Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Catherine Ulrich Brakefield Interview

Hello, Diamond Mine readers! Catherine Ulrich Brakefield is on the Mine today to give us a sneak peak at her latest book Swept Into Destiny, a Civil War historical and the first in a series that you won't want to miss.

One brave decision leads to serious consequences. Maggie is secretly educating the slaves at Spirit Wind Manor. But the manor’s serenity is soon threatened by abolitionist John Brown. A new republic looms on the horizon and with Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, her countrymen’s anger escalates as secession spreads across the southern states. With the fires of civil war glowing on the horizon, Maggie is swept into its embers realizing she is in love with the manor’s hardworking, handsome Irishman Ben McConnell. Ben joins the Union Army and Maggie is forced to call him her enemy. An unexpected chain of events leads her into choosing where her loyalties lie. Conscience and consequence—did she care more for Ben or for her beloved South? As the battle between North and South rages, Maggie is torn. Was Ben right? Had this Irish immigrant perceived the truth of what God had predestined for America?



When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?

When I fell in love with books! I did dream of some day writing my own book, but that seemed impossible to me. I wasn’t good at spelling or grammar. I didn’t like school much and preferred being active. To me books were an active pursuit. My imagination was always in overdrive as I pursued my heroine through the written word. The colorful places, the leaps I took into another time period, wow, books continue to be an exciting adventure.

When I grew up we had black and white television sets, no internet, and, would you believe—no cell phones. So, if I wanted color, I read a book. I was captivated with the rhyming sonnet of words, the flowing musical notes of the written language!

But it wasn’t until my grandmother came to live with me that I actually sat down and put my thoughts and love for words on paper and began my first novel.

Yes, books! The love of story. Where it all begins. I couldn't agree with you more.

What inspired you to write about the Civil War?

My grandmother’s stories about the South, her down-home dialect captured my imagination. Gran was originally from Kentucky. Also, my husband is from Alabama. I realized that many southerners did not want to secede from the Union; they fought because of their loyalty to their beloved South. I also learned that only a small percentage of southerners owned slaves. However, Irish immigrants were often hired for ridiculously low wages to do the work normal people, even slaves, were too valuable to do.

I was amazed to learn about the sacrifices and loss of property the southerners endured. But what surprised me the most was the southerners’ strong Christian beliefs. In spite of untold hardships, instead of being bitter toward God, they embraced Him. I wanted to write the truth about the antebellum era, the political unrest, and the spiraling effect that people and events had in opening the door for a civil war.

How long did you spend researching before writing Swept into Destiny?

I feel like saying twelve years, because that is the length of time my grandmother lived with my family. But my serious research started about 2005, when my grandmother left to be with Jesus and my children were grown. I knew I wanted to write a sequel and I wanted the first book to begin during the antebellum era and for the last book of the four book series to end after World War II. 

I love how your grandmother inspired your writing. I wish I'd had more time with mine to tap into that wealth of history and truth. What a wonderful gift.

What were your goals on writing the book?

It is my prayer that people, after reading Swept into Destiny, will come away feeling uplifted and edified by the Irish immigrant’s fortitude and courage. This book is for every immigrant, every ethic group and every person who has felt the lash of inferiority. Ben McConnell’s faith was put to the test repeatedly. When Ben was slapped in the face with injustice, prejudice, hate, or with “No Irish need apply” verbiage, he responded, “We’ll show you through our attitude and work ethics that we shall persevere and with God on our side, we will become victorious.”

I loved Ben's drive and strength. Are any of your characters based on real people or just from your imagination?

The main characters, though inspired by my grandmother’s stories, are created from my imagination. I must admit, I had to stop and think about that. Maggie and Ben became so real to me, so alive in my imagination; it is hard for me to believe they are imaginary.

The secondary characters, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, John Brown, Dred Scott, and Dr. Isaac Anderson were real people, and I attempted in Swept into Destiny to re-emphasize their forthright spirit and accomplishments. 

You highlight the Irish plight in America and their contribution to the Civil War so well. Do you have Irish ancestors?

Yes, I do. My grandmother was Irish, with a bit of Scottish thrown in for flavor. My grandfather was English. It was my mother who told me about how the Irish immigrant did the work the slaves were too valuable to do. I never learned this in my history classes or books. I had to do some extensive research to dig up this information.

To show you how well kept these facts were, I happened across a gentleman in Lexington, Kentucky, and he said the same. That he didn’t learn about the Irish immigrant or their plight until he took a college course.

When I went to Gettysburg, I saw a Celtic cross dedicated to the Irish Brigade. I thought Ireland sent a brigade to the United States to fight in the Civil War? You can imagine my astonishment to learn it was Irish immigrants who formed three Union regiments and two Confederate regiments that fought in the Civil War!

Needless to say, I include in my Author Note at the back of Swept into Destiny some interesting facts about our Irish immigrants. There is also in the back of the book, Book Club Discussion Questions.

What was the most difficult part in writing this book?

Keeping my word count down! I wanted to tell my readers oh, so much. I view history as a springboard into the future. I wanted to encompass more about the history Swept into Destiny introduced. For instance, like the plight of the Irish during the Irish Rebellion against the British of 1798 and the song “The Wearin’ of the Green.” Wearing green clothing or wearing the shamrock was considered a rebellious act, punishable by death. “They were hanging men and women for the wearin’ of the green.” Much like what is happening with what ISIS is doing to Christians.

How important is it to include a spiritual emphasis in your writing?

Very! I write because of my Savior, Christ Jesus and getting His truth out to those who do not know Him is important to me.  

I don’t believe that in heaven God will segregate us into ethnic groups. We can’t determine what nationality, eye color, physical features, not even the mental capacity we will be born with. But we alone determine what we do with what we are given.

My heroine, Maggie, was right in saying that we are all slaves. Slaves to ourselves and our sins and without the blood of Christ to wash them away, our destiny on earth is hopeless. In Galatians 4:7 we read, “Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then heir of God through Christ.”

Would you like to see this book made into a movie? Who would you choose to play the hero and heroine?

One of my dreams is to have the Destiny four book sequels placed on the motion picture screen. I just finished hearing a lecture by Stanley D. Williams about how to structure your story to make it a worthy candidate for film adaptation.

Because of my love for Jane Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice, I’d probably pick Kiera Knightly for Maggie and Matthew Macfadyen for Ben. For Mrs. Gatlan, Jane Seymour and for Mr. Gatlan, Tom Selleck. He has a no-nonsense personality like my character.

YES! Love Kiera and Matthew for the leads. They would be perfect. :) And one of the reasons I thought of the above question was because the whole time I was reading the book, I kept thinking how great it would be as a movie. Hope I get to see it someday.

Could you share a few thoughts about the continuing story in your next book in the series?

Out of Kentucky’s bluegrass, debutant balls, and old-world charm, and into the burning ashes of a defeated cause sweeps … Into Destiny’s Whirlwind… Ben McConnell swears his oath before God Almighty and renames his estate Shushan. 

Upon the dawn of the Spanish American War, Collina McConnell promises she’ll uphold Shushan’s legacy… and ponders the mystery that lies beneath her father’s dying request. A dashing Rough Rider named Franklin Long steps uninvited into her world, and her heart suddenly has a will of its own…

Can't wait!


Catherine is an ardent receiver of Christ's rejuvenating love, as well as a hopeless romantic and
patriot. She skillfully intertwines these elements into her writing as the author of Wilted Dandelions, published by CrossRiver Publishing, an inspirational historical romance, along with her first Christian Romance novel, "The Wind of Destiny", and her other history books,  Images of America,The Lapeer Area and The Images of America, Eastern Lapeer County. published by Arcadia Publishing.

Catherine was a former staff writer for Michigan Traveler Magazine (Breckenridge, MI), has free lanced for numerous other publications; Woods-n-Water News, Michigan History Magazine and Tri-City Times Newspaper, L. A. View Newspaper, and The Romeo Observer Newspaper.

Her short stories have been published in Guidepost Books; Extraordinary Answers to Prayers, Unexpected Answers and Desires of Your Heart; Baker Books, Revell, The Dog Next Door, and The Horse of my Heart; CrossRiver Publishing, The Benefit Package, and Abba’s Promise; and Bethany House, Jesus talked to me Today.

Catherine lives in Addison Township, MI., with her husband Edward of forty four years, and her beautiful Arabian horses. She enjoys horseback riding, swimming, camping, and traveling the byroads across America. Her children are now grown and married with families of their own. Catherine and Edward are now the blessed  recipients of two handsome grandsons and one preciously adorable granddaughter.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Food, Faith, and Forever Love with Alexis Goring (+ Giveaway)

Today's guest here at the Diamond Mine is someone I've had the privilege to meet in person. We were both attending our first ACFW conference. Even though we'd corresponded a few times online and done some critiquing for each other, meeting new people is always a bit intimidating to me. But Alexis's infectious grin and warm, welcoming personality can put anyone at ease. 

Without further ado, let me introduce you to Alexis Goring

About the author

Alexis A. Goring is a passionate writer with a degree in Print Journalism and an MFA in Creative Writing. She loves the art of storytelling and hopes that her stories will connect readers with the enduring, forever love of Jesus Christ.



“God is Love” blog:


Welcome, Alexis! I’m thrilled you’re able to join us this week at the Mine. Let’s start with some lightning round questions. 

Thanks for having me!

I'll start you off easy with a few warm up questions. :) Ballpoint, Uniball, or Fountain Pen? 


Are you an early bird or a night owl? 

Such a night owl!

Ugh, I was a night owl in college but now need my full eight hours of sleep! What are three things you’ve used as a bookmark? 

Paperclips, postcards and folded printer paper

Oddly, no one ever answers that questions with "bookmark," LOL! What one book would you recommend to someone who is new to Christian fiction?

The Isaac Project by Sarah Monzon

I have read Sarah Monzon's books but have not yet read this one.. 

Name one thing that drives you crazy.

The crunching sound of Ginger Snaps (cookies) in people’s mouths.

That's very specific! Fill in the blank: Someday I want __________

to experience my own happily-ever-after in real life. 

Yes! Us single gals are in agreement on that! 

Are ready to dive deeper? Food plays a part in most of your stories. The characters are at restaurants or cooking dinners (all of which tend to make me hungry, thankyouverymuch). Do you consider yourself a foodie?

I am a total foodie! Sometimes I dream of owning my own restaurant with attractive locations in Maryland, Virginia, D.C., New York, Montana, Texas, and California.

Wow, writing and restaurants! If you were a superhero, what would your name be? 

Wonder Woman. I’ve wanted to BE her since age 4. Most recently, Gal Gadot played a modern version of Wonder Woman and she slayed in that movie! She’s my new inspiration. 

I was behind the times and watched the new Wonder Woman a couple weeks ago. I agree, Gal Gadot made a fabulous modern day Wonder Woman. But Lynda Carter will always be my favorite. 

Do you have any secret talents? 

I found out that journalism was a secret talent when a Journalism Professor (Stacy) believed in me as a college student and opened up a whole new world of career possibilities. Before then, I’d only thought about being an English Major and writing books that hopefully would turn into movies. But when I started studying how to be a journalist, it was like the sun rising and felt like the perfect fit.

And how long have you been writing? Or another variation of this question: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been writing stories since age 9. But not “real” books until about age 25. But since age 9 I always “knew” that I wanted to be a writer and I pursued it whole heartedly by joining the Journalism & Yearbook class in high school, getting my B.A in Print Journalism, and earning my MFA in Creative Writing. 

There is no such thing as a typical day for an author, but tell us a bit about some of your habits (where you write, what inspires you, what do you like to have with you, etc.).

I write in my house but want to start writing in coffee shops. God inspires me because He gave me the gift of writing. Other places I receive inspiration are when people watching in every day life in various locations like the mall, the bookstore, the park, etc. Movies and books also provide great inspiration. Music is my favorite muse!

Coffee shops tend to be too busy and packed for me (plus I don't drink coffee), but I can sit at a table at Panera and write for hours. 

What is the first book or story that made an impact on you?

The Holy Bible was the first book that made an impact on me. But other than that, I’d say The Guardian by Dee Henderson as a fictional book made the most impact on me as a reader and writer. It introduced me to her O’Malley Series!

I absolutely loved the O'Malley series. I think it's one every reader of Christian fiction will agree on! Tell our visitors a bit about your latest book. What do you hope readers come away with after reading A Second Chance?

My book, A Second Chance, was published in Jan. 2017. It’s about two entry-level journalists who need a second chance in love. 

Traci, the heroine, is a jilted bride who’s knee-deep in wedding expenses after her fiancé ran off with her Maid of Honor on their Wedding Day. Needless to say, Traci is bitter and even doubtful that God has good plans for her life after that experience. Marc, the hero, is known as a “Mr. Nice Guy” and that bores his girlfriends so they always break up with him. He feels forever in the friend zone and when readers meet him, he’s pretty much written off finding love and resorted to throwing himself into his work. But his niceness is of invaluable help to his sister Gina who is struggling to raise her two children in the wake of her firefighter husband’s death. Marc helps out by babysitting her kids whenever Gina needs a break or needs to meet a book deadline because she is a bestselling romance author. 

I hope that my readers takeaway a lesson on life after they read A Second Chance and that lesson is that no matter how dark and dismal things may seem, God still loves you and has good plans for your life just like He promises us in Jeremiah 29:11.

Who would play Mark and Traci (and even Gina) in movie?

I’d love it if movie producers cast Zac Efron to play Mark, Amanda Detmer to play Traci, and Alexis Bledel to play Gina in the big screen version of my book, A Second Chance!

Check out the A Second Chance Pinterest board to see some of the inspirations behind the story.

And of course, because I am a fan of a good story, I always like to know…what are you working on now/next?

Recently, I finished writing my third book. It’s about a wedding photographer who’s never been in love…until she meets the one man she cannot forget.

Sounds like another great read! Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to spend some time with us, Alexis. As always, it’s been a delight to chat with you!

You’re welcome! Thanks for hosting me on your blog and allowing me to talk about my life and my stories. God bless you! 

More about A Second Chance

Newly single food critic and newspaper reporter Traci Hightower is done with dating. After the man of her dreams left her at the altar on their wedding day and ran off with the woman she thought was her best friend, Traci resolves to focus on work and resigns herself to being a bachelorette for life. 

Marc Roberts is a political reporter who is known as Mr. Nice Guy, the one who always finishes last. However, Marc’s compassion and kindness is of invaluable help to his newly widowed sister Gina Braxton who is trying to raise her two kids in the wake of her firefighter husband’s death. 

Traci and Marc may be the perfect match, but they don’t know it yet. With God’s guidance and the help of Gina’s matchmaking skills honed by her career as a bestselling romance novelist, there is hope for a happily ever after for these two broken hearts. 

Available for purchase on Amazon

Alexis is giving one lucky reader an e-Book copy of A Second Chance. To enter, simply leave a comment below telling us how you met your true love (or if you haven't met him yet). Be sure and leave your email address so we know how to contact you if you are chosen as the random winner.  Earn an extra entry by connecting with Alexis on social media and letting us know you did so. 

*Must have five entries in order for contest to be valid.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Saddle up with Author, Jim Burnett!

Welcome to another fine week on the Diamond Mine! We’re always entertaining new authors, and this week is no exception.  Get yer spurs on, giddy-up, and welcome Jim Burnett.  I’m scatter happy this week, so I’m firing out those questions! Ready? Shoot!

Well, howdy in, Jim. Let’s hurry and get the intros out of the way. What genre do you write in? Fiction or Nonfiction? Both. My Christian Western Novels are fiction. I also write for several Christian magazines about leadership.

Tell us about your family/neck of the woods. I hail from Brandon, MS which is about 12 miles east of Jackson, MS. I am happily married for 32 years, have three children and three grandchildren, one horse and one dog.

Is writing your first occupation or did you have another? I am and have been a full-time pastor for over 28 years. I have been writing for over 20 years. I have found that writing extends the influence of my ministry. I have met people via writing books and magazines I would have never met otherwise in a lifetime.

Do you have a favorite place to visit in the United States? Cades Cove in Townsend TN and several places in Wyoming, including Horse Creek, which is the setting of my novels, Casper, and Greybull. I have some cowboy friends there. I have incorporated several of these places in my books.

Did you base your story on a particular Bible verse/concept? Yes. The prequel, which is Horse Creek Trading Post has Acts 17:26 as a guiding verse. God has appointed our times and where we live. For such a time as this we are alive, and God wants to use us right where we are geographically.  The sequel, Return to Caller’s Spring Ranch is driven by Acts 13:36 where it is said of David, he lived for God’s purposes in his generation. The first book, Miracle at Caller’s Spring Ranch can really be summed up from Luke 15 and the prodigal son. In this case, however, it is a prodigal family.

 Would you rather live in the mountains, near the seaside, or nestled in the rolling hills of growing crops? Why? I love the mountains. I would be perfectly content living in the foothills of TN. I love seclusion. However, I also like wide-open spaces. I could picture my wife and I living on a ranch in Wyoming.

Do any of your characters resemble you and why? Yes. Many of the experiences in the characters of my series come from my own. Being around horses, love for western heritage, etc. Jeb Reese’s birthday is the same as mine. He’s in my sequel.  Some of my children’s names are characters in the book.
 Tell about your book and what you hope your readers will gain from reading it. Horse Creek Trading Post is a prequel that is a historical western. A Quaker family by the name of Reese sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to begin a homestead in eastern TN. Another generation moves west to Horse Creek, Wyoming where they set up a homestead. This homestead becomes more than just a place where supplies are purchased and services rendered. It becomes an outpost of heaven.

 What book is next on your agenda? A fourth in the series, which serves sort of as a sister to the other three. I am also working on a collection of short stories.

Pshew. The last one. My favorite! Tell 5 things fast about Jim Burnett that have nothing to do with writing. 1) I’ve been interviewed on Fox and Friends about prayer in schools, 2) I am absolutely crazy about horses. My wife says I’m about half horse. 3) I love the Lord and am earnestly seeking to live for his purpose in my generation. 4) I like to use lots of creativity in my preaching and teaching, 5) I’d like to invent cologne that smells like a horse.  

Out of shot, folks. That was quite a round. Thanks, Jim for stopping by the Diamond Mine. And as usual readers, we WANT you to be qualified to win one of Jim’s books! You know the drill, but if you don’t, leave a comment with your email, and we’ll select a lucky winner.

Or, if ya can’t wait to dive into Jim’s new book, mosey on over here: and have a copy real quick-like. :) I mean, how can you resist a book that looks like this?

Dr. Jim Burnett is a pastor, teacher, speaker, and writer who has pastored churches in Mississippi over his twenty-eight years in ministry. The lead pastor of Willow Pointe Church in Hattiesburg, Miss., he is also the author of leadership articles, and the Christian western novels, Miracle at Caller’s Spring Ranch and Return to Caller’s Spring Ranch. As an advocate for prayer in public schools, he was interviewed on Fox and Friends. An avid horseman, he has a deep love for western heritage. He and his wife Kim have three children and three grandchildren.