1st Saturday Extra: It’s More Than Sales

By Sandra Ardoin

Phyllis Keels

When I was first asked to share about an author who made an impact on me, several came to mind. I wasn’t sure which person to choose.

Did I write about how Dee Henderson introduced me to the O’Malleys and taught me that Christian fiction can be both exciting, suspenseful, and heart-touching?

Did I write about becoming absorbed by Tamara Alexander’s gentle writing voice and how it made me long to write like her? Did I mention how she brought her research to life through story and all I learned of those who “lived” in a previous century?

Did I discuss the many critique partners, editors, and mentors who have helped me to see where I need to improve my writing and what works or doesn’t?

In the end, I’ve chosen to tell you about my friend, Phyllis Keels. Phyllis and I went to the same church and discovered we both had a love for writing. I’d been looking for a local Christian critique group to attend and hadn’t found one, so she and I decided we would become our own group—or duo.

When we were both pretty green in the ways of novel writing, we met at the library in a tiny tutoring room and shared our stories with the intention of teaching one another. As with most critique partners, she had special talents and I had others.

For Phyllis, I emphasized the need to put her characters through the wringer. She wanted them to look perfect, be perfect, and always prevail. You see, like so many authors and readers, Phyllis considered her characters as friends, and she hated making them suffer as much as she hated seeing real friends suffer.

As for me, she’d say, “I want to see the poetry.” She wanted to read the beauty of description in my stories, not “just the facts, ma’am.” So, I learned how to use more similes and metaphors. I learned how to let a train’s engine drag “its cars down the track like a caterpillar dragging its body along a tree limb.”

We had fun in those hours and, one night, attracted too much attention. I think I was in elementary school the last time I’d been shushed by a librarian. Of course, that brought on more giggles.

Phyllis’s talent for whimsical drawings were showcased when she illustrated a couple of children’s books. She wrote Emma and the Paper especially for her dad. She used her fur baby, Emma, as the main character in the story. Her charming watercolors also illustrated Kimberly Rae’s book When I’m With Jesus: For Any Child with a Loved One in Heaven.

And Phyllis was a fount of spiritual knowledge, willing to share it with whomever crossed her path. She learned much of it from her mama and daddy. In fact, several times, she wrote the narrative for the church choir’s Christmas and Easter programs.

In my opinion, Phyllis’s greatest talent rested in non-fiction and her ability to share the gospel through her blog posts and devotions. God used her posts to show His love to all readers, but especially those in the midst of grief. It became her ministry after experiencing her own tragedy. At book selling events, I’d see her sympathize and empathize with people who were going through tough times, often gifting them one of her books if she felt it might help.

In Phyllis Keels, I saw the value of poetry, following God’s will, and viewing a reader as more than a customer. So, with this post, I hope I’ve honored my friend on the cusp of the one-year anniversary of her presence with the Lord where she now rejoices with her father, daughter, and sister.

Phyllis’s books remain on Amazon. If you need encouragement, please check them out.

Click to tweet: How an author inspired me. Phyllis’s greatest talent rested in non-fiction and her ability to share the gospel through her blog posts and devotions. #faith #amreading


Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. She’s the author of the heartwarming novella, The Yuletide Angel and the award-winning novel, A Reluctant Melody. Rarely out of reach of a book, she’s also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out.

Visit her at http://www.sandraardoin.com. Subscribe to receive updates and specials. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and BookBub.


A Reluctant Melody

Kit Barnes’ drinking ruined more lives than his own. Now sober, he wants to make amends by opening a mission for drunkards. The most suitable location belongs to Joanna Cranston Stewart, a love from his sordid past and the one person he hurt the most.

A pariah among her peers, Joanna is all too eager to sell her property and flee the rumors that she sent her late husband to an early grave. But she will let the gossips talk and the walls of her rundown property crumble around her before she’ll allow Kit back into her life. 

When a blackmailer threatens to reveal her long-held secret, she must choose between trusting Kit or seeing her best friend trapped in an abusive marriage. 

Will Joanna risk another betrayal? Or will she find a way through the pain of the past to love and trust again?

Natural Wonders: A “Mammoth” Good Time

By Sandra Ardoin

With over 400 miles of explored tunnels, Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, one of our national treasures, is the largest cave system in the world. Its environment changes with the rainwater dripping through the sandstone layers to the underlying limestone, to underground rivers and eventually into the Green River.

The park was established in 1941, but two hundred years after the first formal tour in 1816, hubby and I approached the kiosk outside the Visitor’s Center. No spelunker, it was my first experience in a cavern. I walked up to the counter and asked the ranger on duty, “What tours do you have for old people?” (Okay, we’re not old old, but we get closer with each new ache.)

dscn1605-copyI’m sure the polite man gave me a mental eye roll before telling us about the one-eighth-mile Frozen Niagara tour to see the stalactites and stalagmites. Then he mentioned the Domes and Dripstones Tour, which encompassed more territory, plus the Frozen Niagara. We’d driven a long way to see a bunch of underground rock, so it was the Domes and Dripstones or bust.

Before the tour began, we were told that those who were claustrophobic (check mark), afraid of heights (check mark), and had knee issues (well, on occasion—see above paragraph) might want to reconsider. Really? Did they think they were dealing with a couple of wimps? Bring on the bus to the cavern!

dscn1603-copyAs we approached the cement, bunker-type entrance at the bottom of a sink hole, I thought of the TV show Lost and that underground bunker. I didn’t relish being part of a resurrection of the show and hoped we’d eventually “find” the exit.

Over a hundred people took our tour, with hubby and me almost bringing up the rear, so it was slow going as we descended into the abyss. I’ll admit, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if there was an earthquake. Nope. No wimp in that bunny-hop line.

The way was well-lit and the path relatively smooth. No problem, except when we were forced to pause in a tight, low-ceilinged spot. (One of us found out the hard way that you need to watch your head. I won’t say which one, but for once, it wasn’t me.) Occasionally, it seemed the whole ceiling was propped up by one small, well-placed rock.

dscn1591-copyWe spent two hours going down, around, and up, exploring the limestone caverns with their sometimes wet, but mostly, dry walls. I’d come prepared to freeze in what the website said was a constant 54 degrees. About halfway through, I removed my sweater.

Twice, we stopped in large “rooms” with rows of benches to listen to the tour ranger provide more information about the caves. Once, we were in a “dome” room. Unlike the walls with their jagged protrusions, the ceiling was smooth, looking somewhat like stucco with cracks running through it. To me, the dripstones resembled a hanging mud dauber’s nest.

When we stopped in the second room, the ranger explained about the crickets in the cave, one of numerous species of insect and animal life that live there. These aren’t your typical crickets. They’re thin and lighter in color, and they don’t make noise. To show us why they’re silent, she turned the lights off. Yipes! You’ve heard the axiom about it being so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face? I could touch my nose and still not see my hand. I’ve never been in such pitch blackness. But crickets are a bat’s prey, and bats track by …? Yep, sonar. So, the insects don’t sing.

dscn1614-copyFinally, we reached the Frozen Niagra. Beautiful! Stalactites, stalagmites, and columns of limestone.

From there, we were given the option to take a shortcut to the exit and avoid nearly a hundred steps. Phfft! Didn’t I say we weren’t wimps?

Before leaving the underground, we passed walls populated by those crickets I mentioned, and then ducked beneath a bat hanging from the ceiling—the latter much smaller than I’d expected and seemingly unimpressed by a bunch of temporary explorers.

dscn1624-copyAt the end of the tour, they bused us back to the visitor’s center where we were required to walk over a bio mat with soapy water to clean our shoes. Unfortunately, a disease called White Nose Syndrome is killing the bats and, of course, they don’t want it spread from cave to cave.

We drove to the ferry that crosses the Green River. While the ferry is no longer made of wood and hauling animals and wagons across the strip of water, it can carry three vehicles and was so smooth I only knew we were moving by watching the scenery.

A little history about the river and the ferry from a park sign:

dscn1622-copy

There’s much more to do in the park than wander tunnels. You can camp or stay in the hotel, hike, bike, and horseback ride. But if being underground is your thing, there are numerous cave tour options, including one in which you can prove how adventurous you are when you “climb, crawl, squeeze, hike and canyon walk” for six hours. Crawl on, but you won’t see me on that one!

All right, maybe I can be a little wimpy, but I didn’t ache the next day nearly as much as I expected.

Writing Prompt: I bent almost double, hands on my knees, as ragged gasps erupted from deep inside. The darkness enveloped us, with only the small point of the flashlight to lead our way. How did I get trapped in Mammoth Caves with such an enthusiastic tour guide? Suddenly…


Sandra Ardoin_HeadshotSandra Ardoin writes inspirational historical romance. She’s the author of The Yuletide Angel and A Reluctant Melody. A wife and mom, she’s also a reader, football fan, NASCAR watcher, garden planter, country music listener, antique store prowler. Visit her at www.sandraardoin.com and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Join her email community to receive occasional updates and a free short story.arm-cover

 

 

 

A Reluctant Melody by Sandra Ardoin

Sandra Ardoin_HeadshotToday we welcome Sandra Ardoin and her latest release, A Reluctant Melody.

Hi, Sandra! How long have you been writing?

Sandra: I began a community education writing class in 1985. It turned into a writer’s group, and my first publication was in 1986. I wrote small pieces like posters and short stories until 2008 (full-time in 2009) when I believed God had finally given me the go-ahead to write novels. My debut novella, The Yuletide Angel, released in 2014, and my novel, A Reluctant Melody, released this month.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

Sandra: It goes back to that permission God gave me to write novels. I’ve always wanted to write romantic mystery/suspense. I worked on two projects at once—one a contemporary romantic mystery and the other an historical set in the 19th century—more a western than my current stories. It was the latter that took off for me. That one will never see the light of day without a great deal of revision, but it showed me how much I love writing historicals set in the latter half of the 1800s. Almost all my stories have some degree of mystery/suspense.

What are some of the references you used while researching your book?

Sandra: In A Reluctant Melody, Kit Barnes (the hero) seeks to establish a ministry to those who want to defeat the lure of an alcoholic lifestyle, as he had done. I looked into the Salvation Army’s work at the time, especially their treatment of alcoholics. I also found information on holistic treatment and, of course, AA. I created his ministry as one that allowed “drunkards,” as they were called at the time, to have a place to stay while they received spiritual and physical help to control their addictions. At that time, many doctors believed in weaning people off alcohol by using other addictive drugs. They thought sudden abstinence was dangerous. Kit used physicians in his work, but believed the emphasis should be on the spiritual and the practical, not in trading one drug for another. Google Books is an important source for me.

I created a town based on the North Carolina town where I live, as well as a neighborhood of Charlotte, so I researched the layout of the areas. I even went to the library to ask the historian about property prices for the day. I also used Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory, which gave me insight into the businesses and the area at the time of my setting.

I researched the making of brooms and watched videos from craftsmen, learning that they did it pretty much as it was done then. While most of our brooms come from countries like Mexico today, it was not an uncommon business at the time of my book.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Sandra: I enjoyed getting to know the characters. I always find a secondary character in books that I want to write or read about. In my novella, The Yuletide Angel, it was Kit Barnes. But the story in A Reluctant Melody actually belongs to the heroine, Joanna Stewart. She has the most to lose and the most dramatic story to tell. I really liked writing her.

What do your plans for future projects include?

Sandra: I’m working on the first book of a three-novel series I hope will be contracted. It’s set in a churchless town in 1880s Texas. This book has a heroine with a checkered past and a hero with a questionable future as a pastor.

I’m also working on a three-novella series. These stories will be more lighthearted in tone and involve three women whose adventurous journeys are waylaid by ♥.

Thanks for dropping by, Sandra!

Sandra Ardoin writes inspirational historical romance. She’s the author of The Yuletide Angel and A Reluctant Melody. A wife and mom, she’s also a reader, football fan, NASCAR watcher, garden planter, country music listener, antique store prowler. Visit her at www.sandraardoin.com and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Join her email community to receive occasional updates and a free short story.

A Reluctant Melody

Kit’s alcoholism ruined more lives than his own. Now soARM Coverber, he wants to make amends by opening a mission for drunkards. But the most suitable location belongs to Joanna Cranston Stewart, a love from his sordid past. 

Friends of her late husband blame Joanna for his death. Although eager to flee from the rumors, she will let the walls of her rundown property crumble around her before she allows Kit back into her life. 

When a blackmailer threatens to reveal Joanna’s long-held secret, will she risk losing everything she owns to Kit … including her heart?

3 Questions Wednesday with Sandra Ardoin

Sandra Ardoin_HeadshotPlease welcome Sandra Ardoin, writer of inspirational historical romance, to 3 Questions Wednesday.

Hi, Sandra. First question.

What books have fortified you as a writer? How?

Sandra: I use two writing books over and over: Building Believable Characters by Marc McCutcheon and The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Sometimes, I just can’t come up with the right way to phrase something. I use these books as a springboard to get my creativity pumping.

I like to read fiction that is similar in tone to the book I’m writing. It gets me in a certain mindset. If I’m writing something more dramatic, like my current release, A Reluctant Melody, I don’t want to read a lighthearted book. On occasion, I write in a more lighthearted style and want to read books similar in nature.

–Great suggestions. I also own a copy of  The Emotion Thesaurus. It’s super helpful. Now…

What secret talents do you have?

Sandra: Secret? Hmm … I’m a miniature open book when it comes to my talents. 🙂  I would never call myself an “artiste,” but I’ve enjoyed drawing and doing a little painting in my past. I also like crafts, though I haven’t much time for them anymore.

Writing definitely keeps you busy. Last question…

If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?

SandraAre you sure you wouldn’t rather go out? My mom loved to cook. Me? Not so much.

Okay, how about pork barbecue, homemade potato salad, corn-on-the-cob, and buttermilk pie? Might as well go the whole Southern route and add a pecan pie to the table. Of course, there would be sweet tea for everyone but my husband. That ’Bama boy likes his unsweetened. Doesn’t that go against a Southern code or something?

No sweet tea? He couldn’t be from Alabama. 🙂 Thanks, Sandra, for dropping by!

Please leave a comment if you’d like to be entered to win a copy of A Reluctant Melody.

A RELUCTANT MELODY ARM Cover

Kit’s alcoholism ruined more lives than his own. Now sober, he wants to make amends by opening a mission for drunkards. But the most suitable location belongs to Joanna Cranston Stewart, a love from his sordid past. 

Friends of her late husband blame Joanna for his death. Although eager to flee from the rumors, she will let the walls of her rundown property crumble around her before she allows Kit back into her life. 

When a blackmailer threatens to reveal Joanna’s long-held secret, will she risk losing everything she owns to Kit … including her heart?

Sandra Ardoin writes inspirational historical romance. She’s the author of The Yuletide Angel and A Reluctant Melody. A wife and mom, she’s also a reader, football fan, NASCAR watcher, garden planter, country music listener, antique store prowler. Visit her at www.sandraardoin.com and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Join her email community to receive occasional updates and a free short story.