Happy Thanksgiving!

Are you already listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas movies? Ha ha! I thought so. You can hardly get away from it these days, when the stores bring out the Christmas merchandise before Halloween. Dozens of my friends have already put up their tree and decorated their homes.


No. I’m a purist. I celebrate one holiday at a time. And I’m slightly embarrassed to admit, I’m challenged as a decorator. But I make the effort, each year…after Thanksgiving.

For those who celebrate them, the holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving, provide a wonderful opportunity for family and friends to gather and spend time together. I tend to be the cook at those gatherings. I enjoy the preparation, the time, the company. I’m thankful for my family, and for the energy to prepare the feast.

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, may your holiday be filled with blessings, good food, and happy moments with those you love.

Ribbet Edit

Amy Blake and The Trojan Horse Traitor

Amy Blake and I spent a couple of years on a small critique loop, hashing out each others’ stories and commiserating over our unpublished state of being. I was intrigued by Amy’s fantasy series starring a brilliant young boy named Levi Prince, who happened to be homeschooled. Though the story was a good one, she faced an uphill battle, simply because of who it was written for…young adult boys.

read-316508_1280I was puzzled. Do they not read? Mine did, and they loved fantasy, especially magical ones. But Amy Blake was not a quitter. She would not give up. And now her dream is a reality. The Trojan Horse Traitor, the first book in the Levi Prince series is now available! As soon as Amy contacted me, I set a date for an interview so I could share her story with you.

Amy, tell us a bit about The Trojan Horse Traitor.

The Trojan Horse Traitor is a young adult fantasy novel about 13-year-old homeschooled pastor’s kid Levi Prince. He heads off to summer camp on Castle Island in the middle of Lake Superior and instead finds himself in Terracaelum, a haven for mythical creatures that’s suspended above the lake.

How did you come up with your idea for this series?

I’m a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four. My kids and I all love fantasy novels, but none of the books we read have homeschooled heroes. When Levi and Terracaelum entered my mind (no, I don’t remember exactly what made me dream them up), it was only natural that Levi be a redheaded, homeschooled pastor’s kid like my own children. Camp Classic came into being because we follow a Classical Christian educational system for our homeschool, and I thought it’d be intriguing to incorporate a story from Classical mythology into my plotline. I also thought it’d be fun to make my runty main character tackle archery, fencing, canoeing, and wrestling, along with the torment of Latin verbs and History dates during summer break.

What is your target audience?

My primary audience is 9- to 14-year-old boys and girls, though older teens and adults who like YA fantasy would enjoy the story too. It can also be read aloud to younger children.

I think girls will definitely like it as well as boys. Any main themes or special interests you highlighted in this story?

The overarching theme is how God displays his strength in our weakness. I chose a main character who is skinny and short, redheaded and freckled, and doesn’t excel at any of the activities at camp–fencing, archery, canoeing, even art class. In his weakness, Levi knows he’s not the strong hero type, so when he and his friends face death at the hands of Deceptor, a shape-shifting demon sorcerer, he must depend on God’s strength to get them out of the encounter alive.

What’s up next for your main character?

In book 2 of the Levi Prince series, The Fall of Thor’s Hammer, Levi returns to Camp Classic the next summer. On his first night at the castle, he hears someone banging on the cellar door. He knows one of the camp’s firmest rules is, “Stay out of the cellar,” but Albert lets it slip that a storm may have driven a Lake Superior sailor into Terracaelum’s underbelly, and that he could be trying to get out through the cellar door. On the other hand, Albert tells him, it could be one of the Dvergar trying to lure some fool to his death. Levi has to choose—obey Mr. Dominic, possibly leaving some poor sailor to wander in darkness until he starves, or disobey and take the consequences if he opens the door to a Dvergar instead.

Tell us about your favorite place to write.

One summer I was able to do a Writer’s Retreat at St. Davids’ Christian Writers Conference. For five days, I had a dorm room to myself and unlimited writing time on the gorgeous campus of Grove City College in Pennsylvania. I wrote more in those few days than I’d been able to write at home that whole year. It was a treat.

Why do you write?

I write because I love to put the stories in my head onto paper (or computer screen). Through my books, I’m able to share enjoyable plots with my readers while also showcasing truths about God.

Do you have any other works (or ideas) in process you can tell us about?

I just finished a draft of The Fey’s Apprentice (the third book in the Levi Prince series). I’ve also done some work recently on my Women’s Fiction, Gabriel’s Gift. My top priority for the next few weeks is working on edits for my upcoming release, Colorblind (the second book in my On the Brink suspense series).

Who is your favorite author and/or genre, and how has reading (those) affected your writing?

My favorite genres are YA fantasy and mystery/suspense. In the YA fantasy genre, some of my favorite authors include Brandon Mull and Rick Riordan, mostly because they don’t write confusing “high” fantasy but engaging stories in a fantasy setting with relatable characters and lots of humor. My Levi Prince series is similar in that I’ve tried to make it fun and I’ve include some mythical elements without having too complex of a fantasy world. Unlike Mull’s and Riordan’s books, mine emphasize God’s sovereignty in all things.

My favorite suspense authors include Terri Blackstock and Brandilyn Collins. I love the way they develop their characters spiritually while providing edge-of-the-seat plot twists that make me want to keep reading to the end. I strive to maintain the same balance in my suspense novels. In fact, one of my favorite reviews for Whitewashed, my suspense novel that released in February of this year, favorably compared my writing to Terri Blackstock’s. Yay!

That’s wonderful. Nothing buoys our self-esteem like a good review. I really appreciate you taking the time from a busy book release schedule to answer my questions.

Readers, with Christmas rushing at us full speed, maybe you could use a gift for a boy or girl on your list. If you’re a parent or grandparent, Trojan Horse Traitor would make a great night-time read for the children in your life. See below for more information and where you can buy the book.

TrojanHorseTraitor_FlatforeBooksLeft on Castle Island to attend Camp Classic, thirteen-year-old, scrawny, redheaded, homeschooler Levi Prince finds himself at the center of an enchanted world of amazing abilities, cloudy motives, and wicked beings that will challenge his very spirit. He begins to form friendships, but life at camp becomes more confusing as questionable activities and uncertain agendas bring about conflict that tests his character in ways he never expected. Finally, faced with a friend’s betrayal, Levi is forced to confront true evil. Will he find the courage to stand his ground, and to become the hero he was always meant to be?

The Trojan Horse Traitor is now available in both e-book and paperback formats. Amy is hosting a giveaway of two paperback copies of The Trojan Horse Traitor on Goodreads. You can enter now through December 14th.

IMG_2793-2Award-winning author Amy C. Blake is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four. She has an M.A. in English from Mississippi College and has written articles, devotionals, and short stories for a number of publications. She’d love for you to visit her website at amycblake.com for tips on homeschooling, advice for the rookie pastor’s wife, and helps for the Christian life. You can also find more information on her website about her novels–Whitewashed, Colorblind, and The Trojan Horse Traitor.

Trojan Horse Traitor is available at the following locations:

Amazon         ♦        Barnes & Noble       ♦          Booksamillion

Are You a Fixer-Upper?

683c5-majorca-85448_1280I watched a home improvement show the other day, in awe as the host “re-purposed” several ordinary items and made them beautiful. A couple of those things definitely belonged on the trash heap, in my humble opinion. But when she’d finished, those items became a focal point of great interest, on the walls of the home she was redecorating. The total effect–beautiful.

That set me thinking again about purpose. Earlier this year, I wrote about purpose in our lives. Purpose gives you direction. Purpose gets you out of bed in the morning, dressed, and on the road. Sometimes that purpose is earning an income. Other times, that purpose is serving others.

Re-purposing your life can mean a course-correction. The day comes, when we may have to reevaluate our lives, because we sense that something’s “just not right.” Maybe it involves a job loss or people leaving our lives. These are moments of conflict that require concentration and planning. Jump too quickly, and you could make a disastrous mistake. A knee-jerk reaction isn’t the answer.

My first step is to pray. I spend time in quiet meditation and ask God to show me my purpose. Am I on the right track, or have I veered too far from the original plan?

A course correction can be painful. Re-purposing that ordinary junk took some pretty intensive labor, but in the end, the beauty of the object was undeniable. It was worth the labor and the time. What is required to re-purpose our lives? Time–in prayer, meditation, study, training–sometimes, a complete overhaul. Work those muscles. Clean the house. Get rid of all the junk that weighs down your life.

old-stove-896285_1920With a clean slate, redecorate. Find what is salvageable and re-purpose it. It’s amazing how energized I feel when my house is freshly cleaned.

If you’re feeling “stuck” — make a change that will freshen your spirit and strengthen your heart. Go for a long walk. Don’t rush, just take your time and use that time to reevaluate your purpose. Pray and ask God to show you what to do to bring about a change in your life. Then listen. Don’t talk, just listen.

Sometimes re-purposing is laborious. It’s uncomfortable. You have to change position, or even move your residence. Other times, you can take whatever life has brought your way and turn it into something truly beautiful and cherished. Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” will take something that looks like junk, clean it up, display it on the mantle, and it becomes a focal point. A treasure. It’s been re-purposed. It has worth.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. Sit still and wait, or keep moving forward, but don’t stop. God has a purpose for you. Maybe you just need to clean yourself up and find a new purpose, so you can “shine…like stars in the sky…” (Philippians 2:16).

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. — Ephesians 1:18-19 NIV

Deadly Designs by Nike Chillemi

Moi 3 b

Nike Chillemi

Nike Chillemi is very good at slapping my writing wrist. She’s a long-time critique partner who asks the probing questions and tells it to me straight. I try to do the same for her, though on this latest release, I didn’t have to work so hard. Besides her “deadly” wrist-rapping ability, she’s pretty skilled at suspense.

I enjoyed working on Deadly Designs. For one thing, I loved the characters. Since this is the second novel featuring Ronnie Ingles and Dawson Hughes, they felt like family, and I was happy to be along for the ride. I posed a few questions for Nike, just so I could feature her second book in the series on my blog. Here’s how it went:

For those readers who may not know, how did Veronica “Ronnie” Ingles first meet Dawson Hughes?

Ronnie and Dawson met in the first novel in the series, HARMFUL INTENT. Ronnie’s husband has been cheating on her in Abilene, Texas. Immediately after this sassy Brooklyn, NY private investigator arrives in west Texas and confronts him, he’s murdered. Handsome Deputy Hughes isn’t convinced this heavily-armed city gal didn’t kill her husband.

How did you come up with your idea for this series?

The series has been writing itself. The concept keeps enlarging. It started out quite small, as a writing challenge for a short story, of all things. The objective was to take a character and place them somewhere uncomfortable to them and then stress them even more. I took city gal Ronnie Ingels, plopped her in west Texas and then have her virtually accused of killing her cheating husband. The short story grew to 55,000 words, then to a full-length novel at 81,000 words.

Tell us about your favorite place to write.

Writing Space, Bklyn

Writing Space!

As far as a favorite place to write…I have my computer desk. We live in a two-floor, three bedroom, brick, attached-house in Brooklyn. A three bedroom house in the city isn’t as large as one in the suburbs or in a rural area, and our lot is tiny. I’m a NYC gal, just like my heroine Ronnie. My writing space is my desk…that’s it. A great deal has come out of this little ‘creative’ space.

Tell us a bit about Deadly Designs.

51wzXY0XxOL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Private investigator Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels teams up with Deputy Dawson Hughes to find a geeky radio broadcaster’s missing wife and young daughter. They fear the woman and child were taken by Islamic terrorists as revenge against the husband’s pro-Israel, conspiracy theory broadcasts. The investigation takes Ronnie and Hughes from a manicured Connecticut estate, to interviews with an elitist A-List society crowd, and run-ins with cranky local police detectives. Then they plunge deep into the seamy, drug-riddled underbelly of the fashion world, with the specter of international terrorism hovering.

Hughes has recently been promoted to lieutenant in the Taylor County, Texas Sheriff’s Department. He’s on leave on a special assignment with Authorized Operations (AO), a clandestine, quasi-government agency operating out of a sea-side mansion in Hither Hills, NY. The only thing is, many powerful politicians, and government big-wigs claim Authorized Operations doesn’t exist.

Ronnie is furious at both Hughes and the broadcaster for waiting thirty-six hours to start the search. She knows the longer it takes, the less chance there is of finding the child alive. The problem is, radio talk-show host Ed Harper has been hoping-against-hope that his pot-smoking, model wife is on one of her ‘esoteric experiences’ and has simply taken the child while she romps for a few days. He doesn’t want to seriously consider the other, more hazardous possibility… that his radio broadcasts have angered some very dangerous people.

What’s up next for Ronnie and Dawson? Are you stopping at a trilogy?*

The third novel in the series is BLOOD SPEAKS. Ronnie and Dawson have become engaged to be married. Ronnie and her two gal-pals (from the first two books in the series) are on a bridal shopping spree. Ronnie thinks she’s finally arrives at a threshold in her life where nothing will spoil things. Hmm, then there’s a murder. And naturally the killer begins stalking Ronnie and her bridesmaids. This one has a political spin on it. *See next question for answer to second part.

Do you have any other works (or ideas) in process you can tell us about?

In DEADLY DESIGNS, I introduce all the heroes in this extended series. One of them is Dr. Dimitri Garmonin, forensics psychologist for the NYPD. He is the hero in book four. There will be three novels with this charming profiler and the lovely lady cop he can’t get off his mind. This will be a ‘law enforcement couples’ series. At this time I’m planning for twelve novels in all. Main characters from one trilogy may turn up in another trilogy as secondary or minor characters.

More about Nike Chillemi

Like so many writers, Nike Chillemi started writing at a very young age. She still has the Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned (colored might be more accurate) as a little girl about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better.

Nike is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and is its Chair, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She has been a judge in the 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories; and an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category. Her four novel Sanctuary Point series, set in the mid-1940s has finaled, won an award, and garnered critical acclaim. HARMFUL INTENT released under the auspices of her own publishing company, Crime Fictionista Press, won in the Grace Awards 2014 Mystery/Thriller/Romantic Suspense/Historic Suspense category. Her new release is DEADLY DESIGNS. She has written book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and John 3:16 Marketing Network. http://nikechillemi.wordpress.com/

For more information and to buy the book Deadly Designs

The Glory of Life

2f111-shutterstock_85609522Outside my window, the maple trees are putting on a show of brilliant colors. Their last hurrah. Winter comes close on the heels of Autumn here.

There are things about each season I love. And things I don’t like so much–no need to talk about those. I love the cooler temperatures of Autumn. The crisp air of a Fall morning is energizing. The smell of the burnishing leaves, their crunch beneath my feet, all add to the season’s ambiance.

As the trees shed their leafy cover, gaps open up, and the bright sunlight spills through the windows, lighting up our rooms. Thus, revealing summer’s deposits of dust and cobwebs. Oops! Fall cleaning scheduled.

Autumn is especially poignant for me this year, as a dear friend prepares to make her final journey. I remember the Spring of her life, when as a bubbly cheerleader, she spread joy and sunlight wherever she went.


We were so pastel…so…70’s…

I was a few years older, but we lived on the same street and attended the same high school. Later, we were both members of the same church youth group, and youth choir. At my wedding, she told me I was beautiful, and we (my husband and I) were like movie stars. It was all very romantic. She couldn’t wait for her day to come.

It did, several years later, when she married her best friend, another of our youth group and youth choir members. Still bubbly and outgoing, she had added a college degree and looked forward to a career in teaching. Soon she had a home classroom filled with three beautiful daughters. Blessed daughters, to have such a mother, who gave herself to their raising and training.

As she prepares to leave this life, her legacy of love and compassion lights our memories and warms our hearts. We’ll miss her, oh my, yes. But her light will never go out. As Fall’s glory fades into Winter’s chill, hope survives. Spring will come!

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. –2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV


Sights and Sounds of Perdido Key

20151007_151118Recently, we spent a few days in Perdido Key, Florida, for some much-needed R&R. Four days and five nights, to be more precise. Some of the most visually perfect days I’ve ever experienced on the Gulf. And our first stay in Perdido Key.

We knew we were taking a chance, by going in October. The week before we arrived, it was rainy and overcast and cold. I watched the weather channel with bated breath. Would the weather warm up? Would Joaquin take a westerly turn?

20151007_070859Our first day there, it was sunny, but the wind held a definite chill.  The first thing I noticed was, the sand didn’t burn our feet. A definite perk. However, the sun was quite powerful. We had taken the necessary precautions, so didn’t suffer any burns to spoil our fun.

Sights! Our condo was well positioned to view the sun’s path. Out on our balcony, I witnessed the sun rising out of the water. In the evening, we watched from the beach as it set. Breathtaking.


Gorgeous, translucent water with no apparent jellyfish. I liked that, though I barely stepped in. Calm seas that sparkled in the afternoon sun. I could sit and listen to the surf for hours. I did!

Sounds — the Blue Angels. For me, this was not a deterrent. I enjoy watching them fly. They were usually high overhead, until evening when they returned to base. We just paused our conversation until they’d passed over, slowly. I heard the roar for several minutes after they’d gone.

20151009_142259I’d expected smaller crowds, but the building where we stayed is evidently a popular one–and not only that–it was fall break in some area schools. And the shrimp festival was on in Gulf Shores, just down the road. But honestly, we still enjoyed ourselves. No, we didn’t attend the festival. Not really into crowds, or shrimp.  But we did visit a few area restaurants.

The Shrimp Basket was having a problem in the kitchen on our first night in town. I don’t think they expected such a crowd. The wait-staff was helping in the kitchen, even washing dishes. It took over an hour to get our food. But they made it right by only charging us half price. Our waitress had worked so hard, we tipped her the full amount. We didn’t return there.

Typically, we like to have breakfast in our residence and sometimes lunch also. Then we go out to dinner. But we discovered a little jewel of a breakfast place called Triggers. They’re on Gulf Beach Highway, toward Pensacola. The parking lot held a lot of pickups with local Florida plates, so it seemed like a winner. It was. The eggs tasted fresh, were perfectly prepared (I’m picky!) and they can do grits and biscuits. Love.  We made sure to swing by there on our way out of town.

20151007_162509On the second day, we had lunch at Tacky Jack’s. I think they’re actually located in Orange Beach, on the bay or the Intracoastal. The views were amazing and it was a fun place, very colorful. My husband got out of the car and a woman dashed over, getting into his face. “You’re from Kentucky!” she said, “I suppose you’re a Wildcat fan!” He was a little alarmed, since she was a complete stranger and had literally entered his personal space. But he recovered quickly and let her know he does bleed blue. She was a Louisville fan, married to a Wildcat fan. Yes, it happens.

The food at Tacky Jacks…was just okay. Not great. Maybe we’re picky, since we come from a city known for it’s restaurants. I judge seafood by the hush puppies. These were small and cooked just right, but not so much on flavor.


Small…and definitely done to perfection, but that’s a “hushed puppy.”

I’m a hush-puppy fan, and here again, I’m picky. The perfect hush-puppy should be small, so it cooks all the way through without drying out. If it’s too big, the center will be doughy or the thing will be a belly-bomb, dry and tasteless. I like them with onions and…flavor. I don’t really like them sweet.

We enjoyed the Perdido Key Oyster Bar, mainly because of the view of the beautiful Intracoastal Waterway, lined with high-end houses, and the Gulf State Park across the water. Lovely. The food was pretty good. Jellyfish (a restaurant, not the animal) was a fun place. It’s a sports bar. Hubby tried the sushi, but found it sub-par (in his opinion). I took a chance on the Jack Chicken Salad: bourbon-glazed chicken over greens with fried green tomatoes, candied pecans, blue cheese, bacon croutons, tomato bacon jam, and peach bourbon vinaigrette. So many wonderful flavors. It was delicious.

20151009_170349We saved one area restaurant until last. The guy at the deli counter in the local Publix (grocery) told us about a little shack of a place tucked up under the Theo Baars Bridge, called Fisherman’s Corner. Funky little place looks unassuming, but it was a winner. Not your run-of-the-mill seafood diner. They know how to do it right and I loved the New Orleans atmosphere and Creole flavors. I’m giving it four stars. Yum.

If you’re looking for a new place to go on your next Florida vacation, you might try Perdido Key. It is a very beautiful stretch of beach. And there’s lots to do in the area. It’s well-positioned between Gulf Shores and Orange Beach on one side, and Pensacola’s only about thirty minutes to the east. And if you’ve a golfer in the family, there’s an Arnold Palmer designed course in Perdido Key. I’ve heard it’s “not-to-be-missed.”

PerdidoCollageAs the sun set on our final evening on the Key, I snapped a few pics and breathed in the warm, tropical air. In a few hours, I’d be back in the nation’s midsection, which was already experiencing low temps and bracing for their first official frost. The only bad thing about going to the beach this time of year? You can’t show off your tan when you get home. Every inch of skin is covered, trying to stay warm. :)

Meeting People, Making Friends

It’s part of being a writer. Getting out, going places, meeting the people who read, or will read our books and hopefully, become readers of our future works.

After the release of Annabelle’s Ruth, I contacted the library in the town of Trenton, Tennessee (the setting of the story) and offered them a free book.

The librarian answered me right away: Yes, please!

So I sent her one. She read it, and loved it. When I visited Trenton a few months later, I stopped by the library to meet her.

Connie Bates is the librarian in Trenton, Tennessee. She told me about a group of ladies who meet next door to the library at the Trenton First United Methodist Church to discuss books and asked if I could return and speak at one of their meetings. Of course, I was happy to.

Connie Bates (far left) next to me and two of the ladies who meet once a month.

20151005_130552I had no idea what to expect as I entered the beautiful, historic building that houses the church (see embedded photo below). There were nine ladies in attendance on this day. I was treated to true Southern hospitality, made to feel welcome, and even sold some books. A few of them had already read the library’s copy of Annabelle’s Ruth. Connie told me there’s a waiting list to read it. That made me happy. :)

Connie Bates took time away from the library’s annual book sale to attend the meeting. I am so thankful to her for the time and energy involved in getting me to the meeting and publicizing the event.

These ladies made comments that will strengthen the next book in the Kinsman Redeemer series, Sutter’s Landing.

I so enjoyed meeting all of them! They asked lots of questions and I ended with one for them. I asked how they ran their meetings. Do you choose a book to read together? They laughed and one of them admitted, “No, we read lots of books then share which ones we liked, so the others will know what’s good to read.”

That’s a different sort of book club, then. I had to laugh. It reminded me of my good friend Cherry, who attends a monthly bunco meeting. The same group of women have been getting together for years to play bunco. But it’s not about the game, she told me. It’s a time to get together, visit, and talk about our lives.

I suspect this particular book club provides the same service. These ladies have shared a lot of moments over the years, and I am especially grateful they shared these moments with me. I really hope they enjoy reading my book, and invite me back when the next one is published.

Gibson County Courthouse, Trenton, TN

Gibson County Courthouse, Trenton, TN

Once again, I said goodbye to Trenton, with this wonderful sight in the rear-view mirror. I will return to this lovely town. And so will the characters from Annabelle’s Ruth