Monday, October 28, 2013

The World of Reading--by our grandson, Austin DeGroot

First, I want to congratulate Lisa from Ohio, who won the drawing for the free book from Susan Sleeman! Happy reading, Lisa!

Last week's interview with Susan Sleeman was the second most popular interview since I've been doing this blog regularly. I started on March 4 of this year with the interviews, have done 16 of them (two a month) and only one netted more comments than the one last week. Thanks to all of you who came by and left your comments. Hope you will come again and keep commenting.

Here is an essay by our grandson, Austin DeGroot. He recently completed his service in the U.S, Navy and enrolled in Texas University in Austin, Texas. Yes, Austin moved to Austin. One of the first assignments in his English class netted a great comment by his teacher, when she recognized his literary prowess. It is about how he learned to read as a four-year-old child, listening to his mother home-school his older brother, and how he came to discover the world of books. He is still an avid reader, like many in our family.


Surrounded by LEGOs and legs below the table where my mother was slowly leading my older brother from A to Z, I was doing more than building castles and starships; I was listening. Through the thick mahogany desk that served as our home classroom, I was learning. Aided by some discarded alphabet pages I’d found in one of my many forbidden “treasure hunts” in the trash, strange shapes became letters, those letters became words, and words became sentences. Soon my toys were collecting dust in the corner and with a book in my hand I built castles and starships in my mind.   (in the picture, Austin is about 3, but he already loved books.) 

Reading excited me in a way that the little corner of the world I knew never had. I was always being told to hurry up, to slow down, to come here or go there. I felt constantly rushed along by my mother, whose time was ever stretched by her four very young children and our soccer practices, doctor’s appointments, and annoying need to be clothed and fed. No doubt a few of her gray hairs owe me some credit, but most often I just wanted to be be away from the hustle and bustle and quietly explore new frontiers on the page. (in the picture, Austin's mother is instilling a love of reading into her two oldest boys. Notice the other book stuck in the crack of the couch. Both Austin's parents loved to read. Books were everywhere in their house.)

Before long, inspiration struck. I began to run wild with stories. I’d share them with anyone who would listen, regaling them with imagined adventures alongside my monkey companion, Abu. We raided ancient hidden temples, battled ghostly pirates, rescued hapless villagers from dragons, and embarked on countless other death-defying experiences. As soon as I was able, I laboriously filled notebook after notebook with my stories. They were by no means good and hardly original, but they were mine and I treasured them. As I grew older, more and more diversions clamored for my attention. Friends, school, video games, and girls pushed my writing back to the occasional scribbling. Still, reading and writing are such a strong part of who I am that without them, I would be unrecognizable. Reading expanded my mind and gave me big dreams. Writing let me express those dreams to the world. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home where I not only had the tools to do this, but I had the encouragement and affirmation of my family.
Sadly, my privileged upbringing was just that; privileged. Children everywhere grow up with none of the opportunities that I had. Born to illiterate, overworked, or just plain apathetic parents, these kids never have the chance to experience the magical worlds waiting between the covers of books. Illiterate children won’t be able to experience the magic that this world has to offer either; two-thirds of students in the fourth grade who cannot read proficiently will end up in prison or on welfare. (In this picture, Austin was 8 or 9. Notice what a thick book he is reading.)

Eighty-five percent of juvenile offenders have reading problems. Here in Austin, the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas is working to give every child access to the tools they need to read and succeed. Learning to read and write proficiently is one of the single most important things a child can learn in order to improve themselves and I strongly believe in supporting any effort to help build those skills.

Here is Austin today, all grown up. I can't wait to read his first published book!

What do you think of Austin's essay?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Valley of Chaya by Tracey Hoffman

I downloaded this book to my Kindle, on the basis of what was said about it on, and I must say, this is the most compelling book I have read recently. I literally could not put it down. There were a few errors, such as commas that had been omitted or used incorrectly, and once “you’re” was used for the word “your”, but these few errors were minimal when I considered the rest of the book.

It was the story of Charlotte Turner, an 18-year-old girl who went to India for a mission trip and two children who lived there, and the human trafficking that must be so prevalent there. The two children, Ashtok, a boy about ten, and Shanti, his sister, about eight, were orphans who were on their own, living on the streets and foraging for food every day and a place to sleep at night. They had some friends, also on the street, so the few of them banded together to try to keep themselves safe.

It was a little unbelievable because Charlotte's friend backed out of the trip and she went to India on her own. She worked with a group that was operating to help the street children, but she was on her own at times, living in a hotel and not with a group that could protect her, and during one of those times she was stolen and taken to live as a prostitute. There she met Shanti, who had also been stolen and was living in the same house of prostitution. A few other characters were introduced, but these were the main characters, along with Charlotte’s brother Eli and Shanti’s brother Ashtok whose main purpose was to find the girls.

The author described in detail some of the things that went on in the place where the women who had been kidnapped were living, and the terrible conditions they had to endure. I don’t know anything about this, but I know that human trafficking is real, so I do not doubt the things she described.

Charlotte’s family were committed Christians from Australia who were devastated when their daughter was taken captive. Her brother, Eli, went to India to try to rescue her. Throughout the book, he is seeking her while subsequent chapters told about her life in the brothel.

In Hindi the word “Chaya” means “shadows”. These women were living in the shadows. Charlotte tried to live in the love of God, even though she was a prisoner. She quoted Scripture and she led some of the women to the Lord, even amid the terrible conditions in which she had to live. Ashtok, the little Indian boy, also believed in God. He had a card with a picture of the Good Shepherd that someone had given him, and he comforted himself and his sister with his incomplete knowledge of God.

I will not tell the ending, but I will tell you that as you read, the pages will turn faster and faster and you will be compelled to go on reading to find out what happens. I strongly recommend this book.


You still have a few days to read and comment on this week's interview with Suspense writer Susan Sleeman. The winner will be selected on Saturday and I will notify the winner by email, so be sure to get in on the drawing if you like this genre of books.

Thanks to all you bloggers. This has really been a large group of commenters and I appreciate your visiting my blog.

Thread of Suspicion is the book that Susan is giving away to the winner.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Interview and Free book from Susan Sleeman

The winner of Miralee Ferrell's book is Allene from Texas. I'll be contacting her for her address. Thanks to all of you who commented on the blog the last two weeks. Remember, you can comment on here or send me a personal e-mail. The winner this week entered by e-mail. I just put the names on a list as they come in, then I ask my husband to pick a number when it's time to select the winner. He never sees the list, so it's fair and legal!

Hello, Susan, My blog readers and I are looking forward to learning more about you today. I saw a picture of your pretty new home. Tell us a little about it and your recent move.

A: We recently relocated from Florida to Oregon to be near our children and grandson. We found a lovely house with an amazing backyard garden less than a mile from one of our daughters and bought it on the spot. We often walk over to see them or they drop in. After living three thousand miles away from them for five years, it’s like a dream come true to get together for meals and fun when ever we feel like it.

Q: I read that your husband is a church music director. My husband is a retired preacher. We have served 12 different churches in 3 states. How many churches have you and your husband served, and how many states have you lived in?

A: My hubby has been the music director in four congregations in four different states, but we’ve lived in nine states. He started his church music career later in life and we moved for other job transfers, mine actually, prior to that.

Q: Sounds like we have both moved a lot. My oldest son once told one of his friends, “My mom taught me how to move. I may not be the best at some things, but I sure know how to move.” Do you have a favorite state in which you have lived?

A: LOL, Juanita. My children are excellent movers as well. We have loved every state we have lived in. People are different all across our great country and it has been such a blessing to get to see these differences and make friends all over the country. I do believe, however, if we had to pick a favorite state, we would choose Oregon. Not only is the Portland area vibrant and alive, but the scenery is so amazing. You can see all of God’s glory in the mountains, lush valleys, dessert, and the ocean all in a drivable area. And, I am an avid gardener and there is no better place for plants than in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Oh and most importantly, it’s where my children and grandson live.

Q: I noticed from one of your interviews that you used to like to read Nancy Drew mysteries. How important were books in your life while you were growing up?

A: I grew up in a tiny town in northern Wisconsin where there wasn’t much to do. I was never athletic so I found my adventures and excitement in books. I particularly liked reading Nancy Drew because I could imagine myself in her shoes and loved to solve the mysteries along with her. To this day, I love reading mystery and suspense stories and I particularly like reading these books if you add a compelling romance.

Q: When did you realize writing Christian fiction was your calling?

A: I never imagined myself as a writer growing up. Sure, like most people I thought it would be great to write a book some day, but I was too busy working, raising children, and everything else that goes along with being a wife and mother. About thirteen years ago, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness that has really changed my life. I was—am still I guess—a type-A personality. Go, go, go. One of my favorite sayings for many years was if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right and would’ve been worth more if it had been done yesterday. So when a chronic illness that causes me to sit more than move struck, I was at a loss. I knew I couldn’t just sit around and do nothing. I then remembered my dream of writing and at the same time, I discovered some of the pioneer author’s in Christian suspense like Terri Blackstock and Linda Hall. Aha, I said, in my naïveté. I will write a book in the suspense genre.

Q: Tell us a little about your writing journey. How long did it take you to become a published author and how many books have you written?

A: After deciding I would write a book, I joined the American Christian Romance Writers—now American Christian Fiction Writers—to learn how to write and started learning the craft. After I finished my first book, I entered a contest and finaled then signed with an agent. It took five or so years after beginning the journey of seriously writing for publication for my first novel to release with Love Inspired Suspense. I was so excited when in November of that year, High-Stakes Inheritance made the ECPA’s best-seller list. The next month, I had a second novel—Nipped in the Bud, a cozy mystery with Barbour books—release, too. Though this was my second book to release, Nipped in the Bud was the first contract I received, which was presented to me at the ACFW conference in front of 500 other writers. In those early years, I wrote five books, and I now have eleven books in print, three more written and scheduled to release this year and next with two more under contract and six under consideration by publishers. God has truly blessed my writing career, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

Q: I read No Way Out and enjoyed getting to know the characters. I also liked the size of the book because I could fit it in my purse when I was going out. Have you always written Love-Inspired mysteries and how many series have you done?

A: In addition to Love Inspired Suspense, I write cozy mysteries and have a trade length series that will publish next year. The first two cozy mysteries are under the Spyglass Lane imprint and my other three cozy mysteries are a part of the multi-author Creative Woman mystery series. The trade book is a new venture for me and I’ll tell you more about it below.

Q: I like the way your characters keep Christ important in their lives. Tell us a little about your current work and what we can expect from you in the future.

A: My current release is a Love Inspired Suspense book, titled Thread of Suspicion. This is the fourth book in my five book Justice Agency series. This series is about a family of adopted siblings who have former law enforcement backgrounds and who work together in a private investigations agency. Each book in the series features one of the siblings. Thread of Suspicion is Dani’s story and the final sibling Derrick’s story, Dark Tide, releases in March of 2014. My third cozy mystery in the Creative Woman’s mystery series, A Matter of Wife and Death, releases later this year, too.

And as I mentioned above, I have another new series coming out soon. This one is called Agent’s Under Fire with the first book Web of Deceit releasing in November of 2014 and two additional books in 2015. This series features three female FBI agents who work on an elite Cyber Action Team. This series will be published by BelleBooks, which is not a Christian imprint. Though, I mention God in the books and my characters are believers, the books do not carry a Christian message. The books are classified as clean reads and I’m excited about this opportunity to bring fiction without profanity and sex to readers looking for such books.

Q: Do you write only mysteries, or do you have another genre in which you like to write?

A: I only write mystery and suspense books. I find that though I can appreciate other genres, as a reader, I quickly lose interest in them and so I write what I like to read.

Q: Tell us about an embarrassing moment, or something readers would be surprised to know about you.

A: I am a computer geek at heart. Where many people hate computers and find them frustrating, I embrace them and love to learn about new technology. I even taught computers at a private elementary school for a few years. I taught myself the coding needed to design websites and do that for fun. So far, I’ve created my own website,, plus the site and site.

Q: That's a wonderful and helpful thing to learn. I wish I knew more about computers, but I usually get along with what I know, and when I don't know what to do, I call my handy computer friend and he sets he straight. Susan, thanks so much for visiting with us today. I hope our readers have enjoyed this visit as much as I have.

A: Thanks for having me, Juanita. You are such a blessing to Christian writers by featuring us and our books on your blog. God bless you!

OK, bloggers. Now it's your turn again to leave a comment. The winner will receive a copy of Thread of Suspicion, signed and mailed by Susan. Be sure to leave your email address unless you have commented before, and please tell me in which state you live. When I announce the winner, I like to tell where she is from, if I can.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Error on my last post

If you want to comment on Miralee's interview, and if you want to send your comment by email, please note the correct address-- mjnobles (at) charter (dot) net.
I've only had this email address for about 15 years-- why did I get it wrong? Because this early in the morning, I'm already going too fast.

Scroll on the read the message I corrected.......

Miralee is Here for Another Week!

Good morning, friends,
I'm so glad to say that Miralee Ferrell's interview will be up for another week! It was so nice of her to visit and so few people got to see her interview, so I decided to leave it up until next Monday. I'll announce the book winner at the end of this week instead of last, so you still have time to enter the contest. You can comment on any of these pages--the interview, the book review, or today's post--or you an send me an email if you can't get your comment to publish. (mjnobles (at) charter (dot) com.) I'll be checking everywhere to be sure your name is on the list. You can even go to my facebook page and leave a comment. I hope to see many more comments before I draw the name of the winner of Miralee's wonderful book!

I'm writing a 2-week assignment of devotionals for the Nazarene Publishing House and working on my book again. At our writers' meeting last Saturday, we heard from a publisher in St. Louis that is accepting submissions. So I'll be sending in my book as soon as I look it over again. So this will be a busy week for me. (What's new?--ha!)

I hope everybody is enjoying the beauty of Fall as it comes upon us. Here in our part of Misssouri it has not become colorful yet, but it's on the way.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Blowing on Dandelions by Miralee Ferrell

Miralee has written a delightful novel set in the 1800's in Oregon. It is the first of three books in the series, Love Blossoms in Oregon.

In the opener for the series we meet a young widow, Katherine Galloway, who runs a boarding house in Baker City. She and her husband started the venture before his untimely death. She is fairly happy with her work and her two daughters, until she learns that her elderly mother plans to come and make her home with her. Katherine and her mother never got along well. Biting remarks and corrections rule when Katherine's mother talks to her, and contention rules when they are together. So we see the set-up for conflict and the age-old problems of mothers and daughters, even though Katherine respects her mother and does not talk back to her, even at this age when she is the one in charge.

Katherine's thirteen-year-old daughter Lucy has a friend from school, a fifteen-year-old boy named Zachary. His father, Micah, is the new smithy in town, and he happens to be very handsome. When the two meet, we see the beginning of a possible romance. Micah has recently lost his wife, though, and has no plans to court another woman. When Katherine's mother arrives, she plans to make sure Katherine has no time for another man.

We meet various people who live in the boarding house, learn about their personalities, and see how they live on a day-to-day basis in the boarding house. Of course we meet other people in the town, like the preacher, the store owner, and the women in Katherine's quilting group. When Micah's shop and apartment burn to the ground, Katherine offers him and his son rooms in the boarding house, so they are thrown together a lot, muddying the mix and bringing in some romance.

As problems come to the forefront, and we discover they are like our problems today. The conflict is exciting, the plot is great, and you will enjoy reading this book.

If you have not commented on the interview with Miralee from Monday, please do so to get your name in the drawing for this book. (Go back to Monday's blog, or comment on here.)

Other books in this series will be Wishing on Buttercups and Dreaming on Daisies as we meet other people in Oregon and read delightful stories.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Say Hello to Author Miralee Ferrell

Q: Hello, Miralee, we are so glad to hear from you today. As you look at your beautiful mountains in the Northwest, can you tell us why you like to write Christian fiction for women?
A: Hi Juanita, from the time I started writing I had one major goal and that was to minister to the hearts and lives of hurting women while (hopefully) also offering a measure of entertainment to the rest of my reading audience. I’ve been involved in praying with and counseling women for years, and I feel that my writing is an extension of that ministry.

Q: I notice you write historical romance, western romance, and women’s contemporary books. Do you have a favorite among these genres? What was the first book you had published?

A: The first book, The Other Daughter, is women’s contemporary, as was the sequel, Finding Jeena—the only two I’ve written in that genre. I enjoy writing it, but I truly found my ‘voice’ when I started writing historical Western romance. I have three in that genre, all in the Love Finds You line. I’ve also written three historical romance that are set in the West, Even though they don’t have the high action and adventure of a Western, they still have a degree of ‘Western’ feel. In fact, there will be two more coming, as my current release, Blowing on Dandelions, is the first in a set of three located in Baker City, Oregon, in 1881.

Q: If you could choose one book for us to read, what would it be?

 A: Definitely Blowing on Dandelions, the first book in the Love Blossoms in Oregon series. God spoke to my heart about writing that one, and I believe it will minister to many hurting women who’ve experienced a less-than-happy relationship with a mother or grown daughter, as well as bringing enjoyment to romance readers. That book was birthed as a result of an encounter with an emotionally damaged woman who’d been hurt many, many times by her mother over the years. I decided to place it in a historical setting and bring a romance element into play, but the underlying theme of ‘relationship’ is clear through the entire story.

Q: I read that book and I can agree. The relationship between the protagonist and her mother are so like the relationships between mothers and daughters. What is the most God-breathed thing that has happened to you in your quest to become a published author?

A:  I’d have to say it’s the way the Lord has orchestrated my entire writing career. He spoke to me through a pastor who prayed with me and told me he believed God was calling me to write—not just to write, but to be published. That was in Feb. of 2005. By late fall of that year I’d had three magazine articles published and finished the first draft of The Other Daughter, my debut novel. I had NO experience in writing fiction, nor had I ever had a desire to write it. The Other Daughter was picked up the following fall, one year from when I started, and released a year later. Doors have opened (like obtaining an agent) and other contracts have followed, that have shown me God’s involvement over and over again. It still amazes me that I’m published, but I’m to the point where I can’t imagine doing anything else. I truly love it and am so thankful He put my feet on this path.

Q: That’s amazing, how God leads us into the path He wants us to follow, isn’t it? I loved The Other Daughter. It had such an unusual twist, and was a good family story. In this book, one of the things I noticed was how you insert knowledge of topics dear to your heart. You taught me something about horses (something I know nothing about) while I was reading this book. Tell us about the animals you love and care for.

 A:  You’re correct, I love working in snippets of information or episodes from my own life or those of my ancestors. I’ve owned horses for years and enjoy sprinkling them through several of my books. I’ve also included true events from history and from my own ancestors, which you can read about in my author notes. My old Arabian mare went on to horse heaven this summer so I’m without a horse for the first time in 40 years, but I’m still riding regularly as my daughter and her husband live close by, and I use one of their horses when we ride together. My husband and I also have two cats, and two dogs, an Australian Shepherd/Blue Heeler cross named Sophie, and a little 6 ½ lb, long-haired Chihuahua named Lacey. She’s my constant companion when I’m home and often sits on my lap as I’m writing.

Q: Tell us a little about Blowing on Dandelions and its journey to publication.

A: When my agent started ‘shopping’ this series, I was also writing another series that is more of a true ‘Western’ romance, with all of the action and adventure that implies. I was enjoying writing it and hoped it would sell first, but in my spirit I knew that Blowing on Dandelions was the book God wanted released. Sure enough, it was picked up by my current publisher, David C Cook, and the other house looking at my alternate series stepped back. God knew exactly what He was doing. Not only was the book supposed to come first, but I LOVE working for this Cook.

Q: I know this book is a series and I can't wait for the next installment. When can we expect the next book to be ready for us to read?

A: Yes, it’s the first of three books. Each one can stand alone, but they are all set in Baker City, Oregon, with many of the same characters. The second book, Wishing on Buttercups, is located in the same boardinghouse as the first, and the opening chapter is printed at the end of book one. Wishing on Buttercups releases Feb 1, 2014, and Dreaming on Daisies on Oct. 1, 2014.

Q: Thank you, Miralee.  I'll have to mark my calendar and be watching for these. We’ll be looking forward to more books from you in the future.

Now, blog readers, it’s your turn. Leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of Blowing on Dandelions, which debuted on June 1. Miralee will be checking in once in a while to leave a comment, too. Don't forget to leave your email address, and would you tell me which state you live in when you comment, please? Sorry, only US residents are eligible to be in the drawing.
You'll love this book!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Dorie, the Girl Nobody Loved

Recently, I heard about some books by Doris Vanstone. She had a very abusive childhood but with God's help she overcame, and later she was a missionary to very primitive people in New Guinea.

Dorie, the Girl Nobody Loved, was a true and touching account of a girl whose mother never gave her love. She called her "ugly" and punished her terribly. Her mother loved and cared for her younger sister, but Dorie was always treated badly. The mother had conceived Dorie out of wedlock at a very young age, but that is no excuse. My mother had me before she was 16, and I was loved.

When Dorie was about seven and her sister was six, their mother took them to an orphanage and left them, like a couple of stray dogs. She returned once in seven years. At age twelve, Dorie was forced to leave the orphanage and live on her own. She was in several foster homes and lived in some terrible situations.

But before she left the orphanage, some teen-agers from a church came and introduced Dorie to Jesus. Somebody gave her a New Testament, and for the rest of her life, Dorie clung to the promise that Jesus loved her.

At age 19, she found her birth father and lived with him and his wife for less than two years. But when she told her father that she was going to be a missionary, he disowned her. He turned his back, said, "You are no longer my daughter," and she never saw him again.

Dorie met her husband at a Bible college and they had 36 years of happiness. She had two children whom she doted on. They went to New Guinea and many of their experiences are related in this book.

Another book by VanStone, No Place to Cry: the Hurt and Healing of Sexual Abuse is a continuation of Dorie's story. She admitted in this book that she was abused sexually in the orphanage and in the foster homes where she lived until she could be on her own. 

The book was written to encourage people who have been sexually abused to forgive. Dorie became a speaker after her return to the States, and worked with a nationally known organization encouraging and teaching people all over the world. She includes many letters from people who were abused, and she gives steps to help people forgive those who have abused them.

I have known some people who were sexually abused, and I know how hard it is to forget those scars. I worked with children when I was a teacher, and I saw the signs of abuse--I never knew personally of one who was abused sexually, but I saw emotional and physical signs of abuse. Just yesterday I heard on the news about a 5-year-old boy who was punched in the chest by his mother's boyfriend, and it resulted in his death. A few years ago, a two-year-old was killed in an apartment just a few blocks from my house. Abuse is very real. Our society is in need of God.

I hope you will consider reading these books. They are eye-opening.