Wednesday, January 28, 2015

This week's Book Winners

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

And before we announce our four winners we’d like to offer a special thanks to our Christian Authors for offering a taste of their writing to our faithful readers.

Our Thanks go to:

Laura Jackson who offered her Young Adult Book  Worth the Time.
Delia Latham who offered her Inspirational Romance  Jingle Belle.
Michelle Levigne who offered her Fantasy Romance  Heir of Faxinor.
And Caryl McAdoo who offered her Historical Romance  Hope Reborn. 

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

Deanna Stevens has won Laura Jackson’s Young Adult Book  Worth the Time.
Robin Bunting has won Delia Latham’s Inspirational Romance  Jingle Belle.
Laura Pol has won Michelle Levigne’s Fantasy Romance  Heir of Faxinor.
And Susan Lulu has won Caryl McAdoo’s Historical Romance  Hope Reborn. 
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, January 27, 2015

Texas Author Kelly Irvin

Hello Kelly! Welcome to the Book Loft. Can you tell us a bit about your family, and what it is like where you live?

I recently became an empty nester. It’s been a huge adjustment. My husband, who is a professional photographer working for one of the local school districts, and I live in a two story house with more bedrooms than we now need. My daughter moved to Norfolk in April, taking my only granddaughter with her, to be with her husband, who is in the U.S. Navy. My son moved into his own apartment after getting a great promotion at work. I’m so thrilled and proud of them both. Life changes are bound to come for us all. We live in San Antonio, which is an incredible cultural melting pot, and home to the NBA champion Spurs basketball team (Just had to throw that in there). I’m originally from Kansas and my husband is from Minnesota, but we have called San Antonio home since 1989. It’s a great place to raise a family and put down roots.

What can you tell us about your new release, The Beekeeper's Son?

The setting is a critical aspect of the story, another character really. Bee County, Texas, is home to the only Amish District in Texas. South Texas is dry, has rocky soil, lots of cacti and scraggly mesquite and live oak trees. My heroine, Deborah Lantz, has just move to Bee County from Tennessee and she’s not happy about it. She misses her home and the man she thought would one day be her husband. Her new district’s homes are weather beaten and need a coat of paint. The landscape is barren and full of cacti and scraggly trees. After Deborah meets Phineas King, a young man with a scarred face and even more scarred heart, she’s forced to look at beauty from God’s perspective and not the world’s. Amish fiction readers will get a glimpse of an Amish district very different from the more idyllic settings they see in stories set farther north.

Did you have a specific theme in mind as you wrote? 

The theme became clear to me after a few visits to Bee County, which is about an hour and half’s drive south of my home. I couldn’t understand how the Amish folks living there could be so oblivious to the need to spruce up things in their little community. Why didn’t they clean up the junkyard next to the Combination Store? Why didn’t they paint their houses? It came to me as I drove home after a second or third trip? Outward trappings aren’t important to them. They have scant resources and they have to prioritize how they use them. Life has to be extremely difficult, trying to make a living from the land in such a barren place. How dare I judge them based on what I think is pretty or important? Me in my shiny new car, rolling home to my nice home and good paying job? Let’s just say the theme hit me right between the eyes! I was judging them by the world’s standards for beauty, not God’s. He created Bee County, just as he created the beautiful idyllic scenes a person sees in Lancaster County.
What is the last thing you wrote?

The second book in this series, The Bishop’s Son. I’ve finished the edits sent along by my editors and I’m looking forward to its release in June 2015. Readers will get to see how things are going in Bee County. It’s a very different story from The Beekeeper’s Son, but the spiritual theme is just as strong, I believe. Now I have to get started on book number three!

Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?

I have two romances I wrote a few years ago that I still love. I fully intend to publish them independently when I have time to do the work necessary to whip them into shape and worry about covers and marketing and such. Sometimes publishers don’t buy stories because of factors that have nothing to do with how good they are or how well they’re written. So I don’t give up on them, I simply set them aside for another day.

What’s one genre you have never written, and probably never will?

Horror. Definitely. I read murder mysteries and suspense, but I draw the line at horror. Too scary for me and I don’t like to contemplate the true horrors that are out there in the world! I certainly don’t want to live inside a horror story long enough to write it.

What are your five favorite words?

An editor-friend and I were just talking about this recently. My list varies Like favorite foods do. I decided my dress for the ACFW conference gala I attended recently really should be called a frock. It just looks like what I envision a frock to be. And we really like the word onerous. No one uses it anymore and we don’t know why. I like writing rural characters/stories because the words can be so descriptive and give flavor to the story. I recently used caterwauling and catty-wampus in a book I was writing. It made me very happy! Action verbs are very satisfying. Why walk when you can stroll, saunter, trudge, or catapult across the yard to the corral?

What character that you’ve created most resembles you?

I think it’s Bethel in Love Still Stands. Although I didn’t know it at the time I was writing a story similar to what I’m now living. She loves to learn and read and she’s independent. She doesn’t want to have to rely on others for help. And then she’s hurt in a terrible storm that destroys the schoolhouse and she can no longer walk without crutches. She’s afraid she won’t be able to be the wife and mother every Amish woman wants to be, is destined to be. She struggles to find a new identity in the wake of her loss of independence. I wasn’t hurt in a storm, but recently began to suffer from a degenerative condition combined with worsening scoliosis that has affected my ability to walk. The pain and the struggle to simply balance myself have changed the way I look at myself as an active, independent person. By the time this blog is published I will have had surgery that will keep my symptoms from getting worse, but may not give me back my ability to walk freely. Either way, I’ve learned to rely on God and my husband to ask for help when I need it. It hasn’t been fun, but it’s certainly brought home all those lessons I so blithely included for others in my story, Love Still Stands.

Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write your first draft?

I can’t help myself. I’m a journalist by trade so it’s very difficult for me to leave a misspelling or a grammatical error behind. Sometimes it helps me to get unstuck if I focus for a few minutes on “fixing” minor things.

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

Next up is the second story in The Amish of Bee County series.  It is entitled The Bishop’s Son and it will release in June 2015. Here’s the catalogue copy:

Leila Lantz is in danger of losing her heart to a Plain man until she discovers he’s not so Plain after all.

Leila has been drawn to Jesse Glick, the bishop’s son, since the first day she met him at his father’s store, and she knows he feels the same way about her. But she can’t understand why he seems to make overtures one day, then withdraw the next.

Jesse has a secret. He has been attending an Englisch church youth group, and he’s starting to believe he’s being called to be a minister, something Amish men cannot be unless they draw the lot. He’s considering leaving his Amish community to follow his calling. The only reason he has stayed is Leila. Will, Jesse’s cousin, has his own feelings for Leila, but he has stood back in deference to his cousin for many months. Until he can’t stand the thought of Leila being hurt.

Leila can choose Will and know that she will never have to leave her home or family. Or she can choose Jesse and the love her heart desires, knowing she’ll have to say goodbye to her entire community. The day comes when Jesse, Will, and Leila all have to make their choices, choices that will deeply affect their small, close-knit community of Plain families.

Thanks for sharing with us today!

Connect with Kelly Irvin at:

Twitter: @Kelly_S_Irvin

Kelly Irvin is giving away a copy of The Beekeeper's Son. 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, January 26, 2015

The Beekeeper's Son by Kelly Irvin

Sometimes it takes a barren landscape to see the beauty of God’s creation.

Phineas King knows better than to expect anything but shock and pity wherever he shows his face. Horribly scarred from the van  accident that claimed his mother’s life, he chooses to keep his distance from everyone, focusing his time and energy on the bees his family raises. If no one sees him, no one can judge him. So why does he start finding excuses to seek out Deborah Lantz, the beautiful new arrival in town?

Deborah can’t get out of Bee County, Texas, soon enough. Once her mother and younger siblings are settled, she is on the first bus out of this dusty town. She is only waiting on the letter from Aaron, asking her to return to lush Tennessee to be his fraa. But that letter never comes. As she spends time getting to know Phineas—hoping to uncover the man beneath the scars—she begins to realize that she no longer minds that Aaron hasn’t sent for her.

As both Deborah and Phineas try to come to terms with lives that haven’t turned out the way they imagined, they discover that perhaps Gott’s plans for them are more extraordinary than they could have dreamed. But they need to let go of their own past sorrows and disappointments to find the joy and beauty that lies just ahead for them both.


Chapter 1

Getting lost might be a sign.
 Deborah Lantz wiped at her face with the back of her sleeve to hide her grim smile. Getting lost might be a sign Mudder shouldn’t marry a man she couldn’t really claim to know—not in recent years, anyway. Abigail Lantz would call such a thought pure silliness and she would be right. Why would God send them nine-hundred miles away from their home in Tennessee, only to give them a nudge in the wrong direction so they ended up lost deep in south Texas?
Not likely. God had a plan for the Lantz family. Deborah need only be patient. At least that was what she’d been told hundreds of times.
As if it were an easy task. Deborah wiggled, trying to get more comfortable between Hazel’s booster seat and Rebekah, who had her nose pressed to the van window, not wanting to miss a single thing, even after watching the same monotonous, flat countryside for hours. Deborah longed to feel the excitement of her younger sisters. At nineteen, she was old enough to know what she’d be missing back home. All the singings with her friends, the buggy rides with Aaron afterward, the frolics. She would miss the chance to become Aaron’s fraa and mudder of his children.
All the things she’d ever wanted.
Wrinkling her nose at the scent of sweat and warm feet, she leaned toward the window to watch the barren countryside now that Bert Richards had slowed down as much as he dared on a highway where the speed limit signs read seventy-five miles per hour.
“There! There it is.” Caleb, who served as map reader, pointed with one finger and fumbled the map with his other hand. “Tynan, County Road 796. Turn there. Turn there.”
“Got it.” Bert whipped the steering wheel to the left. The force of the turn sent them all listing in the same direction. Hazel crowed with laughter and clapped her chubby hands. Bert hazarded a quick glance back, his forehead wrinkled above bushy eyebrows only partially hidden by thick, black-rimmed glasses. “Sorry about that. I didn’t want to miss the turn a second time. Is George still behind us?”
 Deborah scooped up her notebook from where it had lodged against the van door and turned to peer through the back window. The van that carried their bags of clothes and the boxes of household goods still followed at a steady pace. “Jah. Yes, he’s still behind us.” Her tone sounded tart in her ears. She worked to soften it. “George is a good driver.”
Too good. Maybe a second or third wrong turn and they could wheel around and go home.
 Deborah hugged her notebook to her chest, thinking of the two letters she’d begun. One to Josie, her best friend, and one to Aaron, who’d been well on his way to being her special friend. If only she could write to them and say it was all a big mistake and they were coming home. Then she could erase the look on Aaron’s face as he watched her get in the van and wave until she couldn’t see him anymore.
One more turn. One more turn and she would meet her future.
Gaitan Road.” Bert sang out as he made a sharp right turn at a corner that featured a yellow sign that read Support Beeville Bees. Buy Local Honey. “We did it. We’re here.”
“Indeed we are.” Mudder clapped her hands, her face lighted with a smile. The weariness of the trip dropped away, and Deborah saw an Abigail Lantz she hadn’t seen in a long time—not since Daed’s death more than two years ago. “We made it. Praise Gott.
Praise Gott. Deborah hoped Mudder wouldn’t read her face. If coming to Bee County made her mother happy, than Deborah would make the best of it.
Make the best of it. That’s what Daed would’ve said.
Whatever it is.
Even if it involved leaving behind the only home they’d ever known and all their friends and most of their family because Mudder wanted to marry an old beau who’d stepped aside long ago when she married Daed.
The van rocked to a stop in front of a long, dirty white building with rusted siding and a tin roof. The sign out front read Combination Store. A broken-down black buggy sat in front of it as if someone had parked it there and left it to waste away until it collapsed and disappeared into the earth.
“Come on, come on, don’t just sit there. Let’s get out.” Mudder slid open the door. “Stephen will be waiting.”
“He’s waited this long . . .” Deborah bit back the rest of the sentence. Mudder did what she thought was best. Deborah had no business questioning. “Are you sure he’s meeting us?”
“I told him we were dividing the trip into two days so we would arrive middle of the afternoon today.”
 Deborah slipped from the van, glad to stand on solid ground. Dirt puffed up around her bare feet, then settled on her toes, turning them brown. Grasshoppers shot in all directions. Two landed on her apron. She brushed them away, more interested in the deafening sound in the air like a buzz saw cutting lumber. She’d never heard such a ruckus. The smell of manure mixed with cut hay hung in air heavy with humidity. She glanced back at Leila, who climbed down with more grace. She had the same bewildered look on her face as Rebekah. “What is that noise?”
“Cicadas, I reckon.” Rebekah shrugged. “Leastways that’s what I’m thinking. Caleb was reading about them in his books.”
Bugs. No doubt, her little brother would love this place.
The letters Stephen had written to her mother had talked about Bee County as if it were a garden oasis. Deborah had imagined groves of citrus trees so laden with oranges and grapefruits that the branches hung to the ground. He described wild grapes, olives, and figs, filling Deborah’s mind with images of something downright biblical—an Eden sprouting up in Texas. Eden with palm trees. After all, Stephen said the Gulf of Mexico wasn’t far. He even said they could wade in the salty water if they had such a hankering.
 Deborah definitely had a hankering, but it didn’t involve the ocean. She sidled closer to Leila. “This is the promised land?” She kept her voice down. “Citrus and orchards?”
Leila stuck Hazel on her hip and hoisted her canvas bag onto her shoulder. “Mudder sure thinks it is.” Despite the sweat on her face and the scraggly hair that had escaped her prayer kapp, Deborah’s younger sister didn’t look the least bit concerned about meeting the people who would be her new community. “She’s as happy as a bee on honeysuckle.”
Rebekah tittered and Hazel joined in, even though at three, she couldn’t know what was so funny.
“Are those twisted things trees?” Leila wrinkled her nose as if she smelled something bad too. “They sure are stunted looking.”
“Live oak, I think.” Caleb loved to share all the tidbit of information he squirreled away in his head from his beloved books. “The cacti are called prickly pear. The fat parts are nopales.”
He stumbled over the pronunciation of the last word. It came out no-pails. Whatever they were called, they didn’t look like they would be featured in the garden of Eden. They were more like the wilderness Deborah imagined when the bishop preached about the Israelites wandering around for forty years.
More thoughts she would keep to herself.
 “Stephen mentioned the drought.” She tried to fill her voice with bright hope for the sake of her brother and sisters. After Stephen showed up in Tennessee for a wedding, Mudder had started to smile more. Deborah liked her mother’s smile. “Some of the fields are green. Look over there—see that garden. It’s nice. They irrigate. And there’s a greenhouse. I’m sure that’s what Stephen was talking about. That’s probably his farm there across the road.”
The farm would one day be their home if Stephen had his way. And he would. Otherwise, why had Mudder agreed to move here?
The door of the Combination Store opened and Stephen strode out, one hand to his forehead, shielding his eyes from the sun. Onkel John marched right behind him, along with their cousin Frannie. Stephen had the lightest white-blond beard Deborah had ever seen. It matched
blond hair that curled under his straw hat and eyes the pale blue of summer sky. “You made it. I’ve been waiting for you. We didn’t know what time you would get here or the whole district would’ve turned out to greet you.”
He stumbled over some invisible rock. His face turned a deeper radish red under his sunburn. He hadn’t changed at all in the four months since they’d seen him back in Tennessee. “It’s good . . . very gut to see you again.”
Mudder’s face turned a matching shade of red. “I thought you might be in the midst of chores.”
“I’m here.” Stephen stopped short a few feet from where Mudder stood, arms dangling at her sides. His massive, sunburned hand came out. Then, as if he thought better of the idea, he wrapped his fingers around his suspenders and snapped them. “I’ve been waiting to see you . . . and the kinner.”
Mudder wiped her hands on her apron, then smoothed her prayer kapp. Deborah opened her mouth to try to break the strange pause. Leila elbowed her. She closed her mouth.
“Well, don’t just stand there, say hello to Stephen and your Onkel John.” Mudder slipped past Stephen and accepted a hug from her brother as if to show her brood how to do it. “I’m so grateful to be here. What a long drive. My legs couldn’t take much more of that. Come, kinner, say hello.” Mudder grabbed Deborah’s arm and tugged her forward. “Onkel John is offering us a place to stay in his home. I reckon the least you can do is say hello.”
Squeezing past Stephen without meeting his gaze, Deborah nodded to her onkel, who towered over her, the sun a halo around the flat brim of his straw hat. He settled for a quick wave, while Frannie studied her sneakers as if caught in a sudden fit of shyness.
“Let’s get your things out of the vans. That’s our place right there yonder.” John pointed to an L-shaped house down the road from the store. “No point in moving the vans. I’m sure the drivers are ready for supper and a place to lay their heads. They’ll have to drive back to Beeville for that.”
“I’ll take care of it, John. Y’all visit.” Stephen strode toward the back of the first van, Caleb, Leila, and Rebekah straggling behind him. “I imagine the kinner are hungrier than bears and tired enough to hibernate for the winter.”
He chuckled. Deborah searched for the humor and couldn’t find it. Mudder had packed plenty of food for the trip. They’d turned the meals into picnics at the rest stops along the way. If she admitted the truth, those picnics had been fun.
“I’m Frannie, remember me?” Frannie had her mudder’s wiry frame, upturned nose, and freckles. She had grown taller since the last time Deborah had seen her, but she was still a bundle of sharp corners. “Come on, I’ll help you. Careful where you step. The horses have been decorating the road today. Don’t worry, y’all will get used to this heat.”
Thankful for a friendly face on someone close to her own age, Deborah veered in Frannie’s direction, careful to avoid the horse droppings she’d been so kind as to point out. Deborah wanted to put off the moment when she would have to enter one of the houses with rusty siding desiccated by the wind and sun and submit to the reality that this would be her home from now on.
Appearances meant nothing. She knew that. Still, hardscrabble dirt and the buggy junkyard next to the store and the sorry looking houses bothered her. Because they didn’t look like home. She liked her district with the neat yards, freshly painted wood frame houses, plain, but clean. She liked the pinks, purples, and yellows of the flower garden Mudder planted every spring. Would God find fault in these folks picking up the place a little, making it more pleasing to the eye? He created beauty, didn’t He?
God didn’t make mistakes and God made this place.
If God didn’t make mistakes, why did Daed have to die? What kind of plan was that?
Too weary to try to sort out her disconcerting thoughts and impressions, all tangled up like fishing wire and piercing hooks, Deborah led Frannie around to the back of the second van. A strange, shelled brownish-black creature with a pointy face, pink nose, and long, scaly tail trundled toward her on four short legs. It stopped within inches of her bare toes and sniffed.
She stumbled back, arms in the air, screeched, lost her balance, and plopped on her behind in a heap on the hard, rocky ground.
The ugly animal changed directions and scurried into the scraggly, brown grass, apparently as afraid of her as she was of it. “What was that?”

A man with a shock of dark hair hanging in his eyes under the brim of his straw hat tugged a trash bag of clothes from the van and plopped it on the ground. “I’ve never had anyone scream at the sight of my ugly face before.” Despite his nonchalant tone, a scarlet blush burned across his face, deepening the ugly hue of the thick, ropy scars that marred it. He had the same twang as Frannie, but it was at odds with his hoarse voice and the harsh sarcasm that underlined his words. “Guess there’s a first time for everything.”

About The Author

Kelly Irvin is the author of The Beekeeper’s Son, the first book in the Amish of Bee County series, published by Zondervan/HarperCollins. She is currently working on the second book of the series, The Bishop’s Son, which will release in June 2015.

Kelly is also author of  the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest Housing Publishing. She has also penned two inspirational romantic suspense novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine.

Kelly has been married to photographer Tim Irvin for twenty-seven years. They have two young adult children, one gorgeous new granddaughter, two cats, and a tank full of fish. In her spare time, she likes to write short stories and read books by her favorite authors.

Purchase The Beekeeper's Son at:

Kelly Irvin is giving away a copy of The Beekeeper's Son. 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.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Warm Welcome to Carol G. Heilman

I'm excited to welcome Carol here today. Her book sounds fantastic, and I'm anxious to read it! Carol, tell us . . .

Is there a story behind Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar?
Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar began as a short story assignment for a creative writing class at the University of South Carolina over ten years ago.

Our instructor told us to place ourselves, along with some of our friends, in a foreign environment and to step back and see what developed.

I chose the porch of a retirement home because a standing joke, among a group of my friends and myself, was that one-day we would end up living in such a place together.

Before I had written two pages the characters, with their unique names took on their own personalities. I was fairly new to such writing adventures and was taken aback. They began to assert themselves and I decided I needed to pay attention, to listen and watch—for my scenes often unfold like a movie in my mind’s eye.

The short story ended when Agnes slipped out the back door of Sunset Manor, the name of the retirement home at that time. Then I began to ask questions. What if she . . .

I wish I could be more like my protagonist, who is outspoken and spunky, but she has taken on some of the aspects of my mother’s spirit. Writing fiction is such fun!

 Agnes Hopper’s story continues to evolve and surprise me. I am delighted to have a part in the telling of it.

Interesting! What started you on your writing journey? 
I began writing twenty years or so ago and an instructor named Trish became my Barnabas. She taught a class for seniors in the community at one of our local hospitals. I called to sign up and was told I didn’t qualify. I wasn’t old enough. Imagine that. But I kept calling until the lady on the other end relented and said, “I guess we can let you come.”

I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone that I was fifty-two years old. Trish taught two classes, one creative writing, the other autobiographical. I first began writing the family stories—and I had plenty of material. Daddy thought everything I wrote was wonderful while Mother was horrified. She often said, “We don’t have any secrets any more.” I think I get my exaggerating traits from her.

Trish told me to keep writing. She helped me get my first tiny article published about my daddy’s Appalachian humor. She believed in me. I give thanks to the good Lord for her. Everyone needs a Barnabas.

What distracts you from writing the easiest?
Social media. J If I’m not careful, it can eat up my time and energy and I have no creativity left inside my little brain.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading? (Book recommendations very welcome!)
Historical fiction: March by Geraldine Brooks and The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Biographies: Living Like Lions by J.R. Duren
Bible study and Christian personal growth books:
Places People Pray by Karen Appleby and Enduring Faith by Nivine Richie

Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote? Why?
PictureJack Lovingood is a young, kind-hearted man who works for a local produce market. He enjoys old people, without any ulterior motives, but one resident of Sweetbriar Manor does not trust him. Jack seemed to appear out of nowhere, while I was writing one day, and brought the residents a basket of strawberries. He is a drifter, and even though he loves his girlfriend Shirl, the manicurist at the Cut ‘N Loose, he will disappear in a future book. Where did he go? Will he return?

I like Jack because he is complex and he is sometimes misunderstood.

Oh, he sounds great. Hope I get the chance to read that one too! If you were a style of music, what style would you be?
Bluegrass. Because it reminds me of my heritage, growing up in coal mining camps.

:) What makes you smile and/or laugh out loud?
Remembering my daddy’s Appalachian humor

What is your favorite season of the year?  
Fall with its crisp air, colored leaves, and hot spiced tea

Mine too! What do you like most about the area where you live and/or grew up?
The mountains have always been a comfort to me, evidence of God’s majestic creation.

Ahhhh . . . Are there things you put off doing because you dread them? 
Yes. Ironing!

 Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you. (and why it's special)   
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me. He drew me out of deep waters.”
The place of reference escapes me right now, but I will find it. This is what the Lord did for me. Without his mercy and grace I would have drowned.  2 Samuel 22:17 NIV

That's a really good scripture verse. I like it a lot because it reminds me of how much God has done for me. When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
Writing the second book about Agnes now. She gets into more trouble when the owners of Sweetbriar Manor decide to sell the home and the interested party, representing a women’s prison, wants to turn the retirement home into a halfway house. And then one night there is a fire. . . . 

You're a new author to me and I can't wait to begin reading this book. Thanks for joining us.

Buy her book here:

About Carol:
Carol Heilman, a coal miner's daughter, married her high school sweetheart, a farmer's son. She began writing family stories, especially about her dad's Appalachian humor, for newspapers and magazines. One day her mother said, "We don't have any secrets any more!"

Carol's book, Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar, was inspired by her mother's spunky spirit and her dad's humor. She lives in the mountains of NC with her husband of fifty-plus years. They love to play cards, go antiquing, hike, and visit grandsons on the east and west coasts

Connect with Carol here:
Author Page:

CAROL is giving away a copy of AGNES HOPPER SHAKES UP SWEETBRIAR. 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, January 24, 2015

Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar by Carol G. Heilman


Back Cover Blurb:

When circumstances cause Agnes Marie Hopper to move into the local retirement home, Sweetbriar Manor, she ends up an unwitting sleuth, uncovering deception, embezzlement, abuse, and intrigue. Her independent and protective nature leads to confrontation and a moment of truth, even within her own heart.

Read an Excerpt:

Chapter One

After the fire and smoke cleared, leaving my house in a pile of ashes, I reluctantly moved in with my daughter, Betty Jo—along with my pet pig, Miss Margaret. I was grateful to have a place to lay my head but soon found myself testy with my daughter, treating her like the child she is, even though she’s pushing fifty.

“Are you going out?” I’d say. “What time will you be home? Take a wrap. Air’s got a nip to it.”

Betty Jo, when she spoke to me at all, used her normal, snippy tone. “I’m roasting in this house. Did you turn the heat up? Again?” And then she might add for good measure, “Stay out of the kitchen, Mother.”

Three months later we came to an understanding, and though it was a gradual, unspoken thing, it was a fact. Neither of us could tolerate living with the other. I needed my own place and she needed ... well, to be rid of me, and there was no use trying to beat around any bush.

So, on a sultry August morning a week after my seventy-first birthday, Betty Jo loaded my few belongings into her shiny, black Buick and carried me to Sweetbriar Manor, Sweetbriar’s senior-care alternative that, according to the brochure, offered a rewarding, enriching lifestyle.

“If you ask me, there’s nothing sweet about it,” I grumbled under my breath. But of course she didn’t ask me. Only dropped me off, wished me well, and sped away. Well, maybe I’m stretching the truth a little, but that’s how it felt.

Ten minutes into my stay at this place I knew two things. No, three. One, senior-care alternative was code for, “We don’t care what you do in your tiny room as long as you don’t ring the bell and bother the help.” Two, Sweetbriar Manor would own all my assets in six months if I stayed. And three ... oh, fiddle, I can’t remember the third thing, but if you’ll hang around for the rest of the story, I’m sure it will come to me.

Buy her book here:

About Carol:

Carol Heilman, a coal miner's daughter, married her high school sweetheart, a farmer's son. She began writing family stories, especially about her dad's Appalachian humor, for newspapers and magazines. One day her mother said, "We don't have any secrets any more!"

Carol's book, Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar, was inspired by her mother's spunky spirit and her dad's humor. She lives in the mountains of NC with her husband of fifty-plus years. They love to play cards, go antiquing, hike, and visit grandsons on the east and west coasts

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Author Page:

CAROL is giving away a copy of AGNES HOPPER SHAKES UP SWEETBRIAR. 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

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

California Author Cathy Elliott

Is there a story behind your book A Stitch in Crime?
I had purchased a book about Civil War quilts and the Underground Railroad and found it fascinating. It made me think about messages in quilts and legacies over time. That was the core spark for me to create the fictional Larkin’s Treasure, a quilt with a secret of great riches that is highly prized. And decide how someone might insert that message into it somehow, yet in a way that isn’t apparent and is mysterious.

What distracts you from writing the easiest?

Shadows on the wall? I am easily distracted by many things. Probably the biggest distraction is my great fondness for research. I always worry that I don’t know enough about a subject to write with authority and plunge into research as if I have the time. One result will lead to another and soon, the day of writing is a wisp of remembrance. But I have lots of facts at hand. 

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?

I love cozy mysteries, but also read most mysteries, crime drama, and suspense. Whenever a new book comes out by Michael Connelly (any book), C.J. Box (Blue Heaven), Dick/Felix Francis (pick one!), Earlene Fowler (Love Mercy), Sue Grafton (Kinsey series), Lisa Scottolini (Accused), or Jacquelynn Winspear (Maisie Dobbs mysteries), I’m first in line.

Classic fiction from Edith Wharton (House of Mirth), P.G. Wodehouse (What Ho, Jeeves), Georgette Heyer (The Foundling), Jane Austen (every one), and Dame Agatha Christie (They Came to Bagdad) keep me occupied often. I’m a big fan of Pearl S. Buck (Pavilion of Women) and lately have enjoyed the works of Lisa See (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan) and Alexander McCall Smith (The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency – the sweetest series ever). My tastes are all over the place!

What is your favorite season of the year? 

Springtime, when everything is fresh and new and blooming. It’s like whole the earth is celebrating! Or at least my hemisphere.

Are there things you put off doing because you dread them?

Number one? Doing the dishes. Though I love pretty dishes and have some lovely dishware. But I started so early! I remember being four years old, standing on a chair, drying dishes as my gentle momma said, “Wipe the tears away so they don’t cry.”

If there are no more tears in heaven, is it because it’s my job to wipe them from the dishes? (A secret fear.)

Where is your favorite place to travel/vacation in?

Though I love traveling to the Bay Area because my grandgems live there, I also enjoy traveling to Puget Sound, specifically Whidbey Island where I have dear family, too. Growing up, my father was in the Navy and we always lived near the sea. When I’m on the island with its sun-filtered, greenery and majestic ocean views, I feel at home.

Are there spiritual themes you like to write about?  

I often write about forgiveness. Don’t we all need that? Embrace that? Prize it highly?
And I like to create an underlying theme of Light – His Light shining in darkness. Even if it’s not written on the page, I long for it to be there for those who are open to see.

Do you like to cook? What is your favorite, no-fail recipe?

Love to watch cooking shows on TV and have been busy replacing all my old cookware, in preparation to cook more. Especially Viva la Chicken – my go-to, company’s-coming- casserole. Here’s a link, if you wish to try it yourself. I guarantee a happy guest. Plus, you can make it ahead, refrigerate it (or freeze it), and toss it in the oven an hour before your company arrives.

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

I’m delighted to announce that Thea James’s first adventure, A Vase of Mistaken Identity, (out-of-print for several years) is being re-released about the same time as A Stitch in Crime – mid January 2015. The characters and story that folks loved first will have new life with a lovely new cover. Here’s a little bit about it from the back cover:

   Thea James, proprietress of James & Company Antique Emporium, never thought murder would come to her small, surviving Gold Rush town of Larkindale. But when the Larkindale Lamplight reports the discovery of a body during the renovation of Larkin Lake Resort, Thea is caught up in the mystery.
   Her world is further frenzied when she acquires a vintage vase from the town’s only homeless person. Thea finds a puzzling list tucked inside with four names written in a faded scrawl: two childhood friends from a summer camp, her sister Rosie, and . . . herself!
   When the first woman on the list ends up in a coma and another mysteriously disappears, Thea knows she must save herself and her sister from harm. Her attempt to eliminate the vicious threat on their lives propels Thea to places she never wanted to visit.
   Will she discover the connection before tragedy strikes?

Thanks for sharing with us, Cathy!

Connect with Cathy Elliott at:

Cathy Elliott is giving away a copy of A Stitch In Crime. 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, January 19, 2015

A Stitch In Crime by Cathy Elliott

Thea James thought working as co-chair for Larkindale’s first quilt show extravaganza would be a natural extension of her antique business. But while organizing the busy week’s premiere events would make anyone frayed, she doesn’t expect a complete unraveling!

At the opening soirée, local matriarch Mary-Alice Wentworth is knocked unconscious and robbed of her diamond brooch. Soon a rare quilt—the main attraction and a rumored key to great riches—goes missing. Those who signed up to help Thea are strangely no help at all. What more could possibly happen?

Amid a cast of colorful characters and a tight schedule of garden galas, tea parties, and televised socials, everything is falling apart at the seams – and nothing is quite what it seems. Can Thea sew everything back together?



Perhaps if she simply avoided eye contact.
Thea James turned her back on the partygoers, paying attention to the dessert buffet instead. The Quilt-Without-Guilt Guild had surpassed their Christmas potluck standard. Among a bounty of petite cakes, cookies, puffs, and bars, Thea found her own offering, a plate of blueberry tartlets. They appeared untouched. Strange. She pulled them to the front of the culinary display.
“Thea! Why are you hiding out in the desserts when I need your help?” The familiar voice of fellow guild member, Heather Ann Brewster, hinted at desperation.
Turning with reluctance, Thea morphed into hospitality mode. “Blueberry tartlet?”
“What?” Heather Ann viewed the diminutive dessert, gave a small shudder, and then had the grace to look apologetic. “Ah . . . no, thanks. I haven’t browsed the appetizers yet. Anyway, I can’t think about food now. I’m too upset.”
Thea shoved her reluctance aside. “What seems to be the problem, Heather Ann?”   This time.
“You know the publicity banner we had made? The one advertising the quilt show next weekend? The one supposed to be hanging over the entrance to Old Town?”
“Supposed to be hanging over the entrance? I thought they put it up yesterday.” Thea calculated the days left until the show opened. Today was Sunday and tonight’s kickoff quilt show soirée started the festivities.  The main event was scheduled for next Saturday.  Folks needed to be aware of the date so they’d attend en masse.
“City utility workers were supposed to put it up. Oh, and it’s beautiful, Thea. In bold letters it says, ‘1st Annual Blocks on the Walk Quilt Show, Pioneer Park’ and the date.”
“Good . . . very good. So why isn’t it hanging up?”
 “I had the letters made in red, too. Sort of reminds me of Janny Rice’s redwork quilt, you know? Perhaps she’ll place with hers. Beautiful embroidery.” Heather Ann seemed lost in the vision, green eyes staring at nothing.
“Heather Ann. Focus, hon. You said there was a problem. As the quilt show chairperson, I want to help.” Well, that was a lie. Helping was overrated. Thea wanted to eat some desserts. And she wasn’t the chairperson. Another fib. Rather, the co-chair, along with Prudy Levasich.
Where was the elusive Prudy, anyway? Probably showing off her twin sister, Trudy, visiting from the East Coast. The co-chair’s co-twin. If Prudy stuck around now and then, she could co-solve these problems with Thea.
“You have to do something! The Larkindale City Planning Commission won’t let us put up the banner.” The desperation returned to Heather Ann’s tone, sending her voice to a higher key.
“Why not?”
“It’s not up to code. They said the banner needs holes cut in it so the wind will flow through and not blow it down.”
“Makes sense. Without the holes, it could act more like a sail,” Thea said. “Can’t you cut some?”
“I guess.” Heather Ann looked uncomfortable. “But I don’t know how big to make the holes. Or how many. The banner was expensive. I don’t want to ruin it.”
“Very responsible.” Thea considered the options. “I have an idea. Call the Larkin Lake Resort. They’re always putting banners up for some event. The Fly-Fishing Derby. And the Daisy Pedal bike race, right?”
“Oh, you’re good.” Heather Ann’s expression turned eager, like a puppy about to score a treat.
“Whatever size they advise, be sure you use the white space and don’t cut into those big red letters you chose. That way people will only see the letters and not notice the holes.” Thea gave Heather Ann an encouraging pat on the shoulder. “Sound okay?”
“Sounds great. Thanks so much, Thea. I’m on it.” Heather Ann dashed away, blonde ponytail bouncing, presumably to make the call.
Or grab a few appetizers.
Which seemed an even better idea to Thea.
“Well, aren’t you just the CEO. Or is that dictator?” Renée Fowler pushed up against Thea in jest, as she used to do when they were teens.
“Oh, stop.” Thea grinned at her best friend since fifth grade, recently returned home from a long honeymoon tour of Europe.
She had missed Renée terribly. But something seemed off between them. Had the travels changed Renée? She certainly looked different. More elegant. Her brown hair, cut in Paris, was styled in a fashionable pixie cut. But weren’t her large gray eyes filled with disapproval now? Or was the still single Thea a little jealous of her friend’s marriage and new life?
Thea studied the crowd. “A wonderful turnout, don’t you think? I’ve been watching for him, but have yet to see Dr. Cottle. Did he already check in?”
“How would I know, Thea?” Renée said. “I may own the Inn, but I don’t keep up on what time every guest walks through the door.”
Not a hint of a thank-you for recommending Renée and Howie’s Heritage House Inn as lodging for their illustrious judge and guest speaker, Dr. Niles Cottle. Typical treatment from Renée since her return to Larkindale.
Thea waved to a friend of Gram’s. “Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. And no better place to do it than in Mary-Alice Wentworth’s garden. Exquisite, isn’t it?”
Glorious roses edged a pavestone patio, which surrounded a sparkling pond, highlighted by the spectacular fountain in the pond’s center. Water poured endlessly from an urn held by a graceful, granite lady. The effect was more than tranquil. It was hypnotic. Tables with bistro chairs dotted the grounds and this evening’s attendees alternately chatted in groups or relaxed with a cool drink. A number of quilts were displayed near the walkway, staging a quilt show preview, and adding a folksy feel. Her mother’s string quartet played various classical selections with so much enthusiasm the occasional sour note went unnoticed.
Except maybe by Renée, who now winced as if she had stepped on a nail.
Uh-oh. Thea grabbed the dessert plate and shoved it at her friend. “How about a nice blueberry tartlet?”
“Tartlet?” Renée’s distasteful look increased. “What’s in the filling? And look how thick the crust is, Thea. You must use very cold dough to make a flaky crust.”
Crestfallen, Thea placed the plate back on the table. “Tasted good to me.”
“They probably are good, for Larkindale. I do like the antique serving plate though,” Renée said. “My tastes have refined so much from my exposure to other cultures. Like what I’m wearing, for instance.” She smoothed out her simple black dress. “In Europe, everyone wears something elegant like this. Understated, you know? Your dress is much too frilly. Too yesterday.”
“Oh.” Thea’s cheeks burned. Was it no longer okay to like yesterday’s fashions best? Her vintage cocktail dress had been a steal from the family’s antique store, James & Co. Antique Emporium.  Certain the cut was flattering to her figure, Thea also thought the cobalt color and purple tulle overlay brought out the periwinkle blue in her eyes. Both Mum and Gram had agreed.
 “But the pouffy skirt is a great illusion. One’s not sure if it’s so full because of your curves or the dress’s design.” Renée put a hand on her hip and once-overed her friend.  “I could never pull it off. It would just hang on my slender frame. But those strappy sandals are cute. A nice change from your clogs.”
Thea was beginning to wonder why she was friends with Renée.
And where was Dr. Cottle?
Thea studied the gathering again but didn’t see him. Their hostess, Mary-Alice, was also missing. Perhaps she was inside greeting him this minute.
Leaning toward Thea, Renée said, “Here comes your Cole Mason. So handsome. Did you see him chatting with Mayor Suzanne Stiles for more than a half hour? You better watch out, Miss Thea. Step it up or you’ll remain Miss Thea for a long, long time.”
“He’s not my Cole Mason and he can talk to whoever he likes!” Thea almost hissed at her friend as Cole approached them. His roving reporter role tonight was to cover the quilt show kickoff soirée for the Larkindale Lamplight’s society pages. Surely he wouldn’t report any petty problems from putting on the show. It could result in a definite damper on attendance at the official opening.
Moving past a sullen Renée and closer to Thea, Cole flashed his disarming dimples. Then appearing stunned, he stopped and said. “You look so . . . nice! Am I writing about the wrong subject for the Lamplight? How about a full-page spread of you in your dress?”
Renée rolled her eyes.
“No comment,” Thea said, laughter in her voice. “What are you planning to cover?” Making her a feature story was not an option. He had to be kidding. Especially if she looked as chunky in her dress as Renée seemed to say. And the camera added what? Thea sucked in her stomach.
Cole’s attention had diverted to the treat table. “What do you call this delicious-looking sweet?” He plunked a pink petit four on a faux-china plate. “I don’t want to get the name wrong in my article.”
Relieved, Thea named each dessert. Cole listed it in his notebook and took still shots with his smart-phone. Without embarrassment, he snuck a few more tempting treats.
“And this . . . ,” she swept her hand in front of the tartlets with a flourish, “. . . is what I made. Blueberry tartlets. Care to sample one?”
So far, Renée stood silent. But apparently she’d reached her etiquette limit. “You don’t want to eat those, Cole. They’re made by our peanut-butter-and-pickle sandwich queen here. Need I say more?”
“Good recommendation. I’ll take two.” Cole stacked the tarts on the last empty spot on his plate.
The tiny triumph tasted like sugar. But Thea wondered if Renée, with her newly acquired European sensibilities, was right.
“Perhaps I should have used raspberries instead of blueberries,” Thea said. “Might have looked more appetizing.”
“I doubt it,” Renée said. “Probably would have looked like coddled blood.”
Coddled blood? Coddle? What was familiar about that word? Then Thea shivered, remembering Dr. Cottle was still a no-show. What if something horrible had happened to him?
She surveyed the party once more. Mary-Alice’s favorite nephew appeared to have captivated a small audience, his hands in motion, probably spouting his expertise on the family quilt, “Larkin’s Treasure.” The string quartet sawed with vigor. Thea spotted Prudy hard at work, gabbing with the guests. Or was it Trudy? Thea’s Aunt Elena, along with a few others, admired a magnificent Grandmother’s Garden quilt displayed on the walkway.
But no Dr. Cottle.
Cole’s voice cut through her concerns. “You know, these look so good, I think I’ll take another one, in case we run out before I’ve had my fill.” He balanced another tartlet atop the others and winked at Thea.
Renée blew out a sigh. “You are quite the risk-taker, Mr. Mason.” She waved a dismissal and strolled toward the mayor, probably for a little update on her conversation with Cole.
That’s it. That’s all I can take. I’m leaving before one more person says boo to me.
Cole’s hand briefly touched the middle of Thea’s back, stopping her flight, his dark eyes inquisitive. “Are you quite sure she’s your best friend?”
No. She wasn’t sure anymore. But what could she say? Thea groped for a reason for her friend’s bad behavior. In the search, she found an emptiness she couldn’t name.
“Renée’s . . . not been herself since she got back from Europe.”
 “A lingering case of jet lag. That’s probably it,” Cole said.
Thea looked up, grateful for his kindness.
“So where’s the famous Dr. Cottle?” Cole asked, changing the subject. “I’ve heard he can read the stitches on a fastball from the nosebleed section at Yankee Stadium.”
 “So they say. He’s a major leaguer on quilts and quilting in our state,” Thea said. “In fact, I should go see if there’s been any word of him. Folks came tonight to hear his talk about the Wentworth legacy quilt.”
“You go then. I’ll pacify myself with a blueberry tartlet.” Cole stuffed a whole one in his mouth and started chewing, pleasure written all over his face.
Did he like it or was he trying to cheer her up?
Maybe she didn’t want to know.
Thea excused herself and strode purposefully toward the house. No eye contact. No eye contact. No eye contact. She managed to slip through the French doors, muting her mother’s Mozart, and putting a wall between herself and the problems outside.
She closed her eyes. See no evil.
Beyond the glass door, a distant voice called out, “Has anyone seen Thea?”
She clicked the door closed.
Hear no evil.


Excerpt from A Stitch in Crime. © Cathy Elliott. Publishing by Abingdon Press. Used by permission.

About The Author

Cathy Elliott is a full-time writer in northern California whose cozy mysteries reflect her personal interests from quilting and antique collecting to playing her fiddle with friends. She also leads music at church and enjoys time with her grandchildren. Cathy’s previous plot-twisting works include A Vase of Mistaken Identity and Medals in the Attic.
Purchase A Stitch In Crime at:

Cathy Elliott is giving away a copy of A Stitch In Time. 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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