Story Spark: A Promise in Defiance

Guest Post by Heather Blanton

Heather Blanton photo 2

Please join me in welcoming today’s guest author. Heather Blanton shares her writing journey.

Hi, Heather. Please tell us how long you have been writing.

Since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. I have been trying my hand at writing since I was five. I dictated the first story I ever wrote to my momma and she typed it up. To this day I’m still annoyed by a few of her editorial changes to that masterpiece about a ghost and some teenagers in a dune buggy.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

I thought the sun rose and set on my daddy. When he was young, he worked as a cowboy in Florida, what we call a Cracker. Cowboys down there used to use whips to drive the cattle. Daddy could also quick draw and blow a hole through a quarter. He taught me to shoot about the same time I started writing and I showed a talent for it (at least the shooting). So, you could say I was “roped” into the genre.

promise_ebookWhat are some of the references you used while researching your book?

For A Promise in Defiance, I needed to research frontier and circuit riding preachers. Newspaper archives are always fun, but when I stumbled on a book called Pistol Packin’ Preachers: Circuit Riders of Texas by Barbara Barton, I knew I had hit pay dirt. This book was a gold mine of quirky, flawed, uneducated, quick-drawing, fist-fightin’ men who faced bullets and arrows to share God’s Word. It was invaluable to me.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I kill a main character. Wow, we writers are evil. I just said that with such glee. Hmmm. Well, getting past that vaguely disturbing realization, I will say the death scene is poignant and powerful and drives home the theme of this book, which is: choices have consequences, even for the redeemed.

What are your plans for future projects?

I wrote a script for my first book, A Lady in Defiance. It has been viewed by some producers in Hollywood. Because it has conjured some interest, I am working with award-winning scriptwriter Zena Dell Lowe tweaking it. Brian Bird, a partner at Believe Pictures, wants to see it, and Hollywood producer Mark Headly is extremely interested in the possibility of producing the story. But lots of hoops, lots of hoops yet. I’d say the project is moving in the right direction, for sure. I am also planning on releasing book 2 in the Love and War in Johnson County series, as of yet unnamed. And I’ll also be releasing two novellas for Christmas, one in a trilogy from Rivulet Publishing!

Meet Heather

Heather Blanton photoHeather Blanton is the independent bestselling author of several Christian Westerns, including the Romance in the Rockies series, which has sold over 40,000 copies. Intrigued by the concept of three good sisters stranded in a lawless Colorado mining town, a few notable Hollywood producers have requested the script for her first book in that series, A Lady in Defiance.

Heather’s writing is gritty and realistic, garnering comparisons of her books to AMC’s “Hell on Wheels” series, as well as the legendary Francine Rivers book, Redeeming Love. She has walked parts of the Oregon Trail, ridden horses through the Rockies, climbed to the top of Independence Rock, and even held an outlaw’s note in her hand!

Connect with Heather

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Purchase A Promise in Defiance


Story Spark: Breaking Free

Guest Post by Jennifer Slattery

BreakingFree_N1664109I was a young mom and new to homeschooling. I felt perpetually insecure and unprepared. My friend, on the other hand, always appeared so calm. So… happy. So content.

Sometimes—oftentimes—what we see on the outside contradicts completely the chaos brewing within. But back then, I had no idea how deeply true this was for my friend.

Until one day, she told me: My husband’s addicted to crack.

I blinked, my mind struggling to make sense of what I’d just heard. Crack? In our circle? Our conservative Christian circle? I suppose I thought addiction happened to someone else, someone in poverty or raised in a crime-infested neighborhood. But Christian families? Marriages in the church?


Because the sad truth is, no one is immune to addiction. Watching my sweet friend, a devoted wife and mother, struggle to survive, to find God in the mess her life had become—the mess her husband had thrust her into—I saw an even more insidious force.

The force that threatens to destroy us all, if given the slightest opportunity.

I was reminded of something Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”


“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (NLT).

This thread became a central theme in Breaking Free. The novel begins with two people, a husband and a wife, who are rapidly self-destructing. But even as they slip further into self-destruction and a web of lies and deceit, we see their ever-faithful Savior beckoning them to Himself. He’s not calling them to fight but rather to surrender.

Because that’s true freedom and strength is found.

The question is, will Alice and Trent turn to the only One who can save them, and will it be in time to save their marriage?

Breaking Free:

Sometimes it takes losing everything to grab hold of what really matters.  Women’s ministry leader and Seattle housewife, Alice Goddard, and her successful graphic-designer husband appear to have it all together until their credit and debit cards are denied, launching Alice into an investigation that only leads to the discovery of secrets. Meanwhile, her husband is trapped in a downward spiral of lies, shame, and self-destruction. Can they break free from their deception and turn to the only One who can save them? And will it be in time to save their marriage?

Read a free, 33-page excerpt of Breaking Free.


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Meet Jennifer

BCheadshot2013Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, Christian living articles for, and devotions for Internet Café Devotions, the group blog, Faith-filled Friends, and her personal blog. She also does content editing for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas’ Firefly imprint, and loves working with authors who are serious about pursuing their calling. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Connect with Jennifer

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Story Spark: In This Together

Guest Post by Gail Kittleson

InThisTogether_w9364_300Thankful for the Gift of Story

It’s the season for thankfulness, and for gift giving. In my opinion, books fit well in this space, and women who’ve read In this Together, my debut novel, tell me it makes a meaningful gift for Baby Boomers and the next generation.

My story idea came to me in the upstairs hallway of a big old house, much like the one we moved to when I was twelve. That childhood home had a record seventeen rooms, counting two back porches. One of them contained three sinks—yes, three—for the farmer’s three cantankerous sons to use when they came in from the field and needed to wash up for a meal.

The upstairs hallway had those wonderful glass window transits above each door of the five bedrooms, and the entire house was built of golden oak. (It’s torn down now because the upkeep cost so much.)

Anyway, four decades later, the big, airy second floor of a house captured my attention one day, and a single thought floated through my mind. “Someone could work here. This could be a boarding house in the forty’s, and…”

That was it. Dottie, the heroine of In This Together, moved right in and started telling me her story. Last night at a book signing, someone asked about how that works—from idea to plot to a published women’s fiction.

I replied, “I don’t have a clue.” And it’s true. We got into a discussion about “gift,” which is how I see what occurs when a story gradually comes to life. Oh, yes, the process involves a tremendous amount of hard work, discipline, and the humility to submit to rigorous editing.

But still, I see the whole package as a direct blessing from on high. And that’s how I feel as a reader, too. I know the author has performed painstaking research, sacrificed time with friends and family, sleep, and … who knows what all? But the story itself still comes as a gift.

Readers meet Dottie in her workplace, a boarding house in a little rural Iowa town, 1946. She’s doing what she always does—making do. It’s how she survived the loss of her son in the war, and her husband soon after. Dottie’s not a philosopher, simply an everyday woman doing the best she can. And she has absolutely no idea second chances wait right around the corner.

Other conflicts arise for Dottie, and as she faces them, I hope they cheer her on, just as we do our friends in real life. It’s all work, and it’s all gift.

In This Together (Women’s Historical Fiction)

After losing her only son to World War II and her husband soon after, Dottie Kyle takes a job at a local boarding house. Her daughter Cora moved to California straight out of high school to work for the war effort, married a sailor and settled down in the Golden State—another loss.

Dottie contributes to her rural Iowa post-war world by cooking and cleaning, volunteering at her church, and tending her garden. But when troubles arise in Cora’s third pregnancy, Dottie longs to help Cora and meet those two grandbabies out in California. However, old fears prohibit her from making that arduous, cross-country train journey.

At the boarding house, complications arise that force Dottie to speak up for what’s right, and as her confidence grows, so does the unexpected interest of the widower next door. Nary a reason to blush here, but plenty of opportunity to cheer Dottie on to victory!

Gail KittlesonPurchase

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Meet Gail

My tagline, Heroines that Dare to Bloom, parallels my own long journey to blooming as a writer. My husband and I enjoy gardening and grandchildren in northern Iowa, and I facilitate writing workshops and women’s retreats.

WhiteFire Publishing released my memoir, Catching Up With Daylight, in 2013, and my debut women’s historical fiction, In This Together (Wild Rose Press/Vintage Imprint) released in November. I also contributed to the Little Cab Press 2015 Christmas Anthology.

Please feel free to contact me—meeting new reading friends is the frosting on my cake, as my heroine, Dottie, would say!

Connect with Gail

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Story Spark: Merry Kisses

Guest Post by Valerie Comer (and Giveaway)

MK-200x300When I first envisioned the five-novella series I intended to write and release in 2015, the sparks for the Christmas story were the first to appear, which was kind of too bad as it was the last in the list. I needed to write the winter, spring, summer, and autumn novellas before I could get to Christmas!

My daughter suggested the title Merry Kisses during a brainstorming session, and I fell in love. It clearly said “Christmas” while adding a playful twist on wording.

What if . . . what if a character was forbidden from saying “Merry Christmas” to customers, even if the greeting was said to her first? Thus Sonya, the toy store clerk, was born. She is adept at using similar words in response, like “merry crystals” or “merry princesses.” But when the goodlooking guy buying a boatload of toys wishes her a merry Christmas, she blurts out “merry kisses.” And gets fired because her boss doesn’t believe her.

Heath is bemused and intrigued by the pretty but flustered cashier . . . and guilt-ridden that her verbal slip cost her job. After she agrees to meet him for coffee down the mall, he’s dismayed to discover she won’t go out with him. He’d been buying toys for a Santa gig, and Sonya believes Santa is all kinds of wrong.

Because I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, nearly everything that happened in the novella after that was a surprise to me. At times I despaired of Heath and Sonya getting things worked out! It was a fun ride with deeper undertones than I’d first expected.

Giveaway Question: What favorite Christmas tradition from your childhood do you still love to enact today?

Merry Kisses

Can a disillusioned toy store clerk and a mall Santa resolve their differences in time for merry kisses at Christmas?

Purchase Merry Kisses on Amazon

Meet Valerie

Valerie-Comer-300x300 01Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Connect with Valerie

Where Food Meets Faith…and Fiction and Farm Lit.

Blog     Facebook     Twitter     Pinterest

Amazon Author Page     Book Links     Goodreads

Book Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a copy of Valerie’s book, please leave a comment before Sunday, November 22nd at 11:59 p.m. (Central time). After a random drawing, the winner’s name will be announced on Monday, November 23rd.

Thank you for reading the Story Spark behind Valerie’s novella and participating in the giveaway.

Story Spark: Catch of a Lifetime

Guest Post by Candee Fick (and a Giveaway)

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00003]Part of this story idea came in a dream years ago. Perhaps inspired subconsciously by an invitation to my high school class reunion, I woke up with a vivid scene in my mind about a girl who had been ridiculed by football players in high school and was forced to work around similar players in college before running into the only player from the past who had ever been nice to her. I scribbled down as much of it as I could remember and tucked the story idea away for later when the kids were big enough for school and I’d have time to pursue my dream of writing.

Of course, when I pulled out the scraps of paper years later, the idea lacked depth and the romance seemed too coincidental. But the nugget of an idea held my interest so I played the “what if” game until I came up with a different and bigger hurt in the heroine’s past. Since I’m married to a coach and have a son who plays receiver, it was fun to imagine a character who hated football and then try to change her mind.

In doing my research, I modeled my fictional college’s schedule after a local university in order to make sure I paced the season correctly. I was surprised to find that the opponents and road games lined up perfectly with necessary plot points like facing her past, a romantic interlude, a home game over Thanksgiving weekend, and even potential bowl game locations that brought back memories from earlier in the story. I could not have invented a better schedule than the “real” one.

Catch of  a Lifetime

Candee Fick_HeadshotHe breathes football. She shudders at the very mention of the sport. After a tragedy involving a football player destroyed her family, athletic trainer and graduate student Cassie moves across the country looking for a fresh start, but a change in financial aid lands her in the middle of her worst nightmare. Meanwhile, rookie coach Reed worries his dream career will slip away as injuries plague his players and his star receiver teeters on the brink of ineligibility. As the two work together to salvage the season, sparks fly, and Reed must eventually choose between the game he cherishes and the woman he loves.

Purchase Catch of a Lifetime on Amazon.

Meet Candee

Candee Fick is the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job or writing, she can be found cheering on the home team at football, basketball, baseball, and Special Olympics games. In what little free time remains, she enjoys exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.

Connect with Candee on Twitter and Facebook.

Book Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a copy of Candee’s novel, please leave a comment before 11:59 p.m. (Central time) on Sunday, November 15th, 2015. After a random drawing, the winner’s name will be announced on Monday, November 16th.

Thank you for reading the Story Spark behind Catch of a Lifetime and participating in the giveaway.