Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Macarons, England, and More with Lauren H. Brandenburg (& a Giveaway)

 Y'all, I am delighted to introduce you to our guest today. I've gotten to know Lauren Brandenburg over the last few years and got a peek into her journey to publishing her first book for big kids (aka adults). I can't wait for you to meet 2020's Carol Award winner in the Contemporary category.

About Lauren H. Brandenburg

Lauren H Brandenburg is a wife, mother, storyteller, author, and purveyor lovely things. The Death of Mungo Blackwell is her first novel with Lion Fiction and her first novel for grown-ups. As a former English teacher and homeschooling mom, Lauren combines her love of ‘the what if’ with her spirit of adventure and faith to delight and encourage readers young and old. Her fourth book in The Books of the Gardener series, Orlo: The Created, was a 2017 finalist for the Selah Middle-Grade Novel of the Year. Lauren is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is on staff with the Realm Makers conference. She was a 2020 finalist for The People’s Book Prize (UK), American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Award in Contemporary Fiction, and the Selah Award in Women’s Fiction. She lives with her husband, Jamie, and two children in a lovely little town just south of Nashville, Tennessee, however… she will always consider Kentucky her home.

Connect with Lauren: Website | Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter | AmazonBookbub 

SW: Those are the basics, lets dig a little deeper, starting with a quick round of would you rather. Are you ready, Lauren? 

Would you rather have a pause button or a rewind button on your life? 

LB: Definitely a pause button. Sure a rewind button would be nice… go back, right the wrongs etc. But I think it might become a bit addicting, like editing over and over again. Pausing to dwell in moments with my family or those God moments where you realize something about him you’ve never realized before and usually you forget it because of distractions would be absolutely lovely.

SW: Oh, I love that answer. Would you rather live in a world with no internet or no cell phones? 

LB: This one is easy. No internet. I might actually get out more, shop more local, spend time wandering around book shops, and be less distracted. And I bet I would be able to write more too. 

SW: Would you rather write in a rooftop garden surrounded by city noises or in a quiet studio with cows as your neighbors? 

LB: Cows. Cows for days. I would be so distracted by the city noises that I think I would find myself looking down over the edge to see what was going on, who was walking by. Cows are far less distracting and a studio sounds delightful.

SW: Tell Us a Little More About Yourself What interested you in writing?

LB: I wanted to write books for children that would entice them to study God’s word, see the value in studying the scriptures without coming across as preachy. And I wanted to give them a world to escape to that was mysterious and other-wordly but still functioned by a Biblical worldview. Then I started writing for adults. I’ve always loved the power of a good story, something that when you get to the end you just feel happy. So, I set out on a quest to write a lovely thing… And that one lovely thing has turned into two. (And maybe a three and a four…)

SW: For those wondering and those who might be looking for something to keep their children occupied, Lauren does have a middle grade series. Check out Boone: The Ordinary (book one in The Books of the Gardener Series) here

Will you share a little about your writing space? 

LB: I would be totally fibbing if I said I hadn’t imagined my space as the captain’s quarters on

a pirate ship on more than one occasion. It’s dark, which makes it cozy. But has these fabulous eight-paned windows that can be cranked open to let in the day. And it’s elegant. My husband graciously passed down his old office furniture, which I always loved. The semi-circle desk is one of my favorite parts! But most importantly, it’s quirky with all my little bits and bobbles of me including my bunny lamp. It’s just very me.

SW: Beautiful and inspiring.

There’s a memorable scene in The Death of Mungo Blackwell involving macrons (aka “The Rooning”). As a connoisseur and baker of the delectable treats, tell us about your best and worst experience with macarons. 

LB: Anytime I try to make macarons in a hurry, they are just a mess waiting to happen. The first few attempts were the absolute worst! I didn’t even know how to use a pastry bag, so I was dispensing them in a cookie press! I think I’ve had quite a few “worst experiences” because of rushing. What should be a lovely, slightly chewy shell with a soft crunch, and cute little crinkly footed edge, turns into a globby cracked mess that literally has to be scraped off of the pan. But my absolute best experience was when I was making them for a bridal shower. They were perfectly formed, shaped, and smooth! I filled the blue shells with a lime buttercream and raspberry and topped them with a golden crown. I think the bride was pleased. 

SW: Wow, that looks almost too gorgeous to eat.

Switching gears, what book have you read recently that you loved? 

LB: I have definitely done a lot of reading this year. But what stands out the most is Ronie Kendig’s Brand of Light. And I’m not really one to just pick up a space opera and think, “Oh, I think I’ll read this for fun!” But it was absolutely extraordinary! I couldn’t put it down – the world building was fantastic, the characters relatable, and the storyline an epic combination of romance, action, sci-fi, and adventure. I had the privilege of early reading the second in the series. I’m hooked!

SW: And it won the Realm Makers Award for Science fiction and the Alliance Award (Reader's Choice). Since you're involved with Realm Makers, can you share a little about this group for those who haven't heard of it? 

LB: On the surface, Realm Makers is a conference for writers of Christian speculative fiction (fantasy, sci-fic, dystopian, etc.). But it is really so much more! It’s a community of like-minded believers who support one another in and out of the bookish world. And even though my newest books don’t necessarily fall into any of those genres, the community has promoted, reviewed, and shared my writing with friends, family, and readers. And they seriously some of the coolest most imaginative people on the planet.

SW: If you would like more information about Realm Makers, visit their website

OK, Lauren, let's get to it and talk more about your books. Your publisher had a difficult time categorizing The Death of Mungo Blackwell. What did they finally come up with? 

LB: This question made me laugh because I totally stumble over my words when people ask me what I write. My publisher categorized it has humorous family fiction. I think that works. 

SW: What has your experience with a publisher in England (Lion Hudson) been like? 

LB: Absolutely delightful! I’ve learned so much about patience, expectations, and what it

means to really take a holiday. And there is something just magical about knowing they are in the land of Dickens, Tolkien, and Lewis! It also helps that I am a complete Anglophile and get all super swoony about anything British. There were a few times in editing we hit a bit of a language barrier with word choices. It made for several good laughs over how quickly something can become innocently inappropriate. I do have to constantly remind myself that they are not a huge house and the path many of my author friends have taken looks a whole lot different but the joy I have found with them definitely outweighs any misplaced expectations.

SW: Tell us a little about your upcoming (Oct 23) release. 

LB: Oh, I’m so excited! The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson is a story of love, marriage, and scissors. It is another tale, a deeper dive, into the characters and goings-on of life in the quirky village of Coraloo with a time-slip that carries readers from the life of the mysterious Innis Wilkinson to the controversial marriage of Roy Blackwell and Margarette Toft. 

SW: You can read the full book blurb below. 

Last but never least, how can we pray for you, Lauren?  

LB: Thank you so much for asking. I definitely feel a spiritual attack whenever I’m about to release a book – physically and mentally. Prayer for me to continually think on what is true and lovely would be much appreciated. 

More about The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson

It is said that something magical happens during the festival season in Coraloo, something unexplainable. People tend to be a little crazier, reckless. Maybe it's because it coincides the full moon, but Coraloo's constable, Roy Blackwell, is beginning to think it's something else. That said, Roy has other things on his mind, like marrying Margarette Toft. A controversial decision as the Toft and the Blackwell families have a hatred for one another that is older than the town itself. Tradition collides with superstition as the feuding families compete to organize the events surrounding the most talked about wedding in the history of Coraloo. Despite the array of minor catastrophes that ensue, and the timings clashing with a four-week long festival celebrating a legendary beaver, Roy and Margarette hold fast and declare they will do whatever it takes to wed. That is until Roy unearths a town secret - a murder involving a pair of scissors, an actor with a severe case of kleptomania, and the mysterious marriage of Innis Wilkinson. Can good come out of unearthing the past - or will only heartbreak follow?

Purchase links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million | Book Depository | Goodreads


Lauren is generously giving a print copy of The Death of Mungo Blackwell and some book swag to one of our readers. I will also send the reader a book cozy. The giveaway is open to US addresses only and ends at 11:59 PM EST on Tuesday, 9/29/20.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Izzy James: Fabulous Cover and a Giveaway too!

Izzy James is the pen name of Elizabeth Chevalier Hull. Elizabeth grew up in coastal Virginia surrounded by the history of the founding of our nation. She still lives there with her fabulous husband in a house brimming with books.

You all know how much I love cover art, and Izzy James’ are out of this world. Seeing superb book covers like these is like a brownie covered in hot fudge. Every ounce is delicious. Read more to find out what’s inside those fabulous covers and what Izzy has to say about writing.

1.    Give me one fact about you as an author that most people don’t know. 

I am currently learning to play a mountain dulcimer. I’ve owned one since I was fourteen years old. I’ve decided to take some lessons to finally play the thing! :-)

2.    What is the quality you like the most about your heroine? 

I like that she stands up for herself and that she’s flexible enough to allow Field to be who he needs to be.

3.    Being a writer is a busy life, isn’t it? I’m sure you’re working on something new to intrigue your readers. What’s in the works for you right now? 

I am working on a novella that’s the sequel to Max my time travel romance published last year. It’s called Garrett. Next I will write the prequel novella for The Shopkeeper’s Widow series tentatively called The Dollmaker.

4.    Do you have a set writing time every day or do you write in a more organic way? 

I now have the ability to write everyday, during the day. I’m working on settling down a specific time everyday. For right now, I’m happy to write everyday, during the day.

5.       What are the most number of words you’ve ever written in one day? 

7,500. Boy was I tired after that, but I met my deadline!


Izzy James will give away one e-book copy of The Shopkeeper’s Widow to the winner of her giveaway who answers this question: What is your favorite genre to read? 

The Shopkeeper’s Widow Book Blurb:

            Delany Fleet, a widowed former indentured servant living in the colonial port of Norfolk, Virginia, dreams of having an estate of her own where she will never have to compromise her freedom.

             When the only man she ever loved shows up with a load of smuggled firearms, Delany is forced to leave her home and her livelihood to protect her family and property from Lord Dunmore's raids and the conniving plots of a man who claims to be her friend.

             Now, with her destiny forever altered, Delany must find a new way to happiness. Can reconnecting with her husband's family and a former love be the path that God has for her?


Buy Links:


 iBooks: The Shopkeeper's Widow





Find Izzy James Here:



Twitter: @chevyhull

Instagram: izzy.james

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Prolific Author, Ann H. Gabhart


Good week to you all! I had the privilege to attend a Zoom meeting with our guest author of the week where she spoke on fizzing up dialogue. She's has a knack with local vernacular and lays claim to being a shy country girl, but with so many books under her belt, all I know is that she is doing something right! Let's give a warm Diamond Mine welcome to Ann H. Gabhart!

PT: Hi, Ann! So excited to have you. With such a long line of books, my first questions is how did you first link up to writing?

AHG: When I was around ten years old, I was a big Hardy Boy mystery fan. Loved reading about those cute boys solving mysteries and thought how very neat it would be to solve a mystery myself. I never really wanted to be a Hardy Boy. More a Hardy Girl. You’d think I would have liked the idea of Nancy Drew better, but for some reason the Hardy Boys books were my favorite. So, since I was a country girl living on a farm without much chance to ever be confronted with kidnappers or jewel thieves in real life (thank goodness), I found an wirebound notebook and began writing my own mystery story about both jewel thieves and kidnappers starring me (a much cuter, smarter and less shy me.) My sister and my cousin were my sidekicks as we chased the bad guys. And so my writing life began. I did eventually outgrow chasing jewel thieves and left poor us trapped in a cave. I think I couldn’t figure out what next.

I became something of a closet writer in my teens, not telling anyone of my dream to one day write stories others read. It seemed too big a dream for a country girl like me. I did keep filling up notebook after notebook with my stories that I then hid away in my desk drawer. I married young but my dream of becoming a published writer stayed as strong as ever. After taking a correspondence course in writing which opened doors into the publishing word and writing three novels, the last of those was published in 1978 by Warner Books. A Forbidden Yearning was a historical romance about the settling of Kentucky. More books followed along with some rejection bumps along the road, but I kept writing until now An Appalachian Summer is my thirty-sixth published book. Sometimes a little girl’s dream can come true if she’s persistent enough.

PT: can so identify with you. I too, used to secretly fill notebook pages and dream of publishing. Tell the readers which genre you write in and which is your favorite?

AHG: I’ve written a lot of different type books. My first two books, published so long ago, were historical romances in the mainstream market. Then I published eleven contemporary books for middle readers and young adults with several different publishers. But once I found the inspirational market, I found home and love it here.

But even here, I’ve dipped into several different genres. Most of my books have been historical fiction with some elements of romance. That includes eight books about the Shakers where I had to sneak romance in the backdoor since Shakers believe in celibacy. Then I’ve written three cozy mysteries, the Hidden Springs Mysteries. That was fun because as you might guess with my Hardy Boy mystery love as a kid, I do like mysteries. I especially enjoyed writing my two series, Heart of Hollyhill and the Rosey Corner stories, about families living in small communities. I’ve found historical events in Kentucky history to center some stories around. A couple of my books feature Frontier Nursing Service history and are set in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky.

So I have been all over in genres. I’ve even written one nonfiction book, Angels at the Crossroads, the amazing life testimony of a friend of mine. Plus I’ve written a picture book, as yet unpublished, and have considered writing a devotional. My only published book not set in a small town or community is Words Spoken True that’s set in 1855 Louisville.

If I had to name my genre it might be Small Town Stories. Even my fictional Shaker village, Harmony Hill, is sort of a small town. I do like finding interesting historical backgrounds or events to drop my characters down into to see what might happen next.

PT: I love books centered around small towns. It gives a sense of comfort and familiarity. So, we're all dying to know, exactly how many books have you written?

AHG: This is a question I am asked often. The answer is I have no idea because I have written a number of books that never made it off my rejection shelf. As I said earlier, I’ve published thirty-five books and I have one in the process of being published. So I’m sure I’ve written well over forty were I to count up those that didn’t find a loving editor along with those thirty-six  that did.

PT: With a lot of folks staying close to home, I can't help but wonder what your favorite vacation spots might be. And, of course, your favorite spot to write.

AHG: I love hiking in the mountains and I love walking on the beach. Both places fuel my creative side and replenish my soul.

I do all my writing at my desk in my office. I use a desktop computer. I do have a laptop that I use occasionally for various things, but rarely for my writing. I have an office with four big windows. I can look out one of the double windows at the bird feeder in the tree and out the other windows at one of our farm’s hayfields. I’ve always, always wanted a window in my writing space. On my website, I claim that my favorite room is one with windows. That’s my favorite writing room too.

PT: Does your writing space sport inspirational signs or encouraging quotes near your writing spot?

AHG: I used to keep a few quotes on my desk calendar, but the months and years sped by so fast I got tired of writing them over and over again. Now, that’s lazy, isn’t it?

This is one I remember. “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” ~E.E. Cummings
Another one was a quote attributed to Michelangelo.
 “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

PT: On to your newest book. Is An Appalachian Summer part of a series (along with These Healing Hills) or totally separate?

AHG:An Appalachian Summer isn’t exactly part of a series, but it is the second book I’ve written with an Appalachian setting and a background of Frontier Nursing history. The other is These Healing Hills. I enjoyed researching the Frontier Nursing Service history and finding out more about Mary Breckinridge and how she had a vision of helping mothers and children and made that vision reality.

PT: I know from our meeting that you have some wonderful picture-painting slang tucked away. What are some of your favorite Appalachian sayings?

AHG: There are so many. The mountain people had unique ways of expressing themselves. I love “the edge of dark” which means twilight time. I liked how they said “kilt” to mean someone was hurt and “kilt dead” if the poor person was dead. I liked “shank’s mare” which meant they had to walk because they didn’t have a horse, I suppose. If they needed to leave early in the morning, they got a “soon start.” Then they grew “sass” (vegetables) in their “sass patches” and flowers in their “blossom patches.” A fun book to read if you like hearing the mountain speak is James Still’s Wolfpen Notebook. I bought it years ago from Mr. Still at a book fair here in Kentucky and reaped the benefits when I began researching for my Appalachian stories.

PT: Do you have a favorite Bible verse now?

AHG: I’ve always struggled to come up with a favorite Bible verse. So many can and should be favorites. I like to come up with a Bible verse that somehow matches each of my inspirational titles to share with my signature at book signings. I put Isaiah 55:12 when I sign An Appalachian Summer. I chose that verse because of how Piper’s eyes are opened to the beauty of the mountains and found a closer relationship to the Lord through nature.

 “For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12 (NKJ)

But if I was picking a favorite today, I might choose Joshua 1:9.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9 (NKJ)

That is a good promise to cling to in this year of struggles with the pandemic.

PT: Well, given your lengthy book shelf, I know you aren't standing still, lol. So, what are your plans for the next book?

AHG: My next book, Along a Storied Trail, scheduled right now for June 2021, is another story set in the Appalachian Mountains. Once more my time period is during the Great Depression as it was for An Appalachian Summer, but this story doesn’t have Frontier Nursing Service history. Instead, I share the unique history of the packhorse libraries. That was one of the work programs established to put people to work during the Depression. My heroine, Tansy Calhoun, is a packhorse librarian with a tremendous love of books and feels blessed to share the gift of reading with her mountain neighbors who have never had the joy and privilege of a library. It’s also a story of a couple of mountain families.

PT: That book sounds so interesting! Oh, Ann, it has been a privilege to have you on the Diamond Mine.

AHG: Thank you so much for inviting me over for a chat about writing and my books.

ANN H. GABHART has been called a storyteller. She’s lived up to the title with thirty-six books published and more stories on the way. Ann likes wrapping her stories around interesting historical times and events in her home state of Kentucky. She’s written about the Shakers in The Refuge, The Outsider and more, gone to the Appalachian Mountains for These Healing Hills and An Appalachian Summer, mined her family history for stories like Angel Sister and Scent of Lilacs, found a feel good story during the 1833 cholera epidemic in Springfield, Kentucky, and more. She’s even written some mysteries, the Hidden Springs mysteries, published under the author name A.H. Gabhart. Ann keeps her keyboard warm out on her farm where she likes walking with her two dogs or discovering the wonders of nature with her nine grandchildren. You can find out more about Ann and her books at

Contact Information and Social Media links:

Website –
Facebook Author Page –
BookBub -



Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Big O’l Barn Sparks Story

 Interview with LoRee Peery Plus a Giveaway. 
I am so blessed and excited to introduce you to LoRee Peery. I love her books. Her stories feel personal and real to me.  I have had the pleasure of meeting this beautiful lady face to face, and she is a real gem. 

 Nebraska country girl LoRee Peery writes fiction that hopefully appeals to adult readers who enjoy stories written from a Christian perspective, focusing on the romance. These include novels and novellas for women and men in the Contemporary, Romance, Historical, Time Travel, and Mystery/Suspense categories. She writes of redeeming grace with a sense of place. Her Frivolities Series and the book based on her father's unsolved homicide, Touches of Time, are available on Amazon. She is who she is by the grace of God: Christian, country girl, wife, mother, grandmother and great-, sister, friend, and author.  
Connect with LoRee through these links:

LoRee: I'm excited to be here and talk about the first of my two time travels. Cowboy Just in Time released the end of July. It is the Hearts Across Time book #1. Future of My Heart is book #2 and released the end of August. 

Renette: Thank you for being here with me. These stories sound amazing. Let's talk about Cowboy Just in Time. What was your inspiration for this story? 

LoReeI was captivated by a big old barn on an acreage where my brother once lived. It was down the hill from the house, and the door opened right into the loft. I was amazed that the contour of the land had stayed the same from when it was built. The lower level, or where the animals were contained, opened onto the corral. It's constructed in a way cool manner. 

Renette: I love taking pictures of old barns. They do get the imagination working, don't they? What personal journey did you take while writing this book? 

LoRee: I had never attempted writing in a historical setting, though I was familiar with a rather rugged farm life of the 1950s (no indoor bathroom until I was ten), I had to look up quite a bit for the sake of accuracy. I may have gone overboard on cowboy lingo. 

Renette: You have a beautiful personal story. I bet your growing up years helped uniquely tell the story. Speaking of your own story, do you have a life verse? What is it? And Why? 

LoRee: Yes. Isaiah 12:2, "Behold God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the Lord God is my strength and song. And He has become my salvation." I see myself as a victorious overcomer. Victorious spirit relates to the root of my name, which literally means laurel leaves. They were used in the winner's crown of ancient Roman games. 

Renette: Names fascinate me. My family is known for unusual names. I'm curious what is or was your occupation before writing? 

LoRee: I was an editorial assistant for twenty years, as well as a secretary. 

 Renette: Does it influence your writing? 

LoRee: Definitely. I learned a lot about sentence structure, how not to write (insert smiley face), and to edit. It's so much easier to have things jump out in the writing of others. That means we can all benefit by other eyes on our work. 

Renette: So true. No matter how many times we look at our work, we will miss something. I appreciate extra eyes on my work. It is a real talent to have things jump out at you. Do you have any other hidden skills?  

LoRee: Two things come to mind. I have a knack for putting colors together. That shows up in the piecework quilting I've done and the way I decorate and dress. The other is snapping pictures. Odd objects, particularly in nature, catch my eye. I don't have a fancy camera to do delayed time shots or that messes with numbered settings, I just have a curious artsy eye. 

Renette: I taught photography to high schoolers. One thing I encouraged them to do, think outside the box. Naturel angles and light can make a big difference. I bet your pictures are every bit as fun as your stories. What do you hope your writing leaves the reader with? 

LoRee: Hope, and a glimpse as to how God works in our lives. My characters either aren't in a relationship with Christ at the beginning of my stories, or they have a lot of growing to do. Naturally, since I write romance, the happily-ever-after should be satisfying. 

Renette: I see those things in your writing. Thanks again for being here with me today on the Diamond Mine. You have been a blessing. 

LoRee: On a final note, I'm curious as to how others feel about time travel. If you could travel back or forward, where would you go? Do you think you'd stay for love?
Please answer, and I'll give a commenter the choice between a print copy of Repurposed, or a PDF of Cowboy Just in Time, Hearts Across Time #1. 
It's been my privilege to appear on the Diamond Mine. 

 Cowboy Just in Time blurb: 
When event planner Amanda Totten falls through a barn trapdoor and finds herself in the arms of an 1890's Cowboy, she scrambles to find a way back to the future. She has a life and obligations—her fledgling business and her mother's financial needs. But the less stressful lifestyle, and her deepening love for Gavin Medley, is calling to her heart and she is torn between past and future. 
Has God given her a chance at love? 
Gavin Medley has been working for years to regain his family homestead. As ranch foreman, he has nothing but a dream of a place and family of his own. But his love for Amanda is making him think that having his own ranch isn't as important as having someone to love for the rest of his life. 
Amanda returns to the future, and Gavin is shattered. He tries to go forward in time but fails. Believing it's God's will, Gavin resigns himself to living without the love of his life. But love transcends time, and Amanda and Gavin need each other. Can Amanda return to her Cowboy? 
Purchase links: 
Pelican Book Group