Author Archives: Janet Sketchley

About Janet Sketchley

Janet Sketchley is an Atlantic Canadian writer whose Redemption’s Edge Christian suspense novels have each been finalists in The Word Awards. Janet blogs about faith and books. She loves Jesus and her family, and enjoys reading, worship music, and tea. Fans of Christian suspense are invited to join her writing journey through her monthly newsletter: bit.ly/JanetSketchleyNews.

Review: Undercut, by Heather Day Gilbert

Undercut, by Heather Day Gilbert | Hemlock Creek Suspense book 2Undercut, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2017)

Her sister and brother used to follow their FBI father to the shooting range, but Molly McClure has always been different. She’d rather dress in pretty clothes and arrange her hair.

Truth told, she didn’t sound like my kind of character. But it didn’t take long for Molly to impress me, and she certainly carries the heroine role with courage. What I admire about Molly is that she knows what she wants, and instead of going to the extreme of either passive hinting or aggressive pressure, she takes an honest, direct approach.

This is a romantic suspense story, where Molly and PTSD-scarred ex-military sniper Zane Boone, now turned lumberjack, each carry a previous attraction to the other. When they meet again, she’s not pushy, but she’s sure not sitting back pining. She meets him as a confident equal, and while there are doubts, there’s not the angst we too often see.

The suspense comes because Zane is convinced someone’s stalking him. He’s very much in alert mode, and it shows in his reactions.

For a novella-length story (132 pages), Undercut packs a lot of action and emotional content. It’s book 2 in the Hemlock Creek Suspense series. Book 1 was Molly’s sister Katie’s story, so I assume book 3 will feature their brother, Brandon.

Undercut first released in the ebook box set, Kill Zone, and is now available on its own in print and digital formats.

Heather Day Gilbert always delivers a good read with strong characters, whether she’s writing about Vikings (God’s Daughter and Forest Child) or contemporary suspense (the Murder in the Mountains series and the Hemlock Creek Suspense series). For more about the author and her books, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Review copy provided by the author.]

Online Writing Conference

Write Canada Online 2017Write Canada is online this year, happening on October 21, 2017, with tracks for fiction and marketing.

This means you can attend from anywhere — no travel costs, no accommodations, and you can be there in your pajamas if that makes you happy. Members of The Word Guild get a discount, but anyone who wants to learn is welcome. And you don’t have to be Canadian.

Participate in real time, and you can interact with the presenters in the “virtual classroom.” If the time zones don’t work for you, attend what you can in real time, and catch the rest in replays.

There are four wokshops this year, and you can attend one or all. One advantage of having the option to access the replays later is that if you miss something, or want to hear it again, you can.

Real-time technical assistance will be available during the event, too, so if tech is a bit scary for you, no worries. Someone can help with anything that comes up.

Workshops:

  • “Six Months to a Full-time Income,” with Marcy Kennedy
  • “Using Character Emotion to Wow Readers,” with Becca Puglisi
  • “Writing Christian Fantasy in a Secular World,” with R.J. Anderson
  • “From Blog to Book Deal,” with Sarah Ball

Here’s the link for more information and to register: Write Canada Online 2017.

Review: A Million Little Ways, by Emily P. Freeman

A Million Little Ways, by Emily P. FreemanA Million Little Ways, by Emily P. Freeman (Revell, 2013)

At first glance, you might think a book subtitled “Uncover the art you were made to live” was only for the painters, writers, sculptors etc. But it’s for anyone who wants their life to reveal God in “a million little ways.”

It’s about being close to Him, trusting that He is enough when we aren’t (and accepting that we really aren’t enough no matter how badly we want to be). It’s about discovering those things that give us joy and please Him (not running off to satisfy selfishness, but learning to recognize and embrace the gifts He’s given us to use in our lives).

This is a book about identity, calling us image-bearers of the God who created us and who calls us to reveal Him in our lives. What we do is to flow from who we are in Him.

Our gifts may be what’s traditionally labelled art, but they may also be preparing a meal, faithfully keeping a home, parenting our children. Waiting tables or fixing teeth. Part of the way we “live our art” is by being present in the moment instead of mentally jumping ahead to the next thing.

With honesty and transparency, the author shares from personal experience as she’s learning to apply these truths. As well as our identity and calling in Christ, she addresses topics like self-focus, fear of critics, and the anxiety of trying to manage future outcomes.

My copy of A Million Little Ways has plenty of page markers highlighting personally-relevant lines, and as always I’ve been blessed by the author’s message.

Emily P. Freeman’s website describes her ministry as “creating space for your soul to breathe so you can walk in step with your calling.” She offers a free 7-day ebook, 7 Little Ways to Live Art, and has an audiobook of daily devotions as well as other print books, plus a blog and podcast. For more about the author, visit http://emilypfreeman.com/.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

New Releases in Christian Fiction (October 2017)

October 2017 New Releases from members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW):

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


Contemporary Romance:

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner — Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that’s obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she’s made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she’s chosen. She’s still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she’s not sure she can write anymore. She’s beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a “scandalous” book. And the fact that she’s falling in love with her pastor doesn’t make things any easier. (Contemporary Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

A Waltz for Amber by Kimberly Rose Johnson — Amber, a struggling dance teacher, is desperate to make a success of her studio. The quickly approaching Christmas recital should help except for one problem—the high school music teacher scheduled the holiday program on the same night, causing a conflict for her students. Will she be able to sustain her business or will she lose everything in the pursuit of her dream? Chris is thrilled to be back in his hometown. However, his past won’t stay in the past, and the pretty dance instructor is a constant reminder of his failings. He wants to make up for his youthful mistake directed at her, but how? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Secret Christmas Twins by Lee Tobin McClain — Christmas came early for Erica Lindholm! Suddenly a mom to adorable twin baby boys and part owner of a snowy small-town Pennsylvania farm, Erica is living her dream. Until the boys’ estranged uncle, Jason Stephanidis, comes home to celebrate the holidays. The handsome, brooding detective turns out to be a natural with the babies…and with Erica’s wounded heart. But if Jason knew the truth about their identities, her picture-perfect life could melt away. Will Erica’s secret cost her everything? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Fall Into Romance by Melanie D. Snitker Surround yourself in the romance of the autumn season with 10 heartwarming, sweet novellas from USA Today, national bestselling, and award-winning authors. Each story takes you inside the heart of a small town—its people—and features adorable animal friends in need of a forever home.
Take a trip to Romance, Oregon, where falling in love has never been easier and happily-ever-after is guaranteed! (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Texas Holiday Reunion by Shannon Taylor Vannatter — With her foreman out of commission, Resa McCall needs horse trainer Colson Kincaid to run her family ranch through the holidays. But having the handsome single dad back in Bandera, Texas, is unsettling. Colson broke Resa’s heart years ago, and she can’t risk getting close again. Still, working with him and bonding with his sweet little girl is making the ranch feel merry and bright. Being at Resa’s side stirs up emotions Colson thought were long gone. But he has a powerful secret that could keep them apart forever. Can Colson give Resa the one Christmas present that might finally bring them back together—the truth? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Gift of Christmas Past by Cindy Woodsmall and Erin Woodsmall — Arson wasn’t the only fire that ignited between them. Promises shattered. Lies spoken. She was arrested. He returned to the safety of his wealthy parents.
Almost ten years later, Hadley and Monroe are both specialists in the field of speech therapy. They meet again . . . thrown together to help a four-year-old-girl rendered mute after being rescued from a fire. Years of secrets and anger beg to be set free as Hadley and Monroe try to push aside past hurts and find common ground in order to help the traumatized child and her family. Can the love of Christmas past drift into the present, bringing healing and hope for all? (Contemporary Romance from Woodsmall Press)


General Contemporary (includes Women’s Fiction):


Piper’s Passion by Lee Carver — Piper Jordan, an American reared in Brazil, had her pilot’s license before she could drive and her aviation maintenance certificate before her business degree. Pulled between two countries, two career paths, and separated parents, she strives to determine what is significant and what to do with her life.
Kyle Chamberlain, pilot with Outreach for Christ, wears a wedding ring that says he’s not ready to date again after Rosanna’s death. Wielding a wrench with the cutest pilot/mechanic he’s ever seen turns his head. But would a dynamic woman with her talents and eventual inheritance accept his missionary life in the Amazon? (Contemporary Women’s Fiction, Independently Published)



Grace in Strange Disguise by Christine Dillon — Physiotherapist Esther Macdonald is living the Australian dream, and it doesn’t surprise her. After all, her father has always said, “Follow Jesus and be blessed.” But at twenty-eight, her world shatters. Everyone assures her God will come through for her, but what happens when he doesn’t? Has she offended God? Is her faith too small? So many conflicting explanations. Will finding the truth cost her the people closest to her heart? (General Contemporary, Independently Published)


Historical:

Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano — When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company. When Aurelie decides to complete her father’s unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance–and perhaps even her father’s death. (Historical from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

The Other Side of Freedom by Cynthia T Toney — In 1925, a thirteen-year-old boy witnesses a crime—the murder of a family friend—and must choose whether to remain silent as his father asks or defy mobsters and corrupt police to save his family. (Historical from Write Integrity Press)


Historical Romance:

Christmas at Carnton by Tamera Alexander — In the midst of war and the fading dream of the Confederacy, a wounded soldier and a destitute widow discover the true meaning of Christmas, the cost of love . . . and of loving again. (Historical Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

The Captive Brides Collection by Jennifer AlLee, Angela Breidenbach, Susan Page Davis, Darlene Franklin, Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hickey, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Lucy Thompson, and Gina Welborn — Journey along as nine historical women are about to make their escape from some of life’s greatest challenges. Can their captive hearts be freed to dream, to dare, to love? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


A Mountain Christmas Romance by Misty M. Beller — Stripped of the family so important to his Viking heritage, Matthias Bjork is now on the hunt for his sister. Despite combing the entire Wyoming Territory, he hasn’t found any substantial leads regarding his sister’s whereabouts, but he has discovered a most unusual woman.
Opal Boyd has finally found the haven she’s longed for all her life, in a most unlikely place—working for a German couple in this remote Wyoming mountain town. She learned long ago that most men couldn’t be trusted, but when a mountain man stops in the boarding house where she works, he seems to have the respect and affection of the two people she’s learned to trust implicitly.
But when Matthias’ search for his sister takes an unexpected twist, Opal is forced to make a choice that will alter the course of her life—no matter which answer she chooses. When Matthias’ decisions land Opal in danger, what must he sacrifice to rescue her? (Historical Romance, ACFW Qualified Independently Published)

Fool’s Notion by Lisa J. Flickinger — Feisty Alda Lealand braves fifteen hundred miles with a pack string of mules—and the help of an unexpected cowboy–to save the family farm. (Historical Romance from Forget Me Not Romances [Winged Publications])

Playing by Heart by Carmela A. Martino — Emilia Salvini dreams of marrying a man who loves music as she does. But in 18th-century Milan, being the “second sister” means she’ll likely be sent to a convent instead. Ironically, Emilia’s pious older sister, Maria, would gladly become a nun. But Father won’t allow it—her brilliant language skills are too important to his quest for noble status. Emilia’s only hope is to prove her musical talents are as indispensable as her sister’s skills. First, though, Emilia must win over her music tutor, who disdains her simply for being a girl. Before she can carry out her plan, though, Emilia’s mother dies in childbirth. In her sorrow, Emilia composes a heartrending sonata that causes the maestro to finally recognize her talent. He begins teaching her music theory alongside handsome violinist Antonio Bellini, the great-nephew of a wealthy marquis. The two begin as rivals, but Emilia gradually falls in love with him. (Historical Romance from Vinspire Publishing)


Historical Western:

Too Far Down by Mary Connealy — A citified mine operator and a tough western cowgirl are the most unlikely couple of all as they team up to fight the outlaws that want the Cimarron Ranch. (Historical Western from Bethany House [Baker])


Romantic Suspense:

Dangerous Ground by Gayla K. Hiss — Deputy Marshal Kate Phillips comes to the Great Smoky Mountains in search of answers concerning her uncle’s suspicious death, and finds herself in the middle of an ancient family feud and a land dispute with handsome first responder, David Jennings. (Romantic Suspense from Mountain Brook Ink)

Christmas Captive by Liz Johnson — On his cousin’s Christmas cruise wedding, navy SEAL Jordan Somerton anticipated having the typical best man duties—not facing down criminals boarding the ship. But when the luxury liner is infiltrated by men determined to kidnap the flower girl, he’s plunged into an unexpected mission. Maid of honor and DEA agent Amy Delgado hasn’t forgiven Jordan for a misunderstanding in their pasts. But with her young niece targeted, she must draw on Jordan’s skills as a protector. Signs point to an inside job. With a traitor in their midst, can they ensure that every passenger returns home safely for the holidays…even as they find love amid deepening danger? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Speculative:

Transfusion by Victoria Buck — The world’s first transhuman must save the world, or save the woman he loves. (Speculative from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])


Suspense:

Kill Zone by Rick Acker, Christy Barritt, Patricia Bradley, Braxton DeGarmo, Luana Ehrlich, Heather Day Gilbert, Heather I. James, Robert Liparulo, Jordyn Redwood, and Jan Thompson — Espionage, hacking, police procedural, international crime and intrigue, covert action, spy, secret police, revenge, snipers…and so much more! Ten brand-new, never-before published novellas of suspense, intrigue, and thrills from ten bestselling Christian thriller authors, all packed into this one anthology. (Suspense from Georgia Press LLC)

Review: Almost Sleighed, by Emily James

Almost Sleighed, by Emily James

Almost Sleighed, by Emily James (Stronghold Books, 2017)

Nicole Fitzhenry-Dawes is beginning to learn the intricacies of running the maple syrup business she inherited from her Uncle Stan. When one of her employees is attacked and the police won’t investigate, Nicole decides it’s her responsibility to find the truth.

She’s still avoiding her favourite co-sleuth, Mark, and changes at the police station mean she needs to avoid her friend there, Eric. Help comes from an unlikely source, and it’s good to see Nicole find another friend in town.

It’s also good to see the misunderstanding between Nicole and Mark finally resolved. Then the question becomes, will they survive long enough to begin a relationship?

Almost Sleighed is book 3 in the Maple Syrup Mysteries (not counting the prequel Sapped), and it’s my favourite so far. It’s complex, with some funny lines and plenty of well-turned phrases.

I’m definitely enjoying this series from Emily James. At the moment there are seven books plus the prequel (free for signing up for the author’s newsletter). For more about the author and her books, visit authoremilyjames.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Life’s Perplexities (Guest Post)

Life’s Perplexities

by Steph Beth Nickel

I originally wrote this devotional for HopeStreamRadio, but it may encourage you as well. Be blessed!

Have you ever been disappointed by a brother or sister in Christ?

Have you ever prayed a prayer that God hasn’t answered—at least not as you wanted Him to?

Have you ever read a portion of His Word that left you shaking your head?

It’s fairly easy to understand why others disappoint us from time to time. After all, they are only human—just like we are. When a fellow Christian—or anyone really—lets us down, we must extend forgiveness. This isn’t always easy, but God will give us the desire and wherewithal to do so. We need only ask.

And that brings us to the matter of prayer.

We stand on promises like the following:

Matthew 7:7-11 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (ESV)

Do I believe the promises in these verses? I do. Do I always see them come to pass exactly as I hope? Definitely not. Many, if not most, of you would say the same thing.

I know there are those who say God always answers. Sometimes He says, “Yes.” Sometimes He says, “No.” Sometimes He says, “Later.” I, however, think this is an oversimplification.

When He says, “Yes,” do we remember to thank Him? I do—sometimes.

When He says, “No” or “Later,” we must remain prayerful. Is there something He wants us to do or a spiritual lesson He wants to teach us? Is He increasing our ability to walk in faith despite disappointment and heartache? Is He working for our good and the good of others—even though we don’t see it at the time?

As I mentioned, I think wrestling with these questions and seeking answers that are true to His Word and His nature are sometimes part of the process.

But again, we must not question His goodness, His holiness, His righteousness. Although we can’t always understand what’s going on, it doesn’t mean the Lord’s character has changed. In fact, it never has and it never will.

We can count on Him to fulfill every one of His promises—but not necessarily as we expect or would like.

No matter what the outcome, we must remain prayerful.

And when it comes to portions of the Scriptures we simply can’t understand, portions that may cause us to bristle and squirm, we must learn to “rightly handle the word of truth,” as it says in 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV).

Here are a few things we can do:

In the face of life's perplexities... Pray. Study. Obey.

Pray

We can—and should—pray before we open the Word, asking the Lord to help us understand and apply what we read.

Study

When we come to a difficult portion, instead of skipping over it or deciding it must mean something other than what it seems to mean, we should commit to studying it further. Keeping a separate journal where we keep notes on these portions of the Scriptures could benefit not only us but also others who are struggling with the same passages. We must refuse to put our Bible on the shelf, deciding we’ll never truly understand it anyway.

Obey

We must seek, with God’s enabling, to apply the portions of His Word that are clear.

Philippians 3:12-16 is a wonderful and challenging passage:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (ESV).

In the face of all these perplexities, we must continue to pray, confident that in His time and in His way, He will work all things out for our good, as He promises in Romans 8:28.

Tweetable: In the face of life’s perplexities… Pray. Study. Obey. [Click to tweet]

[English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Review: Prayer Warrior, by Stormie Omartian

Prayer Warrior, by Stormie OmartianPrayer Warrior, by Stormie Omartian (Harvest House, 2013)

The premise of this book is that if you belong to Jesus, prayer needs to be part of your life. And if you find yourself praying for specific concerns, you’re probably a prayer warrior.

Consider this a training manual. Building on a foundation of knowing the trustworthy character of God, chapters look at the purpose of prayer, regular “training,” and the importance of understanding our spiritual weapons and how to use them. Specific, practical Scriptures are given, many of which I’ve added to my list to memorize.

I appreciate the author’s perspective that simply being a Christian engages us in warfare, so we’re better off to learn how to pray. Avoidance doesn’t take us or our families out of danger from spiritual attack; it just lowers our guard.

Each chapter of Prayer Warrior finishes with a prayer of application, and the final chapter contains specific sample prayers for a variety of concerns, including family members, health, and global issues.

The prayers in the last chapter are invaluable resources for readers beginning to tackle weighty concerns. They’re easy to personalize by inserting the name(s) and details that have prompted the prayer, and they’re chock-full of appropriate Scriptures.

Speaking God’s Word back to Him is powerful, and it also reinforces the pray-er’s faith. These sample prayers will be helpful in developing our own prayers, and they’ve challenged me to be more alert in my Bible-reading time for verses I’ll want to memorize and/or incorporate in intercession.

Overall I found the writing a bit stilted in the book, and repetitious in places (the author is also a speaker, and speakers need to repeat at times for emphasis), but the content is very helpful and has greatly impacted my prayer life.

Definitely a keeper, and I’d like to upgrade my digital copy for a print one.

Stormie Omartian is known for her books on prayer, including The Power of a Praying… series and study materials. To supplement the material in Prayer Warrior, she’s written a companion study guide and a free 7-day devotional ebook. For more about the author, her books, and her prayer ministry, or to share a prayer request, visit stormieomartian.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Interview at Arts Connection

Recently I had the privilege to chat with Robert White of The Arts Connection about my devotional book, A Year of Tenacity. You’re invited to pop over and have a listen. Here’s the link.

Review: GraceLaced, by Ruth Chou Simons

GraceLaced, by Ruth Chou Simons | daily devotionals, artwork, gift bookGraceLaced, by Ruth Chou Simons (Harvest House Publishers, 2017)

We tend to experience life in seasons, not necessarily in order, and often repeating. Whether you find yourself in winter, spring, summer, or fall, this beautiful interactive devotional book will minister to your spirit.

The gentle artwork and photography quiets the soul and invites readers to slow down, drop their defenses, and be open to receive God’s Word. Many of the Scriptures are familiar, well-loved passages.

Some verses are printed in text, others are hand-lettered as art, and others are set out for readers to pursue in their own Bibles. Many verses are ones I’ve loved over the years, and others I’d like to go back and memorize to keep with me.

Each day’s devotional finishes with a prompt for reader response: to identify a person to encourage, a fear to release, blessings to give thanks for, etc. Readers may want to have a journal handy, because this book is too pretty to write in although the spaces are there.

I had the privilege of reviewing this hard-cover book (no ebook option, that I can see), and it’s beautiful, with thick, glossy pages, suitable for display on your coffee table (provided you’ve written your personal responses elsewhere!). The one thing it lacks is an attached satin ribbon bookmark.

I do confess being disappointed to see the book was printed in China, since the publisher is North American. It’s still very expensive, with $29.99 USD ($41.99 CAD) list price, but, that said, it would make a lovely gift for yourself or for a special loved one.

The book has just released (September 2017) and at the moment, Amazon has a significant discount: $14.99 USD / $27.41 CAD. As much as I prefer to advocate supporting local bookstores, this might be a time for online shopping. Check your prices first. (Canadians, I see Chapters-Indigo has it for a few cents more, but with free shipping…)

GraceLaced is the sort of book a person can revisit again and again, long after the first 30-day devotional journey is complete. Related products are a journal and 17-month planner.

As well as being a writer, Ruth Chou Simons is an artist, speaker, and entrepreneur. Her website is at gracelaced.com, where you can learn more about her, read her blog, and perhaps even find your favourite piece of artwork from the GraceLaced book available for sale.

[Book has been provided courtesy of Harvest House Publishers and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Harvest House.]

Author Interview: Michelle Griep

Author Michelle Griep
Michelle Griep’s newest historical romance is a Dickens Christmas story called 12 Days at Bleakly Manor. Since A Christmas Carol is a regular part of the season in my home, I was eager to have a chat with Michelle and learn more.

Janet: Welcome, Michelle, and thanks for taking time to join us. Where’s home for you?

Michelle: The frozen tundra . . . er . . . I mean Minneapolis, Minnesota. I live in da ‘hood.

Janet: Most of your stories are historical… which time periods and locations most interest you? And what drew you to Dickensian England for a Christmas tale?

Michelle: I adore history and have a special affinity for England. Yep, I’d move there in a flash if I could. While I love the medieval period, you know, all those big beefy knights, I prefer to write during the 1800’s. As for locations, anywhere in England, really. Cities. Countryside. Doesn’t matter.
And if one is going to pen a Christmas tale, what better time than during the years of Charles Dickens?!

Janet: Definitely! Tell us a bit about 12 Days at Bleakly Manor.

Michelle: This story is a mix of Dickens’ Bleak House and Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Both are favorites of mine.

Basically I tossed bunch of quirky characters into a house in the middle of nowhere, gave them limited resources, and sat back to watch and see how they interacted. I figured if I was entertained, readers would be too.

And of course there are a few bruised hearts that need to be healed by the end of the tale.

Janet: Sounds intriguing! Do you have a favourite character? And what was the most fun part to write?

Michelle: Wow. That’s like asking me which one of my kids do I love best? That’s a tough one! Surprisingly, though, I had an affinity for Mr. Tallgrass. He just says whatever he darn well pleases.

The most fun character to write was Miss Scurry. Her pet mice are just so freakishly funny.

Janet: Pet mice… oh! What do you want readers to take away when they’re done?

Michelle: When someone hurts us deeply, it may not be intended as hurt as all. It’s always best to reserve judgement until you’ve had a chance to talk to that person.

Janet: That would solve a lot of problems, wouldn’t it? This is “Once Upon A Dickens Christmas Book 1” – can you give us a hint of what’s coming next?

Michelle: You bet. Book II comes out in September 2018. Here’s a blurb:

Innkeeper’s daughter MINA SCOTT will do anything to escape the drudgery of her life. She saves every penny to attend a finishing school, dreaming of the day she’ll become a real lady—and catch the eye of WILLIAM BARLOW, a frequent guest at the inn.

William is a gentleman’s son, a charming rogue but penniless. However, his bachelor uncle will soon name an heir—either him or his puritanical cousin. In an effort to secure the inheritance, William gives his uncle the impression he’s married, which works until he’s invited to bring his wife for a visit.

William asks Mina to be his pretend bride, only until his uncle names an heir on Christmas Day. Mina is flattered and frustrated by the offer, for she wants a true relationship with William. Yet, she agrees. . .then wishes she hadn’t. So does William. Deceiving the old man breaks both their hearts. When the truth is finally discovered, more than just money is lost.

Can two hearts survive such a deception?

Janet: Ouch! I hope you find a way to bring a happy ending! Any interesting research tidbits from Dickensian times?

Michelle: One of my favorite tales about Dickens is that he used to walk the streets in the wee hours of the night just to be amongst the people of London, those who were down and out. I walked some of those same streets last time I skipped across the pond, and it was easy to imagine him there, strolling about with his top hat and cane.

Janet: I see you’ve also co-authored a cozy mystery, Out of the Frying Pan. What was it like, working with a partner… and in a different genre?

Michelle: Working with my co-author was seriously the time of my life! Kelly Klepfer is a talented author in her own right. She came up with the plot and the characters, and then would simply tell me what scene to write.

Changing genres was a bit tricky for me. I’d never done a contemporary. Now and then she’d have to change the vernacular of one of my words.

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Michelle: Just four little words: FINISH WHAT YOU START! So many newbies get mired down in working and reworking part of a manuscript that they never finish it. Just finish the dang thing…then go back and edit.

Janet: Those are four wise words! Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Michelle: Easy peasy . . . my all-time favorite verse that I keep tucked in a virtual back pocket is Nahum 1:7. “The Lord is good; a stronghold in the day of trouble. And he knows those who trust in him.”

Janet: Thank you. That’s powerful, and I can’t believe I’ve missed it all these years. Now, to the less serious: Coffee or tea? And are you a morning person or a night owl?

Michelle: Love coffee, but unfortunately it must now be decaf. And I’m neither an owl or a morning person.

Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?

Michelle: Love to read. Love to travel. Love to take my dog Miss Ada Clare (named after a Dickens Bleak House character, of course) on walks by the creek.

Janet: Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.

Michelle: Minneapolis is awful in the winter, but in the summer, wow. Lakes galore with tons of walking and biking paths.

Janet: Thanks for taking time to chat today, Michelle, and all the best with your new book. 12 Days at Bleakly Manor sounds like a good read.

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12 Days at Bleakly Manor, by Michelle GriepWhen Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of one thousand pounds. That’s enough money to bring her brother back from America and reinstate their stolen family fortune. But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, Benjamin Lane.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar.

Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters. What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

For more about the author, visit michellegriep.com.