Thursday, December 15, 2022

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Hannah Mae!

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Hannah Mae!

LM: Welcome! Congratulations on your debut novel Celestial. What was your inspiration for the story?

Hannah: I guess you could say a number of different places inspired Celestial. For one thing, it originally began as my design for an epic action video game. Thus, several other video games bore some creative influence on it. However, the Bible itself was my chief inspiration-to the point where Celestial’s entire theme is wrapped around 1 Peter 1:10-12. It speaks of our salvation in Christ as something angels long to look into. Angels love the Lord, yet they can’t experience that redemptive relationship for themselves—no matter how they may ache to. Puts a new perspective on how inexplicably valuable our salvation with Jesus is, doesn’t it?

LM: What draws you to write in the speculative fiction genre?

Hannah: Well…the funny thing is, my heart was set on presenting a specific story in as best a way as possible. That meant paying less attention to expected genre tropes and paying closer attention to Celestial’s specific needs. Thus, whatever length best satisfied me and test readers, that’s its length. Whatever genre it happened to suit, that’s where it’ll fall. Sure, that meant tricky labeling in marketing, but it absolutely turned Celestial into something that feels original. Seriously. Even the book’s earliest and newest fans admitted to me they still can’t clearly categorize it, let alone pick a close comparison. Celestial is just its own unique thing. Speculative fiction just happens to fit its identity the closest.

LM: What sort of research did you do for Celestial and was there a particular tidbit you knew you wanted/needed to include in the story?

Hannah: Well, before scripting any plot, one crucial fact rang true. Our every thought, word, and deed must glorify the Lord above all else. Therefore, I decided I wouldn’t be satisfied with Celestial if it clearly wouldn’t please God or do His character justice. This meant portraying the spiritual realm respectfully. Which meant the angels’ representation in this book must remain fully plausible and compatible with God’s Word.

God created the angels after all. It stands to reason He’s the only actual angelic authority around here. Thus, I tossed all human customs, conventions, and assumptions about them out the window and scoured the Scriptures instead. I combed its pages over and over for three months straight. All the concrete truths it affirmed about angels and demons I wove into Celestial’s characters, story, and worldbuilding. Areas left vague or unmentioned were similarly handled with prayer and Biblically-informed creativity. Then I further contextualized my Biblical studies by examining recorded supernatural events strictly under a Biblical lens. I could go on further about it, but I think you’ve got gist.

There’s a reason why preparing and composing a book like Celestial took me eight years! My head practically exploded from all the things we got completely wrong about angels; from their imperfections to their personhood. Still, this all exponentially expanded my somewhat narrow view of God’s influence and plan for the universe. It’s not just His visible creation He’s healing through Christ’s resurrection. He’s mending His splintered invisible creation too. Don’t get the wrong idea, though. Celestial is still a fiction story. It shouldn’t be elevated to fact, but after writing it, the Biblical truths used to build it led me to love the Lord more than ever! It’s my deepest prayer and wish for all those who read Celestial (be they many or few) will experience a similar spiritual edification and deeper appreciation for our gift of salvation as I have.

LM: How did you go about creating the “world” within Celestial?

Hannah: As mentioned earlier, the Bible was always my starting point. Even angelic topics not directly
Pixabay/Olya Adamovich
addressed were expanded upon using Biblical principles as the measuring rod. Of course, something must be said for Celestial’s beginnings as a videogame project. Certain aspects of game design indeed fed the process. Take how the angelic types were handled for example. Videogames rely on balance systems to prevent ‘overpowered’ playable characters. 

Thus, I basically married Biblical truth to a game balance-system framework. Right off the bat, the Bible confirms a couple things for us: (#1.) Angels come in wide varieties, and (#2.) they aren’t perfect. We’re not given super specific details. We don’t know how far an angel’s faults extend. Nor can we observe how their abilities operate. Still, we know these factors apply in their lives. 

Further Bible study then confirmed six angelic role-types exist at minimum. It also confirmed different angels had varying appearances. Some have six, four, two, or no wings at all, so by using all that, six angelic types were developed for Celestial. Each one had been fine-tuned so not only could at least one of them match any findable Biblical description. They together produced an intricate network of powerful yet limited angels, who genuinely must support each other and rely on God to accomplish their missions. It lent itself really well to the story’s core themes. Plus, it kept battle sequences interesting. Celestial’s plot-points underwent similar processes too.

I handled the characters a bit more delicately, though. I didn’t want cookie-cutter, saintly-saint angels. That’s boring as flatbread (and un-Biblical). Furthermore, I’ve been bothered with us stereotyping ourselves as the same bland flock of goody-two-shoes in our films. It implies becoming a Christian means loss of personality. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I live with my faith-filled family every day. Our body language, tastes, and speech patterns are nothing alike, yet we all share a passionate love for Christ. Thus, I patterned my angelic cast after that observation. They needed to express just as wide a range of personalities and weaknesses yet share a love for God that prevented their faults from tarnishing their ‘angelic-ness’ to the reader. From an optimistic, bright-eyed messenger angel to a troubled yet reflective angel of death, I believe Celestial’s readers will be surprised to find at least one angelic hero to relate to.

LM: What other authors have influenced you and your writing?

Hannah: I suppose Frank Peretti could’ve been one. Most of my readers favorably compare me to him the most often, but I wouldn’t say his work influenced me all that much. Not to say I didn’t read his spiritual warfare novels. It fascinated me how similar and hugely dissimilar we were. If anything though, I wanted to go at Celestial with the same relentless care and exhaustive detail as my favorite author: J.R.R. Tolkien. That multi-talented man of faith was something else in my eyes. Any time I’d bemoan something (like managing six elaborate characters) I’d recall how Tolkien handled nine characters in his Lord of the Rings trilogy. He even developed books-worth of extra histories outside of it that fed into it! And that wasn’t even counting all the functional languages he put together! Never had another fiction world breathed so realistically nor spoke to my Christian faith so deeply as Middle-Earth! It’s absolutely stunning! My planning process for Celestial was a cinch compared to that, but I hope to follow Tolkien’s example of dedication and skill.

LM: What is one thing you wish you could do?

Hannah: Hmm. I think I’m doing it already. Not writing I mean. Just walking with my Savior; furthering the intimacy in our relationship, and serving/representing Him in every capacity He has in mind for me. As of right now, that includes guesting on your lovely blog.

LM: What advice do you have for fledgling writers?

Hannah: When starting out, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the new rules, advice, and lessons you’ll hear. They’re all important. It’s good to heed experienced writers, but never at the cost of your true life-goal as a Christian. It’s not to become famous. It’s not to earn money. It’s not even to write a half-decent story. It’s to worship our Savior. Our every thought, word, and deed ought to make Him smile. Fame and accolades are nice, but in the end, when you stand in His presence, will any human award matter to Him? Or will it be the story inside your book that’ll matter? Was your writing time something He’d smile about? Or were they your stressful mad-dashes to please a fickle world? 

The truth is, the average piece of junk that respects Him has more honor in His sight than a morally-bankrupt masterpiece. Jesus is the only reader that truly matters. Actively invite Him into your process. The rest will fall into place, and your joy in the craft will never falter—no matter the earthly result. Because the growth in Him you’ll experience, as He directs you off the beaten paths other writers insist are ‘best’, has eternal value. Then consider it God’s blessing when He sets your book in the hands He meant its tale for. He’s your endgame. Never forget your endgame.

LM: Where can folks find you on the web?

Hannah: Everyone can find me and all things about Celestial on my blog: It’s also my main hub for my podcast show FlyingFaith Talks: Biblical Counseling for the Creative Mind, which anyone can subscribe to on Applepodcasts and Spotify! And if anyone is interested in purchasing Celestial, it is on sale for Christmas right now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple-books, and Goodreads in ebook and print!

About Celestial

For millenniums, angels like Captain Jediah had waged war against their former brethren: the demons. As Keeper of the Abyss, it's his duty to ensure Appolyon's army remains imprisoned until the end of the age. Unfortunately, despite all that God had entrusted him with, Jediah is plagued by an unceasing guilt. It drives him to thirst for Christ's redemptive power, but there's one glaring problem. He's not human. God's gift of salvation is meant for mankind alone.

When God appoints him to lead a task force of five wildly different angels to capture two dangerous demons, Jediah ponders if his return to earth might be his only chance to learn what the core of human salvation truly is. However, one of Jediah’s angels hides a secret agenda, and Jediah’s dark past is hellbent on hunting him down too.

Can Jediah risk everything for the relief he's desperate for? Or should he even bother chasing what he cannot have at all?

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Wartime Wednesday: The Stage Door Canteen

Wartime Wednesday: The Stage Door Canteen

Two and a half decades before the attack at Pearl Harbor, the Stage Women’s War Relief organization was formed to coordinate charitable contributions during The Great War, as WWII was then known. Activities included creating workrooms for sewing uniforms and other garments (with a reported output of nearly two million items), setting up clothing and food collection centers, selling Liberty Bonds, and presenting benefit performances to raise funds. The organization also opened a canteen on Broadway for servicemen. In 1919, the SWWR turned its attention to helping veterans and civilians recover from the war, eventually ceasing operations.

Fast forward to 1939. By request of the U.S. government, Playwright and director Rachel Crothers reestablished the organization as a branch of the British War Relief Society but called it the American Theatre Wing. Founding members were a “who’s who” in the industry including Josephine Hull, Gertrude Lawrence, Theresa Helburn, and Mary Antoinette “Toni” Perry, who would eventually be the inspiration for the Tony Award.

The group initially conducted fundraising events and clothing drives to send overseas to the British
Photo: Library
of Congress
people. However, after the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the focus shifted to the American war effort. On March 3, 1942, the first canteen opened at the former Little Club, located under the “44th Street Theatre” in Manhattan, and was donated free of charge by its owner Lee Shubert. Newspapers reported that more than 1,250 servicemen attended opening night with two hundred “actresses of varying importance as hostesses and seventy-five name actors as busboys.”

Two days prior, the public was invited to view the establishment for the price of donations to the kitchen. More than one thousand pounds of sugar was collected! Recruiting was serious business, and applicants were told they would be expected to work through the entire war and required to provide a substitute if they had to miss a shift.

Author Photo
Despite the lack of alcohol served, the canteen was an instant success. Operating seven nights a week, the building was filled to the gills with servicemen and young women dancing to the music of famous bands and rubbing shoulders with Hollywood and Broadway stars. Food was free to the troops, and the public was generous in its donations of canned goods and other items. Songwriter Irving Berlin contributed all profits from his hit “I Left My Heart at the Stage Door Canteen.” Soon other canteens opened in Boston, Newark, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Washington, DC. Los Angeles’s canteen nearly surpassed the popularity of Broadway’s original facility thanks to its cadre of movie stars. Near the end of the war, London and Paris would each boast a canteen.

Unusual for the times, the canteens were open to servicemen of all Allied nations from every branch of service, mingling men of all nationalities and colors, creating “one of the few democratic institutions in existence anywhere.” (Theatre Arts Magazine, 1943).


Murder of Convenience

Betrayal, blackmail, and a barrage of unanswered questions.

May 1942: Geneva Alexander flees Philadelphia and joins the USO to escape the engagement her parents have arranged for her, only to wind up as the number one suspect in her betrothed’s murder investigation. Diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease, she must find the real killer before she loses her sight…or is convicted for a crime she didn’t commit.

Set in the early days of America’s entry into WWII and featuring cameo appearances from Hollywood stars, Murder of Convenience is a tribute to individuals who served on the home front, especially those who did so in spite of personal difficulties, reminding us that service always comes as a result of sacrifice.

Purchase Link:

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Dana McNeeley!

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Dana McNeeley!

LM: Welcome! Congratulations on your upcoming release Whirlwind. You write Biblical fiction. How did you choose this particular story to write?

Dana: In my daily quiet time, I read through the Bible each year. One day the reading included the passage where the prophet Elijah prayed for the widow's son to be returned to life. When the boy opened his eyes, it was as if I was there - I choked up. As I sat meditating on the ancient words, I wondered, “What would it be like to die, go to the other world, and be brought back again?”

My attempts to answer that question resulted in Rain, my debut novel. Whirlwind came about when readers asked for more about Elijah and other characters in Rain. I wasn’t ready to leave them either, so Whirlwind focus on more stories in Elijah’s life, culminating with his ride in a chariot of fire.

LM: Whirlwind is the second book in the Whispers on the Wind series. Did you start out to write a series or did it just happen? How many books do you have planned?

Dana: My publisher, Miralee Ferrell at Mountain Brook Ink, suggested a series would be a good idea, and I knew there was more than enough biblical content for at least another book or two. After Whirlwind, I have in mind two more books, which will feature Elijah’s successor, the prophet Elisha.

LM: Research is necessary for any book, but for historical fiction in particular. What did you do to research Whirlwind? How difficult is it to find information about the time period?

Dana: In Whirlwind, Elijah was the main biblical character. As a biblical novelist, my first job is to have a deep understanding of what the Bible has to say. The Bible is the source of all truth, and I’m passionate about presenting not only the facts of what the Bible has to say, but also the themes.

Next comes history. There’s a lot of available history on Israel’s Iron Age 2. Dates are challenging because there are many opinions about what happened when. It’s challenging to keep events and characters’ ages in sync. A baby born at the beginning of a war, needs to age when it ends a year later.

LM: Tell us about your road to publication.

Dana: Like many authors, I’ve been writing since childhood. Though I had non-fiction publishing credits beginning in high school, I longed to write fiction. The most interesting part of my publishing journey came when I retired in 2019. One day, I thought back on my attempts to find an agent or publisher and prayed, “Lord, I’ve been trying to find a publisher for Rain. I finally understand. All this time, you’ve been telling me ‘no’, not ‘wait.’ Shall I try to self-publish or put the book in a drawer?” I waited a minute. Self-publishing seemed just to hard. “Maybe I should just quit writing altogether and enjoy my retirement,” I concluded.

The next day when scrolling through Facebook, I received an Instant Message from a stranger. “Hello.
Are you the Dana McNeely who wrote Rain, and if so, have you sold it yet?” Like you, I cringed a little at that first “Hello.” A troll? But the rest of the message had me intrigued. Angela Ruth Strong introduced herself. She had judged Rain in the OCW Cascade contest years ago, loved it, and wanted to reread. When she could not find it on Amazon, she used her sleuthing skills to find my name from the double-blind contest. She told her publisher, who said she’d like to read it also. It became apparent the Lord’s hand was in it, when a few weeks later I had a publishing contract. An overnight success in thirty-short years!

LM: What do you do to prepare for writing?

Dana: There’s a time of preparation, reading the Bible, praying, consulting commentaries, maps, and some of my favorite research books. Then I think of and journal about two or three main characters who will witness the events and tell the story.

After that, I begin writing. I aim to begin in the mornings, right after my devotional time with my husband. I write for about two hours, then take a walking break. Repeat in the afternoon, substituting housework for walking. It’s good exercise, too!

LM: What is your favorite aspect of writing?

Dana: The actual writing is my favorite, especially after I’ve written at least three chapters. That seems to be the point I am comfortable in my characters’ voices and excited to sit at the computer each day to continue their stories.

LM: What is one thing you wish you could do?

Dana: How about two? I would love to visit the Holy Land with my husband and visit more of the
United States, especially the National Parks.

LM: What advice do you have for fledgling writers?

Dana: Two things. First, join a writers’ group for support and learning opportunities. There are many online and in-person choices. Two of my favorites are American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Faith, Hope, and Love Christian Writers (FHL-CW.) ACFW also has local chapters, which are great. Second, have a writing schedule. I aim to write every day except Sunday. I can’t always do that, but I don’t let too many days go by without writing at least one sentence. The trick is, one sentence leads to another!

LM: Where can folks find you on the web?


About Whirlwind

A king’s downfall and a love that transcends war

SPURNED BY POTENTIAL SUITORS, Miriam travels to Jezreel to care for her cousin’s son. There, the precocious seven-year-old works his way into her heart. When Arameans swarm the land like locusts, Miriam focuses on the safety of her young ward but promises adventures beyond the city walls when the war ends. Gershon, a quiet and kind vintner, is happily building a life for his wife, son, and aging parents. But when his wife dies during childbirth and war looms on the horizon, he must make a decision—will he take a new wife before his heart can mend?

Meanwhile, Dov, a young officer crosses paths with the “bird girl” he remembers from the past, now grown to womanhood. That she is a beautiful woman matters not, as he is a career soldier. Unexpectedly charged with leading Ahab’s army against the Arameans, Dov anticipates death and defeat in Samaria, but when a prophet pledges victory, Dov vows to fight to the end. When an unlikely victory brings freedom, a bright future seems imminent. Then one afternoon Miriam witnesses a tragedy and must flee with the boy to keep them both safe. With henchmen on their trail, will they find refuge—and her heart the home she’s longed for?

Purchase Link:

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Wartime Wednesday: Hawaii's Home Front After Pearl Harbor

Wartime Wednesday: 

Hawaii’s Home Front After Pearl Harbor 

The December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor forced the United States into war with Japan. The following day, Germany declared war on the U.S., and the country became embroiled in WWII. Within hours of the attack, the Territorial Governor stripped himself of his administrative powers, and Hawaii (still a territory at that time) was put under martial law. 

Under military law, the normal judicial process is suspended, therefore courts, witnesses, and juries are unnecessary. Instead, a military tribunal handles all violations and metes out punishment as it sees fit. With more than a third of the residents being of Japanese descent, the government was in a quandary about what to do with them. Interning the individuals, as was being done on the mainland, was impractical for numerous reasons, therefore it was hoped that martial law would take care of the situation. 

All residents over the age of six were fingerprinted and issued identification papers that were to be
carried at all times and produced upon demand. Curfews and blackouts (including electricity shutoff after sundown) were implemented, the media and mail were censored, and food, gasoline, and other items were rationed. Business hours were assigned and alcohol was prohibited. 

Traffic was monitored and special garbage collection was administered. Civilians were banned from photographing coastal locations, but they were also used to dig holes for bomb shelters and place barbed wire around beaches, water pumping stations, electrical installations, and government buildings. Gas masks were issued and regular drills were held to prepare for gas attacks or air raids. 

Pixabay/David Mark
Waikiki’s beachfront hotels were closed to the public and taken over for the exclusive use of the military (whose five branches all had a presence on the islands). Seven POW and internment camps were located on Oahu, the big island, Maui, and Kauai. 

Hawaii was forever changed as a result of WWII, and many scholars feel the statehood that followed fourteen years later had a direct correlation to the war.

About Under Cover:

In the year since arriving in London, journalist Ruth Brown has put a face on the war for her readers at home in the U.S. Thus far, juggling her career and her relationship with Detective Inspector Trevor Gelson hasn't proven too challenging. The war gets personal for Ruth when her friend Amelia is murdered, and Trevor is assigned to the case. Life gets even more unsettling when clues indicate her best friend, Varis, is passing secrets to the enemy. Convinced Varis is innocent, Ruth must find the real traitor as the clock ticks down toward Operation Husky-the Allied invasion of Sicily. Circumstantial evidence leads Trevor to suspect her of having a part in Amelia's death, and Ruth must choose between her heart and her duty.

Purchase Link:

Friday, December 2, 2022

Fiction Friday: New Releases in Christian and Sweet-N-Clean Fiction

December 2022 New Releases

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

Contemporary Romance:

A Christmas Bargain by Mindy Obenhaus -- When single mom Annalise Grant inherits a fledgling Christmas tree farm in Texas, she vows to do whatever it takes to make it a success. But when neighbor Hawkins Prescott claims some of her trees are on his property, the only option is a partnership. As Christmas draws closer, Annalise and Hawkins find themselves growing closer as well. Could a family by Christmas become part of the deal? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired/Harlequin)

Roadtrip for Two by Amy R. Anguish -- Dallas wasn’t in the plans when Bree Henley set out to use the nonrefundable honeymoon tickets from her canceled wedding. Nor was running into ex-fiancĂ© Nathan Hart. But their mutual friends and the weather have other ideas. A hurricane cancels their cruise and Bree decides to turn the disaster into a roadtrip for one, never imagining Nathan would object. Nathan is furious when he uncovers the plot to get him back with Bree. But he can’t just let her go roaming around the big city of Dallas alone. Though he knows calling off their wedding was the right thing to do, he still cares for Bree. And before he knows what hits him, he’s volunteered to tag along. Suddenly, it’s a trip for two. Spending the week together might remind them of why they fell in love. But is it enough to overcome the obstacles standing in the way of ‘til death do us part”? (Contemporary Romance from Scrivenings Press)

General Contemporary:

The Amish Mother’s Secret by Diane Craver -- Sometimes a miracle comes to you at exactly the wrong time… Lindsay is 40 and single when tragedy strikes. Diagnosed with stage 4, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer, her instinct is to right the wrongs in her life. Driven to break free of her alcoholic mother at 17, she fell for Harris. Harris' life was already planned out for him. Falling for Lindsay had been a dream. However, compelled to wed the woman his parents chose for him, he'd left her to endure a shaky marriage. Pregnant with identical triplets, Lindsay adopted two daughters to an Amish couple, the Yoders. In the years that followed, Mrs. Yoder worked hard to keep her away. When you let go of a miracle, can you ever capture it again? Revealing the truth may prove more devastating than the hurdles that came before…and all that will surely come after for a woman fighting for her life.. (General Contemporary from Vinspire Publishing)

General Historical:

The Wanderer Reborn by Natasha Woodcraft -- Can hope triumph in the aftermath of murder? Reeling from the shock of Havel’s murder, Awan doesn't know how she will ever recover. Kayin’s action torments her. As the years pass, and her younger siblings move on with their lives, she is left behind feeling bitter and lonely. Will she ever learn to forgive and find healing? Then Awan makes a terrible error which threatens to break up what remains of her fractured family. That same day, her God calls her to undertake a radical journey. A journey that will test her faith and force her to face all her darkest fears. (General Historical, Independently Published)

Historical Romance:

All She Ever Dreamed by Robin Lee Hatcher -- A dream sometimes comes at great cost. Betrothed in a sensible match, even if the man isn’t the love she’s always imagined, Sarah McNeal relies on the advice her late grandmother gave as well as her own common sense. Dreams of a mysterious European count who rides in and sweeps her off her feet are the stuff of girlhood. And she’s a woman now. But when her fiancĂ©’s older brother, Jeremiah, returns to Boulder Creek, he unknowingly awakens that discarded dream. Nine years ago, Jeremiah West lost his wife and newborn son in an epidemic, and he’s been wandering ever since. A survivor of the Spanish-American War, he finally returns to Boulder Creek to settle on the farm he inherited from his father, an inheritance his younger brother still begrudges. When a blizzard threatens Sarah’s life—and her reputation—Jeremiah is there to rescue her. But the pain of his past remains a stumbling block. Then fate brings Jeremiah and Sarah to a crossroads, and love demands a decision that will change the course of their lives. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Defending Truth by Shannon McNear -- Ava Sanford longs to be known as more than the pastor’s kid. When the opportunity arises to study abroad in Scotland, she jumps at the chance to leave the Texas coast and the pressures of Grace Church behind. But she never meant to leave God too. Her roommate’s partying lifestyle promises the fun Ava has been missing out on—until a traumatic assault leaves her faith and pride in ruins. As her life in Scotland begins to crumble, rumors race back home, threatening her relationships with her family and friends, including Jack Shields. A former athlete, Jack keeps his head down, working through college and coasting through life. After losing both his mother and his scholarships, he knows the things you love can disappear at any moment. But when his best friend seems to be next, the nonchalance and security he carefully guards are broken. Fighting for Ava will mean risking it all, and he can’t do it alone. Only God can show them both how far grace can go. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Love’s New Beginnings by Penny Zeller -- Lydie Beauchamp recently moved with her aunts—sisters Myrtle and Fern—to the untamed Wyoming Territory. When a teaching position in nearby Willow Falls captures her attention, can she leave her aunts, one of whom just suffered a broken heart, and embark on this new adventure? Will she find the courage to persevere in the midst of challenges, one being a handsome challenge named Solomon Eliason? Reverend Solomon Eliason has the goal of making a difference. Hired as the pastor of Willow Falls, he must convince the congregation that he is able to undertake the role of a reverend. When he’s nominated to be the adult in charge of the annual prank tradition at the school, he embraces the idea, thinking the new teacher will be an elderly crotchety woman like his former teacher. What he doesn’t realize until it’s too late is that the teacher is far from crotchety and elderly. When Lydie and Solomon’s paths cross in an unexpected way during the prank tradition at the Willow Falls school, can Solomon redeem himself in the eyes of the lovely new teacher? (Historical Romance from Maplebrook Publishing)

The Seasoning of Elizabella: A Jamestown Bride Story by Tamera Lynn Kraft -- Elizabella can't imagine anything worse than being a Jamestown bride -- but her sister is determined to do just that. On the way to the ship to stop her sister, she witnesses a brutal murder and must flee for her life. She takes refuge on the ship, pretending to be her sister, intending to leave as soon as she is safe. Before she knows it, she is headed for the New World, trapped by desperation and deception. Miles fled to Jamestown with his family to escape the shame from their father's actions. Tragedy has tested his faith, including the loss of his wife and newborn son. His grief makes him more determined than ever to keep his one remaining brother from following in their father's footsteps. Will God heal their pain? How can their love grow when Elizabella desires nothing more than to return to London, and Miles desires nothing more than to remain in Jamestown? (Historical Romance from Mt. Zion Ridge Press)

Romance: Amish:

Her Unlikely Amish Protector by Jocelynn McClay -- He’s learned from his mistakes…But can he protect her from his past? Miriam Schrock has one rule in her quest for a respectable Amish life—stay away from troublemakers like Aaron Raber. That is, until their employers play matchmaker and Miriam sees a different side to the former rebel. Aaron promises his time with an Englischer gang is behind him. But when his past returns, will protecting Miriam from their threats mean losing her for good? (Romance: Amish from Love Inspired/Harlequin)


Found: An Almost Perfect Christmas by Kimberly Rose Johnson -- When a young boy’s life is threatened, his dad will do anything to keep him safe, including eliciting the help of his single and beautiful school teacher. One of Hope Creek, Montana’s most desired single men has his hands full this Christmas with a new puppy litter, work, and a rambunctious young son. Now, someone has threatened to harm his son if he doesn’t reveal the location of a mystery woman. Second grade teacher, Bethany Evans, loves her job, but she wants more. Could Toby and his dad hold the key to making this Christmas extra special, or will the trouble they are facing not only ruin Christmas but destroy their lives in the process?. (Thriller/Suspense/Romance, Independently Published)

Texas Smoke Screen by Jessica R. Patch -- Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And where there’s fire, there’s a killer…FBI profiler Vera Gilmore has the scars—both outside and in—to remind her how deadly fire is. Now homicide detective Brooks Brawley—her once sweetheart—needs her help with a serial arsonist and murderer in his small Texas town. But almost immediately, Vera becomes a target. Will staying at Brooks’s ranch with him and his daughter keep them all safe…or put them right in the killer’s path. (Thriller/Suspense/Romance from Love Inspired/Harlequin)

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

A Christmas BlessingJudith McNees, Can two opposites look past appearances to see each other’s hearts? (Romance: Novella)

Deadly Conclusion Kathy Harris , Beau leads a manhunt to find her before the outcome reaches a deadly conclusion. (Thriller/Suspense/Romance)

Hope Again at Christmas Cathe Swanson, Three heartwarming novels that will have you laughing and crying... and swooning over the sweet romances tied up with tinsel, carols, and hope for the future. (Contemporary Romance)

Kindred Star M.D. House, Is the galaxy ready for a new set of storms? (Speculative Fiction/Military)

Lilly’s Promise Terrie Todd, Will the truth she uncovers about her grandmother, Lilly, inspire her to let go of her fear and rise to the occasion? (General Contemporary/Split Time)

Where Dreams Reside Heidi Chiavaroli, A shameful past, an orchard camp, and a kindling romance…not exactly Little Men, but Bronson Martin never liked being compared to the March family anyhow. (Contemporary Romance)

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Jennifer Chastain

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Jennifer Chastain

LM: Welcome! Congratulations on your upcoming release Targeted for Elimination: Lethal Intentions. The book is quite different from your debut novel The Mistletoe Contract. What made you decide to jump into romantic suspense?

Jennifer: Thank you for hosting me today on your blog! This is a great question. I thought I’d try to write in another genre as I was feeling a little “stuck” so to speak. My romance books just weren’t coming together, and I was questioning whether I should be writing. I knew the Lord called me, but that dreaded “writer imposter syndrome” was dogging me. I’d read some advice from other writers that said if you’re stuck, try a different genre than what you normally write. I love edge-of-your-seat adventures with a romantic element thrown in. Romantic suspense stories are fast-paced, and they make you want to keep turning the pages to see what happens next. I love trying to figure out who the villain is in these types of stories. But the one thing about suspense is, you, the reader, still care about the characters. You want to see them succeed.

I started reading Lisa Phillips Last Chance County series for the Sunrise Publishing open auditions. When I wasn’t chosen for the series, I was a little crestfallen, to be sure. But I realized that wasn’t the path I was supposed to take. It was then that the Lord opened a different door for me. I submitted this story, Targeted for Elimination to Anaiah Press and they loved it. In fact, the editor mentioned that romantic suspense was my genre. Who knew? LOL. It was when I stepped out of my comfort zone that the doors have been thrown wide open for me to write more romantic suspense. In fact, the publisher liked this story so much, they asked if I could make this into a three-book series, and of course, I said yes! Seriously though, I love the genre and I’ve struggled with writing romance but when I add that suspense element to the story? The stories seem, to me at least, to be easier to write. My imagination can take unexpected turns when I’m writing a romantic suspense storyline.

LM: What was your inspiration for the story?

Jennifer: A couple of years ago, I saw a news story about an ATF agent who died while undercover.
Pixabay/Roberto Lee Cortes
Some of the details were vague, even suspicious, while other information just didn’t add up. I started to ask “what if”? questions. What if he really didn’t die? What if he had to go on the run? Who would have turned on him? Those types of questions. The more questions I asked, the more the story started to come together in my mind. I wanted to give this man his happily ever after.

LM: What research did you need to do for your story? Did your paralegal certification influence your writing?

Jennifer: I had to do a little research on the type of gun a federal agent would use. I’m a member of the Crime Scene Writers email group, so they were a great resource to ask detailed questions concerning weapons. Then I had to research the Hawai’ian islands, the types of foods, foliage, and cultural items. I downloaded pictures of landmarks on the Big Island. I Googled a lot of the information because I was writing this story during the middle of Covid and no one was traveling. Fortunately, one of my writer friends, Tammy Karasek, vacationed on the islands for many years. She and her family were even thinking about moving there. She gave me a lot of insight into certain terminology and foods. For example, flip-flops. Hawai’ians do not call them flipflops but “slippas”. A minor detail but one that was important to maintain the authenticity.

As to my paralegal certification, no, I don’t believe that training factored or influenced my writing, other than you must be succinct when writing a lot of these action scenes.

LM: How did you come up with your characters? Do any of them have traits of you?

Pixabay/David Mark
Jennifer: Well, I had a vague idea who my hero was, but I didn’t have a name. One Saturday afternoon, Point Break was on, so I changed the channel and watched. I wanted my hero to be like Keanu Reeves’ character—a rule-follower who also knew he had to bend the rules to gather evidence against the bank robbers. But Jack Spencer, my ATF agent, is also a little bit of an adrenaline junkie, adventurous, something I’m not. Jack is a fusion of Magnum PI, Point Break, and Steve McGarrett from Hawaii Five-O. My heroine, Maggie Coleman, who is an ex-Army medic, is feisty but also insecure. I wanted her to have a stressful occupation but also one where she’d be an asset to Jack. She’s also struggled with being accepted all her life.

Both characters have high-stress, high-energy careers, and they must always keep their guard up. But when they are in the middle of the conflict they’re facing, all their defenses and layers are stripped bare. Ultimately, they must rely on God and trust each other for their survival.

I think there are traits of me in both characters, but I’ll let y’all try to figure that out. I don’t want to give away all my secrets!

LM: What do you do to prepare for writing?

Jennifer: I start with a deep character profile. I usually have a vague idea as to who my characters are, their occupations, what they look like, etc. I’ll sit there and pray over these characters. I’ll search for a picture online of what I think my characters look like, and copy them into Scrivener. I’ll also take the Myers-Briggs test as if my character were answering the questions. I’ll even use the Five Love Languages test too. Once I’ve done all this, I use the Lindy Hop and SEQ (Story Equation) from Susan May Warren/Novel Academy and the Enneagram. I’ll fill out the SEQ, the lie they believe, their greatest dream, their main flaw, etc. Once all this is done, I can plot out the book using the Lindy Hop method, i.e. their life, inciting incident, noble quest, the detours in their path, etc. Once I have my characters fleshed out, it makes plotting so much easier. I can usually plot the book in one or two short sittings. But all the background information usually takes me at least six to eight weeks.

LM: What is your favorite aspect of writing?

Jennifer: I love plotting a new story! In fact, I have four or five story ideas on the back burner right now. But I also love writing that new story and figuring out who my characters are, and what their reactions would be in certain situations.

LM: What is one thing you wish you could do?

Jennifer: I would love to retire, stay at home, and write full-time.

LM: What advice do you have for fledgling writers?

Jennifer: I’d like to remind those starting out in the publishing business of the famous quote from
Winston Churchill, “Never give up!” The publishing world is tough. But if God has called you and you know in your heart you are supposed to be an author, then write well. Learn all you can. Attend conferences either online or in-person. Read craft books. Find a writing community with like-minded individuals who not only can encourage you but sharpen your skills. Find a writing partner to bounce ideas off. And I’ll say it again, don’t give up. Grow a thick skin because rejection will come. But learn from the rejection. If an agent or editor asks you to change your story or gives you advice on how to improve, read it, and pray over the changes. Be open to what those with more experience have to say about your writing and your story.

LM: Where can folks find you on the web?

Jennifer: You can find me here:
Twitter: @JenniferCwrites
Sign up for my newsletter to receive a free short story:

Targeted for Elimination: Lethal Intentions

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He’s a man on the run.

Undercover ATF agent Jack Spencer has been running away his entire life. His last assignment has him questioning who he really is, what he believes, and who he can trust. When his cover is compromised, and he’s injured, he must disappear in order to survive.

She wants a fresh start.

After five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, ex-Army medic Maggie Coleman wants a quiet life, one without emotional trauma. The peace and serenity of the Hawai’ian Islands is just what the doctor ordered. Then Jack crashes into her life, taking her on a rollercoaster ride into the unknown. 

Now, they’re running for their lives.

Maggie and Jack flee the Islands only to find their every move is anticipated. As the days wear on, they form a bond that transcends their situation, and they must learn to depend not only on each other, but God as well. When they finally reach the safe house in the mountains of Montana, Jack and Maggie hunker down and wait for reinforcements. Before help arrives, Maggie is kidnapped, and Jack has only one option—offer himself in exchange. Failure is not an option. Because if he does, they both stand to lose more than just their budding relationship.