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    Inspirational Book Series You Can’t Put Down

    Today I’d like to introduce guest blogger, Varina Denman.

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    Varina writes stories about the unique struggles women face. Her award-winning Mended Hearts series, which revolves around church hurt, is a compelling blend of women’s fiction and inspirational romance. A native Texan, Varina lives near Fort Worth with her husband and five mostly grown children. Connect with Varina on her website or one of the social media hangouts.

    Welcome, Varina!

    Katie, thank you for hosting me on your blog today. It’s summertime, and we’ve all got extra time on our hands. My holiday break is swiftly getting filled with events, camps, and projects, but I still have plenty of time by the pool doing what I love best … reading! I’ve put together a list of books to recommend to friends, specifically Christian book series that have been described as “can’t-put-it-down.” That’s what we all LOVE to read, especially during the lazy summer months. I hope your blog readers find a new series on the list, and I hope they pour themselves a tall glass of iced tea, and sit down and relax. Happy reading, girlfriends! (Don’t forget the suntan lotion)


    Jan Karon’s Mitford Series.

    verina 2 mitford

    A little about At Home In Mitford: It’s easy to feel at home in Mitford. In these high, green hills, the air is pure, the village is charming, and the people are generally lovable.

    Yet, Father Tim, the bachelor rector, wants something more. Enter a dog the size of a sofa who moves in and won’t go away. Add an attractive neighbor who begins wearing a path through the hedge. Now stir in a lovable but unloved boy, a mystifying jewel theft, and a secret that’s sixty years old.

    Suddenly, Father Tim gets more than he bargained for. And readers get a rich comedy in which mysteries and miracles abound.

    Click here for more information about the Mitford series.

    Dawn Crandall’s Everstone Chronicles.

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    A little about The Hesitant Heiress: After being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy in her hometown of Seattle, Washington, disappearing before her very eyes. Now, the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: Marry within the year to inherit the immense fortune of her estranged grandmother. Amaryllis reluctantly moves in to her aunt’s Boston home and rubs shoulders with fashionable society. Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself quickly falling in love with the most unlikely of men–Nathan Everstone, the envy of every eligible female, whose father has haunted her dreams for the decade following her mother’s tragic death. However, Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems…and everything she never knew she wanted. But just as everything Amaryllis has recently hoped for comes to fruition, it all falls apart when she finds that the real culprit who has been managing her life isn’t who she thought at all.

    Click here for more information about the Everstone Chronicles.

    Katie Ganshert’s The Gifting Series.

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    A little about The Gifting: In a world where nothing supernatural exists, Tess Eckhart is positive she’s going crazy. What other explanation is there for the things she sees? After her complete freakout at a high school party, her parents worry she might be right. So much that they pack their bags and move across the country, next to a nationally-renowned facility for the mentally ill.

    Despite the whispers and stares, Tess is determined to fit in at her new school. But when it comes to Luka Williams, a reluctantly popular boy in her class, she’s unused to a stare that intense. Then the headaches start, and the seemingly prophetic dreams that haunt her at night. As Tess tries harder to hide them, she becomes increasingly convinced that Luka knows something—that he might somehow be responsible.

    But what if she’s wrong? What if Luka Williams is the only thing separating her from a madness too terrifying to fathom?

    Click here for more information about The Gifting series. The first book is currently free!

    Melanie Dickerson’s Hagenheim Fairy Tale Romance Series.

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    A little about The Healer’s Apprentice: Two Hearts. One Hope. Rose has been appointed as a healer’s apprentice at Hagenheim Castle, a rare opportunity for a woodcutter’s daughter like her. While she often feels uneasy at the sight of blood, Rose is determined to prove herself capable. Failure will mean returning home to marry the aging bachelor her mother has chosen for her—a bloated, disgusting merchant who makes Rose feel ill. When Lord Hamlin, the future duke, is injured, it is Rose who must tend to him. As she works to heal his wound, she begins to understand emotions she’s never felt before and wonders if he feels the same. But falling in love is forbidden, as Lord Hamlin is betrothed to a mysterious young woman in hiding. As Rose’s life spins toward confusion, she must take the first steps on a journey to discover her own destiny.

    Click here for more information about the Hagenheim Fairy Tale Romance Series.

    Varina Denman’s Mended Hearts Series.

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    A little about Jaded: As a child, Ruthie was shunned by the local congregation. Now, thirteen years later, Ruthie’s heart begins to stir when an attractive single preacher arrives. But their relationship is bitterly opposed, and a string of secrets are unearthed that threaten to turn the church, the town, and her world upside down.

    Jaded is the rare novel that is a love story between both a woman and a man … and God and His church. Plunging deep into the waters of shame, forgiveness, and restoration, this book will resonate with every woman who’s experienced a loss of heart … and a thirst for hope.

    Click here for more information about the Mended Hearts series.

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    Cliffhangers, Trilogies, and Money … Oh My!

    IMG_3712Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Voxer.

    It’s basically the best app known to man. At least, it’s the best app known to anybody who starts to twitch whenever the phone rings, but also isn’t the biggest fan of texting.

    Essentially, it’s a walkie-talkie app. Only you don’t have to talk live.

    For all you nay-sayers out there wondering, “Why don’t you just leave a voice message?” or “How is that different than that text-talking feature?” Trust me. On Voxer, you NEVER HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT SOMEBODY ANSWERING THE PHONE.

    It’s basically a guarantee that you will always get their voicemail. Even better? You don’t have to waste time while the phone rings and the outgoing message plays. And you also don’t have to waste time calling your voicemail to check messages. AND! You can talk live if you want, walkie-talkie style, without the stress of hooligan children screaming like banshees because they have a hooligan-banshee radar that starts going off whenever mom puts the phone to her ear. With Voxer, I can totally give them the glare of death and THEN play the next message without being distracted by their general banshee-ness.

    If you’re still skeptical, that’s okay. This post isn’t about Voxer.

    It’s about how I use Voxer to stay in touch with friends. Especially friends who don’t live nearby, many of whom are fellow writers.

    And sometimes, we writers talk shop and sometimes, talking shop involves deep and meaningful discussions about readerly reactions to our work.

    One author and I have talked quite a bit about a certain reaction we both get when it comes to our young adult fiction. Both of us have trilogies. And for the most part, our readers thoroughly enjoy them.

    But like any work of fiction, there are also readers who don’t.

    Almost always, when our books get a heated review, it’s to do with cliffhangers.

    And often, those heated reviews come with two common accusations.

    Namely, that the book in question isn’t a complete story.

    And closely following, this idea that we are money-hungry authors out to make a quick buck.

    To this accusation, my friend and I try very hard not to laugh. Something other authors will more than likely understand.

    Let’s just say, there aren’t very many of us who are rolling in the dough. By and large, most of us authors are average folk trying to pay the bills doing what we love.

    With that said, I thought I might add a wee bit o’ perspective:

    The book in question (The Gifting) is currently free.

    That means it costs zero cents for a reader to download and enjoy (or not enjoy. It’s all subjective, man.) Zero cost. This book I worked on for months and months costs nada.

    Now, this is book 1 in a trilogy. The Gifting Series contains three books in all.

    So let’s move on to book 2, also a book I worked on for months and months.

    This book is sold at $4.99, a price cheaper than the average fast-food meal, which is consumed, on average, in less than 15 minutes.

    Last, but not least, we have book 3, another book I worked on for months and months AND MONTHS, because wrapping up a trilogy in a satisfying way is no joke, people. No joke.

    This book is also sold at $4.99.

    Altogether, you can get the entire trilogy for just under $10.

    It’s a trilogy that has provided thousands upon thousands of readers hours upon hours of entertainment, a fact that delights me to no end. There is nothing more encouraging to an author than hearing from readers who enjoy the work we pour so much of our time, energy, and hearts into, and I have been immensely blessed to hear from such readers.

    All this to say:

    If a reader isn’t a fan, or doesn’t agree with how this book (or any book) was written, that is TOTALLY copacetic. I get it. Such is the subjective nature of literature. Thankfully, there are a plethora of books and authors to choose from and surely one will strike their fancy.

    But for the sake of fairness, I don’t think we can accurately accuse an author of wanting to make a quick buck. There is nothing quick about writing a full-length novel. There is especially nothing quick about writing a complete trilogy. And there is nothing money-hungry about selling months and month and months and months and months of hard work (260,000+ words) for $10.

    I mean, we spend that much money on a movie theater ticket, and that’s only two hours of entertainment. Don’t even get me started on the price of popcorn. (Yet, I can never resist buying it, which makes me part of the problem.)

    Now, onto the other part.

    The cliffhanger part. And the assumption that if a book ends in one, it isn’t a full book.

    When the idea for this story came to me, it came as a complete package.

    An overarching story (like most trilogies tend to be). I knew where Tess was going to begin, and I  knew where the entire thing was going to end and I also knew that it was going to be BIG.

    I promise there was nothing sneaky or manipulative about my intentions. I simply couldn’t put out a 260,000+ word novel. Not only would the length scare the majority of my target audience away, the price point would have to be adjusted accordingly, and that would scare people away, too. And thus, my story would languish in sad, sad obscurity.

    While I’m not money-hungry, I am one of those bizarre authors who actually wants readers to read my work. It’s why I write, after all.

    The solution?

    I found a way to split that overarching story into three separate stories that address three distinct story questions.

    The Gifting (book 1) is, in fact, a complete book. The story question in book 1 (Is Tess crazy?) is completely resolved by the end.

    Then we have a widening, where the story world grows larger. Readers are enticed to read book 2, which begins a new story question and a new story adventure that is resolved in book 2, followed by another widening, an enticement, and a third story question that is resolved in book 3.

    I didn’t do it to be tricky or manipulative. I did it because I had a story to tell and this was the best way to tell it.

    If you’d like to try it out at no cost to yourself, The Gifting by K.E. Ganshert (that’s moi) can be downloaded at any of the major online book retailers (follow the link to download from your favorite one). If you don’t want to spend money on book 2, that’s all bueno. Rest assured, you will know whether or not Tess is crazy by the end.

    Interestingly enough, book 2 ends on a higher note of suspense than book 1 (similar to how Catching Fire ends on a higher note of suspense than The Hunger Games, and Insurgent ends on a higher note of suspense than Divergent.) What’s interesting about this, to me, is that The Awakening doesn’t receive the heated reviews (in this respect) that The Gifting does. I have theories on this, of course, but these theories are too big in scope for this particular post.

    Perhaps I’ll save that for another day.

    Have thoughts? Please chime in. I love reading comments. You don’t even have to agree with me. Just please be courteous!

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    I Disagree With You So I Must Hate You

    disagreement(Wherein, I use the word penis and vagina. Sorry if this makes you uncomfortable.)

    Please hear me. I’m not writing this post to force my opinion or get into a debate about transgender issues.

    That’s not what this is about.

    The whole transgender/bathroom thing is simply—if I may be cliché—the proverbial straw that broke this camel’s back.

    The straw came in the form of an article.

    I must confess, I haven’t actually read the article.

    So I guess it’s not the article itself that had my camel-back breaking.

    It was the article’s title:

    Stop Using Your Children as an Excuse to be Hateful.

    I saw it pop up on Facebook and I just about had enough.

    Which is really too bad, because who knows? Maybe this article is the most well-written, profound thing ever to be published on the internet.

    I don’t know.

    Nor do I care to know.

    Because the second I saw that word—hateful—was the second I wanted nothing to do with it.

    And that, my friends, is the point of this blog post.

    The second we start pointing fingers and calling someone hateful because they stated an opinion contrary to our own is the second we lose all opportunity for civilized, constructive discourse.

    It’s the second we perpetuate the “us” verses “them” mentality and toss any chance at understanding right out the window.

    The people I have talked to who are concerned about this transgender bathroom thing aren’t hateful people.

    They don’t walk around calling transgender people pedophiles or perverts. They don’t even walk around thinking transgender people are pedophiles or perverts.

    They are simply concerned that once a person with a penis is allowed to go into the woman’s restroom, we’ve removed all recourse for actual pedophiles and perverts.

    Call me crazy, but I think that’s a legitimate concern.

    Call me crazy, but please don’t call me hateful.

    It’s a word I’m really, really, REALLY starting to hate.

    Especially when it’s used to describe a person with an unpopular opinion—a person who isn’t actually being hateful, but simply disagreeing with whatever popular culture deems “loving” or “right” at the moment.

    It’s like Trump’s name-calling tactics whenever anybody disagrees with him.

    Please hear me. I’m aware.

    I’m aware that sometimes, people are hateful.

    But can we please just call a spade and spade?

    Hate is hate.

    Disagreement is disagreement.

    Yes, disagreement can lead to hate.

    We’ve all seen it happen a thousand times over on Facebook.

    So allow me to get this out of the way:

    Broken Person who doesn’t like the way society is headed and goes on to call transgender people perverts and sentences them to hell on social media? Just stop. Please.

    Especially if you associate yourself with Jesus.

    That’s not how He operated.

    When the crowd wanted to stone the prostitute, Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” And then He waited–He waited until every single person in that crowd was gone–before He called that woman up and out of sin. He did it privately. He did it in love. He did it with the intension of healing.

    The only people Jesus called out publicly were the religious leaders of the time.

    So please, for the sake of Jesus, stop.

    But this thing goes both ways.

    Broken Person who is fired up about transgender equality and goes on to call every person who holds a conviction different from yours a hateful bigot?

    How does this make you any better than the person you’re pointing a finger at?

    I’m going to take a minute and do something that might not be smart.

    I’m going to express my contrary-to-popular-opinion opinion.

    Maybe in doing so, I will alienate some readers. Authors are supposed to avoid talking about such things on a public forum, after all. But sometimes, my thoughts and opinions get so heavy, I’m compelled to share them.

    This is one of those times.

    So here it is, my unpopular opinion:

    I think that a person born with a penis is a male, and a person born with a vagina is a female.

    It’s not the same as skin color. This is not the same as the civil rights movement.

    God made the human race in all different glorious shades, from dark-as-night to whiter-than-white and everything else in between.

    It’s beautiful and wonderful and it couldn’t be any clearer that we are the ones—us broken human beings. We are the ones who decided to categorize skin color.

    As far as I can tell, God made two distinct types of anatomy.

    God made them both, male and female.

    But then Eve wanted to be like God, so she took the apple and she ate it and then she gave it to Adam and he ate it, and sin entered the world. And with sin, comes brokenness.

    Utter, absolute brokenness.

    All of us are walking around wounded, desperate to feel good and whole.



    The man dressed like a woman who just walked into the woman’s bathroom.

    All of us are broken.

    All of us are human.

    All of us are trying to feel whole again.

    And while I’m on a roll, I might as well state another unpopular opinion.

    One that I believe with every single fiber of my being.

    The only solution, the only thing that is going to fix the brokenness and fill the emptiness inside any of us is the God-man Jesus Christ.

    Tolerance is not the answer.

    Jesus is the answer.

    These beliefs of mine shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, as I’m a self-professed Christian.

    I’ve made Christ my King.

    I’ve experienced—first-hand—His healing and His comfort and His provision and His joy and His goodness.

    So I don’t say this out of hate.

    I don’t say this out of intolerance.

    I don’t say this out of anger.

    I say this out of love.

    Absolute, overwhelming, desperate love for this giant, diverse, walking-around-wounded race called humanity.

    If you are transgender and you are reading this, please hear my heart.

    I don’t hate you.

    I would actually like to get to know you.

    I would love—absolutely love—to have you over for dinner. I would love to sit down and break bread together and get to know YOU. Not the label. Not whatever group you identify with. But you. Broken, complex, made-in-the-image-of-God YOU.

    I want to understand.

    I want you to share with me what it’s like to walk in your shoes.

    I want you to share your heart with me and I want to be able to share my heart with you.

    If you are someone bursting-at-the-seams passionate over transgender equality, absolutely appalled that I think penises mean maleness and vaginas mean femaleness and you are reading this, please hear my heart.

    I don’t hate you.

    I would actually like to get to know you.

    The same invitation holds true about my dinner table.

    I want you to share your heart with me and I want to be able to share my heart with you.

    In love.

    But how is that ever going to happen when disagreement has become synonymous with hate?

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