*A reminder of Book 1 in the McIntire County Series before reading Born to Die.
Another fabulous cover from publisher Crimson Romanceand another sharp story from author Winter Austin. It's been pointed out here, and some of you agree, the full-face covers don't appeal to us with few exceptions, but this one is so attractive and fits the heroine's persona so well, it's hard not to like it.
Former female Marine Scout Sniper Nicolette Rivers is the talk of the town when she's called upon to keep her aim on a man threatening to kill his family in their home. Another deputy is sent away from the scene since it's his cousin holding the rifle on his family. While she waits for Sheriff Hamilton to give the order, distracting memories attempt to interfere with her focus. Fighting her way through their effects on her, she reluctantly readies herself for the shot.
"Atonement" is the word which keeps surfacing in the notes of supposedly suicidal deaths of several people. The expansion of Deputy Nicolette Rivers' (Nic) and Detective Conlan O'Hanlon's (Con) investigation into the rash of suicides in their small town is caused by the unwelcome intervention of FBI Special Agent Hunt. He adds more information, some forthcoming, some not so much.
The first chapter of Atonement is dynamite, intensity-laced, done perfectly, revealing PTSD symptoms in combat flashbacks, pushing immediate conflict, and exemplifying trained discipline. Winter Austin is noted for her smart, sassy, and traumatized female protagonists. Nicolette Rivers is no exception. She's barely likable at times, utterly out of control at others, and deeply hurting inside allowing no one to penetrate her vulnerability . . . most of the time. But Con has his sights set on those big time walls, intent on bringing them down, enduring her rejections to overcome the obstacles to her heart, all the while working overtime to discover who is really at the center of these suicides.
Because her father is a retired Marine who'd advanced high up the military ladder, there's been some sort of forced agreement over Nic's discharge. The remaining opinion of her father, who she calls "the General", is somewhere between sheer hatred and how she identifies him to her associate as "a cold-hearted bastard". Two events in her life have contributed to her strong feelings but it isn't until late in the story that we learn of them.
Nic's sister Cass adds to Nic's messy conflicted life when she shows up to monitor Nic's "condition". She receives Nic's wrath, but eventually Cass's connection to Agent Hunt and her cop instincts assist with the case until Cass's and Hunt's plan goes terribly awry.
Atonement gives the reader an intense, conflicted, and romantic story with a "red-herring" thrown in for good measure. Multiple peripheral characters make it interesting along with workplace agitation and small town suspicions of the unfamiliar. Taking a fair look at PTSD, Winter Austin invokes sympathy for her protagonist in spite of her sometimes irritating and cynical personality.
The only portion of the story which at first seemed to be abruptly inserted without a backdrop and as an afterthought, but eventually proved useful, was the initial appearance of Nic's horses. I love horses so any inclusion of them into a story is fine with me, but they weren't mentioned as needing care or being a part of Nic's life until their sudden introduction. It felt a bit awkward to me but that's no big deal.
I recommend reading any and all of Winter Austin'snovels if you like romantic suspense with good action, serious plots, troubled heroes/heroines, and satisfying conclusions. Atonement fills the bill. A worthwhile read.
Available May 18th, 2015
Father, continue to use Winter's talent for your purpose and glory. Give her the stories only she can tell. Bless her and her family with your direction and abundance. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
NCIS fans will no doubt welcome this handsome addition to the series while still mourning the departure of Michael Weatherly as Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo. The show will definitely not be the same, but let's hope there will be some redeeming episodes to usher in the newcomer and soften the blow of Tony's exit. The pressure is on for the writers.
Introducing readers to Winter Austin (aka Winter Peck), Part Two:
I know you do some research for your novels. How much and how do you choose to get your information?
Research is come as I need it situation. For my novel Atonement, the main character dealt with PTSD, that was easy, as it’s been plastered all over the news and social media. I belong to a lot of Facebook pages where veterans suffering from the disorder talk about what they're dealing with. Articles from reputed publications help me dig a bit deeper. I’ve seen first hand how this affliction affects the sufferer and their families. I’m pretty stingy on where I get my information, too, because there are so many biased pieces out there.
I write about cops, and I have a few friends who are police officers I can consult with. I tend to stay away form watching certain TV shows because of the misinformation they show in order to create the drama.
For the third book in my McIntire County Series, I’ve been reading and researching TBI’s (trumatic brain injuries) this came about after reading a long article in National Geographicwhile in my chiropractor’s office. I knew the next lead role in this book would have it, and it's a deceptive disorder, because many people, most veterans and NFL players, never know they have it until the symptoms get really bad, or worse, they commit suicide.
These are the subjects I don’t shy from. And no subject matter is off-limits to me.
Do you have a set pattern for your writing time? Is your family accommodating to your allotted times when you’re off in storyland?
I recently started a new job that was a prayer come true, I have more leeway with work time so I can get in my writing time. I enjoy the job I do, and that really, really helps with the creative juices.
Yes, my kids have been ‘groomed’ to know when to bug off and leave me alone. In fact they love where we currently live because they can run off to a friend’s house and give me hours of alone time to work—even their friends come over asking if I need to be left alone and they can take my kids. My husband is an Ag teacher/FFA adviser and so if I need him to be somewhere else, he just goes to his shop or his classroom to work. But if the family is bugging me, it’s a good indication it's time to stop and focus on them. Writing will always be there, my kids won’t be kids much longer.
Although you are a woman of faith, you’ve chosen not to write the “typical” Christian novels. You usually include a mention or demonstration of faith in your stories by a particular character, but you also inject some profanity and occasional circumstances which might offend the more rigid Christian readers. Generally speaking, this usually has to do with the audiences a writer hopes to reach. What is your reason for writing the way you do?
When I hoped to be published in the CBA market, I couldn’t break the curtain that editors demanded for books that were to be published. I struggled to even write a faith element that was accepted. To me, my faith is not in what I write, or what I do, it’s who I am. I’m not perfect and my characters aren’t perfect, they live in the real world, they’re influenced by the same things I am and how they react to it shows their faith.
I went where God led me. And He’s opened doors that were shut/slammed/locked in my face. I know His hand is in everything, because I have an editor who shares my faith and knows what I want my characters to say or do without flaunting it. I’ve been given a freedom that was never an option before, and that’s what Christianity is about: Freedom in Christ.
I write dark, gritty, bloody at times. I don’t mince words when it comes to the horrors men inflict on each other. And like I said before, when I’m told I can’t do something, because of x, y, or z, I rebel. I’ll prove you wrong. Personally, I don’t realize what I do until it’s on paper, but ask my editor, ask my readers, somehow, someway, I write characters that reach people, I don’t spew flowers, and rainbows, and God solves it all with His angels in the end. Life is hard, dirty, and ugly, and I don’t ever want to sugarcoat it.
What do you want your readers to take away from your books?
An understanding of what that person next to you might be going through. That maybe your life is reflected in the characters I’ve created. And that there is hope, and love, and faith, and the battle doesn’t have to end on a bad note.
Do you have a favorite story and/or character from your collection or are they all individually satisfying for you?
Right now, it’s hard to say, but I really loved writing Nic Rivers. She’s everything opposite of what a woman is supposed to be. I had a lot of fun just letting go with her, and she’s always been that way.
Her sister, Cassy Rivers, was great to write, too, but I had to be careful with her to not make her, as my editor said, a Nic 2.0. And she’s not.
Finally, what do you want readers to know about you, your writing, your opinion of “Christian fiction”?
Know that you’re going to get a great read, while I write more toward a thriller/suspense style the book is still a romance at the heart and my characters tend to show a more real life progression to their relationships than you might find in a mainstream romance.
As to my opinion of “Christian fiction,” I think there needs to be some huge changes made and for them to pay very close attention to the audiences coming up and what is being read in the indies, because that’s where the readers are going. Quite honestly, unless it’s been a non-fiction book my husband and I are reading, I have not read a Christian fiction novel in over 3 years.
So, there you have her. Thank you, Winter, for taking the time to share your thoughts on reading, writing, and Christian fiction. A lot of people who visit here share some of your views. I'm almost ready with my review of Born to Die, and I too loved Nic Rivers in Atonement. I believe I've read all of Winter's novels and have truly enjoyed them. Talented and entertaining with some twists you just don't see coming. Good writing.
Lord, hold her close and keep her safe. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Interview with Winter Austin (aka Winter Peck), Part One:
Winter, give us some background on you and your writing journey.
I’ve always wanted to be an author, as far back as the fourth grade when I learned that my all-time favorite author, Walter Farley of The Black Stallionfame, had become an author while he was in college. Granted, I never accomplished being an author that early in life, but the dream never died. Most authors will tell you that they have been complimented most of their lives with their writing abilities, and I’m no exception. I had teachers and countless others who noticed, and a few of those teachers tried to push me in that direction—and this shy small-town Iowa farm girl was petrified at times with going out in the big wide world with her talents, so I almost sabotaged my own dream with my fears. It wasn’t until I had a few people tell me I could never make a living doing it and that I shouldn’t waste my time after false hope that set the fires. Introvert went into hiding and the extrovert came out.
I started the serious journey to publication after the birth of my twin sons. Two more kids later, several moves, learning with each step of the way, a deployment, I reached a level that got me noticed by an agent, and finally I made it to my first writers conference. With a few more years under my belt, I landed my first book contract with the help of three other published authors, then there was a change in agents. But it was the four book contract with my publisher that I’m most happy with that happened in October of 2012. By that time the decision was made to leave the CBA market and join the general market where my style of writing was more accepted. The accumulation of years from the birth of my sons to publication was 14 years. 14 years of never giving up and never giving in when there was opposition. And I don’t regret one step.
Today I fight more with finding time to write while working, being an integral part of my kids’ lives, and all the trappings of promoting and marketing my books while people demand my time.
What kind of novels do you read?
I do have a short range of genres I love to read from, but you’ll always find suspense/mystery/thriller books on my nightstand or on my Nook. Far back as I can remember I’ve loved the mystery/suspense genre. I don’t read straight romances any more unless its from a certain author, if it's a romance it's always a romantic suspense or a paranormal or futuristic. Depending on the author, I will read some fantasy and young adult novels. And here as of late, thanks to my sons, I’ve fallen in love with the superhero/comic books.
Your female protagonists tend to be tough, smart, and sassy with hardship and/or sorrow in their pasts. Does that have any resemblance to personal history?
About the only thing my heroines might get from me is sass. I didn’t exactly have the hardships and sorrows in my life that I put my gals through. But I do draw from some things around me, that have happened, or what I’ve observed. I like to think of myself as tough in certain aspects, but I’m still a woman and I don’t make no bones about being that.
Winter's novel Born to Diebecame available on March 28th. To get the best preview to this novel, read Atonement first.
Lord, please continue to inspire Winter, direct her every step, and keep her safe from all harm. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean."
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said.
Then Jesus ordered him, "Don't tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them."
Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
The simple complexity of the earth you created with such amazing beauty. Tainted by sin but still retaining its stunning remnant of perfection. Forgive us, Lord, for our sins that marred such beauty. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Is that a great cover or what? Captures the sassy and smart character of Winter's novel. I'll introduce you to both of them soon. Available now.
Lord, please continue to supply all that Winter needs to fulfill her obligations and desires. Bless her writing and keep her filled up with the stories you have for her to tell. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
This isn't even close to what ours will look like when it's done, but the caption to this one was "white kitchen". No kidding.
Anyway, the re-do of our kitchen begins today. Honestly, it seems surreal. This is something that other people do. But here it is us. Wow. You've seen the "before". I'll do my best to get the "after".
Father, I'm in awe of your benevolence and blessings. You restored what the locusts had eaten and the foolishness of our youth. Thank you is so inadequate, so never enough. Thank you, Lord. Deeply. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised . . ."
Who didn't love "Morgan" played by Shemar Moore? He is leaving the series, but it might not be for good. He needs a break and the door's been left open for his return. The final episode with him was a tear-jerker, at least for me. Especially the scene with his friend and fellow agent, genius Dr. Spencer Reid. That one cut to the heart. As with most characters who last this long, it's hard to imagine the series without him and his interaction with "Penelope Garcia" who he affectionately addresses as "Baby Girl". Hope he does return . . .
Lord, thank you for the talents of excellent actors. May they come to the place where you wait for them. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
It's a great time for those who love to write and are committed to producing decent literature - and, let's face it, for those who aren't as well. The truth is there are unlimited opportunities for ambitious writers in today's arena of publishing. The various e-readers have opened up a huge new venue for independent writers who no longer want to wait years to become an author and recognize their dreams of being published. They can simply do it themselves.
Determined and talented writers have independently published their work for the electronic readers and handle everything from start to finished productions of their books for the gamut of e-reading devices and can even orchestrate their print books. Those who choose not to go the independent route but pursue traditional publishing can wait and see if they're accepted into that club knowing if they get enough rejections, they can still go indie.
I prefer to hire someone else to format and design my covers with my suggestions, input, and final approvals. That's what works for me, but I know many authors who do it all themselves. I admire them, but I'm grateful for those who perform the service for those of us who don't want to handle all the details of publishing.
It's a very good time to be an author because of the unlimited possibilities to get one's work published. And it's about time.
Father, thank you for the opportunity to write and publish the stories you've given me. I'm so grateful for all of it. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Yesterday I went for my final check-up with my heart surgeon over a year after having my mitral valve repaired. It was all systems go. The Lord has gifted this young man with mad skills, and the Lord enabled those skills to be used in my healing and recovery in a very short time. The Lord answered every prayer for this surgery, and there is simply no way to thank him enough. My surgeon was pleased and told me I didn't need to see him anymore - which is kind of sad because he's such a neat guy.
I want to thank every one of you who offered prayers on my behalf. The Lord answered them all. You all mean so much to me.
God, as always, thank you is never enough, but I give you thanks with my whole heart because it belongs to you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch."
Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" For he and his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." So they pulled boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
One of these days I hope to have pictures up for you to see our place, but in the meantime my reasons for loving the country go way back to where I can't identify them. Some errant gene since I was raised in the city. I longed for horses and the spaces to accommodate them ever since I was a young child.
The beauty of pastures, acreage, unobstructed skies, less night lights which give way to the natural array of starlight and moon glow. The quiet of a dark night unfiltered and not yielding to the sound of traffic and airplane travel. The clear views of sunrises and sunsets. The different terrains in patchwork patterns across large areas with smaller roads weaving in between them leading to a less bustling inner city. A short trip to a bigger city - all access without the pace and population.
Just a few reasons why I love the country . . .
God, it's hard for my family to believe we're here. You did this. Amazing grace. Let us always honor you with this place. As always, we're desperate for you and thank you is never enough. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Remember when there were really good movies to watch? Whether at the theater or a drive-in, it was fun to go to the movies. It could be argued that there are many good films out there to see today, but for me it seems like they appear in bunches and that the majority of them are a tremendous waste of millions of dollars. The irony in making terrible films is they still cost a bundle to make and so many of the Hollywood crowd are leftists who desire socialist/communist candidates that stand for taking the wealth away from people like them.
Anyway, I miss the fun of going to the movies more regularly. Although I greatly enjoy watching them at home with all the creature comforts and the audio/visual setup we have, it would be nice to have a better selection at theaters.
Just my random thoughts on a Wednesday evening . . .
Father, there is so much talent being wasted on ugly pursuits. Forgive us, Lord. We're all desperate for you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I know. All you see is a grey square. And it doesn't do the grey/silver that occupies two living room walls justice. I know nothing about paint. I don't paint. Our youngest son does. He works for Miller Paint/Kelly Moore, and he used to paint interior and exterior as he learned to do the considerable and admirable task of professional painting before he opted for the retail end of the painting world. Now he uses his skills, taught to him by a well-respected family owned local painting company, to grace the walls of our new home. He completed his bedroom in two great shades and we used one of those shades to complement the Ralph Lauren silvery metallic grey now on two walls in our living room and the entrance wall to the room. Chrome switch covers. It's done! Furniture is actually situated. One can really sit in there now! And it looks fabulous. Replacing this light sky bluish color which really did not complement the rough-hewn cedar slabs adorning a wall and the high ceilings with dark beams. I know you need pictures to appreciate what I'm talking about, but I don't have them yet. Two rooms down. Several to go. When it happens, I'll let you know.
Father, you are magnificent. How could we possibly have such beauty all around us? I wish there was a way to make thank you big enough to cover my heartfelt gratitude and amazement at what you've done, but there are no available or adequate words to express that kind of emotion. None. Lord, we continue to be desperate for you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.