Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book Giveaway & Guest Gail Kittleson

Another hot summer day and our air is still filled with smoke, but rain is in the forecast for later this week. I can hardly wait. Today is Wednesday and that helps because it's book giveaway day and we have a guest -  Gail Kittleson. Welcome Gail.

Gail’s a late-blooming writer. The transition from non-fiction to fiction surprised her, but she’s intrigued by the journey. She and her husband live in Northern Iowa, where they enjoy their family and Gail teaches a small creative writing class. Walking provides perennial pleasure, and Gail likes to bicycle and garden. In winter, an Arizona mountain town brings sinus relief, wonderful hiking trails, and novel fodder galore. Connecting with people is pure joy, so please feel free to contact her.

Where to find her books.


Seeing Things Anew

Back in the Dark Ages of 1981, my husband Lance and I lived in Le Chambon sur Lignon in the Haute Loire Region of France. We stayed there for about eight months of language study before flying to Senegal, West Africa to a mission among the Pulaar-speaking people. Our daughter was two and our son four months old at the outset. Lance, an Army brat, had lived and traveled in Europe, but this was my first European visit.

We lived in such a gorgeous part of the country, with mountains in the distance, beautiful hilly terrain, stone walls and history everywhere. Encouraged to practice our fledgling French on the local inhabitants, we certainly gave it the old one-two. (I think they’d had about enough of coddling language students long, long before we arrived in town.)

The school itself, set in a residential area, consisted of big old stone buildings staffed by folks who also worked with cows out in the countryside. Suffice it to say, we had ample opportunity to delve into the culture and to contract an ailment akin to dysentery. One clear memory is of toilets flushing day and night. 

Busy with full-time language study and caring for our children, we left more than a few stones unturned in discovering the full scope of the village.

But a few decades later, researching my World War II novel, A Purpose True (second in a series), some astonishing information came my way. It turns out that the very town we lived in was the “go-to” location for many Jewish refugees and children during the war. Set high on the Vivarais Plain, the area was isolated and difficult to reach.

The entire community banded together in spite of the Vichy government’s tight control under Nazi auspices. Led by an intense pastor and his wife, people received Jewish children into their homes and other shelters, formed schools, and provided care night and day.

Who knows how many lives they saved? Desperate people who walked the same streets we walked...right in the mountain village we called home.

If ever there were a snapshot of Christian defiance, this was it. Many other groups sacrificed much for the cause, but this particular Protestant community did themselves proud and received Israel's “Righteous Among the Nations” award.

Of course, now the story has been told and retold, most recently by Caroline Moorehead in Village of Secrets (HarperCollins 2014). This history is a deep well, with so much to offer that’s unseen by the casual observer.

We still have these photos from our time in Le Chambon, but oh, how many more we would have taken, had we known where we were. The ones included here are from way back then.

We did realize the director of our school had been active in the French Resistance, but how many questions could we have asked him if we’d been more aware? I wouldn’t be the least surprised if rescued Jewish children inhabited our rooms a few decades earlier.
What that language immersion time did give me, thanks to Lance’s incorrigible desire to climb to the top of whatever’s in sight and his willingness to carry the bulk of our load, was a still-intact experience of the rugged terrain. Getting out into the countryside did our family worlds of good, and we hiked as often as possible.
Of course, my research discovery gave me the desire to go back. Soon. With the present condition of our knees, necks, and backs, we’d do far less hiking, but I’m still hoping. We’ll see how that works out.

  • Do you look back at an experience that one day comes to you with new clarity?  Do you ever think, “If only I had known...?”

This village is a beautiful example of God working through his children. I love the term "Christian Defiance". Sometimes that's exactly what we're called to do.

Catching Up With Daylight

Many of us long for rest, as the author did while renovating an old house after her husband’s first deployment to Iraq. Yet a different hunger undergirded that desire: a hunger for wholeness.

No fast track exists to a closer walk with God, but the ancient Benedictine practice of Lectio Divina enhances and extends our times with our Creator. Allowing the Spirit to emphasize one word and ruminating on that word throughout the day empowers us to remain present for every moment, attentive to embrace all that God has for us.

As you take this journey with the author, you will become aware of those who have paved our way, and of those around us who need fresh courage. And you may even waken early one morning to discover the moon painted with a fresh hue.

Where to order:



Gail is giving away one free e-book copy of Catching Up With Daylight. For a chance to win, leave a comment along with your email address.

Last week's winner of Smokescreen is Ashley Hisler! Congratulations!

Grace and peace to you from God,


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Giveaway and Guest Jodie Bailey

There has been so much going on here - forest fires, my daughter and all her beautiful children moving away, my sister is visiting, and there is that thing ... oh yeah, the release of my book To Dance With Dolphins. But it is Wednesday and that means I have a new book giveaway and a guest. I'm thrilled to have Jodie Bailey here today. Welcome Jodie.

Jodie Bailey writes novels about freedom and the heroes who fight for it. Her novels include 2014 RT Reviewers Choice Award winner Crossfire, from Love Inspired Suspense and the 2015 Selah in Contemporary Romance for Quilted by Christmas, from Abingdon Press. She is convinced a camping trip to the beach with her family, a good cup of coffee, and a great book can cure all ills. Jodie lives in North Carolina with her husband, her daughter, and two dogs.

Jodie agreed to give us a behind the scenes look at her life as a writer and answer a few questions about writing.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am very, very proud to be a North Carolina girl. I am also very, very glad to have married a soldier whose career forced me to leave NC for a while. It was good to see new places and experience new things, but it sure did make me glad to come home again. I love the beach in the fall and winter. Unfortunately, I love Mountain Dew, chips, and salsa. I love quiet time with coffee and Jesus first thing in the morning, and I hate Brussels sprouts. In my family, the Brussels sprouts thing is the stuff of legend.
  • Why did you start writing?
I don’t remember starting. I’ve written and told stories my whole life because I have loved it my whole life. I was in college before I realized not everyone enjoyed making up whole stories.
  • How did you start writing?
When I was in my early thirties, I was sitting in Beth Moore’s Daniel Bible study thinking how lucky she was to have a job where she got to write and talk about God. Mind you, I’d been writing my whole life, sharing with friends or shoving notebooks into drawers. We’re talking lots and lots of notebooks. In that moment, it was like God whacked me with my Bible and said, “Duh.” (Really, I think He did.) “I did not give you this gift to shove in a drawer. Get serious.”

Hear that writers? A story in a drawer will never be read.

  • How did you select your genre?
I love contemporary romance, so that’s what I wrote. And I still love writing it. It’s so… freeing and fun. But one day, my agent said, “As an Army wife, have you ever considered military suspense?” I laughed and told her no. But then I got an idea that wouldn’t go away. It just kept growing. And then I enlisted my husband’s help and we had so much fun plotting together. I discovered it was very interesting to write in a genre where nearly anything can happen, and the ideas have—thankfully—never stopped.
  • What is your writing day like?
I get up and pack the family off to work and school, have my God time, get in some exercise, spend about half an hour chatting on social media, then sit down to work. Oh, with coffee, of course. I take a half-hour lunch break and watch some TV just to get out of my own head, then head right back to work. Well, in a perfect world. There’s a lot of Facebook drive-bys in that time…
  • How do you organize your writing (outlines/note cards/post-its)?
I’m a very loose plotter. I come up with ten things that MUST HAPPEN and I write to those ten points. They are on one sheet of paper right by my side at all times. Other than that, there are post-its EVERYWHERE. Stuck to the desk, the monitor, the bulletin board… All of those reminders are there. I also made myself a white board where I keep Very Important Details that I don’t want to forget, so I can see them at a glance.

Good idea - visuals are so helpful.
  • What's the most surprising thing a character has “told you?”
Hm. That’s a tough one. It would have to be when one of my characters showed up in the middle of the night (in story world, not at my actual house because, you know, that would be scary) to say another character had died. I never saw that coming. I actually cried. In Panera. On a personal level, in Freefall, when Josh busted out with the fact he saw Andrea’s brother on the night he died, I never knew he was carrying that secret all of this time. Knocked me over.

As a writer, I love it when characters surprise me. It's one of the extra fun things about writing.
  • Do you have a list of characters that you're saving for future use? What kind of information do you keep on these characters?
Not really. I’m a character first writer, so if a character shows up, they have a story already. I do have one who has been talking to me for a long time, sort of unveiling her story at intervals. I know where she lives and works, who she’s falling in love with, what she wants to do with her life… but she has a secret she’s not telling me. Four years she’s been talking and she won’t tell me. And until she does, I can’t start her story. Stubborn thing, she is.

Love this. When she tells you, let me know. I will read that book.
  • What does your work space/office look like?
I love my office! It was my grandmother’s sewing room, and my desk sits where her sewing table sat.  I have a big, glass L-shaped desk so I can sit and look out my big window at the yard and the woods. There are two closets, a big comfy green chair, and my filing cabinet. The closet is full of bookcases, of course. The walls are dark purple on the bottom and lavender on top, with white trim and chair rail. (Purple is the color of romance and royalty. Get it?) I covered one wall with black and whites of my family and of my husband in action before he retired. It’s a great picture. And I framed my book covers on another wall. The light is amazing in there. It’s my favorite room.
  • What is your go-to snack when writing?
I try not to eat when I’m writing. But if I do, it has to crunch. I used to chow down on M&Ms and Doritos… mixed together. But that was decidedly unhealthy. So I turned to almonds. Now, it’s nothing. I snack out of control if I snack while I write. So I drink coffee. 
  • If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why?
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. The characterization of Francie as we follow her from child to adult… the other people in her life… the way the story world revolves around her point of view… It’s such a beautiful, poignant story. I love it. It’s my favorite of all time.

  • If you could only recommend one CRAFT book (writing, no crocheting), what would it be? Why?

HA! I can’t crochet. I make knots. Only one? James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers. TONS of info. TONS. Broken down into bite-sized pieces and easily searchable. I’ve read it a dozen times or more. I get to the end and start all over again.

  • Is there anything else you'd like to add?

If you’re a reader, thank you. And share your favorite books. I’m always looking to add to my TBR pile! If you’re a writer and you’re just starting, don’t stop. Enjoy this time you have to wander in your story, to learn from the people around you, and to dig into new places. Learn, learn, learn. Read great novels. Read great books on craft. Go to conferences. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid. And finish. The world is full of people who have a good idea, but so many don’t finish. Get that thing done, then start another one!

Excellent advice.

I love the insights - so helpful.

Jodie has a new book out - Smokescreen. And she's giving away one FREE copy.

When her life is on the line, Ashley Colson is rescued by the last person she ever expected to see again. Military officer Ethan Kincaid might have disappointed her once in the past, but now he's the only person who can keep her safe. They're under the gun to decode top secret files that can save the life of a friend who is in enemy hands. But the killers will pull out all the stops to get their hands on the files…and Ashley. With time running out, can they put aside their past and find the answers that could give them a future?

Thank you for joining us, Jodie. And readers if you'd like a chance to win a FREE copy of Jodie's new book all you have to do for a chance is leave a comment. Make sure to include your email address so Jodie can contact the winner.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Tuesday, August 18, 2015


The results are in. And I want to thank all of you who participated in the To Dance With Dolphins Giveaway. I love this gift package!
But be watching for future giveaways.

The winner is ....

Gail Kittleson



Friday, August 14, 2015

Forty-Four Years & Still Together

Forty-four years ago today, I pledged to share my life with Gregory Leon. Celebrating still.

I met my handsome hunk of a man when I was just seventeen. He was nineteen and in the Navy. He looked so good in his uniform.

Truly hunky, right?

I was on my way out to a party, when my brother walked into  our house with a guy who had the most amazing green eyes and broad shoulders. I decided there was no reason to hurry out the door.

Our exchange that night was brief, but I was hooked. I never dated another man. And two years after our first meeting we were married. 

And after that day it was utter bliss and has been ever since - NOT!

This isn't a romance novel. We had a rough beginning, full of anguish and heartbreak. After four years together, we separated for seven months, and my husband filed for divorce. 

But that wasn't the end of our story.

God had other plans for us. As he worked in each of our hearts we realized how much we loved one another and came to understand that we belonged together. We each had a life-changing encounter with The Great I Am and offered our lives to Jesus Christ. And then, we began again, brand new in the Lord.

So, is there a magic formula for staying together? Is there a way to guarantee that you'll enjoy a long and happy marriage? No. I wish there was a formula. And if you find one please make sure to tell the world, which is in desperate need.

This is what I do know:

  • When Greg and I became children of the Living God, we were made new and the anchor of our marriage became Christ. He is where we begin and where we end.
  • The "D" word, divorce, is not in our vocabulary. We committed to the long haul, no matter what.
  • Sacrifice is part of our life. We each give to the other (even when we don't want to)
  • Forgiveness - There is nothing that we can't forgive. God forgave us everything.
  • We give our partner wings to fly. And cheer each other on. And when one of us doesn't fly well we help pick him/her up and encourage them to fly again.
  • There is no score board in our home. We try not to keep score of the faults in one another, but do make note of each other's good qualities ... often. And we tell one another that we know these wonderful things about the other.
  • Saying thank you is more than just being polite. We say it often. 

There are a lot of other things I could add, but this short list is what comes to my mind first. Greg and I are imperfect and we're not always nice to each other. But the core of who we are is strong and no matter how ornery we get, we always come back to the core of us which is secured in love.

I am thankful for our life together. There are so many wonderful things I'd like to tell you about my husband, only there isn't room here. I will say this, I am thankful that God brought him into my life. And I am certain we will not be parted by anything other than death.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Wednesday, August 05, 2015


I've been waiting for this day, the day I get to tell you all about my book, To Dance With Dolphins. 

I got the idea for the book way back in 2005 and then made a cross country trip to do research for the story in 2006.  If you'd like to see some of my posts and photos from the trip just go to the blogs for late September and early October of that year. It was an amazing adventure. This photo was taken at the Grand Canyon.

You're probably wondering why it took so long to actually write the book. It's pretty simple - when I first presented the idea to my agent she was crazy about it (Thank you Wendy), but publishers just didn't catch the vision. So I went to work on other projects and stayed busy. But the idea never left me ... I knew I had to write this tale one day.

Early last year, I decided that no matter what this was the year. I was going to write the story of my heart, the tale that had been simmering inside and demanding to be told. I shared the idea with my friends at Ashberry Lane Publishing. They caught the power and possibilities of this unique story immediately, and said, "Yes. We want to publish it. Write it!"

And so I did. And I'm thrilled that today is here, the day I've dreamed of. I want to jump and leap, and shout to the world that the story of my heart is done and available for readers.

I hope and pray this talle touches the hearts of thousands, uplifts and encourages those who live with chronic pain or illness and that it will give understanding and insight to the people who stand with those of us who live inside wounded bodies. 

I wrote it for you. 

And I wrote it for me.

Twenty-two-year-old Claire Murray has suffered from a mysterious disease for years. Her social circle has shrunk to a small support group for people with chronic illness and disability. But what if life could be about more than doctors, pain, and medications?

Claire and three others—old grouch Tom, hippy-holdout Willow, and moody Taylor—hatch plans for a cross-country trip to swim with the dolphins in Florida. Only a day into the trip, they unexpectedly need help. And who happens to be hitchhiking along the highway but a young, good-looking loner named Sean Sullivan? However, the last thing he wants is to be harnessed to a bunch of ailing travelers.

Though the journey proves difficult, following God’s plan might be even harder. Will they find the courage to follow their dreams and dare to live again?

My cast of characters taught me so much. I hope you love them as much as I do. Make sure to get a copy of the book and become acquainted with Claire, Sean, Willow, Tom, and Taylor. I think you'll agree that they are very special people.

You can buy the book at your local bookstores or online.

And don't forget to enter my TO DANCE WITH DOLPHINS CONTEST. Just go to my home page at 

Grace and peace to you from God,