First Line Friday – 7.14.17


Whether you’re looking for a good book or just curious what others are reading, you’ve come to the right place. Each Friday I pick a book and share the first line with you. This week I am stepping outside my typical genre and sharing the first line from The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson. However, it isn’t too far outside my genre, because even though it is a speculative fiction novella, it IS Christian (though not overtly) and it DOES have a romance. Plus… I absolutely LOVED it!

The Girl Who Could See

Isn’t that cover just gorgeous?

Here’s the first line:

Present Time

On television crime shows, they never tell you how cold it is.

Since this book is a little different than my usual pick for FLF, I’m going to share the back cover description as well:

All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but, what if she is the only one who can truly see?

Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that’s what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear normal, she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see.

Tristan was Fern’s childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man is not a hallucination after al—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.

Now it’s your turn! Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head on over and share your first line with these friends:

Andi @ Radiant Light

Carrie @ Reading Is My Super Power

Rachel @ Bookworm Mama

Sydney @ Singing Librarian Books

Robin @ Robin’s Nest

Katie @ Fiction Aficionado

Bree @ Bibliophile Reviews

Beth @ Faithfully Bookish

Amanda @ With A Joyful Noise

Jessica @ A Baker’s Perspective

Trisha @ The Joy of Reading

Jeanette @ C Jane Read

Molly @ Molly’s Cafinated-Reads

CJ @ Moments Dipped In Ink

Heather @ Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Sarah @ All the Book Blog Names are Taken

Lauraine @ Lauraine’s Notes

Tips To Maximize Your Time at a Writers’ Conference – Part 2

Tips to Maximize Your Time at a Writers Conference

Today I am continuing my tips for maximizing your time at a writers’ conference. If you haven’t had a chance to read Part 1 of this two-part post, you may do so by clicking HERE.

Tip #6

Be Sociable.

I know. Most writers (myself including) aren’t exactly the outgoing type who love making small talk with strangers. The good news about attending a writers’ conference is that you already have something in common with the person sitting next to you:  an interest in writing. Depending on the type of writers’ conference you may even have more in common (i.e. religion, genre). How does being sociable maximize your time? Speaking to people who sit next to you before and after the class starts allows you to make the most connections while you are there. It can be difficult (though not impossible) to catch people in the hallways or to talk while trying to enjoy your meal. Although you should definitely do this as well. The more people you talk to during the conference, the greater your chances of meeting those people with whom you will form a true connection that will last beyond the conference. If you don’t already know why these connections are important, check out this article on the subject.

Tip #7

Decide beforehand who you want to speak with and make a cheat sheet.

This begins with the faculty list. Aside from deciding who you want to make an appointment with (those are often limited), you should decide in advance which faculty it may be beneficial for you to chat with. Then go one step further. When you’re in the middle of the hallway trying to remember which class you wanted to attend next and whether it’s down Hallway A or in Courtyard B, and you suddenly notice that a faculty person you wanted to talk to is standing nearby sipping water from the refreshments table, you may recognize the opportunity to talk to this person, but will you remember what it was you wanted to ask them about? You’ve probably got 30 seconds to chat, start to finish. Are you ready? If you prepared a cheat sheet ahead of time, you are. A cheat sheet is paper you prepared before the conference with a list of names matched with one or two key questions that you stuck somewhere at the front of your binder or folded and tucked into your pocket for easy access. Just whip it out, skim the question to refresh your memory, tuck it away, and go take advantage of those 30 seconds! Bonus Tip:  There will be a lot of names and faces to remember. Copy/Paste the faculty photos next to their names for easier identification.

Tip #8

Pre-compose questions to ask fellow attendees during the conference.

This goes back to being sociable and making connections. It’s one thing to chat with people about how much they like their lunch. It breaks the ice. It’s another to figure out whether this is someone that will be a valuable relationship to carry forward beyond the conference. Do you want to make friends? Absolutely! But you also want to be aware of people who may be able to help you with your career as well as those whose career you may be able to help. The best way to figure this out is to ask key questions. Which questions you ask will depend on what type of writing you do and where you are in your career, but some starter questions might be, “Do you write (my genre) or know anyone who does?” and “Are you on social media?” and “Do you have a website/blog?” Those questions are fairly general. To come up with questions more specific to you, consider your current career status and goals. Once you have some questions in mind, write them out and take them with you to the conference. Then, in the morning, at lunch, and even during those few private moments in the bathroom, take the time to review your questions so that they come easily to mind when you’re facing the stranger across the table.

Tip #9

Bring snacks & water to avoid getting ill.

The hectic rush of the typical conference schedule can leave little to no time for hunting down the gift shop snack section (if there is one), let alone time to pop out for a quick meal. Most conferences do provide a meal or two depending on the schedule, but sometimes they aren’t as filling as you would like or the food simply isn’t to your liking (or you’re disappointed to note an ingredient you are allergic to included on the plate) and you find yourself skipping the main entree or side dish. Or perhaps you were just too nervous to eat breakfast that morning, or spontaneously decided to remain for the late night session you had planned to skip. Whatever the reason, you need to figure out something to silence the rumbling of your tummy, because skipping meals while enduring the marathon of a writers’ conference is just a recipe for catching every virus your fellow attendees brought with them. The last thing you need is to have a cold take you out of action on the final day of your much-anticipated (very expensive) conference because you let your body run down. So be prepared. Pack snacks you know will keep your energy levels high and carry a bottle of water everywhere you go!

Tip #10

Organize your papers in advance.

I’m going to be honest with you. In this digital age, chances are no one is going to ask to see a paper copy of your sample work or book proposal. BUT. If they do, do you really want to have nothing to show? Or do you want to be digging hopelessly through your briefcase trying to locate something? You don’t want to leave the impression that you are disorganized or unprepared. So bring one copy of your proposal, one copy of a sample of your work and a few copies of your one sheet if you have one. I prefer to organize mine in sheet protectors in my padfolio or in a very thin binder, but feel free to organize them in whatever way suits you. Just make sure they are organized. Oh, and bring a ton of business cards. If you are networking properly, those cards will go like gangbusters and you never know when someone will ask for one just as you’re stepping into an elevator. So have them in a place that is easily accessible on the go.

Tip #11

Print and mark a map of buildings, classrooms, dining room, and bookstore if there is one available beforehand to avoid getting lost.

Most conferences will provide maps of the facility in advance. I strongly suggest printing one out and marking which rooms each of the classes you plan to attend will be held in. I usually color code mine by placing a colored dot next to the class name on the schedule and a colored dot in the room on the map. That way I can see at a glance which room I need to be in for which class. If you are staying off-site, I also suggest printing a map of the route from your hotel to the facility and including any notes on parking that will help your first morning go more smoothly – especially using Google Maps (or similar) to calculate how long it should take you to drive between your hotel and the conference facility. Be sure to include time for making a wrong turn or circling the parking lot. Nothing will triple those butterflies like arriving late on your first day because the street signs weren’t clear or you had to wait for a space at the very far end of the Walmart-sized parking lot.


Viruses Don’t Respect Schedules

I apologize for my lack of interaction here lately. I try to get my posts scheduled far enough in advance to avoid illness interfering, but here my family is going on week 3 of War Against the Virus 2017 and I am officially behind schedule. You know I am seriously sick when I can’t even read. I can’t even consentrate on an Audible book. Forget putting together a comprehensive review. But fear not. Today I got some great meds from the doc and I have every hope of being up and going again soon. In the meantime, can you recommend any great history shows or rom-coms on Netflix/Hulu/Amazon?

Author Interview – Sondra Kraak

Author Interview Blog Title Image - Sondra Kraak

Today we are in for a special treat! Sondra Kraak has kindly agreed to share a little about herself and the behind the scenes of writing her latest release, Such a Hope the first book in her Paths of Grace series.


Such a Hope

Washington Territory, 1871

Anna Warren grew up on the seat of a wagon, the daughter of Seattle’s busiest freighter. After her father’s death—a tragedy away from home—she returns to their cabin on the outskirts of Seattle, seeking the sense of belonging that eluded her childhood. But will her desire to pray for miraculous healing for the sick and wounded endear or alienate her to the community? Her most aggravating challenger is also her staunchest defender and has brown hair and eyes, stands six feet tall, and farms with unchecked tenacity. Tristan Porter. This farmer her father had befriended holds more secrets than Yesler’s Mill holds logs.

When ugly rumors arise about her spiritual gift and her property, Anna fears her quest to find belonging will be thwarted.

Tristan holds the truth to set her free, but revealing it will require him to face the disappointments of his past and surrender his plans for the future—a sacrifice he’s not sure he can make.

If you haven’t already, you can check out my review of Such a Hope by clicking HERE

A little about Sondra

Sondra KraakA native of Washington State, Sondra Kraak grew up playing in the rain, hammering out Chopin at the piano, and running up and down the basketball court. Now settled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, she enjoys spending time with her husband and children, blogging about spiritual truths, and writing historical romance set in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She delights in sharing stories that not only entertain, but nourish the soul. Her debut novel, One Plus One Equals Trouble, was a Genesis semi-finalist (2015) and the winner of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Unpublished Women’s Fiction Award (2015).


Hi Sondra! Thanks so much for joining me today. Since you’ve already discussed much of the spiritual side of your novel in an interview with Toni Shiloh, I thought we’d stick to some fun, getting to know you and behind-the-scenes type of questions today.

I know that when I write I can often get munchy so I keep a bag of pretzel sticks on hand, along with some candy to reward myself at the end of a writing session. I’m curious, what’s your favorite snack to munch on while you write?

Chocolate chips. Peanut M&Ms. Gummy candy. It’s hard to write and eat at the same time unless it’s something I can pop into my mouth, like chocolate. Popcorn is my favorite snack, but I don’t eat it as I write. Sometimes I eat is as a distraction from writing.

Oooh. I love popcorn. My favorite is air-popped white popcorn with tons of salt.

I know some writers use different pen names for a variety of reasons. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Nope. It never crossed my mind, but it’s unfortunate I have a last name with a double vowel since most people don’t know how to pronounce double vowels. Kraak is pronounced crock, like crock pot. If I open a restaurant, I’m going to call it The Kraak Pot, and cook everything in crock pots. But if people pronounce my name like they usually do (crack), that name could be misleading, and I could get some interesting customers.

Ha ha ha! Oh I love that! I think I’d show up either way it was pronounced if only out of sheer curiosity. 

My love of writing definitely began with my childhood love of reading. What was your favorite book as a child?

I have many fond memories of my parents reading to me. My dad read Hardy Boys mysteries to me, and my mom read the Ramona Quimby series. But picture books are my favorite, and my children now use some of my old books. (See the picture below.)


I had a few of those on my childhood bookshelves, too! It’s so special how the love of reading gets passed from one generation to the next. My parents read Wilder’s Little House series to me and my grandmother read the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books to us whenever we spent the night at her house. I still have both sets. 

I have read some very different ways that various authors come up with the names for their characters. How do you select the names for your characters?

I don’t have a fancy process. I use what names come to mind or what names I like. I love the name Luke (hero in Two Ways Home). Tristan is named after my husband’s favorite movie hero (Tristan from Legends of the Fall). Claire sounds sophisticated to me, which fits my schoolteacher (One Plus One Equals Trouble). Barrett . . . that was random.

In Three Words and a Kiss (this year’s release), my hero Cam experiences an identity crisis. His safe, routine life is turned upside down when the owner of his blacksmith shop, Samantha Klein, comes to town. Samantha’s nickname is Sam. I wanted their names to rhyme so that Cam feels like even something as fundamental as his name is being stripped from him (she doesn’t like how their names sound alike and asks him to change his. What?! He’s not going for that).

Hmm. She doesn’t like their names sounding alike? Seems a little persnickety. I’m trying to picture the kind of woman who asks her employee to change his name for a reason like that. Also, the kind of woman who takes ownership of a blacksmith shop with a male employee in that time period. Sounds like Cam is going to have his hands full! 🙂

BTW – As Luke is my husband’s name, I’m kinda partial to it, too. 😉

Can you tell me something about your story that you think only a few people will know?

Speaking of names, here’s a little secret about Such a Hope. Anna’s name wasn’t Anna to begin with, and in my mind, she’s still not Anna. Her original name was Ruby, but then another indie author released a historical book Healing Ruby about a young girl named Ruby with the gift of healing. Even though the time period, voice, and story is so different from Such a Hope, I wanted to respect that author by not also releasing a historical romance about a girl named Ruby with the gift of healing. That might get confusing to readers. So Ruby became Anna.

Wow. That must have been difficult to adjust to. I’ve heard stories of publishers telling authors to change their character’s names and it always makes me shudder. These characters become so real to us as writers, it’s almost like someone asking me to change the name of one of my children. That said, I can definitely see why you made that tough decision and I applaud you for it. 

Such a Hope Quote Image 2

In a previous interview with Toni Shiloh you mentioned that you “edited out a bunch [of history] that ended up unnecessary to the story.” Can you share some of what you edited out?

A lot of that editing meant shortening scenes, for instance in the beginning when Tristan is talking with President Hall (who was a real person) from the Territorial University. I needed enough about the Morrill Act and farming inventions to show Tristan knew his stuff and was passionate, but not too much, else readers get bored. Same thing in other scenes where Tristan talks to farmers.

Also, I had to not get distracted by all the real people and places in my story. I didn’t want to inundate readers with extra information. One example is Conklin House, which is briefly mentioned several times. It was a beautiful building shipped from Georgia and had an internationally known proprietress who was rumored to cuss in seven languages. She even chased off some government surveyors once by throwing sticks and stones at them. Though it was a hotel and served as the courtroom and town hall for a while, it was also a brothel. The history is so interesting. The house will show up much more in my second book in the Paths of Grace series, but in Such a Hope, readers didn’t need to know all that history. I had to delete some descriptions and commentating.

In case readers are curious, these people and places that show up (or are mentioned) are real: Arthur Denny, Doc and Catherine Maynard, Dr. Smith, Carson Boren, Rev. Bagley, Thomas Mercer, Dexter Horton, Henry and Sarah Yesler, Captain McRedmond, Skid Row, Yesler Hall, Matthias and the Railroad House, Brown Church and White Church (yes, they were distinguished and called by their exterior paint colors). And all the towns, cities, and universities referred to. However, all words and actions in the story are entirely of my own imagining.

Wow. You have clearly done your research and I certainly appreciate the restraint you showed in deciding what to include and what to leave out. I think you did a great job giving me just enough information to understand what I needed to without ever feeling like I was being educated instead of entertained. Also, that is a long list of real people to include in one story, yet while reading the novel I had no idea so many of the characters were real. They blended in seamlessly with your fictional characters. Good job!

What’s your favorite part of being a writer?

Well, other than the relationships I’ve made with other authors (more on that in the next question), my favorite part of being a writer is creating stories. I like to think about characters and their wounds and desires and how Jesus will heal those wounds. And I love making two people fall in love because that’s such a beautiful process of coming to see another person in a deep and honest way (and being known in a deep, honest way). I often take notes during sermons through the eyes of a character, like “oh, that’s just what Lorna’s struggling with. This can be a break through moment for her!” Which is a bit funny to sit in a pew and apply the Word of God to imaginary people, but really, applying truth to my stories is a way to process that truth and apply it to my own life. That’s what fiction is about for me.

That’s awesome. Now I want to sit behind you in church and peek over your shoulder at your notes! 😉

Sondra Kraak Interview Promo Image

What other authors are you friends with and how did they help you become a better writer?

Jennifer Rodewald is probably the most influential author for me because she helped me choose the indie path (independent publishing). Watching her indie publish was the main reason I became interested in it. She’s also my critique partner, and her input into my stories and writings is invaluable. I’m also in a critique group with several other aspiring authors, and their friendship and encouragement is beyond compare. The people I’ve met through conferences, ACFW loops, and social media have enriched my life so much. The act of writing is done solo—others can’t write your story—but being a writer is not a solitary endeavor.

I love what you said at the end, there. That is so true. It’s like the saying about iron sharpening iron. In a healthy writing community, we all work together to make each other better and stronger. 

I’m always looking for new authors to read and one of the reasons I do so many book reviews and interviews is because I love sharing the news when I find a great one. Can you share another new or new-to-you author whose book you read this year and are excited about?

I’m reading Crystal Walton’s Write Me Home, and I love her voice. It’s sharp and witty, and she writes in deep point of view. You feel like you’re right there in the character’s mind. I’m also looking forward to reading Tammy Gray soon. I have some of her books on my kindle but haven’t gotten to them yet. My reading time is limited, so mostly I stick to authors whose voices I love and identify with and can learn from: Ronie Kendig, Susan May Warren, Denise Hunter, Karen Witemeyer, Tamera Alexander. After growing up on historical, I find myself reading way more contemporary now days. Interesting, huh?

I haven’t read anything by either Crystal or Tammy. Now I’ve added them to my list! 🙂 I do think it’s interesting that you are reading more contemporary lately. I find I naturally go through phases where I read just historical romance or just contemporary or even just dystopian or fantasy/sci-fi for a while and then I switch. 

Okay, that’s all the questions I have for today. Thank you so much for sharing with us, Sondra! It’s been fun getting to know you a little better.

Thank you graphic

Well readers, Did you enjoy the interview? Do you have any additional questions for Sondra? What was your favorite book as a child? Let me know in the comments below!



“The act of writing is done solo…but being a writer is not a solitary endeavor.” @SondraKraak #AuthorInterview – Click to Tweet!

The secret habit Sondra Kraak practices in church.  #AuthorInterview @SondraKraak ~ @KathleenDenly – Click to Tweet!

Why you might think twice before entering Sondra Kraak’s imaginary restaurant. #AuthorInterview ~ @KathleenDenly – Click to Tweet!

Bancroft Ranch House – My First Vlog!

Hi everyone! Today I have a very exciting new post for you! In previous posts, I’ve shared with you several of my favorite local historical sites, but lately I’ve been wishing you could be walking beside me as I visit and learn about these wonderful sites. So, I decided to try something new:  vlogging! I hope you enjoy this brief visit to the historic Bancroft Ranch House!

If you enjoyed this visit and would like to see me do more vlogs, please let me know by commenting below!


“Visit the #historic Bancroft Ranch House with @KathleenDenly!” – Click to Tweet!

Giveaway Winner! – A Lady In Disguise

Before I announce the winner, I want to say THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to comment and enter this giveaway. It’s a blessing for me when I receive free books to review and I so enjoy getting to pass that blessing on to my readers!

Now, I’d like to say a special CONGRATULATIONS to Connie Saunders, the winner of Sandra Byrd’s latest release, A Lady in Disguise! Her number was chosen by‘s Random Sequence Generator.

Congratulations, Connie! I know you will enjoy this story!

A Lady In Disguise - Giveaway Image

To read my review of A Lady in Disguise, CLICK HERE.