Thursday, March 23, 2017

Homeschool Mom and Author Melanie D. Snitker

Melanie Snitker is the busy author/homeschool mom of the day:

How long have you been homeschooling?


This is our fourth year. I was homeschooled from the first grade through high school and it was something I’d always hoped to be able to do for my own kids. Our son has autism and was having a difficult time in the public school. At the end of the first grade, he wasn’t happy there and we were far from satisfied with the education he was receiving. We decided to homeschool over the summer in hope of helping him catch up academically. Things went so well, we’ve been going strong ever since. He’s now eleven and our daughter is six. Having the opportunity to stay home with them, watch them learn, and be a part of it all is a huge blessing.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a kid. I remember making up episodes for Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers. Later, it was screenplays for my own episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I even submitted one, though it was promptly returned. I still have that one somewhere. LOL I wrote my first book while I was in high school. I still have that science fiction novel and I hope to polish it up and publish it someday. Once I was in college, I became interested in writing inspirational romance.

What gave you the writing bug?

I enjoyed reading romance novels, but found it increasingly difficult to find books that didn’t contain sexual content or horrible language. In college, I decided that I wanted to write romance novels that had characters I loved, a storyline that tugged at the heartstrings, and was something I wouldn’t be embarrassed about if my daughter read it when she was older.

Do you remember the first story you wrote?

I wrote a lot of little things here and there, but my first short story was called The Witness. I wanted to illustrate how God can take something we do for others that seems meaningless and use it to change the life of another person.

What type of books do your write?

I write Christian romance novels. In about half of them, I include a suspense thread. All of them focus on love, faith, and family.

How do you find time to write?

There are some weeks that are easier than others. But right now, most of my writing time takes place after the kids go to bed. When I’m working on my first draft, especially, I try to stay up late every two or three days to get in some uninterrupted writing time.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Finding the time to write and really focus on it is probably the most challenging for me. I usually have way more ideas for stories than I have time to put them to paper.

Do your kids help with your creative process or give you ideas?

Our kids are inspirations to me. Sometimes they give me some great ideas when it comes to the children in my books. In my Love’s Compass series, one of the characters is Gideon, a little boy with autism. I wanted to show my readers the joys and challenges that can come with raising a child with special needs. Our daughter is the perfect combination of tomboy and princess. I love how confident she is of herself and what she can do. The main character in another book coming out next year was inspired by her attitude towards life.

I would say the kids help me the most by always bringing smiles and laughter to my day. I couldn’t write without those happy faces! 

What is the single most significant thing you can tell us about your writing career?

I write what’s in my heart and pray that God uses the stories for His purpose. I’m so thankful He’s given me the opportunity to see my dream come true. 

Can you tell us about a character in your current work in progress?

In Finding Joy, the fifth book in my Love’s Compass series, Parker Wilson grew up shadowing his dad as he worked their family ranch. Parker’s world was turned upside down at the age of seventeen when his dad died. Unable to bear the echoes of how things used to be, he left the ranch at eighteen and never looked back. Eight years later, a horrific accident ends his career and leaves him struggling with his lack of control over the direction his life has taken. Against his better judgement, he goes back to the ranch to face both his past as well as an unknown future.

It’s been a long time since Parker has let God into his life. Now He realizes that God’s the only one who can help Parker overcome his past and open up his heart to new possibilities and love.

Read and excerpt from  Finding Peace (Love’s Compass: Book One)


Click on the cover to
go to Amazon
Book Blurb:

Police Officer Tuck Chandler is good at his job. He’s also good at holding women at arm’s length. Jilted by his fiancĂ©e for his dedication to his job, he’s not about to open himself up to hurt like that again.

Laurie Blake is a struggling photographer. After growing up in a wealthy family, she’s determined to make it on her own, even if it means doing it the hard way.

When Tuck is assigned to a puzzling burglary involving Laurie’s fledgling photography business, he goes into it with his usual perseverance. He wants to help her – if she’ll let him. As the case unfolds and the mystery deepens, another question arises.

Will the past get in the way of their future?


Book Excerpt:
Laurie Blake fumbled to fasten the buttons on her jacket. When she was finished, she plunged her stiff hands into the welcome warmth of the pockets. It was January in north Texas and cold weather was to be expected. But these exceptionally low temperatures almost made her want to dig out her gloves. Almost.
Each breath turned into a puff of fog that preceded her down the street. She chose her steps carefully to avoid the uneven sections of pavement.
Walking the two buildings between Daisy Belle’s Diner and the apartment above her photography studio, she was glad she chose a small bowl of vegetable beef soup for dinner. It would help keep her warm until she got home.
The evening sky bore hints of orange as the sun readied for bed. Perfect timing. She hated to be out after dark.
The neighborhood wasn’t in the best part of town. And that was an understatement. Most of the buildings were in dire need of a fresh coat of paint and the storefront for Capturing the Moment Photography was no exception. She was thankful that at least her building didn’t sport any of the paint tags many of the others did.
Her eyes flitted to her dusty-looking Honda Accord before turning towards the door of her place. Something snagged her attention and her head whipped back around, eyes quickly honing in on the trunk. It wasn’t latched. Thinking little of it, she went to shut it completely and that’s when she noticed that the passenger side window had been broken.
A groan came from her throat as she stood and stared at the damage. Tears gathered in her eyes.
This was fantastic. Just what she needed – to pay for repairs to her car. Because there was nothing else to use her limited funds on.
Shoulders slumped, Laurie unlocked the door to her studio, turned the lights on, and stepped inside. She pulled a cheap cell phone out of her pocket and dialed the police station. After reporting the damage, she was told to expect an officer to stop by.
Many of the portraits on the walls of her studio smiled at her. However, not even the photo of the cherub-faced baby sitting in a flower pot could lighten her mood.
By the time a truck pulled up in front of her place almost an hour later, the tears had disappeared. She stopped her swift pacing and looked past the reflection of herself in the window as an exceptionally tall man got out of a black truck.
She stepped out into the cold air, leaving her jacket hanging on a chair inside. Arms crossed in front of her, she watched as the man approached her. He wore the two-toned blue Kitner Police Department uniform which included a heavy coat. At over six feet tall, he was the definition of confidence.
He gave her a nod. “Hello, Ma’am. I was told that a car had been broken into. Was it you who made that call?”
“Yes, it was.”
He looked like he was expecting her to say something else. She raised an eyebrow at him.
The officer cleared his throat and reached for a small notebook in one of his coat pockets. He pulled it out along with a pen and flipped open to a blank page.
“I’m Officer Chandler. Can I have your name?”
“Laurie Blake.”
“Is it your car that has been damaged?”
“Yes.”
She gave him her contact information and answered a few other questions before he motioned to the car.
“Laurie, I would like you to show me the damage and make a list of anything that might be missing from your car.”
“Nothing was stolen.”
“You already went through everything?” His brown eyes looked surprised and she realized that they were the exact same shade as the close-cropped hair on his head.
“I don’t keep anything in my car. I know what part of town I live in.”
Officer Chandler’s eyes went to her crossed arms. She had been rubbing them to keep warm and stopped immediately under his gaze.
“You should go inside and get a coat. This could take a few minutes.”

~

Laurie’s arms dropped to her sides and she pierced Tuck with a glare. She turned on a heel and went inside the studio behind her. He followed at a distance and stopped just inside.
He watched her shrug on a dark green jacket. Hair hung to the middle of her back, the ringlets tangled together in a mess of copper red.
He stared at her eyes. They were so green, they reminded him of jade. 
“My jacket’s on. Let’s go.”
He moved out of her way as her shoulder brushed his chest. He raised an eyebrow. If she was this frigid with the guy who was here to help, then it was a good thing the person who broke into her car was long gone. Tuck might have been called in to investigate a homicide instead.
Black boots that looked tiny compared to his own carried her around the car to the passenger side. She gestured to the broken window and buried her hands in her pockets.
Tuck reached for a small camera in his coat and took a few photos before pulling on the handle. The car door yielded with a creak and he leaned inside.
His gaze swept over the faded seat covers, the stained floorboards, and landed on the dash.
“That’s odd, the stereo is still here. It’s usually the first thing they take.” He stood up again. Laurie was watching him. “If you had nothing stashed in the car, what was the point?”
She shrugged. “They checked the trunk, too. It’s an old car. Probably wasn’t worth their time.”
“Maybe.” He examined the trunk and made a few more notes. “At this point, all you can do is make a claim with your insurance company to get the window repaired.”
At his words, a look of defeat crossed her face.
“What is it?”
“I have liability only.”
He gave her a nod. He remembered when Capturing the Moments Photography had opened up about six months ago. He had even commented to his partner about how the area of town was an unusual place for a business like that. Looking at Laurie’s car, he assumed she was here because it was all she could afford.
He rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. “We will investigate this. If we can find the guy who did it, we’ll let you know. I’m sorry there’s not much else I can do.”
The light from the studio reflected in her eyes. The frown on her face softened as she kicked one of the car’s tires with the toe of a boot.
His eyes were drawn to her mouth as she worried her lower lip with her teeth.
 “Do you have any trash bags?”
Her brows came together. “What?”
“If you have a trash bag and some packing tape, I’ll help you cover up that window.”
Her pretty eyes opened wide and she blinked at him as if she were seeing him for the first time.
“Um. Yeah. I do.”
Without another word, she disappeared into her studio. As he waited for her to return, Tuck wondered about Laurie Blake. Her emotions seemed measured and she certainly was a woman of few words. But he had seen vulnerability – even if it was only for a moment.
She came back with the materials he needed. Together, they sealed off the broken window. When they were finished, he nodded towards her place. “It’s getting colder out here and you have to be half frozen. You should go in for the night. I’ll file all of this first thing in the morning.”
He half expected her to argue with him. Instead, she took the tape back from him and jabbed a thumb at her car. “Thanks for the help.”
“You’re welcome.” He withdrew a card from his wallet and handed it to her. “If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call me.”
Their fingers brushed as she plucked the card from his hand. The warmth he felt at the touch surprised him.
Without looking at the card, she slipped it into her jacket pocket. She walked to the door and turned slightly towards him again.
The light lit her face and he admired the smattering of freckles across her nose. “I’m sorry this happened to you.”
She shrugged her shoulders, copper curls falling forward to frame her delicate face. “It is what it is.”




Wednesday, March 22, 2017

New Release from Laura V. Hilton

Today I have the honor of hosting my writing friend, Laura V. Hilton. She has a new release entitled Amish Wanderer. I had read this book a while ago for my job as book reviewer with another company and thoroughly enjoyed it! So when she needed blog hoster, it was a no-brainer for me.

About Laura:

Laura V. Hilton is an award-winning, sought-after author with almost twenty Amish, contemporary, and historical romances. When she’s not writing, she reviews books for her blogs, and writes devotionals for blog posts for Seriously Write and Putting on the New.

Laura and her pastor-husband have five children and a hyper dog named Skye. They currently live in Arkansas. One son is in the U.S. Coast Guard. She is a pastor’s wife, and homeschools her two youngest children.

When she’s not writing, Laura enjoys reading, and visiting lighthouses and waterfalls. Her favorite season is winter, her favorite holiday is Christmas.

About Amish Wanderer:
Click on the cover
to go to Amazon

Bethany Weiss has been fascinated by Silas Beiler since he spent a couple of years in Jamesport, Missouri, before he and his family moved to another Amish community. They hadn’t kept in touch, but she hasn’t forgotten the friendly young man who brought her lemonade and took her home once from a Singing years ago. When she finds a man sleeping in her family’s barn, like Jesus sleeping in the hay, she is stunned to recognize Silas. He’s left the Amish and is backpacking across the country. She talks him into staying, at least until after Christmas.

Silas’ family has never been happy living in one area for long, and their vagabond ways are wearing on him. He’s lived in Amish communities all over the nation, moving whenever his daed became disgruntled with the leaders, and he’s looking for some sense of stability. His intentions are to make it back to Pennsylvania and stay with his Englisch onkle and his family—and pursue an education. Will Bethany be the one to bring Silas in from the cold? Or will he continue on his way to his extended family and become Englisch?


My Review:

Bethany finds her life turned upside down when her brother ends up dead, her father ends up in a mental hospital, and Hen, her betrothed, ends up in jail. Things show a little promise of hope when Silas returns the community, even if it is only briefly. But, worse things are to come.

The plot keeps moving along at a good pace. Many readers will find bits of themselves in the realistic characters. Bethany feels that God is no longer listening to her because of her past mistakes. Silas strives to overcome his past as well, but with God's help. While some of the plot line is predictable, this is still a good story for all who enjoy Amish fiction.


Read an Excerpt:

November

An unidentified sound, loud in the relative silence, jarred Bethany. Her blue pen made a squiggly line across the page in the fat little notebook where she wrote her thoughts. Maybe she should’ve found a more secluded place than the hay pile beside the loft ladder, but she rarely was disturbed. She raised her head and listened.
Nothing, except the squeak of the wood doors in the back of the barn as her younger brother, Timothy, put the cows out to pasture. The soft lowing of cows. The clucking of free-range chickens.
Hopefully, he was too busy to notice she’d left—and wouldn’t look for her.
But there it was again. From somewhere overhead. A sound that didn’t belong. A creak and a thump.
Hopefully, it wasn’t Hen. She’d hear if he were out of jail, ain’t so? A thread of fear ripped through her, unraveling the tiny bit of peace she’d been able to find.
Bethany capped the pen, shot to her feet, and hid the notebook under a loose piece of wood in the floor. Then she scampered up the ladder to the lower loft.
Nothing.
She climbed higher, to the upper one, some thirty feet from the ground.
Peeking over the edge, she scanned the open floor. And… there… someone was wrapped in the old ratty blanket Daed kept in the barn for strays, as he called them. Mamm called them wanderers. She wouldn’t be happy to learn one bedded down in their loft while Daed was gone—incarcerated, of sorts, in a mental hospital, after he tried to kill all the black cats in their district.
The cats lived. They had nine lives, ain’t so? But Daed was institutionalized and his assistant, the one who actually carried out Daed’s deranged wishes, Hen Stutzman, was locked up in jail awaiting trial for arson. As if a man should be punished for obeying crazy orders. Well, they had been horrible things, so it was warranted.
And here she’d thought Hen came around so often to see her. Though she’d come to dread his visits.
Her head, and heart, were permanently bowed in shame. Now no one would ever come calling.
Especially if they ever found out… Nein. They couldn’t. She’d never tell.
Life would never be the same.
Okay, maybe that was a bit overly dramatic. But still…
Bethany’s eyes burned. She blinked to clear the watery haze.
What were they going to do with Daed gone?
A black Amish hat covered the face of whoever slept up on the hay-strewn floor of the loft. His body was swaddled like a newborn boppli in an effort to keep warm, most likely. Almost like Baby Jesus in the manger. Except it was a man. Not a boppli.
And definitely not Hen. This man was taller and much thinner. Relief flooded her.
She started to descend the ladder. It wouldn’t do for a vagabond to discover her alone, almost in the loft with him. Not even if something about it reminded her of the live nativity scenes she’d seen downtown at one of the Englischer’s churches.
Little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay… The tune ran, uninvited, through her thoughts.
A board on the ladder creaked and snapped under Bethany’s weight. She dangled, her feet flailing, from the top of the ladder. Too far to fall without breaking something. Or killing herself.
Why hadn’t she noticed the crack in the wood when she’d climbed up?
She let out a strangled cry when her fingers started slipping from the worn wood. The man blasted upright, his hat falling away to reveal shocks of sun-streaked light brown hair. He struggled free of the blanket, and half-crawled to the edge of the loft.
“Are you okay?” His warm, callused hands closed around hers.
His hand was strong. Warm. Work-roughened. She glanced at his fingers, curled around hers. Unexpected sparks shot up her arms. It had nothing to do with her life hanging in the balance. Or maybe it did. She looked down at the floor thirty feet below again. And whimpered.
“Grab my hands. I’ll pull you up.”
Up. In the loft. Alone with him?
Nein.
Clinging to him seemed a gut idea though. And if it’d save her from falling…
Her shin made contact with the broken rung a moment before her tennis shoe found another ladder rail. She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she held. “I’m fine.” Now. She pulled her hands free one at a time and lowered herself. A step. Two. Three…
He stepped out onto the ladder and started down after her.
Nice looking… Wait. He followed her? She needed to find her brother. Or call for him. “Timothy!” There was safety in numbers. Sidetracked watching his quick descent instead of concentrating on her own in her hurry to escape, her feet slipped off the rung. Her hands caught only slivers and—
A far away scream reached her ears. She recognized it as her own as she plunged through the air.
“Hey, wait,” the stranger called after her.
As if she could.
Her body hit something. The hay she’d been sitting on? “Ooof.” Arms wrapped around her, then… darkness.
Until…
“You shoved her!” Timothy’s voice sounded from somewhere above her, filled with anger—and fear.
Gut. She was safe. She dared relax.
Hands ran roughly over her arms and legs. Not Timothy’s hands. These hands were bigger, stronger… yet gentle, too. Hands that left tingles where they touched. Strange, this reaction to a stranger. To anyone.
“Nein, I didn’t. She slipped. I was trying to help.”
“If I hadn’t almost caught her, she would’ve died. Her blood would be on your hands,” Timothy almost shouted.
Her head throbbed. The front of her head ached, not from the fall but tension. Maybe. It might’ve been from the fall. She must’ve fainted.
“Who are you anyway, and what are you doing in our barn?” Timothy’s voice cracked and the pitch changed, the way buwe voices did in adolescence.
“I don’t think she broke anything.” The stranger, whose voice seemed familiar in some way, rolled her over and slid his hand down her spine. As if he’d be able to feel a broken back.
He moved her back again, his hands investigating her ribs, brushing against her... This went way too far. Too intimate. Who gave him such liberties anyway?
She forced her eyes open.
The stranger’s gaze, just as lost and confused as everyone else’s, fixed on hers.
She sat up, ignoring the wave of dizziness as she stared into hazel eyes. Something…
She tried to think of something witty to say. Failing that, she lapsed into silence and studied him closer.
Memories of a lemonade summer, one or two years ago, flashed as he withdrew his hands. His image waved, swayed, doubled.
“Silas?”



Friday, March 17, 2017

Giveaway from Lillian Duncan


Click on the cover to
go to Amazon
Everybody likes a giveaway, and my writing friend Lillian Duncan is having one!


To celebrate the release of BROKEN TRUST, she is giving away Amazon Gift Cards. All you have to do is hop over to her blog, Tiaras & Tennis Shoes at www.lillian-duncan.com and leave a comment under one of the Broken Trust posts and you’re entered. Easy Peasy!

About BROKEN TRUST...

Life is all about choices…and consequences. Chryssie Mason longs to soar like a butterfly, but a lifetime of bad choices has kept her in the caterpillar stage. After years of struggling, her dreams are finally within her grasp. Her only goal is to graduate from nursing school so she can have a better life—so she can morph into a butterfly. With her final exam only days away, she witnesses a murder. A butterfly would call the police, but she decides to take the easy way out…once again. Life has taught her to never trust anyone, especially herself. With her freedom and her very life at risk, it’s time to trust. And that choice changes everything.

Lillian Duncan…Stories of faith mingled… with murder & mayhem.
Lillian is a multi-published author who lives in the middle of Ohio Amish country with her husband and a menagerie of pets. After more than 30 years working as a speech pathologist for children, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.
Lillian writes the types of books she loves to read—fast-paced suspense with a touch of romance that demonstrates God’s love for all of us. To learn more about Lillian, you may visit her at www.lillianduncan.net or www.lillian-duncan.com. She also has a devotional blog at www.PowerUpWithGod.com.

INTERVIEW:

Tell us a little about you.
My husband and I live in a small town in Ohio. I mean small—we only have 1 traffic light. But I love being back home. I grew up in the area, but moved to the big city of Cleveland for many years. Like Dorothy, I love being home again.

When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
That’s an interesting story. I was turning 40 and like lots of other 40 year olds, something was missing in my life. I was watching some show (probably Oprah) and her guest recommended writing your own obituary but not to include anything you’ve done up to that point. They said write in outlandish things that you couldn’t imagine.
One of the things I wrote was that I was an author. What? Up to that point, I’d never thought of writing a book in spite of how much I loved books. When I reread those words, something sparked.
And a writer was born.

What is your 'how I got published' story?
I only need two words to tell that—hard work…and perseverance. OK, technically that’s four words. It actually took me fifteen years to get a traditional contract. I can’t tell you how many times I quit writing but I always started back up which is why I always tell writers—DON’T QUIT!

How did you develop your love of story?
From my love of reading. From the moment I learned to read, I loved stories. From the time I learned to read, I rarely went anywhere without a book. To the grocery store, to my relatives’ houses, camping. And yes, I was one of those people that read under the covers and in a car.
What is your favorite genre to read? To write?
The answer to both is Christian mystery and suspense with a little horror thrown in from time to time. I guess writing is sort of like eating. You are what you read, and for me that means I’m a suspense/mystery writer.

Most people don’t think of murder mysteries and suspense novels as Christian Fiction. What do you say to them?
I can certainly understand their point of view. And for some readers my stories might be a bit too graphic or edgy and that’s okay, I would say my readers are those who like traditional suspense and mystery novels but are tired of all the explicit language and sex scenes that aren’t necessary to a good story.
I don’t promote or glorify violence in my stories and show characters experiencing the natural consequences of their bad choices and bad actions. My characters are usually on a spiritual journey as well—but some are further along than others.

Tell us about BROKEN TRUST.
BROKEN TRUST is my latest book, releasing March 17. There’s lots of action but it will also make you go…aww. It explores the issues of trust (of course) but also choices and how one choice can change your life—for better or for worse.
BROKEN TRUST is Chryssie’s story. Her complete name is Chrysalis which is another name for a cocoon. Chryssie wants to soar like a butterfly but she keeps making choices that keep her stuck in the caterpillar stage.
She’s days away from graduating from nursing school when she witnesses a murder. Once again she takes the easy way out and once again she has to face the consequences of her choice—this time with life and death consequences.

What’s the setting for BROKEN TRUST?
Broken Trust is set in Cleveland, mostly in the Ohio City area and the Flats.

What’s your day job? Tell us a little about it.
I retired as an SLP from a large city school district in Ohio, then spent several more years working part-time in smaller, rural districts near where I live. Between the two jobs, I don’t think there is any type of child I haven’t worked with at least once.
I loved my job and miss it. Mostly I miss the children, not the paper work. If it weren’t for serious health issues, I would still be working.

What sort of serious health issues?
In 2012 I was diagnosed with bilateral brain tumors and subsequently a genetic disorder called Neurofibromatosis Type 2. A long name that basically means I can develop tumors at any time on my nerves but especially in the brain.
It’s been a long, long journey but God is good. There’s a lot of things I can’t do these days, but I can still write! And for that I’m very thankful.

What do you want readers to take away from BROKEN TRUST?
We all make bad choices and then have to face the consequences of them but God is a God of second chances and third and fourth and… We do not have to let our past dictate our future.

What is your writing process?
I never know what is going to happen in my story on any given writing day. It’s as if my mind is a movie screen and I watch that day’s events and then I write it.
When I start a new story I usually have a clear picture of the main character in mind and what obstacle he/she will face, but anything goes after that. If I’m writing and start to feel bored—then I kill someone or blow something up. And that way it’s a surprise to me and to my readers.

Do you know who the bad guy is when you begin your story?
Not usually. Most of the time I have several characters who it might be and as the story comes to a conclusion, I’m surprised right along with my readers.

How does faith play a part in your writing?
That’s changed a lot over the years. When I first started writing, I wrote mainstream (secular) mysteries ad suspense. As I grew closer to God in my daily walk, my writing began to reflect that and so I started writing Christian mysteries and suspense. In 2012, I was diagnosed with bilateral brain tumors and have had to learn to rely on God in a whole different way and so my writing reflects that now as well by having a deeper spiritual message than before.
In fact, I have my first non-suspense novella scheduled to be released in October of this year. PUZZLE HOUSE is a complete departure from what I usually write. I would classify it as simply Christian Fiction, a story about a woman who is asked the question, ‘Do you want to be healed or to be a healer?” by a very important person.

What inspired you to write this series, or this novel in particular?
I first “met” Chryssie in a short story I wrote but I wanted to learn more about her and her story so….BROKEN TRUST is the result.

Do you have personal experience with any of the events in Broken Trust, and if so, could you share about that?
Only in that I worked and lived in Cleveland for many years as a school speech pathologist.

Paper or e-reader? There are certainly pros and cons to each. Which is your favorite?
I prefer a “real” book with paper. Unfortunately, I don’t read them that way very often because of my eyesight. So, I use an e-reader almost exclusively these days.

Do you have a favorite or “life” verse? Why is that one important to you?
Romans 8: 28:   And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
In 2012, I was diagnosed with brain tumors. The treatments and the side effects wreaked havoc on my health! I was very sick but I kept repeating this verse over and over. It kept me trusting God and it kept me in peace and joy in spite of how bad I felt at the time.

How did your education or previous career impact your journey to publication and where you are now?
My day job was as a school speech pathologist, better known as a speech therapist. So for more than 30 years I listened…and listened…and listened some more. I think it helped me in a lot of areas but certainly with writing dialogue of my characters.

If you could offer a word of encouragement to an aspiring author, what would you say?
DON’T GIVE UP! It took me 15 years to get a traditional contract, and now I have almost 20 books published! If I can do it, so can you. But not if you give up. KEEP WRITING!

What are you working on now?
I already mentioned my next release, PUZZLE HOUSE—the tagline is Life isn’t a box of candy, it’s a puzzle. At the moment, I’m working on a sequel for it called THE DAVID YEARS. I’m also in the middle of revising and editing another book, ENCOUNTERS, that explores several issues including how our encounters with others is like a spider web. They link us to each other in ways we don’t always understand. Plus I have a couple ideas for new suspense books swirling around in my brain as well. So many ideas—not enough time!

How can readers find you on the Internet?

My website is www.lillianduncan.net and I have a devotional blog at www.PowerUpWithGod.com My blog is TIARAS & TENNIS SHOES at www.lillian-duncan.com.  I’m also on Twitter as @LillianDuncan and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lillian.k.duncan.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Homeschool Mom and Author Celesta Thiessen

Here is another amazing and multi-talented homeschool mom and author, Celesta Thiessen.


How long have you been homeschooling?
This is my fifth year homeschooling.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a teen, so over twenty-five years. It was about eight years ago that I started writing with the idea of getting my stories published.

What gave you the writing bug?

I first thought of being writer when I was in grade seven and my teacher read my story and laughed and laughed. I realized my words could affect people on an emotional level.

Do you remember the first story you wrote?

I wrote some fairy story in grade six that I remember. It was really long but really awesome! At least, that’s how I remember it. J

What type of books do your write?

I write mostly science fiction and fantasy for kids, teens and adults.

How do you find time to write?

I find time to write by getting up early to write. My writing time is from 5:30 to 7:15am.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Writing longer stories and novels is challenging because you have to remember everything that happens to make sure everything makes sense. Also, for those stories I often feel lost once I get to the middle and it’s difficult to push through at that point. 

Also, what I think can be even more discouraging are the feelings of self-doubt. If I let myself start thinking things like no one’s ever going to read this and no cares what I write and it’s not going to be any good anyway, then I get totally frozen, almost unable to write. The only way I can get myself unstuck at that point it to listen to worship music to get my mind into a better place.

Do your kids help with your creative process or give you ideas?

My children and I have written 7 books together. Our first series was the Kitty Castle series a set of beginning chapter books for children in grades one to four about a magical pet cat who’s the size of a tiger and can fly. The first book in the series, Nightcat, is free to download as an ebook. 

This summer we published the first book in the next series called, Journey to Mermaid Kingdom. My daughters and I enjoy making up stories together!

What is the single most significant thing you can tell us about your writing career?

That’s a hard question. My mind goes to a number of different things. Like should I tell you about my favorite books that I’ve written? Should I talk more about how I write? But then I’m drawn to why I write. So I’ll share what I have on my heart about that – my heart’s cry.
I write books for Jesus.

Can you tell us about a character in your current work in progress?

Currently I’m writing about a character named Cara. She’s adopted and she feels really alone. She wants to help people but she doesn’t really know how to do that. In this story Jesus teaches her about forgiveness and love and brings her into community so she doesn’t feel alone anymore.



Click on the cover
to go to Amazon
Read an excerpt from Two of a Kind.

If you're interested in the entire series,
click here!
Blurb:
The Super Seven series is a series of seven super hero books for ages 10 and up. In the first book, Two of a Kind, twelve-year-old Faith, who has grown up in a home for orphans in the distant future, unexpectedly finds herself on the run with a youth named Fisher. Together, they must escape the government forces that hunt them to find hope, family and a new life. Two of a Kind is free to download from Amazon.




Chapter 1 - A Change

Faith curled up in bed and shut her eyes tightly against the darkness. She had dreamed of them again. But she never saw their faces. Silent creatures shrouded in shadows. Fear overwhelmed her. At twelve years old, Faith was still afraid of the dark and, after a nightmare, it was almost unbearable. It was like the blackness had a physical weight and was pressing down against her. But she dared not rise or make a sound, for the consequences of that would be much worse.
So she cried out for help in her mind, as she often had before. Please help me! Please save me! Please help me! Please save me! After a time, she felt her fears fading, and she felt a pinging in her heart. Faith liked to fancy that someone heard her pleas. Finally, sleep found her. And she dreamed no more of them that night.
When Faith awoke, she felt something different. There was a tension in the air. A change was coming. Silently, she rose and ate the prescribed gruel that had been deposited by her bedside. Then she showered quickly and donned a clean, gray smock, which was her usual uniform. 
Her handler entered her small chamber.
“Here,” she said, tossing a pink, frilly frock onto the bed. “You will wear this today.”
Faith gazed at the pretty thing. She had never before been given anything so lovely.
Her handler turned on her heel and left the room without another word.
Faith touched the dress. All lace and silk. Quickly, she took off the smock and pulled the frilly thing down over her head. The dress was snug. Faith moved to see herself in the mirror. Her golden curls were almost dry and startling blue eyes stared back at her. Pink was a good color on her, she decided. She looked so...grown up. 
Faith heard the door sliding open. Her handler was back.
“Let’s go,” the woman snapped.
Faith followed her. They did not go to the classrooms or other training areas as Faith had expected. Instead she was led outside, on to the grounds. There, standing in a row on the grass near the parking lot, were four other girls. They were also dressed in beautiful gowns. She was made to join them. Faith felt that they, too, were confused. The director of the home was there, too. Faith looked at him. He seemed...pleased. What is happening?, she cried in her mind. Then Faith saw a group of about forty people approaching from the parking lot. There was excitement among them. 
When the people got close, they stood and watched the girls. 
“The highest offer takes the prize,” said the director. “And please, don’t ruffle the merchandise.” 
So, that was it. They were now to be sold.
Faith looked into the crowd of faces and was afraid of what she felt there. Then her eyes locked onto stunning, blue eyes in the face of a lanky teen. He was staring at her. His too-long blond hair hung down past his ears in clumps. She felt a rush of something as he slowly approached her. The other people seemed not to notice him. 
He was close to her now, looking at her intensely. Then he drew an iScan from his pocket and directed the beam towards her. It chirped and the girl beside her startled and looked around.
“I didn’t really need a scan to tell me,” he said. “It’s you!” He shoved the device back into his pocket. “I’m Fisher.” He grabbed her hand. “Let’s go.”
Faith thrilled at his touch. Fisher was very tall and strong. He wanted her and...he was saving her!
She felt confusion from those around them.
“Hey!” shouted the director. “What’s going on here?”
The crowd was agitated and looking around. Fisher led her past the people. No one tried to stop them. They ran full out through the parking lot. He was pulling her so fast. Faith stumbled, her long dress hampering her stride. Fisher never slowed, only yanked on her arm to keep her from falling.
Faith was wheezing now and had a cramp in her side. She had never run so far before in her whole life. Fisher slowed to a walk as they entered a stand of trees but he kept hold of her hand.
“What just happened?” Faith gasped. 
“You’ve been calling to me for months now,” he said. “I just had to save you.”
Her blue eyes widened. She realized that, since she had first seen him, she had been feeling that same pinging feeling in her heart. Their walking slowed, yet still he held her.
“You’re wondering how I heard you, when you were alone in the dark, aren’t you?”
He glanced down at her and saw her regarding him with wide-eyed astonishment. 
“It’s okay,” he said. “You’re safe with me. You can speak freely.”
All her years growing up, Faith had been carefully disciplined for any breaches in protocol. They were constantly reminded that orphans must be obedient and strive to become of worth to society. 
“You’re worth far more than you know,” he told her quietly. 
The trees were thinning now. Fisher stopped. He released her hand and sat down on the cool, damp grass, with his back against a large oak trunk.
“Sit down,” he said. 
Faith complied instantly, tucking her pink ruffled skirt beneath her. She sat facing him, gazing into his face.
He smiled shyly, then blushed. “I’m not used to girls looking at me,” he explained. “I’m not really used to girls at all.” 
Faith nodded. She had grown up in an all-girls home for orphans. The only men she had ever seen where the teachers and the director...and those who were in the crowd that they had just left behind.
“Why did they not stop us?” she asked him, finally.
“Oh, that! I was in stealth mode,” he explained.
Faith said nothing, only raised her eyebrows.
“Here,” he said, “look.” He took a green apple out of his pocket and set it on the ground between them. 
She looked at the apple. Then suddenly it sprang up and jumped towards her. Faith gasped and caught it in her hands. She looked at Fisher. 
“I did that,” he said, smiling. “You can learn it, too.”
Faith felt the pinging in her heart stronger than ever. It was almost a thrumming now. She felt safe with Fisher.
“Eat the apple,” he told her, “and then rest. You’ll need your strength. We’ll wait here until dark. Then we will run again.” She bit into the apple. It was sweet and crisp. 
“How do you know I can learn to do that?” she asked him, after she swallowed.
He looked deep into her eyes. “We are two of a kind.”



Thursday, February 23, 2017

Homeschooling Mom and Author Frances Hoelsema

Today's Homeschool-Mom-Author is Frances Hoelsema...(FYI her book is on sale for only $2.99!)


How long have you been homeschooling? 

I’m in my third year of homeschooling. I started my oldest son with pre-school and am now doing first grade with him. Next year I will be starting pre-school with my youngest so it’ll be interesting to see how it goes with two of them.

How long have you been writing? 

I started writing in late 2012/early 2013 before I had my second child. I’ve always done small poems and things like that, but 2012/2013 was when I started writing my first novel.

What gave you the writing bug? 

Since high school I would imagine stories that I thought would be cool to read, but I never thought I could write a full-length novel myself. After getting the Kindle for Christmas one year and I began reading more and more and more, the nudge to write my own grew so loud that I could no longer ignore it.

Do you remember the first story you wrote? 

It would be my first novel, Growing Up Neighbors. Otherwise it was all essays/poems and the like.
What type of books do you write? I love to read romance so the books I currently have out have some sort of love story/romance to them. The first novel, Growing Up Neighbors, is more a general fiction/coming of age story. My second is contemporary romance and my third novel is also a contemporary romance. However, I have ideas of other genres I want to eventually get into as well.

How do you find time to write? 

I write during my kids’ down time. Occasionally I’ll write in the evening while my husband takes the kids out.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? 

Vocabulary! I am not good at coming up with certain words that mean the same thing as something longer I typed out. My editor is good at catching that kind of stuff. It’s probably why my books are easy to read – because my vocabulary isn’t that great.

Do your kids help with your creative process or give you ideas? 

Not directly, no. There might be events that take place, though, that might give me an idea of something I could include in a novel.

What is the single most significant thing you can tell us about your writing career? 

This is a tough question. I would have to say that I’m only getting started! I plan to continue to write, and I have a lot of great things in store so stay tuned!

Can you tell us about a character in your current work in progress? 

At the time of answering this questionnaire, I am in the process of finishing up my third novel, Long Lost Neighbors. (This book will be published by the time this interview is published, though). In Long Lost Neighbors, we have our female main character, Alison Levin. She has a really tough decision to make, one she never anticipating having to. You see, she’s engaged to a man who could give her anything and everything she could ever want. One problem. He’s glued to his work, and even more so, his phone. Never would Ali imagine she would run into an old childhood friend while on vacation. As the two of them work on catching up and getting to know one another as adults, Ali finds it very tempting to take the relationship beyond friendship. The novel showcases her struggle and also throws in some hard life situations in the midst of it.


Next Door Neighbors

Elena Montgomery, an elderly victim of fibromyalgia, has two main loves in her life: Brian, her attractive and hard-working son; and Jill Stevens, her caring friend and next door neighbor. When Brian and Jill meet for the first time, they have a chemistry that no one can deny.

Although Jill finds herself wanting to get closer to Brian, she believes she can’t. Being hurt in the past, she vows to remain single the rest of her life, thinking it’s better not to love than to love and get burned. Brian, on the other hand, wants to get to the bottom of her fears and show her that not all men are the same. He is determined to win her trust, her heart and her hand in marriage.

Through pain, passion and pursuit, will Brian be able to prove to Jill what true love is all about?

*Author Note*
Next Door Neighbors is the second in the Neighbors series, however, it is a completely standalone novel. You'll find a strong attraction between the two main characters right in the first chapter, but nothing that will make you cringe or feel guilty reading about. This novel has an underlying message of what true love is all about, and is perfect for anyone that loves a good, clean romance without all the sex.


Excerpt (First Chapter) –

Errrrr!
Jill’s old beater car jerked to a sudden halt as soon as she entered her driveway. She quickly turned off the ignition and yanked the keys out, racing to get into her house so she could find the recipe that had been a favorite of everyone who had the privilege of tasting it. As she entered the kitchen, she eyed her stack of recipe books, not quite sure exactly which one held the sacred recipe.
Nope. Not this one, she thought as she skimmed through the first book.
Looking through the second, Jill mechanically brushed a strand of chocolate brown hair away from her eyes and tucked it behind an ear.
Come on, come on, come on! Why do I not remember which one it’s in?
She grabbed for a third book and hastily turned to the Main Dishes section.
Aha! Here we go!
Jill quickly opened her junk drawer and tore out a pen and scrap piece of paper, scribbling down the ingredients to the Biscuits and Gravy Casserole recipe she was requested to make for her neighbor that night. The list of ingredients in hand, Jill dashed back out the door and into her car. She went to turn on the ignition, only to realize she didn’t have her keys.
I guess it would help if I had my keys now wouldn’t it? Get yourself together, Jill!
Back in the house Jill ran, like a relay race against time. She grabbed the keys that were sitting on the counter next to the pile of recipe books she had flipped through. Then once again she was back out the door and into her car.
As the car rattled to life, Jill checked her mirrors and all around to make sure it was safe to back out onto the road. The coast clear, she made her move and started heading to the only grocery store in town. While driving on the aggressive side, hoping she could make up some of the time that she had lost while digging through her recipe books, she replayed the day’s earlier events in her mind.
During her first break at work she noticed two voicemail messages. The first one was from her elderly neighbor, Elena, who was simply letting Jill know that she was looking forward to having dinner brought over tonight. And, on second thought, she did have a specific request: the biscuits and gravy casserole. She ended her message by mentioning there would be a guest over who would absolutely love the dish as well.
Jill hated to admit that she almost completely forgot about bringing Elena a meal tonight. She felt guilt ridden, too, because her neighbor was having an extremely tough time lately trying to manage her fibromyalgia.
The second voicemail, the one from her peppy best friend, Amanda, also served as a reminder that they had plans to go to a movie tonight for girl’s night, and that she would be at Jill’s house by seven thirty sharp to pick her up.
Just thinking of everything she had to do yet tonight was making her head spin, and it didn’t help that she was running late because her financial meeting after work went longer than planned. Jill was growing more and more on edge with every moment that passed. Running late never sat well with Jill; it was the one thing she hated most. She took another quick glance at the time on her cell phone.
Ugh!
Thankfully, the Ashwin General Store was just up ahead. A little bit of shopping would allow Jill’s mind to remain distracted for a while; take the edge off her distaste for tonight’s unpunctuality.
Jill pulled in to a spot as close to the store as she could, something she normally didn’t do. She usually enjoyed parking further out, and knew there were others that could actually use a closer space. Today, however, she had to use all her time efficiently, meaning she couldn’t waste any of it by walking extra steps to get inside the store.
A friendly greeter welcomed Jill by name to the store. Being the small town that Ashwin was, everyone knew mostly everyone else, and Jill relished in the sense of familiarity. It always warmed her heart when she was greeted by name because it made her feel special, noticed even. And although she sometimes would strike up a small conversation with the greeter or others in the store, today she wasn’t allowed to. Instead, she gave a quick, friendly smile and nod to be sure that she at least acknowledged the welcome. Then grabbing a basket, Jill was on her way in search for the ingredients she needed.
Ashwin’s didn’t have as many shoppers for a Friday night like it usually did, but Jill wasn’t going to complain. She was able to get to most products effortlessly, and all in all, Jill started feeling more at ease knowing she was making up for lost time. With only a few items left on her list, she scanned each of the aisle signs to see where she could find gravy packets. She found the needed aisle and started looking for the sausage gravy packet she normally bought.
Row after row Jill scanned, but had no luck. Finally, on the very bottom was the coveted sausage gravy packet she was searching for.
Seriously?
Jill gave out a sigh and crouched down, something completely necessary for her taller, slender figure. She double checked the packet to make sure it was indeed the correct one, and then swiftly placed it into her basket while getting back to her standing upright position and moving onward.
“Oof!”
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Jill immediately apologized, her face turning a deep red hue as she began to look up at the man she just bumped into.
Once Jill saw the man’s full figure, she quickly gathered he wasn’t from around here unless he frequented a nearby city’s tanning salon. His darker skin tone definitely screamed from somewhere south of Ashwin though.
A beach town perhaps?
“I didn’t mean to do that,” she added.
The man gave a low chuckle, and as he put up his hands to signal no harm done, he said, “It’s okay.”
His smile, and the sparkle in his eye, captivated Jill until she realized she was probably staring at him for too long. Clearing her throat, Jill motioned in the direction she needed to go and again apologized with a smile of her own. She and her basket then rushed towards the next item she needed to check off her list.
The man just watched as she hurried away, liking the way her hips moved with each stride. Thinking of how cute she was blushing as she apologized made it near impossible for him to wipe the smile from his face.

* * *

Jill stood in front of the cashier, unconsciously tapping her credit card.
“Are you okay, Jill?” the short, red-headed cashier asked. “You’re acting all jittery.”
Startled from her daze, she replied, “Oh! Oh, yes, I’m fine. I’m just in a little hurry that’s all, Mary.”
Jill gave a little smile and then checked the conveyor belt to see what was left. To her relief, the cashier was just scanning the last product.
“Any coupons or bottle slips?”
“No, not today.”
The cashier gave Jill her total and she quickly paid with her card. At first the card reading machine didn’t accept Jill’s card, but once the friendly lady in front of her punched the numbers in manually, it was smooth sailing.
“These machines are getting so old. I keep telling the boss to buy new ones,” Mary stated like a broken record.
Jill simply gave a smile, not wanting to strike up any further conversation. All she wanted was her receipt so she could start heading home to make her famous dish that her neighbor would be having that night.
The cashier gave Jill the receipt along with some coupons, and then told her to have a good day. Jill reached over to grab the two bags that her groceries were placed in, and then immediately turned around to head out the store.
“Oof!”
Splash!
Jill’s eyes about bulged out of her head when she saw the person before her. She was finding it hard to believe that she had just bumped into the same man for the second time tonight. “Oh my goodness! I’m so, so sorry!”
“You again,” the tanned man said as he looked down at his tea-stained shirt.
Jill followed his eyes and then looked in horror as she realized what she had done. She quickly looked around for some napkins, which she found near the self-serve drinks. Jill took the few steps required to get there and grabbed a handful of napkins before she headed back. “I really am sorry. I don’t usually make it a habit to run into people,” she lightly joked.
Not thinking twice about it, she began taking the napkins she acquired and started wiping the man’s chest where the tea had spilled.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” the man began to laugh while backing away.
He noticed Jill’s face started to turn the same shade of red he saw earlier.
“Oh, right, right,” Jill said almost to herself while shaking her head. She handed him the napkins. “Here you go.”
“Thank you.”
Out of nowhere, a voice was heard over the intercom. “Clean up needed near lane twenty. Clean up needed near lane twenty.”
Thank you for that! Jill thought embarrassingly.
Jill faintly touched the man’s hand as he was finishing up and asked, “Can I get you another drink?”
Her small touch aroused his senses so that he couldn’t answer. All he could do was look into her beautiful bluish-green eyes and smile while shaking his head.
She sighed deeply and again apologized.
“Really, it’s okay,” the man finally mustered. “A little spill never killed anyone.”
Jill made sure she had both bags of groceries, and then told the man she was in a hurry and needed to go.
“Be careful out there,” he teased.
Jill gave an embarrassed laugh, and then walked as quickly away as she could. Again, the man eyed her every move.

* * *

As Jill arrived at her vehicle, she swung both bags into the seat next to her while plopping into the driver’s seat. She closed the door and sat there for a few moments, thinking about what had just happened inside the store.
I can’t believe I did that!
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
An urgent knocking on the driver’s side window startled her. She turned her head to see who it was.
Of all people, it has to be him?
Looking confused, she rolled down her window and asked, “Want another drink after all?”
“No, no, no,” the man chuckled. “You forgot this. It must have fallen out of your bag when we bumped into each other.”
Jill looked down at the man’s big, strong-looking hands to see what she had forgotten. It was the sausage gravy packet.
“Thanks! My recipe sure wouldn’t turn out the same without it.”
“Yeah, I thought you might need that,” he added.
She slowly nodded and smiled, not sure of what else to say.
“Well, I know you need to go so I won’t hold you up any longer than necessary.”
“Yeah, I do. Thanks again!”
With a small wave, the man politely said, “Have a good night then.”
“You, too.”
The man backed away and started heading towards his own vehicle as Jill rolled her window back up. She covered her face with her hands and slowly rubbed it as she took another deep breath.
Okay. Let’s get out of here.
Jill reached for her keys that were in her purse and then put them in the ignition. She quickly glanced at the time on her cell phone and was not happy with what she saw.
I’m so going to be late! Amanda’s going to kill me!
At least the drive home was uneventful. She was thankful for the light traffic she experienced, but she could have done without what the DJs, on the only radio station she could get, were talking about. Of all things, the radio talk show hosts were discussing each other’s most embarrassing moments. They were encouraging their listeners to call in with their own stories as well so story after story filled her ears on her fifteen minute ride home.
Each story she could see how it would be embarrassing, but in Jill’s eyes, no story compared to what just happened at Ashwin’s.
Why did I have to bang into him? Twice!?
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Jill clearly saw the image of the man in her mind: tall, strong and tan. His dark eyes were seductive and wanted to lure her in. His coffee brown hair, that covered his face and head, was neatly trimmed. She remembered his voice sounded deep and to die for.
And why, oh why, did he have to be so good looking? Jill whined to herself.
Finally she arrived home. Both bags in hand, she got out of the car and went inside. She allowed herself one more thought of this never-before-seen man before shifting gears to making the casserole and getting ready for girl’s night.
I just hope I don’t run into him again. Literally!




Book 1 in the series
Book 3 in the series