Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Fun Announcement Plus How to Get an Autographed Book for FREE

Can I have a drumroll please...

I'm thrilled to announce that my 10th book, Whispers of the Bayou, which was originally published in paperback in 2008,  is, at long last, now officially available as an audiobook!  Woo hoo! Better yet, the book's narrator is outstanding and truly brings the story to life. 

My very first standalone mystery, Whispers of the Bayou was a real project of the heart and one of the most fun books I've ever written. When it came out, it was a big hit with critics and with my readers, who helped catapult it onto the Inspirational Fiction bestseller list. (Love you guys!)

Now that the story is available in an audio format, I'm eager to spread the word about the new life that's being given to this former fan favorite. Whether you've already read the paperback version or not, if you're an audio reader in search of an exciting, can't-put-it-down mystery, the Whispers of the Bayou audiobook is ready and waiting for you to give it a listen!

What's It About?

Here's a description of the story...
Swept away from Louisiana bayou country as a child, Miranda Miller is a woman without a past. She has a husband and child of her own and a fulfilling job in a Manhattan museum, but she also has questions - about the tragedy that cut her off from family and caused her to be sent away and about those first five years of her life, which were erased from her memory entirely.

Summoned to the bedside of Willy Pedreaux, the old caretaker of her grandparents' antebellum estate, Miranda goes back to Louisiana at last, hoping to learn the truths of her past and receive her rightful inheritance. But Willy's premature death plunges Miranda into a nightmare of buried secrets, priceless treasure, and unknown enemies.

Follow one woman's search through the hidden rooms of a bayou mansion, the enigmatic snares of an ancient myth, and the all-consuming quest for a heart open enough for love - and for God.

And here's an excerpt from one of my favorite reviews in 2008 (when it first came out in trade paperback) from RT Book Reviews Magazine:

"Intricately plotted and exquisitely detailed, Clark's latest novel is fantastic. There's a gothic feel throughout, and the outcome of the mystery is fascinating.... Mystery lovers should move this to the top of their purchase lists."


Who's the Reader?

The narrator of the new audiobook version is Jill Smith, a top-notch producer and voice actor with a solid list of credits. You can hear an audio sample of her reading the book here:


Also, be sure to come back to this blog next week, when I'll interview Jill and get a behind-the-scenes look at the audiobook creation process.


Where Can I Get the Audiobook?

The audio version of Whispers of the Bayou is available from iTunes, Amazon, and Audible, but if you get it from Audible, I have a very special offer for you... 

If you join Audible within the next 30 days and make Whispers of the Bayou your very first download, I'll show my appreciation by sending you a free, autographed paperback copy of one of my standalone mystery novels! For your free paperback, you can choose between:


     Whispers of the Bayou
     Shadows of Lancaster County
     Under the Cajun Moon
     Secrets of Harmony Grove
     Echoes of Titanic
     Beauty to Die For
  

All you have to do is sign up for Audible.com, make Whispers of the Bayou your first download, and then fill out a simple form telling me which one of these paperbacks you'd like to get, how you want it autographed, and where I should send it. That's it.

Keep reading to find out the specifics, which are near the end of this post. First, I'd like to share a bit about Audible and my own personal experience with it.


What is Audible and How Does It Work?

A subsidiary of Amazon, Audible is a place where you can buy digital audiobooks online and then download and listen to them on your cell phone, iPad, laptop, computer, iPod, etc.  Buying and downloading a book from Audible is so fun and easy, it only takes a couple of clicks. And even though the books you buy are digital and not physical, you still own them, just like any physical books you've ever purchased.

There is one big difference, however, between buying physical books at a store or online and buying audiobooks on Audible: To buy from Audible, you first have to "join" and become a member. The cost and benefits of membership vary, as shown in this chart, below. 


PlanCost# of Credits
Gold Monthly$14.95 per month1 per month
Platinum Monthly$22.95 per month2 per month
Gold Annual$149.50 per year12 per year
Platinum Annual$229.50 per year24 per year
Audible Channels Plan$4.95 per monthNo credits


Note that a "credit" is the same thing as a book, as in, one credit is good for one audiobook, regardless of that book's retail price. That means if you sign up for Audible's "Gold Monthly" plan, you'll pay $14.95 per month and in return get 1 book of your choice per month. Considering that audiobooks usually run $20-30+ each, that's a real bargain. 

According to the Audible website, a basic membership gives you:
  • 1 credit a month, good for any audiobook regardless of price.
  • Your own library to build. Keep your audiobooks forever, even if you cancel.
  • Exclusive member savings. Get 30% off any additional audiobooks.
  • Easy exchanges. Don't love the book? Swap it for free anytime. Seriously. 

Plus, keep reading to find out how, if you act by 8 pm today, you can get the first three months of your membership at 66% off! 

My Own Experience with Audible

I first became a member of Audible in September 2012. Since then, I've become a huge fan and, as of today, have amassed a total of 624 audiobooks for my personal audio library. That's a lot of books! I'm telling you this so that you'll understand I'm not just hawking some random service. I'm speaking from experience, and I really mean it when I say that I highly recommend Audible, it's a huge part of my life, and I'm not sure how I'd get along without it. 

The first few years of my membership, I only needed about one book a month, usually listening when I was driving or doing some mindless task. Otherwise, I preferred ebooks or paperbacks. But as time passed, I slowly found myself reading with my ears more and more and my eyes less and less. Bit by bit, I raised my membership levels to accommodate my rising quantity of purchases.

Eventually, because of eye issues, I found that I had to give up printed and e-books entirely. At that point, I had two choices: Read with my ears, or don't read at all. I can't imagine a life without books, no matter what the format, so I was grateful beyond measure that my Audible membership could allow me to keep on reading regardless. 

I'm still reading up a storm with Audible. These days, I tend to listen to about 100 audiobooks per year, which means that even their biggest plan, Platinum Annual, isn't enough for me. (Come on, Audible, time to add one more level, for us truly voracious readers!) In the meantime, at least I'm able to buy additional credits whenever I want, plus there's almost always some sale or special deal going on that I can take advantage of too.

I still read only with my ears, but I've actually gotten to the point where it's my preference. I do miss the feel and smell of actual books, but there's a lot to be said for the ease and convenience of having an entire digital audiobook library right inside my iPhone!


In Summary

Here's a list of My Top 5 Favorite Things About Audible:

1. The shopping interface is great. It's really easy to browse and choose books from audible, either on my computer or with my phone.

2. If I get a book from audible and it turns out that I don't like it, I can simply return it. As far as I know, no other bookseller does that–at least not without a lot of limits. Audible just takes it back and let's you get something else, no questions asked.

3. Audible offers its members a "Daily Deal," which is a book of their choice that they've priced around $2-$5–but just for a single day.  I've gotten such great books and found so many new authors that way that I've actually set up my browser's home page to the Daily Deals. Though I'm not interested in every single offer, I do find myself taking advantage of the Daily Deal fairly often. Somehow, it's just easier to take a chance on something new when it only costs a few bucks. And, as I said, I've made some wonderful discoveries that way.

4. Audible has frequent sales, and sometimes their sale prices are so good that I'm able to stock up on a whole bunch of new reads at really great prices. Audiobooks are expensive, so a good sale is a wonderful thing!

5. Audible carries pretty much every audiobook that's ever been made. I'm the first to admit that as a cost-conscious consumer, whenever I learn about some new book that I'm interested in reading, I'll always check my local library's digital download service first, to see if I can borrow the audio version from there, for free. But nine times out of ten, they don't carry the book I'm looking for, at which point I turn to Audible–and almost always find it.  Their selection is vast!


My One Quibble

In all these years, I've had only one real complaint with Audible: For some reason, they don't offer any sort of file/folder system for organizing your library. All of my books are shown in a single list, which is about as helpful as putting a bunch of physical books in random piles on the floor!

As a categorizer at heart, I would truly LOVE to be able to sort my books in a way that would save me some time and trouble. 

At least there is a search function, plus Audible does let you sort by Recent, Length, Title, or Author, which is better than nothing. But the lack of files or folders is a pain.

Fortunately, that's my only criticism. Otherwise, Audible gets my wholehearted endorsement!

All the Deets

Still with me? At long last, here's the full scoop on how to get a free paperback as a thank-you for joining Audible and making Whispers of the Bayou your very first purchase.  To qualify, you'll need to take the following steps at some point between now and midnight on August 15, 2018:

1. Sign up for Audible. (It is a paid service, so be sure to read all the fine print first!)

2. As your very first choice, get Whispers of the Bayou.

3. Once you've signed up, purchased, and downloaded Whispers of the Bayou, forward a copy of your receipt to Mindy@MindyStarnsClark.com. 

4. Click on this button and complete the brief form so that I'll know which free paperback book you'd like, how you want it to be autographed, and where it should be sent. (Please note that this offer is only available while supplies last, so don't delay or your top choice may be all gone.)



5. Once you've submitted the form, watch for your free autographed book to arrive within 2-3 weeks.

That's it!  Unfortunately, this offer is only valid in the U.S. (So sorry about that, but keep reading, I do have something else in store for my international readers.)

An Added Incentive

My offer for a free paperback is good through August 15th, but if you act today by 8 pm ET, you can also take advantage of this super Prime Day deal on Amazon:





(Just FYI, this deal is the reason I'm posting today, on a Tuesday, rather than tomorrow, which is my usual blogging day.)

While I'm At It...

Speaking of Prime Day, I thought I would close out this post by providing a few links to some other Prime Day specials that might appeal to book lovers, including... 







Just click on any of the above images for more info and to take advantage of these great offers.

Feeling Left Out?

I realize that if you're already a member of Audible, this offer of a free autographed paperback book does not apply to you, nor is it available for anyone with a shipping address outside of the U.S. However, not to worry: Next Wednesday, July 25th, I'll announce a different sort of giveaway, with one prize just for already-existing Audible members and another just for international readers. So be sure and come back!

Thanks for Being There

Before I'm done, I want to say that whether you end up getting a copy of the Whispers of the Bayou audiobook or not, I hope you know how very important you are to me! Having this book available in an audio format is a dream come true, but that dream wouldn't be half as wonderful if you weren't here to share it with. Thanks for such faithful support throughout the years! 

I'll see you here next week. In the meantime, I'm off to listen to another great book. How about you?


Please note that this post contains affiliate links.




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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

New Christian Fiction Releases — July 2018

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


Contemporary Romance:


A Widow's Hope by Vannetta Chapman -- After tragedy claimed her husband’s life and her son’s ability to walk, Hannah King doesn’t want a new man. She has her family, a home and mounting debts. Scarred Amish bachelor Jacob Schrock offers Hannah the job she desperately needs. But while Hannah helps Jacob resolve his accounting issues, can she and her little boy also heal his wounded heart? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Firestorm by Laura V. Hilton -- Bridget Behr can’t shake the guilt that it was her fault her family moved—and is too afraid to trust anyone, especially the flirtatious, overly-friendly Amish man who lives next door. Just as Bridget is finally settling into friendship, a new life, and maybe even love, a devastating forest fire ravages the county, destroying both land and the Behrs' dreams. Now Bridget and her family must decide: will they leave behind the ashes and start anew in another Amish community? Or will they dare to fight for the future they’d hoped for in Mackinac County? (Contemporary Romance from Whitaker House)

General Contemporary:


Ride to the Altar by Linda W. Yezak -- Cattle are dying on the Circle Bar, putting the Texas ranch in financial jeopardy. Newly engaged Patricia Talbert and Talon Carlson must root out the cause before they can concentrate on wedding plans—which involves Patricia’s traveling to New York to patch things up with her domineering mother. While she is away, Talon discovers that the attacks on the ranch are connected to the murder of his first fiancée over eight years ago. Before they can move forward together, each have to resolve the past. Will they be able to start their new life with a clean slate? (General Contemporary from Canopy Books of Texas)


General Historical:


My Heart Belongs in Galveston, Texas by Kathleen Y’Barbo -- Dodging bullets takes a simple missing person case to a new level as Jonah Cahill, a Pinkerton agent, and Madeline Latour, an investigative reporter, form a tentative truce in Galveston, Texas, 1880. Are they on to a much bigger story when their best witness is suddenly kidnapped? (General Historical from Barbour Publishing)



Historical Mystery:


The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright -- Two women, separated by a hundred years, must uncover the secrets within the borders of their own town before it's too late and they lose their future--or their very souls. (Historical Mystery from Bethany House [Baker])




Historical Romance:


This Freedom Journey by Misty M. Beller -- Adrien Lockman left France to finally live life on his own terms, but when he discovers a half-starved and half-frozen woman in the treacherous Canadian mountains, the truth soon becomes clear—the only way they’ll survive is together. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)




The Widow's Plight by Mary Davis -- After moving to a new town and joining a quilting circle, a single mother steps out of the shadows of abuse and into the sunshine. But will a secret clouding her past cost her the man she loves? (Historical Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)




River to Redemption by Ann H. Gabhart -- Orphaned during an early 19th century cholera epidemic and helped by a slave to find a new home, Adria Starr must now stand up for his freedom—and maybe find her own in the process. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])




A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano -- A young heiress is suddenly the poorest wealthy woman in all of England when her father dies without telling anyone where he put his money. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])




Mystery:


Shifting Sands by Elizabeth Ludwig -- A mysterious key hidden in the depths of an ancient lighthouse unlocks family secrets hidden for generations. (Cozy Mystery from Guideposts Publications)





Guarded Prognosis by Richard L. Mabry -- At first Dr. Caden Taggart feared for his freedom, then for his ability to cope, and eventually he feared for his life. (Medical Mystery, Independently Published)




Romantic Suspense:


Darkwater Secrets by Robin Caroll -- When Adelaide Fountaine, the general manager of a hotel in New Orleans, finds the body of a guest who was stabbed with a kitchen knife, her childhood friend Detective Beau Savoie is shocked to discover a connection between his friend--the woman he's quietly loved for years—and the murdered guest. But Beau can't press Adelaide too hard . . . because he's keeping secrets of his own. Can Adelaide and Beau afford to hide from the truth with a killer on the loose? (Romantic Suspense from Gilead Publishing)

Camp Hope by Sara L. Foust -- Facing dehydration, starvation, and a convoluted kidnapper, will Amy succeed in recovering her precious foster daughter or get lost in a vast wilderness forever? (Romantic Suspense from Mantle Rock Publishing)





Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey -- Seven years ago, operative Luke Gallagher vanished to join an elite team of terrorist hunters. Private investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving or looking for Luke after he disappeared. But she also never imagined he left her or his life by choice. Now he's back, asking her help to stop America’s newest terrorist threat—an attack that would shake the country to its core. Together they must navigate secrets, lies, and betrayal, all while on the brink of a biological disaster. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist's next mark? (Romantic Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Young Adult:


Launch by Jason C. Joyner -- Teens with special abilities are invited to an exclusive conference where tech billionaire Simon Mazor is looking for those who can help him influence the world. (Young Adult from Little Lamb Books)

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Betsy Ross and The Amish Quilter


Before we get to what Betsy Ross has to do with The Amish Quilter, I have a fun announcement: The winner of the giveaway on my website for a "Read Now, Sleep Later" pillow is

FAITH CREECH

Congrats, Faith! 


To celebrate summer and travel, for my next prize I'll be giving away a free copy of The Amish Nanny, which is a tale of one young woman's journey to Switzerland, to faith, and ultimately to love. To enter the drawing, simply head to the home page of my website, scroll down to the Giveaway box, click on the Enter to Win button, and fill out the simple form. Good luck!


Happy Independence Day!

Considering that today is the 4th of July, I decided to share a post relating to a significant figure in American history: Betsy Ross, the woman thought to have sewn America's first flag. Ross lived in Philadelphia at the time of the American Revolution, working as an upholsterer and flagmaker, and legend has it that she created our first flag at the request of George Washington, who brought her a sketch of the proposed design in 1776.   

So what does that have to do with The Amish Quilter? Simply put, the characters in the book spend a day in Philadelphia and visit several historical sites including the home of Betsy Ross.

A Fun First Date

The Amish Quilter, which I co-wrote with Leslie Gould, features a young Amish couple, Linda Mueller and Isaac Mast. Though Linda's sheltered life has never led her beyond Lancaster County, Isaac lived for a time as an Englischer before becoming Amish and even earned a degree at an Art school in Philadelphia. Now, when he needs to go into the city on a business-related errand, he invites Linda to come with him and offers to show her some of the sights.

Sweet guy that he is, he wants Linda to have a good time on what will be their first real date, and so he decides to make their ultimate destination the Betsy Ross House. Linda is a quilter, and Isaac assumes Ross was a quilter as well, so his choice makes sense–until they get there. But more on that in a bit.


Verifying the Details

As a writer, I always like to walk through the events in a story myself when I can, just to make sure I've gotten it all correct, and this book was no exception. Once Leslie and I finished writing the chapter that features the couple's day in Philly–which includes not just sightseeing but a few other errands and a bit of sleuthing as well–we decided that a visit to the city in person was needed, just to verify all of the details we'd put into those scenes.  Leslie lives on the other side of the country, but I'm only half an hour from Philly, so the task easily fell to me. When I told my husband, John, what I needed to do, he eagerly asked to join me. He's so great that way–not to mention he loves any excuse to go sightseeing!

Thus, one a beautiful fall day last September, John and I embarked on our research trip into Philadelphia...

Into the City

We started, as Linda and Isaac do, at the Department of Vital Records, which is inside this building on 8th Street.

As soon as we walked in the door, I knew our trip had been worth it for that moment alone. As written, the scene showed the couple simply walking into the building and heading straight for the office they needed. What Leslie and I hadn't realized, however, was that right at the entrance you have to go through an elaborate security checkpoint before you can continue inside. 

A security checkpoint was probably something Linda had never encountered before, so when I later re-wrote the scene, I was able to have a little fun with it. Here’s an excerpt from that part of the story:


Isaac held the door for me, but I stopped short as soon as we were both inside. Just ahead was a large contraption, one that nearly blocked the way. A woman in a navy blue police-type uniform sat in a tall chair next to it, staring at a mounted screen.

“It’s okay,” Isaac said softly, giving me a nudge forward. “Just put your tote on the conveyor belt and walk through.”

I started to do as he said but then hesitated, clutching the bag to my chest. “Will I get it back?”

That made the woman laugh, but not in a mean-spirited way. “Sure will, honey,” she responded, even though my question hadn’t been directed at her. “Put down the bag and then keep on going. You’ll see.”

As promised, once I’d walked through a free-standing doorframe, my bag reappeared on the other side of the contraption, still moving forward on the conveyor belt. Two policemen were standing nearby, chatting with each other, and one of them gave me a nod. I assumed that meant it was okay to take my bag back, so I did.

“What is all this?” I asked Isaac once he’d come through the doorframe as well.

“Security,” he replied, taking my elbow and steering me toward a hallway on the left. “It’s to make sure nobody comes in with a—” he paused and lowered his voice to a whisper, “gun or a bomb or whatever.” Raising his tone back to normal, he added, “This is a government building. They have to be careful.”

We came to a stop in the short hallway and turned our attention to a big sign on the wall, which explained how to proceed once we were inside the department of Vital Records, which was just ahead. 

My husband, John, reading the sign that Linda and Isaac encounter
   

A Sightseeing Adventure

Later in the chapter, once Isaac and Linda have finished the sleuthing portion of their day, they have lunch and then do the tourist thing for a while…

“So where exactly are you taking me for this little sightseeing adventure?” I asked as we exited the restaurant and began making our way down the busy street. I knew that Philadelphia held a number of important historical sights, and judging by the signs we passed at the corner, we were headed into the heart of that. “Are we going to see the Liberty Bell?”

Isaac flashed me a smile. “That’s not our final destination, but we will pass it on the way.” He didn’t elaborate, so I didn’t press him for more. Instead, I just kept walking at his side, taking in the sights and sounds and smells of this beautiful sunny day in the city. 


The Perfect Historical Attraction for a Quilter…Sort Of

 A short while later in the story, after several detours…


The National Constitution Center
Benjamin Franklin's Grave
We began walking again, and as we went, he pointed out the Liberty Bell, visible through a large plate-glass window, and then a couple of other significant historical structures, including the National Constitution Center and the US Mint. At the next block, we turned right and began moving along a less busy street this time, passing a historic Quaker Meeting House on the corner and then the grave of Benjamin Franklin, easily visible through a brick-and-wrought-iron fence.

“Where are we headed?” I asked, eager to reach our destination.

“A historical attraction I think you’ll really enjoy. There are so many in this city, it was hard to decide which one to take you to. But then it finally dawned on me…the perfect site for a quilter.” 

With that, he paused and gestured toward a modest building just ahead, one with a shady courtyard and a giant flag hanging outside. In front was a sign:  The Betsy Ross House.

“Welcome to the home of the seamstress who’s thought to have sewn America’s first flag,” he said. 

Betsy Ross's upholstery shop
For the next hour, Isaac and I explored the place, learning all about Betsy Ross. The whole house was fascinating but especially the center point of the tour, which featured a recreation of her 1700’s upholstery shop. There we listened to a historic interpreter pretending to be the woman herself, telling us all about the night George Washington showed up at her door with a request to make a flag for what would become the United States of America.

As it turned out, she hadn’t been a quilter after all but rather an upholsterer, a fact that we learned early on in the tour. Throughout the house, in fact, we spotted exactly one quilt, a simple patchwork draped over a chair in the corner of a bedroom. 

The only visible quilt in the Betsy Ross House
“I’m so happy you brought me to the perfect attraction for a quilter,” I teased Isaac as we finally emerged from the house into the afternoon sunshine. 

“Who knew?” He was grinning, but I could tell he was a little embarrassed.  

“Hey, seriously,” I said, pointing toward a pair of chairs across the courtyard under a broad sycamore tree. “I hope you know I loved that. She may not have quilted, but she did work with needle and thread and fabric. So it really was the perfect choice for me.” 

We walked over to the chairs and sat, not even noticing until we did that we were facing a circular fountain that held a trio of sculptured metal cats.

“Look. It’s Whisper!” I cried, gesturing to the black one on top. Made of iron, he was adorable, perched on a stone cylinder with his tail hanging down behind.

“Yes it is,” Isaac replied, acting as if he’d known all about it. “And that’s the real reason I brought you here, Linda, not for any quilts but to surprise you with the sculpture of Whisper in Betsy Ross’s courtyard.” 


 My Goof = His Goof

Yes, what Isaac hadn't known was that Betsy Ross hadn't been a quilter at all but was instead an upholsterer. Though he's embarrassed by his mistaken assumption, Linda assures him that she enjoyed their tour just the same.

The funny part of the story is that I'm the one who goofed! When I first wrote that scene, I just assumed Ross was a quilter, and what better place for Linda the Amish quilter to visit?  But then, once John and I took the tour and learned the truth, I was faced with a big problem.  It was too late scrap the scene entirely, so the final solution was simply to make my goof Isaac's goof as well.

What can say, sometimes our characters have to bear the brunt of our own errors!

Despite the rewrite, I think the story worked fine–and John and I did have a great time seeing the Betsy Ross House. Here are some more of our photos...












As our day drew to a close and we slowly made our way back to our car, we captured this final image of the Liberty Bell, a perfect shot to end this patriotic post. 



Happy 4th! How are you celebrating the day?