Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Life Well Lived: Remembering Fanny Starns

Mindy and Fan, together in 1965 and in 2014

My Aunt Fanny Starns was, as I wrote in the dedication to The Amish Bride, my “own personal hero of the faith and lifelong friend.” I never take any of my book dedications lightly, but this one was especially meaningful to me. I adored my father’s sister and always aspired to be like her.
Fan's Thai Bible

That’s why it saddens me to report that my beloved Aunt Fan passed away on May 14, 2017. The loss of such a wonderful person is devastating, of course, yet her funeral seemed more like a celebration than a mourning. That’s because she was one of those amazing champions of the faith who lived the kind of life to which most of us can only aspire. Somehow, it wasn’t so hard to say goodbye to her knowing that even as her body was being lowered into the ground, her soul was being ushered into the massive mansion that had been prepared for her in heaven.

A missionary to Thailand for 35 years, Fanny Starns worked tirelessly for the Lord, both in that position and after she retired and returned to the states in 1988.  Here’s an excerpt from her obituary, which provides a nice summary of her life:

Fan Starns's Ordination and Commission Service
Fanny was born on December 11, 1923, in Hattiesburg, MS, the fourth of five children of Fred and Emma Starns. The family moved to Livingston Parish in 1925, in order to care for family, which began a life of service to others that would not end until May 14, 2017. Fanny was called to mission life while at a youth conference at Ridgecrest, NC, in July 1944. Not knowing how Christ would provide for her, she put her faith in the Lord and became the first in her family to graduate from college at Louisiana College in Pineville. She then moved to California for employment with a church before attending the Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, where she earned her Master's degree. In 1955, she was appointed as a Missionary in Bangkok, Thailand, where she faithfully served for 35 years founding churches and overseeing finances for all missions in Asia during some of the most tumultuous times in recent history. She lovingly served refugees and all persons who needed assistance. In 1988, she "retired" to Baton Rouge where she continued to serve with Victoria Baptist Church, which then assisted the Laotian community, which later became the Vietnamese Hope Baptist Church.
Letters from Thailand were always such fun

She was a devoted Christian whose favorite Bible passage was Romans, Chapter 8, which summarizes her life. Although she never married, she always loved children and took pride in their accomplishments. Her family was much larger than biological. She loved, and was loved by many worldwide, particularly those in the Asian Community to which she devoted her life.

When I was a child, my Aunt Fan wrote from Thailand often, and I can still remember the thrill of getting those airmail letters addressed in her neat hand to “Miss Mindy Starns.” Her life on the other side of the world was fascinating and exotic, and I thought she was just about the most interesting person I’d ever met. As was the practice back then, she spent every fifth year in the states on sabbatical, and thanks to our correspondence while she was away, she never felt like a stranger despite the long separations.

Traditional Thai dancer wearing dance claws on both hands
Whenever she came home, she always brought back the coolest gifts, things like tiny wood carvings, beautiful Thai jewelry, and once—my personal favorite—a set of Thai dancing claws. When I was in elementary school, I won a blue ribbon in the social studies fair for a project about Thailand. Needless to say, I had an edge on the competition, thanks to all the interesting items I was able to incorporate into my display!

The older I grew, the more I came to realize that my Aunt Fan wasn’t just this fun exotic woman who lived on the other side of the world, brought me amazing presents, and corresponded on blue crinkly airmail paper. She was a force to be reckoned with, fearless in ways I still can’t comprehend, and dedicated to spreading God’s love far and wide. In her older years, at restaurants, she would always leave an extra big tip along with a little tract urging her server to consider the “tip of eternal value” that could be found in Christ.  She did the same when she paid her bills, tossing in small cards that shared about “the debt only Jesus could pay.”

Fan honored at a ceremony in Thailand
She risked life and limb in her service to the poor, including driving weekly into some very dangerous neighborhoods, against boss’s orders, in order to pick up children and teens for Sunday School.

About ten or fifteen years ago, she came to Philadelphia on a mission trip, which was impressive enough given her age and frail physical state by that point. But then we were astonished to learn that she was staying in an area listed as one of the 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in America.” There she prayer walked the streets daily and shared her faith with almost everyone she encountered. Clearly, God's hand of protection was on her the whole time.

Before she left town, we took her out to eat at a little Thai restaurant in Philadelphia. During the meal, we convinced her to speak Thai to the waiter, and he grew so excited that he brought out the chef to converse with her as well—who then sent out a huge, complementary dessert platter for our whole group. What a fun memory.

John and Mindy with Fan in 2012
Aunt Fan always charmed everyone she met. She was smart, funny, engaging, loving, and incredibly active. By the end of her life, she was also legally blind, thanks to macular degeneration, and she suffered from tremors and a severe curvature of the spine. Yet she never complained—or even seemed bothered by—such issues. Instead, she was always bright and cheerful, encouraging and loving, and fully focused on those around her. 

At her funeral, I had the pleasure of hearing a number of “Fanny stories,” tales of heroism and bravery and witness exhibited throughout her life. One Thai woman shared that she had been a “belligerent and angry” fourteen year old girl, living in Thailand, when she first met Fan Starns. “I resented all of the American missionaries with their western agendas,” she said, “and I always tried to argue with Miss Fanny, telling her to go home and leave us alone. One day, I demanded angrily, ‘Why are you here? What do you really want?’ Her answer shocked me when she said, ‘I just want you to know love, the same love I know, the love of a Savior who gave his life for you and me.’”

In knowing Fanny Starns, we all knew love. She embodied Christlike service, generosity, kindness, and selflessness, and I was proud to call her my aunt and my friend.

Spending time with her great nieces and nephew, all of whom adored her
Rest in peace, good and faithful servant. Yours was truly a life well lived.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Announcing the New My Daughter's Legacy Book Club

It's official! My publisher will be doing a book club for my next book, My Daughter's Legacy.

They did a similar club for the launch of My Sister's Prayer, and I was lucky enough to be a part of it—what fun we had! This online book club gave readers the opportunity to meet one another, discuss their favorite things in the world (books!), and get insider information straight from the authors.

Needless to say, I'm thrilled that we'll be doing another.

If you participated in the My Sister's Prayer book club, then you are automatically part of the My Daughter's Legacy club! Simply check the My Sister's Prayer Facebook group for updates.

If you didn't participate in the My Sister's Prayer book club but would like to be considered for the My Daughter's Legacy club, then click here to get more info and fill out an application to join.

The club will run June 12–July 1. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Echoes of Titanic Giveaway

There's always a giveaway going on at! The current giveaway is for Echoes of Titanic, a book I wrote with my wonderful husband, John Campbell Clark.

To enter, visit the home page of my website and click on "Enter to Win" where it says "Giveaway."

About Echoes of Titanic:

Kelsey Tate comes from sturdy stock. Her great-grandmother Adele endured the sinking of Titanic and made it safely to America, where she not only survived but thrived. Generations later, Kelsey works for the firm Adele founded nearly 100 years ago.

Now facing a hostile takeover, the firm's origins are challenged when new facts emerge about Adele's actions on the night Titanic sank. Kelsey tries to defend the company and the great-grandmother she has long admired, but the stakes are raised when Kelsey's boss is murdered and her own life threatened. Forced to seek help from Cole Thornton, a man Kelsey once loved—and lost, thanks to her success-at-all-costs mentality—she pursues mysteries both past and present. Aided by Cole and strengthened by the faith she'd all but forgotten in her climb up the corporate ladder, Kelsey races the clock to defend her family legacy, her livelihood, and ultimately her life.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

May 2017 Christian Fiction Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

 Amish Brides by Jennifer Beckstrand, Molly Jebber, Amy Lillard -- Under bright blue skies, wedding bells ring--fulfilling sweet dreams, impossible wishes, and joyous new beginnings among these three new stories. (Contemporary Romance from Kensington Publishers)

Sprouts of Love by Valerie Comer -- An overzealous community garden manager delivers more than the food bank manager can handle. Can love sprout amid the tsunami of vegetables? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Summer Dreams by Delia Latham -- God's love...reflected in the waters of the Pacific, and in the eyes of a young couple who walk its moonstone shores. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

Right Where We Belong by Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, Courtney Walsh -- Three sweet stories of small-town romance by three tried-and-true authors. Whether in a quaint home bakery in Langhorne, Missouri, a cozy boho coffee shop in Maple Valley, Iowa, or a charming lakeside cottage in Sweethaven, Michigan, love grows best in small towns just like this! (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Spring of Weddings by Toni Shiloh and Melissa Wardwell -- Two Spring wedding novellas, "A Proxy Wedding," and "Hope Beyond Savannah." (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit Publishing)

True to You by Becky Wade -- Former Navy SEAL John Lawson hires genealogist Nora Bradford to help him to uncover the identity of his birth mother. As they work side-by-side, this pair of opposites begins to suspect that they just might be a perfect match. (Contemporary Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

Cozy Mystery:

What the Bishop Saw by Vannetta Chapman -- A fire blazes out of control in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, leaving an elderly, Amish bachelor dead. Bishop Henry Lapp rushes to the scene, and he learns the fire was no accident. When the police point the finger at a suspect Henry knows is innocent, the bishop must decide whether or not to use his mysterious, God-given gift—one he's tried desperately to ignore all these years—to try and set the record straight. (Contemporary Romance from Harvest House Publishers)

General Contemporary:

A Season to Dance by Patricia Beal -- The heart wrenching love story of a small town professional ballerina who dreams of dancing at the Met in New York, of the two men who love her and of the forbidden kiss that changed everything. (General Contemporary from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Looking Glass Lies by Varina Denman -- A poignant and relatable novel, Looking Glass Lies captures the war women wage against themselves, and the struggle to see beauty reflected in a mirror not distorted by society’s unrelenting expectations. (General Contemporary from Waterfall Press)


Blind Ambition by Carol Ashby -- What began as a bored man's decision to try a different road turns into an emotional and spiritual quest that changes the direction of his entire life. (Historical from Cerrillo Press)

Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette -- A broken and bitter Canaanite woman dresses as a man to fight against the invading Hebrews, never expecting that she would live to be captured and married to one of her enemies, and certainly not to find love and healing among the very people who killed her family. (Biblical/Historical from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

Historical Romance:

The Secret Admirer Romance Collection by Amanda Barratt, Lorraine Beatty, Molly Noble Bull, Anita Mae Draper, CJ Dunham, Jennifer Uhlarik, Becca Whitham, Kathleen Y'Barbo, Penny Zeller -- Shy expressions of love lead to nine historical romances. Declaring one’s love can be hard--even risky--especially when faced with some of life's greatest challenges. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson -- She lost everything to an evil conspiracy . . . but that loss may just give her all she ever wanted. (Historical Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho: Rebecca's Plight by Susanne Dietze -- It’s a mail-order disorder when newlyweds realize they've married the wrong partners with similar names. An annulment seems in order--and fast. But when the legalities take longer than expected, Rebecca Rice wonders if Tad Fordham wasn’t the right husband for her all along. . . . (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

A Love So True by Melissa Jagears -- They begin with the best of intentions, but soon the complications pile up and Evelyn and David's dreams look more unattainable every day. When the revelation of a long-held secret creates a seemingly insurmountable rift between them, can they trust God still has a good plan for them despite all that is stacked against them? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

Road to Harmony by Sherry Kyle -- When Jonas returns to Harmony, Elena's heart is torn between her secret love, and the storeowner her parents hope she marries. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Hills of Nevermore by Janalyn Voigt -- Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish preacher bent on helping her survive? (Historical Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Romantic Suspense:

Fatal Mistake by Susan Sleeman -- Each day could be her last...but not if he can help it. An FBI agent must protect the woman who can identify a terrorist bomber in bestselling author Susan Sleeman's riveting romantic suspense novel. (Romantic Suspense from Faith Words [Hachette])

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

My Daughter on a Book Cover–3 Years Before She Was Born?

File this one in the "no way" category, but it's just so freaky I have to share here.  This is my daughter, Emily, who was born in 1989:

This is a paperback novel a friend of hers found in an old used book store, published in 1986:

When I saw the book, I was so astounded, I talked Emily into doing her makeup and posing for me the same way:

Then I cropped that photo and placed it on the cover so I could see the two women side by side (that's Emily on the left):

Crazy, huh?

Just imagine finding your double on the cover of a book that's three years older than you are!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Book Research in the Louisiana Swamp

I just got back from Louisiana, where I had a blast doing some research.  Yesterday, I visited Tickfaw State Park, where I encountered all sorts of creatures--both in the nature center and out in the swamp. Here are a few photos I thought you might enjoy.

I can't wait to work some of this stuff into a story!

Do creatures like these give you the creepy crawlies? (They do me!)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

April 2017 Inspirational Fiction New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:
oh-babysandpiper-cove Sandpiper Cove by Irene Hannon -- When a police chief and an ex-con join forces to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks fly. Given their backgrounds, it's not a promising match—but in Hope Harbor, anything is possible. (Contemporary Romance from Revell [Baker])

Oh Baby by Delia Latham -- Dawni Manors seeks peace in Angel Falls, Texas. What she finds is a cowboy, an abandoned infant, and emotional chaos. If the Heart's Haven angels really are there, what in the world are they thinking? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

a-fragile-hope A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti -- Where does a relationship expert turn when his wife leaves him and carries a tiny heartbeat with her? (General from Abingdon Press) waiting-for-butterflies

Waiting for Butterflies by Karen Sargent -- When tragedy strikes, Maggie discovers a mother's love never ends--not even when her life does. Longing for her family after her sudden death, she becomes a lingering spirit and returns home where she helplessly witnesses her family's downward spiral in the aftermath of her passing. Her husband is haunted by past mistakes and struggles to redeem himself. Her teenage daughter silently drowns in her own guilt, secretly believing she caused her mother's death. Only her five-year-old, full of innocence, can sense her presence. Although limited by her family's grief and lack of faith, Maggie is determined to keep a sacred promise and save her family before her second chance runs out. (General from Walrus Publishing [Amphorae Publishing Group])

sunset-in-old-savannahSunset in Old Savannah by Mary Ellis -- When a philandering husband turns up dead, two crack detectives find more suspects than moss-draped oaks in charming old Savannah, including a scheming business partner, a resentful mistress, and a ne'er-do-well brother. (Mystery from Harvest House Publishers)
Above Rubies by Keely Brooke Keith -- In 1863, young teacher Olivia Owens establishes the first school in the remote settlement of Good Springs while finding love. (Historical, Independently Published)

a-rose-so-fairunder-the-same-skyHistorical Romance:
A Rose So Fair by Myra Johnson -- Caleb Wieland would give anything to win farm girl Rose Linwood's heart, but Rose's stubborn independence is proving as thorny as the flower for which she's named. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Under the Same Sky by Cynthia Roemer -- In 1854 Illinois, Becky Hollister wants nothing more than to live out her days on the prairie, building a life for herself alongside her future husband. But when a tornado rips through her parents' farm, killing her mother and sister, she must leave the only home she's ever known and the man she's begun to love to accompany her injured father to St. Louis. Catapulted into a world of unknowns, Becky finds solace in corresponding with Matthew Brody, the handsome pastor back home. But when word comes that he is all but engaged to someone else, she must call upon her faith to decipher her future. (Historical Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing) the-pony-express-collection

The Pony Express Romance Collection by Barbara Tifft Blakey, Mary Davis, Darlene Franklin, Cynthia Hickey, Maureen Lang, Debby Lee, Donna Schlachter, Connie Stevens and Pegg Thomas -- Nine historical romances revive the brief era of the Pony Express. Join the race from Missouri, across the plains and mountains to California and back again as brave Pony Express riders and their supporters along the route work to get mail across country in just ten days. It is an outstanding task in the years 1860 to 1861, and only a few are up to the job. Faced with challenges of terrain, weather, hostile natives, sickness, and more, can these adventurous pioneers hold fast, and can they also find lasting love in the midst of daily trials? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:
plain-targetPlain Target by Dana R. Lynn -- Horse trainer Jess McGrath only wants to clear her disgraced brother's name, but enemies keep coming out of the woodwork and danger only gets closer. Jess soon learns that no place is safe—and no one can be trusted…except for the last white knight she'd ever expect to ride to her rescue. Paramedic Seth Travis was the boy behind her high school humiliation, but he's also the man keeping her alive. When they find sanctuary in the Amish community, can they uncover answers in time to stop a killer—and resolve their past in time to build a future together? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin]) dangerous-testimony

Dangerous Testimony by Dana Mentink -- Four weeks before she's set to testify at a gang murder trial, someone is determined to make sure that Candace Gallagher Andrews never takes the stand. When nowhere is safe for the private investigator or her little girl, Candace turns to the only person she can trust—longtime friend and former navy SEAL Marco Quidel. For Marco, protecting Candace is not just another duty. As the trial date nears and the killer stalks ever closer, Marco knows fear for the first time—the fear of losing Candace and her daughter. But while Marco begins seeing Candace as more than just a friend, her late husband's memory is never far from her mind. So he must keep Candace alive—and not get emotionally involved—long enough to put away a killer. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Deep Extraction by DiAnn Mills -- Special Agent Tori Templeton is determined to find who killed her best friend's husband. Tori finds an unexpected ally in the newest member of the task force, recently reinstated Deputy US Marshal Cole Jeffers. As Tori and Cole dig deeper into Nathan's personal and business affairs, they uncover more than they bargained for. And the closer they get to finding the real killer?and to each other?the more intent someone is on silencing them for good. (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House) final-verdict

Final Verdict by Jessica R. Patch -- When Aurora Daniels becomes the target of someone seeking their own twisted justice, Sheriff Beckett Marsh is the only one who can rescue her. As a public defender, Aurora has angered plenty of people in town—and in her past. And while Beckett constantly clashes with the feisty lawyer professionally, it's his duty to protect and serve. Guarding her 24/7 is now his sole assignment. He may not have been able to save his fiancée from a dangerous felon, but he'll do whatever it takes to keep Aurora alive. Even if working with her to catch and convict this ruthless killer puts his heart in the crosshairs. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin]) guardian
Guardian by Terri Reed -- When a fellow FBI agent is kidnapped and a protected witness vanishes, Leo Gallagher will stop at nothing to find them both. So when he discovers a link between the case and a single mother in Wyoming, Leo and his trusty K-9 partner rush to question Alicia Duncan. Could she be the key to locating the missing persons? Not if a killer has anything to say about it. Someone is determined to keep Alicia from talking, so Leo and his chocolate Lab must keep her and her little boy safe on their family ranch. With danger lurking around every corner, Leo must work overtime to not lose another person who's important to him. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])  

Witch by Denise Weimer -- Having restored Michael Johnson's ancestors' house and apothecary shop and begun applying the lessons of family and forgiveness unearthed from the past, Jennifer Rushmore expects to complete her first preservation job with the simple relocation of a log home. But as her crew reconstructs the 1787 cabin, home to the first Dunham doctor, attacks on those involved throw suspicion on neighbors and friends alike. And while Jennifer has trusted God and Michael with the pain of her past, it appears Michael's been keeping his own secrets. Will she use a dream job offer from Savannah as an escape, or will a haunting tale from a Colonial diary convince her to rely on the faithfulness of his love? (Romantic Suspense from Canterbury House Publishing)

Speculative Romance/Fantasy:
the-fairetellings-series The Fairetellings Series (Books 1 through 3) by Kristen Reed -- Discover a trio of enchanting novellas inspired by three beloved fairy tales: Cinderella, Snow White, and Beauty and the Beast. (Speculative Romance/Fantasy, Independently Published)