Many deserving competitors entered the fray. One became the victor!
We took a few moments to get to know Jennifer a little better, and now here’s your chance to do the same:
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won five writing competitions and finaled in two other competitions. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenaged son, and four fur children.
How did you come up with the idea for this book and what made you want to write this particular story?
While working with a few other authors on some novella collection ideas, I came up with the idea of three adult siblings who reunite after being separated by adoption in their youth. This story and the two that follow it are the result of that idea—three strong siblings devoted to law and justice, each in their own way.
What does winning the Olympia Award mean to you?
It is such an honor! I love the Olympia since the first round is judged by readers. That is probably the truest group of judges one can have. And I know the competition is always stiff in contests, so just to final is quite humbling. To win is indescribable (and I’m an author, so that says a lot. I’m speechless. LOL)
How can people find you online/contact you?
I can be found in the following places:
A little over two weeks ago, I started my first ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference experience. I’d decided to fly from Atlanta to Nashville instead of driving because I had a ticket that needed to be used and because hotel parking was so expensive. So off I went. This was my first time flying without a companion. My trip included a stop off at Raleigh-Durham and a plane change, which wouldn’t have been so bad if we hadn’t been delayed in Atlanta because of storms. If you want to hear all about the adventurous travels I had, check out my video on my Facebook Author Page.
Now onto the conference. I’m an extrovert. I love people. I love talking. I rarely find people who I can’t strike up a conversation with. And if said person doesn’t talk back, I’ll do all the talking. But for some reason, I was very nervous about going to the conference alone. Even though I had friends that would be there, I was afraid I’d never find them. I was rooming with two friends, and I didn’t want them to have to babysit me all day every day, but I didn’t want to be a lone wolf either. One of my dearest friends who I’m in writers group with told me I was being so silly. She said I would be the belle of the ball. I didn’t believe her.
One thing I did believe was that I was supposed to go. God had worked out all the details in such a way that people who don’t even know me well knew I was supposed to go. I told my husband that I figured one of two things would happen to me while I was there.
- I’d be completely dejected, rejected, snubbed, made to feel like such a small fry, told I didn’t know how to write and should just go home and try to learn to paint Bob Ross pictures instead of writing. I’d feel bored in the classes and unchallenged. I’d be a discouragement to everyone and would probably make someone feel awful because sometimes I can be too blunt.
- I’d be completely accepted, encouraged, affirmed, surrounded by friends (old and new, from my real world as well as my virtual world). I’d learn new techniques and things about writing and marketing and feel challenged. I’d be told that I could write well and should send my manuscript in as soon as I have it ready. I’d be an encouragement to other writers (both behind me and ahead of me in the game), and I would resist the urge to say too much.
I am happy to say that number two happened! Well, I can’t say for sure that I was a huge encouragement to people, but I didn’t make anyone cry and run to their rooms in shame, so I think I at least wasn’t a discouragement.
From the moment I walked into the newcomer’s orientation at the conference, I saw people I’ve been friends with for years on Facebook and received welcoming hugs around the neck. Instantly, my nerves settled and I was ready to own this experience.
The first night’s dinner was a genre dinner, in which you dressed in character, if you wanted to. I had planned to wear a costume I fashioned out of curtains complete with a hat decorated in full Victorian style, but since I was coming to conference as a Romantic Suspense writer, I decided not to dress in costume. Plus, one of my roommates said that the last time I wore the costume at a writers retreat, my costume didn’t quite cover all the necessary areas and I flashed her. I guess my wraparound skirt didn’t wrap around quite far enough. So….
Friday and Saturday were jam packed with classes, continuing education, agent panels, and publisher spotlight sessions. Short fifteen minute breaks between each didn’t leave much time for catching your breath or journaling your experiences, but that’s okay. That could be done later.
We had great worship in each general session and our keynote speaker was Ted Dekker. So I was in heaven!
I attended a spotlight session for a publisher I wanted to know more about and learned about all the things they look for in a manuscript, what immediately puts it in the slush pile, and what causes it to jump to the top. I took a class on the “antagonistic setting” which basically showed how to cause extra trouble for your characters. You know, throw a spider in the car, a fire in the kitchen, a shark in the ocean, a tornado or a hurricane into their plans. Good stuff. I learned how to be more creative and how to conquer fear, discouragement, stress and all the things that zap a writer’s energy and keep her from writing.
On Friday, I had my agent and publisher appointments. Now I have to admit, my nerves were getting the best of me. But I had people praying for me and I was praying for me, too, and when I walked out of those appointments, I wasn’t walking. I was floating. I floated down the hall. I floated down the escalator. And I floated back to class. I had survived what can be the equivalent of a job interview (I haven’t interviewed for a job in YEARS) without losing my lunch, and I felt even better about my story than I did when I entered the room. I received the coveted request for my full manuscript in both appointments.
What I had hoped to hear, I’d heard. And I was thanking God even more than before for paying my way and paving my way to the conference.
Saturday night’s dinner was the BEST! It was the gala and award ceremony. We all dressed up nice and fancy, posed for pics with our peeps (I didn’t take many because I’m just too caught up in the moment usually), cheered our fellow writers along as they were nominated for and won awards, and felt like Cinderella for just one night.
Now that I’m back home and I’ve recovered from my travels and the pile of work that waited for me, I’m working feverishly on this book. I’ve set a 2,000 word a day goal (this blog just used up 1,000 of them for today, haha!) and hope to have it finished by the first of October. Then I can edit and have my test readers go through it. Prayers would be much appreciated.
If you’re contemplating going to a writers conference or retreat, I can now say that I highly recommend it. There’s lots to learn, lots of opportunity to grow, and lots of chances to make friends (which is probably the best part of all).
Fight for Liberty by Theresa Linden
Prompted by the inner voice that has guided her for years, Liberty is compelled to bring the freedom she now possesses to others suppressed by the all-controlling government. While unsure of how to carry out this mission, she is willing to risk all to accomplish it.
An Elegant Facade by Krisit Ann Hunter
Lady Georgina Hawthorne has worked tirelessly to seal her place as the Incomparable for her debut season; with money and business connections, but without impeccable bloodlines, Colin McCrae is invited everywhere but accepted nowhere. As their paths continue to cross, they both must decide if the realization of their dreams is worth the sacrifices they must make.
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by Justine Johnston Hemmestad
In 1990 my car was broadsided by a speeding city bus as I turned out of a parking lot – I was in a coma and had sustained a severe brain injury. I was paralyzed when I woke up from my coma, though I worked hard to walk again within a few months, and to relearn how to perform the basic functions of life.
I began to write when I was carrying my first child Megan, less than two years after my accident, as tool or a way to cope with feeling so alone in my disability and misunderstood. Writing, throughout the darkest part of my recovery—when everyone looked down on me and I had no one to talk to or relate with me—helped me to get my thoughts in focus, to learn new things, and to remember what was important to me. I felt bullied, my thoughts and perception were skewed, and I felt emotionally alone, isolated by my personal lacking (my speech was slurred; my reactions were slow, etc.).
But writing was my Savior. When I was so afraid and so filled with guilt for being disabled, writing offered me a safe and comforting place to go, where I could cry and feel loved. Writing was my confidante and gave me hope when the world was crushing me. Writing even helped me find out who I was, since everything about “me” seemed to have melted away with my TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). Writing helped me find my words to speak again. Writing was my purpose, and writing was my healing.
My novella, Truth be Told, is essentially the story of my recovery wrapped up in fictional characters in a different time and place. Everything is symbolic in my novella because symbolism itself taught me how to travel deep inside my thoughts and search until I found the answers. Symbolism aided my memory by the weight of its meaning.
The old man in my novella is symbolic of God, prayer, love of my children, and the inner truth I found when I dug deep, the challenges that stretched my mind and that I knew I had to face when I wanted to give up on life completely.
The Lady is the aspect of my recovery in which I felt lost, even to myself—I didn’t know who I was—but in prayer and meditation I learned to focus my mind, calm my thoughts (which were drowning in the guilt I felt for being disabled) and listen to God’s answer…what defines me?
The knight is the aspect of my recovery that was assaulted by PTSD. Not only was I recovering, but I was recovering amidst a torrent of fear, pain, and false persecution. He represents the survivor’s guilt I had for living as brain-injured, and the part of myself that felt I deserved the lies that people told about me simply because it was easy to lie about me. I illuminated my purpose— the purpose that any recovering person needs to be able to climb out of the darkness—symbolically as Jesus. When people lied about me, writing defended me and made the truth immortal. My purpose, as writing, was the well within me; writing saved me and gave me direction in life (even when I no longer had any sense of direction due to my TBI). There were people who tried to point me in the wrong direction, but my prayer, and written prayer, was always brimming with truth.
My purpose in writing raised me out of the darkness and set me on a new path. As my characters in Truth be Told founded one of the first Universities in Europe, my purpose led me to enter into college, to study tirelessly, and to set goals and reach them. For a person with a TBI, these things stretched my mind to the breaking point. And yet my savior, writing, was always there, so much that my purpose and my goals became intertwined. Every class I’ve had brought me new challenges; every professor’s pushing has helped me more than they were ever aware.
My husband and I now have seven children and I’m still writing, for both have truly been essential to my recovery. I’ve also earned a BLS through The University of Iowa and am now working toward a Master’s Degree in Literature through Northern Arizona University. I’m grateful to have written a book that I felt so strongly, all along, could be of help to survivors, for them to recognize themselves in the characters and to know that they’re not alone. I would have recognized myself in this story and it would have given me hope. My mission now is to give other survivors hope.
Authors get stories from so many different places and experiences. It’s always interesting to discover where the inspiration comes from. Today, we’ll hear from debut author, Annette O’Hare. Her historical romance, Northern Light has already garnered some terrific reviews!
From the first sentence to the book’s stunning conclusion, Annette O’Hare’s brilliant first novel Northern Light captured my heart. O’Hare’s storytelling is flawless and her grasp of Texas history is spot on. This tenth generation Texan heartily approves! Do yourself a favor and savor this meeting of North and South on the Bolivar peninsula. I promise it will be the best book you’ll read in a very long time! —Kathleen Y’Barbo, best-selling author of over 40 titles
My Inspiration For Writing Northern Light
By: Annette O’Hare
There’s a wonderful phrase known to authors that says, write what you know. This simple idiom by Twain, or was it Faulkner, no…I think it might have been Thurber, no it was definitely Twain who said it. Whoever it was knew what they were talking about and that’s why I wrote Northern Light. The setting for my debut novel is the lighthouse on the Bolivar Peninsula on the Texas coast; a place near and dear to my heart. A place I know very well.
When I was a child growing up in Houston, Texas in the 1970’s, my family visited Bolivar every summer for fishing, swimming, and shell hunting. My father would drive our family of five to Galveston, and then onto a short ferry ride connecting Galveston Island with the Bolivar Peninsula.
The ferry ride was a favorite part of the vacation. We made playful bets concerning which ferry we would ride. Would it be the Cone Johnson, the E.H. Thornton Jr., the R.S. Sterling, or the Gibb Gilchrist? We knew each boat by name. My two older brothers and I would save back French fries and pinches of bread from our fast food meals. After the boat was loaded and the captain gave the safety speech, we would bolt for the back of the boat to feed the seagulls and dolphins.
I always knew the exact place the ferry would dock at the peninsula because Daddy told me to look for the landmark. It was hard to find at first, but the closer the ferry came to Bolivar, the bigger it became. By the time the boat landed, the Bolivar Point Lighthouse was as big as a skyscraper in this little girl’s eyes.
Once off the boat we drove past the iron lighthouse. Her light extinguished, she no longer lit the way for ships coming in or going out of Galveston Bay. Daddy always pointed out the two, abandoned keeper’s houses beside the lighthouse. He showed how one of the house’s nameplates read Boyt and the other, Maxwell. I didn’t understand the significance then, but later I realized the connection. Daddy’s aunt, my great aunt, was married to a Boyt, and she and her sister, my grandmother, were born with the surname Maxwell.
You’re probably wondering if my daddy’s family were the lighthouse keepers. No, the truth is that Mr. Boyt, my great-uncle, bought the lighthouse and property at an auction and it has been owned by that family ever since.
The original Bolivar Point Lighthouse dates back prior to the Civil War. In fact, it was during that war that the Confederates completely dismantled the lighthouse. Some accounts say it was so the Union wouldn’t use the light to
their advantage. Others say the Confederate army used the iron for weapons and artillery. Nevertheless, the lighthouse was rebuilt shortly after the war. The great conical tower has seen over 150 years of United States history and it still stands tall on the Bolivar Peninsula to this day.
Visit Annette at AnnetteOHare.com
About Northern Light
Civil War has robbed Margaret Logan of all she holds dear, including her beloved New Orleans home and her fiancé. When her family moves to the desolate Bolivar Peninsula to manage a lighthouse that is no longer there, all her hopes for a normal future are dashed. Her world is rocked once again when a wounded Yankee soldier washes ashore needing her help. Despite her contempt for the North, Margaret falls in love with Thomas Murphy. As their love blooms, Margaret’s sister is overcome with neurosis, and her mind slowly slips away. Bitterness, psychosis and depression yield a decision fueled by contempt. Will one fatal choice cause Margaret to lose the man she loves and condemn Thomas to death?
Purchase Northern Light in e-book or paperback
This week, we’re pleased to feature the winner of the July Clash of the Titles competition. Susan Page Davis is the author of more than sixty published novels. She’s a two-time winner of the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award, and also a winner of the Carol Award, the Will Rogers Medallion, and was a finalist in the WILLA Awards and the More Than Magic Contest.
A Maine native, she now lives in Kentucky. Her historical romance The Outlaw Takes a Bride is a finalist in the 2015 Will Rogers Medallion Awards.
Her latest accomplishment is having her brand new June release, River Rest, be chosen as the July Clash of the Titles victor.
We asked Susan to tell us a little about writing River Rest. Here’s what she had to say.
CBA: What made you choose the setting for your story?
SPD: My great-aunt left a journal she wrote in the 1920s and ’30s. It gave such a vivid picture of life in rural Maine that I wanted to write a story in that setting. I decided to push it back to 1918, near the end of World War I, because of the added tension and also because my grandfather (Aunt Belle’s brother-in-law) served in WWI. He was drafted close to the end of the war, and I adapted some details of his story to fit in for my heroine, Judith’s brother. River Rest is purely fiction, but many of the events in it were inspired by things that really happened in my family.
CBA: Do your characters have anything in common with real people?
SPD: In real life, my grandmother (Aunt Belle’s sister) was a schoolteacher before she married my grandfather. Judith has a lot in common with both my Nana and Aunt Belle. She loves her bird feeder, she learns to make quilts, and she cooks many of the same things my Nana served. Her life on the farm is a lot like theirs was. I love Judith because she keeps on, even when she is tempted to fall into depression as her father did. She knows people are depending on her, so she perseveres.
CBA: You mention your story was inspired by your great-aunt’s journal. What’s the best thing you learned from reading what she wrote?
SPD: My Great-aunt Belle, who wrote the journal, died in 1939, long before I was born. She was 55, and she died from complications of appendicitis. I never got the chance to know her, and I would love to be able to sit down with her for a cup of tea. As a side note, I had acute appendicitis myself in 1985, and it was no fun then, with modern medicine to help me out. Aunt Belle noted so many cultural things in her diary—who she voted for, the famous boxers of the day, the way the neighboring farm boys were building tractors out of truck chassis, and all the community events and gossip. She never had children of her own, but she doted on her nieces and nephews. I think I would have loved her.
Thanks to Susan for her insights. You may visit her at her website at: www.susanpagedavis.com .
River Rest sounds like an interesting read. Here’s more about the book:
Judith Chadbourne gave up her teaching job after her mother’s death to help her father with her five siblings. But when her father sinks into deep depression and her brother Joel is drafted, the household chores and farm work may overwhelm her. Neighbor Ben Thayer offers to buy their farm, shocking Judith and angering her father. An outsider from New York, Ben seems rich and mysterious, but his heart aches from his own loss. Judith accidentally breaks the antique crystal Christmas ornament her mother loved. The splintering star echoes her family’s shattering. Ben’s efforts to help make Judith suspicious, but when Joel falls critically ill at the army camp, Ben’s aid brings the beginnings of trust. After the armistice, and the community and family start to recover from the strain of the war, but Judith learns independence is lonely. When Ben is injured, she is the only one who can help him. Can love take her beyond the frozen Maine winter?
If you’re into period romances, be sure to check this one out! A plethora of people voted this into their TBR pile. You might want to join them!
Vote for your Fave!
the groom! Winning a destination wedding would be a dream come true …
if Caron Hollister and her boyfriend, Alex were already engaged — and if
her ex-boyfriend, Kade, wasn’t back in her life, causing her to wonder
“what if?” when she thought she was ready to say “I do” to someone else.
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I don’t have much time to read these days, but I’m trying to carve out little snippets of time in my day to do it, because reading is one of my favorite pastimes (aside from writing). To tell you just how far behind I am on my TBR pile, the first book listed below had a requested review date of February. Yep!
Here are the three books that I’ve just finished up reading and what I thought about them:
A Sweet Misfortune (Virtues and Vices of the Old West Book #2) by Maggie Brendan
Rachel Matthews isn’t one to rely on others to take care of her. Homeless and alone, she still wants to make her own way and her own money to buy back the family ranch–even if she’s forced into the life of a dance hall girl. Horrified by her circumstances, Rachel’s brother, who is away mining for gold, sends a friend to rescue her.
Cattle baron John McIntyre is focused on acquiring as much land as possible in Montana and has little time to deal with a dance hall gal. Rachel isn’t sure she can take one more day in John’s home–especially once she discovers that he’s the one who holds ransom the key to her family’s future.
Sparks fly between this spunky, independent heroine and the ruggedly handsome hero as they navigate the snarled terrain of pride, greed, faith, and love in Maggie Brendan’s delightful series set in the Old West.
I’m a big fan of Maggie Brendan’s books. No Place for a Lady is still one of my favorites. In classic Brendan style, she grabs you at the beginning of A Sweet Misfortune and never lets go. Any modern independent woman would relate to Rachel in this book, who wants to make it on her own. She wants to buy back her family ranch and no matter what comes, she sticks to that goal. Her life takes more twists and turns than you’d imagine, but her character and the character of the hero grow tremendously during the process. The setting is lovely and the supporting characters are all so real. This is a must read!
God created you for exceptional impact. Exceptional power. And exceptional blessings.
Gwen Smith knows how easy it is to dismiss God’s plans with the thoughts, I can’t make a big difference for God because I’m just an ordinary woman with an ordinary life. Yet God created us to join Him in doing amazing work in the world. He created us to live with abundant joy, courage, and influence. But not the joy, courage, and influence of the world. He offers His grace for each failure, His love that shatters hate, His peace that soothes the turmoil, His comfort, guidance, wisdom, rest, power, and significance. Every blessing He has for us is ours for the taking.
I Want It All will ignite a fire in your heart to experience more faith, more power, and more impact. More of Jesus. All of Jesus. Everything that God has for you.
This book was an amazing read! Gwen is raw and open and cares about leading women to the feet of Jesus. She holds nothing back in this book. She encourages readers to go to the throne before going to the phone, to remember that no matter what, we always have access to the Father. Probably one of the biggest take-aways for me in this book is the reminder that in order to “have it all” we must first “want it all” and that means putting aside the things of this world. Instead of filling our lives with fifty shades of compromise, we are to be holy and pure vessels for God. This book challenged me to not only say I want all God has for me, but to actually live like I want it and to ask Him for it.
21 Days of Joy: Stories that Celebrate Mom (A Fiction Lover’s Devotional) compiled by Kathy Ide
Oh, the joys—and struggles—of motherhood!
21 Days of Joy honors mothers of all varieties. Biological moms. Adoptive moms. Stepmothers. Grandmothers. Godmothers. “Second moms.” Even men who “mother” children when circumstances put them in that position.
Whether you are a mother, have one, or know one, these heartwarming fictional stories will touch your soul and help you see that you are not alone. The work you’re doing will have an impact for eternity. And those rewards will make the trials all worthwhile.
God knows every sacrifice you make for the children He has brought into your life. So take a few moments out of your busy schedule to read this book, and get a glimpse of your daily routine from a divine perspective.
This book is full of sweet, touching stories about all the women who “mother” us, not just our birth mothers. It’s a celebration of what mothers do for us all. Having lost my mom in 1993, I know just how important it is to let them know how much we love them every day. These stories make you realize how valuable the job of mothering is.
Theses three books would be a great addition to your end-of-summer TBR list!
I received these books free from the publishers in exchange for my honest review. I am not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.