Courtney Rice Gager: Tess in Boots

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About Tess in Boots

Tess Dougherty plans every aspect of her life right down to the last detail. But she doesn’t plan on running her boyfriend off by bringing up the topic of marriage before he’s ready. And she doesn’t plan to lose her job on the day she’s set to receive a huge promotion. So when her perfect world unravels, Tess makes a new plan: disappear.

Tess packs her bags and leaves her city apartment for a remote vineyard in North Carolina. At first, she’s put off by the slow pace of small-town life in the South. She’s especially irritated by Thatcher, the vineyard’s smart-mouth, dimple-faced farmhand. But she soon begins to appreciate the area’s charm, and Thatcher’s charm, too. She even swaps her trademark heels for a pair of cowboy boots. As Tess spends more time getting to know Thatcher, she finds herself loosening her grip on her old life little by little. Unfortunately, things on the vineyard aren’t as simple as they seem. There’s a secret here, and when the truth comes to light, Tess is forced to reconsider every plan she’s ever made.

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I heard the sound of tires on the wet road, and looked up in time to see another truck slowing down to avoid crashing into the cow. The truck pulled around the cow and stopped alongside where I stood on the side of the road. The driver rolled the window down, and when I saw his face, I wanted to cry.

Tess in Boots Cover copyThatcher.

It was not my day.

“You all right?”

I crossed my arms. “I’m fine!”

“Guess your GPS didn’t tell you to go around the cow, did it, Heels?”

I turned away from him and pulled my phone out of my pocket.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m calling for roadside assistance.”

“Good luck. Cell phones don’t work on this stretch of road.”

I turned around and glared at him. “What?”

“I said cell phones don’t work on this stretch of road.”

“I heard you. That’s insane.”

“Go ahead and try. Maybe you have some fancy magical cell phone.”

I rolled my eyes and turned away again, attempting to place a call. He was right. Nothing.

“Get in the truck, Heels.”

I didn’t budge.

“Come on, now. Get in.”

I turned around to see him hop out of the truck, walk around to the passenger side, and open the door.

There was no way I was getting in his truck.

“You gonna make me stay out in the rain all night?” he asked.

I put my hands on my hips.

“You know,” he said, “it ain’t right for a cow to stand in the road like that. You ever heard of Mad Cow Disease?”

I looked at the cow, then back at Thatcher, then back at the cow.

Was he kidding? I couldn’t tell. What choice did I have anyway? I was soaking wet, freezing, and miles from the vineyard.

I balled my hands into fists and took several strides toward the truck. “Fine. But I’m only coming with you because you look like an idiot standing out here in the pouring rain.” I got in the truck, and he shut the door behind me.

“Well, so do you, Heels.”

About the Author

Courtney Rice Gager copyCourtney Rice Gager graduated from Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in communication and a minor in creative writing. Courtney is also the author of The Buggy List. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter.


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Annie’s Stories (Ellis Island): Cindy Thomson

Interview With Cindy Thomson

Susana: What inspired you to start writing?

10webCindy: Genealogy. My first novel (yet to be published) is about my ancestors coming to America. I couldn’t find out everything I wanted to know about them, so I looked into the social history of those immigrants in the time they came over, right before the Revolutionary War. Then I made stuff up! From there I went on to write for genealogy magazines (stuff I did not make up) and learned about writing fiction.

Susana: How long have you been writing?

Cindy: Seriously for publication about 15 years. I have always dreamed up stories though.

Susana: What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Cindy: Because of the ability to publish quickly now by doing it ourselves, my advice is not to rush to publication. It takes time to learn the craft. I’m still learning. Never underestimate the value of a professional editor. And by professional I don’t mean English teachers or someone who also writes novels. Those people might be smart and even helpful, but someone who makes a living editing books will be the most useful to you when it comes to creating a story that will appeal to a publisher or agent. And you want your best work out there.

Susana: Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

Cindy: The stories that my character Annie Gallagher treasures are not in the novel. They are referred to and somewhat described, but the stories are not there. I do, however, have them and will be making them available to my newsletter subscribers. You can sign up here:

Susana: Are you working on something at present that you would like to tell us about?

Cindy: I’m working on book three of the Ellis Island series, but it’s not yet contracted. I’m also working on a book that has both a contemporary storyline and a historical one. It’s fresh in my mind right now so all I’ll tell you is the historical part is 1946 at Wrigley Field and it has something to do with that big scoreboard and a female baseball franchise employee.

Susana: What are you reading now?

Cindy: Swimming in the Moon by Pamela Schoenewaldt. I love immigrant stories and hers are filled with wonderful detail.

Susana: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Cindy: A teacher. And I was. I left the classroom several years ago but I still teach by mentoring writers through the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.

Susana: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?

Cindy: Some of my readers might be surprised to learn that I’m an avid baseball fan (Go Reds!), have written baseball biographies, and am a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR.) I am often the only woman at meetings. My SABR friends know about my novels (they buy copies for their wives.) Of course my cover will be blown if I am fortunate enough to publish the Wrigley-themed novel I mentioned above.

Susana: If your publisher offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming project, where would you most likely want to go? Why?

Cindy: This is something my readers WOULD know. I would go to Ireland. I would also go to Wales since I recently discovered a family line that goes back to Nantucket and the Massachusetts Bay Colony and then back to Wales in the 17th century. There is plenty there to write about!

Susana: Do you have a favorite quote or saying?

Cindy: The Irish are famous for their witty sayings. One I particularly like (I have a saying or a scripture before every chapter in my novel Brigid of Ireland) is this one:

If God sends you down a stony path, may he give you strong shoes.

Susana: Do you write in multiple genres or just one? If just one, would you consider straying outside your genre?

Cindy: I have, yes. I’ve written non-fiction as well. Historical fiction is my favorite and I’d love to stick with that but I will have to see what comes my way.

Susana: What is something you’d like to accomplish in your writing career next year?

Cindy: Very simply I’d love to have a new publishing contract. There are no guarantees in this business. The reason I’d like to continue turning out novels is because I would like more readers. They are the reason I write and it’s my desire to keep bringing my stories to them.

Susana: Every writer dreams of getting “the call.” What were you doing when yours came? Who got to hear the good news first?

Cindy: Regarding my Ellis Island series contract: I was watching TV and about to go to bed. My agent lives on the west coast and I’m in the Eastern Time Zone. He called and then hung up before I could answer. He’d forgotten how late it was. But then he decided to call back anyway—he probably figured I wouldn’t mind considering what he had to say. After we talked about the offer, he told me I could go back to watching TV now. Yeah, right! I woke my husband up and told him. I’d like to say this to encourage new writers: I waited seven years between fiction contracts. I had almost given up hope, but my agent thought there was a chance for an immigrant series so I pressed on. I did have to switch time settings from what I originally had in mind, but listen to those who are veterans in the business, keep learning, and write the stories of your heart.

About Annie’s Stories: Ellis Island

Annie's Stories Coversmaller copyThe year is 1901, the literary sensation The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is taking New York City by storm, and everyone wonders where the next great book will come from. But to Annie Gallagher, stories are more than entertainment—they’re a sweet reminder of her storyteller father. After his death, Annie fled Ireland for the land of dreams, finding work at Hawkins House.

But when a fellow boarder with something to hide is accused of misconduct and authorities threaten to shut down the boardinghouse, Annie fears she may lose her new friends, her housekeeping job . . . and her means of funding her dream: a memorial library to honor her father. Furthermore, the friendly postman shows a little too much interest in Annie—and in her father’s unpublished stories. In fact, he suspects these tales may hold a grand secret.

Though the postman’s intentions seem pure, Annie wants to share her father’s stories on her own terms. Determined to prove herself, Annie must forge her own path to aid her friend and create the future she’s always envisioned . . . where dreams really do come true.

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The first chapter:

About the Author

Cindy Thomson is a writer and an avid genealogy enthusiast. Her love of history and her Scots-Irish heritage have inspired much of her writing, including her new Ellis Island series. Cindy is also the author of Brigid of Ireland and Celtic Wisdom: Treasures from Ireland. She combined her love of history and baseball to co-author the biography Three Finger: The Mordecai Brown Story, which was a finalist for the Society for American Baseball Research’s Larry Ritter Book Award. In addition to books, Cindy has written on a regular basis for numerous online and print publications and is a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She is also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the Historical Novel Society. Cindy and her husband have three grown sons and live in central Ohio. Visit her online at

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Kathryn J. Bain and “Beautiful Imperfection”

An Inspirational Nude Scene?

 Can an inspirational book really have a nude scene and still be a Christian book? I believe the answer to that question is yes. If it is done tastefully, and there is nothing sexual about the scene.

For those not familiar with my writing, I am an inspirational author. Most of my books have a Christian theme to them. Even in my secular books, I mention God. He’s such an important part of my life, it’s hard not to put Him in a book.

However, in my latest release Beautiful Imperfection, there was a need for a scene where my heroine Teddy Federline takes off her shirt and looks at herself in the mirror. You see, she is dealing with the aftermath of breast cancer and feels deformed. I had to let the reader see what she was seeing in order for them to know why she feels that way.

In the scene, Teddy is alone. There is no sexual stimulation. Instead I tried to make it emotional. My Christian publisher seems to think I accomplished that.

In fact, I tried to make her breast cancer more about emotion than the scar on her chest. Because that’s really what the disease is. It’s about not feeling like a woman. Fear that your husband will no longer want to have sex with you. Fear you could still die. These are all thoughts survivors of breast cancer live with.

BeautifulImperfection_w11186_680The scene where Teddy is partially nude shows how fragile she’s become. Teddy is determined to beat the killer after her. Yet at that moment, she almost wishes he would catch her and finish her off.

There are times in our own lives where we feel like we can’t go on. All the junk thrown at us makes us want to quit. We just need to hold tight. It’s amazing how things change in a twenty-four hour period.

I’m not sure how this scene will play out with Christians. Some can be pretty staunch when it comes to things like this. I’m not too worried about the criticism I know I’ll receive. I’m actually prepared for it

The most important thing I want is for women who have dealt with breast cancer to feel good about themselves. Too see that the scar across their chest isn’t a scar, but “a badge of courage.” If only one woman comes away feeling better about herself, I think I’ve done the job God asked me to as an author.

P.S.: A portion of the sales from the book in 2013 will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. For more information on the organizations, visit:

About Beautiful Imperfection

197597_1007733841260_1462365699_13278_7836_n[1]When witnesses to a mass murder start dying, breast cancer survivor Teddy Federline must push aside her anger and trust an ex-boyfriend to ensure she lives long enough to testify against the killer.

Detective Sloan Michaels still has deep feelings for Teddy but realizes that after the way he left her years ago, he has a lot of making up to do. Now, he must keep his focus on the case and off the woman he loves. If Sloan doesn’t keep Teddy safe, he’ll never get a second chance.



Champion Bates: A Tortured Hero Born To Win by Piper Huguley

Today my guest is Piper Huguley, who was one of my team members in the NANO (National Novel Writing Month) Smackdown sponsored by Savvy Authors last November. Our team finished the challenge respectably in 9th position out of 27. Even better, we all gained valuable writing friends!

Welcome to Susana’s Morning Room, Piper!

Hello!  I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my hero, Champion Bates.

1935 Pittsburgh: Aptly-named Champion Bates is an up and coming Negro contender who harbors a secret—he could lose his eyesight if he keeps boxing. He’s tormented by a love lost–at the moment of their elopement; he abandoned his childhood sweetheart, Cordelia “Delie” Bledsoe for his career. Ten years later, Delie needs financial help to sustain her orphans home, so to prove his love, he will fight one more time for her love and prove he has A Champion’s Heart.

jack1Champion was named and modeled after two African American boxers. By fighting with their fists, Jack Johnson and Joe Louis made contributions to society and helped to establish the humanity of African Americans:

Jack Johnson: He was the swaggering, boasting, in-your-face African American boxer who became the world champion in 1908 and held the title until 1915. My hero, born in 1909, came from a long line of boxers who would fight for the slave master’s entertainment. Thus, my hero’s enterprising mother named him Champion Jack Bates in honor of Jack Johnson. Naming children in this “Born to win” way was a regular naming practice among African Americans—think Prince, Earl, Duke, Queen and the like. It forced people to pay respect to a child who might not get respect otherwise.

joe_louisJoe Louis: Although the movie 42 is raking in big box office right now, Joe Louis, as a boxer, was an important precursor to Jackie Robinson’s integration of major league baseball in 1947. In 1937, Americans of all races came together to cheer Joe Louis to victory as a heavyweight champion. He was the first African American to regain the heavyweight boxing title after Jack Johnson’s defeat in1915. In those twenty or so years, boxing was a segregated sport. In 1935, Champion is looking for the chance that Joe Louis ultimately got to fight in a major title fight with a white fighter. Champ’s problems with his eyesight stood in the way of that goal. Joe Louis appears as a character toward the end of A Champion’s Heart.

Before I even did the research necessary to write about Champion as a boxer, I knew that Negro boxers in the segregated era (post Jack Johnson and pre Joe Louis) had a difficult time. The boxers on the segregated circuit were mostly “ham and eggers.” They would fight for practically the next meal because fighting in the ring brought more dignity to their lives than the menial tasks that African American males were forced to endure in regular society. This repeated fighting, multiple times during the week, took a heavy toll on their bodies and minds. Some fighters, like Dixie Brown ended up going blind, so I constructed my story to allow Champ to gradually lose his sight after a doctor’s warning, which raises the stakes for him.

I was also inspired by the romances in two boxing movies, Cinderella Man and Rocky. Cinderella Man is based on a real life boxer and Rocky is fictitious, but I have always loved how completely these guys loved their women!

Boxing has lost a lot of interest these days due to the dangerous nature of the sport, but historically, they were rough and ready men who risked a lot, lived hard and built up great physiques at the same time.

Are women attracted to men who lead risky lives and who are “born to win”? What do you think?

IMG_0840About the Author

Piper Huguley is an aspiring author pursuing publication for her inspirational historical romance fiction. She is a 2013 Golden Heart finalist for her novel, A Champion’s Heart—the fourth book in The Bledsoe Sisters series.


Twitter: @writerpiper