The Essence of Advent

Since people have already started preparing for the holiday season, I’ve invited Lynn Watson to share about her Christmas devotional with us today – first of all, here’s an enticing trailer to watch:  https://youtu.be/ZT5_uGmptZM

Also, Lynn is giving away one copy of The Essence of Joy, either print or Kindle, to a commenter (Kindle only outside the USA.)

These Christmas readings provide ample food for thought. The reader-friendly style invites us to contemplate many aspects of the nativity story–especially the scents and tastes of the season. Several sections would be perfect for sharing as a group devotional. I was also impressed with how Lynn shares the spotlight with her cover artist. 

Take it away, Lynn…

Fictional character Cinnamah-Brosia was born in the first book in this series, The Essence of Courage. She has transformed Miss Dot’s Café (her Gram) into The Coffee Cottage. She and her friends hang out there, invite you in and share their stories of challenge and triumph as each chapter begins.

courage-book-cover-frontI approached my friend Allisha to create the character. Don’t laugh, but ‘C-B’ began as a super-hero character – a pretty cool one, I might add. But we doubted she would be believable or very well liked. Many drawings later, the cover features her at the patio table warmly inviting readers to enter.

When it came time to plan the next cover, I asked Allisha, “Are you in?” She agreed.

“This cover needs to say Christmas, but not scream it. We need friends in the picture, and The Coffee Cottage. Let’s include hints about the devotions and suggest some of the aromas. Above all, this cover needs to connect to the first book.”

 

Front bookcover2

Just imagine the concepts she drew and we discarded before being rewarded with this beautiful cover illustration!

The Essence of Joy features Cinnamah welcoming guests for a Christmas party in the section, “Mint – The Joy of Giving.” Cinnamon and citrus on the wreath highlight “Citron – The Joy of Legacy” and “Cinnamon – The Joy of Integrity”. The blue framed piece on the cottage wall relates to “Frankincense – The Joy of Forgiveness.”

Allisha Mokry earned her BFA from Memphis College of Art. I trusted her imagination, instincts, and artistic gifts to create the characters and the covers. With encouragement to draw and develop as God led, her confidence blossom as I watched. I’m so proud of her and the work she has created. You may viisit Allisha on Facebook /artfulexplorations, and order The Essence of Joy at: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/069296391X/.

The Essence of Courage:

You may contact Lynn at  www.lynnuwatson.com

Walking on Eggshells

Have you ever felt you must walk on eggshells? Many of us can relate to Karen Stork’s story of learning to value herself. Screw the Eggshells 250 wide RGB

The “Back” Story

It is said that we teach people how to treat us. So I have always wondered how  I taught my husband to treat me with verbal abuse and control? And why would I continue to subject myself to this kind of behavior for so long?

Such questions were always in the back of my mind as I thought about the effects of being verbally abused. Helping young women avoid a similar path was another incentive for me, and the dream of becoming a published author was one that had festered for years.

Finally, on a beach in Florida in 2016, I decided it was time to get serious and turn my dream into reality. In one month, the story was outlined. Along with  chapters about my marriage, I also wanted to explore my childhood and my experiences and adventures as a single woman after marriage.

Returning home to Lincoln, I continued to write, but had no idea about publication or what would follow. I simply worked on writing and/or rewriting various chapters every day. After all, I needed a lot of experience writing in a very short time, since it hadn’t been a regular part of my daily routine since returning to college in the 1980s!

Early in 2017 I realized I couldn’t do this all on my own. I found a company in Omaha, NE to provide editing, book layout, cover, and assistance through the publication and marketing process. It wasn’t until late spring of 2017 that we had a title and format for the book — my literary baby was finally born on September 12, 2017. And the title was my inspiration!

Becoming an author fulfilled a major dream and helped me to understand some of my questions about th past. Other unanswered questions may never be resolved, but that’s okay. I don’t believe we can ever understand everything about our past; we just have to accept that whatever happened got us to where we are now. And this publication journey has been one of the greatest joys of my life.

To learn more, visit my website at www.karenstork.com.

IMG_2956

Karen Heckman Stork calls herself “The Grandma Moses of writing” because it took her 53 years to achieve her dream of becoming a published author. She is a columnist for the Lincoln 55+ senior quarterly newspaper with a column entitled “A Lincoln Life.” She also co-wrote and produced a family book entitled “Between the Generations, Poems by a Nana and her Grandson.” Karen is a member of the Nebraska Writer’s Guild and is available to read from her book and speak on subjects including the harmful effects of verbal abuse, aging without growing old, life lessons learned and poetry.

 

 

Roses Galore!

Catherine Castle visits us today with her story, A Groom For Mama, and she’s giving away a free e-book to one commenter. Thanks for joining us, Catherine.

                    My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose

Readers often want to know if authors insert themselves into their books. I’ve noticed that there are a few things that always seem to slip themselves into mine. Flowers tend to be one of those things. That’s probably because I’m a gardener and love flowers.

My newest sweet romantic comedy, A Groom for Mama, is no exception. At one point in the story, Allison, Jack, and Mama visit a rose garden. So I thought it would be fun to show you some pictures of the rose gardens I’ve visited.

Columbus park of Roses, Columbus Ohio

picture  2 Innswood Metro Gardens

 

Isn’t this bench inviting? This garden has hundreds of rose bushes. The minute you walk into the park you’re surrounded by the heavenly scent of roses. I imagined the garden Allison, Jack and Mama visited smelled as heavenly as this one.

 

Innswood Metro Gardens – My husband took the shot of the roses through a circle opening in a lattice gazebo. I just love the juxtaposition of the dark and the light.

Kingwood Center garden

 

 

This as another artistically composed shot from my husband’s camera. He was an art student, so naturally he looks at the composition of a photograph.

The Roses at Disney World.

picture 4 Roses at Disney World

 

This picture was taken during Disney’s Flower and Garden Show. Every year in March-May they display hundreds of beautiful flowers. If you’ve never been, and you love gardens, you really should try to get there. It’s fantastic.

 

Catherine’s garden

 And of course, I couldn’t show you the lovely pictures of gardens I’ve visited without including one of my own award-winning garden. This is the view out of my office window. I planted knockout roses and ribbon grass around the ugly transformer box in the front of my yard. I got tired of looking at the hulking green metal box all the time.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little trip through the roses. Now, I hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from A Groom for Mama.

AGroomforMama2_200Beverly Walters is dying, and before she goes she has one wish—to find a groom for her daughter. To get the deed done, Mama enlists the dating service of Jack Somerset, Allison’s former boyfriend.

 The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness.

 A cross-country trip from Nevada to Ohio ensues, with a string of disastrous dates along the way, as the trio hunts for treatment and A Groom For Mama.

EXCERPT:

 Beverly’s pale face broke out in a smile. “Jack!” She took the flowers from him and buried her nose in them. “They smell wonderful.” She waved him inside, hugging him as he passed by her.

He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek and then glanced around the foyer.

“She’s not here right now.”

“I’m just making sure the coast is clear.” He followed Beverly into the kitchen, the click of her shoes against the hardwood floor leading the way. The house slippers had disappeared with Allison’s arrival, and Beverly had started dressing up more. He was glad to see that. He eased his tall frame into the bar chair in front of the peninsula and set the fruit basket on the counter. “I’m planning to stay as far away from Allison as possible.”

“Is that so?” Beverly’s voice held a hint of sarcasm. “You’ve been over here a lot more since she arrived.”

“Son-in-law prospects, remember?”

As she retrieved a vase from the cabinet, he busied himself untying the string around the flowers, ducking his very hot, and most likely, red face from her view. She hit closer to the mark than he cared to admit.

“How are you feeling?”

“Okay, for now. Allison’s not doing well, though. The doctor visit hit her hard. She’s determined to save me, in spite of the odds.” Beverly took the flowers from him and dropped them into the vase. “Have you got some men for me?”

He swept the fallen flower leaves off of the counter into the waste can beside the bar. Then he concentrated on flicking imaginary pollen off the granite into his hand.

“I’ve been thinking, Beverly, are you sure you want to go through with this? Wouldn’t you rather spend what time you have left with Allison just being together? This bridegroom business has to be a bone of contention. I hate to see you two in disharmony.”

“Jack Somerset. Are you trying to get out of a deal with me? Because if you are—”

“Of course not. It’s just that—”

“—you don’t want to see her with someone else?”

His head snapped up. “I’ve had her once already and found her to be a contrary woman.”

Beverly grinned. “Me-thinks thou dost protest too much.”

No answer to that. Until their breakup they hadn’t ever argued. Back then, even when they didn’t see eye to eye, they could talk. He took a set of folded papers from his hip pocket and slapped them onto the counter. “Here’s the first set of men.”

“This one looks okay,” Beverly said as she scanned them, “but let’s scrap the rest.”

He checked her selection. “I think we should let Allison decide. After all, she’s the one who’ll be saddled with the guy.”

Beverly cocked her head and studied him. “What an odd way to put it. She’s supposed to fall in love with the man and live happily ever after, you know.”

Supposed to being the operative words.”

Want to read more? You can get A Groom for Mama at Amazon.

CT Bio 8x11

About the Author:

Multi-award-winning author Catherine Castle has been writing all her life. Before beginning her career as a romance writer she worked part-time as a freelance writer. She has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit, under her real name, in the Christian and secular market. Besides writing, Catherine loves traveling with her husband, singing, and attending theatre. In the winter she loves to quilt and has a lot of UFOs (unfinished objects) in her sewing case. In the summer her favorite place to be is in her garden. She’s passionate about gardening and even won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club.

Her debut inspiration romantic suspense, The Nun and the Narc, from Soul Mate Publishing was an ACFW Genesis Finalist, a 2014 EPIC finalist, and the winner of the 2014 Beverly Hills Book Award and the 2014 RONE Award. Her most recent release, A Groom for Mama, is a sweet romantic comedy from Soul Mate Publishing. Both books are available on Amazon.

Buy link for A Groom for Mama www.amzn.com/B074SZSGB1

 Catherine’s website: https://catherinecastle1.wordpress.com

Catherine’s blog: http://catherinecastle1.wordpress.com/blog/

Catherine’s Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/catherinecastle

Catherine’s Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7085414.Catherine_Castle

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorCCastle   @AuthorCCastle

Facebook: https://facebook.com/catherinecastleauthor

Stitches Thru Time: http://stitchesthrutime.blogspot.com/

SMP authors blog site:   http://smpauthors.wordpress.com/

 

 

The Power of Story

IMG_7762I met author Terri Picone at the Oregon Christian Writers’ Conference this summer, and asked her permission to reprint this article about the power of STORY… and she has also agreed to share a prize-winning story with you at the end of this article.

Your Reader’s Brain on Story by Terri Picone

Coffee, chocolate, exercise, and . . . story?

Seems like a trick question from a standardized test. But after reading Lisa Cron’s book, Wired for Story, it’s simple.

Cron shows that just as when we eat specific foods or engage in physical activity, reading a story causes our brains to release dopamine. This truth reinforces pleasurable feelings, enabling our survival.

Readers needn’t feel guilty about indulging in an afternoon or evening of reading story. Reading a novel is not frivolous. It is fundamental.

From earliest days, stories around the campfire proved to be more than entertainment. Those who heard stories learned how to avoid danger. The brain reacts in the same way whether we run from a tiger or engage in a story with a character that shares a boat with a large tiger. The advantage of story is we don’t have to take the risks. We can learn from story. We’ll know what to do the next time we meet a tiger.

Our brains are programmed toward story. Our brains instinctively tune-in when we hear “once upon a time.”

Writers can capitalize on this whether we write fiction or nonfiction. Whatever we write, we can illustrate our nonfiction points with a story. Good stories sell, as proven by the marketing community who use story plot in their campaigns.

Writers play a powerful role in the world since brains are created to crave story. Knowing this, we can use our craft of story to share the passions in our hearts with readers. Don’t forget—it’s a proven matter of survival.

Here’s Terri’s prize-winning 2017 story, published in Idaho magazine- it’s still in my mind after reading it some time ago. If you’d like to ask Terri any questions, ask away!

https://www.idahomagazine.com/contests/fiction-writing-contest/colors-of-a-river-2017-first-place-winners-circle/

Check out Terri’s author FB page@Terri Picone, Writer

Echoes of the Heart

I’m pleased to introduce Donna Schalter with The Story Behind the Story of Echoes of the Heart. To one commenter, Donna will give the reader’s choice of an e-book or a print copy. Thank you so much, Donna. 

Amazon cover - larger

If you’ve ever wondered if a writer’s conference is worth the time, effort, and expense, let me assure you: it is!

My involvement in The Pony Express Romance Collection began several years ago at at an ACFW Conference, where I met up with my dear friend, Mary Davis. I asked her what she was working on, and she said she was putting together a proposal for a Pony Express novella collection. I said, “I’d love to be part of that.” She already had the four authors she needed, but if anything changed, she’d contact me.

The next month, hubby and I were planning a long weekend away, and I suggested we do some Pony Express research, “just in case”. So we traveled to Julesburg, Colorado and on into Wyoming, following the trail. Along the way, we stopped and talked to folks at visitor information centers, museums, and anywhere that advertised the Pony Express. People still love the romance and allure of the Pony Express, and it seemed as though everybody had a story.

Another month goes by, and Mary emailed to say an author had to drop out because of other commitments, and was I still interested. You bet I was! The initial concept was four stories told in chronological order at the same station, Echo Canyon Utah, with some carryover of characters from one story to the next.

And so began my romance with the Pony Express. We went through several iterations of the proposal, and the format changed to nine authors at different stations with no overlap of characters.

If I hadn’t been at that conference, I wouldn’t have known about this opportunity. At other conferences, I’ve made contact with other editors, publishers, and book packagers and been blessed to work with them on various projects. So while classes are important, don’t forget the benefits of networking!

Schlachter DSCF1330_Donna resized

Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick, her first-line editor and biggest fan. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts. She is a hybrid publisher who has published a number of books under her pen name and under her own name. Her current release, Echoes of the Heart, a 9-in-1 novella collection titled “Pony Express Romance Collection” released April 1. Donna is also a ghostwriter and editor of fiction and non-fiction, and judges in a number of writing contests. Donna loves history and research, and travels extensively for both.

www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com

www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/DonnaschlachterAuthor

Twitter: www.Twitter.com/DonnaSchlachter

Books: http://amzn.to/2ci5Xqq

Echoes of the Heart: http://amzn.to/2lBaqcW

 

 

THE COPPER BOX

Today, we welcome debut author, Suzanne Bratcher, whom I met a few winters ago in Arizona. I’ve visited Jerome, the setting for her mystery, and even read a bit of the story early on. Suzanne is offering a free print copy of her novel to one fortunate commenter. Enjoy! 

Suzanne, I’d like to know how the plot idea came to you, and if you saw the ending from the start, or if the story evolved as you wrote. 

The plot grew out of the setting. Jerome, Arizona advertizes itself as “the largest ghost town in America” and “the billion dollar copper camp.” From my many visits to Jerome, I knew it would be the perfect place for a mystery, particularly a mystery with a connection to the past. I wanted to use the copper connection, which is so apparent in Jerome, so a copper box became the object someone was willing to kill for. I think of mystery writing as telling a story upside down and backwards. To do that I have to know the ending before I start writing.

Tell us how the setting influenced the characters of your novel. 

Because Jerome is a ghost town, I imagined characters who had come to Jerome to face ghosts from their own past. Marty Greenlaw’s ghost was a four-year-old girl with golden hair who appeared in a recurring nightmare, a child who turned out to be Marty’s little sister who died twenty-two years before. Paul Russell’s ghost was his dead wife Linda, killed in a car wreck Paul blamed himself for. He was in Jerome for the summer doing his best to fulfill Linda’s dream of rebuilding an old house across the road from Marty’s grandmother’s house.

 

Your title and cover certainly attract the reader – please explain how they came to be. 

I wanted a title that would make a reader wonder what the book was about. Boxes always make me curious because I wonder what might be in them. The cover was designed by Diane Cretsinger Turpin of Mantle Rock Publishers. Diane read a synopsis of the book and then asked me about covers I liked on books I’d read. I sent her several, and she went to work. She sent me three or four ideas, and I picked the concept of the young woman and the copper mine. This cover is what she came up with. I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Do you have another book in the works? Tell us how it compares to The Copper Box

I’m finishing a romantic suspense novel called Guardians of the Canyon. I started it while my agent, Jim Hart, was looking for the right publisher for The Copper Box. Guardians is set in Arizona, and the two main characters are a woman and a man who fall in love, but the plot isn’t a mystery; it’s suspense. I’m also starting to consider possibilities for a sequel to The Copper Box. Jerome is a perfect setting for a series of mysteries, and Marty and Paul make a good team.

Any advice you’d give fledgling authors, and lessons you’ve learned along the way that might help others avoid pitfalls? 

Read, read, read! Find contemporary books you wish you’d written and study how the writer put the story together. When an agent or an editor makes suggestions about your writing, don’t get defensive. Listen and take it to heart. The published version of The Copper Box is very different—and much better—then my first vision of the story. The dual point of view, the starting point, and even the genre all grew out of comments I first took as criticism. But the more I thought about each comment, the more I saw new possibilities for the story.

Thanks so much for being my guest, and congratulations on your DEBUT AUTHOR DAY!!!  

Thanks for having me. I’d like to let your readers know of an early order incentive I’m offering. Anyone who orders the paper copy of The Copper Box by June 12 and sends a copy of the receipt to suzannebratcher@gmail.com will receive the free feature article, “The Story Behind the Story.” It tells about my personal connection to Jerome and goes into more detail about how The Copper Box came to be written.

Could You Write for Chicken Soup For the Soul?

Tracy Crump, our guest this week, has some ideas for writers – and a GIVEAWAY of one Chicken Soup for the Soul book. Enjoy! Welcome, Tracy. 

CS Inspiration for Teachers NEWHow did I come to publish eighteen stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul books?

It’s all Marylane’s doing.

Shortly after I began writing, I joined a writers group led by Marylane Wade Koch. One day she emailed to say Chicken Soup was doing a second book for the nurse’s soul. She knew I had worked as a nurse before I had children and encouraged me to submit.

Me? Nursing was so long ago. Besides, Chicken Soup would never publish anything I wrote. I let the deadline pass.

A few days later, Marylane emailed again. “They’ve extended the deadline for the nurse’s soul book. Why don’t you try submitting something?”

Ok. Now she was pushing. But what could I write about?

I finally thought of one story. And then another. And another. I ended up submitting five stories. They held three for consideration and chose two to publish. Me! In Chicken Soup for the Soul.

CS for Nurse's Soul-book jacket

So what I want you to learn from my story is: If I can do it, you can do it.

Excellent Market

Chicken Soup is a great market for both experienced and inexperienced writers. Open to submissions from anyone, each anthology features 101 stories from writers just like you.

Every book has a unique theme, and Chicken Soup usually has five to ten books in the works at any given time. They publish true inspirational stories and poems, and even though they are a general market series, editors allow writers to include an element of faith. What a great opportunity for Christian writers.

Nice Pay

While it’s not a fortune, Chicken Soup does pay a solid $200 per accepted story or poem. That’s not bad for a piece under 1200 words.

And contributors also get 10 free books per story published. They can be given as gifts or sold at back-of-the-room events. A nice perk.

Fun Workshops

Now eighteen stories later, I conduct workshops on writing for the best-selling series in publishing history. My writing partners and I teach what Chicken Soup wants, what they don’t want, and how to stir up a winning story. And attendees have a blast in our breakout sessions doing mind mapping and dissecting chickens. (Don’t worry—no animals are harmed in the making of a story.)

So why don’t you try your hand at writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul?

If I can do it, you can do it!

 

Thanks Tracy – I hope someone who reads this will give it a go!  

Bio: Tracy Crump loves to tell stories (the good kind) and has published two dozen of them in anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Soul. She conducts workshops and webinars on writing for the popular series and recently began taking the show on the road, partnering with writers who want to bring “Stirring the Pot: Writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul” to their area. She has also published numerous articles and devotionals in publications such as Focus on the Family, Mature Living, ParentLife, and Upper Room. Her free writers newsletter includes original articles from industry professionals such as Liz Curtis Higgs and Angela Hunt as well as story callouts for Chicken Soup and other anthologies. Visit Tracy at www.TracyCrump.com or www.WriteLifeWorkshops.com.

Pursuing Gold – Striving for Excellence

Cynthia Simmons not only writes about characters who face huge odds, she’s faced them herself. Please tell us about your experience, Cynthia.

Have you ever faced a task so daunting and intimidating you wanted to run the opposite direction? I did. We homeschooled all of our children, but then the Lord presented me with a special gift: my fifth child with severe disabilities. I was already a busy mother, but had found my sweet spot, my comfortable zone in teaching.

When God landed sweet little Caleb in my lap, I was quite frustrated because I felt I couldn’t do more. That feeling only grew as he turned out to have grand mal seizures and multiple disabilities. The psychologist who tested my son commented on the myriad of weaknesses without corresponding strengths to help him overcome.

I remember telling the Lord I’d had enough, and that someone would write on my tombstone, “She Homeschooled.” Certainly I would be teaching him forever since getting him to learn even the simplest task took Herculean strength.

Just imagine teaching a child to count. I always handed my kids blocks, and we’d pick up a block as we said the numbers, “one, two, three, four.” That worked with my other children, but failed horribly with Caleb. You see, he expended so much effort to pick up a block that he couldn’t say the numbers. Getting the numbers in the correct order was almost impossible too. (We call that sequencing, which was one of his disabilities.)

Of course, I didn’t know the list of problems he harbored when I started. His bloodcurdling screams rattled me. Imagine your son screaming, “I’m stupid. I’m stupid, I’m stupid.” Oh how that hurt!

Looking back, I see the Lord’s guidance at his birth. We’d named him Caleb after the Caleb in the Old Testament who trusted God could defeat the Canaanites. After wandering in the wilderness with the other Jewish people, he was seventy-eight when he entered the Promised Land and eighty-five when he climbed the mountain to defeat the giants the Israelites had feared. We told Caleb that story so many times. His namesake persevered, and he and I had to do the same thing.

“…we exult in our tribulations knowing that tribulation brings perseverance…” Romans 5

I didn’t want to give up, though I often felt as if I were pushing a bus up a mountain. When I stopped to measure, I’d gone an inch. Caleb reversed letters and numbers, making it hard for him to read or write. I had to use special techniques to help him discern the shape and direction of anything on paper. We wrote letters in whipped cream, sand, cookie dough, and play dough.

It still took him months to connect the shape of the letter with the name and sound. After that gut wrenching battle, he learned to read and write. Caleb has boundless compassion for anyone unhappy or suffering. Just like a bee rushes to nectar, he finds that one discouraged person and tries to make him or her feel better.

I’ve given you a brief summary of Caleb’s intense battles. Now I understand staying with the job, and striving for excellence was what God wanted for my husband and I. Both of us grew during those grueling years. We worked hard, and God blessed our efforts. Let me encourage you to do the same in whatever difficulty you face.

 

PG cover

With his father dead and his business partner incapacitated, Peter Chandler inherits the leadership of a bank in economic crisis. With only a newly-minted college degree and little experience, Peter joins his partner’s daughter, Mary Beth Roper, in a struggle to keep C&R Bank afloat while the Civil War rages around Chattanooga. Political pressure for unsecured loans of gold to the government stirs up trouble as tempers and prices rise. Their problems multiply when Mary Beth discovers counterfeit money with Peter’s forged signature. Can they find the forger before the bank fails? The two friends must pursue gold on behalf of their business, as they learn to pursue their heavenly Father to find hope and peace. Cynthia is giving away a print copy of this novel to one commenter on this blog. 

Cynthia 3

A Chattanooga native, Cynthia L Simmons and her husband have five children and reside in Atlanta. A Bible teacher and former homeschool mother, she writes a column for Leading Hearts Magazine. She conducts writing workshops, served as past president of Christian Authors Guild and directs Atlanta Christian Writing Conference. “Cyndi” is fond of history and offers younger ladies the elegance of God’s wisdom. She hosts Heart of the Matter Radio and co-founded Homeschool Answers. Her author website is www.clsimmons.com.

An Unlikely Romance Author

Welcome to Janell Wojtowicz, with her debut novel, Embracing Hope. If you’d like to qualify to win an e-book copy, please leave a comment below. 

Embracing_Hope_CoverHow did you chose your genre, Janell?

If someone had told me thirty, twenty, even ten years ago that I would publish a Christian romance novel, I’d have guffawed and rolled my eyes. Puleeease! I’m a serious writer! I’ve reported on the Iowa caucuses, covered a murder in a small town, written fund-raising letters telling true stores of tragedy and triumph, and pitched centennial celebrations to national media.

No way would I write sappy love stories where there are always happy endings—usually with a handsome man on one knee holding a diamond in a little black velvet box—or better yet, a beautiful bride in a princess ball gown floating down the aisle to that handsome man.

Well, crow should be my main course at every meal. In November 2016, my debut Christian contemporary romance novel, “Embracing Hope”, was launched to the masses. I blame it all on a BBC version of “Jane Eyre” in 2007. The night after watching the movie, I dreamt the beginning, middle and ending of what was published nine years later.

When I first started writing the novel, I was hesitant to admit it was a love story, and a few times I got snickers when I told people. After all, they knew me as a journalist/PR professional who wrote about emerald ash borer, mission trips to China, and pig (yes, pig) judging at county fairs. Then I began finding women who said they liked Christian romance. It’s a clean, uplifting genre, they said. They aren’t reluctant to leave the book lying around the house where their daughters and granddaughters might find it and ask to read it. They don’t blush at erotic images or cringe at the foul language.

I’ve learned that there are THOUSANDS of Christian romance authors out there, and it’s a popular and growing book niche with millions of readers. Dare I admit that some of those ardent readers will find my novel sweet and sappy? Probably, after all, there’s a happy wedded-after—except not on bended knee or in a ball gown. My goal is to make readers cry, so keep a tissue handy when you read it. One reviewer told me she got so involved in the plot that she felt the need to pray for the main character! Yet Christian romance has attracted a growing audience because most novels have a message beyond romance. In my case, the message is of hope and forgiveness in the aftermath of tragedy.

I’m still a little hesitant to say I’m a romance novelist. Get over it, Janell! After all, if my brother, a Baptist preacher, feels comfortable telling his congregation that his sister wrote a Christian romance—and read it himself—then I can be comfortable admitting it, too.

My name is Janell Butler Wojtowicz, and I AM a Christian romance novelist!

 Thanks so much. I can relate, because I really didn’t plan on writing fiction, either. We appreciate hearing your story, Janell. 

Janell Butler Wojtowicz 2

Born and raised on an Iowa farm, Janell was one of those kids who loved to write the dreaded “What I did on summer vacation” essay. It’s no surprise she spent her entire 30-year career in writing. Much of it has been the “people stories” of trial, tragedy and triumph, which are reflected in her debut novel. Janell is a freelance writer/editor, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She and her husband, Frank, live in New Brighton, Minnesota. She has two step-sons, a step-daughter-in-law and three step-granddaughters. “Embracing Hope” is her debut novel.

NOVEL SUMMARY

Christian college dean Drew McKinley mourns his dead wife and still wears his wedding ring.He stumbles on a desperate journey to understand God’s motives for her tragic death. Crossing his perilous path is Allison, a graduate student and new employee in the dean’s office. Even as she deals with financial hardships, she recognizes Drew’s unresolved grief from her own loss. Putting up a roadblock is Chris Whitney, the handsome but egotistical student senate president. He carries the secret burden of a dysfunctional family and a below-the-surface temper.

The road Drew must navigate is fraught with career upheaval, a reawakening heart, substance and domestic abuse, a violent assault, and the struggle for forgiveness and restoration. Will Drew finish his journey to embrace the hope God offers, the love Allison shares, and the guidance Chris needs, or will he turn his back on all three with catastrophic consequences?

You may reach Janell here:

 Buy Links for Embracing Hope