Sunday, July 31, 2011

with Betsy St. Amant

Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, Betsy!
People talk about life before children—what was your life before writing?

I can’t remember either – pre-kid or pre-writing. Haha! I started writing when I was 7, though I got serious about it when I was about 18 and realized to publish a book I’d have to do a lot more than just want to. :)

What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
This goes back to my mention of my child, and time. I’m a fireman’s wife, so he keeps odd hours and has a second job, and so I’m the main caregiver for our toddler who just turned 3. I also work part time two days a week outside the home doing title work, work part time from home doing freelance articles for a local newspaper, and of course, write novels.

What book have you recently enjoyed reading?
In the past few months I’ve really enjoyed Jenny B. Jone’s Save the Date, Elizabeth Musser’s The Sweetest Thing, and My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren.

Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote?
I really enjoyed getting to know Marissa, and identifying with her struggles. I’m not a single mom, thank the Lord, but I do know what it’s like to be married to a fireman and the ups and downs of the profession. It was nice being able to put that on paper for her.

If you were a dessert, what would you be?
Cheesecake – I’m a little high maintenance, but generally worth it ::wink:: Plus that’s my favorite dessert! I’m a sucker for any cheesecake, anywhere, anytime.

If you were to find a purple polka-dotted monster in your kitchen one morning, how would you respond?
With all the Scooby Doo my toddler has made me watch recently, sad to say I’d probably just say “We have to solve this mystery!” and look around for Daphne and Velma and the gang. (since polka dots are also my favorite, I’d probably take a moment to high five the monster on his great fashion selection)

Tell us about one of your favorite memories or moments in your life.
Recently, my toddler just taught me a big lesson that I think will be imprinted on my heart for awhile. I was having a stressful day as a Mommy – she’d been sick and hard to manage because of her virus, and my patience was completely gone. I hadn’t left the house in days and my nerves were shot, not to mention I was starting to feel sick myself, and had no help. She knocked over a bowl of jewelry beads for the tenth time that day, even after I had told her repeatedly to put them away (because it kept happening) I totally snapped, crying from stress as I knelt on the floor picking up the beads and running my mouth off in frustration, complaining and griping. My sweet, just-turned-3-year old ran to the kitchen, bowed her head, and started praying. Her clear voice rang through the house and over my anger. “Dear God. Please help Mama feel better and be in a good mood. Amen.” I bawled then, from shame and conviction as she came over and gave me a big hug. We made up and forgave each other and cleaned up the beads together. I’ll never forget it. :) I love how God uses children to get us back on track spiritually.

What's one of your dreaded things to do?
I don’t think anyone enjoys cleaning toilets, but I guess it’s a necessary evil...

Are there spiritual themes you like to write about?
I tend to write a lot about second chances and forgiveness vs. holding grudges in family relationships. Family is very important to me and I like to portray the imagery of us forgiving others, as Christ forgives us. Over and over and over…even when we don’t deserve it. This is hard from a human standpoint.

What is the Lord teaching you, or recently taught you?
I almost laughed when I read this because the answer is “oh so much!” :) I think the main focus right now is that because I was so caught up in deadlines that overlapped for literally 7 months in a row, that now, I need to step back and breathe…just sit and know that He is Lord for a bit and bask in the blessings He’s given me. I don’t want to railroad ahead outside of His timing. For a go-getter like me, that’s a big lesson.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
I’m very excited about my next release, as it’s totally outside of the box for me. I’ve written 5 novels now (6th contracted and releasing April 2012) for Love Inspired, but this next novel is a full length, 100,000 word Young Adult novel with Barbour Publishers. It releases January 2012 and is called Addison Blakely, Confessions of a PK. It’s the story of a teen living life in the fishbowl of the ministry and how to separate the faith that’s been instilled in her her entire life from the faith she actually has. Addison tries to figure that out while also dealing with her unwanted feelings for the bad boy down the street…and how he makes her not want to be the good girl anymore.

You can purchase Fireman Dad from Amazon.

Betsy is giving away a copy of Fireman Dad. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Betsy St. Amant's Fireman Dad

Betsy St. Amant lives in Louisiana and is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers group. Betsy is multi-published through Steeple Hill, has recently contracted through Barbour for her YA novel titled Addison Blakely, Confessions of a PK, and has been published in Christian Communicator magazine and Praise Reports: Inspiring Real Life Stories of How God Answers Prayer. One of her short stories, ‘Kickboxing or Chocolate’, appears in a Tyndale compilation book, and she is also multi-published through The Wild Rose Press.

She has a BA in Christian Communications and regularly freelances for her local newspaper. Betsy is a fireman’s wife, a mommy to a busy toddler, a chocolate-loving author and an avid reader who enjoys sharing the wonders of God’s grace through her stories. Betsy is proud to be represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency.

You can find Betsy online at,,,
and on Facebook as Betsy McLemore St. Amant and Twitter as Betsy St. Amant.

Fireman Dad

"Mommy, I Want To Be A Fireman." Widowed mother Marissa Hawthorne's little boy wants to be like his new hero—firefighter Jacob Greene. But Marissa and her son lost too much to the profession of firefighting already. She can't possibly let either of them get close to the man, no matter how noble he is. Especially because her own father is Jacob's boss. But when Jacob hires her to plan a special birthday party for his niece, Marissa soon learns that Jacob is a hero in many ways. And that taking risks for love is what life and faith are truly about.

You can purchase Fireman Dad from Amazon.

Betsy is giving away a copy of Fireman Dad. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

with Dora Hiers

Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, Dora!
People talk about life before children—what was your life before writing?

I used to read for enjoyment while my hubby watched tv in the evenings. Now the laptop perches on my lap every night. Definitely minus facebook and blogging.

What book have you recently enjoyed reading?
Purple Knot by Raquel Byrnes, another fabulous White Rose romantic suspense.

If you were a dessert, what would you be?
Edy’s Espresso Chip Ice Cream. Yum!

If you were to find a purple polka-dotted monster in your kitchen one morning, how would you respond?
I probably wouldn’t even notice it until after I’d guzzled my first cup of cafĂ© con leche. The morning’s just not right without my usual ½ espresso, ½ steamed milk. Mmm. (I’m eying the coffeepot.) Maybe I’ll take a break here, be right back...

Tell us about one of your favorite memories or moments in your life.
God’s blessed me with many favorite memories, but most recently, the birth of our first grandson. I adore holding him and watching him grow. Truly a gift from God.

What's one of your dreaded things to do?
Cleaning our two-story house. It’s huge and a chore I dread starting, but don’t mind so much once I get in the groove. And when it’s done, it looks so nice and sparkly and smells so piney fresh. Kind of what happens when God takes up residence in our hearts, don’t you think?

What is the Lord teaching you, or recently taught you?
Patience. And waiting on Him.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
Here’s a sneak peek at Journey’s Edge, my second book in the Marshals of Journey Creek series, which is currently under consideration with White Rose Publishing.

A routine audit? Hardly. Red flags—and the goon that’s following her—raise McKinley Frasier’s suspicions that numbers don’t add up at the insurance firm she’s auditing. And when someone tries to snatch her daughter from school, who does she turn to for protection? Renner Crossman, the cop who walked out on her one month before their wedding. Renner’s not the same guy who broke her heart ten years ago. He calls himself a “new man.” Can she trust the new Renner with her daughter’s safety? What about her heart?

You can purchase Journey's End from Amazon.

Dora is giving away a copy of Journey's End. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dora Hiers' Journey's End

After a successful auditing career, Dora left the corporate world to be a stay-at-home mom to her two sons. Eventually, needing something more to fill her days, she started writing heart racing, God-gracing books.

Dora belongs to the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Carolina Christian Writers.

You can find Dora online at
her blog,,
her website,, and on facebook.

Journey's End

Devastated after the brutal murder of her husband, Chelsea Hammond vows never to love another lawman. Intent on rebuilding her shattered life, she turns her focus to helping troubled teens. But when an angry father bent on retaliation, threatens her, Chelsea must turn to the one man she never thought to trust: Deputy U.S. Marshal Trey Colten.

Trey wants only to protect Chelsea, but she blames him for her husband’s death. Trey can relate. He blames himself, also. As danger lurks, Trey begs Chelsea to heed his warnings. He let down one Hammond. He won’t let down another—especially one who now holds his heart.

When Chelsea is snatched from her home, can she put aside her fear and trust Trey with her life? Can she forgive him for destroying her past and let him help to rebuild her future?

Where one journey ends, another begins…

Here's an excerpt of Journey's End:

“I suppose I should have been a vet.” Chelsea stroked the dog’s fur from his head all the way down his back, careful not to touch his wounded leg.

“Maybe. But I don’t think you’ve wasted your energy or your talents as a guidance counselor. Teenagers can’t seem to resist you, either.”

That produced a full-fledged smile in his direction. Way to go, Colten!

“Remember that natural charm I warned you about?”

He threw back his head and laughed. “Yes. And after a few days in your presence, I’m inclined to agree with you.”

He pulled into the veterinarian’s parking lot and glanced her way, surprised to see her grinning. “What?”

“Saved by the vet.”

Her words hit him like a piano dropping ten stories. She was flirting with him.

He took his time walking around to her side of the truck. He opened the door and leaned in, planting his hand on the seat next to her shapely legs. His face hovered inches from hers while he savored the way her wavy hair cascaded down her shoulders, the lips that curved in that always graceful way, and the eyes that spoke everything his heart wanted to hear.

Her eyes closed, and her lips parted slightly.

Trey snapped out of it. He couldn’t do this. He was on the job. She didn’t know the secrets he knew, the truth about her husband.

Her eyes startled open. As much as he wanted to partake and enjoy, he couldn’t. He touched a silky curl framing her face and ran it through his fingers. “You need to know that right now I’m working. But there will come a time, soon, when I’m not.”

You can watch the book trailer for Journey's End here.

You can purchase Journey's End from Amazon.

Dora is giving away a copy of Journey's End. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

with Tom Blubough

Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, Tom!
Is there a story behind this book?

Yes. Both of my grandfathers died before I was born. I knew very little about either of them. I did know two things about my paternal grandfather, he was a Jew and he was a Russian Cossack soldier*. This always intrigued me. The older I got, the more I longed for a grandfather especially when I became a grandfather—I now have fourteen grandchildren. When my mother died I was left with only one relative on her side of the family who is older than I. I decided it was time to create my own grandfather and develop a heritage for myself and my heirs.

*Cossacks were members of several peasant groups of Russian and Polish descent. They lived in autonomous communal settlements, mostly in the Ukraine, until the early 20th century. In return for special privileges, they served in the cavalry under the czars. They were well known for their horsemanship. They raided villages for supplies, women and young men to increase or replenish their ranks. Eventually they became a part of the Russian army.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
I like Christian fiction –action/adventure and historical, in particular westerns. James Scott Bell and Louis L’Amour are my favorites. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think the Left Behind series collectively would be my favorite.

If you were a style of music, what style would you be?
For inspiration, I would be contemporary Gospel. For traveling on the road, I would be classic oldies but goodies.

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I’ll have to take the definition of way out for my answer. When I was fifteen I was swimming in a river with a bunch of buddies. We were wondering how deep the river was. I decided to find out by hauling a large rock on an inner tube to the middle of the river. I wrapped my arms around the rock and pulled off the tube. I rode it down until it got so dark and cold it scared me. I had a vision of a large fish waiting for me to drop into its mouth. I let go of the rock and I didn’t think I was ever going to break the water for air. I never found out how deep the river was and I decided I didn’t care.

Are there things you put off doing because you dread them?
Confronting a person about something they did that bothers me.

What's your favorite meal with family and friends?
Grampa Tom’s Salmon Patties.

One can of pink salmon, one egg, One tube of saltines (1/4 box), Olive oil.

Break egg in bowl, pour in entire can of salmon, crumble crackers aggressively (great for relieving tension), shape into patties (usually makes 6 – 8 patties. Pour oil in cast iron skillet (enough to cover bottom) and heat on medium.

Put four patties in and let fry till crisp, turn over, and fry till crisp. Repeat for second four patties.

Serve with corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and peas.

Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you.
I spent a lot of time reading about how to find God’s will for my life. I could never figure it out until I read Prov. 16:9—A man’s mind plans his way, but God directs his steps. A few days later I read Prov. 19:21—In a man’s heart are many ideas, but God’s purpose will prevail. From then on I planned and let God direct. I call it my scripture sandwich—I walk between these two verses.

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
I am well into a sequel for Night of the Cossack. It will probably be a year before I’m finished. I’m taking the summer off from writing and working on marketing my name and my book. I’ll start writing again when it starts getting cold.

You can purchase The Night of the Cossack from Amazon.

Tom is giving away a copy of The Night of the Cossack. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tom Blubough's Night of the Cossack

Tom Blubaugh is a freelance writer living in Southwest Missouri with Barbara, his wife.  They have six children and fourteen grandchildren. Tom has written non-fiction most of his adult life, but has recently written a historical fiction titled Night of the Cossack, published by Bound by Faith Publishers. This is Tom’s first novel. He co-wrote a devotional journal in 2009 for Barbour Publishing titled The Great Adventure. His other writings include articles for a denominational magazine and an insurance publication. He also self-published a book, Behind the Scenes of the Bus Ministry in 1974.

Tom started writing poetry at the age of fourteen. His vision of turning them into lyrics for rock and roll songs for popular artists didn’t develop. He considers writing to be a God-given talent and feels led to develop it. His first novel was published at his age of 69. Tom says it’s never too late. He is now writing a sequel.

Tom spent twelve years as an insurance agent and eleven years as a financial planner. He is the past president of Jericho Commission, Inc., and still serves on the board of directors.

You can find Tom online at
his blog,,
Night of the Cossack Facebook page, and his personal Facebook page.

Night of the Cossack

Tom Blubaugh takes the reader to a neglected time and place in this touching exploration of his own roots. An encouraging story that should inspire appreciation of one's own family heritage.
-Author J.B. Cheaney, My Friend the Enemy

In Night of the Cossack, Tom Blubaugh has created an interesting fictional account of a young boy facing a series of tough life-or-death decisions when forced into the life of a Cossack soldier. Readers are sure to be entertained by this tale of Nathan Hertzfield's life, his struggle to maintain the upstanding character and morality set forth by his mother.
-Author Michelle Buckman, Christy award finalist

Here's an excerpt of Night of the Cossack:

Chapter 1

Nathan’s eyes flew open. Sounds, screams and gunshots penetrated the cold air of his upstairs bedroom. The pungent smell of smoke invaded his nose. He coughed. Am I having a nightmare? Shadows danced wildly across the ceiling and down the walls. 

Heart pounding, he threw off his covers, jumped out of bed, and rushed to the window. His little brother, Israel, followed.

Its real!

“What is it, Nathan?” Israel whispered.

Nathan pulled his brother against the wall behind him.

“Hey! I want to see!”

“Shush, Israel.” Nathan looked through the window at the valley below, his heart racing. Men in long coats and fur hats were running through the village brandishing swords and raising rifles. Cossacks!

The Bukolovs’ and the Gorbenkos’ houses were burning. Bodies lay on the ground. He couldn’t tell who they were, but he knew they were friends.

Momma rushed into the room. “Get away from that window, Nathan!”

“Those are Cossack soldiers, Momma!”

“Cossacks,” echoed Israel.

“Get dressed, Nathan. Hurry.”

Nathan hesitated at the window.

“Now!” she shouted, grabbing him with such force he lost his balance. “Get dressed. Bring your coat.”

Nathan turned from the window.

Momma pulled Israel’s clothes from the hook behind the door, hurried him into them, and down the stairs.

Nathan shoved his trembling hands into his shirt, the horrible scenes replaying in his mind—houses ablaze, soldiers on horseback, dead bodies, his friends in terror. Why are the Cossacks here? What do they want?

He pushed his feet into his boots, jumped up, and hurried to the chest at the foot of the bed. Lifting the lid, he pulled out a knife in its sheath and shoved it into his right boot. He reached back for a leather bag containing lead balls and patches, and a powder horn. He fastened the pouch and powder horn to his belt. The firelight danced across his father’s pistol. He picked up the gun and balanced it in his right hand. Momma said I can’t use it until I’m older. She doesn’t know I’ve taken it out when I’ve gone hunting and practiced shooting it. I’m sixteen. I’m a man. Why should I have to wait? The thought calmed him.

Nathan shoved the unloaded gun into his belt, went back to the window, and stared at the nightmare below. He turned away and tried to close his mind against the violence. His rifle, loaded and ready to fire leaned against the wall in the corner. He slipped his arm through the sling, hefted the rifle on his shoulder, and grabbed his coat. He ran down the stairs.

The back door banged in the cold January wind. Nathan pushed his right shoulder against the door and forced his way through. A bitter gust whipped down from the Caucasus Mountains and hit him full in the face, pushing him off balance.

Nathan gasped as acrid fumes attacked his nose and stung his eyes. He blinked away the tears and peered through the smoke. Momma moved like a ghost across the yard, her robe billowing behind her. Her long, black hair blew wildly in the wind. She was only halfway across the yard pulling Israel by the hand. Why isn’t she already in the root cellar? Then he knew the answer—she had waited until he was out of the house.

Nathan lowered his head and fought his way after her. A few meters from the cellar, he froze when he heard the piercing squeal of his terrified horse. He turned toward the barn. “Aza, I’m here. I’m coming,” he yelled.

Before he reached the barn a woman’s scream ran a chill up his spine. The sound was cut short, followed by an ominous silence. Nathan felt sick. Momma?

He glanced toward the cellar. He couldn’t see Momma or Israel. Fearing the worst, he turned and stumbled toward the underground room. His eyes still stinging, he stumbled to the entrance, using his rifle as a crutch to keep him upright.

“Momma?” he whispered.

Silence. His heart stopped.

“I hear you, Nathan. We’re all right.”

Nathan staggered down the steps with relief. His mind swirled with images and terrible sounds. His thoughts returned to Aza. He turned back to the steps.

“Nathan, stay here!”

“I must go to Aza, Momma. I heard him scream. He’s panicked, he could hurt himself.”

“What can you do for him, Nathan?”

“I can calm him down and turn him loose into the woods. If they set the barn on fire, he’ll die. He’ll be safe in the woods. I must go!”

“You’re more important than your horse. I, we need you here with us. Stay, Nathan. I couldn't bear to lose you.”

Nathan was torn. Breathing a heavy sigh in resignation as he pulled the cellar door shut, he let his eyes adjust to the dark. He leaned his rifle against the wall.

Momma wrapped her arms around her older son. Nathan felt her shiver. He knew she was more afraid than cold. Had she heard the scream?

She sank to her knees, pulling Nathan down. “I know you’re afraid,” she whispered.

Nathan tensed. “I’m not afraid. I’m a man—the man of the house. You’ve said this yourself.” He pulled away from her. “You say I’m brave and strong. You tell me I’m like Papa, but you treat me like a little boy.”

“Nathan, you’re both. You’re my little boy, but at the same time you’re a man. Can you understand?”
Ignoring her question he said, “Papa should be here to protect us. I didn’t even get to tell him good-bye.”

“Don’t be angry, Nathan. He loved you very much. He loved all of us.” She slipped her arms around him again saying, “It was an accident. There was no chance for anyone to say good-bye. Dying wasn’t his choice. You’re a man, Nathan. You look just like him—tall and strong, yet gentle. You have his black, wavy hair, hazel eyes, even his strong chin. What would I do without you?”

Nathan didn’t say anything. He couldn’t stay mad at her. Her soft voice melted his heart. Even when she’s afraid, she comforts me. Momma’s right. About all of it. It isn’t her fault Papa died.

His anger, no longer directed at her, receded.

“Momma, are we going to be all right?” asked Israel.

“I pray we will, son. Who can know with certainty?”

“I’m scared, Momma,” Israel said.

“I know, son, I know.”

Nathan felt her arms leave him. In a few seconds, he felt her rocking against him. He knew she was holding Israel.

The woman’s scream crept into Nathan’s mind again. He put his hands over his ears as if he could silence it. Was it Vasile’s mother?

Vasile was his best friend. It didn’t matter to Vasile that Nathan was a Jew. The two of them hunted elk, roe deer, wild boar, rabbit, and birds almost every day and rode their horses all over the surrounding countryside. They raced. Aza was faster and Nathan always won. Where is Vasile? Is he alive? Is he hiding in his cellar? Does he have his rifle?

Nathan was the better shot even though he was two years younger. The men in the village used to wager on which boy would bring in the most game.

The wind howling through the spaces in the cellar door pulled Nathan from his thoughts. He realized he couldn’t dwell on Vasile and his family. It was too painful.

His thoughts turned toward the village. Gagra sat at the base of the Caucasus Mountains in northern Georgia, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea. Tonight was one of the rare times the mountains let the Arctic winds assault the village. The Cossacks seem to have blown in like a whirlwind. Why have they attacked us? What is here that they want? Women? Food? Weapons? Many of the houses are already damaged and there are few families.

Nathan stroked the handle of Papa’s pistol. His father found it after the Turks raided the village. He told Nathan a Turkish soldier must have dropped the gun. The rifle and ammunition bag were gifts to Papa from a woman who lost her husband during the raid. That was when Papa became the village hunter. I’m the hunter now.

A strong gust rattled the cellar door, startling Nathan. When it died down, he could hear the terror of the night—constant gunfire, men cursing, women wailing. The sight of the burning house flooded his mind again. Please God, don’t let them burn our house.

Time crept past. The gunfire died down and the yells ceased. Suddenly, there was the sound of hoofbeats on the road—many horses at a gallop. The sound faded into the night.

“Momma, I think the Cossacks have gone. I’ll see if it’s safe now.”

“No, son.” She pulled Nathan to her and held him tight. “Wait a few minutes more. Maybe the fires will die down.”

“The wind’s too strong, Momma,” he protested. “The fires will burn all night. I need to see.” He tried to pull away from her.

She tightened her hold on him. “What can you do if it isn’t safe, Nathan?”

What can I do? I must do what Papa would do. I must be a man like Papa. “I’ll be careful,” he said pulling free of her.

He reached for his rifle, crept up the steps, and pushed the door open just enough to see into the yard. The fires from the burning village houses cast an eerie glow on the thick smoke swirling in the wind.
He breathed a sigh of relief as he realized their home was still standing.

“The house and barn look to be all right,” he whispered to his mother. “Aza is safe. I won’t be gone long.”

Before she could protest, he pushed open the door and stepped into the yard. He let the door go just as Momma cried, “No, Nathan!”

He crossed the yard in a crouch, the rifle gripped tightly in his hands. The wind pushed at him with angry fingers. The back door was shut. This is good. Perhaps no one has gone inside.

He slipped into the house, pulled the door closed, and stood still listening for any sounds. There were none except from the outside. The smell of smoke was strong. The blaze of fires lit the room with an odd glow. Through a window, he could see the village. A strange peace filled the house in contrast to the nightmare outside.

Nathan checked each room. Clear. He ran up the stairs. Satisfied everything was in place he returned to the kitchen. He took one last look around and stepped out the door.

As he turned to shut the door, his rifle was jerked from his hand. He froze, his heart pounding, his breath suspended. He felt a pistol jab into his back.

“Well, well. Who do we have here?” asked a deep, raspy voice. “Put your hands behind your head and turn around slowly.”

Nathan obeyed. As he turned, he gazed into the piercing eyes of a Cossack soldier.

You can purchase The Night of the Cossack from Amazon.

Tom is giving away a copy of The Night of the Cossack. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Friday, July 22, 2011

with Pam Hillman

***This is an ebook giveaway***

Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, Pam!
People talk about life before children—what was your life before writing?

I actually HAD a life! Before the children were born, and before I started writing seriously, my husband and I used to ride horses in our spare time. We rode two or three times a week, and usually on a Saturday, we would ride all day, and on many Sunday afternoons. When our oldest was born, I stopped riding regularly, thinking I’d get back to it when the kids were older. By the time they were big enough to ride, I was heavily involved in writing and the writing community. With a full-time job, writing, and working as conference treasurer for ACFW, I have no time for leisure now. But one of these days I’m going to get back in the saddle again – literally!

What book have you recently enjoyed reading?
The last book I read was Diana Prusik’s Delivery, another one of the launch books for Tyndale’s Digital First Initiative. It’s not a fast-paced read, but it touched me in a deeper place, and the characters lingered long after I put the book down. Diana knows small towns and she knows people. In the Shadow of Evil by Robin Caroll is a top-notch romantic suspense with more twists and turns than the bayou surrounding it. And, of course, anything by the Seekers gets my vote!

If you were a dessert, what would you be?
This is the second dessert question I’ve had in the last month while I’m avoiding them like the last plague. Ha! Most of my favorite desserts (uh, yes, I have more than one!) are made by my mother and my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law makes a homemade banana pudding that is to-die-for-delicious, apple dumplings that are yummy, and a Pecan Praline dessert drizzled with coconut. I’d say the Pecan Praline is my favorite, although anything chocolate has been a long-standing favorite my entire life.

When I was about six or seven, we were having homecoming at church. The tables the men set under the trees behind the church groaned under the abundance of good ol’ Southern cooking. At that age, my mother would fix my plate for me, and she asked what I wanted.

I replied, “Anything, as long as it’s chocolate.”

Somebody should have pegged me as an author way back then, huh? Oh, and to my mother’s credit, she filled my plate with chocolate goodies off the dessert table!

If you were to find a purple polka-dotted monster in your kitchen one morning, how would you respond?
I would think my 6’4” husband had agreed to be the guest of honor at my great-nephew’s birthday party. Barney come to life in my very own kitchen!

What's one of your dreaded things to do?
Clean the kitchen after cooking. I don’t mind the cooking, it’s the cleaning that gets me every time! It ranks right up there with going to the dentist or the doctor. Ooooh, I just realized THAT’s my most dreaded things to do! When I was a kid, my mother penciled our doctor’s appointments on the calendar. Somehow our radar perked up when the calendar turned to the dreaded month, and my brother and I tiptoed around for weeks being extremely good, somehow hoping she’d forget about that appointment and the shots! Why in the world did we think she’d forget? If we saw it on the calendar, it was obvious that she did! lol Btw, I don’t think we ever missed an appointment. Sigh

What is the Lord teaching you, or recently taught you?
The Lord has been trying to teach me that I can’t do it all. He’s been working on me for years in this area, but I can’t seem to let go of things and say no. I hate to fail anyone, so I work extra hard to please. I need to learn to delegate, but for some of us, delegating is like pulling the eye teeth of a rhinoceros! (Hey, that might be easy, but it sounds like it would be pretty hard to do, don’t you think?) And I’m proud to say that I have let go of some things…like housework and cleaning that kitchen!

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
Stealing Jake is my first book, and I’m excited…and blessed… to see the great reviews that are popping up on Amazon, B&N, and CBD. As for what’s next, there’s a feisty young widow named Johanna Thorndike in Stealing Jake who’s looking to tell her story along with a brawny coal mine owner named Trey. Working title is Trusting Trey.

The more readers who steal Jake off the shelves, the more who’ll get the chance to trust Trey.

You can purchase Stealing Jake from Amazon.

Pam is giving away an ebook copy of Stealing Jake. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pam Hillman's Stealing Jake

***This is an ebook giveaway***

Award-winning author Pam Hillman writes inspirational fiction set in the turbulent times of the American West and the Gilded Age. Her debut book, Stealing Jake, won the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis contest and was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart contest. She lives in Mississippi with her husband and family.

You can find Pam online at!/PamHillman

Stealing Jake

When Livy O'Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she's helping to run an orphanage. Now she'll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.

Sheriff's deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy--literally--while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town--as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off--Jake doesn't have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can't seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn't willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.

Here's an excerpt of Stealing Jake:


October 1874

“Where’s my little brother?” Luke glared at the man with the jagged scar on his right cheek.

“You do as I say, kid, and he’ll be along shortly.” Pale-blue eyes, harder than the cobblestone streets of Chicago, bored into his. “Otherwise, I’ll kill him. Understand?”

Luke stood his ground, memorizing the face of the man who’d paid off the coppers.

“Get in.” The man motioned to a wooden crate not much bigger than an overturned outhouse.

Luke crammed in, the three other boys squeezing together, making room. Nobody said a word. Nobody cried. They didn’t dare. Scarface would kill them if they disobeyed.

Luke knew he’d been stupid. He’d tried to teach Mark the art of picking pockets, and they’d gotten caught. But instead of going to jail as expected, money changed hands, and they’d been handed off to the man with the scar.

And now Luke would be shipped out of Chicago. Without Mark.

He pulled his thin coat tight around him and curled into a ball for warmth.

Bam! Bam! Bam!

Luke shuddered with every slam of the hammer against the nails. He drew his knees to his chest, shivering. This time not from the cold.

Bam! Bam!

He pinched his eyes closed, fighting the urge to throw up.

His heart raced faster than the first time he’d picked a pocket.

Where was Mark?


Chestnut, Illinois
November 1874

The ill-dressed, grimy child jostled a broad-shouldered cowboy, palming the man’s pocket watch. Gold flashed as the thief discreetly handed his prize to another youngster shuffling along the boardwalk toward Livy O’Brien.

Livy didn’t miss a thing—not the slick movements, not the tag-team approach. None of it.

Neither boy paid her any attention. And why should they? To them she was no more than a farmer’s wife on her way home from the mercantile or maybe one of the workers over at the new glove factory.

If they only knew.

Her gaze cut to the man’s back. When he patted down his pockets and his stride faltered, she made a split-second decision. As the thin boy with the timepiece passed, she knocked him into a pile of snow shoveled to the side of the wooden walkway. She reached out, pulled the child to his feet, and dusted him off so fast he didn’t have time to move, let alone squirm away. She straightened his threadbare coat, two sizes too big and much too thin for an icebound Illinois winter. “Oh, I’m so sorry. Did I hurt you?”

Fathomless dark eyes stared at her from a hollow face.

Eyes that reminded her of her own in the not-so-distant past. She wanted to hug him, take him home with her.

“No, ma’am.” The words came out high-pitched and breathless.

“Hey, you!” The man hurried toward them.

Fear shuddered across the boy’s face, and he jerked free of her grasp and darted down a nearby alley.

Livy let him go and stepped into the man’s path, bracing herself as he slammed into her. The impact sent both of them hurtling toward the snowbank. The stranger wrapped his arms around her and took the brunt of the fall, expelling a soft grunt as Livy landed on top of him. Her gaze tripped off the end of her gloved fingers and collided with a pair of intense jade-green eyes. She stared, mesmerized by long, dark lashes and tiny lines that fanned out from the corners of his eyes. A hint of a smile lifted one corner of his mouth.

A slamming door jerked Livy back to reality.

Heat rushed to her face, and she rolled sideways, scrambling to untangle herself. What would Mrs. Brooks think of such an unladylike display?

“Ma’am?” Large, gloved hands grabbed her shoulders and pulled her to her feet. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.”

“Those kids stole my watch.” A muscle jumped in his jaw.

“Are you sure?” Remorse smote her with the same force as that of the stranger’s body knocking her into the snow. She’d reacted, making a split-second decision that could have resulted in catastrophe.

“Yes, ma’am.” He patted his sheepskin coat again. Suddenly he stilled and removed the watch from his pocket. “Well, I’ll be. I could’ve sworn . . .” He gave her a sheepish look. “Sorry for running into you like that, ma’am.”

Livy breathed a sigh and pulled her cloak tight against the cold. Disaster averted. Forgive me, Lord. I hope I did the right thing. “That’s all right. No harm done.”

The stranger pushed his hat back, releasing a tuft of dark, wavy hair over his forehead. “I don’t believe we’ve met. Jake Russell.”

Her gaze flickered toward the alley that had swallowed up the boy. She didn’t make a habit of introducing herself to strangers, but revealing her name might keep Mr. Russell’s mind off the boys who’d waylaid him. “Livy O’Brien.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. O’Brien.”

Miss O’Brien,” she said. At least the gathering twilight masked the flush she could feel stealing across her cheeks.

Was it her imagination, or did the grin on Jake Russell’s face grow wider?

“Pleased to meet you, Miss O’Brien. May I escort you to wherever you’re going?” His eyes twinkled. “It’ll be dark soon, and a lady shouldn’t be out alone after dark.”

Livy sobered. She’d never claimed to be a lady. The tiny glow inside her faded with the setting sun. Mr. Russell would never be interested in Light-Fingered Livy O’Brien. “No thank you, Mr. Russell. I’m not going far. I’ll be fine.”

“I’d feel better, ma’am.” He gestured toward the alley. “Especially after what happened.”

He held out his arm, one eyebrow cocked in invitation. Her emotions warred with her head. She shouldn’t allow such liberties, but what harm would it do to let him escort her home?

Just once.

She placed her hand in the crook of his arm. “Very well. Thank you, Mr. Russell.”

“Call me Jake.”

Livy’s heart gave a nervous flutter. Did Mr. Russell mask his intentions behind a gentlemanly face and kindly words? A common enough practice where she came from. “I’m afraid using your given name would be a little too familiar. I don’t know anything about you.”

“Well, I can remedy that. What do you want to know?”

Livy shook her head, softening her refusal with a smile. It wouldn’t do to ask the man questions about himself. If she did, then he’d feel at liberty to ask questions of his own. Questions she didn’t want to answer.

He chuckled. “You sure are a shy little thing, Miss O’Brien.”

Better to let him think her bashful than know the truth. A couple of years ago, she might have spun a yarn or two to keep him entertained, but no longer. If she couldn’t speak the truth, she’d say nothing at all.

Her silence didn’t stop him. “You must be new around here. I don’t remember seeing you before.”

“I arrived in Chestnut about two months ago.”

“That explains it. I’ve only been back in town a few weeks myself.”

Livy darted a glance from the corner of her eye to study him. Discreetly, of course—she’d at least learned something from Mrs. Brooks. The top of her head barely reached his chin, and broad shoulders filled out his coat. A late-afternoon shadow dusted his firm jawline.

He stepped off the boardwalk and helped her across a patch of ice. Her stomach flopped when his green eyes connected with hers, and she blurted out the first thing that popped into her mind. “Oh? Where’ve you been?”

She could’ve bitten her tongue. She shouldn’t have asked, but curiosity had gotten the best of her. What made her want to know more about Jake Russell? Mercy, why should she even wonder about the man? He wasn’t anyone she should worry with.

If only her foolish girl’s heart would listen to reason.

“Taking care of some business in Missouri. It’s good to be home, though.”

They ambled in silence past the Misses Huff Millinery Shop and the recently opened Chinese laundry. The scent of green lumber tickled Livy’s nose, bringing forth the image of the fresh sprig of mistletoe hung over the door of the orphanage.

The boardwalk ended just past the laundry. Livy gestured into the gathering darkness. “It’s a little farther down this way.”

“I don’t mind.”

The snow-covered ground lay frozen, Livy’s footprints from when she’d trekked into town the only evidence of anyone being out and about on this frigid day.

They rounded the bend, and Livy eased her hand from the warmth of Jake’s arm when they came within sight of the rambling two-story house nestled under a grove of cottonwoods. “Thank you, Mr. Russell. This is where I live.”


Jake studied the building before returning his attention to the petite lady at his side. He’d known the moment he laid eyes on her that they hadn’t met. He would have remembered. “This is the new orphanage, isn’t it?”

“Yes. That’s right.”

“I heard someone opened one up. ’Bout time. Lots of young’uns needing a place to stay these days.”

“We already have five children in our care.”

They stepped onto the porch, and she pushed the hood of her cape back. Light from inside the house shot fire through reddish-brown curls and revealed a smattering of freckles across a pert nose.

She’d knocked the wind out of him earlier, and the feeling came back full force now.


Jake stepped back, putting some distance between them. He didn’t have the time or the energy to be thinking about a girl, no matter how pretty she might be. His days and nights were chock-full as it was. He tipped his hat. “Good night, Miss O’Brien.”

Her smile lit up the dreary winter landscape. “Thank you for escorting me home, Mr. Russell. Good night.”

He headed back toward town, rehashing the brief conversation he’d had with Livy O’Brien. She’d sure seemed reluctant to talk about herself. Come to think of it, she hadn’t told him much of anything.

Did he make her nervous? He should have told her who he was, but the thought hadn’t crossed his mind. Knowing he was a sheriff’s deputy would have put her at ease, but she hadn’t seemed the least bit interested in who he was or what he did for a living.

He continued his rounds, confident he’d find out more about Miss Livy O’Brien soon enough. It was part of his job, plain and simple. He chuckled. He didn’t remember anything in his job description that said he needed to investigate every beautiful lady he ran across. Still, it was his job to protect the town, and the more he knew about its inhabitants, the better.

Not that Chestnut needed protection from Livy O’Brien. A pretty little filly like her wouldn’t hurt a fly.

His steps faltered when he stuffed his hands in his pockets and his fingers slid over the cool, polished surface of his father’s gold watch. Not prone to jump to conclusions or get easily flustered, he’d been certain those kids had lifted his timepiece. How could he have been so mistaken?

Good thing he’d bumped into Miss O’Brien, or he would have had a hard time explaining why he’d chased an innocent kid down the street.

Still, he had reason to be suspicious. There’d been reports of scruffy young boys like the two tonight roaming the streets of Chestnut. Urchins from back East, Sheriff Carter said. Run out of Chicago, they rode the train to the nearest town large enough to provide easy pickings.

He settled his hat more firmly on his head. Those ragamuffins didn’t know it yet, but they shouldn’t have stopped in Chestnut. The town wasn’t big enough for thieves and robbers to hide out for long.

Jake clomped along the boardwalk, part of his thoughts on the youngsters, part on the girl he’d left at the orphanage, and part registering the sights and sounds of merchants shutting down for the night.

He hesitated as he spied Paul Stillman locking up the bank. An urge to turn down the nearest alley assaulted him, but he doggedly stayed his course.

The banker lifted a hand. “Jake. Wait up a minute.”

A knot twisted in Jake’s gut. Would Stillman call in his loan today?

The portly man hurried toward him, his hand outstretched, a wide smile on his florid face. “Jake. How’re things going?”

“Fine.” Jake shook the banker’s hand, the knot intensifying. Mr. Stillman’s continued grace made him feel worse than if the banker had demanded payment on the spot.

“And your mother?” His concern poured salt on Jake’s unease.

“She’s doing well.”

“That’s good. I should be going, then. I just wanted to check on the family.”

Jake rubbed his jaw. “Look, Mr. Stillman, I appreciate all you’ve done for my family, but I’m going to pay off that loan. Every penny of it.”

The banker sobered. “I know you will, Jake. I never doubted it for a minute. The last couple of years have been tough for you and Mrs. Russell.”

“Pa wouldn’t have borrowed money against the farm if he’d known...” Jake’s throat closed. “If the crops hadn’t failed the last two summers, I could’ve made the payments.”

The banker took off his glasses and rubbed them with a white handkerchief. His eyes pinned Jake, razor sharp in intensity. “That investor is still interested in buying your father’s share of the Black Gold mine, you know.”

“The answer is no. I’m not selling.” Jake clenched his jaw. He wouldn’t be party to more death and destruction.

“That’s what I thought you’d say.” Stillman sighed. “I admire your determination to protect miners by not selling, but as much as I’d like to, I can’t carry that loan forever.”

Jake shifted his weight, forcing his muscles to relax. It wasn’t the banker’s fault that life had dealt him a losing hand. “I know. This summer will be better.”

“We’ll see.” Mr. Stillman stuffed the cloth in his pocket, settled his glasses on his nose, and tugged his coat close against the biting wind. “I’d better get on home. This weather is going to be the death of me. Say hello to your mother for me, will you?”

“I’ll do that. Good night.”

The banker waved a hand over his shoulder and hurried away. Jake stared after him. Would this summer be any different from last year? It would take a miracle to bring in enough from the farm to pay off the loan against the defunct mine.

A sharp blast rent the air, signaling the evening shift change at the mines. Jake turned northward. The low hills sat shrouded in a blanket of pure, white snow. Peaceful.

An illusion. The mines beneath the ground held anything but purity. Coal dust, death, and destruction existed there.

Along with enough coal to pay off the loan.

Jake turned his back on the mine and walked away.


Mrs. Brooks glanced up from the coal-burning stove when Livy entered the kitchen. “How’d it go?”

Livy took off her cloak and hung it on a nail along with several threadbare coats in varying sizes before moving to warm her hands over the stovetop. She closed her eyes and breathed deep. The aroma of vegetable soup simmering on the stove and baking bread welcomed her home. “Nobody’s hiring. Not even the glove factory.”

Mrs. Brooks sank into an old rocker. The runners creaked as she set the chair in motion. “What are we going to do?”

Worry lines knit the older woman’s brow, and Livy turned away. She rubbed the tips of her fingers together. How easy it would be to obtain the money needed to keep them afloat. Livy had visited half a dozen shops today, all of them easy pickings.

She slammed a lid on the shameful images. Those thoughts should be long gone, but they snuck up on her when she was most vulnerable. When Mrs. Brooks’s faith wavered, Livy’s hit rock bottom.

She balled her hands into fists and squeezed her eyes shut. Lord, I don’t want to go back to that life. Ever. Livy forced herself to relax and turned to face Mrs. Brooks. “Maybe the citizens of Chestnut will help.”

“I’ve tried, Livy. A few have helped us out, mostly by donating clothes their own children have outgrown. And I’m more than thankful. But money to keep up with the payments on this old place? And food?” Her gaze strayed toward the bucket of coal. “Except for our guardian angel who keeps the coal bin full, most everybody is in about as bad a shape as we are. They don’t have much of anything to give.”

“Don’t worry, ma’am.” Livy patted the older woman’s shoulder, desperate to hear the ironclad faith ring in her voice. “You keep telling me the Lord will provide.”

Mrs. Brooks smiled. “You’re right, dear. He will. I’ve told you time and again that we should pray for what we need, and here I am, doubting the goodness of God. Let’s pray, child. The Lord hasn’t let me down yet, and I’m confident He never will.”

The rocker stopped, and Mrs. Brooks took Livy’s hand in hers and closed her eyes. “Lord, You know the situation here. We’ve got a lot of mouths to feed and not much in the pantry. Livy is doing all she can, and I thank You for her every day. We’re asking You to look down on us and see our need. These children are Yours, Lord, and we need help in providing food for them and keeping a roof over their heads. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.” She heaved herself out of the rocker and headed to the stove, a new resolve in her step. “Call the children, Livy. It’s almost time for supper.”

Livy trudged down the hall to the parlor. The short prayer had cheered Mrs. Brooks but hadn’t done much to ease Livy’s worry. She’d have to find some way to bring in a few extra dollars if they were to make it to spring. Otherwise, she and Mrs. Brooks and the small brood of children they’d taken in would be on the streets of Chestnut before winter’s end. The elderly woman would never survive if that happened.

A wave of panic washed over her like fire sweeping through the slums of Chicago. Livy couldn’t have another life on her conscience. She took a deep breath. They weren’t on the streets yet. And as long as they had a roof over their heads and food on the table, there was hope.

She stepped into the parlor. Mary, the eldest child at twelve, kept the younger ones occupied on a quilt set up in the corner. The two boys, Seth and Georgie, stacked small wooden blocks, then howled with laughter when they knocked the tower down, only to start the process again.

“Libby! Libby!” a sweet voice trilled.

Livy held out her arms as Mary’s little sister, Grace, toddled to her. “Hello, sweetheart.”

The toddler patted her cheeks. “Libby’s home! Libby’s home!”

Livy nuzzled the child’s neck, inhaling her sweet baby scent. Grace giggled.

“Yes, Libby’s home.” Livy glanced at Mary and the other children. “It’s almost time for supper. Go wash up now.”

Against her better judgment, Livy’s mind conjured up flashing green eyes as she wiped Grace’s face and hands. Would Jake Russell call on her? Why would such a thought even occur to her? What man who could have his pick of women would call on a girl who lived in an orphanage, a girl who came from a questionable background and didn’t have a penny to her name?

And one who’d sprawled all over him like a strumpet.

Mercy! What if Miss Maisie or Miss Janie, the Huff sisters, had witnessed such an unladylike display? Her reputation would be in tatters. Not that she’d brought much of a reputation with her to Chestnut, but Mrs. Brooks had insisted she could start over here. There was no need to air her past like a stained quilt on a sunny day.

Maybe she wouldn’t see Jake again. Or maybe she would. Chestnut wasn’t that big.

More importantly, did she want to see him?

She didn’t have any interest in courting, falling in love, and certainly no interest in marriage and childbirth. She knew firsthand where that could lead. Rescuing children from the streets fulfilled her desire for a family, and she’d do well to remember that.

Georgie shoved ahead of Seth. Livy snagged the child and tucked him back in line. “Don’t push. You’ll have your turn.”

When all hands were clean, Livy led the way to the kitchen. A scramble ensued as the children jockeyed for position at the long trestle table.

Mrs. Brooks clapped her hands. “All right, everyone, it’s time to say the blessing.” Her firm but gentle voice calmed the chaos, and the children settled down. “Thank You, Lord, for the food we are about to partake. Bless each one at this table, and keep us safe from harm. Amen.”

The children dug in with relish, and Livy took Grace from Mary’s arms. “Here; I’ll feed her. Enjoy your supper.”

Livy mashed a small helping of vegetables in a saucer and let them cool.

“Grace do it,” the child demanded.

“All right, but be careful.” Livy concentrated on helping the child feed herself without making too much of a mess.

Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

Livy jumped as loud knocking reverberated throughout the house.

“I wonder who that could be?” Mrs. Brooks folded her napkin.

“I’ll get it.” Livy stepped into the foyer. Resting her hand on the knob, she called out, “Who’s there?”

“Sheriff Carter, ma’am.”

Livy’s hands grew damp, but she resisted the urge to bolt. The sheriff didn’t have reason to question her or to haul her off to jail. Jesus had washed away her sins and made her a new creature. She wasn’t the person she’d been two years ago. She prayed every day she wouldn’t let Him down.

Some days were harder than others.

She took a deep breath and opened the door, a smile plastered on her face. “Good evening, Sheriff. May I help you?”

The aged sheriff touched his fingers to his hat. “Evening, ma’am. Sorry to bother you, but we’ve got a problem.”


The sheriff glanced toward the street, and for the first time, Livy noticed a wagon and the silhouettes of several people.

Mrs. Brooks appeared behind her. “What is it, Livy?”

Sheriff Carter spoke up. “There’s been a wagon accident. A family passing through on the outskirts of town. Their horses bolted. I’m sad to say the driver—a man—was killed, leaving three children.”

Livy peered into the darkness, her heart going out to the little ones. “Are the children out there? Are they hurt?”

“They’re fine. Nary a scratch as far as we can tell. We thought the orphanage might take them.”

“Of course.” Mrs. Brooks took charge. “Bring them in out of the cold. Livy, go fetch some blankets. The poor dears are probably frozen with cold and fear.”

Livy ran, her mind flying as fast as her feet. Less than an hour before, they’d prayed for help to feed the children already in their care. How could they manage three more? Of course they couldn’t turn them away. They’d never do that. But would she be forced to do something drastic to feed them all?

Lord, don’t make me choose. I’m not strong enough.

Heart heavy, she found three worn blankets and carried them downstairs.

Mrs. Brooks met her in the hallway. “They’re in the kitchen. Mary’s already taken the other children to the parlor.”

Her arms laden with the blankets, Livy followed Mrs. Brooks. Two girls huddled together on the bench at the table, their eyes wide and frightened. Poor things. If only she could take them in her arms and tell them everything would be all right. It must be. She’d beg in the streets before she’d let them all starve.

She searched the room for the third child. Her gaze landed on a tall, broad-shouldered man with a tiny darkhaired child nestled snugly inside his sheepskin coat. The man lifted his head, and Livy came face-to-face with Jake Russell. She saw a fierce protectiveness in his haunted eyes.

“I don’t believe you’ve met my deputy, Jake Russell.” Sheriff Carter waved in Jake’s direction.

Dread pooled in the pit of Livy’s stomach, and for the space of a heartbeat, she stared.

“Pleased to meet you, Deputy Russell,” Mrs. Brooks said, her attention already on the two little girls at the table. “I’m Mrs. Brooks, and this is Livy O’Brien.”

Livy jerked her head in a stiff nod. For a few moments tonight she’d let her imagination run away with her, thinking maybe Jake Russell would call on her, that he might want to court her, that maybe he thought she was pretty.

And maybe he would. Maybe he did.

But it didn’t matter. It couldn’t matter.

Jake Russell was an officer of the law, and Livy had spent her entire life running from the law.

You can purchase Stealing Jake from Amazon.

Pam is giving away an ebook copy of Stealing Jake. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


The winner of:
  • Margaret Daley's Protecting Her Own is Emma
  • Dorothy Love's Beyond All Measure is Margaret Metz
  •  Teena Stewars's Benevolence: Ministry to the Poor and Needy is Charlotte Kay
  •  Lynn Squire's Joab's Fire is Hoomi
  • Keven Newsome's Winter is Teresa M
  • Susan Sleeman's Behind the Badge is Tracy Smith
  •  K. Dawn Byrd's Mistaken Identity is Shellie Neumeier
  • Patty Smith Hall's Hearts in Flight is Lynda Schab
    Winners, it's your responsibility to contact me (Patty {at}BarnDoorBookLoft {dot}net) with your address so the author can send you a book. Subscribing by email will ensure you don't miss the winners list. ;-)

Risen Books Contest...

Guest post by
DP Martinez, acquisitions editor for Risen Books

Risen Books Contest

As promised in my previous post, here’s your chance to prove whether your manuscript is ready for publication.

First Prize: Publishing contract with Risen Books.

Second Prize: Amazon Kindle (with Special Offers)

Third Prize: Free books from Risen authors.

Submission Period
Open to all eligible participants (see Contest Rules at The submission period begins July 20, 2011 at 12:01 a.m. (U.S. Pacific Standard Time) and ends July 31, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. (U.S. Pacific Standard Time). The contest is limited to 40 entries and we will stop accepting entries when we receive 40 submissions.

Starting on July 20, using the submission form at, submit the following:

§  Novel title
§  Genre
§  Hook (a 20- to 30-word premise)
§  Back Cover blurb (max 150 words)

The general public will vote on the entries. The best 20 will be selected for the second round and will be asked to submit:

§  A one or two page synopsis that includes the ending
§  The first chapter
We reserve the right to advance fewer than 20 to the first round if, in our sole discretion, we do not receive a sufficient number of eligible or qualified entries.

First round
Between August 1st and August 12, 2011, Risen Books authors will select the best five (5) submissions based on the following criteria: originality of idea, strength of the plot (based on the synopsis), and the quality of writing.

The best 5 will be selected for the second round and asked to submit the complete manuscript.

Second Round
Between August 15 and September 25, Risen Book’s editorial committee will select the prizewinners, who will be announced on September 30th, 2011.

To read the official contest rules, go to

Good luck everyone! And thank you Mr. Martinez for joining us on the Barn Door Book Loft. Hope you let us know who wins!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Is Your Manuscript Ready for Publication?

Guest Post by
DP Martinez, Co-founder and Senior Editor, Risen Books

Some time ago, I received a query with an intriguing story premise—a soldier returns from Iraq to become the sheriff of his home county, only to find that the dangers lurking in his jurisdiction are worst than any he faced in the Middle East.

Excited about this idea, I skipped the rest of the query and began reading the sample chapter.

I didn’t make it past the first page. The first few paragraphs read like a boring nonfiction volume about war in the 21st century.

Most of the book proposals I receive as an acquisitions editor can be defined in two words: they suck.

It’s a hard way to put it, but it’s true. Usually, the problem is not in the premise—like in the example above—but in the execution.

Just having a good idea is not enough. As a writer you must hone your skills and work hard on your manuscript until it is ready for publication.

Now, ask yourself this: would you try out for the Olympic race team if you can’t even run down the stairs without suffering a heart attack? No, you must first train hard and get in shape. Why then submit a manuscript that is suffering from a heart attack?

Sometimes we are the worst judges of our own writing. That’s why we need others to read our stuff and provide feedback.

Critique groups are fine, as long as you don’t have a large group of neophytes sharing useless advice.

My best advice is to hire a professional editor to look at your manuscript and point the strengths and the weaknesses. Then go buy some books or attend conferences where you can learn how to overcome those weaknesses. Go through several drafts, and submit only your best.

On tomorrow’s post, I will announce a new contest from Risen Books for unpublished authors—you’ll get a chance to show if your manuscript is ready and possibly win a publishing contract.

with Christa Allan

Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft, Christa!
Is there a story behind this book?

Over a decade ago, my brother-my only sibling-told me he was gay. The news fractured our relationship, but the truth of it is I was the one with the hammer. It took years, too many years, for me to realize that placing the word “gay” in front of the word “brother” did not change the substance of the person I’d known and loved all my life. He is my brother, and I don’t define him by his sexual orientation. In fact, he doesn’t define me by mine either! When my brother’s partner of over fifteen years was attacked in the French Quarter, that was my motivation for getting serious about the novel. The Edge of Grace grew out of those experiences. I wanted other families to realize that they weren’t alone, and that what God wants most, from all of us, is to love.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
I consider myself an eclectic reader, which I think is a sophisticated way of saying I read almost anything if it’s a great story. Despite some of the literary snobbism attached to the Twilight series, I read and enjoyed them all. Sarah Addison Allen is one of my new favorites. She dabbles in magical realism, a genre I first learned about through reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Most of the books I enjoy are women’s fiction and contemporary fiction, though I am exploring more historical fiction. Philippa Gregory is amazing, and its her novels that enticed me into this genre. Susan Meissner has written a few novels that combine historical with contemporary events, and I look forward to more of those.

I read some nonfiction (Columbine is a recent one I’ve read), some instructional /education/curriculum books (you’d think after 23+ years of teaching, I’d stop trying to reinvent the wheel), and-of course-books about writing. One book that I don’t see mentioned often that has been insightful is Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer (and how cool to have that last name AND be a writer!).

It’s probably easier to write about what I don’t read—unless, of course, it’s recommended—
science fiction, thriller, western, and paranormal. There are some dystopian novels I’ve read recently that were great reads, like The Hunger Games.

If you were a style of music, what style would you be?
That’s a tough one…is there such a style as Jazz-Rap?

What is your strangest habit?
I read the end of most books before I read the beginning. I like to know where I’m going.
And during football season, while I’m grading papers, I sometimes watch Saints or LSU games without the volume. I have no idea why except that if I hear my team is losing, I get crazed.

Are there things you put off doing because you dread them?
One visit to my house would answer that question! Let’s just say my husband didn’t marry me for my domestic skills. Otherwise, going to the dentist would be on the list.

What's your favorite meal with family and friends?
Any meal I don’t have to cook! Seriously, though, during football season it’s just grilled burgers, baked sweet potatoes, and salad. It’s one time we’re too busy watching to focus on food!

Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you.
“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed. . .” Romans 4:18a
When everything seems to be conspiring against me, when I find myself doubting, it’s this quote that resonates. It reminds me that Abraham continued to hope though he absolutely, certainly had every reason not to do so. And, as we know, he became the father of many nations. So, who am I to doubt?

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
My next novel should be out in January or February of 2012, and it’s Love Finds You in New Orleans from Summerside Press. I’m so excited that Summerside has made it possible for New Orleans to now be included in this impressive series. Plus, writing an 1840s historical has made for fascinating research. In fact, I sometimes forget that I’m supposed to be writing a novel, and get transported back into time myself! It’s also been a new experience for my family because now I start most conversations with, “Did you know that in the early 19th century….?”

You can purchase The Edge of Grace from Amazon.

Christa is giving away a copy of The Edge of Grace. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Meet DP Matinez from Risen Books as He Tells us The Story So Far

Guest post by
DP Martinez
Co-Founder & Senior Editor, Risen Books

How do you make money in the publishing business? That’s the question we asked ourselves when starting Risen Books in 2009. Not that we did it for the money—there are other more profitable businesses.

Yes, we got on this boat because we love books, but someone has to pay the editors, designers, printer and the postal office.

We had experience in online marketing to niche audiences and bet our money on finding authors who would appeal to faithful readers. And if we were to make a splash in the industry, we better make it good.

What if we published books that no other Christian publisher would touch, yet are well written? Our criteria consisted in two main elements: the author believes wholeheartedly in his work and can identify a niche to write for.

So we started with a historical novel that had been rejected by traditional publishers for its stance against evolution—The Gentlemen’s Conspiracy by Nick Daniels. The author was a science writer with many years in the Christian apologetics arena. The two conditions were met: his research and beliefs made Nick a passionate promoter of his work to the apologetics-minded Christian.

Our next project was a young adult series with Manga illustrations—The Truth Chronicles by Tim Chaffey and Joe Westbrook. Traditional Christian publishers wanted nothing to do with the scary looking Japanese drawings. Ironically, this series is our bestseller.

Then came the demons versus teenagers novel, Driven; the war criminal love story, The Unforgivable; the Viking time travel adventure, Undercurrent; and the alien warrior who talks to God, The Story in the Stars. This coming Fall we will release an end times thriller, The Jihad’s Messiah, that will surely cause controversy because it compares Biblical and Islamic eschatology with chilling implications.

That’s all good and exciting, but somehow we knew there was more to a publishing house than selling books. One of my greatest satisfactions is to offer a publishing contract to an author, because in a way, I’m making a dream come true. But that’s just one person at a time.

We wanted to bless more people.

So we asked ourselves another question—besides books, what is it that we love and are passionate about?  The answer was helping orphans. We have been sponsoring children since 2006, through Holt International, a Christian organization that finds and supports permanent, loving families for children who are orphaned, abandoned or separated from families, or at serious risk of separation.

We contacted the organization and told them that we wanted to help. Our first step is to donate to Holt a portion of the profit from every book sold through our online store (  The purpose is to raise awareness of their labor and to get people involved in showing the love of God for the suffering children.

This is just the beginning of our partnership with Holt, as it is the beginning of many books and authors that we will publish. As our mission statement says, we are committed to publishing books with a strong Biblical worldview and fascinating stories. But we are also committed to make an impact in our world.

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