From South Africa to Canada…a writing journey

Our guest this week has the unique history of moving from South Africa to Canada a couple of decades ago. That’s a long way–and Melony’s writing journey proves as exciting as such a long trek…probably more!

Discovering Purpose Through Writing

Who would have thought I’d be in my thirties when I decorated my first gingerbread house? I was even older when I discovered there were different kinds of snow. This South African girl had no idea.

Getting on a plane in 1999 to start a new life in Toronto, Canada with my husband was one of the best and hardest things I have ever done. It’s difficult leaving your familiar life, friends, and family to venture into the unknown. Yet Toronto was, and still is, where I am meant to be. Now I have two beautiful Canadian teenagers.

When I left the beloved shores of Durban, South Africa, I also had no inkling I would finally discover on the shores of Lake Ontario, Canada, what I wanted to be when I grew up. What started out as a private blog about my health and fitness journey on SparkPeople.com turned out to be the start of another journey—becoming a writer. Blogging taught me the discipline and habit of making time each day to tap away at the keyboard. Those ramblings paved the way to a more public blog about food, fitness, and nutrition. To be honest, I thought if I wrote a book it would probably be a cookbook.

God had other plans.

One day, at an event packed with artistic and gifted people, I came face to face with the fact that I too could follow my dream to create art. I realized for the first time I could do whatever I set my mind to do.

The Lord showed me that the only thing stopping me was, well… me.

I wanted to be a writer. Therefore, I did my research. E. B. White was one of my biggest inspirations and I realized that I wanted to be a nonfiction writer. E.B. White was a contributor to The New Yorker magazine and a co-author of The Elements of Style.Natural curiosity led me to want to ask questions, interview people and uncover the good news and meaningful stories within my community.

I read somewhere that you should start local and begin as soon as possible to collect rejection letters. They said that those would bring you closer to an acceptance. Therefore, I submitted my first article to my local newspaper, and did not get that rejection I thought I’d secure. So much for that.

That first article, published in our town’s newspaper in July 2010, had me hooked on writing. Since then, my writing journey has led me to interview sports and Hollywood celebrities, local philanthropists and authors.

Aside from my published work, I also started a blog on my new author website, interviewed Christian authors, and reviewed Christian Fiction. My world expanded in ways only God could accomplish.

Along the way, someone invited me to join a brand new writer’s group, which led to co-authoring a devotional for Christian writers and speakers. These women are now my dearest friends and loudest cheerleaders. The local Christian university uses the devotional, As the Ink Flows, as a resource and part of their curriculum. God is faithful to provide people to support us in our dreams. My husband has been a pillar of strength through it all.

Aside from doing communications for various non-profit organizations and freelance clients, these days I am focusing on my fiction work.

Looking back on that day when I said, “Hey, I want to be a writer”, I did not understand then where this wonderful profession would lead. I could never have imagined how God would use it in my life.

There is nothing more fulfilling than discovering your purpose and God’s will for your life.

Has it always been easy? No.

Has it been worth it? You bet.

Melony Teagueis a freelance writer who believes everyone has a story to tell and each story is unique and sometimes wilder than fiction. She loves to uncover the good news in society and writes human interest and community pieces. As co-author of As the Ink Flows, she loves to inspire and motivate others through her written words. In her spare time, she reviews books and interviews authors on her website. She also teaches seniors in her local community to write their own personal story. She writes Contemporary Romance with a dash of humor. Member of ACFW. Melony Teague was born in South Africa and now lives in Toronto with her husband, their two children and two cats.

WEBSITE: https://www.melonyteague.com/

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: https://twitter.com/MelonyTeague

FOLLOW ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/melonyteague/

FOLLOW ON GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14249646.Melony_Teague

“Whether beginners or seasoned pros, writers and speakers of all types will find inspiration and gentle encouragement within the pages of As the Ink Flows. It’s a breath of fresh air for the creative soul!” — Carla Laureano, RITA® Award Winning Author

Grab your free sample copy of the e-book here: https://bookgrabbr.com/books/38096-as-the-ink-flows

GET THE BOOK:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2NmyU4v

Christianbook.com: http://ow.ly/6Z7K30nNIig

Judson Press: https://www.judsonpress.com/Products/J237/as-the-ink-flows.aspx?bCategory=JPBKS!JPINSP

Barnes & Noble: http://ow.ly/A0EP30nNIzZ

Far From Home For Christmas

I’m so excited to introduce a real-life World War II story – Barbara von der Oster’s father missed not just one Christmas with his family, but three. World War II stole him away, and I think you’ll enjoy Barbara’s tale of his three holidays as a lonely sailor. I learned so much from reading LST 388, the name of the vessel that took her father to several major war theaters and the title of Barbara’s book. She offers us yet another gift–a paperback copy of this book to a reader who leaves a comment. 

FAR FROM HOME FOR CHRISTMAS

With the start of December comes planning for the holiday, including decorating, baking, shopping and making decisions on where to spend Christmas. Yet, even with all the commotion and must-dos, every year I pause and remind myself of those who can’t be home for Christmas. Our military men and women often find themselves far from home during this time of year.

My father, while serving in WWII, missed not one, not two, but three consecutive Christmas holidays with his family back home in New York. His first Christmas away, in 1942, he found himself in Norfolk, Virginia after receiving a few hours liberty from his new assignment on the amphibious force landing ship, USSLST-388.

At a bar in a seedy part of town, he writes in his journal about listening to songs on the jukebox, such as White Christmas, and thinking of home. As he leaves the bar with other sailors, Christmas carols blare from the loudspeaker above the Monticello Hotel. He joins in, singing along with sailors and civilians alike as he walks along the street.

By the time the next Christmas, 1943, arrived, he had sailed overseas to North Africa, participated in two hostile invasions (Sicily and Salerno) and sailed to England to begin preparations for a third (Normandy).

While on a short liberty in England, he runs into a woman who happens to have a sprig of mistletoe attached to her coat. He bets her she can’t raise it above her head, and, much to his delight, she does. He leans in and plants a kiss on her lips. Returning to the ship, he finds he has several letters waiting and settles in to read each one, treating them as special gifts. Soon, however, he and his shipmates are forced to spend the next several hours fighting off an attack by German planes and eboats in the English Channel. A subdued Christmas Day dinner follows after all but their nerves have quieted down.

Another year passed, which included the devastating invasion at Normandy, and Christmas found my father once again in the English Channel, this time carrying reinforcement troops and equipment from England to France. Unbeknownst to him at the time, the German navy had launched a last desperate offensive to stop the supply of more troops to the continent, sinking several ships directly ahead in his own ship’s path.

All throughout, my father sought out church services on Christmas, whether at the USO or American Red Cross, or even onboard his ship. He never lost his faith. Today’s military men and women no doubt are doing the same.

So amidst the holiday hustle and bustle, the planning, praising, gift-buying and decorating, I’ll be keeping not only my father in mind, but also present-day military men and women’s sacrifices. Let’s all keep them in our prayers this year, and hope they’ll be home soon.

BIO:

Barbara co-authored the book LST 388: A World War II Journal with her father, who passed away in December 2016 at the age of 96. She is currently working on her first historical fiction novel, based loosely on her father’s experiences in WWII. She says, many times people will pick up a novel rather than a memoir or history book, so this is another way to share a bit of history, and keep the memories and sacrifices of WWII alive.

Barbara will also have her own memoir out in early 2019. In it, she shares her experiences as a fashion model in Europe during the mid-1980s.

You can reach Barbara through her book website, www.lst388.com.

Follow her on Amazon for future updates: https://www.amazon.com/Barbara-von-der-Osten/e/B079JZWVKG

Connect with her on Twitter, https://twitter.com/BarbvdO

Save Your Sanity, Authors!

Welcome to Elaine Stock, and congratulations on your recent writing award!

9 Ways to Crunch Time While Saving Sanity by Elaine Stock

In all honesty, this is a fairly wonderful time for me. I can say this without bragging because I’m praising God for His blessings. On top of Life 101 and the day job, I’ve just won a national writing award and am trying to share the news, I’m about to launch my next novel, Christmas Love Year Round, and after a 30-year wait, I’m ecstatic to say that my kitchen is getting remodeled (which means, of course, I’m living with packed boxes all over the living room and no longer have any kitchen counters or cabinets until the new ones are up—and this is the way of life 2 weeks ahead of time because the floor has to be refinished). Lots of craziness, but I’m rejoicing. As one who has seen one too many upheavals through the years that I’d rather not have seen, and who knows what awaits ahead, I’m enjoying these good but chaotic days. Each day I awake and remind myself that I’m in God’s hands. It will all be okay for me.

It will all be okay for you.

Here are some tips I’m sharing to save your sanity:

1)Praise God. Whisper. Say thank you, Father, out loud. Think silently while others are talking to you. Say in prayer as you drift to sleep…while you shower…while you inhale your first mug of coffee. God has the world in control, and yep, that includes you. You are His beloved daughter or son. He doesn’t want you to suffer.

2)Befriend Your Constant Companion. As a continuation of #1, realize and accept that God is not only your Heavenly Father, but also your friend. Your companion. He is with you 24/7. It helps to make life less scary and overwhelming.

3)Consolidate Errands and Chores.  Map out your weekly strategy ahead of time and consolidate time and days. Sure, it may mean you might have to leave for work on the earlier side or arrive home later, but try to run errands on 1 or 2 days rather than 5 or more a week. Trust me—it’s a nice sense of breathing room when you have an extra 30 minutes to yourself here and there.

4)Use Daydreaming Creatively. When did I come up with this blog post? While at the day job yesterday! #ThankfulForBoringWork. You may want to reconsider if you’re a brain surgeon, childcare worker or…you get the picture, I’m sure. However, even if your work or personal demands are more attention-oriented than mine, there must be some downtime, like breaks, that you can constructively ponder away book scenes, uncooperative characters, or writing the next blog post.

 

5)Allow Off-days and Off-moods. Face it, sometimes it’s just plain okay to stress or be moody. Actually, get it out of your system and then quickly move on. This happened to me a few days ago when I woke up and things just felt off-kilter no matter what I did or thought. It happens. This time though, with everything going on, I remembered the above #1 and #2 and sure enough this mood passed rather quickly and I got back into the proverbial swing of things.

6)Ask for Help. What is it about us humans that we tend to be reluctant to ask for help? I may have asked for how-to help before my novels were published, but it wasn’t until my 3rdbook was released did I start a Street Team. These ladies have blessed me with their time, support, and most importantly, their friendship. Another thing I’ve been late in doing (albeit, I admit I don’t participate enough due to time constraints) is joining a few select Facebook groups to see and to share what others know.

7)Accept that You Can’t do it All. This is a hard one for me, mainly because I want to do it all. I’m like a child with one toy who wants more. Creativity gives me a happy buzz! Yet, financial restraints dictate my limited time; writing desires dictates my social media involvement. It’s a matter of…

8)Prioritizing. Yep, you saw that one coming didn’t you? Daily, prioritize. Family. The day-job. Friends. Obligations. Commitments. Vacations. Kitchen-remodeling. Ah… it’s back to #7. Speaking for myself, I’m slowly but surely realizing that I cannot do it all. And this brings me right back to…

9)Praise God. Thank you Father, that my life is in Your awesome hands. You can handle it. You want to handle it. And I surely cannot.

 

Elaine Stock is the author of the novels Her Good Girl, winner of the 2018 American Fiction Awards in the Christian Inspirational category,andAlways With You, which won the 2017 Christian Small Publishers Association Book of the Year Award in fiction. And You Came Along, a novella, released in December 2017. Her novels fuse romance, family drama and faith in a clean fiction style. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, and Women’s Fiction Writers Association. In addition to Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads, she hangs out on her active blog, Everyone’s Story, dedicated to uplifting and encouraging all readers through the power of story and hope.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, Elaine has now been living in upstate, rural New York with her husband for more years than her stint as a NYC gal. She enjoys long walks down country roads, visiting New England towns, and of course, a good book.

You may connect with Elaine here:

Website:http://elainestock.com

Everyone’s Story blog: http://elainestock.com/blog

Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/ElaineStock

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

Goodreads:http://goodreads.com/ElaineStock

And here’s a summary of Elaine’s latest release, Christmas Love Year Round:

Cami Richardsonis good at chasing away the men in her life:first Gavin Kinkaid, a former classmate she’d helped to bully, and later, her husband who left her widowed and a single mom. Now all she wants is to bring a smile back to her eight-year-old son. What she doesn’t expect is for Gavin to become her new neighbor.

Gavin wants to settle down after serving in the Air Force and mend the separation between him and his dad. What he didn’t count on is his changing feelings when he sees Cami as a kind woman instead of his former adversary.

When Cami’s son blindsides them both during the Christmas season, is their reunion at risk or will it grow stronger?

 

Writing Through Immersion

Please welcome Norma Gail Thurston Holtman today, who is giving away either a paper or e-copy of her debut romance novel Land of My Dreams. Your choice, just leave your contact into with your comment.

Norma, please tell us how your work takes shape. 

LoMD Bookvana cover

When the idea for a story begins to consume my mind, I mull it over for days or weeks until I grasp the characters and setting. I’m a pantster, only plotting when I get stuck or something doesn’t work.

When I finally sit down at the computer, I write in layers, first getting concepts on paper, the story deepening with each pass. Each time through the story, I concentrate on stronger hooks at the beginning and end of scenes. The characters emotions deepen, their dialogue strengthens, their interactions with setting and other characters reveal deeper meaning, and the plot intensifies. Most important, the spiritual journey of the characters congeals.

Creating a story world is very much like a method actor preparing for a role. Immersion is the key. See the setting as another character. Read books, watch movies, talk to people, do anything that helps you identify with every possible aspect of what your characters will experience. Live their life in your mind.

I create playlists on my phone for each story, try the food, travel if possible, and craft metaphors that paint clear pictures for my reader. I make screensavers that contain hundreds of photographs showing flora, fauna, geography, architecture, and everyday activities.

Research is critical. I study the geographical area, time-period of the novel, history, local hotspots, food, clothing, traditions, music, and matters of importance to the people. These have to be believable and recognizable to people who live or visit there. There is nothing wrong in creating fictional places, but there needs to be a balance with reality.

 

My debut novel, Land of My Dreams is set in Scotland and New Mexico. I do a lot of contrast and comparison, and readers seem to like it. Scots-Gaelic and lowland Scots, as well as slang create interesting language differences. The Scottish people use English words in ways that are unfamiliar to Americans. In my home state of New Mexico, both Spanish and Native American words are part of everyday conversation. The two locations create some interesting interactions between the characters.

 Writing fiction is a great adventure. At some point, the writer and characters merge and the characters take over; leading to scenarios the writer never imagined. When the writer feels the emotions of the characters, readers will as well. © Norma Gail Thurston Holtman, August 28, 2017

Norma 2017

Norma Gail’s debut contemporary Christian romance, Land of My Dreams, won the 2016 Bookvana Religious Fiction Award. A women’s Bible study leader for over 21 years, her devotionals and poetry have appeared at ChristianDevotions.us, the Stitches Thru Time blog, and in “The Secret Place.” She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Historical Writers of America, and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Norma is a former RN who lives in the mountains of New Mexico with her husband of 41 years. They have two adult children. If you’re interested in connecting with me, I invite you to follow my blog, join me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads, or Amazon.

 

HISTORICALS: STAYING TRUE TO THE TIME

I’m glad to welcome Cynthia Roemer as she celebrates the publication of her first historical novel. Cynthia, please tell us about your experience researching this story.

Book cover - final

I’m as old-fashioned as they come, so historical novels are a perfect fit for me—both reading and writing. As a reader, I love the nostalgia and all the life lessons one can learn from those who’ve gone before us. But as a writer, I enjoy delving into the past and researching the time period, more specifically the nineteenth century. When writing a historical/historical romance novel, research is a must to ensure the book is true to the time period.

My debut novel, Under This Same Sky, which released in late April, took place in 1854. I’ve been thrilled at some of the comments thus far by reviewers stating the novel “makes you feel exactly like you lived back in those days”. How gratifying such comments are to an author who’s spent countless hours trying to be certain every detail is true and accurate.

The well-known facts are easy to achieve. Under This Same Sky took place on the Illinois prairie in the mid-1800s. Most everyone knows settlers lived in log cabins, but do they know how the cabins were erected and what materials were used to chink the log walls? It’s widely known that covered wagons were often used when traveling across the prairie, but not many will know that a bucket of tallow was kept handy so that when the wheels began to squeak and squeal they had to be greased much like a car engine needs oil to run smoothly.

There were so many questions I had to ask as I wrote the novel: What type of clothing was worn in 1854? What farming equipment was available? Had screen doors been invented? How would my characters cross the Mississippi? What would the city of St. Louis have looked like back then? What type of lighting was used? It’s these fine details that make a novel either believable or, if left out, leave readers with a less than satisfied reaction.

Though research is a vital part of writing a historical novel, that’s not to say a writer can’t have a little fun creating fictional people and places along with the true ones. Under This Same Sky is a blend of fictional and real. My main character, Becky Hollister grows up a few miles outside of the fictional town of Miller Creek, IL, but later travels to the very real town of St. Louis, Missouri. Only one of my characters is based on a real person. The others are products of my imagination.

What’s wonderful about historical fiction is that we can have the best of both worlds—the reality of the past blended with the creativity of fiction. A match that—in this author’s opinion, can’t be beat!

            ~ She thought she’d lost everything ~ Instead she found what she needed most. ~

Illinois ~ 1854

Becky Hollister wants nothing more than to live out her days on the prairie, building a life for herself alongside her future husband. But when a tornado rips through her parents’ farm, killing her mother and sister, she must leave the only home she’s ever known and the man she’s begun to love to accompany her injured father to St. Louis.

Catapulted into a world of unknowns, Becky finds solace in corresponding with Matthew Brody, the handsome pastor back home. But when word comes that he is all but engaged to someone else, she must call upon her faith to decipher her future.

bio1

Cynthia Roemer is an award-winning inspirational writer with a heart for scattering seeds of hope into the lives of readers. Raised in the cornfields of rural Illinois, Cynthia enjoys spinning tales set in the backdrop of the 1800s prairie. She writes from her family farm in central Illinois where she resides with her husband and their two college-aged sons.

 Contact Info:

Website: http://cynthiaroemer.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com@cynthiaroemer

 

Purchase Info:

Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Under-This-Same-Cynthia-Roemer/dp/194509415X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494271640&sr=8-1&keywords=under+this+same+sky

 

Sonia Solomonson on Loving Ourselves

On this patriotic weekend, I’m excited to welcome Sonia Solomonson, Life Coach, author and former editor, on the topic of loving ourselves. If you’ve read IN TIMES LIKE THESE, my latest women’s fiction, you’ll realize how her advice applies to Addie, the heroine. Love of country comes easily for her, but loving herself presents such a difficult challenge.

Sonia gives us step-by-step guidelines. And she is offering FIVE free forty-five minute life-coaching phone sessions to the first five commenters here. Wow! When you comment, please leave your e-mail address so she can contact you.

5 Tips for Loving Yourself

Even when we see ourselves as extremely independent and self-sufficient, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we desire to be loved.

To have friends, you have to be a friend, we’ve been told.  The same is true for love: To be loved, you have to love. And it all begins with moi! Start by loving yourself.

Some people think self-love is selfish and wrong. Dominican priest and 13th century theologian Thomas Aquinas believed that self-love was akin to pride—or “the beginning of all sin.” However, the Bible does tell us to love God with all our heart and soul and “love your neighbor as yourself.” That little word “as” says that I start by loving myself. Then I have the conditions inside me to love my neighbor in that same way. It all stems from God’s love for us.

Psychologist and social philosopher Erich Fromm said in 1956 that loving yourself is different from being arrogant or egocentric. He said rather that it means respecting yourself, knowing yourself, caring about yourself and taking responsibility for yourself. I’m with him!

I’ve heard it said that you are the one person who will be with you longer than anyone else will be—and, therefore, it’s crucial that you learn to be your own best friend.

What does it mean to love yourself?

Here are five tips:

  • Accept yourself. If you beat up on yourself a lot, stop it right now. You wouldn’t do that to your best friend, would you? So why would you think it’s OK to beat up or ridicule yourself? You are unique and precious, a true one-of-a-kind. Accept who and what you are. Love and accept all of yourself, what you see as your special gifts and also what you call your flaws. Often, these are two sides of the same coin.

For example, I’m a sensitive person, tuned in to what others are feeling. That’s a good thing—particularly in my vocation as a life coach but also in my relationships. The flip side, however, is something about which I used to be impatient with myself: I am (overly) sensitive about things others say to and about me. I’ve worked hard to tweak that. I also accept that, to some degree, one goes with the other.

  • Take good care of yourself. It means seeing your body, mind and spirit as precious gifts that need and deserve nurture and attention. It’s all too easy to take our bodies for granted and not give them sufficient rest, good food or plenty of exercise. Sometimes we take better care of our cars than we do our bodies, doing regular maintenance checks and taking care of whatever needs attention!

Let yourself feel whatever emotions arise. Are you sad?  Feel it. Perhaps there’s some loss, whether minor or major, that you simply have to stop and grieve. Are you anxious? Stop and deal with it; don’t ignore it. Do deep breathing, yoga, meditation, prayer or whatever helps you. Afraid? Look your fears in the eye and see whether you can bring them down to size by injecting some realism into them. Are things really as bad as they seem? Can you do anything about it? If not, can you let go? If you can do something, can you find a first step and start moving?

Are you happy? Celebrate that. Savor the good moments. Be grateful for them. Remember it’s OK to celebrate your achievements—both small and large. You can have your own little party. Or you can invite someone special to celebrate with you. Share your joy.

Some of us learned at a young age to stuff down emotions—sad and fearful ones or even joyful ones. If so, you may want to do some work around that so you can experience the full range of emotions.

  • Set boundaries for what behavior you will and won’t accept from others. You have a right to expect to be treated well and spoken to respectfully. You do not have to accept put-downs and abusive treatment—and you certainly don’t want to treat yourself that way either. Remember, boundaries aren’t meant to be punitive or manipulative toward others. They’re simply borders you set for yourself to know what’s OK and what isn’t for you—and what you will do if someone crosses that line.
  • Choose life. Insofar as it’s possible given what’s happening in your life, choose happiness and joy. Choose to be positive. Sometimes you simply need to reframe what’s happening and see possibility rather than a problem. When I lost my job, reframing wasn’t easy. I was hurt, angry, and scared. Only when I could begin to see possibility, however, was I able to create a new dream. Mind you, that didn’t happen overnight. First I needed to grieve the lost dream.

I hope you get the idea. There are many other ways to show yourself love.  Whatever you do, let go of the idea that self-love is selfish or decadent. Self-love is really the start of a more joyful life and deeper, more fulfilling relationships. It’s also the way we teach others how to treat us.

scs.rose.smile.closeupBy Sonia C. Solomonson

A writer, editor and life coach, Solomonson writes daily blogs at www.way2growcoaching.com, where you can sign up for her monthly ezine.

 

 

An Author’s Saga and a WILD Giveaway!

am goth shrunk

A hearty welcome to Alice K. Arenz. There’s so much I want to learn about you and your work, Alice, so we’ll start out with your favorite things about the Advent season. 

Thanks, Gail, what a wonderful question! I’ve always loved this season—the sights, sounds, the gentleness that prevails—except in shopping frenzies, that is. I even have a cling on my car window that says “Merry Christmas!” which I keep up all year long. 😉

Because of some brain/hearing/balance issues, I can’t enjoy the flashing lights on trees and houses, and sound issues make it difficult to listen to music. I miss that all year long, but especially this time of year. Still, the excitement in my grandchildren’s’ eyes when Christmas is mentioned, the joy I feel setting up Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus . . .

Christmas means time to spend with my children and grandchildren. Our celebration may not last long, but the time together is priceless—a true blessing from God.
Alice, tell us more about your writing history. What  are the two most significant occurrences? 

I’ve always had a very active imagination. Stories and books, TV, movies, and people’s interactions made my mind soar with possibilities, spinning off into lands and scenes so real I could almost touch them.

When I was twelve, my handwritten Adventures of Christopher and Christina was passed around during study halls mingling 7th & 8th graders with high school students. That meant a lot of different ages read my wild imaginings of twins who delved into mysteries and got into danger on a daily basis. I don’t remember much of that chronicle, just that the TV series The Man From Uncle, and other mysteries and suspense shows or books contributed to the overall story.

In the 70s, my “then” husband issued a challenge: get a B in a college creative writing course or agree to give up the dream. I got an A from the toughest teacher in the department, which led to a five-year contract with a New York literary agency. No hoped-for results, but  it taught me discipline and determination, necessities in the writing world. Life intervened, as it tends to do, and until my “new” husband introduced me to Christian fiction, I ignored characters demanding release onto paper.

I prayed for for the writing dream to fade and die. Then Brandilyn Collins’ Eyes of Elisha impressed me so much that I emailed Brandilyn. Boy, was I surprised when she wrote back! She suggested I join ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) which started a whole new era of learning and writing.

In spite of more health issues—especially hypersensitivity in my fingers and hands that made typing a challenge–between 2008 and 2010, I got three books published.  The Case of the Bouncing Grandma (cozy mystery and Mirrored Image (classic romantic mystery/suspense),  finaled in the Carol Awards, with The Case of the Missing M.D. winning the Carol Awards in 2010.
Now, after a five-year absence from writing because of even more challenging health issues, a new publisher, Forget Me Not Romances, has published my new classic romantic suspense, An American Gothic. My other books have been re-issued with wonderful new covers and changes. And two more hopefully will be out before the middle of next year! Talk about God’s blessing with this second chance at my dream.

If you could do any kind of writing in the whole world, what would you write? A sci-fi trilogy that would knock fans’ socks off? 
Wow! I guess  I would just want to write whatever God gives me and have it published. I’d love if it would knock the socks off fans—I’d love to know there WERE fans out there waiting for my next book!

A.K. Arenz

Please tell us about the work(s) you’d like to promote. 
Presenting a chance for FOUR different winners to receive a special  Christmas gift of ONE Kindle book from the following, feels wonderful.
An American Gothic(August 2015)—mystery/romantic suspense

She came to Foxxemoor to write a mystery, not become part of one.

Devastated by the death of a child in her care, Lyssie’s heart strings are tugged when she finds another child in danger. Amid past secrets, lies, and betrayals of an old college friend’s family, she must choose a twin brother to trust. The wrong decision could cost her life, and also the life of the child she’s come to love.

OTHER BOOKS—RE-RELEASE
The Case of the Bouncing Grandma (Re-Issued September 2015), The Bouncing Grandma Mysteries, Book 1—cozy mystery
Has Glory hit her head one too many times, or was there really a foot dangling out of that carpet?
Reduced to watching new neighbors move in as a form of amusement, Glory Harper is stuck in a wheelchair with a broken leg, bored, and itching for some excitement. She just doesn’t expect it to come in the form of a foot dangling out the back of a carpet as it’s carried into her new neighbor’s house. The problem is getting someone to believe her.

The moment police recognize Glory as the woman whose misadventures have given her a sketchy reputation, her believability quotient lowers considerably. Just when she thinks someone’s taking her seriously, Glory realizes Detective Rick Spencer, a Harrison Ford look alike, appears more interested in her than in her story.

But, while she’s looking in what seems the obvious direction to solve this mystery, the real criminals are hot on her trail.

The Case of the Mystified M.D. (Re-Issued September 2015), The Bouncing Grandma Mysteries, Book 2 – cozy mystery

First a foot, now a hand—what body part is next?
When her puppy finds a severed hand on a walking trail, Glory Harper is positive the signet ring belongs to a missing college professor who caused a lot of trouble around town. Her insatiable desire to solve his  murder mystery finds her in over her head with secrets, blackmail, and arson.
With her sister Jane overwhelmed by fiancé troubles and an arson fire in her home, Glory latches onto an unlikely partner, and soon feels as though she’s stepped into an episode of the Twilight Zone—where nothing is as it appears, and danger lurks around every corner . . .
Including from her boyfriend, Detective Rick Spencer.
Mirrored Image (Re-Issued September 2015) Mystery/Romantic Suspense
Their faces were the same, will their fates be as well?

Eccentric newspaper columnist Cassandra Chase and by-the-book Detective Jeff McMichaels clash over the murder investigation of Lynette Sandler—a woman who looks eerily like Cassandra.
The case becomes more than a test of McMichaels’ mental acumen as he finds himself drawn to a woman he determined to dislike. While the department hunts a murderer, the uncanny similarities between herself and Lynette cause Cassie to launch her own investigation. What she uncovers gives her the sneaking suspicion that she was the murderer’s original mark. She just needs to stay alive long enough to prove it.

Thanks so much for this interview, Gail. Merry Christmas!

And thanks to you, Alice. It’s good to get to know you, and may the best FOUR commenters win one of your books!

World War II Author Johnnie Alexander

Welcome, Johnnie, to my blog and  question city.

image001Years ago, did you see yourself where you are today, celebrating the print copy of a World War II novel? 

The turning point for me came in 2003 when I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time. For the next decade I dreamed of being a published author. Like many writers, it was a two steps forward/one step back journey. And sometimes it was a one step forward/many steps back journey.

Other milestones came from winning awards at a writers conference, having an editor show interest in my writing, and then winning the ACFW Genesis historical category in 2011.

I am thrilled that Tyndale released the print copy of Where Treasure Hides. It’s not the first print edition—that one was in Dutch—but it’s the first one I can actually read!

The World War II era intrigues me. There’s no end to the incredible stories, and writing projects produce change in us (at least, they do in me). How did you grow through writing Where Treasure Hides

I’m intrigued by the World War II era also. The tragedies are horrendous, and yet we find amazing stories of courage and heroism. I asked myself what I would have done in different situations I read about. People risked their lives to save others, and they risked their lives to protect artistic treasures. The novel explores the theme of what we value most and it also encourages us to rejoice in the future God has planned for us. I try to remember that every day.

How did your heroine’s character develop, and what prompted the translation into Dutch? I mean, why not French, Italian, or Spanish? 

Alison Schuyler, my heroine, was created especially for the hero with a touch of practicality and a few pages of free writing in a journal.

Now to explain that!

Ian Devlin, the hero, plays a major role in an unpublished novel I wrote before Treasure. His relationship with the woman he loves is mentioned in that story (but I can’t say much more than that without getting into Treasure spoilers).

The practicality came about because I once heard an editor advise new writers to stick to American characters. Alison needed to live in Europe if she was going to meet Ian, so I decided her father was Dutch and her mother was an American.

Alison was born in Chicago and lived there until she was twelve years old. This would also explain any Americanisms that popped up. However, as I got into the story, I learned a secret about Alison’s mom. Those details are still a bit of a mystery.

To become better acquainted with my heroine, I opened a journal and wrote: My name is Alison Schuyler . . .

After writing several pages, I knew more about Alison’s family heritage. From there, she grew into her own person as the story itself developed.

The translation happened because a freelance editor with a Dutch publishing company read the story, loved it, and recommended it to her client. And they published it!

Alison lives in Rotterdam, Holland, and her family has owned an art gallery there for generations. Except for a few scenes that take place in England, most of the opening chapters are set in Rotterdam.

 I’d like to learn more about Where She Belongs, as well. How would you compare the writing process with Where Treasure Hides

Both novels were NaNoWriMo projects before they were polished manuscripts. Exuberant, messy drafts that needed a lot of revision—Where She Belongs in 2005 and Where Treasure Hides in 2009.

WSB is a contemporary so it didn’t require nearly the research that Treasure did. It’s also a more personal story since I once lived in the house that is at the center of the novel and often dreamed of someday living there again.

Both stories are “heart” stories. Treasure because of my fascination with the themes it explores and WSB because of my cherished memories of a beautiful brick home that was abandoned for a time.

The turning point for me came in 2003 when I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time. For the next decade I dreamed of being a published author. Like many writers, it was a two steps forward/one step back journey. And sometimes it was a one step forward/many steps back journey

Other milestones came from winning awards at a writers conference, having an editor show interest in my writing, and then winning the ACFW Genesis historical category in 2011.

I am thrilled that Tyndale released the print copy of Where Treasure Hides. It’s not the first print edition—that one was in Dutch—but it’s the first one I can actually read!

  1. Johnnie AlexanderAlison Schuyler, my heroine, was created especially for the hero with a touch of practicality and a few pages of free writing in a journal.

    Now to explain that!

    Ian Devlin, the hero, plays a major role in an unpublished novel I wrote before Treasure. His relationship with the woman he loves is mentioned in that story (but I can’t say much more than that without getting into Treasure spoilers).

    The practicality came about because I once heard an editor advise new writers to stick to American characters. Alison needed to live in Europe if she was going to meet Ian, so I decided her father was Dutch and her mother was an American.

    Alison was born in Chicago and lived there until she was twelve years old. This would also explain any Americanisms that popped up. However, as I got into the story, I learned a secret about Alison’s mom. Those details are still a bit of a mystery.

    To become better acquainted with my heroine, I opened a journal and wrote: My name is Alison Schuyler . . .

    After writing several pages, I knew more about Alison’s family heritage. From there, she grew into her own person as the story itself developed.

    The translation happened because a freelance editor with a Dutch publishing company read the story, loved it, and recommended it to her client. And they published it!

    Alison lives in Rotterdam, Holland, and her family has owned an art gallery there for generations. Except for a few scenes that take place in England, most of the opening chapters are set in Rotterdam.

    Both novels were NaNoWriMo projects before they were polished manuscripts. Exuberant, messy drafts that needed a lot of revision—Where She Belongs in 2005 and Where Treasure Hides in 2009.

    WSB is a contemporary so it didn’t require nearly the research that Treasure did. It’s also a more personal story since I once lived in the house that is at the center of the novel and often dreamed of someday living there again.

    Both stories are “heart” stories. Treasure because of my fascination with the themes it explores and WSB because of my cherished memories of a beautiful brick home that was abandoned for a time.

     Why do both titles begin with the same word? 

    I’m a little tickled by that, but it’s not on purpose. Where Treasure Hides has been the only title I’ve ever used for that story.

    But that’s NOT the case with Where She Belongs.

    I’ve actually lost count of how many titles it has had. Though I can tell you it was Bronze Medal finalist in the My Book Therapy Frazier Contest under the title Where the Whippoorwill Calls.

    When I submitted the proposal to my agent, it was titled Into a Spacious Place. I love this phrase because it’s a promise I believe God made to me when I was at a writers conference several years ago.

    When I read Psalm 31:8 as part of my morning devotion, this jumped out at me: You “have set my feet in a spacious place.”

    I believed it was an assurance that God held my dreams in his hands; not necessarily, that I’d be published someday, but that whatever happened, I could trust in him.

    Psalm 18:19, is used as the story’s epigraph: He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

    I just love that.

    However . . . the marketing team at Revell thought Where She Belongs was a more apt title for a contemporary romance. And I agree.

    Thank you so much for honoring us with a visit, Johnnie, and for offering your giveaway to a commenter–either a print or e-copy. And for those interested in purchasing:

Buy Links:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Christian Book Distributors

Target

Walmart

To connect with Johnnie:

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Broken Umbrellas

I’m  interviewing Wendy Chorot, the author of Broken Umbrellas, this week. She writes under the pen name of Emma Broch Stuart.

I’ve yet to meet Wendy in person, but feel I know her. She’s that kind of gal (as my heroine Dottie would say…) so I’m delighted to introduce Wendy to you.

Broken Umbrellas

What inspires you to write, Wendy?

Everything! Seriously, I am so awed at the world around me, people and seasons, humanity and compassion, love and tears. I always want to look with eyes that really see. See beyond the surface to the beauty that is often hidden. I’ve been on the battlefield and I know that is why I love and live and dream with a fierceness that carries over into my writing. Sometimes I think I could fill an entire book about how a dandelion touches me. ha, ha They are such a sight for sore eyes after a long winter, yellow dots spring up and feed the bees, and droop in chubby hands as a bouquet of flowers for mama. And oh how us mamas love them. Yes, God uses everything to inspire me.

Broken Umbrellas describes a time when you lived in Europe. I’ve experienced a little of that, and would like to hear more about your time there. 

I credit a lot of who I am today on my experiences in Europe. There’s something about getting out of your comfort zone that forces you to relate differently, engage in the world around you at a different level. And most importantly, see beyond yourself. I have dipped my toes in the Mediterranean, hiked mountains in the French Alps, drank wine with my baguette and cheese, breastfed under the Eiffel Tower, and made a complete fool of myself many times as I butchered the language. I have been misunderstood, ignored, lost in a big city, and served fish with the head still attached. But I have also been kissed by complete strangers, given free bus rides when I didn’t have exact change, served delicious cuisine, and most importantly, blessed with knowing Christ at a deeper level. My daughter was born there, my first grandchild buried there, and collected more than a decade of memories—both good and bad.

Living in a foreign country shows you just how strong you really are.

And I might add, how strong you are not! (We won’t go there now, though.D:) 

Where did you get the name Broken Umbrellas?

At my precious grandson’s funeral, I spotted a broken blue umbrella flapping in the winter wind. The woman holding it was oblivious to the fact that snow was falling on her. When she moved her broken umbrella to offer protection to the man beside her, my heart was overwhelmed with the symbolism of humanity doing the same thing—“protecting” (or loving, serving, relating) in spite of our brokenness.

Titles have overtaken my brain . . . What a great “title” story!

What writing mentors or authors inspire you?

I admire every single author at WhiteFire, they are the best group of people ever! I also admire anyone—published or not—with the courage to write and share their story. Published authors who inspire me are Beth Moore, Carolyn Custis James, and Francis Chan—to name a few.

Wendy

Thanks so much, Wendy. And thanks for offering one signed copy of Broken Umbrellas to a fortunate commenter. (I’ve read this book- definitely inspirational!

 

 

How can readers connect with you? I LOVE connecting with people! Readers can find my blog on my website: http://emmabrochstuart.com/

updates on my Facebook author page:

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Or by emailing me:

emmabrochstuart@gmail.com