Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!


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Conference Reflections

Becky Yauger and I got to be Munchkins at the My Book Therapy Pizza Party

Munchkins Becky Yauger and Marji Laine

Last year at the ACFW Conference here in Dallas, I was a newbie. I had this lovely little brown flag hanging off of my name tag that said First time attendee. It was like a free pass proclaiming, “Gotta love me, cause I don’t know any better.” Continue reading


Clash of the May 2012 Releases

This clash’s host: Jennifer Slattery

My summer reading list is quickly growing. When you read the following two-sentence hooks, I’m sure you’ll agree, these five May releases are must-reads indeed! Which one is drawing you the most? Please vote below, and check out www.clashofthetitles.com on July 5th to see who won. Happy Independence Day!

Spring Hope by Martha Rogers:

Libby Cantrell’s life has gone from bad to
worse since her mother’s death. With an abusive father, and life in a brothel,
she sees no hope for her future until she gains the courage to make her escape
one cold winter night. 

When she arrives exhausted, hungry, and ill in
Portersfield, Texas, Sheriff Cory Muldoon finds her in an alley and takes her
to a doctor. 

Wildflowers From Winter by Katie Ganshert

A young architect at a prestigious Chicagofirm, Bethany Quinn has built a life far removed from her trailer park teen years. Until an interruption from her estranged mother reveals that tragedy has struck in her hometown and a reluctant Bethany is called back to rural Iowa.




Eighteen months after the tragic Grove Street Fire took the life of her husband and four other heroic firefighters, Susan Marlowe thinks she’s finally beginning to heal. But then she discovers that David carried a secret to his grave—a secret that changes everything she thought about their marriage.



When Trusting God Is the Only Way Out
On an average day, God started her missions in her sculpting studio, revealing the face of the person she would meet at the grocery store, bank, or playground. The goal was always the same. Reach the lost, bring someone back to God, restore hope.


Everyone in Fitzgerald Bay—except his law-enforcement family—is convinced Charles Fitzgerald murdered his children’s nanny. Condemned by public opinion, his only hope for a replacement nanny to take care of his two-year-old twins is newcomer Demi Taylor.
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Hope is Found

I’m so thankful to share a guest post today. A devotional by Katie Ganshert, author of Wildflowers from Winter.

**********************

Desert

He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock.

-Deuteronomy 8:15

I met a woman once who lived in Kibera, the biggest slum in sub-Sahara Africa. She slept in a tiny shack with six kids, three of whom weren’t her own. Her husband had left. She was sick with AIDS. Yet she was lit from within, beaming with the hope of Christ.

If I close my eyes right now, I can see her. And most likely, six years later, she’s no longer sick. She’s no longer living in a shack. She’s rejoicing with the One who gave her that hope.

I have a friend who struggled for years with infertility. She and her husband were faithful and obedient to the Lord. So why wouldn’t He give them the child they yearned for? They had no idea God was using that time to lead them down a different path. A path toward adoption. A path toward their daughter.

When I think of that African woman, when I think about my friend, I picture wildflowers.

Did you know the snowiest winters produce some of the most beautiful wildflowers in the spring?

I love when truth reveals itself in nature.

Because this is truth.

God uses what the human eye sees as cold and harsh and lifeless to bring about beautiful things. Breathtaking things.

Like a once-snowy field bursting with wildflowers.

Like an infertile woman who realizes she doesn’t have to get pregnant to be a mother.

Like a woman riddled with sickness, steeped in poverty, beaming with hope.

Lord Jesus, thank you for being a God who can redeem the most barren times in our lives. Thank you for being a God who brings beauty from pain. Help us to trust You, no matter our circumstance or season. Help us to trust that You are faithful and You are good.

Are you trusting God to bring water from the hard rocks in your life?

*****************

Tears filling my eyes. I can’t tell you how much I needed this word today! What circumstances lay on your shoulders like bags of rocks? Have you seen God use them before? You will again. Maybe not the way you expect, but He draws all of your circumstances together for His good purpose for you.

I am so glad Katie shared today! Her book, Wildflowers from Winter, is exceptional and available right now.

What Katie says about herself:

I’m a slightly-frazzled, ever-inquisitive Midwest gal who’s passionate about Jesus, my family, writing, and all things romance, which is exactly what I write. Stories about flawed, broken characters who find faith and fall in love. When I’m not plotting ways to get my hero and heroine to cross paths, I enjoy watching movies with my hunk of a husband, playing make-believe with my wild-child of a son, hanging out with the crazy but lovable junior high students at my church, and chatting with my girlfriends at Panera®. I could talk books all day and am often spotted around town pushing a stroller, walking my dog, and reading—all at the same time.


Choosing Characters

carwash I love plotting. And I can see a murder scene almost anywhere I go. I know, gruesome! My Precious Redhead and I make a game of it. Should have heard our conversation as we waited in a fast food line next to a car wash. After sunset, the flashing blue lights inside the glassed-in building looked more like a house of horror than a car wash.

But I digress.

My biggest challenge, and my critique partners will back me up on this, is developing deep characters. But I’ve heard some excellent advice on this.

First, from Susan May Warren, I learned to ask my characters what their greatest fear is. Actually, it never occurred to me to actually ask them until I read Shame and Redemption by Bethany Quinn (a character created by Katie Ganshert).

But I have to describe the depth of my greenness. So I jotted down the greatest fears of my characters, and stopped. The thought never occurred to me that I should actually take my characters through their greatest fear. No. I can’t do that to them!

At a DFW Ready Writer meeting (a chapter of ACFW in Dallas/Ft. Worth) Ronie Kendig argued my point. By all means take your characters to those dark places. I got the feeling that unless things hurt, I didn’t go deep enough.

I’m also inspired by some of the terrific stories I’ve read from all three of these authors and the way their characters have unique personalities with things that I like about them and things that I don’t like. (See Reviews on My Foolish Heart, Wildflowers from Winter, and Firethorn)

So I’ve got a place to start with my character development. Only a starting place, though.

What tricks to do you have for peopling your stories? How do you make them all distinct?


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Review – Wildflowers from Winter

I had a lovely time this summer reading books til I turned purple. Okay not quite. But I did read several books. I didn’t review all of them, but for a while, book reviews were a weekly event at my blog. I’ve compiled those reviews on my new page, For Readers. Hope you enjoy browsing!

And in that same spirit, I’m utilizing my A2Z Blog hop article to share a Review of a new favorite!

AVAILABLE TODAY!

Wildflowers from Winter: A Novel

Wildflowers from Winter: A Novel by Katie Ganshert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Halfway through this book, I stopped and told my daughter, “Katie Ganshert is Michelangelo with words.”

I’m in total awe! Her main character, Bethany Quinn, is terribly realistic. I say terribly because she alternates between sweet and self-absorbed. She proves easy to identify with (I hate to admit) but not always easy to like. Her personal agendas and hidden pain provide many of the conflicts in the story.

But those same flaws make her real. Keep her true to her character throughout the story. And though the story, for the most part, is told in third-person, Ganshert’s delve into 1st person flashbacks are masterful. The connection to Bethany Quinn strengthens as each layer rolled back.

The hero with a past, Evan Price gives a good balance to Bethany, but I really connect with her best friend, Robin, and look forward to reading more about her – hopefully in future books!

I’ve found a new favorite author and can’t wait to keep reading!

Wildflowers From Winter is available TODAY! Celebrate it’s premiere by ordering your own copy!

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books a Million
ChristianBook.com
IndieBound
Lifeway
Mardel
Parable Christian Stores
Powell’s Books
Random House

Special thanks to the author for an advanced copy for an impartial review!

View all my reviews on Goodreads


Off on Mondays

I’m still getting used to staying off my blog on Mondays. I can’t help it; I miss the interaction when I’m not spending time with y’all. So I’m just popping by to let you know that I’m planning to review Wildflowers from Winter tomorrow. The book is available for pre-order today, but tomorrow … Yea! … it launches!


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Redemption – Bethany’s Story

Katie Ganshert’s debut novel, Wildflowers from Winter is remarkable. Her main character, Bethany chatted about Shame on Monday and returned in this repost from Katie’s blog to discuss her ideas about redemption. I loved learning about Bethany and her plight as I read Wildflowers from Winter and it comes out in just a few days! Woohoo!

***

Katie asked me to come back and talk about redemption.

After talking about my past and this whole idea of shame, I have no idea if she’s thinking third time’s a charm, or three strikes I’m out.

Regardless, three is my favorite number. So here I am.

Redemption. Not really sure what I think about that word. Crickets, really. So I decided to look it up. Here’s what I found, plus my commentary.

Redemption:

  1. An act of redeeming or the state of being redeemed (How’s that for helpful?)
  2. Deliverance, rescue
  3. Deliverance from sin; salvation (Pastor Fenton? Is that you?)
  4. Atonement for guilt (Now I have to look up atonement.)
  5. Repurchase, as of something sold

Number three brings up too many unpleasant memories.

I have adverse reactions whenever I hear the word atonement. So number four is out.

I don’t think Katie had number five in mind when she brought up redemption and number one is not at all helpful. There should be a law that prohibits dictionaries from using the actual word in the definition.

So I guess I’m left with number two.

Deliverance. Rescue.

I’m not sure how I feel about either of those words.

It’s not like anyone rescued me from Peaks. I had to do that on my own. I’m the one who earned the grades that got me the scholarship. And I’m the one who landed the job in Chicago.

But still….

If I’m being totally honest. Sometimes, when I’m feeling tired or worn out or unsure, the idea of being rescued is an appealing one.

It reminds me of a recurring dream I had as a kid, when we moved away from the farm and into that trailer park. For an entire year I dreamt about a prince as handsome as my dad. He would ride into the park on his white stallion and rescue me from all that had happened. He would bring me back to Grandpa Dan’s farm. And he would make everything better.

But that was just a silly little girl dream.

I learned a long time ago that princes don’t exist.

***

I’d tear up, but I think the last thing Bethany would want is me feeling sorry for her and her little girl dream destroyed. Her story is poignant and uplifting.

You can preorder Wildflowers from Winter here:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books a Million
ChristianBook.com
IndieBound
Lifeway
Mardel
Parable Christian Stores
Powell’s Books
Random House


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Shame – Bethany’s Story

I’ve loved reading a brand new book, Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert, which comes out next week! (So excited for her!) She had a series of posts where her main character, Bethany, borrowed her computer and she’s given me permission to repost one of them today.

After reading this, I was totally intrigued and loved getting to know Bethany better. Stop back by on Friday for another visit from Bethany as she’ll be discussing Redemption!

*****

Back in the beginning, when Katie was trying to get to know me, she asked me this question.

Are you ashamed of your past?

I just sort of stared at her.

First, because she was really starting to remind me of Dr. Nowels, sans the toupee. And in case you don’t know Dr. Nowels, let me assure you, the comparison is not meant to be flattering.

Second, because I thought the answer was obvious.

My past isn’t exactly something to be proud of.

I grew up in a trailer park with a mother who had to work third shifts at an aluminum plant. We drove a rusted out Pinto with a faulty muffler and I had to wear my brother’s hand-me-downs. I did one stupid thing when I was twelve and had to spend the next year in therapy. The next ten with a stigma that refused to go away.

Is it any wonder I left?

Nobody likes feeling shame. It’s not an endearing emotion.

When I explained all this to Katie, she raised her eyebrows and sucked on the end of her pen. Like whatever I’d said nudged an invisible puzzle piece into place.

I didn’t rise to the bait. I didn’t ask what she was thinking.

Because it doesn’t matter. I’m an architect, a really good architect. With a masters degree from Texas A&M. With a new car and closet full of nice clothes.

I’m well respected. I’m independent. And that stigma I had growing up? Nobody sees it here. I know how to hide it. In fact, I can almost pretend it never existed.

You’ll want to read Bethany’s story in Katie’s book Wildflowers from Winter. You can preorder now from:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books a Million
ChristianBook.com
IndieBound
Lifeway
Mardel
Parable Christian Stores
Powell’s Books
Random House