INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Author Amber Schamel

Hello! It’s that time. Friday. The day we look forward to meeting another author and hearing about what they have been working on. Today, I have award-winning author Amber Schamel on my blog! She is here to talk about her latest release and chat a bit. Amber is another member the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and we connected through the Historical Fiction genre page. And, again, I cannot recommend this organization enough for what it offers writers of all levels and stages. Check them out: https://www.acfw.com/

Hello, Amber! Welcome to my blog. Thanks for being on today. First, can you tell us a little about your novel?

Solve by Christmas is a clean, fun historical mystery set in Denver during the great blizzard of 1913.

When sabotage threatens the Rudin Sugar Factory, Detective Jasper Hollock believes this will be his first real case. But dear Mr. Rudin—the only father Jasper has ever known—holds a different assignment for his private investigator.

Mr. Rudin charges Jasper to build a “case” of reasons for his employer to continue his life. If he fails, Mr. Rudin will end it in suicide on Christmas night.

As the incidents at the factory become life threatening, Jasper’s attempts at dissuading Mr. Rudin prove futile, and Jasper is left staring at the stark reality of his own soul. Time is ticking. Jasper must solve both cases by Christmas before Mr. Rudin, the company, and Jasper’s faith, are dragged to perdition. Will this be the Christmas Jasper truly discovers what makes life worth living?

A mystery and a historical!?! I am always happy to hear more about historicals! Care to share the more historically significant events behind your story?

There are two big historical elements to Solve by Christmas, and they were both SO much fun to incorporate. The first is the great blizzard of 1913. This storm still holds records in Colorado today! In fact, it was all the snow from this historic storm that spawned the ski industry in the state.

The second element is the union wars taking place in the city during that era. It was a time when labor unions and regulations were gaining ground, but it was also a turbulent time. Riots, strikes, court cases…all of this and more. There was a militant unionist group growing in Denver during 1913, so I chose to use them in the story as well.

As if history itself wasn’t inspiration enough, I love asking writers where that nugget, that spark, that first seed of a story comes from. What was the inspiration for Solve by Christmas?

I needed a story idea that would be of shorter length. I had already determined that I wanted to make it a Christmas story. As I was thinking about that, I wondered about plots with a deadline of Christmas. By Christmas…that was intriguing. As I made a mental list of different story lines one came to mind about a detective who had to solve a case by Christmas. I liked that idea, because I’ve always had a fascination with detectives and mysteries. Then the though popped into my head, what if the case the detective had to solve wasn’t a “case” as he thought? And there’s where it began.

Intriguing! Of course we love writing…it’s the flame inside us. But it’s not all roses and sunshine. There are things about the craft that not every writer loves. What part of the writing process do you dread?

Editing is a love/hate deal with me. Okay, mostly hate. It’s that phase of writing where I question everything and get that feeling like, “Why am I doing this? I am horrible. What an awful sentence! Oh.my.word. I can’t show this to the world. I’ll never be able to leave my bedroom again.” But when I look back and see something absolutely awful become an intriguing scene, that’s pretty cool.

Editing truly is a necessary evil…

Many great authors speak to how important it is to read others’ work. I know as much as we learn from craft books and conferences, we pick up things intuitively from reading fiction as well. What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Hope for Christmas by Linda Shenton Matchett, Jodie Wolfe and Terri Wangard. Those three are blogging buddies of mine, so I was super excited to read an anthology with all three of them! I love Christmas stories, so I am squeezing as many as possible in before the season is officially over.

As my readers already know, I set the mood for my writing sessions. And music is a big part of that. What about you? What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

I listen to soundtracks. When I start planning a new book, one of my preperations is to find some music that fits the genre, feel and emotion of the story. I create a playlist that I listen to while I write. Since I do a lot of writing in the car with my family, I need a way to plug in and get my mind into the story. Music helps SO much with that.

Solve by Christmas was kind of a hard one to get a playlist for. I ended up using a lot of music from the Titanic soundtrack (same era, you know). Not so much the ones that ended up on the film, but the other songs from the time-period that came as a bonus.

Interesting. I’m a movie soundtrack girl, too. Instrumental music only.

Can you tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

There is a very slight romance thread between Detective Hollock and another character. There’s also an underlying element of learning not to rely on our own abilities and intellect, but instead seeking our answers in Christ, not ourselves.

I like it. What’s next? Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

Ha, I have a lot of current projects. 😉 The trick is getting them over the finish line.
I am in the editing stages of a civil war story, the beginning stages of my first romance story set during WWII, and I’m also working on a couple of biographical non-fiction projects.

I, too, suffer the same problem. Never working on just one thing…too many projects, only 24 hours in a day…and I pretty much enjoy sleeping for some of those hours.

Thank you again, Amber, for joining us today. And I look forward to checking out what goodies you have provided about the book below!

Solve By Christmas

Enjoy an Excerpt

Denver, December 1, 1913

At last, Jasper Hollock, Private Investigator, was going to get his first real case. He cleared his throat to keep from letting out a whoop as he jumped from the trolley and dodged traffic across Broadway. After two years of monotonous union cases, it was about time. One of these days, he’d put criminals behind bars instead of employees out of work. This day would be his first step toward the destiny God had ordained for him.

His overcoat streamed behind him as his long strides carried him toward the Rudin Sugar Company building. The brick structure loomed ahead, lined with windows across the middle and top floors. A flash of movement signaled the employees were about to begin the day’s work.

Shoving his left hand into his pocket, he ensured the note was still present before opening the glass double door and slipping out of the cold. He’d come as soon as Denny appeared at his apartment door with the note. Dare say, he probably beat the errand boy back to the factory—hardly a fair brag considering he paid the trolley fee while the poor adolescent rode his bicycle through the slushy streets. But he needed to get more facts. The janitor’s short explanation was not anywhere near enough.

Details, people. Details. Didn’t they know life and death could be found in details?

He mounted the stairs two at a time to the second floor. Mr. Rudin’s secretary glanced up from his papers as Jasper passed. “Morning, Mr. Hollock.”

“Detective Hollock, if you don’t mind. Would you be so kind as to let Mr. Rudin know I must speak with him directly? I’m to take a look down the hall, and afterward, I will need to speak with him.”

The man raised an eyebrow above his monocle. “Already done, detective. I was just about to send for you.”

Jasper halted and turned around. “Were you?”

“Indeed. It appears Mr. Rudin would like to speak with you as well. Shall I show you in?” The elder man placed both his palms on the desk as if to rise.

“No, I have a short order of business first.” Spinning on his heel, Jasper continued down the hall. He could feel the secretary’s glare on his back. Old Mr. Stosch liked to keep things prompt, but this couldn’t wait.

Turning down another corridor, Jasper came upon the janitor standing sentry over the factory laboratory door, mop in hand. The man’s shoulders loosened, and his mop wavered. “There you are, Detective Hollock.”

“Now, now, Charlie. What’s all this? You said next to nothing in your note.”

“I couldn’t, sir. Didn’t want to raise an alarm without talking to you first.” The mop of hair on his head rivaled the one in his hand. He brushed gray strands out of his eyes. “I was coming to mop up before the boys begin, and I found the door ajar.”

Jasper chewed the inside of his cheek. The laboratory doors were never left unlocked, much less open. “Any sign of tampering?”

“None. Well…” Charlie’s eyes flitted to the doorway. “Leastwise, as far as I can tell.”

Crouching to examine the knob and lock, Jasper searched the metal surface for scratches. After pulling his magnifier from his pocket, he held it up to the lock and surrounding area. He puffed a hot breath against it, but no grease or finger marks appeared. Curious, indeed.

“Detective, I locked up on Friday night, I know I did. I just can’t understand how it would have been open.”

Jasper took his time before standing. He patted Charlie’s shoulder. “Not to worry, man. We’ll get it sorted out.”

A sugary scent wafted through the room. Bright lights dangling from the ceiling gleamed on countless shelved glass vials, and various pieces of equipment standing at attention on desks lined up in smart rows—a drawer on one end hung partially ajar.

“Are you the only one with a key, Charlie?”

“The lab manager has one. And Mr. Rudin, of course.”

The windows along the far wall, facing Broadway, appeared neither broken nor tampered with, but a round splotch of wet darkened the wooden boards. The wetness stretched from the original site to the window and back again to the door. Charlie had apparently mopped up. “Was there some kind of spill in here recently?”

“Not that they’ve mentioned. I’m thinking it was done when whoever it was snooped around. There was a broken vial, too.”

Interesting. Jasper tucked that piece of information away for later. He took a brief stroll around the room. “Is this window usually left unlocked?”

Charlie’s boots squeaked as he crossed the floor. “No, I don’t see why it should be. Do you think the perpetrator came in that way? Then snuck out the door? That’d explain why it was open after I left it locked.”

Lifting the window frame, Jasper peered out. “How would one get up here without being seen from the street? Is there roof access somehow?”

“Dunno. I haven’t paid much attention. I guess I could go up and take a look.”

“Details, Charlie. Details. They’re important.” Jasper pulled his head back inside and shut the window securely. “When will the lab manager be in?”

“He usually comes in around nine, I believe.”

Jasper flipped open his pocket watch. Eight thirty-five. “I will have to return to question him then. Lock it up, won’t you? No one besides the manager comes in until I return. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.” Charlie’s chest puffed out. “No one in but him.”

“Thatta boy.” Jasper gave the janitor a nod and headed toward Mr. Rudin’s office. He could always think better when walking. If someone had broken into the lab, what might they want? And what harm could come to Mr. Rudin’s company because of it? Whatever the intent, Jasper would stop it before any harm touched his dear old patron.

“Could Mr. Rudin beg an audience with you now, Detective Hollock?”

Jasper rolled his eyes at the secretary’s sarcastic tone. “I’ll forgive you, Mr. Stosch. I couldn’t expect a secretary to understand matters of more pressing consequence than newspaper advertisements.”

Mr. Stosch folded the newspaper he’d been perusing and straightened his monocle. The man’s drooping brown eyes reminded him of an old hound. Perhaps it was a result of reading too many newspapers. “I read the newspaper by Mr. Rudin’s request, Mr. Hollock.” He stood and opened the door to the proprietor’s office. “Mr. Rudin, Detective Hollock to see you.”

“Yes, well, show him in. Oh, but come here a moment, Stosch.” Mr. Rudin waved them inside as he crossed from a filing cabinet. Half a grin hid under his curled white mustache, and instead of sitting, he rocked back and forth on his heels. “Do close the door.”

Jasper claimed the chair facing the desk and crossed one leg over his knee. Mr. Rudin was robust as ever, except for the lines between his eyebrows. Perhaps he hadn’t slept well.

Mr. Rudin gripped the back of the leather chair he stood behind. “Stosch, I was thinking.”

The secretary clasped his hands behind his back. “Yes, sir.”

“It is December the first today, getting right on toward Christmas. I’d like to give a little something to each of the employees. A gift of sorts. What do you recommend?” He leaned forward and extracted a candy from the dish on the corner of his desk.

“Well, sir, most workers would be pleased to get an early leave for the holiday.”

Mr. Rudin popped the candy in his mouth. “Quite right, but I expected to give them something tangible. Some memento of my appreciation for them. Perhaps a golden coin or something.”

Jasper smiled as he studied the elder man. Mr. Rudin was just that type of fellow. He’d been considerate and kind to Jasper’s mother when she arrived in Denver with nothing more than the clothes on her back and the babe in her arms. What would they have done if the Rudins hadn’t taken her in as housekeeper? Since then, the sugar baron had been like a father, teaching him how to golf and even shoot. With a pistol very much like the one now sitting in the man’s leather chair. How odd.

“Thank you, Stosch. That is all for now.” After the door closed behind the secretary, Mr. Rudin’s gaze shifted to Jasper. He pressed his lips together. “My boy, I have a new case for you.”

A grin spread across Jasper’s face. This was it. The moment he’d been waiting for. His employer would reveal some secret stolen from the lab, and he’d have his first case of any consequence.

Rudin took a breath and stepped around his chair. “I will warn you ahead of time…it won’t be an easy one.”

“I can handle it, sir.”

One white brow rose above Mr. Rudin’s deep-set eyes. “I’m a hard case.”

Jasper frowned. “Sir?”

Bending down, Mr. Rudin picked up the revolver. “I’ve struck a deal with God, Jasper, and you’re my angel.”

Buy Links

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More about the Author

Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call “historical fiction at its finest”. Her title, Dawn of Liberty, was awarded the 2017 CSPA Book of the Year award in Historical Fiction. She lives in Colorado and spends half her time volunteering in the Ozarks. Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at www.AmberSchamel.com and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!

Connect with Amber and her books

Website: http://amberschamel.com/

Newsletter & updates: http://www.amberschamel.com/newsletter-signup.html

Blogs – http://stitchesthrutime.blogspot.com/
http://www.hhhistory.com/
http://amberschamel.blogspot.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAmberSchamel

Twitter – @AmberSchamel

Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/AmberDSchamel/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7073165.Amber_Schamel

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Amber-Schamel/e/B00CIXK91M

Giveaway

Amber has generously offered a giveaway: an e-book edition of Solve by Christmas. If you would like to enter to win this e-copy, simply follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter below. Thanks and best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Author Dana Romanin

Hello, all! Another Friday, another wonderful author for you to meet. Dana Romanin is another author in the Clean Reads publishing family. As many of you know, I just love being a part of this group of authors. We help each other, encourage each other, and give much needed advice. This group is how I met Dana. So, she is on my blog today talking about her novel and even offering a giveaway (details below).

Thank you, Dana, for being on my blog today! First, can you tell us a little about your novel?

Abby’s Letters is a story about sisters, first love, and forgiveness. It’s about a seventeen-year-old girl who fakes her mom’s life in order to keep her little sister from going into foster care. Along the way she discovers things about herself, her cute next door neighbor, and most importantly her dead mother that changes the way she looks at life forever.

Interesting… What was the inspiration for Abby’s Letters?

Well, the idea for my story came from a morbid newspaper article I read years ago. It was about the amount of unclaimed bodies crowding the morgues. They’d just be written off as John or Jane Doe and would be stored for months, even a year or longer. It was sad to think that someone could die and nobody know or care enough to claim them. Then I thought, unless there was a reason no one claimed them. Maybe they were protecting someone. And Abby’s Letters stemmed from there

It is true that inspiration for writers comes from anywhere. I totally get it.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been seriously writing for almost seven years. Before that, I was more of a dreamer. I was enamored with the idea of being an author. I’ve dabbled in writing since I was a preteen and I had this romanticized “Anne Shirley” type notion of what writing was supposed to be like. But I didn’t have a good reason for why I wanted to write. Therefore, if it got too hard, which it inevitably does, I just didn’t do it. I’d give up. I never thought it was possible to actually become a published writer, because it just seemed too doggone hard. But it wasn’t until I became a youth group leader that I figured out why I wanted to write— to encourage, comfort, and bring light into hurting girl’s lives. Once I figured out why I wanted to write nothing was going to stop me. It didn’t matter how hard making it in publishing was, I wasn’t going to quit because I had a reason not to quit.

I love that. You really have a wonderful personal inspiration. Something you said is really true. It does get hard. There are parts of the process that are not as fun. What part of the writing process do you dread the most?

The part of the writing process that I dread the absolute most is writing the blurb and synopsis. I can write 400 pages, but ask me to write one paragraph about that 400 pages, and I’m paralyzed.

I always ask, because we are always learning from each other… Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

The best advice I can give is don’t fight the story. Don’t shy away from writing the tough stuff. There are parts in Abby’s Letters that I didn’t want to write. I wanted to do some things differently, but that wasn’t the story. I wanted to take the easy way out, but I had to dive into those scenes and write them anyway.

I always have to set the mood when I write…and music is a key part of that. What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

The music I listen to depends on my character’s personality. One of my character’s personality most matches French music, so when I’m writing in his POV I listen to the French Cooking Music on Pandora. Another one of my characters has a lot of issues so Julia Michael’s Issues song is perfect for her scenes.

Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?

I write best in the morning. My brain is completely fried by the afternoon so I found that the best time to write is first thing in the morning after the coffee kicks in. And my favorite place to write is anywhere that I’m not interrupted. I have three kids so that can be hard to find.

I totally get that. I have three of my own, so it can be challenging 🙂

How long does it take you to write a book?

Abby’s Letters took me about a year to write from beginning to end. However, I’ve recently made changes so that I can focus solely on my writing career, and I hope that will decrease that time frame quite a bit.

I’m going to take a chance and ask if you could tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

In my original plan for Abby’s Letters, Clark’s character did not exist. If you read the book, you will see how different that would make the book! And Lindsey was supposed to be nothing but a minor character. But she was so insistent on having more depth that I wound up giving her a book of own.

Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

As I mentioned before Lindsey was so insistent on being more than just a stock character that I’ve revolved the second book in the series around her. So I’m currently in the editing process on the second and third book in the Abby’s Letters series. I’m also writing a novella from the perspective of Beth, Jane’s best friend in Abby’s Letters. I also have a rough idea for a supernatural trilogy that is just begging to be written. So now you can see why I need to work on my turnaround time on writing books. So many books to write, so little time!

I so get that! So much inspiration all around us! We have to pick and choose sometimes.

Thanks for being on my blog today. It was so great to hear more about you and your process. I look forward to hearing more about the book!

Abby’s Letters

For years, Jane’s mom told her horror stories about her time spent in foster care. Now she’s determined to keep her little sister from suffering the same fate.

Seventeen-year-old Jane Sanders has had to take care of her alcoholic mother and little sister, Abby, since her dad died seven years ago. And now Mom had to go and die too. Authorities determine it was a homeless transient who died in the fire of the old manufacturing plant, but Jane knows the truth.

There is no way she’s going to let Abby go into foster care which leaves her with one option—fake her mom’s life. As far as Abby knows, their mom is in rehab. And Jane wants to keep it that way. She’d be eighteen in a few months then she could become legal guardian to her sister. With the help of her best friend, Clark, it should be easy, right?

Juggling nosy neighbors, a concerned school counselor, and an oblivious new boyfriend turns out to be harder than Jane thought. But the real problem begins when Abby starts writing letters to Mom. Through Abby’s letters, Jane sees a different side to their mom—a side she could have loved. And loving Mom is something she didn’t plan on. Because loving somebody makes it harder to ignore their death.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Clark exhaled. “Anything for you, Janie.”

Oh. He had to pull out the nickname. It crushed her. Asking Clark to lie for her—she had never asked so much of him. It went against everything he believed in. She didn’t believe in all that Christian stuff, but he did. Keeping this secret would mean disrespecting his mother. It meant he would have to go against his beliefs.

Disrespect his God.

But his God wasn’t there for her, and He certainly wasn’t going to save Abby from foster care.

Jane would, though.

She entwined her fingers with his. He was so different than the little boy who’d played hide-and-seek with her on warm summer nights, back when her world was filled with her father’s laughter and her mother’s smiles. Now his muscle twitched in his strong jawline. What happened to the freckle-faced boy she had played G.I. Joe and Transformers with? He even had stubble.

“Thanks, Superman.”

“You’re the only one allowed to call me that.”

“And you’re the only one allowed to call me Janie.”

“This is too much. You can’t do this alone.” His thumb caressed her hand.

“I’m not. I have you.”

Buy Links

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More about the author

Dana Romanin has dreamed of being a writer since she was a little girl pretending to be Anne Shirley (from Anne of Green Gables). She used to write under a forsythia bush, but now she writes in a messy office that she shares with her sewing obsessed daughter.

Dana’s short story, The Silence of Sand, was chosen for adaptation into a short video performed by the Blue Man Group. Dana has also published short fiction for teens in Encounter—The Magazine and had a short story published in a Family Fiction anthology, The Story 2014. Her first novel, Abby’s Letters, released June 20, 2017.

She lives nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with her wonderful husband, three beautiful kids, and a lot of persnickety pets.

Connect with Dana and her books

You can find her blog and awkward videos on her website DanaRomanin.com She can also be found on Twitter (@DanaRomanin) and her Facebook fan page (DanaRomaninAuthor).

Giveaway

Dana has generously offered an ecopy of her book Abby’s Letters to one Rafflecopter winner. So, please follow the instructions below to enter to win this fabulous prize!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

GRIEVING: The holidays are not quite the same this year

Every year, I hear the very thoughtful words of the wise mention how the holidays are not the “most wonderful time of the year” for everyone. That for those who have lost loved ones during the year, it can be a time of painful reminder of their absence. It is not that I didn’t believe these sages in my life. I just never knew how true this was.

Until now.

The loss of my mom is not the first loss in my life.

I was very close to my grandparents. And had a close friend that was lost in a tragic drowning accident while I was in college. But it’s so different. So very different.

Perhaps part of it is the place she held in my life.

Maybe there is some truth to the idea that you experience all the previous losses again each time you lose someone else. So, in effect, I am dealing with this very difficult loss and reliving these other losses at the same time.

I don’t know.

But I do know that I ache.

I hurt.

And the joyfulness of the season seems to elude me.

I can stop and be thankful for the many, many blessings in my life. My mom’s influence being one of them. But none of it detracts from the pain of the loss. And I come back to that over and over.

Perhaps that’s okay. For this to just be a different kind of year. Part of the “new normal”.

Maybe this year, I can lean in to the grief and let it be. Lend my tears to the loss. Honor her memory and the absence of her laughter at our gathering.

Without dreading it. Or worrying if I’m upsetting someone else…acknowledge that it is what it is. For me. And for everyone else. That we all must take it as it comes.

And Christmas is what it is this year. No expectations. No forcing ourselves into any molds.

For better or for worse.

In that freedom, perhaps we will find some peace.

INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Author Lucy Thompson

Hello, again, readers and fellow writers! I have another fabulous visiting author for you all to meet today – Lucy Thompson. She is also offering a GIVEAWAY (details below)! I met Lucy through the ACFW Historical Fiction Facebook page. You have certainly heard me rave about ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) before. But this is a great example of the networking and connections you can make through the genre pages set up. They have them for all genres. Not only can you network with other writers in your genre, you can ask questions and get great advice. It’s priceless!
But I don’t want to take too much of the spotlight off Lucy who is here to talk to us about her books. So, let’s see what we can glean.
Welcome, Lucy! Thanks for being on my blog today. First, can you tell us a little about your novel.

A cowboy! A mail order bride! Some cute kids and bossy siblings.

What more could you want? (Apart from the book :)

Colorado, 1881. Lydia Walsh is on the run. The quiet rancher she marries and expected to find safety and protection with turns out to have three siblings, next to nothing to live on, and is a crack shot who may or may not be one of the states best cattle rustlers.

Beau Harding wants to keep his family together and do the right thing by them. His mail order bride comes with her own set of baggage: two more mouths to feed and empty hearts begging him to fill. The job he took for some quick money gets him thrown in jail for rustling, and then to clear his name he takes on another job–and learns that his wife may have been the one plotting his family’s downfall all along.

Interesting! I know that inspiration can come from so many different places. What about for you? What was the inspiration for Mail Order Surprise?

Jesus. (Seriously!) Old movies. I’m a shameless borrower. I “borrow” from old movies, books, newspaper articles, random conversations overheard on the train, family skeletons… You name it, I borrow inspiration from it. For Mail Order Surprise I drew inspiration from a few musical classics: Calamity Jane and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Love those films. I definitely get how films and other stories inspire.

Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be when you were a child?

I always knew I would write. Just like I always knew I’d buy a house. Careless confidence perhaps? One day after church I decided to sit down and write a book. All I knew about it was that there was a girl getting off a train. No name. No backstory. No idea that she would arrive home to a house in a mess and three unexpected brothers to wash/cook for. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

🙂 So fun! I’m a pantser too (write “by the seat of my pants”, without plotting or outlining)…I love discovering the story as I write it. But it’s not all fun and games. There are things about the craft that each writer doesn’t like as much… What part of the writing process do you dread?

Seriously. Coming up with all the STUFF that happens to a character inbetween the opening and closing lines. I like to just make it up as I go along but it does take me longer to write that way. :-/

The struggle is real!! 😉 I always ask other authors this question: Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

Yes! Join a writing organization. ACFW or RWA. American Christian Fiction Writers have an excellent critique group that will help hone your writing along with a monthly workshop you can opt into. Well worth the membership price.

For writing books I highly recommend Susan May Warren’s Deep and Wide. It is SO good. I was highlighting notes in the intro! Also recommend The Emotion Thesaurus and Rivet Your Reader with Deep Point of View.

Love, love, love this advice!!

When I write, I have to get in a rhythm, set a mood. Music is a big part of that. What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

I listen to EPIC music!! At least that’s what the youtube title says. Ha ha. I like this music as it has no lyrics, is reasonably fast paced (so encourages fast typing/thinking), doesn’t give me a headache if I listen to it through headphones for hours on end, and is uplifting.

I start with this one first: Epic Music Mix: Fate

Then this hour long one: Best of Epic Music 2012

Let me sneak this one in: Can you tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

The blurb for Waltzing Matilda:

Waltzing Matilda by Lucy Thompson – Sydney, Australia, 1821
Henry didn’t plan on a runaway convict masquerading as a shepherd. Or on the woman’s baby. Keeping them safe will cost him his freedom—or will it?

Something NOT in the blub: in Australia in 1821 the act of dropping one’s handkerchief at the feet of a female convict was considered a proposal.

You bet I used that in my novella.

Here’s what my extended plot/blurb says:

Escapee, Matilda, will die before returning to the Parramatta Female Factory. Last time someone offered her “kindness”, she ended up pregnant.

Six years since Henry Powell completed his sentence he’s increased his sheep herd to head inland.

What he didn’t plan on was a spitfire runaway convict masquerading as a drover—with a baby.

Henry’s offer to return is the last thing she needs. Still, his dreams of new horizons spark a longing. She’s captured and returned to Sydney. Her freedom costs his prized handkerchief—his proposal. Together, they trust God for their happy ever after in the Australian bush.

Thank you so much, Lucy, for talking with me today and for sharing about your works. I look forward to reading more!

Mail Order Surprise

Enjoy an Excerpt from Mail Order Surprise

Close enough to reach out and touch her, he could count the golden flecks in her eyes. He grinned. Only married a few hours and already he felt poetic. He backed off a pace from the distraction she presented. “So, what do you think?”

Lydia blinked, lashes brushing her cheek. “About what?”

“About the house.”

Shutters closed over her face, leaving a polite mask. “It’s nice. Large and … airy.”

Beau followed her gaze as it tracked over the workbench, the table his Pa built with its six mismatched chairs, the sideboard. What did she think about his home, really? Now that he was taking a good look at it, he probably should have washed up last week. Or at least set the dishes to soak.

He let out a huff. “Be honest—the place stinks and needs a decent clean.”

She raised a brow. “You think?”

He nodded, not too hastily, in case she thought he was desperate. If he didn’t already know how ridiculous he’d look, he’d get down on his knees and beg for a clean plate and a hot meal. He crossed his arms and worked his jaw. “Could do. I’ll let you decide what’s best, though.”

Lydia moved to the large black stove that dominated one wall. With a wave, she swirled the dust motes silhouetted against the stove and they twinkled out of sight to blend in with its tarnished nickel plating.

She checked the firebox and then propped her hands on her hips. “I’m thinking fried pork and potatoes. You have a side of pork, right?”

His head bobbed of its own accord. It was their last side of pork, and he’d gladly hand it over, sacrifice it on the altar of good eating.

One delicate finger tapped against her cheek. “And biscuits.”

His knees wobbled. “With gravy?”

She leveled him with a frown.

He hastily swallowed the saliva that had pooled in his mouth. “But only if you want to.”

“Beau….” Lydia shook her head. “One simply does not make biscuits without gravy.”

“Yes!”

She startled at his near shout, her hands flying to clutch her chest.

He grinned. “Sorry. It’s just….” He shrugged. “Gravy. I knew I did the right thing marrying you.”

She considered him with a look that said he’d taken leave of his senses. “Okay.”

His wife could look at him any old way she liked, he was gettin’ gravy and biscuits.

More about the Author

Hi! My name is Lucy Thompson. I’m a stay-at-home mum to five precocious children and wife to the ultra-handy Dave by day and a snoop by night, stalking interesting characters through historical settings, and writing about their exploits.

I enjoy meeting new people from all over the world and learning about the craft of writing. When I can be separated from my laptop, I’m a professional time-waster on Facebook (really!), a slave to the towering stack of books on my bedside table, or can be found hanging out with my five children.

My home is in central Queensland, Australia where I do not ride a kangaroo to the shops, mainly because my children won’t fit.

Buy Link

Amazon: http://amzn.to/22iGjlX

Connect with Lucy and her books

Giveaway

To join the giveaway, please follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter below. Lucy is offering one (1) ebook copy of Mail Order Surprise. You can gain entry points by posting a comment on this blog, visiting Lucy’s Facebook Author Page, and visiting my Facebook Author Page. Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

INTERVIEW & SPOTLIGHT: Author E.A. West

Hello, all! Guest author Friday is here again. Today, I have author E.A. West talking about her latest release, Redeeming Honor. I won’t spoil the fun by telling you about the book prematurely though. You have to read on for that 🙂

I met E.A. West through a publisher we have both worked with called Clean Reads. Not only is Stephanie (the owner) a wonderful person to work with, she has created a Facebook page for the Clean Reads authors. We share advice on all kinds of things and anyone is free to ask questions. We help encourage and spur one another on. It’s pretty unique and very helpful. I just love it! Anyhow…that’s how I met E.A. West. She is here with me today sharing about this latest release. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in…

Welcome, E.A. West! Thank you for coming on my blog today! First, can you tell us a little about your novel.

Redeeming Honor is an inspirational romance novel featuring an American heroine and an Afghan hero. Here’s the back cover blurb:

Meghan Carpenter loves God, her yarn business, and her twin brother Ryan — a former marine who currently lives with her. When she agrees to let his wounded buddy live with them on her small Indiana alpaca farm, she expects an American marine. What she gets is a former Afghan interpreter who’s painfully shy around women.

Scarred from the war, both physically and emotionally, Basir Hamidi is grateful for a place to live. But his attraction to Meghan is a problem. With his honor destroyed by events in his homeland, and nothing to offer her but his broken, scarred self, he vows to avoid her and protect her reputation. Yet he is drawn to her with a strength that can only be God’s leading. For a man who has lost everything, letting go of the past is a difficult process. When he must also redeem his honor, his only chance of success is to rely on God.

Wow! What a great blurb! I am intrigued… What was the inspiration for Redeeming Honor?

I’ve included combat veterans in several of my books, and in the course of researching those characters, I learned enough of about Afghan culture to be intrigued. I watched several interviews and documentaries on PBS that mentioned interpreters, and my imagination had one of its infamous “what if” moments. In this case it was, “What if an Afghan interpreter got injured and sent to the United States? What if he met the sister of someone he’d worked with in Afghanistan?” The story grew from there.

Love it. Inspiration comes from all kinds of places… Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be when you were a child?

I actually hating writing when I was a kid, even though I’ve always loved to read. I have learning disabilities (including dyslexia) that made expressing myself with words difficult, so becoming an author never even entered my mind. When I was a kid, I dreamed of being an artist, a horse trainer, or a vet. Sometimes I wanted to be a farmer.

I guess there is truly never a challenge that can’t be overcome with determination. What an amazing testimony! When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

My freshman year of high school, I took a writing class for English. I wasn’t excited about it since I’d spent my entire school career up to that point avoiding writing as much as possible, but my mom insisted I had to take the class. One of our assignments was to make up a character and write a profile for him/her. Something about creating my character and writing about him unlocked my ability to express myself through writing. I no longer hated writing and started creating stories for fun. I haven’t stopped since.

Good. I’m glad this assignment connected you to your future. I always have to pick other authors’ brains…do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

Read excellent writing, including in the genre you write. The more you read, the more you learn what works and what doesn’t. It also helps to study the work of popular authors to figure out what makes readers keep coming back for more.

Great advice! What about you? What are you currently reading?

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ve loved the Lord of the Rings movies for years, but I’d never read the books. Now that I’m reading the first one, I wish I would have read the series a long time ago. It’s an excellent book, but so different from the movie!

I read them a long time ago. I should look into them again. Interesting enough, I am listening to the score from the movie right now. It’s part of my writing playlist. I generally (but not always) need music to get in the writing mood. What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

It varies. Sometimes I need silence to write. Other times I write with anything from classical music to heavy metal playing in the background. It all depends on my mood.

Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?

I do most of my writing in the late afternoon or at night. I’ve always been a night owl, so I work with my internal clock. My favorite place to write is anywhere with few or no distractions. If there are other people around or a lot of noise, I have a hard time focusing.

I hear you! My kids can be uber distracting…as can be the house. I find evening to be most productive, but because my kids are at home in the evening, I’ve shifted to writing more during the day.

I usually ask this just for sheer interest: how long does it take you to write a book?

It depends on the book. I once wrote a novella in a week, but one of my novels took around seven years to finish.

This question is for my readers. Can you tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

Basir’s family had to cut ties with him to keep themselves safe. Working as an interpreter for the American military has made a lot of Afghan people and their families targets for the Taliban. Including that bit of reality in Redeeming Honor is my way of acknowledging the often unrecognized sacrifice those brave interpreters have made.

Wow. How sad. You really have got me with this one!

Thank you again for being on my blog today! I have enjoyed learning a bit more about your newest release and about your process. Now, I’ll get out of the way and let you all get more into Redeeming Honor.

Redeeming Honor

Enjoy an Excerpt

The oven timer dinged, and Meghan grabbed a hot pad. Golden-brown cookies filled the air with the delicious scents of vanilla and chocolate. She set the tray on the granite counter, shut off the oven, and then turned to the task of transferring chocolate chip cookies to the cooling rack.

As she set the baking sheet in the sink, the front door opened. Meghan’s heart jumped, and she hurried from the kitchen, eager to see which of Ryan’s friends would be living in her house. She stepped into the hall and spotted her brother and a swarthy-skinned, black-haired man wearing huge dark sunglasses. Each of them carried a black suitcase.

Ryan grinned as his friend closed the door. “Hey, Meghan, this is my buddy Basir Hamidi. Basir, meet my sister, Meghan.”

The black-haired man removed his sunglasses to reveal a pair of wire-rimmed glasses and scar tissue around his tawny-brown eyes. “Thank you for letting me stay in your home.”

Meghan swallowed her surprise at his heavy accent and pushed aside her sorrow that he had endured something terrible to cause the scars. Regardless of what he had been through, the only thing that should matter to her was helping him to feel comfortable in her home. She offered a warm smile and clasped her hands at her waist. “I’m glad I had an empty guestroom for you. I’ll let Ryan give you the grand tour of the place while I put the finishing touches on lunch, but remember that this is your home, too, for however long you need it.”

“Thank you.” He inclined his head, his right hand over his heart. Then, he lowered his hand and glanced at Ryan.

Her brother slung an arm around Basir’s shoulders and guided him to the stairs. “Your room’s up here.”

Meghan returned to the kitchen and struggled to wrap her mind around her new houseguest. She’d expected an American marine, but her brother had brought home an Afghan man. Had Basir somehow become a marine? Had he been part of the Afghan army? Questions flowed in a steady stream as she chopped hardboiled eggs for the chef’s salads she’d planned.

Buy Links

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

iTunes

Kobo

Pelican Book Group

More About the Author

Award-winning author E.A. West is a lifelong lover of books and storytelling. In high school, she picked up her pen in a creative writing class and hasn’t laid it down yet. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, knitting, and crocheting. She lives in Indiana with her family and a small zoo of pets.

Connect with E.A. West and her books

Website: http://eawest.mcphitty.com

Newsletter: http://eawest.mcphitty.com/newsletter.html

Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/EAWestAuthor

Twitter: http://twitter.com/eawest

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/authoreawest

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/eawest

GRIEF: A Unique Story

What does that title mean exactly? I mean grief and grieving are as old as the world, right? From the minute Adam and Eve lost their son Abel to his murderous sibling’s anger, there has been grief.

Wait…take that back. Perhaps even one could say from the moment sin entered the world, the open communion with God was broken, man had to toil for food, and woman had great pain in childbirth (come on, ladies, you hear me). Perhaps that was when grief entered the picture.

But certainly not when it showed up at my door.

Yet, that is exactly what I am telling you.

Your grief is unique. Your pain is not only real, it is different than any pain anyone has felt.

As much as it is the same.

One of the things that I absolutely abhor that we do to ourselves, is that we rationalize our emotions….especially our pain and grief.

“there are worse things” “I’m not as bad off as         

“I should be grateful for what I have”

The fact that others may have it worse, does not (listen to me), DOES NOT diminish YOUR experience of YOUR pain.

The fact that there are many good things in your life does NOT diminish the hurt you feel over your LOSS even as much as these blessings may comfort you. And I firmly believe that our God is big enough and understanding enough to give you that: space for your grief all the while knowing that it does not mean you aren’t also grateful for His goodness.

Your pain is your pain.

It is important that you give yourself the space, time, and moments to sit in your grief. To lean into your grief even. If you stuff and deny it…it will create a bitterness that eats you up.

And remember, God understands loss…perhaps better than we realize. He gave His only Son. Turned Him over to die a criminal’s death. God turned His back on His suffering Son while He died, forsook Him. So, God has experienced that kind of pain.

I say this, not so you will compare your pain. Please don’t. But to encourage you that He does get it.

In your realm and breadth of experience, you have your set of emotions. To what extent you have known loss is unique to you. Don’t discount your knowledge of it and feelings because you think you shouldn’t feel that way or that you should “be over it by now”. Or anything else that someone else tells you. Let you be you. Deal with it as it comes to you. And know that you are coming to a place of “new normal”…not trying to return to the way things were. That life is gone. Yet another reason to mourn.

Come to grips with new normal as you are able.

And find peace. In your time.

INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Author Lauren Brandenburg

Welcome to my Friday blog! As you know, I host authors on Fridays. And we are entering December with no exception. But with a real treat. I have author Lauren Brandenburg on today. I met Lauren through the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). She is the President of our local chapter, but I actually met her in Dallas at a national ACFW conference about three years ago. Lauren is a gifted writer, has a warming personality, and flawless taste. I really wish I could introduce you in person! But I know you will get a peek at how great she is through her honest interview.

Lauren is also offering a GIVEAWAY!! The details of the giveaway are below. Enjoy!!

Thanks for coming on my blog today, Lauren. First, can you tell us a little about your novel?

Orlo: The Burdened is the second book in the Books of Orlo series, which is actually the second trilogy in The Books of the Gardener. In the first book (spoiler alert!) Orlo wins a tournament allowing him access to a more extravagant lifestyle than the simple life he had as an orphan in book one. Orlo now has everything he ever wanted—the tall tower, the fine clothes, the lavish dinners, and an assignment of prestige as an inventor’s apprentice. The only piece missing is the people he once called family. With his guardian released back into the World, and her husband rumored to be lost, Orlo is now under the watchful eye of a talented, but manipulative inventor. When an unlikely artist uses his unique ability to show Orlo the Way that he has forgotten, Orlo will set out on a quest to the World to restore truth and return his household to the Conclusus.

As with all my children’s books they are appropriate for ages 8+ and are totally cringe free (no inappropriate language, relationships, etc.)

I like the sound of that (“cringe free”). Sounds like an intriguing story. Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be when you were a child?

Oh yes! I always dreamed of being Jo March from Little Women. I also dreamed of being an archeologist, surgeon, and Solid Gold dancer (true story). But at the end of the day, I saw myself teaching and writing stories . . . and then falling in love with a man I didn’t even know I loved (just like Jo!). That all happened . . . cue “When You Wish Upon a Star”.

Love it!! You’re own fairytale come true 🙂 But you and I both know it’s not all rainbows and sunshine 24-7 in the writing world. There are somethings we enjoy more than others. What part of the writing process do you dread?

The first draft! I really should be throwing down a chapter right now instead of doing this interview. But, this is a lovely distraction . . . First drafts are the worst! Even though I tell my writing students over and over how the first draft doesn’t matter, you just have to get the clay on the wheel (thank you, Tosca Lee), I’m still a horrified mess as I force my fingers to get those words on paper.

I’m the same way, my friend. That perfectionist in me just wants to edit as I write! What is that?

You mentioned Tosca Lee…(love her, by the way)…and I know that it is true we are always learning from each other, whether it be through workshops or just intuitively picking up from what we read. Stephen King even says “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” Apparently, he thinks learning from other writers is very important. So, I always ask…what are you currently reading?

This time of year my reading list is all over the place. I am about to dive into A Christmas Carol – Dickens is my classical go to (and it’s almost Christmas), and I am nearing the end of A Cricket on the Hearth. I just finished up Sara Ella’s Unblemished. I try to keep a book in play—you know, a book with more of a non-fiction, Biblical worldview feel. Currently, I’m picking at The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. And because, again, it’s Christmas, I’ll re-read Letters From Father Christmas by Tolkien.

You’ve got it going on for sure!! I am a fast reader, but there is so much on my plate, I can only juggle two books at a time (like you, a non-fiction and a fiction).

Now, when I go to write, I have to get the set up. For me, that includes music. What about you? What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

Movie sound tracks! I have a whole playlist for each series! Orlo likes to listen to the soundtrack from Sherlock Holmes—it has that steampunk kind of feel, the instrumentals from Edward Scissor Hands, Chocolat, Big Fish, Stardust, and the 2003 version of Peter Pan.

Oooohhh…I think Orlo and I share a similar taste in music!

Let me see if I can be a bit sneaky here and get you to tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

Orlo: The Burdened is the longest of all of my children’s chapter books. I believe it comes in somewhere around 71,000 words. One of my most favorite parts in when a character from my second novel, Boone: The Forgotten, makes a needed appearance. Fans of The Books of Boone will know him instantly and Orlo fans will enjoy meeting this unusual character for the first time.

Neat! I’ve heard you’ve got something neat in the works, but I’ll ask for the readers: Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

Yes . . . I’ve written my first novel for adults, and I love it so much! It’s not speculative like my children’s novels, but it is a bit quirky. I’ve titled it The Death of Mungo Blackwell, but that could change should a publishing house find a better fit. (Fingers crossed . . . not for the title change but for the publisher.) More so than anything else I have written, I can’t wait to get this in the hands of readers. It’s just fun, and true (um, err, some of it), and oh so lovely!

I am excited for it! Thank you again, Lauren, for coming on my blog! I am eager for my readers to get a better look at Orlo: The Burdened, so I won’t ramble on. I will, however, encourage everyone with middle-grade readers in their houses to check out these books. Lauren is just fantastic!!

Orlo: The Burdened

A new gardener has entered the Hall of Keeping, removals have ceased, and a ban on using giftings in public has been put in place. Despite the changes, Orlo has everything he ever wanted—the tall tower, the fine clothes, the lavish dinners, and an assignment of prestige as an inventor’s apprentice. The only piece missing is the people he once called family. With his guardian released back into the World, and her husband rumored to be lost, Orlo is now under the watchful eye of a talented, but manipulative inventor. When an unlikely artist uses his unique ability to show Orlo The Way that he has forgotten, Orlo will set out on a quest to the World to restore truth and return his household to the Conclusus.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Quickly, Orlo! We must hurry!” The layers of Evangeline’s red dress flashed in front of Orlo. The doors opened and then shut behind them, one after another as they ran through. “Hold onto your thoughts. She is listening for you!”

Orlo did as the messenger instructed. He blocked every thought of books, the Gardener, and the people of the Liberum from his mind. He had chosen to come back to the Conclusus to bring the truth of the giftings to the people. They had a choice, to live free from the law, and he was the proof.

Orlo passed through another door, hoping this was the one that led to the Hall of Keeping with its gigantic hidden tree and single red apple. He prayed it still grew safely in the middle of the empty shelving where he had last seen it. Out of breath and fighting with everything in him to suppress his fear, he reminded himself . . . he chose this.

More About the Author

Lauren H. Brandenburg is a speaker and advocate for home education, as well as author of the middle-grade series The Books of the Gardener (Boone: The Ordinary, Boone: The Forgotten, Boone: The Sanctified, Orlo: The Created—a 2017 finalist for the Selah Middle Grade Novel of the Year—and Orlo: The Burdened.) She is also the creator of the creative writing curriculum The Engaged Writer, designed to encourage hesitant young writers. Her novels are recognized as a “Top Safe Read” and “Top Read Aloud” for young readers in the homeschool community. Lauren blogs about her family’s journey through The Doubling Project—a homeschool project turned family lifestyle started by her husband Jamie with their two children in 2016—and considers herself a collector of lovely things. Lauren and her family live in Nashville, TN.

Connect with Lauren and her books

Buy Link for gift-able signed copies (Great for kiddos for Christmas!): https://squareup.com/market/tbotg

GIVEAWAY!!

Lauren will be giving away a copy of Orlo: The Burdened to one winner chosen by way of the Rafflecopter below. You can gain entries by posting comments, following it to and liking Lauren’s Facebook Page, and following it to and liking my Facebook page. Entries will be accepted until Thursday, December 7, 2017, at 11:59 pm. Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway