Need A Christmas Gift Idea?

Do you enjoy books where you never want to leave the characters? A novel which invites you to climb inside the pages and strangle the villain or hug the hero? A story which consumes your waking hours as you imagine what might happen next? If this sounds like you, read the Emerald Ballad Series by BJ Hoff.

Set in poverty-stricken Ireland at the time of the potato famine in the early 1800’s, Hoff takes you into an ugly and depressing period of history. Morgan Fitzgerald, Nora Kavanaugh, and Michael Burke are three adult friends who spent their childhood exploring their native land together, but now are faced with difficult choices, decisions which will reveal the determination and grit of the Irish people.

Morgan, in the tradition of the Irish love of story, is a poet, song writer, and an activist for his people. Nora is a starving widow, unsure how long her family will survive under the iron thumb of the English landlords. Michael fled the land nearly two decades before, seeking a better life as a policeman in New York City.

With these three characters Hoff weaves a tale between the three friends and across two continents that will bring you to your knees, tug at your heart strings, and have you reaching for the tissues. Hoff doesn’t spare the reader the gritty details of how these people lived—the realism makes the tales come alive.

Five books comprise the series and each novel has its own story thread. Hoff skillfully weaves the story between Dublin and New York, and has a knack for leaving the reader panting to see what happens as she changes scenes. Both men and women will enjoy these stories and the series would make a wonderful Christmas gift for the avid reader in your household. All are available from Amazon books in both paperback and on Kindle format. 

Book 1—Song of the Silent Harp

Book 2—Heart of the Lonely Exile

Book 3—Land of a Thousand Dreams

Book 4—Sons of an Ancient Glory

Book 5—Dawn of the Golden Promise


Critter Corner Cards Releases 2015 Calendar

Critters in Camouflage,  the 2015 theme for Critter Corner Cards annual calendar, is now headed to the presses and is available to order. These calendars feature unique pencil drawings of animals in their habitats, a combination of realism and fantasy. Children find the prints endearing.

Animals use their coloring to keep themselves hidden from their prey, to protect themselves from those who do them harm, and to delight those of us who find their colors and unique patterns fascinating.

Artist Rachel Lee has captured this group of critters in their natural habitats using the medium of colored pencil. 

Each calendar is $13.50 plus shipping. Calendars are printed in limited quantities, so orders received by December 5 are guaranteed. After that orders will be filled on a first-come first served basis.

Boxed cards are also available as gifts for $10.

To order, please check out their website:  Print an order form and get it in the mail to Critter Corner Cards, PO Box 1426, Springfield, OR 97477.


Giving Thanks in this Season

While teaching a Sunday School lesson recently, in the spirit of Thanksgiving I asked the class what they were thankful for. One said her home and family. Another said her job. Another said art supplies. The responses were as varied as the students, each one reflecting on her own life. With Thanksgiving days away, I decided to stop and reflect on what I’m thankful for this season.           

  • Friends and family— It’s easy to take things like our family, friends and home for granted. They are everywhere present and with the familiarity comes a decreased awareness of how important they are to our lives. Yet if tragedy struck, how empty our days would suddenly become without them.
  • Writing—Though some days I feel like I’m on the computer just to listen to my fingers tap on the keys, I enjoy what I do. My readers often respond to something I’ve written, either by private message  or by response form. Sometimes you make me laugh. Sometimes you bring tears when you share your personal responses. I love being part of your lives this way.
  • Country—Even though the news makes me cringe when I listen to it, I still know I live in one of the best nations in the world. I’m free to drive to another state, catch a plane across the country, shop in any store I choose. Freedom is something I shouldn’t take for granted, but it is easy to forget not everyone on the planet can decide the days of their lives.
  • Faith—God called me at an early age to be part of His work on earth. Following him has been an adventure. I’ve experienced a lot of circumstances I wouldn’t have chosen for myself. But in His wisdom, He knew the kinds of things I needed to grow and to be made more fit for His kingdom. I give thanks that He cares enough about me to challenge me to grow as a person.

What things are you thankful for this season? Write yourself a list. Share it with a friend. Pray over it with your heavenly Father.

 Philippians 4:6 (NKJV) says: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Have a thankful Thanksgiving.


Writer’s Imagination Fills in the Blanks

 A sense of exhilaration filled the air at the annual Veteran’s Day Parade my family attended this past Tuesday. The theme, Heroes at Home, marked a change in focus from previous years, as many of our soldiers are once again on domestic soil. Families were reunited, and the phrase, “Bless you for your service” was repeated over and over again.

Another kind of transformation happened for me. I stood, awed, as units of military personnel paraded by, placards of their division and where they served carried by volunteers at the front of the squadron. Uniformed combat warriors drove down the boulevard in military vehicles, their artillery aimed at the sky, their guns silent.

And that’s when my imagination took over. As a fiction writer, I am often caught in a scene where the main character faces a challenge and I provide the details. I decide whether they escape their circumstances or defeat them. I decide if they win or lose.

But here before my eyes were men and women who had fought in actual combat, using live ammunition, driving vehicles often targeted by the enemy for destruction. In my mind’s eye, I could hear the noise of the rockets exploding, could see the soldiers taking cover, could feel the rumble of a thousand tanks advancing. The outcome was in God’s hands.

This was no movie script written in a Hollywood office, no tempting trailer made to encourage attendance. These people faced life and death circumstances—their training and commitment to duty deciding the outcome of each conflict. These warriors made the decision to summon their courage, serve their country, and preserve our freedom. And they did it for nameless faces like my family and myself, people who often take for granted the privileges we enjoy as a result of the efforts of our armed forces. Because of the dedication of soldiers, we can choose the direction of our day, venture out of our houses without fear, even attend a parade.

Saying thank you really isn’t enough. But I do say it, “God bless you for your service.”


Book Pick: Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings

Regina Jennings is a new name in  Christian historical fiction.

 I first learned of Jennings when my friend and writing colleague Karen Barnett (author of Mistaken, 2013, Out of the Ruins, 2014 and soon to be released Beyond the Ashes, 2015) spoke highly of a book that Karen had recently read by Jennings.

I’m always on the lookout for new voices so I picked up a copy of Caught in the Middle when I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in St. Louis earlier this fall. My first impression is that Jennings’ works are fun.

 In this tale she paired a buffalo hunter with an accountant in an adventure-filled account of life in Garber, Texas. But it’s a story with a twist. The buffalo hunter is Anne Tillerton, a woman with a reputation as a sharpshooter and a past that includes the demise of her husband. The accountant is Nicholas Lovelace, an up and coming businessman looking to better his future.

Anne is only in town to find a runaway cook who flees, leaving the child in Anne’s care. Since Nicholas is the only one in Garber she knows, the two form an unlikely pair who go in search of the missing mother. But mixing with society is not something Anne does well and Nicholas’ future success is dependent upon making a good impression wherever he goes.  As business pressures upon him increase, the duo are caught between  being upstanding citizens and being themselves.

Great fun read. Published by Bethany House Publishers, Caught in the Middle is available from Amazon and