Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Winners

Once again, we offer you a warm welcome to the Bookshelf of the Barn Door Book Loft. 

And before we announce our winners we’d like to offer a special thanks to these Christian authors who offered a sample of their writing to our faithful readers:

Janet K. Brown who offered her Women’s Fiction  Worth Her Weight
Christine Lindsay who offered her Christian Historical  Veiled At Midnight
And Les Graham who offered his YA  Jude’s Gentle Giants
  
And now: We're pleased to announce these book winners:
 
Marianne Barkman has won Janet K. Brown’s Women’s Fiction  Worth Her Weight
Danie Walther has won Christine Lindsay’s Christian Historical  Veiled At Midnight
And Deanne Cnnamon has won Les Graham’s YA  Jude’s Gentle Giants 
Congratulations Winners! Remember, it's your responsibility to contact me  sharonalavy {at} gmail {dot} com) with your address so the author can send you a book. 

Be sure to check past winners posts. Subscribing by email will ensure you don't miss seeing the winners list.



Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Warm Welcome to Lena Nelson Dooley

I'm honored to host Lena Nelson Dooley on this blog site today! She's long been one of the authors I've admired. Lena, can you us: is there a story behind your book,  8 Weddings and a Miracle?
This collection was put together by the editorial department at Barbour publishing using multi-published, and often award-winning, authors.


What kind of books do you enjoy reading? (Book recommendations very welcome!) 
There are so many good Christian authors out there, and I read as many of the new books as I can. Some of my favorite authors are Kellie Coates Gilbert, Lynne Gentry, Becky Wade, and Patricia Pacjac Carroll. Recent books I’ve read that I’ve loved are How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck, Where Rivers Part by Kellie Coates Gilbert, Return to Exile by Lynne Gentry, Once Again by Deborah Heal, A Way of Escape by Serena Miller, and I’ve loved all the Quilts of Love books, especially Masterpiece Marriage.


What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
My middle name should be quirky. I’ll love numbers. I count things—railroad cars as the train goes by, how many people are in the room, and other strange things. If I had a mental illness, it would be OCD. I’m recuperating from making everything perfect at all times.


What makes you smile and/or laugh out loud?
I love to laugh. It doesn’t take much to get me to laugh out loud. I almost always laugh with my great grandchildren. They are so cute and cuddly, and they’re exploring the world around them.


What is your favorite season of the year?  
I’m a spring/fall person, because of the milder climate. Probably spring is my favorite, because everything comes to new life—flowers, trees, grass. Seasons are probably the only things where I’m moderate. I don’t like to much heat or too much cold. In other things, I’m usually exuberant. 


What do you like most about the area where you live and/or grew up?
I live in north central Texas. I didn’t grow up here, but I got here as soon as I could. I married a tall, handsome Texan, so here I will stay. I love the spring wildflowers. We even have a wildflower patch in one of our flower beds, and the bluebonnets are beautiful, along with the other flowers there. I like that we don’t have to shovel snow very often here. And in the heat of summer, I stay in air conditioning—both in vehicles and buildings—as much as possible.


Where is your favorite place to travel/vacation in?
I love cruises. You don’t have to pack and unpack your suitcases but once, and you travel several places. There’s plenty of food on board, and sitting on the deck and watching the water and foam trail behind the ship is very soothing. Being out on deck under the stars with my husband is very romantic.


Has some place you have traveled inspired something in your writing?
Oh, yes. I’m always making notes of people I see or places we visit. I also take lots of pictures to remind me. Everywhere we go and everything we see, as well as all the people we meet could appear in one of my novels at any time.

Are there spiritual themes you like to write about?  
Lot of my books lean toward the need to both give and accept forgiveness. And trust is often present, too. Other things appear, like bitterness, poor self-image, lack of commitment.


Why should our readers buy this book?
It’s a real bargain, because they’ll be getting novellas by some of the best Christian novelists. They’ll be able to sample the writing of 9 different novelists.


When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
Right now, my agent is marketing my next series. I’m almost finished writing the first book in the Love’s Road Home series. A Heart’s Gift is a marriage of convenience story that has some mystery and suspense thrown in. My fans should really love it, and maybe so will readers who haven’t tried any of my books before.


Buy her book here:
Deepershopping
Christianbook.com
Amazon
Barnes and Noble


ABOUT LENA:
Multi-award-winning author, Lena Nelson Dooley, has had more than 800,000 of her books sold. 

In addition to her writing, Lena is a frequent speaker at women’s groups, writers groups, and at both regional and national conferences. She has spoken in six states and internationally. She is also one of the co-hosts of the Gate Beautiful blogtalk radio show.

She has experience in screenwriting, acting, directing, and voice-overs. She has been featured in articles in Christian Fiction Online Magazine, ACFW Journal, Charisma Magazine, and Christian Retailing.

Lena has won numerous awards. She lives in Texas with her husband of over 49 years. Their favorite activities involve time with their family members. Their daughters and sons-in-law have given them four grandchildren, and now they have two great grandsons, who delight them, and another coming in April of this year.

Lena has an active web presence on Shoutlife, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Linkedin, Google+, and with her internationally connected blog where she interviews other authors and promotes their books. 


Connect with Lena here: 



LENA is giving away a copy of 8 WEDDINGS and a MIRACLE. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.











Happy Reading!
Caroline Brown

Saturday, March 14, 2015

8 Weddings and a Miracle by Lena Nelson Dooley

Back Cover Blurb


Sometimes Love Needs a Little Divine Intervention

Nine modern couples face challenges on their way to the marriage altar, and readers will delight in how God intervenes to get them to the point of "I do." Be it a meeting in the wrong place at the right time, an accident that opens hardened hearts, or weather that seems to blow things off course, romance has a way of persevering.


Penned by an exclusive selection of Christian fiction authors, this collection of romances will become an instant favorite. Take the journey along with nine couples as they dodge disaster on the road to love.






Read an Excerpt:
Mrs. Oleg Olson
and
Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Davis
request the honor of your presence
at the ceremony uniting
Christine Marie Dailey
and
Christopher Dean Davis 
in holy matrimony 
on Saturday, February 14 
at 4:00 p.m. 
in the chapel 
of Wayzata Community Church 
Dinner reception to follow 
in the Fellowship Hall 
R.S.V.P 

Chapter 1 
The moon above Litchfield, Minnesota, poured liquid silver over Christine Dailey as she cuddled in the back of a horse-drawn carriage with Christopher Davis. The flirty skirt of her red satin dress blew toward her lap, and she pushed it back over her knees, hoping is would stay down. She wouldn’t have worn such a short dress if she had known what would follow dinner.

She wondered if he knew that this had been her dream date. The meal at the out-of-the-way elegant restaurant had been a gourmet dream. Even though an autumn breeze nipped the air, this ride through tree-laden areas, where lovely homes with expansive lawns stood the test of time, made her feel like a princess in a fairy tale. Only one thing could make the night even better.

“Are you too cool?” Christopher’s breath disturbed her hairdo, but she didn’t mind.

“No.” Tucked under his muscular arm, she felt anything but cold.

The clip-clop of the horses’ hooves on the pavement matched the erratic thumping of her accelerated heartbeat. If she spent much more time so close to this man, she just might have a stroke.

Pulling from the comforting cocoon of his arms, Christine glanced up into his dark brown eyes, almost hidden in the shadows. She would never tire of looking at him. Unruly brown curls spilled across his high forehead, and she reached up and gently pushed them back, but to no avail.

Christopher took the opportunity to shift her closer. His lips descended toward hers. Her eyes drifted shut waiting for the wonderful sensations his kiss always brought her. Lost in the wonder of their embrace, she barely noticed when the forward movement of the carriage ceased. The jingling harness bells that sounded when the horses shuffled about joined with the bells pealing through her head and heart. Christopher slowly released her lips, and the love shining from his eyes went all the way through her. He pulled her arms down from around his neck and took her hands in his, rubbing his thumbs across the backs and shooting shocks of sensations up her arms. “I can’t get on my knees in this carriage, but I want you to spend the rest of your life with me.”



Buy her book here:
Deepershopping
Christianbook.com
Amazon
Barnes and Noble


ABOUT LENA:
Multi-award-winning author, Lena Nelson Dooley, has had more than 800,000 of her books sold. 

In addition to her writing, Lena is a frequent speaker at women’s groups, writers groups, and at both regional and national conferences. She has spoken in six states and internationally. She is also one of the co-hosts of the Gate Beautiful blogtalk radio show.

She has experience in screenwriting, acting, directing, and voice-overs. She has been featured in articles in Christian Fiction Online Magazine, ACFW Journal, Charisma Magazine, and Christian Retailing.

Lena has won numerous awards. She lives in Texas with her husband of over 49 years. Their favorite activities involve time with their family members. Their daughters and sons-in-law have given them four grandchildren, and now they have two great grandsons, who delight them, and another coming in April of this year.

Lena has an active web presence on Shoutlife, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Linkedin, Google+, and with her internationally connected blog where she interviews other authors and promotes their books. 


Connect with Lena here: 



LENA is giving away a copy of 8 WEDDINGS and a MIRACLE. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.











Happy Reading!
Caroline Brown

Friday, March 13, 2015

Beast of Stratton by Renee Blare

He appears the beast, but she sees his heart.

Architect Aimee Hart, determined to locate her father, infiltrates Miles Stratton’s engineering firm as a secretary. Her presence wrenches the shaggy, wounded man from his penthouse, and the quest begins.

Betrayed by his best friend, Miles would rather hide than help, especially the man's daughter. But something's not right. Someone’s trying to destroy Stratton Industrial. A decorated war veteran, he's defended his own before and the Beast of Stratton can do it again.


Even with the enemy at his side.





Book Excerpt


CHAPTER ONE
The hot spray of the shower slapped his back like a whip. Miles Stratton leaned his forehead against the cool tile and rolled his shoulders. He blinked to clear water from his eyes, but steam swirled around him. The world spun and his vision blurred. He leapt back in time—into smoke and pain.
The yoke wrenched against his hands while the rotors groaned above his head. Another missile slammed into the chopper and the tail dropped off, spinning it toward the ground. The acrid smell of burning fuel and blood hung in his nose as he fought to keep the bird in the air.
Icy water snapped him into the present, and he slammed his hand into the wall, his roar echoing around the small cubicle of granite and tile. Enough already. Miles closed his eyes and pushed the memories away.
He dipped under the cold spray one last time before shutting off the water. In his room, he dug around in his bag, tossing wrinkled clothes on the bed. Sooner or later, he’d need to unpack. It’d have to be later.
Clad in old jeans and a t-shirt, he pulled the door open and water dropped on his bare toes. He headed back to the bathroom. After another pass through his wet hair and beard with his towel, he tossed it in the hamper. Pulling a dry one off the shelf, he grabbed a comb and a rubber band.
Banging cupboards greeted him when he walked into the next room. An annoying person was in his kitchen. Again. “Hey, knock it off.”
“Where’s your scotch?” His stepbrother peeked around the corner.
Miles settled on the couch with the towel on his chest and started combing the tangles out of his beard. “Long gone.”
“What?” Ray groaned and tossed his ice into the sink with a clank and joined him in the living room. “You didn’t have to drain it all, dude. Maybe you should back off a little.”
Miles grunted. He hadn’t touched a drop since landing stateside. No, scratch that. The night before his last mission in Iraq. The toast of death—his last drink. His beard clear of snarls, Miles started on his mane. A low growl rumbled when the comb caught a ratted mass of curls. He worked it loose and began again, delving into the thick hair.
“You look like crap, man.” The younger man beat on the arm of the leather chair a few feet away, keeping the rhythm to some song only he could hear.
“What can I help you with, Ray?” He picked at another clump.
“Can’t I stop in to say hi?” Ray reached up to loosen his tie, the jacket to his Armani suit discarded at the door. “I missed you. Where’ve you been?”
“Yeah, right.” The comb stuttered to a stop before sliding through his long strands like butter. “I’ve been around.”
“What’re you doing?”
He grinned at the shock in Ray’s voice. “You’d think you’ve never seen someone braid his hair before.”
“Cut the mess, man.”
Miles secured the thick plait with the rubber band before raising an eyebrow at him. “Why are you here? And it’s not because you missed me. I’m not stupid.”

“Never said you were.” Ray propped his foot on his knee. “Did you meet the new hire today?”


About Renee:
Raised in Louisiana and Wyoming, Renee started writing poetry in junior high school and that, as they say, was that. After having her son, a desire to attend pharmacy school sent her small family to Laramie and she’s been counting pills ever since. While writing’s her first love, well, after the Lord and her husband, she also likes to fish and hunt as well as pick away on her classical guitar.

Nestled against the Black Hills with her husband, crazy old dog and ornery cat, she serves the community of northeastern Wyoming as a pharmacist and pens her Christian stories, keeping them interesting with action and intrigue, of course. She loves to interact with readers and invites you check out her website, blog, and social media.

To purchase her book:

Renee is giving away a copy of Beast of Stratton. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses.

To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You may enter the book giveaway twice -- once on each spotlight post. (It's not too late to go back and leave a comment on yesterday's post.)



Off to read another great book!
Sandra M. Hart

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Warm Welcome to Renee Blare

Is there a story behind your book, Beast of Stratton?
This story found its beginnings within my crit group, Rough Diamond Writers. We each picked a fairy tale and wrote a novella. One picked Rumpelstilstkin, another picked Snow White. I chose Beauty and the Beast. I write contemporary romantic suspense and was working with veterans at the time. Their struggle to find peace in the mere motions of daily life found its way on the pages as God gave me Miles and Aimee’s story.

 What started you on your writing journey?
My husband! I’ve written poetry and short stories since I was a teenager, but as far as novels are concerned, I give the credit to my other half. I’m notorious for ranting when I’m upset about something. His ear gets most of the abuse. (Poor guy, considering he can only hear out of one.) Well, I’d bought a book…a Christian romance or so I’d thought. I opened the cover to the first chapter and within the first three pages found six curse words…vulgar, blasphemous, and unnecessary (in my humble opinion.) But I kept reading. When I discovered sex scenes halfway through it, I tossed it and raised the rafters with my complaints. “I face enough temptation surfing Amazon to find Christian material to buy.” “What kind of Christian novel is this?”
My husband looked at me in the eye and simply said, “If you don’t like it, write your own.”
So I did.

What distracts you from writing the easiest?
I work as a pharmacist so I would have to say fatigue. I’m tired when I get home, and it’s so easy to just sit in my chair and watch television. When those deadlines are looming, that’s not possible though. My husband helps keep me focused. He pushes me with constant reminders and hints during the evening, but sometimes it doesn’t work. Those word counts dwindle and I have to push hard later.

Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote?
I would have to say Miles Stratton’s mother, Ingrid Manotti.
Why?
I’m a pantser. I write by the seat of my pants. God reveals the story to me as I go including motivations, plot twists and His mission for the book. He teaches me lessons through my characters. What He revealed through Ingrid served as a reminder. It’s what I needed both then and now. I believe it’s a reminder we all need.

What is your strangest habit?
I soak in the bathtub for hours! Give me a good book and some hot water and I’m in heaven. No bubble bath or salts…I’m allergic to everything under the sun. The water cools off, but a couple of cranks and a few minutes later, I’m back in business!
I used to have a hot tub before our brief detour to Texas. Now that was awesome (sigh). I miss soaking in that baby…now I run a steaming tub of water and make myself comfy with my Kindle White or a good ol’ paperback. In the past, I’d snooze but why do that when I’ve got a review to do, right?

What do you like most about the area where you live and/or grew up?
Peering up at the Milky Way in the starlit sky in the mountains on a midsummer eve.
The Milky Way makes a hash across a literal blanket of stars as you stare into the dark sky. A few feet away, the campfire pops and crackles and the smoke burns your nose as everyone roasts marshmallows for the smores.
But you can’t pull your gaze away from the majestic beauty framed by the towering pines above. A shooting star splits the picture and your eyes water.
God sure knew what He what He was doing.

Are there things you put off doing because you dread them?
Housework. Period.
Dishes, vacuuming, windows, bathrooms, laundry, dusting…shall I go on? I hate to clean! That’s not saying I don’t do it, but I hate it. And I’ll put it off as long as I can. Hence, my house isn’t pristine. My husband keeps the kitchen in order…he’s the cook of the house.
I have to admit though, filth is something I can’t stand even more. Clutter’s okay, filth…no. We may have clothes stacked in the basket waiting to be folded and our kitchen table’s doubling as a catchall, but our house isn’t “dirty”.
What can I say? It’s got the “lived-in” look.

Where is your favorite place to travel/vacation in?
I absolutely love the Bahamas. I’ve been to Atlantis twice now. I would love to return but this time, I want to go to the Out Islands. My dream’s to find a small resort or rent a house on one of the islands in the Bahamas and relax on the beach while my husband fly-fishes in a flat-bottomed boat.
He’s an avid fly-fisherman and I love the beach. The crystal clear blue water of the Bahamas is something you have to see to believe. I could snorkel and relax while he’s catching his bonefish. It’d be a dream come true for both of us. Maybe some day.

Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you.
Matthew 6:34 (NKJV) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
I live each day by this verse. God gave this scripture to me a few days after I was confined to bedrest during my pregnancy with my son. I didn’t know if I would carry him full-term, or if we would have enough money to pay the doctor, or hospital. I was alone every single day while my husband worked and believed my body had betrayed me. Tears came at the drop of a hat and I was terrified.
One day I was praying and reading my Bible and God told me to stop worrying and take one day at a time. One moment of my torment did nothing but distract me from the task at hand…facing the trials of the day given to me and serving Him.
Since that time, subsequent trials have come and been conquered. Not through my strength but His. Not by my worry, but by faith. One day at a time.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
My next release is due in July. It’s called To Soar on Eagle’s Wings.
This is the first book in the Snowy Range Chronicles. I have six planned.
Here’s a little bit about it.
Spring’s in the air. While the sun shines in Timber Springs, snow falls on the Snowy Range, and trouble’s brewing in the meadows. The area’s new game warden, Steve Mitchell finds a moose mired in a bog and launches his first wildlife investigation of the season. Then the trouble follows him…straight to town.
Rachel Fitzgerald’s on Spring Break. Or at least she’s trying. Between paperwork, harassing phone calls, and her family, she may as well have stayed in her classroom. So much for relaxation. A ‘chance’ meeting with her brother’s old roommate offers her weary soul a shred of hope, but she discovers love, like life, isn’t easy.

He talks with the wisdom of the Lord but rejects the future. She wants to soar with the eagles but walks alone. And trusting God proves to be more of a challenge than ever before…

Back Cover Blurb

He appears the beast, but she sees his heart.
Architect Aimee Hart, determined to locate her father, infiltrates Miles Stratton’s engineering firm as a secretary. Her presence wrenches the shaggy, wounded man from his penthouse, and the quest begins.

Betrayed by his best friend, Miles would rather hide than help, especially the man's daughter. But something's not right. Someone’s trying to destroy Stratton Industrial. A decorated war veteran, he's defended his own before and the Beast of Stratton can do it again.

Even with the enemy at his side.




To purchase Renee's book:


About Renee:
Raised in Louisiana and Wyoming, Renee started writing poetry in junior high school and that, as they say, was that. After having her son, a desire to attend pharmacy school sent her small family to Laramie and she’s been counting pills ever since. While writing’s her first love, well, after the Lord and her husband, she also likes to fish and hunt as well as pick away on her classical guitar.
Nestled against the Black Hills with her husband, crazy old dog and ornery cat, she serves the community of northeastern Wyoming as a pharmacist and pens her Christian stories, keeping them interesting with action and intrigue, of course. She loves to interact with readers and invites you check out her website, blog, and social media.

To connect with Renee:
email: faithwalker007@gmail.com

Renee is giving away a copy of Beast of Stratton. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses.

To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You may enter the book giveaway twice -- once on each spotlight post. (It's not too late to go back and leave a comment on yesterday's post.)



Off to read another great book!
Sandra M. Hart

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

This Week's Winners

Once again, we offer you a warm welcome to the Bookshelf of the Barn Door Book Loft. 

And before we announce our winners we’d like to offer a special thanks to these Christian authors who offered a sample of their writing to our faithful readers:

Michelle Levigne who offered her Inspirational Fantasy  Lorien Faxinor Chronicles #2
Marian Pellegrin Merritt who offered her Women’s Fiction  The Vigil
And Deborah Heal who offered her Historical Romantic Mystery  Once Again

And now: We're pleased to announce this week’s winners: 

Tammy Cordery has won Michelle Levigne’s Inspirational Fantasy  Lorien Faxinor Chronicles #2
Susan Lulu has won Marian Pellegrin Merritt’s Women’s Fiction  The Vigil
And  Kay M has won Deborah Heal’s Historical Romantic Mystery  Once Again

Congratulations Winners! Remember, it's your responsibility to contact me  sharonalavy {at} gmail {dot} com) with your address so the author can send you a book.  

Be sure to check past winners posts. Subscribing by email will ensure you don't miss seeing the winners list.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

California Author Joseph Bentz

Welcome to the Book Loft, Joseph! Is there a story behind Dreams of Caladria?

         Yes, This book has an unusual story behind it. In 1995 Thomas Nelson published my first novel, a fantasy novel called Song of Fire. It was well-reviewed, but right as it came out, Nelson changed publishing strategies and moved away from fantasy for that period. The novel faded from view and went out of print. Now, on the 20th anniversary of its original publication, it will be republished by Enclave Publishing, with a new title, new cover, and with a new ending (the one I had originally wanted the book to have). It will also have some bonus material on my website.

Why so many changes to the original novel?

         The book has gone through so many changes since its inception that it’s hard to know what the “original” book really is. Song of Fire took me 10 years to write. I worked on it off and on through graduate school and as I started on my teaching career. The first draft was 1,200 pages long. It was clearly unpublishable at that point, so I started again, using those 1,200 pages as raw material for the next draft. I finally got it down to about 600 pages before I started sending it out to publishers. Jan Dennis at Thomas Nelson championed the book and pushed for its publication, but the editors and reviewers wanted it cut to about 450 pages, and they wanted changes in the ending and other revisions. I did the cuts and reluctantly altered the ending, but I was never completely satisfied with it. Now I get to try something a little closer to what I originally envisioned. Most of the material I cut will still be left out of this version, but some of it will be on my website as bonus material.

What started you on your writing journey?

         I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t want to write. Even in grade school I enjoyed writing stories. As I grew up and started reading novels, I thought nothing could be more rewarding than to have one of my stories come to life in the minds of readers. I set out to make that a reality. It was much harder than I expected it to be, both because of the difficulty of the writing process itself and also the various publishing obstacles, but eventually, thank God, it happened.

What distracts you from writing the easiest?

         Email! Facebook! Blogs! News websites! Just about anything on the Internet can knock me off stride as a writer. I sometimes have trouble remembering what the distractions were before the Internet came along, but I know I had difficulty even then. At various times in my writing journey I have set rules for myself that I do not access the Internet until a certain time of day. I find that if I can do my writing early in the day, before my thoughts are scattered in a million directions by all the online voices, I accomplish much more. But there is something almost irresistible to me about email, especially now that my emails also appear on my cell phone. Most of them could wait, of course, but I often find myself breaking away from a concentrated time of writing to check my inbox. Distraction is the biggest obstacle I face now as a writer. I constantly struggle for focus. 

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?

         I am a professor of American literature, so I have the opportunity to spend lots of time reading and teaching the classics of American literature. I am a fan and scholar of the novelist Thomas Wolfe, who wrote Look Homeward, Angel, You Can’t Go Home Again, and other books. I also occasionally teach a course in William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, and I love both of those writers. A current writer I also get to teach is Joan Didion, who is best known for her non-fiction but who is also an excellent novelist. Right now I am teaching a course in three American dramatists—Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller. It has been a joy to teach their plays.

         When I’m reading for fun, I love spy novels. Give me any book by writers like John Le Carre, Robert Littell, or Olen Steinhauer, and I’m happy. I also write one book review a month for CBA Retailers + Resources magazine, which covers the Christian book market, so I get the chance to read many Christian novels that I enjoy.    

Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote?

         The original version of Dreams of Caladria was my first novel, and I worked on it for a long time, so I really began to identify with the main character, Jeremy, during those years. This is a fantasy novel, so none of my actual life experience was included in it, but as I read the book now I realize that many of the incidents are related to actual events but are so heavily disguised in the fantasy events that no one but myself would be able to recognize them. As I faced conflicts, challenges and joys in my own life, I found ways of putting Jeremy through many of those experiences in the guise of more outward, action-oriented elements of the plot.    

Are there spiritual themes you like to write about?  

         All of my books have strong spiritual themes. In Dreams of Caladria, the power of God’s presence is an important spiritual theme throughout the book. God’s Spirit inhabits music in that world, in a way that is so powerful that music becomes not only sound but also multi-colored strands of light. Music is multi-dimensional, and it is such a threat to those who oppose God’s followers that they have outlawed it. Jeremy, a musician, arrives in this world and is cynically manipulated by those who fear music, but he ultimately finds that God’s presence in the music—and his own connection to it—cannot be suppressed.

         For me, music has always been a powerful source of God’s voice and an important part of worship. Our music on Earth is not as overtly filled with God’s power as it is in the world of the novel, but I do think his presence is all around us in ways that our world tries to suppress. I hope my writing can make people more aware of him and more open to him. Years after I wrote this novel, I treated a similar theme in my non-fiction book, Pieces of Heaven: Recognizing the Presence of God.  

Where do you escape for some quiet time to reflect, pray, read, etc?

         Like most writers, I need as much quiet time as I can get. In an increasingly noisy world, it is getting harder to focus my mind for writing or almost anything else. One of the best times I have found for prayer, reflection and generating ideas is my morning run. Several days a week I run four and a half miles early in the morning. I don’t take along any electronic devices to distract me. I run a path along the foothills near our home, and it’s one of my favorite times of day. I often come home and have to scribble down ideas right away before I lose them.
         As for reading, I love to relax on my recliner late in the evening and read a good book. Unfortunately, I often fall asleep doing it. But reading improves my dreams.   

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?

         In addition to Dreams of Caladria, I also have another book scheduled for release later in 2015. It is a non-fiction book called Nothing is Wasted, and it is to be published by Beacon Hill Press. The central idea of the book is that redemption is built into the structure of the universe. From nature to storytelling to suffering, good springs from difficulty and catastrophe in ways too numerous to ignore.

         As I researched this book, I wanted to know, when people have faced some of the worst things life has to offer—the loss of a child, a debilitating illness or injury, the shattering of lifelong dreams—what sense do they make of it years later? Does only the pain remain, or do they find that God has also grown redemption from the suffering? As I interviewed people and learned their stories, I repeatedly found that the pain, while it may be so deep that it lasts a lifetime, is rarely the final word. I also trace redemption’s role in other surprising areas of life. Dirt, for example. Fairytales. Whale carcasses. Death. God wastes nothing, no matter how ugly, smelly or difficult.   

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Joseph Bentz is giving away a copy of Dreams of Caladria. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice—once on each Spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.



Monday, March 9, 2015

Dreams of Caladria by Joseph Bentz

Through the breaking ice, in a vortex of brilliant light, energy, and sound, Jeremy plunges into a dangerous and mysterious new world.

          It is a world where music is absolutely prohibited—on pain of death. And Jeremy breaks that law when he arrives in Persus Am in a swirling cloud of light and music. A stranger in a strange land, he does not know why he has been sent here. But it soon becomes clear that he must risk everything to help his new friends in this weary and war-torn world.

         From the vast Gray Desert to the jeweled palace of Persus Am, the forbidding Rock of Calad to the fabled land of Caladria, Jeremy finds himself in the midst of horrifying evil and heroic goodness. As he searches for an answer to why he is here, he must face the truth that is written on his own heart.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

         Anne skated away from me and headed toward the light at the edge of the frozen lake. I was left alone in the darkness to regret everything I had said to her.
         I glided off in the opposite direction from her, toward the darkest, most secluded corner of the lake. This area was supposed to be off-limits because the park could not guarantee that the ice was safe. But I knew that the park rangers were always too cautious. The entire lake had been frozen solid for days. Besides, the solidity of the ice was not my biggest concern at the moment. I needed to be alone to think.
         I had brought Anne, my almost-fiancĂ©e, to the lake because it had always been our favorite place to come for serious talks. We could glide around in the vast silence without any distractions. We often wandered off into what we considered our own private alcove, one of those “unsafe” areas where we had never been caught.
         On most trips here we had been able to talk things through until they were resolved, but this night was different. I told Anne that earlier that day, against her fervent wishes, I had quit my job at the bank.
         I could not explain to her why I quit, or at least I couldn’t put together any coherent explanation that sounded like anything more than a weak excuse, even to myself. To Anne my job at the bank was a respectable, reasonably well-paid position that, in addition to her own income, would allow us to afford getting married and starting a home. I had been at the bank since graduating from college—nearly a year—and my bosses encouraged me with promises of a bright future in the organization.
         I could not explain to Anne what the job was doing to me. I could not describe the mind-crushing boredom of it, the way time seemed stretched out of all proportion there, my legs vibrating restlessly under the desk as I glanced at the clock repeatedly and thought, Still seven more hours to go, still six hours and fifty-seven minutes to go . . .
         I hardly seemed to breathe while I was at the bank; I just kept quiet and tried to endure the endless passage of time, tried not to let anyone see my frustration, tried to keep my pen moving on the page, tried not to run desperately out the door and into the sunshine. There had to be something besides this. Some of the people around me seemed to thrive on the work, but it was killing me. This I could not explain to Anne. She, and just about everybody else, would simply say, “Oh, everybody gets bored with their job sometimes. It will pick up.”
         Though Anne was angry that I had suddenly quit my job, she was even more upset about what I had decided to do while I looked for another job.
         In college, before I met Anne, I had been a member of a band that played in college bars on the weekends. I had quit after graduation, but my best friend Will had kept the band going, and a few weeks before I quit the bank, he asked me to come back to the group. I told him maybe. It was only part-time, and it wouldn’t pay enough that I could afford not to work somewhere else, but I felt a strange need to do it, a powerful hunger for the music
         Anne immediately jumped on the band and the sinister influence of Will as the real reasons I was quitting my job.
         “You’re going back to your old life,” she said.
         “No,” I said. “I’m just going to play with the band. Weekends mostly. Just playing with the band.”
         “No, it’s not just the band. It’s all that goes with it. You’re going back to your old life, and it’s a place you know I’ll never fit.”

• • •

         Anne and Will were the two people closest to me, but they distrusted each other completely. I kept them separate from each other, like two warring sides of my own personality.
         To Anne, Will was a dangerous force drawing me back to my self-destructive past. To Will, Anne was responsible for what he saw as my weird embracing of her Christian beliefs. He viewed my Christianity as an unfortunate side effect of my relationship with Anne, and he thought my faith would fade was soon as my passion for her cooled. He never said that in so many words, but I knew him too well not to figure it out. I could not explain my Christianity to Will because he did not even want to discuss the subject. I could not explain to Will the intensity of the Spirit that burned inside me. I could not explain the months of raging in my soul, the questions and doubts, the struggle with the Spirit, that led to my becoming a Christian. He could believe in the spiritual power of our music, which we had talked about many times, but he scorned the idea that the power in the music was only a shadow of the power of the Spirit. He patiently waited for my “Christian phase” to end.
         Anne could not understand why my friendship with Will stayed so strong and why I felt such a need to get back to the music. To her Will was cynical and aimless. She did not see the side of him that I saw. She did not see the friend who was full of life, totally accepting, expecting nothing more from me than to be there in the band and have a good time. He wanted only to feel that music, to sense the pleasure of the crowd.

• • •

         I hardly knew where I was skating. The moon was gone. It was very dark. Nothing looked familiar. I wished Anne were still beside me. I need to reach her, to make her understand.
         Going back to the “old life,” if that is what I was doing, certainly did not mean leaving Anne behind. I loved her more than I had ever loved anyone, and the changes she had brought about in my life could never be undone.
         I had met Anne during our final semester in college. From the night we were introduced at a friend’s house, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. The first time we went out alone we went to the skate park, the same one where I now skated alone in the dark. But that day was warm and sunny, and we walked to the waterfall on the river that cuts through the park. We stood arm in arm in the stream looking at the waterfall crashing down from twenty feet above us. Anne’s face was wrapped in the spray of it, her black hair gradually getting wet, her brown eyes sparkling. I knew I loved her in that moment, if I hadn’t known it already. We found a place along the edge of the fall where we could climb up.
         She climbed ahead of me, the water drenching her, sometimes pushing her hard against me. For some reason the water made her laugh so hard that I was afraid she would fall. I tried to steady her with my arms. “Don’t laugh,” I said, but she couldn’t help it. When we finally got to the top, she ran along the smooth rock, splashing water into the air with her feet. Before long she was ready to climb back down.
         When we got to the bottom, she pulled me right into the corner of the spray, so powerful it nearly washed the blouse off her shoulders. She screamed and laughed. I held onto her as tight as I could until the force of the water knocked us into the cool pool below.

• • •

         I decided to try to skate back to Anne, but I had wandered so far out that I wasn’t quite sure of the direction. So dark. I glided off toward where I thought she must be. This area just didn’t look right. The ice didn’t feel right.
         During our argument Anne had said that quitting my job was just one more way of drifting back toward self-destructive patterns and that before it was over I would drift away from my faith and away from her too. What I could not get her to see—what I could barely believe myself—was that quitting the bank was an act of faith, a desperate plea to the Lord to show me where He wanted me to go. I did not seem capable of finding Him in a simpler way like other people did, through quiet reflection or prayer.
         I skated out of an alcove and onto a broader part of the lake. I was pretty sure I was skating in the right direction finally, and I was relieved when I saw a figure—and then two figures—up ahead, and distant lights on the bank. I would skate toward the light. No problem.
         I hoped that one of the figures was Anne, but soon I could tell that they were both men. None of this looked right. I heard nothing but a squeaking noise under my feet. The light on the bank must have been where Anne was, I thought, but it looked different. What part of the lake was I on?
         I might have been headed toward the wrong bank, but at least it was a bank, and, I reasoned, the ice must be better over there than here. I didn’t get much farther before the front tip of my right blade caught on something and I fell on one knee. “Dear Lord, protect me.” My knee smashed through the ice. I felt the frigid water surround it. I lost my balance for a moment, but then I jerked myself up and plunged forward again. The two men saw me. They waved their arms.
         Everything around me seemed to be cracking. The entire lake seemed to be falling into a huge abyss, sinking, and ice upon ice. I fell again, my legs in the wetness turning into weights that dragged me down. As water covered me, I turned to cold, hopeless stone. Anne’s face flashed in my brain. My father’s face. I felt myself thrashing, heard my voice try to scream for Anne, but she was nowhere. I could not breathe. Dear Jesus. Anne.
         Not knowing whether I was dead or alive, I did not stop falling until I crashed through what I can only describe as a blackness, a door. When I woke up, if waking up is what I should call it, nothing would ever be the same.



About The Author

Joseph Bentz's books span a variety of genres, including a fantasy novel, three contemporary novels, four non-fiction books on Christian living, and one book/DVD package. Bentz is a frequent speaker at writers conferences, churches, and other venues. He is a professor of English at Azusa Pacific University. He earned a Ph.D. and M.A. in American literature from Purdue University and a B.A. in English from Olivet Nazarene University. He lives with his wife and two children in Southern California. More information on his writing and speaking is available at his website, www.josephbentz.com. His blog, Life of the Mind and Soul, also appears at that site.


Purchase Dreams of Caladria at:


Joseph Bentz is giving away a copy of Dreams of Caladria. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice—once on each Spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.





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