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Happy Friday, readers,

Midnight on the MississippiThe weekend is almost upon us and I have exciting news to share. The very first of my Secrets of the South mysteries is shipping into warehouses as we speak. Midnight on the Mississippi was a labor of love for me and I’m thrilled with the final product from my publisher, Harvest House. I am often asked at library events, on email and via Facebook why have you changed to writing romantic suspense. The answer is simple…I must write the stories that intrigue me, and during my many trips to New Orleans, this is the story of my heart. Here’s some other common questions about Midnight on the Mississippi:

GE

St. Louis Cathedral

What can you tell us about the setting of this novel? The book is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, and also in the swamps and bayous out in Lafayette and Terrebonne Parishes, about two hours away. The French Quarter is an ancient portion of the city along the Mississippi River, rich in history and architecture of a variety of cultures and traditions. It practically drips with mystery and intrigue, making it the perfect setting for romantic suspense.

Who are the main characters, and what is at stake for them in this story?

Hunter Galen is a securities broker who suspects his business partner is embezzling their clients’ money, but he’s reluctant to jeopardize their friendship. After his partner turns up dead, Hunter realizes his unwillingness to confront a problem may have cost James his life. Nicki Price is a newly-minted PI who intends to solve the stockbroker’s murder and establish herself in the career she adores. As she ferrets out fraud and deception at Galen-Nowak Investments she butts heads with Hunter’s fiancée, Ashley Menard, who recognizes exactly what a threat Nicki is. As Hunter and Nicki encounter sophisticated shell games, blackmail, and death threats, danger swirls around them like the mysterious dark water of the bayou.

Which of the characters surprised you the most in this story, and how so? Without giving away too much of the story, it was the murderer who surprised me the most. While writing the book, I had a completely different villain in mind! But by the time I reached the end, I devised a far more satisfying conclusion to my “whodunnit.” I hope readers will be as surprised as I was.

How did the writing of this story impact you as a person or as an author? I visited New Orleans about half a dozen times to research this book before Hurricane Katrina and about a half dozen times afterward. That horrendous storm in 2005 changed both the landscape and the lives of the residents forever. Each time I return to this beautiful area of the US, I’m reminded of how resilient, brave, and generous the human spirit can be.

I’ll be sharing more photos from my research trips down the line, but here’s a link to read the first chapter.

https://www.harvesthousepublishers.com/data/files/excerpts/9780736961691_exc.pdf

Midnight on the Mississippi is on pre-sale right now in trade paperback at a great price. Here’s the link: http://www.christianbook.com/1-midnight-on-the-mississippi/mary-ellis/9780736961691/pd/961690?event=Fiction

Electronic versions in all formats will be available on August 1st if not before.

I hope you enjoy the first chapter, readers, and have a spectacular summer weekend.  ~ Mary

The Last HeiressLast week I completed a reader’s interview from a hero’s perspective, using my dashing hero from The Last Heiress. I had so much fun with this, I decided to answer questions from my heroine’s (Amanda Dunn’s) perspective. I hope you enjoy!

Has anything significant happened in your life in the past two weeks?

I recently landed in North Carolina during the American Civil War. I’m supposed to restore shipments of cotton to my family’s textile mills and repair the riff with my sister. Abigail happens to be married to a slave-owner, a practice I refuse to tolerate. I find myself at odds with my host and hostess at every turn. Everything seems to have become significant lately. 

Your most embarrassing moment?

Thus far my protected and insulated life in England has produced few embarrassments. Since arriving in Wilmington, I’ve had plenty. Look no further than the next question…. 

What is your first reaction when you meet a handsome gentleman?

Usually I blush, and this time was no exception. After all this is the nineteenth century. Then I engage the gentleman in witty or intelligent conversation. However, since I’m a fish out-of-water here, especially with a war going on, I can’t find any common ground. So I don’t think I’ve impressed this young man in the least. 

What happened the last time you spoke to a large group of people?

I had to address the Wilmington business leaders to request a lift of trade restrictions to Great Britain. The session did not go well, needless to say. Southern gentlemen do not take kindly to women conducting business. 

What are your hobbies?

Well-born ladies during the Victorian Era had few acceptable hobbies. I read, do needlepoint, and take long walks in the garden in fair weather. I’m enjoying my stay in North Carolina where conventions have been relaxed due to the Civil War. 

Siblings? How many? Do you get along?

I had a brother who unfortunately was killed at our textile mill, making me next in line to inherit my father’s company. I also have a twin sister. We used to get along just fine until she eloped with an American.

Any current romantic interests?

I have fallen in love with Nathaniel Cooper who charmed me the moment I entered his store. He’s not what my family would consider acceptable for a mate, yet I can’t imagine my life without him. 

Where were you born? What other significant happenings surrounded this event?

I was born in Manchester, England. My identical twin, Abigail, was born minutes after me. Physically, we look exactly the same. However, philosophically we become complete opposites.

What is your worst fear?

My worst fear is that I will fail at the enormous task I’ve been given due to my father’s illness. Women of my class didn’t dabble in business during the 1860’s. I do wish to make my father—and myself—proud.

When’s the last time you had a really good meal? Courtesy of whom?

The last good meal I had since landing on the shores of America was cooked by my new beau! Nathaniel might be a shopkeeper of humble means, but he has won my heart based on his skills in the kitchen alone!

Are there any hardheaded people in your life right now? What’s the issue?

I am living in my sister’s home. Abigail is married to an American cotton broker and slave-owner. I am vehemently opposed to slavery, an institution that England abolished during the last century. Jackson Henthorne and I barely speak to each other which places my twin sister smack-dab in the middle.

Here we are, readers, Friday already! I wish you a lovely weekend with plenty of good reading.

And for my readers in Texas…I’m praying that the rains stop soon.

best regards, Mary

Happy Wednesday, readers!

First, without further ado…BN 100 you are the winner of Island Refuge by Kimberly Rose Johnson. Thanks to everyone who entered my drawing last week for a copy of Kimberly’s latest book! I will contact you via email regarding how to claim your prize.

The Last HeiressA few weeks ago, another blogger had me complete a questionnaire from a hero’s perspective. I used my dashing hero from The Last Heiress. I had so much fun with this, I decided to share the “interview” here. I hope you enjoy!

My name is Nathaniel Cooper, and I walked across the entire state of North Carolina to the coastal town of Wilmington to begin a new life during the Civil War.

What do you do for fun? I take the beach road out of town to the seacoast. I love to watch the vast, blue sea and dream of sailing one day.

What do you put off doing because you dread it? I dread meeting the family of the woman I love. I fear they will find me unworthy of her.

What are you afraid of most in life? That I won’t be there when those I love need me most.

What do you want out of life? I want to leave the bustling city, find a plot of land to build a cottage, and buy a fishing trawler. Maybe God will send me a woman who could be happy as a fisherman’s wife.

What is the most important thing to you? That we live each day by God’s law, not by the laws set down by man.

Do you read books? If so, what is your favorite type of book? I read all kinds of books, but I love to read the new poets and transcendentalists of Concord, MA, such as Alcott, Thoreau, and Hawthorne. I don’t always agree with them, but it does give you something to think about.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? That I would not jump to conclusions based solely on a man’s clothing, background, or bank account.

Do you have a pet? If so, what is it and why that pet? As a shopkeeper living in the city and sleeping in a rented loft, I have no pet. But I would love to provide pets of every sort for my children someday.

If you could travel back in time, where would you go and why? I would return to the mountains of my childhood in western Carolina. I would love to change how life turned out for my parents.

Nice to meet you, Nathaniel! Next week, I’ll share my “interview” with the love of his life, Amanda.

In the meantime, readers, I hope you’re having an absolutely lovely spring!2014-04-29 13.38.30

best regards ~ Mary

 

Today I’m pleased to welcome Kimberly Rose Johnson back to Home Thoughts. Kimberly has a new book just released and she’s giving away a free Kindle copy to one lucky reader who leaves her a comment. First, here’s a summary of what you’ll find inside Island Refuge:Island Refuge cover 25080381

Five-Star-Chef Zoe Griffin walked away from her dream job. Did she make a mistake?  Her engagement off, Zoe Griffin retreats to tiny Wildflower Island in the Puget Sound. Hiding out as a cook and maid at a shabby bed-and-breakfast seems crazy for a chef who’s used to running her own five-star kitchen. And just as she starts to feel at home, her klutzy mishaps make Zoe fear her handsome new boss will fire her.  Dr. Nick Jackson is done with medicine, and owning a B&B is as far from doctoring as he can get. He needs help, but his only employee’s mistakes give him doubts. As Zoe lets her defenses down, Nick begins to see a competent and caring woman. One whose wounds are as deep as his own. But as they fall for each other, Nick and Zoe must learn the hardest lesson of all—to forgive. Only then can they heal the past and embrace the future . . . together.  Sounds good, no? Here’s a little info about Kimberly:

KimberlyAuthor Bio  Kimberly Rose Johnson, soon to be empty-nester, lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their yellow lab. Island Refuge is her sixth published book and the first in a series of three. Kimberly enjoys long walks, chocolate, and mochas, not necessarily in that order.

What are you working on now? I am currently finishing up Island Dreams the second book in the Wildflower B&B Romance series. Island Dreams will release sometime in August. I don’t have an exact date yet. :) If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter to keep up to date on my book releases you may do so at http://kimberlyrjohnson.com/

Where can readers find you? https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyRoseJohnson https://twitter.com/kimberlyrosejoh

How can readers buy Island Refuge?  http://amzn.to/1FmLqqd

Readers, to be entered in the drawing for a free electronic (Kindle) copy of Island Refuge, please answer this question: In Island Refuge Zoe and Nick both leave their pasts behind for a fresh start. Have you ever pulled up stakes and started over?

That’s it, readers! Be sure to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing. I will pick the winner in one week!! Have a great week of reading. ~ Mary

Happy Monday, readers,

I hope spring has sprung where you are. It has certainly come to Ohio. I have plenty of wildflowers2014-04-29 13.38.30 blooming in my woods along with my magnolia trees.

Congrats to Lorraine A. ~ You’re the lucky winner of Laura Hilton’s book, The Postcard. I have contacted Lorraine privately for a mailing address, but thanks to everyone who dropped Laura a comment last week.  I was tickled to see so people still love Amish fiction. Speaking of which, one of my favorite books, A Marriage for Meghan, is still priced at $1.99 at CBD in print. Such a bargain if you happened to have missed that one. A Marriage for MeghanHere’s the link:

http://www.christianbook.com/a-marriage-for-meghan-wayne-county/mary-ellis/9780736930109/pd/930109?event=EBRN

Have a great week, readers. ~  Mary

 

Today Home Thoughts welcomes Laura Hilton, who has a lovely new book out, The Postcard. If you leave a comment for Laura, you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a signed copy of The Postcard. Drawing in one week.

PostCardFirst, here’s a summary of the new book, The Postcard: David Lapp survived a “code blue” when he was in a buggy/semi truck accident in Seymour, Missouri. Now after extensive therapy he has lingering mobility problems and is still struggling to find his place in the world. Lured away from Webster County by thoughts of closed buggies and a postcard friendship he’s developed with an Amish girl in Jamesport, he moves north, hoping for a fresh start. He finds work in the area tying flies and basket weaving, selling his products in the Amish markets in the Jamesport area.

Rachel Miller dreams of travel, but feels tied to her Amish life. She is being courted by Obadiah Graber, but wonders if there’s more to life. When she sees David’s name mentioned in The Budget, she strikes up a pen pal friendship with David while he’s in the hospital and in therapy, consoling him when he and his girlfriend part ways. She never dreams that David will come north and move into her community. David is still fearful in the buggy, especially in high traffic areas. Feeling he’s called by God to preach, David spends hours in the Bible, but the Amish discourage him, believing their ministers should be drawn by lot. Will David follow his call, even if it takes him out of the Amish church? Will Rachel realize her dream to travel?

Laura HiltonHere’s a bit of background: Award winning author, Laura Hilton, her husband, Steve, and their five children make their home in Arkansas. She is a pastor’s wife, a stay-at-home mom and home-schools. Laura is also a breast cancer survivor. Her publishing credits include three books in the Amish of Seymour series from Whitaker House: Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts (winner of the 2012 Clash of the Titles Award in two categories), and Promised to Another. The Amish of Webster County series, Healing Love (finalist for the 2013 Christian Retail Awards). Surrendered Love and Awakened Love followed by her first Christmas novel, A White Christmas in Webster County, as well as the Amish of Jamesport series, The Snow Globe, The Postcard in April 2015, and The Birdhouse in September 2015. Other credits include Swept Away from Abingdon Press’ Quilts of Love series. Laura is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a professional book reviewer.

What are you working on now, Laura Hilton? I am working on the first book of a new series with a working title of The Amish Firefighter.   It hopefully will be available in April 2016.   My next book is The Birdhouse and it releases in September 2015.   I am also working on a contemporary Christmas story with a working title of Christmas Mittens.  No release date.

Here’s how to reach Laura:

visit my blogs: http://lighthouse-academy.blogspot.com/  & http://lauravhilton.blogspot.com/ 

Here’s where to purchase The Postcard:

http://www.amazon.com/Laura-V.-Hilton/e/B004IRSM5Q

Answer this question to be entered in a drawing for The Postcard: Have you ever had a penpal and did you meet?
Drawing in one week! Have a lovely Spring week, readers! My daffodils and forget-me-nots are up so life is good!! ~ Mary Ellis

 

 

The Last Heiress

Today I wanted to share photos of the best part of being an author….research. I was fortunate enough to travel to England several years ago for background for my latest book, The Last Heiress.  The story which starts in Manchester and continues in Wilmington, NC features a pair of identical twins. During the American Civil the English textile industry nearly ground to a halt due to the blockade of southern ports. No export of cotton….no raw materials to for the mills. My British twin, Amanda Dunn, is heir to the largest textile mill in Manchester, England. After the blockade of southern ports threatens to destroy the family business, Amanda’s father sends her to Wilmington to restore trade. Her estranged twin sister, Abigail, eloped at 17 with an American cotton broker, lives in Wilmington. Blockade runners, such as those owned by Abigail’s husband, would leave the southern coast of the United States bound for the ports of Liverpool or Swansea, and then the mills of Manchester.GE

Amanda plans a long overdue reunion with her twin, conduct business for her dad, and hurry back to England. Fate has other plans for our heiress. Amanda butts heads at every turn with her brother-in-law, a slave-owner, in a town not used to dealing with businesswomen. When she falls in love with a local shopkeeper, a man who refuses to fight for the Confederacy, class distinctions, political loyalties, and family obligations guarantee a turbulent romance.

In Portsmouth harbour

In Portsmouth harbour

My trip to England allowed me to reconnect with an old friend, Caroylne Way,

Rowing on Lake Windemere in the Lake District

Rowing on Lake Windemere in the Lake District

who lives in Gosport (near Portsmouth in southern Hampshire.) Carolyne’s great grandfather owned a mine which supplied coal for the garment mills during the nineteenth century. I was able to use real events which took place at his mine in my story. Of course as you can see from my pictures,  I had plenty of time to see merry ole England too.

Research also took me not less than a half-dozen times to the beautiful city of Wilmington, NC on the Cape Fear River. Lucky for me, the riverfront area, some of downtown, along with Fort Fisher on the peninsula looks like it did 150 years ago.

Wilmington waterfront

Wilmington waterfront

Fort Fisher was the final definitive battle of the Civil War, fought on both land and sea.

Ahhh, research. For some authors, the topic draws beads of sweat to the brow. But if a writer is able to pack a bag, book a flight and travel, then history…and the story can truly come alive.

Hope you enjoy these pics from England

and Scotland.  And I hope you’ll look for The Last Heiress, a book from Harvest House Publishers which was a pleasure to write!! Have a great week, readers….Mary

London Eye, on the Thames River

London Eye, on the Thames River

restored English village

restored English village

2008-05-18 12.35.18

On the Solent near their house

 

 

Old Towne York

Old Towne York

 

Stonehenge, about an hour away

Stonehenge, about an hour away

Big Ben, London

Big Ben, London

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