Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Merry Christmas! I have a special Christmas gift for you--a brand-new Pleasant Valley short story, free. A PLEASANT VALLEY CHRISTMAS features Leah, from the first book in the Pleasant Valley series, LEAH'S CHOICE, and her growing family as they celebrate a somewhat stressful Christmas. To read it, head on over to my website at You'll see the story link on the first page.

Wishing you a very happy Christmas. My husband and I will be celebrating with our kids and grandkids!


Friday, December 7, 2012

HOME BY DARK excerpt

HOME BY DARK, the first book in my new Amish suspense series, will be available in stores and online on December 18th.

Here's a sample:


The deserted barn loomed ahead of them, broken beams jutting up toward the darkening sky like menacing fingers. Benjamin Mason shivered, and the gas cans Will had made him carry clanked together.

Will’s head jerked around at the sound. “Keep it quiet.” His voice was a low mutter of Pennsylvania Dutch. “You want to get us arrested?”

“Told you we shouldn’t‘ve brought him.” Joseph Stoltz frowned at him. Both the older boys wore Englisch clothes, and they’d snickered at Benj for showing up dressed Amish.

All very well for them to put on jeans and tee shirts. They were both old enough to have started their rumspringa, and parents turned a blind eye to such clothes then. But he was only fourteen, and Daad would skin him if he found Benj in a get-up like that.

He shivered again, half with cold, half with fear of where this adventure was taking him. It grew chilly at night this early in June, especially out here on the wooded hillside. He hadn’t thought to bring a jacket when he’d crawled out his window and slid down the roof of the woodshed. He’d been too excited that Will and Joseph were letting him come along to think about that.

Now his mind was churning, and he didn’t like what it was telling him. That it was a mistake for him to get involved, that he’d be shaming Daad and Mammi, that—

A loud creak sounded through the trees, and Benj didn’t need Will Esch’s gesture to drop to his knees behind the closest fallen log. Another sound from up ahead, one that he couldn’t identify. Why would anyone be up here in the woods overlooking Deer Run at night? Nobody’d be interested in that falling down barn.

Nobody but Will, who figured it would make a fine blaze up there on top of the hill for the whole village to see. Benj eased his hands away from the gas cans and rubbed clammy palms on his pants. He should of had better sense.

Will leaned over. “I’ll go check it out,” he whispered. “Wait for my signal, ja?”

With Will’s eyes on him, Benj could only nod. Too late now for second thoughts.

Will slipped over the log and slithered through the trees toward the barn. Benj leaned against the rough bark, wishing he was home in his bed. Will was moving quickly—Benj could see him, a dark shadow weaving through the trees. He’d be at the barn in a minute.

Benj turned away, sliding down to sit on the ground. In no time they’d hear Will whistle. Benj would have no choice but to pick up the gas cans and go along. Will was right about one thing. That dry old wood would make a fine blaze. But if they got caught…

He’d never seen an Englisch jail, but it seemed a pretty fair guess he wouldn’t like it.

“What’s taking so long?” Joseph muttered, peering over the log. “I can’t see him—“

He broke off at the sound of a motor. Lights swept through the trees, and Benj’s heart stopped. A vehicle was coming up the old logging road toward the barn. If Will was seen—

A man’s voice, shouting. Then, incredibly, a shotgun cracked through the woods, sending crows lifting in a noisy cloud from the trees. Benj was frozen, wits dazed by the sound.

And then Will vaulted over the log, shoving him with a hard hand. “Run,” he ordered.

Benj scrambled to his feet, following Will, with Joseph a step behind him, bolting through the brush. Another report, a branch crashing to the ground, and he was running as hard and fast as he could, running as if the devil himself were at his heels, crashing through the undergrowth heading down the hill and toward the road, if they got to the road they’d be safe, no one would shoot there—

An eternity later they stumbled out onto the macadam of the road that wound through Deer Run. Across the way was Mason House, where his sister Rachel lived now. He could go to Rachel, he could tell her—

Will grabbed his arm, shook him. “Where’s the cans?”

Benj blinked, then jerked his head toward the hillside. “Back there.”

“Dummy.” Will shoved him. “Ach, they can’t tell who we were from that. All we’ve gotta do is keep quiet.”

Joseph, always more cautious than Will, moved nervously. “But they were shooting. We should—“

“You should be quiet, like I tell you,” Wills snarled. “You didn’t see anything, you don’t say anything, not to anyone. Got that?”

He spun, grabbing Benj by the shirt. “Answer me. You got that?”

Benj nodded. He hadn’t seen anything--that was for sure. Just a dark shape, wielding what had to be a shotgun. And right now he didn’t know whether he was more afraid of Will or the man with the gun.

 Chapter One

Something was wrong with her little brother. Rachel Mason Mason swept the paint roller along the wall of what would be the registration area for her bed and breakfast, darting a sideways glance at her brother Benjamin.

Benjamin knelt on the drop-cloth, straw-colored hair hiding his eyes, as he carefully cut in the edge of cream paint next to the woodwork. Benj might only be fourteen, but like most Amish youth, he possessed a number of practical skills, along with a strong work ethic. He’d said he’d help her with the painting, and he’d turned up bright and early this morning for what he called a work frolic.

Rachel suppressed a faint twinge at the expression. With any ordinary Amish family, a dozen or more relatives would have shown up at the word she needed help with the house her mother-in-law had so surprisingly left her.

But she was not Amish any longer. Running away to marry Ronnie Mason at eighteen, leaving behind her home, her family, and her faith, had put a period to that part of her life. Even though she’d come back to Deer Run in the end, a widow with a nine-year-old daughter to support, she couldn’t expect to be treated as anything other than an outsider.

“New paint makes it look better, for sure.” Benj sat back on his heels, glancing up at her with eyes as blue as her own.

Innocent eyes, but holding an edge of worry that didn’t belong there. Benj shouldn’t be jumping at sudden sounds and glancing warily around corners. That wasn’t normal.

“Was ist letz?” The question came out without conscious thought in Pennsylvania Dutch, maybe because that was the language of her heart. “What’s wrong, Benj? Are you worried about something?”

His hand jerked, depositing a drop of cream paint on the woodwork, and he bent to wipe it off with concentrated care. Benj was outgrowing the blue shirt he wore, his wrists sticking out of the sleeves, and the back of his neck was as vulnerable as Mandy’s.

“Worried?” he said finally, not looking at her. “I got nothing to worry about, ain’t so?” He tried to make it sound light, but his voice shook a little.

Rachel wanted to touch his shoulder, to draw him into her arms for comforting the way she would have when he was four. But she’d left then, abandoning him as she had the rest of the family. The fact that he seemed willing to start fresh with her didn’t mean she could go back to the way things once were.

“I don’t want to pry,” she said, choosing the words carefully. “But if you ever want to tell me anything at all, I can keep it to myself.”

Benj seemed frozen, brush poised an inch from the wall. She held her breath, willing him to speak.

 Don't forget to order  your copy today!

Friday, November 2, 2012


The big scavenger hunt winners will have received their notifications by now, so I'll go ahead with my announcement. The winner of the four-book Amish suspense series is

Because we had so many entrants, I've decided to send another five individual books to the following:;,;; and

I'll be sending individual emails to the winners. If you see your name here and don't receive an email from me within the next day asking for your mailing address, please feel free to go ahead and send your mailing address to me at

Congratulations! I hope everyone enjoyed the hunt!


Thursday, October 25, 2012


Follow the clues to win a Kindle Fire, free books and more!

 WELCOME to the Fall Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt! The hunt begins on October 25th at noon MDT and ends October 28th at midnight MDT. You don’t have to do it all at once—take your time and enjoy visiting thirty-one Christian fiction authors. You’ll meet authors with new or soon-to-be-released novels and read special bonus material at each stop. Collect the clues in red on each post, beginning from Stop #1 ( and at Stop #32, fill out the Rafflecopter form. Be ready to provide the completed clue quote, gathered from all 31 stops, within 24 hours of email notification or another winner will be randomly drawn. No need to email/submit it, unless you are notified on 10/29/12.

·         Grand Prize: A new Kindle Fire, plus 31 new novels

·         2nd & 3rd Prizes: $50 Amazon, B&N, CBD or gift certificate

·         (Contest is open to international entrants. If the winner lives outside the United States, they shall win the equivalent in gift certificate funds to the prize in US dollars.)


Meet Ronie Kendig, my guest today.

Christy Award winning author Ronie Kendig grew up an Army brat and married a veteran. Her life is never dull in a family with four children and three dogs. She has a degree in psychology, speaks to various groups, volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and mentors new writers. Rapid-Fire Fiction, her brand, is exemplified through her novels. She’s here today to talk about her latest book.



A year ago in Afghanistan, Green Beret Heath Daniel's career was destroyed. Along with his faith.

Though his passion is to be back in action, the medical discharge has forced Heath—and Trinity—to the sidelines.

Military intelligence officer Darci Kintz is captured while secretly tracking the Taliban. Only one dog can handle the extreme conditions to save her. Trinity. Only one man can handle Trinity.

Time is running out on the greatest—and most dangerous—mission of their lives.




Below is a deleted scene from TRINITY: MILITARY WAR DOG.


            “Why are you baiting him?” Aspen swatted Timbrel's arm. “You need to learn how to play nice.”

            “Playing nice leaves the good guys dead.”

            Aspen cast her friend a look. Timbrel had lost the first and only man she'd fallen in love with—a fellow handler in Iraq—during a night-raid gone bad. And the whole Prince Charming thing? Surely Timbrel wasn't... “Why are you looking at him like that?”

            Eyes locked on her target, she chewed her bottom lip, thinking. “Did you see it?”


            “He's haunted.”

            Aspen shot a look to the rugged-looking handler. Yeah, she'd seen it too.  His hesitation, the way he'd look at Talon as if he saw himself. His gun-shy attitude. Wasn’t he a Green Beret? She couldn’t imagine a Special Forces grunt backing down the way he had several times.

            “If he goes back there,” Timbrel said, “ya know, the way Jibril wants him to, he's going to die.”


            “He's still trapped in the past.”

            “Okay,” Aspen said, watching Daniels hustling his Belgian Malinois through the course. There, with his dog, he was in his element. No hesitation. No backing down. But what worried her, was not the man’s hesitation but Timbrel’s. “What are you thinking?”

            “We all go.”

            Aspen's breath backed into her throat, causing her to choke-cough. She cleared the snag and shook her head. “No. Talon's not ready.”

            Timbrel look at her over her shoulder. “What if taking Talon back there unlocks the warrior he once was?”

            Was that even possible? Did that side of her brother's beautiful dog still exist?

            “We have to convince Jibril that we all go, or none of us go. Or this organization is dead before it starts.”




You can purchase Ronie Kendig’s novel, Trinity, at , Barnes & Noble , CBD, or at your local bookstore.




Before you go, write down this STOP 8 clue: TO


Your next stop is Ronie Kendig’s own blog!  Go to



Oh, and if you want a chance to win the four books in the Brotherhood Amish Suspense series (Murder in Plain Sight, Vanish in Plain Sight, Danger in Plain Sight, and Dark Crossings), be sure to leave a comment mentioning it.



Friday, October 19, 2012


The fall Christian fiction scavenger hunt will be coming up next week, and I hope you'll be ready and eager to hunt for some fabulous prizes!

Check out this wonderful prize package. In addition to all the books shown below, we'll also be awarding the following prizes:
Grand prize: 31 new released novels plus a brand new Kindle Fire.
2nd and 3rd prizes: $50 gift card to Amazon, B&N,, or
Individual authors will also be giving extra prizes on their sites.
Details on how to do the hunt (and begin it) will be found at AFTER 10/25 noon MST.


Monday, October 1, 2012


Naomi's Christmas is available in stores and online today, and I hope you'll be looking for it. Here's a taste of the first scene:


Naomi Esch froze in her seat at the family table, unable to stop staring at her father. Daadi had just tossed what felt like a lightning bolt into the middle of her thirtieth birthday celebration. Around her, she could feel her siblings and their spouses stuck in equally unbelieving attitudes.

            “Ach, what is wrong with all of you?” Daadi, eyes narrowing, his beard seeming tobristle,glared at his offspring. “This is a reason to celebrate, ain’t so?”

Lovina, her brother Elijah’s wife, was the first to recover, her sweet, heart-shaped face matching her character. “We wish you and Betty much happiness.” She bounced baby Mattie, who’d begun to fuss, in her arms. “Wilkom, Betty.”

Betty Shutz, a round dumpling of a woman with a pair of shrewd brown eyes, nodded and smiled, but the glance she sent toward Naomi was cautious.

Isaiah, the youngest and most impetuous, said what everyone must be thinking. “But what about Naomi? If you and Betty are marrying, what is Naomi to do?”

The question roused Naomi from her frozen state. What was she supposed to do, after fifteen years spent raising her siblings, tending the house and garden and her beehives, and taking care of Daadi?

Daadi’s gaze shifted, maybe a bit uneasily. “Naomi is a gut daughter, none better. No one would deny that. But newlyweds want to have time alone together, ja? So we…I was thinking Naomi would move in with Elijah and Lovina. They are both busy with the dry-goods store and three young kinder besides. It would be a big help to you, ja?”

Elijah and Lovina exchanged glances, and then Lovina smiled at Naomi. “Nothing would please us more than to have Naomi with us, but that is for her to say, ain’t so?”

“Denke, Lovina.” Naomi found that her stiff lips could move, after all. “But what about my bee hives?”

Odd, that her thoughts had flown so quickly to her bees in the face of this shock. Or maybe not so odd. The bee hives were the only thing she could call truly hers.

“I’ve already talked to Dick Holder about the hives, and he’ll be happy to give Naomi a gut price for them.” Daad spoke as if it were all settled; her life completely changed in a few short minutes.

“I will not sell the hives.” Naomi could hardly believe that strong tone was coming out of her mouth. Everyone else looked equally surprised. Maybe they’d never heard such firmness from her.

Daad’s eyebrows drew down as he stared at her. “Komm, Naomi, don’t be stubborn. It is the sensible thing to do. Betty is allergic to bee stings, so the hives cannot stay here. And Elijah’s home in town isn’t suitable. The money will give you a nice little nest egg for the future.”

A babble of talk erupted around her as everyone seemed to have an opinion, but Naomi’s thoughts were stuck on the words Daad had used. Her future. He clearly thought he knew what that future was to be. She should move from one sibling to another, helping to raise their children, never having a home or a life of her own.

She was engaging in selfish thinking, maybe, and unfitting for a humble Amish person. But…

She looked around the table. Elijah, two years younger than she, whom she’d comforted when bad dreams woke him in the night. Anna and Mary, the next two in the family. She’d taught the girls everything they needed to know as Amish women, overseen their rumspringa, seen them married to gut men they loved. And Isaiah, the baby, the one whose first stumbling steps she’d guided. Were they to be her future, as they had her past?

Much as she loved them, her heart yearned for more. Marriage might have passed her by during those years when she was busy raising her siblings, but she’d looked forward to a satisfying future, taking care of Daad, tending her hives, enjoying her part-time work at the bakery.

Amos, Elijah’s middle child, just two, tugged on her skirt. A glance at his face told her he’d detected the strain in the air. She lifted him to her lap, running her hand down his back, murmuring soothing words. He leaned against her, relaxing, sucking on two fingers as he always did before going to sleep.

Lovina met her gaze from across the table and smiled. “Naomi is wonderful gut with children.”

“For sure,” Betty said, her first contribution to the conversation. “A widower with kinder would do well to have a wife like Naomi.”

Somehow that comment, coming from Betty, was the last straw. Naomi had to speak now, and quickly, before the rest of her life was set in stone by the family.

“You are all ser kind to give so much thought to my life. But as dearly as I love my nieces and nephews, I have no wish to raise them. And I will not give up my bee hives. So I think I must find this answer for myself.”

She took advantage of the ensuing silence to move the sleeping child to his father’s arms. Grabbing a heavy wool shawl from the peg by the back door, she walked out, closing the door gently behind her.

Mid-November, and it was ser chilly already, a hint of the winter to come. Even the hardy mums on the sheltered side of the house had succumbed to frost. Clutching the shawl more tightly, she walked across brittle grass to the gnarled old apple tree that had once held a tree-house when the boys were young. It was a relief to get out of the kitchen, too warm from all the cooking that had been done today for her birthday. This day had certainly turned out far different from the celebration her sisters had so lovingly planned.

She stopped under the tree, resting her hand against the rough bark. No point in going farther—she couldn’t escape her family, and she wouldn’t want to. Soon someone would come out to talk to her, and she would have to explain and justify and try to make them understand. But for this moment she was alone with her thoughts.

The family had one thing right. She did have a gift with children, and she couldn’t deny that gift. But to raise someone else’s children again, to grow to love them so dearly, but to know that she always took second place in their hearts…no, she couldn’t. But when she tried to think how to carry out that brave declaration she’d made, she found she was lacking in ideas.

It was Isaiah who came out to her. Maybe they thought the youngest would be most likely to soften her heart. But Isaiah was a man grown now, married for just a year, and so much in love with his Libby. Not a baby any longer, but he still seemed so young to her with his round blue eyes and his corn-silk hair. The beard he was growing as a married man was as fine and silky as his hair.

He leaned against the tree next to her, his eyes serious as he studied her face. “Are you all right?”

Naomi managed a smile, though it probably wasn’t very convincing. “Ja. I will be, anyway. I guess Daad’s news was a shock.”

“For sure.” Isaiah shook his head. “It wonders me that none of us saw this marriage coming, but we didn’t. I guess we all figured that if Daad had been going to wed again, he’d have done it years ago.”

“Then Betty would have had the raising of you.” Her smile was more natural this time.

Isaiah seemed to shudder. “Ach, I’m sure she’s a gut woman. But I’m glad it was you who brought me up, Naomi.”

For an instant she was surprised almost to tears. “Denke,” she whispered, her throat tight. She’d never say she loved one more than another, but Isaiah was especially dear, both because he was the baby and because of his sweet nature.

She tilted her head, watching him, wondering how he would react to the question she was about to put to him. “What about you, Isaiah? Do you think I’m being selfish not to do what Daadi wants?”

He blinked, eyes wide and innocent. “Ach, Naomi, everyone knows there’s not a selfish bone in your body, no matter—“ He stopped, looking as if he’d bitten his tongue.

So that was what someone had been saying, once she’d left the kitchen. Well, she wouldn’t put Isaiah in the middle by noticing.

“I guess the first thing is to find a place for my beehives,” she said, deliberately turning the subject. “It’s not going to be an easy job, moving them all.”

“I’ll help,” he said instantly. “And I was thinking that I should ask Nathan if you could have them on his farm. With Libby and me living right on the property, I could keep an eye on things for you.”

Naomi hesitated. Isaiah enjoyed working for Nathan King on his dairy farm, and she didn’t want to cause any difficulties between them by asking for something Nathan might not be so eager to grant.

“I wonder if that’s wise,” she said, careful to keep her voice neutral. “Mary and I were such close friends, and Nathan still mourns her so deeply even after two years. He might not want to have me around, reminding him of her.”

Vertical lines formed between Isaiah’s brows. “It’s true he’s still grieving for Mary. But as for reminding him…well, he seems to be thinking about her all the time anyway.”

“Poor Nathan,” she murmured. And poor Mary, gone far too early, it seemed, in such a freak accident, leaving Nathan and two young kinder behind. She accepted it as God’s will, but she couldn’t help wishing it had been otherwise.

“Ja.” Isaiah straightened, pushing away from the tree. “Let me talk to him, anyway. I’ll make it easy for him to say no, if that’s what he’s of a mind to do.”

She was still doubtful, but she nodded. “I guess it can’t hurt to ask.”

“That’s right. And if he says no, we’ll find someone else.” He put his arm around her shoulders. “You’re cold. Let’s go inside.”

She hung back. “Daadi will just start on persuading me again.”

“He won’t.” Isaiah sounded confident. “Betty told him it was best to let you think about it and get used to the idea without him pushing you.”

“And he agreed to that?” It didn’t sound like Daadi at all. Once he’d made up his mind, he was like a rock.

“He did.” Isaiah grinned, blue eyes twinkling. “Seems like Betty can manage him better than the rest of us put together. This is all going to turn out for the best, you’ll see.”

Naomi nodded as they started toward the house, not wanting to lay her burdens any more heavily on Isaiah. But she doubted this situation could possibly turn out for the best…for her, anyway.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012



It’s a pleasure having award-winning novelist Susan Meissner here today to talk about her newest book from WaterBrook Press, The Girl in the Glass, a part-contemporary, part historical novel set in Florence, Italy. Susan is one of my favorite authors, and reading her new book took me back to the lovely days my husband and I spent in Florence.  Susan has offered a free book to one of my readers, so leave a comment and be entered for the drawing. I'll pick a winner on Saturday.

And for a chance to win a beautiful print of Florence, you can register at

1. Susan, tell us where the idea for this story came from.

For our 25th wedding anniversary a few years ago my husband and I took a much-anticipated eight-day Mediterranean cruise. One of the ports of call on the Italy side was close enough to Florence to hop on a bus and spend the day there. When I stepped onto Florentine pavement I fell head over heels in love. There is something magical about Florence that I didn’t see in Rome, or even Paris if you can believe that. The artistic genius that meets your eye no matter which direction you turn is unparalleled. The beauty created by mere mortals during the Italian Renaissance is jaw-dropping. It was the perfect place to bring a disillusioned present-day character who needs to re-invent her life. That’s what Renaissance means: rebirth. I went back a couple years later with my mom, daughter, sisters and nieces and knew I just had to set a story there and somehow involve the infamous Medici family.


2. What is the story about, in a nutshell?

Meg Pomeroy is a disenchanted travel book editor unsure of her father's love, still smarting from a broken engagement, and whose normally cautious mother is suddenly dating a much younger man. Her perspective on everything that matters is skewed. She escapes to Florence, Italy, on a long-promised trip, believing her father will meet her there. True to form, he’s a no-show, but the trip allows her to connect with Lorenzo DiSantis, a writer she’s met only via Skype and e-mail, and Sofia Borelli, a tour guide and aspiring writer who claims she’s one of the last Medici, and that a sixteenth-century Medici granddaughter, Nora Orsini, speaks to her through Florence’s amazing statues and paintings. When Sophia, Meg, and Nora’s stories intersect, their lives are indelibly changed as they each answer the question: What if renaissance isn’t just a word? What if that’s what happens when you dare to believe that what is isn’t what it has to be?

3. The Girl in the Glass refers to a painting that the heroine of your novel, Meg, loves. Describe the painting and what it stands for.

Because this story is set in Florence, against the backdrop of the most stunning art that can be seen today, I wanted there to be a current day painting that connected my main character, Meg, with this amazing city. The painting Meg loves features a little Florentine girl mimicking a statue whose marbled hand is extended toward her. The painting hung in her maternal grandmother’s house; a place where Meg felt loved and safe. Meg hasn’t seen the painting since she was a little girl. When her grandmother died, everything in the house was sold or parceled out to other family members. Meg knows the statue in the much-loved painting is real, that it is somewhere in Florence, and that it is likewise beckoning her to come. Since she doesn’t know where the painting is, she is set on finding the statue itself. In a way, the lost painting represents Meg’s perceived loss of her family when her parents divorced and everything stable in Meg’s life turned upside down.

4. In its review of The Girl in The Glass, Publishers Weekly said that this book is like taking a trip to Florence. What kind of research is involved in creating that kind of experience? Why do you think readers love to take those kinds of journeys in a novel?

The best kind of research is that which lets me usher the reader right into the time and place I want to take them, without them feeling anything — no motion sickness, if you will. So I need to know everything, not just facts and figures but even the subtle nuances of a time period. It means a lot of reading and note-taking. I usually end up collecting more data than I can possibly use, but I don’t always know what I’ll need until I am into the story, and the characters start talking and reacting and deciding. I think readers like the thrill of being somewhere they couldn’t visit any other way than through the pages of a book. Novels let us experience the lives of other people without having to make any of their mistakes. And we can also share their joys. And their victories. And the lessons they learned in the crucible of life.

5. One important plot in The Girl in the Glass deals with Meg’s disappointment in her parents’ divorce and her father’s behavior in the years following the divorce.  What inspired this particular thematic exploration of disappointment with parental expectations?

My parents have been happily married for over fifty years so I had to research this aspect for the novel. I like to think of myself as a hungry observer; I tend to watch people, study them, to learn from them. I have seen a lot of people who grew up in homes where their parents had divorced and I’ve seen the effects of that severing. Some have never gotten over it. Childhood life-changers tend to stay with us. And the family, especially the parents, are the child’s universe. When you upset that you upset quite a bit.

6. Your last few novels have had important historical components in the storytelling. Some of the history of the famous Medici family is included in the novel. What was the most fascinating thing about the Medicis and how do your reconcile their infamous behavior with their unquestionable contribution to the world of art?

The Medici family both appalls and fascinates me. On the whole they were shrewd, conniving, opportunistic, unfaithful, vengeful, murdering rulers, who of all things, loved art and beauty. Michelangelo, DaVinci, Donatello, and so many other Italian Renaissance artists, wouldn’t have had patrons if it weren’t for the Medici family. They wouldn’t have the financial backing and opportunities to create all that they did. I don’t know if we would have the statue of David or Brunelleschi’s Dome or Botticelli’s Primavera were it not for the Medici family. They made Florence beautiful and yet most of them were addicted to leading un-commendable lives. That is astounding to me. They weren’t — taken as a whole — admirable people, and yet look at the legacy of beauty they made possible. I like to think that demonstrates there is hope for all of us to be able to see beauty in spite of living with much disappointment. You don’t have to look hard to find ugliness on Earth, but beauty is there. Don’t close your eyes to it.


7. One of your point-of-view characters is a little known Medici family member named Nora Orsini. Tell us about her. Why did you choose her?

Nora Orsini was the daughter of Isabella de’Medici and the granddaughter of Cosimo I. In the Girl in the Glass, Nora’s short chapters precede every current-day chapter, as she tells her story on the eve of her arranged marriage. Very little is known about Nora Orsini, so I had the glorious freedom to speculate, which is the reason I chose her. I wanted the literary license to imagine beyond what history tells us. There is, however, plenty that is known about her mother, Isabella Medici. Nora did not lead the happiest of lives. I wanted to suppose that the beauty of her city offered solace to her, and that if it were indeed possible for Sofa, the tour guide that Meg meets, to hear Nora’s voice speaking to her from within the masterpieces, she would speak of how the beauty that surrounded her kept her from disappearing into bitterness.

Where can our listeners connect with you online or learn more about The Girl in the Glass, and your other books?

You can find me at and on Facebook at my Author page, Susan Meissner, and on Twitter at SusanMeissner. I blog at I also send out a newsletter via email four times a year. You can sign up for it on my website. I love connecting with readers! You are the reason I write.

Friday, September 14, 2012


I'm so happy to announce that NAOMI'S CHRISTMAS, the next book in the Pleasant Valley series, will be out the first of October. You may have seen it listed as a November release, but it has now been moved up to October to allow more time for the Christmas title before the holidays. So I hope you'll look for it the first week in October!

Naomi's Christmas is the story of Naomi Esch, whom you met working in the bakery if HANNAH'S JOY. Since her mother's death, Naomi has devoted herself to caring for her father and raising her siblings, sacrificing any hope of having a home and love of her own. Still, with her work at the bakery and her beekeeping business, Naomi looks forward to a fulfilling life now that her siblings are grown and out of the house. Then, in the weeks before Christmas, Naomi's father announces his plan to remarry. He and his new wife will want the house for themselves, and Naomi's life is turned upside down.

But new opportunities come her way as well. Widower Nathan King offers his farmland to Naomi to continue and expand her beekeeping business--on the condition that she care for his motherless children. The set-up is so perfect that the community assumes a wedding will inevitably follow. But Naomi has vowed never to marry without love, and that promise is especially poignant because she has always cared for Nathan, whose wife was her best friend. And Nathan can't imagine loving anyone else after losing his first love. Someone else opposes the match as well, someone who won't hesitate to blacken Naomi's reputation to keep her away from Nathan.

With everything stacked against them, it may take a Christmas miracle to unite these two stubborn hearts.

NAOMI'S CHRISTMAS also contains extras for readers: an article on Amish Christmas customs; a Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas craft to make; and a collection of my family's favorite Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas cookies.

Monday, August 27, 2012


What says 'the end of summer' to you? When I was a child, summer's end came when my mother took me shopping for a new pencil box (yes, I know I'm revealing how old I am) and a new pair of school shoes. There was also the ritual trying on of the school clothes, to see what could last another year, what needed the hem let down, and what would have to be replaced. My mother was both thrifty and a good seamtress, so nothing was discarded if it could possibly be made to last.

School shopping had changed by the time my children were in school. Then it was the hunt for the clothes that were 'in' and also acceptable to my standards. But that shopping was still the marker for summer's end, and although the kids grumbled about school starting too soon, I knew they were secretly ready to get back into the normal routine.

Now I don't have kids at home, and while I love getting a back-to-school gift for each of my grandkids, it's not quite the same landmark. I watch the yellow school bus go by our house without stopping and start up the hill toward the elementary school with a slight pang.

At this stage of my life, summer's end has come to be marked more by the state of the garden. When I start canning spaghetti sauce, giving away eggplant, and roasting green peppers, I know that no matter how warm it still is, fall is approaching inevitably. The sumacs along the roadside hold their flame-colored plumes high, and in the cornfields the stalks are high enough for a child or adult to get lost in. Mist hugs the valley when I walk out to the mailbox in the morning, and the first few falling leaves skitter across the road.

Don't get me wrong--I love fall. It might be my favorite season, especially here in our Pennsylvania valley, where the ridges will be lit by color in another month. But there's something a bit melancholy about fall, as well. Maybe that's a hangover from childhood, when it seemed the beginning of school meant an end to freedom. Or maybe it's just the reminder of another year slipping past, something that occurs more quickly as one gets older.

An elderly friend told me once, as she approached the end of her battle with illness, that she'd been thinking a lot of what Heaven would be like when she arrived. Her conclusion was that it would be like the hills in autumn, with every growing thing announcing its transition to another phase of life in a final blast of triumphant color.

Happy fall, everyone. Enjoy it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Summer Holiday

I know it's been some time since I've posted, but it's been a very busy few weeks! I attended the Romance Writers of America conference in Anaheim, California, (awesome) and then returned to a couple of days to recover before the first two of my grandkids arrived for their summer visit with Grammy and Grandpa.

Our daughter flew up with the two girls, ten and seven, and then flew back the same day, and the two of them felt very grown-up about the whole experience! The next day two more grandkids arrived, so we had the four cousins for almost a week. They had such a great time, and so did we. No writing was accomplished around here, but it was probably very good for me to switch into Grammy mode for a while. They played in the creek, went to the local amusement park, spent a morning at the Children's Museum, caught crayfish and minnows, picked tomatoes, and just generally had a ball without any parents around.

The next week the parents arrived, along with the other two grandkids from Florida, so things really kicked into high gear! I tried to spent a little special time with each of them, but it's pretty hard with six kids ranging in age from four to twelve. The two boys are at the top and the bottom, and it was so nice to see how they bonded despite the difference in their ages.

Our campfire down by the creek is always a highlight of the week for the kids. I think I've had enough s'mores to last me until next year!

I hope your summer holiday has brought you some joyous time with family, as well.

Marta Perry

Saturday, July 21, 2012

On Tuesday, I'll be leaving for the Romance Writers of America's annual conference. I try to attend every year, and since the event moves around the country, sometimes it's a long trip for me. This year it's very loooong, because the conference is in Anaheim, California, quite a stretch from central Pennsylvania. But it's well worth it, even if I arrive exhausted, because I'm looking forward to seeing lots of old friends, meeting with my agent and my editors, and participating in workshops where I always learn something new.

One of the highlights of the conference is always the Literacy Autographing, which will be held this year in the Anaheim Convention Center on Wednesday, July 25th, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Every year this event gets better and better. Hundreds of authors will be there, and we hope thousands of fans. The publishers donate copies of the authors' books, the authors sign and sell them, and every cent that's made is given to promote the cause of adult literacy in this country.

I can't tell you how moving some of the stories are of people who've been helped by literacy volunteers across the country. As an organization of writers, we're especially aware of the tremendous need, and since the Literacy Event began, we've raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. Each year, the money is split between a national literacy organization and one or two local programs in the host city, so this year folks in Anaheim and the Orange County area will benefit.

If you happen to live in that area, or know someone who does, I hope you'll give us your support. If not, you might want to give some thought to the literacy volunteers in your own community. They make it possible for people to enjoy a pleasure many of us take for granted--the ability to escape into the world of books.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

DARK CROSSINGS available now!

Last week I posted an article about the writing of Dark Crossings, the Amish suspense anthology that's currently out from HQN Books. Today I thought you might like to read the opening of Fallen in Plain Sight, my novella in Dark Crossings. Our three stories are connected through the heroines, good friends living in Amish communities in different states, who communicate through Round Robin letters, a popular way for Amish friends to stay in touch.


“If you are not careful, Sarah Elizabeth Weaver, you will end up a maidal, as lonely and sad as that old man you work for.” Mamm had what she obviously considered the last word as she drew the buggy to a halt by the Strickland house.

“Mamm…” Sarah hesitated, ready to jump down, but not wanting to leave her mother for the day with harsh words between them. “I know you want to see me married, with a home and family of my own. But I’m just not ready.”

Her mother shook her head, a mix of sorrow and exasperation on her face. “When will you be ready? Independence is all very gut, but having someone of your own is better, that’s certain sure. Ach, well, go on to work.” She waved her hand toward the huge old Victorian house, its gingerbread trim and fancy touches a far cry from a simple Amish farmhouse. “But think on it. All of your friends are starting families already.”

“I will, Mamm.” She slid down. Easier to say that than to argue over a subject on which they’d never agree.

Anyway, not all of her friends were married. She still had two dear friends, Abby and Lena, who weren’t, but since they lived far apart, their only connection was the Round Robin letters they sent from one to the other. They understood, even if Mamm didn’t.

But she couldn’t take comfort in Abby’s unmarried state much longer. The long-awaited letter she’d received yesterday from Abby had contained surprising news. Abby would soon wed Ben Kline. They’d been brought together at last after Ben’s return from the Englisch world. That news from Abby had probably been what started Mamm on her current train of thought about marriage. 

Sarah waved as Mamm clicked to Bell and the buggy moved onto Springville’s main street. Mamm had stopped saying it, but they both knew who she had in mind for a son-in-law. Mamm and Jacob’s mother had been planning their marriage since the two of them were in their cradles.

But if they’d been serious about marrying the two of them off to each other, they’d have been better not bringing her and Jacob up so close that they were like brother and sister. Jacob was her best friend and the brother she’d never had, but to think of falling in love with him was laughable. Why couldn’t Mamm see that?

Sarah unlocked the door into the back hall off the kitchen, pausing there to hang up her black bonnet and sweater and straighten the apron that matched the deep green of her dress. Getting dressed for work was simplicity itself when you were Amish—she’d had a choice between green, blue, and purple dresses, all cut exactly the same.

Exactly the same, just like all of her working days. She’d been taking care of the house for elderly Englisher Richard Strickland for over three years, and nothing ever changed, because that was how he liked it. Probably that was partly due to his bad eyesight. He didn’t want to trip on anything that had been moved.

She went on into the kitchen, reaching to the kitchen table automatically to pick up the breakfast dishes. And stopped. The table was bare, except for the napkin holder and salt and pepper shakers which always sat in the center.

Every day she let herself in the back door at eight-thirty, and every day she found Mr. Strickland’s breakfast dishes on the table. Her employer himself would be in the sunroom on the side of the house, enjoying a second cup of coffee while he listened to the news. But the coffeemaker was cold, the sink was empty and shining, and no sound broke the stillness of the old house.

A chill spread through her. Sarah spun, moving quickly toward the front of the house. Mr. Strickland must be ill…nothing else would cause him to change the immutable habits of a lifetime. She hurried through the hallway, thoughts racing faster than her feet—call Mr. Strickland’s doctor, or the rescue squad if it looked very serious, they could be here faster and—

She skidded to a stop a few feet from the bottom of the stairs. Neither the doctor nor the rescue squad would be of help. Richard Strickland lay tumbled on the polished stairs, one hand reaching the tiled floor of the hall. Sarah didn’t need to touch him to know he was dead.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The following article about my July release, DARK CROSSINGS, appeared in The Big Thrill, the newsletter of the International Thriller Writers Association.

Dark Crossings by Karen Harper, Marta Perry and Patricia Davids By ITW on June 30, 2012 DARK CROSSINGS is an anthology of three novellas by authors who write novels set in Amish country. THE COVERED BRIDGE by Karen Harper, FALLEN IN PLAIN SIGHT by Marta Perry and OUTSIDE THE CIRCLE by Patricia Davids each examine the culture clash between Amish life and the outside world through the dangers faced by the stories’ heroines. Amish life may look idyllic but the challenges are everpresent, surprising and possibly fatal.

The Big Thrill recently caught up with the three authors whose novellas comprise the anthology DARK CROSSINGS. These novellas are romantic suspenses which take place in Amish country. In this interview, Karen Harper, Marta Perry and Patricia Davids answer questions about their book and their love for writing Amish thrillers.

Please tell us briefly about your novellas.

Karen Harper: In THE COVERED BRIDGE when the shunned Benjamin Kline returns to Amish country after several years away, Abigail Baughman knows he is still forbidden to her. But he lives right across the old covered bridge and someone is watching and harassing her. She has no one nearby but Ben to help, but, despite her years of long-suppressed love for him, she’s not sure she can trust him. As dangers escalate and become deadly, they are forced to solve a mystery to stay alive.

Marta: In FALLEN IN PLAIN SIGHT, Sarah Weaver’s peaceful life is turned upside-down when she arrives at the home of her Englischer employer to find the elderly man lying dead at the foot of the stairs. Everyone assumes it’s an accident, but Sarah sees some details that don’t quite fit and confides in her childhood friend, Jacob Mast. When a series of supposed accidents befall Sarah, it begins to look as if she may be right. Danger makes Sarah and Jacob see each other differently, but it also puts both their faith and their newfound love to the ultimate test. FALLEN IN PLAIN SIGHT is set in the same Lancaster County world as my full-length series: MURDER IN PLAIN SIGHT, VANISH IN PLAIN SIGHT, and DANGER IN PLAIN SIGHT.

Patricia: In OUTSIDE THE CIRCLE, Isaac Bowman, an Amish widower, moves to a new community in the hope that the change will heal his daughter. Ruby has been mute since she witnessed the tragic death of her mother. Schoolteacher Lena Troyer is drawn to the sad child and her handsome father, but she isn’t sure she can trust Isaac. Someone is poaching deer in their woods and the illegal activity is threatening the peace of their small community. Is it just a coincidence that the poaching began when Isaac arrived?

Why do you think modern readers are so intrigued by the Amish?

Karen: The more fast-paced and tech-run our lives become, the “mystery” of how the Amish continue to live in their slow-paced, faith-filled world intrigues us. Perhaps it’s a bit of our nostalgia for the early day of agrarian America —those beautiful barns, the horses and buggies and “pioneer days” dress. Also, the fact that the Plain People live by cooperation and not competition looks alluring to those of us in the rush-rush, me-me world.

Marta Perry: Modern readers tend to live hectic lives, with our wonderful electronic gadgets making it difficult if not impossible to escape constant demands on both our time and our emotions. And very few readers have family living nearby to help in time of need. I think readers enjoy escaping into the lives of people who manage to live in the world but not of the world, doing without many things we moderns think essential but gaining the strength and support of family and a caring church community.

Patricia: I’m not sure anyone has the answer to this question because I hear it all the time. I think modern readers are intrigued by the idea that a vast number of people can live inside our society and yet not be caught up in the morass of modern life. I think we envy the strength of the Amish in resisting the lure of electricity in the home, televisions, cars and all the distractions we face daily. I believe a lot of the popularity of the genre has to do with the fact that we long for a simpler time, for close-knit families and deeper faith.

Why do the Amish culture and Amish setting work well for suspense/thriller material?

Karen: The rural isolation of the Amish allows some very scary set ups. Of course, their mistrust of law enforcement and lawyers, the lack of phones in their homes, the longer buggy times to get help if they need it also contribute to suspense. Kerosene lanterns at night make for a much better thriller scene that would electric lights. From their days of persecution in Europe , these people have carried an isolationist mentality from “the world.” (However, they do make great neighbors.) One more thing: Not everyone loves the Amish. There are hate crimes against them. Some “moderns” think they are “easy pickings.” The first novel in my current Amish suspense trilogy, FALL FROM PRIDE, deals with a series of Ohio barn arsons, which I took from old newspaper stories in Pennsylvania . The Amish have a saying, “It’s not all cakes and pies.” They too, have their troubles, as anyone looking at today’s headlines knows.

Marta: There’s such an interesting contrast between the fear and danger of a suspense novel and the peaceful, non-violent lives of the Amish, isn’t there? The fact that the Amish are strictly non-violent creates an intriguing situation when they are confronted with danger, and the very setting of their lives makes them both more vulnerable and less able to turn to authorities for a solution.

Patricia: The Amish setting works well for suspense and thriller material because the Amish seldom involve outside authorities in their problems. They don’t talk to “the English” as they call us. This leads to a culture of secrecy. Victims of crimes are expected to forgive and not seek retribution or justice. Evil flourishes when no light shines upon it. The stark contrast between the simple goodness the Amish portray and that evil makes excellent fodder for books and movies.

You also write full-length novels. Is there a different mindset or technique you use when writing shorter novella form? Which is more challenging for you, the novella or novel length?

Karen: Writing novellas is a nice break from the longer books, like a little vacation. The form I really have trouble with is the short story. However, my other trial is that each time I write a full-length novel, about half way through I panic, thinking I don’t have enough material/plot for a full-length book. This is entirely ridiculous since I have written 50 full-length novels since 1982, and things always turn out well. As much as I love to write, what I call the muddle of the book—the middle of a full-length novel—always scares me. I think most authors have some bugaboo or eccentricity when they write.

Marta: I find the novella more difficult to write, because my mind seems hard-wired to produce ideas and pacing suitable to a 400-page novel! I must constantly pare down the cast and simplify the plot in order to make a novella work, but while it’s a challenge, it’s also great fun!

Patricia: Writing OUTSIDE THE CIRCLE was very challenging for me. Not only was it my first novella, it was the first book I wrote after the death of my husband. The short word count requirement led me to write a book with less dialogue. That was the only part of my normal process that I had to change. I don’t mind writing short works. I’d do it again, but I think I’d rather write novel length stories.

***** For more information about these authors’ full-length books and more about how they write, visit their websites. Karen’s is Marta’s is Patricia’s is

Friday, June 29, 2012


HER SURPRISE SISTER, my latest Love Inspired book, will be in stores next week. This is the first book in the Texas Twins continuity series, with a new book in the series coming out each month from a different author. All the stories focus on a Texas family and two sets of twins who were separated at an early age and brought up without knowledge of each other. What would you think if you suddenly discovered you had an identical twin?

Here's the opening of my book:

By Marta Perry

Chapter One

What could she possibly say to a father who had walked out of her life when she was an infant? Hi, Dad, it’s me, Violet?
Violet Colby’s fingers tightened on the steering wheel. What was she doing miles from home in Fort Worth, trying to follow an almost non-existent clue to her birth father?
A sleek sports car cut in front of her SUV, horn blaring. Shaken, Violet flipped on the turn signal and pulled into the right lane. City traffic had frazzled whatever nerves she had left.
A coffee shop sign ahead beckoned to her. That was what she needed…a short respite, a jolt of caffeine, and a chance to reassess her actions.
She found a parking space, fed the meter, and pushed open the coffee shop’s glass door, fatigue dragging at her. The aroma drew her in irresistibly, and in a few moments she was sitting at a small round glass table, a steaming mug and a flaky croissant in front of her. She hadn’t bothered to read through the long list of specialty coffees the shop offered. All she wanted was caffeine, the sooner the better.
A woman brushed past her, the summer print dress and high platform sandals she wore making Violet uncomfortably aware of her faded jeans and scuffed cowboy boots. It wasn’t that she hadn’t been in Fort Worth before, but she’d usually taken time to dress appropriately for a trip to the city, a five-hour drive from the Colby ranch. This time she’d bolted out of her mother’s hospital room, exhausted from nights of waiting and praying for Mom to open her eyes.
She hadn’t been able to take it any longer. That wasn’t the Belle Colby everyone in the county knew, lying there motionless day after day. Belle Colby was energetic, vibrant, laughing, always in motion. She had to be, running a spread the size of the Colby Ranch and raising two kids on her own.
Not now. Not since her mare had stepped in a hole, sending Mom crashing to the ground. And Jack, as Violet’s big brother always the take-charge one, was so eaten up with guilt for arguing with Mom before the accident that he was being no help at all.
Violet broke a corner off the croissant and nibbled at it. Her family was broken, it seemed, and she was the only one who could fix it. That’s what she’d been thinking during those lonely hours before dawn at her mother’s hospital bed. The only solution her tired brain could come up with was to find their father—the man Mom never talked about.
Now that she was here, in Fort Worth, where she’d been born, the task seemed futile. Worse, it seemed stupid. What would it accomplish if she did find him?
She didn’t belong here, any more than the sophisticated-looking guy coming in the door would belong on the ranch. Expensively-cut suit and designer tie, glossy leather boots that had certainly never been worn to muck out a stall, a Stetson with not a smudge to mar its perfection—he was big city Texas, that was for sure.
That man’s head turned, as if he felt her stare, and she caught the full impact of a pair of icy green eyes before she could look away. She stared down at her coffee. Quickly she raised the mug, hoping to hide her embarrassment at being caught staring.
It didn’t seem to be working. She heard approaching footsteps and kept her gaze down. A pair of glossy brown boots moved into her range of vision.
“What are you doing here?”
Violet looked up, surprised. “What?”
“I said what are you doing here?” He pulled out the chair opposite her, uninvited, and sat down. “I told you I’d be at your apartment…” He slid back the sleeve of his suit to consult the gold watch on his tanned wrist. ”In five minutes. So why are you in the coffee shop instead of at your condo? Are you trying to avoid me?”
Okay, he was crazy. That was the only answer Violet could come up with. She groped for her bag, keeping her eyes on his face. It looked sane enough, with a deep tan that made those green eyes bright in contrast, a square, stubborn-looking jaw, and a firm mouth. His expensively-cut hair was sandy blond.
He didn’t look crazy, but what did that mean? Or maybe this was his idea of a pick-up line.
Her fingers closed on her bag, and she started to rise. His hand shut across the table and closed around her wrist. Not hard, but firmly enough that she couldn’t pull away without an undignified struggle.
“The least you can do is talk to me about it.” He looked as if keeping his temper was an effort. “Whatever you think, I still want to marry you.”

I hope you'll pick up a copy of HER SURPRISE SISTER next week!