Introducing Melissa Tagg and a fun Romance

I was incredibly honored to read an advance copy of Melissa Tagg‘s newly released, debut novel Made to Last and am super-excited to be able to interview the star of her novel, Miranda Woodruff. 

First a bit of background about Made to Last:

Cover of Made to Last

Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that’s how it looks when she’s starring in her home-building television show, “From the Ground Up.” So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she’ll do anything to boost ratings and save her show–even if it means pretending to be married to a man who’s definitely not the fiancé who ran out on her three years ago. When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda’s every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth–and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she’s built come crashing down just as she’s found a love to last?

My Review:

This is an awesome novel. Melissa Tagg’s voice is bubbly and energetic and tons of fun.  As an home improvement kind of girl myself, I immediately related to Miranda. I have to admit that I thought I had the story’s plot figured out from pretty early in the book. I was sort of right and really, really wrong. Melissa had so many delicious twists in the story that I never saw coming. She kept me up reading until 3:30 in the morning, because I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next, and the romantic tension sizzles.

Love. This. Book. If you’re looking for a laugh-out-loud, make-your-heart-ache romance with a compelling spiritual message beautifully woven through, look no further.

Now…introducing…Miranda Woodruff.

Miranda is currently filming the fourth season of her show From the Ground Up—but word on the street is, the network could be considering cutting her show altogether. Viewers tend to love her personality and her DIY guru persona…but what they just might love best? Her fun stories of the husband she met while building houses in Brazil…the man who taught her all she knows.

 Only problem is… he doesn’t exactly, well, exist.

 Enter, her pretend husband.

 You’re pretending to be married to a goofball of a guy named Blake…who is this guy and how in the world did you come up with him?

Blake is pure fluke. He showed up on set one day, looking so much like my former fiancé that I practically chased him down. Less than a week later, I found myself exchanging fake “I do’s” and welcoming him into my home. He’s a little crazy, yes. He goes by the nickname Blaze, which should really tell you a lot right there. He’s hilarious…but also a little mysterious. I have a feeling there’s more to him than he’s let even me, his fake wife, see.

 Why in the world would you lie about being married?

 Because it’s a nice way to pass the time…? Sheesh.

Well, you’ll have to read my story for the full scoop. 🙂 But the short answer is, it started with an impulsive fib prompted by guilt…and it ballooned before I realized what I’d gotten myself into. It’s not like I actually set out to lie to the whole country. I honestly thought I would be married by the time the first episode of my TV show ever aired. Once the lie was in place, it was easier to go along with it than…not. Maybe, partially, because I preferred seeing myself as the person I pretended to be rather than the person I was.

Why are you so concerned about saving your television show? You’re a celebrity with a lot of talent. Shouldn’t it be easy to start over somewhere?

The thing is, it’s not just about me. There’s my whole crew, who have invested so much into this show. There’s my manager, Brad, who is one of my best friends, and my director, Tom, who believed in me even when I could never remember not to turn my back to the camera. There’s the local backwoods family I’m helping and the shelter in Asheville I’m supporting. And then there are the viewers…I hate the thought of letting them down.

What’s the most difficult building project you’ve ever done?

I should probably say one of the houses I helped build in the slums of Brazil. Our equipment definitely wasn’t top of the line, nor were our materials. So that should be the most difficult. But honestly, the biggest challenge has been trying to build my own home. I started building it years ago on property I purchased in a clearing in the Smoky Mountains…and I still haven’t finished. One half of the house is completed and livable…the other half is just wood frame and cement foundation, covered by weather-beaten tarp. And if you want to know the truth, it’s a little too accurate of a metaphor…

Last question…Matthew…?

Um, that’s the whole question?

Yup. Spill.

He’s a reporter…?

Not good enough.

He’s cute…?


He manages to stay cute even while digging into my personal life…?

Better, but we want the details.

Then read the book. 🙂

Fair enough. And blog readers, if you’ve enjoyed my little chat with Miranda, you’ll really enjoy this fun romantic romp!

Her creator is Melissa Tagg, who has an equally fun bio and looks a lot like Miranda, don’t you think?

Melissa Tagg picMelissa Tagg is a former newspaper reporter and total Iowa girl. In addition to her homeless ministry day job, Melissa is also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for writers. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies and daydreaming about her next book.

During her reporting days, Melissa interviewed presidential candidates and llama farmers, rode a hot air balloon and flew a plane, and once came face to face with a buffalo. But today she gets her kicks by letting her characters have their own fun. She’s passionate about humor, grace, and happy endings.

 Links where you can find her:






 Your Turn: Any questions for Melissa or perhaps a home improvement question for Miranda?  😉

In other news: The Kindle version of my herbal researcher sleuth mystery/romantic suspense, Deadly Devotion, is currently selling on Amazon for only $1.99! If you’ve been thinking about checking it out, this price will be hard to beat. I even bought one for myself! You can find it here: (There are apps available to read it on other devices and computers)




Introducing Debut Love Inspired Author Jessica Keller

Home for Good

It’s Valentine’s week. What better time to read some romances?!

This past week, I treated myself to Home for Good by debut author Jessica Keller. It was an extra special treat for me, because it has a bit of suspense, too. 🙂

Here’s the blurb:

“I made a promise to protect you.”

But pregnant Ali Silver’s husband broke his vow and walked away from her. After being injured in combat, Jericho has finally come home to Bitterroot Valley to make peace with his father and regain Ali’s trust. But the single mom’s keeping secrets of her own. And someone’s killing off Ali’s cattle and sabotaging her horse therapy business. Jericho will do whatever it takes to protect his wife and be a real father to his son. Because when it comes to love and second chances, he’s one determined cowboy.

I loved the therapeutic horseback-riding angle, as my daughter has volunteered in such a program, and I have two friends whose physically-challenged children use the program.

And… I loved the names Jessica chose for her characters and setting. They are very meaningful. So… I hunted her down to ask her if there’s a story behind the story.

I learned that, in addition to celebrating her debut novel, she’s celebrating a new baby, who, not to be outdone by the book, arrived about the same time the book was due to hit bookstore shelves!  😉


Congratulations, Jessica! (Btw, the pic isn’t of Jessica’s baby…Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield at

Here’s what Jessica shared about the story’s inspiration:

First about the horses:


I did volunteer at a therapeutic horseback-riding program! I feel the same passion that Ali Silver does for it. I’ve seen unspeaking children say first words through therapeutic riding and children locked in their own head come out and become social through it as well. The bond that God created between humanity and the animals He called us to rule over really amazes me.

And about the names:

Choosing Names

When I set out to write Home for Good, I never intended to write it in a western setting. As I picked names for my characters I gave them each a name that meant something important to the story (some of which I can’t explain without giving away plot points!) and then I decided it could be fun to put the book in a setting that held meaning as well. I started looking up real names of towns all over the country and came upon–not a town–but a region called Bitterroot Valley. One of the main themes of the book is not letting bitterness take over. What better place to set a book with a theme of dealing with bitterness than in Bitteroot Valley?! Especially when I learned the meaning behind the name of the Bitteroot flower (how the valley gets its name), which I explain in the book, then I know the location was meant to be!

About the hero’s injury:

The injury that takes Jericho out of the Army really happened. Not to Jericho of course, but to my father. He’s now had two knee replacements and doing well, but before that, he had even more trouble getting around and knee pain than Jericho even experienced.

And…about Jessica:


As a child Jessica possessed the dangerous combination of too much energy coupled with an over-active imagination. This pairing led to more than seven broken bones and countless scars. She’s worked as a zookeeper, a librarian, camp counselor, horse wrangler, housekeeper, and finance clerk, but now loves her full-time work in law enforcement. Former editor of both her college newspaper and literary journal at Trinity International University, Jessica received degrees in both Communications and Biblical Studies. She lives in the Chicagoland suburbs with her amazing husband, beautiful daughter, and two annoyingly outgoing cats. Jessica writes Young Adult fiction and Romance.
Twitter: @KellerAuthor

Thanks so much Jessica for answering my questions and joining us here today!

Your Turn: Any comments or questions for Jessica? What names have you come across in a book that seemed especially fitting? 


Book with letters image courtesy of digitalart at

Fun Friday ~ Guest Beth Vogt & Book Giveaway

I’m thrilled to have Beth K. Vogt as my guest today. I met Beth a couple of years ago at an ACFW conference and have enjoyed “talking books” with her ever since. Beth believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” She is an established magazine writer and former editor of Connections, MOPS International’s leadership magazine. And now…is a multi-contracted author!

I invited her to stop by and talk about characters. Take it away, Beth…


I’ve heard people say they don’t waste their time reading fiction. Oh, the stories they are missing!

I see a novel as a wonderful opportunity – an invitation, really – to explore and to question, while “living” the literary lives of people like PJ Sugar (a favorite Susan May Warren heroine), or Joy Ballard (thank you, Rachel Hauck) or Anne with an “e” (compliments of L.M. Montgomery), or even my own Kendall Haynes, who wrestles with life not going according to plan in my upcoming novel, Catch a Falling Star (May 2013, Howard Books).

Kendall’s story was prompted by a conversation I had with a good friend – mixed with a little bit of “what if?”

I write fiction, so all of my characters are imaginary, right?

Well, sort of.

I’ve borrowed my friends’ names and loaned them to the people living between the “Once Upon and Time” and “Happily Ever After” in my books. And, no, I’ve never used a friend’s name for a villain. There are limits to friendship.

I’ve also given my main characters the same jobs as some of my friends, although none of them rescue bad-boy llamas like Aunt Nita in my debut novel, Wish You Were Here.

So far all my fictional characters live where I do (Colorado), although I take “novelist’s license” on the details of their homes. You won’t find me giving a street address for anyone, but I do mention specific locations like the Air Force Academy or a favorite restaurant or two. (On the Border, anyone?)

The most realistic aspect of the imaginary people in my stories? They confront true-to-life problems – the same issues you and I deal with. Things like:

· falling in love with the wrong person

· wrestling with the consequences of a poor choice

· navigating dicey family relationships

· unraveling misconceptions about God

· Choosing between forgiveness and unforgiveness

More specifically, I’ve had characters deal with topics like cutting and pornography and divorce and child abduction and infertility and adoption and singleness.


I like my fiction flavored with reality.

How about you?

Your Turn: When was the last time you read a novel and forgot you were turning the pages of a book? Do you have a character who is so realistic that you’re drawn back to that story again and again to re-read scenes?


Wish You Were Here, Beth’s debut Christian romance novel, released May 2012. Her next book, Catch a Falling Star releases May 2013. She’s giving away a copy of Wish You Were Here to one lucky commenter. Winner will be announced Monday.

About Wish You Were Here: 
Allison Denman is supposed to get married in five days, but everything is all wrong. The huge wedding. The frothy dress. And the groom. Read more

Visit with Beth at

I’m Back and Have I got News! And a Giveaway!!

I hope you are enjoying a happy, healthy summer! 
I’ve missed our conversations and look forward to more. I  have so much I want to tell you about!

The Big News is…
Deep Cover won the 2012 Canadian Christian Writing Award for Romance! 
And my sweet husband was there to share the celebration with me. 

Fun News
After a harrowing night before, we had a fabulous time celebrating our 25th anniversary in Alaska. I plan to share more pics and stories with you in the coming weeks. We met so many interesting people and the scenery was breathtaking!
Bigger News
We arrived home from Alaska to an offer from Love Inspired Suspense for a fourth novel!! 
Finding Home features an antique Cadillac so hubby and I enjoyed a cruise around the peninsula in the name of research.  
The novel will, of course, be a suspense, but thankfully none of those nasty things I’d do to my heroine’s car happened while we were out and about.

Last but NOT least
 My author copies of my October release arrived on Friday, so… I want to celebrate being back to blogging by giving away a copy this week. 
Please leave comments today, Wednesday, and/or Friday for a chance to receive an early copy. I’ll post the winner’s name next Monday. 

Your Turn: What have you been up to this summer?

P.S. Aspiring Writers, if you plan to attend the American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference in September, I’m one of the authors doing critiques and there’s still a couple of weeks left to sign up for one.

Lest We Forget

In commemoration of Remembrance Day, I’ve invited the heroine from Catherine West’s novel, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, to answer a few questions. But first let me tell you a bit about this 60s era romance that readers are raving about.

Vietnam, 1967.

Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father’s memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother’s wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he’s hiding something.

Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they’re forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.

Hi Kristen, so glad you could join us. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself?
Thanks for having me! I’m Kristin Taylor, daughter of Malcolm and Valerie, sister to Teddy. From Boston, Mass. I was 24 when I decided to go to Vietnam. I’m a journalist. Always wanted to be one really, from the time I was very small. My father was one of the greatest wartime correspondents ever. He influenced this career choice in a major way. Actually I can’t even call it a choice. It’s what I was meant to be. Going to Vietnam seemed to be a calling rather than a career move. I have a younger brother Teddy, and after he enlisted, I knew I wasn’t going to be happy back in Boston waiting for that letter or phone call… I needed to be where the action was. To follow in my father’s footsteps and make a name for myself, even despite my mother’s opposition.
   How did your father die? 
My father died in 1957, in Vietnam. He was there on assignment. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was twelve years old and I suppose my mother spared me the gory details. She said he died bravely, doing what he loved. Which was true. I found out later that he’d been following a platoon that walked right into an ambush. None of them stood a chance.  
Weren’t you afraid to go to a war-torn country?
I’m not sure I gave myself time to be afraid. I think if I’d really sat down and thought about it, thought about what I was going to see, hear, feel, I’m not sure…I probably would have gone anyway. I don’t give in to fear easily. 
What’s life like on the field as a foreign correspondent? 
In a word, hell. You can’t imagine the things you see. The death. Destruction. You’re literally on your own the minute you step off the plane out there. Unless you’re lucky enough to be working with an established paper already, you need to find work. Get a visa. And then go where the stories are. And that’s out in the field. Most of the time I was able to get rides on Huey’s (helicopters), follow a platoon, get onto base camps, but some of the guys didn’t like having a girl around, know what I mean? They sort of felt responsible, like if something happened to me it was their fault. I had to earn their trust and respect. You don’t get much sleep. The food is awful. It’s hot and damp and sticky and exhausting. And some nights you don’t dare close your eyes because you’re not sure you’ll wake up in the morning. At the same time, it’s a rush. You’re always on, ready to run after the next story. You don’t want to miss a thing. 
How did you meet Luke Maddox? 
Meet? Ha. I would use that term rather loosely. Actually I fell asleep in his apartment by accident, and he pulled a gun on me. It was a rather memorable introduction. His sister and I ended up as roommates, and he lived in the same building, right next door, so he had to put up with me, like it or not, and I had to put up with him. 
What attracts you to him? drives you crazy? 
Oh dear. Laughing. When we first met I couldn’t wait to get away from him. He was probably the biggest jerk I’d ever met. And he wasn’t about to give me the time of day. But somehow we kept landing in the same places and…I realized there was a lot more going on behind those eyes than he wanted me to know. So of course I made it my business to find out. J Aside from the fact that he’s not that hard to look at once he’s cleaned up, I found him to be extremely intelligent. 
That was a shocker. 
But apart from my father, I think he’s one of the smartest men I’ve ever met. He’s brave, loyal and honest. But he’s stubborn and when you get on his bad side, you don’t want to be in the same room, trust me. The thing that really drives me nuts though, is that he knows me. Seriously sees right through me. I didn’t think anyone would be capable of getting past the shallow relationship stuff, you know? But Luke…he just strode right on through, grabbed my heart and laid claim to it like it was always his for the taking. 
Did you ever run into your brother on the field? How did you find out where he was? 
At first I couldn’t get a lead on Teddy. I knew my mother was worried sick of course, and I just tried not to think about what he’d be going through. Whenever I went to a new base camp I’d ask questions, try to find out where he was. It was actually Luke that found him. I learned later that his connections out there were a lot better than mine. It was probably one of my best days in Vietnam, seeing Teddy. Seeing that he was all right. It was a good day. 
Why do they call your brother “Preacher”? 
Yeah, that’s Teddy all right. He’s always had a strong faith. He seemed to have this relationship with God…I didn’t understand it. Not for a long time. But he’s…passionate I suppose…really excited about who God is and he just wants to share that with everyone. He got the name “Preacher” from the other GIs over there because wherever he went he’d somehow end up talking to them about God. But it was good. The guys listened for the most part. I’m sure some thought he was crazy, but I know he helped a lot of them get through their tours by pointing them toward a hope they didn’t know existed. 
What did you want your readers to learn from the news reports you wrote? 
I wanted them to learn the truth. There was so much confusion over there, so many conflicting stories. It was difficult not to take sides. I just wanted to show them back home what it was really like for those boys, for the men and women who served in Vietnam. I felt like we were fighting a forgotten war. While guys were getting killed in the jungles, everybody back in the States was just going about their normal everyday lives, like none of it mattered anymore. I wanted it to matter. I wanted them to know. To see. To feel. And to honor what those boys were doing for their country. For them. 
Do you felt like you made a difference? 
Oh, I don’t know. Does anybody really make a difference in this world? Martin Luther King made a difference. JFK made a difference. But me? I just told the truth. The guys out there, they made the real difference. People just didn’t know it. And now, back home, nobody wants to talk about it. 
Did you see evidence of God in such a devastating place?   
When I went to Vietnam, I was angry with God. Angry with Him for taking my father, just angry I guess. I definitely didn’t have the kind of faith my brother or even my mom did. I was also a bit of a control freak. There was no way I was about to give my life over to some being I couldn’t see or hear. I wasn’t even sure He existed.

The more atrocities I saw over there, the stronger my doubt grew. I found it very difficult to understand how a loving God could just sit back and do nothing in the face of such death and destruction. Yet I saw God in Vietnam. I saw him in the faces of the children. In the kindness of strangers. In the beauty of the countryside, the color of the ocean. Even in death. God was everywhere in Vietnam, even when I didn’t want Him to be. He was. It’s taken me a while to acknowledge that. I’m still growing, still learning. Still forgiving. But God is patient. He’s not going anywhere. 

A lot of people came home with many issues to deal with. They suffered nightmares and found it difficult to assimilate, to function in the life they knew before Vietnam. Did you feel the same? 

Oh, sure. Coming home was hard for a number of reasons. I lost so much over there. Luke and I talked a lot about what it would be like afterward. What it would be like to be home, to live a normal life. In the end you just kind of laugh and shake your head because really, what’s normal after Vietnam?  But you go on. You push through the pain, you try to forget the nightmares and you put one foot in front of the other. You live. And that’s the point really. You live because you can. 

Do you regret your time there? 

No, not at all. I regret the choices I made. Some of the things I did and didn’t do, but I’ll never regret going to Vietnam. I met too many wonderful people. Made friends. Fell in love. If I hadn’t gone to Vietnam, I don’t think I’d be the person I am today. And while I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, I think I’m someone my father would be proud of. Vietnam taught me so much, much of which I was totally unprepared for, but I think I learned a lot. I learned about love, friendship, trust and love. But most of all, I learned how to live.

Educated in Bermuda, England and Canada, Catherine West holds a degree in English from the University of Toronto. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or tending to her roses and orchids. Catherine and her husband live on the beautiful island of Bermuda, with their two college-aged children. Catherine is a member of Romance Writers of America, and American Christian Fiction Writers, and is a founding member of International Christian FictionWriters. Catherine’s debut novel Yesterday’s Tomorrow, released in March 2011 through OakTara Publishers. Catherine’s next novel, Hidden in the Heart, will be available in the near future, also through OakTara. 
You can find Tara online at
Your Turn: Do you have any questions for Catherine? 
Giveaway: Catherine is giving away a copy of her book today at her blog. Click here to check it out.