Interview with Devil in the Dust Award-Winning Author Cara Luecht

Today, award-winning author Cara Luecht joins us to talk about her her novel, Devil in the Dust. It’s set during the dust bowl. She took a difficult subject during a devastating time in our history and turned it into a realistic novel.

Devil in the Dust Cover

Cara, can you tell us how you decided to tackle such a difficult subject?

I think, as Christians, there is this pressure for everything to look like all is good with life. Almost as if struggling is equal to a lack of faith. But this is not how it is supposed to be. We are supposed to walk alongside each other when things get difficult.

I was doing some research when I realized that the dust bowl conditions in the central part of the US lasted for a decade. A decade! And people survived! I began to wonder what a minister’s job might look like in conditions like these—how does a person preach hope to people who have lost everything?

This novel was really my exploration of the place where suffering meets grace.

I love it that you’re tackling the difficult subjects. I agree there is pressure for Christian writers to write those types of books, but life is hard. Jesus even told us this life would be difficult. Thank you for not sugar coating a devastating time in American History.

Jessie, your main character is intriguing. Could you tell us a bit about her?

Jessie is a sixteen-year-old in poverty. She is the oldest of five children and is that strange mix of woman/child we all were. She is embarrassed by growing out of her shoes, she is attracted by new things and opportunity, but she also takes on more responsibility for her family’s well-being than she should. She wants to be independent but doesn’t trust her instincts, and because starvation looms, she doesn’t know if the most responsible move she can make is also the most rebellious and the most dangerous one.

She’s a character I would like. I love it when characters face impossible decisions. 

Researching the Dust Bowl and the people who lived through it must’ve been very difficult. How did this touch you?

This was, and I think primarily because the minister and his wife play large roles. I grew up in a pastor’s home, so I’ve watched my parents as they have had to deal with bad situations that were out of their ability to fix. It was during this novel when I realized how much of a burden and a privilege it is to be called to stand by people at their weakest point, knowing you can do nothing but be present.

So true. Sometimes the greatest blessings are coming alongside hurting people even when we cannot fix it. On the flip side, having someone be there when life is devastating is more of a blessing than they will ever know.

Do you have a favorite character in Devil in the Dust?

I think Jessie’s mother, Emma, is my favorite. She is so strong, yet somehow all of her insecurities, her worries over feeding her children, her concern over the changes she witnesses in Jessie—It all comes through in her character. As the parent of four children, 21, 20, 14, and 12, I think I related most to her.

Parenthood is the hardest job ever, and it doesn’t end when they are adults!

Do you have any hobbies, or should I ask do you have time for hobbies between writing, teaching college, and going to college for your Master’s of Divinity?

I do! I play piano and sing, of course, I read, I like to bake (but I don’t have too much time for that right now), and I can’t seem to stop crocheting slipper socks. Mostly, though, I look forward to the next time I am too sick to do anything, so I can binge some Netflix show without feeling guilty.

Wow! You are a busy woman. I don’t know how you find time to do it all.

Dust in the Devil may be fiction, but it’s based on a true time in our history. A devastating time. Did you develop any new insights into God’s character as you researched and wrote the story?

How much we are all called to community and how silly it is to let things stand in the way of that. While writing this, it struck me that we are here to support each other. That’s it. We are called to love and care and serve.

I think you summed up our calling as Christians in a very concise way. Love and serve.

When you were researching Devil in the Dust did you come across any unique stories of faith that inspired you?

I do not recall reading any stories of unique faith, but there was a sense, during the worst storms, that the drought was a judgment from God.

One story recalled the horrific mass killing of rabbits followed by an epic, black-out, storm. This storm was seen by many as the punishment for that killing.

While my faith does not lead me to believe that God is in the business of doling out earthly punishments, this sense of judgment was right in another way. The dust bowl was largely man-made. When farming began, the farmers thought they’d had a gold mine. The top soil was measured in feet, not inches. They plowed and harvested more and more land with no knowledge of the need to rotate crops. When the drought came—something the native people knew could happen—the land, stripped of nutrients, turned to a fine powder that sometimes blew all the way out to the Atlantic Ocean.

In essence, the farmers, with their belief that God had judged them, were right in a way. Not because God was displeased and chose to starve the people of the Oklahoma territory, but because we can, if we are not careful, outpace God’s blessings.

What incredible insight. Thank you so much for joining us at Roller Coaster Suspense, today!

Cara’s Bio and links:

Cara Leucht

Bio:

Award winning author, Cara Luecht, lives in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin with her husband, David, and their children. In addition to freelance writing and marketing, Cara works as an English Instructor for a local college. Cara graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Currently, Cara is studying for a Masters of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Cara has four published novels: Soul Painter, Soul’s Prisoner, and Gathered Waters, and Devil in the Dust. Soul Painter and Soul’s Prisoner will be joined by a third novel in the series, Soul’s Cry, in 2017.

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Review of Dirty Deeds by Christy Barritt

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Dirty Deeds 
a three and a half roller coaster read.

Warning: at the end of this review there is a minor spoiler. 

Gabby St. Claire and her fiancé Riley go away together for his law school reunion and conference. He asks her to promise not to get involved in any mysteries while they’re at the Healthy Springs resort. Of course, she can’t help but be get involved when one of his classmates goes missing.

Secrets abound. Riley has secrets from his past that he doesn’t want share. Gabby has more recent secrets. The dishonesty threatens to drive a wedge between the two.

I enjoyed reading Dirty Deeds. The mysteries are compelling and not terribly predictable. However there I had issues with several points in the novel.

The overuse of the words “mumbled” and “muttered” was distracting. Almost every character either muttered or mumbled several times.

Jackie, the woman who goes missing, and her boyfriend go to the conference together, but they have separate suites. I understood why Riley and Gabby had separate suites. They didn’t want the appearance of impropriety. However, Jackie and Clint aren’t Christians trying to follow their faith.

Many Christian novels have this unrealistic desire to sanitize the world instead of showing the realistic side of life. Clint and Jackie could’ve shared a room without making the novel unclean and it would’ve been much more realistic.

Veronica’s character made an abrupt change with only little influence. I felt her character was not well-developed and needed more fleshing out in order to feel like a real person with a real character arc.

********Spoiler Alert********

The killer murdered Doug after they had been there for several days. His reasoning was he feared Doug might recognize him as a part of a major case he and Jackie were working on as assistant DAs in Georgia. Why did he wait for several days? If Doug recognized him, he would’ve already alerted the authorities. It’s not logical for the killer to wait several days to get rid Doug.

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Review of Skin Care can be Murder by Cynthia Hickey

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Skin Care can be Murder —  a three roller coaster read.

In Skin Care can be Murder, Stormi Nelson once again finds herself in the midst of a murder mystery. She vows to stay out of it, but with her nosiness, she delves right back into searching for the killer with little regard for her own life.

When her sister decides to start selling cosmetics, Stormi accompanies her to her first party and a murder.

One of the girls has a deadly reaction, and Stormi decides to root out the killer even though it puts her and her family and friends at risk.

I enjoyed this story, but it did have some issues.

In the last book, Stormi traded her Mercedes on a Prius, but the Mercedes is mysteriously back in this book with no answer as to what happened to the Prius.

She also needed to do a little more research before publishing Skin Care can be Murder. This book dealt with prostitutes and the author kept calling their pimps, “Johns”. In one line, one of the characters said if she even thought about leaving, her John would punch her. I did a quick search to make sure I knew the correct terminology, but a “John” is a customer. Not the one who manages the prostitute.

There were also many typos, misused words, and missing words. A good proofreader or editor should’ve picked up on these. However, I do realize how easy it is to miss some of these things because the mind inserts what should be there instead of seeing what is actually typed.

If you enjoy cozy mysteries, Skincare can be Murder is a fun read. It’s a clean Christian book but isn’t preachy so even those who don’t enjoy most Christian fiction would probably like this one.

You can find this book on Amazon

 

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Review of Sapphire Secrets by Dawn Cahill

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From the back cover of Sapphire Secrets:

Filled with mystery, romance, and unforgettable characters, Sapphire Secrets is the story of a Seattle woman’s relentless pursuit of truth and God’s power to heal and transform broken lives.
Twins Livy and DeeDee McCreary open a dance studio in honor of their late mother, whom they lost when they were six. Problem is, Livy remembers nothing of the day her mother died. The more she questions her family about that awful day, the more she suspects she’s been lied to all her life. While she’s seeking answers to what really happened, she keeps crossing paths with handsome engineer Scott Lorenzo, who compels her to question the New Age philosophy she was raised on. What if there is a personal God out there who cares about her?
Before Livy can discover answers, a brutal accident interrupts her search. Her life flips upside down as she faces a future she is not prepared for. Yet the unanswered questions continue to haunt her. Can she find the strength to keep on with her quest, even if it means losing the two people most dear to her—her twin, and the man she loves?
2015 Finalist, ACFW First Impressions Contest

Since this story is not a suspense story, I’ve abandoned my Roller Coaster rating system. However, on Amazon, I will give the story four stars.

Livy McCreary struggles with the story of her mother’s death. She questions her family but doesn’t receive the answers she so desperately wants. In the midst of searching for the truth, she meets Scott Lorenzo who challenges her. As their friendship grows, she begins to question her New Age upbringing.

When a tragedy threatens to toss her entire life upside down, her focus turns inward. Through her grief, she must decide whether to continue the quest for answers at the risk of losing those dearest to her.

The author weaves a compelling story about a young woman on a quest for answers. As she searches for the truth about her mother’s death, her family cannot understand why she can’t leave it alone and accept what she’s been told.

The characters were realistic. A couple of the women in the book were quite content to have a string of one night stands. One was very devious, especially where men were concerned. The Christian characters were flawed and human. They made mistakes along the way. The author didn’t sanitize the story – not even the Christian characters. For me, this made them much more compelling and likable.

That being said, since this is a story of Livy’s faith journey, several characters present the gospel to her. For some readers, this may feel preachy.

If you enjoy journey of faith stories, you’ll find Sapphire Secrets a well-written and compelling story.

Amazon

Dawn V. Cahill

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Review of Killer Plot by Cynthia Hickey

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Killer Plot by Cynthia Hickey – a four roller coaster read.

In Killer Plot, New York Times best-selling author Stormi Nelson is once again
thrown into a real-life mystery.

After bumbling through solving the murder of a woman she tripped over, Stormi receives e-mails threatening her if she doesn’t hurry up and finish her next book.

The cyber-stalker is intent on Stormi completing her book in record time and getting it published.

As the cyber-stalker ramps up the terror and threats, Stormi decides she must find the stalker no matter the cost.

Her hunky boyfriend Detective Steele tries his best to talk her into allowing the police department to solve the case, but even though she knows she’s hurting him, she continues to search for her stalker.

Stormi is a likable character even though at times, I would like to shake her for her insistence in sticking her nose in where it doesn’t belong. She’s headstrong and independent even if it means risking her life.

The story was well-written and fun. If you like cozy mysteries, this is one that is worth reading. However, there were several typos and a few grammar problems.

In one instance, Stormi asks a neighbor who is also a writer how the self-publishing is going. It almost came across as a slam to self-publishing authors. I have read some great stories self-published by good authors. One the other hand, I’ve tried to read some that were horrible and I couldn’t make it through the first chapter, but the same can be said for traditional publishing.

Overall, if you enjoy quirky, cozy mysteries, this one is a good read.

You can find Killer Plot on Amazon.

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Review of Anything for a Mystery by Cynthia Hickey

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Anything for a Mystery by Cynthia Hickey – A four roller coaster read.

Stormi Nelson, a bestselling romance author, heads up the neighborhood watch program in her community after her agent tells her she needs to mingle more in order to keep her characters fresh.

While patrolling the neighborhood, she stumbles over a dead body thrusting her in the midst of a real-life mystery. To complicate matters, her hunky neighbor Detective Steele is assigned to the case.

Not long after the detective leaves her house, a U-Haul pulls up with her mother, sister, niece, and nephew. They’ve decided to move into her beautiful Victorian home with her.
The story is a fun read. Stormi is a likable, yet insanely nosy character. Her nosiness gets her into trouble at every turn.

The story is a clean read, yet the characters aren’t sanitized to the point of being almost perfect. In fact, Stormi is far from perfect. She won’t leave well-enough alone and keeps meddling in an ongoing police investigation.

I knocked off one roller coaster for lack of research. She talks about marching into the FBI headquarters to find out if her neighbors are in witness protection. The FBI is not in charge of WITSEC. Witness protection is under the purview of the US Marshall’s Office.

Also, when Stormi questions the detective about whether the neighbors are in Witness Protection or not, she gets her answer by his stiffening. In reality, local law enforcement doesn’t know whether someone is in the program or not. The US Marshall’s Office keeps that information confidential. If local LEOs knew when a family was in the program, it would put the family at risk.

There were also some typos and a couple of grammar issues, but in spite of these problems, the story was an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone who likes cozy mysteries.

You can find this book on Amazon.

 

 

 

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Light in Darkness

Light in Darkness

John 8:12 “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

Our pastor is teaching a series on “I am” from the Bible. On a recent Sunday morning, he spoke on John 8:12. When I got home, I downloaded success secrets for writers from Ted Dekker. As I was listening to him, he spoke about this same verse. As a result, LIGHT has become my word of the year. I’m striving to remember He is the light of my life.

Jesus provides light in the darkness, but since He is in us, we have the light of life. That light is inside of us because He dwells in our hearts. We have the ability to allow His light to shine in this dark world, or we can dim and hide His light.

What I’ve found in my life, is I often dim His light. I focus on the cares of this world. I listen to the news. The stock market is down. Terror alerts are high. Drug abuse is rampant. Christians around the world face persecution and murder. Human trafficking is higher at this point than ever before in this world. Stories of murders, child abuse, animal abuse, and homelessness flood the airwaves.

Instead of focusing on the Creator, I start to focus on the fallen world. While I’m not saying I need to be an ostrich with my head in the sand, I do need to listen to the news from a Biblical perspective. If I allow the evil in the world to depress me and fill me, my light cannot be seen. In order for me to allow that to happen, I have to take my eyes off of Jesus. Once I take my focus off Him, I cannot reach out to those who are hurting. I can’t make a difference in the lives of those who are suffering.

When I remember the sacrifice Jesus made to pay for my sins, it draws my focus back to my Savior, but too often, I don’t dwell on the price He paid for me. My goal for this year is to focus on the truth and the Light. Not on the world.

Do you find that you have problems focusing on Jesus instead of the world? How do you cling to Him in order for you light to shine? I would love to hear your stories!

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His Grace is Sufficient

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

Quite a few years ago I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. It was quite a blow because I was a very active young woman. I took Tae Kwon Do, weight lifted, and played hard when I wasn’t working.

The fatigue and pain of the disease slammed me hard. I didn’t want to deal with the disease. Or any disease for that matter. I wanted to work hard and play hard.
One night as I contemplated the consequences of living with a chronic disease, I asked God to heal me. After all, he’s the God of the universe. All powerful. He could heal easily heal me.

Instead of healing my body, he gave me the above verse. He did, however, heal my broken heart. When he reminded me that he wouldn’t waste this hurt but would use it for his glory, I began to understand that in spite of having a chronic illness that makes me hurt and tired, God can still use me.

I wish I could say that I always have a positive attitude when it comes to my health issues, but the truth is, some days I get down and wish they would just go away. It always seems when I’m having a pity party, God shows me a way that he has used me in the midst of my disability.

I strive to maintain satisfaction no matter what my lot because God is bigger than my problems, and he won’t leave me to struggle on my own.

Do you have an area you struggle with? If so, I’d love to hear about it and to encourage you to keep fighting the good fight.

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A New Thing

“See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19 NIV

Sunflower

Perhaps in 2015 you wandered through the wilderness or your life felt as though it had been laid bare. A wasteland with no hopes of change. In the midst of your pain, take heart. God has not abandoned you in the wasteland nor forgotten you in the wilderness.

In my younger years, I ran from God. I’m still not sure why, but I decided I could manage my life with no help from Him. When my life fell apart, I didn’t feel I could reach out to God at that time since I’d messed up. I thought I needed to get my life together before I could return to the Lord.

As a Christian, I should’ve known I couldn’t get my life together on my own. I had a front row seat at my path of self-destruction as I ran through the wasteland of my life, but I still struggled to fix the unfixable.

The harder I tried to put my life back together, the worse things fell apart. I sunk into a deep depression. At my lowest, I wanted to die. Life wasn’t worth living. I couldn’t figure out how to step out of the wilderness on my own, so I decided just going to my heavenly home would be for the best.

However, God had other plans for my life. He never left me alone. He pursued me through the wilderness and through the wasteland.

Not only did He pursue me, He did a new thing in my life. He made a way out of the wilderness and wastelands that I had created. When I relinquished the control to repair my life to the God of the Universe, He led me away from the despair.

My life isn’t perfect. I still make mistakes and mess things up, but I’ve found my joy and my hope in the Creator who never abandoned me.

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Is There a Threat to Religious Freedom?

Stained GlassIs there a threat to religious freedom? In the US? Until a recent bout of Twitteritis, I would’ve said no way.  But a large number of folks on Twitter convinced me otherwise by voting favor of shutting down all Mosques in the United States in a Twitter poll by Charles V. Payne.

While I don’t agree with allowing refugees we cannot vet into our country because at least some radicals will slip in with the others, I don’t believe we should have a scorched earth policy and eliminate all Mosques.

The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Because radical Muslims have committed atrocious acts, if we close every mosque, even those who are more moderate, in the country by saying the Quran teaches hate, what is next? Synagogues? Christian churches? Buddhist temples? Hindu temples?

Those looking for a reason to divest our country of any and all religion will find a way to associate hate with all religions. I did a quick search of the words “eliminate” and “religion” on Twitter and found a large number of people calling for the US to eliminate religion. All religion. They attribute hate to Christianity and many have said all religion must go if we are to ever have peace.

If we allow this to happen, before long we will find ourselves in the midst of a country that not only has no religious freedoms but in fact, squashes all religious speech and thought. Thereby infringing not only on the right to free exercise of religion, but also freedom of speech, and the right to peaceably assemble.

As a Christian, I have friends in other countries who have been jailed for having a Bible. Their church services were small groups meeting together in secret — always in fear of having the police arrest them for their faith. This thought terrifies me.

We must use due diligence in protecting our country. With the rise of radical Islam and the recruiting of young people in our country, we need to monitor and quash all terroristic threats, but closing a Mosque will not stop people from meeting together.

In the former USSR Christians met together despite the fact only government authorized churches were allowed. The government was unable to stop them from following their faith. In the US, if we eliminate all Mosques, those of Muslim faith will only go underground to meet. This could make it even harder to monitor and stop radicals.

Eroding the Bill of Rights, our country’s basic tenets, destroys the foundation of the United States and opens the door to erasure of each of the rights granted to us by the Constitution.

 

 

 

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