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

Through Raging Waters

This week, I’m delighted to introduce Renee Blare, author of The Snowy River Chronicles. 

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Raised in Louisiana and Wyoming, Renee started writing poetry in junior high school. After having her son, a desire to attend pharmacy school sent her small family to the University of Wyoming in Laramie, and she’s been counting pills ever since. While writing’s her first love, well, after the Lord and her husband, she also likes to fish and hunt as well as pick away on her classical guitar.

Nestled in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains with her husband, crazy dogs and ornery cat, she continues to serve her community as a pharmacist while penning her Christian stories any chance she can get.

Reading some comments about Renee Blare’s novel entices me:

Raging Waters is indeed a wonderful read and I also highly recommend To Soar on Eagle’s Wings. So hurry and catch up—I’m waiting for Book Three! – DiAne Gates, Author of Roped

Once again, Renee Blare has delivered a powerful and suspenseful romantic novel. Readers and lovers of such will not be disappointed at her writing talent. – Carole Brown, Award-winning Author

Book Two of the Snowy Range Chronicles launches July 8, 2016 –  TODAY!! and propels the series upward to new heights. Suspense takes
on new meaning as the small town of Timber Springs faces the storm of the century during the peak of spring runoff. Paul Fitzgerald and Melissa Hampton must fight the battle of their lives as thunder and lightning reveal more than just rain.

If Mother Nature has her way, Timber Springs will never be the same… 

A warm spring and early rainstorms melt the snowpack. Spring runoff compounded by the storm of the century sends Timber Springs into a tailspin. 
Tossed into the role of rescuer, local pharmacist Paul Fitzgerald must face his past before the whole world falls apart. While he fights to contain the beast around him, he finds his steadfast control slipping through his fingers. And life…everyone’s life…hangs by a thread once again.

Melissa Hampton has her own demons to battle. After she learns of her mysterious beginnings amidst her mother’s keepsakes, she faces more than just the river rushing outside her door. Now, she must discern friend from foe…but as waters rise and tension climbs within Timber Springs, she needs to rise to the challenge or lose the only man she’s ever loved. 

Can two people find each other through raging waters?

Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/tE055Wyzaso

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Through-Raging-Waters-Renee-Blare-ebook/dp/B01HBSB9BM/
(shortened) http://amzn.to/28NQIF3

Renee is giving away one free kindle copy of her novel to a commenter.

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Renee loves to interact with readers and invites you check out her website, blog, and social media.

Website: http://www.reneeblare.com/
Blog: http://reneeblare.blogspot.com/
Group Blog: http://diamondsinfiction.blogspot.com/

Going the Distance – Patty Smith-Hall

New Hope Sweethearts 2

 

Welcome to you, Patty, and to all of your followers! Patty’s new release, New Hope Sweetheartsis now available on Amazon.

Today, Patty shares encouragement for novel-writing … and for life.  Enjoy!

 

Going the Distance

This past weekend, I decided to decipher all the information on my iPod’s pedometer. It’s like a fitbit, keeping track of how many steps and how long you’ve walked over any given time period. I’m an avid walker but this is the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to find out exactly how many miles I’ve walked since the middle of May. To learn I’ve walked almost 175 miles was HUGE, considering that three short years ago, I thought I’d never walk without pain again.

That spring, I had a spinal fusion on my lower back. I’m not going to go into all the details but will say that I couldn’t stand, sit or walk without indescribable pain. But I was determined to get some semblance of my life back. When I asked the surgeon what I could do to speed up my recovery, I was surprised when he told me to start walking. I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage that—just the act of putting one step in front of the other had been so incredibly painful for the few years leading up to my surgery, I couldn’t imagine putting myself through that. But if it helped me get better, I’d try anything. Two days after my surgery, I made it around our cul-de-sac.

Once.

But I kept at it. Before I knew it, I graduated to the walking track at the park next door. One lap soon became two; two became four. I began carving out time to walk and guarded it because I realized the doctor was right. For the first time in years, my pain was controllable. I was feeling better.

Writing is a lot like that. You look at the possibility of churning out a 90K novel and ask yourself if it’s even possible, or life gets in the way and you only get down 100 words for the day. How are you ever going to finish your book at that pace?

It’s all about pushing ahead, building up your endurance. Realizing you can’t run a marathon on your first day. If we’re honest, every writer wonders, at one time or another, if we can finish a book. Even now, after all the books I’ve written, that fear still gets a hold of me. It’s when we don’t give up, when we push ourselves further than we thought possible that that book becomes a reality. It’s about making daily writing goals and sticking with them.

Here’s a little food for thought: One page(250 words) over 365 days equals a 90K novel for every publishing house. Two pages or 500 words equals two. Two 90K books a year just from writing two pages a day.

That novel doesn’t seem quite as impossible now, does it?

Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published author with Love Inspired Historical and Heartsong.  She currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. She calls North Georgia her home which she shares with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters and a future son-in-love. Her next release, New Hope Sweethearts is now available on Amazon.

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WAIT FOR ME, Jo Huddleston

Our guest, Jo Huddleston, is a multi-published author of books, articles, and short stories. Her debut novels in the Caney Creek Series and her latest book, Wait for Me are sweet Southern romances. She is a member of ACFW, the Literary Hall of Fame at Lincoln Memorial University (TN), and holds a M.Ed. degree from Mississippi State University. Jo lives in the U.S. Southeast with her husband, near their two grown children and four grandchildren. Visit Jo at www.johuddleston.com.

WAIT FOR ME finalFollowing is an Jo’s interview with a character from her novel. Wait for Me 

I’m in Coaltown, West Virginia meeting with  Claude Capshaw.

Hello. Are you the owner of Capshaw coal mine #7?

Hey, there. Yes, I’ve owned this mine for about a year.

Mr. Capshaw, do you own other coal mines as well?

Please call me Claude. And, yes,  I’ve bought coal mines in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. This mine here in Coaltown is my latest purchase.

Do you always live in the community where your coal mine is located?

That’s right. I need to be close to the miners when I buy a new coal mine. They need see me around and come to know me as the fair, honest man that I am. My wife, Lillian, doesn’t much like it when we move to a new coal community. In fact, she doesn’t like living anywhere near a coal mine and is a little standoffish, she doesn’t mix well with the miners and their families.

Claude, do you have children? How do they like living here?

We have a beautiful daughter, Julia. I think Julia likes it okay here. Her mother gives her a hard time about spending time with the miners’ kids and forbids her to socialize, especially the boys.

Why do you think that is?

Well, my wife isn’t much like my little girl and me. Julia and I can mix with the people here. But I know it’s hard on Julia when her mother wants her to stay apart from the other kids. Julia’s a normal high school senior, she wants to have friends, and she’s torn between what she wants and what her mother demands. I try to encourage Julia all I can.

How do you do that?

There’s a boy in her class she likes—Roberto. He works after school every day in my company store. He’s a good kid. I don’t criticize Julia or tell her mother when I see them talking. Like I said, Julia needs to have her friends. She’ll be leaving in September to enroll at West Virginia University. I’m in agreement with her mother about that—it’s important that Julia get a good education.

But I think my wife’s only purpose in sending her to the university is so she will be in better social circles up there. Her mother thinks Julia needs to meet more suitable and acceptable young men than those here in the mining community. I just hope her strict rules and plans for Julia don’t backfire and cause Julia to become disobedient. My little girl is a sweet child, but she has spunk. I just hope her mother doesn’t push her too hard or too far.

JO PK full  Jo is offering a free eBook for Kindle copy of her book to one commenter on this  post.

Here is the purchase link for Wait For Me: http://tiny.cc/bhigxx

 

 

 

Website www.johuddleston.com

Blog http://www.johuddleston.com

Blog http://lifelinesnow.blogspot.com

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/joshuddleston

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1615694.Jo_Huddleston

Purchase eBook for Kindle and print copies of Wait for Me at: http://tiny.cc/xndfwx

Here’s the back cover from Wait For Me.

Can Julie, an only child raised with privilege and groomed for high society, and Robby, a coal miner’s son, escape their socioeconomic backgrounds? In a  1950’s West Virginia coal mining community, can their love survive their cultural boundaries?

This is a tragically beautiful story of a simple, yet deep love between two soul mates, Robby and Julie. The American South’s rigid caste system and her mother demand that Julie marry an ambitious young man from a prominent family. Julie counters her mother’s stringent social rules with deception in order to keep Robby in her life. Can the couple break the shackles of polite society and spend their lives together? Will Julie’s mother ever accept Robby?

Characterization in a Single Title/Mainstream Romance by Liz Flaherty

You’ll enjoy Liz. Sit back and relax. 

I’m afraid, now that I said I’d do this article, that I’ve agreed under false pretenses, so let me start it with a duh-generating caveat. I have completed three single title books: a historical romance, a contemporary romance, and one that’s not hardly a romance at all. As of this writing, none of them are sold. That’s the “duh” part—you know, what makes me qualified to write this?

Well, number one, I’m a warm body with a keyboard. Number two, I LOVE characterization. Number three, even though I have enough rejections and editorial maybes under my belt to re-tree a forest, no one has ever rejected or editorially maybe-ed my characters.

It’s the easiest, laziest part of writing fiction, and doing it in single title/mainstream is just exactly like doing it in short/category except it’s…uh…even easier and lazier.

If you’re like me, your characters drive your story. Plot is incidental; it’s just what happens to those people. If you take away your characters—gosh, I hate calling them that; they’re people—the story no longer exists, because it’s not going to be the same story with others as its protagonists and secondary characters.

Oh, my goodness, have I just said something important? Well, that depends. If you write character-driven, you just said “duh.” However, if you’re a plot-driven writer, you probably said, “What is she talking about?”

Have you read any of Janet Ivanovich’s Stephanie Plum mystery series, starting with One for the Money? If you have, you know Stephanie’s a smart-talking “Joizy” girl with a hilarious grandmother and a cousin for every crime. If, on the other hand, you’ve read any of Lawrence Sanders’ Archie McNally series, you know Archie’s a rich guy in his 30s who still lives at home and drives a sharp little red Mazerati.

         They’re both young, attractive, witty, and charming. They both have families whose eccentricities add humor and depth to their stories. They both solve mysteries and murders, all the while creating more mayhem for next time. Gender aside, are they interchangeable?

Nope.

And that, my friends, is single-title / mainstream characterization.

Okay, we all know that we develop our people by giving them individual traits. In a category romance, our heroine may be a little clumsy, a chocoholic, or shy. Something terrible may have even happened to her, a long time ago. Our hero might be a channel surfer, or he might drive too fast, or he may suffer flashbacks of a war fought in a Third World country a long time ago. But any failings they have will be either minor ones that don’t seriously affect the story or they will be in their distant past. This is not because the author doesn’t want to deal with them but because category romances aren’t long enough.

Single title romances are, so all your people’s character traits—or flaws—can affect the story any way you want them to. And if you want that hero to be just six hours home from that war or that heroine to be just three days past the loss of a child, that’s fine, because you have room in single title to address their pain.

And that, my friends . . . oops, repeating myself, aren’t I?

And there’s another part of characterization. If a character starts out with a slightly twitching right eye or a dimple in her left cheek, make sure she keeps it or gets it fixed within the story. If he speaks in a dialect, make sure not to insert enough of it to get annoying, but don’t forget it altogether, or your readers will “hear” your first-generation Irishman speaking with Midwestern nasality. Repeat yourself—just not a lot.

Before I end this, let me add one thought that is purely subjective, speaking from strictly one reader’s point of view, that reader being me. I hate perfect characters. Just as I’m not interested in knowing any in real life, I’m not interested in reading about them, either, because there’s nothing there to identify with.

         Happy writing.

***

Liz Flaherty admits, only semi-apologetically, that she wrote this article a long time ago. In the time since then, those manuscripts she mentioned in the first paragraph—along with numerous others—have been sold and published. (She is unbecomingly proud of this, so don’t ask her too many questions—she’ll answer them.)

You can Google her name, or you can go to all the on-line bookstores if you’d like to read one (or nine) of her books. You can also visit her at www.lizflaherty.com or at http://wordwranglers.blogspot.com/ where she blogs every Monday. If you ever just feel like talking, drop an email to lizkflaherty@gmail.com.

 

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