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lorena-lake2dsc00179I am pleased and honored today to share my interview with author Lorena McCourtney. Her cozy mystery books, the Ivy Malone series, with her LOL (little old lady) heroine, have entertained and inspired me. She has also written two other mystery series: the Andi McConnell Mysteries and the Cate Kinkaid Files, as well as many stand-alone novels.

JANICE: Welcome to my website, Lorena. I’m interested to know how long you’ve been writing and how you came to it.

LORENA: I’ve been writing most of my life but doing it professionally since I was in my 20s. I started with juvenile short stories, mostly for the little Sunday School publications. (Are those even in existence anymore?) I went on to short stories for women and eventually got into novel-length romances for the secular market. When I finally decided that wasn’t for me (and the Lord gave me some serious nudges), I switched to Christian romances and then Christian mysteries.

JANICE: Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

LORENA: That would be my mother, who wrote quite a few non-fiction articles. Because of her I knew how to submit short stories to magazine editors. (Which, unimpressed with my youthful “talent,” they quickly sent right back.)

JANICE: Haha! But it was a start. What’s your preferred genre?

LORENA: My preferred genre is what I’m doing now, Christian mysteries – with a touch of romance. I’ve done a few of the serious/intense type mystery, but I prefer more lighthearted stories. My Ivy Malone Mysteries, the Andi McConnell Mysteries, the Cate Kinkaid Files, and now my new Mac ‘n’ Ivy Mysteries are all lighthearted, with a touch of humor and fun.

JANICE: What’s your motivation? Why do you write?

LORENA: Writing is my one and only talent! It’s my way to serve the Lord.

JANICE: Not sure I believe that, but I’m very glad you are using your writing. Tell me, how and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

LORENA: I’ve always considered writing my job, a full-time job. I have a room set aside as an office in our home, and I do all my writing there. I know some writers like a busy coffee house or other place where people are around to write, but I need quiet and alone-ness.

I used to be a plotter. I’d have a short story or novel figured out from beginning to end before I started writing. But in recent years I’ve become much more of a pantser. I have a vague idea of where the story is going, but it’s definitely flexible. I’ve been known to change killers in the middle of a mystery!

JANICE: The pantser idea intrigues me, but at this point I feel I have to stick to plotting, especially with historical fiction (can’t change too much history!). Lorena, where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

LORENA: Ideas are everywhere. I keep an “Ideas” file folder and jot down anything that happens to come into my mind. If I get more ideas about a particular story idea, I give it a file of its own and keep adding to it. I’ve never waited for “inspiration” to write. As a job, I go to my computer and work on whatever the current project is. Sometimes I don’t get much done. I’ve never had daily word count goals. Some days all I do is rewrite – or delete – what I’ve done before. If I waited for inspiration or to be in the “mood” to write, I’d never get anything done.

JANICE: I completely agree that we can’t wait for inspiration to write, or the books would never happen. How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

LORENA: I usually do research on a “need to know” basis rather than doing a lot of beforehand research, though I may do some research on a setting before I get started. Also, except for two books in the Great Depression era, I’ve always done contemporaries. I think historical might need considerably more advance research than I do. For my writing, I’ll come to a hole in my story and then research that particular point. Such as with my latest book, “Something Buried, Something Blue,” I needed to know about windmills, armored car robberies, and the D.B. Cooper skyjacking case, and I researched each one as I came to it. I usually do research on the internet – checking more than one source to see if they agree. But with a setting I really like to go there and see it in person. (Also a great reason to travel!)

JANICE: What do you like most / least about writing?

LORENA: What do I like most about writing? Well, basically, I can’t imagine life without writing. It’s just what I do. Least liked – it used to be deadlines. But now that I’ve gone from traditional publishing to Indie, I don’t have to worry about deadlines. In all honesty, this means I don’t get as much done as I used to. (Actually, I consider myself kind of semi-retired now.) But I keep plugging along and eventually get something done.

JANICE: I didn’t realize you had gone Indie. The best part of that, in my opinion, is compiling all you need and pushing the publish button. No waiting for months and years for things to happen. But with independent publishing comes responsibility for self-promotion. How do you handle this? What have you found to be the best methods of promoting your work?

LORENA: After many years of being a writer, I’m still trying to figure out promotion!

JANICE: Hmm. It is a challenge. Do you use social media?

LORENA: All I’m using at this time is Facebook. And thinking I should do more, of course.

JANICE: How do you balance professional time with personal time?

LORENA: As I said before I’ve always considered writing a job, so it’s never been something I squeeze in around other things. However, since I am in this “semi-retired” status I’m more willing to take time off for other things.

JANICE: I personally think reading is critical for a writer. What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

LORENA: I’m currently reading a couple of mysteries on my Kindle, although I read a wide variety of materials. Anything that happens to catch my interest. I now much prefer reading on my Kindle to reading print. I like being able to carry around a lot of books to read, so if I lose interest in one I can just hit delete and go to something else. I used to feel that if I started a book, I was obliged to finish it. No more! I also like being able to increase the font size to what is comfortable for me, which I can do with my Kindle. I’m more interested in the contents of a book than in the physical way those words come to me.

JANICE: Oh yes, I love having dozens of books available to me on my Kindle. And I’ve also released myself from the obligation of finishing every book I start. On a personal note, what are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

LORENA: My favorite things are so ordinary, not at all unique. Reading. Eating. Taking a walk, especially on the beach. Travel. My husband watches a lot of TV, but it’s more background noise than actual watching for me. I collect old pocket knives and spurs, but I do it in kind of a lackadaisical way.

JANICE: Your collections are certainly unique. What keeps you going in your writing career?

LORENA: I’ve been writing so long that, even though I’ve slowed down considerably in my “semi-retirement,” I can’t really imagine not writing. Which isn’t to say I haven’t had a lot of discouraging times over the years. But you just groan and grumble for a while and then move on.

JANICE: Yes, because it’s what you do, same as with any “job.” How is your faith reflected in your writing?

LORENA: Earlier in my Christian writing, I often wrote about characters who had a problem or crisis in their faith. But these days I tend to prefer a main character who is secure in her faith, and her faith is simply reflected in how she faces situations or tackles problems in her life. My Ivy Malone character is a good example of that.

JANICE: A more mature angle. What are some things you learned from your own writing?

LORENA: That it’s way too easy to let writing assume too great an importance in your life. Well, it certainly is important. But there’s a big world outside the writing world, and a bad review or poor sales, or whatever other difficulty you’re encountering at the time, isn’t as important in the big scheme of life – and eternity – as it might seem at the moment. So is success.

JANICE: Thank you for those words. That’s a recurring theme that’s been popping up in my life lately. What are you working on now?

LORENA: The first book in my Mac ‘n’ Ivy Mysteries series, “Something Buried, Something Blue,” something-buried_smallis now out in both e-book and paperback, and I’m trying to get started on the next book in the series. I’ve had some 48 books published in my writing career, but it doesn’t get any easier!

JANICE: So I’ve heard! I’d like to encourage you to continue to face that challenge, because I’m anticipating more of Mac & Ivy. What is your ultimate writing goal?

LORENA: To keep doing the best writing I can for as long as I can. Although I can say I’m pleased that I’ve won a few awards along the way and did hit a New York Times bestseller list with one book.

 

JANICE: Ooh! Which book was that?

LORENA: It was the first book in the Cate Kinkaid Files series: Dying to Read. It made both the Combined Print and E-Book Best Sellers list.

JANICE: Congratulations on that. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

LORENA: In the long run, I think that persistence, a general stick-to-it-iveness, is probably more important than talent. Of course talent never hurts! But I’ve encountered more than a few would-be writers with talent who make a great start with a book – but never finish it.

JANICE: Thanks so much for taking time to answer my questions, Lorena. It helps us to get a glimpse into your life and writing.

To purchase some of Lorena’s books—I’d highly recommend them, especially the Ivy Malone series—go to Amazon. You can also see her books in order HERE.

 

INSERT PHOTO, BOOK IMAGE. And links.

SeaRoseLaneSea Rose Lane, a Hope Harbor novel by Irene Hannon (from Revell)

Eric Nash has no intention of staying long in Hope Harbor. He just needs a break to regroup after being downsized from a job he thought would result in partner position at the law firm in Portland.

With nothing but time on his hands, Eric decides to visit his father in Hope Harbor.

However, Eric’s homecoming is a shock on several levels. He literally runs into another vehicle while using his cell phone, his unfortunately timed introduction to the beautiful but chilly BJ Stevens. Upon returning home, he finds out that his childhood home is being renovated into a B&B, something his father hasn’t bothered to tell him. And the contractor for the reno is none other than BJ.

BJ Stevens is also a big city transplant, for reasons she is loathe to share. She has no plans to become involved with another tall, dark and handsome man who will leave her with a broken heart.

But with BJ as contractor of his father’s renovation, Eric runs into her often. Neither of them can deny the magnetism between them, but how will they work it out when their goals are diametrically opposed?

Irene Hannon, author of fifty-plus romantic suspense and contemporary romance novels, writes a tight and captivating story about learning how to deal with the past and learning to trust others and God for the future.

I found the lead characters to be realistic and well-layered, and the secondary characters rich, funny, troubled, fascinating. The harbor setting worked its magic, the plot kept rolling between doubt and hope, and the theme of “my brother’s keeper” spoke loudly and movingly.

If you like clean, romantic fiction, the Hope Harbor novels are for you. Check out Irene Hannon’s other books on her website.

 

I have exciting news for my Indie Blog this week: a new book!

In a Foreign Land_cover_5.25x8

 

 

Other Side of the River cover

 

 

In a Foreign Land is the second book in the In Search of Freedom series. The first book is titled Other Side of the River.

In a Foreign Land was released at the end of January through CreateSpace (print) and KDP (digital). I have to say this book release was easier on my nerves than any others to date. Firstly, it is independently published, so I set my own timeline and it happens when I’m ready for it. Secondly, I learned which parts of the publishing process I need to hire out.

I was able to come to a very mutually beneficial agreement for editing with my friend and colleague, Marcia Laycock of Small Pond Press. Marcia read through my manuscript with eagle eyes and gave me feedback in a short time-turnaround.

Then I sent the document to Rik Hall of Wild Seas Formatting for the…wait for it…formatting! In record time, he sent me the PDF for CreateSpace and the MOBI for Kindle Direct Publishing. Rik works quickly and is always willing to make corrections that I’ve overlooked or changed my mind on.

The cover, which I love, was created by Fred Koop of Fred Koop Design. He designed all three covers for this series at the outset, so they are ready for the ISBN, barcode and back cover copy when each book is completed.

Knowing I have these professionals to step up to the plate for me is very freeing. Yes, it costs me some cash, but it’s worth every penny, and I know the result will be professional too.

Now for the difficult part: starting the next book. I have the characters, the backstories, the probable ending, but there is so much to research and consider and build. I’m working through C.S. Lakin’s The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction in an effort to create more effectively and efficiently. I’ll let you know how this works out.

You can read the first chapter of In a Foreign Land on my blog, and purchase it at Amazon.ca and Amazon.com.

If you read In a Foreign Land, I’d be forever grateful if you’d leave a brief review. That’s one of the most valuable things you can do for an author.

Thanks,

Jan

Thanks to Dianne J. Wilson for granting me permission to share her blog on my site. It previously appeared on the International Christian Fiction Writers blog on January 21, 2017…

I’m writing this devotion 10.5 hours away from home. Why? Because this week my eldest kiddo started university. It is truly the most bizarre concept… pack up all her things, drive for a day, dump her and all her packed things off.

And.Then.Leave.Her.

Wait, WHAT?

Every instinct is screaming against this foreign concept. Since the first day a crying pink bundle landed in my arms, my job has been to Be There, Mop Tears, Hug When Life Sucks, Cook Food, Clean The Dirty Dishes, Wash Dirty Clothes, Help, Listen, Love. Now I have to leave her and drive 10,5 hours in the opposite direction. That’s over 1000 kilometers, not that anyone is counting. If you need me, I’ll be over in the corner sobbing.

Driving away from Stellenbosch without her is going to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’ve bought tissues.

Wow. As her mom and dad, Scott and I are thinking of everything she may need so that when we leave town, she’ll be able to do what we brought her all this way to do. She is here for a purpose and we are providing access to everything she needs to make sure she can get on with it.

All this sounds familiar though, doesn’t it?

Jesus felt the same when He left us humans after living with us for a while. But, in His usual perfect way, He had a plan. And what a plan it was! John 14:18 tells us that He didn’t leave us as orphans, but sent Holy Spirit to be with us. If you read 2 Peter 1:3, you’ll know that He has provided all things for life and godliness. And just as I can’t wait for the first holiday when she gets to come home (and man, you can be sure her room will be ready!) Jesus is longing for the day we get to be reunited with Him too. He has already got the place all spiffied up for us. It’s all there in John 14:3.

But do you know what would break my heart?  If my girl chooses not to use the bookshop account and struggles without textbooks for the year. If she chooses not to use the chemist facilities when her allergies get bad. If she doesn’t use the cash we put in her bank for food and clothes.

Sounds crazy, right? But many of us struggle daily with things that Jesus has made provision for. I want to spend this year combing through my Bible and figuring out everything that He has provided.  Then I want to access it and use it lavishly for myself and for those around me.

Knowing how I feel about my kiddo, I’m pretty sure it will delight His heart.

7756237Dianne J. Wilson writes novels from her hometown in East London, South Africa, where she lives with her husband and three daughters. She has just signed a three book contract for a YA series, Spirit Walker, with Pelican / Watershed.

Finding Mia is available from AmazonPelican / Harbourlight, Barnes & Noble and other bookstores.

Shackles is available as a free ebook from Amazon & Smashwords.

Find her on FacebookTwitter and her sporadic blog Doodles.

March 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:reunion-at-crane-lake
Reunion at Crane Lake
by Robin Bayne — Colt’s memory is returning after the accident that ended his career. Now he wants to take over his family’s inn, but he’ll have to partner with his former fiancée to be able to afford it. He’ll need forgiveness to make that happen. Tia’s goal is clear: to return the inn to its former grandeur. And she’ll even work with Colt to do so. But like the inn, their relationship needs a lot of work. He broke her heart…can she ever trust him again? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

hope
Hope
by Fay Lamb — She’s a starving artist facing a serious illness; he’s the doctor who’s her only hope of survival. If only she hadn’t caused his sister to die. (Contemporary Romance from Write Integrity Press)

muffins-&-moonbeams
Muffins & Moonbeams
by Elizabeth Maddrey — Malachi Baxter is happy to hide in the background and manage the business-end of the family bakery. He’d much rather live in the online world of computer games where he can explore the galaxy and no one has to know he’s deaf. Ursula Franks designs websites during the day and spends her evenings battling alien races online where relationships are easy and uncomplicated. When she agrees to design a website for the local Community Supported Bakery, she has no idea that Malachi is the real man behind her online persona’s best friend and her own secret crush.As the two work together on the website, they uncover an attraction, but will they be able to put aside past hurt and insecurity to find love? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

hope
Then Came You: A Bradford Sisters Novella
by Becky Wade — Garner Bradford, heir to the troubled Bradford Shipping empire, doesn’t know much about babies. But he’s going to have to learn fast because he’s just become a single father to his newborn daughter. Career girl Kathleen Burke is wholly uninterested in settling down. She has big dreams, and none of them include Garner and his small hometown in Washington State. Yet she can’t seem to get her handsome boss out of her head or her heart…. (Romance Novella, Independently Published)

General:when-the-bough-breaks
When the Bough Breaks
by Ane Mulligan — Her dream job has a Catch 22—and time’s running outRookie lobbyist Sienna O’Shea is determined to make a name for herself in New York’s capitol city and use that influence to gain easier access to her birth records. For years she’s searched for her birth mother, but when she’s handed her first assignment—to lobby support for the permanent sealing of all adoption records—her worlds collide. Swept up into the intrigue of backroom politics, falling in love was not on Sienna’s agenda, but the candidate for Lt. Governor runs a formidable campaign to make her his first lady. When an investigative reporter discovers foreign money infiltrating political campaigns, the trail leads to Sienna’s inner circle. (General, Independently Published)

the-memory-of-you
The Memory of You
by Catherine West — Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her? (General from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

Cozy Mystery:murder-is-no-accident
Murder Is No Accident
by A. H. Gabhart — When murder comes to call at a stately Victorian house, the town of Hidden Springs looks to Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane to solve the crime before anyone else dies. (Cozy Mystery from Revell [Baker])

Historical Romance:a-rocky-mountain-romance
A Rocky Mountain Romance
by Misty M. Beller — When Zeche takes shelter from a blizzard in a remote cabin, he doesn’t expect to find a beautiful woman and her father, a disturbed Civil War veteran. Zeche’s instincts tell him Greta is endangered and he should stay and protect her, but his own presence aggravates her father’s condition. With a dangerous snowstorm outside and growing hostilities inside, can he find a way to keep them all safe from harm? Or will it be to the detriment of his heart? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

a-stolen-heart
A Stolen Heart
by Amanda Cabot — From afar, Cimarron Creek seems like an idyllic town tucked in the Texas Hill Country. But when former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford steps onto its dusty streets in 1880, she finds a town with a deep-seated resentment of Northerners–like her. Lydia won’t let that get her down, though. All will be well when she’s reunited with her fiancé. But when she discovers he has disappeared–and that he left behind a pregnant wife–Lydia is at a loss about what to do next. The handsome sheriff urges her to trust him, but can she trust anyone in this town where secrets are as prevalent as bluebonnets in spring? (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

carmela's-quandary
My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains: Carmela’s Quandary by Susan Page Davis — Experience the Wild West as Carmela seeks freedom of body and soul. Forced for years by her uncle to pose as a survivor of an Indian kidnapping so he can profit on the speaker circuit, she longs to end the lies. On a stagecoach in Arizona Territory, Carmela and her uncle are fellow passengers with a deputy US marshal and his handcuffed prisoner. When the stage is attacked, will Carmela’s wish come true, or will she forever be branded by her past? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

desert-moon-and-honor-bound
Desert Moon & Honor Bound
by Susan Page Davis and Colleen L. Reece — Enjoy an Old West romance adventure from author Susan Page Davis. Julia Newman looked forward to moving home to Arizona, then she got word that her mother has died and Julie’s stagecoach is robbed. If that wasn’t enough, the first person she sees in town is Adam Scott—the man she always loved but could never have—and now he is accusing her brother of criminal activity. Also includes a bonus historical romance, Honor Bound by Colleen L. Reece. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

her-motherhood-wish
Her Motherhood Wish
by Keli Gwyn — En route to the Double T Orphanage to work on its expansion, carpenter Chip Evans and Caroline Hunt discover two orphaned children—and become their caregivers. But Chip’s determined not to let himself get too attached to the children who just lost their widowed father…or to the lovely woman helping him care for them. Especially since Callie and the little ones just don’t fit into his detailed plans for the future. Callie can’t help but fall in love with the orphans, and despite her better judgment, she’s falling for Chip, too. Her dreams of being a wife and mother were not quite like this. But Callie believes a plan bigger than Chip’s brought them all together…and now she just has to help him see it, too. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

the-planter's-daughter
The Planter’s Daughter
by Michelle Shocklee — When her father’s Texas cotton plantation faces bankruptcy, Adella must choose between the man who can her family’s land and the man who can save her! (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

when-tides-turn
When Tides Turn
by Sarah Sundin — When Quintessa Beaumont learns the US Navy has established the WAVES program for women, she enlists, eager to throw off her frivolous ways and contribute to the war effort. Lt. Dan Avery employs his skills in antisubmarine warfare to fight U-boats at the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic, but the last thing he wants to see on his radar is fun-loving Tess. As Dan and Tess work together in Boston, the changes in Tess challenge his notions–and his heart. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

Medical Suspense:agent-in-training
Dcotor’s Dilemma
by Richard L. Mabry M.D. — Young surgeon Tyler Gentry thought the offer to join the Hall Group of surgeons offered the answer to his problems, but things changed when he received a 3 AM phone call that told him such a move would be hazardous to his health. (Medical Suspense, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:her-baby's-protector
Her Baby’s Protector
by Margaret Daley and Susan SleemanSaved by the Lawman by Margaret Daley: As an unknown assailant attempts to kidnap family-court judge Kate Forster’s infant son, police officer Chase Walker thwarts the attack—and vows to keep the pair safe. But who will protect the ex-marine’s heart when the widowed mother and her little boy make him long for a permanent spot in their family? Saved by the SEAL by Susan Sleeman: The tragedy that killed Bree Hatfield’s best friends–and left her with custody of their young daughter–has been ruled an accident. But Bree knows it was murder. Scared and alone, she turns to her ex-boyfriend, navy SEAL Clint Reed, who’ll risk everything to protect baby Ella and the woman he never stopped loving. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

agent-in-training
Agent-in-Training
by Terri Reed — FBI intern Zara Fielding and her K-9 partner, Radar, stumble across a robbery gone wrong and put themselves in the criminals’ crosshairs. Her childhood friend FBI computer guru Dylan O’Leary works for the secretive FBI unit she longs to join, and he vows not to let anything happen to her. As they work to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, new feelings ignite. When she goes missing, it’s only Dylan–and Radar–who can track her down. Will they arrive in time to save her and the future she and Dylan have started dreaming about? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative Romance/Fantasy:ingrid's-engagement
Ingrid’s Engagement
by Kristen Reed — When King Viggo marches through the kingdom of Schlagefilde in a relentless quest for retribution against its wicked king, the Count of Anselm attempts to make peace with him. As the two strike a deal that will protect the people of Anselm, the King of Villriket becomes enthralled with a portrait of the Count’s oldest daughter, Ingrid. The vengeful king vows that he will leave Edmund’s county in peace if he will allow him to marry Ingrid. To prevent her father from incurring the sovereign’s wrath, the young lady hastily agrees and enters into an unforeseen engagement with the grim ruler. Ingrid’s Engagement tells the enchanting tale of a beautiful young woman who softens the hardened heart of a beastly king with nothing more than her quiet wisdom and gentle spirit. (Speculative Romance/Fantasy, Independently Published)

Funny how we meet people. I recently signed up for a mystery writing course with American Christian Fiction Writers, and another attendee, Gail Kittleson, contacted me in response to my self-introduction. We decided it might be fun and mutually beneficial for us to trade interviews for our gailblogsites. Read on for my interview of Gail:

JANICE: Hello Gail. It was good to meet you through the ACFW course. Here are a few questions in order for me and my readers to get to know you: First of all, who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

GAIL: I’d like to give my mother credit here. We lived on an Iowa farm in the 50s and 60s, too far from where I went to school to be involved in sports. I still remember her patience in teaching me how to write my name, and her love of books, even though she had very little time to read. As a rather miserable adolescent, I started to write secret stuff, and she always showed interest. Not in a nosey way, but trying to encourage me.

She was that quiet force in our home that believed in me. I didn’t develop the kind of self-confidence to plunge into writing in a serious way for decades, but her blessing provided a foundation for things to come.

JANICE: People who believe in us have a great influence on our lives. In a nutshell, tell us why you write.

GAIL: Because I can’t not write, now that I’ve truly given myself to this venture. I’m so much happier when working on a manuscript, and wish I’d developed this skill much earlier. But as I mentioned, self-confidence is a requirement for this career, IMHO. And that sometimes takes decades to grow.

JANICE: Don’t I know it! Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

GAIL: They simply come to me, first in the form of a character I can’t withdraw from. I mean, she/he takes over my head/heart. Sounds crazy to say characters whisper their story to me, but I don’t know how else to describe what happens. Then I start researching, and as I learn more about the specifics of the heroine’s life, including historical occurrences at the time, the plot unfolds. Gradually. I don’t often know the ending when I start. So this says I’m a panster, I guess. [Jan sez, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “pantser,” it refers to a person who writes “by the seat of her pants” instead of by extensive plotting.]

Flowers inspire me, and country roads, and photos of people from the era, as well as true stories from the time. I can’t read enough about the Bombing of London or the Blitz, or Mosquito pilots who saved the city. The same is true about Southern French Resistance movement. Those people—just regular peasants—contributed more to the war effort than I can ever research.

JANICE: How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

GAIL: I prefer personal accounts to most any other source. The World War II era offers a variety: spoken accounts from still-living Greatest Generation folks, letters, and memoirs.  Of course, I use the usual resources, too: history books and the Internet.

JANICE: What do you like most / least about writing?

GAIL: This might be all about the most part…I enjoy the research, but before that, the thrill of a character appearing in my head/heart. What kind of miracle is that, anyway, to have an invisible someone enter your life, someone who’s as real to you as your neighbor next door? That’s how it’s been for me. First Dottie, a WWII widow who also lost her son during the war. Then Addie, whose volatile husband provided battles for her at home, and her best friend Kate, the risk-taker—they’re all SO real to me. I feel privileged to know them, and discovering how readers react to their stories is incredibly interesting.

I like the initial get it all written down phase. I like to edit. The fourth to tenth time through might get a bit tiring, I admit. But about the tenth time, when all of a sudden I see how verbose I’ve been and slash words left and right, is pure fun. That’s when I know this manuscript deserves to be published. The next few edits with professionals always teach me things. And the publication itself – delightful!

Okay, okay. I haven’t enjoyed the rejections, and I’ve had plenty. But having kind editors point out how I can improve is unknown-1
pure gift. I’m really grateful to be involved in this entire process. And I MUST add that hearing from readers that they appreciated my characters’ honest doubts and questions, that I didn’t use platitudes or pat answers, and that certain characters are actually helping them through difficult times in their own lives—wow! It doesn’t get better than this!

JANICE: I know that most writers love to read. What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

unknown-2GAIL: Print. I’m old-fashioned about this. Nothing like holding a book in my hand. I’m reading 2 books right now. One about Dunkirk, and even though I dislike the writer’s style (not a contemporary writer) I’m gleaning so much trivia about how a British soldier changed through his wartime experience.  I’m also starting something a new friend lent me: Grand Ambition. This is an Arizona historical about the Grand Canyon.

JANICE: What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

GAIL: Raindrops on roses…actually raindrops on anything. I’ve always felt better after a good rain clears the air, and storms excited me even as a child. I used to go up in the immense attic of our farmhouse to watch them roll in across the land.

I love the mountains, too. Everybody has their geographical “druthers,” and mountains make me happy. It’s the altitude (for my sinuses), but also the incredible beauty of undulating cloud shadows on mountains. Ahh…

Another favorite: sweet potatoes. Such a healthy, tasty food, especially with rosemary and butter. Yum. And I just baked a marvelous recipe: sweet potato quick bread. Gluten/sugar/lactose free, and absolutely great comfort food.

And walking has done so much for me during my lifetime—walking wherever I am. Ideas come to me on walks, and relief from tension. I used to like riding bike, too, but my aging body instructs me to cool it on that one.

JANICE: Yes, we do have to make adjustments as we age. So what keeps you going in your writing career?

GAIL: It’s that I love writing. Even though its so time and energy consuming, hard on my eyes, and takes forever to bring tangible satisfaction (as in publication/fans), I have to say the work intrigues me. Answers to puzzles come to me in the night, in the shower, during church. Scenes ride my imagination at the oddest times and in the most unlikely real-life situations. It’s like having another life of its own living inside you, and that keeps me writing.

In addition, reader comments keep me writing. I’m making a difference, which is what I always wanted to do. I’m being used. Wow.

JANICE: Tell me, how is your faith reflected in your writing?

GAIL: Growing in faith is tough. Anybody who says otherwise, I would doubt. True faith requires letting go, which for so many of us is nearly impossible. And it requires facing life with integrity, allowing for our doubts and fears. Nobody wants to be a fearful mess, but we ARE. Embracing all life brings us through, and still believing equals spiritual growth.

My characters live deeply in this growth process. They make do, whatever comes, and even when evil seems to have the upper hand, find a way to look up.

JANICE: Thanks, Gail, for letting us into your life for this interview. I wish you God’s rich blessings as you follow this path that you love, that He’s given you to walk.

To learn more about Gail, visit her website, Dare to Bloom.

51l0eOo6LjLThis was my first taste of Lisa Harris’ fiction, and I loved it. Vendetta is the first book in the Nikki Boyd Files, a series set in the wild woods of northeast Tennessee.

Nikki Boyd is a special agent with the Missing Person’s Task Force. The primary reason she joined the force is to reunite missing persons with their families, and to stop those who seek to abduct and kill innocent people. People like her younger sister, Sarah. Nikki has spent the past ten years trying to catch the man who took her sister and five other young women.

One year ago, Nikki’s best friend, Katie Grant, died in a boating accident. Nikki plans to spend the anniversary with Katie’s husband, Tyler, remembering and honoring Katie, but a call comes in that another teen has gone missing. Nikki asks Tyler to help in the investigation.

As urgency escalates, Nikki becomes suspicious that the perpetrator of this crime is connected with the man who took her sister Sarah ten years ago, and that very possibly, she is his real target. She puts herself in danger to catch him, but has no idea how close she is to becoming his next victim.

Author, Lisa Harris, displays great skill in bringing her readers into the story and keeping them hooked. Her book is exceptionally well-researched. Tension continually ramps up with each new twist to the plot. Characters are real in that although they aren’t perfect, they are personable and unique. We feel a great affinity for Nikki as she delves into the darkness of this crime. We wonder when she will realize her attraction to the man she works with. And we hope and pray for the girl who has gone missing.Lisa-Harris-304x400

This book is well crafted, a clean and professional read. I’d recommend Vendetta to anyone who enjoys romantic suspense. This volume includes an excerpt from the next book in the series: Missing, due out in the summer of 2016. The third book, Pursued, is set for April 2017 release.

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