Archive for January, 2014

Crossreads Book Blast: Deep in the Heart, Staci Stallings

Uncategorized | Posted by Shannon
Jan 28 2014

Deep in the Heart Cover Final 1-18-2014

Deep in the Heart

by: Staci Stallings

Only 99 Cents… January 28 & 29th!

About the Book

Just out of college and completely alone in the world, Maggie Montgomery has one shot left to save her life from an abyss of poverty and hopelessness. Clinging to the last shred of fuel and hope, she arrives at the mansion of Texas billionaire Conrad Ayer. Although Maggie is clearly not what Mr. Ayer and his wife have in mind for a nanny, they agree to hire her temporarily until they can find someone more appropriate to fill the position. However, Maggie’s whole world is about to be up-ended by two way-over-scheduled children and one incredibly handsome hired hand. As she struggles to fit into a world she was never made to fit in, Maggie wonders if she can ever learn to become a perfect version of herself so she can keep the job, or is she doomed to always be searching for a life she can never quite grasp?

Keith Ayer despises his life. As the son of Texas billionaire Conrad Ayer and the fiance to a Senator from Texas’ daughter, it looks great on the outside, but inside, he is dying. He would vastly prefer to manage and train his father’s racehorses. However, everyone else thinks that is beneath him. He needs to get into industry and build on his father’s success. Suffocating under the constrictions of his life, he meets Maggie, and she begins to teach him that wealth and power is not everything in this life. But can Keith defy the two most powerful men in Texas to follow his heart?

“Staci Stallings… Christian fiction at its best!”

LINK to KINDLE | LINK to PAPERBACKStaci Stallings New Headshot 1

Staci Stallings

A stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from. Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again. Every title is a new adventure! That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading. Staci touches the lives of people across the globe every week with her various Internet endeavors including being the co-founder of CrossReads.com and the founder of Grace & Faith Connection.

Follow Staci Stallings

Website | Facebook | Twitter

This book blast is hosted by Crossreads.

We would like to send out a special THANK YOU to all of the CrossReads book blast bloggers!

CSFF Blog Tour: Apples and Barrels

Culture, History | Posted by Shannon
Jan 22 2014

Among the true-to-life complexities of Jill Williamson’s Safe Lands series is the diversity of the motley opposition against the Safe Lands government.

There are the people of Glenrock and Jack’s Peak, who were dragged into the city and fell into the war quite haplessly. If the Safe Lands had left them alone, they would have left it alone.

There is the Freedom for Families, comprised principally of Naturals – an underground society that has existed within the shadows almost from the beginning. Theirs is a quiet rebellion.

There is the Black Army – full of disgruntled Safe Landers who, born and bred in the system, now want out.

And there are those without organization, whose need drives them away from normal life in the Safe Lands.

There is an equal diversity of motivations. All Jordan and Levi really care about is taking care of their own. Anything and anybody else? Not their problem.

Mason, though also from Glenrock, has some concern for the Safe Landers themselves, some desire to help them – though it understandably receives a lot of impetus from the fact that he’s falling in love with a Safe Lander. So, too, with Omar: He looks beyond Glenrock to the Safe Lands, his altruism and his self-interest all mixed together. But what he is seeking for himself in these efforts is peace, a place to belong, his own identity.

Bender and Rewl, of the Black Army, seem primarily concerned for themselves – as does Red, who dismisses the government taking a woman’s baby with the words, “I don’t like the government telling me what to do. But babies aren’t my interest.”

Look, I found a libertarian in the Black Army!

Levi, by the way, disclaimed concern for the same baby and mother. He just didn’t bother to articulate his reasons so clearly.

But the Black Army has its noble ones, too. So does the Freedom for Families – people who are not content merely to hide and enjoy their escape, but who have compassion on those still caught in the dark web, whether the difficult elders of Glenrock or the lost souls of the Safe Lands.

I can’t name the bad apples among the FFF, but that’s only because we have seen little of them. As the human heart is always struggling between love and selfishness, and often wrapping them together in the most ingenuous of ways, so every community is made of bad and good. The purest causes draw impure votaries, and unworthy causes have been known to net worthy followers.

Because – for good and for bad, for better or for worse – that’s the way people are.

CSFF Blog Tour: Outcasts

Book Reviews | Posted by Shannon
Jan 21 2014

The Safe Lands are many, many things. Safe is not one of them. Visitors must try hard and diligently not to contract the thin plague. Everyone is studiously tracked by the governing authorities, who live by the principle of three strikes and you’re out. Permanently.

And those who manage to make it to forty are liberated, though no one knows what this means beyond “never is seen again”.

Outcasts is the follow-up to Captives, the first book in the Safe Lands series – YA books written by Jill Williamson. I concluded after reading Captives that it was, as one of the characters said of the Safe Lands, fascinating but discouraging; I hoped that, having established the libertine dissolution of the Safe Lands, the series would move on a bit.

And it has. Oh, the Safe Lands are as libertine and dissolute as ever, but there is not so much effort at portraying it, not so much effort at bringing the mores of Glenrock into collision with the mores of the Safe Lands. Everything is more settled in the second book. The characters know better now where they are and where they stand; they’re moving on into the fighting.

Still, revelations continue. The most striking thing about this series is the level of world-building. So complete, so realistic, and so complex is the world of the Safe Lands that the story naturally peels layer off of layer. The made-up slang – so easily a stumbling block in books like this – is one of the most memorable and enjoyable elements of the world-building.

The characters, too, are rounded and complicated. The villains are usually not sympathetic, and the heroes are not always likable – parenthetical statement for those who have read the book: Levi, I’m looking at you – but they seem like real people.

I have a couple criticisms (beware of spoilers): Omar’s final, big fall – the kiss with Kendall and vaping afterward – was unnecessary. I don’t think it made any real difference to the plot, and with the similar incidents earlier in the story, it contributed little to Omar as a character. I didn’t see the point. For that matter, I didn’t see the point of the whole Kendall/Omar/Shaylinn love triangle.

More spoilers: I could not see Otley’s motivation for killing Rewl when he knew that it was the brothers who had led the girls away. And I wouldn’t even mention it here except that that shooting became the basis for a crucial turning point. The climax pivoted, ultimately, on Otley’s decision to shoot Rewl, but the decision is too weak to support such a pivot.

Outcasts is a first-class dystopia – realistic characters in a riveting but believable world that brings all sorts of ideas into play against each other. I am planning to continue with the Safe Lands series; this is a world still to be explored – beginning with what, exactly, it means to be liberated.


In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

CSFF Blog Tour: Dystopia

Culture, Literature, Writing | Posted by Shannon
Jan 20 2014

Today the CSFF blog tour begins its tour of Outcasts, the second book in Jill Williamson’s dystopian Safe Lands series.

Dystopian is in now; you don’t need to look any further than The Hunger Games to know it, and if you look anyway, you’ll see Divergent. YA dystopian is especially in. This has naturally led to all sorts of rumination about dystopias, trends, literary darkness, and teenagers.

Some people attribute the increasing darkness of YA fiction to the increasing darkness of the world around us. In our era of terrorism, school shootings, economic decline and political dysfunction, dystopia is either a dark mirror or a dark comfort. (“Well, America might be unraveling into a social, political, and economic mess – but hey, it could be worse.”)

I wonder about this explanation. The images we swim in might be darker and darker – and someone out there must like it, when you consider how much of the darkness is manufactured in Hollywood for our entertainment – but is the world itself darker? Is our modern experience so much grimmer that it darkens our imagined worlds to match?

At the end of the 1930s, Americans were marking a decade and counting of economic depression, while watching other nations topple into the second world war in twenty-five years. Somehow it didn’t set off lucrative trends into dark stories.

I have no firm theory or settled opinion on the matter, and surely the real explanation is complex and multifactored. And whatever the precise reasons behind the current popularity of dystopias, the essential idea is an old one and is still a compelling way to examine ideas. On that thought, here are the links to

Outcasts on Amazon;

Jill Williamson’s website;

and the blog tour:

Red Bissell
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Pauline Creeden
April Erwin

Victor Gentile

Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Joyner

Julie Bihn
Carol Keen
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Melanie @ Christian Bookshelf Reviews
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Writer Rani
Chawna Schroeder
Jacque Stengl

Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Deborah Wilson

Cover Reveal: Power Elements of Story Structure

Writing | Posted by Shannon
Jan 16 2014

When I was invited to participate in the cover reveal of Power Elements of Story Structure, I thought to myself, Of course. It’s not a lot to do. I’ve done more than one cover reveal in my day. (I’ve done two.)

So here you go: Power Elements of Story Structure is a writing instruction e-book written by Rebecca LuElla Miller, a freelance editor who has received endorsements from Bryan Davis and Jill Williamson. She maintains a blog called Rewrite, Reword, Rework, where she gives helpful and thought-provoking advice on writing.

And now, for the cover reveal …


I’m pretty sure this is the most eye-catching cover I’ve ever seen on a writing book.

For more details on the book and its upcoming release, check Becky Miller’s blog.

Becky Miller is also, by the way, the administrator of the CSFF blog tour. (I don’t know if that’s the official title, but it works well enough. At least it works better than “blog tour overlord”, which I believe is what one of the CSFF bloggers used to call her.) A new CSFF blog tour is scheduled for next week, so I should be here on Monday to begin the tour of Outcasts.

2014: Reading Books, Writing Books

Literature, Writing | Posted by Shannon
Jan 08 2014

Over at Speculative Faith, Becky Miller began a discussion about reading and writing goals for 2014. I answered the question there, but I thought I’d take it up again, in more depth, here.

I have two reading goals right now. One, to slip in some novels between those I read for review. I enjoy nearly everything I review, but I’d like to get to other books, too: Veiled Rose, Spark, Greetings From the Flipside …

And, of course, The Warden and the Wolf King. I’ve been waiting a couple years for the conclusion of the Wingfeather Saga, and when it finally comes out, I’ll get it in if I have to ram it.

I am also hoping to read nonfiction pretty much nonstop – taking in small doses alongside and in between whatever fiction I read. I’m currently reading 10 pages a day of William Jones’ History of the Christian Church, and I am planning to go from there to Finally Fearless (Cheryl McKay), then onto Days of Fire (Peter Baker), and probably from there to one of the history books languishing in my personal library, waiting to be read.

At 10 pages a day, I’ll get through all these slowly … but surely.

As for my writing, I want to get deep into my new Mars novel. I’m not optimistic enough to think I’ll finish it this year – but even getting close would be terrific. I’ve also wanted to return to fantasy, and to Christian Holmes – a Christian Holmes spy novel would be fun. It’d be nice to start accumulating notes, but I don’t know if I’ll get around to it.

In the meantime, I’m still receiving the final edits of The Valley of Decision, and still awaiting the final word on Forever Today from the publisher that is considering it.

And life goes on.

Review: Goddess Tithe

Book Reviews | Posted by Shannon
Jan 01 2014

There is one thing Munny is determined to do, and that is to return to his mother with the white peonies. No storm, no danger in the ocean shall stand in his way.

Except, maybe, Risafeth, the vengeful goddess who demands her blood tithe. Her wrath is roused against Munny and all the crew of the Kulap Kanya by Leonard the Clown, who stowed away and has not drowned for it.

Goddess Tithe is a novella written by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, taking place within the larger scope of the Tales of Goldstone Wood. The novella is 120 pages and illustrated; the illustrations are full-page, black and white, and – by my judgment – quite well-done.

I stumbled across Leonard while reading Heartless; I have not read Veiled Rose, the larger story that contains Leonard’s quest. I enjoyed Goddess Tithe just the same. This is not really Leonard’s story, and the question of the book is not what he will do, but what others will do with him.

The heart of the story is with Munny, with other characters adding flavor and the captain adding mystery. As in other Anne Stengl stories I have read, the characters are full of life, thrumming with their own purposes and emotions and traits. They draw you along into their stories – sometimes with sympathy, sometimes with interest.

Anne Stengl beautifully captures Faerie – the wonder, the beauty, the terror. The things she imagines and brings to written life are captivating. The dangers she brings for her characters out of Faerie are unearthly, effectively menacing and unnatural. There is a way besides violence to build fear and suspense, and Stengl finds it.

Goddess Tithe is a short work, within the breadth of a larger one, which may account for my one complaint against it. I would have liked to learn more about the captain, though I understand why I didn’t. I understand, too, why the story of Munny and his mother was ultimately unfinished. But I think I could at least have learned what Munny’s true name is, especially with so many stories only hinted at.

Goddess Tithe is a lovely novella – beautifully written, full of heart, with the wonder and terror of Faerie. I recommend it, and not only to readers of the Tales of Goldstone Woods.