Wednesday, November 30, 2011

EA West & The Key to Charlotte

Come on in and meet EA West, author of The Key to Charlotte--a book I can't wait to tell you about--but more on that later, in my review. Suffice to say, as an enticement, this book blew me away.

Here's a bit about EA:

E.A. West is a lifelong lover of books and storytelling. In high school, she discovered the wonders of sharing her stories with others through writing. She picked up her pen in a creative writing class and hasn’t laid it down yet. Her love of writing encompasses not only the romance genre but also a variety fiction and non-fiction styles.Born and raised in Indiana, she still resides there today with her family and a small zoo of pets that includes cats, dogs, and African water frogs. When she’s not writing or reading, you’re likely to find her working on her current crochet project or discussing current events.

Next, let me introduce you to this wonderful novella from White Rose Publishing by giving you some insight into the hero of the story--a remarkable man named Zakaria Rush. Here's what EA West has to say about him:

Silly Songs with Zakaria

I think all of us at one time or another have wished we were still kids. The hero of The Key to Charlotte, Zakaria Rush, found a way to make a living while still enjoying childhood. He went into children’s ministry.

One of Zakaria’s favorite parts of his job, aside from choosing awesome Sunday school curriculum and working with the kids, is the music. The goofy songs from Vacation Bible School and Sunday school bring a smile to his face and lighten his heart. I must admit, I share his love for those songs.

I have fond memories of learning all kinds of silly songs during VBS when I was a kid. While I wasn’t the most coordinated child and tended to get lost if the motions that went with the songs were too complex (they rarely seemed that complex to the other kids), I loved to sing those songs and dance with my fellow VBS attendees. Sunday school provided another set of fun songs (usually with simpler motions) to sing and enjoy.

One of my favorites from both Sunday school and VBS found its way into The Key to Charlotte. “Rise and Shine” tells the story of Noah and the ark in a fun way that kids love. As proven by a certain pair of characters in The Key to Charlotte (*cough* Charlotte and Zakaria *cough*) and myself, as well as countless others, adults love the song as well. If you’re unfamiliar with it, here’s a video of a group singing it:

I think the best part of all of these fun songs from a childhood of churchgoing is that they allow children to musically praise God with easy-to-understand lyrics. Kids love music and they love fun. If you combine the music and fun, plus throw in some praising of God, I consider that the perfect mix for any children’s ministry.

And now, I'm thrilled to introduce you to A Key to Charlotte--along with a request: GET IT. You won't be sorry.


Charlotte Harris can't speak due to a quirk in her autistic brain, but that doesn't stop her from
communicating with others. Unfortunately, it prevents her from achieving two of her dreams--to praise God through singing and to carry on a simple conversation with her own voice.

Zakaria Rush is the new Director of Children's Ministries at Charlotte's church, and he can't keep his thoughts off the partially mute blonde with a love for guitar music. Her innocence and love of the simple things in life intrigue him and make him long to give her what she wants more than anything: her voice.

Can Zakaria help Charlotte find the key to unlocking her ability to speak, or will his attempt to help her only lock away their chance for love?


Charlotte switched off the vacuum and breathed a sigh of relief. The silence in the small church was pure bliss. She pulled the plug from the wall and coiled the cord around the top of the vacuum, then returned it to the janitorial closet in the basement. Turning around, she pulled out her cell phone and checked for reminders.

Take the rag bucket home.

Yes, she needed to wash the rags and kitchen towels. She returned the phone to her pocket and grabbed the bucket handle. As she headed upstairs, she heard the sound of a guitar coming from the sanctuary. Was someone playing a CD? It sounded like live music, but she’d never heard anyone in the church play a guitar.

Drawn by the soothing strains of the strings, she turned right at the top of the stairs.

No one ever came in the church while she was cleaning. The entire congregation knew her schedule—Tuesday and Saturday afternoons—and they always made sure to come at a different time. Charlotte had never been sure if it was because they didn’t want to get in her way or if her parents had talked to them about the importance of routine for her. When she was little,
she’d gotten upset by people showing up unannounced, but now that she was twenty‐three,
she liked to think she could handle surprises a little better.

She peered through the open doorway and saw a man sitting on the edge of the platform by the plain wooden altar playing a battered acoustic guitar.

Her breath caught in her throat and her heart raced as she studied him. Not only was he a talented musician, he was gorgeous, more gorgeous than anyone she’d ever seen in this small Indiana town. His black hair was a little shaggy but stylish; his straight nose, high cheekbones, and tan complexion made her think of Native Americans and Italians; his lean build clothed in
faded blue jeans, an olive green T‐shirt, and worn‐in sneakers made him look laid back. Peace filled his face as he strummed his guitar. The corners of his mouth turned up slightly, making Charlotte wonder if the sound of a guitar brought him as much joy as it did her.

Suddenly, he stopped playing and looked up at her. She tightened her grasp on the bucket handle.

He studied her with the most beautiful, warm brown eyes she’d ever seen. His smile caused her heart to flutter. “Hi there. Are you Charlotte?”

She nodded.

He didn’t seem to mind that she shifted her weight back and forth. Just as well. If she didn’t rock to release it, the nervous energy building under his gaze would make her cry.

“Pastor Ed told me I might run into you if I came this afternoon. I’m Zakaria Rush, the new director of children’s ministries.” He laid his guitar across his knees and chuckled, a deep, rich sound that warmed Charlotte clear through. “It’s a fancy title for a guy who didn’t want to grow
up and found a way to turn it into a career.”

Marianne's Review:

This book, hands down, is one of the best I have read all year. It swept through my heart with so much power I found myself hating to see the story end.

In the pages of The Key to Charlotte, author EA West has deftly explored the top of autism, and how people who suffer from autism--in this case the lovely and musically inclined Charlotte Harris--are created in the image of God. They are more than worthy and capable of love, independence and the fulfillment of God's plan for their lives.

Charlotte works at a small church in Indiana. She's cleaning the facility when music comes to her unexpectedly from the sanctuary. Zakaria Rush, the new Director of Children's Ministries, is playing his guitar. Instantly, and instinctively, Zakaria treats Charlotte with respect and an easy sense of caring--caring that blooms quickly to an even deeper affection.

That affection is what leads Zakaria to take her gently under his wing, and lead her to her heart's desire--music and a sharing of her life, and the gifts God has given her. What could be more beautiful?

At no point is this love story mawkish or overdone. Therein lies its absolute beauty. With the same kind of artistry as Karen Kingsbury displayed in her novel Unlocked, EA West uses heart, God, and a straightforward approach to make Charlotte come alive and be completely relatable in how she sees the world and reacts to it. We understand her, and therefore, we love her and cheer for her. And all I can say about Zakaria is that in him, EA has created a hero worthy of Charlotte.

Don't walk, run to pick it up! Five stars.

Purchase The Key to Charlotte at or at Pelican Book!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pamela Thibodeaux & The Visionary

I'm delighted to welcome a favorite author of mine to the blog today - Pamela Thibodeaux.

Pam is noted for creating inspirational fiction 'with an edge...' and her new release, The Visionary, most definitely will not disappoint her fanbase.

More on that, and my review, after we get to know a bit more about Pam!

First, a meet and greet ~

Pamela S. Thibodeaux is an award-winning author, and the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”

And boy, does The Visionary deliver on that count...

Here's a bit about the book, and an excerpt:


A visionary is someone who sees into the future Taylor Forrestier sees into the past but only as it pertains to her work. Hailed by her peers as “a visionary with an instinct for beauty and an eye for the unique” Taylor is undoubtedly a brilliant architect and gifted designer. But she and twin brother Trevor, share more than a successful business. The two share a childhood wrought with lies and deceit and the kind of abuse that’s disgustingly prevalent in today’s society. Can the love of God and the awesome healing power of His grace and mercy free the twins from their past and open their hearts to the good plan and the future He has for their lives? Find out in…The Visionary ~ Where the awesome power of God's love heals the most wounded of souls.


Taylor thrashed about and fought the fear clamoring in her throat. Panic stole her breath. The monster held her while Trevor grappled with a gun. She struggled and kicked, but the monster held her fast. She had to get away. She had to stop him! She begged and pleaded, but the monster just laughed. His gnarled, horrid sound sent shivers of terror through her soul. A blast of gunshot, a flash of lightning, and the scream tore free from her throat and echoed through the room. The door burst open and strong arms encircled her. Gentle hands stroked and soothed, a soft voice caressed, tender words flowed over her. Taylor buried her face in Alex’s shoulder while he cradled her against his chest and rocked.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you,” she murmured. A pulse hammered against her skin, a tremble shimmered down her spine. She pushed herself closer, found safety and comfort in his embrace.

Alex tightened his arms around her, smoothed her hair. “It’s okay. That’s why I’m here and exactly why I didn’t want to leave you alone tonight.”

Marianne's Review of The Visionary:

This book is unafraid and unashamed to confront the hard-hitting issue of child abuse, yet maintain a hopeful, christ-centered view.

I found it difficult to review this extraordinary book in detail without revealing plotpoints that I must allow the reader to experience on their own. This is an exceptional foray into Christian fiction that is spine chilling, heart-healing, and beautifully told. It takes bravery of spirit to create a novel like The Visionary.

With a deft hand, Ms. Thibodeaux mixes angst, faith, love and hope after horrors into a novel I'll not soon forget. You become firmly engaged in the lives and challenges of the characters in this story and I found myself racing through the pages to see what would come next...and discover this very unique story's resolution.

I highly recommended, and can't wait for more from this talented author. Five-Stars.

Pam's Website:
Pam's Blog:
Bayou Writers Group:

Purchase The Visionary at:

Barnes & Noble:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New & Exclusive Hearts Key Excerpt!

Come on in and cozy up!! I want you to meet Tyler Brock and Amy Maxwell in this exclusive excerpt from Hearts Key!! (and hopefully it'll tempt you to purchase this wonderful White Rose Publishing romance right here!!!!)

With that, off we go to the cool, azure waters of Lake St. Clair......and a leisurely boat ride....


Pastor Ken had tuned the radio to WMUZ, the Christian station in Detroit. A Britt Nicole song, Hanging On, drifted through the air. “Here's what I know about post-highschool Amy Maxwell—” his voice was a slow and gentle leading. Amy knew at once this conversation was headed places. Big places. “—I know you ended up marrying Mark Samuels.”

She had no excuse to hide her eyes. Tyler’s position next to her blocked the blinding orb of the
sun. Still, she reached for her sunglasses, and cleared her throat again as she did so. Tyler took hold of her wrist to still the motion before she could follow through. In emphasis, he slipped his thumb against her skittering pulse point in a light, but deliberate stroke.

“Don’t put up a guard, Amy. Relax.” The stroke continued, lulling. Assuring somehow. “Just talk to me.”

She watched him, Tyler Brock, shadowed and framed against a pure blue sky. She refused to go tense and bitter with memory; she refused her past that kind of subtle victory. And so, she confessed to the worst of it. “I divorced him, too. Best to get that out in the open, I suppose.”

“My folks told me as much. I’m so sorry, Amy. I don’t care how many years have passed, I know who you are, and I know for certain that kind of decision did not come easily to you. What happened, honey?”

The earnest question, the naturally delivered endearment, coasted into her blood stream and stirred up an emotional flood. Instantly she was carried away, her heart delivered to a place where she could reveal herself, and not fear for the consequences.

Patient and steady, he waited, watching her. She lay prone, oddly relaxed in contradiction to the increased tempo of her blood. She needed to see how close Pyper might be, and determine if she was within hearing distance. Amy lifted just far enough to see that her daughter was happily occupied by the companionship of the Brocks, who were presently being charmed out of a sandwich and some grapes.

Assured, Amy laid back down, tilting her gaze toward Tyler. “He…” Amy took in a breath. Like
ripping off a sticky bandage, she came clean all at once, in a quiet, defeated voice. “He abused me, Tyler. Physically and mentally. And he took out a lot of his anger on Pyper, too. He’d startle her with unexpected, unwarranted spankings, he’d scream at her to be quiet whenever she cried, and he’d yell at the both of us for no good reason. Everything he did just seemed to scare
her all the more. He couldn’t hold a job, so his frustration grew by the day—and so did his use of
alcohol as a way of escaping it all. When he started hitting me, I left.” She shook her head. “And when I say I left, I mean there’s absolutely nothing left of my old life. He saw to that quickly and efficiently.”

She was so carried away by the admission, so wrapped up in the pain of a past she fought to move past every day of her life, she didn’t realize until then that Tyler regarded her with steel‐like eyes and a clenched jaw. Automatically Amy reached up, wanting to apologize for upsetting him. She stroked his chin and shook her head, whispering, “Hey…hey…I’m

Tyler flinched. “Stop.” He closed his eyes, taking deep breaths. “You mean to say he physically hurt you? Physically harmed you and Pyper?” All Amy could summon was silence, and a nod. “Gimme a sec.”

Tyler seemed to lose his battle with control. He growled out a sound and sat up abruptly. A startling beam of sunlight crossed against Amy’s face. She shaded her eyes. Tense seconds swirled past, so she reached for her sunglasses and slid them on. Moving into a sitting position, she slowly drew up her legs then encircled them with her arms. She rested her chin on her knees, watching him. Waiting, protectively sinking in upon herself.

“I can’t even find it within myself to pray for him right now,” Tyler whispered tightly, looking out across the water. In the face of his desolate, troubled admission, Amy ignored a round of laughter that came from their cruise mates, the song switched from Britt Nicole to a Point of Grace classic.

“No. Not right now. But you will. It took me a while, too.” When tense silence lengthened, she began to worry. “Tyler, talk to me. Please? What are you thinking?”

“That Mark Samuels doesn’t deserve one precious second of the time God gave him with you, and that wonderful little girl.”

Typical Tyler Brock. He was never, ever afraid to speak his heart. That was the beauty of him. Just like the words and melodies of his music, he laid it all out there and withheld nothing. Oh, how she admired that bravery of spirit.

Once, she had been the same way, but she had never been smart when it came to matters of the heart. Instead, she had opted to keep Tyler playfully enamored, a friend but nothing more while she chased after the bigger, better deal. Well, woe unto her. “I paid the price for being star‐struck by the popular guy, the guy everyone admired. In theory, he was Mr. Right. In
practice he turned into Mr. Devastation.” She pursed her lips, and looked at her daughter. “And you’ve seen how hard it is on Pyper when it comes to adult men. It leaves me sick at myself sometimes.”

Tyler leaned in and captured her chin gently in his hand. He looked intently into her eyes. “Don’t ever, ever take responsibility for a man abusing you and your daughter, Amy. You’ve pulled sunshine out of the rain. Do you understand that?”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

COTT Rages on! Here's the latest...

*Guest post by Michelle Massaro

Week THREE of COTT's Tournament of Champions saw four more authors compete and three more scavenger hunts played.

Here's a recap:

On Monday, players were sent to Elaine Cooper's Blog with a mission: Find the full name of the girl Nathaniel Stearns falls in love with in the book trailer video on her home page. Renee C won a $10 Amazon gift card from Marianne Evans, author of Hearts Crossing.

Tuesday, the hunt was on at Shellie Neumeier's Blog. The question: What is the name of the book Shellie co-wrote with Lisa Lickel? Tammy G won a $10 Amazon gift card from April Gardner, author of Wounded Spirits.

Wednesday we were led to Naomi Musch's Blog. The question: In her new release, The Red Fury, Colette's daughter Lainey is seeking solace from tragic loss and two searing rejections by doing what 2 things? B.J. Robinson won a $10 CBD gift card donated by Ann Gaylia O'Barr, author of Singing in Babylon.

Want your own spending spree? Be sure to play in this week's hunts. Check Clash of the Titles for game info.

And what about the competing books? Who won?

Karen Witemeyer's A Tailor-Made Bride and Lena Nelson Dooley's Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico battled on Monday. A Tailor-Made Bride came out the winner.
Christine Lindsay's Shadowed in Silk and Naomi Musch's The Green Veil struck swords on Wednesday. The Green Veil took the top spot.

These two victorious titles competed together on Friday to determine which would move on to the finals for a chance to win the Laurel Award. And that finalist is...

Karen Witemeyer's A Tailor-Made Bride!

There are now three finalists vying for the ultimate COTT honor. In this final week they'll be joined by a fourth book, then all will be thrown into the ring until only ONE remains. Who will it be? It's up to readers to decide, so cast your votes!

The Laurel will be awarded on November 4th, along with the 15-book grand prize that will be given to one lucky reader. Want a shot at it? You can enter by sharing links, putting up buttons and banners on your blog, becoming a follower of COTT, etc. Details on the prize basket and full instructions on how to enter can be found here. To make it easy to grab n go, here are the banner and button codes (just don't forget to let them know if you put them up!)


Clash of The Titles

Here's the button code:

* Michelle Massaro is the Assistant Editor for COTT. Find her on twitter @MLMassaro, Facebook, and Adventures In Writing.