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. She's also the author of the devotional collection, A Year of Tenacity. 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.

Writers? Quitters?

Writers… are you sometimes tempted to quit? I’ll never forget lamenting to a friend and fellow-writer that I wanted to give up. She shot back, “Go ahead and quit. See how long it lasts.”

Because we’d both been there, done that. And we both knew why it wouldn’t last. Writers are wired to write.

Recently, I had the opportunity to share a guest post, “Quitting Time?” at the Seriously Write blog. You’re invited to pop over and join the conversation.

Review: Worlds Unseen, by Rachel Starr Thomson

Worlds Unseen, by Rachel Starr Thomson #Christianfiction #fantasyWorlds Unseen, by Rachel Starr Thomson (Little Dozen Press, 2007)

A richly-imagined fantasy set in a vaguely British Isles world, in a time where the weapons are sword and spears, and transportation is by horse, boat, or train.

Maggie Sheffield’s world is upended when she takes on a simple quest that makes her a target for evil beyond her imagination. Along the way, she befriends a boy who can hear what animals say, meets Gypsies and revolutionaries, and learns that there’s more to see than the world around her.

Maggie’s world is the Seventh World, and the other worlds seem to be spiritual realms. There are various types of spirits, some good, some evil. Ruler of all is the King, who loves humans greatly and who left the Seventh World when human rebellion broke His heart. But promise and prophecy say He will return.

Framing Maggie’s adventures are occasional entries from an ancient book written by one who calls himself the Poet, the Prophet. He remained behind when the other spiritual beings left, to leave a record for those whose hearts would one day seek the truth.

On one level, this is a classic fantasy with an oppressive regime and a handful of humans who want a better way. On another, it’s a spiritual allegory I found encouraging for living in my own world, where the key to courage is to remember the King and trust Him.

Worlds Unseen is a clean read with a bit of a C.S. Lewis feel, and although the evil beings and deeds are dark, the author doesn’t stray from fantasy into horror. This is a book both adults and young adults can enjoy. Highly recommended!

The novel is book 1 in the Seventh World series. It’s free in ebook form (also available in print), and well worth reading. I look forward to the rest of the series.

Rachel Starr Thomson writes both fiction and non-fiction, both from a Christian perspective. She’s also a speaker. For more about the author and her work, visit rachelstarrthomson.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Author Interview: Writing from the Trenches

Ten busy authors have banded together to create a how-to for writers at all stages on the writerly journey. Writing from the Trenches released Sept. 1, and I caught up with one of the authors, Michelle Griep, to learn more about the book.

Janet: Welcome, Michelle, and thanks for taking time to join us. Love the title! It tells me you’ve all been there, you’ve served your apprenticeships, and you have stories to tell and wisdom to share. What excites you most about this project?

Author Michelle GriepMichelle: I love that the reader will get to hear from not just one author, but 10 veterans who’ve been around the writerly block—many times. I learned a lot just by reading what the other writers said!

Janet: I love a book that offers something for every stage of writer, because we can keep going back to it as we grow. What are some of the topics covered?

Michelle:

Plotting Techniques
Research
Characterization
Villains We Love to Hate
Dynamic Dialogue
Sigh-Worthy Heroes
The Right Heroine for the Job
Hooking Your Reader in the First Chapter
Scene Endings to Lead Your Readers On
Creating a Movie Set
Making your Readers Cry
Deep POV
Copyediting your Manuscript
Indie Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
Marketing for Those Who Hate Marketing

Janet: Where did the book idea come from?

Michelle: MaryLu Tyndall was really the driving force behind this book. I’ll let her answer.

“I’ve read many writing instruction books over the years from many different authors, and I’ve learned a great deal. But I noticed that everyone’s advice, style, and instruction was different. Sometimes they even contradicted each other. So, I thought, why not get a bunch of fabulous authors together to give their own advice on a variety of writing topics and put it in one book? A one-stop shop for the best advice out there on writing!” 

Janet: Great idea. Beginning writers sometimes try to take everyone’s advice, even when it doesn’t work for them. Ten authors… how did you connect for this project?

Michelle: Once again, MaryLu to the rescue. . .

“Gathering up authors was much like herding and leading cats, but so worth the effort. I wanted to get a variety of authors—some successfully published in the traditional market, some who’d made a success as Independent authors, some who did both, some with name-recognition, some without a whole lot, but ALL great writers who had won awards or been on best-selling lists. Those were my criteria, so I went about sending out recruitment emails!  Surprisingly nearly everyone I contacted was excited to be a part of this book.”

Janet: You’re from different locations (all US?) and you write in various genres. How did that shape and enrich the project? Did it add any challenges? And do you have any funny, or maybe frustrating, stories of working together? Something other writers considering collaborations might need to know?

Michelle: Yet again, I defer to the wonderful MaryLu . . .

“Working with nine other people is never easy, but I was fairly surprised at how great this group got along, how quickly we came up with the topics we wanted to cover and who wanted to write which ones. We divided up the tasks we needed to accomplish—writing, editing, formatting, printing, cover design, marketing, etc—and then set a timeline. I have to say, everyone has been wonderful to work with, everyone got their chapters done on time, and everyone is contributing to the final product. Truly a miracle has occurred!”

Janet: You’re all Christian writers. Is Writing from the Trenches exclusively for Christians, or would a non-Christian writer find good take-away too?

Michelle: There’s honestly no way to extract who we are from what we write. But that being said, this is not an overtly Christian book. It’s a how-to, nuts and bolts sort of book. Any writer will benefit from all the collected wisdom, no matter their religion.

Janet: Before Writing from the Trenches, what book(s) on the craft most impacted you?

Michelle: Yikes! That’s a tough one because there are so many good ones out there. I’d have to say Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Brown & Dave King made a big impact on my writing, really explaining the difference between showing and telling. Also, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott really spoke to my angst as a writer and freed me from a lot of writerly fears.

Janet: Classic books for writers! Thanks for chatting, Michelle. All the best with the new book, and with your fiction as well. How can we find copies of Writing from the Trenches?

Michelle: You can snatch up your copy HERE AT AMAZON. And here’s a blurb about the book:

Writing from the Trenches: Tips and Techniques from Ten Award-Winning AuthorsTEN-HUT! Gear up for your writing with tried-and-true tips from the trenches. Ten award-winning authors share invaluable tips and secrets they’ve gleaned the hard way, offering a broad range of insights and opinions on the best way to tackle tricky subjects on everything from characterization to plotting to marketing.

At last … a writer’s tool that provides the experience and expertise of ten authors who’ve been on the front lines of publishing and lived to teach about it: Connie Almony, Lynnette Bonner, Hallee Bridgeman, Louise Gouge, Michelle Griep, Julie Lessman, Elizabeth Ludwig, Ane Mulligan, MaryLu Tyndall, and Erica Vetsch.

 

Review: Dying to Remember, by Karin Kaufman

Dying to Remember, A Smithwell Fairies Cozy Mystery by Karen KaufmanDying to Remember (Smithwell Fairies Cozy Mystery #1), by Karin Kaufman (2018)

Smithwell, Maine. An ordinary town in an ordinary New England state. On her 50th birthday, newly-widowed Kate Brewer is feeling her ordinariness and wishing there was something – just a little bit – more to life.

But when she encounters a fairy, she’s terrified. Fairies don’t exist outside of folklore. Is she losing her mind?

When a neighbour is killed, Kate and her best friend, Emily, are sure it’s linked to a previous murder in the town. Not trusting the police, they start investigating on their own. The fairy, Minette, insists on helping Kate while keeping her presence hidden from everyone else.

I enjoyed the mystery, the characters, and the descriptions of the people – including the fairy – and their small town. I also thought it was a neat touch that Minette sees herself as created by God (years ago) and sent by Him (now) to help Kate with this investigation. Kate, a church-goer, rejects the idea that God would send anyone – especially a fairy – to do anything in her life. I’m curious to see how Kate and Minette’s relationship will develop over the series, and if Emily will ever meet Minette.

Tea and chocolate aficionados will find other details to appreciate in the book. It’s a quick read, at 129 pages. Book 2, A Fatal Fall, is coming soon.

Karin Kaufman is the author of the Juniper Grove mystery series and the Anna Denning mysteries. Dying to Remember is book 1 in her new Smithwell Fairies Cozy Mystery series. I’m looking forward to reading more. For more about the author and her books, visit karinkaufman.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Field Trip: Unknown Enemy

Care for a whirlwind virtual tour of Lunenburg, NS?

The (fictional) Green Dory Inn is located outside of town, but the characters do venture in on occasion. Since I was curious what they might experience, I paid a few visits over the past year or so. If you pop over to the International Christian Fiction Writers blog, you can read my “Wandering Wednesdays” post — complete with photos. Here’s a sample:

Janet Sketchley, inside a giant lobster trap

Who says research can’t be fun?

New Releases in Christian Fiction (September 2018)

September 2018 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:

A Baby for the Minister by Laurel Blount — Jilted at the altar, Natalie Davis has no one she can turn to—until Jacob Stone steps in. The single minister’s drawn to the beautiful mommy-to-be and wants to help…even if it goes against his congregation’s wishes and could cost him his job. But when she refuses to accept charity, can he convince her she’s more than a ministry project? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Courting Her Secret Heart by Mary Davis — Deborah Miller lives a double life as an Amish woman—and a fashion model! All photography is forbidden in her Plain community, so she must keep her job a secret. But when Amos Burkholder starts helping at her family’s farm, hiding the truth from him is impossible. And soon she must choose between the Englischer world of modeling and the Amish man she’s come to love. (Contemporary Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

12 Gifts of Christmas by Lena Nelson Dooley — Can Malcolm MacGregor, a contemporary descendant of Scottish lairds, capture the heart of Brazilian-Italian beauty, Alanza Cantalamessa, in 12 days? (Contemporary Romance from Whitaker House)

All Made Up by Kara Isaac — Katriona McLeod has never gotten over Caleb Murphy, the one guy she’s ever loved. When she accepts a job as a make up artist on the latest looking-for-love reality TV show, Falling for the Farmer, she discovers to her horror that Caleb is the leading man and she’s cast as one of his harem. But she hides a secret that means that even if she wanted a second chance with the guy who broke her heart she could never have it. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

An Amish Holiday Wedding by Carrie Lighte — On the brink of losing her bakery, the last thing Faith Yoder’s interested in is courting—until Hunter Schwartz returns to Willow Creek. After hiring him to deliver her treats to a Christmas festival, Faith’s determined their relationship will stay strictly professional. But despite a secret that’s kept her single, Faith can’t help but wish she and Hunter could become husband and wife. (Contemporary Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Cozy Mystery:

Deadly Holiday by Marissa Shrock — The Christmas season greets Georgia Winston with a new boyfriend (maybe), a Christmas program to run, and a man dying at her feet. (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published)


General Contemporary/Women’s Fiction

From the Lake to the River by JPC Allen, Bettie Boswell, Carole Brown, Sandra Merville Hart, Tamera Lynn Kraft, Sharyn Kopf, Michelle Levigne, Cindy Thomson, and Rebecca Waters — Set in Ohio, in the past and present, these nine short stories and novellas by Ohio authors cover a wide range of genres, topics and locations. From Troy in the west to the North Coast and south-central Ohio. From Lake Erie to the Ohio River. From romance to YA adventure, with touches of mystery and humor. Dealing with historical events and situations, such as floods and the lasting effects of the Civil War. With characters involved in square dancing, theater, and music. Dealing with loss and danger, a second chance at love and taking a chance on love for the first time. Chances are good, no matter what you have a taste for reading, you’ll find something to like. Welcome to a taste of the Buckeye State! (General Contemporary from Mt Zion Ridge Press)

Place Called Home by Brenda S. Anderson — While building his graphic design company, Nate Brooks is focused on the future he’s dreamed of: traveling around the country from the comfort of his renovated school bus. But when he picks up a wounded, mysterious hitchhiker, those well-laid plans take a backseat to protecting her. Hobbled by her injury, and unable to keep running from her controlling ex, Tessa fears she’ll never find freedom. Or has she found it with the family who graciously opens their home to her? And will Nate’s protection put his family–and his heart–at risk? (Women’s Fiction, Independently Published)

Swimming in the Deep End by Christina Suzann Nelson — Jillian Connors has big expectations for her teenage daughter, Gabby, an Olympic hopeful—until Gabby becomes pregnant with her boyfriend Travis’s child. Meanwhile, Margaret Owens is furious that Gabby’s condition jeopardizes her son’s baseball scholarship. In the midst of the family drama lies the fate of the unborn baby. What does the future hold for him? (General Contemporary from Kregel Publications)


Historical:

Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson — A gripping time-slip novel about hidden treasure, a castle, and ordinary people who resisted the evils of the Hitler regime in their own extraordinary way. (Historical from Tyndale House)

Everything She Didn’t Say by Jane Kirkpatrick — A Victorian woman who traveled 15,000 miles by stage between 1870-98 decides to tell the story behind her memoir believing her husband will never see it. (Historical from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Enya’s Son by Cindy Thomson — This retelling of the early life of St. Columcille and his mother will usher readers on a fateful journey through ancient Ireland’s monastic centers, her wild coastline islands, and the land Columcille believed was filled with holy angels, a place where he felt safe … yet was destined to abandon. (Historical, Independently Published)


Historical Romance:

Victorian Christmas Brides by C.J. Chase, Susanne Dietze, Rita Gerlach, Kathleen L. Maher, Gabrielle Meyer, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Vanessa Riley, Lorna Seilstads, and Erica Vetsch — Faced with the daily extremes of gluttony and want in the Victorian Era, nine women seek to create the perfect Christmas celebrations. But will expectations and pride cause them to overlook imperfect men who offer true love? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Esther’s Temptation by Lena Nelson Dooley — Saddle weary, former deputy US Marshal Jac Andrews rides into Denton, Texas hunting a swindler-and-daughter criminal team and finally feels he’s caught up to them. Unfortunately, he becomes distracted by the lovely redhead, Esther Brians. Esther, feeling like an old maid surrounded by all her close friends who are happy married couples, is drawn to the intense gaze, blue as the Texas sky, of an unknown cowboy. But several things cause her to become wary of his intentions—and his spiritual well-being. Has this unsaved lawman captured Esther’s heart or will the Lord deliver her from the temptation of Jac’s presence? What will it take for Jac to win this lovely lady and become Esther’s husband? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

The Sound of Distant Thunder by Jan Drexler — Katie Stuckey and Jonas Weaver are both romantics. Seventeen-year-old Katie is starry-eyed, in love with the idea of being in love, and does not want to wait to marry Jonas until she is eighteen, despite her parents’ insistence. So much can happen in a year. Twenty-year-old Jonas is taken in by the romance of soldiering, especially in defense of anti-slavery, even though he knows war is at odds with the teachings of the church. When his married brother’s name comes up in the draft list, he volunteers to take his brother’s place. But can the commitment Katie and Jonas have made to each other survive the separation? (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)


Romantic Suspense:

Loving the Texas Negotiator by Mary Connealy — Beth Garrison is the top hostage negotiator in Rocky Ridge Texas. She’s called in to a task force to investigate a killing that is a copy cat of her first bust as a rookie cop. The Valentine Killer.
Tate McCade, with the best arrest record on the force and a reputation for steamrolling anyone who gets in his way, heads the task force. He’s had a run-in with Beth and her oversized ego. He’s got a bruise on his face to prove it. Rather than have the pleasure of busting her back to walking a beat, he has to work with her. And the clock is ticking because there’s a woman and child missing and nothing about the crime adds up. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Speculative:

Guardian of Ajalon by Joan Campbell — The poison tree path is Shara’s road home. . .if she and her companions can survive the journey. In the danger and darkness of the forest, her only respite is in the story unlocked in the Old Tongue book. In this vivid world, Shara finally discovers what she has longed for all her life: the key to the secrets of her past. Yet time is running out for Shara—and all of Tirragyl—as Lord Lucian, King Alexor, and the royal army attack the Guardian Grotto to claim the powerful Guardian Rock. Unwilling to sit idly by as her kingdom is destroyed, Queen Nyla leaves her hiding place to recruit a most unlikely army—the Charab. But how can she win over the infamous assassins who have been oppressed by her family for generations? (Speculative Allegory from Enclave Publishing)

Should You Try Harder? (Guest Post)

Do you need to try harder?

Photo credit: Pixabay

Should You Try Harder?

by Steph Beth Nickel

I’ve never written a book review for Janet’s blog. But today I’d like to share one I wrote for HopeStreamRadio.

Before I purchased the e-version of You Don’t Have to Try Harder by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory, I debated whether I needed one more book. I have hundreds, if not thousands, of physical and ebooks awaiting my attention, more than I’ll likely ever read. However, this was a purchase well worth making.

Below is my invitation for you to read this book along with me. You see … I just got started.

You Don’t Have to Try So Hard is the newest book by Kathi Lip and Cheri Gregory. And it looks like it’s going to be perfect … well, not perfect exactly, but we’ll get to that.

I read the introduction this morning and can’t wait to dig in.

Kathi Lipp opens the book like this: “No one would ever label me a perfectionist. You can’t eat off my floor. (Well, you could, but I wouldn’t suggest it.)”

I can relate already.

Further into the intro, Kathi gives three insightful examples of what she calls “the bully of perfectionism.”

“I will pick up the check … because I feel that I’ve taken up the other person’s time.”

“I will run out the night before an event and spend too much on clothes so that I appear to fit in.”

“I spend ten times more time worrying about how other people feel … than being concerned about my own health in these relationships.”

Do you see yourself in any of these statements?

She ends by saying, “Perfectionism isn’t Christian. It’s just crazy.”

Although Cheri Gregory’s mother apologized to her daughter’s husband when she saw the state of their home, Cheri’s perfectionism surfaced in other ways.

She was …

“A student who argued for the extra point when she got 99 percent …”

“A teacher who skipped family gatherings because she couldn’t face her students until her lesson plans were just right.”

“A wife who tried to overhaul her husband so she could finally have a happy marriage.”

When she realized it wasn’t simply a matter of trying harder, she went to the other extreme.

She became …

“An employee who didn’t speak up during staff meetings so her input couldn’t get shot down.”

“A friend who let a call from a BFF in crisis go to voice mail because she felt too inadequate to answer.”

“A pastor’s wife who skipped church because her own family drama had left her too drained to put on her game face for the day.”

Both authors realized the “try harder” motto simply didn’t work.

They came to this conclusion: “There is no nice, polite way to do this. There’s no easy way to leave the life that’s been expected of us and to start living the brave, not-so-neatly-tied-up life God is calling us to.”

If you’re ready to learn how to live the life God is calling you to and abandon the idea that you can do so simply by making more of an effort, by trying harder, then you may want to add You Don’t Have to Try So Hard to your To Be Read pile of books.

Chapters include …

Meet the Bullies of Try-Harder Living, Take Your First Brave Steps, Perfect is for Pinterest, Give Yourself a Time Out, No More Last Minute, Enough Really is Enough, and others.

The authors have several lofty goals for this book, ones many—if not most—of us are in the process of learning.

Kathi and Cheri invite us to …

“Exchange outdated views of who [we] ‘should be’ for a clear vision of who [we] are in Christ.”

“Take control of that too long to-do list …”

“Stop striving to maintain an image and live with more freedom …”

“Overcome the tyranny of ‘more’ and live radically with the abundance of ‘enough.’”

“Stop trying to earn others’ approval and learn to rest in God’s lavish, unconditional love.”

Does any of this sound good to you?

Yeah, me too!

So, today I invite you to pick up your own copy of You Don’t Have to Try So Hard and learn how to overcome the bully of perfectionism—whether we can eat off your floor or not.

~~~

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.

Labour Day Weekend Ebook Sale

Without Proof only $2.99 for Kindle, Kobo, iTunes, Nook... ends Sept. 4/18. #Christianfiction #romanticsuspense #cleanreads
Looking for some long weekend reading? Without Proof is only $2.99 for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and iTunes until Sept. 4/18. (Sorry this sale only applies in Canada and the US.)

Yes, it’s book 3 in my Redemption’s Edge series, but it reads well as a stand-alone 🙂

Buy links: my book page or books2read.com/without-proof.

Review: The Lord’s My Shepherd and I Shall Not Want, by Debbie Viguié

The Lord's My Shepherd and I Shall Not Want, two mysteries by Debbie Viguie | Psalm 23 Mysteries book 1 and 2 #cleanreads
The Lord’s My Shepherd and I Shall Not Want, by Debbie Viguié (Abingdon Press, 2013)

The Psalm 23 Mysteries series has 15 books, including one that released this year, and I expect there’ll be more. The titles haven’t finished the psalm yet.

These are cozy mysteries featuring church secretary Cindy Preston and her unlikely partner in amateur sleuthing, Rabbi Jeremiah Silverman from the synagogue next door to the church.

I found the first two as an ebook bundle. They’re clean reads, and treat both the Christian and Jewish faiths with respect. One of the neat side-lights in book 1 was learning more about Passover preparations from Jeremiah.

Thanks to her mother and to the loss of her sister as a child, Cindy’s strongest motivators as the series opens seem to be safety and appearances. Of the two characters, Jeremiah is more in touch with his spiritual side and more likely to think about how God might relate to his circumstances.

By book 2 Cindy is beginning to discover glimpses of her own strength and identity, and Jeremiah’s letting readers know he has dubious skill sets from his past that aren’t what his congregation would expect.

Seeing these progressions motivates me to read further into the series. I confess at first I wasn’t sure. When there are Christians in a novel, I like them to share with me on a spiritual level. Not necessarily anything deeply theological or sermon-like, but a connection that encourages my own faith walk. Cindy, though, is a Christian who doesn’t think much about her faith, so there’s not much connection there—at least yet.

In The Lord’s My Shepherd, a serial killer arranges his victims in parodies of various scenes from the week leading up to Easter. In I Shall Not Want, someone’s killing people and stealing their dogs—even from homeless people. I appreciated the advice—and the challenge—one of the homeless characters gives about treating the homeless with respect.

It does take a stretch of the imagination to accept all the details involved in the first book’s plot, especially that the killer could find the appropriate situations with characters whose names also match his plan.

But both stories flow quickly, with action and banter and a surprisingly light touch, given the high body count.

Debbie Viguié is a New York Times bestselling author, and while most of the other books on her website look like fairly dark mainstream fantasies, the Psalm 23 series does come from a Christian publisher. For more about the author and her books, visit debbieviguie.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

40% off Ebooks: Christian Suspense

Use promo code 40AUG for 40% off Heaven's Prey and Secrets and Lies at Kobo.com - ends Aug 27/18.

 

Use promo code 40AUG for 40% off Heaven’s Prey and Secrets and Lies at Kobo.com – ends Aug 27/18.

No Kobo? No problem. Their reading app is a free download, and new customers get $5 off their first order. That means you can grab these two books for pennies.