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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Spotlight on Janice Thompson's Wedding Caper

This week, I have the pleasure of spotlighting another friend of mine, one who has had her fair share of struggles and setbacks, but has always managed to rise above them and deliver stories that make you laugh, cry, smile and frown with each one of her characters. This one is the first in a new series and the leadoff book for Barbour Publishing's new Cozy Mystery Line, launching in 2008! I hope you enjoy.

Janice Thompson is a Christian novelist, who lives in the Houston area. She has authored eleven books, including a line of contemporary humorous wedding mysteries for Barbour Publishing. Janice considers herself somewhat overqualified when it comes to writing about weddings. Janice has coordinated weddings for friends and has incorporated many of her adventures into her stories. She's also tickled to be able to include her canine companion, Sasha, in each of her "tails."

A $25,000 night deposit mysteriously disappears from the Clark County Savings and Loan, and Annie Peterson has reason to be concerned. Her husband's job at the bank makes him a potential suspect, but knowing him to be a Godly man, she can't imagine he'd steal it. But then again, where did the money to pay for his twin daughters' weddings come from? Sure, Warren occasionally jokes about robbing the bank to pay for the ceremonies, but Annie knows him better than that, doesn't she?

1. Congratulations on leading the Heartsong Cozy Mystery Line. Tell us about how that came about.

In 2004, I proposed an idea for a wedding-themed romance to Barbour Publishing titled THE WEDDING CAPER. Sadly, it was rejected for their romance line. I laid the idea aside for a period of time. Then, in January of 2006, I heard that Barbour was putting together a new line of cozy mysteries. My story idea involving a mother of the bride solving a crime just seemed to fit. I quickly put together a new proposal and sent it off to Susan Downs, mystery editor.

I heard back from Susan pretty quickly that she was interested in the books, but was stunned to learn THE WEDDING CAPER would head the new line of mysteries. More stunned still, to find out the book would be released as a trade book! Most mysteries in the line are sold through the book club only.

I can't tell you how blessed I feel to have this very distinct privilege, and how honored. I'm so grateful to Susan (and Becky Germany, my fiction editor), and to all of the fine people at Barbour, who've done so much for me!

2. What did you like most about writing this genre?

For the first time ever, I got to try my hand at first-person writing, and I LOVED it! Couldn't get enough of it. The twists and turns in the mystery are a lot of fun, though a bit of a challenge. But I'm up for the challenge! I especially love writing something fun and quirky!

Perhaps the greatest thing of all has been the spiritual thread that runs through all of the stories. I prayed fervently as I wrote THE WEDDING CAPER - that the Lord would use my words to not only bring a smile to people's faces (and make them wonder "who-dunnit") but would also present a real and lasting impression of our heavenly Father, and His love for us.

3. Tell us a bit about the book.

THE WEDDING CAPER is a cozy mystery set in Clarksborough, Pennsylvania. You've read the summary above, but just about the time Annie thinks she can wriggle Warren off the suspect hook, he mysteriously shows up with enough cash to cover the cost of both weddings. Annie dives into the investigation and the suspects pile up. One by one they fall, leaving her with only one logical choice. Who will it be – a somber-faced loan officer, a security guard with a shady past, a drifter with local ties – or the man she loves?

4. What sparked the idea of combining the stress of a wedding with a cozy?

I know what it's like to be the mother of the bride. I've played that role multiple times now! In 2004, two of my daughters got married within four months of each other. Daughter #3 is now engaged, and set to be married in the spring. Daughter #4 has just announced that she's met the man of her dreams and already has 'that look' in her eye.

Talk about blissful chaos! I know about the ups and downs of wedding planning, and also understand the financial woes connected with putting together beautiful wedding ceremonies on a budget. So, what's a mother of the bride to do, when faced with such challenges? Easy! I just turned them into books, so that readers could join in the fun! I decided to capitalize on my wacky wedding-related experiences by putting them into this series of mysteries, which Barbour has titled "The Bridal Mayhem Mystery Series." As I mentioned before, THE WEDDING CAPER is the first book in the collection. And the 'sleuth,' Annie Peterson—Mother of the Brides is so much like me, it hurts!

5. Tell us about your pets who makes it in all your novels. What role do they play in The Wedding Caper?

My real-life canine cohorts, (red miniature dachshunds Sasha and Copper), make appearances in my mysteries, and help solve the crimes. Sasha is even featured on the cover of THE WEDDING CAPER. I actually wrote Susan Downs a letter early on about this - told her that Sasha insisted upon a clause in my contract stating that she would be on the cover of every book. Barbour didn't actually put it in the contract, but so far my little darling has made it onto the first two covers! Ironically, Sasha and Copper are a bit on the spoiled side. They've really let this publishing fame go to their heads, and are particularly difficult to deal with, now that THE WEDDING CAPER has released. There's just no living with some people... er... dogs. I hope my readers enjoy getting to know them, and fall in love with them, as I have.

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Thank you, Janice, for being in the spotlight. And thank you to those of you who comment and read and visit...for your support. Don't forget to post a comment for your chance to win a FREE copy of this book.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Home from Mexico!

Well, they let me back into the country. LOL! So, I'm home again and somewhat back to normal. Had a lot of time to reflect and ponder all week and now I'm on a clearing out mission to simplify my life again. No reason to keep all the clutter I'm not using if it can benefit someone who needs it.

The trip was awesome! I'm still processing everything, but I did manage to upload my photos if anyone is interesting in viewing them. Obviously you won't know what all of them are, but I can tell you we went to 4 different children's homes (orphanages) and did work on 3 of them.

Photos From Mexico

Monday, we grilled hamburgers and spent time with the children at the first home. Tuesday, we built storage cabinets and hung track lighting for another home. Wednesday, we poured the cement for the 2nd story of a teen boys' home that will be the 3rd of 6 total houses on the mission property. My muscles *still* ache. :) That evening, we brought a hot meal, blankets and plastic storage containers to the people living in the "Rio" which is a Squatter's Village where homes are made of anything they can find.

Thursday was the most memorable. We brought a new washing machine and kerosene heaters to the 4th home, installed plexiglass for windows and doors where blankets had been, built a cabinet for storing clothes to get them off the wet floor, hung 2 new clothes lines for drying their clothes, brought lunch for the children and filled in the gap from the wall to the roof where nothing had been. After the work was done, we took the children to a movie where they had popcorn and coke and afterward had hotdogs and fries. So, that night, we knew they were going to bed with full stomachs, heat and no drafts through the walls, doors or windows. They also had 3 full beds and a couch for sleeping. 15 children and 4 adults lived in 4 rooms.

All in all, a fantastic experience, and the pictures of the little girl from Thursday (Juanita) are my favorite. Glad I can stay in touch with her, cuz I miss her already.

So, has anyone else here ever done work like this either in the US or abroad? Perhaps served a meal during a holiday or collected goods for those in need, etc? Feel free to share in the comments. Would love to hear other stories.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Spotlight on Susan May Warren and Reclaiming Nick Blog Tour!

Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of seventeen novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep's Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota. Read an excerpt of Reclaiming Nick at

1. You have covered chic lit, romantic suspense, women's fiction and now a western. Nick Noble garnered some attention when you unveiled his photo this past September at the annual fiction writer's conference in Dallas. Now, he's blazing the trail of reader's hearts in his very own novel. What gave you the inspiration for this book and its eventual sequel?

I am a huge cowgirl at heart, and always wanted to write a book set in the modern-day west. (I'm such a sap – I love movies like "Flicka!") And, I love country music (especially Brad Paisley) so I conjured up this idea to write a story that is much like a country song...about a man who lost his roots, who returns to his past to find he's left deep wounds on those he left behind. The thematic premise of the story, about the giving and receiving of grace, I got from an actual event in a friend's life, and once I started praying about the story, everything fell into place. The sequel, called Taming Rafe, is a continuation of the Noble Legacy saga – and we get to see Nick and Piper and how they've both grown, and how Nick has indeed embraced his Legacy. It's fun to write about a family because you get to know each of them, but also can watch the others continue in their lives.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced the characters of Nick, Stefanie, Piper, Cole and Maggy? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?

Oh, I think every character has pieces of the author, although after the kernel of self is inserted, the character then takes a life of his own. Nick is the oldest child (like me), but he's also stubborn and strong-willed, and opinionated...(Okay, that might be like me too.) *g* Stefanie is strong and wise, she's the one holding everything together at the Silver Buckle. She's much like the single ladies I know who have learned to handle their world with their own two hands. And then there's Maggy – the woman with the world on her shoulders. She's probably most like many of the missionary mothers I served with. Patient, hardworking. And Cole, he's faithful, yet frustrated. I think there were seasons in my life – like when I had pneumonia in Russia for months – that really went into Cole. And Piper – she's the idealistic side to me that says, "Hey, I can do this!" (even if it's so far fetched, it'll never happen!).

3. What themes exist in Reclaiming Nick that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

The obvious themes are forgiveness and grace – and how those two go hand in hand. But some of the other themes were the idea that God doesn't give up on prodigals. Intially the book was written with Phil 1:6 in mind, that talks about God continung the good work He started in a man's life (Nick's). But there was also the theme of the woman with the bleeding disorder who felt she would never be well, and didn't even deserve it, to some extent, although she hoped for it. This is Piper, who has become bitter and cynical about God and His love for her. Much like the petrified rock they found. I tried hard to use landscape and ranching situations to build on those themes.

4. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?

This book wasn't that difficult to write because is sat in my heart a long time. However, getting the detailas of landscape and ranching correct took a lot of research, as did making sure the suspense plot flowed at a steady pace. This isn't a thriller, like some of my other books, and it's also not high suspense...the suspense plot is woven in equally with the other elements. Still, I needed to employ all the suspense techniques I use for other books. My favorite scene was the ending, of course. *g*

5. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?

I just finished book 2 in the Noble Legacy, Taming Rafe. This was SUCH a fun book to write because I took a headstrong, trouble-making bull-rider and paired him with a strong, wise woman who is trying to find out where she belongs – in the world of cowboys, or the New York social scene in which she was raised. And once I put these two together, sparks ignited. So fun to watch Rafe be..."tamed." (or...not!) Rafe is Nick's younger brother, who is a broken bull rider trying to break free from his past, who he has become, and the mistakes he's made. It's a story about starting over, and seeing the person God made you to be. The preview chapter is in the back of Reclaiming Nick, and the book is due out in August. I'm now starting Book 3 - Finding Stefanie...

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Thanks, Susie, for being in the spotlight here. Glad we could be part of the blog tour. For those of you on the tour, this is another chance to win a FREE copy of Reclaiming Nick. Just post a comment and you're automatically entered. Winner will be announced in the comments next weekend. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Out of Town -- author spotlight to appear Friday

In place of my usual Monday post, I am announcing that I'll be out of town this week until Friday. So, my Wednesday author spotlight will take place on Friday and you'll have to wait a week before hearing more from Raelene's journal.

For those traveling on Susie May Warren's blog tour, check back on Friday for her spotlight feature.

For anyone else, after this week, we'll be back to normal...well as normal as it gets around here anyway. :)

See you soon! I'll be in Mexico on a working missions trip. Details to follow.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Leaving for America

The fateful day has come. A fortnight has passed. I am watching from my favorite writing place under the tall oak. The carriage has taken our trunks to the ship. The remaining items were sold and our household staff will have other work next week. It was the tears that make this reality difficult. I cannot fathom the notion that I might never see my cousins or friends again. Papa has said we will not journey back across the waters. Whatever happens in this new world, we will endure it and forge our new lives there.

Mar has tried to be strong, but I know it is breaking her heart to leave. She will be even farther from her home than across the sea. Now, an entire world will separate us. A part of me wants to be excited. Another is melancholy. But will rally my disposition for Mar's sake, and Papa's. It will do no good for me to be uncooperative.

My cousins have said they expect a letter once we arrive and want to know everything. The saving grace is knowing I will have my paper and Mama's books with me to make the journey more bearable. I pray I do not fall ill during the crossing and will be able to write about the experiences on the ship.

Until next time...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Spotlight on Kim Stuart and Balancing Act

Unfortunately, the spotlight I had planned didn't work out. Perhaps I'll be able to highlight her at a later date. Instead, I'm pleased to introduce you to a new author who has written a delightful story of surviving the Balancing Act. This book released in September, 2006, but the sequel is set to release in May this year.

Take one twenty-nine-year-old woman, add a career, add a husband, add a home, toss in a best friend, and you have a great life.

Add a baby. Not a problem. Still can do.

Add a seductive ex-boyfriend moving a few houses over. Hmmm, a little more complicated, but managing.

Add a blonde twenty-something ski bunny flirting with your husband. Uh-oh. Did we mention the postpartum body? Somebody press the panic button.

Pile on returning to work after maternity leave, and sprinkle in a nosey Mommies Group...

And you've got a Balancing Act--a hilarious look at the challenges faced by modern women as they juggle careers, marriage, and children.

After teaching Spanish and English as a Second Language, Kimberly Stuart took a huge increase in pay to stay at home full time with her daughter, Ana. She lives in Des Moines, IA. While writing Balancing Act, Kimberly was pregnant with her second child.

1. What inspired you to write Balancing Act?

I was neck-deep in the throes of motherhood and found it could make me laugh until I made unfortunate snorting noises, cry until I needed to breathe into a paper bag, and hang my outgrown roots in forced humility, and all before nine a.m.

I wanted to write a story that would acknowledge both the chaos and the blessing, the euphoria and the nagging doubts involved in mothering a child.

More than anything, I wanted to write a story with authentic, achingly real characters who struggled with faith and morality as well as sleep schedules and diaper rash. I figured if I could imagine my friends becoming engaged with the story, I was on the right track.

2. Is it true you wrote this novel while pregnant? What was that like?

I was four months pregnant when I attended a writers' conference and received some very positive feedback from an editor at NavPress. She encouraged me to send my manuscript to Nav's fiction line when I got a chance.

My "manuscript" at that time was around three thousand words, the very rough beginning of Balancing Act. I found an expanding uterus to be like my own private motivational speech. It was a fixed deadline, so to speak, and I like deadlines. So each afternoon, while my two-year-old napped, I'd waddle over to my laptop and crank out my thousand words. God is good, I finished the book, and my water broke, in that order.

3. Experiencing mommy-hood for the second time, did you go back and make revisions?

My son, who just turned one, is very different from my daughter, who is now four. Mitchell wants me with him, wants to cuddle, and thinks I'm a rock star even with morning breath. Ana, however, is very independent, cuddles only when feverish, and minces no words regarding morning breath. So I feel like I'm revising all the time, trying to keep up with their very different needs and personalities. My most major revision, however, has been throwing out Neurotic Kim and going for a more laid-back approach out of necessity. Funny how four years of parenting does that to a girl.

4. Did you use true-life stories in your novel? Can you give us an example?

While Balancing Act is absolutely a work of fiction, there are threads of my own experience woven throughout. Nora, the baby in the book, is loosely patterned after my daughter, Ana. She gets to talking in the sequel, Bottom Line, set to release in May. I see a lot of Ana in that part of Nora's story.

The protagonist, Heidi Elliott, certainly has my sense of humor. Like Heidi, I taught high school Spanish. Like Heidi, I identify with the tightrope walk of a woman living in this century. I know the chaos of working, mothering, wife-ing, and trying to be plain old me, for crying out loud. And like Heidi, I've had a certain amount of distrust for church-run women's groups, always fearing they'll make me quilt or something.

But I've assured my family that unlike what occurs in the book, there are no skanky dealings in my marriage, that I don't know any well-endowed heiresses, and that none of my relatives are represented in the characters. Well, that last part isn't entirely true, but you'll have to wait to read my posthumous memoirs to get the full scoop.

5. How do you balance motherhood and writing?

It isn't pretty, I'll tell you that much. Far easier to make up a story about the balancing act than to actually do it well oneself. I've been known to type while my son drools on my big toe and my daughter screams the soundtrack to "Little Mermaid" in the background. This system does not seem to reap the most productive writing moments. So I have help. God has always turned out to be sufficient when I let Him. My mother, bless her, and my babysitter, Ashley, bless her too, help me out for a couple hours each day so I can write. My husband is a fantastic human being who assumes I can conquer the world and should. My friendships keep me above the surface just when I think I'll sink.

And on grace-drenched days, there’s always naptime.

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Post a comment for a chance to win a FREE copy of Kim's first book. Winner of last week can be found in the comments for that spotlight.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Monday Morning -- Broadening the Writing Scope

Well, I don't have a lot to say this morning as I haven't received my book contract yet (the paper contract is coming in February), so I'm awaiting the revisions phase of the process. Until then, I can say I'm working on 2 other books to submit and in search of an agent once again.

Despite comments encouraging me to introduce Raelene to everyone on Fridays, only one comment leaves me wondering if it's good to continue. She'll get rather lonely if her diary entries aren't read. :)

I spent all weekend working on an assignment for a children's writing course I'm taking through correspondence. It's an excellent exercise to broaden my scope of writing from just adult fiction to children's fiction and nonfiction and articles. This course for the past 2 years has helped me do that and so much more. It's opened doors I never would have thought possible and provided me with invaluable feedback, support and encouragement that has kept me going.

For more than 32 years, the Institute of Children's Literature has offered the premiere writing course to adults interested in learning how to write and be published for children and teens. They offer one-on-one personalized instruction from an impressive faculty of active professional writers and experienced editors, and even offer college credits. You complete the course via the traditional home study method – with lessons exchanged through the mail or via the Internet.

Coming to the home stretch with just 2 assignments left to complete before receiving my diploma. Hopefully, I'll be done before I get into the major throes of revisions. If not, it'll be time to prioritize. In a world as hectic and busy as this one, that's not often easy. We all manage, though.

If anyone is interested in writing for children or even improving your writing for adults, check out the Institute for Children's Literature online. You won't regret it!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Introducing Raelene Strattford

March, 1736

Papa and Mar have suggested that I begin a diary to share my thoughts and feelings. So, I am abiding by their wishes and spending time each day writing in this special book Mar purchased for me. I suppose I should begin by saying I have fourteen years to my age and I currently live in England. Papa is serving in the Royal Navy and Mar instructs young women on the pianoforte. She and Papa actually met when Mar journeyed from Sweden to London in search of employment. Their story is one I never tire of hearing. But that is all going to change very soon.

Yesterday, Papa asked me to join him and Mar in the parlor. They had something important to discuss with me. At first, I thought they might be telling me I was finally going to have a baby brother or sister. They have wanted another child for so many years. But such happiness was not to be. Instead, Papa announced that he has secured passage on board the next ship crossing the ocean to the Colonies. We will be leaving within a fortnight.

I can hardly believe it. We have such a happy life here and a beautiful home. My cousins are nearby. We attend coutillions and soirees. I have friends and family and London is not so far that Mar and I can't enjoy a visit to the center of grand society. There is even one or two young gentleman who have indicated they might come calling soon.

My attempts to change Papa's mind were pointless. He told me that the Royal Navy was not the place for him any longer, and he wanted to start a new life in the Colonies. He wanted land and something to call his own, a heritage to leave when he is gone from this world. I didn't like Papa talking like that, but I also don't like seeing Papa sad.

It is not certain what kind of life awaits us across the waters. I have heard of a lot of stories from letters that have come to my family and friends here from those who have gone before us. It could possibly be a grand adventure, but my heart is not in it. What will we do once we arrive? Where are we going to live? What will happen to the life we know here?

Most important of all is am I ready for this?

Until next time.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Spotlight on Lenora Worth and Fatal Image

Lenora Worth has written 30 books, most of those for Steeple Hill. Lenora grew up in Georgia, but has lived in Louisiana for over 25 years. She had two grown children and a husband who just retired at the age of 49!

With close to a million books in print, she is considered one of the top selling writers for Steeple Hill's Love Inspired line and continues to write romance and romantic suspense for Steeple Hill. (The best of both worlds--romance and faith!)

And now I have the distinct privilege of introducing her to you.

Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense
Book One of Secrets of Stoneley
January 2007
Lenora Worth

From the desk of Bianca Blanchard

Everything I was raised to believe has been a lie! The photo Leo Santiago gave me of our mothers together—dated a week after my mother's death—and my father's evasions set my legal mind racing, so I hired a detective to investigate my mother's long-ago accident. Turns out she's alive! I've been so thankful for Leo, who has been incredibly supportive. He works for my father, so catering to the boss's daughter is part of his job, but the looks this handsome man gives me make me think there's more to our relationship than business.

1. This book is the first in the Secrets of Stoneley series, and another book for the suspsense line for you. Where did you get the inspiration for this story?

My other suspense stories for Love Inspired (Lacey's Retreat and A Leap of Faith) both had suspense elements, and I have written two single titles suspenses--Echoes of Danger and After The Storm for Steeple Hill, but I was invited to write this story as part of a continuity series with five other Steeple Hill writers, which is always challenging and fun. So that's how this story came about. The other authors will have books following mine.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced the character of Bianca? What aspects became traits that were hers and hers alone?

Bianca was an intriguing, interesting character. (In continuities, we are given an overview by the editors, complete with character sketches, but it's up to us to flesh out those characters. I saw Bianca as a tragic soul who couldn't accept that her mother would leave her children without a very good reason. She was the one who always had questions, and that lead her to become a lawyer. I guess I share that questioning, curious trait with her, but it made me become a writer instead of a lawyer. Bianca, therefore, is much smarter and braver than I could ever be!

3. What themes exist in Fatal Image that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

The basic theme is one of hope--no matter what. We have to have hope. Bianca needed that hope before she could move on with her own life. She couldn't get over the past, so she had to find a way to get to the truth. The other theme would be that the truth always wins out, I think.

4. What was your most difficult part to write? Your favorite?

The difficulty was in making sure my story meshed with the other five. I had to set up the series and then pass the torch on to the next writer in the series. That was a challenge, but all of the writers at Steeple Hill are very professional and great to work with. I learned a lot from doing this series. I guess my favorite part of this is that I love gothic stories, used to read them when I was a teenager. So I really enjoyed playing up the dark elements of this story--money and power and secrets--it was very intriguing and well, scary. But I truly had a great time working out all the details with the other writers.

5. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?

My next book will be out in September of 2007. It's another suspense called Secret Agent Minister. It is very action-packed and fast-paced, but at the core it has a wonderful love story. I think it is one of my favorite stories yet, so I'm anxious to see how the readers react.

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Thanks, Lenora, for joining us here at Fiction-Filled Life and launching the new year of author spotlights. For those reading, don't forget to post a comment for a chance to win a FREE autographed copy of Fatal Image. And tell your friends too. Lots of free books, lots of fun!

Monday, January 08, 2007

A New Phase of the Writing Life

The dawning of the new year has come and gone, and it's time to get back in business. As I stated last year, the author spotlights will shift to Wednesdays from here on out. Mondays and Fridays will be used for something directly correlating to writing.

I've toyed with the idea of using Fridays for a diary entry of sorts from the key character in my first book. Her words would give you a glimpse of the life and times of Colonial Delaware while sharing a piece of who she is along the way.

Was even thinking of teaming up with a couple fellow authors who are also writing during this time period and having our characters interact with each other, sharing their letters here on this blog.

Haven't fully decided, but I know I want to offer something *you* want to see. So, share what you'd like see posted here. If one of the ideas above appeals to you, tell me. And as always, tell others about this blog if you think it might interest them. Thanks for your support.