On this episode of “The Romantic Side of Suspense,” my guest is Kellie VanHorn, an award-winning author of inspirational romance and romantic suspense. She has college degrees in biology and nautical archaeology, but she’s always found her sense of adventure most satisfied by a great story. When not writing, Kellie can be found homeschooling her four children, camping, baking and gardening. She lives with her family in west Michigan.
“My first book, Fatal Flashback, was inspired by the setting,” Kellie says. “For example, my husband and I were living in Texas, and we went on a camping trip out to Big Bend National Park and I fell in love with the setting. I had never written anything book-length before and I thought this would be an amazing place for a romance between a park ranger and somebody else, and there’s going to be action and adventure.”
Listen to the podcast for more from our interview, plus an excerpt from Buried Evidence.
Grace Across the Miles by Christine Dillon — How can you belong when you don’t know who you are? Gina Reid is surrounded by people getting married or having babies. She’s under pressure to settle down but how can she do that when she doesn’t even know where she came from? Since the startling revelation that she was adopted, it’s felt like there is something missing. But fear has kept her from searching for her biological parents. What if learning the truth is worse than not knowing? Now an overheard comment has propelled her into action. Can Gina find out who she truly is? Or will she discover that some secrets are best left undisturbed? (General Contemporary, Independently Published)
Mercy’s Legacy by Sarah Hanks — After being released from prison, DeAndre struggles to make a new life for himself and his family. But when his past shows up in the doorway of his art studio, begging for a place in his heart and life, he is forced to make decisions that will alter his life forever. Nine-year-old Mercy has questions no one will answer. That is, until her brother reveals that he knows the whereabouts of her birthfather. Is the man whose blood runs in her veins a bad man like her parents told her? Or a good one? Could he fulfill the longing in her heart to truly belong? (General Contemporary, Independently Published)
Her Faith Restored by Cynthia Herron — Can two polar opposites meet in the middle to achieve a winning outcome? Sunset Meadows’ activity director Melinda Brewer has her work cut out for her. As a five-year veteran with the cutting-edge retirement community, “Mel” wears many hats. But her job is more than a title. The residents at “The Meadows” are like family—some of whom she’s known her entire life. Ruby—this little niche in the Ozark Mountains—may be a mere dot on the Missouri map, but it’s also Mel’s birthplace, the land of her heritage, reminiscent of old ways while cognizant of new seasons.Leave it to new kid on the block Matt Enders to upset the apple cart. When Enders is hired as the facility’s new social worker, his idea of a well-oiled machine is to eliminate a few rusty cogs—chiefly, some of Mel’s most successful programs. Mr. City Slicker doesn’t care about making waves. He delivers a hurricane! (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)
His Road to Redemption by Lisa Jordan — Veteran Micah Holland’s scars go deeper than anyone knows. An inheritance from his mentor could be a new beginning—if he shares the inherited goat farm with fiercely independent Paige Watson. Now the only way they can keep the farm is to work together. But first Micah must prove he’s a changed man to keep his dream and the woman he’s falling for. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin)).
Love on Ice by Carolyn Miller — She’s focused on winning gold. He wants to lose the player tag. Can a fake relationship become something real? Aussie short track skater Holly Travers has one goal – make the Vancouver Games, no matter what it takes. She has no time for distractions, even if they come in the handsome form of her Canadian best friend’s twin brother. This hockey player may say he’s not a player, but can she trust him? Brent Karlsson has one goal – make his sister’s best friend realize he’s a changed man and she should give him a chance. When a set-up in Hawaii helps these two opposites realize they have more in common than they thought, what happens when he wants to turn their fake relationship into something real? And how can a relationship work when these two elite athletes never see each other and live on opposite sides of the world?
(Contemporary Romance, Independently Published).
Searching for Home by Jill Weatherholt — When injured professional bull rider Luke Beckett returns to his hometown to recover, he doesn’t expect his B and B host and physical therapist to be his first and only love, Meg Brennan. He’s also unprepared for Meg’s adorable triplets to steal his heart. Luke’s past has him doubting he’s good enough for Meg and the children, but they might be just what the doctor ordered to help him heal. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))
Harmony on the Horizon by Kathleen Denly — Her calling to change the world may be his downfall. On the heels of the Great Rebellion, Margaret Foster, an abolitionist northerner, takes a teaching position in 1865 San Diego—a town dominated by Southern sympathizers. At thirty-seven years of age, Margaret has accepted spinsterhood and embraced her role as teacher. So, when Everett Thompson, the handsomest member of the School Board, reveals his interest in her, it’s a dream come true. Until her passionate ideals drive a wedge between them. After two decades of hard work, Everett Thompson is on the verge of having everything he’s dreamed of. Even the beautiful new teacher has agreed to his courtship. Then two investments go south and a blackmailer threatens everything Everett has and dreams of. (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)
Her Darling Mr. Day by Grace Hitchcock — New Orleans’ most eligible bachelor insists he’s not on the market . . . but he couldn’t be more wrong. Jilted in front of all New York, Theodore Day decides to lose himself in his family’s luxury riverboat business in New Orleans and compete against his brother to become the next company head. The brother with the most sales by summer’s end will win the position. Thanks to Theodore’s fame as a suitor in a socialite’s outlandish competition to find a husband, he has become very desirable royalty in Southern society and thus has an advantage. It took Flora Wingfield’s best work to convince her family to summer in New Orleans, but with Teddy Day a bachelor once again, she’s leaving nothing to chance. Desperate to stand out from all the clamoring belles, Flora attempts a bold move that goes completely awry, only to find it’s her interior design skills that finally catch his notice. But when Flora’s father’s matchmaking schemes come in the way of her plans, Teddy will have to decide where his happiness truly lies and what he is willing to sacrifice for it. (Historical Romance from Bethany House (Baker) Publishing)
Love’s Twisting Trail by Betty Woods — Stampedes, wild animals, and renegade Comanches make a cattle drive dangerous for any man. The risks multiply when Charlotte Grimes goes up the trail disguised as Charlie, a fourteen-year-old boy. She promised her dying father she’d save their ranch after her brother, Tobias, mismanages their money. To keep her vow, she rides the trail with the brother she can’t trust. David Shepherd needs one more successful drive to finish buying the ranch he’s prayed for. He partners with Tobias to travel safely through Indian Territory. David detests the hateful way. Tobias treats his younger brother, Charlie. But what does he do when he discovers Charlie’s secret? What kind of woman would do what she’s done? (Historical Romance from Scrivenings Press)
Marrying Mr. Wrong by Melissa Jagears — Gwendolyn McGill wants to be loved and accepted for who she is, but that’s hard to do in a small town where everyone judges her by the scandal her father caused. Unfortunately, the man she hoped would sweep her away from all the wagging tongues is no longer interested in marrying her. Unable to leave town, she’s determined to prove she’s more than just a pretty face who knows how to bat her eyelashes. For years, Timothy O’Conner has loved Gwen from a distance, knowing someone like her would never be attracted to a lowly ranch hand with a blemished face like him. When Gwen unexpectedly shows up at the ranch, asking him to help her learn how to attract a man of quality, Tim’s feelings become even harder to suppress. When danger pushes them together, they discover there’s more to each other than either of them imagined. Though God is no respecter of persons, is the desire of their hearts strong enough to defy society’s expectations? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)
Song for the Hunter by Naomi Musch — Wed to a trading company partner to escape life in Montreal under her harsh father’s thumb, Camilla Bonnet finds herself tragically widowed and pregnant in the Upper Country frontier. When her brother fails to return for her from Fort William, she is cast on the mercy of the trading post owner’s family. She also draws comfort from Bemidii Marchal, a Métis hunter who soothes away her misgivings as he finds his own refuge on Lake Superior’s Madeline Island. Bemidii’s thoughts of courting a maiden are cut short when he raises his knife against a company man at Fort William’s Great Rendezvous. No one will believe he killed to protect his sister—least of all the beautiful Frenchwoman on Madeline Island who stirs his affections—not when she learns that her brother is dead and Bemidii stands accused of his murder. As the sharp blade of truth divides them, will Bemidii survive the justice of powerful men who are a law unto themselves? Or will his life—and Camilla—be lost to him forever? (Historical Romance from Iron Stream Media (Smitten Historical Romance, imprint of LPC, division of ISM))
Four Days Famous by Luana Ehrlich — Mylas Grey doesn’t want to be famous. Not even for a day. As a private investigator, he prefers to fly under the radar. However, when a well-known doctor asks Mylas to investigate his father’s murder, that’s exactly what happens. Suddenly, Mylas is dodging reporters while interviewing suspects and searching for the dead man’s elusive girlfriend. (Mystery/Crime, Independently Published)
The Sword and the Song by Carla Laureano — With a storm on the horizon, who will stand against the darkness? Conor and Aine have barely escaped Seare with their lives. Conor knows he must return to find the harp that could end the Red Druid’s reign of terror, but he must first see Aine safely to her family home on the isle of Amanta. When an unnatural storm tears them apart, they find themselves in even more danger than that which they fled. Because magic is not the only thing to fear in Aine’s homeland, where the Sofarende invaders harry the coasts and shifting clan alliances make it impossible to know who to trust. Conor and Aine must cling to the whispers of Comdiu’s plans for them and their enduring love for one another, even when the future looks darkest. But with betrayal at every turn, will they give into fear? Or will they learn to depend on Comdiu completely … before all hope is lost? (Speculative from Enclave Publishing)
Shadow of Fear by Urcelia Teixeira — What seemed like the end was really the beginning. Enemies collide in the second installment of the toe-curling Christian Suspense Thriller that left readers gasping for more at the end of book one! Blinded by revenge of her own, she hunted down her enemies, hoping to put her past behind her. Only to find that breaking free isn’t as easy as she’d thought it would be. Blood got shed, lives lost, and now, more lives are at stake. Caught in a deadlock between enemies who won’t stop until they serve revenge, Jorja has to make a choice. Die, or make a deal with the devil. Her choice sets in motion one of the biggest assignments she has ever undertaken. One where fear threatens to seize her heart and take her soul. Can she finally break free from death’s clutches, risk it all, one last time? (Thriller Suspense, Independently Published)
Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:
Are you worried about making a mistake as you start off your writing career? Aspiring or beginning writers, take heart! In this article, I will talk about the 10 most common mistakes new or beginner writers make—and how to overcome them.
Giving up too early. If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re a writer in some capacity. For some, success comes quickly; for others, it takes years. “With one project, I persevered and after it had been rejected by 43 different publishers, it was accepted by #44,” says Kathy Collard Miller.
For Martha Rogers, it took nearly 30 years of submissions before she received her first acceptance. “Galatians 6:9 is the verse for my writing, and I’d add prayer and patience to Kathy’s perseverance,” Martha says.
The bottom line: Don’t give up too soon! Keep writing the stories God has called you to write.
Not honing your craft. Most of the time, writing mistakes like telling, not showing; starting the story with too much backstory; and not understanding viewpoint, can be “easily fixed and learned,” says Kimberly Woodhouse. Also, “there’s great technology out there (ProWritingAid AutoCrit) to help fix the easily fixable stuff like passive voice, repeated sentence starts, punctuation,” says Jayna Breigh.
The bottom line: There’s no excuse not to become a better writer. Take classes and go to writers conferences to learn more about writing in your genre.
Not researching the market to learn about their genre. “I’ve had so many writers tell me they want to write for Love Inspired, but when I ask them if they’ve read our books, they say no,” says Lenora Worth. “Reading in the line or genre you want to write is part of the research and doing your homework mode.”
The bottom line: Read, read, read in your writing genre. Really know your subject matter by researching and asking experts.
Keeping excitement in check. Sometimes, our emotions can get the better of us, but it’s always wise to wait until things are set in stone before making any announcements. “As a new author, wait to announce or tell your exciting things until the line has been signed,” says Angie.
The bottom line: Waiting is not easy (the title of a most excellent children’s book by Mo Willems), and it’s hard to not share your potentially good news. But do make sure everything’s locked in place before shouting it to the world at large.
Assuming you’re supposed to start with a book. Sometimes, writing an article or short story can be a better way to begin with an idea than a full-length novel. “Honing your writing skills and sense of audience with articles and blogs for others can be great training as you work with a variety of editors and more experienced writers,” says Janet Holm McHenry.
The bottom line: Especially for nonfiction writers, test the waters with an article or two before delving into an entire book. For example, my Ending Sibling Rivalry book started out as a Crosswalk.com article.
Taking criticism as a personal attack. It’s hard not to let edits to something you poured your heart and soul into become a personal critique of you as the author. But everyone—even the big name authors—have editors! Learning to separate yourself from the critique is vital to growing as an author. “Use critiques and edits as a tool to better your craft,” says Lee-Ann Brodeur.
The bottom line: Take your time to find the right critique group that fits both your style and your level. You want a group with a mix of published and unpublished authors that work well together. Figuring this out might take a while, but it’s well worth the effort.
Believing your first draft is your finished product. Rare is the writer who dashes off his or her entire book close to perfection with the first draft. Nearly every author gets the story down on paper, then edits and revises the manuscript.
The bottom line: Sometimes, your first book does end up being published, but more often, it will sit on your computer unread by others. And that’s okay—you’ll take what you learned and you’ll write the second book better.
Not finishing your book. Sometimes, it’s so easy to get hung up on rehashing the first three to five chapters over and over again that you never get beyond that point. Or you get bogged down in the middle and can’t see a way to make it to the end.
The bottom line: Make yourself stick with it and make it all the way to The End, even if you think it’s not any good or even if you know you’ll be erasing entire paragraphs or chapters during the rewrite. You shouldn’t start the editing process until you have a completed draft.
Never letting go. Some new authors have trouble submitting their finished work. “I’m working with one now whose writing is excellent and her story is fascinating, but she keeps editing and revising and won’t submit it although several of us in our writing group have encouraged her to. Her excuse is always ‘It’s not ready yet,’ and it hasn’t been for two years,” says Martha. Sure, it’s a little scary to hit the send button, but do it—get your work out there.
The bottom line: Your work will not be perfect, and that’s okay. We can’t expect perfection—that’s God’s domain.
Not enjoying the process. Writing should be a joy, so make sure you don’t stress too much over the process. Fall in love with your characters and nurture your stories. “My first novel and fourth book were both not under contract when I wrote them. I enjoyed that soooooo much more. I took my time. I wasn’t stressed. I enjoyed the process of creating the world and lives of my characters,” says Eva Marie Everson.
The bottom line: Writing can be hard and there will be times when you want to pull your hair out, but most of us do enjoy “having written.” So do take the time to cry when you write a sad scene, smile when the wording strikes you as funny, sigh at the romance between your main characters, and think about the joy a reader will have when picking up your finished work.
On this episode of “The Romantic Side of Suspense,” I’m talking with Kimberly Woodhouse, the best-selling and award-winning author of more than twenty-five books who loves the joy of story. A lover of history and research, she often gets sucked into the past and then her husband has to lure her out with chocolate. She’s spoken to more than 2 million people at more than 2,500 venues and has taught the craft of writing around the country. Married to the love of her life for thirty-plus years, she makes her home in the Poconos.
“It’s definitely a discipline to write,” Kimberly says. “I do teach a lot about writing … and people ask [how do I write when I get writer’s block] all the time. My answer is writer’s block is not an option. You have these big dreams [about the creative process], … but writing is hard work. It is a discipline—you have to make yourself sit down and write. You can’t wait for the muse to hit and you write something brilliant.
Listen to the podcast for more from our interview, plus an excerpt from Bridge of Gold.
On this episode of “The Romantic Side of Suspense,” my guest is Natalie Walters, the author of Carol Award finalist Living Lies, as well as Deadly Deceit and Silent Shadows. A military wife, she currently resides in Hawaii with her soldier husband and is a proud mom of three adult kiddos. She has been published in Proverbs 31 magazine and has blogged for Guideposts online. She loves connecting on social media, sharing her love of books, cooking, and traveling. Natalie comes from a long line of military and law enforcement veterans and is passionate about supporting them through volunteer work, races, and writing stories that affirm no one is defined by their past.
“Our lives revolved around electronic devices, Zoom and FaceTime, during the pandemic in 2020, but I think that was one of the pluses to staying connected with people,” Natalie says. “Being able to remain on social media and be able to communicate through FaceTime and video chats to keep people updated. … That was one of the best ways for me as an author to remain connected with readers.”
Listen to the podcast for more from our interview, plus an excerpt from Lights Out.