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51l0eOo6LjLThis was my first taste of Lisa Harris’ fiction, and I loved it. Vendetta is the first book in the Nikki Boyd Files, a series set in the wild woods of northeast Tennessee.

Nikki Boyd is a special agent with the Missing Person’s Task Force. The primary reason she joined the force is to reunite missing persons with their families, and to stop those who seek to abduct and kill innocent people. People like her younger sister, Sarah. Nikki has spent the past ten years trying to catch the man who took her sister and five other young women.

One year ago, Nikki’s best friend, Katie Grant, died in a boating accident. Nikki plans to spend the anniversary with Katie’s husband, Tyler, remembering and honoring Katie, but a call comes in that another teen has gone missing. Nikki asks Tyler to help in the investigation.

As urgency escalates, Nikki becomes suspicious that the perpetrator of this crime is connected with the man who took her sister Sarah ten years ago, and that very possibly, she is his real target. She puts herself in danger to catch him, but has no idea how close she is to becoming his next victim.

Author, Lisa Harris, displays great skill in bringing her readers into the story and keeping them hooked. Her book is exceptionally well-researched. Tension continually ramps up with each new twist to the plot. Characters are real in that although they aren’t perfect, they are personable and unique. We feel a great affinity for Nikki as she delves into the darkness of this crime. We wonder when she will realize her attraction to the man she works with. And we hope and pray for the girl who has gone missing.Lisa-Harris-304x400

This book is well crafted, a clean and professional read. I’d recommend Vendetta to anyone who enjoys romantic suspense. This volume includes an excerpt from the next book in the series: Missing, due out in the summer of 2016. The third book, Pursued, is set for April 2017 release.

Along with the innate freedom of self-publication, there have been a couple of major struggles to balance the euphoria.

One obstacle, which I have often referred to, is marketing. For those of us who aren’t inclined to narcissism, who don’t have a self-promotional bone in our bodies, marketing can be the bane of our existence. We just want to write, but if no one knows we have written, or what we have written, or how to access it, it won’t go beyond our own small world.

I encourage other indie writers—myself included—to reach for help in the marketing department. We cannot be all things to all people, but we can access the tools to gain our goals of promoting our work.

The second obstacle that comes to mind is that of placing our independently published books in brick and mortar stores. My first three books, traditionally published, were carried by local and larger center booksellers for years. I did arrange launches and presented my product, but the outlets were always glad to comply with my request. The reason: they could return any unsold copies to the publisher for a refund.

These same stores have either gently refused my request or passed it over, because they don’t have the same options of returning unsold books. My novels are released as POD (print-on-demand), so once they buy these books, they have no option to return them.

While I realize the difficulties for booksellers, I also think we need to find a way to promote and sell self-published books in the marketplace. There’s no problem with digital copies, of course, and I also publish e-books, but I have readers who either can’t or don’t choose to read digitally. When they ask if my latest books will be available in local stores, I have to direct them to the online store (Amazon or The Book Depository – no shipping cost for TBD), which also creates a barrier for some readers.

This is an ongoing issue that writers with more clout are working to fix, and although I don’t have that kind of influence, I’d still like to add any help I can by informing readers about these problems. Because the number of writers who are publishing independently is not waning; it’s growing steadily.

How can people help? One way might be voicing our concerns (not only as writers but as readers) to booksellers. A practical way to help indie authors is to request their books in bookstores.

 

Go Ahead and Quit!

During the first week of January, I received an email from a dear writer friend. She admitted to having trouble getting back into the groove after taking time off from her writing during the Christmas season. She said, “Sometimes I just want to quit.”

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Have you ever felt that way? Yeah. So have I. Considering my experience, you’d think I would offer a verbal pat on the shoulder and encourage her to persevere. Offer to pray for her.

But I didn’t. Not right away. Instead, what popped onto the return email page was, “Go ahead and quit! See how long you last.”

I said this because, like my writing-weary friend, I’ve been there. There are times I just want to go shopping with my daughter without thinking about deadlines and edits, or clean out the closet without thinking about how many blogs are waiting to be written. Or even just read a book or watch a movie without guilt. I haven’t ever completely quit because I’m a finisher by nature, but I have certainly slacked off.

However, if I’m away from my computer for too long, I get itchy fingers. I need to get back to recording my ideas, to reviewing that great book I just read, to sharing some writerly bit of information with those who are kind enough to read my blog.

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by life and not zealous about writing, or underwhelmed by the process of creating fiction, don’t despair. Take a break, be good to yourself, talk to a friend who understands. And then, when your fingers start to itch for the keys or the ideas begin to tumble through your mind as you’re cleaning the closet, run back to your computer and write.

If you need someone to pray you through it, let me know. I pray for my friend daily, and she knows it. There are many of us who understand. We’re in your corner. And so is the dear God who uses our words to do His work.

February 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Biblical:redeeming-graceRedeeming Grace by Jill Eileen Smith — When famine visits Bethlehem, Boaz holds out hope for rain while his relative Elimelech moves his wife Naomi and their sons to Moab. For a while, it appears the Lord is blessing Elimelech’s family, and his sons marry two lovely Moabite women. But calamities strike, one after another, leaving Naomi alone in a foreign land with only her childless daughters-in-law for comfort. When news reaches Naomi that the famine in Bethlehem has lifted, only Ruth will hazard the journey to her mother-in-law’s homeland. Destitute and downhearted, Naomi resigns herself to a life of bitter poverty, but Ruth holds out hope for a better future. And Boaz may be the one God has chosen to provide it. (Biblical from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Biblical Romance:building-benjaminBuilding Benjamin by Barbara M. Britton — Naomi desires to dance well enough to catch the eye of a wealthy landowner. Her father needs a substantial bride price due to the deaths of her brothers at the hands of the tribe of Benjamin. But when Benjamites raid the Ephraimite feast and capture young girls, Naomi is bound and carried from her home by Eliab, a troubled shepherd who needs a wife. As Naomi awaits rescue, she finds Eliab has a strong faith in God and a just reason for abducting her. A reason that affects all the tribes of Israel. The future of the tribe of Benjamin hangs in the balance, but if Naomi follows her heart and stays with Eliab to rebuild his lineage, she must forfeit her family and become a traitor to her own tribe. (Biblical Romance from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

Contemporary Romance:grace-and-the-rancherGrace and the Rancher by Mary Alford — Can a runaway singer and a makeshift rancher, thrust together by circumstance and held together by the common thread of loss and a love of music, find hope and a happily-ever-after under the stars of Delaney Mountain? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

capturing-beauty Capturing Beauty by Brenda S. Anderson — Photographer Haven Carlysle is a changed man. He returns to Duluth to capture the North Shore’s beauty … and to recapture the love of his son. But that means making amends with his ex-girlfriend too. Enter Callie Beaumont. All her life, Callie has longed to work outdoors soaking up God-breathed beauty, and the opportunity is finally on the horizon. But being the liaison between the handsome photographer and his son has thrown her dreams, and her heart, into chaos. Can Haven capture her heart when she won’t let him capture her image? And will his poor choices cost Callie her dream job and him the love of his son? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

the-lawman's -secret-sonThe Lawman’s Secret Son by Lorraine Beatty — Suddenly a Father Police officer Seth Montgomery knows all about order—but his world is thrown into chaos when he learns he has a five-year-old son. With little Jack suddenly in his care, Seth turns to neighbor Carrie Fletcher for help. Given her checkered past, Carrie prefers to keep to herself, but there’s no denying she cares for the boy—and her feelings for charming Seth are rapidly developing, too. When someone from Carrie’s past shows up threatening to jeopardize the life she’s worked so hard to build, Carrie will have to fight for her future with the new family she’s found…or risk losing everything. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

maybe-it's-youMaybe It’s You by Candace Calvert — Micah Prescott’s goal is to improve the Hope hospital image, but his role as a volunteer crisis responder is closer to his heart. The selfless work helps fill a void in his life left by family tragedy. So does a tentative new relationship with the compassionate, beautiful, and elusive ER nurse, Sloane Ferrell. Then a string of brutal crimes makes headlines, summons responders . . . and exposes disturbing details of Sloane’s past. Can hope spring from crisis? (Contemporary Romance from Tyndale House)

a-second-chanceA Second Chance by Alexis Goring — Newly single food critic and newspaper reporter Traci Hightower is done with dating. After the man of her dreams left her at the altar on their wedding day and ran off with her “best friend,” Traci resigned herself to being a bachelorette for life. Marc Roberts is a political reporter who is known as Mr. Nice Guy, the one who always finishes last. But his widowed sister Gina Braxton appreciates his compassion and kindness, since she’s raising her two kids alone. With God’s guidance and the help of Gina’s matchmaking skills honed by her career as a bestselling romance novelist, Traci and Marc find hope for their broken hearts. (Contemporary Romance from Forget Me Not Romances)

the-amish-wandererThe Amish Wanderer by Laura V. Hilton — After her daed, the bishop, is admitted to a mental hospital after hurting their small Amish community, Bethany Weiss is ready to get away from Jamesport, MO—and away from God. Silas Beiler, dogged by a rough childhood and a family who blames him for each new disaster, is hitchhiking toward Pennsylvania in hopes of stability. He sleeps in barns where he can and works for food when possible. When Bethany spies a man asleep in the hayloft, she first fears the return of an unwelcome suitor. But when it is Silas who turns and speaks, the memories flood back: a happy summer six years ago, full of lemonade, long walks, and budding courtship. Can their old love overcome both this new pain and the hurt and rejection of their past? (Contemporary Romance from Whitaker House)

avalancheAvalanche by Gayla K. Hiss — Set in the North Cascades National Park of Washington State, Avalanche is the inspirational story of one man set on revenge and the woman who risks everything to help him find the fugitive who killed his partner. (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

the-doctor's-texas-babyThe Doctor’s Texas Baby by Deb Kastner — When Carolina Mason shows up in Haven, Texas, after a three-year absence, no one is more surprised than town veterinarian Wyatt Harrow. Especially when he sees Carolina’s two-year-old son, Matty. Their son. How could she have kept his child a secret? Carolina doesn’t deny the boy is his. She thought she was doing what was best for everyone when she left, but she realizes she was wrong. Though Wyatt is eager to make up for lost time with Matty, Carolina’s not so sure that extends to her. Can these former sweethearts navigate their complicated past to make a family for their son? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

spring-raineSpring Raine by Delia Latham — A last-minute decision sends a young woman to a seaside community and lodging at Paradise Pines…where life takes a whole new path. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

finding-joyFinding Joy by Melanie D. Snitker — A horrific accident changed everything for Parker Wilson. He returns to his family’s ranch, the scars on his face a daily reminder of all he’s lost, yet his mom still insists he needs to stop hiding and live his life again. The beautiful new employee she hires is the last thing he needs, and he’ll do whatever it takes to make the girl quit and regain the peace and quiet he prefers. Only deep desperation could force Chelsea Blake to work on a cattle ranch. But if she’s going to avoid her parents’ judgment when they arrive in three weeks, she must turn the temporary job into a permanent one. Between dodging mud, feeding longhorn cattle, and dealing with a handsome boss who keeps giving her the cold shoulder, staying gainfully employed is proving to be a challenge. Chelsea may not be cut out for ranch life, but her determination to succeed is stronger than Parker’s efforts at forcing her to leave. Surprisingly alike, will the two set aside their disapproval to find immeasurable joy? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

General Fiction:the-secret-heartThe Secret Heart by Marie Wells Coutu — After a whirlwind romance, beautiful Shawna Moore marries Hunter Wilson, the governor of Tennessee. Now, she wonders if the governor ever loved her or only hoped to avoid a scandal. In this modern re-imagining of the biblical story of Bathsheba and King David, an investigative reporter is asking questions–the wedding took place only six weeks following the death of Shawna’s first husband in Iraq. If he discovers the truth about Shawna’s baby, Hunter’s chances for reelection, as well as Shawna’s reputation, will be ruined. But keeping their secret is destroying their marriage. Will Hunter’s choice mean the end of his political career or his family? (General Fiction from Write Integrity Press)

home-at-lastHome at Last by Deborah Raney — All her life, Shayla Michaels, owner of the Coffee’s On bakery, has felt as if she straddled two worlds. Her mother’s white family labeled her African American father with names Shayla didn’t repeat in polite–well, in any company. Her father’s family disapproved as well, though they eventually embraced Shayla as their own. After the death of her mother, and her brother Jerry’s incarceration, life has left Shayla’s father bitter, her niece, Portia, an orphan, and Shayla responsible for them all. She knows God loves them all, but why couldn’t people accept each other for what was on the inside? For their hearts? Everything changes one icy morning when Portia runs into the street and Link Whitman nearly hits her with his pickup. Soon he is falling in love with Shayla. Can they overcome society’s view of their differences and find true love? (General Fiction from Abingdon Press)

baggage-claimBaggage Claim by Cathe Swanson — When Ben Taylor, widower and single dad, gets caught up in a dangerous insurance fraud network, he has to learn to take a stand for right – and make a leap of faith: can he trust his nanny – who isn’t quite what she appears to be – and his newly-discovered biological father to hide and protect his four young children? (General Fiction, Independently Published)

Historical Romance:the-matchmaker-brides-collectionThe Matchmaker Brides Collection by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, Amanda Cabot, Lisa Carter, Ramona K. Cecil, Lynn A. Coleman, Susanne Dietze, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Connie Stevens and Liz Tolsma — Meet nine women of the late 1800s who have found themselves in the role of matchmaker. They think they have mastered the art of recognizing romantic potential in others, but when it comes to their own lives they have been unlucky in love. In small communities from Tennessee to Colorado, Wyoming to Indiana, love unexpectedly enters the women’s lives with men they never imagined marrying. But what will it take to get these ladies to say “I do”? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

the-reluctant-guardianThe Viscount’s Proposal by Melanie Dickerson — Leorah Langdon has no patience for Regency society’s shallow hypocrisy and unnecessary rules, especially for women. She’s determined to defy convention by marrying for grand passion instead of settling for a loveless union like her parents–or wedding a stuffy, pompous gentleman like Edward, the Viscount Withinghall. But when a chance meeting in the countryside leads to Leorah and Withinghall being discovered in his overturned carriage–alone and after dark–the ensuing gossip may force them together.Withinghall has his reasons for clinging to propriety and he certainly has no time for a reckless hoyden like Miss Langdon. But soon the two discover that Withinghall’s coach “accident” was no such thing: the vehicle was sabotaged. Strong-willed Leorah and duty-driven Withinghall will have to work together if they have any hope of saving her reputation, his political career–and his life. (Historical Romance from Waterfall Press)

the-reluctant-guardianThe Reluctant Guardian by Susanne Dietze — When Gemma Lyfeld inadvertently interrupts a dangerous smuggling operation in her English village, she’s rescued by a mysterious Scottish spy. Now with criminals after her and her hopes for an expected marriage proposal recently dashed, she will make her society debut in London. But not without the man tasked with protecting her… Covert government agent Tavin Knox must keep Gemma safe from the criminals who think she can identify them—a mission he never wanted. But as he escorts her and her rascally nephews around London, the lovely English lass proves braver than he ever imagined. Suddenly, the spy who works alone has one Season to become the family man he never dreamed he’d be. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

shine-like-the-dawnShine like the Dawn by Carrie Turansky — In a quiet corner of northern Edwardian England, Margaret Lounsbury diligently works in her grandmother’s millinery shop, making hats and caring for her young sister. Several years earlier, a terrible event reshaped their family, shattering an idyllic life and their future prospects. An even which…might not have been an accident. When Nathaniel Harcourt returns from his time in the Royal Navy and inherits his father’s vast estate, Morningside Manor, he also assumes partial control of his father’s engineering company and the duty of repaying an old debt to the Lounsbury family. But years of separation between Nate and Maggie have taken a toll and Maggie struggles to trust her old friend. Will the search for the truth about her parents’ death draw the two friends closer or leave them both with broken hearts? (Historical Romance from Waterbrook Multnomah)

the-bounty-hunter's-babyThe Bounty Hunter’s Baby by Erica Vetsch — Bounty hunter Thomas Beaufort has no problem handling outlaws, but when he’s left with a criminal’s baby to care for, he’s in over his head. And the only person he can think of to ask for help is Esther Jensen, the woman whose heart he broke when he left town. But can he convince her to put aside the past until he tracks down the baby’s outlaw father? Esther is ready to run Thomas off her Texas ranch–until she spies the abandoned newborn in his arms. Soon, working together to care for the precious babe stirs old hopes of a family. With trouble heading to their door, they could overcome it together–if she’ll entrust her wary heart to this sweet, second-chance family… (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Thriller/Suspense:raging-stormRaging Storm by Vannetta Chapman — When a massive solar flare wiped out all modern technology across the globe, the small town of Abney, Texas, was thrown into chaos. Shelby Sparks and her diabetic teenage son, Carter, have found refuge, but Shelby knows Carter can’t survive without insulin–and Shelby will risk her life traveling to Austin to make sure he gets it. Shelby’s best friend and high school sweetheart, Max Berkman, won’t let her make the journey alone. Together, they reach the capital–only to discover that Austin has turned into an urban nightmare on the brink of anarchy. Now the only thing more uncertain than finding what they need is the hope of making it out of the city alive. (Thriller/Suspense from Harvest House Publishers)

Speculative:long-time-goneTime Search by Danele J. Rotharmel — While the TEMCO staff searches for clues to unravel the mystery of his real name, their enemy is lurking in the shadows searching for his targets–it’s anyone’s guess whose search will be completed first! (Speculative/Time Travel Fiction from Prism Book Group)

Western Romance:long-time-goneLong Time Gone by Mary Connealy — Rancher Justin Boden is normally an unshakable and rugged man, but with his brother, Cole, shot and in mortal danger, even a tough man faces doubts. And it doesn’t help that Angie DuPree, the assistant to the doctor trying to save Cole, is as distracting a woman as Justin ever laid eyes on. With her and the doc’s timely skills, Cole looks to be on the mend, and Justin and the rest of the Bodens can turn their attention back to the dangers facing them. It’s clear now that everything that’s occurred is part of a much bigger plot that could date back to a decades-old secret. Can they uncover all the pieces before danger closes in on them, or is the threat to the ranch even bigger than any of the Bodens could imagine? (Western Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

When our middle daughter graduated from high school, we hosted a dry-grad party at our farm. It was great fun, mainly because the graduates took the reins and planned the entire thing, including food donations from local stores.

We had a trampoline, a fire pit surrounded by straw bales, a beach volleyball court, lots of loud music from the rented speakers under the tent, fireworks, a freezer full of ice cream treats, burgers and chips and pop (et cetera), a full breakfast for the hangers-on. It was the best party we ever hosted.

For me, the most memorable part of the party, besides the music, was a balloon release just as the sky began to lighten in the early morning. Each grad received a helium-filled balloon in the color of their choice. Then all the balloons were released at the same time. The sight was very moving. Some balloons stuck together for quite a while, some took off immediately on their own, some wafted here and there, some quickly reached the heights and disappeared. And we all held our breath as we contemplated.

That event is now almost twenty years in the past, and the lives of the grads that gathered that night have been as diverse as the balloons suggested they might be.

What balloons did we release last year? What balloons do you plan to release this year? We can make plans—and we should—but there are only so many things we can control. We have no idea what this year will hold, but we can give it our best shot.

God bless as you launch into this new year!

It’s a new year and many of us are trying on fresh ideas for the future. What will we offer the world in terms of our writing this year?

Here are five tips on getting the ball rolling:

  1. Review

Review the past year. Take a look at your mission statement / goals for 2016. Did you follow through?

  1. Consider

What worked and what flopped? What did you most enjoy? What garnered the most response? Be completely honest.

  1. Renew

Tweak last year’s mission statement / goals / life purpose.

What are your Personal & Family Goals? Your Business & Career Goals? Make sure to break these goals down into manageable and measureable parts.

  1. Commit

When you organize, prioritize and specify, you commit yourself to achieving your goals in a manageable and measureable manner. If you are a believer in Christ, commit your ways to Him and know He will help you stay on course. You may also wish to be held accountable by another writer or close friend who will be honest with you and keep you on track.

  1. Commence

Begin today. Write that post. Edit that manuscript. Enter that contest. There’s no time like NOW.

God bless you as you kick off a new year of writing.

Note: and keep checking back to make sure your work is lining up with your plan. (Speaking to myself here too.)

51+AdFU2LmL._SY346_This Romantic Suspense in the first in the Holly Anna Paladin Mystery series by Christy Barritt. I loved this book and look forward to more from this author and this series.

Holly Paladin has recently discovered she has a rare form of cancer, and has been given a year to live. Instead of dwelling on her disease, she decides to “commit random acts of kindness,” volunteer wherever and whenever she can, be a supportive friend and family member, and avoid the calls from her oncologist.

However, in usual Holly Anna style, she immediately gets herself into deep trouble. If the authorities find out where she’s been, she could be implicated with murder and obstruction of justice, to say nothing of ruining her brother’s chances for the senatorial race, and her sister’s upcoming wedding. With all this in mind, she certainly can’t tell them about her cancer.

Holly and her friend Jamie manage to hide their involvement, but when her high school nemesis shows up in town—as a police officer—the stakes go up. If only Chase Dexter weren’t so handsome…and  so nice.

Holly and Chase’s investigations lead them to suspicions including friends and associates, to street kids and even the other senatorial candidate.

I listened to this book on audio, although I also have the ebook, and I couldn’t put it down. Holly’s wild antics, her loveable if flawed reasoning, and her 1960s femininity, combine to give this book flair and fun.

Note: I’ve read a couple of Barritt’s Squeaky Clean Mysteries too, and loved them.

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