Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Story Behind the Story by Nathan D. Maki and #giveaway

Today we welcome Nathan D. Maki to my blog. Nathan is very graciously givingaway a copy of his new book The Keeper's Crown to one person who comments, USA and Canada only, print or ebook.  Please include contact information. 

Nathan, glad to have you stop by. 

The Story Behind the Story by Nathan D. Maki

“Remember my chains.”

Paul was by nature a free spirit. He refused to be bound by physical limitations, geographical difficulties or borders, or social prejudice. In his missionary journeys he traveled approximately 14,000 kilometers on foot and another 10,000 kilometers by ship! 

He was relentless in his mission to push the Gospel to the far reaches of the Empire. He crossed social lines, a Jew reaching out to the Gentiles. Yet as this man who preached and exercised liberty and freedom prepared to go back to Jerusalem once more for the Day of Pentecost celebration, the Spirit and men of God began to warn him that chains awaited him there.

But Paul was bound before he ever set foot in Jerusalem.

Before the riot broke out. Before the Romans came crashing in with shield and sword and clamped chains on his hands and feet. He was bound in the spirit, because God had told him to go. So knowing that a chain awaited him, still he went. Why? Because he wanted to finish his race with joy, testifying the gospel of grace.

Paul was determined not to be disqualifiedby veering off the God-marked course to take a short cut or an easier road. That’s why at the very end he could write to Timothy with confidence from the dungeon beneath Rome,

“I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up forme a crown of righteousness!”

That is not the last, relieved sigh of an old man glad his suffering is over. No, that is the victorious shout of a marathon runner, who has stayed between the flags marking his course when he could have taken an easier road, has pressed toward the mark, broken through the finish line, and is now ascending the victor’s podium.

Chained in Rome, Paul sat and began writing to the church at Philippi, these beloved believers who had recently sent a love offering to pay for his food and lodging while awaiting trial for two long years.

            Philippians 1:12-14  (NKJV)
“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.”

Paul planned on going to Rome as a preacher, not a prisoner! He could have written a long letter about that experience alone. He could have proclaimed his innocence, decried the injustice of the Sanhedrin, described the abuses of the Roman justice system, and lamented his long incarceration. He could have become bitter and angry.

Paul’s chain could have become something that he constantly tripped over in his walk with God.

It could have become a symbol of failure or he could have taken it as a sign that God had forsaken him. But instead, Paul saw his chain as an opportunity. A ministry tool.

So my question for you today is this. What is your chain? What hardship in your life seems like it’s binding you? What handicap? What physical or mental or emotional or spiritual chain does it seem like you just can’t break free from? We always view chains as negative things, but Paul consecrated his chain to God and let Him use it for His glory!

Do you believe God could free you from the chain that binds you? God could have freed Paul. He’d done it before right? In Philippi, the very city Paul was writing to, Paul and Silas were bound in prison when God shook the earth, opened the doors, and broke off their chains. Paul might have even cried out to God, “Why not this time?”

But God was shaking the earth!

Shaking the very foundations of Roman society, as even the Praetorian Guard and Caesar’s household were being converted right under Nero’s nose!

God was opening doors!

Paul’s chain was a key that opened doors that nothing else could have. What else besides a chain could have ushered him into Emperor Nero’s presence to preach the gospel?

God was breaking chains!

All over Rome, chains of fear were dropping off believers. Encouraged by Paul’s boldness, they too began speaking the Gospel. And all over Rome, chains of spiritual bondage and sin were falling off new converts and shattering!

What is your chain? What if you surrender that chain to God to use it for His glory? Remember that what you see as a chain might just unlock a realm of ministry, anointing, and opportunity unimaginable and unattainable by any other means.

“Remember my chains.”

Not, then, a plea of an Apostle afraid of being despised and forgotten because of those chains, but a three-word challenge to all believers, everywhere and throughout history.

“Remember my chains.”

The Keeper’s Crown depicts Paul’s last lap so to speak, the sprint to the finish from Jerusalem to Rome, as seen through the eyes of Quintus, the soldier charged with guarding the great Apostle. God’s ways are not our ways. Before Paul could attain his crown he first had to accept his chain.
My hope and prayer is that this book will encourage each of us in our own way to follow in Paul’s footsteps.

The Keeper’s Crown is available in paperback and E-book from

From the Back Cover

As a boy, he dared to fight Nero. Worse, he won.
Stripped of his family, the love of his life, and his self-respect, he sets out on a quest to win a victor's crown, rescue his parents, and restore his family's honor. But his path to glory in the restless province of Judaea is threatened by the corrupt governor Felix, the murderous priest Melechi, and most of all by the rabble-rousing Paul of Tarsus.

When Quintus finds himself in Rome chained to Paul all hope of a crown seems lost, but Paul's example makes him question the true meaning of success. And why does Jael, the mysterious young Jewess who once saved his life, now respond with barely restrained flashes of hate?


The Romans took her father and her brother from her.
Now Jael vows to fight for her father's faith, fulfill her brother's oath, and avenge their deaths. But the further she travels with Paul and Quintus the more she feels torn. Can she follow her heart and still keep her vow?


He turned the world upside down.
Paul never expected to end his ministry in chains, but even still, he is determined to carry the gospel to Rome and the Emperor Nero himself. But what if those who need the gospel most are those closest to him?

As the Great Fire strikes Rome, fanning Nero's persecution of the Christians to a white-hot fury, murderous secrets, impossible choices, and steadfast faith will lead to tragedy and triumph.

Buy the book here:  

Also, Nathan is having a Facebook party this Monday, April 2nd, including a pictorial tour of Rome from his visit there, Q and A, trivia and games, virtual snacks (non-fattening 😉), hourly e-book giveaways, and two grand prizes of signed Proof copies of his book (of only 5 ever printed.) The address is    😊  Sounds like it can't be missed to me! 

Excerpt from the Book

The prisoner looked over his bare shoulder at Quintus. “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?” His voice was steady and calm, as if he were asking a newcomer to a bathhouse about the weather outside.
A Roman! Quintus froze. If this man’s claim was true, by law they should not even have fettered him. They certainly could not scourge him.
“Hold,” he told the inquisitor. “Don’t touch him until I return.”
Quintus sprinted the stairs three at a time. He found Lysias nursing a cup of wine and staring blank-faced at the milling crowd in the Temple courts below. Lysias turned and cocked an eyebrow. “Has he broken already? I had him made of sterner stuff.”
“Watch what you’re doing with this one,” Quintus said. “This man is a Roman.”
The tribune set down his cup so abruptly its contents sloshed over his hand. He didn’t seem to notice. “Take me there.”
When they reached the dungeon, the prisoner was still bound as Quintus had left him. His arched back and lean, outstretched arms reminded Quintus of a juniper clinging to a wind-lashed crag. If he felt discomfort from the strained position he gave no sign of it.
Lysias paced around to face him. The man’s eyes were closed, and his lips moved without a sound. “Tell me,” the tribune demanded, “are you a Roman?”
The bound man looked up and met the tribune’s eyes with a frank gaze. “I am.”
“Hmm.” Lysias ran a knuckle back and forth across his lips as he slowly shook his head. “With a great price I obtained this citizenship.”
“But I was born free.” The prisoner’s eyes gleamed an inner light. “My name is Paul.”

Author Bio

Nathan Fun Facts

Like most true Canadians Nathan has a fake tooth thanks to hockey (and his high-sticking brother!)

In 2016 Nathan and his wife Rachel celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary with a trip to Rome (Which Nathan calls“My Happy Place.”)

Nathan, Rachel, and their son Alexander have two pugs, Pandy and Portia, whose idea of a good life is waking up, eating, napping, eating, napping, potty, and bed. A recent addition is Oliver, the Boston Terror…er…Terrior.

Nathan spent 13 years in a program called Bible Quizzing and memorized over 6000 scriptures. His team took 2nd place in North America one year.

Nathangraduated  from Carleton University with highest honors in Journalism and History only to become a landscaper, author, and pastor. Go figure! :)

Nathan has ridden horses in Texas and Arizona, studied fencing and saber dueling, and considers skiing, skating, and tobogganing a great way to spend his free time in the winter. (When he’s not reading or writing historical fiction.)

Friday, March 30, 2018

Beneath the Surface

Beneath the Surface
by Lynn H. Blackburn

Dive Team Investigations #1

Leigh Weston thought she’d left a troubled past behind when she moved back home to Carrington, North Carolina. But when dive team investigator Ryan Parker finds a body in the lake near her home, she fears the past hasn’t stayed where it belongs.

Beneath the Surface 

(Dive Team Investigations #1) 

ebook, hardcover, audio. Paperback 

March 6, 2018

by Lynn H. Blackburn

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Revell 
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800729387

She thought she'd be safe when she moved back home. She was dead wrong.

After a harrowing experience with an obsessed patient, oncology nurse practitioner Leigh Weston needed a change. She thought she'd left her troubles behind when she moved home to Carrington, North Carolina, and took a job in the emergency department of the local hospital. But when someone tampers with her brakes, she fears the past has chased her into the present. She reaches out to her high school friend turned homicide investigator, Ryan Parker, for help.

Ryan finds satisfaction in his career, but his favorite way to use his skills is as a volunteer underwater investigator with the Carrington County Sheriff's Office dive team. When the body of a wealthy businessman is discovered in Lake Porter, the investigation uncovers a possible serial killer--one with a terrifying connection to Leigh Weston and deadly implications for them all.

Dive into the depths of fear with an exciting new voice in romantic suspense. Award-winning author Lynn H. Blackburn grabs readers by the throat and doesn't let go until the final heart-pounding page.

My thoughts:  BENEATH THE SURFACE is the first book in Ms. Blackburn's new series Dive Team Investigators. I am seriously looking forward to the rest of the books in the series as I have fallen madly in love with one of the secondary characters. 

Ryan is a dear. He has always loved Leigh but her brother has forbidden him to have anything to do with her -- except watch over her from a distance. But investigating a crime accidentally puts Leigh in danger in ways no one expects.

Leigh is a nurse practitioner, kind and considerate. She reminds me of one I know.  Very caring.  Everyone loves her. Well, mostly. And she knows everyone in town. Or at least it seems that way. So why is someone targeting her--with the intention of murder?

Okay, I had a couple guesses, since I know how these things usually work. I figured it had to be Suspect A.  Absolutely must be. Then Suspect B came into the limelight. Hmmm. But Suspect B was nice... back to Suspect A.  Then I remembered that the "bad guy" could be nice.   Back to Suspect B.  Oooh, I couldn't figure it out!  

Ms. Blackburn bucked the formula. That is all I've got to say.  And it did keep my attention because I had to find out "who-dun-it" and I didn't want to put the book down.  I read after church, reluctantly put it down to attend the evening service then picked it up when I got home. 

If you like romantic suspense,  you will love BENEATH THE SURFACE. 

I was given a copy free. All opinions are my own. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Promise


hardcover, ebook, Mass Market Paperback 

March 27, 2018

by Susan Lantz Simpson

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Zebra 
  • ISBN-13: 978-1420146608

In the beautiful spring warmth of Southern Maryland’s Amish country, love always finds a way to bloom . . .
Like most Amish young women, Phoebe Yoder has dreams—but not of a courtship—at least not yet. She dreams of caring for the tender-hearted alpacas at her Englischer neighbor’s farm, and learning the business herself. But that longing falls away the moment her baby sister goes missing. In that horrifying instant, desperate for her sister’s safe return, she whispers a promise to Gott: she will give up her dreams and marry Micah Graber, a man she doesn’t love, but who is determined to make her his wife.
Benjamin Miller hasn’t been back in Southern Maryland for long before he meets Phoebe and begins to imagine what a fine life they could build together—beginning with an alpaca farm of their own. But he can see that Phoebe’s brash vow is all she will consider, no matter what her heart wants. As Ben falls for her gentle manner and sweet, sad eyes, he comes to understand his daunting task: to convince Phoebe that together, they can make a new promise that will never be broken . 

My thoughts: THE PROMISE is Ms. Simpson's newest Amish book and it is already getting a lot of buzz. In fact, I've had people ask if I was going to review it.  Well, if you were one who wondered, here it is. 

Benjamin Miller is a dream. He is sweet, sensitive, caring, and knows what to do and say in stressful situations. He has a head on his shoulders.  He's also got a strong faith and he doesn't allow doubt to take root. 

Phoebe... oh, I hurt for her family. I can't imagine being responsible for watching your baby sister and having her snatched while in your care.  She and her family were depressed - understandably - and for the first half of the book that is pretty much the focus.

I have never heard of alpacas so I was kind of curious what they were. Maybe kind of like Llamas?  I don't know. They were described as like camels in the book, but the cover looks like llamas.  I saw have to   research them sometime.  They were an unusual and interesting twist to an Amish romance story.  I enjoyed this. 

Micah was a villain that was easy to hate. I didn't like him at all. Unfortunately I know men like him: overbearing know-it-alls who are selfish jerks. I think we all do. Very realistic. 

If you like Amish fiction, pick up a copy of Ms. Simpson's THE PROMISE. You will love this book. Especially Benjamin (swoon). 

I was given a copy free. All opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Story Behind Return to Walhalla by Laura Hodges Poole

Today we welcome Laura Hodges Poole to my blog.  As one of Laura's critique partners, I just want to say that this book was awesome. I fell in love with both Penny and Tommy and especially some of the secondary characters -- a great read.  If you love romance you will want to read RETURN TO WALHALLA. 

Thanks for stopping by, Laura. 

 Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Laura. I’m excited to share some about the “story behind the story” of my first traditionally published novel, Return to Walhalla, which releases today!

Walhalla is an actual town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, or as the locals call it, the upstate of South Carolina, about an hour from my home. I was attracted to this town because of the beauty of the mountains, as well as the Southern charm evident in many small towns in our state.

Walhalla’s city website boasts “1.2 miles of Main Street leads to 237,000 acres of mountain adventure,” and it does! So a novel set in this charming Southern town wouldn’t be complete without featuring the natural beauty of the mountains, particularly one of South Carolina’s numerous waterfalls.

The first time I rode through Walhalla was on the way to one of South Carolina’s numerous waterfalls, Isaqueena Falls, although in Return to Walhalla, another well-known state park, Twin Falls, is featured.

The beauty and charm of Walhalla caught my attention on this excursion, so I returned another day to sightsee. I noticed quilt blocks on various businesses around town. I stopped into the Oconee Heritage Center Museum, where I learned about the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail, which commemorates the quilting heritage of the community. Each quilt block had a story behind it, which intrigued me.

One day, as I thought about more about the town, the title Return to Walhalla popped into my mind, along with two characters, Penny Ruskin and Tommy McAllister. I knew I had my next story.

I followed the story where Penny and Tommy led me, through past heartache, forgiveness, and redemption, along with the humor of Southern family and church get-togethers. Secondary characters like one of the church ladies, Miss Betty, and teenager Emma Johnson play important roles in Penny’s life, and of course, the quest to keep her in Walhalla. Naturally, I also included a quilting storyline.

Ultimately,Return to Walhalla is as much about facing life’s tough challenges with God’s help as it is about romantic love. No matter what we go through, we can count on God’s comfort and peace to see us through. You’re never so far from God that turning back isn’t possible. I hope you’re both entertained and inspired as you read Penny’s story of returning to Walhalla.

Author Bio

Laura Hodges Poole is a freelance writer with dozens of articles, devotions, and short stories in publication. Her novellas and devotional are available on Amazon. Laura is the 2016 ACWC Badge of Honor winner, a 2014 ACFW Genesis semi-finalist, and a 2012 RWA Emily finalist. As an editor and member of The Christian PEN, she enjoys mentoring and helping other writers polish their work.  Laura is also a non-fiction ghostwriter/collaborator. Her passion is encouraging others in their Christian walk through her blog, "A Word of Encouragement." When she’s not writing, you might find her hiking, playing the piano, or being crafty. A mother of two, Laura lives in South Carolina with her husband and son.

Return to Walhalla purchase link and blurb:

When financier Penny Ruskin returns to Walhalla, South Carolina, she has one purpose—to settle her grandmother’s estate and sell the Victorian house she grew up in. Not an easy task with the downturned economy. What she doesn't count on are all the roadblocks thrown in her path. 

Walhalla is Tommy McAllister’s life. Between his family’s feed-and-seed store and the bank he’s vice president of, he’s stretched thin trying to survive the recession. But when a girl he hasn’t seen since high school breezes back into town, he’s ready to push himself even further to help her feel at home—and convince her to stay. He reaches out to Penny, but the last thing she wants is to be trapped in a small town that holds painful memories—one dark secret in particular.

The town matchmaker and bank manager, Miss Betty, a motherless teen Emma who lives down the lane from Penny, and the church ladies of Walhalla’s First Baptist add both heartwarming and challenging moments to Penny’s life.

With the past dogging Penny’s steps, dredging up painful memories she’s tried to outrun, relatives threaten the future she has begun to hope for…But somewhere deep inside her, a spark of hope remains. Tommy isn’t the only one praying for a miracle.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A Loyal Heart and #giveaway

About the Book

Title: A Loyal Heart
Author: Jody Hedlund
Genre: Adult medieval romance
Release Date: March 6, 2018
He’s taken her as his prisoner. But she’s holding his heart captive. In gaining their freedom, will they lose what matters most?
When Lady Olivia’s castle is besieged, she and her sister are taken captive and held for ransom by her father’s enemy, Lord Pitt. Loyalty to family means everything to Olivia. She’ll save her sister at any cost and do whatever her father asks—even if that means obeying his order to steal a sacred relic from her captor.
As Lord Pitt’s commander, Sir Aldric is in charge of the beautiful but feisty new prisoner. He has his hands full attempting to keep Lady Olivia out of trouble. When Lord Pitt throws her in the dungeon and threatens to hang her for stealing, Aldric conceives a plot to save Olivia’s life—betrothal to him.
Can Olivia give up the prestigious match her father has arranged with a wealthy marquess in order to marry a lowly knight like Aldric? And can Aldric move beyond his past mistakes to embrace love again? When loyalties are tested, they’re thrust into danger that could cost them their love and their lives.
My thoughts: (Reviewed by Jenna).  A LOYAL HEART is a really, really good book. I was hooked from the first page. Olivia is pledged to marry this really, really rich guy, who would make her dad, an earl, even richer.  How awful to be sold into marriage, right? 

But she's kidnapped, and her kidnapper, Aldric, is so much more than he appears. He's made mistakes and is trying to pay off his debt to society, and he doesn't even feel worthy of a lady like Olivia. 

Its like most fairy tale stories, in a way, and yet there are twists and surprises that I never saw  coming. A really, really good book. Five stars. 

 A LOYAL HEART is young adult fiction and I (a young adult) actually devoured this book. I read it all in a day. If you have a young adult, you will definitely want to pick up this book for their reading. It'd make a great gift for their Easter basket.  

Jody Hedlund is one of my favorite authors. 

I was given a copy free. All opinions are my own. 
Click here to purchase your copy!

About the Author

Jody Hedlund is the author of over twenty historicals for both adults and teens and is the winner of numerous awards including the Christy, Carol, and Christian Book Award.
Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).
When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.

Guest Post from Jody Hedlund

The Growing Need for Sweet Young Adult Romances
By Jody Hedlund
This past year my youngest daughter turned twelve and entered seventh grade. And she decided that she wanted to read my books.
Of course I was thrilled that she was taking an interest in my writing. But since my adult historical romances are more intense and contain some mature themes, I handed her the young adult series I’ve written.
As she started the first book, I peeked in her room a time or two to ask her how she liked it.
“It’s the best book you’ve ever read, right?” I teased.
“It’s okay,” she replied, teasing me right back.
The true test for how much she liked the series came when she couldn’t put the book down. She hid away in her room and read all day. Then she read the second book the next day and the third book the day after that.
She never did gush over the series. But she didn’t need to. Her serious reading marathon told me all I needed to know! Then when I was writing the fourth book in the series, she asked me if she could read it early before it was published which was another testament to how much she enjoyed the series.
“As long as you promise to say that I’m your favorite author,” I said, teasing her again.
I’m happy to say that she finished A Loyal Heart just as quickly as the others. Although I’m not sure that I’m her favorite author, I’m satisfied that she loved the series.
Even more, I’m thrilled that I could hand her sweet romances full of chivalrous qualities—like courage, sacrifice, honor, and loyalty. As she’s being entertained, she’s learning lessons about character traits that are important in relationships.
My daughter, like other young teens I’ve talked to, really enjoys medieval settings and stories. In some ways, those kinds of stories connect them to the princess fairy tales they used to love when they were little. Let’s face it, even adult readers still love stories about knights and castles and daring damsels!
In a book market for teens that has grown increasingly dark, jaded, and sexual, I only wish I had more to offer my daughter and other young women. It’s my passion to continue providing wholesome, clean romances for teens, books I know will encourage and uplift as well as entertain.
How about YOU? Is there a teen reader you know who needs an alternative to what’s available in the market? I encourage you to gift them with A Loyal Heart. And make sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win the entire series that you can read, pass along, or even gift to your library.
Jody Hedlund is the best-selling author of over twenty historicals for both adults and teens and is the winner of numerous awards including the Christy, Carol, and Christian Book Award. She lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!). When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.

Blog Stops

Among the Reads, March 27
books n baubles, March 28
By The Book, March 29
Genesis 5020, March 29
Book by Book, March 31
Mary Hake, April 1
Novels Corner, April 2
Remembrancy, April 3
Carpe Diem, April 5
Simple Harvest Reads, April 7 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)
Pursuing Stacie, April 8
Bigreadersite, April 8
margaret kazmierczak, April 8 (interview)
Henry Happens, April 9
Joy of Reading, April 9


To celebrate her tour, Jody is giving away a grand prize of An Uncertain Choice, A Daring Sacrifice, For Love & Honor, and A Loyal Heart!!
Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

Just for the Summer: (A Fun Swapped Roles Contemporary Clean Romance Novel)

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