Monday, September 28, 2015

Patriot Heart by Diane Kalas

Gina here. Today I'm honored to introduce you to a lovely author I met through American Christian Fiction Writers and the Genesis contest. It's been a joy helping Diane along in her writing journey. Her passion for history inspires me to learn more about the past. 
Welcome guest blogger, historical author Diane Kalas!


Back in 1990-91, a US military operation called Desert Storm took place in the Middle East. Not long afterward, the veterans involved came back with invisible scars that later became known as PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The heartbreaking stories about the men and women who couldn’t keep jobs or relationships soon became a regular feature on the nightly news. The heartbreaking numbers of vet suicides have increased over the years.

I write historical fiction and wanted to know how Civil War veterans who suffered with the same symptoms of PTSD were treated. Nineteenth century doctors diagnosed those afflicted with the condition as Soldier’s Fatigue. They offered bed rest in a soldier’s convalescent home, or recommended a discharge and a train ticket home. Often the soldier had a note pinned to his uniform, giving his name and destination, because he was so incapable of communicating. Let the veteran’s family deal with the troubled man.

As my story idea came together, I especially wanted to write my hero, Dan Goodman, as a strong Christian and show how he dealt with the horrors of Andersonville Prison for Union soldiers. Perhaps a 21st century veteran’s spouse, mother, sister, or girlfriend will read PATRIOT HEART and see there is hope for their loved one. Hope for the future in God, the Father, and salvation through Jesus Christ, His son.

Before my research began for PATRIOT HEART, I didn’t know much about the following:

1.     Clara Barton, Civil War nurse, accepted the government’s request to organize the cemetery at Andersonville Prison site in Georgia, and to notify the families of the deceased.
2.     The trial of the century, the first trial for war crimes in our country was against the Commandant of Andersonville Prison for Union soldiers immediately after the war.
3.     Major General Lewis Wallace, US volunteers, served on the Commission of the Military Court Martial of the Commandant of Andersonville Prison, Major Henri Wirz. Wallace later became the distinguished author of the famous novel BEN HUR published in 1880.
4.     Married women’s property rights in the state of Missouri, the setting for PATRIOT HEART.

With every bit of research, I have to share it with family and friends who will listen. I find it all so fascinating. My happy zone, and the best place for my research, is a used bookstore. Too many times to count, I’ve found what I needed while standing in front of the clearance section or received a discount coupon in the mail that greatly reduced the price of my purchase. I have a nice research library that didn’t cost much.

What draws you to historical fiction? Leave a comment for a chance to win an e-copy of PATRIOT HEART.


 DIANE KALAS collects antique books written by men and women who lived through the American Civil War, and/or who pioneered out West. With a degree in interior design, she enjoys touring historical sites, especially Federal era homes with period furniture. Diane is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Published writers Pamela Griffin and Gina Welborn have been critique partners and mentors. Diane’s biggest challenge is writing Inspirational Historical Romance. Her biggest distraction is her fascination with historical research.

DUTY             COURAGE                 INTEGRITY
May 1865. All Dan Goodman wants is to marry an uncomplicated girl and have a family, but the war interfered and he became a POW who now believes he’s losing his mind and unfit for marriage. He dreams of Oregon to put the memories behind him. The problem is he owes a debt of gratitude to the beautiful songstress. In addition, Clara Barton wants him to be a witness for the prosecution in the first trial for war crimes in American history.

                        INDEPENDENT         ENTERPRISING        FEISTY
Letty Talbot is a world-weary steamboat songstress, and wants a new direction after sudden loss. Letty decides to run a supply depot for emigrants going out West, and talks Dan into a partnership where he builds the prairie schooners. Letty won’t admit she wants to keep Dan from leaving. Even though they butt heads a lot, no man ever interested Letty as this one did.

                                    TRUST            LOVE              PEACE
If Letty marries Dan she losses her depot, because married women have no property rights. Letty must learn to trust God with her future. Dan must forgive fellow Union inmates who killed for selfish reasons, and face the commandant of Andersonville Prison in a court of law. Allowing his Oregon dream to fade, he can then embrace the future God planned for him.

 Available on: - E-book and paperback - Transporting you back in time - US history, architecture, fashion

Monday, September 21, 2015

ACFW 2015!

Susanne Dietze and Debra E. Marvin here!

Forgive our bleary eyes this morning. We arrived at our homes on opposite coasts late last night from the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Dallas, TX! What an amazing time!

Here we are, Deb and Susie, before the genre dinner. Deb crafted this amazing Edwardian gown--she is amazing!
Every year, Christian fiction writers from across the globe gather for fellowship, workshops, networking, and celebrating the best and brightest. Inkwell's own Jennifer AlLee was nominated for a Carol Award for her book, Last Family Standing! Wahoo to Jen! (Susie here: If you haven't read this book, I heartily recommend it.)

Several of the Inkies were able to make this year's conference, and we think we can safely speak for all of us: we had an amazing time. Some of us had proposals to pitch to editors. Some of us had publishing house parties to attend. Some of us met each other for the first time (that would be Susie and DeAnna). Most attended workshops and volunteered in some capacity. But all of us had fun being together! Here are some of our highlights:

Six Inkies take a break for coffee and fellowship. L-R Anita Mae Draper, DeAnna Dodson, Susanne Dietze, Jennifer AlLee Lisa Richardson, and Debra Marvin

Roomies Anita and Susanne
DeAnna and Debra

Why, look what's on the Bethany table! One of DeAnna's "drawing room" mystery series, Murder at the Mikado

Free on the Goody table: postcards advertising this coming January's Austen in Austin Collection, Volume 1 featuring novellas by Gina, Anita, Susanne and Debra.

Lovely ladies Debra, Jennifer, Anita, DeAnna, and Lisa

Friday Night Free Dinner: Cynthia Hickey, Gina Welborn, Susanne Dietze, Jennifer AlLee, and Lisa Richardson. Most of us at the table splurged on nachos, and they were gooooood. We also talked books, of course.

Gina, Susie, DeAnna, and Lisa. 

And then, of course, was the gala! So much glamour!

Carol finalist Jen AlLee flanked by Lisa on the left and Anita on the right. Pretty ladies!
While Jen was inside the galaearly a Carol finalist, the rest of us waited outside, ready to cheer her on (and talk about zombies). L-R Lisa, Patty Smith Hall, Anita, Cynthia Hickey, Bonnie Calhoun, Gina, Susie, and Debra. 

Amazing food at the gala, finished off with creme brulee. 

What a successful conference. We had about you? Were you able to attend? Would you like to? Next year's will be in Nashville at the end of August.

If you went to conference? What was a standout memory? Share in the comments!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Jigsaw Puzzles Anyone?

by Anita Mae Draper

It's been a couple years since I introduced you to the puzzle pages on my website and although they're still available, I wanted to share something new. is a puzzle site that I first started using for something to do as we watched our favourite TV programs, but I soon felt the urge to start my own page and add my own photographs. Not just any photos, but the ones that I took because I thought it might be good jigsaw puzzle fodder. Like this one:

Petunias and Prairie Coneflowers

So if you want to reach my puzzle page, here's what you do:

- Go to the jigidi puzzle site

- Click PUZZLES and a line of tabs will pop up beneath it

- Click the last tab BY USER

- Type in... wreader13

- It will show users found: wreader13

- Click the blue wreader13 because that's me

- Voila! There are my puzzles

One note for you to think about... you do not need to join the site to make the puzzles. However, if you are in the middle (or near the end!) of a puzzle and you lose power, your puzzle will not be saved.

All my puzzles are in the Very Large (240-400) piece zone because that's the size I like to work on. But if you see one of my puzzles and you want it with less or more pieces, just let me know either by leaving a comment on the puzzle you want to make, or through the contact page of my website.

Here are some examples of what you'll find on my jigidi puzzle page...

Balboa Beach Rest Stop

Florida Pergola

Painted Glass Window

You'll have to forgive me if I don't answer blog comments today. I'm headed for the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Dallas and won't be getting into the hotel until late this evening. I'll answer when I can.

Monday, September 14, 2015

How Do You Define Success?

By Niki Turner

Last month our newly established ACFW chapter on the Western Slope had the privilege of hearing from ACFW national board member Allen Arnold. He presented a one-day seminar titled "Finding Your Creative Connection."

Of the many, many things he said that have been rattling around in my heart during the last three weeks, transforming the way I approach my writing journey with God (instead of "for" or "about" God... those prepositions are tricky!), I keep coming back to the following question:

How do I define success for myself as a writer?

As many of my writer friends head off to the ACFW national conference this week, and many others (speaking for myself) are at home wishing we were at conference but can't be this year for financial, or familial, or work-related reasons, this seems like a good question to consider.

According to Arnold, we need to know the answer to this question, and know it early in our writing journeys, because,

"The enemy loves to keep changing the definition of success so it never quite arrives."

I started writing with a goal toward publishing as a teenager. I received my first rejection letter before I graduated from high school. (I don't have it... but my aunt, my first beta reader, saved the typewritten manuscript I'd submitted and sent it back to me a few years ago. I'm so glad that publisher said 'no.') After a lengthy writing hiatus wherein I raised and homeschooled four kids and my husband and I planted and pastored a church, I started writing fiction again. I signed my first official contract last spring. And I thought I'd be satisfied. But suddenly it wasn't enough that I was an officially published author...
I found myself telling people "it's just a novella" or "it's just an ebook," and quietly fretting over Amazon rankings, marketing, reviews, and so forth.

Hey! Wait a minute! That dream of being an author didn't have a list of contingencies back in the day. What happened?

My definition of success had changed, very subtly, without my consent or awareness.

I should have recognized the trap right away. When we were young Christians, getting into "full-time ministry" was the definition of success. Then it was pastoring a church. Then it was the size of the church. The constant striving for "the next thing" left us frequently frustrated, anxious, restless, and questioning the call of God and His purpose for our lives. Our definition of success was tied up in a lot of unspoken expectations, not what God said about us individually and what we were doing.

So what's the solution? According to Arnold, we need to distill our personal definition of success down to six or seven words, anchored in our identity as children of God, and in our day-to-day interaction and relationship with our Creator. We need to let God tell us who we are, tell us our story, our brand, our identity as writers... not the industry, not fellow writers, not our Amazon author ranking or the number of reviews we have on Goodreads.

I don't think God wants us to spend our lives striving for the next thing any more than we want to spend all our time with our children while they strive and strain and wish they were 18 and moving out of the house.

I think He wants to spend time with us experiencing life. Experiencing writing. Experiencing His love, creating with Him... not just for Him, not just about Him, but with Him. 

The more I chew on this idea, the more I realize this concept needs to be applied to every area of life. What's my definition of success as a mother? As a grandmother? As a wife? As a Christian? As a woman? Where am I striving? Anxious? Restless? Dissatisfied? Confused about my identity as a child of God?
Is that because I don't have my own, God-given definition pinned down and the enemy of my soul is moving that line, keeping me in a constant state of subtle discontent, always chasing the next goal or the next event or the next big thing?

How about you? How do you define success? 
Have you ever caught yourself striving instead of abiding? 

Niki Turner
Sadie's Gift (2014) - Available on Amazon and Nook and as part of the Christmas Traditions Collection.
The Skiing Suitor (2015) - Available on Amazon Forget-Me-Not Romances

Santiago Sol (2015) - Releases in October, Pelican Book Ventures

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Chivalrous Release Party and "Swag" Giveaway

Hello people of Inkwell Inspirations. Welcome to 1217, Edendale, England. The minstrels are warming up, and dancing will commence shortly. So pull up a bench in the great hall, grab a goose leg, and prepare to party! Chivalrous, Valiant Hearts book 2, officially released this week with Bethany House Publishers. 

Meet Sir Allen, a newcomer to our fair Edendale, but already well-loved by those who spent time with him in Dauntless. Quite a cutie, right? And no, of course you didn't see him on the Gilmore Girls, that must have been some distant ancestor. Excuse me Sir Allen, could you please fetch me some mulled cider from yon serving wench?

Okay, I confess, this is actor Jared Padalecki

And here is Gwendolyn, ready for a party for once thanks to the careful ministrations of her faithful lady's maid, Rosalind. We get a glimpse at the gentle side of the fierce female knight in this picture, although I'm sure she's itching to get back into something more comfortable. Looks like she's reading that book that Sir Allen recommended to her.

I was picturing actress LeeLee Sobieski as Gwen

My launch team has been hard at work spreading the news. Here is an awesome image created by Laura Pol with her favorite quote from the book.

And here is an image with my code of chivalry created by Raechel Lenore. Click on it for a better look.

This is Raechel herself, who definitely wins the prize for most adorable and enthusiastic launch picture. Way to get in the spirit!

Early reviews have already been coming in for the book. Here are a few of my favorite quotes to whet your appetite. 

What reviewers are saying...

Chivalrous is book two in Dina L. Sleiman’s Valiant Heart series. I loved Dauntless, but I gotta say . . . this one is even better! Ms. Sleiman has stepped up her game (jousting perhaps?!) and given us an Arthurian-inspired medieval story filled with believable characters and a plot packed with twists you won’t see coming...I give Chivalrous five lances!  ~ Darlene L. Turner

This novel has so many threads that make it a rich tapestry befitting the walls of a castle throne room. The exploration of identity can effect both teens and adults alike as people are ever changing. ~ Shannon L. Gonzalez

It’s books like these that give me hope for the Christian fiction genre. I don’t think I rolled my eyes once, which is a habit of mine while reading most Christian fiction novels. I’m so glad to be seeing this kind of material emerge. While I only read a sample of Dauntless, book #1 in the Valiant Heart Series, I can now say that I look forward to reading the rest and anything else from Dina L. Sleiman. ~ Brittney, Goodreads

This book just felt like home – you know how some books do that? I just felt soo happy reading it. ~ Raechel Lenore

I have only one piece of advice concerning this book. Read it. If you like King Arthur, read it. If you enjoy lovely prose, read it. If you couldn't put down her first book in this series, Dauntless, read Chivalrous. This book is brilliant. ~ Michele Harper

One of my favorite authors, Dina Sleiman has outdone herself with Chivalrous. This book has wonderful characters, great adventure, and a charming romance. ~ Susan Johnson

Still not convinced? Read a free sample here.  Or check out this great interview in Family Fiction Edge Magazine.

Oh! The minstrels are ready and the dance space has been cleared. You know I can't miss out on the dancing, so you must excuse me. I hear Gwendolyn might give us a magical performance on her pipe later, so be sure to stick around for the fun!

Speaking of fun, if you haven't ordered Chivalrous yet, what are you waiting for?

And it wouldn't be a party without a prize, so leave a comment with your email address below for your chance to win some great Valiant Hearts "swag." Deadline is Monday the 14th.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Culture Shock

by Jennifer AlLee

I recently was one of several hosts to a visitor from Austria. Nina Horvath is the 2015 TAFF (Trans Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate. For those who don't know (like me, two years ago) TAFF was set up to fund the visit of someone involved in sci-fi fandom from one side of the Atlantic to the other. It alternates, so this was the year for someone from the other side of the pond to come to North America.

The Cupcake ATM -
I know they don't have those
in Austria!
As you would expect, there's a difference between living here and living there. What surprised me was how some of the most mundane things (to me) were amazing to Nina. Spray oil, for one. We were talking in the kitchen, and she noticed the collection of oils by the stove. Then she pointed, eyes wide, and said, "Is that oil in a can?" Apparently, they don't spray their oil in Austria.

Taking her to her first Vegas buffet was also fun. I quickly learned that she went straight to the seafood. She called it "luxury" because it's outrageously expensive in landlocked Austria. She also learned that while a food may look like something familiar (a rice filled sweet pepper) it can actually be something quite different (a roasted, and very hot, whole jalapeno pepper). We had a good laugh about that after the coughing and water slurping was over.

One of the things we love to do for for friends is barbecue, and now that we have a simple mister system on our patio, the summer heat is bearable. But Nina took one look at it and said, in a very good-natured way, "What a waste of water." I suppose she's right. In our defense, we have desert landscaping, so really, we use less water with the mister than we would if we were soaking plants.

It was fun taking Nina around and showing her some of the over-the-top bits of Vegas. Her expression upon walking into her first casino was priceless. But I discovered that one thing is universal, no matter where you live: cats. If a person loves cats in one country, they take that with them. One of her favorite things was a magic show which featured - you guessed it - big cats. She left us on Tuesday, and the first picture posted of her next stop in Canada was with the host's cat. I guess home is where the kitty is.

JENNIFER ALLEE was born in Hollywood, California, and spent her first ten years living above a mortuary one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. Now she lives in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, which just goes to prove she’s been blessed with a unique life. When she’s not busy spinning tales, she enjoys playing games with friends, attending live theater and movies, and singing at the top of her lungs to whatever happens to be playing on the car radio. Although she’s thrilled to be living out her lifelong dream of being a novelist, she considers raising her son to be her greatest creative accomplishment. She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, and Christian Authors Network. Her novels include The Pastor’s WifeThe Mother Road, A Wild Goose Chase Christmas, Last Family Standing, and Vinnie's Diner from Abingdon Press; Diamond in the Rough, Vanishing Act, and Curtain Call from Whitaker House and co-written with Lisa Karon Richardson; the novella Comfort and Joy in the Christmas anthology, Mistletoe Memories from Barbour; and A Worthy Suitor from Harlequin's Heartsong Presents.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

And Then There Were None

I was very happy (delighted, ecstatic, elated, jubilant, overjoyed, thrilled) to hear that the BBC would be producing Agatha Christie’s masterpiece, “And Then There Were None” for television this year (next year in the U.S.). This will be the first time this story has been produced for television (though it did hit the big screen in 1945 and 1974), and it should be a stellar event.  How can you go wrong with this fabulous cast?

    Douglas Booth as Anthony Marston
    Charles Dance as Justice Lawrence Wargrave
    Maeve Dermody as Vera Claythorne
    Burn Gorman as William Blore
    Anna Maxwell Martin as Ethel Rogers
    Sam Neill as General John MacArthur
    Miranda Richardson as Miss Emily Brent
    Toby Stephens as Dr Edward Armstrong
    Noah Taylor as Thomas Rogers
    Aidan Turner as Philip Lombard

If you haven’t read the book (and, if you haven’t, you should be feeling some literary shame at this point), you have missed one of the greatest, if not the greatest, mystery plots of all time. The story centers around eight people, complete strangers to each other, who are invited, supposedly by mutual friends, to spend a few days on Soldier Island. (The name of the island and of the book have gone through a number of changes since Christie wrote it in 1939, but "Soldier Island" and And Then There Were None seem to have stuck.)

When the guests arrive, they find their host, the mysterious Mr. U. N. Owen, has left them in the charge of the butler and cook, husband and wife, who are also new to the island and have never met their employer. After dinner the first night, a record plays on the phonograph, and Mr. Owen’s voice accuses each of the ten people present of crimes for which the law cannot touch them. Terrified and unable to escape the confines of the island, one by one, just as described in the nursery rhyme of the ten little soldier boys, people begin to die. But will they catch the killer before there is no one left?

I’m so eager to see this (and, no, it’s not just because the delicious Aidan Turner is playing the hero, Philip Lombard), but as always with these adaptations of classic works, I’m worried about what the BBC will do with the story. I love Dame Agatha’s books, and I hate to see producers take her early 20th Century characters and give them 21st Century attitudes. I’m a bit concerned about what Damien Timmer, Managing Director of Mammoth Screen, said on the subject of the new production: "We're really proud to be working with Sarah Phelps on her searingly modern adaption of Agatha Christie's masterpiece.”

“Searingly modern”? I hope not. “Modern” is all around us. Give me historical every time, and be true to what the author wrote!

Anyway, I’m eager to see what they do with the story. As written, it really would be a challenge to film, especially the end. In fact, both of the earlier films changed the ending, and for once I was happy with that. I just want to see it. Aidan Turner is just the cherry on top!
Have you read And Then There Were None? How did you like it? Are there other Christie mysteries you prefer?

Had you heard about this new production? What do you think? Will you watch?

Ummm . . . Aidan Turner, right? Right?

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We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.