Congratulations to Jenny LM who won Susanne Dietze's My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho Prize pack!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Book Review: Hillbilly Elegy

by C.J. Chase

Several years ago, I wrote book review for Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, which chronicles how our society is stratifying into an educated elite vs. everyone else. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by debut author J.D. Vance, is a good companion book to that one.

My interest was piqued when I read several reviews (including criticisms from both the left and the right) and then spoke to someone who’d read (and liked) it. I decided I needed to try it for myself.

Vance is a young man to be writing a memoir—only 31 at the time. He begins by outlining his grandparents’ story. Bonnie Blanton was 14 and pregnant when she eloped with 17-year-old Jim Vance. They decided to leave the family homestead in a Kentucky “holler” and head north to the industrial towns of Ohio. The young couple lost that baby, but they later had three more children, a boy and two girls. 

Ohio might be just across the river from Kentucky, but Appalachian honor culture was a world away from the orderly, and rather boring, suburbs of the 1950’s. Separated from all that was familiar, the family started to spiral down into alcohol abuse and marital infidelity. Vance’s mother never recovered from the increasing dysfunction, and her own adulthood became a revolving door of boyfriends and husbands.

The only truly consistent person in Vance’s life was with his grandmother, and by the time he was in high school, he lived with her. After high school, he joined the military and served in Iraq. The Marines were the making of Vance, teaching the discipline that had been lacking in his family life. After getting out, he went to Ohio State and then was one of the few graduates of a public university accepted into Yale Law School.

Some lessons from Vance’s life:

·      Poverty is as much a state of mind as a number. At one point in Vance’s youth, his mother and her husband/boyfriend/man-of-the-moment pulled down a six-figure household income. And yet, they had nothing to show for it because they spent the money frivolously rather than acquiring savings or assets.

·      If you are poor (or just have the mentality of the poor), it is very difficult to pull yourself out. The people around you tend to be people with the same mindset, and there is no one to show you a different way. Simple things, like college applications or college financial aid, are complicated to those who have no assistance or guidance.

·      As people become convinced the deck is stacked against them, they give up trying. Vance wrote about the difficulty companies have finding unskilled workers who will actually work. One example was a young man with a baby who landed a good paying job for one with his (lack of) skills. One would think he would be thrilled with the chance to earn a decent income, but not having learned discipline, he was so unreliable his employer eventually fired him.

Reading this book caused me to ponder my own family background. At one point, my ancestors suffered from the same destructive forces as Vance’s. My great-grandfather grew up in Appalachia, the illiterate son of an alcoholic, but he changed the trajectory of his life and his descendants’ lives. Unlike his father, he worked hard, married a fine woman, and made certain his children received educations. Even though my grandfather stayed in Reese Hollow to take over the family farm (his siblings left to become teachers and a minister), he too worked hard and married well.

My g-grandparents with their five (surviving) children. My grandfather is the little guy in front.

My mother grew up on that same farm, the seventh of my grandparent’s ten children. Like Vance’s grandparents, she left home at 18 for the big city (Chicago, in her case) during the great migration.  But she had a high school diploma, a strong faith, and a supportive family to sustain her.

My grandfather with the oldest 7 of his 10 children. My mom is the baby on his lap.

Hillbilly Elegy is a good first step toward bringing understanding to a part of the country that has been in decline. The problems of the Vance family are found across much of the now de-industrialized Rust Belt where hopelessness has set in. What is to be done? There are no easy answers. The problems are as much spiritual ones as financial or educational ones.

I think Hillbilly Elegy would make a very good book for church reading groups. Perhaps it will spur Christians to mission work right here on the home front.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Are You Prepared For Social Media Death

by Anita Mae Draper

Are you prepared for your social media death? People don't like to talk about death of any kind, but in this case we are talking about the real death of a human being and the virtual life they leave behind.

This hit hard recently when we visited my husband's cousin on the day after her 76th birthday. She was in a nursing home due to health issues and I mentioned that I'd left a birthday greeting on her Facebook page the day before but wasn't sure if it was the right one since she had 2 profile pages. (Her son made the first one, and she'd made the 2nd when she couldn't find the first one.)

She responded that she hadn't looked at her Facebook page in quite a while, so I used my cell phone to show her the greetings from both pages. Her smile was heartwarming as she dwelled on each name.

As I put my phone away, however, she mentioned that it bothered her to see people posting annual greetings to her deceased sister's Facebook page and how she wouldn't like her own page(s) to remain up in the event of her own death.

I explained that the easiest solution was to give her husband or son the passwords to her social media accounts.

Two weeks later her husband phoned with the heart-wrenching news that she had passed away peacefully in her sleep. I was too distraught to ask whether she gave him the passwords. When I last checked, 2 weeks after she'd passed, both pages were still up although her son was using the one he'd set up for her to post information and thank people for their thoughtfulness.

My research led me to put the word, death, in the HELP search box on my Facebook profile page, which is shown by the question mark in a circle at the top of the page. The answer is that Facebook does allow for this situation. Here's the gist of it:

It goes into detail about the types of documentation required. Personally, I believe it's an act of love to simply hand over your passwords to a loved one, or at least leave them in an accessible location, and save them from additional grief.

Some reasons for not sharing your passwords with a loved one are you:
  • change your passwords often
  • don't like writing them down
  • worry about their security
These are all valid reasons and shouldn't be taken lightly, however, the question should not be whether you should share them with someone you trust, but rather whether you want your virtual life to carry on after your physical body shuts down.

What are your thoughts on this matter? And please, for your own security, don't say anything about your passwords, their location, or who knows them.

*Update - Comments contain excellent information on choices.


Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yields fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details.  Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience.  Discover more at:
Pinterest -

Monday, July 17, 2017

Old Friends in New Books

Do you like reading a new book and discovering an old friend in the pages?

I sure do. I think many people enjoy it, and that's one reason why series are popular. We grow emotional attachments to characters and love following along with them on new adventures.

Nancy Drew. Harry Potter. Percy Jackson. Star Wars. Marvel heroes. The list goes on and on.
Image result for nancy drew
Nancy, George, Bess and Ned! Love you guys!
I haven't yet been blessed to write a contracted series, but that doesn't mean I haven't been able to offer sneak peeks at characters who appeared in a different book of mine.

This month I'm celebrating the release of my newest novella, The Right Pitch from Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection, nine stories set during the Gilded Age.

My heroine, Winnie Myles, lives next door to a little girl named Penny...who grew up and had her own story in The American Heiress Brides Collection. (Yes, I went back in time. I started with Penny's story, and then wrote a story set almost twenty years earlier with The Right Pitch. And no, I didn't know about Winnie when I wrote In for a Penny, so there are no peeks into her future there. But I assure you she and her Mr. Right are very happy!)

It was satisfying to write about Penny's childhood, because even when she's an adult, she struggles with her parents. I was glad for the opportunity to plant a few of those seeds, even though they're quite minor in The Right Pitch.

Bringing back characters is satisfying!

My January 2017 release, A Mother For His Family, contains some old friends, too: Tavin and Gemma from The Reluctant Guardian. (Cover isn't yet available. I'm on tenterhooks!)
I love this cover so much. I can say that, right?
What are they up to now? If you read the book, you might remember Gemma's nephews, Petey and Eddie. What happened to them? Do they still live with Gemma, or did they have to go back to their disinterested parents?

It was fun answering those questions.

It's hard to say goodbye to characters. I always hoped to write a story about Gemma's friend Frances Fennelwick, a so-called "bluestocking" (one reviewer lovingly called her a nerd). Since Love Inspired Historical is folding, I won't have a chance to submit a proposal about Frances, but that doesn't mean I don't think about her and what happens to her...or the very special man who falls head over heels for her.

Maybe one day I'll jot it down and put it out for my newsletter subscribers. I'm not sure about copyright issues. Just thinking out loud.

But in the meantime, I'm hard at work on a story that'll be out in April's First Loves Forever Romance Collection from Barbour. Here's the beautiful cover:
OOOOHHHHH! Coming in April!
The heroine of my story, First Things First? Georgia Bridge, who first appeared in my novella For a Song from The Cowboy's Bride Collection as a precocious four-year-old.

Still available!
If you want to know what happened to her, Bridge Ranch, her pa Jackson and the woman she wanted to be her new ma, Lily Kimball, be sure to check out First Loves Forever in the spring!


Do you like seeing old friends in new books?


Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today she's the author of over a dozen inspirational romances. Visit her and find her books at

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Journey Fiction, Amateur Sleuths and Fun

We've got a little puzzle going.
or two...

What do you suppose this is all about?

I'll give you a hint -  two great new amateur sleuths are coming your way via JOURNEY FICTION's debut series, the Nosy Parker Mysteries

Stay tuned for more clues and fun!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Meet Book Blogger Carrie of Reading is My SuperPower!

Debra says: Hi Carrie! Thank you for visiting the Inkwell! I'm loving this new feature.

Carrie, of course, replies: Thank YOU! It’s definitely a two-way street. We the book reviewers have nothing to review without you marvelous authors 

D: So- tell us how you came to be blogging about books! How did you decide on the theme for your blog, and how long have you been doing this? (give us the address, too!)

C: In 2015, I had newly discovered my love of reading and was having fun recommending books to my friends when they would ask (and sometimes when they wouldn’t lol).  And then I got Varina Denman’s newsletter asking for people who were interested in being part of the launch team for her debut novel, Jaded. Having a blog wasn’t a requirement but it occurred to me after I reviewed it on Goodreads and Amazon that a blog might not be such a bad idea.  But then I had to pick a blog name/theme! LOL. I came up with all sorts of ideas, but someone else had also thought of those names long before I did and they were taken. I finally tried readingismysuperpower after something fun I’d seen on etsy and – success! When I decided I wasn’t going to burn out on this blogging thing anytime soon, I bought the domain 

D: What’s the best part of being a reviewer?

C: Relationships! The friendships I’ve made as a direct result of reviewing books has been such a blessing.

D: I absolutely agree (not that I review!) But I've loved the friendships with such warm, dedicated people!
What’s the most difficult part of the ‘the job’?

C: My TBR pile has grown so large I will never finish it

D: Be careful when you walk past, right?  What was the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?

C: The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof

D: I see that on a lot of lists and I'm pretty sure it just garnered an award! (with Awards season, I can't remember which one it was. Anyone??) I'm SO going to have to read this!

What do you do when you aren’t using your superpower?

C: I taught English as a Second/Other Language for 10 years with a local ministry, and my ‘real job’ is scoring the speaking portion of exams that internationals take to be admitted to university here in the states.  I also love being the ‘cool aunt’ to our nieces and nephews and I have been known to break out a cross stitch project or two. But mostly I read lol. And review. And repeat. 

D: My younger son is an ESL or TESOL teacher, but he only has Hispanic and Latino students.  Two languages (Spanish/English) instead of ten, right?
What would you like to share about yourself that few people know?

C: My first word was ‘book’ – which, in hindsight, is just about perfect! 

D: I'm afraid that might have been anyone's good guess!

What is your favorite fictional setting? Place and time?  Genre’?

C: Oh goodness…. That’s like asking me to pick a favorite way to breathe.   My fave genre is probably romantic suspense BUT I love Contemporary and Historical fiction just about as much. Favorite setting is historical Kentucky (because I moved here too late to take advantage of the required KY History class that all 4th graders take lol… so I learn a lot from those novels!) or Appalachia/Smoky Mountains. As far as time period? I love Civil War/Underground Railroad stories, WW2 fiction, Regency fiction, and Western expansion stories.

D: I'm fascinated with the Underground Railroad because it's right here where I live (and so many others can say the same thing).  It's on my list for subjects, but like your TBR pile, I'm afraid I have more ideas than I'll ever complete.

What’s your favorite movie to watch if you had a rainy afternoon alone?  And when that afternoon became a quiet evening, what could the caterers bring for your dinner? Money is no object!

C: Fave movie = While You Were Sleeping

Dinner = It will be a hodge podge of foods I love but have to travel out of state to find. Like the apple cider donuts from Edwards Apple Orchard in Northern Illinois, the steak nachos (and an order of queso) from this Mexican place we go to a lot when we visit my brother & his family in Atlanta, the BBQ meal that I’ve been thinking about ever since I had it for dinner in Nashville after last year’s Christian Fiction Reader’s Retreat. 

D: I think that hodge-podge is perfectly acceptable. My friends and I recall trips we've taken by talking about specific restaurant meals! I like the vulnerability of these two characters in While You were Sleeping. I just watched it recently because I needed a break from historicals.
(And hey, I 'heard' that CFRR is returning to Nashville, so now I know why! haha!)
If you could wiggle your nose and be in a new career, what would it be?

C: Acquisitions editor. I would LOVE to be part of the team that acquires fiction for publishing houses.

Carrie, stay safe under that slush pile

D: I will champion that for you and I think we could get a consensus! That's an incredible idea. Good for you! And, you've proved you've got the work ethic and experience to do it!

What piece of advice would you offer authors who are just starting out?

C: Surround yourself with a community who will be your biggest champions but will also be honest enough to gently tell you if a chapter, a paragraph, a sentence just isn’t working. 

D: What advice would you like to give readers who’d like to write reviews?

C: Start with your own collection, with books you’ve checked out from the library. Write reviews on Goodreads and/or Amazon. And study other reviewers – what do they say (and what they don’t), how do they frame positive reviews as well as negative, what are the terms they use, etc.  But most of all? Be kind. Even when you don’t like a book, be polite and gracious.

D: Great suggestions! I'm not a fan of all-gushy, five-star-reviews because readers have such different tastes. No one can love all the books they read!  But it's so irritating to hear about rude reviews. They are easy to do using a pseudonym. I often read the reviewer's other reviews and get an idea about that person's viewpoint. (Sourpuss? Never satisfied? Holier than thou?)

And now, something I'm really excited about because authors are readers and fans, too... Tell us about the Christian Fiction Reader’s Retreat!

C: The Christian Fiction Readers Retreat is an event that Annie JC (from Just Commonly), Bonnie Roof, and I started in 2016. It’s a time for authors and readers to come together to honor God through our love for Christian fiction. We have keynote speakers, games, author panels, food, and great giveaways and swag! Last year, in Nashville, we had a blast!! And we are praying that this year in Cincinnati is even more fun. You can keep up with the goings-on at our website and Facebook.


D: It's going to be amazing! I've met so many authors at ACFW conferences, but I love the idea of the CFRR because I get to be a fan girl (omigosh, I get to meet Laura Frantz?!), and I get to meet readers and reviewers and put faces with names of so many online friends!  You all are so amazing to pull this together!  YAY. It'll be here before we know it!

Thanks so much for indulging me!

C: Thank you again so much for having me, Debra!

oops - here's another way to follow Carrie: Twitter!

Friday, June 30, 2017

What in the World is a Street Team?

And do I have to get a tattoo?

Galleys,  POV,  ROI, and platform. The world of publishing has a long list of phrases, catchwords and acronyms. Sadly, IMO, authors who would rather be writing, must also lead a street team out into the wild... er, the street?

Well, crud.  Now it's my turn.  I have a nice, small start with a few sweet readers who have offered to help me promote my next release.

But what does a street team do?
They encourage an author, talk about the new release, write reviews and become an invaluable part of that author's success. And that's A LOT!

Street team members often get to see the cover and book before anyone else. Many of them act as beta readers (that's another one of those writer thingys), and help the author tweak the story before it's published.

These amazing readers become eligible for little thank you gifts, but if that's all they are there for, they will likely be disappointed. Sadly, it happens.
We all love free books, but it all comes back to support and encouragement of the author AND their fiction!

Right now, new Newsletter Subscribers (ahem...sign up here)  during June, July and August are eligible for a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card.  Those who join the street team have other goodies in store. (What they are, I have no idea!)

I've witnessed the good and bad of author promotion, and I've been reluctant to take this next step. I enjoy the friendship I have with many of my reader (and reviewer) friends, but today's marketing platform needs more. 

So... here's the pitch! If you are interested in being part of my Street Team (Let's call it something more clever, okay?), then please contact me through Facebook or Twitter messages, or email me at debraemarvin (at the big yahoo).

If you're a newsletter subscriber,  the 'pitch' will be coming to an email near you, very soon!

Now... let's stop and get some food for the road!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Meet Book Blogger Raechel of "God's Peculiar Treasure Rae"

Today I'm hosting Raechel, who might be the youngest book blogger I know. This gives her a unique viewpoint on today's Christian fiction.

Welcome Raechel! How long have you been reviewing and how did you decide on the theme for your blog?

R: Hello Debra! I’m really excited to be here. :) I’ve been reviewing for about 7 years, I believe. As for how I came to decide on the theme of my blog, it started out just being an All-Purpose blog when I was about 14 years old - I really loved the verse and concept of being God’s Peculiar Treasures, so I adopted that into the name and kept with it. I do still use my blog for all-purposes, but reviewing is the primary posts because...well, I love books. :)

“Peculiar Treasure”

"Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine" - Exodus 19:5

D: I think that progression from a broader to a narrower focus for a blog is common.  So, what’s the best part of being a reviewer?

R: Definitely getting the chance to read (sometimes even advance read) amazing books! For free, too. That’s pretty great. I am a book-lover through and through, so starting new adventures is always a joy.

D: Free books are a great reason to start blogging, but writing reviews is not for everyone! I'm all for simple reviews, but some of you bloggers are incredible! What’s the most difficult part of the ‘the job’?

R: Hmmm...probably having to have reviews posted on time. There are some publishers that require you to have a book read and reviewed on a certain date, and that can be hard when life intervenes. Usually the required date is far enough out that it doesn’t cause too much of a problem, but still, it can be difficult. And I have an immensely hard time when I have to review a book I didn’t necessarily care for. It’s rare, but it happens, and I hate to give a ‘bad review’, so I try to be as gentle as I can, always. I know how much work an author puts into their stories!

D: I think we all know that everyone's tastes are different. Look at ice cream! So, I agree and absolutely appreciate what you're saying!  Speaking of... What was the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?

R: Well, I’m sure there’s actually been several, but I think I’ll go with “Bread of Angels” by Tessa Afshar. I love her books and never want to put them down. :)

D: Without trying to sound all woo-woo here, I'd say that Tessa has a special calling and anointing to write Biblical fiction. Absolutely! (I just finished Land of Silence, myself!) Here's Raechel's review!

D: What do you do when you aren’t making authors happy? (I assume you have a life outside of fiction. Maybe not!)

R: There’s a life outside of fiction?! Hehe, just kidding. Besides reading, I also enjoy writing my own stories, growing more in Jesus, and being with my family, to name a few things. :)

D: What would you like to share about yourself that few people know?

R: I have sensory-integration-dysfunction. I’ve struggled with it since I was four or five years old. It’s hard to explain what all it entails, but for me it is primarily how clothing feels against my skin, and some emotional issues. It’s not an ‘issue’ I hear about frequently, but I think there might be quite a few people who do deal with it, knowingly or unknowingly, and I’ve always wanted to let others know that they’re not alone in this struggle. God brings His presence, and I believe He will bring His healing in time. :)

D: I think sensory dysfunction is much more common that people realize, but thankfully it's recognized more now and children are given ways to deal with it than say, ten years ago. Not understanding the symptoms means a label of 'behavioral problems'! I have a special young man in my life that deals with something similar. Thank you for talking about it!

D: What is your favorite fiction setting? Place and time?  Genre’?

R: Oooh, hard question. I like a lot of different things in fiction! I guess Medieval/Magic-less Fantasy and Biblical Fiction would be a close tie, but I also love books set in the 40’s, and contemporary clean romances have become a recent hard to choose!

D: Which gives me a chance to say I want to sit down someday and read through all of Sarah Sundin's books! (She's such a sweetheart, too!)

The truth is... I went snooping and saw that you also like knife and tomahawk throwing, so I'm going to ask you more about this in the comments.  GOTCHA!

What’s your favorite movie to watch if you had a rainy afternoon alone?  What if that afternoon rolled into a quiet evening alone…  What catered meal would you like delivered to your house? Cost is not an issue!

R: I think I’d have to choose…”Wives and Daughters” or “North and South” (both Elizabeth Gaskell adaptations), but Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” (with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds) would be a close one too. Mmm,  a catered meal sounds fabulous, especially with cost not being an issue. ;) I think I’d have to go with a small buffet - I’d want a little of everything. :D

I'm whipping cream. I'll be right back!(photo courtesy of Pixabay)

D: How funny!  Kav Rees, my last guest, chose Wives and Daughters too.  Elizabeth Gaskell, if you're listening,  We Love You!  I own it and both Persuasions. Ciaran Hinds is a bad guy in a Thomas Hardy series and it's hard to not picture him as Capt. Wentworth! oh my!
Meanwhile, I've ordered that buffet. We'll start with strawberry cheesecake!

D: If you could wiggle your nose and be in your dream career, what would it be?

R: That would be a missionary. I’ve known that’s what I wanted to ‘be’ since I was 13, and God has only strengthened that desire over the years. Just waiting on His timing!

D: I think you have a very good chance of that happening, as opposed to professional fabric hoarder (my choice).  I'll be watching for updates! 
What piece of advice would you offer authors who are just starting out?

R: Focus on God and what He’s guiding you to write - critiques and reviews are definitely important, but God’s heart in a story is the most important thing, I believe!

D: I have to remind myself of this all the time! Some of my stories are closer to the center of Christian fiction, (we call that Preaching to the Choir), but I try to just write the story that I need to tell at the time, and hope they find the readers they were meant for.

Raechel, I love what you're doing with your blog and we all appreciate the role of book blogger/ reviewers. Thank you so much for helping us all out, and for visiting the Inkwell!

Here's another fun way to follow Raechel - Twitter! @raechel_95

I'm also doing a summer promotion on my newsletter.  (This might help someone buy that Wives and Daughters DVD now.. heh heh). One of the new subscribers during June, July and August will receive a $25.00 Amazon gift card. This will not include those who come in through other promotions such as BookSweeps, so the numbers will be in your favor if you sign up!

SIGNUP for Debra's Newsletter