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Wednesday, March 27, 2013


About the author, Johnnie Alexander Donley:  Author Johnnie Alexander Donley writes stories of suspense, intrigue, and romance set in World War II. Her debut novel, Where Treasure Hides, won the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest for Historical Fiction in 2011. A history enthusiast, Johnnie has also edited nonfiction manuscripts and textbooks. She is a founding member and current president of the ACFW Central Florida chapter. A longtime Florida resident, Johnnie treasures family memories, classic movies, road trips, stacks of books, and her papillon Rugby.

About the book, Where Treasure Hides:  Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life. Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow. As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?

And now . . . behind the book:

A Tale of Two Writers

Let me tell you the story of two writers I know very well. One is my daughter Bethany; the other is me.

In 2009, the third year I attended the Florida Christian Writers Conference, I won the Writer of the Year Award.

In 2012, the first year Bethany attended the FCWC, she won the Writer of the Year Award.

In 2010, the fourth year I attended the FCWC, I met an agent who referred me to her colleague who signed me as a client.

In 2012, the first year Bethany attended the FCWC, she met an agent who signed her as a client a couple months later.

Last summer, my agent called with the great news that Tyndale wanted to publish my novel.

The month before I got that call, Bethany had a great call from her agent. Regal wanted to publish her nonfiction book.

My book released in January.

Bethany’s book releases in April.

I know the sting of rejection.

Bethany hasn’t received a single one.

Our similar yet different writing journeys are bound by this truth: God has set our feet in a spacious place.

Several years ago, this phrase from Psalm 31 entered my heart and captured my imagination. The entire verse reads:

“You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place” (Psalm 31:8; NIV).

At the time, I was struggling with my writing dreams and goals, desperately seeking direction and affirmation.

God’s still, small voice whispered to me through this verse. I did not need to be afraid, but only patient. He had set my feet in a spacious place – a place of opportunity and of promise.

Intrigued, I looked up “spacious place” on the Blue Letter Bible website. The Hebrew word is merchab and is defined as “broad or roomy place, wide, expanses.” The site says the word is often metaphorically “used of liberty and welfare.”

Your writing journey may resemble my ups-and-downs, or it may resemble Bethany’s swift success.

But it will not be the same as either.

Your writing journey will be uniquely and purposefully yours.

For God has set your feet in a spacious place.

A place expansive enough for many different experiences and many different stories.

How has God set your feet in a spacious place, place of liberty or welfare?

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Sunday, March 24, 2013


Six years or so ago, four authors were aiming to write cozy mysteries for Barbour. Along the way, they came up with a novella idea which they cleverly named CAT Christmas. "Celebrate Any Time" became "Christmas at Barncastle Inn," published by Barbour in 2011.

At the Barncastle Inn in Castlebury, Vermont, guests could request for a Christmas experience in the era of their choice. We wrote about World War II, medieval times, a pirate Christmas, and the very first Christmas. Christmas at Barncastle Inn is still available for purchase in print and as an e-book.

All along the four of us wanted to write about other holidays. So we decided to venture into new territory: write a series of novellas to celebrating holidays and other special events through all twelve months of the year.  We would publish them as separate e-books.

Today our dream has become a reality: Spring Comes to Barncastle Inn by Lynette Sowell is up at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.  Next month we'll see Revolution at the Barncastle Inn by Susan Page Davis. My book, Barncastle Memorial, will go up in May.

Spring Comes to Barncastle Inn: Sadie Barncastle finds herself in rural Vermont, starting over and opening up a shop at the family inn. She meets up with an old friend from childhood, Peter Appleman, a widower next door with a precocious daughter. As Easter approaches, a time of forgiveness, restoration, and joy, the two realize that it's also a time for new beginnings, but does that include with each other?

Here's a short word about the next two offerings: 

Revolution at Barncastle Inn by Susan Page Davis:  Lily’s sister organizes a Patriot’s Day vacation at the Barncastle, with the entire week’s activities set in Revolutionary War days. Lily’s husband was killed in Afghanistan two years ago, and she’s found it hard to move on. But one of the “Redcoat” officers quartered at the inn makes a special connection with Lily and her son. They’re enemies for the week—but will they be allies for life?

Barncastle Memorial by Darlene Franklin: Gloria Barncastle’s visit with her family in Castlebury turns into a “This is Your Life” event, celebrating her years with her now deceased husband Gerry. As Gerry’s friend and cousin, widower Ted Barncastle plays a key role in the reenactments. Can Gloria and Ted let go of old memories and present grief to form a true Barncastle Reunion?

For background on the Barncastle Inn and its history, check out Christmas at Barncastle Inn, available both in print and ebook format.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

BEHIND THE BOOK with Sherri Johnson

Meet Sherri Johnson:  
Sherri Wilson Johnson lives in Georgia with her husband and two children. She is represented by Les Stobbe, is a member of the ACFW, a graduate of the Christian Writers Guild writing course, an active blogger, and a former homeschooling mom. She loves to dream of romantic places and romance in general–good, clean romance. She is a bird-watcher, loves the ocean, roller coasters, ice cream, her family and her Chihuahua, who faithfully sits by her side every day when she writes. Sherri is the author of To Dance Once More (OakTara) and Song of the Meadowlark (OakTara).

And now . . . Behind the Book:

How Writing Has Changed Me
There have been times (too many to count) that I’ve blurted out whatever was on my mind and I didn’t really care about who might be affected by my words. Since becoming a published author, I’ve realized that all things rolling around in my head don’t necessarily need to be spoken—especially not before sifting them through my filter. Some things are best left unsaid or maybe best if they are fictionalized.
Writing, to me, is a way to say things that often have to go unspoken in real life, things that might hurt someone if they’re said. It gives me the opportunity to say whatever it is I’m thinking without actually saying it, to examine my thoughts and my heart before I put it out there for others to read. Writing is a beautiful form of expression when it’s tempered with discernment.

Being a writer has given me a way to share my faith with others when I might otherwise be a bit shy about doing it. It allows someone into my heart and mind. Some writers write simply to entertain and not to offer encouragement, instruction, or any type of guidance to readers. After all, readers want to escape the realities of this world. They want to believe that good conquers evil. That’s where the beauty of fiction comes in. It can be an escape. It can be fun. It can take the imagination to unimaginable places. It can also be a writer’s limitless opportunity to bring joy into someone else’s life, if only for a moment, and to offer hope. Fiction allows me to create a messy scenario and then fix it, which is something I can’t often do in real life (especially if it’s a real-life person that I want to fix).

As a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, I gladly take on the responsibility to make sure that my readers walk away from reading my books or my blog posts feeling encouraged, entertained, challenged—but never led astray. I want readers to be able to recommend my books with confidence. I want readers to come back for more. The way I do this is to take on the responsibility of writing with a moral and spiritual compass, knowing that my readers will hold me accountable.

In short, being a published author has changed me because I am more aware now than ever before of the effect my words have on people. I certainly haven’t mastered the art of holding my tongue or of making sure that harsh words never come out of my mouth, but I do try to stay on the right path. Being a writer gives me that chance to filter out the things that don’t need to be heard. No matter what topic I’m writing about, I want to let God's light shine through me, like it says in Philippians 2:15 (Shine like stars in a crooked and depraved generation).

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Ruminations on the holiday.

Today the activities director at the nursing home where I live asked us, "Who knows why we celebrate St. Patrick's Day, or who he was?"

I was surprised that no one knew. So to fill in the gaps, let me just say that Patrick was a fourth-century missionary who brought the good news of Christ to Ireland. March 17th is his "saint's day," in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar.

My grandmother's mother was Irish, so I have a bit of the blarney in me myself. I was always proud of being Irish, although Grandma seemed a little embarrassed by the fact. I wish I knew the story of my Irish greatgrandmother and my Norwegian greatgrandfather, and how those two immigrants met and fell in love in Florida, of all places. But I don't, except that they married and had two children before succumbing to TB.

Since my children were born on March 14 and 16, they inevitably had St. Patrick-themed birthday cakes (the same way that my August birthday always has some summer-picnic-beach themed cake). Anyone else out there a fan of Watergate cake? White or yellow cake with pistachio added into the cake better and the frosting.

I'm wearing a small amount of green today (I don't have any solid green clothes).

I went through a Leon Uris spell in my early adulthood. He introduced me to the power of historical fiction. After I read his book, Trinity, I wondered how Ireland will ever find peace. I fell in love with Michael Flaherty's flying feet, Lord of the Dance. In terms of favorite Irish movies, the closest I could come is Rudy, about the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

I've never drunk green beer or marched in a parade, but I am proud of my Irish heritage.

I'll end today's post with the lyrics of one of my favorite hymns, which happens to be an Irish hymn, "Be Thou My Vision."

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Words: Dallan Forgail (8th Century)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Please welcome Jim Callan to Behind the Book.

After a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans, James R. Callan turned to his first love—writing.  He wrote a monthly column for a national magazine for two years, and published several non-fiction books.  He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mysteries, with his fourth book released in February, 2013.


A number of years back, I decided I wanted to write a book where the protagonist was involved in information retrieval.  I had done a little research in that area while working on a Ph.D. and have a son who is a professor directing research in the area of information retrieval. I thought it might be fun to incorporate some of that in a novel.

Then a couple of years ago, I read an old Texas folk tale about a wagon load of precious metal being pushed into a lake to avoid having it captured by the Mexican army.  I began to wonder, how an old folk tale could affect the lives of people today. 

Eventually, I connected these two ideas and the result was a 95,000 word mystery/suspense which I called A Ton of Gold.  It is a contemporary novel, although the prologue brings in the old folk tale dated around 1834. 

Of course, I added a subplot so that the heroine, Crystal Moore, has not one but two big problems to deal with.  Actually, there is a third problem, but it is not on the scale of the other two.  It was a fun novel to write because I introduce three interesting characters who, in different ways, help Crystal.  One is a former bull rider, now owner of the informational retrieval company where Crystal works.  One is a streetwise housemate for Crystal.  So, while Crystal is brilliant in her field, her housemate is wise in other areas, and often is teaching Crystal.  And last, but certainly not the least, is Crystal’s 76 year-old grandmother, Crystal’s only remaining family.  She lives on a 320 acre tract in the middle of a forest, has a will of steel and sees things very clearly. 

While Crystal learns a lot from these three, so did I.  In developing these characters, I found myself immersed in their view of the world. Each of the three has a different point of reference, a different attitude, a different reaction to the events occurring. It looked a bit diverse from what I saw through Crystal’s eyes.  And in looking at the situations from varying angles, I broadened my personal view.  So, I learned as I wrote. 

This often happens.  One writes about a subject and in doing so, learns more about it.  It is seldom, and probably never, that I write a book and don’t learn, or develop a different feeling, about something.  That’s one of the advantages of writing, one that is often overlooked.  Not only does writing keep the mind sharp, but it expands the range of knowledge or understanding.  That’s just another benefit, which goes with the joy, of writing. 

Links to purchase A Ton of Gold: 

Purchase links for A Ton of Gold;

 at Oak Tree Press

on Amazon         

on Amazon -Kindle

Sunday, March 10, 2013


This is officially "the week," when Jolene died, when Jaran and Jolene have their birthdays.

This week I heard from a dear friend. She passed a prayer request from another friend. The woman had twin children; her son, I believe, died in a tragic car accident days before his birthday. She said, "I knew you would understand."

Oh, my, yes. For those of you out there who have lost a child. I understand.
For those of you who have lost someone close to suicide. I understand.

I mention it now, just to say, if you ever want to talk, need someone to listen, to pray--feel free to contact me. One of the greatest purposes in our suffering is to pass the comfort I have received on to others.

Maybe it's the pain of losing Ray. Or the dream of Ray.

Maybe it's the time of year.

Maybe it's the hard work facing me. Instead of falling over my proposal with exclamations of  "This is the best thing ever! Publishers will snap it up!", my agent said "This has a lot of potential. Write two more chapters."

Okaayy.  When. I am at the point when I have to write my May novella and June novel, and the nonfiction book takes study and thought and slow writing.

Whatever the cause, I am more tired than usual, and not working fast nor well.  However, in this, too, God is with me. Pray for God's will, and my peace.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Julie Jarnagin grew up in a rural community where her family farmed and raised cattle, inspiring her to set much of her fiction in small towns. She earned a B.A. in Journalism/Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma, and she is a member of America Christian Fiction Writers. Her articles have appeared in local and national publications. Through her writing, she hopes to share stories that inspire readers through reflecting God’s love. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband, Kevin, and their energetic young son. Her series of inspirational romance novels, Canyon Walls, Canyon Crossing, and Canyon Cafe, were published by Barbour Publishing. Connect with Julie at,, and


Canyon Walls

Sunset Camp changed Cassie’s life, and she is determined to keep it from bankruptcy.

As the family real estate firm is approached about brokering the sale of the camp, Will Overman is given an opportunity to finalize this deal and move up the ranks of the family business. But as Will falls in love with the camp—and Cassie—the deal doesn’t seem so cut-and-dried.

Can Will help Cassie save the camp and win her heart, too?


The summer after sixth grade, I attended my first week of church camp. I returned to that camp every year until I graduated high school. I loved everything about it and always looked forward to my week. I enjoyed learning more about God, meeting new people, staying in the cabins, and participating in activities like swimming and hiking.

After my freshman year of college, I didn’t want to go back to my tiny hometown for the summer, so I applied for a job cleaning cabins and cooking cafeteria food at my beloved camp. It wasn’t the most glamorous job, but I was excited to spend a few months in one of my favorite places in the world.

I could have never known that the man I would later spend my life with and start a family with would show up as a camp counselor. Kevin and I established a friendship that week, and a few weeks after he’d gone back home, he drove back down to the camp to take me out on our first date.

When I decided I wanted to write a romance novel, I couldn’t think of a better setting than the place where my own love story began. Cassie and Will’s story is very different than our love story, but they share the camp setting and the undeniable hand of God in bringing two people together.

When I’m having a blast writing a new romance and creating my characters’ journeys toward love, I wonder how much God must love designing our real-life love stories. Better yet, the Lord loves us more than any love story we can read about or experience during our time here on earth. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013


A few weeks ago I sang with great joy about the love God brought into my life.

 Today I come before you, heart-broken. I learned that the man who proclaimed his love for me, to whom I freely gave my love, is married although separated. 

I know grief. . .and the symptoms of a roiling stomach, an exhausted mind, aching joints and a heavy heart are familiar companions.  So at the moment, I cling to God, to His goodness, His love. He is my lifeline when everything around me shakes. 

Out of my pain, I offer a beautiful hymn by Charles Wesley.  I would love to hear from you, favorite verses or hymns that you turn to in times of grief and sorrow. 

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.
--Charles Wesley