Gail's Book Nook

Monday, March 31, 2014

Looking Out the Window: Mental Health Counselor Weaves Inspirational Romance about a War Veteran Amputee with PTSD. Connie Almony Tackles a Tough Problem Faced Today.

Connie will give away a print copy (U.S. Only) OR an e-book--winner's choice. To enter to win leave a comment and an e-mail address below.

It's a pleasure to have Connie today. Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am trained as a mental health counselor and though I no longer see clients, I still work at a Christian counseling facility. I’ve been married over twenty years to a man who inspires the mischievous banter of my hero and heroine. I also have two children who model the quirkiness of my more colorful characters.

Lots of writers liked to read as children. Were you an avid reader as a child? What did you read?

Okay, this is where all you avid-reading-child-people cringe … I watched WAY too much T.V. and read mostly non-fiction as a child. I know—it’s awful!!! But then I hit twenty, and found some books that interested me.

Eventually, I started reading classic 19th century literature (I LOVE Jane Austin, George MacDonald and Charles Dickens) and finally read many of the children’s books I’d missed when I was young. I consume books now!!! My kids used to cry when I lifted a novel because that meant they couldn’t talk to me for a good long while. In my late twenties, I discovered what it really meant to be a Christian and began to study the Bible and its relevance in my daily life. When I found Christian music and Christian fiction it was almost like sinking into a Calgon bath—ahhhh. I rarely read or listen to anything else now. I needed to fill a spiritual pit that had been empty for so long. Now, I have something worthwhile to put there.

Ah, that's great. What about writing, why do you write?

I think the real answer is, “Because I have to!” I’ve written off and on as long as I can remember, but really became inspired watching my prolific daughter write stories (from the minute she could sound out words) and make them sing. A few years ago I helped her brainstorm ideas for a school project, a Cinderella story set in Greece, and got the bug, myself. I watched her use some of our ideas to create a beautiful story, but most of all grieved the ideas she left behind. It was at that point I decided to write seriously, and I’ve never looked back!

Thanks for sharing that neat story. Tell us about your latest book.

Cole Harrison, a war veteran, wears his disfigurement like a barrier to those who might love him, shielding them from the ugliness inside. He agrees to try and potentially invest in, a prototype prosthetic with the goal of saving a hopeless man’s dreams.

Carly Rose contracts to live with Cole and train him to use his new limbs, only to discover the darkness that wars against the man he could become.

At the Edge of a Dark Forest is a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Only it is not her love that will make him whole.

What an inspirational storyline. What inspired you to write this particular book?

This book began from an idea to do a series with my critique partners, based on Fairytales without the magic. My critique partners include June Foster, Mildred Colvin, Vanessa Riley, and … uh … what was her name again? Help me out here, Gail. Oh! Gail Pallotta!!! I’ve always been intrigued with the story of Beauty and the Beast because of the element of loving someone for their insides and not their looks. However, as a counselor who’s worked with abused women who’ve chosen projects, as boyfriends, rather than soul mates, I’m always concerned about encouraging the idea that it is a woman’s job to change a man with her love. So, in At the Edge of a Dark Forest, it’s not Carly’s love that makes him whole.

We call this series “Fairwilde Reflections.” A new fairytale will be released each month by one of my critique partners. Check the schedule here.

As I mentioned above, I’ve always loved the story of Beauty and the Beast. I had to figure out how this man would be a beast, and how could he be transformed without magic. After having done a Military Ministries Series on my blog Living the Body of Christ a couple of years ago, I’ve been particularly moved by the many ways our veterans have sacrificed so we could be free. That’s how the idea of a war-vet, amputee with PTSD came to mind. Carly, the female protagonist is a physical therapist who’s developed an innovative prosthetic socket design. I got the socket design from a youtube video showing how it worked, and spoke to someone from the company who manufactures it. If you want to learn more about this socket design, go to the website. It’s really quite amazing!

LOL, about the critique partner. I'm glad you brought it up. It gives me the opportunity to say I've read the book and can highly recommend it. Where do you get ideas for your books?

My first manuscript was inspired by my time living in an all-male dorm when I was a grad student. I ran the building and was the only female among 500, hard-partying, testosterone-laden, young men. It was quite the experience. The second in that series was inspired by my work as a counselor with women who’d had abortions. When describing the actual event, I discovered, for many it was the most traumatic event in their lives, even though, at the time, they had believed it was the right thing to do. I wanted to capture that. So I guess you can say I get my ideas from life.

How do you get to know your characters?

I need to sort of marinate in their world. It’s hard for my family to talk to me when I’m developing stories because I am often in “story world” unless called out to cook dinner or—gasp—clean the house.

I often joke that I take on mannerisms of the character least like me. While writing a guy with long wavy blonde hair who was a rock musician, I began to dress differently (daughter called me “rock n roll mom”) and my usually straight hair took on waves. In the next story about an exotically beautiful flirt, my hair developed spiral curls at the base of my neck and I caught myself winking at people. I used to think this was cool until, as I began writing At the Edge of a Dark Forest, my hair began to fall out in the shower. I gasped when it dawned on me the character least like me in this story is bald!

LOL. I'm glad you finished before you lost all your hair. Are you a plotter or a pantzer?
I’m a Snowflaker—using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. No, I didn’t say “flaky,” though some might assume that is true. I think global-to-specific, intuitive, top-down. I often don’t even write my stories in order. I might start with pivotal scenes and fill in other scenes like glue, pasting them all together at the end.

Does your faith affect your writing? If so, how?

Sure it does. I could never write a story where God didn’t play a major role. That’s how He fits into my world. If I were to write without Him it would feel flat and shallow--meaningless.

I never wanted to write stories that preached at people or where people were getting saved at the end. I always intend to write a simple romance involving two people who happen to be Christians.

However, in the world where I grew up, there were not a lot of actively Christian people who made faith a priority in their lives, let alone a potential love interest. So it’s always hard for me to develop a setting where two devout Christians just happen to meet in a highly secular area. So, in the end I often write about one character who has some level of faith and another who is practically oblivious to the real Jesus of the Bible. They say write what you know and that’s what I know—the constant clash between these two worlds.

I recently read a blog where an agent wrote she was sick of salvation stories. Her reasoning was that there is more to life than the actual moment of when one gets saved. She asked, “What happens to the character after that moment?” Well, in a highly secular world, though the now Christian will not need to be saved again, hopefully, she will witness others doing the same. That WILL BE part of her story. What is the Great Commission after all? My sister became a Christian a few years ago. She has the gift of evangelism. She tells me a new salvation story every week! She inspires me to write about these moments in other’s lives.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Hmmm. What should I share? (Connie scratches chin)
I’ve got it!
You know how movies always portray romance writers with their hair pulled up in a sloppy bun, wearing yoga pants (or sweats) and an old, beat up “grandma” sweater? That’s me. I think there’s a magic in it. You cannot write a good romance without the uniform. My grandma sweater was even once my grandma’s. Only it didn’t get all the holes in it until I started wearing it. If I’m not careful putting it on, my hand will go right through the hole in the elbow. But still, it’s very cozy and makes me feel close to my grandmother who is now with God (probably telling Him what to do). 

Thanks for sharing, Connie.

Author Bio:
Connie Almony is trained as a mental health therapist and likes to mix a little fun with the serious stuff of life. She was a 2012 semi-finalist in the Genesis Contest for Women’s Fiction and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest. Her newest release, At the Edge of a Dark Forest, is a modern-day re-telling of Beauty and the Beast about a war-vet, amputee struggling with PTSD.

You can find Connie on the web, writing book reviews for Jesus Freak Hideout, and hosting the following blogs: Infinite Characters and Living the Body of Chist

You can also meet her on the following social media outlets:


Buy At the Edge of a Dark Forest at: amazon and smashwords

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Winner of Londonderry Dreaming

Thanks to everyone for visiting! It was difficult to choose a winner. This time I scrambled up names and picked.

Hats and Horns...


Come by on Monday, March 31st to read about Connie Almony's re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, At the Edge of a Dark Forest. See you then.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Looking Out the Window: Londonderry Dreaming, Pavlova, and an Irish Blessing--All from Christine Lindsay Plus a Give Away

A warm welcome to Christine Lindsay! She'll give away an e-book of Londonderry Dreaming. To enter to win leave a comment and an e-mail address below.

by Christine Lindsay

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, I can’t think of anything more perfect than to share with you a dessert that I discovered in Ireland when I was visiting family there in 1988. The funny thing is, the dessert Pavlova originated in New Zealand. But Northern Ireland (the six counties in the northeast) is still a part of Great Britain to this day, so it’s only natural that a dessert from another British Commonwealth country should be one of their favorites.

Writing the romance novella Londonderry Dreaming of the Passport to Romance line was such a hoot for me. Being born in N. Ireland, and all my relatives still living there, I simply had to write this book when I saw the call for submission by Pelican Books for a romance set in the city of Londonderry. I’ve been there. I know the people. I know their sense of blarney. Oh my…do I know their blarney, and I hope that shows in the book’s humor. And it was in Londonderry, in the ancient church St. Augustine’s, that the Lord comforted me when my heart was low.

(Sarah and Lana right as bookends.)

It was a few years after my reunion with my birthdaughter, Sarah, the child I had relinquished to adoption when she was three days old, and reunited with 20 years later in 1999.  But the close relationship I wanted with my birthdaughter didn’t seem to be happening. I had even planned a trip together for Sarah and my daughter Lana, and me, to Ireland in 2006 to hopefully draw us all closer.
Sadly, Sarah had to cancel out of the trip, and Lana and I went to Ireland just the two of us. We had a wonderful time, though we missed Sarah. It was in that ancient church in Londonderry that I saw the stained glass windows portraying the biblical Ruth and Naomi.

The Lord whispered to my heart that the close bond between Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi was arranged by Him. I took comfort in that lovely glass window that shared a biblical truth. All good things come from God—even the relationships we long for, such as that between an adult daughter and the mother who gave birth to her.

That Ruth and Naomi window was the inspiration behind my romance novella Londonderry Dreaming. And it is in this story that my character Naomi eats her favorite dessert that she always gets in Ireland when she visits—Pavlova, named after the famous ballerina. The hero of the story, Keith, remembers that this is Naomi’s favorite dessert too.

So, with St. Patrick’s day on March 17, just around the corner, may I take this moment to wish you this old Irish blessing: (Water below rope bridge pictured below.)

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Below you will find an easy recipe for Pavlova from the internet. But for now, let me share the back of the book for Londonderry Dreaming.

Acclaimed New York artist, Naomi Boyd, and music therapist, Keith Wilson, loved one another five years ago, until her grandfather with his influence over Naomi separated them.

That root of bitterness keeps them apart until a letter from Keith’s grandmother, Ruth, draws Naomi to Londonderry to find she’s too late. Ruth has passed on. After the death of his beloved grandmother, Keith has also come to Londonderry only to open the door to his past…Naomi...beautiful as ever, the girl who broke his heart.

A mysterious painting in Ruth’s attic brings up questions about their grandparents’ entwined past and their own broken romance. But more comfortable with the unspoken languages of art and music, Naomi and Keith find it difficult to share their old hurts and true feelings.

Will the majestic coastline of Northern Ireland inspire them to speak the words to bring peace to their grandparents’ memory and to rekindle love?

Spiritual takeaway from Londonderry Dreaming:

Just as Jesus is the Word that became flesh to heal our relationship with God, words are needed to heal relationships with others. We must speak the truth in love. Ephesians 4:15 (NIV) “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”


"In this elegant dessert, a crisp white meringue layer is filled with whipped cream and fresh fruit. To keep your meringue from being flat and grainy, try beating egg whites until stiff but not dry. Overbeaten egg whites lose volume and deflate when folded into other ingredients. Also, when beating in sugar, beat in about 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well between each addition. Then beat until meringue is thick, white and glossy. Be absolutely sure not a particle of grease or egg yolk gets into the whites."

Original recipe makes 1 pavlova

4 egg whites
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pint heavy cream
6 kiwi, peeled and sliced (or any other fruit you like)
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw a 9-inch circle on the parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gradually add in the sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until thick and glossy. Gently fold in vanilla extract, lemon juice, and cornstarch.
3. Spoon mixture inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper. Working from the center, spread mixture toward the outside edge, building edge slightly. This should leave a slight depression in the center.
4. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack.
5. In a small bowl, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form; set aside. Remove the paper, and place meringue on a flat serving plate. Fill the center of the meringue with whipped cream, and top with kiwifruit slices.
• PREP 30 mins
• COOK 1 hr
• READY IN 2 hrs
• Other fresh fruit may be substituted for kiwi, like sliced strawberries, pineapple, mango, or a combination thereof. If you prefer sweetened whipped cream, you may add two teaspoons of sugar while whipping the cream, or to taste.

Christine Lindsay was born in Ireland, and is proud of the fact that she was once patted on the head by Prince Philip when she was a baby. Her great grandfather, and her grandfather—yes father and son—were both riveters on the building of the Titanic. Tongue in cheek, Christine states that as a family they accept no responsibility for the sinking of that great ship.

It was stories of her ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India that inspired her Multi-award-winning, historical series Twilight of the British Raj. Book 1 Shadowed in Silk, Book 2 Captured by Moonlight, and Christine is currently writing the final installment of that series called Veiled at Midnight to be released August 2014.

Christine makes her home in British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada with her husband and their grown up family. Her cat Scottie is chief editor on all Christine’s books.


Please drop by Christine’s blog site or follow her on Twitter and be her friend on Pinterest and Facebook and Goodreads

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Winner of Ryan's Father

Thanks to everyone for coming by to read about June Foster's book, Ryan's Father.

It was hard to choose a winner, so I got help from my hubby.

He came up with...

Hats and Horns...

Congratulations, Jennifer!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Looking Out the Window: June Foster Discusses Her New Book, Ryan's Father. Offers Give Away.

Welcome June Foster, a retired teacher with a BA in Education and a MA in counseling. June will give away an e-book of Ryan’s Father. To enter to win leave a comment and e-mail address below.

It’s a pleasure to have you! Tell us about your latest book.

The rippling influence of Ryan Reid’s immoral mother and absent father makes a mark on his soul leaving him to battle with same sex attraction. When the young school teacher accepts Christ in his life, he thinks he’ll be free though no amount of prayer changes him. Ryan rejects the lifestyle, yet in his heart he knows he’s committed the sin.

Nurse Sandy Arrington still resides at home held captive by her secret fears. Her dream to be a wife and mother looks bleak.

When Sandy falls in love with Ryan, he’s powerless to return her love. Can Ryan dig his way out to find the freedom to love Sandy? Can Sandy find release from her fears?

That’s a tough subject. What inspired you to write this particular book?

When I write my novels, I want to entertain but at the same time communicate an important truth the Lord sets forth in the Bible. In Ryan's Father, Ryan is a young Christian teacher who grew up with no father and a less than moral mother. He begins to realize he doesn't have an attraction to women and eventually must admit he struggles with same sex attraction. The story tells Ryan's journey in dealing with the sin of homosexuality. I have a person in my family who is openly gay. But Ryan's story was inspired by a precious young Christian teen, friend of my daughter's in high school, who confided in me that he felt attraction to another boy in our church.

What are you working on right now?

I have two books I'm seeking contracts for. For All Eternity and Misty Hollow. Here's a couple of blurbs.

For All Eternity. When Joella Crawford meets the handsome accountant, JD Neilson, he's the man of her dreams—polite and clean cut with strong moral values.  He's the perfect Christian man. Or is he?

Misty Hollow - Appalachian farmer, Joel Greenfield, must hide a shameful secret from the beautiful anthropologist who whirls into his life. If Molly Cambridge's study of Joel's mountain village fails, her career is over.

An Excerpt from Ryan's Father 

The walls at Starbucks groaned and crunched. The cardboard cup of steaming coffee flew from Ryan's hand and spilled onto the tile. His body swayed as his foot slid out from under him on the undulating floor. He caught himself against a chair.

"What's happening?" A scream behind him split the air. "Help me."

He spun toward the woman's cries.

She tottered in the center of the room, eyes round and mouth wide. Her hands gripped her pale face.
Sympathy sifted through his own fear.

"Take cover, everybody," the barista yelled from the coffee bar. The strong smell of espresso filled the room.

"Quick. Under here." Ryan grabbed the panicked young woman's arm and pulled her beneath a wobbling table. "Hold on to one of the legs."

"Please don't let me die." The slender dark-haired woman's face contorted as she sobbed beside him on the floor.

Ryan's normal sense of calm abandoned him. Fear gripped his emotions. He sucked in a breath. Would they survive or be crushed by the walls caving in upon them?

The shaking earth seemed relentless. A bag of coffee toppled from the counter and split, spraying brown beans across the quaking floor.

"God, please help me." Terror shrilled her piteous wails. She grabbed him, holding on tight.

"It's okay. It'll be over in a minute." Ryan closed his eyes. Almost as an instinct the prayer sprung out of his spirit. "Lord, we need your protection. Please calm us and keep us safe." The words to God appeased his own fright, but more than that, he hoped they would quiet the woman's anxiety.
The incessant rolling refused to let up. A display case toppled to the floor with a crash and coffeemakers, mugs, and tins of tea flew in all directions. The woman tightened her clutch around his shoulders. The aroma of flowers wafted over him.

The room shook, and so did his thoughts. Most people would've chosen to hold on to a table leg, but she continued to cling to him. She sucked in air and exhaled in jagged spurts, no attempts at deep breathing. It wasn't hard to recognize irrational behavior. Could be a phobia related to the natural environment.

How should he attempt to comfort her? His hand hovered over her shoulder then gave it a pat or two. "Don't worry, ma'am, God is in control. Try to breathe." Thank goodness, his voice didn't sound as shaky as his stomach felt.

Bottles of coffee flavors flew from a shelf behind the bar and landed with a thud. Shattering glass startled him. The syrupy aroma of vanilla and hazelnut blended with the dust in the air.

Warm breath fell on his neck. "How . . .  how . . .  much longer?" She tucked her face against his chest. Hot tears soaked into his shirt.

Rising sense of panic threatened to unravel his last fragment of control. Was it the quake or her death grip? "Dear God, see us through this."

He'd walked into Starbucks like any other day. Then the onslaught of the quake was sudden. Now an eternity elapsed since it began. Lord, protect Uncle Frank and each of my students.

The woman gripped him harder. Was she going to pass out? He forced a pat to her shoulder again. "Shh." What else could he say to reassure her?

Cracking and creaking and a crash sliced into his composure. His emotions were at the breaking point, and he wanted to yell, but he had to keep his sanity—for the sake of the frightened person under the table with him.

What if this was the day the Lord called him home? Death didn't frighten him, but the process did.
A piece of drywall fell to the floor exposing the building's frame. His ears rang from her shriek. He hadn't planned to grasp her shoulder when he jolted, yet the gesture brought a shred of comfort.
Almost as quickly as it started, the rocking and pitching ebbed and a semblance of normalcy returned to his world. Was it over? He remained under the table, forcing his heart to slow as his tablemate still clung to him. He couldn't have endured the tremors much longer.

"Oh, thank God, it's stopped." A man's loud voice reverberated off the walls.

"We're okay." Ryan pried at her arms trying to disentangle himself.

Tousled dark hair hung in her eyes. She pushed the strands from her face and attempted a weak smile.
Good. Maybe she'd get a grasp on her emotions now. "Are you okay?"

She nodded. "I . . . guess so."

"Come on. Let's get out from under here." Ryan grasped her arm as they inched out. Starbucks looked like a war zone, tables on edge, chairs broken, the front window shattered.

Water poured into the room through a broken pipe somewhere. Shattered dishes and pastries cluttered the floor. The odor of rotten eggs filled his nostrils—a gas leak.

 Ryan's  favorite scripture is the Biblical basis for June's story.

Romans 6:6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.

June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day – February 1, 2012, As We Forgive – September 1, 2012, and Deliver Us – April 1, 2013, and Hometown Fourth of July – July 1, 2012. June's book, Ryan's Father, is available from WhiteFire Publishing January 2014. Red and the Wolf is available April 2014. For All Eternity and Misty Hollow, God willing, will be published in the near future. June loves to write stories about characters who overcome the issues in their lives by the power of God and His Word. June uses her training in counseling and her Christian beliefs in creating characters who find freedom to live godly lives.

Purchase links for Ryan’s Father    (Amazon)     (Barnes and Noble)