#OpenBook and Sabbath Rest Book Talk!

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

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In the interests of being as efficient with my time as I possibly can, I’m killing two birds with one stone.  In addition to reviewing books for #OpenBook, I’ve started a monthly event on Facebook Live over at my author page.  It’s called Sabbath Rest Book Talk, and in it I’ll talk about a few of the books I’ve read in the past month in terms of how they, as fiction, help us grow in humanity.

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: a monthly live interactive event where we talk about the value of fiction in developing compassion, empathy, and healthy relationships

For the August episode of SRBT, for the the thumbnaily-thing below to watch the video on YouTube:

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: Where Fiction is Good for You! Join Author Erin McCole Cupp for a monthly interactive event where we'll discuss all the ways fiction builds up our humanity.

And here are links to the books discussed in August’s episode, focusing on EMPATHY:

LunarChronicles

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

 

Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh the Hero by Geraldine McCaughrean

 

RolandWestLoner

Roland West: Loner by Theresa Linden

Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

More About DYING FOR REVENGE

Dr. Barbara Golder's DYING FOR REVENGE murder mystery with a touch of police procedural and a whole lot of edge-of-your-seat suspense

I’m happy to host Dr. Barbara Golder on her book tour for DYING FOR REVENGE.  I reviewed it here and gave it a super-solid five stars, but if that’s not enough to convince you, here’s more!

Dying for Revenge on Kindle — Dying for Revenge on Paperback

Dying for Revenge Synopsis:

Someone is killing the rich and famous residents of Telluride, Colorado, and the medical investigator, Dr. Jane Wallace, is on a collision course with the murderer. Compelled by profound loss and injustice, Jane will risk her own life to protect others from vengeful death, even as she exacts a high price from those who have destroyed her world. DYING FOR REVENGE is a story of love, obsession and forgiveness, seen through the eyes of a passionate, beautiful woman trying to live her life — imperfectly but vibrantly — even if she won’t survive.

Who’s this author, though?  

Dr. Barbara Golder is a late literary bloomer.  Although she’s always loved books (and rivals Jane in the 3-deep-on-the-shelf sweepstakes), her paying career gravitated to medicine and law.  She has served as a hospital pathologist, forensic pathologist, and laboratory director.  Her work in forensic pathology prompted her to get a law degree, which she put to good use as a malpractice attorney and in a boutique practice of medical law, which allowed her to be a stay-at-home mom when her children were young.  She has also tried her hand at medical politics, serving as an officer in her state medical association; lobbying at a state and national level on medical issues, writing and lecturing for hire, including a memorable gig teaching nutritionists about the joys of chocolate for 8 straight hours, teaching middle and high school science, and, most recently, working for a large disability insurance company from which she is now retired.   Her writing career began when she authored a handbook of forensic medicine for the local medical examiner office in 1984.  Over the years she wrote extensively on law and  medicine and lectured on medicolegal topics.  On a lark, she entered a contest sponsored by the Telluride Times Journal and ended up with a regular humor column that memorialized the vagaries of second-home living on the Western Slope.   She currently lives on Lookout Mountain, Tennessee with two dogs, two cats and her husband of 41 years.

 

Dying for Revenge on Kindle — Dying for Revenge on Paperback


Oh, you want an excerpt now?  Well, just to please you:

 

John had just touched my face in his familiar way when the phone startled me out of my sleep. It was one of those vivid dreams, the kind that it takes a minute or two to realize you’ve passed from it into wakefulness. I was especially unhappy because, since his death five years ago, the only way I ever saw my husband or felt his touch was in my restless slumber. The phone rang again, insisting that I answer. In my line of work, a call in the middle of the night is never happy news. It means that death has come calling, unexpected, or violent, or both. It’s the time of night when teenagers run off the road, when drug deals go sour, when sick old men die, the man inside having given up the struggle to keep the man outside alive, when drunken spouses abuse each other to death. At the end of it all, somebody calls the medical examiner and I am pulled out of my orderly world into someone else’s dark night. I wondered idly what particular nightmare I was entering this time as I punched the keypad of my cell phone.

“Yeah?”

I am not particularly civil at three in the morning. Fortunately for me, the cops who are on duty at that hour — the ones most likely to call — aren’t too sensitive. This time it was the sheriff of San Miguel County himself who answered. His voice called up his lanky frame, thinning red hair, pockmarked face and crooked nose.

“Aren’t you just Dr. Mary Sunshine! Wake up, Jane Wallace, you’ve got a case.” His gravelly chuckle broke up a bit. Call reception isn’t always good in the mountains.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” I rubbed my eyes and took another stab at civility. “What’s up, Tom?”

I sat up, stretching my neck and trying to come to consciousness. Tom had used my first name, something he never did, preferring to alternate between Dr. Wallace when he was vexed with me, and Doc when he approved of the way I was executing the demands of my office as Chief Medical Examiner for the Western Slope of Colorado.

“Oh, big dealings right here in Mountain Village. We got ourselves a celebrity murder, we do.”

The words were flippant and out of context with the somber nature of such early morning calls. There’s a certain propensity toward inappropriate humor among those of us who work regularly among the dead and the degenerate. I wouldn’t put it past any of my law enforcement brethren, least of all Patterson with his avuncular style, to string me along for the sake of a little joke to liven up an otherwise routine death. I could jest with the best of them. 

“Just as long as it’s not Mitch Houston, we’ll be fine.“

Houston, Hollywood’s current favorite leading man and a very hot commodity, had moved to town several months before, buying both a trophy home in Mountain Village and a remote cabin on a thousand acres in one of the basins in the Wilson Peaks, in a display of conspicuous consumption excessive even for Telluride, Colorado, my adopted home on the western slope of the Rockies. The silence at the other end of the phone did not bode well for my career on the comedy circuit. I sat upright, awake, my mind suddenly clear, and feeling dismayed.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked.

Any murder is a tragedy, but this one was going to be a pain in the ass to boot.

 

But is it really any good?  Don’t just take my word for it:

 

“Barbara Golder joins the ranks of Chesterton’s bloodthirsty heirs as she spins a tale that will delight mystery fans. With Dying for Revenge in hand, your beach experience is now complete!” Mark P. Shea, Mercy Works

Dying for Revenge dives into the deeply personal place in so many hearts with ‘justifiable’ reasons for revenge… but the face of mercy is entwined in the unexpected turn of events. You’ll be captivated…”  Patricia M. Chivers, ABLAZE Radio WNRE-LP 98.1 FM, Catholic Church of Saint Monica

Dying For Revenge is a darn good medical thriller — a page-turning plot and vivid characters — with a stop-you-in your tracks twist: the costs of revenge. It’s a gripping story — I defy anyone to put it down.” Deacon Dennis Dorner, Chancellor, Archdiocese of Atlanta

“When medical brilliance and a riveting plot collide, you get Dying For Revenge — a story of intrigue, murder, and faith that will leave everyone suspect but only one guilty…” Rev. David Carter, JCL, Rector Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, Chattanooga TN

“I know it sounds cliché, but I honestly couldn’t put this down. It isn’t just who-dun-it, but it’s the story of the power of understanding in a world that’s afraid of self-knowledge.” Joan Watson, Director of Adult Formation, Diocese of Nashville

 

Okay, hopefully by now you’re ready to fork over the cash: Dying for Revenge on Kindle — Dying for Revenge on Paperback

If you’re still on the fence, get to know Dr. Golder on social media and such:

Great book!  Get your copy today!

An Open Book: May the Fourth Be Bookish

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

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Ugh.  I know, I know.  That post title is pathetic, but I’m running on fumes here.  What kind of fumes? The kind that broke me enough to give in to… audiobooks.  Audiobooks have been around longer than books, actually, because hello? Storytelling around the fire while digesting the freshly roasted mammoth meat?

I, however, just never got into audiobooks, because:

  1. I can get to the end of the story so much faster in my head.  Why would I wait around for someone else to read it for me?
  2. All my time available for audiobook listening, if I could get past that first issue, is spent in the car with kids, and you can’t listen to grown-up audiobooks if you have little pitchers and their big, giant ears in the backseat.

Why did it never occur to me that it’s not just contemporary pulp on audiobook but literary classics as well?

So that library trip when I stumbled upon this on our weekly trip to the library:

The Adventures of Odysseus by Hugh Lupton & Daniel Morden, Illustrated by Cristina Balit

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This was my very first audiobook, and since it wasn’t packaged as an audiobook, I was cleverly tricked into picking it up.  I didn’t even see the CDs in the front and back of the gorgeously illustrated covers until we were in the car and headed for our next task.  The Odyssey was one of my favorite reading assignments from college, and I was pretty sure there wasn’t anything completely untoward for both shifts of kid to hear (I’m more comfortable with kids learning of the horrors of war than the seduction of the flesh, frankly).  I was not disappointed in this version: there’s nothing immodest, and the retelling of the tale does not skip over the violent parts (Polyphemus and Scylla aren’t tidied up, for instance).  The narrators never use syrupy voices-for-the-kiddies.  I loved hearing Second Shift cheer when Odysseus sent the arrow through the axe handles.  All in all, I highly recommend this version.  Everyone can listen to the story while those who aren’t driving and can’t even read yet can appreciate the gorgeous, stylized illustrations.

Once we’d enjoyed that, I tried thinking back to literary classics I’d tried to get First Shift to read but which they’d eschewed because they prefer non-fiction so blastedly strongly.  The first one that came to mind was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

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I’ve struggled to get my older kids to read fiction, because their interests are limited, and they don’t see the point in fiction.  Even if they never, ever enjoy fiction (sniffle!), fiction-reading is still a part of learning how to be human–seeing how characters face conflict and deal with it, for good or ill.  Then there’s the ability to follow along with literary allusions without getting lost.  Both of those tasks can be conquered adequately (perhaps not well, but adequately) through audiobooks–force-fed to unwilling brains while on long car rides.  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of those books that my kids just did not want to read but that we enjoyed listening to (maybe not as much as the next one, but more on that in a bit).  Narrator Jim Dale handled the ridiculousness with the exact right amount of wryness but still kept it whimsical.  I enjoyed this version immensely, moreso than I ever enjoyed the text version or any movie version (Sorry, Mr. Carroll).

Lastly, a book I read only once in my college years: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.

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The story, as always, is wonderful: the tale of an unwanted orphan who finds family in the most unlikely pair of brother and sister Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert.  The example of a flighty but well-meaning girl who gets into particularly feminine adventures, who in turn learns from each hilarious mistake she makes, is a precious example I really wanted to share with my three young ladies.  Hearing the story now as a parent myself was that much more poignant than it had been when I was a childless college student, struggling to pass her own exams and such.  I love how much of a family story this is, with appeal across the ages.

As for this production in particular, the editing in this one could use some smoothing out, and I think the narrator went a little too far on the wry side and not far enough on the wonderment side.  That said, we had a great time listening to this one.  Second Shift loved it as much as I did; as Cordelia Chase would say, “Overidentify much?”

Adding audiobooks to our homeschooling has already been such a boon.  First Shift has phenomenal reading skills, but they shy away from personal stories; Second Shift loves fiction but struggles mightily with reading.  Audiobooks have given us the opportunity to share literature with each other, discuss it, talk about conflict and description and language.  I can’t believe I’ve let us miss out on this rich resource for so long.

In the time I’ve had to read books rather than listen to them, I’ve started in on From Grief to GraceFrom Grief to Grace coming out next month by Jeannie Ewing.

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I’ve also read another Chime Travelers book by Lisa Hendey, but that one won’t be out until Christmas, so look for a review in, say, November.

Do you have reluctant readers?  How do you tackle their challenges?  Do you use audiobooks?  What are some of your favorites?  And don’t forget to link up with Carolyn!

March on and Grab AN OPEN BOOK

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

We read. We talk.  We talk about what we read.

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Soulless Creatures by Katharine Grubb

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With every sentence, Soulless Creatures kept me guessing. And while the story itself was surprising, the biggest surprise of all was the vital role the setting played. Who knew Oklahoma had so much to teach us? Not this East Coast girl. I love how the author took each character to the brink (or what “the brink” would be for a college freshman) and let him/her grow. The ending was unexpected and yet deeply satisfying. Highly recommended!

 

Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary, edited by Sarah Reinhard

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Slowing down is not my favorite thing to do, which makes a book like this so vital. Filled with valuable reflections and fresh but faithful takes on some of the most repeated words in all of Catholicism, Word by Word filled me with hope, made me smile, and, yes, slowed me down so that I could learn something. It’s a versatile book that’s worth reading straight through and worth keeping handy for quick prayer times. Break out the highlighter!

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

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What’s it about?  In case you didn’t know, “From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.”

If you’re wondering if this book is as good as it looks, wonder no more.  It is.  It’s even better.  It has hitherto for unknown bits about the making of the movie, yes.  The bigger surprise for me though was seeing the creative process through the eyes of immediacy as well as the eyes of memory and experience.  The Princess Bride was, initially, a flop.  Now it’s a classic.  Creatives? We’re in it for the long haul.  We have to be.  If we’re not, we’re going to remain mostly dead.

And some readalouds for Second Shift:

Fiona’s Lace by Patricia Polacco

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I got this from the library as a St. Patrick’s Day readaloud.  It would’ve been a lot easier to read if I hadn’t been crying my eyes out from the second or third page.  This is the story of a family that had to leave hardships in Ireland only to show up in Chicago just in time for the Great Chicago Fire.  Young Fiona is a gifted lacemaker, and her skills just might be what her family needs to rise out of immigrant poverty, but when a terrible fire separates the family and destroys not just their home but their entire neighborhood, how will Fiona and her family ever find each other again?  You have to read to find out.  But do keep your tissues nearby–better yet, a lace hankie.

Raisel’s Riddle by Erica Silverman (Illustrations by Susan Gaber)

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It’s a Purim Cinderella story! Orphan Raisel is raised by her Zaydeh (grandfather), who gives her a rich, scholarly education, even teaching her the Talmud.  When Zaydeh dies, Raisel must strike out on her own.  After much wandering, the rabbi in the big city makes his cook take Raisel on as her assistant, but Cook is not happy about this.  The story that follows echoes the Cinderella story, but instead of great shoes making the match, Raisel’s prince finds her because of her great mind.  I’m sure some feminist somewhere has something to say about how a smart girl shouldn’t get her happy ending by working in a kitchen and marrying a prince… but I’m not some feminist anywhere.  Raisel’s Riddle shows that a girl’s greatest gifts are kindness and wisdom, and by being clever and kind and generous, her true beauty stands out from even the loveliest Purim costumes.

WWRW: Catching Up

Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!  It’s not too late to post those pics

Let’s link up with What We’re Reading Wednesday over at Jessica’s Housewifespice Place.

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It’s been months since I read these.  Now I’ll finally get around to reviewing them!

Shadow in the Dark (The Chronicles of Xan Book 1) by Anthony Barone Kolenc

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Here’s what it’s about:

The Shadow passed through the midnight chill, dark and silent. Two small boys peered down at it in terror. “It’s back,” one of them cried in a faint whisper.

Bandits attack a medieval village. A young boy is injured and loses his memory. He wakes up at a Benedictine monastery and is given the name Xan—short for Alexander. But when the monastery is raided and a monk is accused of a violent crime, Xan must uncover the truth. Could the raid be related to the one that destroyed his village? And what about the shadowy figure Xan has seen lurking on the abbey grounds at night?

Mystery. Danger. Adventure. It’s all here. And true forgiveness and courage too.

“A well-done mediaeval mystery, laced with plenty of action and a bit of downright spookiness.”-Colleen Drippe, Hereditas literary magazine.

“A brisk-moving and suspenseful tale. Kolenc has penned a masterpiece.”-Dan Flaherty, The Scholar.

“This could be the future standard for sound adolescent literature!”- Leo Madigan, The Weka-Feather Cloak.

I had fun reading this, and so did First Shift, a pair of eleven year-old girls who “aren’t girly,” for those of you who don’t know.  This little gem offers and more than delivers mystery, adventure, a richly imagined other world (after all, isn’t the past another world?), and characters who live and breathe in all their dimensions.  The red herrings even threw me off, which is a high compliment for a YA mystery novel.  The faith-related piece is handled organically and breathes along with the characters, feeling more like a part of the setting than of the plot.  I can’t recommend Shadow in the Dark enough!

Next up, confession time: these days I just wait around for authors to send me review copies.  It’s a very economical way of keeping one’s reading list affordable.  Specter, however, by John Desjarlais, I was not willing to wait.

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I preordered the darn thing.  WITH REAL LIVE ACTUAL MONEY. You’re welcome, Professor Desjarlais.  Your question, though, Reader, surely is, “Was it worth it?”  HECK YES!!!!

Selena De La Cruz would like to leave the past behind as she plans her wedding … but the past no longer sleeps. In 1993, a Cardinal was murdered in Mexico at the Guadalajara Airport. Nearly twenty years later, the Vatican revisits the case … and finds that Selena’s family might have played a key role. Selena is forced to confront her family’s ghosts … in more ways than one…

This story deals with ghosts of all things–ghosts!–in a totally credible manner. One of the ways Desjarlais makes this leap believable is through the eyes of Selena’s skeptic fiance, Reed Stubblefield, whom we also first met in Bleeder (which you should also go read).  Selena’s family (both living and otherwise), personal history, and culture are depicted so naturally that I felt like I was sitting at the table in her godmother’s house, watching it all, remembering it all with them and wanting to protect my own heart, not only from the danger I could see coming but from the surprises lurking around the corner of every page.  The red herrings in this one got me, too, which I don’t mind one bit.  The pace was lightning-fast, the conflicts heart-racing and heart-rending, and the ending… well, you’ll just have to find out for yourself.  If Amazon offered a sixth star, I’d give it to Specter.

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!  It’s not too late to post those pics

It’s Almost My Birthday!

It’s my birthday in 10 days!

Is money tight? Just can’t think of what to get the girl who has everything? I’ll give you a hint–nay, a wishlist. Don’t You Forget About Me has 58 reviews on Amazon as of today.

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Can you and one other person make that 60 by the Feast of St. Andrew/the First Sunday of Advent? Pretty please?  

7QT: Interview With Author Amanda Lauer

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Welcome to Seven Quick Takes Friday, hosted by the lovely and talented Jennifer over at Conversion Diary  Jess at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Remember when I reviewed this book?

The author of A World Such as Heaven Intended has stopped by the tomato pie shop to have a little chat with us.  Let’s welcome Amanda Lauer!

ALauer-headshotAn avid reader and history buff since childhood, Amanda Lauer fulfilled a lifelong goal with the publication of her debut novel, A World Such as Heaven Intended. Lauer learned the technical aspects of writing as a proofreader in the insurance, newspaper and collegiate arenas. Over the last ten years she has had more than twelve-hundred articles published in newspapers and magazines throughout the United States. Lauer is the co-author of Celebrate Appleton, A 150th Birthday Photo Album, and contributed to the books Expressions of ITP…Inside Stories, and Living Virtuously — Keeping Your Heart and Home. In addition to her writing career, Lauer is involved in the health and wellness industry, striving to spread the message of true health — physical, mental and financial. Residents of northeast Wisconsin, Lauer and her husband John have been married thirty-three years. They are involved in their church and community and in their spare time travel for business and pleasure, play golf, run, bike, read, and further their education in the area of personal development. They are the proud parents of four young adult children, have a son-in-law and daughter-in-law, and are grandparents to one grandson.

And now, without further ado, here’s all you ever wanted to know about Amanda Lauer and A World Such as Heaven Intended!

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Tell us about your most recent work.  How did the idea come to you?  How long did it take you from start to publication? 
My debut novel, A World Such as Heaven Intended, was released October, 2014. I’m a freelance writer by trade and one of my jobs is writing for local newspapers. I had written an article about a family’s Civil War memorabilia and the gentleman told me the story of his great-great-great uncle’s experiences in the Civil War and I thought it could be the basis for an excellent book someday. An acquaintance of mine was working on a book herself and she challenged me to write one chapter of a book each month and we’d get together and copyedit each other’s manuscripts over coffee. So it took two years to write the book, then two years to find a publisher. In that time frame, I only queried twelve publishers because our daughter was a Make-A-Wish Child, so most of my energy was spent caring for her. About a year ago I queried Full Quiver Publishing and was offered a contract earlier this year. In total it was about a six-year process.
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Idea, research, editing, design…What was your favorite part of working on this project? What was your least favorite? 
My favorite part of working on this project was writing the dialogue between the main two characters, Amara and Nathan. I was literally laughing out loud as I wrote some of the lines and at times crying when the conversations got deeper. I also really enjoyed researching and learning more about the Civil War. I’m a history buff and it was fascinating delving further into this subject. My least favorite part was all the revisions. I realize now that every bit of feedback that I got made helped turned this book from a good story to a fantastic novel but it was a little disheartening at times. One particularly harsh criticism about the book literally had me walk away from the project for nine months; it was daunting considering what had to be reworked. But again, it made it the book it is today.
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Tell us about how this work came to reach us:  did you go the self-publishing route or did you contract with a publisher?  What was that like? 
From day one I was determined to go the traditional route and find a publisher who believed in this work as much as I did. While I could have done self-publishing since I am also a copy editor and proofreader, I never pursued that seriously. I had thought about getting an agent at one point, but did not want to put the time and energy into that endeavor either. By the grace of God, my book made its way into the hands of Ellen Gable Hrkach of Full Quiver Publishing. She is a fantastic publisher and editor, and her insight really brought this book to life.  Plus her husband James did an outstanding job creating the book cover. If this book turns out to be a million seller someday, I will have that team to thank!
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What other things in your life do you juggle in order to keep at your writing?  How’s that working out for you?
In addition to working on novels, I write for the Green Bay Diocese newspaper The Compass, I write for The Business News, I proofread for Saint Norbert College, I do product testing for a local personal product manufacturing corporation, I write product reviews online, I do commercial acting and modeling, and I own my own business that promotes true health — financial, mental and physical (www.KangenWisconsin.com). There’s never a dull moment around here, but I wouldn’t trade my life with anyone, I thank God every day because I’m so blessed with all these opportunities.
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Setting, characters, plot, mood, tone… What would you describe as your greatest strength as a writer?
My greatest strength as a writer is the technical aspects of writing. Years of proofreading other people’s works helped me to figure out the mechanics of writing so I feel that I see the big picture and attend very closely to details. I do love writing dialogue, especially lines that reflect my sense of humor!
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Conversely, if you could change one thing about your writing style, what would it be and why? 
Having worked in the newspaper arena for many years, my writing is very concise. We are generally limited to 800 words per story. I would love to be able to enhance my work more with descriptive wording but that just isn’t my style at this point.
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Lastly, where can we find your work, a. k. a. give you our hard earned cash? 
My book is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Thanks for your support!
Thank you, Amanda, for chatting with us!  Now, readers, go pick up your copy of A World Such as Heaven Intended!