What would happen if an Amish teenager were accused of murder?
The contrast between a peaceful, pastoral countryside dotted with barns and crisscrossed by horse-drawn buggies and the gritty, dark city streets of Law and Order popped into my imagination and wouldn’t let go. Who would defend this innocent-looking Amish boy? Imagine a big-city female attorney in a stylish power suit and Italian shoes trudging across a muddy pasture—there she was, the total fish out of water, my protagonist, Jessica Langdon.
MURDER IN PLAIN SIGHT proved to be one of the most interesting, as well as difficult, stories I’ve tried to write. Fortunately I have an attorney daughter-in-law who is only as far away as a quick e-mail. And I started with a treasure trove of knowledge about the Amish and their ways, garnered from a lifetime spent in rural Pennsylvania. But juggling all of this: the mystery, the suspense, the romance, planting the seeds for the second book in the series...well, maybe I was a juggler with one too many balls in the air!
The result of my labors, MURDER IN PLAIN SIGHT, is available now from HQN Books, so look for it at your nearest bookseller or online. Here’s the back cover copy:
MURDER IN PLAIN SIGHT by Marta Perry HQN Books, December, 2010, 384 pages, $7.99 ISBN: 978-0-373-77472-2
There are secrets buried in Amish country...
Did a sweet-faced Amish teenager brutally murder a young woman? To save her career, big-city lawyer Jessica Langdon is determined to defend him—against the community’s bitter and even violent outrage. Yet without an understanding of Amish culture, Jessica must rely on arrogant businessman Trey Morgan, who has ties to the Amish community...but believes in the boy’s guilt.
Jessica has threats coming from all sides: a local fanatic, stirred up by the biased publicity of the case; the dead girl’s boyfriend; even from the person she’s learned to trust the most, Trey Morgan. Just when Jessica fears she’s placed her trust in the wrong man, Trey saves her life. And now they must both reach into a dangerous past to protect everyone’s future—including their own.
The other day my husband called me downstairs, telling me to "walk slowly". Wondering what I was in trouble for this time, I did as he asked. When I got to the den, he told me to look out the window. We have two big bay windows on the back side of our house, one in the breakfast room and one in the den. I again followed his command. And I'm glad I did. There by the pool was a big beautiful bird. I mean, really big. It was a blue heron (except in my excitement I kept calling it a blue "herring.") I ran to get the camera and we managed to get several shots of the bird. He seemed to be aware of us and actually did a pose just for our picture. Then when my husband stood up by the French door the bird lifted up and flew into the trees. It was one of those moments where you wonder if you truly saw what you just saw. I'm glad we captured it with the camera because I don't think anyone would believe us. It's rare for such a bird to land inside a residential neighborhood. We wondered where the bird had come from and I hoped he'd find his way to a safe pond or bayou. The big bird might have been out of his element, but he handled the situation with grace and dignity.
But this got me to thinking about all the "blue herrings" in life. We all know about "red herrings" in our fiction, of course. Those are "planted" clues we use to distract the reader and our characters. But what is a "blue herring?" I think that term can be applied to the unexpected in our lives and our stories. Seeing this bird was very unexpected and for just a few precious moments, he visited our back yard and graced us with his quiet beauty. I believe God plants such moments in our lives just to remind us to "walk slowly" so we don't miss the little surprises around each turn. So the next time you witness something unique or different in your life, remember the blue heron. Sometimes we only get a few moments to see one of God's beautiful masterpieces. Those unexpected moments are our opportunity to slow down and appreciate all the beauty in life.
Like many of you, I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner yesterday with family and friends. I over ate, consuming way more calories than I should. (If you’ve heard a rumor that calories consumed on Thanksgiving and Christmas don’t count, I have bad news for you. It’s not true.)
The hours of preparing the feast are behind us. Leftovers are properly stored. The good china and silverware hidden away. The oven is cool. The football game that entertained our menfolk is history, although I confess I watch football too.
And today, at last, is the day for my favorite meal of the year: 100% leftovers. (Well, there are some meals at special restaurants I particularly enjoy, but for dinner at home, this is the best.) A few slices of turkey on a plate, a spoonful of stuffing and some yams, all covered with a dollop of gravy. Then into the microwave and ZAP. Add some homemade cranberry sauce on the side and dinner’s ready! What could be better than that? The cook’s reward for all of her hard work. I hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying the rest of the weekend. I know I plan to.
I’m also looking forward to the release of my very first Love Inspired, Montana Hearts, due in bookstores December 1st. It’s the story of a heart-transplant recipient who goes in search of the donor family to anonymously thank them. She falls love with the heart donor’s widowed husband. But does he love her for herself? Or because his late wife’s heart beats in her chest? I think it’s the most emotional story I’ve ever written. I hope it will touch your heart.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. You may be preparing a meal, baking a pie, or maybe waiting for family and friends to arrive at your home for the holiday. Or maybe you’re like me and will be traveling to be with your family. Whatever you’re doing to prepare for Thanksgiving, I’m guessing you’re thinking of what you are thankful for. Maybe you’ve had a great year and it’s not a struggle to list the many blessings in your life. Or maybe you’ve struggled with unemployment, foreclosure of your house, an illness, or even the loss of a family member or loved one.
Whatever has occurred in the past year there are always things to be thankful for and I hope if you’ve had a tough year you can find the positive. My year has been filled with wonderful blessings, but I’ve also had many years when I’ve had to dig extra deep to find those blessings. My father passed away near Thanksgiving so the holiday is difficult for me even when life is going well. But, I am thankful that he believed in Jesus as his savior and he is now in heaven with my mother and in the arms of our savior.
I am especially thankful that my family is healthy and happy. I have a wonderful church, Pastor and church family. I have had two books release in the year, Nipped in the Bud and High-Stakes Inheritance and have contracted two more to release in 2011 in the Love Inspired Suspense line. Most of all I am thankful that I have a Lord and Savior who has saved me.
So what about you? What are your holiday plans and what are you giving thanks for this year?
I went kicking and screaming, but eventally I broke down and purchased a Kindle. Yes, yes, I know. We've all heard the yeas and nays. So, before you all jump in, let me say:
My name is Pamela Tracy and I'm a readaholic.
I figured it out once. If I read a book a day and lived to be 103, I probably wouldn't make it through my TBA file (partly because I got really behind on my LIS book club).
Some of the books patiently waiting in my closet for their turn are so old that when the heroine needs help, she doesn't whip out her cell phone and punch in numbers. (I still have Harper Monograms waiting their turn and a few Loveswepts!) See, some of those books were written before Jane Q. Public could afford a cell phone or maybe before they existed as we know them.
My name is Pamela Tracy and I'm a readaholic.
But, I digress. I still very much want the print version. I purchased the Kindle because I can read it in the car without getting a headache. For some reason, I've never been able to read in the car for more than a minute before nausea followed by pounding headache. Then, my sister handed me her Kindle while we were driving from AZ to CA, and after reading for fifteen minutes, I wanted one.
My Kindle is my purse book.
The reason I'm blogging about the Kindle is because I uploaded my Bible so I'd have it with me everywhere. The Bible is better in print form. My fingers can fly over the little Kindle pad, but I have to go through about six functions if I want to change to a chapter and verse and keep up with whoever is teaching. With a print Bible, I just flip the page. I can underline easily, but keeping notes is tedious, and if I want to read them later, they're a bit hard to find. Plus, I'll never stumble on a chance margin note. I have to look for them.
Research is so important to even a contemporary novel. I enjoy writing stories that are set in real places and though the people are fictitious, the places and much of the information are real.
Last week my husband and I drove north to a small Michigan town called Harrisville. I'd found it on line and later realized I'd actually been there. But not for research. That makes all the difference.
This town has about 500 residents but it's a town that has many wonderful events throughout the year so it interested me as a setting for my Christmas novella which will be released as a duet book in November 2011. My story is ttitled SMALL TOWN CHRISTMAS.
The first thing we did in town was stop for lunch at this great place called, Flour Garden. It's a bakery, small store and restaurant with really good food. You can see me standing in the entry way, anxious to have lunch. Manny, the owner, was so helpful. Across the street from this restaurant is a large fur tree which they light up for Christmas. He told me about the event in detail so I can include it in my novel. Already the streets were decorated with Christmas decorations.
My next visit was at Alcona Elementary School where I met the principal and a second grade teacher plus some other staff. They welcomed me and allowed us to take photographs and answered a multitude of questions. My heroine will work at this school.
I also visited the library and met the very nice librarian who told me about all the activities that they have there. I came home with brochures and great info. One thing they do at their Christmas In The Villiage event is to have Santa visit the library where the kids are read stories and have cookies and hot chocolate.
The town is on Lake Huron with a marina and a Harbor Park as well as a state park nearby. I viewed the homes and streets to get a feel for the community and visited the boutiques and shops in town where I also made some good connections.
I've learned after writing so many novels that accurancy pleases readers and makes me happy too. I like my novels to feel real and so I try to be accurate. I hope you enjoy the novella when it comes out Christmas 2011.
Meanwhile, have a blessed Thanksgiving filled with love and blessings.
Cheryl Wyatt here. The other day during church small group sharing time, our small group leader asked what it was that first drew us to the church. For me, it was the fact that the worship was so intimate. The lyrics sang directly to God rather than just about Him which taught me to focus more on Him. For some reason that got me thinking about what made me start reading Love Inspireds. Simply put, I know the reads are safe and will not compromise my faith. I love the story worlds and the small town feel of the books.
When I was an aspiring author, I frequented the eharlequin message boards www.steeplehill.com where I met and was mentored by author Margaret Daley (Pictured with me above). Margaret reaches out to so many authors amid her success and she has become one of my closest writer friends. She encourages and inspires me in so many ways. Her books were some of the first LIs that I read. Her hooky writing, sweet settings, spectacular plots and strong characters reeled me in.
I feel so blessed to be a part of a community of authors who so readily reach out to the up and coming authors. Many, many Love Inspired authors encouraged and cheered me along the journey. I'll bet several of them are among your favorites. People such as Margaret and Ginny Aiken. Marta Perry, Debra Clopton, Allie Pleiter and Lenora Worth. I could go on listing names for days. I feel blessed to be a part of the sisterhood that is LI.
So today I'm wondering what first drew you in to reading Love Inspireds? I would especially love to know what KEEPS you reading them?
Is it the clean, Christian content? The authors' voices? The small town feel? The sense of community each book brings? What else?
I'd really love to know! So post your thoughts in the comment section.
Stephanie Newton here, thinking about heroes today. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. For a while now, one of my 14 year old daughter’s heroes has been an Australian songwriter and singer by the name of Brooke Fraser. The first song my daughter learned to play on the guitar was one of Brooke’s songs that she wrote for Hillsong United.
I think my thinker daughter is intrigued by a woman who reads, thinks goofy thoughts (sometimes really profound thoughts), writes these thoughts down into songs, and then sings them. Beautifully.
So...once in a great while, if you’re really lucky, you get to meet one of your heroes. Tonight we’re going to hear Brooke Fraser in concert. Cool, huh?
My daughter is beside herself with excitement. I’m pretty excited, too! I'm posting a video so you can see her too! Enjoy :)
Award winning author Stephanie Newton lives in Northwest Florida with her husband and two kids. Her latest work, "Christmas Target," is available now in HOLIDAY HAVOC, a two-in-one Christmas book with Terri Reed.
Camy Tang here, and I'm shamelessly fishing for prayers/sympathy/offers to mail me chocolate chip cookies. I'm sick. Not horrifically sick, just a cold. But my head aches and I've got chills and I KNOW I'm sick when I'm not even hungry! I can't believe it!
Anyway, I was supposed to post today but got waylaid because of wanting to go crawl back into bed. Just wanted to let you all know. And if you could please pray for me, I'd really appreciate it! I'm a little stressed because my work is piling up while I'm out for the count. :(
Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous contemporary romance novel, Single Sashimi, and her romantic suspense, Formula for Danger, released in September. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders dogs, knitting and spinning wool, running, Asiana, and other frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for giveways!
Terri Reed here, I'm listening to my daughter practice a piece of music for her upcoming audition for her school's Christmas concert. She's singing Breath of Heaven. I believe Amy Grant is the orginal recording artist for this song. However, my daughter sings a few octives higher than Grant, so I can't really compare the two. Each are unique and beautiful in their own way. I could listen to my daughter sing for hours. In fact, I think it has been hours. Hours of practicing, working out the notes, playing with the tempo and adding riffs that aren't in the sheet music. The song is so timeless and special. Told from the view point of Mary, the mother of Jesus, asking God for help and guidance, affirming God's goodness and graciousness. The tender words and haunting melody bring the focus of Christmas to the reason we, as followers of Christ, celebrate. The birth of our Lord Jesus.
May you find a breath of heaven as we enter into the busy holiday season.
And if you're looking for a stocking stuffer, don't forget Love Inspired books fit just right!
Hi there. I’m Renee Ryan and my latest release, DANGEROUS ALLIES, is a romantic spy thriller. The hero, Jack, is an American naval officer on loan to the British government. MI6 (the British equivalent of today’s CIA) sends him into Germany to photograph the blueprints of a Nazi secret weapon. The heroine is an exiled Russian princess and also the hero’s contact inside Germany.
Jack is an alpha hero through and through, which isn’t common in Inspirational Romance. So what makes a hero an alpha male? More specifically, what makes an alpha hero appealing?
Here’s my very unscientific list of character traits that make an alpha hero.
1. He has integrity. Seems straightforward, right? Not so much. Male integrity requires a strong sense of right and wrong deep within a man. He has to know who he is at the core. His yes should always mean yes, and his no should always mean no. An alpha male will always do the right thing, even if that means losing something valuable to him. He commits without compromising. Most important of all, he doesn’t intentionally hurt people to get what he wants. Rather, he refuses to make decisions that will have long-reaching, negative consequences to others.
2. He respects others people’s boundaries. Piggy-backing on my definition of integrity, a true alpha male respects others’ boundaries. He doesn’t force himself on others, especially not on women. He doesn’t insist people bend to his will just because it’s “his way or the highway.” He takes people’s word at face value. It’s not his place to read minds. This doesn’t mean there aren’t times when he knows best. But only in extreme moments of danger will he go against another’s wishes, which brings me to number three.
3. He protects those weaker than himself. In the case of protecting his loved ones and those weaker than himself, an alpha does what needs to be done. Immediately. No hesitation, no discussion. In times of danger, all bets are off. When another’s safety is the only factor at play he steps up. In other words, an alpha male protects his own, to the death if necessary. No one is getting past him. Not even the person he is protecting.
4. He likes women. Again, this is another area that seems straightforward but isn’t. An alpha male doesn’t just lust after women. He truly likes them. He enjoys their company. He revels in their differences, the sort of things that make females essentially female. He finds a woman’s femininity fascinating and alluring. He is charmed by her lilting voice and soft skin. He even gets a kick out of her shifting moods (most of the time). He recognizes that a successful man has a good woman walking beside him. And once he commits to that woman he stays committed.
So, there you have it, my list of alpha male characteristics. Thoughts? Additions?
I've been working on a new proposal and had the plot and characters in mind. As I finished the first scene, a woman--a female Army veteran pushed her way into my story. She'd been injured while in Iraq and was at the equine therapy ranch for help.
Her appearance surprised me. She came out of nowhere. She didn't tell me her name or how she was injured. And I have no clue what she looks like or any of her background. Well, my female vet continues to want to pop up into the story. She's the first one who appears on scene. I keep ignoring her. Not yet, I tell her.
I know she'll make an appearance in the book because I won't be able to hold her off for the entire book. And she'll probably get her own story, but as I keep telling her, this isn't her book, so butt out.
Merrillee here, writing her blog the night before. When you read this tomorrow, maybe all of the election results will be in. Like many of you, I am glad this round of electioneering is over. What will I do when the phone rings and there isn't a robo call for a politician on the other end? I will probably find a phone solicitor on the other end.
Although I complain about the lengthy political season, and I don't always like political speeches, I have to admit that I am somewhat of a political junky. I like to see the election returns come in. I like to go to the polls and cast my ballot on election day. No early voting or absentee voting for me unless it is absolutely necessary. I treasure the opportunity to vote.
I believe my maternal grandfather sparked my interest in politics when I was a little girl. I was visiting him and my grandmother and got to stay up late and watch the Democrat National Convention the year John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were vying for their party's nomination for president. I guess that certainly dates me. I thought the roll call of states was fascinating. I don't think the conventions are nearly as interesting as they were back then. I wonder what my grandfather would think of politics now.
Everyone says that you shouldn't talk about religion or politics. I like to talk about both.
A man alone on horseback on the wide, wind-swept plains as dawn is breaking in the east.
This simple word conjures up feelings of strength, independence, romance...everything a hero should be, and often is, inside the covers of our books. Who doesn't love a guy who loves his horse? Who drives a beat up pick-up? Who wears those sexy chaps?
What is it about cowboys that makes us go, ahhh! Is it the horse? Is it the clothes? What makes a cowboy such a wonderful hero? I'm all ears. Tell me what you think?
Who is your favorite cowboy on the big screen or the little one? For me...John Wayne.
What's your favorite cowboy story? Love Inspired has a lot to pick from. We love cowboys.
I've given you some pictures of modern day cowboys to enjoy while you think. The man in the first picture is my brother Bob. Yup, my brother is a cowboy, and single.
These pictures were taken by my sister-in-law, Theresa, on this year's round-up out in the Flint Hills where my family has pastured cattle for four generations. I have some great memories of riding in the roundup as a kid. I come by my love of cowboys naturally.
Tell me why you love a cowboy hero as much as I do.
Hi, this is Janet Tronstad here. I recently forced my twelve-year-old nephew to go to the Hungtington Gardens here in Pasadena with me to see their copy of the Guttenberg Bible. It's one of the few in existence and I think it's awesome. He wasn't interested (:)), but I haven't stopped thinking about it since. Partly because I feel like we are at the same kind of crossroads in the evolution of books today. Our new ebooks are (maybe, somewhat) like the Guttenberg Press. And I feel like I'm one of the monks who might have looked up from a lifetime of painting the scrollwork in those ancient texts to protest that people would lose their reverence for books if they weren't done in the same way they had always been done. And the monks were right! No one would have ever taken one of those scrolls to the bathrub with them. The monks probably also pointed out that their books were more beautiful than the ones printed by machine -- and again they were right. The monks might have even wondered what they would do without their jobs since making the scrollwork was their life.
Change is almost always hard. You hear all kind of chatter about whether or not people are going to buy ebooks, but I want to know how you feel about the change. Nostalgic for the old? Fearful of the new? Dragging your feet in resistance? Jumping off the bridge in eagerness? Let's talk. And try, if you can, to put yourself in the mind of one of those old monks. Incredible to even think of laboring like they did to make books.