Monday, September 24, 2012

COTT Podcast Interview: Cynthia L Simmons and Laura V Hilton

Clash of the Titles Laurel Award winner, Laura V Hilton, is featured today. She's interviewed by Christian Authors Guild board member, Cynthia L. Simmons. The ladies discuss Laura's award-winning novel, A Harvest of Hearts

Click HERE to listen!

If you enjoyed the interview, CLICK HERE to visit Cynthia for more or to subscribe to her podcasts.

Cynthia L Simmons resides in Atlanta with her husband Ray. Active in Christian Authors Guild (CAG) she served as president, vice president, chaplain, and conference director as well as conducting writing seminars. Cynthia posts monthly podcasts, CAG Spotlight, in which she interviews authors and VIPs in the writing industry.  "Cindy" is fond of history and writes both historical fiction and nonfiction. Her first book came out in 2008. Her website is

Saturday, September 22, 2012

American Christian Fiction Writers Annual Conference

Friday, September 21, 2012—Dallas Texas

Today I met with an agent to give a pitch for my new book. I had 15 minutes to tell him enough about the book so he could see if it is something he could find a publisher for. I had a one-page synopsis to leave with him, but he didn't take it. He did seem interested in the story and asked a few questions. At the end of the time, he gave me a company brochure and asked me to send a proposal by email. He said his readers would check it over, including the first three chapters, and they would let him know if he should read it.

The class with Davis Bunn was informative. It'll be continued tomorrow. He talked about various ways to plot a book. I learned he has completed a new Marc Royce book and I look forward to reading it.

I also attended a session on events. One instructor talked about bookstore signings and the other covered virtual events. I learned a few new techniques to try.

Friday, September 21, 2012

American Christian Fiction Writers Annual Conference

Thursday, September 20, 2012—Dallas Texas

I implied yesterday that next year I would not go so early. However, I've enjoyed the time to write without interruptions from my regular routine. This morning, for example, I didn't turn on the TV news first thing after making coffee the way I do at home. Instead, I woke up early and went to the computer to write.

I'm editing a new book tentatively called, Love Lives On. The story is about what happens when Karen learns marriage to her college sweetheart isn't enough to give her the happiness she has wanted all her life. God presents her with another opportunity to help someone and she soon learns she is the only one in the world who can help this person. She also learns there are people who hate her or envy her and who are obsessed with harming her.

What does this have to do with the conference? Well I'm preparing to pitch my latest story to two agents and one publisher in meetings Friday and Saturday. I have 15 minutes with each of the two agents and the one publisher's representative. I'll let you know more about these meetings later.

Today I went to the first-time attendees' orientation. Sue Brower of Zondervan talked about meeting with agents and editors to pitch our books. She said to give them our one-page synopsis but don't expect them to read it. Use the fifteen minutes to tell them about your book. It doesn't have to be in the same order of the book. Start with, "this is a book about…" and make eye contact. Your book must be finished. If not, let the agent/editor know up front. If they ask for more, get it to them in two weeks or less.

Next, was the opening session with Brandilyn Collins as emcee. This was fun and uplifting.

The keynote speaker followed. Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, gave an excellent talk about his experience in publishing and now as a writer. He said, "now is the best time ever to be an author." And he gave the following five reasons he feels this is true:

1. It is easier than ever to do the writing.
a. Conferences
b. Writing books
c. Writing courses
d. Writing specific software
e. Research is easier
f. Tweet questions to help with research
g. Support groups
h. Critique partners

2. It is easier than ever to do market research.
a. Platform
b. Blog surveys
c. Vote for favorite covers

3. It is easier than ever to get into print
a. Traditional publishing is no longer the only choice
b. Self-publishing is a viable option
c. Author groups helping each other
d. EBooks

4. It is easier than ever to build a tribe (i.e. a reader base)
a. Direct access to readers
b. Instant feedback
c. Encouragement
d. Chance to improve

5. It is easier than ever to build a business
a. Publishing
b. Speaking
c. Blogs
d. Social Networking

Next was a worship service. We sang praise songs with a praise band and vocalist. The words were projected on the screens and I felt the presence of the Lord.

After dinner I went to the B&H Publisher highlight. They are part of Lifeway and follow the tenets of the Baptist faith. The representative said they are doing more movie novelizations. Unconditional by Eva Marie Everson is an example. Davis Bunn just wrote one for them.

They have identified books to be published up to fall 2013 which means anything submitted now will probably published in 2014 or 2015. Romantic suspense is popular now. Their customers are older women who are using eReaders more now. will soon be selling ebooks with links to information built in.

They publish 18-19 books a year and hope to up that to 28 in the next five years. They receive about ten submissions per week from agents. If they get down to selecting between several equal works, they'll look at the writer's platform and see if they blog twice a week and can help market the book.

They like books about 90,000 words long.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

American Christian Fiction Writers Annual Conference

September 19, 2012—Dallas Texas

When the call went out asking for local ACFW members to come early and help set up for the conference, I volunteered. Although not strictly local, I was able to drive from Georgetown in about three hours and help out. It was 6:00 a.m. when I picked up my Georgetown friend Ann Bell who was riding with me to the conference. I planned to be to the hotel by 9:00 a.m. for me to help stuff bags for attendees. Bing and Google maps, plus the GPS in the car said we'd be there in plenty of time. What the computers didn't foresee was the rush hour traffic and construction. It was 9:20 when we got to the hotel and 9:45 before I got to the room designated for bag-stuffing volunteers.

I love the simple jobs. Having been "in charge" for so many years of my working life, I now enjoy the routine assignments. What we did was grab a bag, then put in a folder, a conference program, an ad for the bookstore, and a name tag holder. The filled bag was then placed in a box. Most of us walked around in a circle doing that while others hauled off the boxes of filled bags. The boss, Cheryl Wyatt, said we were faster than last year. I enjoyed hearing people talk about their books, their agents and their publishers. When I was asked about my books, I showed them my ad on page 48 of the conference program.

Next, I went to the bookstore to help setup. It wasn't nearly as much fun. My job was to inventory books on various tables. With a partner, we counted books and compared the results to an invoice. We then made notes of any discrepancies. Everything seemed confusing to me and I never felt I was doing much good. I left rather than ask again what I could do to help. Those in charge seemed too busy doing and not spending enough time managing, but that opinion is based on a very short time on the job. I have to admit that when I went back to the bookstore after it opened for business, it looked great and appeared to be well organized.

I ate breakfast so late I wasn't hungry when it became time for lunch. I worked in my room until registration began at 4:00 p.m. When I got my bag, I checked to make sure it had everything in it.

I ran into Ann Bell and we had a coke in the bar while we waited for the restaurant to open. The buffet included pork tenderloin, salad, vegetables and several other choices. Everything was great, including the pecan pie and cherry pie I had for desert. After dinner, I watched TV and reviewed the conference schedule.

Based on my experience today, I think next time I won't arrive so early. I got here around 9:00 a.m. Wednesday and the first activity is at 3:00 p.m. Thursday.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Sandwich, with a Side of Romance by Krista Phillips

I've been following Krista Phillips' blog,, for years and was pleased to learn of her debut novel, Sandwich, with a Side of Romance, published by Abingdon Press. As a reviewer for Abingdon, I received an early copy and loved the book.

This is a delightful Christian romantic comedy with just the right amount of angst to leave you feeling you have read a story with meaning. Deep down, it is a story of God's forgiveness and the promise of how it is never too late to "find Jesus", as Maddie puts it.

Maddie Buckner has turned her life around with the help of one of her father's girlfriends, and she's determined to live a proper life and make a family for her eleven-year-old brother, Kyle. He's in a foster home and about to be adopted. Maddie must get a job and home to prove she can take care of him before it is too late. The clock ticks throughout the book requiring the reader to keep turning pages to see if she makes it in time.

The book begins with Maddie moving to the town of Sandwich, Illinois to begin a job as a hair dresser. She's living out of her car and saving up to rent an apartment. Her first customer is Rueben (nice name for a sandwich) Callahan and Maddie manages to mess up his hair, even though it is his fault. She's fired and he feels guilty about it so he hires her to work as a waitress at his restaurant, The Sandwich Emporium. She dumps a plate of food on the mayor's lap and is almost fired again, but Rueben gives her another chance as his personal assistant.

She is good at this latest job, but Rueben's long-time girlfriend and restaurant manager, Livy, is not happy with Maddie and makes her life miserable in many ways.

Rueben's Christian family, including Allie, his sister, Betty, his mother, and Gary, his step-father, all conspire to help Maddie even as she demands to stand on her own two feet.

The sprint from this point to the end includes many ups and downs that left me alternating between tears and laughter. I think you'll love this book from start to finish.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Still Life in Shadows by Alice J. Wisler

This is the story of Gideon Miller, a young man who left his Amish family when he was fifteen, found a new life and then helped other Amish start new lives. Ironically, except for an abusive father, Gideon wasn't unhappy with the Amish life.

When he left home, Gideon ended up in Twin Branches, North Carolina, where he had the good fortune to meet Ormand Russell, the owner of Russell Brothers Garage. Ormand gave him a job and a place to live. After a year, Ormand signed an apartment lease for the now sixteen year old.

When the story begins, Gideon is thirty and the co-owner of the garage. Ormand still manages the finances, but Gideon, a hard worker and good manager, does the rest. He helps others the way Ormand helped him. He gives former Amish young men jobs and a place to live and teaches them how to work on cars. Not all are successful, but the failures are not because of Gideon.

By all accounts, Gideon should be happy. But he's not. Part of the story is for him to find out why and make the needed changes. He gets help with this. Kiki, a thirteen-year-old autistic girl, becomes Gideon's catalyst for change. It didn't hurt that he is infatuated with Kiki's sister, Mari, the manager of the teashop where Gideon frequently ate. Kiki, somewhat unrestrained by what comes out of her mouth, had been to so much counseling over the years, she knows just what to say to Gideon in various situations.

The little catalyst and her sister push him in the right direction, but in the long run, Gideon has to help himself. He has to learn forgiveness and let God back into his life. He also has to open up and talk about the past.

I read all types of Christian fiction, but this was probably not one I would have selected based on the title and cover. But I'm sure glad I did. I loved the book and I'm telling all my friends to read it. I understand now why two of the author's books were nominated for Christy Awards.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.The book was then donated to my church library.

Monday, September 10, 2012

COTT July Clash Winner

Congratulations to Naomi Dawn Musch, winner of the
July New Releases Clash, with her novel, The Black Rose,
third book of the Empire in Pine Series.

Thank you so much to our competitors. This competition was amazing!

LoRee Peery, Found in the Woods
Sadie and Sophie Cuff, The Seekers
Maureen Lang, Bees in the Butterfly Garden
Marcia Gruver, Hunter's Prize

About the Book:
Despite the panic of 1893, logging reaches its golden era in the growing state of Wisconsin, and twins Jesilyn and Corianne Beaumont enjoy a comfortable life with family in the bursting Great Lake city of Superior. But when jealousy incites Jesi to seduce Cori's fiance, a flight and fall from grace lands her in a boom town brothel, where a fresh start is denied her.

Camp preacher Paul Winter longs to offer hope in the logging and mining towns of northern Wisconsin, but not in the way he expects when he meets a redhead he calls Pie Girl. He's never had to battle his own longings quite this way before.

Meanwhile, stung by Jesilyn's betrayal, Corianne's bitterness might separate her from a second chance at happiness and peace. Only by Grace can both women begin new lives, and budding love can bloom in places neither of them expect.

Read an excerpt & find out more:

About the Series:

Empire in Pine Series

Historic, romantic, women's fiction -- a multi-generational family saga of love and deception, hope and turmoil, and the rise of a wilderness empire.

Purchase Links:

Thank you as always to our loyal readers. Enjoy a tiny sample of the comments:

  • So tough to choose one book based on a paragraph-they all sound fabulous!
  • I love, love all the titles.
  • It was hard to choose!
  • Tough call! I'd read them all, I think.
  • My choice is based on both the blurb and the cover. But, again, it was a hard choice. Great work, authors!
  • I have read every book by this Author and I have to say I am more and more impressed by all of it!

About the author:
Naomi Dawn Musch was born and raised in central Wisconsin and now makes her home in Wisconsin's vast northwoods where the vistas are ripe to feed the imagination of anyone interested in history. She and husband Jeff have three grown children and two under wing on their150 acre farm where they dabble at raising a menagerie of animals.

Naomi has been publishing a regional newsletter for home educators for the past thirteen years entitled Apples of Gold. See the page "Apples of Gold for Home Educators" for more information. She is also a staff writer for Living Stones News, a regional Christian newpaper; and a regular contributor to Home School Enrichment magazine.

Besides writing, Naomi enjoys homeschooling her children, gardening, taking walks in the woods, a little basketball, and fellowshipping with friends.

Your hostess for this clash was Lisa Lickel. Visit her at

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Unconditional: A Novel by Eva Marie Everson

Samantha, who wrote children's books, and Billy, who worked for the power company, lived on a farm near Nashville, Tennessee. They had two horses to ride, cows to milk, and chickens to feed. There was enough acreage to go camping together. Billy was her whole world and when his life was taken, hers began to end.

His death was sudden and violent, with no time to say goodbye. He'd been called out to a rough neighborhood called the Commons for an emergency power failure during a storm. The police assumed he was shot during a robbery attempt, but nothing appeared to have been taken.

Samantha lost her faith and her will to go on after Billy was killed. She couldn't finish the book she was working on, even though Billy had told her it would be her best yet. All she managed to do was to take care of the animals on their farm. Instead of drawing birds for her new book, she drew a faceless killer wearing a red hoodie, from the description of the suspect given to her by the police.

A year after Billy's death, at the insistence of her agent, she manages  to get out of her self-imposed solitary confinement to attend an event where she was honored for a previous book. Instead of talking about her books, she starts telling the attendees about Billy and how he gave away two-dollar bills to strangers. This caused her to break into tears and run out of the building.

Two years after that, on another rainy night, Samantha drives Billy's old pickup truck to the spot where Billy died. She loads the pistol he kept in the glove compartment and prepares to end her life. Before she can pull the trigger, she hears a cry for help from a young boy. Unable to go on with her plan, she finds the boy and learns his sister, Keisha,  was the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Samantha takes the injured child, and her brother Macon to the hospital in her truck. At the hospital, Samantha meets up with Joe Bradford, a childhood friend she'd lost contact with.

And so the story begins. And it is a wonderful story about how Samantha finds a reason for living after joining Joe in his effort to help underprivileged children in the Commons while giving her an opportunity to search for Billy's killer.

A movie by the same title, starring Lynn Collins as Samantha and Michael Ealy as Joe is scheduled for release September 21, 2012. The book is a novelization of the movie which is based on the life of a real person. Joe Bradford, out of prison for computer hacking with years tacked on for trying to save the life of a prisoner,  has taken on the job of being the father he didn't have to the children in the Commons who had no fathers.

I was intrigued by the story from the beginning. Although I was most drawn to Samantha's story, Joe's story is strong, too. The important story is how the lives of these two people crossed at critical times. She saving him and he saving her. There were lots of tears throughout, but many tears of joy.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.

Q & A with Eva Marie Everson, author of Unconditional

I understand that Unconditional is a novelization of a movie. Would you mind telling us how you were approached to write this book?

I've known Julie Gwinn, editor at Broadman and Holman, for a few years. When the novelization of "Unconditional" came across her desk, she thought of me. I'm from the South and this book needed a Southern voice. What Julie didn't know was how cathartic writing the book would be for me, as someone who had just gone through a series of tragedies and difficulties. But God knew ... which makes me all the more grateful. Not only to be in His range of vision, but that He put me in Julie's.

From what I read about the movie, it is based on true events while the book is fiction. How close does the book come to the true story of Samantha Crawford and Joe Bradford?

Samantha Crawford is not a real person but a means by which Joe Bradford's story could be told. The story of Joe, told in Unconditional, is pretty much spot-on.

How did the research for the book work? Did you watch the movie? Read the script? Both?

Both. I read the script, then watched the movie about two or three times, then watched it scene by scene, breaking it down. What I discovered is that when we watch a movie, we are okay with going from Point A to Point C, without ever hitting Point B. We can't do that in writing novels ... which meant that I had to ask myself, "What would Point B be?" Then I wrote it.

Samantha Crawford is such an endearing character. She is grief stricken in the beginning and her actions are unpredictable because people grieve in different ways. How much freedom did you have in developing this character?

I had to ask myself a few questions: how did she meet Billy? Why was she so "afraid" of the rain? Why did she and Billy have no children? How did she feel about that? Like I said, I didn't have to dig too deep to understand her grief. The hard part was writing it without crying all over my computer. :)

Joe Bradford is a likeable character, too. However, as a reader, I don't feel I got to know him as well as I did Samantha. Was this done on purpose? If so, why?

Papa Joe would be the last person on earth to toot his own horn. I believe Brent McCorkle (who wrote the screenplay and directed the film) used Papa Joe's amazing story to tell a universal truth: all of us -- every one of us -- has the opportunity to serve, even in the midst of personal heartache and tragedy. So, while we see the essence of Papa Joe's story of tragedy to triumph, we also want to show that anyone can be a Papa Joe in his or her community.

This book is advertised as Christian fiction. However, the religious aspects are subtle and the book should be of interest to everyone. How much freedom were you given in this aspect of the book?

That part was pretty much written as it was given to me. However, this is another reason why I was attracted to the story. I believe our Christianity must be lived out in our everyday lives. Not shouted or worn on our shirtsleeves. I know a lot of Christian Fiction out there starts with a sermon and ends with a sermon. Mine doesn't. I want to show Christian living out their faith, not screaming it with every line. I am a Christian. I live out my faith. I don't scream it.

How does Unconditional differ from other novels you've written?

It was a movie and a screenplay first. :)

What was your favorite scene to write in Unconditional?

Wow. What scene wasn't my favorite to write? Now there's a question.

Okay, I thought about it for a minute. Most definitely the scene where Sam confronts Anthony Jones and he tells her the truth of what happened to Billy. There's a moment with a bird and a $2 bill (I won't say anything more because it would be a spoiler) that choked me up when I read it, watched it and wrote it.

I'll tell you this ... a little secret. There were several nameless characters in the movie, which you can do in a movie but you can't do in a book. So, I gave them the names of some of the key players in the screenplay/movie/book. So look for names like Wesley and Jonathan and Julie and Jason and Shannon ...

What’s next? Are you working on a new book now? If so, what can you tell us about it? When will it be available?

I am currently writing a book for Abingdon Press -- a "rom-com" which is a real break from the norm for me. So far, the writing has been fun, though! And, my book "Waiting for Sunrise" released in June of this year to high ratings, so I'm excited about that as well.

How can readers find you on the Internet?

Monday, September 3, 2012

COTT -- Hot Off the Press -- Pick Your Favorite

It's August and the cusp of changing seasons, but here at Clash of the Titles we never vary our quest for perfect fiction. Here are five more titles hot off the press for your contemplation.
A governess, a spy for Abraham Lincoln, a spoiled rich girl, a hideaway, and a thief…what could be more enticing?
Remember…vote for the book you’d most like to add to your favorite reads pile, and share the news with your friends and family! Vote today through next Tuesday when the polls close at Midnight EST; then come back on THURSDAY to find out which book received the most votes. The winner will tour with our Clash of the Titles blog alliance, so have fun being a roadie without all the heavy lifting if you want to go along. And now…Peruse, Ponder, Press the button of your choice.
Hunter’s Prize, by Marcia Gruver
When Addie left her sheltered Mississippi life to become governess to Ceddy Whitfield, she never dreamed she’d be undertaking her most challenging role yet. But after a brutal attack on her peculiar charge and a break-in that threatens the serenity of Whitfield Manor, Addie’s coveted new life is set on a dangerous course.
TheSeekersCoverArt72dpi (1)
The Seekers, by Sadie and Sophie Cuffe
Union Cavalry Captain Lawrence Wainwright has one goal: to make sure his horse survives the war. But when he becomes President Lincoln’s spy, Lawrence assumes the identity of a slow-witted boy/man and suddenly he’s undercover protector to an aging slave and his two young grandchildren, and to Rachel, a stubborn Yankee woman on a mission of her own.
The Black Rose, by Naomi Musch
Desert Breeze Despite the panic of 1893, logging reaches its golden era in the growing state of Wisconsin, and twins Jesilyn and Corianne Beaumont enjoy a comfortable life with family in the bursting Great Lake city of Superior. But when jealousy incites Jesi to seduce Cori's fiance, a flight and fall from grace lands her in a boom town brothel, where a fresh start is denied her.
Found in the Woods, by LoRee Peery
Beth Phillips returns to Platteville, Nebraska in order to begin a new life and to hide from her abusive ex-husband, but finds a displaced wolf as well as field biologist, Aiden Holt, who is following up on reported wolf sightings. Two souls, each lost in their own way, are brought together by one of God's beautiful creations to hopefully find their destiny in the woods.
Bees in the Butterfly Garden, by Maureen Lang
Raised in an exclusive boarding school among Fifth Avenue’s finest, Meg Davenport learns her late father wasn’t the wealthy businessman she thought, but one of the Gilded Age’s most talented thieves. Throwing etiquette aside, Meg is determined to help his friend Ian pull off his biggest heist yet, but are they both in over their heads?

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