Thursday, August 11, 2022

Using Your Pain to Enhance Your Novel Writing

 Janyre Tromp

Write what you know.

The oft heard adage isn’t necessarily a charge to write your memoir or a requirement to only write characters that have the same occupation as you. It’s an encouragement to take the emotions, experiences, and stories you know and weave them into your writing. It’s an opportunity to give powerful, compelling depth to your characters—things that sell books and get people talking.

So, when I started writing a story sparked by my grandparents’ experience post-WWII, I infused my own childhood trauma into a story dealing with PTSD (Shadows in the Mind’s Eye). But when my daughter became deathly ill, the terrifying experiences gave me an entirely different level of fear and hurt and anger.

I wanted all the pain to mean something. I wanted to find a way through to the other side, to use what I’d learned in a way that made my story even more authentic and the journey for the reader that much more arresting.

But how does one go about using the pain of the past in their writing?

1.      1. It ain’t about you.

Books are meant to benefit the reader. While writing can be cathartic, sometimes it takes several years for your mind and body to settle enough to write directly about trauma in a way that invites the reader into the story. Until that point, you’re still living the story, sorting emotions, and healing. You have to complete the journey yourself before you can draw a map to the words “The End.”

2.      2. Journal in the moment.

That said, journal your feelings, discoveries, and research. It’s amazing what details you’ll forget a few years down the road. I didn’t want to forget what it feels like to wake up from a nightmare and momentarily not know if we’re in the hospital again or not because that feeling is exactly what my hero, Sam, felt in my book when his PTSD blurs the lines between reality and nightmare.

3.      3. Give your experience breadth.

Just because you haven’t experienced a specific kind of pain doesn’t mean that your feelings and experiences don’t transfer. For me I don’t have battlefield PTSD like Sam, but I could take the helpless feelings and panic I know all too well and combine that with extensive research to create a realistic world for Sam who, it seems “the war had got hold of like a terrier and wouldn’t let go.” And sometimes writing about a similar emotion in a different setting (not writing directly about the pain) is not only cathartic, but effective. A friend of mine was struggling with her kids not sleeping and wrote a RomCom that brought in some of the frustration, but in a way that made everyone laugh.

4.       4. Make delving into a group activity.

Writing in isolation . . . especially writing about painful topics can send an author in a downward spiral. If you plan to write a character with deep emotional wounds, you’ll be putting yourself in their world. You will feel the dark moment of the soul and it will remind you of your own. Without friends, family, or maybe even a professional, you could easily get stuck there.

5.       5. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel.

They say a writer who cries over her keyboard will create readers who cry over their books. And that’s a good thing . . . except when it’s not. There were times I just couldn’t. So, I made notes to myself in the manuscript about scenes I needed to go back to.

    There was a scene about Sam & Annie’s daughter that took me some time to be     able to write, but I wrote it, and I love it now. Another thing I struggled with was         how to wrap up a book that was about mental health struggles. For many of us,     we don’t just get over it and things don’t go back to “normal.” I wanted a realistic     ending. One that shows the hope I have, and that light can sneak through the         broken places, but it isn’t without struggle. No matter what experience you have,      it’s a valid and necessary discussion.

Whatever your experience and whatever your genre, using your own past experiences and pain can take your book to another level. What other suggestions would you give to writers working to enhance their writing with their own real-life experience?

Janyre Tromp is a developmental editor by day and writer of historical novels with a dose of suspense at night. And that all happens from her kitchen table when she’s not hanging out with her husband, two kids, two troublesome cats, and slightly eccentric Shetland Sheepdog.



Instagram: www.instagram/JanyreTromp

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

How to Prepare Your Writing Contest Entry

Erica Vetsch

It’s writing contest season! Know how I know? Because it’s Writing Contest Judging Season!

I’m a judge in several writing contests each year, and I love it. I see a wide variety of entries in these contests, and a few that would have scored higher if the writer had followed a few simple tips. These tips, if followed, can mean the difference between winning and not.

1. Maximize the Easy Points! – This means reading and following all the contest guidelines. Everything from proper formatting to entering your work in the correct category. Every year I see people lose guaranteed points because they didn’t follow the directions. Contests often dictate the spacing, margins, length of (or whether you need) a synopsis, etc. Don’t throw away points on something that is TOTALLY under your control.

2. Get Help! – If you’re a grammar maven, you have a leg up on a lot of novelists. Frequently, one of the judged areas is: Does the entrant have a good grasp of grammar and punctuation? Sadly, the answer to this is often, no. Hire an editor, swap critiques with a punctuation ninja writer friend, find your old English teacher and offer her flowers and chocolates if she’ll look over and correct your work. Lots of points are lost because of grammar and punctuation mistakes.

3. Check for Balance! – Do you have pages and pages of narrative with no dialogue? Or snappy, on the nose dialogue that reads like a ping-pong match, but no setting or description? Print your entry, spread it on the floor, and stand back. Is it covered in white space, or is there no white space at all? A good story needs a balance of both dialogue and narrative, and if your story is heavy on one or the other, it will lose valuable points in the judging.

4. Know the Basics! – If you don’t understand showing vs. telling or point of view, resisting the urge to explain or the hallmarks of the genre you’re trying to write, your ms isn’t going to fare too well. Find a critique partner or two, take some classes, learn the basics before you waste entry money on a contest, only to hemorrhage points.

I would encourage you to study the guidelines and goals of the writing contests you hope to enter and see if they align with your own. What do you hope to get out of a writing contest? Validation that you’re on the right track? A trophy and bragging rights? Honest feedback that will help you grow as a writer? Each writer has a different reason for entering a writing contest, and if you manage your expectations, and take the time to ensure your content is the best it can be, you will be one step closer to achieving your writing goals. I hope to see your sparkling, shiny, brilliant work in a contest soon!

Erica Vetsch, Best-selling, award-winning author, loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she married her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, where you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at

where she spends way too much time!

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Why Should I Read Poetry?

Sara M. Robinson

Recently I came across an old article, “The Importance of Reading Poetry.” This made me stop and think more about what I’ve shared with others about this importance. I have known poets who have told me they don’t read other poets’ works. When I asked why, the usual response was, “I’m too busy writing my own poems.” What?

If we are not reading other poets, we are missing out on a lot of great literature. There are so many great poets out there now that I can’t keep up. How can anyone ignore Wendell Berry?

Billy Collins? The late Mary Oliver? The rest of this column could be a list. But I want to take this space to give some suggestions and maybe some insight. I will draw on others who have responded to this question as well. Here’s a starting list:

1. Reading other poetry will increase your vocabulary and expand language.

2. Imitating other poets is a great way to learn to write poetry.

3. Pick up an anthology, such as The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry, 2nd edition.(Edited by J.D.McClatchy). 1990.

4. Reading a variety of poems will train you to look for special forms, such as rhymes and flow.

5. Get outside your comfort zone and read everything you can. Even twice. Just don’t hurry.

6. Don’t live in a literary vacuum. Share your poetry unless you have decided that no one else will ever see it.

7. If you want others to read your poetry, then you must read what others are writing.

Think of reading poetry as the same as attending a symphony. Pick out parts you like and listen to the parts you don’t. Read some bad poetry and use this as a personal measuring stick for your writing. Also read translations and explore regional poetry, such as those from inner cities.

Lastly, unleash enthusiasm for poetry. Yours included. Don’t think of other poets as competitors. Remember, a rising tide floats all ships.

Until next time…
Sara M. Robinson, founder of the Lonesome Mountain Pro(s)e Writers’ Workshop, and former Instructor of a course on Contemporary American Poets at UVA-OLLI, was poetry columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and inagural poetry editor for Virginia Literary Journal. She has served as guest lecturer at UVA’s College at Wise, Wise, VA. Her poetry has appeared in various anthologies, including We Grew Wings and Flew (2014), Scratching Against the Fabric (2015), Virginia Writer’s Club Centennial Anthology (2017), Blue Ridge Anthologies and Mizmor Anthology (2018). Journals include: Loch Raven Review, The Virginia Literary Journal, vox poetica, Jimson Weed, Whisky Advocate, and Poetica. She is poet and author of Love Always, Hobby and Jessie (2009), Two Little Girls in a Wading Pool (2012), A Cruise in Rare Waters (2013 Stones for Words (2014), Sometimes the Little Town (2016), a finalist for the Poetry Society of Virginia’s 2017 Book Award. In 2019, Needville, her poetry about effects of coal mining on SW Virginia was released and in 2020 debuted as play in Charlottesville. Her most recent publication is Simple River (2020, Cyberwit).

Monday, August 8, 2022

Making Wonderful Friendships




Cindy Woodsmall and Erin Woodsmall

Authors of Yesterday’s Gone

CINDY WOODSMALL is a New York Times and CBA bestselling author of twenty-five works of fiction and one nonfiction book. Coverage of Cindy’s writing has been featured on ABC’s Nightline and the front page of the Wall Street Journal. She lives in the foothills of the north Georgia mountains with her husband, just a short distance from two of her three sons and her six grandchildren.

ERIN WOODSMALL is a writer, musician, wife, and mom of four. She has edited, brainstormed, and researched books with Cindy for almost a decade. More recently she and Cindy have coauthored five books, one of which was a winner of the prestigious Christy award.

What inspired you to write Yesterday’s Gone?

Erin experienced the same kind of loss as our beloved character Eliza in Yesterday’s Gone. When we experience a hard loss, our root system to God, to ourselves, to close family members, to friends often sustains trauma. When roots sustain trauma, our family tree may or may not survive it. I thought our family was incredibly strong, but at one point in the grieving process, I wasn’t sure we’d make it out whole. Why? How on earth is that even possible? It didn’t make logical sense. Through a fictional story, Erin and I dared to explore the strengths and fragilities of our closest relationships.

How do you expect the novel to resonate with your audience? What are you most excited for your readers to experience through this story?

I think that like us, they’ll cry, laugh, be encouraged, and feel the joy of surprise. Our readers are very much rooted in using a portion of their time regularly to add to their whole being, and I think this story can be a fulfilling part of that journey. What are you most excited for your readers to experience through reading this story? I have to make a confession. I’ve spent entirely too much of my life longing to go back and make different decisions. Some of that kind of thinking can give us perspective, but too much of it is us using our limited energy and valuable time on beating a dead horse or crying over spilled milk. How do we learn to forgive ourselves and accept life for what it is? I’m most excited that while readers are enjoying the journey in Yesterday’s Gone, they will soak in new ways of viewing acceptance, new ways of using their energy on what can be changed.

Please describe your writing process.

I like to spend a lot of time, often years, to mull over a story idea, nurturing it from a tiny seed to a grove of trees. That process stirs my creative soul and my excitement builds until I’m ready to give that story my all. Erin and I talked of this story idea for five years before we began to write it. Still, we only outline the first five to seven chapters so creativity has the final say in where the story takes us. When those chapters are written and we’ve honed them well, then we do the same for the next five to seven chapters. We repeat that process until the end of the book. We don’t decide up front who is writing what chapters or characters. We listen to our hearts.

What role does faith play in this story?
Faith is everything, and it plays a huge role, even when the struggle for a character is a lack of faith or anger with the seeming results of their faith. A huge question in life is Where is a person’s faith? Is it in themselves? In their loved ones? In God? In the medical field? In a system (school, political, religion)? If we’re honest with ourselves, faith is usually found in a combination of those things. But if our faith gets unbalanced, we can end up walking by opinion rather than walking by faith.

What lessons or truths do you hope people take away from Yesterday’s Gone?

In certain difficult circumstances, we can’t stop grief and pain, and if we try too hard to change what is, we simply end up doling out the pain differently rather than erasing it.

Can you give us a sneak peek into the main characters in the novel, Eliza Bontrager and Jesse Ebersol?

Eliza is a powerhouse of energy and skill, but she can’t see it. She sees her place as an Amish woman, and her overwhelming desire is to please her husband, to give him his dream life. Jesse Ebersol is also a powerhouse of energy and skill, and his dream is to break the poverty of his people in the Appalachian Mountains. He sees Eliza’s worth. She doesn’t. Loss hits them, and the tug-of-war is on!

As authors, what did you particularly enjoy about writing this story? What was hard about writing it?

My greatest joy was taking a step back from our personal experiences with this topic and in so doing, seeing how life events have a life all their own, ones we often miss when we’re in the throes of a storm. The hardest aspect was something readers won’t see and that’s the copious notes and the zigzag mess of keeping the chapter-by-chapter timeline accurate no matter what time the characters were in.

You say it took time and healing to be able to tell this story. Can you explain why?

Because the loss—a daughter for Erin and a granddaughter for me—was so personal and difficult, it took a few years before we were able to talk about it without getting emotional, much less to be able to deal with these topics in fiction. But even when the loss wasn’t fresh, we could see the connections between reality and fiction. We write Amish and us having a one-in-a-million genetic disease that’s a slight variation of one that’s common to the Amish community hit a deep place in our hearts.

What is one thing you learned about yourselves through writing this book?

During the deep spiritual dive that writing this book required, we had to face and answer some difficult questions. For example, regarding self-esteem: What determines a person’s worth? The answer that we thought we knew grew new and deeper roots: We’re all worthy only by the grace of God and we’re all equal despite our circumstances, which can include genetics, income level, place of birth, color of skin, and more. We learned new and deeper ways to own the pain without the pain owning us.

What will fans of your writing find surprising about this story?

We explore the concept of chaos theory, which is the study of how when you’re dealing with a complex system, small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences. We explore this concept using a familiar framing device: one similar to the classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Eliza feels like Jesse would be better without her, but she can’t grasp all the vast consequences of what feels like should be a small change.

We also feel they’ll be pleasantly surprised by the budding romance between Eliza’s sister Ruth and her boyfriend, Andrew. It’s a journey with numerous twists and enjoyable outcomes.

 Yesterday's Gone releases August 30, 2022.

If you'd like more information  contact her, you can go to her website: or Facebook


Friday, August 5, 2022

Elizabeth Goddard Talks About Critical Alliance

Elizabeth Goddard

Critical Alliance is the last installment of my Rocky Mountain Courage series, so I’d already put a lot of elements in place. My series is set in a fictional county in southwest Montana. I chose Montana because the state would make a stunning backdrop for my action-adventure stories, and well, setting inspires me. Southwest Montana is the west gate of Yellowstone National Park, one of my favorite places in the world. My Uncommon Justice series was set in the Jackson Hole region near Grand Teton National Park, which is close to Yellowstone in Wyoming. Okay, I’ll admit—I kind of wanted to stay in the area with my Rocky Mountain Courage series because I love it so much!

My husband is from Montana and my love of the region is all his fault! I dedicated Critical Alliance to him.

For the characters, many of them were already in place from the previous books, but I still needed to flesh out my Diplomatic Security Services special agent Alex Knight. Alex was a character from the first two books who would become the hero in Critical Alliance. Of course, then I had to add his romantic interest—Mackenzie Hanson—and I didn’t know her.

For the proposal to my publisher, I created a blurb for the story. I usually have ideas for storylines and characters floating around in my head along with random plots points. I pull from that and start the creative process. The short summary I send to my publisher will change quite a bit during the writing process. In Critical Alliance, my characters’ names changed along with a lot of the details, but the main plot of the story remained the same regarding the high-tech company in Montana, a mysterious death, and a cyber security expert. My character, Mackenzie Hanson, was hiding information and she needed to hack into the company’s system.

I started figuring out the story by pairing my DS special agent with a cyber security specialist. The Diplomatic Security Services is a largely unknown federal agency under the State Department. Agents are responsible for protecting diplomats and embassies around the world, but they also combat visa and passport fraud, investigate counterterrorism, counterintelligence, cybersecurity. . . well, you get the idea. Because of Alex’s background I decided to increase the stakes by making Mackenzie a former illegal hacker. I had to dig deep into the cybercriminal world, and I worked with a cyber-security expert to learn what Mackenzie could do and what crimes were possible for a hacker to commit. The information I learned was somewhat terrifying, but I had an arsenal available to throw at my characters—which I did!

Once the setting and the characters were in place along with a general plot, then I needed to discover what kinds of things could happen to them in Montana. This is where the setting really plays a big role and can become a character too. I love adventure stories, but I try to pull in larger issues to create a high-stakes plot. I loved the characters, the setting and writing Critical Alliance. I’m going to miss Montana, but at least in my new series set in Alaska, I’ll get to spend time with one of my characters from Critical Alliance.

Elizabeth Goddard is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of more than fifty novels, including Present Danger and the Uncommon Justice series. Her books have sold over
one million copies. She is a Carol Award winner and a Daphne du Maurier Award finalist. When she's not writing, she loves spending time with her family, traveling to find inspiration for her next book, and serving with her husband in ministry. For more information about her books. visit her website at

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

She Fell In Love

Liz Johnson said, “I fell in love with Prince Edward Island. [It] captured my heart and inspired my imagination, and I’ve always known I had more PEI stories to tell.”


Tell us about your new novel, The Last Way Home?

When disgraced former NHL player Eli Ross returns to Prince Edward Island after eleven years, he discovers the broken family he left behind may be easier to win over than his mom’s business partner. Local artist Violet Donaghy isn’t eager to forgive the man who broke his mom’s heart. But when her pottery studio nearly burns to the ground, they’ll work together to rebuild—and more than the studio is on the line when secrets come out and they begin to open their hearts.


What is the connecting element for all three books in the Prince Edward Island Shores series?

The Prince Edward Island Shores series shares the stories of the three Ross brothers from Victoria by the Sea. Eleven years ago, their father walked out on the family, and now each brother must come to terms with the way they responded—with anger, running away, and pulling back from the rest of the world—especially if they want to win the hearts of the women in their lives.


Why did you choose to set your book in Victoria by the Sea, which is on the south shore of Prince Edward Island?

I was hooked on Victoria by the Sea after my first visit. It’s such a beautiful community filled with artists, theater, and lots of lobster fishing. I wanted to feature each of those areas in this series.


Why did you choose a hockey profession?

I love to ice skate! When I was twenty-five, I moved to Colorado and decided to pick up a winter sport. I took figure-skating lessons through the city, and I fell in love with the ice. While I wrote this book, I spent almost every weekend at a rink in Phoenix, marveling at the skilled hockey players—young and old—practicing on the ice. I loved watching the youth hockey players in their games and spent hours figuring out how to incorporate that into this book.


Both of the main characters in your book, Eli Ross and Violet Donaghy, have secrets that come to light within the pages of your novel. Without giving away any spoilers, can you provide some insight on how these secrets might impact their lives and the lives of the Ross family?

Like many people with secrets, Eli and Violet both hide behind carefully constructed facades. Violet chooses to overlook the rumors that run rampant about her history rather than face the truth of her past. Eli fears that his secret will shatter whatever relationship he’s restoring with his family. When Eli and Violet realize that the other is a safe harbor to share, they realize that they’re not so different after all. Telling the truth to one person may open the floodgates, and it will affect the entire Ross family and could ruin their budding romance.


What do you hope readers will gain from reading The Last Way Home?

I hope readers will be reminded that forgiveness isn’t something we earn—even when it’s hard to accept. And we forgive because we’ve been forgiven.


What do you love most about writing novels in the contemporary romance genre?

I love writing romances that provide an escape, fill readers with warmth, and remind them of the hope we have, even in hard times.

Liz Johnson is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including Beyond the Tides, the Georgia Coast Romance series, and the Prince Edward Island Dreams series, as well as a New York Times bestselling novella and a handful of short stories. She works in marketing and makes her home in Phoenix, Arizona.

 Learn more at


Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Interview with Lynette Eason


I had the privilege of meeting and talking with Lynette one year at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I was delighted to meet her. She is one of my favorite authors. I love her writing style and have enjoyed each series through the years.

When we met, I was reading her Blue Justice series. Each book was full of suspense and intrigue. I could not put one down until I finished it. Good thing I am a fast reader! Right after that I started reading her Danger Never Sleeps series.
Again, I was hooked.

Lynette started writing for publication around 1998.  
She has over over fifty books published.

I am thrilled to bring you this interview with Lynette Eason.

Who are two of your favorite authors?

  Dee Henderson and Terri Blackstock, if I can only pick just two. 

Do you feel they influenced you and if so, in what way?

  They influenced me for sure. Dee was my mentor, and I just loved the way they wrote a story that I could get lost in while being on the edge of my seat. LOL.

What point in your writing career did you feel like you had gone from amateur to pro?

  Probably when I got the call that someone wanted to actually pay me to write.

What do you look for in choosing a setting for your book?

  Usually, a place that I’m familiar with or that is easily researched.

What steps, if any, are involved in research for your book?

  I don’t have a set process. I usually just start writing and when I come to a place that I need more information then I start researching. I’ve got so many contacts and resources that all I have to do is send an email most of the time.

In writing your new book, Crossfire, what do you feel makes it stand out?

  I feel like people are just in love with the whole law enforcement story world, so being able to give those readers a new story in that genre is an honor and a blessing.

In Crossfire, what would you like the reader to feel and walk away with?

  I’d love the reader to walk away feeling like they’d just been on a roller coaster ride—in the very best way possible! LOL.

What is the best writing advice you have received so far?

  Write something. You can always fix it. You can’t fix a blank page.

What is the worst?

  You must write every day to be considered a real writer.

Between plotting, character development, dialogue, and scenes, which is easiest for you, and which takes a lot of effort?

  Character development is hands down the easiest. Plotting makes me kick things in frustration.

What is your schedule for writing?

  Whenever I can make the time. It’s my only job, so mostly in the mornings, sometimes in the afternoons, and every so often late at night if I can stay awake.

What do you do if you get stumped?

  I take a walk, work on something else, email brainstorming buddies, pray, cry, wonder why I ever thought I could be a writer, then go back to the project and make it work. Ha.

Did you or do you make any sacrifices to be a writer?

  I feel like I absolutely did. Every so often, I had to spend time writing when friends were out socializing. Inevitably, I have a deadline at the end of December or sometime in January, which means writing over holidays. Over the years, I’ve had to say no to other opportunities in order to fulfill the commitments I already had. It’s definitely a sacrifice.

Did you choose your genre, or did it choose you?

  I feel like it chose me. It was the one I was drawn to even as a child reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, Alfred Hitchcock, Agatha Christie and so on.

What is the best way you found to market your book?

  Social media can be a powerful tool, but I haven’t landed on just one way. I think it takes a combination of things to get the word out there.

Did you actively build a network of readers and if so, how?

  I don’t know about actively. I simply wrote the best stories I could write, and the readers came. 

Are you on the Social Media Highway and if so, do you schedule times to post?

  I am on the highway. I post when I need to or when I feel like or when I’m waiting in line at the grocery store.

What advice would you like to give new authors that would help them?

  Invest in your writing. Go to a conference and get involved in networking with other authors in your genre and world. It’s a great place to be!

Lynette Eason's new book, Crossfire, offers a heart-pounding story that will have readers up all night as they race toward the explosive finish. You don't want to miss this electrifying new book in her new Extreme Measure series

Eason is the bestselling author of Life Flight and the 
Danger Never Sleeps, Blue Justice, Women of Justice, Deadly Reunions, Hidden Identity, and Elite Guardians series. She is the winner of three ACFW Carol Awards, the Selah Award, and the
Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, among others. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and has a master’s degree in education from Converse College. Eason lives in South Carolina with her husband and two children. 

Learn more at

Monday, August 1, 2022

Patricia Bradley Talks About Deception

Patricia Bradley

When I turned in the manuscript for Deception, one of the comments my editor made was: Deception is the perfect title for this one. No one is who they seem to be.

Knowing it was the last book in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers series made writing it bittersweet. I really didn’t want to leave Natchez behind. I have grown to love the town with beautiful old mansions and sweet people. And the Trace. I’ll miss the Spanish moss hanging like wisps of lace from three-hundred-year-old trees, and the original sections of the Trace where so many trod hundreds of years ago as they made their way from Natchez to Nashville.

And the food. My characters ate at places like Fat Mama’s Tamales, Jughead’s, Mammy’s Cupboard, The Camp Restaurant, The Grand, Kings Tavern…they’re all real and if you’re ever in Natchez, be sure to eat at one of them.

When I started the story, I knew I wanted an ISB ranger as the heroine. In case you don’t know, ISB stands for Investigative Services Branch—they are the FBI of the National Park Service. There are only thirty-three of them, and they don’t have the fancy equipment that the FBI does. But they do have the advantage of working a case from beginning to end, usually all by themselves.

ISB Ranger Madison Thorn is unusual in that she investigates white-collar crime, but that wasn’t the case when I started the book. She was a tough, violent crimes investigator, and I intended her to keep on doing that. However, by the end of the first chapter, it all changed when the FBI agent she’d fallen in love with went rogue and tried to kill her. That was a total surprise.

When I tell people that, they usually look at me like I’m crazy, and say something like, “But you’re the author—you tell your characters what to do.” Ha! Maybe some authors can get away with that, but not this one. If I try to make my characters do something they don’t want to do, they quit talking to me. And if your character won’t talk to you, you don’t have a story. So, I tend to listen to my characters and go along with what they want. It makes writing the book so much easier.

And then there was Clayton Bradshaw, a swoon-worthy hero. Madison had it in her head that he had bullied her when she was a child visiting her grandfather, and no amount of me telling her otherwise did any good. So, I had to figure a way out of that because my hero couldn’t ever be a bully, even as a child. You’ll have to read the book to find out how I resolved that one.

Besides, Clayton had enough problems without being labeled at bully. He was a recovering gambler, and very short on patience. Plus, it was very hard on him when Madison refused to let him protect her. Her I-can-take-care-of-myself attitude drove him up the wall, especially since she had someone trying to kill her.

I did a lot of research for the Natchez books. Like looking for places to hide bodies. Once, I stopped at the ranger station at Mount Locust to ask the ranger on duty if there was a way to get to the backside of Mount Locust. You see, I’d found the perfect place to put a body, but I didn’t know how to get it there. It was simple, he said, and I did as he told me, then looked for the road he’d told me to take to get back on the Trace…never did find that road. The one I was on turned from a gravel to sand to dirt. Oh, and did I tell you was one lane?

Ten miles later (it could’ve been five and just seemed like ten) on that one-lane road with bayous and alligators and creepy Spanish Moss with nowhere to turn around, I’m asking myself if I’m crazy. Here I am, a lone woman without a gun on a dirt road that didn’t seem to be going anywhere—is it any wonder that I heard the banjos from the movie Deliverance playing? I did finally find a place to turn around. And I found the road I was supposed to turn on—a quarter of a mile from the Trace.

Like I said at the beginning, I’ll miss my wonderful times in Natchez and my adventures on the Natchez Trace. Writing Deception, Book Four in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers series was fun to write. I can’t say that about every book.

Patricia Bradley: 
I’ve been writing since I was thirty-five, and I won’t tell you how long ago that was. I will tell you that Woman’s World published the very first fiction I ever wrote. But that was a God-thing, because, by all rights, the editor should have stuffed the story into the SASE and mailed it back to me since I’d sent her 4,500 words when the limit was 2,500. After that I was certain I would have a novel published within the year. Not. It was many years of studying the craft of writing before that happened. But it did happen back in 2014. Since then, I’ve written fifteen books and three stories for anthologies, two that debuted on the USA Today Best Seller List. I thank God every day for letting me live my dream.

I live in Northeast Mississippi with my two rescue kitties, and when I have time, I like to throw mud on a wheel and see what happens.

Patricia Bradley is the author of Standoff, Obsession, and Crosshairs, as well as the Memphis Cold Case novels and Logan Point series. Bradley won an Inspirational Reader’s
Choice Award in Romantic Suspense, a Daphne du Maurier Award, and a Touched by Love Award; she was a Carol Award finalist; and three of her books were included in anthologies
that debuted on the USA Today bestseller list. She is cofounder of Aiming for Healthy Families, Inc., and she is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Sisters in Crime. Bradley makes her home in Mississippi. 

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Wednesday, July 27, 2022

An Interview with Larry B. Gildersleeve on Blue By You!

Larry Gildersleeve

We’re excited to have Larry Gildersleeve visiting today. His latest novel ranked #15 on Barnes & Noble’s best-seller list a few weeks ago. I’ve read Blue by You, and it’s a wonderful book in the Christian Romance genre.

Larry, how did you choose this plot?

I was intrigued with the idea two people could have a very brief love affair, and when reunited many years later, only one has the ability to remember the other. And would it be possible for them to fall in love again, with one a total stranger to the other and without the shared memory of their earlier time together?

Readers are often drawn to a book description that reminds them of another book they enjoyed. Is that possible with yours?

Absolutely. Readers have told me that Blue by You reminds them of The Bridges of Madison County. My storyline differs in two fundamental ways. First, mine has a role reversal for the male and female protagonists; second, unlike Bridges, the two lovers actually do meet again decades later in a completely different setting.

How did you come up with the title?

I’m a huge fan of both Roy Orbison, who wrote and recorded Blue Bayou, and Linda Ronstadt, who covered the song more memorably, to me at least, than any other artist. As readers learn within the first few pages, Blue is the name of my male protagonist’s dog and is seldom away from his side, thus the wordplay title.

How long did it take from your initial concept to a published book?

About eighteen months to have a finished product I was proud of, and another four months or so to see it through the various steps to become available on the top domestic and international online distribution platforms.

Since you are self-published, did you work with a professional editor?

I did. The editor for all four of my novels is Lynda McDaniel, a widely-published and award-winning author of both fiction and non-fiction offerings. I live in Kentucky, Lynda lives in California, and we’ve never met. Each iteration of my full manuscripts has gone through a line-by-line exchange with Lynda before we’re both satisfied, and reached our destination.

How did you come to writing novels?

A long-deferred dream dating back to high school finally happened when I sat down at my computer eight years ago in my mid-60s and simply began to write. I found Lynda on a referral from an author friend who had worked with her, and through her editing and coaching she essentially taught me the ins and outs of writing fiction, though I still have so much to learn.

You write in the Christian and Christian Romance genres. How did that come about?

I’m a person of faith, so that part is easily explained. Long after I began weaving Christianity into my storyline with what I refer to as a “light touch”, to hopefully appeal to a wider, secular audience, I learned my genres are second only to mystery/thriller in reader appeal.

Do you have a formula that influences your writing?

I do. It’s evolved over the course of thousands of hours of research and study, as well as writing four novels. My books are dialogue-driven, much like a screenplay, with less attention than most authors to narrative descriptions of things like clothing or the physical environments the characters occupy. My chapters are short, and I strive for page-turning endings to keep the reader engaged. And fewer named characters, down to four or five in Blue by You from upwards of twenty in my first two books.

Are you currently working on another book?

Yes. Two actually. Remaining in my genre, one I hope will find appeal among first responders, and a second one with a Christmas theme. But I’m keeping the titles to myself since I believe they are both clever wordplay like Blue by You.

When they are published, please let us know so we can share them with our readers. Thank you for being with us today.

Larry B. Gildersleeve says, I am American by birth and Southern by the Grace of God." Larry was born in Knoxville, TN, and raised and educated in Virginia and Kentucky. A three-decade corporate career took him across the country and around the world before he returned to Kentucky in 2014 to realize his long-deferred dream of becoming a published author. His three Parchment Series novels were released between 2016 and 2019, and his fourth novel, Blue by You, was published in mid-2022. All of Larry's works of fiction will be in the Christian and Inspirational genres. He is a member of the Association of American Christian Fiction Writers, the Academy of American Poets, the Alliance of Independent Authors, the Author's Guild and the Bluegrass Writer's Guild. Larry is married; the father of two and grandfather of four.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

What Happens After the Camera Leaves the Scene?

Chris Fabry

Bringing someone else’s idea to the page had always been a bit of stretch for me. I found it easier to build a world of my own characters and discover their struggles, foibles, and strong points on my own. I wanted that world to be something I understood before I typed the first words. Then I met the Kendrick brothers and a new world opened to me.

It began with the novelization of War Room, a script I fell in love with on a plane ride. It made me laugh and cry and had such an engaging character in Miss Clara, who seemed so real and genuine. I received an early version of the film that had a lot of material that was eventually edited out, but those scenes gave me extra storylines and ideas for the novel. I took the script and the video and wrote the story asking the question, “What happens after the camera leaves this scene?”

I’ve come to see that the creative process I go through in telling a story of my own is the same with an idea from the Kendricks, except they make all the hard choices, all the plot twists and heart-tugging scenes. I see their storytelling as the fence around the story I tell. I can’t go beyond the fence, but I do get to play in the pasture. Some wonder if that stunts creativity but I think it actually enhances it because I’m free to follow ideas and internal dialogue so that I go deeper into the story. I get to go where the movie doesn’t to make the book an extended experience for the reader.

Lifemark is unlike any film the Kendricks have done. It’s based on a true story that was made into a documentary. The Kendricks fictionalized the story somewhat, adding a couple of storylines to their film, and the end product is one that I believe will save lives. I literally believe that. I can’t wait to see an email from someone who says she saw the film and chose not to have an abortion.

The other help with the novelization of Lifemark was the main character, Melissa. I was able to talk with the real-life Melissa and ask questions about the situation she faced in school and with friends. She kept her pregnancy a secret, and she went through so much isolation and loneliness during that dark time.

I’m a big believer in letting the reader participate in the story, and I try to do that with each scene. I suppose this is the old, “Show, don’t tell” dictum, but giving the reader something to do is key, I think, in telling a good story that sticks. I do that by planting questions that linger for the reader and make them want to know where the story is going next.

My main job as a writer is to get out of the way of the story. If you read a sentence and stop to admire my wonderful prose, I’m not doing my job. I want the reader to encounter words on a page but actually feel they’re living the story. If you catch your breath as you read and say, “No, don’t do that” to the characters, I’ve done my job because I’ve gotten out of the way and the story has taken over

When I was a child, my mother would take me to my grandmother’s house where my uncles would be finishing their dinner. There, with smoke hanging heavy in the air, I would ask them to tell a story about their lives growing up. As they spun these tales in their West Virginia drawl, it was as if I were right there with them going hunting for coons or possums with nothing but a lantern and a burlap sack. I learned the power of stories in that kitchen, and every time I sit down to write, I try to capture the wonder I felt as a child entranced by their voices.

It took a long time for me to believe I could tell a story like that. I studied journalism in college and knew how to put a sentence together, but it wasn’t until I met Jerry Jenkins that I began to believe I could actually write for publication.

“If you want to do this, I can help,” Jerry said. “But it’ll hurt.”

I told him to bring on the hurt, then looked at the way he edited my stories. Why couldn’t I see what he saw in the editing phase? Why was I making so many mistakes? Through the course of several years, Jerry gave me an opportunity to write with him and learn how he crafts the stories he tells. He gave me the courage to believe I could actually write.

One of the most-frequent notes he would make on my manuscripts was “RUE,” meaning resist the urge to explain. “Give the reader credit,” he wrote. And that’s the key to a well-told story. Bring the reader into the action and dialogue in such a way that they participate, they become part of the story.

I hope Lifemark achieves this and actually catches the reader off guard with the life-giving story the Kendricks have brought to the screen.


Chris Fabry is an award-winning author and radio personality who hosts the daily program Chris Fabry Live on Moody Radio. He has written more than 80 books for children and adults.

Monday, July 25, 2022

The Stories Behind the Stories

Mary A. Felkins

This I Promise You, a jilted bride trope, is the prequel that kicks off The Heart of Moreland Manor contemporary romance series (released in May, Gardenia Press).

Story question ... What if finding your heart’s desire means entrusting it ... just once more ... to the one who broke it?

While hammering out the first draft, our church supported a backpack ministry that made a weekend of food available to food insecure students and their families. This inspired the idea of a heroine—an elementary school teacher—faced with the issue of food scarcity brutally evident in her students. When my father passed away this past March, the theme of faith in action ("I will show you my faith by what I do." James 4:18) came alive in the story. Dad taught the Gospel through his generosity and practical love for people. We, his blessed family, just had to watch.

When I learned that a brother-in-Christ had been wronged by another but who chose to offer the offender a pineapple ... literally ... as a peace offering, I knew I had to include this humble gesture in the book. Because, to my happy surprise, the unexpected offer healed months of hurt and estrangement between the formerly warring roosters.

Readers will enjoy a light-hearted take on the hero—a modern-day twist on the biblical account of Joseph, the favored son of Jacob—who is estranged from him family and falsely accused. In present day, the hero enjoys a posh life of a celebrity chef in New Orleans. When the past comes through his doors, it brings a long-awaited family reunion. But breaking his promise to the girl of his heart could be beyond forgiveness.

You Are the Reason, book 1 (Elk Lake Publishing Inc.) asks … What if you didn’t want your inheritance but it led to your greatest dream?

The story addresses the call that God places on our lives and our willingness to risk stepping out of our orderly existence. It elevates the divine value of hardship and rightly defines our identity found not in our success but in our relationship to God the Father as his dearly loved children.

The inspiration for You Are the Reason began with an 1846 manor house boasting 13,000 square footage. Madewood Mansion—formerly Madewood Plantation House—is located in Napoleonville, Louisiana on Bayou Lefourche (“Lay-foosh” ... yes, I Googled this). When Madewood operated as a B&B, my husband and I celebrated several anniversaries here. Under current ownership, the historic treasure is being restored and only available for daytime events.

Since I may have a teeny tiny fascination with houses, I wondered … what if an inheritance wanted its own happily ever after but the heiress wanted the house fixed up and sold asap—despite her late mother’s wishes? It was only right to satisfy the house’s desire.

But what to call the fictional Madewood Mansion ...?

During a drive from NC to Texas to visit my family, my attention snagged on a road sign marking the exit to ... Moreland. And then I knew ... Moreland Manor was established.

When Madewood’s previous owner first inherited the home from his mother in the 80s, he had no intention of opening it up for business ... until he received a timely call from someone interested in what they charged for overnight stays. He considered the costly electric bill, swiftly crunched numbers, set a price and became the proprietor of one of Louisiana’s most beloved historic B&Bs. I included this super fun backstory in the book.

The foundational plot ideas for this book are the result of brainstorming with Rachel Hauck during an intensive 5-day writer’s retreat in 2017.

Hollywood is no stranger to Madewood. Several major motion pictures have been filmed on location (among them, A Woman Called Moses and a remake of The Beguiled starring Nicole Kidman). On one occasion, Brad Pitt stayed overnight in the carriage house that sits behind the house.

The growing popularity of house restoration shows inspired the idea to include a film production company. Fictional MidDay Media is a spin on High Noon Entertainment, the production company that discovered Chip and Joanna Gaines. And not unlike what Chip and Joanna learned early on—the camera is always rolling. Yes, yes, clandestine romantic tension between heroine and hero is caught on film! Ah, the fun of writing romance.

What’s next?

Book #2 (Sweeter With You) and #3 (When You Smile for Me) will release in 2022 and 2023 respectively through Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.

Mary A. Felkins is an inspirational romance author, blogger, and contributor to writer’s blogs and online publications. Her debut novel, Call to Love, is set in Hickory, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband. They have four young adult children. She is a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and My Book Therapy.

Her purpose in writing is to reclaim God’s intention when he created the world–to enable readers to know his heart and experience his love.

The unmerited gift of a large, unopened bag of Peanut M&Ms® will lure her from her writer’s desk. A surprise appearance by her teen idol, Donny Osmond, would also do the trick—although she’d likely pass out.

Upon introduction, if she likes your first or last name, expect to see it show up in one of her novels.

Mary A. Felkins’ books on Amazon

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Friday, July 22, 2022

Lover of Fairy Tales and Happily-Ever-After

 Jody Hedlund

Jody Hedlund is a bestselling and award-winning author who loves fairy tales and happily-ever-after's. She makes her home in Midland, MI, with her husband and five children. When she's not writing another of her page-turning stories, you can usually find her sipping coffee, eating chocolate, and reading.

What you may not know about Jody is she loves to visit lighthouses! "I’ve been to many around my home state of Michigan. And most recently I had the chance to go up into the Chatham Light on Cape Cod."

Jody has been married for over twenty-five years to her college sweetheart. She said, "My husband has been one of my biggest cheerleaders over the years, doing his best to understand and support my writing even in the days when publication was only the whisper of a dream."

Jody Hedlund is the best-selling author of over forty historicals for both adults and teens and is the winner of numerous awards. Check out her books on

Bethany House Publishers will release her new book, Falling For The Cowgirl in October 2022.

Here is a description:

Years ago, he shattered her heart. Now she must trust him with her life.

As the only girl in her family, and with four older brothers, Ivy McQuaid can rope and ride with the roughest of ranchers. She's ready to have what she's always longed for--a home of her own. She's set her heart on a parcel of land south of Fairplay and is saving for it with her winnings from the cowhand competitions she sneaks into--but her dream is put in jeopardy when the man she once loved reappears in her life.

After two years away, Jericho Bliss is back in South Park as an undercover Pinkerton agent searching for a war criminal. He has no intention of involving a woman in the dangerous life he leads, but one look at Ivy is all it takes for him to question the path he's set out for himself.

Even though Jericho tries to resist his longtime attraction to the beautiful and vivacious Ivy, he finds himself falling hard and fast for her. In the process, his worst fear comes true--he puts her smack-dab in the middle of danger. With Ivy's life in the balance, will Jericho give her up once again, or will he find a way back to her, this time forever?

Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Blackout Book Club Coming Soon

Amy Lynn Green

"Coming in November 2022, Bethany House Publishers releases Amy Lynn Green's new book The Blackout Book Club."

Amy Lynn Green loves books, history, and library cards and has all her life. She worked in publishing for six years before writing her first historical fiction novel. Amy is the author of Things We Didn't Say and The Lines Between Us. She is a Christian/Historical Fiction writer.

Her first novel is based on the WWII home front of Minnesota, the state where she lives, works, and survives long winters. She has taught classes on marketing at writer’s conferences and regularly encourages established and aspiring authors in their publication journeys. In her novels (and her daily life), she loves exploring the intersection of faith and fiction and searches for answers to present-day questions by looking to the past.

J'nell Ciesielski, bestselling author of The Socialite said, "Green weaves together the struggle of war, the resilience of the home front, and the love that can bind a community together in her latest novel."

For your enjoyment the description of her new book reads:

In 1942, an impulsive promise to her brother before he goes off to the European Front puts Avis Montgomery in the unlikely position of head librarian in small-town Maine. Though she has never been much of a reader, when wartime needs threaten to close the library, she invents a book club to keep its doors open.

The women she convinces to attend the first meeting couldn't be more different--a wealthy spinster determined to aid the war effort, an exhausted mother looking for a fresh start, and a determined young war worker.

At first, the struggles of the home front are all the club members have in common, but over time, the books they choose become more than an escape from the hardships of life and the fear of the U-boat battles that rage just past their shores.

 As the women face personal challenges and band together in the face of danger, they find they have more in common than they think. But when their growing friendships are tested by secrets of the past and present, they must decide whether depending on each other is worth the cost.

Amy Lynn Green. Truly a book you will want to read.