Tag Archives: author interviews

Interview at The Romantic Side of Suspense

Have I ever regretted killing off a character? How do I connect with them, and why do I leave out the swear words?

Find the answers in my interview at The Romantic Side of Suspense: A Conversation withJanet Sketchley.

Interview: Romantic Suspense Author Beth Ziarnik

Beth ZiarnikBeth Ziarnik is a writer and speaker, celebrating the release of her first novel, a romantic suspense called Her Deadly Inheritance.

Janet: Welcome, Beth, and thanks for taking time to join us. Congratulations on your debut novel! So many firsts – contract, cover, holding the first copy in your hands… and more. We’ll have the cover art and full description at the end of this interview, but for now, what’s the story about?

Beth: Thank you, Janet, for inviting me. I’m so pleased to be here, and you are so right about those many firsts that go with a debut novel. But to answer your question, Her Deadly Inheritance is about a runaway daughter who returns to end the family lies—including her own—and ends up a killer’s next target.

Janet: Sounds like a gripping read. How about introducing us to Jill?

Beth: I’d be glad to. Jill Shepherd is the only child of a single mother. Shortly after Jill’s high school graduation and against her mother’s wishes, she runs away to find her birth father. Until then, she’d been told he was dead, and she’s desperate to know him. Three years later, she feels compelled by her new-found love for God to return to the house she inherited upon her mother’s death. She’s to make peace with relatives who would just as soon she’d remain “dead” as they believed the past three years.

Janet: Where did the story idea come from?

Beth: I watched one criminal after another become untouchable because of loopholes in the law, and asked myself, “What if someone murdered my loved one, and I found that the killer—for one reason or another—couldn’t be touched by the law and brought to justice?” What would I do? How would being a Christian affect how I went about trying to bring the killer to justice?

Janet: Deep questions, and writing is a great way to explore them. Her Deadly Inheritance is your first novel, but you’re an established writer and speaker. Would you share a bit of your background with us?

Beth: When I set out to write the novel, I had so much to learn. I studied books on writing and subscribed to writer’s magazines, went to conferences, and started a local Christian writers’ club.  I facilitated a couple of local seminars and taught at other conferences and seminars around Wisconsin. That led to speaking to women’s groups, which I also love to do. The conferences led to articles published in devotional and other Christian magazines. On my way to novel land, I wound up writing two columns and about 450 published pieces. It’s been a long but rewarding process. And, yes, perseverance does pay!

Janet: Writers need huge amounts of perseverance! What do you like best about the writing life?

Beth: The opportunity to make a difference in the lives of women—through my stories, through writers’ and women’s events, and online. Other authors made a difference in my life. Even as a child, I dreamed that one day, I would write stories that would give readers the happiness the books I read had given me.

Janet: May the Lord continue to touch others through your words. Still thinking about writing, what do you like least?

Beth: Okay, now you’re asking me to tell on myself. What I like least … that would be those times when I have to dig myself out of the writer’s “doubt and despair” pit. I’m currently writing the follow–up to Her Deadly Inheritance, and sure enough, as I’m working, along come those doubts. “What makes you think you can pull this off again?” “No one will want to read anything you write!” “See, you’re stuck again! You’ll never be able to finish this story. And if you do, it won’t be anywhere near as good as the first one—much less better.” I hear this scenario is “normal” for writers. So, at times like that, it helps to remember what those who are enthused about Her Deadly Inheritance say. Besides, my characters insist on having their stories told!

Janet: I hear those “voices” too. Good thing our characters won’t let us quit! Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Beth: Yes! I’m so glad you asked. It arrived written on an Easter card when I was twelve years old and has remained my life verse: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7. Both my heroines and I often remind ourselves of this as we face life’s challenges—good or bad.

Janet: What’s the novel’s theme? Or what do you want readers to take away when they’re done?

Beth: That no matter what happens in life and no matter how bad things might look, we can trust God to make it come out all right, at the right time, and in the right way—if we love him, pray, and give him time to work out all things for good.

Janet: “And give Him time” – that’s such a good point! Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Beth: First of all, be patient. Building your writing skill is a process. Keep working at it—reading and practising. If you’re willing to learn, receive critiques on your writing, and refuse to quit growing, you’ll be surprised at your progress from year to year.

Go to writers’ conferences and seminars where you can learn, network with others in the industry, encourage and be encouraged.

Bring to the Lord everything you do or intend to do on your writing journey. He knows his good plans for you and your talent. If you give him the chance, he will take you to the land of published works. It might not be in the way or the timing you envision, but you will be delighted when it comes to pass.

Janet: Thanks for these wise words, Beth. Now, onto lighter things: Cake or Pie? And what’s your favourite season?

Beth: Please excuse me, devoted cake fans, but for me, almost any kind of pie has an edge over cake. Though, come to think of it … my favorite cake is Boston crème pie. My favorite season? The one I’m experiencing. In Wisconsin, we have four vivid seasons, and I love them all. The crisp air and sparkling snow of winter. The soft breezes and gentle greening of spring. The vivid blooms and water sports and brat fries of summer. And the bountiful harvests and brightly colored leaves of fall.

Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?

Beth: Each year, I recharge with writer friends at the Green Lake Conference Center’s Christian Writers Center. We’re a small group of regulars who pray together, write, brainstorm, take walks on the gorgeous 1000-acre grounds, and enjoy five days of blessed fellowship and writing progress.

At home, I recharge during my morning’s prayer and Bible reading time with the Lord, by walking outdoors in the beauty of our country neighborhood, and while visiting with family or friends.

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

Beth: Wisconsin is beautiful—a feast for the eyes whatever the season. But what I love most is my neighborhood where we know each other, take time to get together, and look out for one another as needed. I often say I’ll never move because I couldn’t take my neighbors with me.

Janet: A neighbourhood like that is definitely worth staying in! I’ve never been to Wisconsin, but it sounds wonderful. Maybe someday… Thanks again for visiting, Beth, and all the best with Her Deadly Inheritance and your wider ministry.


Her Deadly Inheritance, by Beth Ziarnik

Her Deadly Inheritance, by Beth Ziarnik

First a runaway. Now running for her life. Won’t Jill Shepherd’s family be surprised when she returns to Grand Island, Michigan to end their lies and scheme to have her declared legally dead? But when Jill exposes the mastermind behind her intended death, her family’s deception may kill any chance she has of remaining alive.

Clay Merrick may seem to be little more than a handyman restoring homes, but when the former Special Forces operative tracks a brutal killer to Jill’s historic house under renovation, he has most of the evidence he needs to bring the killer to justice … until Jill gets in the way.

When the killer sets sights on Jill as the next victim, it’s not just Clay’s mission on the line, but his heart.

A long-time and avid reader of romantic suspense, Beth Ann Ziarnik offers her first novel with all the twists and turns, cliff hangers and romantic tension she and readers have come to love. She is a co-founder of Word & Pen Christian Writers in northeast Wisconsin, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. In addition to 450 published pieces (several included in anthologies), she is the author of Love With Shoes On, her ten-year devotional column about love in action and based on 1 Corinthians 13.

Connect with Beth Ziarnik:

Suspense Novelist Sara Davison

Canadian suspense author Sara DavisonSara Davison is the author of the romantic suspense novel, The Watcher, and the romantic suspense trilogy, Seven. She has been a finalist for three national writing awards, including Best New Canadian Christian author. Sara has a degree in English Literature from Queen’s University and is a member of The Word Guild, the largest organization for writers and editors who are Christian in Canada. She currently resides in central Ontario, Canada with her husband Michael and their three children, all of whom she (literally) looks up to. Her favourite way to spend the days (and nights) is drinking coffee and making stuff up. Get to know Sara better at www.saradavison.org and @sarajdavison.

Janet: Welcome, Sara, and thanks for taking time to join us. We chatted in 2011 about your debut novel, The Watcher, and I’m excited to find out more about your new novel, The End Begins. Would you tell us a bit about it?

Sara: Thanks for having me, Janet. I’d love to tell you a bit about The End Begins, Book 1 of The Seven Trilogy, which released on Sept. 1 as an ebook and releases in print on Sept. 15. Essentially the three books tell the love story of a Christian woman, Meryn O’Reilly, and Jesse Christensen, the army captain sent to her city to keep an eye on the believers after a radical Christian group claims responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks in Canada. Jesse is equally amused, intrigued, and terrified by the fiery Meryn. When she breaks one of the new, anti-Christian laws, he races against time to convince the authorities to show leniency to her, and to convince her that their love can overcome all barriers between them.

Janet: This is an uncomfortably believable plot. What do you say to readers who are beginning to fear this sort of thing happening?

Sara: It can be scary, witnessing the erosion of the freedoms we have always held sacred in this country, namely those of religion and free speech. And Christians do seem to be the one acceptable target of hostility (actually a good thing, because it shows that the world sees us as different from other religions). But it is far more encouraging and productive to view these developments as incredibly exciting, as the unfolding of God’s plan to bring all people and nations to the point where they must choose whether to accept or reject Jesus Christ. Persecution, while not necessarily something to seek out, would likely be the best thing that could happen to the church in North America as it very often serves to strengthen and unite believers, and draw them back to utter dependence on God.

Janet: Valid points! With a title like this, I have to ask if it’s an end-times series, or simply the end of religious freedom for Christians in North America.

Sara: I believe the two go very much hand in hand. Most biblical scholars and teachers agree that we are in the end times, and have been for a long time. The closer we come to the end, the more difficult it will become for believers. In fact, Revelation suggests that there will come a time when society believes the Christian church is dead, and will celebrate in the streets as a result. Of course we know this will not be the end of the church, that despite intense persecution, including the loss of religious freedom, the church will endure to the end.

Janet: Were you concerned that researching bombings and extremists might bring a visit from someone in law enforcement?

Sara: Ha! I am deeply aware as I conduct some of the online searches I need to conduct, that I am probably being red-flagged by CSIS. I won’t be a bit surprised if they show up at my door some day. I’m sure murder mystery writers face the same possibility of the police coming to question them about some of their research. It’s an occupational hazard, I guess. The great thing about being a writer is that all frightening or horrible things that happen to you are just fodder for the next novel.

Janet: What’s the novel’s theme? Or what do you want readers to take away when they’re done?

Sara: This goes back to the question you asked earlier, about what to say to readers who are beginning to fear what is happening to Christians in our society. The theme of all three books is that, whatever happens, however difficult or even deadly things become, believers will not have to face any of it alone. God will be there to help them through whatever they are facing and will give them the strength to endure. Story after story of believers facing persecution in other countries bears out the truth that, when needed, Christians will be given a supernatural strength and peace to carry them through. In fact, this happens to one of the characters in The End Begins, and it is definitely what I hope readers will take with them when they’re done reading the series.

Janet: “Whatever happens, Jesus will be there” is one of my key themes in writing, too. It’s a truth that makes all the difference. Of course we can’t face our fears on our own. We were never intended to, but sadly, we forget that! The End Begins was a RT Book Reviews’ Top Pick in August. Congratulations – what a great kick-off! What else has been happening around the book’s release?

Sara: Thank you. I was thrilled with the RT review, and humbled and grateful for all the other positive reviews and endorsements the book has received. I will be doing two, fairly informal, launches in October, as well as a blog tour. Of course I am also looking into various ways to promote the book through social media. Like most writers, self-promotion and marketing are not my strong suits, but I am committed to doing what I can to get the word out about these three books, and the publisher and my literary agency are promoting them as well.

Janet: What was the best part of the story to write?

Sara: I love writing suspense, but I’m a sucker for the romance too, so I did enjoy writing the scenes between Jesse and Meryn as their relationship developed. Probably my favourite scenes to write, though, were between Jesse and his best friend and commanding officer, Caleb Donevan. Jesse and Caleb grew up together and are like brothers, but the fact that Jesse is Caleb’s subordinate means they have to balance those two roles very carefully. It was a challenge to have them be able to slip in and out of their superior/inferior relationship and their best friend one, but from feedback I have received, they achieve this balance well. These scenes add the most humour to the book too, which is always fun to write, especially after creeping myself out with some of the other scenes in the books.

Janet: A little humour definitely helps readers recover from the tense parts! This is book one in your new Seven Trilogy. Without giving spoilers for The End Begins, what hints can you give about the rest of the series?

Sara: Jesse and Meryn’s relationship will continue to face challenges and serious ups and downs throughout the series. While book one portrays the gorgeous but deadly Scorcher as the female antagonist, a new enemy will rise up in book two, The Dragon Roars. Each book introduces new characters and storylines, but it is Jesse and Meryn’s story, and the love story of God and mankind, that will thread through all three books, concluding in book three, The Morning Star Rises.

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Sara: The absolute most important thing I always tell any beginning writers who will listen is to be teachable. I’ve written six books now and still learned so much through the editing process on The End Begins. It never ceases to amaze me how much you don’t know that you don’t know, especially when first starting out. The biggest mistake a new writer can make is thinking their work is good enough to go out into the world without having undergone serious, intensive editing by professionals. You aren’t doing yourself, the market, readers, or other writers any favours by putting out work that isn’t ready, and you may be doing serious harm to all of the above. Be patient. The journey is long but if you relax and enjoy it, instead of trying to take shortcuts, you will never regret it. Instead, you can look at everything you have produced and be proud of your efforts. Most of all, you will honour God if what you publish is excellent and the very best you can make it.

Janet: Well said, and so true! Tell us a bit about Sara the individual. What does life look like when you’re not writing? How do you like to spend your time?

Sara: I do a lot of editing work for people, especially fiction manuscripts, and really enjoy that. I love coaching/mentoring new writers especially. Apart from that, I try to spend as much time as possible with my husband, Michael, and our three kids. Our oldest son is leaving for college next year and our daughter in a couple of years so it feels like this time with them is so precious and fleeting. I don’t want to waste a moment of it. Michael and I are also deeply involved in ministry at our church and that takes up a lot of time. Any spare time I have I like to meet friends for coffee, read, watch the Blue Jays (huge fan!), and go to the movies.

Janet: Coffee or tea? And what’s your favourite season?

Sara: Coffee. Absolutely.  I recently found a mug that says, “I just want to drink coffee, create stuff, and sleep” which perfectly sums up my life.

My favourite season is fall, although there are aspects of every season that I like. I could never live in a place where the seasons didn’t change.

Janet: If you could go anywhere, to any time, what might you choose?

Sara: Mayberry in the 1950’s. Or at least the small town Canadian equivalent where everyone knows everyone and has a picket fence and a station wagon with wood panelling on the sides. I’ve always said I was born after my time. I love shows like Leave it to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show because, although I’m sure it wasn’t as idyllic a time as we imagine, it does seem like the last age of innocence, in our part of the world anyway.


When your beliefs are at war, does love stand a chance?

The End Begins (The Seven Trilogy, Book 1) by Sara DavisonBookstore owner Meryn O’Reilly and Army Captain Jesse Christensen are on opposite sides of a battle. After a series of terrorist attacks in 2053, martial law has been declared in Canada and the military has taken over. When a radical Christian group claims responsibility, Jesse and his platoon are sent to Meryn’s city to keep an eye on the Christians and ensure they are not stepping outside the confines of the law.

Fiery and quick-tempered, Meryn chafes under the curfew and other restrictions to her freedom. Jesse is equally amused, intrigued, and terrified by her spirit. She could find herself in prison if she shows defiance to the wrong soldier, namely Lieutenant Gallagher.

Jesse watches out for Meryn when possible, although she wants nothing to do with him. His worst fears are realized when she commits a crime he cannot protect her from. Now they both face an uncertain future and the very real threat of losing everything, including their lives. With time running out, Jesse works feverishly to convince the authorities to show leniency to Meryn. And to convince her that love can overcome any barrier that lies between them.

The End Begins released Sept. 1 (digital formats) and releases in print on Sept. 15, and is available online or in print through your local bookstore.

For more about author Sara Davison, visit her website, Choose to Press On, or see the feature article on the Ashberry Lane site.


Writers are readers… or at least we should be. The WritersOnReading blog shares weekly interviews with writers, talking about the books they love. I was happy to chat about some of my favourites recently (Writer Janet Sketchley on Reading). Click the link to pop over and say hello, and do browse through the other interviews. You never know who you might find! This looks like a good site to bookmark or subscribe to.

Author Interview: Tandy Balson

Author/speaker Tandy BalsonTandy Balson is an inspirational speaker and writer who uses the ordinary to inspire. Tandy blogs at Time with Tandy, and she has written two inspirational books, Inspirations from the Everyday and the newly-released Dragonflies, Snowdrifts and Spice Cake.

I met Tandy last year at Write Canada, and I’m excited to have her visiting with us today.

Janet: Welcome, Tandy! What are a few things you’d like us to know about you?

Tandy: I am a wife, mother, grandmother and follower of Jesus who makes my home in Airdrie, Alberta.  My hobbies are reading, baking, walking (to burn off the baking) and I give a really good foot massage.

Janet: Useful skills! I love the whimsical title of your newest book. I had the privilege of reading an early version, and it encouraged me in my perpetual struggle to remember to live in the moment. You have a real gift of seeing lessons in daily experiences. Has this always been part of your life, or is it something you’ve developed over the years?

Tandy: I’d love to be able to say that this has always been part of my life, but that’s not the case.  When I look back I can see where there were glimpses of this many years earlier but nothing I paid enough attention to.  I have only been consciously aware of the lessons in everyday experiences for the past five or six years.

Janet: Tell us a bit about Dragonflies, Snowdrifts and Spice Cake.

Tandy: This book contains 130 short reflections that point the reader to the lessons that can be found in everyday life experiences.  Each story is only a single page long which makes for a quick read. To quote Friesen Press Editor, Janet Layberyy, “The stories themselves offer enough insight that the lessons and comfort found in them should impact and help readers even if they are unsure of their own faith.”

Janet: You were a speaker before you became a writer? What prompted each step?

Tandy: When asked to identify the dream I had for my life, I thought of a speaker/singer that I admired and said I’d like to do what she did.  Through the encouragement of friends I set out to see if I could make this a reality.  Although I studied both, more opportunities opened up for me with speaking so singing slowly faded into the background. After a few years of speaking I felt God giving me inspiration through ordinary things.  I prayed about what he wanted me to do with this and clearly felt I was supposed to write these lessons down and share them with others.

Janet: I’m glad you obeyed! Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Tandy: One of the best things I did when starting out was to find a local writing group to join.  There I found support, encouragement and critique that helped to improve my writing.  I also joined The Word Guild and Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship.  These are both national groups and I have learned much through their active social media sites.   Conferences have proved invaluable for learning from and connecting with other writers.

Janet: Do you have a regular writing schedule? And is location important, or can you write anywhere?

Tandy: As much as I have attempted to keep a regular writing schedule, life seems to get in the way!  I do try to write every day but it may not always be at the same time.  I have found that I can write anywhere once the inspiration strikes and keep a journal and pen with me at all times.  If I’m at home writing, I need to be in a quiet area as I get easily distracted.

Janet: Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Tandy: Key Scripture verses for me are: Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart  and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight and Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Janet: You can’t go wrong with those verses. What do you like to do to recharge?

Tandy: Going for a walk often helps me to recharge.  The best place for this is on a tropical beach!

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

Tandy: We moved from the Vancouver area ten years ago and at first missed the tall trees.  Now I appreciate the big open sky with unobstructed views of interesting cloud formations and beautiful sunsets.

Janet: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever done?

Tandy: Right now my answer would be writing and publishing books.  I’m getting ready to go on my first cruise and have an unusual shore excursion planned, so the answer may change soon.  I’m sure to write about it on my blog when I return!

Janet: We’ll be watching! (Tandy’s blog link is below.) Enjoy your cruise, and keep that journal and pen handy!


Dragonflies, Snowdrifts & Spice Cake: Finding Inspiration in Everyday Things, by Tandy Balson

You can find Tandy at her website, www.tandyb.com, and her blog, www.timewithtandy.com.

Dragonflies, Snowflakes and Spice Cake  is available through Tandy’s website, the Friesen Press bookstore, and at Amazon.com.

Secrets and Lies Interview

Secrets and LiesRon Hughes from HopeStreamRadio interviewed me last month, and while it’s not archived on their site, I’ve posted it to mine. We talked about a few aspects of writing and about my novels, and I read an excerpt from Secrets and Lies. The interview is about ten minutes long, if you’d like to have a listen (just click the “play” triangle in the media player below).  And do check out HopeStreamRadio. They currently provide about two hours of content per day, which repeats throughout the day. There’s teaching, music, and a variety of interesting content (including author interviews!)

[Media player didn’t show up for you? Click here to listen to the interview.]

Giveaway & Author Interview: Renee Blare

Author Renee Blare

Author Renee Blare, with her novel, Beast of Stratton

Raised in Louisiana and Wyoming, Renee Blare started writing poetry in junior high school and that, as they say, was that. After having her son, a desire to attend pharmacy school sent her small family to Laramie and she’s been counting pills ever since. While writing’s her first love, well, after the Lord and her husband, she also likes to fish and hunt as well as pick away on her classical guitar.

Nestled against the Black Hills with her husband, crazy old dog and ornery cat, she serves the community of northeastern Wyoming as a pharmacist and pens her Christian stories, keeping them interesting with action and intrigue, of course. She loves to interact with readers and invites you check out her website, blog, and social media [see links at the end of this interview].

Janet: Welcome, Renee, and thanks for taking time to join us. I love your tag line: “Christian fiction… where the wild meets the Forgiven.” How did you choose it?

Renee: Hi Janet, thanks for having me. I searched for a tag line to match my writing for quite a long time. I wrestled with a few… truth, faith… they flew around the keyboard until I decided to center on my stories. Within every tale’s a wild component… whether nature or man… which must be confronted. The Forgiven represents the body of Christ and may be the tool by which this task is accomplished, if not the end result of the journey.

Janet: Your website says you write “about Christians struggling along the hard journeys of their lives.” For me, these are the best kind of stories, because the lessons the characters learn are lessons I likely need as well. Do you start with what you want to “teach” the character and shape the story from there, or do you start with the character and his/her circumstances?

Renee: It’s funny. I don’t think about lessons or plots when I think about a new book. My ideas for a new novel flash like a movie in my dreams at night. I wake up at two or three o’clock in the morning and jot them down. The major character’s inner conflict and occupation is where I usually start… as well as the setting. For some reason, the setting’s very important to me. It always has been.

Janet: Your novel, Beast of Stratton, released in March, and one commenter to this post will receive a free ebook copy. Congratulations! Is this your first published novel? If so, how have things changed now?

Renee: I’ve always been busy. Between my family, job, and writing, I have very little time for relaxation. Add the release and promotion… well, you get the picture.Beast of Stratton

Janet: Tell us a bit about Beast of Stratton. I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but it sounds like there might be a “Beauty and the Beast” connection.

Renee: Yes, there definitely is a Beauty and the Beast connection. Although contemporary and a romantic suspense, Beast of Stratton’s inspired by the fairy tale.

Janet: On the cover, I see the lion looks like it’s chasing Aimee. Where did the story idea come from? And do you have a favourite character?

Renee: My crit group, Rough Diamond Writers had the ingenious idea to write novellas based on fairy tales. Everyone selected one and wrote a story. I chose Beauty and the Beast (my favorite, of course).

As for the story behind the story, I’d planned a romance with a touch of suspense. Nothing too drastic… after all, it was a novella. Before I knew it, the story morphed into a different book… a mystery.

Miles became a wounded veteran, an element which stems from my personal experience with veterans and a desire to convey their struggle behind the scenes. I couldn’t sugar-coat the trauma of war. PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), Suicide, Migraine, physical injuries… they’re all addressed one way or another… some more in-depth than others. (Note: The migraine depicted in this book’s based on one of my own headaches, although the recovery is not.)

My favorite character would have to be the little old lady toward the end of the story.  This woman’s wisdom is amazing!

Janet: I’ll watch for her when I’m reading! What do you want readers to take away when they’re done?

Renee: Beast of Stratton’s a suspenseful, mysterious, but thoughtful book. I would like people to remember God’s providence. He will provide… even when we think He’s not listening, doesn’t care, or has forgotten we exist.

I also would hope they remember freedom isn’t free. It comes at a cost… blood.

Janet: Definitely truths to remember! You have another novel releasing soon. Is it a sequel, or something entirely different?

Renee: Yes! I do have another book coming out July 10th. It’s called To Soar on Eagle’s Wings, and it’s the first of my series, the Snowy Range Chronicles. I’m really excited about it.

The fictitious town of Timber Springs is home to the Fitzgerald family. With their father, the local pastor, the Fitzgeralds struggle to come to terms with the unexpected death of their mother while life continues… on the Snowy Range.

Here’s a little bit about Book One, To Soar on Eagle’s Wings:

Spring’s in the air. While the sun shines in Timber Springs, snow falls on the Snowy Range, and trouble’s brewing in the meadows. The area’s new game warden, Steve Mitchell, finds a moose mired in a bog and launches his first wildlife investigation of the season. Then the trouble follows him… straight to town.

Rachel Fitzgerald’s on Spring Break. Or at least she’s trying. Between paperwork, harassing phone calls, and her family, she may as well have stayed in her classroom. So much for relaxation. A ‘chance’ meeting with her brother’s old roommate offers her weary soul a shred of hope, but she discovers love, like life, isn’t easy.

He talks with the wisdom of the Lord but rejects the future. She wants to soar with the eagles but walks alone. And trusting God proves more of a challenge than ever before…

Janet: Sounds intriguing. What got you started writing?

Renee: My husband. That sounds a little strange but it’s true. I’ve written poetry and short stories since junior high school, but a novel? No way. One day about five years ago, I bought a “Christian” book off Amazon, and threw it into my cybernetic trash bin almost immediately. I was livid. The language didn’t make me half as mad as the sex. Christian, my foot. I raised the roof with my temper tantrum and burned my husband’s ear (at least he can only hear out of one.) Of course, now that I’ve calmed down, I like to pretend it was a marketing error.

Anyhoo, James (my husband) looked at me, listened, and nodded a few times from his easy chair, and told me to write my own. I did. 🙂

Janet: Good for him, and good for you! You’re an active blogger, too. How do you balance that with your fiction?

Renee: Very carefully. I have to manage my time in order to get it all done, that’s for sure.

Janet: Are you a morning person or a night owl? And what’s your favourite season?

Renee: I love the morning. I wake up in a good mood and full of chatter, much to my husband’s displeasure. (He’s NOT a morning person.) I’ve learned how to be a night owl when I need to be though. I have to be careful to get my sleep for health reasons… my migraines can be a literal nightmare.

Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?

Renee Blare

Author Renee Blare

Renee: I love to relax on the side of a lake with a good book with my line in the water. Half the time I don’t even pay attention to the thing, but the fresh air and sun’s awesome. Give me a beach, and I’m in heaven.

Janet: That lake is beautiful. I’m surprised how similar the landscape looks to Nova Scotia, although we don’t usually see rocks that amazing in the water. Thanks for visiting today, Renee, and may these two novels releasing this year be the start of many more.

Ebook giveaway of Beast of Stratton: to enter, leave a comment below. If you like, you can tell us what fairy tale you’d like to see rewritten as contemporary fiction. Draw ends at midnight, April 17, and I’ll choose one commenter’s name at random. (Offer void where prohibited by law.) [And our winner is Mary Preston!]

About the Book:

He appears the beast but she sees his heart.

Architect Aimee Hart, determined to locate her father, infiltrates Miles Stratton’s engineering firm as a secretary. Her presence wrenches the shaggy, wounded man from his penthouse, and the quest begins.

He’s been betrayed by his best friend. Miles would rather hide than help, especially his daughter. But it isn’t over. Someone’s trying to destroy Stratton Industrial. A war veteran, he knows how to defend his own, the Beast of Stratton can do it again.

Find Renee online:

Suspense Author Amy C. Blake

Amy C. BlakeAmy C. Blake joins us today to talk about her newest novel, Whitewashed. Amy is a pastor’s wife, writer, and homeschooling mother of four. She writes juvenile fantasy and new adult suspense.

Janet: Welcome, Amy, and thanks for taking time to join us. Your novels feature homeschooled characters, although they’re written for everyone. I think it’s a great way for people outside the homeschooling movement to find out what it’s like. Would you tell us a bit about Whitewashed?

Amy: Thanks for hosting me, Janet. Whitewashed is a contemporary suspense about 18-year-old homeschooler Patience McDonough as she heads off to college in Hades, Mississippi, where she’ll live with her grandparents and complete her degree in record time. Patience’s careful plans quickly go wrong because things at the college are strangely neglected, her class work is unexpectedly hard, Grand gets called out-of-town, and Poppa starts acting weird—so weird she suspects he has Alzheimer’s. On top of that, she has to work extra hours at her student job inputting financial data for the college—boring! Soon her job gets more interesting than she’d like: she finds that millions of dollars are unaccounted for and that something creepy is going on in the Big House basement. She discovers secrets tying her family into the dark beginnings of Verity, founded on a slave plantation, and she is forced to question the characters of people she has always trusted. Finally, confronted with a psychotic killer, Patience has to face facts—her plans are not necessarily God’s plans.

Janet: Wow! Sounds like a gripping read! What age range is the novel for? And with female protagonists, I’m guessing it’s mainly for girls, or is it for both genders?

Amy: Whitewashed is primarily for girls, especially those in the older teen/younger twenties range who are transitioning into adulthood. However, I’ve had a few male readers tell me they enjoyed the book, and many women all the way into their senior adult years tell me they couldn’t put it down.

Janet: What’s the novel’s theme? Or what do you want readers to take away when they’re done?

Amy: Whitewashed has several themes interwoven into the plot, but I’ll just tell you about one. Patience is a real stickler for truth, so much so she sometimes can’t see people. She’s even been known to scream truth in the faces of people she loves, and in so doing has caused much more harm than good. I want the reader to learn, along with Patience, that truth and mercy go hand-in-hand. Just as God is a God of truth who is merciful to His children, we should be people of truth who also show mercy to others.

Janet: That’s definitely a balance we all need to find. Whitewashed is book 1 in the On the Brink series. The other stories feature Patience’s sisters, correct?

Amy: Actually, the other two On the Brink books feature Patience’s two best friends, Nat and Christy, who are also homeschooled. Christy’s story is set in Buckeye Lake, Ohio, and ties into the 1920s when Buckeye Lake—with its amusement parks and nationally-known ballrooms—drew huge crowds. Nat’s story is still in the works, though I’m pretty sure it’ll be set in Washington DC.

Janet: You write both suspense and fantasy… this encourages me, because I write suspense and have some science fiction ideas scooting around in my brain. Do you have a favourite genre to write? To read?

Amy: I love writing and reading both suspense and fantasy (especially YA fantasy). I also enjoy mystery and some romance. I recently finished writing a romance novella, Gabriel’s Gift, which my agent is now shopping around.

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Amy: Keep writing, no matter how bad what you’ve written seems, because the more you write, the better you’ll get. Try to attend a Christian writers’ conference and network with others. Join a critique group. Read books on the writing craft and books in your genre(s).

Janet: Wise words! What do you do when the muse is uncooperative?

Amy: I write anyway. If I can’t create anything new, I edit my old stuff. Sometimes I shift gears and work on blogs or articles for magazines instead of fiction for a while. Other times, though not often enough, I go clean the house instead.

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

Amy: I live in Columbus, Ohio. I appreciate being close to museums, theatres, symphonies, etc. I also appreciate the ACFW Ohio writers I get to meet with, and I appreciate my local church, Parsons Baptist Church, where my husband pastors.

Janet: Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Amy: Isaiah 6 reminds me of how very massive and majestic God is. When I get overwhelmed with all the little details in my life or feel tempted to throw myself a pity party, I need the reminder of who God is and why I was created—to glorify God in all I think, say, and do.

Janet: What a great note to end on. Thanks for chatting, Amy, and congratulations on your new release! All the best!


Whitewashed, by Amy C. Blake

Whitewashed, by Amy C. Blake (Mantle Rock Publishing)

Eighteen-year-old Patience McDonough has a plan. Despite her parents’ objections, she will attend Verity College in Hades, Mississippi, and live with her grandparents. She’ll complete her degree in record time and go on to become a doctor. But things at the college are strangely neglected, her class work is unexpectedly hard, Grand gets called out-of-town, and Poppa starts acting weird—so weird she suspects he has Alzheimer’s. On top of that, she has to work extra hours at her student job inputting financial data for the college—boring! But soon her job gets more interesting than she’d like: she finds that millions of dollars are unaccounted for and that something creepy is going on in the Big House basement. She discovers secrets tying her family into the dark beginnings of Verity, founded on a slave plantation, and she is forced to question the characters of people she has always trusted. Finally, confronted with a psychotic killer, Patience has to face facts—her plans are not necessarily God’s plans. Will the truth set her free?

Buy links for Whitewashed: (author affiliate links)

Amy C. Blake is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four. She has a B.A. and an M.A. in English from Mississippi College. She contributed to Barbour’s Heavenly XOXO’s for Women, Book Lover’s Devotional, and Every Good and Perfect Gift. Amy wrote short stories and articles for Focus on the Family, Mature Years, Significant Living, Vista, Encounter, and other publications. She won awards at St. Davids Christian Writers Conference and West Branch Christian Writers Conference. The Trojan Horse Traitor quarterfinaled in the 2011 ABNA contest. Her juvenile fantasy novel The Trojan Horse Traitor, releases in November, 2015, and her new adult suspense novel, Whitewashed, released February 15.

Amy’s Social Media Links:

Interview: Suspense Author Bethany Macmanus

Author Bethany Macmanus

Author Bethany Macmanus

Bethany Macmanus lives in Houston with her husband, daughter, and son. After practicing as an RN for five years, Bethany left the nursing field to pursue a writing passion the Lord planted in her heart when she was a child. Nancy Drew mysteries were her guilty pleasure during those early years, so she naturally gravitates her pen toward the things that go bump in the night, and most of her plots have a psychological spin.

She’s allergic to cheese, Sulfa drugs, and people who stop in the middle of intersections while driving. Bethany describes herself as “a suspense author who writes gritty characters into novels that keep God on His throne where He belongs.”

Janet: Wow, Bethany, that tag line from your website has my attention. Could you unpack it a bit for our readers?

Bethany: Sure! Early into writing full time, I found I have characters who aren’t afraid to show their imperfections. They may mouth off, be darkly sarcastic, or have a fatal flaw that makes them incredibly human. You don’t find that as often in Christian fiction. That’s why I also included the unapologetic line about keeping God on his throne. Because though my books hint at how dark our sin nature can be at times, God is Lord over all, and His sovereignty and the light we desperately need and crave becomes more clear against the backdrop. His truth shines forth.

Janet: Tell us a bit about your newest release, Nerve.

Bethany: Nerve was born out of the biggest trial of my life, when my husband’s nerve problem in his arms plunged him into a severe depression, which ultimately caused him to attempt suicide. The struggle for a diagnosis, having so many doctors say different things, different reasons for his problem, is what caused me to ask, “what if?”, and to imagine the premise for the book. You can read the blurb to get a good idea of the plot, but I’ll re-state it here.

Environmental photographer Lauren “Wren” Masterson discovers a very important medical invention has been stolen from her father’s house, two days after his death. Her father, Doctor Noah Masterson, had built it for her, in hopes her mysterious nerve problem could finally be diagnosed.

Lieutenant Justin Breck is the police officer assigned to the case. He has serious reservations, to the tune of knowing and having feelings for Wren two years ago. But Justin doesn’t know about Lauren’s nerve problem. How will he feel about her when and if he finds out? Does she dare to open her heart, and reveal?

And what will the thief do with the invention, now that its power is in his hands?

Janet: Did your experience working in the medical field plant some of the seeds that grew into this medical-themed romantic suspense?

Bethany: I think my overall interest in medical science helped with the research, kept me from stalling out when digging was producing no answers applicable to the storyline.

I’ve always been interested in the field. I remember having my own personal first aid kit as a child, one I could grab if, for instance, a friend fell off the zipline my very cool dad built for us in the backyard. I’d even bring it with me when babysitting, much to the chagrin of the baby’s mother. (Good to be prepared, right?!)

Janet: Good to be prepared, indeed! What do you hope readers will take away from the story?

Bethany: Mine is a message that’s good to hear again and again. Relationships work best when those involved in them are open and honest in their communication, and put God first.

Janet: Your other novels aren’t medical, but they’re all suspense. Has this always been your genre of choice?

Bethany: Yes, mysteries and suspense have always been my favorite, and even when I try to write something outside the genre, something criminal/medical/death-related always creeps in somewhere!

I read the Amanda Shaw books (Bethany House) growing up. They always had some element of mystery to them. I was also addicted to the Cooper kids adventure series by Frank Peretti, the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew (still am!). I’ve come to a point where it’s quite difficult for me to read outside my genre. I try, though…

Janet: What’s the best part of the writing life?

Bethany: Making my own hours and feeling like I’m going to a therapy session to work things out through one of my characters!

Janet: Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Bethany: I absolutely love Psalm 139. Knowing God pursues us and knows us no matter how far we run, how deep we hide, how tightly we lock our hearts—that’s what mystifies me about His love and power.

Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?

Bethany: I enjoy hiking with my family on the biking trails near our house. They have lots of hills and ramps and such. The kids (8 and 6, girl and boy) love it! For me, it’s perfect after sitting in front of a computer all day.

Janet: Together time and getting the body moving… good stuff! Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.

Bethany: I live in Houston and have for most of my life. For a brief seven years, early in my marriage, I lived in a rural area of Texas, where they make Blue Bell Ice Cream. While there, I missed the arts, the crowds, the food, the night life, the shopping… yes, can you tell I’m an extrovert and a city girl?! I also appreciate the mild winters we have here, those cool trails I mentioned, and the good economy. There’s a lot to appreciate in Houston, Texas.

Janet: Ooh, I heard of Blue Bell Ice Cream for the first time in a novel just last week. Thanks for visiting with us today, Bethany, and congratulations on your new release.

Bethany: Thanks for letting me come over! It was a pleasure and a privilege.

[Note: For more about Bethany Macmanus and her books, and to see other stops on Bethany’s blog tour, visit her website: bethanymacmanus.comBethany is giving away an ebook copy of Nerve with this interview. To enter the draw, leave a comment here on this post. Odds of winning depend on the number of entries, and the offer is void where prohibited. Draw closed at midnight, Friday, March 13. Winner: Cathy.]


Nerve, by Bethany Macmanus

It was created to save lives.

Now someone is using it to take them.

When Lauren “Wren” Masterson discovers her deceased father’s medical invention has been stolen from her childhood home in Florida, she never expects the officer assigned to the case will be Justin Breck, who asked her out two years ago.

He’s changed since then, seems like he’s hiding something. What happened to his openness, his no-holds-barred, carefree attitude? She wonders how this new Justin could possibly accept her imperfections, namely the persistent nerve disorder her father’s missing invention might cure.

Justin is learning the darker side of Doctor Masterson’s past life. The hard part? Proving it to Doc’s adoring daughter, while attempting to win her heart. He might have some history with her, but Doc’s lawyer, Connor Radcliffe, has more.

As bodies begin to drop around them, will Justin and Lauren find the invention before the thief uses it to kill Lauren?

New Guest Blogger!

Who doesn’t love it when a friend comes to visit? I’m pleased to introduce Stephanie Nickel, a friend and writer who’s agreed to share some guest posts with us.

Photo of Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Picture by Sarah Grace Photography)

Stephanie is a freelance writer and editor. She writes under the pen name Steph Beth Nickel. She co-authored Paralympian Deborah L. Willows’ memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Among other places, it is available from Castle Quay Books and Amazon. Steph has been blogging since 2010 and is a regular guest on Kimberley Payne’s site (fitness tips) and Christian Editing Services (writing tips and prompts). She will also be writing and recording regularly for the newly-formed Hope Stream Radio. Stephanie is an active member of The Word Guild and InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship.

Janet: Stephanie, we first met at a Write Canada conference, but I don’t remember the year. I went home and subscribed to your poetry blog, which has since melded into your Steph’s Eclectic Interests blog. We can see a glimpse of those varied interests in your author bio above. Are there others you’d like to mention here?

Stephanie: How long do you have, my friend? I have what I call Butterfly Syndrome. Some people simply refer to it as “Oo, Shiny!” As you would expect, I love reading. I also love, love, love to take pictures. My Canon is one of my best friends. And in addition to all that, I am a labour doula. I offer moms emotional and physical support as they birth their wee ones. (We met in June 2010, by the way. *grin*)

Janet: I guess the secret must be to do a little bit of everything. How do you keep from over-committing?

Stephanie: <humming and averting eyes> I don’t actually keep from over-committing. I do, however, discover that I get fired up and, for the most part, do a better job if I have several things on the go at once. Weird, I know.

Janet: I get distracted by new ideas too, but it’s more like “squirrel!” and I’m off. It doesn’t help me work better, just defuses what I’m trying to do. Ah, well … You’ll have some of the Friday posts here, and they’re pretty open-ended. What sorts of things do you think you might share with us?

Stephanie: Poetry, Christian Living, maybe a little flash fiction, the occasional photo post perhaps … Plus, I’m always open to suggestions.

Janet: What got you into writing?

Stephanie: That’s a great question. I really don’t know for sure. I’ve been writing in one form or another as long as I can remember.

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Stephanie: If you have the opportunity—whether new or experienced writer—write about what you love, what fires you up, what God has put on your heart. (You may be surprised who will be stirred by your words.) Always be open to constructive criticism and further developing your writing skills. At the end of the day, I think a writer must develop a tender heart, which will shine through almost any type of writing, and a tough hide, so as not to take criticism and negative reviews as a slight against you as a person. Don’t wait until you’re “good enough”—whatever that means—just write!

Janet: So true! The sooner we start, the sooner we’ll develop our skills. Now, with so many different interests and projects, do you ever get a full writer’s block? Or do you just switch to a different project and keep working?

Stephanie: As you mentioned, I can usually just divert my attention to another project if the words stop flowing. The only writer’s block I get occurs when I’m trying to come up with new subject matter for a copywriting client I work with. I write four seniors’ living articles per month, and I am coming to the end of the off-the-top-of-my-head list.

Janet: Sounds like it’s time to hang out with some seniors and eavesdrop! What do you like to do to recharge?

Stephanie: There’s little I enjoy more than grabbing my camera and going for a photo walk. But trust me, it’s a very slow walk because I’m partial to macro photography, getting up close and personal. If I move an inch or two, it’s a whole new shot. I’m so thankful for digital technology.

Janet: Love your photos! And I’m looking forward to your posts here.

Note to readers: The plan is for Stephanie to post here on the last Friday of the month, so please come back next Friday and see what she has to say. In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about her, visit the links below. You can also read my interview with Steph and co-author Deb Willows about the book Living Beyond My Circumstances. (Interview link here)


Stephanie invites you to pop by for a visit on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stephbethnickel or

You can also look her up on Twitter @StephBethNickel;
her blog: http://stephseclecticinterests.wordpress.com;
or her website (still a work in progress): http://stephbethnickel.com.