Monthly Archives: May 2014

Writing Update: Killer Voices Finalist

As you may know from earlier posts, or if you’ve been following me on Twitter, I entered Harlequin’s Killer Voices competition a few months ago with the Inspirational Romantic Suspense novel I’ve been working on.  Last Thursday I was thrilled to learn that I’ve been selected to move on to the final round of the competition!

That means two things:

  1. The editor who read my synopsis and first three chapters liked them well enough to ask to read more.  (I’m doing a happy dance!)
  2. My full manuscript is due by 5 PM on Monday June 9th.  (That’s less than 2 weeks away!)

I’m making great progress and anticipate meeting that deadline.  Still, I do want every spare minute I can get for editing and polishing.  Soooo… it’s crunch time, and this blog may be a little quieter for a couple of weeks.  Thanks for understanding!

Book Review: A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert

abrokenkindofbeautifulTitle: A Broken Kind of Beautiful
Author: Katie Ganshert
Publisher: Waterbrook-Multnomah
Genre: Contemporary Inspirational Romance
Published: 2014


You know those books you have to ration as you approach the last page because you can’t get enough and don’t want the story end?  This was one of those books.  Except I lost that battle because I couldn’t stop turning the pages.  It was that good.

Here’s what it’s about (from publisher Waterbrook-Multnomah):

Sometimes everything you ever learned about yourself is wrong.

Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four year old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she’s learned a sacred truth—appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows—so when it starts to unravel, she’ll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother’s bridal wear line—an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white.

If only her tenuous future didn’t rest in the hands of Davis Knight, her mysterious new photographer. Not only did he walk away from the kind of success Ivy longs for to work maintenance at a local church, he treats her differently than any man ever has. Somehow, Davis sees through the façade she works so hard to maintain. He, along with a cast of other characters, challenges everything Ivy has come to believe about beauty and worth. Is it possible that God sees her—a woman stained and broken by the world—yet wants her still?

To learn more, visit the publisher’s Web site for news, reviews, and an excerpt.  But first…

Here are my thoughts:

I have a soft spot for stories that deal with forgiveness and redemption, particularly when done well, and this one handled those themes very well. Each of the characters had some tough lessons to learn over the course of the story before a happy ending could be had, but none of those lessons felt forced or contrived. Each of the characters went through gradual, sometimes painful, and definitely challenging growth, one step at a time. I absolutely loved watching it all unfold. And watch it I did. Smell and hear it too, thanks to all the vivid sensory details included.

One of the things that really got my attention was the way the author used visual items and circumstances within the surroundings as triggers and metaphors for some of the lessons the characters were learning.  It gave the book a literary quality that I really enjoyed and that tied everything together beautifully.  Here’s one of my favorite passages, drawn from pages 183-4:

“I’m glad God’s like those butterflies and not like that crab bait,” Sara said.

Davis took another bite of his peach and wiped at the juice dribbling down his chin.

Ivy raised an eyebrow. “You’re glad God’s not like a bloody chicken neck?”

He chuckled.

“I’m glad God doesn’t plunk Himself into the water and wait for us to find Him.  I’m glad He chases us like that butterfly.”

I think the butterfly vs. chicken neck metaphor illustrates an important point for the story in a way that’s vivid and memorable as well as surprising.  And I think this passage works even better in context.  You’ll just have to read the book, so you can let me know if you agree.  :)

That wasn’t the only instance where one of the characters made a meaningful point in an unexpected way.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the part on pages 260-1 where Pastor Voss looks at the familiar story of the Prodigal Son from a fresh perspective that suits this story perfectly.

A Broken Kind of Beautiful has compelling and loveable characters, a meaty subject dealt with in a touching way without becoming cheesy, and a powerful message that’s not intrusive, but feels like a natural outgrowth of the story. In some ways, this book reminds me of Francine Rivers’s Redeeming Love, and I think fans of that book will enjoy this one as well. As will anyone who enjoys a good contemporary inspirational romance. I’m so glad I had the chance to read it!

Now I need to go look for Katie Ganshert’s earlier books, Wildflowers from Winter, a Carol Award Winner and Wishing on Willows, currently an INSPY Award finalist.  If they’re anything like this book, I’m looking forward to reading them as well.

A big thank you to publisher Waterbrook-Multnomah for providing me with an Advance Reading Copy of A Broken Kind of Beautiful as part of their Blogging for Books program for purposes of this review.  My review reflects my honest opinion.

New This Week in Christian Fiction (May 13)

If you missed last week’s new titles, be sure to check them out.  The first Tuesday of the month ushered in a wealth of new books.  And this week brings four more exciting new inspirational titles to check out in the contemporary romance, historical romance, and young adult categories.

Spotlight on…

Somebody Like You by Beth K Vogt

Description (From Publisher, Howard Books):

Can a young widow find love again with her husband’s reflection?

Haley’s three-year marriage to Sam, an army medic, ends tragically when he’s killed in Afghanistan. Her attempts to create a new life for herself are ambushed when she arrives home one evening—and finds her husband waiting for her. Did the military make an unimaginable mistake when they told her Sam was killed?

Too late to make things right with his estranged twin brother, Stephen discovers Sam never told Haley about him. As Haley and Stephen navigate their fragile relation­ship, they are inexorably drawn to each other. How can they honor the memory of a man whose death brought them together—and whose ghost could drive them apart?

Somebody Like You is a beautifully rendered, affecting novel, reminding us that while we can’t change the past, we have the choice to change the future and start anew.

See More: Reading Group GuideHeroine Interview ~ Author Interview

More New Titles This Week

Chateau of Secrets by Melanie Dobson

The Heart’s Pursuit by Robin Lee Hatcher

So Not Okay by Nancy Rue

Tangentially Speaking: Authorly Take-Aways from a Librarians’ Conference


Image Created Using

So, a quick poll:

Who among my readers knew that librarians not only need a Master’s Degree in Library Science (MLS) or in Library and Information Science (MLIS), but also require ongoing continuing education?

Okay, I guess that was more a rhetorical question than an actual poll… but anyway….

In point of fact, we do.  In order to remain certified as a Professional Librarian in the state of Maryland, I need ninety (yes, that’s 90) hours of continuing education every five years.  So, this past Wednesday through Friday I found myself in Ocean City, Maryland with a  hotel-ful of other librarians from Maryland and Delaware for the annual library conference sponsored by the Maryland and Delaware Library Associations.

Which was awesome.

I got to hang out with friends and former colleagues, as well as network and meet librarians from all over not one, but two states.  And attend a half dozen awesome learning sessions, a couple yummy banquets, etc.  And in the evenings, I had a quiet place all to myself in which to get some concentrated writing time in on my novel, distraction free.  Yay!

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “That’s great, Karen, but what’s the point?  Why do I want to read about the great time you had at that conference?”

I’m so glad you asked.  😉

What I want to do in this blog post is share a few things I learned in some of the sessions I attended that could be of interest to authors and bloggers.  More specifically, some awesome-sounding tools and resources mentioned that could prove useful in developing a social media presence and in other writerly areas.  A few of these tools I’d heard of or used before, but many  were completely new to me and I plan to check them out myself in the weeks and months to come.

The first two resources were mentioned in a session on User Centered Design for Web sites, presented by Ben Kutil.  You’d be surprised at the kinds of things you need to know as a librarian.  And yes, as a tech-enthusiast I was in my element.

  • – At the touch of a button you get a randomly generated name.  You can ask for a particular gender or country of origin or go completely random.  What great inspiration for naming a character!  FYI, the “UI” stands for user interface, and it’s designed with User Interface Designers in mind, but I think it’s just as cool for authors.
  • – Real avatars people have shared for use in user interface mock-ups.  I’m thinking they could serve as inspiration for characters… not that there aren’t already tons of great pictures all over the web you could browse through.  But you get the idea.

And there were a ton of useful resources mentioned in the session I attended on Social Media, which was presented by Erica Jesonis from the Cecil County Public Library.  The focus of the session was on increasing engagement on your current social media outlets, which is wildly pertinent not just to librarians, but also to authors, and really anyone on social media.  So here goes.  I haven’t personally checked these all out myself, so if you’re familiar with any of them, I’d love to hear what you think.  And of course, if you find one here you come to love, I’d be thrilled to hear about that too.

  • HootSuite – a tool for scheduling social media posts, as well as for following search terms to see what’s popular at the moment and for finding content to share of interest to your own followers.  It calls itself a “Social Media Management Dashboard.”  I’ve heard good things about HootSuite before, but have yet to give it a try myself.
  • – a great tool for digging up related hashtags and seeing which are the most popular, for use in deciding how best to “hashtagify” your own social media posts.  I’ve used this one a little before, but it looks like it’s capable of so much more than what I’ve used so far.  Will have to explore it some more when I find the time.
  • Topsy – for use in searching “the social web” (photos, videos, posts, links, etc) as well as analyzing trends in what’s popular.
  • Keyhole – for tracking hashtag, keyword, and URL use on popular social networks in real-time.
  • Snapseed – a photo editing app available from both the Android and iOS App stores.
  • InsText – another app available on both platforms (Android and iOS) for editing photos, with a focus on easily adding text to your pictures.
  • Recite This – Lets you convert text to beautiful images quickly and easily.  Sounds great for use on Facebook, where images get preferential treatment.  😉  The site’s tagline is “Turn a Quote into a Masterpiece.”
  • Canva – a web-based tool for graphic design, supposed to make great looking results incredibly easy.
  • Picframe – an App available on multiple platforms for easily combining and framing photos and sharing them socially.
  • – a web based tool for creating your own infographics and charts.
  • Lapse It – an App for Android and iOS that allows you to create time lapse videos with your mobile device.
  • Animoto – can be used for making video slideshows out of still pictures and video clips.
  • Storify – for creating a mashup of related social media posts that come together to tell a story.

As I said, I’d love to hear if you find any of these tools useful.  I expect I’ll be experimenting with some of them as I find the time.  Thanks for stopping by.  :)

New this Week in Christian Fiction (May 6, 2014)

It’s the first Tuesday of the month.  Know what that means?  A huge selection of new releases to choose from.  The biggest categories this month are Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance, and Romantic Suspense.  Or in other words, if you love romance, you’re in luck.  But there’s also a smattering of books in other categories too, including one with a movie coming out soon.  See if you can guess which one.  (Hint: There’s a link to more info about the movie right next to the title.)

Spotlight on…

One Perfect Spring by Irene Hannon

Description (from Publisher, Revell):

Independent single mom Claire Summers is doing her best to make lemonade out of the lemons life has handed her. Workaholic Keith Watson is interested only in the bottom line–until a letter from Claire’s eleven-year-old daughter reaches his desk and changes everything.

As the executive assistant to a philanthropic businessman, Keith is used to fielding requests for donations. But the girl isn’t asking for money. She wants help finding the long-lost son of a neighbor. As Keith reluctantly digs into this assignment in his usual results-oriented style, he has no idea how involved he and Claire will become–nor how unusual the results will actually be. Who could have guessed that a child’s kindhearted request would bring love and hope to so many lives . . . including his own?

Through compelling characters and surprising plot twists, fan favorite Irene Hannon offers this tenderhearted story that demonstrates how life is like lilacs–the biggest blooms come only after the harshest winters.

Amish / Mennonite

First Impressions by Sarah Price
Rumspringa’s Hope (The Spirit of the Amish #1) by Beth Shriver


Godless by Dr. James Dobson and Kurt Bruner

Contemporary Romance

One More Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong
Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin
One Perfect Spring by Irene Hannon
Dixie Belle by Debby Mayne
Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg
Meant To Be Mine (Porter Family #2) by Becky Wade

Historical Romance

Out of the Ruins (Golden Gate Chronicles) by Karen Barnett
Falling for the Rancher Father (Love Inspired Historical) by Linda Ford
The Horseman’s Frontier Family (Love Inspired Historical) by Karen Kirst
The Baron’s Honourable Daughter by Lynn Morris
Through the Deep Waters by Kim Vogel Sawyer
While Love Stirs by Lorna Seilstad
Daisies are Forever by Liz Tolsma

Romantic Suspense

Bodyguard Reunion (Love Inspired Suspense) by Margaret Daley
Family in Hiding (Love Inspired Suspense) by Valerie Hansen
Fatal Exchange by Lisa Harris
Grave Danger (Love Inspired Suspense) by Katy Lee
Gathering Shadows (Finding Sanctuary #1) by Nancy Mehl
Silenced (Alaskan Courage #4) by Dani Pettrey
Double Agent (Love Inspired Suspense) by Lisa Phillips
Trail of Secrets (Love Inspired Suspense) by Sandra Robbins
Treasure Point Secrets (Love Inspired Suspense) by Sarah Varland

Suspense / Thriller

Persecuted: I Will Not Be Silent by Robin Parrish – Movie coming soon.

Women’s Fiction

All My Belongings by Cynthia Ruchti

Young Adult

Marvelous (Books of Marvella #1) by Travis Thrasher