Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Whisper In The Wind | Lauraine Snelling | Book Review

After fleeing North Dakota and the now defunct Wild West Show, Cassie Lockwood and her companions have finally found the hidden valley in South Dakota where her father had dreamed of putting down roots. But to her dismay, she discovers a ranch already built on her land.

Cassie's arrival surprises Mavis Engstrom and forces her to reveal secrets she's kept hidden for years. Her son Ransom is suspicious of Cassie and questions the validity of her claim to the valley. But Lucas Engstrom decides from the start that he is in love with her and wants to marry her.

Will Cassie be able to build a home on the Bar E Ranch and fulfill her father's dream of raising horses, or will she be forced to return to the itinerant life of her past?

Book 2 of the Wild West Wind series, Whispers in the Wind is a fast paced and interesting story with themes of truth, forgiveness, acceptance, prejudice, danger and romance. This is the first of Snellings novels that I have read, and I enjoyed it, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories about the Old West, wild west shows, and unlikely romances.

Lauraine Snelling has been writing since 1980, with over 65 books published, both fiction and non-fiction, historical and contemporary, for adults and young readers. Her books consistently appear on CBA bestseller lists, and have been translated into Norwegian, Danish, and German. A hallmark of her style is writing about real issues of forgiveness, loss, domestic violence, and cancer within a compelling story. Lauraine and her husband, Wayne, have two grown sons, and live in the Tehachapi Mountains with a watchdog Bassett named Chewy. You can connect with her on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

{ Disclosure }

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and this post is in compliance with FTC regulations. Learn more by visiting my PR and Disclosure pages.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Promise To Love | Serena B Miller | Book Review

A Promise To Love
by Serena B. Miller

{About This Book }

Can a marriage of convenience ever become one of true love? Ingrid Larsen arrives in Michigan in 1871 with little more than the clothes on her back and a determination.

Destitute and barely hanging on to hope, the young Swedish immigrant crosses paths with Joshua Hunter, a newly widowed farmer with eyes the color of the ocean she had crossed and five rambunctious children to raise on his own. Marriage would solve both of their problems, and Ingrid finds herself proposing in broken English to a man she barely knows. Many difficulties lie ahead--but the hardest battle of all will be winning the heart of her new husband.

{ My Thoughts On This Book }

I absolutely loved this book! An unconventional love story where selfless devotion wins the day over blind loyalty to a dream, and where one young woman steadfastly chooses to believe God's truth about herself over the often scathing opinions of mere humanity, A Promise To Love offers a beautiful new perspective on what it means to love another person. I highly recommend this book to everyone who loves a sweet historical romance with roots in the Christian faith.

{ About The Author }

Serena B. Miller is the author of The Measure of Katie Calloway and Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio, as well as numerous articles for periodicals such as Woman's World, Guideposts, Reader's Digest, Focus on the Family, Christian Woman, and more. She lives on a farm in southern Ohio.

Connect with Serena on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

{ Buy This Book }

You can purchase your own copy of A Promise To Love for $10.19 here.

{ Disclosure }

I received a copy of this book from Baker Publishing Group free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and may differ from the opinions of others. This post is in compliance with FTC regulations. Learn more on my PR and Disclosure pages.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Starting Solids | Serenity's First Food

I consider myself a fairly "crunchy" mama ~ I prefer to use natural methods whenever possible for whatever I am doing, and parenthood is no exception. Part of that philosophy includes something called "baby led weaning" which basically means you don't force your child to eat on a schedule or by a certain age, but rather you watch for certain markers that indicate your child is ready to start eating solids, then let them take the lead (using safe foods, of course). You typically end up avoiding purees, and most babies that start solids using this method do not start eating solids until they are between 7 and 9 months old, and sometimes older. The markers to watch for are a) sitting unassisted, b) loses the tongue thrust reflex, c) shows interest in eating, and d) is at least 6 months old.

I had totally intended to use this method with Serenity. And I did ~ it just didn't turn out quite how I had expected.

Serenity started showing interest in what we were eating at only 4 months old. I was not thrilled, but figured she'd be fine for another 2 months. Not so much. At 5 months and 1 day old, Serenity grabbed my fork with both hands, and just about managed to stuff it into her mouth before I got it away from her, and she threw the biggest fit I have ever seen on a baby this age. Screamed and screamed and screamed!!! So we went back to the drawing board, and decided that since the only marker missing was her age, we would go ahead and start her on solids a little early, and just take it slow.

We started with egg yolk. She wasn't much impressed...

You might be wondering why egg, and some of you might be freaking out because eggs are not recommended until a year old because of the risk of allergic reaction. Fear not! I have an explanation.

The allergenic properties of egg are found in the white portion, not the yolk. So as long as you remove all of the white and the membrane, you're golden (pun intended, haha).

"What is this stuff?? I think she's trying to kill me!!"

Serenity was more than ready to grasp things with her hands, but she wasn't yet scooping small objects with her fingers, so she wasn't getting the hang of picking up the pieces of egg yolk. She wasn't a big fan of me sticking pieces of yolk into her mouth (she's already incredibly independent, and wanted to feed herself), so I mushed up the yolk with a little water and smeared it on a spoon. Handed it over, and off she went! Happy as a clam, and ate almost a full yolk before she got tired and pooped out.

So starting solids didn't go quite as I had planned. But she's taken right to it, and is happily chowing down on something yummy once a day for over a month now. So far, baked sweet potato seems to be her favorite *smiles*

Monday, October 29, 2012

Stylish Storage | Packaways Reusable Plastic Storage Boxes | Review

Whether you're off to college, moving into a new place, or you're like me and are trying to store 6 sizes of little girl clothes at once, everyone needs a little help when it comes to finding the right storage solution.

Packaways can help! They have styles in Classic, Totes, and Under Bed storage, and they fold flat for easy storage when they're not in use.

I had the pleasure of reviewing the pink and green Classic boxes, and I absolutely love them!!! If I have my choice, I will never use another regular storage tote again, and if you know me, you know that I adore my bright and colorful plastic storage tubs, so that's really saying something.

Here are some great features of these storage boxes...

  • Corrugated Plastic, Protects from Water & Humidity
  • Instant Set-Up, No Tape Required
  • Reuse Hundreds of Times
  • Collapses Flat When Not in Use
  • Unique Wipe Away End Panel

I received these boxes just in time to help me transport food and party stuff for my sister-in-law Kristine's baby shower. They worked great!

I used the larger pink box to carry gifts, decorations, balloons, and about 15 other random party supplies. I left this box open to accommodate the taller items and the inflated balloons, and the box held stability beautifully.

I used the green Classic box to transport the food, including a full sized crock pot full of apricot meatballs, and 5 2 liter bottles of lemon lime soda for punch, and not only did the box hold up extraordinarily well, it held up better than I did, trying to carry it! Considering that these boxes use folds to hold their bottoms and tops together - no tape - that is extremely impressive!

The two boxes fit in easily in the backseat of a little Toyota sedan along with Serenity in her carseat, a diaper bag, the large crib bedding set you see in the picture above, and a huge box of cookies. Had both boxes been closed, I could have fit another one on top, no problem!

Be sure to check out Packaways on their website and on Facebook. The Classic boxes pictured are available in 3 colors or in a natural white, starting at $8.95.

Disclosure:: I received the products mentioned above free of charge using Tomoson.com in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and may differ from the opinions of others. All opinions are my own, and may differ from the opinions of others. This post is in compliance with FTC regulations. Learn more on my PR and Disclosure pages.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Beanfields | Corn & Gluten-Free Black Bean & Rice Chips | Review & Giveaway

You may remember from eons past on this blog that I have had quite a bit of difficulty with digestive issues for over a decade, with few answers to cause at this point. I experienced an unexpected reprieve during my recent pregnancy, but now that my daughter is almost 6 months old I have begun to see a resurgence of symptoms, and I have to tell you, I'm not thrilled. I already know that I have trouble with Candida overgrowth, but one theory that I've tossed around is that I may be sensitive to gluten - the protein found in grains like wheat and barley. Another theory is that I may be sensitive to corn. At this time, I am limiting my gluten intake with intentions to eliminate it completely after the holidays (what, a girl's gotta live a little, even if uncomfortably), and corn will follow once that is under control. I'd throw it all out at once, cold turkey, but frankly, it's just a little much right now. I know - people do it and do it well (my sister-in-law's family did, just this fall), but what can I say? I guess I'm a little chicken. Or maybe just lazy. Feel free to not tell me which you think it is. *wink*

I had the pleasure of testing Beanfields Crispylicious! black bean and rice chips. Corn and gluten-free, these chips are made from high quality black beans and long grain rice, and are flavored with natural ingredients. My mom helped me taste test (so did my husband, but more about that later).

Beanfields Bean & Rice Chips are great tasting snacks that are healthier for you:

bullet point Complete Protein: 4 grams in every serving, as much as a 4 oz. glass of milk.
bullet point Fiber: 4 grams in every serving, the same as a ½ cup serving of raisin bran.
And you get both soluble and insoluble fiber, which aids digestion. The fiber also helps
you feel fuller longer.
bullet point Allergen Specific: Beanfields is free of every one of the FDA's eight most common
ingredients that trigger food allergies.
bullet point Complex Carbohydrates provide long lasting energy.
bullet point Minerals our bodies need, including potassium and magnesium.
bullet point Half the saturated fat and one third less sodium than most corn tortilla chips.

To make these chips even more awesome, all of the flavors are free of any genetically-modified organisms (non-GMO) and are recipients of the prestigious Non-GMO Verification awarded by the Non-GMO Project.

 They also received Best Of Show at the 2012 Natural Products Expo West for 2012! Here's what VegNews had to say about Beanfields...

"We are obsessed (no, really) with Beanfields' new Nacho Bean & Rice Chips. The vegan answer to Doritos!" - VegNews

Corn free, vegan, and gluten free, Beanfields Crispylicious! Nacho Bean & Rice Chips contain 4 grams each of protein and fiber, and have been called the healthy alternative to Doritos.

I tried these chips, and they are interesting. The bean flavor - a subtle earthiness - does interact oddly with the nacho flavor, and I am not personally a fan of that. But they're not bad! I'm not a big fan of nacho flavored chips in general, so perhaps I am not the best judge of this particular flavor, though. My mom said these were her favorite, and she does like nacho flavored chips. Perhaps we'd better take her word for it instead of mine?

The Naturally Salted variety of Beanfields is the closest to nature of the varieties. Earthy and crisp, but without much defining taste. I think these would be best used in a recipe, like taco salad or similar, where they are there more for texture than for flavor.

Evidently, the Pico De Gallo flavor of Beanfields is delicious. Sadly, I wouldn't know, because my husband ate every last one of the 2 bags we received before I even knew they had arrived!

"These things are amazing!!" ~ Nick Belleque

I was really excited about the Sea Salt & Pepper flavor of Beanfields, but I personally found them to be way to peppery. It's a great flavor, just too strong for me. I think these would be good crumbled into a hearty stew or soup, though *smiles*

These were my favorite! Sea Salt - nice and subtle, a little zippy, and perfect for a light snack or a side with soup or for nachos. Yum!

Overall, I like these chips, and I think they are a good alternative to corn chips. It's good to know that there is a decent choice for those with corn or gluten intolerance, and even those who can eat anything they want may enjoy the change of pace from plain ol' corn. I personally love black beans and how versatile they can be, and these chips are testament to just that!

You can connect with Beanfields on their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

Beanfields products are currently available in multiple stores on the west coast, and online. Full cases of 12 6oz bags in any one flavor or your personal assortment of flavors are available for $40.00 and $8.00 shipping/handling, and full cases of 24 1.5oz bags in any one flavor or your personal assortment of flavors are available for $30.00 and $6.00 shipping/handling (Naturally Unsalted is not available in 1.5oz bags).

Want to try these chips out for yourself? One lucky reader of Our Little Bit Of Wonderful will be winning a 1/2 case (6 bags) of Beanfields chips in assorted flavors! You must be at least 18 years old and a resident of the United States in order to win, and only entries received via the Rafflecopter widget below, and entries will be verified. Good luck! *smiles*

Disclosure:: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com in exchange for an honest review. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. All opinions are my own, and may differ from the opinions of others. This post is in compliance with FTC regulations. Learn more by visiting my PR and Disclosure pages.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

With Every Letter | Sarah Sundin | Book Review & Giveaway

With Every Letter
by Sarah Sundin

{ About This Book }

As part of a morale-building program, World War II flight nurse Lt. Mellie Blake begins an anonymous correspondence with Army engineer Lt. Tom MacGilliver in North Africa. As their letters crisscross the Atlantic, they develop a deep friendship. But when they're both transferred to Algeria, will their future be held hostage by the past—or will they reveal their identities?

Lt. Mellie Blake is a nurse serving in the 802nd Medical Squadron, Air Evacuation, Transport. As part of a morale building program, she reluctantly enters into an anonymous correspondence with Lt. Tom MacGilliver, an officer in the 908th Engineer Aviation Battalion in North Africa. As their letters crisscross the Atlantic, Tom and Mellie develop a unique friendship despite not knowing the other's true identity. When both are transferred to Algeria, the two are poised to meet face to face for the first time. Will they overcome their fears and reveal who they are, or will their future be held hostage to their past? And can they learn to trust God and embrace the gift of love he offers them? Combining excellent research and attention to detail with a flair for romance, Sarah Sundin brings to life the perilous challenges of WWII aviation, nursing, and true love.

{ My Thoughts On This Book }

With Every Letter is the first book in Sarah's new Wings Of The Nightingale series, set during WWII. Sarah Sundin once again marries the grand sweep of history to the fine detail of a faith based romantic novel, and this book is by far my favorite of hers to date!

The heroine struggles to relate to her fellow nurses, and with self-image issues. The hero hides the deep pain of a childhood full of rejection and misplaced blame behind a bright shiny smile. Both fear that no one could even look past their preconceptions to see the real person beneath...until an anonymous letter writing program designed boost troop morale brings them together at the heart.

The lies we tell ourselves are always more damaging than the lies others tells us about ourselves. Mellie and Tom learn this the hard way, almost missing the love of a lifetime in their individual quests for self-preservation. This is a story that will reach behind your masks, and poke you where it hurts. If you are honest with yourself, as these characters were in the end, you will likely come face to face with a little change of your own while reading this book.

I recommend this book, and all of Sarah's books, to anyone and everyone!

Be sure to check out my review of Sarah's previous book, Blue Skies Tomorrow, here.

{ About The Author }

Sarah Sundin is the author of With Every Letter, the first book in the Wings of the Nightingale series from Revell, and also the Wings of Glory series (A Distant Melody, A Memory Between Us, and Blue Skies Tomorrow). In 2011, A Memory Between Us was a finalist in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards and Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Sarah lives in northern California with her husband and three children. When she isn’t ferrying kids to tennis and karate, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies.

You can connect with Sarah on her website and Facebook.

Be sure to check out the interview I did with Sarah last summer, here.

{ Buy This Book }

You can purchase your own copy of With Every Letter for $9.99 here.

{ Win This Book }

Sarah has kindly offered to give away a copy of her new book, With Every Letter, to one lucky Our Little Bit Of Wonderful reader! You must be a resident of either the United States or of Canada, and at least 18 years old to win this giveaway. Sarah Sundin will ship the book to the winner once they are confirmed (you will have 48 hours to respond to the winner's email or we will pick a new winner), and Our Little Bit Of Wonderful is not responsible for prize fulfillment. This offer VOID where prohibited by law.

{ Disclosure }

I received a copy of this book from Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and may differ from the opinions of others. This post is in compliance with FTC regulations. Learn more on my PR and Disclosure pages.

Monday, October 8, 2012

You Don't Know Me | Susan May Warren | Book Review & Author Giveaway

You Don't Know Me
by Susan May Warren

{ About This Book }

Sometimes the secrets we keep to protect ourselves can be our undoing.

To all who know her, Annalise Decker is a model wife and mother. She’s a permanent member of the PTA, never misses a sporting event, and is constantly campaigning for her husband’s mayoral race.

No one knows that Annalise was once Deidre O’Reilly, a troubled young woman whose testimony put a dangerous criminal behind bars. Relocated through the Witness Security Program to the quaint harbor town of Deep Haven, Deidre received a new identity and a fresh start, which began when she fell in love with local real estate agent Nathan Decker.

Twenty years later, Annalise couldn’t be more unprepared for her past to catch up with her. When Agent Frank Harrison arrives with news that the man she testified against is out on parole and out for revenge, Annalise is forced to face the consequences of her secrets. Will she run again, or will she finally find the courage to trust those she loves most with both her past and her future?

This is a Deep Haven novel.

{ My Thoughts On This Book }

Fast paced, with characters that are deeply flawed and entirely believable, You Don't Know Me is a story about the destructive power of lies - even ones born of necessity - and the astonishing power of forgiveness when found in Christ Jesus.

I enjoyed this book, and I recommend it to anyone who likes modern fiction with timeless messages of hope and redemption.

Find out what others are saying about this book here. You can also read my reviews of Susan's books Heiress and Baroness here and here.

{ About The Author }

Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning novelist of over thirty novels. A five-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award.

A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!.

Find out more about Susan May at http://www.susanmaywarren.com/.
{ Buy This Book }

You can purchase your own copy of You Don't Know Me for $9.18 here.

{ Author Giveaway }

Welcome to the campaign launch for Susan May Warren’s latest offering in her beloved Deep Haven series, You Don’t Know Me. Susan is celebrating with a $200 Weekend Getaway Giveaway and hosting a fun video Author Chat Party!


One fortunate winner will receive:
  • A $200 Visa Gift Card (Use that to catch up with a loved one and “Get to Know” your spouse, friend, sister, mom…whomever!)
  • The entire set of Deep Haven Books
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 22nd. Winner will be announced at the You Don’t Know Me” Author Chat Facebook Party on 10/23. Connect with Susan for an evening of book chat, Deep Haven trivia, and a live video chat! There will also be info about Susan’s BookShout read-along and a chance to win gift certificates, books, and other fun prizes!

So grab your copy of You Don’t Know Me and join Susan on the evening of the October 23rd for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the books – don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 23rd!

{ Disclosure }

I received a copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and may differ from the opinions of others. This post is in compliance with FTC regulations. Learn more on my PR and Disclosure pages.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Unending Devotion | Jody Hedlund | Book Review

Unending Devotion
by Jody Hedlund

{ About This Book }

Lily Young longs to find her lost sister or will die trying. Heedless of any danger, she searches logging camps and towns, posing as a photographer’s assistant. And then she arrives in Harrison, Michigan–and the sights of Connell McCormick.

Connell is determined to increase the fortune of his lumber-baron father and figures as long as he’s living an upright life, that’s what matters. But when Lily arrives in town she upends his world, forcing him to confront the truth that dangerous men have gained too much power while good men turn a blind eye.

Vexing but persuasive, Lily soon secures Connell’s help, drawing them ever closer to each other. Will standing for what’s right cost them both everything?

{ My Thoughts On This Book }

Set in the logging camps of northern Michigan in 1833, Unending Devotion is a fast paced and exciting story of a young woman trying to find the little sister who ran away from an abusive foster home hoping to make a quick fortune as a saloon girl in a lumber camp brothel, only to become a captive of her poor choices. It is also the story of a man who must choose between standing against sin and slavery, and turning a profit in an industry that leaves barren wastelands in its wake for the sake of his father's will.

I enjoyed this story, and was impressed that Ms Hedlund exposed both the debauchery of prostitution and the horrors of white slavery (girls were often lured into captive lives as prostitutes on the promise of honest work as maids), as well as touching on both sides of the lumber industry issue - the devastation of clear cutting and the fact that lumber barons relied on prostitution, gambling and alcohol to keep their drastically underpaid and overworked men on the job, as well as the eventual push to reform labor laws and working conditions, and find a new way to harvest lumber while preserving our forests.

I recommend this story to anyone who enjoys historical romantic fiction with sound moral undertones.

{ About The Author }

Jody Hedlund is the bestselling author of "The Doctor's Lady" and "The Preacher's Bride". She won the 2011 Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, the 2011 Award of Excellence from the Colorado Romance Writers and was a finalist for Best Debut Novel in the 2011 ACFW Carol Awards. Currently she makes her home in central Michigan, with her husband and five busy children. She loves hearing from readers on Facebook and on her blog.

Visit her website: http://jodyhedlund.com/

{ Buy This Book }

You can purchase your own copy of Unending Devotion for $10.19 here.

{ Disclosure }

I received a copy of this book from the publisher with LitFuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and this post is in compliance with FTC regulations. To learn more, visit my PR and Disclosure pages.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Sis! | Jessica's Visit

Happy 24th Birthday, Jessie!!

{ Copyright 2012 @ Jessica Purkerson. DO NOT COPY. }

Jessica, you are an amazing woman, and I am glad to call you my sister. You overcome the odds daily, and I am proud of you! I think about you often, and hope someday we live much closer together, so you can hang out with Nick and me, and get to know your little niece. It was so nice to hear your voice today, and I am glad you had a nice birthday. Enjoy some Jello Fluff and know we love you tons and tons!

~ Alena, Nick & Serenity

Jessica visited us back in March during her school's spring break...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Author Interview | Cathy Gohlke | Band Of Sisters

The following is a Q&A interview with Cathy Gohlke, author of the new book Band Of Sisters, courtesy of her publicist. You can read my review of this moving novel here.

What motivated you to write Band of Sisters?

I’ve always been fascinated by the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement. But I was horrified to learn that there are more than twice as many men, women and children enslaved today than at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. This book was born of a passion to end modern-day slavery, and most of all, to ask, “What can I do to help in a need so desperate?” 

Why did you choose NYC 1910-1911 to tell this story? And how does human trafficking in that era compare to human trafficking today?

 I was inspired by an article I’d read about Alma Mathews. Alma was a small but determined woman who, armed with her umbrella and a hefty douse of fury, stood against dangerous men bent on exploiting immigrant women as they entered the U.S. through Castle Gardens, in old New York City. Alma ushered young women to her home, prepared them for employment, and helped them begin a safe new life in the city. It became a full time ministry involving many—all in the early days of the settlement house movement.

But my editor suggested that I set the story later, when immigrants entered the U.S. through Ellis Island. As I researched that possibility, I found that the problem of exploitation and human trafficking had not only grown during those years, but that the strikes of NYC shirtwaist factory workers had made public the desperate need for women to make a living wage in safe circumstances. Necessary elements for the story and high drama were all a matter of public record—everything from the passing of the Mann Act to address the fear of white slavery to the Triangle Waist Factory fire.

Even though our technology, transportation, communication, etc., is different from the story’s era, many countries today are no further in providing rights and safeguards for women than the U.S. was in 1910. Some are further behind.

Many of the same ruses are used by traffickers to lure women into their snare now as they were then: better paying jobs for themselves and/or money for their families, flirtation, pretense of emotional caring and support, marriage, offers specifically for modeling jobs, offers for education, appeals for help of various kinds, plays on sympathies, etc.

In some cases, after having sex with someone they trusted, or after being drugged and forced into having sex, women or children are/were blackmailed. Fearful that their families will not believe them or will accuse them of promiscuity and reject them, they are afraid and feel compelled to sneak out and “service” men when called. Some are sold to traffickers or users by members of their own family, or by someone they trust.

Once trapped—sometimes after being unwittingly drugged and/or blackmailed—women are often transported far from their home (crossing borders to other states or countries). Held against their will through abuse, enforced poverty, lack of ID, lack of language skills, lack of visas or passports, they may simply not know who to trust or where to go for help in the country in which they find themselves. Isolation, threats to their person or their family, repeated brain washing that they are dirty, worthless, unwanted, unloved, and good for nothing but sex with paying customers are all tools that traffickers use to intimidate and control their victims.

Fear of what will happen if they try to escape, fear that they have ruined their lives and will have no other way to live, fear for themselves and loved ones, resulting health problems, feelings of hopelessness and a constantly reinforced sense of self-worthlessness all form formidable prisons for victims of trafficking. Even if it seems they can physically escape, they may not be able to break the emotional or mental chains that bind them.

All those things happened then, and they continue to happen to victims today. 

What research did you do?

My research began with human trafficking today and the fight to abolish modern-day slavery through books, the internet, and through organizations and individuals that are helping in various ways—raising awareness, rescuing, restoring and healing victims, tracking down and prosecuting predators, education of men and boys re. the human rights and intrinsic worth of women, safe houses, etc., and those who fundraise to assist organizations or individuals who are already doing these things.

For historical background I watched documentaries and read (books, old newspapers, archives) about the growth of old New York, the social conditions and desperation of the poor and of immigrants in particular, the disadvantages to those who did not speak English, the unique problems of women and children—the opportunities for and difficulties of making a living wage outside of prostitution, the threats made to women and their families to coerce them into sexual service, of their economic desperation without a male provider, of their few legal rights, and of the unfair treatment women received in court. Those studies led me to the development of the sweatshops, the growth, expansion and revisions of the settlement house movement, the work of Jacob Riis in making the abject poverty of thousands known to the public.

Learning of those conditions led to a special interest in Irish immigrants—their cultural and social strengths and weaknesses, their views of family, their aptitude for and reception in different types of employment in America.

My husband and I made two trips to NYC. From there we conducted research at Ellis Island, took several tours in the Tenement Museum, and bought more research books and maps, including more on the Triangle Waist Factory fire.

Once I knew my storyline, I mapped out locations of the story and trekked through Manhattan, exploring old sites, especially between Mid-town Manhattan, through Washington Square and the surrounding NYU area (including the site of the Triangle fire), the Bowery and the Lower East Side. As I walked, photographed the city, explored, and talked with residents, the voices of my characters erupted. I gladly followed their lead.

Your characters are strongly influenced by the question asked in Charles Sheldon’s classic, “In His Steps”—“what would Jesus do?” Why did you choose that book to help tell your story?

After all my research I knew I had the historical elements needed. What I didn’t know was the inner conflict of each character, or the answer to the all-important question: “what can I do to help in a need so desperate?” I found my answer by confronting the question Sheldon posed in his very popular book of the time, “what would Jesus do?”

If we all truly do what Jesus would do, slavery will end. Jesus never exploited men or women—He uplifted them and showed them a path of hope, a new way of thinking and living. He never used children, or child labor for ease or gain—He blessed little ones, demonstrating their great worth. He never bought or sold babies to fulfill the bride “needs” of a one-child culture. He never bought or sold human organs, or fetuses, or body parts. He never lied to immigrants, never enslaved them, never threatened their families or loved ones or lives if they did not comply with His demands, never coerced or forced, never shamed or punished a single person into submission to His will. But in every way He set a moral compass, employed Divine compassion to the broken hearted and broken bodied, and held to account any and all who victimized others.

In Band of Sisters your characters maintain that the answer to human trafficking is found in the question, “What would Jesus do?” What do you mean by that and how does that question impact this modern-day crisis?

In recounting the things Jesus taught, and in thinking about the life He modeled, I realized that He has already given us the answers. It is only for us to employ them.

Jesus would:
  • Open His hand and His heart to those society spurns—not only to receive those who come to Him, but He would go out and search for and engage them, as when He ate with publicans and sinners, as when He called Zacchaeus from the tree.
  • He would provide medical help, as when He healed the woman with the issue of blood, the man born blind, the paraplegic let down through a roof, and countless others.
  • He would not hesitate to confront the darkest of the dark in order to free victims—the things and people and forces we’d rather not see or deal with, as when He drove demons from the young man, and from Mary Magdalene.
  • He would open His purse strings, even His home to the needy as when He commanded us to provide for widows and orphans, as when hounded by Herod, he personally demonstrated the helpless plight and needed solutions for refugees.
  • He would expect that those who could provide financially for this ministry and need would do so, just as He accepted gifts from those able to finance His ministry.
  • He would protect lives and argue for victims legally—even those who’d made mistakes society deems unforgivable, as He did for the woman taken in adultery—the woman in danger of being stoned.
  • He would accept the thanks of and stand for those who looked to Him for answers. He would maintain relationship with them, even when they were misunderstood by society, as He did for the woman who anointed His feet. He would hold to account those who victimize others, as He did when He declared that for anyone who makes one of His little ones to stumble it would be better if a millstone were hung around their neck and they were drowned in the depths of the sea.
  • He would raise awareness and educate society to be on guard against this evil as much as any evil, to be vigilant, to accept responsibility to change, to train children to love God and care for and respect one another, just as He taught them everyday of His life.
  • He would advocate for the human dignity and worth of all people, women included, as He did when He breached society’s laws by allowing the unclean woman, desperately hoping for healing, to touch Him, when He reached out to the Samaritan woman, who lived with a man not her husband, and when He died on a cross in our place.
Band of Sisters takes place in NYC. Do you think human trafficking is limited to large cities?

No. That is why raising awareness of the crime and education re. the methods used by traffickers is so important. Small, rural, isolated or poor communities are targets just as vulnerable as big cities. Traffickers often enter such communities with bogus offers of better jobs, modeling opportunities for young people, and offers for education. But those dreams are crushed when willing applicants are unwittingly sold as sex slaves or used for pornography, with no way to get back to their homes and families. In some cultures, once a girl has been so abused, she is no longer welcome to return to her family, thereby compounding the problem and sense of hopelessness. Education and understanding is desperately needed on all parts.

Issues of sex slavery and human trafficking are foreign to most of us and uncomfortable to discuss. How can Christians respond?

By speaking for those who have no voice. These are among the poor and needy of our day, in many cases the orphans that Jesus commanded us to care for.

We must remember that the discomfort is ours, and the desperate need is theirs. Being a Christian, a Christ follower, isn’t easy in a fallen world. Doing what Jesus did wasn’t easy or comfortable. He confronted demons and hypocrites. He stood against people who cared more about the monetary value of their livestock than they did about freeing one human being from demonic possession.

Jesus ate with “publicans and sinners” to the ruin of His reputation. Just as He is our example in loving one another and in protecting innocent young children, so He is our example in setting captives free, in loosening cords that bind, in rescuing women and children from prostitution, men from slavery.

In many countries of the world Christians pay with their lives for standing up for their faith and/or for protecting others. I’ve heard it said that only in America do we expect it to be easy to be a Christian. Talking about things that are uncomfortable to our sensibilities don’t seem so hard in comparison to the challenges our brothers and sisters in Christ face the world over.

Human trafficking and the abolition of slavery is such a huge problem, let alone rescuing and restoring its victims. What can I do to help?

First, learn all you can through reading and talking with individuals and organizations who have already joined the fight:
  • Google “human trafficking” to learn what is happening in the world.
  • Contact your local library, social services, churches or police force and ask what is being done in your community to raise awareness and prevent human trafficking. They can help you find books, organizations, and on-line information to educate yourself about:
    • The crime (what is human trafficking and where in the world it occurs—you will be astonished)
    • The people at risk
    • The methods traffickers use to capture and enslave
    • The tracking down, arrest and prosecution of predators
    • The rescue, restoration, and healing of victims
    • The fight to abolish slavery through legal means
    • The education of men and boys re. the dignity and worth of women and girls
    • Organizations and/or Individuals that are already working to do the above. (See my website at www.cathygohlke.com for a growing list of these sites. If you find more, please let me know so I can add them.)
  • Once you understand what organizations and opportunities are already in place, determine what you are able and equipped to do. That might include:
    • Work directly with one of these organizations, either in this country or in a foreign country
    • Validate, affirm, encourage and engage girls or women who are at risk or in the process of healing
    • Welcome strangers into your church as part of the church family
    • Take a rescued victim into your home or provide housing
    • Mentor a victim, or a girl or woman at risk
    • Help a woman find safe and gainful employment and/or child care
    • Help a woman applying for a job find appropriate clothing
    • Provide childcare and/or transportation when needed
    • Tutor a student, young or not so young and encourage hopeful options
    • Invite women or girls for a meal in your home or take them out for a meal or event, using the opportunity to reaffirm their worth
    • Provide assistance for medical care—practical or financial
    • Speak up when others make slurring or disrespectful comments re. women, immigrants, homeless, etc.—attitudes must change to make change last
    • Do not patronize stores, hotels, sporting events or other venues where you believe women or children are trafficked
    • Provide legal counsel, assistance or finances for same for victims
    • Write or speak out against trafficking
    • Hold public figures and men within your circle of acquaintance accountable for their actions toward women and children
    • Be vocal and proactive about the need to raise a generation of men who will not exploit women and children
    • Be vocal that the only way trafficking will stop is to eliminate the demand for supply
    • Support legislation to stop trafficking, to prosecute and to re-educate predators
    • Write letters of support and concern to elected officials re. human trafficking
    • Contribute financial support to one of the organizations that is already in place and helping
    • Create and/or support films, documentaries, plays, or various art forms that raise awareness or needed funds
    • Fund-raise for organizations that are helping
    • Help to educate publicly or privately those you know re. all of the above
    • Work with others to create new possibilities
    • Pray—continually
  • Most importantly, realize that while you can’t do everything, we can each do something. Together we will raise a symphony that must be heard.
How does your faith impact your writing?

My faith is part and parcel of all I do. While writing my first novel I learned that I cannot divide the heart God knit inside me, cannot separate what I write from how I live in response to Him.

That’s when I began praying, not just that the Lord would lay on my heart a “story,” but that He would lay on my heart His “purpose,” and a story to illuminate that purpose. Later I understood that “purpose” is what is known in writing circles as a “strong moral premise.”All the characters must respond to that premise in some way or other. It is what ties the story together. Faith weaves the moral premise in my life, and as I live out that faith—as I respond to my Savior—my own life story is written. 

Are you a plotter or a seat of the pants writer?

That’s a great question! My wonderful agent, Natasha Kern, is convinced I’m a “pantser.” I’ve thought of myself as a “plotter by force.” Over time, I’ve learned to plot enough to write a synopsis—but it’s like ripping teeth from their roots. I fear losing the passion for and organic nature of my story so am hesitant to commit or share details before writing a first draft. I’d much rather write a story and then severely revise and edit. But I’ve come to see that that is not always an efficient process—not for me and not for my agent or editors. The thing that’s helped me most is Michael Hague’s Six Point Plot Structure as he describes it in the DVD, The Hero’s Two Journeys, as well as The Moral Premise, by Dr. Stanley Williams.

Now I write a long and detailed—sometimes rambling—synopsis, then put it away, and only take it out if I find myself wandering off track. The finished product is often quite different from my original notes. 

What spurs your writing?

Writing has become my way of making sense of the world, of putting into perspective the struggles of humanity and of my own—past and present—of trying to see the world as God sees it, as He redeems it by pursuing and claiming one heart at a time. I want to know what gives Him joy, what breaks His heart—those are the stories that matter, the stories that bring me continually closer to Him.

Frederick Buechner expressed it best, “The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Finding that place spurs me on.

You can connect with Cathy Gohlke on her website and Facebook, and you can read my review of Band Of Sisters here.