Not Your Average Romance

While straight romance reads may not be my favorite, I do like a a little romance thrown into stories. Even Steven James’ thrillers have small elements of romance. I enjoy stories with unique protagonists, stories in which the romance is secondary to the main plot, yet still vital. Below are a few of my favorites because of their uniqueness.

JANE EYRE (Charlotte Bronte) – I love the atypical heroine in Jane Eyre. Not the modelesque heroines we’ve come to expect in modern day stories, but someone plain, someone relatable.

A VOICE IN THE WIND (Francine Rivers) – Another unique heroine–Hadassah certainly wouldn’t win any beauty contests, but that’s what makes the attraction between Hadassah and Marcus Valerian so captivating.

THE MISTRESS OF TALL ACRE (Laura Frantz) – I could probably put all of Laura’s books on my favorite romance list, but I’ll stick to one and choose her most recent. Laura’s musical prose and her exquisite settings are enough to draw me in every time, so her multi-faceted characters and page-turning stories are like the cherry on top.

MY STUBBORN HEART (Becky Wade) – This introduction to Becky’s writing made me a forever fan. The story’s a bit edgier than your typical Christian romance, which is, naturally, why I enjoyed it so much. Her Porter series is also very good, but My Stubborn Heart remains my favorite.

DANCE OF GRACE (Stacy Monson) – The heroine is a one-legged dancer, and the hero is an ex-con. Does Christian romance get more unique than that? Seriously, that’s all I need to hear to know that this is a must-read romance.

Have you read any of these romances? What are your five favorite romances?

Gritty Autumn Reads

I love a novel that’s gritty and filled with real-life situations, and this fall I’ve discovered three books that fit that description, written by three of my favorite authors. I’ve read two already, and they were excellent, and the third comes out in mid-October. I can’t wait to add it to my bookshelf!

Author Ginny Yttrup doesn’t shy away from tough topics, and that includes with her new release, Flames, that deals with adultery. It’s a page-turning story with multi-faceted characters. Highly recommended.

Flames by Ginny YttrupFLAMES
by Ginny L. Yttrup

As a fire archeologist, preserving Yosemite National Park’s natural and cultural resources is Jessica’s job. As a wife and mother, preserving her family’s legacy is her obsession. But when she discovers her husband’s infidelity, betrayal’s flames threaten her family and all she’s fought to protect.

Haley Weaver, a sophomore in high school, is a daddy’s girl. As she enters the throes of first love, timid yet intrigued, Haley also discovers her father’s affair. Stunned and broken, Haley flees into the wilds of Yosemite National Park. If she can’t trust her father, how can she trust her boyfriend—or even love itself?

When wildfire breaks out and Haley is missing, Jessica fears the worst. In a race against time, she searches for her daughter as she deals with the magnitude of what her husband’s affair may cost her family. How can she go on if she doesn’t find Haley in time?

And what will Jessica do to preserve the legacy that matters most?

Kellie Coates Gilbert also takes on tough subjects, and her new release, A Reason to Stay, doesn’t disappoint.

A Reason to StayA REASON TO STAY
(Texas Gold Collection)
by Kellie Coates Gilbert

As the host of her own television news show, Faith Marin works to expose the truth for her viewers. But in her personal life, she’s anchored her world with firm boundaries in order to hide a family history she’d like to forget. Her pro bass fisherman husband Geary’s life is an open book, and unfortunately his busybody family doesn’t know the meaning of boundaries. Deception and crippling differences soon derail their tender relationship, leading Faith to believe her only option is to end the marriage. But while Faith considers whether divorce is the only answer to their issues, tragedy strikes and her heartrending decision is interrupted. With her life in the balance, Faith finds that the one she has been shutting out may be the very one she cannot bear to lose.

Kellie Coates Gilbert takes readers on an emotional roller coaster as she weaves themes of unexpected trial, self-discovery, and forgiveness in this profoundly honest portrait of the tensions that can break a marriage–and the ultimate healing power of love.

And then I’m especially excited about this next book, Dance of Grace (Chain of Lakes series, book 2) by former Inksper, Stacy Monson. I’ve read snippets of the book which have completed whetted my interest, and I’m impatient to read the entire story! (And isn’t the cover beautiful?!)

Dance of Grace by Stacy MonsonDANCE OF GRACE
(Chain of Lakes series #2)
by Stacy Monson

In one tragic moment, dancer Vanessa Jordan lost her family, her career, and her future. She blames God for destroying everything that mattered.

Kurt Wagner, an ex-con with a second chance at life and faith, aches to shed his past and see his dream of helping teens become reality.

The former dancer and the ex-con form an unlikely alliance to build River House, a safe haven for kids on the street. But when Kurt’s past threatens his dreams and his life, Vanessa becomes a target as well.

It will take a stubborn love, the grace of God, and one courageous teen to keep the River House dream alive.

On a side note, Stacy and I are celebrating our new releases, along with several other Minnesota authors, on Saturday, October 17. If you happen to be in Minnesota then, we’d love to meet you!

Flyer jpg


Snoopy Dancing with Stacy Monson!

There’s little that’s more exciting than celebrating with author friends when their new books come out, and this past Sunday was especially fun as friend (and former Inksper) celebrated the release of her debut novel, SHATTERED IMAGE. Now I’ve been to a lot of booksignings, including Julie Klassen’s and the late Vince Flynn’s, and Stacy’s took a back seat to no one. The large room at the church was packed, and the signing line lasted over two hours, only ending because she ran out of books to sell. I’m certain Stacy’s hand was cramped afterwards.

So, when this three-question interview subject came up for the Inksper blog, I had no doubt who I was going to talk to. First, here’s the back cover blurb for Shattered Image (which is a fantastic book, btw, and isn’t the cover gorgeous?!):

Shattered ImageKiera Simmons’ career as a high-profile fashion model ends abruptly when a failed relationship nearly lands her in jail. Now she forges a quiet life helping teens understand their eternal value in a world saturated with the distorted messages of society.

Peter Theisen is on the fast track to everything the celebrity life promises, with every step of his meteoric rise in the music world orchestrated by his ambitious manager.

Their sweet, unexpected romance is threatened by her past and his future, a life-changing diagnosis, and financial devastation. As they struggle to find their way back to each other, and to the One who matters most, the allure of wealth and fame may jeopardize everything.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? (You can pick up your copy at Amazon or B&N)

Stacy Monson (591 x 600)Welcome back, Stacy, and congrats again on your amazing book launch party! Woo hoo! And thank you for taking a few minutes to answer some questions.

What was the inspiration for writing Shattered Image?

For so long, I’ve been bothered by society’s unceasing bombardment of distorted messages telling us how to look, what to wear, etc. to be the “right” person, the perfect person who has it all together. Raising two kids through their teen years, I was especially aware of the peer pressure they experienced, along with the subtle (and not so subtle) messages of social media. Did I really want Hollywood setting the standard for what’s acceptable? So with those thoughts in mind, I got to wondering what happens to our young people when they pursue a dream of being “famous” (as so many of them do). Why do some seem to handle it better than others? Why has that become the goal for our young people? From there, Shattered Image was born.

Like many authors, your journey to publication has been quite the roller coaster ride (I hope you like roller coasters!) What has kept you on this ride–what has kept you persevering?

It may sound simplistic, but it’s been God who’s kept me belted in on the wild ride of writing and publication. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to quit, how many times I’ve told God I was jumping off the ride. But at the bottom of every dip and turn, when it seemed I couldn’t hold on anymore, He put the exact right person to encourage me, the right story to remind me it wasn’t all about me (but about being obedient to what He was calling me to).

I love looking back and seeing the dotted line (just like in the Family Circus comic) that shows the ups and downs and detours of my writing journey. Hard to believe how I got from point A all the way to here! But it’s not like I’ve reached the end of the ride. I’ve achieved my childhood dream of seeing my book in print, but now I believe the real work begins. How can I become more laser-focused on my call? How can I be open to what else God has in store for me? So I’m getting ready to go around on the roller coaster again!

What’s coming up next for Stacy Monson, Author?

Book 2 in the Chain of Lakes Series – Crisis of Grace. It’s scheduled for release in early August. Following that will be Book 3 in mid-fall. After that, I have a few more stories up my sleeve so I’ll be busy writing, editing, and publishing for the next few years!

About Stacy~

Stacy Monson writes stories that show an extraordinary God at work in ordinary life. A member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), she is the current secretary and past president of MN-NICE, as well as the area coordinator for Minnesota. Residing in the Twin Cities, she is the wife of a juggling, unicycling physical education teacher, mom to two amazing kids and two wonderful in-law kids, and a very proud grandma. You can learn more about Stacy and her books at

Connect with Stacy~

Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Purchase Shattered Image~

Amazon | B&N

A Favorite Author

Spring is finally here in Minnesota. Time for a lounge chair on the deck with a new book, and some nuts and dark chocolate – life is good!

One of my new favorite authors is Katie Ganshert. I loved her first book, Wildflowers from Winter – the characters, the story, the setting. When she came through Minneapolis on a booksigning, I found her to be a delightful, down-to-earth woman with a wonderful sense of humor.

Wishing on WillowsHer second book, Wishing on Willows, continued the story with the focus on one of the secondary characters in book one, along with new characters that were equally as interesting and endearing.

I’m SO excited about her newest book, A Broken Kind of Beautiful. Katie has a knack for creating characters we A Broken Kind of Beautiful-Gimpcare about and stories that pull us in until the very last page, so I can’t wait to dig in.

Here’s the blurb.

Sometimes everything you ever learned about yourself is wrong
     Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four year old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she’s learned a sacred truth—appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows—so when it starts to unravel, she’ll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother’s bridal wear line—an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white. 
     If only her tenuous future didn’t rest in the hands of Davis Knight, her mysterious new photographer. Not only did he walk away from the kind of success Ivy longs for to work maintenance at a local church, he treats her differently than any man ever has. Somehow, Davis sees through the façade she works so hard to maintain. He, along with a cast of other characters, challenges everything Ivy has come to believe about beauty and worth. Is it possible that God sees her—a woman stained and broken by the world—yet wants her still?

Can’t wait to dig in!

The book I just finished is Brenda Anderson’s Chain of Mercy. Loved it. Fascinating characters dealing with real-life, heart wrenching struggles. This story will bring tears to your eyes even while it makes you laugh. A definite thumbs up.


balloonsWe’re celebrating Brenda’s release over the next two weeks. Every time you leave a comment, your name will be entered in a special giveaway for an autographed copy of Chain of Mercy, a box of Fannie May chocolates, and Phillips Craig & Dean’s “Breathe In” CD.

Chain of Mercy Giveaway

“Easter Changed Everything”

Shannon here: Stacy Monson is having technical difficulties, so I posted this for her. Even though my picture will show up at the bottom as the author, I didn’t write this. I only posted it.

I’m always sad that Easter receives so little attention compared to Christmas. Oh, cute little bunnies abound, colored eggs are everywhere, and there’s chocolate galore. (Okay, so I’m not actually complaining about the chocolate.) But while Christmas is important, of course, it’s the Resurrection that made the difference for us. When Jesus rose from the dead, He provided a way out of the darkness, offering a lifeline to the future and giving us hope (as Kav pointed out yesterday). 

The Resurrection threw open the door to Heaven and welcomed us in. Without it, we were toast. God didn’t have to deliver us from ourselves, but He did. Jesus didn’t have to suffer and die on a cross, but He did. God didn’t have to raise Him from the dead on our behalf, but He did.

Easter changed everything. The Ultimate Sacrifice rocked an undeserving world. We went from…

Grief to Joy

Loss to Restoration

Tears to Laughter

Mourning to Rejoicing

Cowardice to Courage

Persecution to Preaching

Running away to Standing firm

Fear to Security

Emptiness to Overflowing

Hate to Love

Denial to Acceptance

Judgment to Forgiveness

Death to Life

Condemnation to Absolution

Ending to a Beginning

Despair to Hope

Separateness to Communion

Dying to Living

How can we not celebrate this most joyous and holy event with praise and worship – every day? He’s alive so we’re alive. Let’s keep the celebration going!

What Have I Been Up To, You Ask?

On my blog vacation, I’ve kept plenty busy – mainly just trying to stay warm through a ridiculously cold winter! I’ve been writing – fiction, nonfiction, websites, business letters… Yup, writing kept me pretty busy and pretty warm.

But what has truly warmed me all the way through is my very first granddaughter! So many people told me how much I’d love being a grandma, but it truly is one of those things you have to experience.

Day 3On Valentine’s Night, Kaira Mae Crist made her appearance after an amazingly short labor and delivery (under 3 hours). Did you know that if you deliver your first child that quickly, you have to give a urine sample? Apparently they check for hard drugs, which can speed up labor. Didn’t know that. Neither did my daughter, but she was happy to provide it.

Kaira was a solid 9lbs. 1 oz. Perfect in every way. Her name is pronounced ky-rah, which has been tricky for me since the book I’ve been editing has a heroine named Keira (pronounced keer-rah). I’ve done a lot of stuttering trying to make sure I’m using the right name!

Do I have pictures, you ask? Is the Pope Catholic??? I have a small photo album in my purse – AT ALL TIMES! But honestly, you have to ask to see them. I don’t believe I’ve whipped them out without someone asking first (okay, maybe only once or twice).

What a delight it’s been watching her grow and change in these first nearly eight weeks. From tiny, sleepy newborn to alert and tracking, and making us laugh with her toothless smile. I can’t hold her enough, see her enough, love her enough. What an absolute joy she is for my husband and me.

Mom and babyAnd an added bonus? Seeing our lovely daughter become a relaxed, confident, loving mom. She finds such joy in simply being with her daughter, it makes me smile. And my son-in-love adores both of his girls.

I’m anxious to see who our sweet Baby K will become, what special traits God has given her, and yet I don’t want her to grow up too fast. I want to savor every moment of this first grandchild.

So thank you for asking. I could talk for hours about her, but I’ll make my fingers stop typing. For now.  🙂

He matched her expression pretty accurately!
He matched her expression pretty accurately!

Here’s one last one of Kaira meeting my brother this past weekend, her great uncle Scott. Makes me laugh every time I see it!

Any special little ones in your life? I’d love to see pictures!

Introducing New Inkspy, Stacy Monson!

Here at Inkspirational Messages we’re thrilled to introduce you to our new member, Stacy Monson!

I met Stacy over two years ago when she volunteered to bring together an ACFW group for Minnesota. Under her leadership the group has grown exponentially. She’s been a phenomenal leader, encourager, and, best of all, a friend. She will bring a fun and unique voice to Inkspirational Messages–I’m so glad she’s joining us!

I’ll let Stacy tell you a bit more about herself …

Mike and I just celebrated our 30th anniversary. We now have three kids – two of our own and one in-law. Camry (25) and Nate were married a year ago and just put an offer on their first house. It’s hard to believe that round-cheeked baby girl is soon to be a homeowner! Our son Aaron (23) will finally conclude his college experience with student teaching in the fall of 2012. At 6’7″ he is definitely someone those elementary students look up to! My husband Mike has taught elementary physical education for 33 years. He takes his juggling program (“The Teaching Juggler”) to schools, daycare centers, church programs, etc., all summer long. He’s thrilled to have his own website now:

Some of our best family memories stem from long car rides – to both coasts, Canada, Florida, etc. As a family, our favorite vacation spot is Lake Tahoe.

For the first time in 29 years, we’re without a pet in our home. After 3 beloved golden retrievers and various cats, we’ve opted to go pet-less for the next few years as we spend more time on the road.

I’m passionate about writing stories that show an extraordinary God at work in the ordinariness of life. I work in community relations in aging services and enjoy speaking and writing about healthy living, life over 50, and the issues of dementia and Alzheimer’s. I’m currently president of MN-NICE (the first ACFW chapter in Minnesota) and am the Minnesota Area Director. I’m also an active member of My Book Therapy Voices, the Minnesota Christian Writer’s Guild, and several RWA chapters.

I’d love for you to stop by my website at

Thanks, Stacy! I even learned something new about you today!

To go along with the summer recipe theme, Stacy included a favorite. Sounds delicious!

Berry Clouds

Serves 6

1 package puff pastry shells (6 shells)

½ lb. fresh strawberries (washed, hulled and sliced)

¼ lb. fresh raspberries

¼ lb. fresh blackberries

2 teaspoons sugar + ¼ cup

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream

  • Bake shells as instructed on the box. When baked, remove the tops, reserve, and set aside tops and bottoms,
  • Combine the berries and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons sugar. Set aside.
  • Beat together the cream cheese, ¼ cup sugar and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the heavy cream on high until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate until chilled.
  • Fill each pastry shell with cream cheese filling.
  • Spoon berries evenly over cream cheese filling. Top with pastry top and a dollop of cream cheese mixture for garnish.

This is a yummy dessert that is also full of good nutrition including Vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants.

from Recipes from the Heart (Taste of Sunrise, Sunrise Senior Living)

An Introvert’s View of the ACFW National Conference

In the six plus years I’ve been writing, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and getting to know many an aspiring author. I’ve had a front row seat as many of these new friends have had their manuscripts requested, then signed with an agent, and finally earned their first publishing contract (not always in that order).

For me there’s no greater motivation to keep going, to keep learning, than through witnessing the success of others. If they can do it, so can I!

One of those friends is Stacy Monson. I met her a couple of years ago when she started our Minnesota chapter of ACFW, MN-NICE: Novelists Inspiring Christian Excellence. In the short period Stacy’s been writing seriously, she’s achieved phenomenal success, placing in a myriad of contests. Here’s a peek at the impressive list:

With that kind of resume, I don’t expect it will be long before we see Stacy’s name on the front cover of a book.

Stacy gives much of the credit for her successes to attending conferences so I’ve asked her to fill in for me today and share what she’s learned. You can also learn more about her at:


An Introvert’s View of the ACFW National Conference

by Stacy Monson

MN-NICE Members. I'm back row, far left.

St. Louis was my third ACFW national conference. The first, in Denver three years ago, was almost a bust from the start. I very nearly flew back to Minneapolis that very first evening. Conferences are not really my “thing,” but I’m glad I hung in there.

But let’s back up a moment. I’m one of those writers who has written literally “all of my life.” In high school (back in the roaring ‘70’s), I started
a story and spent most of my senior year passing it around to friends to tell me where the story should go next. It was a blast.

Fast forward several decades. I continued writing secretly over the years but never let anyone see what I was working on. I dreamed of being published but didn’t dare consider my work “good enough,” so I kept it to myself.

Then at age 49 (a few years ago), I happened upon an Oprah segment dealing with midlife opportunities (which is a much better way of looking at this time of life!). Women on her show had chucked what they’d been doing in exchange for what they really wanted to do. Writing, painting, opening a chocolate store (LOVED that idea), being a DJ, singing… By the end of the show, I knew I was being called to do something with my writing.

To say I was scared going alone to Denver would be a major understatement. The evening before the Early Bird session was my paid critique. Honestly? It was dreadful and I was sure I’d misheard the call to write. Obviously I wasn’t any good at it. My two roommates (whom I’d met just that afternoon) were gifts from God. They talked me off the ledge and convinced me to try to enjoy the workshops and learn as much as I could. By the time the conference was over, I’d learned a ton and agreed to start an ACFW chapter in Minnesota. Go figure.

With my agent Joyce Hart

Traveling to Indy the next year was a much better experience, starting with a 10-hour car ride with my new chapter-mate (and roommate), Brenda Anderson. I’d spent the year entering contests (and received wonderful feedback), and started up the new chapter. This time I even pitched to an agent and editor. The editor appointment again went woefully awry, but I was learning to laugh at the things that didn’t work and rejoice over what did. The appointment with the agent eventually led to my signing with her this past spring.

This year I traveled to St. Louis feeling much braver and better prepared. Growth is a wonderful thing! I met friends I’d only chatted with online, talked with friendly people over meals, learned tons of great info from workshops, and boogied with a wild crowd at the Pizza Party. I pitched to an editor who asked for proposals for both books. Wonderful news, to be sure, but it was only part of the experience. She may or may not like my proposals. But the people I met, the experience of being part of such a varied crowd wanting to serve God with their stories, the things I learned, the hugs I gave and received were the best and most lasting part.

Some people come away from the conference saying it was the BEST experience of their life. For me, it’s more like taking a college class. There are things to learn, notes to take, people to meet along the way. It’s an opportunity to stretch and grow as a writer and a woman of God. It’s a chance to push (or be pushed!) outside my comfort zone and strike up a conversation with a stranger at the lunch table. It’s a place to be re-energized, encouraged, and held accountable.

I’m so different from the woman who nearly bolted from Denver three years ago. I’m already wondering who I’ll be when I roll into Texas next September.