Women of Faith and Fiction ~ Vikki Kestell

Good morning, friends! Glad you’ve joined us for another edition of Women of Faith and Fiction. This morning we welcome Vikki Kestell.

Vikki’s latest series is a sci-fi/fantasy thriller! So without further ado, please give her a warm welcome.

Thank you for joining us here at CHW, Vikki!  Please tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you for having me today! Well, I wrote my first book in 1988 during a very difficult period in my life. Nothing came of that book, but I have a stack of lovely rejection letters in my files. Then, in 1991, I left my husband of twenty years and moved from Montana to New Mexico to be close to family.

I had to figure out how to support my three children, so I went to work, but I also went back to school. Over the next twelve years, I worked and earned a B.A. in English, professional writing, an M.A. in communication, then a Ph.D. In 2012, almost 25 years later, I published that first book, “A Rose Blooms Twice,” on Kindle. Since then, I’ve added seven books to the series and have written two other series. Isn’t God’s timing amazing? After all that education, I’m now back to doing what I started in 1988: writing full time.

I agree, Vikki. God’s timing is amazing! This month’s theme is Kindness. Please share your thoughts with our readers.

Hmm. I’ve come to think that kindness is more an approach to life than merely an attribute. How we make decisions on a daily (even momentary basis) can include or exclude the needs and feelings of others. Kindness is an ongoing awareness of others and their needs. Kindness is related to humility: I am not better (or less) than anyone else, and my needs are not more important than the needs of others. Following the leading of the Holy Spirit is essential to living a kind life.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all followed that line of thought? Now, Vikki, life is a continual journey of learning, applying, and transforming. Have you ever experienced a season when you found it difficult to have kindness toward another? How did you overcome?

Since I am naturally more task-oriented than people-oriented, I can tell you that kindness is hard for me. Being aware of and sensitive to the feelings of others is a battle I’ve fought for decades. But God is good! Spending more time with Jesus—finding and abiding in his heart and his word—is what has changed me.

My life verse is found in 1 Peter 5:6: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” It has taught me that humility is the hallmark of a follower of Jesus, that only when my desires are submitted to him will I be lifted up.

For the record, I think you’re a nice person! 🙂 In what genre do you write and how does your faith influence your writing?

I love a good story, regardless of genre. In the same way that I’m not a one-genre reader, I’m not a one-genre writer. In fact, you could say I’m all over the map!

I have an eight-book historical series (A Prairie Heritage), a follow-on historical series (Girls from the Mountain), a three-book sci-fi/fantasy thriller (Nanostealth), a short story called “The Christian and the Vampire,” and six Bible studies on Christian maturity. See? LOL. I told you I was all over the map!

What will you find in my series, A Prairie Heritage? You will find dauntless, faith-filled immigrants forging new lives on America’s unforgiving plains—and their children challenging the savagery of human trafficking in Denver, circa 1910. Once you arrive at Joy on This Mountain, Book 3 in the series, I promise you will be hooked. I seek to write good, meaty, reads of about 110k words or more. For your readers who are interested in exploring this series, Book 1, A Rose Blooms Twice is free on four major eBook retailers, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo.

My publishing house is “Faith-Filled Fiction.” What all my novels have in common is that they are redemptive in nature—not merely “clean” fiction or “romance” with a little church or Jesus thrown in. My books focus on the realities of life and how Jesus comes into those realities and transforms my characters. Everything about Jesus brings the dead to life—and that’s what I seek to portray in my writing.

“Everything about Jesus brings the dead to life.” I like that statement! Vikki, thank you for sharing your heart and your writing with us.

Click to Tweet: “Everything about Jesus brings the dead to life.” ~ Vikki Kestell

Want to know more about Vikki? Visit:

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Messina: Book 1, The Casa Bella Chronicles ~ Liz Galvano

 

Messina, Sicily December 28th, 1908.

 

Seventy thousand people never woke up. Of the first sixty days after the catastrophe, it rained forty-five, making rescue extremely hazardous for the doctors, nurses and rescue crews. When all was said and done, the death toll estimate stood at two-hundred thousand people. Some details in regard to the earthquake have been changed to help the flow of this story. The overall account of this tragedy, however, remains intact. This is a fictional tale based on historical events, yet by no means represents all that happened in Messina.

This book is dedicated to the men and women who sacrificed themselves willingly to help during this great tragedy, and to those who were lost that fateful night.

My Thoughts

Encouraged to follow her heart, Lucy James studied hard and became a doctor—a surgeon, in fact—only to be looked upon as inferior in 1908 society. But being ostracized didn’t bother Lucy. She never desired to be a member of the boy’s club. All she ever wanted was to heal the sick and hurting.

When Messina is devastated by an earthquake, Lucy quickly volunteers to help in the makeshift hospital. A fact that raises Dr. Giovanni Castello’s blood pressure. Will he permit her to stay long enough to prove her medical expertise?

Giovanni lives in Messina and chooses to stay and help the people. Working in the horrific conditions, he and the new lady doctor does whatever they can to aid the injured, hungry, and homeless. Giovanni questions Lucy’s presence and safety in Messina’s current condition. He needs men capable of taking care of themselves in a world thrown into chaos, not this woman.

Heart-breaking? Gruesome? Riveting? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Thankfully, Galvano doesn’t leave her characters amid the horrors of devastation but sweeps them to the family home of Giovanni’s ancestors where he and Lucy become better acquainted and find hope for the future. But when they think they’ve found happiness, tragedy strikes again.

Galvano has done an excellent job describing the devastation during this historical event. Her characters are well-rounded and likable. I enjoyed the way she allowed their friendship to evolve through the day-to-day triumphs and heartaches.

I confess, Messina was a pleasant surprise. It’s not your ordinary book. So if your reading time has stalled and you’re looking for an out-of-the-box experience, I recommend Messina.

I was given a copy of this book by the author but not required to write a review.

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

Liz Galvano AuthorLiz Galvano has been writing since she was a little girl. Her stories combine old style adventure and romance with a dash of humor. She loves family, food, animals, and all things Italian. Liz lives with her husband Jeff, two rambunctious dogs, two entitled cats, and a horse who thinks she’s a princess.

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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!

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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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