Have You Enjoyed These Yet?

The Rockland Chronicles kind of takes us back to the roots of my writing. Argosy Junction and Noble Pursuits were among the first books that I published.  If you’re new to my books, or just haven’t gotten around to reading some of my earlier works, this is a great collection at a great price. This set will introduce you, not only to the Rockland area,  but also to several characters that are present in some of my other stories. So, come on in, grab a drink, find a comfy chair and settle in with a book… or three! ;)

Ashley has dropped the price of  The Rockland Chronicles for a limited time (at least 24 hours) so here’s a chance to get the book at a great low price and the opportunity to win one of a couple of Amazon Gift Cards that I give away every week.  How do you win you ask?  I’ll tell you!

We have lots of options.  We like to try to make it easy for everyone to get at least two entries.  We use PromoSimple widgets as our giveaway manager.  Just enter your email address and name into the widget and that’s one entry!  Answer the question in the comments below, and there’s another entry!  Then, for those who like social media (and more entries into the giveaways) here are more entry options!

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The book is available at .99 for a limited time (subject to change at Ashley’s whim) on:

Comment Request: If you’ve read any or all of these three books, which one would you like to hear more about?

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HearthLand Episode 9

It’s coming… next week we’ll be on EPISODE 10!  You know, the long, long, long awaited Episode 10.  Whew.  I hope it’s not a disappointment after that wait!  EEK!  Anyway, in case you missed it, or if you just want to be wonderful and delete and redownload to reread in preparation for  next week, here’s Episode 9 again.  WOOT!

Episode 9: With the advent of Christmas, Ralph discovers just how destructive teething puppies can be, that his nephew has probably been watching one too many sappy Christmas movies–much to his delight–and that trailers make fascinating tree houses.

Harlan finds himself sparking romance in one area of his life and quenching it in another. Kim is torn between delight and dismay as the conductor of their orchestra goes on a rampage, and Annie might just be home for Christmas–but does she know it?

It’s time to give away HearthLand: Episode 9, FREE on Kindle for a limited time.

Here’s a chance to get the book for free (which is most definitely my favorite part of writing! I LOVE releasing these episodes for free so everyone gets the chance to enjoy them) and the opportunity to win one of a couple of Amazon Gift Cards that I give away every week.  How do you win you ask?  I’ll tell you!

Like our Facebook Page/Post
this giveaway
Pin the Cover on Pinterest
Pin the Trailer on Pinterest
Sign up for our Newsletter
Download Episode 9 on Amazon. (even if you already have a copy, feel free to delete and download again to get an entry into the drawing.)

Comment Request: Has your favorite character changed as I’ve introduced new ones and further developed others?

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Confessions of a Vulnera-phobe

I have thick skin.  I’d like to say it’s my natural personality, but I don’t really think it is.  I suspect if I’d been born in any other family I might have ended up a very different person, and probably a sensitive one at that. My parents did a great job of teaching me how to let negativity and criticism roll of my back. I remember lessons on how to evaluate someone’s opinion of me in light of:

  1. My respect for the person.
  2. That person’s position in my life.
  3. How that person’s opinion lines up with Scripture.

The point was that if I didn’t have respect for the person giving the opinion, why did I care what they thought of me?  If that person held no authority over me, I was free to disregard if I decided I didn’t agree with the assessment.  And, they stressed that God’s opinion was the only one that truly counted.


I went through my school years always being the new kid, always being the outsider.  I went to private schools with wealthy kids.  They mocked our ’63 pea green Ford Ranchero (in 1979).  We got a new car in 1980–a brand spankin’ new (or so I thought) Ford Pinto. I showed up for the first day of school of the new year in our “new” car and the kids who all arrived in Lincolns, Cadillacs, Mercedes, and BMWs laughed.  “Look–she’s got a Pinto.”  I shrugged it off.  If people judged my worth by the car our family could afford, then I didn’t care what they thought.  I truly didn’t care.  I was ten.

Those lessons and all that practice shrugging off worthless opinions eventually paid off.  Eighth grade came, and at the new school, kids liked me.  I was shocked.  One girl, Kathleen, wrote in my “Autograph Book” (a notion I got from reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn),

The best thing about you is that you are always the same.

My self-confidence plummeted.  To an eighth grade, thirteen-year-old girl, that’s the equivalent of saying, “You’re boring.”  But my mom saw it differently.  She read all the little notes that my friends–yes friends–wrote and pointed to Kathleen’s.  “That’s the best compliment you could ever get right there.”

I didn’t appreciate it then like I do now.  I wish I knew where Kathleen Lunde is now.  I’d like to thank her.

So why does a gal who really couldn’t care less what people think of her consider herself “vulnera-phobic”?

When you learn the lessons my parents taught me, you also learn how to turn off “reception” to things that otherwise might dig.  You keep conversations with acerbic people to a superficial level.  You learn to remind yourself that “It’s okay if people are wrong,” and you develop a bit of a shell–that “thick skin” people talk about.

But I’m an author.

Authors can’t stay hidden, private, guarded.  We’re forced to make ourselves vulnerable to the world.  How?  We put our work out there for people to enjoy–or  not.  And that’s where vulnerability strikes.

Look, when I say I don’t expect everyone to like my books, I mean it.  It’s not possible.  I don’t like every book my favorite authors write!  I quit reading my top favorite Christian author, Michael Phillips, for years because he had a series that I felt he took too far for my tastes.  I understood why he did, but because of my own–dare I say it?–vulnerabilities, I couldn’t stomach it.

But despite knowing, feeling, and living that truth, putting your work out for criticism still requires a lot of fortitude.  Why?  Because whether you like it or not, whether you mean to or not, you put part of the most private parts of yourself on display when you share your fiction with the world.

The interesting thing is, it’s never the parts people think.

Reviews that say, “It wasn’t my cup of tea.  I didn’t like the main character.  I found the plot boring” and things like that– love them.  They’re genuine and I support that. When it’s an implausible book such as Prairie or Justified Means, I absolutely understand when people say, “It was too impossible to believe.”

But when you step out of your comfort zone and explore new ideas, you open yourself up not just to criticism, but to attack.

Look, I get dozens, sometimes hundreds of emails a week.  I answer every one (although not always as quickly as I’d like).  But the hardest ones are the ones where I’m accused of something I didn’t say or mean to convey.  Because in those, as an author, I doubt myself.  Is it a valid criticism if you weren’t clear enough?  Or is it impossible to be clear to every single reader on every single point?  I know the answer, but I don’t like it.

So what is the point?  I’m an author, so it shouldn’t surprise you that it took me 821 words to get there.  When you criticize someone’s work, imagine yourself on the other side of that screen.  Imagine how you’d want someone to convey their problem with what you wrote.  Imagine how your words will help him to do better.  Be kind.  Be straight-forward.  You don’t have to do the whole “compliment sandwich” thing.  Just don’t fire the criticism at her in a Tomahawk missile. And please, if you’re just venting your own frustrations on the world and projecting them into that author’s work… hit the delete key. You’d want her to do the same for you.

But most of all, be kind to yourself too. Some criticism has to be made.  Don’t beat yourself up for having to do it.  :)

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12 Reasons a Novel Is ALWAYS a Novel Christmas Gift

bookchristmaspostI know you don’t want to hear it, but Christmas is only 69 days away–and that’s assuming you’re reading this the day it was published!  If you are reading it tomorrow or the next day, well… you know.

But with Christmas inevitably comes the whole topic of gift giving.  People seem to find gift giving more and more stressful every year.  I hear statements like, “I don’t have time to shop and gift cards are just boring!”  Others love the idea of gift cards but fear it’ll seem like a cop out.  So, I thought I’d share my:

12 Reasons to Give Books for Christmas

  1. You’re contributing to the literacy of our society.
  2. They’re cheaper than a vacation but provide a similar “escape.”  My books have the bonus of being “just the write escape.”  Snort. 
  3. With Christian Fiction, you can give both an escape and encouragement.
  4. They’re lightweight for shipping, packing in suitcases, or carrying into Grandma’s house with all the other packages (unless you give books to everyone.  Then they have the added benefit of a workout on delivery day!)
  5. They aren’t breakable–unless the story breaks the reader’s heart.
  6. They are never too big–meaning Aunt Fran doesn’t get miffed because you thought she was bigger than she is. Caution: some books (like Hawthorne’s, for example) are definitely too big.
  7.  They are never too small, which totally disappoints the recipient. However, some end when the reader never wants it to–making it too small but in a good way.
  8. It’s a thoughtful gift.  Does the recipient like MysterySuspense?  Romance?  Historical?  Fantasy?  Series?  Stand alones?   Good news for eclectic authors like me:  I write it all!  WOOT.  I even write for children!
  9. It helps the logging industry!  Let’s keep those loggers employed!  Did you know the United States has more trees now than it did 100 years ago?
  10. They’re easy to wrap!  No more oddly angled boxes!  No sir.  Just fold a piece of wrapping paper over one edge of the cover, crease, wrap, and tape.  Voila.  Easy peasy.  And, for the eco-conscious, you can use grocery bags with pretty ribbons instead of regular wrapping paper.  It takes less than an over-packaged whatzzit too.  That’s right!  No additional packaging to worry about clogging the landfills.
  11. They’re “instant.”  While gift cards are always appreciated, a stack of little cards on Christmas morning gives no immediate pleasure, while a book allows the recipient to curl up in a corner somewhere and enjoy it–no wait!  Books are always open on Christmas.  ;)  Caution:  It might be wise to give the cook his or her bookish gift AFTER Christmas dinner.  ;)
  12. Because I’ve got a great sale coming!  *shameless self-promotion point. Sorry*

Remember yesterday how I said you shouldn’t read my books?  Remember how I also said I am a hypocrite?  I got a few sweet emails assuring me I’m not.  But here I am, proving it!  I tell you not to read them and then I tempt you with sales!  I should repent!  But I won’t.  ;)

So here’s the thing (name that TV show).  I am going to have weekly specials from now until the last possible shipping day that’ll help you take that shopping list from packed to wrapped!

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Learning the Ropes

Image courtesy of Amy McFaddon via Pinterest

While I was in Michigan at Waterfall Press/Brilliance Publishing, one of the fascinating things we got to do and see was Sarah Price’s An Amish Buggy Ride being recorded.  About twelve of us packed into the tiny little engineer’s studio to listen to Amy McFaddon in the other room as she recorded a scene from Sarah’s book.

I didn’t know much about the audio recording side of publishing but I sure learned a lot that day.  Watching Amy alone taught me that it’s as much acting as narrating!  Her hands flew about as she read the words. Her nose scrunched up, her eyes widened and narrowed.  Peace settled over her features one minute and anxiety appeared right on cue with the words she read.  She is an actress whose voice has to carry all the emotions that she showed but we’ll never see.  Fascinating!

Here’s Amy’s take on that day.  I had to share because even as she described it, I could feel the same moments in that studio.  I still hear the engineer stopping her mid sentence to have her make a change.  Somehow, she picked up, right in the middle again, as if the flow had never been interrupted, and continued, making the tiniest change in inflection to satisfy the engineer’s ear.  They told us that if a narrator doesn’t get a word quite right after a couple of passes, they just continue and either take it from another place once the reader gets it or just has them say the word over and over until they get the right one.  Then they actually insert it in the right place to provide a PERFECT reading.

Boy, I wish I could watch and listen as whoever records Deepest Roots of the Heart does.  Can you imagine how thrilling that must have been for Sarah?

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5 Reasons NOT to Read My Books


“For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.”                                   ~Louis L’Amour

The soap opera claims we have but “one life to live.”  America’s Storyteller, Mr. L’Amour, tells us how to live more.  But who would want to live more than once?  Who would want to travel to fictional places and meet people who never existed?  Who would want to watch dragons from a field, capture a unicorn, or rescue a friend from fiends?  What crazy person would want to travel to Regency England and attend Almack’s or fall in love with a butler–I mean “prince”?  And really, who wants to watch a modern young woman discover life outside her own farm?  To meet people for the first time.  To attend her first church service?  To answer some of the mysteries of her own life?

Who wants to live vicariously through an author so comfortable in her own skin that she wears anything, from any era, and with panache?  Crazyness, I tell ya.  One life is enough, isn’t it?  All those lives in books just wear us out.  Jerk us from reality.  Kill our connection with the here and now.  Run while you can!  And if you can’t run, maybe these five reasons to avoid my books at all costs will help you.

1.  Reading fiction gives you the opportunity to hate villains.  Jesus says hate is worse than murder, so we are not allowed to hate our fellow man. With fiction, you can hate, loathe, despise, and abominate anyone you choose.  They’re not real.  Why is this a reason not to read my books?  Because you may just get into a terrible habit of hating, loathing, despising, and abominating–assuming I write good villains.  So, if you trust yourself not to cross over from fiction to reality, then this might not be a reason for you.  Otherwise, remember.  I warned you.

   2.  The three Ds.  Dinner. Dishes.  Diapers.  Reading a good book (allow me the illusion that mine are good, please!!!) makes it very difficult to pay proper attention to these.  While the diaper wearers have built in change alarms (otherwise known as deafening screams or–in worst case scenarios, diaper rashes) dishes and dinner do not.  It is nearly impossible to hear the rumble of a hungry hubby’s belly over the internal sounds of a high-speed chase along an interstate in an attempt to evade the bad guys.  And it is even more difficult to hear the call of spaghetti crusted dishes when the hero gets accused of a heinous crime.

  3.  Reading is “detrimental and deleterious” to your health. Why? Because you tend to stay awake and read “one more chapter” instead of getting the health-giving sleep your body truly needs.  Name that movie quote.  Well, reading a good book that you can’t put down is, and I work really hard to try to create books that fill that bill.  So, instead of actually sleeping, you read about the sleep deprivation of a “new mom” who feeds her little charge coffee instead of formula.  OOPS! I’m telling you, my books set a terrible example in the health department.  You don’t get enough sleep, and you feed caffeinated beverages to infants!  I’m a terrible example.  Run while it’s safe!

4.  You need to protect your finances! Look, I’m a prolific author.  FREE books almost every week, weekly gift card giveaways, and even big prizes aside, I write a lot of books and books cost money.  And then there’s the whole, “Keep up with the latest Kindle syndrome.” For the sake of your budget (and possibly your marriage–does that make this six reasons?  I don’t know), don’t read my books.  You might like them.  You might want to know what happens next to the Carrillos in Napa.  And then you’re trying to explain to hubby why there should be a line item in your budget for Chautona Havig books.  I can’t stand the guilt of knowing I’m causing strife in marriages, people!  Please!  Don’t read them!  (Can I uncross my fingers now?  I really would like to be able to continue paying the bills… *whistles*)

5.  Because I’m a hypocrite. Psalm 26:4 says

I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites.  (ESV)

And I’m a hypocrite.  I write about characters who do things I don’t agree with–like kidnapping people for “their own good.”  I write about characters who hold convictions I don’t, like women and girls only wearing skirts and dresses or exceptionally strict rules about divorce and remarriage.  Their theology occasionally clashes with mine or I write about God performing miracles that have no basis in Scripture.  And as a mom who never invited Santa to be a part of her family’s Christmas celebration, I wrote a 100% secular Santa book for children.  Don’t read my books.  You may figure out all my flaws and tell me about them.  I’ve been running and hiding from them for years.  Please, don’t kill my delusions!

But if you’re brave, bold, a go-against-the-flow kind of gal (or guy!!!!).  Then go for it.  Read them.  Enter a brave new world.  Live a thousand or more lives.  Escape into fantasy for a little while.  And maybe, just maybe, I’ll achieve my purpose.  I’ll encourage your faith.  And that’s what it’s all about for me.

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There’s Nothing “Cliché” about Winning!

clicheFINALLY we’ve got winners for A Cliché Christmas.  I guess we set the promo longer than I thought!  I would have sent out a reminder if I’d known.  OOPS!  Oh, well.  We have FIVE books going out to FIVE lucky readers and TWO Amazon gift cards.  So… the book winners are…

Gwenyth in AU
Amy (scrap…)
Deborah (rdun)
Carolyn (cast)
Lori (limb)

And the gift card winners are:

Vi (vite)
Susan (sthom)

Thank you all for participating.  Winners, check your emails!  Amazon should be sending you your prizes any second now.  If you don’t get it, please check your spam.  I  used the emails provided in your entry and gave the beginning letters of that email behind your name.

For those who won books, I’m sure Nicole would love to hear what you think of it over at her FACEBOOK page!  Or maybe leave a review on AMAZON  or on Goodreads.   

And… I have MORE winners to pick sometime this week or next.  So stay tuned!

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3 Ways I Torture Characters

creativebooksmI get emails almost weekly–often multiple times a week–and the question invariably goes something like this.  “How could you do that to him/her?”  So, I thought I’d give you a bit of insight into why I do the torturous things I do.  I even made fun of myself in HearthLand when Ralph says,

“I feel like a puppet—just a character in some author’s hands—as if he read something about making sure his character never gets what he wants, so every time I get close, the writer rips it away again.”

So… here we go.

          1.  It’s fiction.  Let’s face it, most of us have pretty average lives.  If I wrote about life as it really is, it would bore you to tears.  I wrote Aggie as a response to the question I got (back when I only had eight children) almost every week. “How do you do it all?  I can hardly manage with the one (or two) that I have!”  I always said, “I didn’t manage with one or two either, and I’m still learning eight.  You don’t get them all at once.  They come one at a time (or for some people, possibly two) and you have an adjustment period before the next arrives.”  But, that’s what rekindled my desire to write.  I wondered what would happen if you did get them all at once.  Then I wondered what would happen if you were young, unmarried, with no young child experience.  I added a mother-in-law that wasn’t even hers and named her Aggie.  She’s a favorite with my readers.  Why?  Because I tortured an average girl and made her interesting.  So, sometimes I just take an average person and give them a not-so-average problem or situation.

          2.  It’s inspiring.  It is!  Extraordinary behavior takes the mundane and makes it fascinating. Mac did this in Not a WordLet’s face it.  Christians expect other Christians to do what is right, to behave in a Christ-like manner.  Well, I wanted to explore the very real fact that sometimes the world behaves more like a Christian than we do.  They show compassion where we offer condemnation and forgive where we judge (not rebuke in love–judge).  Mac does exactly that.  In a very tiny way, he shows what Jesus did for us.  We reject His love and He forgives, is steadfast, is constant.  I didn’t do that deliberately–most of those parallels show up without thought and shock me when I see them.  So, sometimes I take an ordinary person and have him behave in an extraordinary way–but only after I make his life miserable first.

          3.  It’s an escape! Fiction is a chance to suspend reality.  Sure, it has to feel plausible (except when working with fantasy/sci-fi) but exploring the “what if” gives characters chances to do what we never could.  The Agency Files series does exactly that.  I mean c’mon, a private agency that provides protection with the kind of government blinders that they have?  Using tranq guns on people?  Kidnapping people to save them from unknown threats?  It’s completely unrealistic.  And that is what makes it so exciting! So, sometimes I suspend reality to torture a character and create conflict.  And it’s fun.  So very fun.

I torture my characters because it makes my books more interesting.  You’re welcome.  ;)

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HearthLand Episode 8 ~ Nothing Gained

Well, we’ve worked our way through nearly all the episodes again, and I’m hoping to have two episodes (or more… hey, a girl can dream) up and ready by the time we’re done. For now, we’re up to Episode 8: The foundation of HearthLand is poured and with it, those associated with the community–directly or indirectly–pour themselves into the lives of others and the community. Fears rise, tensions mount, and blessings abound. Follow Ralph into the next stage of his dream.

It’s time to give away HearthLand: Episode 8, FREE on Kindle for a limited time.

Here’s a chance to get the book for free (which is most definitely my favorite part of writing! I LOVE releasing these episodes for free so everyone gets the chance to enjoy them) and the opportunity to win one of a couple of Amazon Gift Cards that I give away every week.  How do you win you ask?  I’ll tell you!

Like our Facebook Page/Post
this giveaway
Pin the Cover on Pinterest
Pin the Trailer on Pinterest
Sign up for our Newsletter
Download Episode 8 on Amazon. (even if you already have a copy, feel free to delete and download again to get an entry into the drawing.)

Comment Request: Pop Quiz!  I posted blog posts this weekend.  What did I shoot when I was 10

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A Defining Moment

atgibWhat do salt breezes, palm trees, sand outside the door, and the Santa Ana winds have to do with turn of the 20th century Brooklyn? Not much—only my introduction to Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

I’ve never resonated with a character as much as I did Francie Nolan. She was a bookworm—like me. She romanticized life—like me. But she also, yes like me, was pragmatic. I realize that pragmatic and romantic don’t usually mix well, but that’s the beauty of humanity. We don’t always make sense.

Somewhere in my twelfth year, Mom showed up in my room with a book. She just handed it to me and said, “It was my favorite book when I was a kid.” Mom knew how to make you want to read something by stating something about it, making it available, and dropping the subject.

As a kid, I devoured books in the space of just a couple of hours. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was no different. I don’t think it took more than two or three hours to get through it, but I did something different with that one. I immediately read it again and with an eye to one particular scene. I probably rushed past less compelling places, but I distinctly remember slowing as I read about Francie and her father walking to the school she’d decided would make her life perfect.

Then the same scene appeared—that scene that changed my life. I’ve read it countless times since. Francie and a packed classroom of other poor, hungry children watch as the teacher holds up a tiny pumpkin pie—I always imagined it the size of a Banquet Pot Pie—and offers it to the class. No one was willing to admit they wanted it. Those tenement kids had pride, I tell ya. Just as the teacher started to drop it into the trashcan, Francie jerked her hand up, asking for it. The other kids snickered, feeling superior in their ability not to take a handout, but Francie’s solution was to explain that she wanted it for someone else.

And she promptly devoured it on the way home.

Monday morning, the teacher asked about how the people liked it. And Francie concocted a story about twin girls who had been on the verge of death by starvation until they had that little pie. The teacher listened and pulled a “Mom” on Francie. She simply said, “That’s an awfully little pie to save two lives.”

Of course, Francie confessed it all. The poor girl was convinced she’d get a sound spanking—or worse, a letter home. But that teacher said something that still whispers in my heart when I’m writing. “Tell the exact truth; write what should have happened.”

That day, I discovered that I wanted to be a writer. Finally, I had a solution for what I hated about life. I hated the truth. It was never how I thought it should be. I hated lies even more. What’s a girl to do? That teacher knew.


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