was just what I needed.

One of the sweetest things about this season is the emphasis on relationships. We send cards to friends and relatives. We plan parties with co-workers or fellow students. We dream of the joy of spending Christmas day with family, because "there's no place like home for the holidays."

And we celebrate the sweetest gift of all time at Christmas. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, came to Earth as a human baby in order to live among us and ultimately offer us reconciliation and salvation through His death and resurrection. There is no greater friend than the one true God of all!

"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us."
~ Matthew 1:23

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you my friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you."
~John 15:13-15

Dear friends, may you hold close the blessing of something sweet this Christmas - not just the sugary desserts, but the relationships you have with friends, family, and most of all God.

Have a very merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Contentment Reading Challenge: December (Giveaway and News!)

The Contentment Reading Challenge 2011 is coming to an end - but don't worry! Our dear friend Katie from Legacy of a Writer is hosting the Contentment Reading Challenge 2012. So if you didn't re-read as much as you would like this year, or if you would just enjoy challenging yourself to continue to re-read this next year, I do hope you'll go visit Katie! Here's a look at the blog button for 2012:

Didn't Katie do a lovely job?

I re-read a grand total of 3 fiction books in 2011. I didn't even make it to the first level of my own challenge! *Blush* But I did read a lot of wonderful new books and kept busy with reading for school and such.

I think, if anything, this challenge has reminded me of how much I have to be grateful for and how very much I have yet to learn about contentment. It's a humbling reality, and I know I still have a long way to go. I have been blessed with an abundant reading supply, and yet I'm constantly thinking about what's next. I need to enjoy what I'm reading right now and be thankful for the stories that have blessed me in the past - and maybe re-visit more of those dear friends!

Well, those 3 fiction books I re-read were the 3 books in MaryLu Tyndall's debut series - "Legacy of the King's Pirates." They enchanted me the first time I read them, and it was great to be swept away by them again! You can read my review of the third book, The Restitution, on the Radiant Lit site.

This series is going to be back in print and released in e-book format soon, as well! So to thank those of you who joined me in participating in the Contentment Reading Challenge this past year, I'm holding a giveaway of winner's choice of 1 of these 3 e-books - just for you! And if you're not already convinced that this is a series you'll want to read, check out this new trailer for the first book, The Redemption:

Such a fun trailer, and I love the music!

So if you participated in the Contentment Reading Challenge 2011, fill out the form below and enter for a chance to win a Kindle copy of your choice of The Redemption, The Reliance, or The Restitution!

*A winner has been chosen, so this form has been deleted.*

Thank you for joining me on this journey! Hope you enjoyed the experience!

Note: The winner might have to wait for a few weeks or so to receive the prize until the books officially release through Kindle. If for some reason the books don't release through Kindle as soon as I hope, I will e-mail the winner a $10 gift card instead. But...let's just hope those Kindle books release soon, because it's a wonderful series! =)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Review of To Die For

Looking for a great gift for a Tudor-era, historical-fiction lover?

Here's a description of the book from
Howard Books:

"To Die For, is the story of Meg Wyatt, pledged forever as the best friend to Anne Boleyn since their childhoods on neighboring manors in Kent. When Anne's star begins to ascend, of course she takes her best friend Meg along for the ride. Life in the court of Henry VIII is thrilling at first, but as Anne's favor rises and falls, so does Meg's. And though she's pledged her loyalty to Anne no matter what the test, Meg just might lose her greatest love—and her own life—because of it.

Meg's childhood flirtation with a boy on a neighboring estate turns to true love early on. When he is called to follow the Lord and be a priest she turns her back on both the man and his God. Slowly, though, both woo her back through the heady times of the English reformation. In the midst of it, Meg finds her place in history, her own calling to the Lord that she must follow, too, with consequences of her own. Each character in the book is tested to figure out what love really means, and what, in this life, is worth dying for.

Though much of Meg's story is fictionalized, it is drawn from known facts. The Wyatt family and the Boleyn family were neighbors and friends, and perhaps even distant cousins. Meg's brother, Thomas Wyatt, wooed Anne Boleyn and ultimately came very close to the axe blade for it. Two Wyatt sisters attended Anne at her death, and at her death, she gave one of them her jeweled prayer book—Meg."

My Rating: Spring/Summer

My Review:

A unique and thought-provoking perspective, engaging characters, and steady pacing - all woven together with pieces of history - make To Die For a well-written and meaningful story. This is wonderful historical fiction, dressed in just the right combination of color and spunk and practicality.

The name of Henry VIII has quite a few negative connotations. But this take on the rather infamous story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn is engaging and even creates some sympathy for some seemingly unsympathetic characters. It's classic and yet new - an age-old fabric displayed in a trendy design.

False appearances and fanciful desires war with the realities of selfishness and unrequited love. Danger wears a charming mask. And through it all God's perfect timing is the necessary thread that binds this tale of romance, faith, and consequences together into one grand showpiece. To Die For is full of pain and grief as patience wears thin and masks are ripped away - but it delivers a satisfying story that has much to offer fans of historical fiction. A lovely, albeit tragic, read!

*With thanks to author Sandra Byrd and the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday for the Military

Cheryl Wyatt was our guest for last week's "Monday for the Military" post, and today I have the pleasure of announcing the winner of a copy of Steadfast Soldier and a Christmas gift basket put together by Cheryl...



And thank you, Cheryl, for your generosity!

To all of our military men and women, wherever you are this holiday season, may you have a blessed Christmas surrounded by God's love and hope.

P.S. Readers, if you want to share some Christmas cheer with our soldiers, check out the Cup of Joe for a Joe program - it's wonderful! You can give a military member a cup of coffee and a note to remind them that they're not forgotten this holiday season.

Friday, December 16, 2011

INSPYs: 2011 Winners Announced!

What a neat experience to be a part of the INSPY judging process this year as a judge in the Romance category! We are blessed with so many wonderful authors and inspiring stories out there that share God's love and truth in creative and engaging ways.

The winners for the 2011 INSPY awards were recently announced, and you'll find the list of them (with links) below. If you're looking for a good read for you or a friend, perhaps this list of winners will help!

Creative Nonfiction: Passport Through Darkness

General Fiction: City of Tranquil Light

Literature for Young People: Saint Training

Mystery/Thriller: The Bishop

(You can read my review of this powerful book HERE!)

Speculative Fiction: The Falling Away

Congratulations to all of the winners, and thank you to my fellow judges and the INSPY advisory board!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Christmas Singing

Cindy Woodsmall has a beautiful, meaningful writing style, and I have really enjoyed the books I've read by her (When the Soul Mends and the "Ada's House" series). Here are links to a couple of my reviews:

When the Soul Mends (Sisters of the Quilt, Book 3)

The Harvest of Grace (Ada's House, Book 3)

I haven't had the pleasure of reading The Christmas Singing, but from what I've read of Woodsmall's work, I'm sure it's a great Amish story. =) If you'd like to buy this book (and any other title on the Waterbrook Multnomah website) for a friend or relative (or yourself!) for Christmas, you can get 30% off and free shipping if you use the promo code CHRISTMAS11 at checkout! (Coupon expires December 20, 2011.)

Want to learn more about The Christmas Singing? You can read the first chapter HERE, and you can watch the neat trailer below!

*With thanks to Blogging for Books for this special offer!*

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Review of Freedom's Stand

Here's a description of the book from Tyndale:

"Jamil renounced a life of jihad when he encountered the life-changing message of Jesus Christ, but villagers and authorities in the hills of Afghanistan respond with skepticism . . . and even violence.
Relief worker Amy Mallory is shocked by the changes in her organization—changes with dire implications for the women and children under her care. And concern for her former assistant, Jamil, weighs heavily on her heart.

Former Special Forces veteran Steve Wilson faces off against the riots and corruption of Kabul’s upcoming election. He's looking for something that will give his life purpose but is confident that he won’t find it in Afghanistan.

All three are searching for love and freedom in a country where political and religious injustice runs rampant. But when religious freedom becomes a matter of life and death, they discover that the cost of following Jesus may require the ultimate sacrifice."

My Review:

It took me a really long time to finally sit down and finish this book - but despite its length and complexities it eventually drew me in and brought me to tears as events unfolded. Detailed, imaginative, painfully authentic, and ultimately inspiring, Freedom's Stand is a book worth wrestling through and stepping outside of one's genre comfort zone if necessary in order to read it.

Without having read Veiled Freedom and being sadly remiss in keeping up with global news, this sequel can be a bit tough to wade through at times, from the terminology to the slow but simmering build-up of events. However, action really starts picking up in the second half of the book, and danger and faith mix in a powerful ending that is both moving and challenging.

Windle's characters run deep and offer both familiarity in their flaws and encouragement in their faith. Suspense and intrigue and romance make this a great story from many angles. Freedom's Stand is surprising in its plot, horrifying in its grittiness, and yet hopeful in its depiction of love and freedom.

*With thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday for the Military: Meet Cheryl Wyatt

Cheryl Wyatt has written 7 romance books for the "Love Inspired" line - all with a military theme. Today she is here to talk about her books and her connection with, and admiration for, the United States military.

Welcome, Cheryl!

Amber: Thank you for joining us today! To start, could you share a little bit about yourself?

Cheryl: In addition to being a Christian fiction writer, I am a Registered Nurse, mom to fantastic kids and wife to a super cute and funny rocker dude who is heavily involved in the music industry. Life is very adventurous. The most important thing I could say about me is that I love Jesus with all of my heart, realize my writing talent comes from God and strive to write as worship. I am a worshipper at heart. I also have a heart for orphans. I’m kind of tom-boyish in that I like guns, target practice, motorcycles, watercraft and anything that makes me laugh. I have a funny bone and my house is inhabited by practical jokesters. =)

Amber: Awesome! On your website you mention that you were born on a Naval base on Valentine’s Day. Could you share some more about the military influence in your life and what inspired you to write Inspirational Military Romance for the “Love Inspired” line? (There’s a lot of inspiration going on in this question, LOL!)

Cheryl: LOL! My dad was in the Marines when I was born and he served in Vietnam. I was born at Balboa near Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California. We moved away when I was a baby so I don’t remember it, but got to know the area from my parents’ stories and from pictures. Because my dad was a veteran, we were raised with a strong respect for those serving in the military and their families. Dad didn’t used to talk a lot about Vietnam, so my curiosity caused me to begin researching at a very young age. That quest turned into a passion to honor veterans and their families with my stories.

Amber: What do you admire most about the U.S. military?

Cheryl: Its strength and motivation. That they take up for people in other countries who are oppressed by wicked and cruel leadership. The willingness of service members to put themselves in harm’s way to keep the rest of us safe and free. That they’d be willing to risk their lives with no inclination to do it just to be called a hero.

Amber: Do you have any other military-themed books in the works?

Cheryl: I think every book I have has at least one person who is or was in the military, so yeah. Pretty much that’s a huge part of my brand as a writer I think and where my strongest writing is at this point. I have a new series coming out with Love Inspired, beginning July 1 of this year that features a former combat trauma team who come back from deployment to open a civilian trauma center in a small town in great need of it. The series is called Eagle Point Emergency and the first book is called The Doctor’s Devotion. It’s related to my last series (Wings of Refuge) in that Eagle Point is one town over from Refuge, where the PJs (Pararescue Jumpers) featured in those books are stationed. I am very excited about the new series and am having fun writing it.

Amber: Exciting to hear about your upcoming series! How can we pray for you and other authors?

Cheryl: Pray for people to be drawn to our books. Pray for book sales. For the words to have impact and to directly reflect God’s heart. Pray for the book industry in general, especially the Christian market. That it will thrive in the economy. Pray for direction with stories. Thank you so much! I’ve never had that question in all of the interviews I’ve done and it means a lot to now that people are praying. I pray for my readers a lot and consider them tremendous blessings. It’s an honor to be able to write and I’m thankful for my publisher and my agent. And the fact that God is allowing me to do this. Thanks so much for interviewing me, Amber!

Amber: It's wonderful to host you, Cheryl! May God bless you and direct you in your writing career!

~ ~ ~

Readers, Cheryl has generously offered to give away a copy of Steadfast Soldier and a special Christmas goodie basket put together by Cheryl herself!! How awesome is that??

Here are the rules for this drawing:
  • You must leave a comment for Cheryl along with your e-mail address.
  • You must have a U.S. mailing address.
  • The winner will be announced next Monday.

You can check out Cheryl's website HERE and view her books on the Harlequin site HERE.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"Love Finds You" Blog Party Winners!


Thank you so very much to all of the authors (Roseanna, Miralee, Robin, Melanie, and Loree) for your generosity in terms of time and prizes!! I hope this week celebrating the "Love Finds You" series was an encouragement to all of you!

And thank you to all of my readers and new friends for making this week a success! I appreciate your comments and your excitement regarding the party and the book series!!

We have winners!!!
  • $15 gift card + 2 copies of Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland = Ariel!
  • Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland = Geschumann (Gloria)!
  • Love Finds You in Sundance, Wyoming = Ali!
  • Love Finds You in Sunset Beach, Hawaii = steveandcami!
  • Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania = Jackie S!
  • Love Finds You in Folly Beach, South Carolina = Casey and Katie McCurdy!
Winners will be e-mailed and will have 1 week to respond (or another winner will be chosen). Congratulations!!

Hope you all enjoyed the "Love Finds You" blog party!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Love Finds You With Understanding

Loree won me over with one of her previous "Love Finds You" books - Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska - and now I am quite eager to read her latest! (You can read my review of LFY in North Pole HERE.) Want to learn more about Love Finds You in Folly Beach, South Carolina and find out how you can win a copy for you or a friend? Read on!

What do you love most about writing for the “Love Finds You” series as compared to other books you’ve written?

Loree: Though I've always made a practice of visiting the places where my stories take place, the settings for the Love Finds You series have all been so fun and exciting! And because Summerside prefers to deliver lighthearted, uplifting novels to their loyal fans, I get to have as much fun as the readers do!

Amber: Have you visited the setting of your latest “Love Finds You” book? If so, what was your favorite part of the trip?

Loree: It's a tossup between the Folly Beach fishing pier and the crazy little boat that washed ashore during Hurricane Hugo (where locals and tourists alike paint all sorts of messages on the hull). On second thought, maybe the Morris Island Lighthouse. Or the fantastic restaurants. Hmm…I'm thinking I'll have to get back to you on that!

Amber: Sounds like there's a lot to love about Folly Beach!

Have you learned anything about love and humility while working on your latest “Love Finds You” book that you could share with us?

Loree: Absolutely! As Holly (the heroine) learned that she's lovable, despite her slightly-klutzy tendencies, I learned that my own eccentricities are more tolerable than I'd once thought. And, as Parker (the hero) grapples with his mom's dishonesty, I learned that even parents have feet of clay…and need forgiveness and understanding.

Amber: What would a Christmas party in the town and era of your latest “Love Finds You” book look like? (Any details about food, decorations, traditions, etc., would be wonderful!)

Loree: First, there'd be lots of colorful lights on the cottage terraces and vacation house balconies that overlook the Atlantic. And because the weather is (mostly) beautiful, even in December, the Christmas banquet would take place on the deck, so that the guests could gobble up crab cakes and fish gumbo along with the traditional ham dinner and sides…and so that we could put up our feet while eating our pecan pie, watching the waves crash onto shore all around the historic Morris Island Lighthouse!

Amber: Count me in! Thanks so much for joining us today, Loree! Can't wait to read this book!


Here are the rules for today's giveaway of a signed copy of Love Finds You in Folly Beach, South Carolina to 2 winners! Please read carefully.
  • Leave a comment for Loree along with your e-mail address.
  • You must have a U.S. mailing address in order to be eligible for this drawing.
  • All winners this week will be announced on Sunday, December 11, 2011. (That's soon, so don't delay - enter today!!)

(Folly Beach pictures from the Folly Beach website. You can learn more about Loree at her website!)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Love Finds You in the Christmas Spirit

'Tis the season! From Melanie's research trip to the title and cover of her latest "Love Finds You" book, this particular interview is filled with Christmas cheer. Enjoy the theme and read on to learn about a great gift opportunity (for you or a friend)!

What do you love most about writing for the “Love Finds You” series as compared to other books you’ve written?

Melanie: First of all, I love working with the Summerside team! They’ve been such an encouragement to me, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed partnering with them. Second, I love researching small towns across the country and then creating a fictional story from their history and heritage. Right now I’m writing my fifth Love Finds You novel (Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan).

Amber: Have you visited the setting of your latest “Love Finds You” book? If so, what was your favorite part of the trip?

Melanie: I always visit the towns where my Love Finds You books are set. Sometimes I think my novel writing is really an excuse to travel and explore because I really (really!) enjoy researching these towns. In my first Love Finds You novel (Liberty, Indiana), I crawled around in all sorts of secret spaces that were once hiding places on the Underground Railroad. For the Amana novels (Love Finds You in Homestead and Amana, Iowa), I explored the picturesque Amana Colonies for almost a week. Then for my latest novel (Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania), I took a night tour last year of the beautiful Christmas lights in Nazareth while learning about its Moravian heritage.

Amber: Those sound like some great trips!

Have you learned anything about love and humility while working on your latest “Love Finds You” book that you could share with us?

Melanie: Those two themes are woven throughout Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania because the story is about a married couple selected by Lot to be husband and wife. Even as he marries Susanna, Christian Boehler loves another woman in his heart, and he often fails Susanna in the first year of their marriage. The story is about choosing forgiveness over anger and replacing bitterness with both love and grace.

Amber: What would a Christmas party in the town and era of your latest “Love Finds You” book look like? (Any details about food, decorations, traditions, etc., would be wonderful!)

Melanie: Oh, it would have been a grand celebration! The Moravian people embraced the Christmas season and the depth of its meaning--so much so that their two major settlements in Pennsylvania were named Bethlehem and Nazareth. On Christmas Eve, the sanctuary would have glowed from the tallow candles they held as they feasted together on spicy sugar cakes and black coffee and worshipped God in song: “Good news from heav’n the angels bring…All my heart this night rejoices.”

Thanks, Amber! It’s a pleasure to celebrate with you.

Amber: It's a pleasure to host you, Melanie! Thank you for your wonderful responses and helping us get in the Christmas mood!


Here are the rules for today's giveaway of a signed copy of Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania! Please read carefully.
  • Leave a comment for Melanie along with your e-mail address.
  • This drawing is open to readers everywhere! (International giveaway!)
  • All winners this week will be announced on Sunday, December 11, 2011.
(Learn more about Melanie at her website!)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Love Finds You in Beautiful Places

I had the great pleasure of hearing Robin Jones Gunn speak at our school's Woman to Woman Conference last February - and let me tell you, Robin has a lot of wonderful things to say! So grab a cinnamon roll and some tropical fruit to enjoy while you take in this lovely interview - and Robin's beautiful pictures of Hawaii!

What do you love most about writing for the “Love Finds You” series as compared to other books you’ve written?

Robin: My favorite part of the “Love Finds You” format is the summary at the beginning of the book that gives the history of the location. I loved digging a little deeper into the beginnings of the Sunset Beach area.

One of the best things about writing destination novels is having a chance to visit amazing places and then crafting a story in that setting. I’ve done this sort of onsite research for most of the novels I’ve written over the past ten years.

What made “Love Finds You in Sunset Beach, Hawaii” even more delightful was that I was writing about my home state. I live on a different island so I had to bring the characters to my corner of Hawaii first and then send them on to the North Shore on Oahu so they could meet at Sunset Beach. As I was writing I felt as if I was sharing my favorite parts of this beautiful paradise with the characters but more importantly with the readers.

Amber: Have you visited the setting of your latest “Love Finds You” book?

Robin: Oops! I think I jumped ahead in my last answer and covered most of this answer.

I will add that my favorite part of the trip to the North Shore was that my husband came with me and he had a video camera going so we could capture some of the majesty of the big waves and the pristine beaches. I even drew a big heart in the sand at Sunset Beach and looked up at the camera and said something like, “Will love find you at Sunset Beach?”

It was a fun day and we thought we had a lot of great footage. But when we got home and played it back the wild Kona winds dominated every scene. None of the audio came through and in the end we decided none of the video was usable.

I do have some photos that came out and we were able to use those at the back of the book. I’ll add some of them here as well.

Would I visit there in the future? Absolutely. Anytime.

Amber: Oh, that's a bummer about the video! But it sounds like a wonderful time all the same. =) And the pictures are great!

Have you lear
ned anything about love and humility while working on your latest “Love Finds You” book that you could share with us?

Robin: Love and humility do tend to go hand in hand, don’t they? I felt both of these while working on this book.

I’ll tell you about the love first. My husband and I spent our honeymoon on Oahu 34 years ago and that was the first time we visited the North Shore together. Returning to Sunset Beach with him to gather insights for this book made me realize how quickly the years have gone and what a gift it is to be able to journey through life with a man who loves God and loves me. We walked hand in hand on Sunset Beach and remembered all the tender ways that the Lord has provided for us and protected us all these years.

The humility part came for me in the rewrites on this book. I tried something new in that I wrote one chapter from Sierra’s point of view and the next chapter from Jordan’s point of view. It was fun at first but then it became more complicated as the story and the characters became more entwined. I had to learn as I was writing what worked and what didn’t work.

Being challenged as a writer is always a good thing. I’ve been doing this for over 25 years and I want to learn and grow as a storyteller. But I’ll tell you, rewriting many times over is a humbling thing no matter how many books you’ve had published.

Amber: Love your response!

What would a Christmas party in the town and era of your latest “Love Finds You” book look like? (Any details about food, decorations, traditions, etc., would be wonderful!)

Robin: In Hawaii we say, “Mele Kalikimaka!” and we celebrate the way most families and friends do. We set up Christmas trees, we gather at parties for lots of food and we worship together at church on Christmas Eve. Local tradition says that Santa arrives in an outrigger canoe wearing an Aloha shirt and bringing gifts wrapped in banana leaves.

Last year my husband and I sat outside eating papaya and cinnamon rolls for breakfast at seven o’clock on Christmas morning. One of our neighbors came around the corner with their two toddlers in a red wagon. The dad was wearing a Santa hat, T-shirt, shorts and flip flops. The kids were in their bathing suits and the mom was in a sleeveless shift with a big beach bag over her shoulder. They were singing Christmas carols and were heading down to the blue Pacific for Christmas breakfast on the beach. Now, that’s a little different than the way most people in the U.S. and Canada spend their Christmas morning.

At Sunset Beach the surfers head for the water on Christmas morning because winter is when the big waves roll in. A big Christmas feast would include fresh fish, kalua pork, rice, poi, lomi lomi, teriyaki chicken, chow fun noodles, haupia and of course, sweet potato pie.

One of my favorite parts of Christmas in Hawaii is all the white twinkle lights strung in the palm trees and the candle light service at the 160 year old church where the carols are sung in Hawaiian. It’s a sweet reminder that Jesus is the light of the world and His light reaches all the way to these remote islands tethered here in the middle of the deep blue sea.

Amber: Sounds simply lovely! Thank you so much for sharing with us today!

One final note from Robin: I’d love to connect with you! On Facebook my page is Robin Jones Gunn. On Twitter it’s simply RobinGunn. You are warmly welcome to visit my Online Shop at where you’ll find copies of all 75 of my books, including “Love Finds You in Sunset Beach, Hawaii”. If you place a first-time order in the Shop, enter the code WELCOME at check out and you’ll receive a 20% discount on your entire order! Gotta’ love those coupons!


Here are the rules for today's giveaway of a gift package - Kona coffee and a signed copy of Love Finds You in Sunset Beach, Hawaii! Please read carefully.
  • Leave a comment for Robin along with your e-mail address.
  • You must have a U.S. mailing address in order to be eligible for this drawing.
  • All winners this week will be announced on Sunday, December 11, 2011. (Please note the new announcement date! Winners will be announced Sunday afternoon or evening instead of Saturday morning.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Love Finds You in the Simple Pleasures

Miralee is no stranger to Seasons of Humility - she was also a guest at the first "Love Finds You" blog party last year in 2010! Back then you readers got to ask Miralee your questions. (You can read that post HERE.) Today, I have a few questions of my own that Miralee has kindly answered! And keep reading to learn more about the giveaway, as well!

Amber: What do you love most about writing for the “Love Finds You” series as compared to other books you’ve written?

Miralee: Because the LFY books are set in real locations, it’s important the reader is able to visualize the setting, so I’d have to say, researching and depicting the setting. I love traveling to the places I write about (when possible) and helping the reader not only see the area in their mind, but get a glimpse into the past, as all mine are historical.

Amber: Have you visited the setting of your latest “Love Finds You” book? If not, what most intrigues you about the place – and would you want to visit there in the future?

Miralee: I’ve gotten to visit three of the four locations for my books, but didn’t have a chance to with Sundance, WY. The book was contracted at the last minute, after they had an unexpected opening, and I had three weeks to finalize and turn in the contract, so no time to visit Sundance. I did do a lot of research about the area and the history, and would love to visit there someday—especially since anything Western fascinates me, and that was the hangout for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid!

Amber: I completely understand - anything Western fascinates me, too! Sundance sounds like an intriguing setting!

Have you learned anything about love and humility while working on your latest “Love Finds You” book that you could share with us?

Miralee: That’s actually a theme I try to weave into many of my books. My hero, Travis, had to learn a lesson about humility when he hired a ‘man’ as a varmint tracker/hunter and found out she was a woman. He made a snap judgment, as he was convinced a woman could never do a man’s job. Writing themes like this causes the author to often have to check their own heart, and I do find myself considering whether I judge people unfairly at times, and thinking about the acceptance and love we all have in Christ.

Amber: What would a Christmas party in the town and era of your latest “Love Finds You” book look like? (Any details about food, decorations, traditions, etc., would be wonderful!)

Miralee: It would be simple, as the people are all hard-working ranchers, store owners, etc., in an area and era where life was hard and ‘extras’ were few, but the emphasis would’ve been on family. There would have been a church service on Christmas eve at the church, with lots of singing, a peppermint stick for the children, and enough hugs and love to fill everyone’s heart. On Christmas morning simple, handmade gifts would appear under the tree (decorated with handmade items), and a meal would be shared, often with neighbors if they didn’t live too far away. Venison or possibly wild turkey or a slab of beef would be roasted, pies and cookies baked, along with vegetables that had been canned in the fall. Houses probably weren’t decorated, but family and faith were celebrated, with the focus on Jesus’ birth.

Amber: Sign me up - sounds like a sweet Christmas celebration! Thank you for helping us celebrate the holiday season and the LFY series today!


Here are the rules for today's giveaway of a signed copy of Love Finds You in Sundance, Wyoming! Please read carefully.
  • Leave a comment for Miralee along with your e-mail address.
  • You must have a U.S. mailing address in order to be eligible for this drawing.
  • All winners this week will be announced on Sunday, December 11, 2011.
(Sundance pictures from the The City of Sundance, Wyoming website. Learn more about Miralee at her website!)