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My Creative Calling Came Early

juhlarik-HR-3Thank you so much for stopping by. I’m glad you came.

You know the old saying–“Hindsight is 20/20,” right? That phrase has never been more true than with my writing. Every child is born with a yearning to imagine and create, though it takes different forms for each child. Some pour their creativity out in paintings or drawings. Others choose crafts. Still others express their creativity with music.

My creative avenue was writing, and I believe it has been in my blood since the day I was born. I have photos of myself as a young toddler with pencil and paper in hand, scribbling before I was old enough to know how to write. I fell in love early in life with books, when my mom would take me and my older brothers to the library, then let us snuggle in next to her to read what treasures we’d found. It was a very special day each week when the Bookmobile drove into my neighborhood and I got to peruse the shelves there. By the time I was five, I began sneaking out of bed at night to cut notebook paper into quarters, staple the pages into booklets, draw pictures of earthworms on each page, and write stories about the wiggly little creatures. And when I wasn’t doing these things, I was dreaming up elaborate stories to act out with my best friend each day that we’d play together. But even then, I didn’t recognize the gift that was inside me.

It wasn’t until I was twelve that the writing bug really hit me. That was the age that “playing pretend” was getting to be kid’s stuff, and my friends were moving on to chatting about more mature topics, like the cute boys they had crushes on. Sure, that was all fun, but I missed the worlds I’d created in my imagination, and I missed acting out the lives of my made-up people. So when a good friend mentioned that she was writing a novel, it sparked the idea that I could keep on doing those things and not be branded a baby or a fool by my peers. I just had to write those elaborate imaginings down! (Thank you, Holly Zimmerman, for the inspiration. We lost track of each other long ago, but I wish I could tell you that you are one of the main reasons I am a writer today).

In high school, I served on my alma mater’s literary magazine staff, where the idea of seeing my writing published first started to germinate. After high school, I went on to major in writing at the University of Tampa where I began my first novel-length project. That story was a practice field that would teach me much of what I needed to know about writing novels. It took six years to finish the first full draft, and another four years to rewrite, edit, and polish it into something I could show to publishers. (Yes, it was published many moons ago–along with a second stand-alone novel, but both have long been out of print). 

My early adult life was spent in working various day jobs while staying up all hours of the night to fit in some writing time. I never gave up the dream of writing and being published, but in those early days, it was more difficult since it had to be fit around job, home, and family. It has only been in the last seven years that I’ve been able to stay at home and write on a full-time basis. God has blessed me with three publishing contracts so far (see my books here), and I have lots of stories in mind to write, so here’s hoping there’ll be more to come in the near future.

Thank you again for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed reading the nutshell version of my writing and publishing journey, and I hope you’ll look for my books!


Making Mistakes: Takeaway from The Mail Order Mistake

By Kathleen Y’Barbo

The Mail-Order Brides CollectionHave you heard the joke about the guy who thought he made a mistake? Well, turns out he was wrong.

We laugh at that joke, but the truth of it is sobering. We’ve all made mistakes, whether we acknowledge that fact or not. Maybe you put your trust in the wrong person.  Or perhaps you made a choice that you were certain would fix all your problems only to have the situation end in disaster.

What then? Do you wonder where God was and how He allowed that to happen? To those of us who believe He controls everything, such a mistake can cause us to ask hard questions of Him.

When May Conrad moved in with her kindly neighbor after fire destroyed her home, she certainly didn’t expect to be throw into the center of a Pinkerton investigation and be considered a prime suspect in a string of mail fraud crimes involving mail order brides. After all, she felt God was taking care of her. But was He? May certainly doesn’t think so when an infuriating Pinkerton detective insists her next choice is between helping him capture that kindly neighbor or be tossed into jail.

Can you think of a time when you were forced into a situation where none of the options were good? Maybe you had an idea of what your life was going to be like, and then God came in and did something totally different.  Something unexpected. Something uncomfortable. I know I’ve been there. And while you’re in the middle of that something unexpected and uncomfortable, you might be wondering where God is and why He’s allowing this to happen. You may even wonder if God has turned away and forgotten about you.

Good news! He hasn’t forgotten. In fact, He is absolutely and certainly using this unexpected and uncomfortable thing. What’s He using it for? Sometimes looking back that answer is obvious. Other times there may never be an answer this side of heaven as to why He has allowed something into your life.

Through it all, there is one thing that never changes and is always true: God never makes mistakes. He’s never wrong. And he never leaves you when you do. If you get nothing else from The Mail Order Mistake, please do not miss that.

I know May didn’t. I hope you won’t.


Blurb: The Mail-Order Mistake by Kathleen Y’Barbo
1855, Texas
Pinkerton detective Jeremiah Bingham is investigating a mail-order bride scam bankrupting potential grooms. When unsuspecting orphan May Conrad answers his false ad, she becomes the prime suspect in the case.

Bio:MOB--Kathleen Y'Barbo Turner

Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee with than ninety novels, novellas, and nonfiction books to her credit, and over two million copies of these books in print in the US and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan and certified paralegal, she is the winner of the Inspirational Romance of the Year by Romantic Times magazine and a number of Reader’s Choice awards as well as a nominee for an RT Career Achievement Award. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Novelists Inc. Kathleen loves interacting with her fans and with book clubs. To connect with her through social media or send her an email, check out the links on her website at www.kathleenybarbo.com.  And don’t miss signing up for her newsletter so you’ll be the first to know about new books. She’s got five coming out in 2017!




The Importance Of Secondary Characters

by Noelle Marchand

The Mail-Order Brides CollectionImagine the sound of a single cello playing a melody—deep, rich, vibrant. Now, imagine two violins and a viola joining in. Suddenly, what was once simple becomes complex with each instrument bringing out a new quality in the others. This is exactly what secondary characters do for main characters.  I always try to create well-rounded characters to interact with hero and heroine.

However, in writing The Outlaw’s Inconvenient Bride, I gained a better understanding of the importance of secondary characters within a novel. Never before had I tasked these characters with so much responsibility. With a huge portion of the story taking place in an outlaw gang’s secluded hideout, the six outlaws who lived there needed to provide external conflict, help set the tone of the story, and make the time period seem believable.

It was also paramount, due to the short nature of a novella, that these characters be immediately distinct from each other. I ensured this by researching accounts of real outlaws who lived during the old west. Inspired, my imagination went into overdrive. I created six characters complete with a list of their past crimes, endowed with a weapon of choice, unique character traits, motives for mayhem, and outlaw monikers. Meet all six members of the Renegade gang in The Outlaw’s Inconvenient Bride.


After a gang of outlaws uses a mail-order bride advertisement to trick an innocent woman into servitude, an undercover lawman must claim the bride—even if it puts his mission in jeopardy. 




MOB--Noelle MarchandNoelle Marchand is an award-winning author and a proud Texas-native. She enjoys spending time with family, dancing, and going on daytrips.





The Setting of A Fairy-Tale Bride

The Mail-Order Brides CollectionMy story, A Fairy-Tale Bride, is set just after the Civil War in the make-believe town of Cuento, Texas. Nora, the main character, is a Southern war widow who has lost her husband, her home, and her land. She is impoverished and has no means to support herself. The only respectable option she has is to become a mail-order bride.

As I researched the story I wanted to write for this collection, I found it was very common for war widows, especially those from the South, to enter into such marriages of convenience. Most of them had lost everything during the conflict. Some of the surviving Confederate soldiers left the Southeast to begin new lives in the cotton fields of Texas. This air of familiarity helped with their transition back into civilian life.

The Texas cotton industry boomed around this time. With their former homes and crops razed and slaves gone, many men turned to Texas as a place to start fresh. The land was fertile, crops were good, and they were able to tap into the now-freed slaves as a work force familiar with growing cotton. Texas quickly became one of the leading producers of cotton in the nation. With the new plantation owners thriving, it was natural for the Southern war widows to go to Texas to enter into new marriages and to start new families.

While I considered not having the sharecroppers appear in the story because of the oftentimes unsavory aspects of the institution, in the end, I decided to show them because sharecropping was a way of life in the South after the war. The hero and his friend would not have been able to sustain their large plantations without this means of getting workers. Neither of the characters is unkind to the sharecroppers, and I don’t dwell on it because the characters wouldn’t have. It was part of daily life.

As I researched this book, I learned so much about what life was like for some Southerners following the Civil War. When you read it, I hope you learn a little something too.

MOB--Liz TolsmaAbout Liz Tolsma:

My life is always a changing scene, full and busy with writing inspirational historical fiction and raising a family.   I  have been writing seriously for a number of years now, but have wanted to be an author since the fifth grade    when my teacher wrote, “I hope to see you as a published authoress,” in my autograph book. I was hooked. I’m proud to be represented by my wonderful agent, Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.

When I’m not busy writing, I enjoy reading, especially historical romance. You can also find me working in my garden, walking my black lab, Kylie, camping with my family, kayaking or crocheting.

My wonderful husband of twenty-six years and I make our home in the beautiful Wisconsin countryside with our children. We adopted our nineteen year old son from Vietnam when he was an infant, our thirteen year old daughter from Korea when she was an infant, and our eleven year old special needs daughter from the Philippines when she was five. They certainly keep me going! Our son proudly serves as a U.S. Marine.

I am also a breast cancer survivor. It has been a journey of deep faith and trust in the Lord, but he has sustained me and granted me healing.

The greatest love in my life is my Lord Jesus. I pray that my writing, as well as my entire life, will be to his honor and glory alone.

The Story Behind The Brigand and The Bride

The Mail-Order Brides CollectionHi all! Jennifer Uhlarik here. I’m so excited to share with you the story behind the story on The Brigand and The Bride, my selection from The Mail-Order Brides Collection. So…where did the idea for this story come from? As I pondered the idea of a mail-order bride story, I knew it needed to be different than a previous mail-order bride story I’d done (Wedded to Honor from The Convenient Bride Collection). I began thinking of different scenarios and quickly struck on the idea of a woman marrying a stranger to escape her outlaw family. Probably not the most original of ideas—but then, every story’s been told a million times already. It’s the fun twists you add that makes a story unique. So as I pondered the heroine that was taking shape in my mind, I saw a scene begin to unfold.

The heroine hurries through town, anxious about being caught by her brother. Rather than heading straight to the church, she stops in the seamstress’ shop to pick up a suit for her mail-order groom—something they’d pre-arranged through their letters. Suit in hand, she goes to the church, lays out the clothes and grooming supplies for him, then waits in the sanctuary. A bit later, the hero rushes in, shaves and cuts his hair, dons the suit, and steps out of the room, where the pastor’s wife shoves him down the aisle, scolding him for his lateness.

The scene played so vividly in my mind’s eye that I knew I had to write it and find out how the rest turned out. From the couple’s first awkward face-to-face meeting to the “quickie” wedding that ensues, I was giggling and grinning ear-to-ear. I sure hope you’ll read The Brigand and The Bride to find out why!

The Brigand and the Bride by Jennifer Uhlarik
1876, Arizona 
Jolie Hilliard weds a stranger to flee her outlaw family but discovers her groom is an escaped prisoner. Will she ever find happiness on the right side of the law?

Purchase from your local bookseller or online at:

Barnes & Noble
Christian Book Distributors

juhlarik-HR-3Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won and finaled in numerous writing competitions. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. She currently writes historical novellas of the American West for Barbour Publishing. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children.



Lies Our Characters Believe

The Mail-Order Brides Collectionby Megan Besing

As we all know, lies are a part of everyday life—and every good book. Whether it’s one we tell ourselves for years or one someone else makes up, lies consume our time. In my story, Perfect for the Preacher, lies, gossip, and assumptions nearly become main characters themselves.

Despite his age, Pastor Amos Lowry believes he’s the man to fill the pulpit at Hilltop Chapel. He’s certain he’s qualified and longs to be hired. Wouldn’t a congregation with such generosity be a preacher’s ideal church? At least that’s what he tells himself.

Those on the council assume Pastor Lowry is too young and immature, and they believe marriage for Amos could be the answer to all their problems. Except no one asked for a mail-order bride with a sketchy past to apply as Amos’s wife. After all, won’t an ex-saloon girl ruin Hilltop Chapel’s reputation?

Sophie Ross was told she could be a pastor’s wife. Except when gossip mixes with the dreadful experiences from her past, Sophie fights the doubt in her head. If a man of God can’t love and accept her, what kind of future does that leave?

Behind every deception, whether in real life or story form, is the truth waiting to save the day and set us free. I hope you discover and enjoy the truths buried in the lies of Amos and Sophie’s happily-ever-after. What starts off as an unlikely match might just become a marriage built on unconditional love and a ministry for a renewed congregation. Lies may win a battle, but like the characters of Perfect for the Preacher, let’s not allow evil to claim victory of our lives.

Perfect for the Preacher by Megan Besing

1897, Indiana

Fresh from seminary, Amos Lowry believes marriage will prove to his skeptical congregation that he’s mature. If only his mail-order bride wasn’t an ex-saloon girl, and worse, pregnant.

Purchase from your local bookseller or online at:

Barnes & Noble
Christian Book Distributors

SONY DSCMegan Besing adores reading, writing, and reviewing stories with happily-ever-afters. Her own writings have received many awards, including being a multi-category finalist in ACFW’s Genesis and a winner of MCRW’s Melody of Love contest. Her debut Perfect for the Preacher releases February 1, 2018 in Barbour’s Mail-Order Brides Novella Collection.

She lives in Indiana with her husband and their children where she dreams of the beach and drinks way too many Vanilla Cokes. Connect with Megan on Facebook and at www.meganbesing.com.

The Villian of the Mail-Order Proxy

The Mail-Order Brides Collectionby Sherri Shackelford

The most important thing to remember when creating a villain, is that villains don’t know they’re villains. In my story, Mail-Order Proxy, the heroine is interviewing a notorious outlaw for her local newspaper. And why does this outlaw agree to the interview? He craves fame and attention, of course, but he also wants people to understand him. He want’s people to know his motivation.

Generally, most villains are sociopaths. They lack a conscious. While most sociopaths do not become predators, most predators are sociopaths. They may not feel guilty for hurting someone, but they are aware of the consequences of their actions. They are aware of how they are perceived in society.

As an author, when I’m creating a villain, I use a regular person as inspiration, and embellish their flaws and weaknesses.

Villains shouldn’t simply be twirling their mustaches while lashing the heroine to the railroad tracks. The outlaw in my story does some bad things, but he feels completely justified in doing these things: Why should the banks have all the money when he’s just a poor, working stiff trying to get ahead?

There should always be a reason for the villain’s actions. In Mail-Order Proxy, the outlaw is perfectly cordial to the heroine until she stands in the way of what he wants. That’s when she sees the darker side of his personality. Most folks aren’t entirely good or entirely evil. A well-written villain has human foibles and weaknesses.

It’s also important to remember that villains are often very charming and engaging individuals. The outlaw in my novella, “Mail-Order Proxy”, has convinced the heroine of his sincerity. Part of her growth is learning to discern the difference between a charming villain and a cantankerous hero.  As the old proverb states, ‘The lion is most handsome when looking for food.’

I hope you enjoy my story, “Mail-Order Proxy!”

Sherri Shackelford is an award-winning author of inspirational, Christian romance MOB--Sherri Shackelfordnovels for Harlequin/HarperCollins Publishers.

A wife and mother of three, Sherri’s hobbies include collecting mismatched socks, discovering new ways to avoid cleaning, and standing in the middle of the room while thinking, “Why did I just come in here?” A reformed pessimist and recent hopeful romantic, Sherri has a passion for writing. She doesn’t live on the prairie, but she can see the plains from her house. Her books are fun and fast-paced, with plenty of heart and soul. Look for her exciting new romantic suspense novel this fall!



“Miss-Delivered Mail” by Ann Shorey

The Mail-Order Brides Collection“Miss-Delivered Mail” by Ann Shorey

Helena Erickson impulsively decides to take advantage of her brother’s deception and travels to Washington Territory in response to a proposal of marriage intended for someone else.


Some of my readers know that I’ve often used my family’s history as a source for inspiration in writing my novels. For instance, The Edge of Light uses many details from the life of one of my great-great aunts. In The Promise of Morning, I went to my great-great grandparents’ lives for the storyline. The rest of my novels all contain tiny bits of family lore as well.

The takeaway here for new writers goes beyond “write what you know” to “write what you can find out.” What I know isn’t always a whole lot, but with an inquiring mind and a willingness to dig a little, I’ve learned that there is a world of story material out there, waiting to be pressed into a manuscript.

So, moving forward to my most recent publication, The Mail-Order Brides Collection from Barbour Publishing— here’s a bit of background for my contribution, “Miss-Delivered Mail.”

As far as I know there are no mail-order brides in my family history, so that part is fiction. But in “Miss-Delivered Mail,” the main character finds herself in Washington Territory in the 1880’s, where she meets the Halliday family. I chose this setting because the “Hallidays” in this novella are my great-grandparents. They are not the main characters, but they play an important role in the story. In real life, they homesteaded in eastern Washington in the 1880’s, settling there in the Coulee breaks long before the Grand Coulee Dam was ever imagined. Many of the descriptions of their lives and surroundings come straight from my grandfather’s memoirs.

So, now that you’re armed with insider information, I wish you happy reading! I hope you’ll enjoy “Miss-Delivered Mail,” as well as the other eight excellent novellas in The Mail-Order Brides Collection.

The Mail-Order Brides Collection can be purchased from your local bookstore, or online at the following sites:

Barnes And Noble
Christian Book Distributors

MOB--Ann ShoreyANN SHOREY is the author of the At Home in Beldon Grove and Sisters at Heart series. She also has novellas included in the Sincerely Yours and The Oregon Trail Romance collections. Ann and her husband make their home in southwestern Oregon.

She may be contacted through her website, www.annshorey.com, or find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AnnShorey