Friday Weekend Escape to Texas, USA with Lynette Sowell

Today we’re escaping for the weekend with my author friend, Lynette Sowell, to Central Texas, USA. Lynette is giving us a tour of her home state and sharing her love for the Lone Star State. Enjoy!

Cowboys, soldiers, and wide open spaces

By Lynette Sowell

Welcome to my neighborhood! I love to travel the country (and the world) sometimes through books, but I thought I’d let you have a glimpse of where I’ve called home for over twenty years now—Central Texas.

Most people think about cattle, wide open spaces, pickup trucks, cowboys and such, when they think about Texas—and all those things are true. Within a few minutes’ drive of my city, you’re in the Hill Country, where they do have cattle and ranches.


cattle n ranch

But what I love most about the area, besides those wide open spaces, is being so close to Fort Hood. I can dine ’round the world and never leave home. We have a large expatriot community here from transplants as far away as the South Pacific!

Guam celebration

As a local newspaper reporter, I get to enjoy time with those of many varied backgrounds, like recently attending a 70th anniversary celebration commemmorating the liberation of Guam from the Japanese. The island folks had a big party here, complete with roasted pig, pancit (with Spam) and other yummies.

In our part of Texas, the cavalry is still alive and well, and the Army’s First Cavalry division still has a horse detachment that rides and trains. Their purpose is ceremonial, and they along with their mounts travel around for parades and public events.


Texas has big churches, but it also has small community churches that have been around for more than a century. Immanuel Lutheran Church recently celebrated its 125th anniversary—a big milestone.

Lutheran Church Before the storm

When driving through the Texas countryside, you never know when you’ll come upon an encouraging word, like with this church sign. I drove past it one very busy morning, when I had a lot on my mind and much to do. Glimpsing this sign made me feel as if I’d had a nudge from a friend, telling me I wasn’t alone with my concerns and I should probably fret a lot less.

Country Church

That’s why when I decided to write a contemporary Texas series, I chose to set it in the fictional town of Starlight, Texas—not far from Fort Hood. Inside the three titles—Catch A Falling Star, Counting on Starlight, and The Sweetheart of Starlight—I’ve put many of my favorite things about Central Texas inside their pages: wide open spaces, fickle weather to include hail storms, heat, ice storm and a tornado;/ a kaleidoscope of characters to include transplants from other parts of the country, as well as Germany and Korea; along with high school football and barbecue, all wrapped up in a small town with a view that goes on for miles.

Thanks for stopping by and reading about my corner of the world, deep in the heart of Texas!


Here’s more about Catch A Falling Star:

Justine Campbell would gladly rewind her life a few months…back before it crumbled around her like so much gilded plaster. Billy Tucker could use a rewind button, too. He’d go back to the day before his humvee exploded in Iraq, injuring himself and killing two of his buddies. Billy’s bitterness and Justine’s humiliation make for a prickly pair when they first meet, but can either of them let go of the past long enough to let God make their paths straight again?


LYNETTE SOWELL is an award-winning author with New England roots, but she makes her home on the doorstep of the Texas Hill Country with her husband, her dog Mocha, and a duo of spoiled cats. When she’s not writing, she chases down stories for the local newspaper and is always up for a Texas road trip.

Twitter: @LynetteSowell

Friday Weekend Escape to Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA with Shirley Raye Redmond

I’m delighted to welcome my author friend, Shirley Raye Redmond, to my blog today. We’re going to escape for the weekend with Shirley to her home town of Los Alamos in New Mexico, USA. Enjoy!

Los Alamos, New Mexico: Where Discoveries are Made

By Shirley Raye Redmond

I am blessed to live in Los Alamos, a snug little community nestled on a plateau in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico. If you know anything at all about Los Alamos, you will recall that it was once a “secret city,” where scientists during WWII were frantically working to develop the atom bomb before the Germans did so. WGN has recently aired a television drama Manhattan (referring to the top secret Manhattan Project) that depicts life (sort of) as it was on top of “the Hill” in those frantic war days. Today, Los Alamos is the home of Los Alamos National Laboratory, where scientists from around the world pursue advances in everything from nuclear energy to biotechnology.

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory


Omega Bridge spans the canyon that separates the laboratory site from the town site.

Omega Bridge spans the canyon that separates the laboratory site from the town site.

Although my new Christian regency, PRUDENCE PURSUED, takes place in 1806 in Bath, England, I realized, after a bit of reflection for this blog post, that Los Alamos and Bath actually have a few things in common.

(1) Both Bath and Los Alamos boast ruins. Today’s city of Bath in Somerset is built on top of and around the ancient ruins of the Roman town of Aquae Sulis. The Pajarito Plateau where Los Alamos now stands was once home to the Anasazi and Bandelier National Monument is a popular tourist destination for those interested in cliff dwellers.

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument

(2) For centuries after the Romans vacated, the British have gone to Bath to soak in the famous hot springs and, like Jane Austen and her contemporaries, to drink the medicinal waters in the Pump Room. I did that when I visited Bath some years ago and much prefer soaking in the hot springs which we have in abundance here too. We also have the Aquatic Center, a high altitude Olympic size swimming pool, which attracts swim teams from all over the country.

Fuller Lodge, in the heart of downtown, is a national historic landmark.

Fuller Lodge, in the heart of downtown, is a national historic landmark.

(3) Bath and Los Alamos are both great towns for history buffs. While UNESCO named a World Heritage Site in 1987, the U.S. Congress is presently considering the viability of a Manhattan Project National Park here. We already have a wonderful history museum and a science museum. And LIVABILITY recently named Los Alamos the #1 Best Small Town in America!

Come visit—and enjoy the world’s best green chile bacon extra cheese breakfast burrito!

The town where discoveries are still being made!

The town where discoveries are still being made!

AP Pru

At the advanced age of twenty-seven, vicar’s daughter Prudence Pentrye is on the shelf. Content to occupy her time by attending meetings of Mr. Wilberforce’s Abolition Society and helping her father administer vaccines in an effort to prevent a small pox epidemic, Prudence is resolved to see that her younger cousin Margaret does not share her own unmarried fate.

But Margaret is plain and shy. She is repulsed when a swashbuckling baronet, Sir James Brownell, makes her an offer of marriage. With his sunburned skin, eye patch, and indifference to fashion, Sir James is not Margaret’s idea of a romantic suitor. Nor does Margaret enjoy his tales of fighting against Malay pirates and trekking through tropical jungles on the island of Borneo in hopes of capturing a living orangutan.

Prudence, however, finds herself secretly smitten. Will she maintain control of her traitorous heart or will she trust God to make her life richer and more rewarding than the one she had planned for herself?

Shirley Redmond

SHIRLEY RAYE REDMOND is an award-winning author of children’s books and sweet romance. Her Lewis & Clark: A Prairie Dog for the President (Random House) was a Children’s Book of the Month Club selection. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, the Faith, Hope and Love Chapter of RWA, Southwest Writers and Women Writing the West. Prudence Pursued is her second inspirational romance novel. Connect with her via her facebook author page or at

Her titles are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Book Recommendation: Helsinki Sunrise by Marion Ueckermann

HelsinkiSunrise_w11668_680 (2)

Back cover blurb:

Three weeks alone at a friend’s summer cottage on a Finnish lake to fast and pray. That was Adam Carter’s plan. But sometimes plans go awry.

On an impromptu trip to her family’s secluded summer cottage, the last thing Eveliina Mikkola expected to find was a missionary from the other side of the world—in her sauna.

Determined to stay, Eveliina will do whatever it takes—from shortcrust pastry to shorts—to send the man of God packing. This island’s too small for them both.

Adam Carter, however, is not about to leave.

Will he be able to resist her temptations? Can she withstand his prayers?

Narelle: I enjoyed reading Helsinki Sunrise. Eveliina is seeking solitude at her grandparent’s cottage. She wants to escape her demanding boss, who is pushing her to form a more personal relationship with him. Adam is Eveliina’s brother’s friend and he is devoted to his missionary calling. Sparks fly when Eveliina discovers Adam in her sauna. Eveliina has no time for God. She does her best to drive Adam away from the island despite her growing attraction to him. Adam is determined to resist the temptations placed before him by the beautiful Eveliina.

I loved the playful romance that developed between Eveliina and Adam in an authentic Finnish setting. We have a South African hero, a Finnish heroine and a gorgeous island setting full of fresh blueberries and mosquitoes. The faith element in the story is strong and we see Adam struggling with his feelings for Eveliina, knowing he can’t be unequally yoked. Events in the story challenge Eveliina to face her past and explore her faith. I recommend Helsinki Sunrise to those looking for a light hearted contemporary romance novella that explores faith issues.

Read a FREE sample at

Friday Weekend Escape to Finland with Marion Ueckermann

I’m delighted to welcome back my friend, Marion Ueckermann, to my blog. Today we’re escaping for the weekend with Marion to Finland. Enjoy!

By Marion Ueckermann

Passport to Romance Blog Tour Logo

Helsinki Sunrise, a Passport to Romance, blog tour follows on from yesterday’s How to Keep Your Readers Turning the Pages blog with Zoe McCarthy in Southwestern Virginia, USA.

Today’s a double feature day, too. On this blog we’ll take a closer look at Finland, the location of Helsinki Sunrise, and at Inspirational Romance, you can take part in a special Finnish wedding.

Thank you, Narelle, for hosting me again on your travel blog. Once more it was so difficult to choose what to highlight from this country that has many interesting activities in their culture. I chose to focus on the features found in Helsinki Sunrise.

In the summer on 2012, my husband, Noel, and I spent nearly three weeks in Finland when we attended my son’s wedding. We arrived to a sunny, warm Helsinki, even though it was only 19 degrees celcius, and spent a few hours walking around the city. I didn’t know then how significant the two pictures below would be for me one day. At that time I had no plans to write a book set in Finland, or that my publisher would choose to feature the Dom von Helsinki (Helsinki Cathedral), Senatsplatz, on my debut novelette’s cover. That’s me on the right, Noel in the middle, and my Finnish daughter-in-law, Tiia, on the left.

1-Helsinki Cathedral

Another wonderful feature on the cover of Helsinki Sunrise—besides my son, Kyle, and his beautiful wife—is this photograph of a Finnish summer cottage on a lake taken by Kyle on his second visit to Finland. I love this photo because it shows so much of what’s really important and prominent in Finland: summer cottage, sauna, forest and lake.

2-Summer cottage book cover

This nation of 5.4 million people has almost half a million summer cottages where the Finns take kesämökki (summer cottage vacation). There are 187,888 lakes in Finland (bodies of water larger than 500 square meters). Summer cottages are found beside lakes and guaranteed to have a surrounding forest, and a sauna close to the cottage. There’ll also be an outside toilet. In the left photo below you will spot from left to right the outside toilet between the birch trees, a sauna (the middle structure with the chimney), and a summer cottage on the far right.

At the lake where we took kesämökki, the sun came out after some days of rain and the rainbow that spread across the water was a magnificent reminder of God’s love and promises.

3-Summer Cottages

A couple of different outside toilets we found along our travels.

4-Outside Toilets

Seventy-five percent of Finland is forest—mostly pine, spruce and birch. I loved the beautiful birch forests. Metsä is what the Finns call going to the forest. Here Kyle and I were taking his little niece, Amy, for metsä in a forest right beside his in-laws’ house.


It is said that your body starts to physically recover from stress just minutes after entering a forest. No wonder the Finnish people seem so calm and collected. There’s much of interest in the forest, especially for the palate. Berry-picking, mushrooming, hunting. We enjoyed picking blueberries and wild strawberries. Almost every day during our time at our friends’ summer cottage in the south-eastern part of Finland, we’d have some kind of blueberry dessert. The photos below show the wild strawberries we picked at the summer cottage, and the array of strawberries and blueberries for sale at a market in Helsinki (the same market that Adam and Eveliina visit in Helsinki Sunrise.


In December, Noel and I are going to visit Kyle and Tiia in Budapest where they currently live. We will spend a white Christmas and New Year in Finland. Kyle is determined that there’s more Finnish culture we need to experience—the avanto or hole in the ice where Finns go to cool off after socializing and relaxing in an 80 degree celcius sauna. I’m not so sure I’m up to that. It took a lot to get me to sauna and jump into the lake in summer…but winter?

There’s more I wanted to share with you about our time in the south-eastern part of Finland—the beautiful flowers that line the Finnish roads in summer; the largest wooden church in the world found in Kerimäki; the Olavinlinna Castle located in Savonlinna which forms a spectacular stage for the Savonlinna Opera Festival held annually in summer for over a hundred years; and the tranquil cemeteries of Finland. Perhaps Narelle would be kind enough to host me again on her travel blog sometime in the near future so that I can share these fascinating parts of Finland with you.

HelsinkiSunrise_w11668_680 (2)

He needed the island to himself. So did she.

Three weeks alone at a friend’s summer cottage on a Finnish lake to fast and pray. That was Adam Carter’s plan. But sometimes plans go awry.

On an impromptu trip to her family’s secluded summer cottage, the last thing Eveliina Mikkola expected to find was a missionary from the other side of the world—in her sauna.

Determined to stay, Eveliina will do whatever it takes—from shortcrust pastry to shorts—to send the man of God packing. This island’s too small for them both.

Adam Carter, however, is not about to leave.

Will he be able to resist her temptations?

Can she withstand his prayers?


Tomorrow we’ll stop and smell the Finnish flowers with Pamela Thibodeaux in Louisiana, USA.

Numerous eBooks of Helsinki Sunrise will be given away on the blog tour, so take a journey to each of the stops and leave a comment. Don’t forget to include your email address.

Helsinki Sunrise will be available to purchase from Pelican Book Group,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes.

Watch the Helsinki Sunrise book trailer on YouTube.

Watch the Passport to Romance book trailer on YouTube.


Marion Ueckermann’s passion for writing was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then she has published devotional articles and stories in Winners, The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter (Tyndale House Publishers), and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven. Her debut novelette, Helsinki Sunrise, releases August 22, 2014 by White Rose Publishing, a Pelican Book Group imprint, Passport to Romance series.

Marion blogs for International Christian Fiction Writers and Beauty for Ashes. She belongs to Christian Writers of South Africa and American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in Pretoria East, South Africa in an empty nest with her husband and their crazy black Scottie, Wally.

Connect with Marion Ueckermann:

Website / Amazon / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest

Blogs: A Pebble in my Pocket / Foreign Affaire


Permission to use images obtained.

Finnish man drawing water from avanto courtesy of Kyle Ueckermann

ACRBA tour Rebecca’s Dream by Carol Preston


1st – 5th September 2014

(Even Before Publishing, March 2014)


Carol Preston

About the Book

Rebecca Oakes is thirteen years old when her mother, Suzannah, dies in the small town of Marengo, New South Wales, in 1873. With her older brother and sisters soon involved in their own lives, Rebecca is left alone to care for her ageing father. But Rebecca has a dream for her own life. She wants to make a difference to the world around her; a world where it is hardly possible for a woman to get an education, where women have no rights, no vote, no voice. Rebecca will have to fight the systems of her time if she is to achieve her goals. She must find the courage to stand against sexual and religious prejudice, and resist the pressures of even those close to her, in order to make her way towards her dream, influenced by one man who hates her, who will do anything to thwart her plans, and another man who loves her, and will do anything to make her happy.  

Rebecca’s Dream is the second book in the Oakes Family Saga. Background notes and discussion questions are available for book clubs.

About the Author

Carol lives in Wollongong with her husband, Neil. She is a psychologist and has a part time private counselling practice, as well as being an author and speaker. Carol enjoys spending time with her children and four grandchildren, as well as bushwalking, gardening and holidaying overseas with her husband. One of her hobbies over many years has been family history research. It was this research which started Carol on the journey of writing novels.

Her first trilogy is about the Oakes Family; Suzannah’s Gold, Rebecca’s Dream and The Price of Peace, which takes the reader from 1838 when her great great grandmother, Suzannah Casey was transported from Ireland, through to the end of the First World War when Suzannah’s children and grandchildren are involved in the battle, not only to survive the war but to survive the waiting at home. The first two of these have recently been re-released by EBP. Carol’s fourth novel, The Face of Forgiveness, is about two young women who are transported to Australia in 1839. The most recent of Carol’s novel is a series based on her mother’s family, which begins with the First Fleet of convicts to Australia. These include Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets, and Truly Free.

For more information about Carol’s books and her other interests she can be contacted on her website:, on her Facebook author page: or her Amazon author page: