Friday Feature: Autumn MacArthur & Splash! Novella Collection (with Giveaway!!)

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Like so many writers, I started writing stories as soon as I could write. I submitted poetry and short stories to magazines in my teens. All rejections, apart from one article in a Christian magazine. My first ever earnings from writing – $5! I was so excited! I always wrote and journalled, but didn’t start writing for publication again until 2010, when I entered a Harlequin online contest.

What is your tagline for your brand of stories?
“Sweet inspirational romance to make you smile.” My aim is to write stories that don’t just show the love of the hero and heroine, but God’s love for us all too.

What writers have influenced your writing the most to this point?
I read a lot of Harlequin Love Inspired! All the authors for that line are wonderful. Marta Perry is one of my favourites. I also love Debbie Macomber’s books. For favourite comfort reads take me back to beloved authors from my teens. A Harlequin sweet romance author from New Zealand who wrote in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, Essie Summers; and Canadian author L.M. Montgomery, who wrote a lot more than the Anne of Green Gables books. I adore those older books, but oh my, they would never get them past an editor today, with all that head hopping!

I know you went through revisions with a publisher but ultimately decided not to continue pursuing that opportunity. How did you come to that decision?
I was blessed to receive revisions on my semi-finalling Harlequin SYTYCW 2013 entry, Believe in Me, from Heartsong. I did the revisions and was ready to hit send when I had one of those whispers of Spirit. I loved the books Heartsong released and was overjoyed to be published there, but I had problems buying copies, which raised concerns about the distribution. I prayed a lot and made the difficult decision to write a prequel novella and self-publish both books. As it happened, Heartsong may never have published the story as an October 2015 release was suggested, and sadly the line will be closing. Also, through several rounds of edits, the story grew to 68,000 words, far too long for Heartsong!

I have second revisions on a Love Inspired submission, too. Although I’m far from a prima donna and will gladly make huge changes to my stories if it will make them stronger, the editor has asked me to remove a prayer which feels key to my heroine’s spiritual development. I’m torn. Publication with Harlequin has been a dream since my teens, but I need to be true to the stories God asks me to write too!

Do you plan on pursuing traditional publishing again in the future?
I’m open to God’s lead. 🙂 For now, I have a long list of stories to write, and I’m feeling called to focus on self-publishing.

What has been the most rewarding part of your indie journey?
The direct contact with readers, having them tell me what they love about the stories. The reader community for Christian romance is so sweet and so supportive!

Being able to write the stories I feel called to write, rather than having to fit publisher requirements is a huge plus too. Now Heartsong is closing, there aren’t a lot of publishers taking on Christian contemporary romances set outside North America. I have some US set stories, but I also want to write UK and Australian set books.

And I do like having control of every aspect of book production. I work with a professional editor and a wonderful critique partner, but I had to teach myself cover design, formatting, and a whole lot of other stuff!

The most difficult?
LOL, having to be responsible for every aspect of book production! It’s a lot of work and I’m still learning. A bit like being a Mom. Once you think you have it all figured out, something changes!

What advice would you give to writers who have just started their journey toward publication?
To keep on writing and not expect too much from your first draft! I have five years worth of unfinished or unedited first drafts that may never be published, but I learned something from every one of them. Let yourself write learning manuscripts, and know that ANYTHING can be edited, no matter how bad it seems in first draft. I had a lot of failed starts and gave up writing again and again over the years because I couldn’t get the first chapter or two the way I wanted, and so I stopped. I know now that although I do plan a little before I start, I write best when I pants it. Often, the first two or three chapters may never appear in the final version at all because they’re the way I get to know the characters. I now take every story through at least three rounds of edits, and it only really comes together in the final draft. I know that makes planners scream, but the most important thing is to discover and trust your own writing process, whatever it is.

Where did you get the idea for the Love in Store series?
Um, the truth is, I can’t remember! I drafted Believe in Me, which is now book 2 in the series, as a sweet secular romance novella back in 2011, in response to a romance publisher’s Call for Submission asking for Christmas stories based on one of two Christmas songs. I’m not sure now what made me decide to set it in a London department store. Probably because I worked in central London at the time and walked along Oxford Street, London’s main shopping street, every day on my way to the office, just like Cara does at the start of the story.

Was it always intended to be a series?
Not at all! It was supposed to be a stand-alone novella! But Believe in Me grew in edits from a 20k novella, to a 48k submission to Heartsong, and then through two more rounds of edits to the final 68k story. When I decided to indie publish it, I wrote a prequel standalone novella set in the same department store, The Wedding List, which is now available free on Amazon, Nook  or Kobo. Then minor characters all started needing their own stories!

Tell the readers about the concept behind your Love in Store series.
Imagine a slightly run-down central London department store, a cross between Selfridges (a real London store) and Grace Brothers (a store in the slightly risque UK 70’s comedy series Are You Being Served), and all the people connected to the store. Books 1 and 2 focus closely on the store and the attempts to keep it open, while books 3 & 4 have links to the store but also to Paris and Edinburgh, as the heroines are the American twin sisters who have some travel planned while they are in Europe! Supporting homeless people also developed into a theme running through the series, and the local homeless shelter plays an important role.

Who’s your favorite couple from the Love in Store series thus far?
Oh my, that’s like asking a mother who her favourite child is! I love all of them for different reasons.

Who’s your favorite fictional couple of all time?
My favourite movie ever is probably The Princess Bride, so I’ll go for Westley and Buttercup, and their True Love.

What’s next for Love in Store?
My new release More than Friends is a linked story, not actually part of the series, but the hero and heroine appeared as minor characters in Book 3, A Model Bride. Part of that story is set in Edinburgh on New Year’s Eve, as the hero Mac takes Tiffany home to stay with his parents so she can experience a real Scottish Hogmanay. More than Friends features Mac’s younger sister Catriona, and Alistair, the man she’s been in love with since her teens. Plus a dog and a busload of disabled kids on a Vacation Bible School trip to the beach!

Are there more books coming in this series?
Absolutely! I love wedding stories, so stories #5 & #6 will be romances growing from the weddings of Cara and Nick from book 2, and James and Beth from Book 1. Plus I have a Thanksgiving story planned which is also loosely connected, as Brad, a minor character from book 4 tries to reunite with his divorced wife. I need to write faster!

Any upcoming projects readers should be on the lookout for?
My summer novella More than Friends is part of the “Splash! 9 refreshing summer romances filled with faith” boxed set. This wonderful collection includes 9 complete Christian romance stories by 9 different authors, over 800 pages total reading. The ebook of the entire set is only 99c! It releases on June 23 but can be preordered now. http://amzn.to/1EOsp0a

Every writer needs a good…
LOL, can’t decide if that should be laptop or critique partner! On the basis I can always get a new laptop but my CP is irreplaceable, I’ll go for critique partner.

Autumn is giving away a mobi for Kindle copy of A Model Bride, from her Love in Store Series. A model Bride is on sale at a special reduced price of 99c until June 2. It can be purchased here

Splash, 9 inspirational summer romances for just 99c teal

Splash, 9 inspirational summer romances for just 99c

Splash! NINE RefreshingRomances Filled with Faith!

Nine beloved authors of contemporary Christian romance have banded together to offer this limited-time collection of all-new romance novellas perfect for your summer vacation reading pleasure. Come visit Scotland, Zambia, Australia, Canada, and several American states, including Alaska, in these inspirational romance novellas. You’ll love each refreshing contemporary romance as the characters enjoy the water on hot summer days, whether it be in a river, lake, ocean… or a swimming pool!

His Perfect Catch by Narelle Atkins, author of the Snowgum Creek series
A holiday romance isn’t part of the plan when Mia Radcliffe temporarily moves to Sapphire Bay and lives next door to Pete McCall, her secret crush from years ago. Pete prefers the simple life. Can Mia leave behind her big-city dreams and settle with Pete in the seaside town?

Sweet Serenade by Valerie Comer, author of the Farm Fresh Romance series
Carly and Reed thrive on the rush of running rapids in a canoe until they capsize in both river and romance. Will secrets from the past drown their future, or can this idyllic summer romance lead to a lifetime of sweet serenades?

More than Friends by Autumn Macarthur, author of the Love in Store series
When nurse Catriona asks for help with her Vacation Bible School for disabled children, she never imagines how much could go wrong on a simple seaside day out — or that the colleague she’s secretly loved for years might come to see her as more than his best friend’s little sister.

Love Flies In by Heidi McCahan, author of the Emerald Cove series
He’s a seaplane pilot determined to honor his convictions. She’s a kayak guide who mocked his faith for sport. One small lakeside cabin in Alaska can’t house them both.

Testing the Waters by Lesley Ann McDaniel, author of the Madison Falls series
After breaking up with her ultra-critical boyfriend, Teresa decides to reinvent herself. She meets a nice guy named Curt on the beach in Crescent Cove, Oregon, and tells him she’s Terése from Paris. Pretending to be someone else is fun until the unthinkable happens — she starts to fall for him.

The Lifeguards, the Swim Team, and Frozen Custard by Carol Moncado, author of the CANDID Romance series
Lifeguard Alivia Collins looks forward to another summer on the guard stand at the Serenity Landing Aquatic Center. This year, she’s going to have to keep herself from falling for the cute, new guard – or realize it’s time to give love another chance.

Time and Tide by Lynette Sowell, author of the Lone Star Hearts series
When out-of-work fashion journalist Karyn Lewis uses the summer to regroup on the coast of Virginia, she plans to lie low at Pine Breezes campground. She doesn’t plan for her heart to be on a collision course with old friend Brodie Reed. They must decide if the past that looms between them will be too much for them to have a future together.

Draw You Near by Jan Thompson, author of the Savannah Sweethearts series
Savannah artist Abilene Dupree keeps her personal life out of her commercial paintings except one. That one painting has now brought Londoner Lars Cargill back to the coastal town and into her art world. Can she hold him at bay before he invades her personal space and her heart?

Orphaned Hearts by Marion Ueckermann, author of the Heart of Africa series
His faith buried with his wife, Simon devotes himself to raising his daughter and orphan elephants. Lady Abigail postpones an arranged marriage, leaving England to teach the children of Africa. Will his past—or her future—keep their hearts orphaned?

Grab a tall glass of lemonade or iced tea and dip your toes into a cool pool of water on a hot summer’s day while you enjoy the never-before-released Christian romance novellas in SPLASH! Scroll up and snag your copy today.

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autumn macarthurAutumn Macarthur is an Australian writer of inspirational romance living near London with her very English husband, three spoiled cats, and a guinea pig with a dandelion addiction. She loves reading, cooking, gardening, and writing deeply emotional stories to make you smile and remind you how big and wide and deep God’s love and forgiveness can be.

She tends to talk a little too much and laugh a little too loud, her sleep schedule is all over the place so you’ll often find her on the internet at 5am, and she’s grateful to be blessed with some good friends and a very patient husband. She’s also eternally thankful for God’s great love and mercy.

When she’s not talking to her strawberry plants or cherry blossoms, she can be found blogging at http://www.faithhopeandheartwarming.com, on Facebook as Autumn Macarthur, and on Twitter as @autumnmacarthur. She loves hearing from readers so do get in touch!

You can subscribe to her mailing list here.

Thanks for inviting me to visit your blog!

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Friday Feature: A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

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A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade, Published by Bethany House.

A Love Like Ours is the third Porter Family book by Becky Wade and the second that I’ve read. It released on Tuesday, May 5th. Part of the proceeds of sales of the book now until May 17th will be given to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, an organization that helps veterans with physical and psychological injuries.

Lyndie James and Jake Porter were childhood best friends until her family moved from Texas to California and they lost touch. Now that her family has moved back to Texas, Lyndie is eager to work for her former best friend at Whispering Creek exercising the thoroughbreds he trains as well as rekindling their friendship. There’s only one problem: Jake Porter is nothing like the boy she used to know. Jake’s been broken by PTSD and survivor’s guilt in ways he thinks can never be repaired. The last thing he wants is to have Lyndie and her optimistic, unwavering faith around. He doesn’t want to see her hurt, either by the horses or by him.

Jake agrees to hire Lyndie despite his reservations. Lyndie is determined to show Jake that he’s not broken beyond repair, that God can fix him. She believes the boy she used to know and love is still in there, and that God wants to use her to heal him. But is she letting her attraction to Jake lead her into falling for the man she thinks God wants her to save? With Jake’s PTSD and lack of faith in God, is she setting herself up to be one of those girls that falls in love with a man and ends up heartbroken when she can’t change or fix him?

I. LOVED. THIS. STORY! There was very little not to like about this book. Becky Wade’s writing is so descriptive, it pulls you right in to the story and doesn’t let go. I could clearly see every character and understand them. Lyndie is optimistic and a believer in the impossible being possible without being annoying or irritating. Jake is tall, dark and brooding without being maudlin. Wade doesn’t downplay the seriousness of the issues faced by Jake and Lyndie to get to the happily every after, a fact which I appreciated. She shows the ugly realities or Cerebral Palsy, PTSD, Survivor’s guilt, and lost faith without sugar coating it. This makes the happily ever after even more satisfying because she doesn’t cheat or short change  the reader with a tidy ending. This story says sometimes life sucks, and it scars us in ways that may never fully heal, but we can keep living and living in love and abundance. God is good.

One thing I enjoy about reading a longer contemporary inspirational romance is the opportunity to have secondary characters and subplots to invest in. I especially love when it’s a book in a series and I can revisit beloved characters from previous books. One of the things that sets Becky Wade’s books apart is the well drawn secondary characters. I loved getting to see Celia and Ty again (from Meant to be Mine, book 2), as well as Uncle Danny and Bo and Meg. I also loved the subplot with Amber looking for love. None of this took away from the central plot. Everything worked together to show how God loves us and wants to give us good gifts no matter how unworthy we feel or how far we have strayed.

I would recommend A Love Like Ours to anyone looking for a longer inspirational romance filled with rich descriptive writing, fun and fully fleshed out secondary characters and subplots, a hero in serious need of God and love and a faith-filled, fantasy land dwelling, feisty heroine with more than enough courage to love a stubborn man back to life.

5*/A+

Book Review: Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade

Meant to Be Mine COVERToday, it is my pleasure to review Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade, the second Porter Family Novel, by Becky Wade. This book is published by Christian publisher Bethany House and is available beginning this month.

Confession: I haven’t read the first book in this series, Undeniably Yours. I hate starting a series in media reas. Also, I haven’t read too many contemporary Christian romances from Bethany House. I tend to stay with what’s familiar and branch out when I get opportunities to review books or find new authors through familiar publishers. This is why reviewing is perfect for me; it stretches my horizons a bit. Lastly, I’m a sucker for a story that gives you an almighty mess to untangle and really makes the characters work for their happily ever after.

The Short Version: Ty Porter and Celia Parker got married in Vegas after dating four days. It shouldn’t have worked, and for a long time, it didn’t. But God had a plan to save the bull rider and the baker’s marriage, and He carried it out despite their stubbornness, bitterness, and inability to forgive. This reader really enjoyed being along for the ride.

The Long Version: Celia Parker has been infatuated with Ty Porter since he sat beside her in Ceramics class her first year of high school. They  became good friends, but not the more Celia longed for. Several years later, Celia meets up with Ty in Las Vegas after a bull riding competition, and for the next four days the two become nearly inseparable. They decide to get married after this whirlwind courtship and have a perfect wedding night. But in the morning, Ty shatters Celia’s happily ever after:

“You…you didn’t force me into marrying you, if that’s what’s upsetting you. I made my own decision.”

“Without all the facts.”

“What do you mean–”

“I’m in love with someone else.”

Heartbroken, Celia returns to real life and struggles through. She’s determined to put Ty Porter behind her and pursue her dream of opening a bakery/coffee shop–until she finds out that their wedding night resulted in a baby.

Meanwhile, Ty Porter goes on to have a successful rodeo career and waits around for the woman he thinks he’s meant to be with, Tawny. Five and a half years after his marriage, Ty returns to Vegas and passes the corny chapel where he married Celia and feels a sudden need to track her down and close that chapter of his life once and for all. He meets her and thinks everything is done–until he meets his little girl, Addie.

Once Ty knows about Addie, he’s determined to be a good father to her. Celia is just as determined to protect her daughter’s heart, and her own, from the charming man who fooled her once into giving her heart to him and then breaking it. The more time Ty spends with Celia, the more his attraction to her grows. But with two stubborn people, it takes a lot of divine intervention to get them on the right path to happily ever after.

Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade is a book filled with classic romantic themes–friends to lovers, a secret baby, a marriage of inconvenience–and classic biblical themes–forgiveness, sacrifice, repentance, prodigal son (or daughter). Ms. Wade does a wonderful job of blending together the tropes of contemporary romance and the tenets of faith here. Ty and Celia’s story, while the circumstances might not be as common, is a common story: two people, in the middle of the first throes of infatuation, do something they both come to bitterly regret and spend a long time either punishing themselves for or paying for. Yet, God is still able to use those things to accomplish His purposes.

I thought the characters in Meant to Be Mine were well written. Even though there were times I wanted to shake both Ty and Celia, I could see where both of them were coming from. They felt like real people grappling with a difficult situation. The supporting characters, particularly their daughter Addie and Uncle Danny, were well written and added to the story. I loved Addie’s obsession with civic minded princesses who found their princes, and Uncle Danny’s surfer mentality and pursuit of a foreign bride brought much needed levity.

The only character I didn’t like was Tawny. I couldn’t get a good read on her. I knew what both Ty and Celia thought of her, but her motivations were completely lost on me. Whenever I see a character that is somehow in play for a main character’s affection, I think of My Best Friend’s Wedding and 2 Dresses. I either expect to like the character and feel a bit bad for her (MBFW) or I really don’t like them (27D). Every now and then, I know they are spoiled and conniving, but they have some good characteristics under there somewhere (a la The Wedding Date). I got none of those from Tawny. She felt more like a plot device, which was noticeable more because everyone else was so clearly depicted.

Ms. Wade did a good job of interweaving the faith element and making God’s footprints visible in the story. I liked how we saw how both Ty and Celia felt about faith in their lives, and that their relationships with God weren’t perfect, but a work in progress. The supporting characters who impacted their faith showed how God uses others to reach us and demonstrate His love to us. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story.

I would recommend Meant to Be Mine to anyone who likes to see two characters who get themselves into a hopeless tangled mess that only the Lord can get them out of, with the help of a little girl, an old surfer, a crotchety donut shop owner, and a whole lot of Porters.

Meant to be Mine: A- for strong faith element, compelling story, and wonderful characters, outside of Tawny.

Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter for your chance to win a $50 Visa gift card and your copy of Meant to Be Mine and other great prizes!

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