Women of Faith and Fiction ~ Angela Arndt

Good morning! Today, we have another exceptional woman of faith and fiction visiting with us. Although Angie and I have never met face to face, I feel as if I know her. She is a wonderful friend, a beautiful soul, and a terrific writer.

The Beekeeper’s Daughter has won recognition in the following:

  •  2016 Unpublished Maggie Award for Excellence (Georgia RWA) in the Inspirational Romance category, 3rd place
  •  2016 Orange County Chapter Romance Writers of America’s Orange Rose Contest, Inspirational Romance category, 3rd place
  •  2016 Beacon Contest finalist, First Coast Romance Writers (Jacksonville, FL), Inspirational Romance category, 2nd place
  • 2017 Fab Five Finalist, Wisconsin Romance Writers of America, Inspirational Category, Finalist.

And now, please welcome writer, Angela Arndt. Angie, please tell us a little about yourself.

Framed-Headshot-101416 Angela ArndtI’m married, with two step-children and five grandchildren. Hubby is a beekeeper and we love living back in the woods with our three dogs. I have a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design and a Master’s in Education. Before leaving the corporate world, I was a trainer and curriculum writer.

When I retired because of my health problems, God placed the desire to write in my heart and now that is my job. I love it!

Sounds like a beautiful and blessed life! This month’s theme is Peace. Please share your thoughts with our readers.

Oh, wow. Peace is such a nebulous thing unless you’re squared away with God. The only way to have true peace is to be in the center of His wheel (to borrow your phrase). It’s true: if you’re not doing His will – what He created you to do – you’ll never be happy and at peace. It always amazes me how God gives us that “peace that passes all understanding” even when we should be wringing our hands in sorrow or worry. If we give all our worries to Him, even if it means do it over-and-over again on a minute-by-minute basis, He will keep our hearts at peace.

I agree, my friend. Now, life is a continual journey of learning, applying, and transforming. Have you ever experienced a season when you found it difficult to have peace? If so, how did you overcome?

Oh yes. Without going into a lot of detail, I’m estranged from a member of my family that I love very much. After it happened, I literally cried for two weeks. (Now I know what “being a basket case means.”) While going through all the stages of grief (denial, anger, etc.), I prayed for God to “fix it,” but He didn’t.

Fiction writers thrive on “what if,” but in this case it was getting me into trouble. I kept second-guessing the situation, asking what if I’d done things differently, who else was involved, should I do this or that. I finally realized the best scenario was to put the situation out of my hands and into God’s.

That’s where it is now. I still love her, but nothing’s changed. I have to believe that someday she’ll know the truth. While I don’t have peace about the situation, I do have total peace that God is in control.

Thank you for sharing that, Angie. I’m sure there is someone who needed to hear your testimony today. For my next question, please tell us in what genre do you write and how does your faith influence your writing?

In Christian fiction, we call it women’s fiction, but I really write Southern literary fiction. That genre explores the depths of complex, sometimes eccentric, characters set in the heat, humidity, and paradise that I call home.

The crux of literary fiction is showing how a character changes when placed in heart-rending situations. And I believe that in order for someone to change – a real heart-change –God has to do that work.

When I was an art major, I designed and cast a silver ring in jewelry-making class. First I designed it on paper, then make a mold from wax. Next was the casting process where I melted the silver down on an asbestos pad. It was beautiful and actually glowed! But all the impurities floated to the top, so I had to pull a graphite rod through its heart to gather up all those faults. Finally, I poured the liquid metal into a centrifuge with the mold and spun it so that the hot metal melted through the old wax, replacing it with a purified, gleaming silver ring.

That’s the work God does in our lives. He purifies our hearts, but in order to do it, He turns up the heat and uses the rod on us!

And that’s what I do to my characters, too. 🙂

Angie, thank you so much for visiting and sharing your heart with us!

To connect with Angie visit:

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Making a List

Can you believe we begin counting down to Christmas tomorrow? Twenty-five days! Oh, how time flies when you’re having fun with family! To begin the holiday season, I want to share a few ideas for your reading and gift lists to get you in the mood. I’ll begin with the newest release available tomorrow.

  1. Mistletoe Mountain by Dora Hiers – 5 stars

mistletoe-mountain-dora-hiersBook Blurb: After college, Kane Kirkland returned home to Mistletoe Mountain a changed man, fifty pounds lighter and a new Christian. Six years later, with a successful real estate career and a fresh boost of confidence, all he wants for Christmas is a chance at love with longtime crush Sydney. Something happened to his friend while he was away. Something dark and life-altering ripped the joy from her spirit. And he intends to find out what…

After a disastrous relationship unraveled Sydney Camden’s life, broken and devastated, she gave up all hope for her happily-ever-after. Those silly fantasies belonged only in romance novels, not in real life. Besides, who has time for love? Her life is crazy busy caring for a disabled father and volunteering at Grace Nest, a home for pregnant teens. But then Kane turns up the heat. The gentle giant has always attracted her, but the idea of loving and losing her friend terrifies her. Because when he learns about her hidden sin, surely he’ll vanish from her life forever.

A snowstorm forces them together and unleashes their fears. Kane worries if Syd still sees him as the overweight kid from their past and questions whether a future together is God’s will or his most treasured dream. Syd wrestles the demon of lies as she relives horrendous memories.

Grace Nest…where broken hearts heal, chains are loosened, and hope is restored. Where love finds its way home during Christmas.

  1. Yuletide Angel by Sandra Ardoin -5 stars

yuletide-angelBook Blurb: It’s Christmastime in 1890s Meadowmead, and someone is venturing out at night to leave packages at the homes of the needy. Dubbed The Yuletide Angel, no one knows the identity of this mysterious benefactor.

No one, except Hugh Barnes, a confirmed bachelor who finds himself drawn to the outwardly shy but inwardly bold Violet Madison, a young woman who risks her safety to help others.

When Violet confesses her fear of eviction from her childhood home, Hugh longs to rescue her. His good intentions are thwarted, however, when Hugh’s estranged brother shows up in town … and in Violet’s company.

But Violet faces an even bigger threat. A phantom figure lurks in the shadows, prepared to clip the wings of The Yuletide Angel.

  1. Pieces On Earth by Cathy Bryant – 5 stars

pieces-on-earthBook Blurb: A young mother and wife of a naval aviator longs for a white Christmas, and she doesn’t mean yet another white Christmas beach near where her husband is stationed. Grateful for a recent promotion that should keep her man stateside, Liv eagerly anticipates the first family Christmas in several years with her husband, daughter, and extended family.

Then her military marriage undergoes trial by fire as her husband is deployed for an undetermined amount of time right before the holidays, leaving Liv and her little girl in pieces.

Can Liv find God’s peace in the midst of life’s pieces? Or will the anxiety and secret she’s harboring lead to tragedy?

  1. A Christmas Gift for Rose by Tricia Goyer – 5 stars

a-christmas-gift-for-roseBook Blurb: Rose turned her back on the man she loves after he assisted the Englisch during World War II―only to discover she’s an Englischer herself.

Born in the midst of the hardships of The Great Depression, Rose grew up in Berlin, Ohio, in the arms of a loving Amish family. But she is overwhelmed by self-doubt when she learns that she was born Englisch and abandoned when her family moved West in search of work.

Was she meant to be Amish or would she have been better off growing up with her own kind―Englischers? When the man she loves leaves her behind, Rose is certain he left for good. Yet Rose discovers sometimes our greatest gifts are the ones we fear.

  1. A Patchwork Christmas Collection by Judith Miller, Nancy Moser, Stephanie Grace Whitson – 5 stars

a-patchwork-christmas-collectionBook Blurb: Join three of today’s bestselling inspirational fiction authors in a collection of Christmas stories from Victorian-era America that are full of second-chance romances. Jilted by her fiancé, Karla packs away her wedding quilts and her plans for marriage. Widow Jane travels to marry a prosperous man she barely knows in order to give her daughter a better life—then is stranded in a winter storm. Victoria, a wealthy ingénue, inadvertently causes grave injury to a poor man she once considered quite a catch. Each must search her heart, change her plans. . .and patch together a tender, unexpected life filled with love.

  1. A Prairie Christmas Collection by Tracie Peterson, Tracey Bateman, Deborah Raney, Pamela Griffin, JoAnn A. Grote, Maryn Langer, Darlene Mindrup, Janet Spaeth, Jill Stengl – 5 stars

a-prairie-christmas-collectionBook Blurb: Experience Christmas on the historical American Great Plains as retold by nine different multi-published authors, including Tracie Peterson and Deborah Raney. Follow pioneers, immigrants, and orphans through their adventures, heartaches, challenges, victories, and romances. You are sure to find more than one favorite among the nine holiday romances in this unique collection to warm your heart and inspire your faith.

What is your favorite fictional story to read during the holidays?

Sarah’s Smile ~ Dawn Kinzer

I have been waiting for this book for quite some time. And I can tell you it was worth every minute of the wait! Dawn Kinzer held nothing back in her first novel, Sarah’s Smile. Don’t you just love that cover? I do. Sarah’s Smile is available for pre-order. The release date is October 14. Thursday! Let me tell you about the story.

14671105_10209383243651205_4309553720707887664_nForsaken by her parents and Peter Caswell, Sarah McCall lives with a bitter grandmother in a town filled with nothing but bad memories she had no part in making. Desiring to leave it all behind, Sarah makes plans for a mission trip to Africa.

But when her childhood sweetheart and widower, Peter Caswell, comes back to town as the new pastor, Sarah begins to rethink her plans. When she receives a denial from the Mission Board, Sarah believes God is giving her another chance with Peter.

With hope renewed once more, Sarah sets her heart on a future with Peter but quickly finds the past isn’t the only thing between them when others in the town make plans to keep them apart. Will Sarah finally let go of the past and embrace a future with Peter? Will Peter finally man-up and fight for Sarah?

Of course, we know the real question isn’t will or if, but when and how.

My Thoughts

Where do I begin?

This story touched me on so many levels. The inner child in me empathized with Sarah’s pain. The reader lived the story. The woman of God experienced the Message, meticulously woven throughout the lives of the characters. And finally, the writer appreciated the author’s ability to make her forget it was only a story. And that is almost impossible to do!

Another thing I liked about this story is Sarah and Peter may have argued, but they didn’t allow misunderstandings to go all the way to the end of the book. And clarification of a simple misunderstanding wasn’t what brought these two together. Their relationship naturally grew out of their mutual love for helping others in their community.

I also liked the fact that I couldn’t figure out how on earth Peter and Sarah would get out of the mess created by a sanctimonious busybody. Would Peter, as the community leader, resolve the wrong done to Sarah? Could Sarah convince others of her innocence? The reveal was a complete surprise! Bravo!

Sarah’s Smile has it all: a heroine, a shepherd, an addicted lost soul, the tormented soul, the self-righteous saint, and the down-to-earth town folks. Who could ask for more? I couldn’t. Dawn Kinzer is now on my must-read list, and I’m looking forward to the next installment in the Riverton Series, Hope’s Design.

My rating:

  • One star for an exceptional plot.
  • One star for well-rounded characters.
  • One star for a charming setting.
  • One star for effortlessly sharing the gospel.
  • One star for the epilogue!

 

Note: I received a free copy of Sarah’s Smile for an honest review.

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A Reluctant Melody ~ Sandra Ardoin

ARM Cover

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Gail: I’m excited to have with me today, Sandra Ardoin, author of The Yuletide Angel and her latest A Reluctant Melody. And let me take this moment to say if you haven’t read it you don’t know what you’re missing. I recommend picking up a copy today for your next summer read.

 Hello, Sandy. Glad you could stop by and talk with us. I loved A Reluctant Melody! It had everything you could want in a novel. History, Suspense, Romance, and the Gospel. I enjoyed watching your characters grow in their Christian walk.

For those who haven’t had the chance to read it, would you please take this moment and tell us a little about it.

Sandra: Thank you for your kind words, Gail, and thank you for having me on your blog.

A Reluctant Melody is set in North Carolina in 1892. It’s a story of two people with a shared and sorry past. Joanna is haunted by the consequences of her sins. Kit knows he’s been forgiven of his sins, but can’t give up the idea of atoning for them. It’s a story of grace, redemption, and second chances. Here’s the back cover copy, which explains a little more:

Kit Barnes’ alcoholism ruined more lives than his own. Now sober, he wants to make amends by opening a mission for drunkards. But the most suitable location belongs to Joanna Cranston Stewart, a love from his sordid past.

Friends of her late husband blame Joanna for his death. Although eager to flee from the rumors, she will let the walls of her rundown property crumble around her before she allows Kit back into her life.

When a blackmailer threatens to reveal Joanna’s long-held secret, will she risk losing everything she owns to Kit … including her heart?

Gail: Nothing like a second chance story. In fact, it’s the story of our lives. I absolutely love reading them. I would love to hear why you chose to write one.

This story began with the Christmas novella The Yuletide Angel. I needed a problem for my hero Hugh, so I created a drunken brother, a rift between them, and a need for forgiveness. I decided to reform that brother (spiritually and physically) and have him visit Hugh, forcing Hugh to either forgive Kit for once dallying with the woman he’d hoped to wed (the rift), or not. If so, the brothers are given a second chance at a relationship.

As I wrote the novella, I became curious about Kit’s relationship with Joanna, the woman who caused the estrangement between the brothers. I guess I’m just a romantic, but I saw them as needing to be together and knew I had to write her story. In A Reluctant Melody, Joanna is in dire need of a second chance at understanding salvation and living a good life, however, she can’t see Kit being part of either one. However…well, it is a love story.

Gail: I know when I’m researching a story, truths often fall into my lap that I wasn’t looking for, but somehow it was the very thing I needed for the story and for myself. While researching the spiritual thread, did you come across something that made an impact on you?

You’re so right when you say truths fall into your lap. I love it when I’m working on a manuscript and the pastor says something during a sermon or I read something in my daily reading that stands out and I know the gist of it has to be put into my story. To me, those are faith-building moments, times when I witness God as my writing partner.

For A Reluctant Melody, I think the spiritual thread that stands out to me is Kit’s thinking he has to make amends for his mistakes in order to make everything right. Yes, there are consequences for sin, but he can’t “make everything right” and neither can we. He can’t do something good and wash away the past. Only Jesus can do that.

Personally, I’ve found my faith and my Biblical knowledge has grown stronger as I’ve written of characters who find that God can bring them through their struggles.

Gail: Let’s talk about research. I love history. I could get lost in researching the past! Of course, I know you love old pictures. What else did you do to prepare for your story?

Ha! Yes, I think my Facebook page shows how much I love the old photographs.

In choosing my setting, I came across information about a community in Charlotte, NC, and its creation. It had some unique elements—a park and manmade lake with recreational activities, a variety of housing and businesses, stops on the trolley system. Then, I spent a while drawing a map of my fictional town so I’d have my directions right in the story and could picture the sights my characters saw as they traveled from one place to another.

I also used a business directory for my area. In it, businesses were listed (both types and names), churches, government and law enforcement offices/titles, products raised and made. It was a wealth of information and allowed me to add little historical tidbits to the story as well as choose to center things around a broom factory. I researched the industry and watched numerous videos about the craft of broom-making. That was fun.

Gail: I enjoyed getting to know all of your characters. Not just Kit and Joanna, but the supporting cast. What made you decide to incorporate a used up boxer?

Ah, Donovan “Dynamite” O’Connor. What a sweet guy…sort of. As a writer, you know you can be writing along, minding your own business, when bam!, an unplanned character pops up. As Kit walked through town, he came across a man sleeping in an alley. The next thing I knew, the man hit him—not through meanness, it was simply a reaction when Kit tried to wake him from a sound sleep after a night of drinking. I asked myself why someone would strike out like that at a total stranger for no reason. That’s when I realized Dynamite was a former fighter down on his luck. He turned into an important player in the story and one of my favorite characters. Don’t you love it when that kind of thing happens?

 Gail: I noticed Joanna’s love for music and her propensity to play an imaginary piano on her lap. Do you play?

I don’t play any instrument, but my daughter took piano lessons for years and we own a piano. However, I love music and will often surreptitiously “direct” the choir while seated in the pew. J Joanna has an amazing ability, but playing is also her way of escaping things that trouble her. So when she’s nervous or in the midst of some kind of difficulty, she plays the piano, even when one isn’t around.

Gail: Thank you, so much, for sharing your thoughts with us today, Sandy! Congratulations on the 5-star reviews. I’m looking forward to your next project.

 

Sandra Ardoin_HeadshotSandra Ardoin writes inspirational historical romance. She’s the author of The Yuletide Angel and A Reluctant Melody. A wife and mom, she’s also a reader, football fan, NASCAR watcher, garden planter, country music listener, and antique store prowler. Visit her at www.sandraardoin.com and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Join her email community to receive occasional updates and a free short story.

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Mist Of Midnight ~Sandra Byrd

I am pleased to have my friend and mentor, the lovely Sandra Byrd with me today. Her book, Mist of Midnight, is on sale for $1.99 for your Kindle and Nook. If you haven’t read it, I assure you it will make the perfect summer read. One of the things I love about Sandra’s writing is what she doesn’t say. Woven within the text is a treasure trove of wisdom if you only look for it. While reading Mist of Midnight, I thought of all the ministers and the sacrifices they’ve willingly made for the gospel. Now, let’s chat with Sandra.

 

Tell us about Mist of Midnight

 In the first of a brand-new series set in Victorian England, a young woman returns home from India after the death of her family to discover her identity and inheritance are challenged by the man who holds her future in his hands.

 Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her…and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca’s name, but her home and incomes.

 That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father’s investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives—does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, will she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?

 A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger, Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless.

 

How did Mist of Midnight get started?

My interest in this particular story ignited when I read a biography of the first wife of the man often considered the Father of Missions, William Carey. Dorothy Carey was an unwilling missionary. She did not want to leave England, but her husband persisted and planned to take their oldest son with him, perhaps forever, leaving her home with the younger children. Dorothy was finally convinced to, perhaps bullied into, accompany her husband. Suffering first from what we could would call depression, she was an unhappy woman who was locked inside, crying, while her husband baptized their son and his first Indian convert. Her illness progressed and she ended her days in paranoia, psychosis, and misery after the death of their son Peter from dysentery, which she herself suffered from throughout her life. Carey, who seemed to have been both driven and a man seeking relief for as well as confinement for his wife, went on to marry another woman after Dorothy’s death, a woman suited to missions work. They lived and worked together happily.

This interest next led me to the Mault family. Among the earliest missionaries from England to India, sent from the London Missionary Society, both Charles and Margaret Mault were admirably, happily, suited to missionary work. They joined Margaret’s brother, Charles Mead, and his wife in South India. Mrs. Mead and Mrs. Mault worked together to open schools which taught both academic and practical subjects to girls in a state where girls never went to school. Mrs. Mault, an accomplished lace maker from Honiton, shared her skill. Lace-making offered Indian girls financial freedom, dignity, and the ability to climb the social, if not the caste, ladder. Their lace was proudly displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London and sold throughout the world.

 

Tell us about your research process.

I begin by reading, mainly nonfiction material that covers the era I’m writing in. I immerse myself in the language of the era, its customs and mannerisms. How did women dress, and what were their hopes and expectations, their limitations, which are often different from our own? I visit as many sites, personally, as I can, so I spent some time in Hampshire, England. I visited the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, where the London Missionary Society archives are held, and read the actual letters written to and from the missionaries to India. Finally, I engage a historical research assistant who lives in the area in which I write and is an historical expert, to ensure my English people sound English and my facts and customs are all straight.

 

What impact did your research have on you personally?

It was powerful to read the words of those missionary women in their own hands. The letters were written on the thinnest parchment possible, and then the papers were turned sideways and written across again, angularly, to make the most of the paper space. They worked very hard, they suffered and gave their all in service to Christ. Most of them did not realize the extent of their impact in their lifetimes, but we can see it now. It was an effective and encouraging lesson in planting, hoeing, and watering knowing that God will reap, though we may not see it right away.

 

How do you see yourself in your character’s story, if at all?

I think all of us, as believers, wonder why bad things happen to good people, and why it seems as though the Lord has abandoned us at a moment when we most need Him. To live through, and then show on the page, the truth that He is always with us even if we don’t sense his presence and attention was restorative to me, and I hope it will be to readers, too.

 

Will we know what happens to your character after the end of the book?

Absolutely. This is a complete story, including a little epilogue. The book launches a series of three books in the same genre (Gothic romance) set in the same era and area (Victorian England) but each book has its own set of characters and story arc.

 

Where can readers find you online?

Please visit me at www.sandrabyrd.com, or to connect on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’ve love to visit your book club via Skype.

PR-Photo Sandra Byrd pic

After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published in April, 2013

Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens, including a best-selling devotional.

Mist of midnight

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