Saturday, December 19, 2015

COTT'S Oct/Nov 2015 Champion!

Thank you to our viewers, fans, and voters—this was a near record-setting post view for our five authors. Congratulations to all of your and thank you for participating. Some of the comments you received include:

  • Thank you for producing such amazing Christian fiction!
  • All of them are beautiful covers.
  • The world of writing may be hard, but you all have already done more than many people dream of doing by finishing and publishing a book. Keep writing, and best of luck.
  • Keep on writing and telling your stories!
  • Keep writing! Keep believing!
  • Love these covers, all!
  • All look like great books, but the cover of Sound of Silver really grabs me the most.
  • Voted for After! A lovely book inside and out.
  • Love the covers of "After" and "Love's Christmas Past" but am most excited to read "Sofia's Tune" first. Who doesn't love a good secret? Excited!
  • LOVE your work, Rachelle!
  • Good for you, Janet Sketchley, for having your book included here.

Certainly all wonderful, but...there





Congratulations to this month’s Champion, Cindy Thomson, and Sofia’s Tune!

Released November 1, 2015
Ebook - $4.99
Print: $14.99

In Sofia’s Tune, we meet Sofia Falcone, a young woman who has been living in New York only a short time when she is stunned to discover a family secret, one that soon sends her beloved mother into a mental institution. Scrambling to keep her job and care for her mother, Sofia is convinced confronting the past will heal all wounds, but her old world Italian family wants to keep the past in the past.

During this time, she encounters Antonio, a Vaudeville pianist with a street-smart dog, seeking to discover why his father was mysteriously killed. Their crossed paths uncover a frightening underworld in Little Italy. Bringing the truth to light may cost Sofia’s mother’s sanity, Antonio’s career, and the livelihoods of countless immigrants. Change is on the horizon, but it may not bring what they expect.

Q & A With Cindy

· Sofia’s Tune has a musical theme. What can you tell us about the meaning of “tune” in this story?

Antonio is a vaudeville pianist who dreams of becoming an accomplished concert musician. His dog resembles Nipper of the “His Master’s Voice” advertisement for gramophones. There is plenty of music in this story, but the title refers to changing your tune, finding a different path for your life, as both Sofia and Antonio must do.

· Tell us about the dog on the cover.

Luigi is Antonio’s faithful companion who keeps reminding people of the dog listening to his master’s voice on the recording, as I mentioned. He’s well trained and a good judge of character. I really enjoyed adding a canine character to the story. Dogs are such an important part of many people’s lives. He is Antonio’s dog, but he really likes Sofia, as you can see on the cover!

· What’s next?

Sofia’s Tune is the final novel in the series. However, I am planning on a novella, a sort of prequel, which will tell Mrs. Hawkins’s story. Mrs. Hawkins runs a boarding house for immigrant girls. Her story is told very briefly in Annie’s Stories. This novella will be free exclusively for my newsletter subscribers. (You can sign up on my web site.)
Next summer I will be releasing the sequel to my first novel, Brigid of Ireland. The stories are set in 5th century Ireland, and weave in a bit of fantasy and adventure. They are somewhat different from the Ellis Island series, but are still representative of our ancestors’ stories that should be passed down for us to carry on their legacy of endurance, faithfulness, and wisdom.

And speaking of wisdom, Sofia’s name means wisdom, and I hope readers will be inspired by the music in the book trailer, written by my friend from Northern Ireland, singer/songwriter Andy Rogers.

Cindy Thomson is the author of seven books, including her newest novel, Sofia’s Tune, the third book in her Ellis Island series. She also writes genealogy articles for Internet Genealogy and Your Genealogy Today magazines, and short stories for Clubhouse Magazine. Most everything she writes reflects her mission of “Writing the stories of our inheritance." Visit her at, on Facebook at www. facebook. com/cindyswritin g and on Twitter: @cindyswriting

Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Review of STORMING, a New Dieselpunk Novel by K.M Weiland

Though I've always enjoyed such films such as Indiana Jones, The Rocketeer, Captain America, and so on, I've never read a deiselpunk (or ANYpunk) novel until now, but I thoroughly enjoyed K.M. Weiland's brand new release Storming, a deiselpunk that is set among the post war, air show, barnstorming circus era. Interestingly, I've read that sometimes deiselpunk can seem to glorify nazi-ism due to the nazi components in these stories, but Weiland's novel is a clear depiction of anti-fascism. (The fascists are the bad guys.)

The story is full of intrigue from the very beginning, when barnstormer Hitch Hitchcock nearly flies into first one body, then another, tumbling out of the sky from who-knows-where. There isn't another sign of plane or anything else up there in the clouds. When he rescues the mysterious foreigner Jael she talks of Schturming, her home in the clouds, and for a while, there's the great mystery of what Shturming is, or where it's exactly located. The answer is quite a lark!

But there's so much more to Weiland's story. There's the traumatized little boy, Hitch's nephew, who hasn't talked in several years but is drawn to Hitch more than anyone else in his life, and about whom another mystery swirls. There's Hitch's estranged brother, who happens to be a town deputy, and Hitch is definitely flying around on the fringes of the law. There's the town sheriff himself, who has a hold over Hitch and knows just how to call in a favor, even more than once. There's Hitch's sisters-in-law who aren't ready to forgive him for his wife's death. There's his buddy Earl, who stands by him when the rest  of the circus only has use for his talents when it's in their favor.

And mostly there's Jael, the strange, strong-headed, daring girl who fell from the sky and became a flying circus pilot's dream as a wing-walker -- and something more. Weiland does a fantastic
job of pulling readers into the cares of these people and sets the final scenes in the heavens (no spoilers! Can't tell you about the actual Schturming!) full of bravado, daring do, and death-defying romance, familial love, and forgiveness. Oh -- and a great climax for the bad guys.

Like I said, deiselpunk is new to me, but I think readers who really seek out this genre would get a great kick out of Storming!

Available on Amazon

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

FREE Kindle! To Celebrate Five Years of COTT!

Happy Birthday, COTT! 

We're half a decade old!

To celebrate FIVE YEARS of Clash of the Titles, we're GIVING AWAY some fun gifts. 

You can win books by Gail Pallotta and Lisa Lickel, 

or even a KINDLE FIRE!!

Raffle opens right now!

Closes Monday, November 30.

There are several ways to enter the drawing outlined in the RaffleCopter below. Winners will be drawn and announced on December 2nd. 

Please note: All entries are optional, but
the more you rack up, the higher your odds of winning.

To boot, you're showing support of those who've donated prizes. Not to mention, some of the entries come with their very own freebies!

Thank you!

Check out all the ways to enter...!

*Our newsletters will not clog your inbox. We send updates VERY sparingly.*

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, October 18, 2015

COTT's 2015 Laurel Award Winner



On September 2, 2015, The Bound Heart took home Clash of the Titles's fifth annual Laurel Award. Over the course of six weeks, the novel's first chapters were read and judged by avid readers of Christian fiction who determined The Bound Heart to be the worthiest to receive the 

2015 Laurel Award.

Clash of the Titles extends a heartfelt congratulations to author Dawn Crandall for her exemplary writing. We wish God's richest blessings on her future work. 

About The Bound Heart:

One accidental kiss. That was all it took to throw Meredyth Summercourt’s world upside-down. Determined to marry the ever-elusive Vance Everstone, she simply doesn’t have the time or the desire to fall for her friend Lawry Hampton. However, with Vance out of the country and Lawry constantly at her side, Meredyth can’t help but wonder if what’s holding her to Vance is nothing more than a desire to redeem herself from their unfortunate past.

When Vance comes home to stake his claim on Meredyth, will she be strong enough to break free from the tangled web she’s convinced she deserves? Or will she find the strength to accept that God’s plan for her life could include redemption... and quite possibly the love of her best-friend?

About Dawn:

A graduate of Taylor University with a degree in Christian Education, and a former bookseller at Barnes & Noble, Dawn Crandall didn’t begin writing until 2010. That is the year she shared with her husband her long-time dream of writing books. He encouraged her to quit her job and to pursue her passion to write stories. Apart from writing books, Dawn also recently became a mother—she and her husband were blessed with a baby boy in March 2014. She also serves with her husband in a premarriage mentor program at their local church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Connect with Dawn online:

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cover Reveal! DEADLY DESIGNS by Nike Chillemi

Today I want to share a cover reveal for an author I've come to greatly respect both in her writing and off the page. If you've never read any of Nike Chillemi's (a.k.a. The Crime Fictionista's) books, I can tell you that she always weaves a compelling Christian suspense that will keep you turning the page. Her new book is due out in a few days and is the sequel to this year's Grace Awards winning suspense novel Harmful Intent. Check it out!  

Book #2 in the Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes series

Jennifer Rodewald, cover designer

The planned release date is September 15, 2015.

Private investigator Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels teams up again with Lt. Deputy Dawson Hughes to find a geeky radio broadcaster’s missing wife and young daughter. They fear the woman and child were taken by Islamic terrorists as revenge against a pro-Israel guest host who subbed on the talk show for a week. The investigation takes Ronnie and Hughes to manicured estates, interviewing a snobbish A-List society crowd, as well as to the seamy, drug-riddled underbelly of the fashion world. All the while, the specter of international terrorism hovers.

Ronnie is furious at both Hughes and the broadcaster for waiting two days to start the search. She knows the longer it takes, the less chance there is of finding the child alive. Talk-show host Ed Barton has been hoping-against-hope his pot-smoking, model wife is on one of her esoteric experiences and has simply taken the child while she romps for a few days. He doesn’t want to consider the other, more dangerous possibility…that his radio program has angered some very dangerous people.

Hughes, recently promoted to lieutenant in the TaylorCounty, Texas Sheriff’s Department, is on leave on a special assignment with Authorized Operations (AO), a clandestine, quasi-government agency operating out of a sea-side mansion on Long Island, NY. The only thing is, many politicians and government big-wigs claim the organization doesn’t exist.

Join Nike on Facebook or on her blog.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

And this clash goes to...

Today I'm joining Clash of the Titles in celebrating the most recent CLASH winner:

A BRIDE AT LAST by Melissa Jagears! Abandoned by his mail-order bride, Silas Jonesey has fought an uphill battle to recover from a pattern of poor choices. Now his prayers for reconciliation have finally come true and his estranged wife has contacted him with her whereabouts. Kate Dawson was supposed to be a mail-order bride, but upon realizing she'd been deceived about her intended groom, she's now settled into life as a schoolteacher. When the mother of a student passes away, Kate assumes she'll take on care of nine-year-old Anthony--until two men suddenly show up in town, claiming to be the boy's father. Silas can see Anthony loves Kate, so he enlists her help in reaching out to the boy and attempting to prove his paternity to the court. When a common interest in Anthony leads to an interest in each other and Silas and Kate begin to think they can overcome their rocky start, neither is prepared for the secrets and past hurts that have yet to come to light. Can Silas, Kate, and Anthony's wounded souls bind them together or will all that stands between them leave them lonely forever? 

Here's what Publisher's Weekly has to say: 

In [Jagears'] latest novel [A Bride at Last], . . . the characters are all well-balanced and engaging: Silas' struggle with his failed marriage, struggling faith, and dark past makes him sympathetic; Kate's commitment to Anthony gives her depth and pathos; and their romance develops realistically . . . a memorable read for fans of redemptive historical romances.


Check out her upcoming release, With This Ring?


A historical novella compilation of four award winning authors - Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings and Melissa Jagears Four top historical romance novelists team up in this new collection to offer stories of love and romance with a twist of humor. In Karen Witemeyer's "The Husband Maneuver," Marietta Hawkins decides to grab the reins when the ranch foreman she loves seems to be leaving forever. Regina Jennings offers "Her Dearly Unintended," where friends stranded by a rising river pretend to be newlyweds when a dangerous stranger arrives. Mary Connealy's "Runaway Bride" finds a Texas ranger getting more than he expected when he rescues a young woman fleeing a dangerous arranged marriage. And Melissa Jagears' "Engaging the Competition" finds a young woman forced to assist the man she's often sparred with after an accident leaves him helpless. Each tale is a fun blend of history and romance that will delight readers.

Find it here on Amazon


About Melissa:

Melissa Jagears is a homeschooling mom who writes Christian Historical Romance after everyone is asleep. She’s the author of the Unexpected Brides Series with Bethany House. The prequel ebook novella, Love by the Letter is free to try. You can learn more about her, her books, and where she hangs out online at

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Are You Doing Christian Separation Wrong?

I'm first going to start out this post by saying I am not writing a treatise of Biblical separation, so this is not a naïve attempt by me to pen an expose on the entire topic. You can read whole books and hear long sermons about it. If you'd prefer to consider this a small rant on some error that has gotten under my skin time and time again, feel free.
There's been a nagging in my conscience to address this issue for a several years now, and I can't hush it up any longer. Biblical separation is an important issue for Christians, probably more so now than in any other time in my generation. But I've been on the wrong end of practicing separation on several occasions, and now that I see how and why I was, I not only repent of it, I find it grievous to find others making the same mistake. 
There is a place for separation. 1 Corinthians 5:11, the pivotal verse upon which the doctrine spins is clear. However, if you consider the overall arch of the New Testament as regards the issue of brethren who have sinned, it is also recognizable that the practice of separation is less about not sullying our own self-righteous selves, than it is to minister by way of reproof and restoration to whomever it is we intend to separate from. There's an easy, brief way to summarize this:

That being said, what kind of Christian wants to be ineffectual? Therefore, I have to ask, are you separating from someone without ministering to them? I have seen many Christians caught up in a sinful lifestyle or making an unbiblical decision that will impact their lives without one single Christian stepping forward and talking to them about it, finding out if they understand what they are doing, asking them about their reasons for such a decision. Yet, I've seen some of these same Christians going mute toward them, stepping back, and having no contact or interaction when the door is clearly open to discuss the problem with the offender. This kind of response comes off only as a great big, Christian cold shoulder. One can only surmise that those who do this are "separating" when in fact, they are guilty of prideful, self-righteous arrogance, because it is left to the person being "separated" from to try and figure out why so-and-so isn't talking to them or taking part in their life event or acting stand-offish. And having watched this close up, I can tell you that most of the time the person being "separated" from is absolutely clueless. So they go on their way either wondering what the problem is or shrugging their shoulders without caring, because the relationship is broken -- not in a helpful way. 

Christians who separate without a verbal discussion gain no respect for their cause or belief. 

On the other hand, when there is discussion, the person being separated from may not agree with their brother's position, they may not turn from sin, they may not immediately respond; BUT, they will be made aware that they are in offense of the Gospel and that the responsibility is on them for what they do about it. It is error to assume that "they know they're wrong". They often don't.
WHICH brings me to another point. I have watched, with great dismay, many staunch believers separate in this cold-shoulder fashion based upon mere circumstances and presumptions without ever having talked to the individual to see if such things are true. They determine that "sin is at the door" when, in fact, it might not be (and in some of my observation and discussion with supposed trespassers it isn't, yet the individual may not be given the opportunity for explanation). This is the height of spiritual arrogance. It is judgment in its most negative form (not the "righteous judgment" the Bible tells us to practice) and it seems that it frequently stems out of gossip -- I'm sorry -- praying for someone. 
Who has not experienced a discussion with a fellow believer or two, even if it's within your own home, about the circumstance of another Christian whom they believe is doing something sinful? Yet, how often has that same discussion led to anyone going to that person and addressing the situation and finding out the facts? People are really, really good at hashing out the horrors of someone's choices and "taking a stand" against an imagined sin without EVER going to that person directly and ministering to them! 
Does it sound like I'm yelling? Well, my heart is.
If you are considering a "stand" against someone's action, or if you are about to separate from an individual, you had better go to them first to find out if it's truly warranted and Biblically mandated. Otherwise, you are guilty of spiritual arrogance and pride, and to someone who may need your ministry, that is probably the biggest of sins.

Hopefully effectually,

Monday, July 13, 2015

When Heroes are Not Heroic: An Inside Look at "Blue Columbine"

Blue Columbine, book one in the Grace Revealing series by Jennifer Rodewald

Welcome, readers! This week we're going behind the scenes of Jennifer Rodewald's new book, Blue Columbine! Find out why her hero, Andrew Harris, drew such a reaction, and why this "non-heroic" hero makes the perfect star of this beautiful contemporary romance. 


The main character isn’t your typical Christian Fiction hero. What is he like?

Andrew Harris insists on living on his own terms. Angry because of life’s injustices, he is determined that failure will not cross his path again. He is also adamant that he is not an alcoholic. When he reunites with Jamie Carson, finding her to be rooted in the faith they’d grown up with, and every bit as sweet and lovely as he remembered, he is plunged into an emotional whirlwind. Guilt, a longing to be better, frustration that he is not enough, and a rekindled love for his childhood sweetheart all swirl inside with maddening strength. But for all his faults, he is still loyal, supportive, and generous when he wants to be—all qualities that keep Jamie’s attention and devotion. Which keeps their close friendship—edging on more than friendship—complicated, to say the least.


What was the hardest part of writing this story?

This is a tough one, because the greatest difficulty didn’t come during the writing part. The hardest thing was taking in the amount of very strong negative reactions to Andrew as a Christian fiction character during the critiquing stage of the novel. Andrew’s a mess. An alcoholic in denial, angry at life and at God, selfish, and overall just not pretty. I knew that, but I didn’t expect to have vehement reactions insisting that such a character did not belong in Christian fiction. One comment labeled him “unredeemable.” That broke my heart, because as I shared before, God reminded me through this story that no one is beyond the Hand of Grace. I think it’s important that sometimes Christian fiction confirms that truth, even if it means starting with messy characters.


Where did Blue Columbine, the story, come from?

I’m not sure there’s one single, straight shot answer to that. The story unfolded in my mind and I was compelled to write it. I’ve had several years to look back and wonder, “Why this story?” since it first gripped me. Looking at it from hindsight, I think God was pouring truth into me through this book. I was at a point in my life when I was praying for loved ones…and losing hope. I see now that God was teaching me that nothing is beyond His reach. I needed to see that, to believe it again.

What messages/ themes do you hope your readers will get out of this book?

The first is this: NO ONE is beyond redemption. No one. I need to know that, because I love some messy people. God showed me through this book that my prayers do not go unheard, that His hand is more powerful than I give Him credit for, and His time and storyline are not necessarily mine.

And second: Jesus saves. From white lies to powerful addictions, Jesus saves the lost, washes sin completely clean, and offers new life with real hope. 

What an amazing message! This book's hero proves that when our characters are not perfectly heroic, that only proves that God is! Thank you for sharing your book with us.
Now for a closer look at this book--and the gorgeous cover that sets the tone!

BLUE COLUMBINE, Book 1 of the Grace Revealing series

Best Friends—maybe more—until addiction shatters everything.

Childhood sweethearts reunite, but Andrew is not the boy he had been, and Jamie hasn’t changed. Their connection, however, outlasts time and offense.

Loyalty, love, and then betrayal….For Jamie, one thing becomes clear: Andy needs a savior, and she cannot be it. Will Andrew allow the hand of grace to redeem his legacy of addiction, or will he and Jamie remain the casualties of heartbreak?

What her readers are saying:
~ “Delicate. Humorous. And plumbing the depths of God's redeeming love.”

~ “This book does not disappoint. Instead it takes you through the emotional upheaval of loving someone with a problem you can't solve--and lets you witness the glory of the One who can.”


About Jennifer:

Jennifer Rodewald is passionate about the Word of God and the powerful vehicle of story. The draw to fiction has tugged hard on her heart since childhood, and when she began pursuing writing she set on stories that reveal the grace of God.

Aiming to live with boundless enthusiasm, her creed is vision, pursuit and excellence. Blessed with a robust curiosity, she loves to research. Whether she’s investigating the history of a given area, the biography of a Christian icon, or how nature declares the glory of God, her daily goal is to learn something new.

Jen lives and writes in a lovely speck of a town where she watches with amazement while her children grow up way too fast, gardens, and marvels at God’s mighty hand in everyday life. Four kids and her own personal superman make her home in southwestern Nebraska delightfully chaotic.

She would love to hear from you! Please visit her at or connect with her on Facebook. Author Jen Rodewald.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

COTT's Sizzling Summer Reading Clash!

Looking for some awesome take-me-away Summer Reading?

Check out these new releases and I dare you to tell me which one you'd put on the top of your reading list. We offer contemporary and historical romance, a little fantasy, danger, mystery, suspense!
Vote for your next most likely read, and leave the author a word of encouragement, then share with your friends. 

Scroll down, vote in the survey box, and come back next week for the Reveal!



Rachel A. James

To unite the kingdoms and bring peace, Princess Alena must enter into a royal marital alliance, but when the handsome physician, Sherwin, befalls her, matters become complicated. Torn between obligations to her young son and country, she faces a difficult decision, will Alena obey the king’s orders, or choose to follow her heart?


Jennifer Rodewald

Friendship, love, and then betrayal...for Jamie Carson one thing becomes clear: Andrew needs a savior, and she cannot be it. Will Andrew allow the hand of grace to redeem his legacy of addiction, or will he and Jamie remain the casualties of heartbreak?


Heather Day Gilbert 

Tess Spencer loves her low-key job at the Crystal Mountain Spa, which allows her plenty of down-time with her one-year old daughter and lawyer husband, Thomas. But when a pool installation turns up eight skeletons in the spa's back yard, Tess becomes entangled in a sleuthing job destined to go awry...even as she sifts through layers of deceit, Tess realizes too late that a serial killer's sights have zeroed in on her.

Contemporary Romance

Amanda Cabot 

Marisa St. George has lost her dream job and come home to manage the struggling Rainbow’s End resort in the small Texas town where she grew up. The only silver lining is Blake Kendall, a new guest who is making her believe in love at first sight. But is he really who she thinks he is? 

Historical Romance

Sarah Loudin Thomas 

When family tragedy derails Henry Phillips’s college studies, he consoles himself with his fiddle and the family farm. His grandmother’s helper, Margaret Hoffman, is always around, ready to push his buttons, and it seems she doesn’t care about his troubles. But Margaret has her own problems. Henry and Margaret soon find themselves relying on each other as they face potential loss and find healing in the most surprising places. 
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Monday, June 8, 2015

A Little Introspection -- To Be the Person You Want to Be Around

Be the person you want to be around. I'm sure that's a famous saying. It must be. I'm thinking of it today because I've been around a lot of people this week -- and a lot of people have been around me. I'm practicing a little introspection and asking myself, am I the kind of person they want to be around, or do they merely have to? Being that kind of individual is a constant conscientious challenge that can change at any given moment, whether my mood is delightful or crabby. How do I project toward others on a regular basis?

I want to be the person another person -- you -- want to be around. I want to be an encourager, a listener, a comforter, a day-brightener -- someone whom you will walk away from after a conversation feeling a bit more uplifted, or at least, not let down or simply tolerated.

I live in circles where I often hear expressions such as, be like Jesus. Well, Jesus was certainly no push-over or door mat (why do some folk think that?). He occasionally expressed righteous indignation or strong criticism. But overall, people were drawn to him, at least until close to the time of his crucifixion when he got a little too radical for their comfort zones. But overall, he taught us to live in such a way that we resonate with actions and attitudes that Seek Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly. (At times, this requires speaking the truth in love, meaning with compassion and humility.)

Isn't that the kind of person we love to be around -- someone who loves and portrays character with attitudes of justice, mercy, and humility? Mm-hm.

What is that individual's counter-type? Narcissistic, self-centered, uncaring. Wow, strong words! Nobody really thinks of themselves that way, but the evidence is in their talk and their actions. What about if we examined those traits this way?
  • Somebody who is interested in their own needs and immediate desires more than the needs and desires of others. 
  • Someone who turns a blind eye to difficult circumstances that make them uncomfortable. 
  • An individual who is self-abasing, yet their humility is false and used as a way to extract attention or pity from others. 
Those kinds of people are easy to identify. Have I ever been guilty of being one of them? Yes.
But that's not who I want to be. I want to be the person you want to be around. AND, I want to be around other people like that.

How about you?

Have a terrific week, and may your outlook be fresh!

Share this post with the hashtag #verilywrite (write in truth) as a part of a group effort to share encouraging thoughts of truth with others throughout the month of June, and visit the Verity Web Solutions site, or join us by sharing your own uplifting words. Thanks!

Featuring Pesto and Potholes by Susan M. Baganz

Poignant romance of two lost souls learning about the things that go wrong, humanity’s fault lines and how to grow and love again despite the potholes that inevitably crop up. Baganz manages to throw some laughter and joy into desperate situations in this debut novel. Read Pesto and Potholes for a crazy adventure that makes Italian food with a side of Ninja warriors seem natural.
--Lisa Lickel

Pesto & Potholes
by Susan M. Baganz

About the book:
Renata tries to escape her past and runs straight into . . . love.
Renata Blake has moved to the Milwaukee area to leave behind a painful past as a victim of abuse. She discovers a family like she’s never had before at Orchard Hill Church and is drawn to handsome Packer fanatic, Antonio. After all she’s suffered through, could she ever trust a man again?
Antonio DeLuca has a full life with his family, church and his job as chef and manager at DeLuca’s Cucina. Having been betrayed in love, he is afraid to trust a woman again. How would he fit her into his already full life anyway? 
As circumstances draw them together and attempt to tear them apart, life becomes a combination of savory pesto and painful potholes as both Tony and Renata learn that with God’s help, and the support of a faith community, they can both learn to love again. 
And maybe fight a few ninjas along the way. 


What COTT Voters Had to Say:

--Susan, I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to read your book. Thank you for sharing your talent with us.

--Loving reading this, Susan Bagnanz.

--I'm so excited for you, Susan! Congratulations.

--Going to order this one today, Susan Baganz! Thank you for writing great books!

--Great job, Susan. Way to go!

--Great cover and great story premise, Susan Baganz.

--Excited about Susan's book. The title is so intriguing.

--Susan M. Baganz - I like the happy sound of this story!

--Sounds intriguing, Susan Baganz!

--Susan M. Baganz - You are doing great and your stories are so captivating! Thanks for writing and sharing your gift with others!

We don't often get excerpts from authors, 

so enjoy this one from Pest and Potholes!

Sunday was cold. The sun shined brightly, and Renata sat at church surrounded by more of the De Luca clan. Tony winked at her, and they worshipped together. She experienced such joy and freedom in the music and lyrics. This was the new Renata. Free. Joyful. Loved. What a difference from a year ago.
After church, she raced home to change into jeans, sneakers, a sweater and coat. She pulled on knit gloves to keep her hands warm and found a matching knit cap to put on her head.
Tony arrived to pick her up in his car and they went through the drive-thru at Taco Bell for something to eat. Renata laughed when part of Tony’s burrito dribbled onto his sweatshirt.

They arrived at Brown Deer Park early, and Tony suggested they take a walk over by a small pond.

“This is such a peaceful place.” Reverent awe filled her voice as she gazed about.

“Sure is, but watch out for the goose doo doo.”
“Doo doo? Is that an Italian term for poop?”

Tony laughed, “No, that’s me trying to be more delicate since I am with a gorgeous woman in a beautiful place.”

“Awww, Tony, you are sweet.” They walked side by side, not touching. Renata could see their breath in the air.

“Edith agrees with you.”

“Edith? My neighbor?” Renata stopped to stare at him.

“Yeah, the other night she gave me a kiss because you had neglected to do it for her.”

Renata laughed. “Is she my competition for your affections?”

“Are you seeking my affections?” He looked at her with one eyebrow raised.

Renata looked away. Her entire neck and head grew warm.

“You have no competition. No one can compare to you.” His voice was seductive to her ears when he used those words.

“Now you go too far, Tony. I’m not as perfect as you think I am.” She had to reign this in. She didn’t want to lead him on.

“Who said you were perfect? Surely not I.” He placed his hand flat on his chest.

Renata laughed and gave Tony a playful punch in the arm, but was quickly distracted. She pointed to the pond. “Look at the geese coming in to land. They look like they are waterskiing when they put their feet down.”

“Waterskiing geese. Now I’ve seen everything. What will you think of next, Ren?”

“I don’t know. I thought it was your turn to be absurd for a while.”

Tony reached out and tickled Renata. “Stop!” She laughed and started tickling him back and took off running into the grass. Tony ran after her and with his longer legs managed to catch her causing them both to fall on the leaf-covered lawn. Renata grabbed a handful of leaves and tossed them at Tony, and he returned the favor. Soon they lay there in the leaves giggling and gasping for a breath.

“It is beautiful out here.” Renata said. “It’s hard to believe this is Milwaukee.”

“It’s hard for me to believe my good fortune to be sharing this with you.” Tony looked over to Renata and reached to grab her hand to give it a squeeze.

Renata’s shoulder muscles seized at his touch. The touching, the laughter, and the sense they were alone in the world without any past or present or future to worry about, shook her. She needed him too much. No. She wanted him. She desired him. She looked at his face, so close to hers and imagined what it would feel like to kiss him. Stop. This has to stop. No man will ever love you. No man will ever see you as more than a plaything. The messages bombarded her.

The monsters were back.

About the author:

Susan M. Baganz chases after three Hobbits, and is a native of Wisconsin. She is an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group, specializing in bringing great romance novels and novellas to publication. Susan writes adventurous historical and contemporary romances with a biblical world-view.

Susan speaks, teaches, and encourages others to follow God in being all He has created them to be. With her seminary degree in counseling psychology, a background in the field of mental health, and years serving in church ministry, she understands the complexities and pain of life as well as its craziness. She serves behind-the-scenes in various capacities at her church. Her favorite pastimes are lazy…snuggling with her dog while reading a good book, or sitting with a friend chatting over a cup of spiced chai latte.

You can learn more by following her blog, her Twitter feed @susanbaganz or her fan page,

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Series Feature: The Hawk and the Dove

Welcome Penelope Wilcock!

Clash of the Titles is proud to feature The Hawk and the Dove series by English writer Penelope Wilcock! With the first books written in the early 90s and the remainder published 20 years later, the Hawk and the Dove  series has captivated readers for decades. 

Set centuries ago, these books offer an authenticity not often found in historical novels of this time period. The author has woven truths through the books that resonate with the deepest struggles of our own hearts, but she has also lived out much of what she writes about. She has spent time working with nuns and monks, heavily involved in palliative care in the most primitive of modern facilities. Her experiences most closely mimic care that would have been offered in the medieval setting of her stories. Read more about this author's incredible journey and life in the interview below with International Christian Fiction Writers.

The Hawk and the Dove

14th-century Yorkshire, the time of Chaucer

Father Peregrine is appointed Abbot of St. Alcuin's Benedictine abbey. An arrogant, impatient man, a hawk trying hard to be a dove—his name in religion is "Columba"—he is respected, but not loved.

A sudden, shocking act of violence changes everything. As the story unfolds, this community of monks, serious about their calling but as flawed and human as we are, come to love their ascetic but now vulnerable leader.

They lived six centuries ago, but their struggles are our own: finding our niche; coping with failure; living with impossible people; and discovering that we are the impossible ones.

Read the first chapter

Praise for Wilcock's work:

“Not to be missed.” —Mel Starr, author of The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon series

“Poignant, moving, rich with imagery and emotion . . . Modern readers will easily identify with each character in Wilcock’s timeless human drama. Highly recommended reading.” —Midwest Book Review

Penelope Wilcock is a full time writer and a former Methodist minister, prison and hospice chaplain, who lives in Hastings on England’s south coast with her family. Her popular blog, Kindred of the Quiet Way, attracts a wide international audience.

Monday, May 4, 2015

COTT Has a Winner!

Our March winner is....

Congratulations to CINDY GREEN, this month's COTT Champ!! Her winning novel, Andrea and the Five Day Challenge, is part of a Goodreads giveaway right now--readers, you can win a signed copy of the book if you enter by May 7. Enter here!

One voter called the book "fun, refreshing, and encouraging!" Take a peek behind this beautiful, vibrant cover and step into the world of Andrea as she embarks on a Bible challenge at a very inconvenient time.

From Amazon:

High school junior Andrea Jamison, self-proclaimed change-o-phobic and, incidentally, a fabulous pianist in her own right has lost faith in herself and her abilities. At the exact moment when her parents begin pressuring her about an opportunity that just might lead to Julliard, Andrea’s friend Amy meddles in her personal life trying to pair her up with the cute, transfer jock Luke Ryan. Will Andrea learn to accept her parents often repeated word FOCUS or will she finally start trusting in God’s strength instead of cowering in her own weaknesses?

Dear Lord,

I need Your help and sooner would be better than later. Wouldn't you know it, just as soon as I decide to attempt the 5-Day Bible Study Challenge, my parents start heaping on loads of pressure to get me into Julliard. My friend Amy isn't any better, urging me to ask Luke Ryan to homecoming. As if the cute, transfer jock would actually go out with me. I mean, we're kinda friends, and I've enjoyed our Geometry study sessions, but in case Amy hasn't noticed, I'm the invisible one at Aubrey Christian Academy, and I like it that way. On top of that, I have a feeling Luke's concealing something behind those chocolate-brown eyes of his. I know I can be self-centered and a bit melodramatic, but I really do want to seek Your will for my life. Then maybe I'll even figure out which direction points up.

Andrea Jamison
High School Junior, Change-o-phobic & complete neurotic

Cindy K. Green is an award-winning author of more than 10 Sweet & Inspirational titles both in print and out of print for the Adult & Young Adult. She is also a mother, wife, teacher, and homeschooler. She blogs about her books, reading and whatever else comes to mind of interest.

Visit Cindy at her website,, where you can sign up for her newsletter or follow her blog. A huge congratulations to clash champion Cindy Green!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Joyride - A Story of Growing Up

Image by Clipart Panda

I was fourteen years old the summer of '76, the year I'd really started feeling my growing independence and the fact that there wasn't much time left before adulthood arrived. In many ways, I felt adult enough already, and in the ways that I didn't, I pushed the envelope a little. 
One of those times was on a balmy afternoon when my folks had friends from Chicago visiting our country home in central Wisconsin. Their daughter Kathy was only a year younger than I, and world wise in a different way than we Up North teens were, but just a girl all the same. Our parents had gone off somewhere for the day, taking the small kids along, and wouldn't be home until late. Kathy and I were left to fend for ourselves. 

We sat at our round kitchen table, pivoting lazily in swivel chairs discussing what we could do with our afternoon and evening of freedom. All the while, Dad's orange Ford pickup seemed to wink at me in the sun through the kitchen window. 

Now, to back up just a little with a brief aside -- I knew how to drive a car. Back then, a lot of fourteen year old kids did, and many even younger. Most of my experience came from my maternal grandma. She was a real softy, a five-foot-three lady who always got so nervous taking the driver's test she didn't manage to get her license until she was over fifty. I spent a lot of time with her growing up, and she let me talk her into just about anything. (Just one of the ways the oldest grandchild paves the way for the rest to come.) So it stood to reason that I could occasionally beg her to let me drive her car out to the back field, or just up the road a little ways.

Back to my dad's truck; with such experience as mine, I figured a little drive would be a great way to show my Chicago friend a good time. I glanced at the truck and back to Kathy. "Hey," I said, sensing that she might think country life was boring. "Want to go for a ride in my dad's truck?"

She sat up straighter in her chair. A year or so later, during a trip to Chicago to visit these same friends, I learned that Kathy was a bit of a rebel who barely kept some of her activities under the wire, so it turned out my idea was a pretty good one -- as far as teenage wiles go.

"You know how to drive?"


Slight disclaimer: I'd never learned how to drive a stick. I did explain that to Kathy, but I also just shrugged and figured a truck was a truck, and as long as there was a gas pedal and a brake, we'd do okay.

One more disclaimer: not only did I not know how to drive a stick, but I really had no idea whatsoever what a clutch was used for nor how to find any gears. Basically, I just jammed the shifter around until I got the thing to chug backwards out the drive. Of course, that took a generous amount of pressure on the gas pedal to accomplish without the clutch. But, we were off. A few more cranks on the shifter, and eventually we were moving -- or sort of jumping -- forward. Everything smoothed out once we picked up some speed.

My family lived on nearly the end of a country road. Only my cousins' house was farther down, where dirt fire lanes sprung beyond. Between our house and the first intersection half a mile north there were just three houses. The first we had to pass was my other grandma's. She was a sharp lady who always noticed comings and goings up the street, so I was anxious to get past her place. The second home belonged to a young family whose kids I babysat. I think the lady of the house occasionally suspected when I was up to shenanigans, but she never mentioned any misdeeds to my folks. The third place was the home of one of my best friends. I kind of wished she'd been outside so I could wave as we cruised by, but we were better off that no one saw us on our lark. 

We drove up to the corner. After a few minor issues, some grinding gears, some chugging and jumping, and a lot of giggling, we turned around and headed back. But that first mile gave us courage, and the adrenaline rush was over much too soon. So I suggested we go around the block. The block was a mile square, so that would give us a good ten minute ride. That four mile square had hardly any houses on it, and no impediments to driving to speak of. Once again, we arrived back home feeling like we'd just had a great adventure, but that it could be made greater still. 

I don't recall how the discussion progressed, only that Kathy agreed to whatever I suggested -- I had "leadership skills" that way -- and before we knew it, we were on the road again, this time really, really on the road.

I'd learned by now that if I rolled the stop signs just a little, the truck wouldn't kill. That meant we'd need to avoid heavy traffic and especially stop lights. So we decided to head to the small town of Nekoosa, about ten miles away, which didn't boast of any lights back then. We'd be on the highway most of the way, and I figured I could handle that smoothly. It was only the stops that concerned me. From Nekoosa, we took the river road through Port Edwards and on toward Wisconsin Rapids. We wouldn't have driven that far, except I knew that we'd have to try to put gas in at some point, and the station on the west side was now the closest I could think of. My dad is a very meticulous guy, and he would certainly notice a drop on the gas gauge. We'd already put about twenty-five miles on the truck today, and with another twenty going home, he'd surely realize something had happened.

Up until now, we'd not experienced a single problem, but pulling into the gas station which sat on a pie piece in a fairly busy intersection directly across from the DMV was a bit of a trick. I came in a little too fast (didn't want to kill the engine you know) and in trying to avoid literally clipping off one of the pumps, I nearly took off another driver's open car door instead. He scowled and pulled the door into him. I smiled and avoided prolonging the gaze. Whew! That had been a close one.

We pumped what seemed like a reasonable amount of fuel into the tank, not having the slightest idea of gas mileage or anything like that, and only having a small amount of cash to our names. Then, with a roar of the gas pedal, we were off again. About half way home, we both had to go to the bathroom so badly, we didn't think we'd make it the rest of the way if we didn't stop. But where to go? We were on the highway, with nothing much around. Ah... It would have to be Bob's Bar.

"Bob's Bar" Photo courtesy of Rhonda Whetstone

I'd been to Bob's Bar on a number of occasions in my young life. It was my grandpa's favorite place to socialize. He'd take me there to buy me an orange crush and a candy bar and let me put a dime in the juke box. Grandpa also introduced me to the oldest living man in the area there. Smokey Joe lived to be a hundred. The area where Bob's Bar stood was known as Smokey Joe's Corner. Smokey Joe told me about having to use horses and wagons instead of cars, and about the way things were when electricity came to town. Bob had been a nice guy too. If you stopped by his bar to trick-or-treat, he'd give you a full-sized candy bar right off the shelf. By the time of my and Kathy's joy ride, Bob no longer owned the bar. Not that Bob anyway. He had recently passed on, and a different Bob had bought the place. I eventually got to know the new Bob's kid a couple years later when we rode the high school bus together. It was nice they didn't have to change the name of the bar though.

"Come on," I said to Kathy. "I've been here lots of times. We'll just head straight into the bathroom and out again."

We did just as planned, and before we knew it, we were back in the truck.

That's when we encountered our second problem. This time the truck wouldn't start. It would only whine and whine. Sweat drops of dread gathered on the back of my neck. Kathy's huge blue eyes brightened with alarm too. We must have sat there for ten minutes. What could be wrong -- other than the fact a fourteen and thirteen year old were sitting outside a local drinking establishment after joyriding the day away in daddy's pickup all across the county? 

It all sounds worthy of a country song to me.

Image by Clipart Panda

Suddenly the bar door opened, and out came the new Bob. Kathy and I cast each other a quick glance and tried to play it cool. He approached the truck. 

"Are you having some trouble?"

"Yeah, I can't seem to get it started."

"Are you pushing in the clutch?"

Oh.... so that's what that was for. "Oh, no, I forgot. Thanks!" I said with a gush and a smile that I hoped conveyed a duh, kind of face-palm relief.

"She just got her license," Kathy piped in for good measure.

Somehow, I don't think Bob was fooled, but I revved up the engine, thanked him again, and he backed away from the door. Good move on his part. I don't recall that I used the clutch to shift yet, but we managed to herky-jerky our way out of the lot and out of Bob's sight. We pulled into our yard about ten minutes later, our shoulders dropping with relief over our stupendous success. It had been such a day to remember. I understood even then why such things were called joy rides.

So that should have been the end of it, a grand adventure to wind up a summer afternoon. But as evening closed around us, the excitement of it all sloughed off, and we believed we had time for one more short excursion. After all, now that we knew a little something about the clutch, it would be a waste not to exercise that knowledge. So we headed out into the dark.

By this time, I'd grown concerned that my grandma up the road would be noting the number of comings and goings from our house and getting suspicious. The last thing I'd need would be a call of curiosity to my dad. So I got the bright idea that we'd just shut the headlights off while we went by her place so she wouldn't see us. I thought we should do the same by the next house too. 

Boy was it dark! It was hard to tell when we'd gone completely past, and then... whomp

"What the heck was that?" I'm not sure if Kathy said that, or if I only thought it, but my heart sent out a panicked thumping. I hit the lights, and Kathy and I sent each other glances of near terror. I drove up to the corner, did a quick U-ey (because a slow u-turn would kill the engine) and headed back for home. As we approached the house in question, our headlights cast beams at the damage. One dead mailbox lay sprawled on the shoulder of the road. Not a breath of life left in it, clipped off right at the post.

Image by Clipart Panda 

I gunned the engine and drove on by, hoping the neighbors wouldn't recognize the sound of my dad's truck.

We'd had enough. No more adventure for us, which is quite a thing to say, coming from a teenage girl. I took great care to park the truck exactly where it'd been parked earlier and to make sure no evidence of our excursion was left behind in the interior. I checked for external damage, but thankfully, the mailbox had been the only casualty. Safely back inside the house, we finally let out our breaths.

There were some things I didn't tell my parents about until I was an adult, and they could no longer ground me for them. This was one of those things. I'm pretty sure the neighbor knew who knocked over their mailbox. She had a certain light in her eye when she mentioned the mailbox to my folks a few days later, but as they were oblivious, she didn't air her suspicions. My dad, however, did ask me if I'd planned to drive the truck straight through the garage. 

"Whaaaat???" I asked, in that teenage, playing dumb tone. He'd noticed that the truck was parked about two feet closer to the cement slab than usual. I told you he was meticulous.

It was all fun, all part of growing up as far as I'm concerned. And it's not like I got by with it completely. Twenty years later, I had a twelve year old daughter who took her small siblings on a joy ride of their own. Like most lessons in life, all things come 'round eventually.