Friday, February 22, 2013

Robin Caroll: Enjoying What God Has Handed Her

Everyone's Story welcomes Robin Caroll. Many know her as Robin-extraordinaire: an acclaimed author and ACFW Conference Director. But did you know that she loves boxing as much as scrapbooking? Visit with Robin as she shares with us about the complexities of what makes an author write what she does. Robin also is offering a nice giveaway of her soon-to-be release of STRAND OF DECEPTION. And, if you're curious about Robin's author photo, no, it was not taken up in the wilds of Maine or Wyoming but rather, at her home in Arkansas during Christmas week! Please leave Robin a comment--she looks forward to hearing from you.

Book Giveaway:
From Amazon: ... do scientific advancements tell the whole story? Strand of Deception offers romance, suspense, and a lively debate about the impact of DNA testing, for better or worse, on the United States justice system.

Robin is graciously offering one copy of her upcoming March release of STRAND OF DECEPTION to one randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced on Friday, March 1st (almost spring!), between 4-5 PM EST. Please leave your email address within the body of the comment. Thanks.

A Special Opportunity: If you would like to be entered in Robin's quarterly prize drawing, visit her website and sign up for her newsletter to be entered.

Juggling With God by Robin Caroll

I’m asked all the time about how I “juggle” so much. I want to laugh. It comes so natural to me that I can’t imagine NOT doing multiple things at a time. But people don’t expect to hear that. Then again, I don’t exactly fit the mold of what many expect an author to be.

I love boxing. I love Hallmark movies. I love fishing. I love scrapbooking. Nope, I've never fit into the boxes people have wanted to put me in.

Growing up in Louisiana in the 70s, I am the baby in my family—adored, but never spoiled. (My older siblings made sure of that.) I was always a veracious reader—inhaled Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew books like there was no tomorrow. I LOVED reading and disappearing into another place. The writing bug bit early. At 7 years old, I started writing skits and performing them for my family. I've never stopped.

After graduating high school with a diploma of distinction, I went to community college and was trained as a paralegal. I've worked at Louisiana Downs (horse racing), in apartment leasing, at a medical office, in insurance billing, and in customer service in the automobile industry for ten years. All great material for my books.

Many people shake their heads at the contradiction I am. I love visiting new places, but have extreme motion sickness, so travel is always an ordeal for me. I write suspense novels filled with gritty details, but I have an extremely weak stomach. Well, not for blood and guts so much, but everything else, I do. I even have a heightened sense of smell which truly is annoying. And frustrating.

I’ve had people be shocked to learn my mother is a genealogist and historian, because I’m so outspoken about not enjoying the historical genre. They tell me that’s such a contradiction. Um, yeah. So? lol

One thing I’ve learned with all my complexities is that you have to become YOU. You have to figure out what makes you tick, and how to use that. As a person. As a partner. As a parent. As an employee and as a supervisor. And as a writer. What works for me won’t necessarily (and probably won’t ever) work for someone else, and vice versa. Just like God has called us all to function as certain parts of the body, He’s supplied us with our own personalities and focuses to do what we’re to do, uniquely. Trying to force yourself to work as someone else says you should is ridiculous.

Early in my writing journey, someone drilled in my head that I HAD to outline. I HAD to know every nuance of my characters. I almost quit writing because no matter how hard I try, if I do a full outline before writing a book, I’m bored while I’m writing. And if I’m bored, readers will be bored. I’ve done it on a couple of occasions when the project I worked on called for a full synopsis. It made writing quicker, which was really good, because I got rather bored. If I know how things are going to work out, instead of just a general idea, I’m not really interested any longer. I was freed when I found out my mentor wasn’t a plotter. How freeing to accept that I could do a basic outline and write from there, giving my characters permission to do what they wanted. 

But that might not be the most liberating way for someone else to write.

So I guess that’s what I really wanted to stress: To readers, read what you like. I don’t enjoy historicals, so I don’t read them, but I love all the murder and mayhem of suspense/thrillers. Others prefer historical and Amish novels, but shy away from anything with even the slightest hint of violence. Guess what…it’s all okay! God gave us all different tastes and we’re blessed to be in a time where so many books are available in various genres.

Same with writers. I say, write in whatever way works best for you to put your best story forward. Whether that’s plotting or just sitting down and writing, do what works best for you.
I guess that’s my basic life philosophy…use whatever method works for you in order to do your best in all that you endeavor.

Author Bio:

“I love boxing. I love Hallmark movies. I love fishing. I love scrapbooking. Nope, I've never fit into the boxes people have wanted to put me in.” ~Robin Caroll is definitely a contradiction, but one that beckons you to get to know her better.

Born and raised in Louisiana, Robin is a southerner through and through. Her passion has always been to tell stories to entertain others. Robin’s mother, bless her heart, is a genealogist who instilled in Robin the deep love of family and pride of heritage—two aspects Robin weaves into each of her 14 published novels. When she isn’t writing, Robin spends time with her husband of twenty-plus years, her three beautiful daughters and two handsome grandsons, and their character-filled pets at home—in the South, where else? She gives back to the writing community by serving as Conference Director for ACFW. Her books have finaled/placed in such contests as the Carol Award, Holt Medallion, RT Reviewer's Choice Award, Bookseller's Best, and Book of the Year.  

On her faith, Robin says, “I'd describe myself as Spiritual, not religious, with a diverse Christian background. Bottom line? I love Jesus and will follow Him wherever He leads me.”

An avid reader herself, Robin loves hearing from and chatting with other readers. Although her favorite genre to read is mystery/suspense, of course, she’ll read just about any good story. Except historicals! To learn more about this author of deep South mysteries of suspense to inspire your heart, visit Robin’s website at

Friday, February 15, 2013

Kathy Harris: The Giving Of Treasures and God's Opportunities

Everyone's Story welcomes debut author Kathy Harris. I had the pleasure of getting to know Kathy through her blog, Divine Detour, and have watched her on her travels from blogger to published author. Kathy is encouraging and genuine both on her blog and intimately. I hope you enjoy your visit with her this week. Kathy will share thoughts on what we choose to leave behind as heirlooms. She also answers the one question that I've wanted to ask her for the longest of times. Also, check out Kathy's awesome book giveaway of her debut novel THE ROAD TO MERCY, as well as a preview of this fine story.

Book Giveaway:
Kathy is offering one copy of THE ROAD TO MERCY to one randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced next Friday, February 22nd, between 5-6 EST. For convenience, please leave your email address within the body of your comment. Thanks! And do enjoy the novel's prologue below.

The Road To Mercy by Kathy Harris
God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7

October 10, 1959
Jack Randall jerked his foot from the accelerator and instinctively applied the brakes. His mind raced as his Plymouth Belvedere slowed to a stop. Police cars with lights blazing blocked the intersection that led to his home. The reflection off the wet pavement created an eerie blur, and shadowy figures danced across the sides of the squad cars.
Must be a bad accident. The storm that passed earlier in the night had soaked the black asphalt.
As he watched the policeman walk toward his car, Jack cranked down the driver’s side window. The uniformed officer flashed a bright light in his direction, not quite in his eyes.
“Sorry, sir, no through traffic this morning. A small plane crashed on the Neimann farm.”
Jack’s heart pounded. “Anyone hurt? I need to see if my family is—”
“No one on the ground was hurt, sir. Everyone in the plane was killed. May I see your driver’s license?”
Jack reached into a back pocket for his well-worn wallet. From it he pulled a small piece of paper, which he placed into the gloved hand of the Illinois State Trooper.
“Did the storm bring it down?”
The officer nodded while studying the license. “Lightning took out the engine. It was en route to St. Louis.” His brusque demeanor softened and he returned the paper to Jack. “A family of four. Two kids onboard.”
“Terrible.” Jack tucked the license back inside his wallet.
“You can go home now, Mr. Randall. Hug your kids. Life is short.” The trooper tipped his hat and stepped away from the blue sedan.

Jack punched his pillow down. Sleep would not come. Thoughts of the plane crash crowded his consciousness. His wife lay beside him. His children were safe in their beds. Why did he have such an uneasy feeling? Why did he feel compelled to go to the crash site?
He prayed softly and sat up on the side of the bed. “Lord, what should I do?”
Running his hands through his hair, he stared at the fluorescent green numbers on the clock face. Five thirty.
“Jack?” His wife roused beside him.
“I’m sorry.” He turned to her. “I didn’t mean to wake you, honey.”
“What’s wrong?”
“When I came home this morning, the state police had the intersection blocked. A plane crashed on the Neimann farm. I’m thinking about driving over there.”
“What can you do?” She propped herself on an elbow.
He kissed her on the forehead. “I don’t know. I just have to see if I can help.”
A few minutes later, Jack turned left out of his gravel driveway, his headlights illuminating the heart-shaped leaves of the tall catalpa trees growing in the vacant lot across the street. Pods dangled from the branches like bony fingers, sending a chilling reminder of death through him.
The Neimann farm lay to the southwest, about a mile as the crow flies, toward the small town of Mercy. He had been there last year for an estate sale after old man Neimann passed away. The Neimann children had auctioned off the farm equipment and livestock. Mrs. Neimann continued to live in the house, while the land had been rented to other farmers in the community.
Sunrise streaked the twilight sky by the time Jack approached the turn onto Mercy Road. This narrow strip of asphalt led all the way into town, no more than ten miles past the farm, which was less than a thousand yards beyond the intersection.
He pulled his sedan into the gravel driveway and recognized the face of a friend, Canaan County Deputy Sheriff Harold Chester.
“Hey, buddy. How are you?” Chester said, walking toward him.
“Good, but I heard about the plane crash. Anything I can do?”
Deputy Chester shook his head. “A real shame. Two beautiful kids, maybe five to seven years old.” A tear welled in the deputy’s eye. “Not much older than my kids or yours.”
“Need any help documenting the scene, measurements, anything?”
Chester smiled, brushing moisture from his cheek. “You’re still a law enforcement man at heart, Jack. Gets in your blood, don’t it?” He nodded toward the barn. “We’ve got it done. I’m just waiting for the Feds to come in and do their assessments before we cart off the wreckage. There’s metal all over this farm.”
“Not surprising,” Jack said.
“I’m not sure how the bodies were so intact. Not much trauma, except for the pilot. He had a gash on his head. We’re pretty sure he was the father. He was still inside the plane. The mother and two kids were thrown out.”
“Would you mind if I look around?”
“Not at all. You know not to move anything.”
“Sure. No problem.”
The deputy pointed toward the orange streaks in the awakening horizon. “The main wreckage is about five hundred feet beyond the barn.”
Jack pulled his flannel shirt collar up around his neck and set out toward the deteriorating structure that stood between him and the crash site. The chilly wind chastened him for not wearing a jacket. Thankfully, he had worn his boots. Weeds had taken over the lot. The rain still clung to them, and his pants legs were quickly soaked to the knees. He scowled. If old man Neimann could see the shape this place was in, he would turn in his grave.
Jack noticed the faint odor of decaying cow manure as he walked through the open livestock gate. The old hayfield beyond had grown past the time to harvest, and ragweed stood half a foot higher than the tops of the fescue, alfalfa, and red clover.
He saw the plane wreckage straight ahead. From this distance it mimicked a kind of abstract sculpture someone had dropped onto the field. The wet surface glistened in the early morning light, creating an unnerving glow. As he approached, Jack noticed beads of moisture covering the white, twisted metal.
Four people died in this wreckage.
The distinct odor of burnt wiring filled his nostrils. No doubt lightning had struck the plane. Fortunately, the whole thing didn’t go up in flames. Not that the outcome would have been any different.
There was an unpleasantness in thinking about the bodies now lying in the county morgue. It was a far cry from the destination they must have planned in St. Louis. Lord willing, those four souls had reached an even better place, the throne of their Creator.
Had it not been for such a terrible accident, the beauty of this quiet morning would have been refreshing. He loved the open land. Especially when it stretched further than the eyes could see, like it did on this estate. Old man Neimann had certainly enjoyed a gorgeous piece of nature. Perhaps he was part of the welcoming committee for the…the… Jack realized he didn’t even know the names of those who had died here.
He reached out to touch the squared-off tail section of the plane. Teardrops of moisture clung to his fingers. He wiped his hands on his trousers. There was nothing he could do. He might as well go home to his family.
Turning toward the barn, a piece of trash from the plane caught his attention. A familiar shape out of context. It took a moment for him to process what he was seeing. Something was missing. What was it? Lack of sleep had slowed his cognitive processes, and he strained to put the pieces together.
A bottle. It was a rubber nipple from a baby bottle.
He thought back to what Chet had said. Two children, five and seven years old, had been found. They wouldn’t need a baby bottle. So what was…?
The realization hit him hard. An infant had been onboard. There was another body. Oh, God. Help me find that child. He needs to be with his family, not alone in this field.
Jack scratched his head. Where should he start looking? If only he knew where the other bodies had been located. The mother had likely been holding the child in her arms during the flight. Chet had said she was expelled from the plane, but where had she been found?
He scanned the weeds for a sign. A red kerchief lay east of the wreckage. Perhaps the mother had worn it over her shoulder when burping the baby?
Come on, Jack, you’re grasping at straws. Just walk around the site in a grid. You know the rules, he reminded himself. Search and Rescue 101.
He set out to walk every inch of soil in the field. It took more than thirty ever-widening circles before he reached the fence line. When he approached the final turn, he debated what he should do. No doubt he had scoured the entire field. Perhaps it was time to call in assistance.
Then he heard a sound.
He stopped to listen.
Only the low chirping of birds filled his ears. Must have been a barn cat.
Wait! He heard it again. It was coming from that haystack, and it sounded like…a baby.
Jack sprinted toward the loose mound of hay. How could a child have survived such a horrendous crash? What would he find? Walking closer, he saw what appeared to be a newborn. The baby was dressed in bright blue and lay motionless in a crater of grey-green straw.
Energy drained from Jack’s body. Had he arrived too late? When he touched the infant, he knew he hadn’t. The child’s soft, pale skin felt moist and warm. Jack gently picked up the sole survivor of the crash and held him to his chest, shielding him from the cold wind.
Panic replaced relief. The baby needed immediate medical attention. He could have internal injuries, complications from exposure, or even shock.
Lack of sleep had begun to take its toll, and Jack operated on remote power. He traversed the uneven terrain back to his car as fast as he could without jostling the fragile life cradled in his arms. If Chet was still there, he could drive them to the hospital in the squad car. If not, he would find a way to secure the baby in the front seat of his Belvedere.
When Jack passed through the gate, he saw the deputy’s green Bel Air, but no sign of Harold Chester. “Chet! Chet! I need help!”

A few minutes later, Jack watched Harold Chester’s right foot hover close to the floorboard of the police cruiser. His other leg jiggled nervously, as if peeved that it had no particular task in this special mission. They had decided to take the baby to Mercy Hospital. Although a small facility, it was the closest to the farm.
Despite the upset and commotion that had come into his world today, the infant lay quietly in Jack’s lap, swaddled in Chet’s olive green jacket. The siren screamed, making conversation impossible. Jack cupped the baby’s ears between his hands and tried to focus on the narrow road ahead.
A patchwork of color blurred in his peripheral vision as they sped past white clapboard farmhouses and red barns with silver silos. He imagined farmers interrupting their chores and wives peering from porches to investigate the early morning disturbance. They would soon be the talk of the neighborhood. In fact, the party lines were probably already buzzing.
When Chet pulled into the hospital parking lot and stopped, Jack jumped out of the car and ran to the hospital entrance. Because the deputy had radioed ahead, a group of doctors and nurses met him at the door. As he transferred the baby into the arms of a nurse, the infant opened his blue eyes and held Jack’s gaze—for what seemed like a lifetime.

Three days later, Pastor Sam Lewis caught Jack’s shoulder and spun him around. “I heard about the rescue. Good work, brother.” He reached to shake Jack’s hand.
Jack smiled and thanked the reverend. People had made over him like he was some kind of hero. But he had done what any other man would do. “Right place at the right time,” he said. “That child is fortunate to be alive.”
“Blessed, I would say.” The reverend nodded. “In fact, I believe God has plans for that young man.”

A Gift vs. An Heirloom by Kathy Harris
I recently heard a prominent national talk show host speak about the difference between a gift and an heirloom. A gift, whether large or small, is a wonderful gesture, and some people have a special knack for choosing just the right thing. A book we’ve wanted to read but hadn’t bought for ourselves. A pair of house shoes that are “oh, so comfy.” Or maybe even the perfect kitchen tool. These were among the gifts I received at Christmas—and loved! 
But a gift usually has finite qualities. I will read the book and, perhaps, loan it to a friend. I will no doubt eventually wear holes in my cozy house slippers. And the food processor may grind to a halt one day.
On the other hand, heirlooms are gifts that are handed down for generations. A framed photo of a grandparent. The family Bible. Or a great story about Uncle John.
Many times we’re aware when we’re giving an heirloom. When I was young, my grandmother proudly presented me with a cut glass condiment dish and explained that it had been passed down from her grandmother. The decorative bowl, which had originated in the 1800’s (the exact date I have long since forgotten), is still the perfect shape and size to use on my table for important family occasions. Taking it from my cupboard brings back special memories of my grandmother, as well as an inexplicable longing to know the other women, three and four generations before me, who used it. Is it valuable? Probably not. It is priceless? Yes. To say that dish is an heirloom is an understatement.
But heirlooms aren’t always things we can touch. They may be memories, or stories that have been handed down. While I never met her, I can almost taste my great-grandmother’s sugar cookies. Through the years, my dad has talked over and over again about how delicious they were. I envision the poor woman constantly baking, because, as the story goes, my dad and his three siblings cleaned out the cookie jar within minutes of arriving at her house each time. I wonder if she knew she was leaving an indelible legacy . . . a cookie crumb trail to her heart that others could follow for decades?
I suppose it’s obvious at this point that many of my heirlooms have been passed down from grandparents. Someone once told me, “We’re the product of our grandparents’ prayers,” and the idea that we are blessed by the generations before us is often included in the stories I write. In my multi-generational, debut novel, The Road to Mercy, a “grandfather” plays an important role.
Those of us who write—whether fiction, non-fiction, or daily journals—would like to think that our written words will survive our temporal witness. And perhaps some will. Good stories are timeless. Great books are read and re-read. Journals fill in the details of history that would otherwise be lost. But it’s really our personal stories—the character we possess and show to others—that will remain behind when we’re gone.
What about you . . . Is there a character trait or a lesson from your life that you want to leave behind for your family, friends, or even strangers? How are you working to earn that trait? How will you give it away? And to whom will you give it?
I’ve told you about some of my heirlooms. Now I want to hear about yours.

I've asked Kathy the one question that I always enjoy reading on her blog that she asks of her own guests:

Kathy, have you experienced any unexpected detours on the road to publication? In general, how do you cope with setbacks in life?

The road to publication is all about detours. At least that has been my experience. Many writers will tell you that the detours don't stop after you're published.

The big turning point, i.e. detour, for me as a writer was when I decided to write Christian fiction. I tried for several years to finish a general market (secular) manuscript, but I could never get past the first chapter. Then, about a dozen years ago, I made the decision that, if I was going to dedicate so much time to something, I wanted it to glorify God. That's when I decided to write Christian fiction. I finished the next manuscript I started, and then the next, and the next.

When setbacks come—and we all have them in every aspect of our lives—I try to remind myself that they are only opportunities. Opportunities to watch God work in my life. Opportunities to grow my faith in, and my reliance upon, God—and His will for my life. Setbacks often bring something even better than what we had originally planned. We just have to be patient and wait.

One of my favorite verses that speaks to this is Romans 8:28, And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Author Bio:
Kathy Harris is an author by way of a divine detour into the Nashville entertainment business. She graduated with a B.S. in Communications from Southern Illinois University and has spent the past two decades employed as a marketing director in the Nashville music industry.

An active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the publicity officer for Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, Kathy lives near Nashville with her husband and their two Shiloh Shepherd dogs. Her fiction debut, The Road to Mercy, was released by Abingdon Press on September 1, 2012.

Kathy regularly interviews literary and music guests on her blog at Her author site is You can find her on Facebook at or Twitter @DivineDetour.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Ian Acheson: An Author Prompted By God-Moments

Everyone's Story welcomes debut author Ian Acheson. I've had the pleasure of getting to know Ian, who is from Australia, when he inquired about guest appearing on this blog. I'm glad we connected. If you take a look on Ian's website you will discover that you cannot separate this author from his faith, which shows in how he reaches out to others in kindness and warmth. Please take a moment to view his exciting book trailer and to read his interview. Ian is offering a Giveaway of ANGELGUARD--see below. He's also looking forward to chatting with you, so do leave a comment for him. Due to the huge time difference between Australia and the US, and other countries, please remember to check back for his reply. 

Book Giveaway Opportunity:
Ian is offering one copy of his novel, ANGELGUARD, to one randomly chosen commenter who expresses interest in reading this awesome novel. The winner will be announced between 5-6 PM EST next Friday, February 15th. For ease of contact, please include your email within the comment. Thanks!

A Few Questions for Ian:

Your debut novel, Angelguard, comes out this month. Tell us a little about Angelguard.

Angelguard reveals the timeless supernatural war that continues unabated and it’s intersection with our physical world. In bringing the warring angels and demons to the forefront of a rollicking tale that crosses the globe, I wanted to highlight the ferocity of this conflict. The physical story focuses on three survivors of separate acts of terrorism that occur within weeks of each other. 

I noticed the tag line for Angelguard is “Not all the Spirits are Good.” I take it there’s a certain element of darkness to the story. What made you write such a story?

Angelguard has plenty of light in it. I’ve been a Christian now for over 30 years and one of the things that’s always fascinated me is that in Christian circles we don’t talk much about evil. In saying that, I’m not suggesting we over-emphasise it, but it’s interesting the key voices of the New Testament talk quite a lot about the enemy. James says “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) So there are two actions here: submission and resistance.  We emphasise the former but say little about the latter.

I read recently some research the Barna Group did in 2009 that 59% of Christian adults interviewed believed Satan to be a symbol of evil but not a living entity. In writing Angelguard one of my key purposes was simply to highlight the spiritual battle that is going on around us. We as Christians don’t need to be frightened of it, as we have the power and authority over it as a result of Jesus death. But we should be aware of it.

There are two other key messages I hope readers will take from the novel. Firstly, prayer is powerful by engaging heaven into action. Secondly, salvation is a great supernatural act we experience as humans. Often in Christian circles we emphasize healings, prophecies and such, which are all fantastic but sometimes forget that salvation is miraculous too.

What were some of your key influences in writing Angelguard?

All my life I’ve loved stories of good and evil. I think we all do. Super heroes, (yes, I’m loving the re-generation of these movies in recent times) to Tolkien, CS Lewis, Ted Dekker and on. Frank Peretti’s  “Darkness” books had a big impact on me 20 or so years ago when they came out. Other than Lewis’ work they were the first Christian novels I’d read that provided a visual picture of this spiritual battle.

You've noted on your website that it’s taken a few years to get Angelguard published. What kept you going for so long?

Yes, it’s been over ten years now since I wrote those first two words: “It’s time”. Two things have really kept me going. The many “readers” from various publishing houses who reviewed the early drafts were always very encouraging. “It’s good, but…” Perhaps in my naïve way I took that to mean the story had legs.

Even though I put the story away for four or five years, I still believed one day these characters I’d created would see the light of day. I’m generally an optimist, so that also helped me. Through a series of events, it was clear God wanted me to pick up this story again. Like you Elaine, I’m not a believer in coincidences. These series of “God-moments” that I outline in a series of posts on my blog nudged me to work on it again. The key for me was that God highlighted Angelguard was His story and He had invited me to write it. Which is kinda cool, especially knowing we have the Creator of the universe as our Executive Editor. 

Author’s Bio:
Ian’s debut novel, Angelguard, is due out in February 2013 in the US and Canada, March in the UK and May in Australia. It’s been 10 years in the making and he’s very pleased it’s made the light of day.

Ian reads a lot, and a lot, and a lot more. He’s been telling and writing stories for most of his life since early childhood.

When Ian’s not writing he’s a professional strategy consultant having been in the Corporate world for the past 25 years. He brings some of this experience into his stories. He’s lived in Sydney, Australia, all of his life. Ian shares life with his wife, Fiona and they try to keep up with two almost-twenty something young men who give them much joy and you know what else if you’re a parent.

You can visit with Ian at:

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