Tag Archives: fiction

Grace in the Flames

Graceintheflamescover

Grace in the Flames (Inspy Contemporary Fiction)

 by Michelle Massaro

From Bev: Recently I read a debut novel that I had to share with y’all. You know how it is when you read the first few pages of a new-to-you-author and you’re not sure if a) the writer has any chops, and b) the story will grab your attention? Well, I have to tell you that Michelle DOES have mad writing skills and this story had my attention from the first few pages. And more than that, it was a real CPID* sleep stealer. Here’s the back cover teaser, and a sample scene, plus some Q&A with Michelle.

 And be sure and sign up for her newsletter because she’s got another one coming out soon!

Good job, Michelle!

*can’t put it down

GRACE IN THE FLAMES

Three people. One God of grace.

John Douglas thought he knew the future God had for him–raise a family and grow old with his bride, Hannah. But then a deadly house fire incinerated his faith, destroying the man he’d been.

Worship leader Jenni Dupont conquered her demons years ago and has the scars to prove it. But temptation strikes when her world is shattered, and this time she’s not sure if God can carry her through.

Bar waitress April Johanson lives with the secret trauma of an abusive past. Desperate to stay off the streets of Vegas, she’ll do whatever is necessary to pay the rent.

When their lives intersect, God will ask them to do the impossible. To love Him even if…

  • What would you say is/are the major themes explored in your book? I always say the main theme is surrender. Second to that is divine love.
  • What do you hope readers take away from this story? That our relationship with an Almighty God is not measured by how comfortable our circumstances are, but that despite the trials we face, God is real, and He loves you.
  • Do you have a favorite character? I actually love them all! Over the years, they’ve all come so alive to me and it’s hard to pick just one. I’ve come to identify with each of them in different ways. April’s story in the initial drafts was always captivating for me and I relished returning to her scenes. But as time went on, I really got close to Jenni as well. I was always drawn to John and the way he looks out for others. They’re all my favorite!
  • Sometimes authors slip in cameos of people they know in real life, or tuck other little gems into the pages of their story. Are there any fun Easter eggs hidden in your book? Yes! Two of my kids’ names are sprinkled in—Katy and Brandon—and I also slipped in mentions of a few other real-life friends: Chris Bowen is one, as well as Pastor Barry. And the dog, Sadie, is based on my childhood dog Sammy! I love doing stuff like this and will probably always find ways of placing people into my stories. It’s so fun!
  • What’s next for you? I’m releasing a book called Better than Fiction in a few weeks. (facebook.com/betterthanfiction2016) It’s a two-in-one—contemporary women’s fiction and historical romance—set in my hometown of Corona CA in 1916, during the height of its famed road races. I co-wrote this story with April W Gardner over the past several years and we are releasing it in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the final Road Race. The contemporary side features an author struggling with feeling invisible in her marriage, who then finds her heart wandering toward a male friend—one she sees as ideal, attentive, spiritual, and attractive enough to base her fictional hero on. The historical side features a romance between a hotshot racer and a female mechanic.
    While creating a fictional romance between her 1916 heroine and a reckless racecar driver, a novelist falls prey to an emotional affair with the man who inspires her handsome hero.
  • What is the best/hardest thing about indie publishing? Retaining complete control is a good feeling, but the hardest part is learning to market so readers know I exist.
  • How can readers best support their favorite indie authors? We need reviews. There is a minimum threshold of reviews needed to be considered for various promotions, and indies have a bigger challenge when it comes to crossing that barrier.
  • Could you tell us about your journey to publication? In 2007 I was inspired by Stephanie Myers’ story of writing her books during her kids’ swimming lessons that I sat down at my screen determined to get an entire story written. I had no clue where to start such a monumental task so I started searching online for guidance. I ended up finding a NaNoWriMo board, and the Snowflake Method, both of which were so helpful in those early days. I wrote and rewrote this story multiple times over the next 8 years, learning the craft, attending conferences, finding mentors and critique partners. In 2012 the manuscript was a Genesis finalist under the original title, Beauty for Ashes. I rewrote the story again, sent it around to the big pub houses, and got great feedback. But it was not ultimately picked up. I finally decided last year to go ahead and release my baby on my own. Ultimately, I think this was the best choice for me for this title. It’s so near to my heart that I’m glad I have all the control in the final manuscript, the cover, etc. and it was time
  • When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing? I love musical theater and old Rogers and Hammerstein movies, hanging out with my teens watching Once Upon A Time (though it isn’t what it used to be, we’ve bonded over the show. Plus, everyone says that my husband looks like Neal Cassidy,) and I recently WON a karaoke contest singing What I’ve Been Looking For from High School Musical with my hubby at our church’s Valentine’s Day dinner. =)
  • Can you share a favorite scene/line from your story? Grace in the Flames is a weighty book, but there are definitely some lighter scenes full of fun and romance. This excerpt makes me smile. The hero works at a home improvement store and our couple have just begun moving from friends to something more when this scene takes place:

Once outside, he took her hand. “If you have an hour to spare, there’s something I want to do.”

She stopped while he got out his keys. “Like what?”

“You’ll see.” He released her hand for her to climb into the car, then waited till she was safely settled to close her door.

When they pulled up to their destination a few minutes later, Home Depot was the last place she expected to see. She shut her door and looked over at John, who wore the expression of a child on his way to Chuck E Cheese. “So…what are we doing here?”

He shrugged. “I used to love Saturday mornings building stuff with my dad. Come on.” He held his hand out and she took it, letting him lead her into the home improvement store. Strangest date ever.

When they’d stepped through the doors, John paused, lifted his face, and inhaled deeply. “Ah…smell that?”

“Saw dust and paint fumes?”

“No. Creativity.”

He led her toward the back center of the store where long tables had been set up. Small squares of wood lay on them, and tools, and her eyebrows came together. “What’s this?”

“Our Saturday morning project.” He grinned then grabbed a work apron from the table, slipped it over her head, and reached around her waist. His nearness made her head pound, and he smiled down at her as he secured the apron ties, giving them a little yank. She stumbled into him and her hands flew to his chest as she steadied herself.

They both froze. “Sorry,” she whispered up at him.

“Don’t be.” His hint of a smile made her heart skip a beat, then she followed his gaze down to where her hands were still plastered against his…very firm chest.

Red faced, she withdrew them and inched backward with a shaky smile. Her legs would not hold her up much longer if she didn’t get some distance. She pivoted toward the table and busied herself examining its contents. “So…how do I help? What do you need?”

“Well, first, you won’t be helping…you’ll be building. And second, you’ll need this.” From somewhere under the table, he produced a hammer and held it out to her with both hands.

She stared down at it. “It’s pink.”

He smiled. “Yep. And it’s yours.”

“You…bought me a hammer?”

“You’re welcome.”

She poked out her lips and nodded, then wrapped her fingers around the handle. “Thanks.”

Definitely the strangest date ever.

MichelleMassaro

MICHELLE MASSARO writes contemporary fiction soaked in grace. She makes her home in Southern California with her husband of over two decades and their four children. She’s dabbled in homeschooling, teaching Creation Science, and leading worship. When she isn’t tinkering with words, Michelle enjoys old Rogers and Hammerstein movies, making kefir, and Sudoku. A new lipstick and a good French roast always make her happy.

Michelle’s contact information:

NEWSLETTER: eepurl.com/bPQL0T

Facebook: www.facebook.com/MichelleMassaroBooks

Twitter: @MLMassaro

Instagram: @MichelleMassaroBooks

Website: www.michellemassarobooks.com

Amazon purchase link: http://amzn.to/1Y8EcPA

Better Than Fiction Facebook page: www.facebook.com/BetterThanFiction2016

Thanks for having me, Bev!

Bev: You bet, thanks for visiting, and keep up the good work!

Bev out.

 

 

Winning Cover Design – before, during and after

Update! The Kaleidoscope was just named the winner of InD’Tale Magazine’s  Creme de la Creme cover contest!

 

Many of you have asked about the design of The Kaleidoscope‘s cover, which is getting a lot of attention because it’s so pretty. It actually came out better than I’d ever imagined. Here’s a fun step-by-step look at how award winning cover artist Diana Carlile of Wild Rose Press and I approached it. Here are some before and after pictures.

First, let’s look at the after and then I’ll break it down.

The Kaleidoscope cover

Cover by Diana Carlile

Description: The elements on the cover evoke the storylines that weave throughout this suspense thriller full of intrigue and mystery. The graphic of the Los Angeles skyline including Hollywood, downtown, and iconic palms reflect the setting. The tree of life represents a crucial spot where many of the story’s pivotal moments take place, including the turnover of the kaleidoscope to the hero who must discover what gives it power. The jewel-toned backdrop are the colors seen by anyone brave enough to look into the ‘scope. The title’s whimsical font hints at the light-hearted tone despite dark moments, and the teaser line entices the reader to step inside for a page turning suspenseful romance full of old fashioned good vs evil adventure.

The Tree of Life

We searched through tons of pictures of trees, and once you read the book you’ll know why the tree is SO important. Here’s the one we chose.

tree of lifeSkyline

I wanted to suggest Los Angeles because most of the story takes place there. This graphic is not too overpowering and you have to really look, but once you do, you realize why it’s also important to the story…hint hint!

Jewel-toned backdrop

Finally, the background. This probably gave me more trouble than the other elements. Sometimes pictures are too “on the nose” and as the colors were important and the suggestion of what you’d see inside a ‘scope change, it wasn’t as important what shape they were in, because your mind can arrange them in your imagination. But it was important to suggest the colors and changeability. Is that a word?

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We played around with putting the purple at the bottom, but the yellow gave the illusion of a sun rising behind the skyline so we settled on this orientation.

One more element completed the look. When you don’t have people on the cover, I believe it’s important it’s not dull, so we added a star burst effect using this graphic to draw the eye and add some energy.


And then Diana brought the yellow “bleed” from the stained glass image into the text. It’s subtle, but draws the eye down to the title. She chose the whimsical font, which at first seemed a little steampunk to me, but really grew on me. Since the tone of the story is a bit lighthearted, it really works and now I love it.

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I hope you liked this look at how the sausage is made and I really hope you’ll take a look into The Kaleidoscope for yourself!

 

Click here to read a Sample of The Kaleidoscope

The Kaleidoscope - paperback 3D

Bev out!

UPDATE: July, 2015 The Kaleidoscope‘s cover won the InD’Tale Magazine Creme de la Creme Cover contest!

Weaving Faith and Fiction with a Fresh Twist

Last year, Waterbrook Press released the first book in The Cadence of Grace, a series of historical fiction stories set in Appalachia. Reminiscent of the “Christy” series, yet with a fresh voice and compelling characters, “Be Still My Soul” has become one of the hottest selling, highly reviewed Christian novels.

Be-Still-My-Soul-3D-Cover

2013 Christy Nominee!

While considered romance, Joanne’s stories are not cookie cutter, never cliche. The characters are flawed, the settings are real and thoroughly researched to transport you immediately to walk alongside them.

Joanne’s taken risks in creating plots that at once surprise, and then keep you up late turning the pages well into the night.

All reasons to read, but if that’s not enough, Joanne’s faith elements add a dimension that bless and inspire you well after you’ve finished. All these are reasons why I predict that these stories are well on their way to becoming one of the most highly regarded, even classics, in Christian fiction.

ThoughMyHeartisTorn

Here’s a podcast of Joanne explaining how she weaves elements of faith and scripture into the lives and settings of her stories.

Click on this link to listen as Joanne Bischof discusses “Though My Heart is Torn”

In the meantime, if you haven’t yet read Be Still My Soul, yet, hurry and do so and you will be ready for the next book in this incredible series. You’ll thank me!

   ******

Married to her first sweetheart, Joanne lives in the mountains of Southern California where she keeps busy making messes with their home schooled children. When she’s not Joanneweaving Appalachian romance, she’s blogging about faith, writing, and the adventures of country living that bring her stories to life. Visit Joanne at her website, Heartfelt Fiction, and tell her Bev sent you! 

Blessings are a GOOD Thing

Please welcome today’s guest poster, Staci Stallings, and stay tuned for her special offer!

About Staci: A stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from. Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again. Every title is a new adventure! That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading.

Here’s Staci!

Okay.  This may seem obvious to you, but stay with me.  Blessings are a GOOD thing.

When God puts something good in your life, it is a good thing.

Now you may be saying, “Duh, Staci.  That’s pretty obvious.  You’re saying that like it’s profound or something.”

Well, you would think so, but look a little deeper and maybe you won’t be so quick to say that.

The other day I had a friend over and we got to talking about something that is very good in her life.  It is something she enjoys a lot, something that she gets to spread the message of how much God has loved her and healed her and helped her so that others can find that same love, healing, and help.

So what’s the problem you ask?

In short, she feels guilty.

That’s right.  She feels guilty for having the opportunity to spread the Word of God.  Now you may be saying, “Well, that’s just silly.  What does she have to feel guilty about?”

But before you judge my friend, I want you to think about your own life.  Do you ever feel guilty about your blessings?  Do you ever look around and think, “Why me?  What have I ever done to be so blessed?”  Do you ever hide your blessings so others won’t feel intimidated or jealous (raising hand over here on that one!)?  Do you ever think you really don’t deserve the blessings God has put into your life and if He knew you a little better, He wouldn’t?

See, blessings are weird things in a way because we pray for them, wish for them, hope for them, and then when they come our direction, we feel guilty for getting them.  It’s a nice Satan Cycle if you want to know the real truth.  He cons us into thinking that we are less-than without the blessing and that life would be SO much better with it, and then when we get it, he goes around pointing out to us how we don’t deserve it and look over there, they have less than because we have more…

What a lie!

He takes what God meant for good and uses it for evil.  So while we’re over here feeling guilty about the blessings God has given us, we are thus made less powerful by narrowing our access to God’s power out of guilt!

It’s like I told my friend, “God doesn’t give you blessings for YOU.  God gives you blessings because He knows you will pass them ON.”

The point of a blessing is not to horde it for yourself.  The point is to either pass it on or to be so grateful that you pass your joy of the Lord onto others.

Guilt denies you that ability.  It keeps you small.  It keeps you focused on yourself.

Realize your blessings.  Celebrate them.  They are from God.  And as others see you basking in the joy of the Lord, they might just wonder what you have (not just the blessing) and come over and ask.

Learn to accept your blessings with overwhelming gratefulness and to then turn around and pour blessings into the lives of others.  It’s the way God would have us live.

Staci Stallings


Connect with Staci on
 Facebook
Follow Staci on Twitter @StaciStallings
Spirit Light Blog
Ebook Romance Stories
Stories of God’s Hope and Love Signifying… Everything!

Staci Stallings, the author of this article, is a #1 Best Selling Contemporary Christian Romance author and the founder of Grace & Faith Author Connection. Staci has a special surprise for you!

Available Dec 4 & 5 as a free download from Amazon

FREE ON KINDLE TWO DAYS ONLY!

Cowboy

Timothy Ashton Raines is at the top of his game and the end of his rope until one night, he walks away from everything…

 

Copyright Staci Stallings, 2010

A new Christmas novella, a good friend, and not one, but TWO recipes

To celebrate the release of CHRISTMAS BELLS, I’m combining the two things that always receive the most visits and comments:

A visit from my friend, Luann, with one two of her delicious recipes, and the announcement of my latest Cherryvale book.

Win-win!! 

Luann’s got the chops in the kitchen, and she’s a hoot as well. If you haven’t subscribed to her blog, Mudpuddle, hurry and do so, then come right back.

I guess you’ve noticed cooking with exotic salts is trending! so always on top of the latest, Lu’s showing us how to make  Salted Lemon Caramel Sauce. Good on any.thing.

So snuggle in with a cup of hot tea, a sample of Lu’s drop dead delish dessert, and take a trip to Cherryvale, where a Christmas eve blizzard’s got the town scrambling to find enough room in the Inn. And food to fill hungry bellies of dozens of stranded, grumpy travelers. Lu, Grace could really use your help!

And now, here’s Lu!

*******

When Better Than Good is Just Right

Well, I’m sure you know what I mean.
Sometimes things are good.

Like Weegie soaking up the morning sun with his squeaky toy.

 

Or a piece of The Fresh Apple Cake made with Honeycrisps. (pictured at the top of this post)

 

 

The Fresh Apple Cake 

1.  Chop and toast 1 1/2 cup pecans (or walnuts).  The toasting is SO important.  Let them cool completely.

2.  Peel and chop 3 cups Honeycrisp apples.  Pour 1/4 c. fresh-squeezed lemon juice over the apples.  Set aside.

3.  With a mixer, combine 2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 c. vegetable oil, 2 tsp. vanilla, 2 eggs, and 1 tsp. salt.  Just mix until well combined.

4.  In a separate large bowl combine 3 c. flour, 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg.

5.  With a wooden spoon, mix together the sugar mixture and the flour mixture.

6.  Stir in the apples and pecans.

7.  Bake in a well-greased and floured tube pan at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

8.  Allow to cool in pan for about 5 minutes.  Run a sharp knife all around the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan.

9.  Invert onto plate.  Glaze with a mix of powdered sugar and fresh lemon juice.

But. As good as those things are… this is better

A piece of  Fresh Apple Cake with a little Salted Lemon Caramel Sauce.

See. I told you.

This sauce is something you don’t want to miss. I promise.
I can think of all kinds of things you could drizzle it over.

Pecan Pie
Brownies
Pound Cake
Ice Cream

Your finger.

A carrot.

It makes anything better than it was before.

(Except Weegie, of course. He can’t be improved upon!)

Try it. You’ll love me more than Friday!

Luann’s Salted Lemon Caramel Sauce

 2 cups light brown sugar
½ c. heavy cream
½ c. milk
1 stick butter
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1 ½ T. vanilla paste (or vanilla)
The juice of one lemon
Combine the brown sugar, cream, milk, and butter in a medium saucepan and cook while stirring over medium heat. You don’t really ever want to see it boil…
Cook and stir until it begins to thicken. (about 8-10 minutes) Stir in the salt. Cook for about 5 more minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla paste and the lemon juice. Stir very well.
Let cool slightly but serve while warm.
This makes a lot and can be reheated in microwave!
 ****
Thanks, Lu! Keep ’em coming, and give Weegie a cuddle for me!