Thursday, May 18, 2017

Homeschool Author Mom H.L. Burke

Today's awesome homeschooling/mom/author is H. L. Burke. Thanks for joining me today!


How long have you been homeschooling?

Roughly three years. We're a military family and move around a lot, frequently in the middle of the school year, so we kind of need to be able to take school along with us at short notice.

How long have you been writing?

Forever, pretty much. I've been looking for excuses to share stories since elementary school. I was a homeschool student myself, so I had to start the “school” paper. I kind of took a break when I got married then started writing again about four years ago seriously planning to publish. I always intended to go indie. The traditional way just takes way too long, and I'm impatient.

What gave you the writing bug?

I'm a talker. I like to talk. Writing is like talking, just slower.

Do you remember the first story you wrote?

I dictated a short story about rabbits (which I illustrated) to my mom when I was six or so. The only bit I really remember is the brilliant exchange, “Why is it always snowing at your house, Snowflake?” “Because I am a snow bunny.”

What type of books do your write?

I call it “eclectic” fantasy because I am easily distracted, but I like something fantastical in everything I write, be it elaborate clockwork inventions in my YA Steampunk series or enchanted princes in my Fantasy Romance or adorable dragons in my Middle Grade.

How do you find time to write?

They have to sleep sometimes. Thanks to coffee, I really don't. Sort of kidding. But yeah, most of my writing is done for an hour or so after I've tucked them into bed for the night … sometimes, though, I'll bring a notepad to the park or the library or the McDonald's play place and set them loose while I get a little bit done. I can write a thousand words in a little under an hour, so I don't need that much time if I can focus (again, coffee).

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

It really depends on the project. I joke that I hate middles the “moving the characters from inciting event to major set back to climax” … I tend to get bogged down in the in betweens and trying to keep that interesting even though, In my brain, I'm just “traveling” to the next “interesting bit.” I also apparently have an addiction to “air quotes.”

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

My kids keep me fresh and flexible. You can't slow down with kids and get in a rut. You can't become dependent on doing things a certain way and you have to count on things not going according to plan. It keeps me interested, honestly. I'm the sort of personality type who would go nuts doing the same thing day after day. I have to have change. 

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

I have dragons. Lots and lots of dragons. Thanks,mostly, to coffee, I'm prolific. I currently have 15 published books, a few short stories (some in anthologies, some available as standalones on Amazon).

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

I just finished writing and am beginning to edit a short story that's a prequel to my Nyssa Glass Steampunk series. Nyssa is an orphan who finds herself trapped in a life of crime in order to pay off her uncle's debts. She wants out. Her dream is to fix things, and she loves taking apart gadgets to see how they work … this is her origin story about how she escapes her gang to become the “reformed cat burglar and electrician's apprentice” who we follow throughout the main series.


Click the cover
to go to Amazon
Nyssa Blurb:

Available for the first time in a single volume, all five Nyssa Glass Adventures.

Nyssa Glass is a reformed cat burglar turned electrician's apprentice, settled into a life repairing videophones and radio-sets. However, when her past comes calling, she finds herself on the run for a murder she did not commit. As her quiet life goes up in sparks, she must face killer robots, menacing villains, and sarcastic computers in a race for survival.

Nyssa has her hands full just trying to stay one step ahead of the police, but she still has time for adventure, humor, and even a taste of romance.



Here's chapter one of  Nyssa:

Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors

Chapter One


“Late, late, late …” Nyssa Glass nearly bowled over a wind-up paper-vendor as she emerged from her boarding house, her ruffled skirts swishing around her knee-high, buttoned boots. She clutched her leather satchel to her chest and inhaled the comforting, nutty smell of the flaxseed oil she’d polished it with the night before. The satchel was her most prized possession, carefully constructed with pockets for all her various tools, but stylish enough that she could wear it to church functions without drawing attention.
Mr. Calloway, her employer and mentor, always insisted on escorting her to church functions, but being away from her tools made her anxious, a throwback to keeping lockpicks in her back pocket, she supposed. If Mr. Calloway had made that connection, he probably would’ve tried to break her of the habit. He seemed to see it as a harmless quirk, though.
Nyssa searched her brain for an excuse for her tardiness. It wasn’t really one thing that had caused her to be late. More of a series of minute annoyances. Laces snapping on her corset, for instance. She hated her corset. It hadn’t been a required part of her wardrobe until the last year or so. Before her enrollment in Miss Pratchett’s School for Mechanically Minded Maids, no one had cared if she dressed like a boy. Now that she was a graduate of that prestigious school, though, she had to dress her status and age.
Turning sixteen seemed to have only brought on more wardrobe restrictions and pimples … the pimples being the second thing to go wrong that morning, though she supposed it was her own fault for letting them distract her. Normally she wouldn’t bother with make up, but the size of the red spot on the bridge of her nose had sent her begging her roommate for powder. Then breakfast was burned, keys were misplaced, and their elderly landlady had caught her in the hallway and wanted to chat.
“Should’ve just shouted, ‘sorry, late,’ and ran for it.” Nyssa shook her head at her own weakness. “No, you had to not only say 'I'm doing fine, thank you,' but ask her how her parakeet was faring as well.”
The air was cool, but hazy with the exhaust from the nearby steam-power plant. The click of the inner workings of New Taured's automated button factory rose above her footsteps, causing her to walk in time with that rhythm. A few folk lingered on the sidewalk, milling about; however, most shops wouldn't open for another hour. Mr. Calloway liked to open early to “make the most of the day.”
Nyssa liked to stay up late then sleep until her alarm clock screamed at her.
The clock tower at the end of the street clanged for seven o’clock. She clenched her teeth.
As she turned onto Clockwork Row, the timepiece store on the corner erupted in a cacophony of chimes, bells, and cuckoos. She wasn’t sure how the keeper tolerated that going off every hour on the hour. Nyssa needed silence to work … well, silence except for the sound of her own voice. Talking to herself was another of her “harmless quirks.”
Lights shone through the windows of Mr. Calloway’s shop, the painted letters declaring his ability to repair all forms of videophones, radios, and signal sending devices. The sign in the door already read “open.”
She pushed open the door, triggering a mechanism which chimed out the first several bars of a lullaby, and Nyssa smiled in spite of herself. It was a new tune today. Mr. Calloway liked to mix it up every so often.
The old man pushed down his magnifying goggles and smiled at Nyssa from the other side of the counter. “Ah, there you are. My watch must be fast.”
“Your watch, the clock tower, and the two hundred or so timepieces in the store next door?” She raised her eyebrows.
“I know. Coincidences abound.” He bent back over the inner workings of a radio.
Nyssa mulled over her options. Just because Mr. Calloway wasn’t going to make a big fuss over her being late didn’t mean he didn’t deserve an explanation, but as she’d hashed out on the way over, there wasn’t really an explanation, not a concise one anyway. “It won’t happen again,” she said simply.
Hiking her skirts to just above her knees, she vaulted over the counter.
Mr. Calloway pushed a schematic towards her. “Dalhart & Rivera is launching an upgraded version of their videophone next month. They sent out advanced schematics this morning, so we can be prepared for questions and complete any repairs.”
Nyssa unrolled the fresh white paper, inked in blue. It took her a full three minutes of scanning to spot the first difference between the new and the old. “Is this all? A slightly larger viewscreen and one or two new vacuum tubes? That hardly seems worth the trouble of a relaunch.”
“Ah, but you know every wealthy patron will wish to upgrade their in-home system, just to say they have the latest and the greatest.” Mr. Calloway gave a wry smile. His watery blue eyes looked huge through the lenses of his glasses.
Nyssa looked away to avoid laughing.
“It’s a shame, though. When the company was just ‘Dalhart Incorporated,’ they built things to last forever, not to be replaced every six months.” He waved to the wall behind him where a bronze-framed screen rested. “I purchased that model almost a decade ago, when I took the shop over from my father. Still works like a charm.”
If by like a charm you mean makes the caller sound like they are under a foot of water and look like they’re standing in front of a carnival mirror. Still, you have to admire the simplicity of those first models. Made to do one thing forever and do it the best. A lot of people could learn from that.
Mr. Calloway dabbed at his bald head with a handkerchief. “I want to do a quick inventory. You have the counter. Don’t scare off any customers, young lady.” He winked and left through the swinging door into the back.
Nyssa glanced over the counter. Mr. Calloway’s tools were scattered everywhere, completely ignoring the outlines she’d made to mark each instrument’s designated place. She clicked her tongue, and hung her satchel on a hook behind the counter.
“For as much pride as he has in this shop, you’d think he’d keep it in better order.”
“I heard that!” Calloway called from the back.
She chuckled. “Sorry, I forgot you weren’t deaf yet, just senile.”
“Hardy har har. If it matters so much to you, clean it up yourself.”   
Nyssa laughed, shook her head, and began lining up wrenches, spanners, and crimpers. She sorted the spools of wire by gauge and the vacuum tubes by size before spinning around to polish the reliable, old videophone’s screen.
“Trusty old Dalhart 2.” She swiped a muslin cloth over the raised lettering declaring the maker and the model number.
The lullaby chimed, and she turned with her best smile pasted across her face. Not that she didn’t like people, in small doses, but she was told her default face made her look cold and indifferent. People could be so darn sensitive.
A man with dark glasses and a top hat shadowing his pale face strode in. He wore a black raincoat with the collar pulled up to the corners of his thin mouth. He grinned at her as if she were a tasty leg of lamb and he a slavering dog.
Nyssa’s smile melted. She forced her lips back into an appropriate expression, but her hands gripped the edge of the counter. “Can I help you?” she asked.
“A charming little shop. You are the saleswoman, yes?”
“I can also do repairs. I have an electrician and mechanic's license.” She waved towards her own framed diploma, resting next to the yellowed one belonging to Mr. Calloway.
The man stepped to the wall and squinted at the document. “Ah, then you are Nyssa Glass.”
“That’s the name they printed on the certificate anyway.” Nyssa shrugged, beginning to feel impatient. “Did you need a repair or are you looking to purchase a device? We will be discounting our videophones soon to make way for the new models.”
The man grunted and paced towards the door.
Nyssa’s shoulders relaxed. Thank God, he’s leaving.
The man stopped, his back to her. Something glinted on the band of his top hat. Two somethings … Nyssa squinted then flinched back. A pair of yellow eyes blinked at her from the back of his hat. Her breath caught in her throat, and she resisted the urge to rub her eyes. She wavered for a moment between calling for Mr. Calloway and running to hide in the back room before drawing herself up and clearing her throat.
Shocks and sparks! It’s a trick. Some sort of robotic mechanism opening and shutting glass eyes. Nothing more. Look at him, posing so theatrically. He wants a rise. Don’t let him get one.
“You’ve come a long way since your days of breaking into houses for trinkets.” The man didn’t turn around.
“I’m reformed.” Nyssa stuck her chin out. She wasn’t sensitive about her past—too much. Still, she didn’t like the man’s tone.
“You aren’t afraid your past will catch up with you?” The man turned back, raising a thin eyebrow over his glasses.
Nyssa’s throat constricted. She didn’t recognize the man, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have some connection to her past life, to old partners or someone she’d robbed. Could she owe him money? Her bank account barely held enough for next week’s rent.
Nyssa felt under the counter for Mr. Calloway’s revolver. She couldn’t find it. Drat Mr. C and his constant need to move things around.
“My past is resolved. My employer is aware of it, and I’ve received an official pardon in return for completing attendance at Miss Pratchett’s and finding gainful employment.” She stared into his reflective lenses. “Obviously you have no intention of purchasing anything. I think you should go.”
The door to the backroom clacked open.
Mr. Calloway crossed his arms. “My employee is correct. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, so please leave.”
The man smiled. “So you received a full pardon?”
“Cleared of all charges.” Nyssa gave a sharp nod.
“As far as the east is from the west.” Mr. Calloway stepped further into the room. “Now go.”
“You can’t be pardoned if you’ve never been accused.” The man reached into his coat.
Nyssa stiffened, but a moment later the man drew out a black disc about the size of a compact. He flipped a switch on its side and a holographic projection flickered to life above it. Nyssa paled as a younger version of herself slipped through a window and rummaged about a large, wooden desk.
“The Lanchester Heist. Still officially unsolved. No charges ever filed, which means in spite of what pardons you may have received for other crimes, your tab is still open.” He flipped off the projector and shoved it into his pocket.
“How did you get that?” Nyssa whispered. If there was proof, why hadn’t it come to the authorities’ attention? Why bring it up now?
“It matters not.” The man shrugged.
“What do you want?” Mr. Calloway slid behind the counter.
Nyssa tried not to think of the revolver. Don’t do anything stupid, Mr. C. The man’s not robbing us. Just being a jackass.
“I have a proposition for you, Ms. Glass. I wish for you to return for one last job, a simple heist, really. In return I’ll hand over the copies of this recording and allow you to destroy them.”
Nyssa’s stomach twisted. Back in the day, she’d taken on “assignments” for less cause, just to survive. However, now she was finally doing more than surviving, working a job she loved with a man who respected her in spite of her past, not seeing her as a tool. “That’s not who I am anymore. It never was. I was just a scared kid who didn’t know any better. I’ll take my chances in court rather than return to that life.”
“They won’t prosecute her based on a technicality. The crime may not have been mentioned in her pardon, but the spirit of the decree was for all her past crimes.” Mr. Calloway motioned for Nyssa to come towards him. She hovered near his side. “I’ll speak on her behalf.”
The man’s mouth curled into a sneer. “You think you can be rid of me that easily? You don’t know who you’re dealing with, girl.” He stepped forward.
Mr. Calloway’s hand shot under the counter. He whipped out the silver-handled revolver. “I don’t like to live by the sword, but I will not let you harm this young lady. Get behind me, Nyssa.”
Nyssa’s pulse throbbed in her ears like the ticking of a clock. She squeezed between Mr. Calloway and the wall, so tight she could feel the raised letters on the Dalhart 2 imprinting on her back.
The man laughed. “Really, old man? Really?” He extended his seemingly empty gloved hand.
Mr. Calloway leveled the gun. “You’re unarmed. I don’t want to shoot, but I will.” The hammer clicked back.
“I don’t need guns.” The man made a fist. Wires shot from his knuckles and sank into Mr. Calloway’s chest. The gun went off, but the bullet flew over the man’s shoulder, shattering the window into a rain of glass. The air crackled as Mr. Calloway convulsed.
Nyssa screamed. A smell of charred flesh singed her nose. Then he collapsed at her feet, his eyes staring blindly up at her.
The man grinned. “Now, girly, looks like you just killed your employer. Sure, you can say it was a mysterious man you've never seen before, but why would they believe a ‘reformed’ cat burglar?”
Nyssa swallowed. The revolver glistened on the floor beside Mr. Calloway. She dove for it, but the man lunged at her. His hand clawed at her arm, and she stumbled back. With a snarl, he scrambled over the counter. Nyssa grabbed the closest thing, her own satchel hanging from a hook in the wall. With all her might, she swung.
The bag impacted against the man’s face, causing him to shout. He crashed into the shelf of tools behind the counter. Wrenches clattered to the floor and over his head.
Nyssa sprang over the counter, crossed the floor in two great leaps, and flew through the broken window. Broken glass crunched beneath her feet. She turned towards the busy Main Way, but a horseless carriage blocked her path. What if he has a partner in there? Spinning on her heel, she headed off in the other direction, towards a back alley.
The man’s cursing chased her down the street.



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Hope

The last several months have been a little rough. Besides losing my father, I lost two friends, one very unexpectedly. It hurts to know that I will never see their smiling faces again except for old pictures and in my memory.

While I mourn their losses greatly, I know I will one day see them again. Songs come on the radio and remind me of each one. Those songs bring tears to my eyes, however, those tears are not altogether sad. I know they are no longer hurting. I know they no longer have to battle with this world. I know they have been reunited with loved ones who have gone on before. I know they are worshiping their Savior.

How do I know these things?

1 Thessalonians 4:13, "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope."

I have hope.


For the last several years I've had an acquaintance who grieves greatly over the loss of a loved one on each anniversary. I can sympathize with her having suffered lost myself. There are some dates I wish I could just skip over. But this woman is so angry. She is hateful to people with whom she comes in contact with during these anniversary times. She even puts people on notice ahead of time, as if that gives her license to treat people the way she does. During those times she is absolutely miserable.

What's the difference between the two of us? She has no hope. I don't believe she knows Christ, so even if her loved one did know Him, until she receives that Hope for herself, she will never see that person again.

I thank God my Savior for a little word with a huge impact – HOPE.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Homeschool Author Mom Robin Merrill

Another busy homeschool-mom-author is up on the blog today. Welcome, Robin Merrill!






How long have you been homeschooling?

5 years

How long have you been writing?

Since I could write, but professionally, 17 years.

What gave you the writing bug?

Not sure!

Do you remember the first story you wrote?

Yes. I was in third grade and I handwrote an 18-page story about meeting Amy Grant. My poor teacher!

What type of books do your write?

My first love is poetry, but I also write fiction and devotionals.


How do you find time to write?

Not sure! I sometimes write late into the night.


Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I always want to be honest in my writing, and sometimes that offends people, but I don't mean to!


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

They certainly try. They are always giving me ideas, and I do read my stories to my fourth-grade daughter, who has found some plot holes for me.


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

It has allowed me to stay home with my children, and for that I am eternally grateful.


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

I am currently spending lots of time with Gertrude. I met Gert in my first novella, Grace Space. I didn't expect her to be so loved, but she was, so I decided to give her her own series: Gertrude, Gumshoe. I am currently wrapping up book three!



Fiction from Robin Merrill:

Click on the cover
to go to Amazon
She begged God to rescue her. He said, “Go.” So she headed out into the blizzard. In a car that wasn’t exactly hers, with a dog who wasn’t exactly a rat terrier, she drove. Until she ran out of gas in the small Maine town of Mattawooptock. Mattawoopwhat? What on earth is God thinking? But it is there, in a weird little bathroom in a weird little church in a weird little town that Maggie Hansen finds herself. And as God would have it, she finds a lot more than that.









Click on the cover
to go to Amazon



Non-Ficiton from Robin:


In The Jesus Diet: How the Holy Spirit Coached Me to a 50-Pound Weight Loss, Author/Poet Robin Merrill shares her weight loss experiences through 30 Bible devotions designed to inspire others to join her on her journey toward improved spiritual, and physical, health.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Real Life and Writing Books with author Norma Gail

Real Life and Writing Books

with author Norma Gail

Write what you know is the mantra we hear. However, sometimes the story God lays on your heart is not 100% familiar in every way. I am celebrating the third birthday of my debut novel, Land of My Dreams. The story bears some similarities to my life. A woman meets the love of her life while struggling with heartbreak. My husband is European, so I know the experience of becoming part of a family who thinks very different from my own. However, I’ve only been to Europe twice and only once to his homeland. Each of us goes through times when we struggle with God. Each of us has doubts. Each of us must learn to overcome personal struggles in the strength of the Lord. Each of us longs for love.

Then comes the unfamiliar part, I set Land of My Dreams in Scotland. That’s a long way from my New Mexico home. As Bonny Bryant, the main character says, “Scotland is about as similar to New Mexico as water is to dust.” I have visited Scotland and many of the events in the book relate to actual experiences we had during our time there. 




Our day at the Highland Games was as far from summer as I can imagine, cold and very rainy:
The weather felt like autumn, but the hearty Scots appeared to be enjoying their summer weather, ignoring the constant drizzle punctuated by periods of pelting rain.
“Thanks for suggesting the rain suit. I’m not used to this.” She smiled at the sight of children in sleeveless shirts and shorts and a dapper-looking older couple strolling along in their tartans, licking ice cream cones and declaring it “a lovely day.”
Bonny regarded the varied group of contestants gathering on the track, already dripping wet. The rain was coming down in buckets. “They’re going to run up that mountain in this?”

My favorite memory created one of the most romantic scenes in the book. Standing atop Grant Tower at Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness was a moment I will never forget. We shared the small area on the ruined rampart with a group of Italians only interested in photographing themselves. I leaned on the railing, imagining Nessie popping up below and my husband pointed to a magnificent rainbow, arching from one side of the loch to the other:

“Come see this.” Kieran and Bonny stood atop Grant Tower at Urquhart Castle, overlooking Loch Ness. For her, it was a place of poignant memories. He pointed to a rainbow arching from one side of the loch to the other as she moved into the crook of his arm. “Now, down there.”
She stood on tiptoe and looked to where he pointed, at the base of the tower.
“Step onto that ledge and I’ll steady you.”
The warmth of his hands around her waist contrasted with the chill wind. She shivered and leaned close enough to hear the stubble on his chin scratching against her raincoat. “The rainbow enters the water at the foot of the tower. Another fifty feet, and it would form a complete circle. Amazing.”
His arms tightened around her. “No more so than the woman in my arms.”
She kept silent. Did he feel it? What could be more romantic than a rainbow all their own?

A piece of my heart remains in Scotland to this day. However, it lives springs to life through my characters, Bonny Bryant, a feisty American college professor running from loss, and Kieran MacDonell, a Highland Games hunk of a sheep farmer fighting his own dark struggles to win her heart. Land of My Dreams spans the distance between New Mexico’s high desert mountains and the misty Scottish Highlands with a timeless story of overwhelming grief, undying love, and compelling faith.

Click cover to go
directly to Amazon
Little did I know that our anniversary trip to Scotland would turn into a contemporary Christian romance about the land that lives in my heart to this day. Memories of multiple circles through traffic round-abouts; eating haggis after a cold, rainy day at the Highland Games; climbing every stairway in every castle we visited; and a 15-minute stop overlooking Loch Garry noted for its similarity to a map of Scotland, were the material necessary to make my dream of becoming a published author come true.
I invite you share my excitement by visiting my blog for the Land of My Dreams Birthday Celebration Contest, featuring Amazon gift cards, free books, and the Grand Prize of a Scottish Tea Gift Box. Visit http://www.normagail.org/land-of-my-dreams-celebration/ and enter to win on one of the Rafflecopters at the bottom. The contest ends on May 5th.



About the Author:
Norma Gail is the author of the contemporary Christian romance, Land of My Dreams, winner of the 2016 Bookvana Religious Fiction Award. A women’s Bible study leader for over 21 years, her devotionals and poetry have appeared at ChristianDevotions.us, the Stitches Thru Time blog, and in “The Secret Place.” She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. Norma is a former RN who lives in the mountains of New Mexico with her husband of 40 years. They have two adult children. If you’re interested in connecting with me, I invite you to follow my blog, join me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads, or Amazon.



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Homeschool Mom and Author Kristen Kooistra

I am blessed to have yet another homeschooling/mom/author visit on the blog this week. Today we get acquainted with Kristen Kooistra, who is a fantasy writer.

How long have you been homeschooling?

This is my first year. My oldest is 4 years old and we’ve been tackling the challenges and joys of writing, phonics, counting, colors, shapes, opposites, etc. My mother homeschooled my four siblings and I for most of our school years. I experienced three and half years of non-homeschooling (2 years public school, one year of charter school, and ½ year of a Christian school), but homeschooling was my favorite.

I always knew that I wanted to homeschool my children too. I love being with them and seeing them learn.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve always dabbled a little, but I didn’t start writing seriously until 2014.

What gave you the writing bug?

Something inspired me and I decided to wing it, not thinking it’d actually pan out. But I kept going and the story grew. I fell in love with it and realized that for the first time I might actually get past the first chapter of a novel.

Do you remember the first story you wrote?

Definitely! When I was little I wrote two VERY short stories. One was about a turtle named Tiny and his family. My first novel ended up being the first one I ever finished and is published now as Heart of the Winterland.

What type of books do you write?

Fantasy. I love reading a couple other genres, but writing fantasy is my passion. I love being able to focus on characters and plot without being bogged down with keeping everything true to the time/area. I’d rather invent a world with all of those details than research ones for real world time periods and places.

How do you find time to write?

A lot of my writing happens after my kids and husband are sleeping. I spend a couple hours at night staying up late to write. I’ve been trying to find time during the day to write as well because there’s so many nights I’m too tired to stay up late.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Knowing what to keep and what to pitch. I write character-driven stories so I’ll have scenes that have little to no bearing on the plot, but they do so much for the characters and their story that I can’t imagine getting rid of them. It’s hard to know where that line is, especially when so many books are plot-driven and those are the examples that come to mind when I’m comparing.

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

Not at all! Haha! I will say that I recently wrote a child for one chapter and she was the same age as my youngest so having a fresh, firsthand experience helped me bring the character to life. Most of my characters are much older than my children. If I ever wrote children’s books, I’d have plenty of ideas though.

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

Oh, that’s a hard one. I’d say my writing career is insignificant in a lot of ways. I’d want to encourage people to never give up, find the method that works for you, and find a good group of people to encourage you and critique your work. Even if my book never goes far, I still get to say I finished and I’m proud of what I’ve done.

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

Yes! I’m working on books 2 and 3 of my series (that starts with Heart of the Winterland) and I have a new character, Damian, who’s been a lot of fun to write. I love most of my characters, but Damian’s chapters are the ones I’ve been working on recently so he’s fresh in my mind.
Damian is the cold, cunning, crown prince of Sjadia. Tragedy at a young age pushed him into a deep depression and he gave up on life. Someone pulls him out of it and he decides he’s going to hide who he is. He pretends to be ignorant and lazy (a peacock prince) so that his mother won’t suspect that he’s still just as deadly, more so, than he was before his depression.

Damian’s so smart and smooth, that it’s hard not to like him, despite his cruel nature. I’ve had some critiquers guessing at his end and hoping that somehow he reforms and has a happy ending. I don’t think that’s in the cards for him, but I’m glad to know that people are connecting with him. I’m a pantser, so I don’t even know what Damian’s fate is until the end.
Click on the cover
to go to Amazon


Read an excerpt from Heart of the Winterland


S
unlight glinted harshly off the blood-spattered snow covering the courtyard. Terrified screams, crackling flames, and the cries of wounded soldiers formed a strident cacophony that grated on the queen of Trabor’s ears. Through the castle window, she stared impassively at the pandemonium below.
Knights scrambled to escape their hoofed attackers and flames leapt high into the sky from the burning stables. A magical barrier cast by the leader of the attacking horde stood between the castle and the fighters, tinting the scene a poisonous green. Separated from the rest, two figures fought at the base of the castle steps. One darkness, the other sunlight. The black-clad witch beat back the fair-haired man.
None of this was going according to plan. At least, not according to the queen’s plan. But she had one last card to play.
Little arms wound around her neck. “Mama.” The queen didn’t look down, but pressed the child’s sunny head against her shoulder. “Shush now, darling. Everything will be fine.”
But everything wouldn’t be fine. Not for her, not for her husband, and not for the kingdom. None of that mattered though. Her daughter would survive, and that was the only life she cared about. Sure, it would’ve been nice to save herself, but she’d come to terms with the fact that her life was cursed from the start. At least she could do this one thing. At least she could save her daughter.
“We’re going to hide. You need to be a good girl and not cry.”
The princess looked up at her, wide eyes full of trust. She didn’t answer, only clung tighter to her mother.
The queen turned from the scene. The battle was lost. She didn’t need to see anymore.
With the princess in her arms, she fled across the stone floor. Her footsteps echoed as the noise of battle faded into the background. The twists of the castle corridors were familiar, and she reached the sanctuary quickly.
She rushed into the sparsely furnished chamber and slammed the door behind her. Shaky fingers fumbled at the latch as she secured the door. If attacked, it would not hold long. She rested her forehead against the smooth wood, closed her eyes, and tried to even her breathing. Distant screams filtered in through the solitary window.
The child squirmed in her arms. “Daddy?” Tears sprang to the queen’s eyes as the sweet voice tore at her heart. She stepped to the canopied bed and gently laid her daughter on the soft covers.
Too weak to stand any longer, she knelt on the cold floor and soothed her daughter. “I love you, my sweet princess.”
Hands shaking, she took a vial full of green liquid from the wooden chest of drawers next to the bed. She uncorked it, lifted her daughter’s head, and helped her swallow. Carefully she returned the bottle to its stand and lowered the child’s head to her pillow. The medicine would help her sleep, sparing her from the coming terror.
There had never been any real hope that the fight would go in their favor. The enemy was too powerful, and the queen had no doubt who would be the next person through the door.
As her golden-haired angel slept with her fist curled tightly around the blanket, the queen murmured, “She will never remember this; never know the terrible price I will pay for her life.”
She forced herself to turn her mind elsewhere and opened the silk purse on her hip. Inside laid her miracle, the final defense, and the one thing that would save her baby.
The timing had to be perfect to unleash such a powerful magic that would require no less than her life. Magic always needed a power source. Most of the time that power came from the caster, but this magic was not of her making, and it would require her life force and more. She needed the witch nearby to act as a power source.
A humorless laugh burst from her thin lips as she dropped the magic that altered her appearance. Luring the witch to her and dying would be easy. The enemy would be all too happy to oblige.
The sounds of battle ceased, and the smell of smoke reached her. Muscles taut with anxiety, she waited. Her heart thudded in her chest, and her breathing rasped, loud even to her own ears. Then she heard it: a single pair of boots marching towards her.
She placed herself between the door and her child, steeling herself for what she had to do. The boots halted, pausing outside her pitiful barrier.
 “Luku!” a triumphant shout rang from the other side. The door disintegrated into a pile of dust.
In the gaping doorway loomed the witch responsible for all the death and destruction. Her ebony hair escaped its long plait, trailing over her shoulders. Dark eyes screamed their victory as a cruel smile crossed her face. Her presence dominated the room, seeping into every corner like poison.
“It is over, Your Majesty. No one will be coming to your rescue, not even your feckless husband.” The witch’s eyes flashed with loathing and triumph. “I have annihilated everyone foolish enough to stand in my way. Now, at last, you will know my pain.”
The witch waited, but the queen had no interest in humoring her attacker. Finally, the witch drew a long, tapered finger along the stone wall and continued, “Do not fret; it will be over soon enough. You will perish knowing everything you loved is destroyed.” She glanced meaningfully at the bed. “Or soon shall be.”
The queen’s resolve hardened. She straightened. Careful not to draw the witch’s eyes, she reached into her pouch, withdrew the stone, and put all the disdain she could muster into her voice, “All this hatred and over something that was never yours. All this wanton destruction. And for what? You still will never get what you want.” Her fist clenched around the stone, now slick with sweat. “I will stop you at whatever cost.”
With a shriek, the witch jerked a dagger from her belt and threw herself at the queen. The sharp steel pierced the queen’s flesh, and she stumbled back.
The witch stepped away, her hard eyes emotionless. “It is over.”
The queen pulled the knife from her chest, despite the pain, before toppling to the floor.
“Yes, it is,” she said triumphantly, and thrust the stone before her. “Ola no ola!” A blinding light shot from the stone, throwing the witch against the wall and knocking her unconscious.
Using the last of her strength, the queen dug her nails into the cracks of the stone floor and dragged herself to her child’s bed. The stone lay forgotten, a tendril of light connecting it to the queen as it drained her.
She pulled herself up to touch her daughter one last time. “This gift I give you, my sweet. My life for yours. I pray you will grow into a wise and compassionate princess. One day you will be queen, and I hope a better one than I.”
Behind her the stone’s brightness intensified as its power built. Her vision grew dark as she struggled for the strength to continue. “I cannot protect you any longer, but you will not be alone. A companion—” Her voice rattled in her chest, and she fought for every word.“—will be given to you, a voice to guide you. Always know . . . you . . . are loved.” She fell to the cold floor, her body relinquishing its final breath.
The strand of light connecting queen to stone snapped and a blinding light flooded the land. When it faded, the kingdom lay empty of all human life, save the princess. Even the bodies of the slain had vanished from the land without a trace. The princess slept on, her hair now raven black, as a glowing orb hung over her head


Monday, April 10, 2017

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Homeschool Raised and Author Faith Blum

Today's homeschool author is from the other side of homeschooling...a student, Faith Blum. It's great to have you here, Faith!

I’m excited to be here. Thank you for offering this series of author interviews for homeschooling or homeschooled authors.

Some people reading this may not know you, so list three or four things about yourself to help them get a feeling for your personality. 

1.      I’m much more outgoing online than I am in person. Although, if you get me talking on the correct topic, I can talk quite a bit.
2.      I live at home with my parents and siblings
3.      I am the oldest of four, but there are 20 years between me and my little brother. Yes, he was a bit of a surprise.

How long does it take you to write a book?

That really depends on the book. My fifth novel, The Solid Rock took me 32 days to write the rough draft in July 1-August 1, edited in December through January, and then it was published on March 26, 2016. That was the fastest it’s ever gone for me though, unless the story was a novella or short story. Usually it takes longer. For example, my current WIP took me a couple months this spring to finish the rough draft and I’m taking a little more time to edit it than I did with The Solid Rock

Do you tell people much about your works in progress until the first draft is complete?

It depends on the work. Sometimes I talk about it and sometimes I don’t. There isn’t much rhyme or reason to it.

How did you feel when you got your first fan mail?

Thrilled, excited, and very encouraged. I don’t remember what it was actually, but I do know that any time I get fan mail, I am quite encouraged.

If you become well known someday, do you welcome fame or dread it?

Considering the blatant Christianity I put in my books, I doubt I’ll ever become incredibly well-known. That being said, I would dread it. I’m a very private person so having a lot of attention is difficult for me.

You self-publish – why?

*does best evil villain impression* I like ze control! It is all-consuming and gives me all my desires.
Ahem! Sorry about that, my inner evil personality just got loose. Truthfully, though, being able to write what I want rather than what is demanded of me, have the final word on covers, formatting, and content, and all of that really is one reason I chose to self-publish.

As I mentioned in the last question, I’m quite blatant and unapologetic about the Christianity I put in my books, and even most Christian publishers would probably want something more or less in them. For instance, the romance I have in my books is very light. Married couples do kiss, but it is said that way, not described in every juicy detail and that’s as far as it goes. I have read some Christian Romances that describe a LOT more.

It is my personal conviction that some of those details don’t need to be in the books. That being said, it is truly just MY personal conviction. If you are okay with reading and/or writing something else, that is fine.

Will you ever submit a book to a publisher, or stick with self-publishing?

I like self-publishing, so I’m going to stick with it.

Contact and follow Faith
Email: author@faithblum.com
Blog: www.faithblum.wordpress.com
Twitter: @Faith_Blum
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/HymnsoftheWest
Website: www.FaithBlum.com
Other: www.Pinterest.com/faithblumauthor


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.”