Follow my journey toward publication. Laugh, cry, point and stare-- it's all good. I'll leave a trail so that you, my fellow author, may have a straighter path to finding your own elusive publishing contract. Adventure awaits. Let's travel together...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Spotlight on April Gardner

*guest post by Michelle Massaro

(Ms. Davy) was an amazing cheerleader and I lived to make her smile with my stories. Whether I really was or not at that point, she made me believe I was a good writer. 
~ Sr. Editor April Gardner, on who inspired her writing.

Today we get to spend some time with COTT founder April Gardner. April is an amazing author, good friend, and an inspiration to me. She’s a sometime home school mom, a military wife, a talented writer, and a frugal do-it-yourselfer. So I was excited to get to pick her brain! Below are the questions that I always wanted to ask. I’m sure you will find them just as fascinating as I do.

Michelle: April, what was it like growing up with missionary parents?

April: We never lacked for excitement, that's for sure! Some MKs struggle with change, but I never minded it. I was shy and content merely to be with my family; wherever they were, I was happy, no matter the town or country! Growing up in Spain and learning Spanish was one of God's beautiful gifts to me. 

Michelle: That's so cool! Some might be surprised to hear that you are dyslexic. What advice or encouragement would you give to others out there struggling with dyslexia?

April: I'd imagine that most reading this are adults, and by the time dyslexics reach adulthood, they've managed to cope quite well. Having a child with dyslexia, however, was something that took me completely by surprise, surprisingly. LOL From what I hear, it goes through the mother, so odds were pretty good one of my kids would struggle with it. When it comes to dealing with a dyslexic child I've learned three things. 1. Patience is the name of the game! 2. Don't be afraid to reach out for help. 3. There is no shame in being dyslexic or having another learning difficulty.

Michelle: You have now experienced both the public school world and the home school world. What are your observations comparing both? 

April: My most important observation is that God's plan for our children's education is 1. God's plan for us in unique! I cannot compare how others chose to educate their children with our own choices. 2. God's plan for us is not set in stone, never to change. What might be His will one year, might not be the next. We must be flexible and keep our ears tuned to Him. He'll speak most loudly through our kids via their progress, contentment, discipline, and attitude.

Michelle: Great insights! Ok, so what began your fascination with history?

April: Laura Ingells Wilder and her Little House books! They were the first "big" books that held my attention well enough to make reading worth all the effort. I haven't looked back since!

Michelle: I love those books too! You are a military spouse--where have you lived, and which was your favorite place?

April: The military first moved us to Germany. We were 19 years old and newly married. Our tour lasted 7 years. Straight from there, we went to England for four years, and we've currently been in Georgia 2.5 years. Germany holds a very dear place in our hearts for many reasons, but I have felt most content and fulfilled right here in Georgia. God bless the USA!! Boy, it's good to be home. :-)

Michelle: Wow, that sounds so adventurous! And now you're a published author--another adventure! Who first inspired you to pursue publication and writing? Who inspires you today?

April: Several people along the path of my life worked together to inspire me to pick up the pen, but the first was my high school creative writing teacher, Ms. Davy. She was an amazing cheerleader and I lived to make her smile with my stories. Whether I really was or not at that point, she made me believe I was a good writer. Today, it's the drive to reach goals that inspires me. I do love a challenge!!

Michelle: Of the characters you've created, who is your favorite and why?

April: True Seeker, the budding Creek Indian warrior from my latest novel, Warring Spirits, is my favorite character so far. His heart is good and true to his name, he seeks wisdom, honor, and a personal relationship with the Giver and Taker of Breath.

Michelle: I like his character too. But of course, they're all good in my opinion! Besides writing excellent historical romance novels, you also have a lot to share on your blog about managing health issues with diet, frugality, and parenting. Any idea what's coming up in 2012?

April: Great question! LOL My blog is ever changing, but yes, I do tend to focus on those topics. Right now, I'm on an all-natural foods kick, so I'm sure my followers will see more of those tips in the future.

Michelle: Tell us about your recent book releases.

April: Warring Spirits is my latest adult fiction release. It's set in 1816 and is the story of a woman who might be able to hide her African heritage except for her hair, which is a dead give-away. Milly's escape from slavery leads her to the safety of Negro Fort where Major Phillip Bailey, believing her to be white, takes it upon himself to "free" her from the stronghold. At the same time, he's ordered to launch an attack against it. Accomplishing both is a virtual impossibility, especially when the beautiful woman doesn't want to be rescued. Where blood is shed, unexpected love may bloom!

Michelle: I've read it and it's awesome! Head to Amazon you guys,  you won't regret it. April, thanks for answering all my hard-hitting questions today, lol.

Readers, check out COTT this week for some of our favorite Amish Excerpts!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Winning Death Clash!!!

For the last couple weeks, Clash of the Titles has been exploring two books delivering powerful death scenes. That's right, death scenes. The two books were The Vengeance Squad and The Redemption. We met authors Sidney Frost and MaryLu Tyndall and waited with bated breath to find out which title got the most votes. If you missed Friday's announcement, I won't keep you in suspense. Though the competition was stiff, the champion title is...

The Redemption, by MaryLu Tyndall


About the book:

Lady Charlisse Bristol sets off on a voyage in search of a father she never knew, only to find herself shipwrecked on a deserted island. After weeks of combating the elements, her salvation comes in the form of a band of pirates and their fiercely handsome leader, Edmund Merrick. Will Charlisse free herself from the seductive lure of this pirate captain and find the father's love she so ardently craves?

While battling his attraction to this winsome lady and learning to walk a more godly path, Edmund offers to help Charlisse on her quest--until he discovers her father is none other than Edward the Terror, the cruelest pirate on the Caribbean. Can Edmund win this lady's love while shielding her from his lecherous crew and working to bring her father to justice?

Can the supernatural power of God rescue Charlisse and Edmund from the danger and treachery that await them as they ride upon the tumultuous waves of the Caribbean?
A few of the comments from readers:

I loved the Excerpt B.....I look forward to reading the book..it seemed more historical and the genre of books I enjoy reading. I am personally blessed by many of the Christian fiction authors and want to say thank you for all you for your readers. God bless you both!

Someone turning to Christ at the last moment is always a touching scene. It tugs at your heart to know that someone you would never see again, now you will. Very touching!

Keep writing as God leads you. You are bringing God's truth to readers; some who really need those truths in their lives.

About the author:

MaryLu Tyndall, a Christy Award finalist, and author of more than ten novels is known for her swashbuckling historical romances filled with deep spiritual themes. 

MaryLu dreamt of tall ships and swashbuckling pirates during her childhood years on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Unfortunately, instead of pursuing that dream, she worked as a miserable, landlocked software engineer for fifteen years. Only by the grace and providence of God, did she decide to answer His call to write a Christian Pirate series. Today, while writing her eleventh novel, she manages a home, husband, and six kids while battling three cats who have decided that her keyboard is the best place to sleep!  She believes that without popcorn and chocolate, life would not be worth living, and her sole motivation is to bring others closer to God.
What fun! For a sneak peak at the book, check out the winning excerpt here. You might also enjoy her fascinating interview here.

Right now, COTT is in the middle of a brand new clash so be sure to head over there to cast your vote. You just might win a free book!

Happy reading!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Laurel Award-Winning Novel, Fairer Than Morning

*by Sr. Editor, April W Gardner

“I knew that I had just been given an amazing true story that needed to be told.” –Rosslyn Elliott, Clash of the Titles 2011 Laurel Award Winner

Portions of that story—Fairer Than Morning—won the majority of COTT reader votes in June when it took the victory in the “Best Protagonist” ring. In November, it competed against a long list of other COTT champion novels then took home the Laurel. More hearty congratulations go to author Rosslyn Elliott for her win.

Read June’s winning excerpt (excerpt B).
Read the Laurel Award winning excerpt (excerpt A)

The Saddler's Legacy series is inspired by a real family in American history--the Hanby family, who are to this day the most celebrated citizens of Westerville, Ohio.

About Laurel Award-winning novel, Fairer Than Morning:
Ann dreams of a marriage proposal from her poetic suitor, Eli—until Will Hanby shows her that nobility is more than fine words.

On a small farm in 19th century Ohio, young Ann Miller is pursued by the gallant Eli Bowen, son of a prominent family. Eli is the suitor of Ann’s dreams. Like her, he enjoys poetry and beautiful things and soon, he will move to the city to become a doctor.

When Ann travels to Pittsburgh, accompanying her minister father on business, she meets Will Hanby, a saddle-maker’s apprentice. Will has spent years eking out an existence under a cruel master and his spirit is nearly broken. Anne’s compassion lights a long-dark part of his soul.
Through his encounters with Anne’s father, a master saddler, Will discovers new hope and courage even in the midst of tremendous adversity.

When the Millers must return to Ohio and their ministry there, Will resolves to find them, at any cost. If Will can make it back to Ann, will she be waiting?

Learn more about the book as Clash of the Titles staff interviews the author:

Hostess Raqul Byrnes asks, “What led you to use the inspirational Hanby family and how did you first come to know about them?”
Rosslyn: After I finished my doctoral dissertation, I decided to try my hand at writing my first historical novel. I was living in Westerville, Ohio at the time, so I decided to go visit a small local house museum so I could research all the kitchen artifacts and farm tools. Before the tour, a guide took me into an outbuilding and showed me a video about the Hanby family, who had lived in that house. By the time I stood up thirty minutes later, I knew that I had just been given an amazing true story that needed to be told. The Hanbys lived romantic, action-filled lives marked by courage, and most importantly, they served others out of faith and love.

Hostess Lisa Lickel asks,“Rosslyn, what does “nobility” mean to you and to the era of your story and today? What made you choose that character trait?”
Rosslyn: The origin of that word on the back jacket of the book is that when my publisher and I were creating jacket copy, I had to come up with a condensed way to describe what it means to find a man of true value. And both in Ann’s time and today, the words noble man mean a man of great worth and high virtue. It also made a nice contrast with the apparent gentility and breeding of one suitor, who would fit the other meaning of nobleman far more obviously than the ragged Will Hanby!

Assistant Editor Michelle Massaro asks, “What circumstances led up to Will Hanby's down-trodden situation?”
Rosslyn: In the novel, we learn that Will’s parents and his sisters all died of a virulent form of tuberculosis which killed much more quickly than ordinary TB. (The novel never reveals this in such specifics, but the TB was disseminated bovine TB, for those who care, acquired through milk ingested on a visit to a cattle farm, when Will and his brother were not with the others!). Their deaths left only Will and his younger brother, who were forced to indenture themselves to farmers to avoid infection and work in exchange for food and board. The farmers were kind, but Will ends up under a much harsher master when he signs a new indenture with Master Good.  The historical facts behind what happened to the real William Hanby were somewhat different, but the effect was the same: out of dire poverty, he indentured himself in his youth to Master Good, and much of what followed was what also happens in the novel.

Talent Scout Katie McCurdy asks, “Which character, not counting Ann or Will, is your favorite? Did you have a certain character that kinda suddenly took a main role that you didn't forsee when you plotted Fairer Than Morning?”
Rosslyn: My favorite supporting character is Ann’s father, Mr. Miller, whom I admire so much that I honestly wonder how I wrote him sometimes. His was the part of the novel that seemed most spirit-led. But the characters who suddenly appeared onstage who weren’t part of the novel at all, in the original sketchy outline, were Mr. and Mrs. Holmes and their daughter Amelia! They showed up on that steamboat and began to take on a life of their own, and before I knew it they were a major subplot.

Listen to Another Interview:
After her Laurel Award win, Author Rosslyn Elliott was also interviewed by Christian Authors Guild board member, Cynthia L. Simmons. This is a podcast you won’t want to miss. You can listen to in our sidebar or find it by visiting this link.

The second in the series, Sweeter Than Birdsong, releases next month and promises to be just as compelling as the first. Below, in two short, yet intriguing excerpts, the author shares a taste of what’s to come.

But first, here’s a brief summary of Sweeter Than Birdsong, book two in the Saddler’s Legacy series.

Music offers Kate sweet refuge from her troubles… But real freedom is sweeter.

In Westerville, Ohio, 1855, Kate Winter’s dreams are almost within reach. As the first woman to graduate from Otterbein College, she’ll be guaranteed her deepest wish: escape from the dark secret haunting her family. But with her mother determined to marry her off to a wealthy man, Kate must face reality. She has to run. Now. And she has the perfect plan. Join the upcoming musical performance--and use it to mask her flight.

Ben Hanby, Otterbein College’s musical genius, sees Kate Winter as an enigmatic creature, notable for her beauty, yet painfully shy. Then he hears her sing—and the glory of her voice moves him as never before. He determines to cast her in his musical and uncover the mystery that is Kate. Still, he must keep his own secret to himself. Not even this intriguing woman can know that his passionate faith is driving him to aid fugitives on the Underground Railroad.
A terrifying accident brings Kate and Ben together, but threatens to shatter both their secrets and their dreams. Kate can no longer deny the need to find her courage—and her voice—if she is to sing a new song for their future.


Chapter One

Westerville, Ohio 1855
Her customary walk across the college quadrangle had become an executioner’s march.
Kate’s heeled shoes clunked over the flagstones. Her full skirt and horsehair crinoline dragged from her waist, too warm even for this mild May morning.
She climbed the stone steps of the whitewashed college building and laid hold of the black iron door handle with a clammy palm. The dim foyer led to the lecture hall. Her breath came faster and her corset squeezed her lungs. It had not felt so tight when the maid laced it an hour ago. Up ahead loomed the dark rectangle of the hall’s oaken door, which stood ajar.
She paused on the threshold. Inside the hall, a baritone voice lifted in clear, well-balanced phrases. The speaker’s persuasive power carried even here. Ben Hanby. He was the best orator in the class. She laid a hand to her midsection to quell the pulsing nausea there. If she did not go in now, she would not go at all.
At her push, the door swung open to reveal rows of masculine shoulders in dark coats, all heads turned toward the speaker. Each gentleman’s neat coattails fell open over his knees, black against the polished wood floor. Each white collar rose to the sweep of hair worn according to the current vogue, longer than a Roman’s but never past the collar.
On the raised platform beyond them, Ben Hanby stood, as natural and poised as if he were alone in the room, his dark hair thick over his brow. His eyes were intent, his face alive with interest in his subject, but his words floated past Kate in a wash of sounds her jumping nerves could not interpret. Of course speaking came easily for him—his father was a minister.
He finished with a question to the audience, and even her disrupted attention caught the subtle humor in the lift of his eyebrow as he delivered his line straight-faced. A chuckle rose from the young men, echoed in the lighter laughter of the small party of young lady scholars seated with their chaperone on the end of the front row.
Ben Hanby descended the stairs, the barest smile appearing as he exchanged glances with his friends.
“Miss Winter.” Professor Hayworth’s bass rumbled across the hall.
Heads turned toward her. Her skin tingled in waves of heat, her heart kicked in an uneven cadence. Could it stop from such fright?—the thought made it worsen, like a stutter in her chest that could not move on to the next beat.
“I am glad you choose to join us today.” Professor Hayworth spoke to her from the dais, beside the podium, full bearded in his formal black robe. “You have arrived just in time to give the first of our ladies’ speeches.”
She avoided their curious stares as her pulse quickened and her mouth dried.
“Please proceed to the podium,” he said.


All was quiet and dark. The boat bobbed like a cradle soothing a baby to sleep.
It didn’t calm Kate, who sat immobile in the prow. She laced her hands together in her lap where John Parker could not see them and dug her fingers into the back of her knuckles. She couldn’t stop the faint tremble that had started inside her and traveled to her hands. He mustn’t see her shaking or he would think her unfit for the errand.
The chirp of crickets set a rhythm for little splashes from the oars as John rowed them toward the Kentucky side. They were quite close now.
 She must shake off this dreamlike state. She peered at the riverbank as far as she could see to left and right. At least there was no sign of a lantern.
They bumped up against the reeds. John jumped out, heedless of the mud and several inches of water. He lashed the tow rope of the fishing boat to a birch tree.
She must move now. She clambered over the side and into the dark water.
The unfamiliar feeling of the breeches increased her sense of having traveled to some different life, some strange body. It could not be she, traipsing around the wild in men’s trousers. Someone else entirely had come on this errand—someone braver and stronger who just happened to resemble her on the outside.
A few waterlogged steps brought her to where John stood on the riverbank, like the shadow of a tree in the moonlight.
“This way.” He walked ahead of her, straight towards the thickest tangle of thorny bush.

If you would like to join the COTT Blog Alliance tour for this award-winning novel (Jan 14-18), please email us at contactcott(at)gmail(dot)com. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

COTT Rings In The New Year

January Story Improv: Click Here.


*by COTT Sr. Editor, April W Gardner
January is in full swing, starting 2012 off with a bang. At Clash of the Titles, you can take that quite literally! For the next two weeks, we’re featuring Death. That’s right. Death.

Death has the power to intrigue and terrify, and it’s that power that a good book taps into, often leaving a permanent mark on the reader’s memory. Visit Clash of the Titles today, to read two Death excerpts and vote for the one that impacts you the most. 

Remember that every book you send to the Champions Ring will have a shot at our Laurel Award, handed out at the end of our Tournament of Champions. Coming October 2012!

Between now and our October Tournament, we'll have a slew of exciting clashes—some, old reliables; others, brand new. 

Here’s  what's on the COTT calendar:
Almost Kiss-- 
Unpublished Hooks-- 

Here's a glimpse at clashes you might see in the future:
Good Guy
Bad Guy
Leading Lady
Back Cover Summary
Comparable Covers
Mayhem and Mishaps
Creepy Covers
Author’s Choice
Reader’s Choice
Tantalizing Titles
Young Adult

Is there a specific book that comes to mind that you would like to see compete on Clash of the Titles in one of these clashes? We want to know!! Please enter the book title in the survey box below.

Also new in 2012, once a quarter, a specially selected COTT Champ will be featured in a podcast interview with Christian Authors Guild board member, Cynthia L. Simmons. You can hear our current podcast HERE.

Clash of the Titles thanks each of our readers and voters for making COTT such a fun hang-out during 2011. We look forward to another year of introducing you to amazing new books and giving you the opportunity to win them!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

January's Story Improv

It's been a long time since I've done one of these. I thought we'd have a little fun this week. Read the story opening below, and add the next few lines in the comments. Be sure to read all the comments as the story grows so that our tale makes sense. Since this week's upcoming clash at COTT is about Death, let's see if we can work that in. Who knows, together we could write the most compelling excerpt of all!

(I'll leave this open awhile, providing links back to it at the top of future posts so it's easy to find. Feel free to invite friends to join in too.)

Marianne sat in the green wicker chair with her mug of spiced cider warming her hands. The mountain breeze brought a few tendrils of hair swirling into her eyes. She tucked them back behind her ear and adjusted the collar of her heavy robe. Early mornings at the lake-front cabin had been her favorite time the last forty years, and today was no different. Though everything else in her life seemed to have changed overnight.