Stepping into the New Year with a Plan

Hi friends! I hope y’all are enjoying 2018. So far, it has brought lots of snow and cold to my house in Pennsylvania. While I am not a huge fan of extreme cold, I do love to snuggle up in front of my fireplace. Just give me my hot tea or coffee, my heated throw blanket, and either my computer or Neo2 (if I’m writing) or a book (if I’m reading) and I’m content.

This year promises to be a very busy year for me. I have several different writing projects and ministry opportunities in the works that I am very excited about and can’t wait to share with you. As thrilled as I am, however, I know that these opportunities won’t come without their challenges.

I realized at the end of last year that I needed to make some changes in how I do things. In addition to writing, I am raising a family and I also have a demanding full time job as a teacher. As we all know, there are only so many hours in a day. I needed a better way to organize myself.

I needed to plan. I started by thinking about my word for the year. The word that spoke to my heart is “Dedicated”. I want to be dedicated in my faith journey, keeping God at the forefront with prayer and Bible study. I want to be dedicated to caring for my family as best I can. I want to be dedicated in being a good steward with all that God has entrusted me with.

And I wanted to be dedicated to continuing to obey God by writing the stories He gives me.

Next, I needed the perfect planner. Thanks to my friend Lisa Jordan, I have one that I feel will allow me to grow as I plan. I was given permission to post some pictures with some links:



Here are some of the pages inside:



Y’all, I am so excited to see where God takes me this next year! I will be posting news and hints of what is coming through my newsletter. Including some fun giveaways. If you would like to begin receiving my newsletter, follow this link:

Sign Me Up for Dana’s Newsletter!

What plans have you made for this year? Any resolutions that you are determined to keep this year? I would love to hear from you and cheer you on!


Dana R. Lynn

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August Releases from ACFW Authors

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ACFW New Releases: August 2017

August 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.


Imperfect Lies by Elizabeth Noyes — When another woman emerges from the past to claim Mallory Cameron’s happily ever after, she cuts her losses and sets out to find a headline-worthy story to launch her journalism career. She embarks on a whirlwind journey that takes her across the United States, to the blue-green waters of the Caribbean, on to sunny Mexico, and deep into the dangerous parts of Africa where terror reigns. James Evers turned his back on a life of power and privilege to carve a place in the world for himself. Now that he’s finally discovered his niche as a small-town sheriff and found the woman he wants in his future, a past indiscretion struts in on high heels and sends his newfound love fleeing headlong into peril. His mission: neutralize old enemies, defuse new threats, resolve past mistakes, settle family disputes, and—most importantly—find and rescue his woman from terrorists before the unthinkable happens. (Action/Adventure from Write Integrity Press)

Contemporary Romance:

The Bachelor’s Unexpected Family by Lisa Carter — Young widow Kristina Montgomery moves to Kiptohanock, Virginia, hoping it will give her and her teenage son, Gray, a fresh start. She longs for the peace and quiet only a small town can provide. But her plans are thwarted by her new neighbor, Canyon Collier, a former Coast Guard pilot and a crop duster. Gray is instantly drawn to the pilot and his teenage niece, Jade—and Kristina’s not far behind. She and Canyon are soon bonding over parenting their charges and their spark becomes undeniable. Could it be that the spirited pilot is just what Kristina needs to teach her heart to soar again? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Gift of the Magpie by Zoe M. McCarthy — Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia, has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, Amanda’s heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high-school Valentine’s Day date. Camden may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

A Mother for Leah by Rachel L. Miller –It’s been ten years since Leah Fisher’s mother died in a buggy accident. But when Leah’s father shows interest in Naomi Yoder, Leah isn’t ready for a new mother. Will Leah be able to let go of her own ideas and realize that God truly does know best for her or will she allow love to slip through her fingers, destroying Samuel Fisher and Naomi Yoder’s happiness at the same time? (Contemporary from S & G Publishing)

General Contemporary:

Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli — An antique ring reunites a Boston Marathon bombing survivor with the man who saved her. Together they unearth the two-hundred-year- old history of a woman who suffered tremendous loss in the Boston Massacre, a woman torn between the love of two men – one a patriot, one a Redcoat. (General Contemporary from Tyndale House)

Fresh Faith by Elise Phillips — Joy Abbott had been trying to start her life over for years — and failing. Then a letter summoned her to Texas and everything changed. (General Contemporary from Desert Breeze Publishing)


Enchanted Isle by Melanie Dobson — In the spring of 1958, Jenny Winter embarks on a two-month adventure to a quaint village in England’s magical Lake District. With a new camera and an eye for capturing the beauty others miss, she can’t wait to explore the heathery fells and mystical waters. Adrian Kemp, a handsome and enigmatic local, makes the sightseeing even more beguiling. When Adrian shows Jenny his late father’s abandoned dream, a deserted island amusement park, she glimpses a kindred spirit in this reckless, haunted young man. Yet as she opens her heart to Adrian, the two stumble into a mystery leading back a generation to an unforgettable romance and an unsolved murder. As long-held secrets come to light, it’s left to Jenny and Adrian to put the past to rest and restore a lost dream. (Historical from Waterfall Press)

Titus: The Aristocrat by Katheryn Maddox Haddad — Titus intends to become a famous lawyer in the Roman Empire. Instead, he is sent by Paul to arbitrate between arch enemies in wild Corinth, wilder Crete, and wildest Dalmatia. In each place he suffers. But, long before that, he suffers from guilt over the death of his mother when he was eleven years old. How does Titus survive it all? (Historical from Northern Lights Publishing House)

Historical Romance:

To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander — With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society’s expectations must work together to achieve their dreams – provided the truth doesn’t tear them apart first. (Historical Romance from Zondervan)

The Second Chance Brides Collection by Lauralee Bliss, Angela Breidenbach, Ramona K. Cecil, Pamela Griffin, Grace Hitchcock, Pam Hillman, Laura V. Hilton, Tiffany Amber Stockton, and Liz Tolsma — Meet nine women who each believe their chance for lifelong love has passed them by. From the girls who lost their beaus to war, to the wallflowers overshadowed by others, and the widows deeply hurt by their loss, the desire to love and be loved spans American history from 1777 to 1944. Experience the sweet pull of romance on each life and the blossom of faith that leads them to brighter futures. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman — Anxious for his brothers to join him on the rugged frontier along the Mississippi River, Connor O’Shea has no choice but to indenture himself as a carpenter in exchange for their passage from Ireland. But when he’s sold to Isabella Bartholomew of Breeze Hill Plantation, Connor fears he’ll repeat past mistakes and vows not to be tempted by the lovely lady. The responsibilities of running Breeze Hill have fallen on Isabella’s shoulders after her brother was found dead in the swamps along the Natchez Trace and a suspicious fire devastated their crops, almost destroyed their home, and left her father seriously injured. Even with Connor’s help, Isabella fears she’ll lose her family’s plantation. Despite her growing feelings for the handsome Irish carpenter, she seriously considers accepting her wealthy and influential neighbor’s proposal of marriage. Soon, though, Connor realizes someone is out to eliminate the Bartholomew family. Can he set aside his own feelings to keep Isabella safe? (Historical Romance from Tyndale House)

Romantic Suspense:

Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason — When a photo leads investigators in West Ireland to open a twenty-five-year-old cold case, Elite Guardians bodyguard Haley Callaghan’s life is suddenly in danger. Haley knows how to take care of herself; after all, she’s made a career out of taking care of others. But after she has an uncomfortably close call, Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to stay with her–and the young client she has taken under her wing. A protector at heart, he’s not about to let Haley fight this battle alone. In a sweeping plot that takes them into long-buried memories–and the depths of the heart–Haley and Steven will have to solve the mystery of Haley’s past while dodging bullets, bombs, and bad guys who just won’t quit. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [Baker])

Plain Retribution by Dana R. Lynn — Ten years ago while on rumspringa, Rebecca Miller and her friends were kidnapped and held captive…and now, living in the English world, she’s nearly abducted again. One by one her friends who once helped send their abductor to jail are targeted, and she is next…unless police officer Miles Olsen can stop a killer. Deaf since birth, the only person on the force that Rebecca can communicate with is Miles, and he needs this case to redeem himself of past mistakes. When the relentless killer tracks them deep into the heart of Amish country, protecting Rebecca must be Miles’s sole focus. Because a mistake this time will cost something worth more to him than his job—the woman he’s falling for. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Cold Blooded by Anne Patrick — Detective Gwen Jamison has the highest closure rate in her division, but a string of armed robberies is about to take over her life. Not only will her job be on the line, but the troubling case also wreaks havoc on her personal life. Lieutenant Ian McKean knew he would have his hands full when he took over leadership of the detectives unit. He wasn’t prepared for the headstrong Detective Jamison, though, who quickly becomes a thorn in his side. If they can stop butting heads long enough they might realize they are more alike than either imagined. (Romantic Suspense from Anne Patrick)


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ShannonTaylor Vannatter and So Not a Cowgirl



I am very happy to introduce my fellow Love Inspired author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter  with me today. Shannon has a new book out this month. Welcome Shannon!

That picture of me is from a genre dinner at a national writers conference a few years ago. Do I look as uncomfortable as I felt dressed like that? This year, our church had a fun western themed dinner for our members. I wore a hat, boots, and suede skirt. Afterward, I absolutely had to go to Walmart. I tried to pull off that I dress like that all the time, hoping I wouldn’t see anyone I know. Because they know I don’t. I’m so not a cowgirl, my husband teases me about my readers figuring out the truth behind this author of rodeo and cowboy books.


Since my dad was a carpenter and we followed the housing booms, I was raised in the suburbs of Chicago and Atlanta. Every summer, we visited my grandparents in rural Arkansas. It was a different world. Both sets of grandparents had farms with cows, chickens, and vegetable gardens. I loved visiting, but the farm animals never really grew on me.


Chickens were nasty and gross and the cows scared me, especially after one chased me and my cousin. The adults said it was a half-grown calf and it was curious about my poodle, but that didn’t ease my fear. To solidify my phobia, the cows ganged up on another cousin and surrounded the outhouse with her inside. Yes, the outhouse. And I hated all things to do with the garden. Hoeing, digging, and picking equals dirty, sweaty, and itchy. Not my thing at all. I did love horses though and dreamed of owning one someday.


Imagine my horror when my parents moved to rural Arkansas when I was twelve. I missed my friends, my favorite cousin, and thought my life was over. At least, we did have an indoor bathroom and running water. But after growing up with houses six feet apart and lots of kids to make friends with, I was in major culture shock. The houses were a quarter of a mile apart in my new neighborhood. My one consolation—my parents promised me a horse.


I tried to acclimate. By this time, my grandparents had indoor bathrooms and plumbing too. I made a few friends, my parents got cows, and bought me a horse. Having a horse wasn’t what I thought it would be. I thought I could go ride by myself whenever I wanted. But the horse was big, and scary, and the ground was a long way down. I ended up riding for a while with my dad holding the reins, walking the horse around the pasture.


Eventually, I felt confident enough to ride the horse alone and hold the reins myself. It was awesome. Until my horse decided to bolt back to his feed trough. When he rounded a corner in the fence, the saddle turned and I lost the reins. I landed on my shoulder and neck in a painful heap. With torn ligaments in my arm, I couldn’t raise it up all the way for months.


After falling off a horse, you’re supposed to get back on, but they don’t mention how much the fall hurts. I wasn’t too excited about the prospect of getting back on. After I recovered, I did get back on, but only with Daddy holding the reins again. Eventually, my riding tapered off until I didn’t.

My only brush with cowboys came about when my dad agreed to be the announcer at our very small town rodeo and I got the opportunity to work in the concession stand. Thankfully, it wasn’t in the cards for me to snag a cowboy. Nothing against them, but I’m happy with the non-cowboy I ended up with.

At fifteen, a new boy came to school—a non-cowboy Texan. It was love at first sight for me. It took him a little longer—guys are clueless that way. After I won his heart, suddenly Arkansas wasn’t so bad. The quiet rural life grew on me and I married him at nineteen.

We live across a hayfield from my parents and I used to say our town had a population of one hundred if you counted a few cows. But after the 2010 census, turns out we have five-hundred and eighty-six actual people now. The nearest town, ten minutes away, with just over seven thousand people would be wayyyy too big for me to live in.

I still never developed an affection for dirt, sweat, gardens, orchards, or farm animals. But I wrote what I knew—three books set in rural Arkansas—with heroines who didn’t do farm animals either. So what am I doing writing about Texas cowboys and ranches these days? Well there was the rodeo experience with my dad which lent itself well to my Rodeo series with Heartsong Presents.

And I did marry a Texan whose dad owned a ranch in Texas Hill Country. Since our marriage, we’ve made countless treks to visit and always shopped and ate in Bandera—the perfect setting for my current series. My father-in-law passed away a few years back, but we still make trips to see his wife. We call her Texas Mom—hence the dedication in Winning Over the Cowboy. I forgot to tell her I’d done that. She was surprised and delighted.

With this book—I wrote what I didn’t know. Landry is so not me. She’s a chef. I know how to cook, but hate it. She doesn’t mind getting dirty, loves farm animals, fishes, baits her own hook, and can clean her own catch. She was a challenge and a lot of fun to write. I’m currently writing her sister’s story. She’s the complete opposite of Landry and so me. So far, she’s a breeze to write.

We’ve been back to the Atlanta suburb three times since our move. I miss my family and friends there. But not the place. Too much noise and traffic. It’s funny, when I visit there I can’t sleep because there’s too much noise. When my cousins visit me, they can’t sleep because it’s too quiet. In the end, Arkansas turned out to be a good thing. Good for my life and my fiction.

Question for Readers: Are you city person or rural country type? Tell us about where you live.

Giveaway details: Comment to enter the drawing for a copy of Winning Over the Cowboy. Eleven copies will be split among names drawn during the blog tour from April 3 -20. One winner will receive a fishing themed memory board personally crafted by the author. This fabric is special because my son loves to fish as do the characters in the book. Great for displaying kids or grandkids or as a gift for the little fisherman in your life. Winners will be revealed on the author’s blog on April 29th. Sign up to enter more giveaways:


Follow my blog tour for more chances to win Winning Over the Cowboy:


April 3 –


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April 4 & 7 –

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April 20 –


About Shannon

Award winning, central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots.


She has twelve published titles and is contracted for three more. Her books are available online. Learn more about Shannon and her books at and check out her real life romance blog at with weekly book giveaways.


Connect with her: Shannon’s Facebook, Shannon’s Goodreads, Shannon’s Pinterest, Shannon’s Twitter, and  Shannon’s Amazon Author Page.

The Rancher Stakes His Claim 

When she inherits half a dude ranch after losing her best friend, Landry Malone is determined to see Eden’s legacy flourish. That is if her friend’s broad-shouldered cowboy brother will give her the chance. Chase Donovan isn’t happy that his sister left their family business to an outsider—and he’s determined to test Landry’s mettle, hoping she’ll give up her claim. Soon Chase is impressed by Landry’s ability to rise to every challenge he puts in her way—and worried that his attraction to the perky spitfire seems to know no end. Finally working together to ensure the ranch’s future, will their business partnership be the foundation for something more?

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ACFW New Releases: April 2017

April 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

sandpiper-coveSandpiper Cove by Irene Hannon — When a police chief and an ex-con join forces to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks fly. Given their backgrounds, it’s not a promising match—but in Hope Harbor, anything is possible. (Contemporary Romance from Revell [Baker])


 Oh Baby by Delia Latham — Dawni Manors seeks peace in Angel Falls, Texas. What she finds is a cowboy, an abandoned infant, and emotional chaos. If the Heart’s Haven angels really are there, what in the world are they thinking? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])


a-fragile-hopeA Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti — Where does a relationship expert turn when his wife leaves him and carries a tiny heartbeat with her? (General from Abingdon Press)


Waiting for Butterflies by Karen Sargent — When tragedy strikes, Maggie discovers a mother’s love never ends–not even when her life does. Longing for her family after her sudden death, she becomes a lingering spirit and returns home where she helplessly witnesses her family’s downward spiral in the aftermath of her passing. Her husband is haunted by past mistakes and struggles to redeem himself. Her teenage daughter silently drowns in her own guilt, secretly believing she caused her mother’s death. Only her five-year-old, full of innocence, can sense her presence. Although limited by her family’s grief and lack of faith, Maggie is determined to keep a sacred promise and save her family before her second chance runs out. (General from Walrus Publishing [Amphorae Publishing Group])


sunset-in-old-savannahSunset in Old Savannah by Mary Ellis — When a philandering husband turns up dead, two crack detectives find more suspects than moss-draped oaks in charming old Savannah, including a scheming business partner, a resentful mistress, and a ne’er-do-well brother. (Mystery from Harvest House Publishers)


above-rubiesAbove Rubies by Keely Brooke Keith — In 1863, young teacher Olivia Owens establishes the first school in the remote settlement of Good Springs while finding love. (Historical, Independently Published)

Historical Romance:


A Rose So Fair by Myra Johnson — Caleb Wieland would give anything to win farm girl Rose Linwood’s heart, but Rose’s stubborn independence is proving as thorny as the flower for which she’s named. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Under the Same Sky by Cynthia Roemer — In 1854 Illinois, Becky Hollister wants nothing more than to live out her days on the prairie, building a life for herself alongside her future husband. But when a tornado rips through her parents’ farm, killing her mother and sister, she must leave the only home she’s ever known and the man she’s begun to love to accompany her injured father to St. Louis.
Catapulted into a world of unknowns, Becky finds solace in corresponding with Matthew Brody, the handsome pastor back home. But when word comes that he is all but engaged to someone else, she must call upon her faith to decipher her future. (Historical Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing)

The Pony Express Romance Collection by Barbara Tifft Blakey, Mary Davis, Darlene Franklin, Cynthia Hickey, Maureen Lang, Debby Lee, Donna Schlachter, Connie Stevens and Pegg Thomas — Nine historical romances revive the brief era of the Pony Express. Join the race from Missouri, across the plains and mountains to California and back again as brave Pony Express riders and their supporters along the route work to get mail across country in just ten days. It is an outstanding task in the years 1860 to 1861, and only a few are up to the job. Faced with challenges of terrain, weather, hostile natives, sickness, and more, can these adventurous pioneers hold fast, and can they also find lasting love in the midst of daily trials? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

plain-targetPlain Target by Dana R. Lynn — Horse trainer Jess McGrath only wants to clear her disgraced brother’s name, but enemies keep coming out of the woodwork and danger only gets closer. Jess soon learns that no place is safe—and no one can be trusted…except for the last white knight she’d ever expect to ride to her rescue. Paramedic Seth Travis was the boy behind her high school humiliation, but he’s also the man keeping her alive. When they find sanctuary in the Amish community, can they uncover answers in time to stop a killer—and resolve their past in time to build a future together? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
dangerous-testimonyDangerous Testimony by Dana Mentink — Four weeks before she’s set to testify at a gang murder trial, someone is determined to make sure that Candace Gallagher Andrews never takes the stand. When nowhere is safe for the private investigator or her little girl, Candace turns to the only person she can trust—longtime friend and former navy SEAL Marco Quidel. For Marco, protecting Candace is not just another duty. As the trial date nears and the killer stalks ever closer, Marco knows fear for the first time—the fear of losing Candace and her daughter. But while Marco begins seeing Candace as more than just a friend, her late husband’s memory is never far from her mind. So he must keep Candace alive—and not get emotionally involved—long enough to put away a killer. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

deep-extractionDeep Extraction by DiAnn Mills — Special Agent Tori Templeton is determined to find who killed her best friend’s husband. Tori finds an unexpected ally in the newest member of the task force, recently reinstated Deputy US Marshal Cole Jeffers. As Tori and Cole dig deeper into Nathan’s personal and business affairs, they uncover more than they bargained for. And the closer they get to finding the real killer?and to each other?the more intent someone is on silencing them for good. (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House)


Final Verdict by Jessica R. Patch — When Aurora Daniels becomes the target of someone seeking their own twisted justice, Sheriff Beckett Marsh is the only one who can rescue her. As a public defender, Aurora has angered plenty of people in town—and in her past. And while Beckett constantly clashes with the feisty lawyer professionally, it’s his duty to protect and serve. Guarding her 24/7 is now his sole assignment. He may not have been able to save his fiancée from a dangerous felon, but he’ll do whatever it takes to keep Aurora alive. Even if working with her to catch and convict this ruthless killer puts his heart in the crosshairs. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Guardian by Terri Reed — When a fellow FBI agent is kidnapped and a protected witness vanishes, Leo Gallagher will stop at nothing to find them both. So when he discovers a link between the case and a single mother in Wyoming, Leo and his trusty K-9 partner rush to question Alicia Duncan. Could she be the key to locating the missing persons? Not if a killer has anything to say about it. Someone is determined to keep Alicia from talking, so Leo and his chocolate Lab must keep her and her little boy safe on their family ranch. With danger lurking around every corner, Leo must work overtime to not lose another person who’s important to him. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Witch by Denise Weimer — Having restored Michael Johnson’s ancestors’ house and apothecary shop and begun applying the lessons of family and forgiveness unearthed from the past, Jennifer Rushmore expects to complete her first preservation job with the simple relocation of a log home. But as her crew reconstructs the 1787 cabin, home to the first Dunham doctor, attacks on those involved throw suspicion on neighbors and friends alike. And while Jennifer has trusted God and Michael with the pain of her past, it appears Michael’s been keeping his own secrets. Will she use a dream job offer from Savannah as an escape, or will a haunting tale from a Colonial diary convince her to rely on the faithfulness of his love? (Romantic Suspense from Canterbury House Publishing)

Speculative Romance/Fantasy:

the-fairetellings-seriesThe Fairetellings Series (Books 1 through 3) by Kristen Reed — Discover a trio of enchanting novellas inspired by three beloved fairy tales: Cinderella, Snow White, and Beauty and the Beast. (Speculative Romance/Fantasy, Independently Published)
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How to Write and Sell Your Romantic Suspense

Dana: I am so excited to introduce my good friend and fellow author, Angela Ruth Strong, today. Angela might look like the girl next door, but she writes chilling suspense. She’s here to give y’all some advice on how to sell to Love Inspired Suspense. Welcome, Angela!


Angela:  I have three friends here in Idaho who all sold books to Love Inspired Suspense. We’d get together to write every week, and they’d be talking about their editor or sharing covers, and I’d feel a little left out. So I decided to try to write for their publisher. I wrote two manuscripts. The first one was rejected, the second they bought. Presumed Dead came out last month.

So, just in case you’ve ever read a romantic suspense novel and thought, “Hey, I could do that!” but you don’t have friends like mine to show you how, I’ll give you some pointers.

1.)    Find a great setting. The first book I ever sold was to the Love Finds You line of books, which were all set in real towns, so now I’m a sucker for picking a real place and researching the heck out of it. Sometimes authors make up towns of their own, and that can be fun too (I’ve heard), but when you pick an actual place like Lake Tahoe, you discover there’s a secret tunnel built by an eccentric millionaire for his baby elephant, and there’s an island with a cliff for jumping off, and then there’s my grandest discovery—the Tahoe Keys, a neighborhood of inland waterways. PERFECT for a suspense novel. Another benefit of picking a real location is that when the characters are running for their lives, you can MapQuest the location and know exactly which direction they need to go and what might get in their way.

2.)    Pick a plot. Again, I like to find inspiration from real life. The plot for Presumed Dead came from a real failed operation and conspiracy theory. Remember the Iran Hostage Crisis? Their first rescue attempt failed and helicopters crashed because the pilots were not trained to fly under such circumstances. Thus, the military created SOAR—Special Operations Aviation Regiment. I made Preston a pilot for SOAR. He was presumed dead in a helicopter crash much like the real one. I can’t tell you more about the conspiracy theory because that would give away too much, but I’ll just say that in my story, it was much more than a theory. And it was going to get him killed for real.

3.)    Create characters with chemistry. My biggest pet peeve in romance is when the characters don’t have chemistry. Their energy has to feed off each other. They are so obviously better when they are together. However, a romance novel isn’t about getting two characters together—it’s about keeping them apart until the very end. Though they are working as one, they have different goals. And here’s the part I love: They, and they alone, possess the perfect strengths and weaknesses required for them to overcome their challenges. Absolutely nobody else could survive what they survive. Not because they are better than anybody else, but because they are unwittingly prepared. For example, if Preston needs to escape, and there happens to be a tourist helicopter on a platform above the dock, he alone has what it takes to fly that chopper.

4.)    Know the rules. Some publishing houses have more rules than others. To write for LIS, I had to have the characters meet in the first chapter, they couldn’t already be in love, and they both had to have reasons not to be together. Also, I couldn’t have used the word “heck” like I did above. As a writer, you may not agree with all the rules (I’ve said worse things than heck before…shh), but the publishing company is a business with buyers, and it’s their job to know exactly what those buyers want.

5.)    Be flexible. For my novel Presumed Dead, I had to change the whole ending. Twice. I didn’t want to at first, but now I’m glad I did. Editors make our stories better.

6.)    Be diligent. What was really cool about selling my book to LIS was that I sold it through a contest that required diligence. It was kind of like the television show The Voice. Hundreds of writers entered the first page of the manuscript. If the judges/editors liked it, you moved onto the next round where you had a deadline for submitting a synopsis. On and on until finished manuscripts were turned in. This might be the best way EVER in the history of writing to finish a novel. But if you don’t want to take part in a contest, then set deadlines for yourself. Or participate in National Novel Writing Month in November. Which brings me to my last point…

7.)    Have fun. Some parts of writing are not fun. You may even contemplate tossing your laptop out the window. Here’s a better idea: Find a way to make it fun again. Sometimes I will skip to the parts I’m inspired to write and go back to fill in the gaps later. Or you can take yourself on a field trip to get back into the story. Once called a friend to ask if I could visit her farm because I was writing about a ranch, and I wanted to be around horses. Also try brainstorming with friends. It was my stepdaughter Ashley who gave me the brilliant idea for the end of Presumed Dead. She saved my laptop’s life.

Now that you’re ready to write a romantic suspense, find some other people who want to write books. You can encourage each other to go farther and do more. Just like my writing friends did for me.

About Angela

Angela Ruth Strong studied journalism at the University of Oregon and published her first novel, Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2010. With movie producers interested in her book, she’s rereleased it as part of a new series titled Resort to Love, and she’s excited to be writing for Love Inspired Suspense, as well. This Idaho Top Author and Cascade Award winner also started IDAhope Writers to encourage other aspiring authors. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband and three teenagers where she teaches yoga and works as a ticket agent for an airline when not writing.


Dana: Thanks, Angela! Always a pleasure to hear from you!  Angela has graciously agreed to give one commenter a print copy of Presumed Dead. The winner will be chosen Thursday, March 30.  Interested? Read below for a description.  Good luck!

Framed for a sabotaged military operation, Preston Tyler has allowed everyone to believe he’s dead—until he witnesses someone planting a bomb in his childhood sweetheart’s cabin. To save Holly Fontaine’s life, he must blow his cover. Holly is shaken…both by the explosion and the sudden appearance of a man she thought she’d lost forever. But their reunion is short-lived when the bomb planter returns, forcing their escape into Lake Tahoe’s wilderness. As they struggle to survive, memories of their shared past reignite old feelings. Holly refuses to lose Preston again, but with their pursuer closing in, will the ultimate betrayal tear them apart for good?



Posted in Author Interviews, Giveaway, New release by another author, Writing | 2 Comments

A Multi-Author Series is Born with Guest Lee Tobin McClain

I am so excited to have one of my dear friends, Lee Tobin McClain, with me today. Lee is a fellow Pennsylvanian and a prolific writer. Getting together with her is always a time of joy, laughter and crazy ideas. Sometimes, we even get some writing done! Welcome, Lee!

LEE:  Did you ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes in multi-author book series? I have had the privilege of participating in several, including Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley, releasing today! Here’s the story of how I got involved.


One evening, I was chatting with my writer friend Valerie Comer, and she started asking some rather pointed questions about my upcoming writing schedule… and spilling the beans about this amazing shared-world project she was involved in. Six authors… six series… one small Idaho town. Except one of the original authors had to bow out due to health issues, and Arcadia Valley was now short an author.


“That’s an amazing concept, but I couldn’t possibly jump in,” I said to Valerie, not sure if she was really inviting me or not. I clicked out of the conversation, but what she’d told me kept playing in my mind.


Small, warmhearted town… foodie culture… faith-based stories… farmers’ markets and locally-sourced produce. Hmmmm.


Suddenly, the idea for a series about a struggling Mexican restaurant sprang into my mind. Once I thought of it, I couldn’t let it go. I’d been studying a little Spanish, and I enjoy cooking Mexican food (most recently, delicious vegetarian tacos with soft corn tortillas), and I’m even dating a man of Mexican descent. When I looked at the demographics of Idaho and realized what a large Latino population lives in the state, I messaged Valerie back with a tentative idea. She ran it by the other participants, and 24 hours later, I was in the group!


And then the work began… reading through long Facebook discussions of series parameters, and figuring out the town’s map and character spreadsheets, and working with the group’s wonderful cover designer… Wow. My head was spinning! Fortunately, I’d been part of Love Inspired’s Lone Star Cowboy League continuity series, so I wasn’t totally shocked by the process or the work involved.


The creative life can be lonely, and working together to build a world can be a lot of fun… IF the people involved are flexible and responsible, and IF the group is well-organized with a clear leader, and IF everyone agrees on goals and desired outcomes. Fortunately, the Arcadia Valley group is a delight! These ladies are pros, and we have a mix of talents. Everyone does their share, and everyone contributes. I feel so fortunate and blessed to be a part of this project.


In fact, I’ve got to say that the way I came into the group was a God thing. I just happened to have room in my writing schedule (barely!) and I just happened to get an idea I loved that worked with everyone else’s. The awesome writer whom I replaced was relieved to be able to focus on her personal situation without worrying about the demands of the project. I’m learning so much and having a blast. Most importantly, I believe that with God’s help we’ve created a group of stories that provide a strong faith message to readers who need an uplifting escape from their problems and a little romance in their busy days.


What’s your view of novella collections? Do you like reading them, or do you prefer individual novels? Comment in the next 24 hours for the chance to win a $10 gift card from Amazon. Since our novella collection only costs 99 cents, you can pick it up and still have money left over for another book or two of your choice. Win-win!

Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley

Join us in the fictional town of Arcadia Valley, Idaho, where a foodie culture and romance grow hand-in-hand.


Six popular and bestselling authors of contemporary Christian romance have teamed up to create an entire world exploring food, friends, and family.


This is not your usual collection of novellas! Each one is set in Arcadia Valley. Each kicks off a three-book series, intertwined with the works of the other authors. This permanent collection is only the beginning of your adventure with us.

The giveaway ends at midnight, Thursday, January 12th.

Buy Lee’s book here for $0.99! 

Posted in Author Interviews, Giveaway, New release by another author | 2 Comments

A Writer’s Dream…Literally

I have many author friends who lament the fact that their characters sometimes hijack their story. They’ll have the entire thing meticulously plotted out, then BAM!- the characters have taken over.

I have felt this way myself. In fact, I have had to explain to my daughter why one character in a previous book had to suffer the fate he did. It wasn’t something I planned. It was just something that happened. I had an inkling that it was coming a few days before I wrote it, but at that point, I couldn’t write the scene in any other way.

Sometimes, the people reading our stories cry with our characters. Most authors I know will admit we cry with them, too.

What I never expected was to be taken to task by one of my own characters.

Let me explain. Several nights ago, I had a very realistic dream. In this dream, I was sitting down to lunch at one of the local restaurants where I sometimes dine with my family. My companion was one of my heroines to one of the first books I ever published. Although it seems ridiculous now, at that moment, it felt perfectly normal to be sitting across from her. Anyway, my companion, Melanie, had brought with her a detailed list of all the major plot points in the story. During our lunch, she argued with me about why I should have skipped such and such a conflict, or misunderstanding, and made her path easier.

“But conflict is essential!” I defended.

I don’t remember much more. But I believe the point I was trying to make is true. Conflict in stories makes the readers root for the characters. And it makes the Happy Ever After that much sweeter.

What do you think? Do you, as a reader, enjoy seeing the hero and heroine overcome obstacles? Do you become emotionally involved with the stories? I have digital copies of An Inconvenient Courtship or print copies of Interrupted Lullaby to giveaway to two commenters.  I will pull names on January 2.


Posted in Giveaway, LaMar Pond, My books, Writing | 2 Comments

Fall Is the Season with Jessica Keller

I am happy to introduce my guest this week, Love Inspired author Jessica Keller. Yay! If you’re like me, you’ve devoured all of Jessica’s Love Inspired books. I am thrilled to have her as a friend and a writing colleague. Stick around and leave a comment to be in for this weeks giveaway! Jessica will be giving away one paperback copy of her latest release, Apple Orchard Bride. There’s a description of the book later. The winner will be chosen on December 24th. Best wishes!



Jessica Keller:  I know it’s winter and Christmas, but fall is my favorite time of year. The changing leaves. Bonfires. Wearing jeans and hooded sweatshirts. Apple picking. Enjoying the crispness in the air. I love everything about fall.

One of the greatest lessons that fall teaches us is that there can be beauty in letting go. Change doesn’t always mean something terrifying or bad – sometimes, many times, change can be good. But know what? I struggle with this very concept. Often I’ll sense that change is coming and like a stubborn horse that doesn’t want to leave my stall; I’ll sink my feet into the ground and refuse to budge. I forget perspective …  choosing to hang on tightly to whatever it is I have instead of facing whatever is waiting.

I once heard a sermon on this topic and while he was preaching the minister had an image come up on the screen. It showed a child clutching a tiny teddy bear and it depicted God, asking for the tiny trinket while holding a large one out of view. The girl had to trust first. She was being asked to hand over something without knowing what was waiting.

Fall reminds me that change doesn’t have to be darkness and gloom. It can be bursts of goldenrod and fire red and sunset orange. It can be roasted marshmallows and favorite fleece jackets. Even though it means winter is coming, fall embraces change with open arms and smiles.

The story found in Apple Orchard Bride has been on my heart for a long time, and in case you haven’t guessed it yet, it’s a story all about letting go, change. Both Jenna Crest and Toby Holcomb thought their lives would look one way, but nothing has gone according to their plans. Jenna has returned home to run the apple orchard she grew up on because her father’s health is fading. She has a hard time with that transition, especially accepting the fact that her father’s days are numbered. Many years ago Toby broke her heart and finding him back in her life is terrifying. More than any of that though, Jenna has accumulated a lot of hurt and pain over the past ten years but she doesn’t know who she is without those things. They define her and she’d not ready to let them go.

So, of course, Apple Orchard Bride had to take place in fall on an apple orchard. The setting quietly nudges Jenna onward. I so hope you enjoy this story. It’s the seventh book I’ve written for Love Inspired but I believe it might be my favorite.



Back Cover:

When Toby Holcomb becomes guardian to his cousin’s daughter, he goes from hard-living bachelor to father without a clue. One thing he can do is give Kasey a stable home. Returning to Goose Harbor, he takes a job at his childhood friend’s apple orchard. But Jenna Crest isn’t ready to forgive him for his past mistakes. Desperate for sweet Jenna’s help in raising his little girl, Toby vows to make amends to the woman he wronged so many years ago. Suddenly, he and Jenna and young Kasey are feeling more and more like a family. But convincing Jenna he’s a changed man will take all the love in his heart.


Bio: A coffee drinker, avid reader, and chocolate aficionado, Jessica Keller writes both Romance and Young Adult Fiction. As a child, Jessica possessed the dangerous combination of too much energy coupled with an over-active imagination. This pairing led to more than seven broken bones, countless scars, and even more story ideas. Jessica holds degrees in both Communications and Biblical Studies. She lives with her family in the Midwest.

Social Media Links


Twitter: @AuthorKeller





Posted in Author Interviews, Giveaway, New release by another author, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Christmas Traditions with Belle Calhoune

I am so happy to have Belle Calhoune with me today. Belle is not only a fellow Love Inspired author, but also a very dear friend. I have been very blessed to get to know her in the last few years. She’s funny, honest and smart. She’s here today with her brand new book, and it is fabulous! And, she’s also offering a giveaway. I love giveaways!

So,  here’s Belle.

Hello! Belle Calhoune here.  Happy holidays!


I have a December release from Harlequin Love Inspired this month and I’d love to give away two copies of the paperback. 


My new release, Reunited at Christmas, is part of my Alaskan Grooms series and it is set in the Alaskan town of Love.  The heroine, Ruby Prescott, has been presumed dead for two years.  In actuality she is suffering from amnesia after being injured in an avalanche while working on a search and rescue team.  Her husband, Dr. Liam Prescott, is overjoyed to get his wife back, although he soon realizes that Ruby isn’t the same woman from two years ago.  With love and faith and the spirit of Christmas, Ruby and Liam must find their way back to one another.


I loved writing a Christmas story and having my characters enjoy the holiday spirit and the joy of a loved one’s return.  Christmas is a time when miracles are possible, hence the miraculous return from the death of my heroine, Ruby.  I have a scene where the characters went caroling which reminded me of being in the choir when I was a child.  To this day I love signing at church, especially during the festive Christmas holiday season.  My favorite Christmas song was always “Come All Ye Faithful.”  To this day it still is. 


Christmas has always been the happiest time of the year for me.  Growing up in a family with five kids meant lots of excitement and laughter and joy in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  Picking out the perfect Christmas tree was always one of the most exciting Christmas rituals.  Everyone had a different opinion about which tree was “the one.”  Decorating it was my favorite part.  Unpacking the ornaments every year felt like greeting old friends.  And it felt almost tragic if an ornament fell and broke.  But, it seemed as if the ornaments were endless.  Box after box of beautiful, magical ornaments.  I’ve carried my love of ornaments with me.  I can’t resist buying new ones and I have quite a collection.


Christmas morning was always a blast.  The child who woke up first was responsible for rousing the rest of the kids, as well as my parents.  We never went down to check out what Santa had brought us unless we were all there to do the unwrapping together.  And of course after all the presents were unwrapped we would dig into the stockings hung by our staircase.  The memory of those seven stockings hanging there will always be near and dear to my heart.  My parents worked so hard to create wonderful memories for my siblings and I.  We knew the true meaning of Christmas and we celebrated the birth of Christ with our church family and loved ones. 


This past April we lost my brother, the oldest of the five children.  This will be our first Christmas without him.  He gave us so much joy and laughter while he was with us. 

Thankfully, those memories will last a lifetime.  I’ll cherish them always.


I love writing inspirational romance and showcasing how God plays a huge role in the lives of my characters.  Happy endings are a must!  I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have my dream career.  After all, some days I work in my pajamas.


Thanks so much, Dana, for inviting me as a guest on your blog.  Wishing everyone a blessed holiday season.


Thanks for sharing with us, Belle, both the joy and heartache of Christmas. Your post has touched me.


Readers, this is Belle’s cover to her new book.


Isn’t it gorgeous? I can attest to the fact that it will be a story that stays with you. Two commenters will receive a copy of Reunited at Christmas. The giveaway will end on December 10th, 2016.

About the Author:

Belle Calhoune grew up in a small town in Massachusetts as one of five children.  Growing up across the street from a public library was a huge influence on her life and fueled her love of romance novels.  Belle is the author of seven Harlequin Love Inspired novels with two more contracted.  She has Indie published the popular and best-selling inspirational romance series, Seven Brides, Seven Brothers.  Her new indie series, the Secrets of Savannah is a spin-off of her debut series.  Belle loves writing romance and crafting happily ever afters.  When she’s not wrangling her two high maintenance dogs or spending time with her husband and two daughters, Belle enjoys travel and exploring new places.




Posted in Uncategorized | 43 Comments

Plain Target Cover Reveal

I am so excited to share with you the cover for my April, 2017 Love Inspired Suspense novel, Plain Target.  This is the first story of my new series, Amish Country Justice.  Books two and three will release in August and December of 2017.




What do you think? I love it. Oh wait…here’s a picture with the back blurb:


I absolutely loved writing this book. I can’t wait to share it with you!





Posted in LaMar Pond, Love Inspired Suspense, My books | 2 Comments