Wednesday, August 31, 2011

COTT Champ Lisa T Bergren

*Guest post by Michelle Massaro

Congratulations, Lisa T. Bergren, author of Waterfall! Lisa's winning excerpt was discovered by COTT's new Talent Scout, Katie McCurdy. You can read Katie's review here. This YA title is being highly-praised by adults and is only the second YA title to win at Clash Of The Titles. Visit Lisa's site to learn more about her.

About the book:
Gabriella has never spent a summer in Italy like this one.
Remaining means giving up all she’s known and loved…
and leaving means forfeiting what she’s come to know…and love itself.

Most American teenagers want a vacation in Italy, but the Bentarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives with their parents, famed Etruscan scholars, among the romantic hills. Stuck among the rubble of medieval castles in rural Tuscany on yet another hot, dusty archaeological site, Gabi and Lia are bored out of their minds… until Gabi places her hand atop a handprint in an ancient tomb and finds herself in fourteenth-century Italy. And worse yet, in the middle of a fierce battle between knights of two opposing forces.

And thus does she come to be rescued by the knight-prince Marcello Falassi, who takes her back to his father’s castle—a castle Gabi has seen in ruins in another life. Suddenly Gabi’s summer in Italy is much, much more interesting. But what do you do when your knight in shining armor lives, literally, in a different world?
Sounds amazing, doesn't it? No wonder it won! If you're ready to read it, head to Amazon now. You can read Lisa's COTT interview here or check out her excerpt here.
Lisa, welcome to the COTT Hall of Fame. We're very happy to have you join us!
Readers, do you hunger for a well-written convo--one dripping with sarcasm or perhaps laced with unspoken meaning? Maybe you like a quick wit or a character whose comments make you LOL. Wish you could influence the dialogue of the fictional characters you read? This week COTT is hosting a showdown for the Snappiest Dialogue. Hurry on over and let our authors know what you like, and what you long to see, in the spoken interaction between characters. See you there!

* Michelle Massaro is the Assistant Editor for COTT and has a passion for evangelizing through fiction. She writes contemporary inspirational novels with heart-rending themes intended to frame the message of God’s healing love. Michelle has written for Romantic Times, Circle Of Friends, and Pentalk Community, among others. Find her on twitter @MLMassaro, Facebook, or her blog, Adventures in Writing, and join the fun.

Friday, August 26, 2011


I was 12 years old and my grandparents had just come from Ireland to visit us in Canada. It had been 8 years since I last saw my grandmother, who I called Nanny, and my grandfather, Granda.

They opened up their huge, light blue suitcase and brought out all sorts of gifts for us from the family back home. Then Nanny gave me a small box, and inside was a gift that as soon as I opened it, took me back to those vague days of childhood when I was but 4.

I had been born in Ireland, but when I was 4 years old my mother and father, as well as my baby sister and I immigrated to Canada. Back in the sixties flights across the Atlantic were expensive, so it wasn’t too different for us than it was for those immigrants who’d come over in the steerage of ships. When we had said goodbye at the airport in Belfast, Northern Ireland, all of us thought we’d never see each other again.

But 8 years passed, and each day I thought of my grandparents who I missed terribly, especially Nanny. Letters were never enough.

One day when I was 11 years old I was at a friend’s house playing, and I phoned home. My mother said, “Hurry up, I have a big surprise waiting for you.”

I remember running down the street, wearing a cotton dress and white ankle socks with black Mary Jane shoes like girls did in those days. All the way home, puffing out of breath, all I could think of was, what . . . or who . . . my mother had waiting for me.

One surprise that would thrill me would be if my grandparents were sitting in the living room when I got home. It had to be them. It just had to be. Had they come from Ireland to visit us at long last?

But when I got home my mother indeed had a surprise for me. I don’t remember what it was. Something nice, I’m sure. But it was not my grandparents. How foolish I felt. Of course they wouldn’t turn up just like that. A flight across the ocean cost a great deal.

The day did come though, the following year. And I was told about it months in advance. My grandparents did fly over.

And there they were sitting in our living room in Canada and opening up their huge, light blue suitcase to shower us with gifts.

Nanny handed me the little box, and I opened the lid. It was a small bottle of perfume made for a child with the plastic figure of a tiny leprechaun for the lid.

I popped open the lid and brought it to my nose and sniffed.

I remembered!

I was only 4 when we’d left the emerald isle. So many things I couldn’t possibly remember, except the vague, shadowy images of my grandmother especially. But this violet scent was one I had smelled before.

It took me home to the land of my birth, to the family I missed, to those moments with my grandmother.

I was home.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

School girl Crushes and Blushes

Guest post by: Jennifer Slattery

Do you remember those dances held during junior high and high school? How you and your friends would spend hours pre-dance talking about what you'd wear, how you'd do your hair, and...giggle, blush, giggle...who might ask you to dance? Only those dances never quite ended up how we envisioned, at least not in my school. Inevitably, the guys huddled near the far, heavily-shadowed wall while the girls spent their time crying in the bathroom or trying to comfort their near hysterical friend hiding in the stall.

At least in Junior High. High School got a little better and people actually danced, and the bathrooms were far less crowded with splotchy-faced, sniffling girls.

But reading this week's excerpts actually brought me back even sixth grade.

We didn't have dances--instead, our school hosted skating parties. Do you remember those? "Elvirah" blaring from those gigantic speakers while a disco ball lit up the room, making that feather pinned in your hair really stand out. (Those have come back, btw. Seriously.) We'd do the hokey-pokey, skate on one foot, then backward...but what the girls waited for, holding their breath and scanning the glittering room for their short, waif-thin and equally shy hero, was when the DJ announced, "Find a partner!"

Now here's where it gets really fun, and extremely embarrassing, but remember I was a stupid kid with absolutely no life....

Who knew come skating party time, a boy--maybe even the boy--might hold my hand. Oh, the very thought made my stomach twirl.

In preparation, I slathered lotion on my hands the week leading up the event--and I mean slathered. Then, I'd rub it in and hold my hand out to my mom. "Are my hands soft? Feel them."

She'd laugh and feel my hand. Then I'd slather on more. "Feel them now."

She remained patient for about three or four applications.

What about you? Any stupid, cheek-burning stories to share?

Be sure to come meet our competing authors this week on COTT

Friday, August 19, 2011

Edgy Christian Fiction Summer Blog Tour

It's exciting these days to see various styles in Christian fiction. While there are lots of great books out there that fit all parameters of Christian fiction, there is a new wave growing, called Edgy Christian Fiction. It's not for everyone, as the stories sometimes deal with difficult issues. But in all cases the stories point back to the need for a redemptive relationship with Christ.

Here are my four "5 star" pics for a great summer Edgy Christian Fiction read.

Dance of the Dandelion by Dina Sleiman.

In Medieval times, almost the Renaissance, is a rare jewel of a story. As a child the main character, Dandy, kept her gnawing hunger away by poaching. In adulthood she is as wild and spirited as a child, but with the mind and desires of a grown woman. Dandy doesn't even trust herself to do the right thing, especially when her decisions are influenced by raw memories of famine.

Wanting more than what her simple cotter family has, and more than what the young farmer, William, can ever give her, she recklessly turns her back on true love to marry a nobleman from the nearby castle. Only to find there are other types of hunger--hunger of the soul, Dandy escapes. This character is a strong, vivacious heroine who learns by failing morally before she grasps the truth about Christ.
A Midsummer's Eve Nightmare by Donna Fletcher Crow
This is traditional cozy murder mystery from a Christian point of view. With snappy modern-day dialogue, amateur sleuths are newlyweds Elizabeth and Richard Spenser. Shady goings-on pull them away from their romantic honeymoon. In the silent and darkened local theater someone is out to injure Elizabeth’s sister, Tori, ... or worse.

Amidst delightful snippets of Shakespearean speeches is a hilarious maze of misconstructed dialogue and mayhem of action. Donna Crow combines a lighthearted romance with the murderous world behind the curtain.
Seasons in the Mist by Deborah Kinnard
A Christian author finally wrote what I'd been looking for, for years---a Christian time-travel novel. If you like the secular novels by Diana Gabaldon but don't like her illicit scenes then you'll love Seasons in the Mist. It's a clean, Christian romance that whisks the heroine, Bethany Lindstrom, a graduate student in medieval history, through a time portal to King Edward’s court.

While Bethany adjusts to wearing--not jeans and t-shirt--but surcoat and veil, and doing without coffee, Aspirin, and a million other conveniences, she falls in love with a Christian man from that long-ago era. Does the God of all time want them together?
And last but not least my own novel Shadowed in Silk. Click here on Shadowed in Silk Book Trailer to get an idea.

So I don't have to blow my own horn, this is what Michelle Sutton had to say about my novel.

Shadowed in Silk has a lot to offer...exceptional writing, rich detail, heart-pounding action, and breath-stealing romance. This novel not only had it all, but the story was done right. And you might even shed a tear or two as you enjoy this heart-warming tale of intrigue, faith, and second chances. I absolutely loved it.

Shadowed in Silk sort of reminded me of a Christian version of The English Patient. (Christian because it was clean and nothing immoral happened between characters, but with similar dynamics.) But this story was unique in it's own right. I learned quite a bit about Ghandi and how he influenced the people of India after the Great War.

With great pacing, plenty of mystery and intrigue, the romance was like the icing on the proverbial cake.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New COTT Champion: A Familiar Evil by Anne Patrick

 *guest post by Jennifer Slattery

The next Clash of the Titles literary champion is Anne Patrick! Her her novel A Familiar Evil won the vote for Author’s Choice.

Here’s a blip of her COTT winning excerpt (excerpt B):

“Excuse me. I’m looking for Chief Russell.”

Jordan’s stomach did a nosedive at the familiar voice of her soon-to-be-ex-husband.
“You found her,” Frank answered.
Jordan looked up just as Sam smiled. “Indeed I have.” He started toward her desk.
Colleen barged through the opened door. “Chief, there’s an Agent Russell here to see…oh, I guess you found her.”
“Agent Russell,” Frank repeated. He turned back to Jordan, “Isn’t Russell your married name?” He then shifted his gaze back to Sam, “That must mean you’re her husband.”
“Not for much longer.” Jordan hurried around her desk and ushered Frank out the door. “You’ll be hearing from me.” She closed the door and looked at Sam. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here at your request.”

Read the full excerpt here.

A few reader comments: 
  • I'm hooked! Loved the tension between Jordan and Sam.
  • Both were really good! I Liked Excerpt B because of the rather humorous exchange between husband and wife. :-) Definitely a book I'd want to get and read!
  • Love tension in Excerpt B. And there's promise of lots more!! 

After reading Anne’s tension-filled excerpt, we wanted to know how she came up with such great stories. Her answer? She writes on the fly.
“I’m a Pantser,” Anne said. “I never plan anything. As a matter of fact I didn’t know who the killer was in A Familiar Evil until toward the end of the book when he sprang out at me and said, ‘I’m your man.’ Of course I had suspected he was the one but I wasn’t for sure. There are several possibilities.”

Her plot ideas come to her just as unexpectedly. “Often times when I'm researching one book, ideas for another start to sprout,” Anne said. “Reading the paper is another good source for me. Life is truly stranger than fiction.

Read the full interview here.

What Anne had to say about her time on Clash:

"Thanks for having me here at COTT. You ladies are awesome!"

Want to join the fun? Hop on over to Clash of the Titles now to vote for our next literary champion and be entered into our drawing for a free book! And don’t forget to stop by Clash of the Titles Book Club to join our cyber-chat. We’re devouring Delia Latham’s Destiny’s Dream.

*Jennifer Slattery is the marketing manager for Clash of the Titles. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, the Christian Pulse, and Samie Sisters. She’s also written for numerous other publications and websites including the Breakthrough Intercessor, Bloom!, Afictionado, the Christian Fiction Online Magazine, and Granola Bar Devotions. She has a short piece in Bethany House’s Love is a Flame (under a pen name) forwarded by Gary Chapman, another piece in Cathy Messecar’s A Still and Quiet Soul, and a third piece scheduled to appear in Majesty House’s Popcorn Miracles. You can find out more about her and her writing at Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud and you can catch some great writing tips at her writing blog, Words That Keep.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Marrying Miss Marshal Marrying Miss Marshal by Lacy Williams

My rating: 5 of 5stars

I wish I could give this book more than 5 stars.

Marrying Miss Marshal is such a delight. I loved it. Fast-paced but one of the sweetest love stories I’ve ever read. Which is surprising when the heroine is a tall, strong, willowy girl who is tough enough to stomp out a bar brawl, ride straight into a cattle stampede to save the male hero, and then go after cattle rustlers and murderers.

Author Lacy Williams is brilliant in the way she fills out the characters, Danna Carpenter and Chas O’Grady, the tenderfoot detective that comes into town. Nothing stereotypical about these characters, but fully complex human beings with all the longings of any man and woman.

It’s not just that Danna wants to fill the shoes of her late husband, the Marshall, she wants all that entails the life of a woman—love, children, learning how to be feminine. As the reader we feel those emotions through both her and Chas.

This debut author has a great career before her. Her writing is wonderful, a voice that is soft at times, but packs such an emotional punch.

View all my reviews

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Ever wonder what a writer thinks about other genres, authors, and books? Let's find out! I put together some fun questions for our Clash of the Titles authors, as well as our current anonymous Clashing authors. Some of their answer surprised me. Others made me chuckle, or made me think about my own motives.

Here they are!

If you had to choose... do only one of these for the rest of your life, which would it be? Read or write?
Amanda Flower-- Read- I write because I was reader first.

Lisa Lickel-- I’ve written twenty-five novels so far, published five of them and hope that’s not it, and it’s not like I feel I’ve written everything I wanted to...but between Kindle and my p-tbr-pile, there’s well over a hundred books just calling to be read.

Jennifer Slattery- Write, definitely, because that's when I feel God's presence strongest. I also process through my writing, whether penning articles, devos, blog posts or novels. So I imagine if I quit writing, I'd have horrendous therapy bills!

Gail Pallotta--  It would be extremely hard not to read, but I'd write because I feel that God can use my writing, even if it's in a small way.

Michelle Massaro-- mmm, read. That's why I write and it's also a whole lot easier! Lol
...only one genre to read for the rest of your life, which would it be?

Amanda Flower-- Mystery- I'm a huge mystery fan.

Lisa Lickel-- Ouch! Hit a girl where it hurts. Fantasy.
Author of Excerpt A-- History. I love science fiction, but I have a passion for history.

Jennifer Slattery-- Women's fiction. I love reading about characters ultra dependent on God's grace

Gail Pallotta--  I would read classic books that get at some truth about humanity.

Author of Excerpt B—Romantic Suspense

...only one author to read for the rest of your life, which would it be?

Amanda Flower-- Nevada Barr- Her description of the nationals parks is amazing.

Lisa Lickel-- Hmmm...besides you, of Stewart.

Author of Excerpt A-- Jack London. He wrote a lot of man vs. nature kind of stories, which I enjoy a lot.

Jennifer Slattery-- Hm...I'll give three. I love CJ Darlington and the real-life issues she writes about, but I also loved Diana Prusik's debut novel, Delivery. Then there's Athol Dickson. Wow, that fella can write

Michelle Massaro-- C.S. Lewis. He has such a variety of books to read and they all contain such spiritual truths. Screwtape Letters, Chronicals of Narnia, Space Trilogy, Mere Christianity, I'd be all set.

Author of Excerpt B--  Tough one!  I'll go with Mary Higgins Clark
....only one book (in addition to the Bible) to read for the rest of your life, which would it be? 

Gail Pallotta--  Other than the Bible, I rarely read a book more than once, but My all-time favorite book is An American Tragedy.

Author of Excerpt A-- Drat, you took away my answer. Since I can't pick the Bible, I would say Homer's, The Illiad.

Michelle Massaro-- Could I choose the whole set of Narnia books? If not, I'd have to go with Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers. (hehe, is this answer a cheat?)

Author of Excerpt B-- The one that comes to mind first is Danger in the Shadows by Dee Henderson.

What about your COTT reader? What would your answers be to these same questions?

At the Clash of the Title Book Club this month, we're discussing COTT champ Delia Latham's novel, Destiny's Dream. Head over there and see what all the hype is about!

~ April Gardner is the Sr. Editor of COTT, and best-selling author of Wounded Spirits