Sandra Orchard
Author Interview – Gina Holmes

pic of Gina Holmes

I’m still in St. Louis this week, doing research for my next series, but I’m delighted to have the talented Gina Holmes here to tell you about her newest release.

Gina is the founder of popular literary site, She is a two-time Christy and ECPA Book of the Year finalist and winner of the INSPY, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Carol Award. Her books regularly appear on Christian bestseller lists.


Gina, tell us a little bit about your newest release, Driftwood Tides.


Driftwood Tides tells the story of an aging, alcoholic driftwood artist turned beach bum, Holton Creary, and young Libby Slater. Libby grew up with an absent father and a loving but cold, socialite mother. Leading up to her wedding, Libby and her groom-to-be go through genetic testing and she learns her blood type doesn’t match either of her parents. She confronts her mother and is reluctantly told that she’s adopted. She goes searching for her mother, Adele, only to find her husband, Holton Creary lying face down on the carpet of his Nags Head beach shack.


She lies about her real identity until she is finally found out. Holton does not welcome the news. He never knew the wife he had given saint status too had given up a daughter for adoption. Together the two search to find the truth about Adele, Libby’s father and themselves.


What do you hope readers will take away from this book? pic of Driftwood Tides


At its heart, Driftwood Tides is really about discovering who we are, whose we are, where we belong and the need to accept and bestow forgiveness.


Why did you set the novel in Nags Head?


Oh, how I love that place! I’m not sure there’s a more peaceful setting in all the world. And the further out I get from civilization, the happier I am. I love the sand dunes, the untouched nature, the quaint towns. Just everything! (Well, except sand in my bathing suit maybe J)


You seem to have a recurring theme in your novels about absent fathers, if it’s not too personal, why do you think that is?


It is too personal, but I don’t mind answering (wink!) When I was 6 years old, I was packed up by my stepfather and driven to my father’s house. Overnight I had a new Mom, new sisters and brother, house and life. It was as traumatic an experience as I can imagine. There were few explanations that made sense to me and I missed my other family desperately. I think ever since I’ve been trying to settle some pretty deep-seated questions. Writing books is wonderful for that.


crossing-oceans-25012-200x300The novel you’ve written that seems to be a fan-favorite is Crossing Oceans, do you ever see yourself writing a sequel?


I love that book too. Makes me cry just thinking about certain scenes. I would love to write a sequel, prequel or off shoot stories. I love those characters dearly. I’m under contract for three different novels, so I’m not sure when I’ll have the time, but I’d love to explore Craig’s story and of course, Bella’s. I miss Mama Peg very much!


You’ve said that your favorite novel you’ve written is Wings of Glass. Why is that your favorite?


Well, for storyline, I think Crossing Oceans is the strongest. I think my writing in Wings of Glass was my best, plus when I was very young I watched my mother in one abusive relationship after another, and then two of my sisters. I had been there too, despite thinking I was better than that. I know the mindset that keeps a woman (or man) in a relationship like that and I wanted to give insight to those who don’t understand. I’ve received enough letters to know I did what I set out to do.


That’s so rewarding. You’re originally from NJ but write all your novels from the South, why do you set your novels down South if you’re from up North?


Ha, you found me out! Yes, I was born and raised in NJ. As much as I love my friends and family, I am definitely more suited for the slower pace of the South. I’ve lived in Southern VA for half of my life and I plan to spend the rest of my life here if I can help it. I try to write books from settings that make me happy. So I write where I want to be. (Although, I’ve got to say, NJ food is amazing and you’ve got to love a boisterous NJ laugh!)


What do you like most about being a writer? Least?


Most, I like being able to have a platform to share lessons I’ve learned in my life that I know others would benefit from. And more than that, I just love to tell a good story.


Least, would be the unpredictability of the business. Sometimes it seems so random and the lack of control makes me uncomfortable sometimes. (Which is probably right where God wants me!)


I know what you mean. Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?


My advice is pretty much always the same:

1. Write. So many people want to have written but don’t actually do the work.

2. Get to a writers conference because there’s so much you don’t know, that you don’t even know you don’t know. If you don’t you’ll be spinning your wheels for years, wasting valuable time.

3. Run, don’t walk, to the nearest bookstore and buy yourself a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Then apply it. (Best money I ever spent!)

4. Join a good critique group and get a nice thick skin, ‘cause you’re sure going to need it!


If you could go back to the pre-published writer you were, knowing what you do now, what advice would you give her?


Well, I wouldn’t have told myself how many novels I’d write that would never see the light of day, because I would have given up. I wouldn’t have told myself how little money there is actually to be made or how lonely writing can sometimes be. I wouldn’t have told myself that I’d still have a day job with 4 novels out in stores, including 3 bestselling novels… okay, but that wasn’t your question… I would tell myself to relax. Some of this, most of this is, is out of your hands, and that’s okay. It’s not going to be at all what you think it is, but it’s going to be so much more. You won’t get rich, but you will touch lives. At the end of the day, that’s going to be exactly what will fulfill you.


Where can readers find your books and more about you?


Thanks for asking. My books are in B&N, BooksaMillion, Amazon, Lifeway, Parable, Family Christian and hopefully a good number of independent bookstores. You can find me at Thanks so much for hosting me!

You’re very welcome, Gina, and blog readers, today, Sept 29th is the…

Last Day to enter Gina’s Giveaway for a cool book table.

Check it out at her website:

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Christmas Reads – Part 1 – Snowflake Tiara

I know, I know, it’s only September, still 3 months and 3 days until Christmas! But…

one of the ways I treat my overworked brain at Christmastime is by indulging in a month-long fest of reading Christmas themed romance novels and novellas. I start collecting them as soon as I find them and I decided that this year, I’d share some of those finds with you. My first is…

Snowflake Tiara by Angela Breidenbach and Valerie Comer

book cover of Snowflake Tiara

This is a Christmas romance, with two books in one, celebrating Montana’s 125th anniversary. They both have the same great hook:

What if you were caught doing something good, but the man you loved didn’t see it that way?

Now usually, I collect the Christmas novellas I find and save them for December, but I actually read these two novellas while traveling earlier this month. They were a fabulous way to fill in all those hours between flights. They are both set in Helena, Montana, and center around a fictional beauty pageant–the first a hundred and twenty-five years ago, and the second this year.

In the first novella: The Debutante Queen by Angela Breidenbach ~ 1889 (Helena, MT)

Calista Blythe enters the first Miss Snowflake Pageant celebrating Montana statehood to expose the plight of street urchins. But hiding an indentured orphan could unravel Calista’s reputation, and her budding romance with pageant organizer, Albert Shanahan, if her secret is revealed. Will love or law prevail?

I’ve got to admit that I was so swept up by the historical details that I was convinced that Angie and Valerie based the books on a real event. But Valerie has since told me that no, the event is completely fiction, although Helena was the wealthiest city in the world per capita in 1889 (thanks to the gold rush), so it’s not too big a stretch that someone may have considered something of that nature.

The Debutante Queen mentions the first recorded American pageant in Delaware, which took place a few short years before 1889. While her heroine and hero, Calista and Albert, are fictional (as is his inn), many of the other characters and locations and historical tidbits are real.

In the second novella: More Than a Tiara by Valerie Comer ~ 2014 (Helena, MT)

Marisa Hiller’s interest in competing in Miss Snowflake Pageant for the city of Helena’s 150th anniversary is at zip, zero, zilch when she discovers the official photographer is former boyfriend, Jase Mackie. Can Jase make amends for past mistakes and offer her, not only a tiara, but a partner in her crusade to help needy children and families?

True to her farm lit roots, Valerie does a fabulous job of marrying two seemingly incompatible worlds, that of farmer and beauty queen. I love how she weaves in her own personal passion for local grown produce.

I asked Valerie what inspired their collaboration on Snowflake Tiara pic of Valerie Comer and Angela Breidenbach

Here’s what she had to say: Angela entered pageantry as a means to develop her platform as a speaker and author. Being Mrs. Montana International 2009 has expanded her opportunities to speak on an increasingly wide basis, which is something Angie loves to do!

I, Valerie, have never entered a pageant, nor played a contestant on television. In fact, I grew up a little Mennonite girl in a traditional household, where beauty, elegance, and grace were not celebrated. Writing More Than a Tiara (my novella in Snowflake Tiara) gave me opportunities to internalize God’s views.

We hatched the general idea of writing a novella duo together several years ago, but agreed immediately we’d only do it if the stories fit both our brands. Angie loves turn-of-the-century Montana, and I love to write farm lit. It took several Google hangout sessions before we narrowed in on the pageantry themes with my character’s platform centered on real food. Focusing both novellas on children in need, both in Helena and around the world, further pulled the stories together.

As we worked back and forth, brainstorming, sharing snippets, critiquing, and editing, we were able to tighten the connections between the stories and themes.

We’re both delighted with how the stories developed, and are thankful that our readers are enjoying the collaboration as well!

Sandra, again. The stories are fun and I wholeheartedly recommend this unique pairing for my blog readers’ Christmas reading list.

This book is available in print, but is under $4 on Kindle. Learn about other novels by these talented authors by clicking on their names above the book image to link to their individual websites.

Your Turn: Do you like to indulge in Christmas-themed books or movies as the season approaches? Or crafting or decorating? ;-)




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Personal Safety & Self-Protection Tips for Women

At the Writers’ Police Academy, I had the privilege of attending a class on this topic taught by Master Corporal Dee Jackson. And I’d like to share some of her excellent tips with my female readers.

Dee emphasized that an encounter will last at least two minutes and helped us experience the stamina that takes by having us high step in place for only one minute. Many were winded after that short time, which helped illustrate why she teaches self-protection as opposed to self-defense. She says, if you can’t last two minutes, you need to be able to disengage quickly.

The key to avoiding an encounter is hyper-vigilance.

You should be aware of your surroundings at all times. Swivel your head and look. If anyone is closing in within an arm’s length, turn to face them on a diagonal, with your strongest arm and foot back, your weight evenly distributed, your palm raised and firmly say “Stop” as loudly as deemed necessary for the situation.

You shouldn’t care if the person thinks you’re crazy or rude. Someone who means no harm will stop and back up. You can apologize later with a “you can never be too careful these days” if need be, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Think the best, but plan for the worst.

Facing the person who makes you uneasy and demanding they stop with your hand blocking them also serves the purpose of attracting attention from others, which will further discourage the perpetrator who may move on to an easier mark. And the dramatic move will hopefully prompt others to help.

Always park beneath a light standard, preferably one with a video camera.

If the person continues to approach, take a step back and say more forcefully, “I said get back.” For added shock value you might add some more colorful language.

What if an attacker grabs you by the throat?

Do not let him get you to the ground. The ground is your enemy. Remember your hands are free. Don’t use them to grab at his hands. Slam them down on his elbows to break the hold.

Or if he’s too tall, grab his shirt, dig in your fingers, pull him close and knee his groin as often as needed until he releases you. Then run.

If he grabs from behind, use one hand to try to ease his hold off your throat, use the elbow of your other arm to smash his head.

You can see how in a panic situation that unless you’ve practiced this over and over and built muscle memory, you are unlikely to react quickly enough, which is why hyper-vigilance is so important.

Additional tips

Long before you get close to your car, scan under it and around it. At a distance, you can do this without leaning down. Remember, the ground is your enemy.

The only door you unlock should be the one you are using and not until you’ve done a visual check of the interior.

If you have stuff to put away in your trunk, open your driver’s door first, shove your purse under the seat and relock. Next, lock kids in the car. Then put your purchases in the trunk.

When you leave the house, note where things are. When you return, pay attention. Is anything out of place? If so, take appropriate precautions.

One last tip from Eli Jackson, a martial arts expert and founder of the Authors Combat Academy, is run from a knife. If you engage, you will be cut. If you can’t get away, take advantage of pivot points to push the knife away. Swing your side being attacked out of the way and grab wrist with other hand, with thumb at back knuckle. This is a pivot point that will force the knife a different direction.

pivot point

She demonstrated various other pivot points that can be used to advantage, but to do this in the middle of an attack takes continual practice to build muscle memory.

Your Turn: Any tips or stories to share from your own experience?

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How to Have Fun Researching a Book

Attend the Writer’s Police Academy.

pic of simulated crash scene

Only at the Writer’s Police Academy would you come across a scene like this and think “oh, cool!” while you’re waiting for these guys to arrive:

pic of firefighter raising car

Or think it’s fun to be arrested.


And yes, a pretty woman can get out of a ticket by agreeing to a date. ;-)

Still friends

I’ll share more about “romance behind the badge” in a post at Craftie Ladies on Thursday. :lol:

explosive breach

And of course, watching things blow up is always fun. Well, if you’re a safe distance away. This was a demo of a door breach. No battering rams for this SWAT team when you need to make a quick entry.


I took a lot of notes on the EMS ridealong, since I’m putting the polishing touches on my paramedic story. Gotta say that if I was a victim and this guy was my local EMT, I might have a lot of medical emergencies. ;-)

I learned lots of fabulous details, brainstormed bombs with the chief of the airport’s security. Quizzed a group about a scenario in my current wip, including a former secret service agent, a retired police officer who now teaches munitions amongst other things and a retired officer/air force/swat guy who even found me the next day with a better idea he’d come up with while thinking over my dilemma since we’d last talked.

Since I didn’t get in until 2 am, I’ll save more details for future posts. I’m saving lots of pics for future bonus features in my books.

Next week, I’ll share important strategies the female attendees learned for self protection and defense.

Lee Lofland - He's the man

Lee Lofland – He’s the man

And I’ll close by thanking Lee Lofland, author of the fabulous Police Procedure & Investigation book for organizing this incomparable academy, Sisters in Crime and Ninc for helping to support it, the Guilford Technical Community College/Public Safety for hosting and the participation of too many fantastic instructors to name.

For the writers amongst my readers, word on the street is that not only will this event be held in NC again next year, Lee is also taking it on the road.



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What I Learned This Summer

First the Story

Remember your first day back to school when the teacher would ask you to write about your summer? Well…have I got a story to tell.

“He’s gone over!” my daughter yelled as we walked along the windblown beach and glanced behind us at the choppy water where my son had been playing in the waves with his kayak, confident he could handle them and well-protected from the chilly water by a waterproof boat skirt.

As my gaze lurched from the overturned kayak to the surrounding waves, my heart slammed into my ribs.

Close-up Image of Water

I was desperate for a glimpse of my son’s face.

We had no idea how long ago he’d flipped—a split second before we’d glanced over? Or longer? Much longer?

Too long?

The previous day, when the water was calm, he’d been practicing flipping his kayak, trying to master rolling it back upright. He never managed to do it, but the practice helped him learn how to react to flipping over.

Picture him clamped into a kayak by a tight-fitting rubberized skirt.

image of kayak skirt

Then picture him hanging upside down in choppy water, trapped by that same skirt. Yes, he’d had lots of practice yanking the release strap so he could escape, but that had been in planned flips.

Flips in which he’d had the chance to take a full breath and hold it before going under.

Not being sideswiped by a strong wave and then held under by the unusually high undertow.

Finally his head broke the surface, not because he’d managed to get out, but because the water was shallow enough that he could brace his hand in the sand and push his head above water.

It took another couple of frantic seconds to release the skirt.

Perhaps only nanoseconds, but it felt a lot longer to him and to a mother torn between crashing through the water fully clothed to haul him out and trusting her adult son to do what he’d trained himself to do.

Why have I shared this story?

Because it is a snapshot of my summer. I was working on a manuscript that didn’t come together the way I thought it would, drowning under waves of doubt, desperate for a glimpse of light, a snatch of breath, divine help.

Even though my son had practiced capsizing, it did little to temper his panic when he couldn’t escape. But sheer determination and the steps he’d practiced served him well.

In the same way, I’ve studied writing craft inside out and, this summer, read a few more books on the topic. And I’d long ago formed the habit of turning to God in times of trouble, both big and small, especially with my writing struggles. But when weeks at my keyboard went by with few new words, that I actually liked, to show for my time, my prayers started to sound like a broken record.

Yet… I had a quiet confidence that the right words would come.

My deadline wasn’t that ominously close…yet.

And this wasn’t the first time I’d gotten stuck in a story. In fact, I flipped back through my journal and found that I had similar desperate moments at some point with just about every book I’d written.

And God had always answered my prayers…eventually.

The eventually part relates to me, the mother, standing on shore, trusting my son to apply the skills he’d learned.

God doesn’t always choose to give us what we ask for in the way we want or hope or expect, but He promises to never leave us.

Perhaps, as with my son…

Our small “capsizes” are practice rounds to equip us for the storms ahead.

Which begs the question: Why doesn’t He just take away the storm and calm our turbulent seas?

I think, because…

Sometimes, it takes coming to the end of ourselves to know He’s always near.

Your Turn: What did you learn this summer?


Water image courtesy of my talented daughter JL Orchard

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Feeling Creative? and… One Day Sale!

Wow, this summer has flown for me. And once again, I’m breaking my blogging break to bring you breaking news.

How’s that for a tongue twister?!  :-)

Cover Pic of Blind TrustOn Tuesday August 26th

The Ebook version of Blind Trust will be on sale for only $1.99 at participating retailers. If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, I’d really appreciate it if you tell your friends about this great deal.

And… I’m on another search for a great TITLE

This one is for my paramedic story for Love Inspired Suspense. I’ve received some great suggestions on my Facebook page, but I’m not quite sure that we’ve hit on one that my publisher will latch onto just yet. If you’d like to offer some suggestions, I’d appreciate it. If my publisher chooses your suggestion, I’ll mail you a copy of the book when it’s available.

The basic plot is…

My paramedic heroine is threatened by an unknown stalker. But with his brother the prime suspect, can the sheriff’s deputy determined to protect her win her trust and his brother’s in time to save her from the real bad guy?

I look forward to hearing your suggestions!

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Big Thank You & Giveaways This Week

Thank you so much to all who voted for


Blind Trust

at Clash of the Titles.

Conqueror ButtonIt won!


To continue the celebration…

Visit me this week at

International Christian Fiction Writers

 and leave a comment for a chance to win an E copy of Blind Trust (or other Orchard title of your choice) ;-)


for a second opportunity…

on Friday, August 1st hop over to

Suspense Sisters

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Please Vote

Hi All…I know I’m supposed to be taking a blogging break over the summer and I keep popping in here with news.

Blind Trust is on Clash of the Titles this month (where you vote for the books based on cover and description that you want to read this summer.)

Clash of the Titles

If you’ve read, plan to read or would like to read Blind Trust, I’d appreciate it if you popped over to the page and voted for it:

No email etc required. You just click the title then “next” then “done.” Easy peasy.


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Giveaway this Week

Visit me this week at

MBT Ponderers

 and leave a comment for a chance to win a paperback copy of Blind Trust ;-)


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One Day Only Super Sale


Ebook Lovers here’s your chance to get Blind Trust for a steal!

And…it’s a cheap great way to gift Aunt Martha who got that Ebook reader for Christmas a great book. ;-)

It’s $2.99 or less wherever Ebooks are sold.

Here are some of the most popular links:

Amazon US
Amazon Canada

Amazon UK (£1.44 Kindle)

Amazon Australia (Epub version) only $2.39!

If you enjoyed Blind Trust, I’d love it if you’d tell your friends about this great deal! There are share buttons below to make it super easy. Of course…I highly recommend reading Deadly Devotion first. :-)

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Sandra Orchard
Sandra Orchard
Sandra Orchard

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