Schedule and Assignments
May 9--Toni Shiloh Prayerfully-Lifted Romance (Review)
May 10--Katie's Clean Book Collection (Book spotlight post + snippet of a chapter in the book)
May 11--Wishful Endings (Book spotlight post + snippet of a chapter in the book)
May 12--deal sharing aunt (Author Interview (You ask the questions))
May 13--Mel's Shelves (Book spotlight post + snippet of a chapter in the book)
May 14--Singing Librarian Books (Review, Author Interview (Singing Librarian Books asks the questions), Snippet from a chapter in the book)
A cast of three very different heroes come together in this suspenseful series—Austan Sandoval (a master of disguise and deception), James Hinton (a naïve missionary out to save the world), and Suvi Goldstein (a desperate girl running from her past)—showing how the transforming power of God holds out hope to all, from those who have lived a charmed life to the vilest of sinners.
Series: Bending Willow Trilogy
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Christian, LDS, Suspense, Contemporary
Publisher: C. Stastny
Publication Date: May 9, 2012
Number of pages: 298
After swindling millions from a Central American drug cartel, Austan Sandoval stumbles upon the location of the daughter of an Israeli Mossad assassin and determines to recruit her to his team. Meanwhile, James Hinton serves as a missionary in Guatemala and sacrifices all to help others. When Suvi Goldstein tries to escape her past, she’s torn between violent men in one world and a kind, forgiving man in another as she battles darkness to discover the light within herself.
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Series: Bending Willow Trilogy
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Christian, LDS, Suspense, Contemporary
Publisher: C. Stastny
Publication Date: February 4, 2013
Number of pages: 306
Suvi feels unworthy of her happily-ever-after, especially when her knight in shining armor becomes the target of evil men due to her past. James believes he has won the heart of the woman he loves, but when sinister secrets are exposed, his love may not survive. Austan stands guard against the Dragon’s wrath, but nurses hope that he can reveal his true identity. When a chance arises to team up with a pair of Israeli Mossad operatives, he may finally be in a position to do what he has ached to do for four long years—reunite with Suvi and rekindle their love.
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Series: Bending Willow Trilogy
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Christian, LDS, Suspense, Contemporary
Publisher: C. Stastny
Publication Date: January 26, 2015
Number of pages: 304
- In the series finale, love, loss, and forgiveness weave a tapestry that will touch hearts as James, Suvi, and Austan are tried by separation, death, grief and revenge as dark dragons from the past cause hell to erupt. As they struggle to survive, they will discover that when all seems lost, the only hope comes from unseen Hands of Mercy.
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Charissa Stastny hails from Las Vegas, Nevada, but has never pulled the handle of a slot machine and can’t shuffle cards to save her life. After writing the creative tale of The Creature from McGool in 4th grade, she has envisioned herself an author, and continued in shame to pen some cheesy romance scenes as a teenager. Thankfully, she has matured somewhat and tries hard not to spread too much cheese around in her writing now. She graduated from Brigham Young University in Elementary Education and enjoys writing, reading, hiking and biking. She resides in Idaho’s Treasure Valley with her husband and children, where card shuffling isn’t required. Whew!
(Insert interview here or include the interview questions provided via SLB Tours. If you are also interested, the author has provided additional interview questions that you are welcome to include as well.)
Interview via SLB Tours
1. How did you get started as an author? What or whom inspired you? I’d always wanted to write a book, but never seemed to have time between being a mother to my kids, a caregiver to a bunch of others, and then a preschool teacher later. When my kids were spread out between elementary and high school, I suddenly found myself spending lots of time waiting for them at practices and such. That’s when I started bringing notebooks with me and hashing out my story from beginning to end (which ended up being my Bending Willow Trilogy). That hooked me on the writing process…and now I don’t want to stop.
2. What writing project are you currently working on? What can you tell us about these projects? I’m almost finished with my next novel, Between Hope and the Highway. It will be released this fall. It’s taken me way too long, and so I’d like to fine-tune my writing process this summer so that I plot my books in the future, instead of relying on the seat of my pants.
3. What suggestions would you give a potential author to help them become a better writer? There are so many great writing books out there to help you. Read as many of them as you can, and apply new techniques to your writing as you learn them. Go to a writing conference each year if you can, and learn how to plot a story. I’ve done the pantser method for my first four books, and it’s fun…but very inefficient. If you want to make money, you’ll need to get books out faster than pantsing it allows. And plotting will ensure you have all your plot points up front so you don’t have to spend months trying to figure out why a certain section isn’t working out for you and rewriting it (um…I might know what I’m talking about here. Hee hee)
4. What authors inspire your writing? There are tons of authors I adore, but the ones that probably inspire my own writing in contemporary romance the most are Taylor Dean, Amy Harmon, Sheralyn Pratt, and Jennifer Peel. I can reread their stories and never tire of them.
5. What period of history interests you the most? Does this influence your writing? I’m pretty grateful for the present. That’s probably why I tend to set my stories in it. I do love to read Regency romances when I find them, but I don’t know if I’ll ever write one.
6. What inspired the idea for each of the novels in the Bending Willow Series? My muse started with a door-to-door salesperson. An Israeli girl named Suvi, with a nose ring and a vivacious personality, knocked, charmed me into buying one of her oil paintings, and then talked to my daughters and me for an hour. After she left, a story started to form around her in my mind. As I wrote my imagined story for Suvi, I wanted to help my daughters be aware of hidden secrets people carry so that they would be more merciful in their judgment of others. We never know what awful circumstances and experiences have led someone to act in certain ways. My little brother was my inspiration for my hero. He served a mission in Guatemala and I used his letters to cast James Hinton. I tease him that James is him…only cooler!
7. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did becoming a writer ever cross your mind? I’ve always had a love affair with books and a tendency to get lost in my dream worlds as a child. As a teenager, I wrote cheesy romance scenes between handsome cowboys and milkmaids…and I promise, the world will NEVER see these! They’re cheesier than a Walmart tuxedo.
8. What other hobbies do you enjoy when you are not writing? Reading is my biggest hobby. I’m always happy with a good book and quiet time. I also love gardening (although I’m not an avid gardener). I like designing and planting things, and then sitting back to enjoy pretty flowers, bushes and trees that don’t need much (or any) babying from me. I like camping, hiking, biking, playing the piano, and painting (when I’m in the mood). I always love chocolate. It is the hobby I’m probably best at—sniffing it out and savoring it.
Interview questions provided by the author.
Author Related Questions
1. Most writers are readers. What are some of your favorite books?
I love The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, any of the Harry Potter books, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, and anything by C.S. Lewis. Contemporary romance authors I can’t get enough of are Taylor Dean, Amy Harmon, and Jennifer Peel. I can reread their stories and not tire of them.
2. Who is your favorite author and why?
Probably C.S. Lewis. His words are amazing; his thoughts so clear and inspiring. Everything he wrote deserves a place on my fridge.
3. Who is the most frightening character in a movie or book you’ve read or seen?
The Joker in Dark Knight.
4. What is your favorite childhood memory?
Going to my Grandma and Grandpa’s farm in Southern Utah. That’s my idea of heaven.
5. What is your favorite sweet?
I don’t have just one. Brownies, cinnamon rolls, and cheesecake rank at the top of my list…but if you offer me anything with sugar, I’ll decide that is my new favorite treat.
6. What is your favorite music?
I can listen to just about anything: country, jazz, classical, rock. IZ reminds me of the islands, and Josh Groban has the voice of an angel (but I get lots of flack for my tastes from everyone).
7. Any special talents?I’m not super good at any one thing, but am proficient at lots of things. I’ve tried my hand at painting, crafting, photography, piano, organ, teaching, crochet, gardening, scrapbooking, basketball, mountain biking, and now writing.
8. If you could revisit one day in your life, which would it be?In 2009, I spent a week with my grandma taking care of her. I would revisit any of those days and just drink in her smile and laughter.
9. If you could have lunch with any character from a book (other than your own), who would it be, where would you eat, and what would you discuss?
I would dine with Dumbledore from Harry Potter. We’d eat sushi at Sakana’s (my favorite eating joint) and talk about anything he liked. Seriously, I can’t even think of a good enough question to ask the most powerful wizard ever. If he wanted to discuss Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans...then so be it.
10. If you could have dinner with an author from any time, who would you choose, where would you dine, and what would you ask him/her?
C.S. Lewis would be my pick. We’d go to Cheesecake Factory and ask to be seated in a fancy booth. I don’t think I’d ask him anything (except what his favorite cheesecake was)...I’d just listen to whatever he said and be in heaven.
11. Tell us a little about your family.
My husband and I are high school sweethearts and married after his mission. We have four children—3 daughters (one married, one who just got back from serving a mission in Korea, and one graduating from high school this year) and one son (in high school). We love being together and our favorite activities include biking, hiking, camping, and going to Disneyland.
1. What got you started on your writing journey?
I’ve dabbled with writing since I was a kid. I loved reading clean romance as a teen and wrote many cheesy scenes between handsome cowboys and milkmaids in my journal. The world will NEVER see these!
2. Do you have a favorite comment or question from a reader?
After my husband read my first book, he commented, “It would have been better with a zombie in it.” Since then, the Search and Find feature on Word has become my best friend. I always use it before I send out drafts to readers, because unfortunately, my husband is skilled at sneaking zombies into files. There is nothing worse than when the masculine hunk in my story tells the girl of his dreams that ‘he wants to eat her brains.’ Ugh!
3. How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
Quite a lot. There is always one character I identify with—usually the shy, awkward one with a good heart who doesn’t know how to accessorize. My cool characters are my dreams of how I wish I could be. It’s fun as a writer to live vicariously through our characters.
4. Where do your ideas come from?
My characters. A vivid character creates their own action, tension and stories.
5. Do you have a favorite character?
I love Suvi and wish I could meet her in real life. Austan’s pretty cool too (he’s a hoot to write), but I don’t know if I’d be brave or confident enough to meet him in person. I wouldn’t be able to come up with witty comebacks fast enough.
6. Where did you get your inspiration for this book?
My muse started with a door-to-door salesperson. An Israeli girl named Suvi with a nose ring and a vivacious personality knocked, charmed me into buying one of her oil paintings, and then talked to my daughters and me for an hour. After she left, a story started to form around her in my mind. As I wrote my imagined story for Suvi, I wanted to help my own daughters be aware of hidden secrets people carry so that they would be more merciful in their judgment of others. We never know what awful circumstances and experiences have led someone to act in certain ways.
My little brother was my inspiration for my James character. He served a mission in Guatemala and I used his letters he wrote home to cast James Hinton. I tease him that James is him…only cool!
7. What does your family think about your writing?
They think I’m crazy to sit and play with imaginary characters all day. And I am! My 2nd daughter laughed hysterically when she read my early draft of Eyes of Light. She highlighted sections and wrote: “Cheesy! Please Mom, don’t ever publish this. I will be embarrassed for you!” My husband also gave me advice: “Before you publish, you might want to do a search for the word ZOMBIE.” Their tips saved me. Also, my oldest daughter designed my covers and keeps me looking presentable.
8. You love to write suspenseful romances. What intrigues you most about these stories?
I love reading romance (if it’s clean), and writing it is even better. My Bending Willow Trilogy is intense and drags my characters through some very rough waters to test their faith and resilience. The most intriguing aspect of writing these stories has been to watch my characters grow. I am always wondering what I would do in the same situations, and I feel that helps me grow as well to have to make choices in my mind as my characters make them on the written page.
9. Did your characters surprise you in any way when you began writing these books?
Yes, my character James ended up being a little wishy-washy and wimpy in the first draft. That bugged me and my beta-readers, so when I revised, I threw a few more trials his way to torture him and toughen him up. I was pleased with him in the end.
10. If you were to be stranded on a deserted tropical island with one of your characters, who would you choose and why?
Since I can’t build a fire or catch fish, I’d need someone who could be responsible and take care of me. In my mind, that would be James Hinton. I imagine he was a Boy Scout when he was young, so he’s very handy, self-reliant, kind, creative, and honorable. I’d feel safe with him.
11. What kind of trials do your main characters have to endure?
Suvi’s trials never seem to end. I feel bad for being so brutal to her, but it makes for a good story. She’s a recovering closet alcoholic, as well as dealing with repressed memories of abuse as a child and adult. And as if those weren’t bad enough, she has drug capos and a psychopath killer stalking her in Book 2. Good thing her dad is a Mossad agent.
James’s trial seems to be Suvi, even though he’s smitten by her. The baggage above that she carries becomes his by association...and puts his life in jeopardy.
Austan’s life rivals Suvi’s. Unloved and unwanted as a child, made to play dead as an adult and lose the love of his life, he’s used to life’s gut punches. The secretive life of a CIA-NCS operative isn’t as glamorous as he thought it’d be when he signed up; but with Suvi’s life at risk, he can’t quit.
12. Did you put real experiences in this book?
In Eyes of Light, the missionary scenes are almost all taken from real-life experiences my brother had while serving in Guatemala. I found his letters captivating and used them to form my character James. In Secret Keepers, there are several scenes—like the Garden tomb and Wailing Wall—I described from being in Israel as a college student. I also stayed on a kibbutz in the Galilee and based Suvi’s experiences there on mine.
I find that little bits and pieces of real life creep into my writing whether I want them to or not. My sisters always tease me by saying things like, “Ha! James rides his bike like your husband.” or “Suvi bites her nails like you.” Sometimes those references happen on purpose, but usually not.
13. Why should we read your books?
Two reasons: 1) Because I went to a lot of trouble to delete all the ‘zombie’ and ‘brain-eating’ references from them, and 2) The characters are amazing! You will fall in love with Suvi, Austan, and James.
1. What is one silly fact about you?
I can do a ‘mean’ monkey imitation. When I did this at Biblical zoo in Jerusalem, the monkeys spit at me though. I don’t know what that means.
2. If you were a cartoon character, which one would you be?
Elastigirl (AKA Mrs. Incredible). I think she’s awesome. What girl wouldn’t want that skinnifying power?
3. If you should ever be on death row and have to order a last meal, what would it be?
Since I wouldn’t be worried about calories, I’d order chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes with lots of white gravy, stuffing, sweet potato pie, and caramel fudge trifle for dessert.
4. What terrifies you?
Wasps. I got stung about 10 times one day picking weeds and now am always watching for the little suckers so I can spray them before they get me. Hate ‘em!
5. What’s the most embarrassing moment you are willing to confess?
Back in college, in the middle of the Sinai in Egypt, our bus stopped for a bathroom break. Trouble was, there were no bathrooms—just desert. Teacher said: “Boys to the left; girls to the right.” Being extremely modest, I chose to hike to a distant culvert with a few other girls, where I thought I could hide better.
In the middle of my business, one of the girls gasped and pointed. A truck full of Arabs had passed the bus and stopped to see what we were doing at the bottom of the culvert. They had a straight-on shot at us from the road (which had been deserted for hours, mind you). The other girls (smarter than me), said, “Oh, well,” and finished their show for the gaping Arabs. Me…I was more modest than smart. I whipped up my pants in the middle of the stream and had to travel 3 more hours in wet pants. Oh, the shame!
6. If you could have plastic surgery, what would you change?
Nothing. I think wrinkles are earned and are a sign of wisdom. I’ve worked and lived too hard to let some doctor take that away from me.
7. Cat person or dog person?
Although I find cats beautiful and mysterious, I’m allergic and can’t breathe around them; that makes the choice simple: DOGS.
8. What super power would you want (being elastic not included)?
Superman’s ability to fly around the earth and turn back time. I could use more time to write and read more books.
9. What candy bar would be your motto for life?
I’m going to be unique and pick Toffifay. With that hazelnut in the middle of all that chocolate and caramel, it resembles what I aim to claim in life—joy! Yes, life can get nutty and sometimes you get stuck in the caramel goo of challenges, but wrap it all together with hope (which chocolate symbolizes to me), and everything works together to bring joy in the end.
10. What animal do you resemble?
Maybe a deer. I’m quiet and will probably hide if loud people come around.
Book 1: Eyes of Light Snippet
“Hey, get off my rock.”
Suvi jumped as Austan’s teasing voice startled her from her musing. She straightened and watched his agile figure approach, dribbling a soccer ball at his feet. He wore a wide grin and his brown eyes laughed at her. Shaking her head, she muttered, “You scared me, you idiot.”
He hopped onto the rock and took her hand. “Ah, you must love me. You didn’t call me a swear word.”
She stifled a smile. “I wish you would stop sneaking up on me. I’m beginning to regret ever telling you about this place.” She looked in the direction of the house, hidden by giant hemlocks and maples. “No one saw you, did they?”
“Of course not. I let myself in the back gate. Your uncle should keep it locked.” He waggled an eyebrow. “You never know what shady elements might sneak in unawares.” A thrill pulsed through her as he pecked her cheek and snatched the tattered copy of Les Miserables off her lap. “Seriously? You’re reading this relic again?”
She tried to retrieve her precious book, but he held it out of reach. “I like it,” she said, sticking her tongue out at him.
Austan rifled through a few pages. “What kind of nerd are you? You have the whole book outlined in red like you’re going to be quizzed on it.”
Once more, she tried to grab the book from him, but he dodged her and read an underlined passage in a high mocking tone. “One can no more prevent the mind from returning to an idea than the sea from returning to a shore. In the case of the sailor, this is called the tide; in the case of the guilty, it is called remorse. God upheaves the soul as well as the ocean.”
“Give it back.”
“There are other books, you know?”
She folded her arms. “Yes, I know. I’ve read way more of them than you have.”
His heavy lidded brown eyes seemed to caress her. She couldn’t hold back a grin as he leaned back and took her hand again. “You probably have. You’re quite nerdy that way.”
“I’m not nerdy.”
“Anyone who reads as much as you and gets perfect scores on their AP Calculus test their junior year is as nerdy as they come, babe. All you need are some taped up glasses and a pen hanging out your pocket and you could be poster queen for Nerds R Us.” He winked. “I know I’d pin you on my wall.”
Book 2: Secret Keepers Snippet
Lime green goop bubbled up…up…up before cooling and drifting downward, undulating and mingling to form sinuous shapes on its descent to the slime pile. Suvi sulked as she watched the green glob from her lava lamp transform into eerie contours that mimicked the walking dead from those awful movies she’d watched as a teen. Reaching over to switch off her lamp, she wished she could turn off memories as easily. Despite the joyous events that had occurred this month, the horrid past still bound her.
Today had proved that.
Squeezing her eyes shut, she forced back tears as scenes clawed out of her mind’s grave and opened raw wounds to ooze in her heart.
Book 3: Hands of Mercy Snippet
Steel scraped concrete as the door to the holding cell opened. Fresh air entered with the guards, but surrendered to the suffocating scent of sewage.
“Muévete cerdo!” Move, pig. A well-placed boot to the captive’s already tender ribcage accompanied the cruel command.
The prisoner grunted and spit out blood as his tormentors grabbed him beneath his armpits and muttered obscenities. Dizziness engulfed him as they dragged him from the rat-infested chamber. When the harsh clank of metal sounded behind him, he slumped with relief at being freed from his cage. That’s what the six by six foot room he’d been cast in resembled. He blinked swollen eyes, but only abstract shadows swirled in his vision. Blindness was preferable to seeing the jeering faces of his abusers though.
As bloodcurdling screams pierced the corridor, bile clawed up his throat. His cries had echoed against these walls earlier; they’d probably be heard again if these men had their way. Stairs leading out of the dank dungeon appeared. Weakened by hunger and fear, the hostage’s foot snagged on the first step. Stumbling, he inadvertently dragged both guards down with his weight. As they turned their angry rods on him, he raised his hands in a defensive reflex, but let them fall back to his sides, too weary to fight a battle he could not win. The guards clamped his upper arms and lugged him up the steps.
Warm rays of sunshine soothed his battered skin as they dragged him out of the building, but before he could appreciate the small mercy, hands shoved him from behind, making him stagger. Velvet grass cushioned his fall, but granules of dirt mingled with blood in his mouth. Vicious hands groped and stripped him of his bloodstained clothes. Several voices shouted in Spanish, but his mind was too numb to translate. What did it matter if he understood? Pain was a universal language he now knew fluently.
(Insert review with FTC disclosure here.)
HMTL: <a class="rcptr" href="http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d26850c581/" rel="nofollow" data-raflid="d26850c581" data-theme="classic" data-template="" id="rcwidget_uy335smm">a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>
May 9--Toni Shiloh Prayerfully-Lifted Romance
May 10--Katie's Clean Book Collection
May 11--Wishful Endings
May 12--deal sharing aunt
May 13--Mel's Shelves
May 14--Singing Librarian Books
SLB Tour Kits will be posted here by the Friday before the tour begins.