Friday, February 12, 2016

Interview & #Giveaway with Mary Alford

Today, we're pleased to bring you Love Inspired suspense author, Mary Alford, and her latest release! Read on and don't forget to enter the giveaway for a copy!!!


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What authors do you like to read?

I love reading anything romantic suspense. My favorite subgenre of romantic suspense is inspirational romantic suspense.

I’m a huge fan of Susan Sleeman and Shirlee McCoy as well as Terri Reed and other Love Inspired Suspense authors.

What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?


I grew up reading Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt’s books. I loved On The Night Of The Seventh Moon by Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney’s Sea Jade was worn out from over reading. These are the books that made me want to be a writer.


What’s more important: characters or plot?

I have to say, they are both equally important. Without fully developed characters, the plot doesn’t fall into place for me. When I begin a new book, I usually have a rough idea on where I want the story to go, but it may take me a few days to work out the characters personalities in my head. And as always, the characters like to change up the storyline a little. It never ends the way I planned it.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author and what would it be?
I don’t particularly enjoy gruesome crime scenes. I think you can write suspense without making it too graphic.


How important are names to you in your books and how do you choose them?
Very important. Without the proper names, the book doesn’t truly come to life. I usually chose a masculine name for the hero and for the heroine, well, it’s usually a name that I’m fond of.

What secret talents do you have? Because here at the CCC blog we have all kinds of them ;)

I love playing the piano, although I’m not good at it, and I’m teaching myself the guitar, (even worse at that). I have three granddaughters who I love and they each like to do different things. The oldest loves to ride in our side-by-side. The middle is a girly girl who loves doing makeup things and crafts, and the baby is a rough and tumble girl. So with them, I am learning different things. It’s fun getting to be a kid again.

What were you like as a child? Steady-going like our Anne, a tornado like Jaime, and adventurous soul like Erica, or an avid-reader like Gabrielle?

I’m a Gabrielle. I was a rabid reader. Starting as a young child, I pretty much devoured every book in our local library. Today, I still love reading, but I find my time to read is limited, so I have to be choosey.

Characters often find themselves in situations they aren't sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?

Hum, I’d say the time when my hubby and I were out four-wheeling on a narrow mountain pass that was pretty hairy and had a steep drop off. Needless to say, I’m glad I wasn’t at the wheel. Did a lot of praying, though.

What’s your writing goals for 2016?

I want to complete my third Love Inspired Suspense and hopefully have it and my fourth accepted for publication. I also want to complete another full length inspirational romantic suspense and have it along with my first one sold. Nothing like having a tall order for the New Year.

Lastly, will you leave us with a snippet from your book that is one of your favorites and gives us a glimpse into its pages?

Jase gazed up at the sky. The weather conditions were definitely worsening and he had a decision to make. He couldn't leave her here and the car didn't appear drivable. But there was another option. He could take her back into town and deposit her at the hotel then wait out the rest of the snowstorm from Maggie's Diner.

His was the only house past the last curve. No one came this far up the mountain by accident. So what brought her here? Old fears from his past life slowly crept in. She didn't appear to be a threat, but he'd learned the hard way not to depend on appearances. Bad people came in innocent-looking packages, and in the spy business, you never let down your guard.

"What were you doing up here on the mountain in this storm anyway?" he asked through narrowed eyes, carefully gauging her reaction.

"I'm…searching for someone."

Her body language told him she wasn't being completely honest and he needed answers.

"There's no one up here but me, so let's try this again. Who are you and why are you really here?"

Her gaze collided with his, and he lost his equilibrium for a second. Even scared to death and as cagey as a trapped bear, she had the type of beauty that took his breath away. He hadn't thought of another woman in such a way since Abby, and it bothered him that a total stranger could illicit such thoughts.

"My name is Reyna Peterson and I have told you the truth," she retorted, bristling at his tone. "I am trying to find someone. A friend of my husband's."

She was married. A simple gold band on her left hand seemed to confirm her story, but he couldn't let go of the doubts. "Oh yeah? What's the friend's name?"

She hesitated, evidently torn between answering his question and keeping her secrets. His internal radar pegged the top of the chart.

She cleared her throat. "Jase Bradford. His name is Jase Bradford."

Shock and disbelief threatened to buckle his knees. He hadn't heard that name in years. He had long ago buried the person he'd been back then.

Somehow, Davis managed to get coherent words to come out of his mouth. "There's no one by that name around these parts. Your husband is mistaken." A hard edge crept into his tone as it always did whenever he thought about the past.

Reyna stared at him in a way that conveyed she either didn't believe him or didn't want to.

"Eddie was so sure I would find him here…" she murmured, almost to herself.

Eddie. Eddie Peterson? No, not possible. He couldn't have heard right. "Your husband's name is…Eddie?" He latched on to the name as a distraction because it felt as if someone had slugged him hard in the chest. With the exception of his former handler, Kyle Jennings, Eddie was the last remaining member of the Scorpion team still alive. Eddie wouldn't be trying to make contact with him without good cause. And why send his wife? Had something happened to his former comrade?

"Yes," she confirmed reluctantly. The second the words were out, he could see she thought better of sharing them. "I'm sorry. None of this is your problem."

She had no idea how wrong she was. Eddie Peterson had been one of his own. He'd recruited him personally as part of the elite Scorpion team after the failed weapons mission near Tora Bora had taken the lives of two crucial team members. Eddie had been a good fit with the team and they'd grown close while serving side by side. Her husband was his problem. And now so was she.

Davis's plans had now changed. Instead of going back to Defiance, he'd take her to his place. See what he could find out by morning. Pray that all of this would turn out to be just some strange coincidence and then send her on her way. Unfortunately, he didn't believe in coincidences. Especially ones this huge.

A deluge of wintry mix pelted his face like tiny bullets and his feet were numb. "There's no way to get your car out of here tonight." He crooked a thumb in the direction of his SUV. "My ride's just up there. Let's get you warm. You're shivering. I can come back and get whatever you need for the night and we'll deal with the car in the morning."

Reyna didn't budge. He could see she didn't trust him. Not the normal reaction of someone just rescued from almost certain death.

"We'll be stuck up here if we stay much longer," he added, hoping to convince her.

She hesitated another second before giving in. "You're right. We need to get out of the storm. It's got to be well below freezing out here."

Try as he might, he couldn't get a good read off her, and he didn't like it. Not one bit. "Watch your step."

She clutched the edge of his jacket in a vise grip as she followed close behind, slipping over the icy mess.


Readers can email me at: maryjalfordauthor@gmail.com

You can find me at my website: www.maryalford.net


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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Parenting is Hard

Next to being a wife, my greatest joy in life is being a mom. I have amazing, talented, beautiful children. They are my heart's desire. But, even with all their attributes, it's still hard to be a parent.

It's hard to wake up every morning and start the routine all over again. It's hard being consistent.It's hard to be understanding. It's hard to be patient. It's hard to meet the unique challenges each child presents. It's just hard.

But there comes an indescribable joy when God reaches through my inabilities, and shows me He is at work in my children lives, even during the hard times.

We recently had conferences for our twin boys. They began kindergarten this year in separate classrooms.

One of our boys is "the spirited one." He's incredibly smart, focused, determined, curious, imaginative, and passionate. He loves the inside world, just as much as the outside world, and he is always exploring building, creating, and dissecting. I'm endlessly amazed by him.

But he's the type of child that people have two very different reactions to. Either they are fascinated by him--or irritated.

I was nervous sending him off to school, wondering if his teacher would be the fascinated kind--or the irritated.

It quickly became obvious to us that his teacher is the fascinated kind--and we love her for it. At conferences this past week, I had to hold back tears as she told us how much she loves having him in her room, and how much she'll miss him when the school year ends. She completely understands him, and affirmed for us that he has an amazing capacity for knowledge and academics. His test results show he is well-above average, and some of the mental skills he has are on a different level than most five-year-olds.

We've always called him our non-conformist--and she affirmed this, too. She said: "I never worry that he'll follow the wrong crowd...I'm certain he'll be the one leading it!"

But just like everyone, our son's greatest strengths can also be his greatest weaknesses. Because of his ability to "think outside the box," he's forever finding ways to bend the rules. It's amazing (and frustrating)!

There comes a great responsibility with raising children, especially one like our boy. My husband and I work diligently to direct our son's gifts and talents in a way that will benefit him, the world, and God. It isn't always easy, and some days we're just plain tired, but in moments like our conference time, we're reminded that it's worth all the extra effort.

His teacher said she can recognize the tools we're giving our son to succeed--and that makes all the difference for him. Those tools are a direct result of our faith in God, and the tools He's given us through his Word.

Parenting is hard...but it's oh, so worth it.

Gabrielle Meyer
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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Red Badge of Courage

Erica here:

The Red Badge of Courage:

Not the Stephen Crane Civil War novel. The Red-Pencil Edits kind of courage. 




Recently, on an author email loop I belong to, we got to discussing edits. Not the ones from our editors, which we rely on to make our stories better, but the ones that come from readers after the work is already in print.

One author said a lady offered to show her the mistakes in her novel...and she knew the exact number of mistakes and where they occurred.

One reader wrote in to say the author had ruined the English language for her. (Wow! That's some power to come out of a romance novel.)

And to me, the piece de resistance: a couple of authors said they had received their books back in the mail from a reader who had gone through them with a red pencil and corrected everywhere they perceived a wrong to be! 


O_O      X_X      O_O 

(This is me blinking in total shock!) What???

Now, the purpose of this thread of emails among the authors wasn't to bash readers, but to ask what is the correct response to such occurrences? (And to commiserate a bit and share war wounds and encourage each other through the sting.)

I've had someone come up and say, "You had a typo on page 752! You should fire your editor." I've had offers to show me where my boo-boos are. I've had someone say my research was wrong about something (and leave that opinion in a review for all the world to see forever.) I got where the authors on the email loop were coming from.

So what is an author to do?

These seasoned writers had some sound advice.

The general consensus was:

1. No response was better than a sarcastic or bitter response. Don't burn a bridge.

2. Remember Aunt Allie's Advice: (From my friend and fellow author Allie Pleiter) "If you're small enough to need it, I'm big enough to give it to you." Mostly, folks who want to point out your mistakes just want to feel as if they know more than you do. They want to feel important. Okay. I can go with that.

3. Evaluate the reader's concern. If your ebook was uploaded from the publisher, and there is a glitch...say every apostrophe shows up on their kindle as an ampersand (I've had this happen to books I've bought on amazon.) thank the reader for bringing it to your attention, then contact your publisher and let them know so they can upload a clean copy. Not all reader feedback about errors is baseless.



The truth is: If you have a 100,000 word book, and it is 99.9% mistake free, you will still have 100 errors. 

Authors do their best. They have many editors, and the manuscripts go through many rounds of edits. Sometimes errors slip through, sometimes what a reader perceives as a grammar, spelling, or punctuation error is really a style choice, and sometimes I think it's gremlins.

I have decided if I get a book in the mail that a reader has red-penciled for me, I'm going to put it on my trophy shelf as my "Red Badge of Courage."

And I have decided to extend grace, both to readers and to authors. A typo or two isn't going to ruin a reading experience for me.






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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Inside the Writer's Dreams

Photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/alicepopkorn/4578451745/">AlicePopkorn</a> via <a href="http://foter.com/">Foter.com</a> / <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">CC BY-NC-ND</a>
Writers are notorious for having vivid dreams. We should. We have imaginations the size of record breaking pumpkins. I've heard numerous times of writers/authors who have received entire plots for new books in their dreams. They're not alone. So have I.

But do you really want to delve into the plotting world when it crosses over into dreamland? Really? Let's be truly honest. For every AMAZING plot birthed into our subconscious imagination, there are about twenty not-so-inspiring - Alice In Wonderland-like synopsis that will stay filed away in our memories ... and locked ... with a gigantic key. See, writers dreams amazingness, and we also dream craziness.

May I unlock my secret vault for a moment to prove my point:

Dream #1: Tall, dark, handsome and ... married. I realized my blind date (at church no less) was divorced so I went back on Matchmakers.com to research a new date - all while driving my car. Then I spent the rest of the trip ruminating on how to solve the problem of my own husband ... yeah ... that one's staying in the vault of unused dreams.

Dream #2: When Ted Dekker invaded my brain and in a horrific scene, I was tied to a wooden, straight back chair in a cement room. A lone lightbulb hung from a cord over my head and swung from side to side in a hypnotic movement that told stories of past victims. In the shadows was a male form, no face, just darkness - but the glint of a long knife told me my face was never going to be the same again. WHY? Where on earth? Maybe I should write horror ...

Dream #3: Invasion of the dead girl. Speaking of horror ... how about the dream where my home was haunted by a murdered African-American girl from 1962 during the oppressive years. My heart went out to her - she tried desperately to get to me, begging me for peace and acceptance. I started to dig up my back yard and in finding her body, I unleashed horrific secrets she had not meant for me to discover. Her spirit rejected my ministrations of peace and a haunted war began in my home ... YIKES!

Dream #4: I wore a bikini to work where I was training new hires for the day. They weren't impressed. Trust me, there was nothing to be impressed about ... really.

This is the mind of a writer asleep. A scary, weird, obnoxiously humorous, and sometimes sheer ridiculous place to be.

Have you ever dreamed up a story you wish had been a book . . . or hoped would never become one?


________________________________

Professional coffee drinker, Jaime Jo Wright, resides in the hills of Wisconsin. She loves to write spirited turn-of-the-century romance, stained with suspense. Her day job finds her as a Director of Sales & Development. She’s wife to a rock climbing, bow-hunting Pre-K teacher, mom to a coffee-drinking little girl, and a little boy she fondly refers to as her mischievous “Peter Pan”. Jaime completes her persona by being an admitted social media junkie and coffee snob. She is a member of ACFW and has the best writing sisters EVER!

"The Cowgirl's Lasso", The Cowboy Bride's Novella Collection - Barbour Publishing - COMING MARCH 2016

"Gold Haven Heiress", California Gold Rush Romance Collection - Barbour Publishing - COMING AUGUST 2016


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Monday, February 8, 2016

Tribute to Bessie-the-Minivan

When you approach empty-nest stage of life, most families know their pets are aging, it's probably time for new carpet somewhere in the house, and the family minivan is verging on the frailty of old age.

We've only just recently had to call the kids home from college for one last weekend before putting the family dog to sleep. (pause for appropriate, "awww") Since Christmas vacation when our seventeen year old cat  lounged in the luxury of constant companionship of warm college-aged bodies to snuggle her, she's decided not to eat. At first we thought she'd gotten a cold, next we decided she couldn't smell her food, or was just too senile to remember to eat. But alas, our final diagnosis is just depression after the kids left for school, leaving her to sleep alone all day long. She's since adjusted, eating and playing hastily once more.

We know that somehow, somewhere between hitting the alarm clock every morning like in the movie Groundhog Day, that time actually has marched onward, taking us with it. Willingly? Yes, of course. I don't want to relive diapers, bottles, terrible two's, or dramatic teens. But when our family minivan, lovingly known as Bessie, began to hiccough this week--I felt a nostalgic twinge ping through my heart.



We paid far too much for Bessie the used green Honda Odessy in 2004. Emily was ten. Ben was eight. I had just graduated from my master's program. She was the first minivan I'd ever owned. Having always driven a little four door, I was proud to have mastered a slick parallel park with her.

The hours in this van....
The miles...
The travel mugs. Back packs, volleyballs, gym shoes, crusty lost french fries, spilled pop...

The conversations. Those sacred moments alone with each of my children, hearts opened and spilling out secret pains, or tender questions, needing assurance, hungry for a laugh, wanting to know everything would be okay.

The singing. Oh, the singing. At the top of our lungs. Looking like idiots driving down the road.
That fun with with Emily, singing "International Harvester".
The worship songs, the whispered prayers, the countless drives to church discussing the scripture lesson.
Not wanting to vacuum the sand from Sanibel Island, FL, from the carpet because I could still smell the beach. That was 219,000.


Bessie's been to Colorado once, Florida twice, Pennsylvania twice, Illinois countless times, Northern Michigan, hundreds of trips to Kokomo, and thousands of miles to and fro across Elkhart County, Indiana. To Nappanee and Wakarusa schools, the orthodontist in Elkhart, the doctor in South Bend, work in Middlebury and Goshen, and church halfway across the county. Sometimes 150 miles in a day, all in the same county during the soccer-mom years. Dance practices, drama practices, football games, girl-pack taxi, and guy-gang hauler.

She's got two dents in her fender, a 2-cent screw holding the PRNDL in functional order, dismantled automatic doors, a defunct CD player, and rusting out storage trunk from leaving the wing windows open one too many times in the rain.

And, oh, the time we packed her to drive Emily off to Taylor University the first time. And then Ben--promptly asked if they could just take Bessie to college and paint flowers on her, pad her with shag carpet, and hang curtains in her windows....

No we said, we'll keep her until she dies. But we'll have a proper funeral for her when it's time.
We'll say good words about our time with her.

And so the time has come.
She's been like a loyal family pet for 266,648 miles.
Thank you, Bessie.
We'll miss you and think fondly of you.

Readers:
Name your favorite family vehicles and your favorite family moments....
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Blog post by Anne Love-
Writer of Historical Romance inspired by her family roots. 
Nurse Practitioner by day. 
Wife, mother, writer by night. 
Coffee drinker--any time.
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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Happy Birthday, Charles A. Lindbergh!

Do you have dates in your life that just stick with you? No matter how obscure? February 4th is one of those dates for me. It's the date, in 1902, that aviator Charles A. Lindbergh was born in Detroit, Michigan to his parents Charles Sr. and Evangeline Lindbergh.
Charles with his mother, Evangeline

Charles Sr. and Charles Jr.
The reason this date sticks with me is because I worked at the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site in Little Falls, Minnesota for ten years. I was hired in high school as an intern and then was hired as a tour guide during college. I remained a tour guide for about five years, and then after college I was hired as the assistant site manager (with a interim stint as manager while the permanent manager was being hired). After having my second child, I resigned from my work at the Lindbergh House (with many sad tears to leave, but happy tears to start a new chapter in my life) and began my stay-at-home-mom job, and ultimately my writing career.

The Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Home
I know almost everything there is to know about the birth, life, and death of the famous aviator. As a tour guide, I spent countless hours sharing the Lindbergh story with thousands of visitors over the years. In many ways, the Lindbergh family became my own (I actually met Anne Morrow Lindbergh and several other Lindbergh family). So February 4th stands out to me.

Charles and Anne
Charles A. Lindbergh was born in Detroit, but his parents were living in Little Falls, Minnesota at the time. Charles' mother, Evangeline, traveled from Little Falls to be in Detroit where her family lived, and where her uncle was a doctor. A few weeks later, she traveled back to Little Falls with her infant son and he grew up along the banks of the Mississippi in Minnesota. When his father became a congressman in 1907 (when Charles was five), he and his mother began to spend their winters in Washington, D.C., and their summers in Little Falls. For ten years, Charles was brought back and forth, making very few friends. He loved his summers on their farm in Little Falls, and from 1917 to 1920, he and his mother stayed on the farm year-round, until he left for college.

Charles on the Mississippi in Little Falls
The home was empty, with a few visits by the family over the years. After Charles made his famous trans-Atlantic flight in 1927 in his airplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, souvenir hunters almost destroyed the home and the family eventually donated it to the State of Minnesota so it would be maintained and protected.

Charles with the Governor of Minnesota after his 1927 flight
Today, 102 years after Charles A. Lindbergh's birth, the house still stands and is a wonderful place to visit.

Yes, February 4th still stays with me. Happy Birthday, Charles.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

It's a Launch Party Day!


We're having a Facebook launch party TONIGHT for the Love is Patient Romance Collection!

What's a Facebook party, you ask? It's meeting on FB at a specific time to chat with the authors, ask questions, play games, enter to win prizes. It's a lot of fun, and the time goes by amazingly quickly!

We'll be meeting from 7 PM Central Time to around 9-9:30. The party is open to the public, and we hope you'll drop by! You don't have to be able to attend the whole time, just pop in and out when you can.

Here's the link: It will take you right to the party page!

https://www.facebook.com/events/879230015508513/