Book Spotlight: Where Do I Go?

Happy Wednesday, reader friends!

Today, we’re shining the spotlight on Neta Jackson’s book Where Do I Go?


About the Book:

Sometimes you find hope in the last place you look.

Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband sixteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip’s ambition, Gabby longs for the chance to find real purpose in her own life.

A chance encounter with a homeless woman suddenly opens a door she never expected. The women of Manna House Women’s Shelter need a Program Director–and she has the right credentials. Gabby’s in her element, feeling God’s call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn’t like the changes he sees in her. But she never anticipated his ultimatum: quit your job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of our sons.

In this moment, Gabby’s entire foundation shifts. She must find refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday worship: “Where do I go when there’s no one else to turn to . . . I go to the Rock I know that’s able, I go to the Rock.”

For everyone who loves the best-selling Yada Yada Prayer Group novels comes a brand new series sprinkled with familiar faces and places from the Yada Yada world. It’s the perfect novel to start with–or to meet friends from past Yada stories.

Buy Neta’s book on Amazon.


About the Author:

Neta Jackson and her husband Dave are an award-winning husband-and-wife writing team, the authors or coauthors of more than 130 books that have sold over 2.5 million copies.

They are best known for Neta’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series and its sequels, as well as their forty-volume Trailblazer series of historical fiction about great Christian heroes for young readers.

Neta and Dave raised two children as well as a foster daughter and are now enjoying all the “grands”!

The Jacksons are thankful for their multi-cultural church and neighborhood in the Chicago area, which provide the characters and setting for their novels.

Follow Neta and her husband Dave Jackson on social media: 

Website: http://www.daveneta.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DaveNetaJackson/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DaveNetaJackson

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Interview with Allison K. Garcia about her book “Finding Amor”

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Today, we’re featuring an interview with Allison K. Garcia, author of Finding Amor.


Interview with Allison K. Garcia about her book, Finding Amor:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this book?

Allison: I was inspired by a couple things in 2014…On the news, there was a video of little kids on a bus near an immigration detention center. Outside the bus were a bunch of angry Americans yelling at them and carrying signs. It broke my heart. I thought about how scary it must be for those small children to be surrounded by an angry mob after what was surely a traumatic border crossing. And I began to think how most likely some of those people yelling angrily at the children were also proclaiming to be Christians (as I had heard echoed sentiments in our community), and I wanted to change the narrative. This is the first scene of my book. The other thing that inspired my book was hearing the story from someone at church about how a little boy in the afterschool program came to Christ and subsequently brought many of the other little kids to salvation as well. That touched my heart, and from there my main character, Emanuel, was born.

Alexis: How did you choose your characters?

Allison: I am a pantser, so a lot of times my characters choose me. Haha. But seriously, I had the idea for Emanuel, so logically his mother, Ana, came next. I added a third POV of the afterschool teacher, Lauren, and her husband, Peter, who is a loveable slob. I’m not sure how Carlos, my antagonist, came about but my editor made me turn him into a POV character so you can thank her for that! Mamita is just this sweet little grandma that I pictured, the representation of quintessential unconditional love. Kayli, Mari, and Dwayne are my favorite of Emanuel’s buddies. You’ll see more of them in my second book. Sandra, Ana’s mother, was really fleshed out in editing, and I really love her now. There is a lot under the surface there.

I know I didn’t answer your question, but truthfully, I feel like they chose me, and they keep surprising me! Who knows what will happen in my second and third books? I have a general direction but there are plenty surprises for all of us around the corner.

Alexis: What is the setting for this book? Describe it.

Allison: Lederville, Virginia is a small city I created in the Shenandoah Valley. It has a diverse population and is loosely based off of Harrisonburg, VA, where I live. It has all four seasons, including beautiful fall foliage and occasionally disruptive snowfalls. They have a bus system and Uber. There are suburbs, trailer parks, apartments, and farms. They have thrift stores and international grocery stores, especially Hispanic/Latino, which is a burgeoning population in Lederville. There is a park called North River Park which has open fields and shelters for picnics and parties. Also, there is a nice church called Dove Peak Presbyterian Church next to the Rolling Hills Trailer Park where three of my main characters live. It is a very welcoming church that holds an afterschool program and does Christmas caroling and has a thriving Spanish service.

Alexis: What is Finding Amor about? Share in a few sentences (not the blurb).

Finding Amor is the first part of a larger series, Buscando Home, about a family from El Salvador broken through decades of war, violence, and distance. Finding Amor is the first glimpse into their world – why they are broken, some of what they’ve gone through, and how far they have to go in order to heal and find peace and home together. Finding Amor is about finding the love of family, God, and within ourselves. It also calls people to love both God and their neighbors, the two main tenants of Christianity.

Alexis: Take us inside Emanuel Martinez’s mind. What was it like to be thrown into an immigration center after he was so close to freedom at the border?

Allison: I think we’ll get a much better idea of this in my next book, but it is a horrible thing. His mother had to leave to make enough money to support him, but he was too small to travel across three countries, so he has waited so long to be with his mother, living in an abusive home environment. The coyote (the person who helps people cross the border) took him on a freight train for faster travel, where he had some traumatic experiences. Just a reminder that from El Salvador to the border is about 2,000 miles, which is the equivalent of traveling from Virginia to Arizona. To travel that far and to be so small, it is impressive. Emanuel is a strong little guy, but the journey took its toll on him. Imagine traveling all the way from east to west coast at eight years old and just as you’re about to see your long-lost mother, you are apprehended and told you may never see her. This is a truth that is happening again and again. People who are just looking for asylum, for a better life for their family, risking their lives for freedom, only to be put into cages. Very upsetting.

Alexis: Did Emanuel travel to the border by himself? I understand that he’s only eight years old. Describe his journey.

Allison: His mother paid for a coyote, someone to cross him. It is a 2,000-mile journey. Often people will take freight trains to make the trip faster. It usually takes a month or more of hiding from immigration officials in the various countries, especially Mexico, where officials are sometimes corrupt and need bribes to let you pass. Also, there is a lot of gang activity near the border and people sometimes get kidnapped. For Emanuel, he took a traumatic freight train ride with the coyote, he traveled for about a month, hiding from officials, and then was captured at the border. More info about his journey will come out in my next book. It is a horrible journey even for adults and thousands of people die trying to cross the border. Emanuel is one of the lucky ones who made it across.

Alexis: In what ways does Finding Amor reflect the current immigration debate, trauma and drama in the USA?

Allison: My main goals for writing Latino Christian fiction are to have Latinos represented in Christian fiction, share God’s word, and show authentic stories of undocumented immigrants so that people can open their hearts and minds and grow in compassion and love and understanding. In showing real stories and explaining the whys and showing the human side to immigration, my hope is that people who have negative views towards immigrants will understand more and realize that we are called to love our neighbors, no matter what their documentation status or skin color or language, etc. I purposefully put a very diverse group of people in the book, because it represents America and also in Revelations is shows Heaven as a place where “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” people are praising God. Also, there are important verses that remind us that we cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor. We cannot love God without loving our neighbor any more than we can love our neighbor without loving God. This is another theme that is represented in Lauren’s story. Seeing her neighbors in a new light and seeing the love they show her, helps her grow to love others and herself more. So, for me, the trauma and drama and debates in the U.S. boil down to a lack of love.

Alexis: Who is Lauren Barrett and what is her significance to this story?

Allison: Lauren is an overweight, churchgoing legal secretary who has trouble saying no, especially to church activities. She gets roped into helping with the afterschool program at church, which is hurtful because she has been dealing with infertility for over a decade. She represents the average churchgoing person who looks fine from the outside but has a lot going on inside, while at the same time finds herself lacking compassion for others and losing perspective on where she is in her life. Her interactions with the Martinez family and the other families in the afterschool program make a drastic impact on the way she views the world.

Alexis: How does Lauren’s family dynamics and a background that made her insecure affect her life as a grown woman? In what ways does her personal history endear her heart to Emanuel?

Allison: Lauren grew up in a very unsupportive family with some emotional abuse that made her more vulnerable towards abusive relationships. In high school, she had an abusive boyfriend, but thankfully, she met Peter, who showed her unconditional love. Even though she has God in her life and Peter, she still has the burden of those early days, and she struggles with that need to please and make people happy and also with loving herself. I think she sees herself in Emanuel a little bit, plus Emanuel just has a good heart and is kind to her right off the bat, which endears him to her.

Alexis: What role does Lauren grow to play in Emanuel’s life?

Allison: It’s a little bit the other way around for this book. Lauren wants to help the kids in the afterschool, but really they are the ones who impact her life. I think that happens a lot with mission work, we want to help and then we get way more back than we ever gave out.

Alexis: What does Emanuel think of Lauren at first and as the story progresses?

Allison: She views her as someone who is sad and has “nerves” like Marta from home. He wants to make her feel better and is kind to her. I think as the story progresses, he sees her as a mentor and friend and someone he can confide in and learn from.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about Finding Amor?

Allison: That everyone has a story. We often judge a book by its cover and as Christians, that’s not okay. We are called to love everyone, unconditionally. I hope that sticks with them.

Alexis: Who is your publisher for Finding Amor? Is it a CBA publisher?

Allison: CreateSpace/Me! I had to go indie because it is very hard to get diverse fiction published traditionally in the Christian market. Plus the undocumented immigration is seen as controversial and they didn’t want to touch it with a 10-foot pole. But God wants me to write it and get it out to the world, so I am thankful for Amazon and all my indie published friends who helped me figure out how to indie publish.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Allison! Would you like to share closing comments?

Allison: Alexis, thank so much for the insightful interview questions. I really challenged me to look at my book in detail. I feel totally prepared for some events I have coming up in September now! Thank you for this opportunity! I hope people pick up a copy and enjoy it!

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Escaping a violent and abusive environment, eight-year-old Emanuel Martinez attempts to cross through three countries to be with his mother, Ana, whom he hasn’t seen since he was a baby. When la migra catches him at the border and he’s thrown into an immigration center, his dreams for being a real family start to disappear.

Vowing never to be like her own mother who abandoned her and never looked back, Ana has worked for six years to get her son to the United States, Now Ana has to rely on her distant mother and her alcoholic boyfriend, Carlos, to finally get her son to her side so they can build a life together.

When Lauren Barrett agrees to help with the afterschool program, she soon realizes she’s bitten off more than she can chew. Growing up in an unsupportive home has made her insecure and vulnerable, plus suffering through years of infertility hasn’t helped matters. Yet she longs to do something meaningful with her life and wonders when that opportunity will come along. When a special young boy named Emanuel enters her life, he turns her worldview on its head.

As their lives intersect, will they help each other understand what family and love and home really mean?

Buy Allison’s book on Amazon


About the Author:

Allison K. Garcia is a Licensed Professional Counselor, but she has wanted to be a writer ever since she could hold a pencil.

She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Shenandoah Valley Writers, Virginia Writers Club, and is Municipal Liaison for Shenandoah Valley NaNoWriMo.

Allison’s short story, “At Heart,” was published in the Winter 2013 edition of From the Depths literary magazine, along with her flash fiction. Her work, “You Shall Receive,” was published in GrayHaven Comics’s 2014 All Women’s anthology. Winning an honorary mention in the ACFW Virginia 2015 short story contest, “Just Another Navidad” was published in A bit of Christmas. Allison finaled in the 2016 ACFW Genesis Contest and is a 2018 Eric J. Hoffer Montaigne Medal Finalist for Vivir el Dream, published May 2017. Her highly-anticipated novel, Finding Amor, releases in September 2018.

Latina at heart, Allison has been featured in local newspapers for her connections in the Latino community in Harrisonburg, Virginia. A member of cultural competency committees for work and a participant in several pro-immigrant rallies and other events in her region, she also sings on the worship team and enjoys get-togethers with the hermanos in her church. With the help of her husband, Julio, and their son, Miguel, she has been able to nurture her love for the Latino people.

Follow Allison on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Website

Sign-up for Allison’s Newsletter here.

Interview with Neta Jackson about The Yada Yada Prayer Group (Book #1)

Happy Wednesday, reader friends!

Today, we’re featuring an interview with Neta Jackson about Book #1 in her series, The Yada Yada Prayer Group.


Interview with Neta Jackson about her book, The Yada Yada Prayer Group (Yada Yada Series) Book #1:

NOTE: All of these answers are by Neta, as the YYPG novels were all written by Neta. Future author interviews will include Dave who is her husband and beloved writing partner.

Alexis: What inspired you to write this Yada Yada Series?

Neta: Our church was being very intentional about “racial reconciliation,” so at one point an African American sister and I decided to co-lead a women’s prayer group that was intentionally diverse—and getting to know these amazing women from different backgrounds and different life experiences, who had such deep and solid faith, had such an impact on my life that my husband, Dave, said, “You ought to write a book.” Nope, I said. Can’t. The stuff we share is confidential. He said, “I mean, write a novel, using your prayer group as inspiration, but make it fiction.”

Alexis: Who are the main characters in Book #1 of The Yada Yada Prayer Group? Describe them briefly.

Neta: As the title implies, this novel is about a group, though the POV character is Jodi Baxter—a typical, middle-class, white, “good Christian girl” and third-grade teacher who ends up in a multi-cultural prayer group led by Avis, the African American principal of her school. Avis is mature, gracious, and deeply spiritual, who wisely leads this group of women who are as diverse as a “drawerful of crazy, mixed-up socks”—forcing Jodi to confront her presumptions, prejudices, and ignorance in spite of all her “good intentions,” and to learn how to pray and worship in whole new ways out of her comfort zone.

Besides Jodi and Avis, the group consists of:

Hoshi—a Japanese grad student at Northwestern University, who has become a Christian and been disinherited by her Shinto parents.

Nonyameko—an African immigrant from South Africa, married to an African-American professor at NU (Hoshi was in one of his classes).

Adele—a blunt African American with her own hair salon, taking care of her mother, who is suffering from dementia.

Chanda—a single mom from Jamaica who wants to win the lottery.

Leslie (aka “Stu”)—a single white social worker, who seems to do everything better than Jodi, making Jodi feel awkward, inept, and jealous.

Florida—a middle-aged black mother, married, plain-speaking, former drug addict and street person who is “five years saved and five years sober!”

Ruth—a childless, middle-aged “Messianic Jew” who has a special place in her heart for Yo-Yo.

Yo-Yo—a white twenty-something ex-con who grew up in foster homes and is now the sole caretaker for her two younger teenage brothers. Yo-Yo isn’t sure about this “Jesus stuff” and doesn’t let any of the prayer group get away with religious clichés.

Delores—a Spanish-speaking trauma nurse originally from Mexico and mother of a loveable tribe of 5 kids, who are often babysat by Edesa.

Edesa—a Spanish-speaking black college student from Honduras.

ALL of these characters are essential to the development of the Yada Yada Prayer Group . . . which originally was going to be only one novel—but I found out you can’t put 12 feisty women in a novel and expect them to stay there! All their stories (past, present, and future) clamored to be told in depth—which is why there are 7 novels in the Yada Yada series!

Alexis: What are some of the obstacles that your characters have to overcome?

Neta: Delores’s teenage son is accidentally shot while taking his younger siblings to the park.

Florida is trying to find her 8-year-old daughter who got “lost” in the foster-care system when she was strung-out on drugs.

Chanda finds a lump in her breast, is terrified because her mother died of breast cancer.

Jodi causes a fatal accident “driving while angry,” doesn’t feel “worthy” to be forgiven—causing Florida to get in her face to help her understand she was never “worthy,” she’s “just a sinner saved by grace,” just like herself and all the rest of the sisters.

(That’s just the beginning—the prayer group faces a LOT more challenges as their stories spill into the next books in the series!)

Alexis: What was the “biggest crisis” of your life that you faced and how did your prayer group help you survive?

Neta: I think you are confusing me (the author) with my POV character, Jodi. It was Jodi that had the “biggest crisis of her life” (the fatal accident she caused) who was helped to survive by the prayer group. (However, for inspiration to write that episode, I drew on a fatal accident my mother was involved in years ago in which a child ran in front of her car, as well as an accident I was involved in, in which my father died of a heart attack. Both events pre-dated my being in my real-life prayer group, but helped me in capturing the emotions Jodi struggled with).

Alexis: What is the moral of this Yada Yada Prayer Group story?

Neta: I think a lot of us are like Jodi Baxter—at least that’s what my readers tell me! (“I’m such a Jodi!”) Growing up in a Christian home as a “good Christian girl” like Jodi, I had unrealistic expectations both for myself and others and had to learn that I too am “just a sinner saved by grace.” That can be a cliché, but the reality of knowing that is the key to accepting God’s forgiveness when we mess up big time—and being able to forgive others.

Alexis: What do you want readers to learn from this book?

Neta: The purpose for writing this novel was to share through fiction that the Body of Christ includes many people who are different from us, and even though stepping outside our “comfort zone” can be challenging, God uses the very people who represent a different part of His Body (in their gifts, life experiences, and cultures) to bless and enrich our lives! Not only that, but we actually need each other. I Corinthians 12:21 says, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you’.” Etc. If we stay in our comfort zone with people just like us, we miss the many ways God wants to enrich and bless our own lives, as well as teach us many things about Himself and others we might not learn any other way.

Alexis: What lesson did you learn while writing this book?

Neta: Lessons—plural!

First, that my husband truly believed I could write this novel. Even though I was a writer for many years, we often did projects together—this was to be the first full-length adult novel I wrote by myself. I was scared. Dave took over the shopping, cooking, laundry, and a bunch of other stuff so I could write it! I never could have done it without his encouragement.

Second, that the Holy Spirit kept dropping ideas and people and experiences into my life while I was writing that God wanted me to share in this novel (so much for best-laid plans!). I learned it was important to listen to the Holy Spirit during any writing project.

Third, I had no idea how God was going to use this novel to touch so many lives. My reader letters are the most amazing gifts God could ever give me, showing me ways God has used The Yada Yada Prayer Group to encourage people to pray believing … to open their eyes to their own presumptions and prejudices, to hunger for new ways to worship God, to be inspired to start a prayer group, to be encouraged during difficult times in their lives. What I learned is that we use the gifts God gives us to the best of our abilities—and then watch as God multiplies them to bless others, just like Jesus did with the five loaves and two fish that the little boy gave him.

Alexis: How important is it to you to show diversity in your stories? Explain.

Neta: Very. But first, it’s important to “live diversity” in my own life. Even though I write fiction, I can’t truly represent the importance of having diverse relationships unless having those relationships are a reality for me. God has used my sisters of color and from other backgrounds and cultures to bless my socks off! I long for my readers to experience that same blessing. And besides, the real world isn’t just “white and middle-class.” If I want to write realistic fiction, I need to include diverse characters who aren’t just incidental, but critical to the story.

Alexis: Would you like to see more books with content like this one published by CBA? Why or why not?

Neta: Absolutely. Primarily because people of color are sadly under-represented in the world of Christian fiction. Why? Because CBA publishers and editors and publishing houses are still staffed mostly by white people! And yet . . . there are very talented authors who are people of color! They are part of the Body of Christ and we need them! (See 1 Corinthians 12 again!) There are so many amazing stories yet to be told coming out of the different cultures and life experiences (including non-white churches) that make up our own cities and towns in our own country.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Neta! Would you like to share closing comments?

Neta: The question I get asked most often is, why did you call this prayer group “Yada Yada”?

What really happened is this: A friend was showing me the meaning of “yadah” from a Hebrew/English lexicon to the Old Testament, which basically means “to sing and give praise to God.” But right there above the word “yadah,” was the word “yada”! To my astonishment, I discovered that the word “yada” appears 944 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, a root word which means “to know and be known intimately.” A good example is Psalm 139, which uses the word “yada” several times to express how intimately God knows us.

I thought, Wow! That would be an amazing name for a prayer group—to know God and be known by God intimately, and to know each other in the same way! And thus, the Yada Yada Prayer Group name for my fictional series was born!

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Author:

Neta Jackson and her husband Dave are an award-winning husband-and-wife writing team, the authors or coauthors of more than 130 books that have sold over 2.5 million copies.

They are best known for Neta’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series and its sequels, as well as their forty-volume Trailblazer series of historical fiction about great Christian heroes for young readers.

Neta and Dave raised two children as well as a foster daughter and are now enjoying all the “grands”!

The Jacksons are thankful for their multi-cultural church and neighborhood in the Chicago area, which provide the characters and setting for their novels.

Follow Neta and her husband Dave Jackson on social media: 

Website: http://www.daveneta.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DaveNetaJackson/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DaveNetaJackson


About the Book:

What do an ex-con, a former drug addict, a real estate broker, a college student, and a married mother of two have in common? Nothing, or so I thought.
Who would have imagined that God would make a prayer group as mismatched as ours the closest of friends? I almost didn’t even go to the Chicago Women’s Conference–after all, being thrown together with five hundred strangers wasn’t exactly my “comfort zone.”
But something happened that weekend to make us realize we had to hang together, and the “Yada Yada Prayer Group” was born! When I faced the biggest crisis of my life, God used my newfound Sisters to show me what it means to be just a sinner saved by grace.
Buy the book on Amazon

Book Spotlight: Love in Pictures

Happy Wednesday, Reader Friends!

Alexis here! Today, I’m shining the spotlight on my new book Love in Pictures.

My publisher, Forget Me Not Romances, released it on Monday, June 12.


About the Book:

Wedding photographer Michelle Hadley has a passion for diversity and believes that love comes in all colors. So, she’s working hard to convince editors to feature her clients’ images on the covers of the mainstream bridal and wedding magazines.

Despite having a career that focuses on celebrating forever love, Michelle has never actually been in a romantic relationship, and she’s not looking for love, until she meets the one man she cannot forget.

Since his fiancée broke his heart, Logan Emerson’s focus has been on his career. He’s won awards for his work as a print journalist and dreams of greater success on television as a broadcast journalist. But his personal struggle presents many challenges that might prevent his dreams from coming true.

Michelle doesn’t date often, and since his heartbreak, Logan has shied away from the dating scene. But something about Michelle awakens Logan’s desire to love again.


About the Author:

Alexis A. Goring is a writer at heart who loves the arts and the color blue because of its serenity and soulful beauty.

She’s an established author, blogger, editor, writer, and photographer who enjoys exploring matters of the heart.

As a freelance writer, she covered President Barack Obama, wrote the Growing Up column for Collegiate Quarterly (CQ), which reached readers around the world, and served as the editor of a county newspaper. Blogging is one of her favorite pastimes, and she founded the mission-focused blog God is Love.

Love in Pictures is her second book published by Forget Me Not Romances. Alexis hopes that her writing will connect readers with the forever love of Jesus Christ.

When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending quality time with loved ones, shopping, dining in her favorite restaurants, reading, listening to music, and baking for her church.

Follow: Website, Twitter, Facebook

Book Spotlight: “Finding Home” by Stacy Hawkins Adams

Happy Wednesday, reader friends!

Today, we’re shining the spotlight on “Finding Home” by Stacy Hawkins Adams.


About the Book:

What happens when you’re so desperate for things to go your way, that anything goes? Jessica Wilson Arnold is a superstar professional speaker whose husband and friends fret about the strain of her ambitions, while she hungers for more.

When a medical crisis and some poor decisions bring her fast-track success to a screeching halt, Jessica is forced to admit that her life isn’t as perfectly packaged as advertised. Her quest to restore her health and prioritize what matters most leads her to a crossroad.

Will she revive her faith and learn to love herself and others more deeply, or cling to a path that threatens disaster? Jessica’s desperate choices and gripping fear will take readers on a literary ride that’s both shocking and familiar, mostly leaving them rooting for her to win big – with family, faith and finding her way.

Purchase the book: Amazon ~ B&N ~ BAM!


About the Author:

Stacy Hawkins Adams is an award-winning author, journalist and writing mentor whose fiction and nonfiction enlightens readers while helping them find confidence in their own stories.

She has penned nine faith-based novels and one devotional book. She also serves as a parenting columnist for a Virginia-based newspaper and blogs for the Huffington Post on social justice issues.

Stacy lives in Virginia with her family. Learn more about her at www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com.

Author Interview with Brandi Boddie featuring “Dear One” (book)

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Let’s welcome Brandi Boddie to our blog today! She’s a returning guest. Today, Brandi is here to answer questions about her book “Dear One”. It’s the perfect read for Valentine’s Day!  She’s also going to share some of the race-related roadblocks she’s faced as an author of color writing about characters of color.

Enjoy your time with Brandi!


Interview with Brandi Boddie, author of Dear One (book):

Alexis: What inspired you to write a story about “Steel Town America during the midst of WWII” and call your story “Dear One”?

Brandi: Thanks for having me as a guest again, Alexis. During WWII, the “steel towns” were cities that were known for their high production of steel. This metal was highly needed to craft planes, tanks, and ammunition for the troops overseas. The more notable steel towns of the day were Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Birmingham, Alabama, and Trenton, New Jersey. The story is called “Dear One” because it’s part of a multi-author collection called Valentine Matchmakers. Each story is titled after a saying on those classic candy hearts. The company that manufactured the candy started putting “Dear One” on the hearts during the 1940s.

Alexis: Why did you choose Youngstown, Ohio as the setting for your story?

Brandi: I was born in Youngstown, Ohio. During the 1910s-70s, the city had numerous steel mills. During WWII, they were used to furnish vehicles and weapons. Many of my male relatives worked in these mills before going off to fight in the war or to college in the latter half of the century. I wanted to pay tribute to the hard-working people of the city and my family by recognizing part of Youngstown’s legacy.

Alexis: Describe the Valley Bulletin, the town’s most prominent African American newspaper. How many years did it take for it to rise up in the ranks?

Brandi: The Valley Bulletin is a fictional African American newspaper based on the real-life examples of black journalism during that time. Since African Americans didn’t often find work with white newspaper companies, they formed their own. The papers featured news of the day as told from an African American perspective, as well as entertainment, gossip and advice columns. This tradition continues today in major cities.

Alexis: How did your story’s heroine Molly Clayton become a “ladies columnist” for the Valley Bulletin?

Brandi: Molly took a few secretary and writing courses after high school, which enabled her to find employment with the Valley Bulletin. She loves to give practical advice on war rationing to ladies in her weekly column.

Alexis: Why are Molly’s parents struggling and in what ways does she help them?

Brandi: Molly’s father lost his job in the steel mill due to a work-related injury. She tries to help him find work by bringing home the classifieds in the Valley Bulletin. She helps her mother with the share of the household duties .

Alexis: Describe Molly’s passion for swing dancing. How and when did she start?

Brandi: Swing dancing, or Lindy Hop, was one of the big pastimes during the 30s and 40s. While money was tight, it didn’t cost much to attend a dance. Molly began dancing during high school and goes regularly to these social events in her spare time.

Alexis: What’s the significance of the “Valentine’s Day dance” that Molly is invited to by a friend?

Brandi: The Valentine’s Day dance has a romantic theme of music and dining. Molly has been working hard at the newspaper office lately, and a friend suggests she deserves a little time to enjoy herself.

Alexis: Let’s talk about your story’s hero, Stephen Keller. Describe his looks, personality and taste in music. What’s his motivation in this story?

Brandi: Stephen is tall and handsome with dark hair, hazel eyes, and tan skin. He has an outgoing personality and is an avid fan of jazz music. He’s a hard worker and talented talker, not to mention dancer. But he always feels the need to prove himself.

Alexis: Why did you make Stephen a jazz magazine editor?

Brandi: Stephen has relatives who are jazz musicians. This lively, soulful music is in his blood.

Alexis: What draws Molly to Stephen? Is there anything that makes her not like him later on in the story?

Brandi: Molly is drawn to Stephen’s charisma, both on the dancefloor and in his conversation. He’s passionate about music and making advances for people of color. He’s suave, and there’s a cultured element to his behavior and way of dress. However, there’s also an unspoken element that she can’t put her finger on.

Alexis: How does Stephen’s “painful secret” affect his relationship with Molly?

Brandi: It goes back to his need to always prove himself. He’s trying to escape from the memories of his past, as well as something he can’t change about himself. This leads Molly to see another side of his personality, one that’s sad and bitter.

Alexis: What were the challenges of writing this story? What were the rewards?

Brandi: While there are many WWII romances to read, few of them feature people of color. We know for a fact that black and brown American soldiers helped win the war. We also know that their families, friends, and love interests worried about them. Just like white women, black women did their part to send care packages and letters. They anticipated their husbands and boyfriends coming home. I wanted to tell such a story. It’s been amazing to write about a young black couple falling in love against the backdrop of a war that ended up changing the scope of how we view religious, ethnic, and moral grounds.

Alexis: As a woman of color, what are the challenges you’ve experienced in trying to publish your books about people of color with traditional CBA publishing houses?

Brandi: I’ve had books get canceled because they featured people of color. In earlier stages of query, I’ve had editors ask me the race of my characters before they even knew the plot. I think this is because, historically, people of color haven’t had an easy time in this country. Historical fiction has to deal with that reality or it can become very disingenuous. It’s my belief that certain settings and subject matter make publishing houses want to proceed with caution. However, the human race can’t heal and POC are not being served if their experiences are sugarcoated, glossed over, or not given a voice at all.

Alexis: Would you like to see more love stories featuring heroines of color, successfully published and marketed by CBA? Why or why not?

Brandi: I certainly would, but it has to reflect POC experiences and their unique journeys of faith. God doesn’t lead us all down the same path. I’d also like to see more heroines of color being featured in genres such as mystery and science fiction.

Alexis: If you could advise the marketing and sales departments in traditional CBA publishing houses on how to market books about people of color, what would you say?

Brandi: Be proactive about it. Survey readers of existing romance novels that feature POC. Ask them why they enjoyed the book and what they would like to see in the future. Also, bring authors of color to your conventions and conferences to be guest speakers. Have several panels on diversity (with POC as the panelists) to start the conversation.

As for in-store and online marketing, don’t be afraid to have covers featuring POC. I’ve seen too many books that featured ethnic characters, but had flowers or a vague landscape for the cover. Why can’t we see cover models for the characters?

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Brandi! Do you have any closing thoughts?

Brandi: Thanks for inviting me again, Alexis. I enjoy reading your blog features. Thanks for sharing diverse stories with your readers.

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor.


About the Author:

 Brandi Boddie writes historical and contemporary romance. She resides in Texas where she loves spending time with her husband and dogs, a cocker spaniel and a schnauzer who both aspire to be food critics. She holds a juris doctorate from Howard University School of Law and a B.A. in political science from Youngstown State University. She has worked for the Office of the Attorney General in Washington D.C. and traveled extensively across the country as a military wife. When she isn’t writing, Brandi enjoys fencing and swing dancing.

Visit her website www.brandiboddie.com for news and updates.

Follow Brandi on Twitter


About the Book:

Love in Steel Town America during the midst of WWII

Youngstown, Ohio 1944

Molly Clayton works as a ladies columnist for the Valley Bulletin, the town’s most prominent African American newspaper. Between writing, aiding the war effort, and helping her struggling parents pay the bills, she doesn’t have time for her favorite pastime of swing dancing.

When a friend gives her tickets to a Valentine’s Day dance for her birthday, Molly can’t wait to attend. She meets Stephen Keller, a handsome jazz magazine editor. She’s attracted to him, but a painful secret lurks beneath the surface of Stephen’s easy charm that makes him defensive to others and suspicious of her faith.

Things take a turn for the worse when a vicious rumor threatens to destroy both her career and her blossoming courtship. Will she gain the courage to confront the rumor and speak her heart to Stephen before it’s too late?

Book Review: Reunited at Christmas

Happy Friday, reader friends!

Are you ready for the weekend?

Today, we’re sharing a review of Belle Calhoune’s book, “Reunited at Christmas”. It’s the perfect holiday/weekend story to read! 🙂

Enjoy!

~*~

About the book:

 A Season to Remember 

Two years after the avalanche everyone thought had claimed her life, Ruby Prescott returns to the remote Alaskan town of Love. And no one is more ecstatic than her husband, Liam, and their young son. Even if amnesia has robbed Ruby of her memories, she’s soon woven back into the fabric of their lives. As they celebrate the holiday season, Ruby is falling head over heels for the man she’s told was the love of her life. But she can’t escape the feeling that there’s something Liam is keeping a secret. Will the return of her memories tear them apart for good—or will this be a Christmas she’ll never forget?

Book purchase link: Amazon

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Book Review: Reunited at Christmas

If there would be one song that perfectly summarizes this story, it would be the song “After All” performed by Peter Cetera and Cher!

Much like the lyrics in the song “After All”, the relationships in this story “Reunited at Christmas”, are true to real-life. Ruby and Liam were to their friends and most of their family members, “the perfect couple”. But even perfect marriages have rocky moments and the author didn’t shy away from portraying a very real love story between Ruby and Liam.

When the reader meets Ruby, they see that she’s experiencing amnesia. But even with a lapse in memory, certain instances in this story tug at her heart and make her feel like the small Alaskan town called “Love” is her home.

When the reader meets Liam, they know this from the start: he is devastated by his wife’s death—or so he thought, because within the first few pages, he receives a call from the town sheriff with surprising news that he couldn’t quite get because he cannot hear him. But judging by the tone in the sheriff’s voice, Liam knows this is an urgent matter. So Liam rushes to the sheriff’s office and discovers that his wife Ruby survived the avalanche that they thought had killed her and when he sees her, he is shocked but also overwhelmed with the love they shared.

Only problem is, Ruby isn’t sure she knows him or still loves him because the amnesia has blocked out her memory of her life as a wife to Liam and a mother to their son Aidan. As a reader, I liked how Liam was the perfect gentleman and support for Ruby. He didn’t pressure her to do anything beyond her comfort zone but he did gently coax her into remembering their life together. I also liked how the conflict in this story was perfectly layered.

The pacing of this story was perfect. The dialogue was delightful. The characters were captivating and the author’s storytelling skills are excellent!

“Reunited at Christmas” is a book that I will recommend to every book lover I know to read at Christmastime this year and the next because just like this holiday season, this story is heartwarming, inviting and sweet. Bravo to Belle Calhoune for creating this amazing masterpiece of a story!

*Review written by Alexis A. Goring, contributor

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About the author:

 Belle Calhoune grew up in a small town in Massachusetts as one of five children. Although her mother was a doctor and her father a biologist, Belle never gravitated toward science. Growing up across the street from a public library was a huge influence on her life and fueled her love of romance novels.

Belle is the author of nine Harlequin Love Inspired novels with a tenth hitting the shelves in March of 2018. She has Indie published the popular and best-selling inspirational romance series, Seven Brides, Seven Brothers. The Secrets of Savannah and Pelican Bay are both spin-offs of her debut series.

Belle loves writing romance and crafting happily-ever-afters. When she’s not wrangling her two high maintenance dogs or spending time with her husband and two daughters, Belle enjoys travel and exploring new places.

Follow Sandra on Twitter

Interview with Belle Calhoune about her book “Reunited at Christmas”

About the book:

 A Season to Remember 

Two years after the avalanche everyone thought had claimed her life, Ruby Prescott returns to the remote Alaskan town of Love. And no one is more ecstatic than her husband, Liam, and their young son. Even if amnesia has robbed Ruby of her memories, she’s soon woven back into the fabric of their lives. As they celebrate the holiday season, Ruby is falling head over heels for the man she’s told was the love of her life. But she can’t escape the feeling that there’s something Liam is keeping a secret. Will the return of her memories tear them apart for good—or will this be a Christmas she’ll never forget?

Book purchase link: Amazon

~*~

Interview with Belle Calhoune, author of Reunited at Christmas:

Alexis: The setting for your story, Reunited at Christmas, is an Alaskan town called “Love”. How sweet! It’s a very unique name for a town. What makes it special? Paint a picture of it with words.

Belle: Love is a quaint Alaskan town that is very special due to the charming townsfolk and its remote location. Love is only accessible via ferry boat and seaplane. The town has an imbalance of males to females, so the premise of the series is that the town mayor, Jasper Prescott, starts a program called Operation Love that brings single females who are looking for love to the lovelorn town called Love. There is lots of love in this town along with warm-hearted folks who live their life with faith.

Alexis: Ruby Prescott is the heroine of your story. What is she like? Describe her looks, personality and heart.

Belle: Ruby is a beautiful woman with tawny colored skin, long black hair and warm brown eyes. She is African American. She is very brave. In the story she is suffering from amnesia, so when she returns to Love it is on a wing and a prayer. She’s forced into situations where she is completely lost, so she really has pluck and grit. She’s very honest and loving. She has a very big heart and she tends to think of others before she thinks of herself.

Alexis: How was Ruby’s life before the avalanche that almost claimed her life and how is it different now that she survived?

Belle: Prior to the avalanche she was working as a member of a search and rescue team which required a lot of courage and mental fortitude. She was happily married to Liam and raising a small child, Aidan. Although she and Liam were very much in love, he was very concerned about her career and the inherent dangers, so that was an issue standing between them. Overall, she was happy but conflicted about her career.

Alexis: Liam Prescott is the hero of this story. What is he like? Describe his looks, personality and tell us what defines his outlook on life.

Belle: Liam is very handsome. He’s tall with dark brown hair and brown eyes. He is probably the quietest Prescott. He’s a doctor who cares deeply about the world around him and his patients. He looks at life as an opportunity to care for others and show compassion and love. It takes a lot to anger or upset him. He’s a loving husband and devoted father.

Alexis: Ruby and Liam have a son. Tell us about him. How old is he? Who does he look like the most, his Mom or Dad? What is his favorite hobby?

Belle: Their son is named Aidan. He’s a really cool kid. He’s five years old. He looks like a sweet combination with dark hair and light brown skin. He’s biracial and beautiful. His favorite hobby is sledding. He loves the Alaskan outdoors and spending time in nature. He also loves pizza.

Alexis: How did Liam and his son react when Ruby’s avalanche accident happened?

Belle: They were both devastated by her death. Liam had to hold it together so he could raise Aidan as a single father, but he was really messed up emotionally by losing Ruby, the love of his life. One of the beautiful aspects of this story is how Liam and Aidan had to band together in the absence of Ruby so that their little family didn’t fall apart at the seams.

Alexis: Why does Ruby have amnesia? What are her husband and son doing to help her regain her memory?

Belle: Because of the fall she sustained during the avalanche, Ruby suffered a head trauma. She does have spurts and flashes of memory, which lead her back to her hometown of Love. Through the course of the story we see that Ruby begins to remember things. The hope is that she will get back most of her memories, although it is quite possible some things will be forever lost to her. I think Liam and Aidan’s role is to be quietly supportive. Their very presence helps Ruby remember her past.

Alexis: The cover models for your book are beautiful! What race are Ruby and her husband? Why did you choose to write about an interracial romance?

Belle: Yes, they really are gorgeous. Ruby is African American. Liam is Caucasian. Aidan is both. I wanted to write about an interracial couple because that reflects my reality. I myself am biracial and it is something very natural for me to see in my environment. My ancestry is diverse. I am African, Irish and have many other European ties. I think it is realistic in this day and age to show a loving, devoted couple who are interracial.

Alexis: Did you experience any roadblocks to getting your interracial romance story published by a traditional Christian (CBA) publisher? Why or why not?

Belle: Not at all. I presented the character and the story and my editor, Emily Rodmell and Harlequin Love Inspired embraced it. We never discussed race and it was never raised in the story. It was not relevant to their love story in any way, shape or form.

Alexis: Would you like to see more interracial romance stories published by CBA? Why or why not?

Belle: Absolutely. First, I would like to see more diverse characters in CBA. So far, they are really behind the curve in representing people of color in their books. In 2017 this shouldn’t be happening. We need to reflect the world we inhabit, especially as Christians.

Alexis: What were the challenges of writing this book? What were the rewards?

Belle: It was challenging to write an amnesiac because I had to reconcile her new personality with her old personality. In essence, Ruby was born after the head injury. She’s the same person, but different. So I had to remind myself of that fact. Also, I had to portray amnesia in a realistic manner. I didn’t want to have Ruby suddenly remember everything. I think flashes of memory are more realistic. And also, I had to show that she may never regain those memories because that is what happens with real life individuals who suffer from amnesia.

Alexis: If you could spend this Christmas with The Prescott Family, what would you all do? Why?

Belle: If I could spend Christmas with the Prescott Family I would ask them to take me sledding with them on the mountain. It would be so much fun to sled in Alaska and share fun times with this incredible family. I would also love to meet Mayor Jasper Prescott because he is the center of this quaint town and quite a character. He would definitely make me laugh out loud.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Belle! God bless you and Merry Christmas!

Belle: Thanks for having me on your blog. Merry Christmas to you as well. Blessings!

~*~

About the Author:

 Belle Calhoune grew up in a small town in Massachusetts as one of five children. Although her mother was a doctor and her father a biologist, Belle never gravitated toward science. Growing up across the street from a public library was a huge influence on her life and fueled her love of romance novels. Belle is the author of nine Harlequin Love Inspired novels with a tenth hitting the shelves in March of 2018. She has Indie published the popular and best-selling inspirational romance series, Seven Brides, Seven Brothers. The Secrets of Savannah and Pelican Bay are both spin-offs of her debut series. Belle loves writing romance and crafting happily-ever-afters. When she’s not wrangling her two high maintenance dogs or spending time with her husband and two daughters, Belle enjoys travel and exploring new places.

Follow Sandra on Twitter

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor

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Book Spotlight: Reunited at Christmas

Happy Wednesday, Reader Friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages.

Today, we’re featuring a holiday story by Belle Calhoune! It’s called Reunited at Christmas.

~*~

About the book:

  A Season to Remember 

Two years after the avalanche everyone thought had claimed her life, Ruby Prescott returns to the remote Alaskan town of Love. And no one is more ecstatic than her husband, Liam, and their young son. Even if amnesia has robbed Ruby of her memories, she’s soon woven back into the fabric of their lives. As they celebrate the holiday season, Ruby is falling head over heels for the man she’s told was the love of her life. But she can’t escape the feeling that there’s something Liam is keeping a secret. Will the return of her memories tear them apart for good—or will this be a Christmas she’ll never forget?

Book purchase link: Amazon

~*~

About the author:

 Belle Calhoune grew up in a small town in Massachusetts as one of five children. Although her mother was a doctor and her father a biologist, Belle never gravitated toward science. Growing up across the street from a public library was a huge influence on her life and fueled her love of romance novels. Belle is the author of nine Harlequin Love Inspired novels with a tenth hitting the shelves in March of 2018. She has Indie published the popular and best-selling inspirational romance series, Seven Brides, Seven Brothers. The Secrets of Savannah and Pelican Bay are both spin-offs of her debut series. Belle loves writing romance and crafting happily-ever-afters. When she’s not wrangling her two high maintenance dogs or spending time with her husband and two daughters, Belle enjoys travel and exploring new places.

Follow Sandra on Twitter

Book Review: Adored by Belle Calhoune

Happy Friday, Reader Friends!

Today, we’ve got a book to recommend that you read over the weekend.

Enjoy my review of Adored (Seven Brides Seven Brothers Pelican Bay Book 2), a book written by Belle Calhoune.

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About the Book:

 This series centers around seven brothers and one sister raised by Penelope and Jude Donahue in the idyllic Florida seaside town of Pelican Bay. A blended family of adopted and biological siblings, the Donahue clan always have each other’s backs as they face life’s challenges and search for love. A spin-off of the Cape Cod Donahue brothers, the Pelican Bay clan are their southern cousins.

Caleb Donahue is a chef who has recently achieved his life’s dream of opening his own bistro, The Blue Bayou. Adopted by the Donahue family of Pelican Bay, Caleb’s past is a bit murky. He’s stuffed down the memories of his biological mother and the circumstances leading to his adoption by the Donahue family.

Addie Fontaine steps into his life when he least expects it. Daughter of a wealthy businessman, Sebastian Fontaine, Addie is attempting to prove herself to her father by making inroads in the business world. When her father gives her his partnership in the Blue Bayou, Addie ends up working side by side with Caleb. Addie is determined to step up and live her life out loud, while Caleb is determined to make his bistro a success.

When love comes calling, will Addie and Caleb be able to reach out for the love of a lifetime?

Book purchase link: Amazon

~*~

My Review:

“Adored” by Belle Calhoune is a sweet story.

The story centers on Addie Fontaine, Caleb Donahue, and their families.

The setting for this story is true to its idyllic description of Pelican Bay, which in this story is a seaside town in Florida.

Caleb is going through a rough patch in life until Addie walks into his life and brings a fresh breath of air. Though their initial meeting was a bit rocky because of Addie’s father, Sebastian Fontaine. He is the famous wealthy businessman known for being ruthless and has his sights set on Caleb’s bistro, The Blue Bayou. But Addie and Caleb manage to work together to save Caleb’s bistro and in the process, they fall in love.

No love story is worth its weight in gold without conflict and this story has plenty! It’s filled with family drama, traumatic memories from Caleb’s past, plot twists and moments where you are sitting on the edge of your seat hoping that there’s still hope of a happily-ever-after.

The plot is drawn out very well but some of the drama went from high to low too quickly. It almost felt like one moment they were mad at each other and then in the next second, they were kissing. However, some may argue that’s true to real-life.

The characters are creative in their nature and likable. As a reader, I found myself rooting for Addie and Caleb’s love story from the start because they seemed like a good match—the type where one is weak the other is strong and visa versa. The personalities of Addie and Caleb along with their different approaches to business, and outlook on life created the perfect balance not only in their private lives but in their work experience.

It only took two days for me to read this story from start to finish. The author’s storytelling style will sweep you off your feet, drop you into the center of her fictional story world and keep you entertained until you reach “The End”…once there, you may not want to return to the real world!

Overall, this was a wonderful story worth a rating of at least 4-stars.

*Reviewed by Alexis A. Goring

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