Monday, February 20, 2017

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller | Re:View

A surprising tale of strength, beauty, and deception. Daughter of the Pirate King will entertain and delight readers with witty banter, sword fights, and treasure. 

*** 

I requested this book on a whim. I mean...I like stories about pirates and the cover intrigued me so I went for it. I honestly don't think I even read the description (as you all know I like to do). And I was pleasantly surprised. I definitely want to get my hands on a hardback version!

From the beginning, I knew I was going to love Tricia Levenseller's voice and her complex character Alosa. I found myself pulled in and flipping pages as quickly as I could. Many nights I was up past my bedtime just to get in "one more page" which turned into chapters when all was said and done.

I really enjoyed following Alosa's story. As is a danger to most writers when writing in first person, a reader can become bogged down by the characters thoughts and desires but here I found hers to be helpful, informative, and easy to relate to. Alosa is a cunning and complex character and a whole lot of fun. As there is a romantic element, I'll also mention that Riden's character was intriguing to me. I won't say much more on this so you can make your own opinions, but I liked his character.

As for the plot and plot elements, I am a fan! At times, due to the circumstances that Alosa finds herself in, there is some repetition, but I honestly wasn't bothered by it. I felt as if Levenseller did a great job progressing the story so that, at a time where I would expect to get bored, something else would happen and pull me through. Thumbs up for that!

There were only a few things I wasn't a huge fan of. After the start of the book, I felt as if there was a lot of telling vs. showing. It's complicated by the situation Alosa finds herself in so I understand why it's that way, but sometimes it felt like she was thinking things to explain a situation, giving more information because we needed to know details in order for it all to make sense. I don't know if I have a great way around that fact because of the plot so, personally, I let this slide and just took the information for what it was. I also wasn't a huge fan of the violence because this is labeled as YA. Now, I've read much more violent books, but they weren't marketed as a fun YA read. Yes, I understand the reality of pirate life is messy and at times violent, but I think there were creative ways around the violence that Levenseller chose to ignore. Eh, just a personal opinion.

So, my recommendation: If you enjoy a good pirate tale that includes romance (because this certainly does) and some light-hearted elements of danger, then I really think you'll like this. It's entertaining, surprising, and an overall easy read. It's definitely not a 'dark' book and I found myself laughing quite frequently. If you aren't a huge fan of romance threads or are looking for a more gritty pirate tale, then this may not be for you.

*A note for my clean readers: Though this is still considered YA I would rate it more at a 17+ for violence and romantic elements.

My rating: 4.5*
Purchase: Daughter of the Pirate King

Book Description
(from Amazon)

There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I've gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map―the key to a legendary treasure trove―seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.
_______________
I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own. 


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Be a kid by Paula Mowery | Guest Post

Emilie here: I'm excited to introduce you to Paula Mowery as she talks about creating characters for children's books!

Be A Kid


As an author of two women’s fictions and six romances, I’m no stranger to creating characters. Of course, bringing women to life isn’t a struggle since I am one. Now, men characters can pose some challenges, but I do interact with men and live with one in particular, my hubby of twenty-seven years.

Recently, I started creating a children’s chapter book series. The main character is a feisty little girl named Chloe Ann Parker. My first idea for this character came from a little girl at my church, whose personality and cute looks are reflected in Chloe.

But then came the hard part. The story is told from Chloe’s point of view. I needed to write it as a child for children.

The following are tips and things I’ve learned in this journey to write like Chloe:

A child character needs to talk like a child. I work at an elementary school, so the first thing I did was to listen to the kids converse with one another. There are times I don’t write something in perfect grammar, because a child of Chloe’s age hasn’t reached that level of fluency yet.

A child has a different perspective than an adult. A child sees issues from how they specifically affect him or her. I had to think on that level and not just transfer an adult reaction to the child character.

What’s important to a child is often different than an adult. Children notice different things. They see things in light of what they can accomplish. They see things in their innocence.

Children learn different lessons. The themes and lessons learned are not to the level of an adult. Children aren’t ready to learn sophisticated lessons. They are still learning about the basics like what it takes to be a friend, what potential they have in math or spelling, and what’s for lunch.

At the beginning of this school year, I asked one of the first-grade teachers if we could pretend that Chloe was in her class. I would get her students in on it. The teacher and I sent home a permission form to use the first names of the kids in the class. Though it is often hard to get papers back from home, we received every one of those forms. I meet with the class every Friday afternoon before I leave. I normally arrive with questions about what they are doing in class or I pose questions about what they would tell Chloe in a particular situation. I then utilize their answers and create a post on my writing blog for kids. The kids give me answers and insights into their minds that make Chloe come to life as a first grader.

Part one of The Adventures of Chloe Ann Parker – First Grade is out just in time for Valentine’s Day. But don’t miss the first book from kindergarten. That first chapter book introduces readers to Chloe. But I am quite excited about this first-grade edition, since the first graders’ names from Mrs. Taylor’s class will appear in print.

In conclusion, I suggest if you create a child character, you hang out with children of that similar age. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to immerse yourself and just be a kid!
_____

Paula Mowery has always been an avid reader of Christian fiction, especially romances of all sub-genres. She holds a Master of Education and taught English/Language Arts in public school and then came home to educate her own daughter, first through twelfth grades. She teaches at writing conferences such as the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. TAG, Tomorrow’s Author Guild, is a pilot program she is currently creating in which she teaches and designs writing lessons to encourage young writers as well as assisting teachers with writing instruction.

Paula is a published author in Christian fiction. One reviewer stated that her writing “thunders with emotion.” Her novella, Be The Blessing, won the 2014 Selah Award. Her story, The Prayer Shawl, from the book, Legacy and Love, was a finalist in The Carolyn Readers’ Choice Awards from North Texas Romance Writers of America. Her devotions have also been included in several devotional anthologies. Connect with her on her blog, www.paulamowery.blogspot.com.

T. A. G. stands for Tomorrow’s Author Guild. The goal of this program is to encourage the writers of the future. Because lack of purpose can equal lack of motivation, writing lessons are created and taught with the aim of sparking interest in the student and providing a platform in which to practice good writing skills. The writing lessons are created to help alleviate some of the pressure and demands of teachers so that they can accomplish the writing objectives in fresh ways. www.getkidswriting.blogspot.com

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Steen Jones {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Steen...

I was born and raised in Woodstock, Georgia. While I may have only recently rediscovered my passion for writing, I have always considered myself an artist and a storyteller. A couple of years ago, a story idea gripped me and wouldn’t let go until I wrote it all down. The Door Keeper is my debut novel and I can’t wait to pursue all of the other stories that have built up in me over the last three and a half decades.

When I'm not writing, reading, painting, or baking, I love spending time binge watching TV shows with my husband and playing in the pool with my two children at our home in North Georgia.

Connect with Steen...

Blog/website: thedoorkeepertrilogy.com
Goodreads: steenjones
Facebook: www.facebook.com/thedoorkeepertrilogy/
Twitter: @steenjones
Instagram: @thedoorkeepertrilogy
Pre-order: The Door Keeper 

Get to know Steen...

You and Writing


I've had a interesting journey with writing over the last thirty five years. I've only recently been reminded of my love for writing as a kid. Going through all of my stuff stored in my parents attic, I found illustrated books I wrote in elementary school and the English award I received for the 6th grade. However, it was never something I actually considered pursuing as a profession or even hobby. Drawing and painting took precedence and I studied those, letting writing fall to the wayside.

Over the past six years, however, writing became my coping mechanism. Having married young and given birth to two special needs children, journaling everyday became the way I managed and sifted through my emotions and helped keep me sane through a rather difficult period. It was only when a story idea gripped me that I actually considered writing something other than just in my journal.

The story for The Door Keeper was actually inspired by a real door I drove by one day. It was a free standing door, unattached to anything I could see and quite peculiar. I allowed my imagination to run free one day, imaging Narnia on the other side. Suddenly a story began to form and over the next four or five years, I would randomly think about it and jot more notes in my phone. Bored on day in January 2015, I wrote the outline for the first half of the book and actually got excited enough to start writing it. I didn't tell anyone what I was doing until I was about ten thousand words in. At that point, I knew I might have something.

Your Writing 

Do you have a favorite character in this work?
Absolutely. I adore Gabby, my main character's daughter. It's easy to love her because I based her on my own daughter. Her beauty, talent, and funny quirks. Writing Gabby was one of the easiest things I've ever done.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with? 
I hope my readers come away with the understanding of the dangers of living in fear. Fear is destructive and manipulative and allowing it to control your decisions can lead to an upsetting path.

What's the theme? How did you come up with it? 
My theme and tension in the book is the delicate balance of motherhood and destiny. I love the idea so much because as a mother and business owner, this is something I wrestled with for years, and still do honestly. I wanted to write a book that I could love and identify with, and what's better than mixing real life and magical worlds?

Is there a funny story associated with writing the book? 
Well, it was funny to me after the fact. I was at the lake with my family while writing one of the more intense parts of the book. I was sitting on the dock and in the middle of writing one of the major action sequences and got called in for dinner. I was so hyped up by what was happening in the story and mad that I couldn't continue to write what happened next, I slammed my computer down and almost threw it into the lake. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed. It was such a terribly wonderful cliff hanger, I decided to leave it that way. So hopefully, you get as mad at me as I did that day, if you have to put the book down at that spot.

Did you get to do any fun research for the book? 
Oh my heaven yes. I set much of the book in Italy, specifically the Amalfi coast. I have yet to go, (trip is in the works,) so my research days being immersed in Positano, Sorrento, and Capri were some of my favorite days. Almost everything I wrote about in those cities actually exist, so I wanted it to be as accurate as possible without having been there myself.

We're your characters easy to pin down or did you discover them along the way as you wrote the book?
 It was funny, I actually based most of my characters on people in my life. Turns out, they were all just a spring board because as the book progressed, they all took on a life of their own. It was an interesting process to watch and I didn't expect it. The story was the same way. I would sit down on some days and prepare for a certain scene, but end of writing something completely different. Sometimes, I swore my fingers had a mind of their own.

What's the most random thing you had to Google for the story? 
Ground sloths. Bus routes from Naples to Sorrento. Studies of Floriculture. Archaic weaponry. Just to name a few.

Writing

How long did you write before you got published? 
Before I say, just remember that for whatever reason, my story is an anomaly and feel free to be mad, angry or frustrated at me. I give you permission. And don't worry, I feel guilty sometimes telling people knowing what most people go through in this industry! Also remember, I chased down small indie publishers and didn't have the patience to wait for an agent or big publisher to notice me. I wrote the outline for The Door Keeper on January 11, 2015, sold it in March of 2016, and it will be released on February 20, 2017. It took me a year to write/edit, then a year for publication.

What's your encouragement for younger writers? 
Obviously, I can't speak into the long suffering pursuit of being an author, nor will I front like I can. But having raised two special needs kids, pursuing multiple careers, starting two different businesses, running one of them for five years, and being married for over fifteen years...I can speak into pursuing your dreams. If you have a passion, no matter what it is, be content and find joy doing it as a hobby on the side. Trust God's timing and him to provide the opportunities when you are ready for them. He knows so much more than we do.

What did you learn along the path to publishing that you'd care to share as encouragement? 
Now, this I can speak into. There is no wrong way to do this! There are benefits to being published by a large, well known publisher, and benefits for smaller indie publishers, same with self-publishing. I would encourage you to absorb info from all platforms and formulate for yourself what is best for you! Don't be afraid to take a path less traveled.

What does your writing process look like? 
In the morning, my writing sessions consist of coffee, blankets, music, and my dogs cuddled up on the couch with me. In the evening, there is a bed and a glass of wine.

Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters? 
I already mentioned I find my character inspiration in the people closest to me, heaven help them. Same with story, there are so many scenes in the book that are my real life. But I have to tell you, some of the best ideas and brainstorms have happened in the bath. Anytime I have a block or can't figure out to go next, I get in the bath. It's so weird, like my brain opens up in water. I'm sure there is something scientific about it...maybe I should google it?

You

What's one thing you are looking forward to this year? 
I can't wait for February 20th. I can't wait to be able to tell people where they can buy my book. I'm just going to be so annoyingly happy through this whole process.

What are your writing goals for this New Year? 
I'm already half way through writing the first draft of the sequel to The Door Keeper. So, I'm really hoping to finish writing it and attempt to have it out before next Christmas...fingers crossed!

What are you currently reading? 
I'm super excited to be starting the Harry Potter series this month. Don't judge! Better late than never, right?! 

The Door Keeper

Adventure. Love. Destiny. 

Single mom Eden Saunders has learned that tragedy is simply a part of life. Her mother died during childbirth, and her husband was killed just three years after they married. On a journey to discover where she comes from, Eden inherits the key to unlocking new worlds from her deceased mother—including the world that should have been her home. The only thing stopping her from exploring them is the fear of leaving her daughter behind. Caught up in the circle of legacy, Eden discovers the mother-daughter bond that even death cannot break.

Click here or visit Royal James Publishing’s Facebook page to enter to win a signed copy of, The Door Keeper by Steen Jones and a $20 Amazon gift card.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Cathy Liggett & N.J. Donner | New Novel News

The Sister's of Sugarcreek
 by Cathy Liggett

Published: February 1, 2017
Publisher: Tyndale House
Purchase: The Sisters of Sugarcreek

Many lives were changed the day a fire burned down Faith Community Church, devastating the small town of Sugarcreek, Ohio.



Now a young Amish widow, Lydia Gruber faces an uncertain future. Her husband, a craftsman and volunteer firefighter, always took care of everything, keeping her isolated from others in their community. Without anyone or any skills, how will she survive?



With the death of her beloved aunt Rose in the fire, single mom Jessica Holtz inherits Rose’s Knit One Quilt Too cottage. Though determined to keep the shop open in her aunt’s memory, she doesn’t know the first thing about knitting and quilting and begins to see her aunt’s dream slip through her fingers.



When Liz Cannon lost her dear friend Rose, she also lost her partner in the Secret Stitches Society—the name they gave themselves while delivering gifts of hope to troubled folks in the dark of night. Liz convinces Jessica to keep the anonymous society going, despite the younger women’s inadequacy with knitting and sewing needles. But soon Liz has problems of her own as the life she has rebuilt for herself begins to crumble again.



When Liz and Jessica choose Lydia for their first mission, the three women cross paths and form an unlikely friendship in the aftermath of tragedy. As they walk together through triumph and heartbreak—through grief and new chances at love—they begin to discover that with friends by your side, a stitch of hope can be found anywhere.

Get to know Cathy...

If you're main character celebrated Halloween, what would they dress up as?

There are 3 women in Sisters:

Lydia - since she's Amish, I think she should dress up as an Englischer

Liz - as Julia Child (she loooves to cook!)

Jessica - something ghoulish and scary for this single mom because believe it or not, in the book Jessica, her son Cole, and former best friend (soon to be more than that) Derek go to the school's Halloween Creepy Carnival and Derek reminds her how when they were kids she'd dress up in a scary costume and she'd jump out from behind things and try to scare him.

“I think she was trying to scare me away,” Derek said in a side whisper to Cole.
 

“Mommy tried to scare you?” Her son looked confused.
 

“Yeah, but I guess it never worked. I’m still here.” He chuckled at his own joke.
 

“I wasn’t trying to scare you away—it was just . . . you never seemed to mind.”
 

Which was the truth. Whereas other friends of hers back then might’ve thought she was weird, or uncool, and not understood she was just having fun, Derek simply accepted everything about her. Always. 

What's your favorite chore?
I'd say mowing the grass because it's not year round like laundry, you get to be by yourself and think, and sometimes when I'm out there getting all dusty and sweaty, I like to pretend that I'm a farmer's wife instead of a happily married suburbanite.

What are the names of your pets?
We have a boxer mix named Chaz that we rescued when she was one and a half years old. Yes, SHE. I personally don't think of Chaz as a female name (is it?), but we didn't want to change it and possibly confuse her, so we stuck with it.

Connect with Cathy: http://www.cathyliggett.com/

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The Blue Moon Narthex
by N. J. Donner

Published: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Steel Pages Press, LLC
Purchase: The Blue Moon Narthex


--> World War I is over. While the world rejoices, the battle to balance good and bad Karmanic energy rages on invisible to most people. Three teens find themselves hurtled across space and time into this conflict.

Many books have been written about the battle between good and evil, about dark forces trying to take control of the earth. What if there was a secret legion working to maintain the balance of good and bad in the world? What if it took such a legion of people to balance the Karma of the universe?

As young adults come of age and seek to find their places, and parents strive to instill values of thinking of others and working for the good of society, they need heroes they can look up to. Cole, Sophie and Britten are apparently normal teens. YA readers ready for new characters to love and big adventures to keep them turning pages, will connect with the three friends as they set out to solve mysteries left in the wake of train wreck and discover their part in the bigger story.

Get to know N. J....
 
If your book became a movie, who would you cast for your main characters?
I don’t have perfect actors that fit the main characters, but I picture very specific actors in some of the supporting roles:

Norm: Steve Bushemi. He’s skinny and goofy, but his range as an actor is vast.
Nigel Chabbet: Christoph Waltz. The best bad guy in the history of movies.
Maximus Dalton (Max): Michael Caine. Caine carries an air of wisdom and could portray a humble leader.

Favorite season? 
Has to be spring. My family and I are big campers and outdoorsy people. The winter in Nebraska gets long and when it does finally warm up, we’re very excited to get out and go on adventures.  
 
If your main characters were animals, what would they be?
Not too many people know, but the three main characters are based on my three kids. How they act and who they are in the story is based on their personalities. I let them answer this one.

Cole: He wants to be a panda
Sophie: She wants to be a white tiger.
Britten: He wants to be a monkey

I’m not sure if these portray the characters in The Blue Moon Narthex exactly, but these are their favorite animals.

Cats or dogs or both? 
That is hard to answer. Right now, my family has a German Shepard (Elka), a yellow lab (Gunner), and crazy cat (Cooper). The newest member of our family is a bearded dragon (Alibaster). You could say all animals, since we’re on the verge of starting our own domestic animal zoo.

Connect with N.J.: https://www.facebook.com/njdonner/

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Unblemished by Sara Ella | Re:View

Unblemished is a breathtaking story of love and bravery wrapped in a magical, fairytale world with elements of truth for all. 

*** 

Sara Ell's imagination is boundless. From the minute I opened the pages of this book until the very end I was transported to a world where anything is possible, nothing is as it seems, and love conquers all.

I loved Eliyana's character and transformation through this story. From her struggle with wanting to be loved to her passion for music, I resonated with her and couldn't wait to see what would happen.

And oh what a journey. I won't say much here because I don't want to spoil anything but MY OH MY Sara killed it with regards to this books amazing plot. There is a lot to set up and understand when creating a fantasy novel, but she did so in such an amazing, imaginative way. I found myself talking out loud to the book (I can't be the only one who does that...) during some parts just wondering what was going to happen.

@createexploreread
I also really loved Sara's writing style. It's fresh, relatable, and deeply personal. After reading this book I feel like I know Eliyana--that we're friends. To me, that's what makes or breaks a first person story - the main character. I so appreciated how Eliyana's character was written in a way that allowed me to know her and to struggle with her, but not to be burdened by her (if you know what I mean).

If you love YA Fantasy's you will flip over this book - seriously! That ending - oh man! But, even if you aren't usually a fan, I would highly recommend this book to anyone. There is a beautiful truth written into these pages and a deeper sense of strength and bravery woven throughout the story that all will enjoy.

My rating: 5*
Purchase: Unblemished

Book Description
(from Amazon)
Eliyana can’t bear to look at her own reflection. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world exists where her blemish could become her strength?

Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her like he does: normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird. Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?
_______________
I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Katie Clark | Author Chat


Welcome to the blog. Hope you have a cup of coffee (or tea) because I'd like to introduce you to...


Katie Clark who started reading fantastical stories in grade school and her love for books never died. Today she reads in all genres; her only requirement is an awesome story! She writes young adult speculative fiction, including her YA supernatural, Shadowed Eden. You can connect with her at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

So, let's get real...
 
What's your favorite fandom?
This one is SO TOUGH! I adore the Lord of the Rings (who doesn’t?!), but I’m also creepily fascinated by The Walking Dead. In the end, I guess I’d have to go with Lord of the Rings. Aragon is so stinking heroic, I just can’t help myself.

What’s one thing you must have/do in the morning?
Breakfast. Immediately upon waking. My husband and kids have never understood this, and they can go hours without eating. Me? I need food, and ASAP!

If you were a superhero, what would be your super power?
I know this one immediately. Teleportation. I hate the time it takes to go from one place to another. How awesome would it be to just be there?!

What's one chore you hate doing?
Only one? I guess I’ll go with dishes. Dirty dishes are just…gross.

Which of your characters do you secretly have a crush on? 
My first published series was the Enslaved Series. It’s a dystopian trilogy, and one of my main characters is Fischer. Yes, I love him. <3 br="">
Name one song/artist you're embarrassed you like. 
Here’s something that makes me weird—I don’t typically listen to music. Period. But, sometimes I do. And when I do, I am strangely drawn to a good revenge song (think Carrie Underwood’s Before He Cheats). I have never even been cheated on, y’all, so I’m not sure what the deal is. But every time I hear a song like that, I’m like, “Yeah! You get ‘em!” Go figure.

Shadowed Eden
by Katie Clark 

Avery Miles is ready to spread her wings and prove her worth on a church mission trip to Iraq, but when their entourage gets blown off course in a desert dust storm, the group is lost in an inexplicable garden oasis. Along with the luscious fruits and crystal springs, Avery and her friends find poisonous snakes, deadly sink holes, and a group of natives that are almost unearthly-but that's not their biggest problem. No matter which way they trek, they can't seem to leave.

Check out the book trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGl3i7ZhJLs  
Purchase: Shadowed Eden

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Robin Patchen {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Robin...

Robin Patchen is an award winning multi-published author, but only because she can't pursue her other dream.

If time and money were no object, Robin would spend her life traveling. Her goal is to visit every place in the entire world--twice. She longs to meet everybody and see everything and spread the good news of Christ. Alas, time is short and money is scarce, and her husband and three teenagers don't want to traipse all around the world with her, so Robin does the next best thing: she writes. In the tales she creates, she can illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story.

Connect with Robin...

Website: http://robinpatchen.com 
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5187882.Robin_Patchen
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RobinPatchen/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/robinpatchen
Purchase: Twisted Lies

Get to know Robin...

You and Writing 

It takes courage to write.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a young girl taking in the world of beauty—the towering oaks, the bluest skies, the whisper of the breeze through the trees of my small New Hampshire town. I longed to capture those impressions with words, but I had no idea how. I grew older, and my vocabulary improved as my confidence waned. By the time I reached high school, I believed I could never be good enough to make a living as a writer. I went to college and studied Hotel and Restaurant Management. That lasted precisely one semester, during which I decided that if calculus was required for a business degree, then business wasn’t for me.

I transferred and switched to journalism. It wasn’t exactly the writing I wanted to do, but it was a step in the right direction. Journalism morphed into public relations and landed me a marketing job after college. Marriage happened, then children and quitting work and home schooling. Something else happened in those years. God pulled me out of that hole of self-doubt and infused me with the belief that He created me for a purpose, and I was valuable even if I failed.

I was forty years old when I started my first novel. Even at that age, with all that God-confidence, it still took courage to try it, more to let anybody read it. I finally had the courage, and it came when I realized that whenever I fell—and I inevitably would—I would always land in God's strong arms.


Your Writing

Let's talk about your book. Why did you write it?
Twisted Lies is the second in a romantic suspense series, and I wrote it because in the first book, Convenient Lies, I became enamored with a secondary character. Nate Boyle is a man who nearly died to protect a woman who’d dumped him, an old friend he hardly had any contact with. What were the long-term ramifications of that decision? This book opens with Nate moving out of his house in New York, planning to escape to New Hampshire, hoping for a life devoid of excitement and danger. That’s what he longs for. So of course, I had to wreck it.

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
I started the book for Nate’s sake, but Marisa, the heroine, quickly rooted herself in my heart. It’s her love for her daughter that hooks me, that and her blind determination to do what she has to do, regardless what that means for her personal safety. Her four-year-old daughter, Ana, is another of my favorites.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
Nate feels like he will never be a hero, because of something that happened in Convenient Lies—I won’t give it away. I hope readers learn along with Nate that courage isn’t fearlessness. Rather, courage is doing what’s right, despite that fear. Heroes are regular folks who decide to act in the face of their own terror. We all have the ability to be heroes.
What was a challenge you faced while writing it?

I’ve tried to keep the faith element in these books very subtle in the hopes of appealing to a broader audience. I would dearly love to stay comfortably in the Christian book world, but I have felt for a while the Lord encouraging me to step out, to reach readers who aren’t yet believers. I’m not sure yet what that’s going to look like, but I’m trusting God with the results.

For me, the biggest challenge with this book and its predecessor was filtering in truth without being blatant about it. I want to stir the reader’s soul, to create soft soil the Lord can plant into. I hope I’ve accomplished it.
Did you get to do any fun research for the book?

I had to do a lot of research on the 2008 real estate crash—that wasn’t fun at all, and the vast majority of what I learned didn’t end up in the book. (To my readers: You’re welcome. I didn’t want to bore you as I had been bored.) But since many of the early scenes take place in Acapulco, I got to spend some time on a cyber tour of that Mexican city. Someday, I’d love to visit it and the little towns in central Mexico I spent so much time researching.

Writing

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”?
If you’ve done any writing at all, you already know how hard it is. And you already know you have to keep writing, because practice makes perfect. Except I don’t think that’s true. I think practice makes patterns, and if the patterns are bad, then the results will be, too. So your job is to make sure your writing patterns are excellent. How do you do that? A few ways:

Read great books, read them with an eye for story and prose, and read both inside and outside the CBA. There are excellent writers in the general market, and if you steer clear of romance, you can find plenty that are relatively clean. I recommend this because the general market has a much broader scope of books, writing styles, and talent than the Christian market does, simply because it’s so much larger.

Read craft books. It’s amazing to me that people will spend hundreds of dollars to attend a writers conference but will balk at the cost of a book. I attended an all-day seminar by a great writing coach last year. In it, he barely scratched the surface of his book, which you can get on Amazon for $14. The exercises are in there, and if you do them, you’ll improve. Also, check out online courses available through ACFW and other organizations. They’re very affordable and can teach you so much. (I’ll make some recommendations below.)

Join a critique group. I’m a freelance editor, and you’d be surprised at how many people will offer to pay me to read manuscripts that nobody else has ever seen. Most of the mistakes I see, especially from newer writers, would be addressed in a good critique group. ACFW’s Scribes is where I met most of my critique partners, and I wouldn't publish a book without them.

Finally—you knew I was going to say it—write all the time. Not long after I became a Christian in the nineties, I started journaling. Twenty-plus years later, I still do it. In fact, I don’t just journal, I write my prayers. I have boxes and boxes of used journals, loose leaf paper, and spiral binders filled with my ramblings to God. Even though I know no human will ever read them, I try to write well. The Audience I’m writing for deserves my best. I believe that the practice of writing my prayers daily has vastly improved my writing ability. That’s not why I did it, of course, but what a great benefit.

Are there any books or resources you could recommend to younger writers looking to grow in their craft?
You

All right, let’s keep things real: Flowers or chocolate? …Or books?
Books, definitely! But some chocolate to go along with them is always nice.

What’s your most memorable (good or bad) Valentines date or gift?
My husband proposed on Valentine’s Day, so I’d have to say my engagement ring is the most memorable gift.

What are you currently reading?
I just started Stranger Things by Erin Healy. I’m about to start The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass. I’m also reading Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.

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