Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Who Could Save the Czar?


One hundred years ago, the Russian imperial family was murdered.

Not being a Russophile, I was unaware of the blame game going on as to whose fault it was that the Romanov family was killed. With all of the royal families in Europe being related, one of them should have whisked the family to safety.
England’s King George gets the biggest rap, but Germany’s Emperor Wilhelm seems to have been in a better position, since Germany was dictating terms in the war with Russia. Plus, most of the Romanov women had been German princesses.
Many factors made escape difficult, if not impossible: the war, the political alliances, personal antipathies, logistics, geography, and the weather. The Soviets wanted the tsar to pay for centuries of despotism; they weren’t going to let him go.
When one throne toppled, the others felt shockwaves. The kings had to protect their own thrones rather than assist the disposed. In any case, there was really only one window of opportunity for the Romanovs to leave, and that was before Nicholas abdicated.
The Romanovs didn’t want to leave Russia, in any case. They would have preferred death to being rescued by Germany. Brutal as it was, that’s what they got.
Recommended reading: The Race to Save the Romanovs  by Helen Rappaport

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

On the Arizona


In the local library’s semi-annual book sale, I found a prize: All the Gallant Men: Theh First Memoir by a USS Arizona Survivor. Everyone knows what happened at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. How much do you know about the sailors who manned the ships and what they experienced?


The Arizona shouldn’t have been at Pearl. It was scheduled to leave for the Bremerton, Washington, shipyard for an overhaul in late November. In late October, however, the ships were out on maneuvers and, on a very foggy October 22nd, the USS Oklahoma got out of sync and collided with the Arizona. The result was a hole “big enough to drive a hay truck through.” Time in drydock to patch the hole delayed the trip to Bremerton and on December 7th, the Arizona was still at Pearl.
Several bombs that hit the Arizona proved to be duds. But one bomb pierced four steel decks and exploded in an ammunition magazine. With a whoosh, the ship blew up in a series of explosions. Among the 1,177 sailors killed were all twenty-one members of the Arizona’s band.
The band members had attended the U.S. Navy School of Music where they studied ear training, harmony, and music theory, and had private instruction on their instruments. Eight bands had been assembled, graduated in May of 1941, and assigned to ships. Band #22 drew the Arizona. Three of the other bands also headed to battleships at Pearl: the California, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
Band #22 caught up with the Arizona on June 17 in San Pedro, California. Even before checking out their quarters, the band went topside and played a concert, stunning the ship’s crew. The previous band had been older and hadn’t trained to play jazz or modern dance music. The crew loved having a band that played music like the big bands back home.


Up and down Battleship Row on December 7, bands assembled on their fantails to play the national anthem during the raising of the flag at eight o’clock. The band on the Nevada jumped the gun and was already playing when the attack began. After a slight hesitation when the bandmaster noticed enemy planes strafing them, the band completed the anthem, then ran for their battle stations.
Battle station for the bandsmen was the ammunition hold. They manned the hoists to take ammunition to gun turret number two. Seamen placed cloth powder bags on the hoists and the bandsmen, standing in rows on each side of the hoists, made sure the 75-pound bags did not become dislodged or snagged. A spill of black powder would create a hazard if a spark ignited it.


At 8:06, the bomb penetrated the magazine. The bandsmen and over a thousand other sailors never had a chance.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Sound From the Past


While stopped on a bike ride to admire bleeding hearts, I heard a long-familiar sound. A brisk breeze caused waves to slap against a pontoon boat moored nearby. That tinny, hollow knock of water against boats is unmistakable.


My grandparents had a summer home in a trailer park. Located on the shore of Green Lake in Wisconsin, the little community had a long boathouse divided into individual stalls. My grandfather rented one slip for his boat.
One light bulb provided inadequate lighting. A narrow ledge across the front and along one side required nibble footing. The water was always black. Scary black. What was down there?
And, of course, spiders inhabited the closed space.
One year, the hoists didn’t let the boat down evenly and the back end of the boat sank into that dark water. The gas tank was undoubtedly contaminated. The way to empty the tank was to insert a hose and suck on it to siphon out the watered-down gas. The task left my dad with the taste of gasoline in his mouth. His remedy? Drink beer. Alcohol was never found in our home, so that made a lasting impression.
All these thoughts come back to me when I hear waves beat against boats. What sounds from your past do you remember?

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Linda Matchett's Story Sparks



Welcome to the Story Sparks Multi-author Blog Tour. May 21-26, 2018 readers get a chance to enter and win ebooks from six different authors. Linda Shenton Matchett is today’s featured author. One lucky winner will receive a copy Love’s Harvest. Today, Linda will be talking about History, Mystery, and Faith. Read on to discover what sparks Linda’s creativity and to enter the rafflecopter to win her heartwarming retelling of the biblical book of Ruth.



I’ve been making up stories since I was young. In fact, I recently found my notebooks from back then and had quite a laugh reading my childish scrawl and teenaged angst. Even then, my fertile imagination was apparent.

During interviews and speaking engagements I’m often asked where I get my ideas. The short answer is: I find them everywhere. But that’s not very informative, so I’ll let you in on my secret. I’m constantly on the lookout for “what-if” kernels-sparks, if you will.

For example, if I’m in a public location I people-watch. Not in a creepy, stalker kind of way, but rather “I wonder what those two people are talking about because one of them looks happy-sad-stressed-angry-insert-other-emotion.” In fact, I can usually lasso my husband into the game when he’s with me.

Other things that spark my imagination are newspaper or magazine articles, books or movies I think should have ended or been written differently, historical events, and incidents that happen to me, my family, or friends.

Here are the sparks for each of my books:

Love’s Harvest: I got the idea to write a modern retelling of Ruth from Francine Rivers’ book Redeeming Love which is based on the book of Hosea.

Love Found in Sherwood Forest: The Love Inspired line was open for submissions. They provided myriad locations and trios of objects from which authors could select. (e.g., England, arrows, flowers, and a secret passage or Virginia, a winery, an antique car, and a stolen painting). LI didn’t pick up my story, but another publisher did.

On the Rails: We visited the Grand Canyon about ten years ago where I learned about the Harvey Girls-young women who traveled from the East to be waitresses for the Fred Harvey Restaurant Company during the late 1800s and early 1900s. I was intrigued and did a bunch of research which led me to some of the women’s memoirs.

A Love Not Forgotten: I was asked by a publisher to write a story that culminated with a Spring wedding. While brainstorming, I saw a sitcom on which one of the characters was hit on the head resulting in amnesia.

A Doctor in the House: I read a book about the English country homes that were requisitioned by the government for use as barracks, hospitals, evacuee centers, etc. Combined with learning about Dr. Margaret Craighill, the first female Army doctor during WWII and reading accounts where the Americans were criticized for “being late to the last war, and late to this one,” I knew I had my story.

Under Fire: This is one of the first manuscripts I wrote, and it came about as a result of my coursework with Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers’ Guild and attendance at the Crimebake Mystery Writers’ Conference. Classes about brainstorming and panel discussions ignited several ideas that culminated in the eventual plot.

See how easy it is? Take a look around today, and make a list of how many sparks you find.





Linda Shenton Matchett is an author, journalist, and history geek. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry and has lived in historic places all her life. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and Sisters in Crime. Linda is also a volunteer docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and a trustee for her local public library.

Love’s Harvest:
Noreen Hirsch loses everything including her husband and two sons. Then her adopted country goes to war with her homeland. Has God abandoned her?

Rosa Hirsch barely adjusts to being a bride before she is widowed. She gives up her citizenship to accompany her mother-in-law to her home country. Can Rosa find acceptance among strangers who hate her belligerent nation?

Basil Quincey is rich beyond his wildest dreams, but loneliness stalks him. Can he find a woman who loves him and not his money?

Three people. One God who can raise hope from the ashes of despair.

Purchase Link: www.amazon.com/dp/B01DMB3ZX2

Friday, May 25, 2018

Story Sparks With Amber Schamel


Welcome to the Story Sparks multi-Author Blog Tour. Between May 21-26, 2018, readers get a chance to enter and win ebooks from six different authors. Today, Amber Schamel is the featured author. A lucky winner will win a copy of her 2018 Christian Indie Award winner, Solve by Christmas, PLUS she has a cover reveal to share. Read on to discover what sparks Amber’s creativity and to enter the rafflecopter to win her inspirational mystery with a Sherlock flare.


“Too many books, not enough time” is a two-fold saying for me. On one hand, there are so many good books to read, and on the other hand, there are so many ideas to write. For me, ideas come from everywhere. They can come from passing a mailbox, walking by an abandoned building, overhearing a conversation in the grocery store, day dreaming, reading the Scripture, or from history reading. Other times the idea is just dropped into my mind like a Valentine from God.

Usually though, the best ideas come from a combination of the above. With Solve by Christmas, the recent winner of the Christian Indie Award, I had a vague idea of a story. I wanted something with a tight timeframe that would create urgency. I’ve always loved detective stories, and those go perfectly with tight timeframes, so I started with that. From there, I wasn’t sure where to go…Then I thought, “What if Christmas was the deadline, and a Sherlock-ish detective had to stop some tragic event BY CHRISTMAS?”

From there, I didn’t really know where to go. Until the next piece dropped into my mind and stuck like a burr to a wool sock. What if the case the detective had to solve, wasn’t a case like he was thinking at all? What if he had to come up with a “case” for a loved one to continue living?

The Lord had given me an issue to address, and I knew it would be a hard one to pull off.

From there, I hit the history books. Researching the time period and location, I found all kinds of great information that added to the story depth. Such as the labor and Union wars in Denver during the 1910’s, which added great opportunities for tension and villains. Then the infanthood of detective work added to my character’s difficulty and need to prove himself. Researching organized crime and the development of the major detective agencies formed the backstory that drives Detective Jasper Hollock, even though it isn’t seen on stage in the book.

When sabotage threatens the Rudin Sugar Factory, Detective Jasper Hollock believes this will be his first real case. But dear Mr. Rudin—the only father Jasper has ever known—holds a different assignment for his private investigator.

“I’ve struck a deal with God, Jasper, and you’re my angel.”

Mr. Rudin charges Jasper to build a “case” of reasons for his employer to continue his life. If he fails, Mr. Rudin will end it in suicide on Christmas night.

As the incidents at the factory become life threatening, Jasper’s attempts at dissuading Mr. Rudin prove futile, and Jasper is left staring at the stark reality of his own soul. Time is ticking. Jasper must solve both cases by Christmas before Mr. Rudin, the company, and Jasper’s faith, are dragged to perdition. Will this be the Christmas Jasper truly discovers what makes life worth living?
So, for Solve by Christmas, I guess you could say that it was a series of sparks that resulted in that story. Kinda like one of those fireworks that has multiple explosions.

History is one of my favorite places to look for inspiration, and I always hit the books when I come to writer’s block, even during a story. I love it so much, that I’m actually getting ready to release my very first non-fiction work, 12 Sisters Who Changed History. And today I’m revealing the cover! Would ya’ll like to see it?


I was researching Jane Austen and some other great heroines of history when the idea for Sisters Who Changed History came to me. Being the second born of twelve children, siblings are often on my mind. All the time we are taught of famous individuals and the impact that they had, but what about those that were sisters and how they influenced the world? A blog series was born, which then developed into a book of its own. The book will be releasing July 17th!

Thanks for joining us today. Here’s the link to the Rafflecopter Giveaway.

Let me know what you think of the cover, and the oddest places that you have found inspiration in your life!

Two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".  She lives in Colorado and spends half her time volunteering in the Ozarks. Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at www.AmberSchamel.com/ and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Story Sparks for Catherine Castle



Welcome to the Story Sparks multi-author blog tour. Between May 21-26, 2018 readers get a chance to enter and win ebooks from six different authors. Today Catherine Castle is the featured author. Catherine’s winner may choose an ebook from any of her three books listed above on her book spine. Today Catherine will talk about the story sparks that started each of these books rolling. Read on to discover what inspires Catherine’s creativity and to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.


Hi, everyone!
I began my writing journey as a stringer for a local weekly newspaper. The hardest thing about that job was finding ideas to write about. I was in Writer Heaven when the editor called with a story idea. It was like getting a bright, shiny gift topped with a beautiful ribbon. The problem was those editorial gifts didn’t come in as fast as I wanted them to when I first started writing. So, I had to figure out where to find more ideas to write about. And of course, the burning question back then was, “How do I find an idea?”

It’s also the question most people ask me when they find out I’m a writer. Now I know the answer. J

After I published my first book, a multi-award-winning inspirational romantic suspense titled The Nun and the Narc , my daughter bought me a tee-shirt that read Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel. I’m not sure if she knew how true that quote is, but I suspect she did, because whenever I’d hear, see, or read something interesting, she heard me say, “There’s a story somewhere in that.” For me story ideas are everywhere and within everyone.  I find story spark ideas in: the things I’m interested in, in other stories, in the news, in things people do, in things people say, at museums, in places I visit, in places other people visit, in magazines, and even through the tidbits of information on the backs of cereal boxes.

The Nun and the Narc originally started with the heroine as a missionary to Mexico building houses for the poor. I’d been working on some news articles about Habitat for Humanity for the newspaper, which probably spurred the original story plot. But the story wasn’t working for me. I couldn’t get my head wrapped around the missionary heroine. Then a critique partner suggested I consider making the heroine a novice in the Catholic Church.  Now, I am fascinated by nun stories. “The Sound of Music” is my favorite musical, and I loved the television series “The Flying Nun.” As a stringer for the local newspaper, I interviewed a nun who left the order to marry, and, in real life, I knew a nun who had also left the convent to marry. I do admit to having a curiosity about how those women dealt with leaving the convent, and I think part of that curiosity spurred my story.


The Nun and the Narc

Where novice Sister Margaret Mary goes, trouble follows. When she barges into a drug deal the local Mexican drug lord captures her. To escape she must depend on undercover DEA agent Jed Bond. Jed’s attitude toward her is exasperating, but when she finds herself inexplicable attracted to him he becomes more dangerous than the men who have captured them, because he is making her doubt her decision to take her final vows. Escape back to the nunnery is imperative, but life at the convent, if she can still take her final vows, will never be the same.

Nuns shouldn’t look, talk, act, or kiss like Sister Margaret Mary O’Connor—at least that’s what Jed Bond thinks. She hampers his escape plans with her compulsiveness and compassion and in the process makes Jed question his own beliefs. After years of walling up his emotions in an attempt to become the best agent possible, Sister Margaret is crumbling Jed’s defenses and opening his heart. To lure her away from the church would be unforgivable—to lose her unbearable.

 Although the book was a hard sell—the Christian market doesn’t usually like you to name denominations—the story was so intriguing to me, because of my interest in nuns, that I wrote it anyway, knowing it might never leave my hard drive. It was a book of my heart—inspired by my own interests and my feature stories for the newspaper.

My second book, a sweet romantic comedy with a touch of drama entitled A Groom for Mama, got its inspiration from a radio play my husband and I wrote years ago, entitled a “Bride for Mama.” The original play finaled in the contest, but my hubby and I never did anything more with it. When I was searching for something new to write, I remembered the radio play. I asked my husband if he minded it I took the original premise—a dying mother wants her son to find a bride before she leaves this earth—and turned the plot on its ear, creating a new story. He agreed and A Groom for Mama was born. I found inspiration in another story.

A Groom For Mama

Beverly Walters is dying, and before she goes she has one wish—to find a groom for her daughter. To get the deed done, Mama enlists the dating service of Jack Somerset, Allison’s former boyfriend.

The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness.

A cross-country trip from Nevada to Ohio ensues, with a string of disastrous dates along the way, as the trio hunts for treatment and A Groom For Mama.

My most recent release, a contemporary inspirational romance entitled Bidding on the Bouquet, was ripped from an internet headline about a bride who was making her wedding attendants bid for places in her bridal party. My story, however, bears little resemblance to the news story. With plot twists and character changes I created a new story. All I needed was spark of an idea provided by the Bridezilla who wanted to get money for her wedding.


Bidding on the Bouquet

The chance to catch a bridal bouquet containing a solid gold rose makes underprivileged, down-on-her-luck grad student Marietta Wilson pawn everything she owns to come up with a bid to win a bridesmaid spot in the most prestigious wedding of the season.

When he discovers his sister is auctioning off bridesmaid spots in her wedding party, wealthy, elitist Chip Vandermere is appalled. Not only is it in poor taste, but no self-respecting lady would stoop so low as to bid. Convinced Marietta is a gold digger, Chip sets out to thwart her plans.

A social climber and a social misfit. Can a bridal bouquet unite them?


So, you might want to be careful the next time you ask a writer, “Where do you get your story ideas?” They might just say, “Why, from you, of course.” Because everything is fodder for the imagination of a writer.  


Thanks for coming by today and don’t forget to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win books from these six authors: Carole Brown, Catherine Castle, Linda Matchett, Amber Schamel, Terri Wangard, and Jodie Wolfe.

About the Author:
Multi-award-winning author Catherine Castle loves writing, reading, traveling, singing, theatre, and quilting. She’s a passionate gardener whose garden won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club. She writes sweet and inspirational romances. You can find her books The Nun and the Narc, A Groom for Mama, Bidding on the Bouquet  and Trying Out for Love boxed set on Amazon. Connect with Catherine on her website and blog, FB, or Twitter @AuthorCCastle


Embedded links for those who can’t embed
Buy links:
The Nun and the Narc www.amzn.com/B00CHU9DH2
A Groom for Mama  www.amzn.com/B074SZSGB1 
Bidding on the Bouquet   https://www.amzn.com/B077X1RZ6X
Trying Out for Love  https://www.amzn.com/dp/B078SDRHP9

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorCCastle    @AuthorCCastle







Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Creating a Family to Be Proud Of


Welcome to the Story Sparks multi-Author Blog Tour. Between May 21-26, 2018, readers get a chance to enter and win ebooks from six different authors. Today, Terri Wangard is the featured author. A lucky winner will win her Friends & Enemies. Terri will be talking about “Creating a Family to be Proud Of.” Read on to discover what sparks Terri’s creativity and to enter the rafflecopter to win her heartwarming book.


A batch of forgotten letters was found in my grandmother’s house. Written in 1947 and 1948, they came from distant cousins in Germany. My grandparents and other relatives had been sending them care packages. My great-great-grandfather immigrated to Wisconsin in the 1870s, as did two brothers. A fourth brother remained in Germany, and these letters came from his grandchildren.

The family in the letters would be the perfect subject around which to craft a story. Research revealed life in Nazi Germany as increasingly grim before the war even started. The letters provide a fascinating glimpse of life in war torn Germany, but nothing about the war years. How had the family coped? I turned to the internet and searched on the family’s factory name. I found it all right, in a list of German companies that used slave labor. I wanted my family to be the good guys, but that hope grew shaky.

Contact had ceased in 1948 after the German currency reform, and with their silence in the letters, many questions couldn’t be answered. Why had they refrained from any mention of their thoughts and activities during Hitler’s regime? Desire to forget? Shame of the vanquished? Concern the American family wouldn’t help if they knew the truth?

The family consisted of a brother, his wife, and three young children, and a sister and her husband, and their “old gray mother,” who turned 66 in 1947. Another brother languished as a prisoner of war in Russia, not returning home until 1949, I learned from the German department for the notification of next of kin. The sister and her bridegroom had lived in Canada for five years, returning to Germany in 1937 because she was homesick. They were bombed out of their homes and lived in their former offices, temporarily fixed up as a residence. Before the war, they employed about one hundred men, but in 1947, had fewer than forty-five, with no coal, electricity, or raw materials to work with.

My imagination took over. The family, not the newlyweds, came to Wisconsin. Because a critiquer scorned someone returning to Hitler’s Germany due to homesickness, I gave them a more compelling reason when I rewrote the story. The grandfather had died and the father had to return to take over the factory, much to the daughters’ dismay, who loved their new life in America.

Of course, they did not support Hitler. Because their factory had to produce armaments and meet quotas imposed on them, they had no choice in accepting Eastern European forced laborers, Russian POWs, and Italian military internees.

The older daughter (my main character) took pride in committing acts of passive resistance. Now a war widow, she hid a downed American airman, an act punishable by execution. When they were betrayed, a dangerous escape from Germany ensued.

Maybe the family did support Hitler. Many did before realizing his true colors. My version probably doesn’t come close to the truth, especially concerning the daughter. The real daughter was twelve years old in 1947. No matter. This is fiction, and this is a family I can be proud of.


Friends & Enemies
Aiding downed enemy airmen is punishable by death in Nazi Germany,
but he’s an old friend. How much will she risk to help him?
A World War II novel. http://amzn.to/2eGJeoR

Terri Wangard’s first Girl Scout badge was the Writer. Holder of a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in library science, she lives in Wisconsin. Her research included going for a ride in a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. Classic Boating Magazine, a family business since 1984, keeps her busy as an associate editor.