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Month: February 2020

Interview with Cindy M Amos and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I’m so excited to bring you Cindy M. Amos! Cindy’s newest release takes place in my old stomping grounds around Saint Augustine, Florida. It is truly one of my favorite places on earth, and when I lived there I read anything and everything with that at it’s setting! I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did. Read on to see how you can enter to win her latest release!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. My background is in the natural sciences, so learning to write fiction was a lot like mastering a foreign language. After college I spent five years doing sea turtle conservation work on an isolated barrier island. Afterwards,
I relocated from North Carolina to Florida where I met my husband. The Florida landscape is highly interesting…and full of threats like big snakes and alligators! The last day of that career was the day I went into labor with our oldest son. Before both boys started school, we moved to the heartland where I began writing fiction focused on man living close to the land, mostly ranching themes. On the weekends, we farm and ranch in the Flint Hills to the north of Wichita on the fifth-generation Amos family ranch. I worked at a local nature center as their volunteer coordinator for ten years, but for the last seven years I’ve been a full-time writer.

I recently celebrated the release of my 31st book, having signed on with a small traditional publisher, Winged Publications, in August 2016. The publisher, cozy mystery author Cynthia Hickey, is a pleasure to work with, and her cover designs are top-notch! For 2019, I’ve enjoyed producing eight novellas –all in collections– and am looking forward to my main contract in the Forget Me Not Romances imprint for 2020, The Men of Mustang Pass, a historical series set in Montana.

Tell us about your current release. My publisher recruited volunteer writers to fill the last collection of the year, Romancing the Drifter. Right away, a story thread popped into my head about a man living along the railroad tracks who wasn’t who he seemed. I selected the historical rail line that drove the settlement of south Florida, put in place by railroad magnate Henry Flagler. A fascinating time of endeavoring geniuses, Flagler ordered power stations from Thomas Edison to electrify the hotels he built to house the tourists the trains brought to town. Anyway, the drifter collides with a true-to-life Florida cracker family at a waterstop for the train. In Derailing the Drifter a guy meets pretty girl under adverse circumstances, and the rest of the entanglement occurs between stops from St. Augustine to Daytona Beach as Flagler plans to expand the rail to an unsettled locale called “Miami.” Lots of authentic conflict here between arriving tourists and resourceful natives, and the reader might enjoy discovering one of the first kitschy souvenir shops along the route! Orange marmalade, anyone? I will enjoy sending a paperback of this new release to one lucky reader of Hallee’s blog! What I like about paperbacks is they can be read and then passed along to a friend!

If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? That answer is a resounding YES. I remember my Sunday School teacher coming to me after reading Book 5 of my Landscapes of Mercy series, Lifting Lock Runner. She admitted that she cried while reading the book and then thanked me for writing it. I was struck by her response, and then realized I possess no clue as to how my books will reach individual readers. Is suffering the touchpoint? Forgiveness? Redemption? A second chance? Like Scripture says, man looks at the outward appearance but God sees the person’s heart. Under inspiration from the Holy Spirit, I am tasked to write the best book I can, market it with enthusiasm, and trust God with the rest.

Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful? No, I never compromise my standards, which is why writing inspirational romance is so great. I tell everyone their grandmother can read my books, they are so wholesome and clean. I have to take responsibility for every word I write, which comes with the territory of being a published author. At first, it was hard sharing my heart and feelings with the reading public, but it becomes easier to be revealing with each release — and some encouraging reviews from readers!

What do you think is lacking in Christian Fiction? With all those characters in your head screaming to get out how do you write fast enough to get it all down? Sometimes while I’m finishing a book, the idea for the next one starts formulating. That’s my only time of “mixed signals” of inspiration. Still, the last scenes are always so vivid,
I can get those completed true to form and then grow excited about the next romantic adventure. Life is full of variety, and I draw from that constantly. On a good week with little interruption, I can start a book and get one chapter done per day. I’ve been mostly writing novellas lately, so I can complete a 20,000-word romance in four to ten days. That only includes the first draft, though I do go back and read through the previous chapter before starting my writing day, which gives me that first chance to improve my flow and optimize word selection.

What’s the first major news headline that you can remember and what do you remember? My mother sat on the sofa in our living room and couldn’t stop crying as JFK’s funeral procession rolled across the TV screen in black and white. That’s hard for a kid to forget. I remember thinking, “What’s going to happen to our country now?” We were raised under conditions of poverty, so any drastic change seemed to be a threat to our marginal world. As it turned out, we were fine and time marched on under Lyndon Baines Johsnson in the White House.

Have you always wanted to write a book? No, the first part of my life I was “nature girl” and lived a very active, outdoorsy lifestyle. After lots of nonfiction endeavors, including being published in national magazines for Christian leadership, ministry, and STEM advisory articles, I kept contemplating the vast arena of fiction writing and became fascinated with the concept. One day, standing in the middle of a pasture eight miles from a paved road, I looked up at the ridge of a hill and asked myself a question. “What if a young man rode his horse across that hill on the way to find something special? I began to write the answer, and by the time I’d finished, it became a five-book series that employed an element of time-slip to link the present-day rancher to his heritage. I still have that series about the prairie saved back, and hope it can become a meaningful part of my book legacy as time goes on.

Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? I began by outlining in the early days, but now find that isn’t necessary for novella-length books. I do use an outline for sequencing a longer book. I write plot-driven fiction, so I don’t focus on the character-driven goals/motivation/conflict sketching out technique. However, I am reading several craft books on character development including ones by James Scott Bell and Jeff Gerke for deepening my characterizations.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Develop your innate ability to write by keeping at it. My best advice to someone who has written a book is to write the next book. You learned something along the way when completing a book-length project, so utilize what you’ve gained and employ it to write a better second book. Build on your success. Keep your writing ‘machine” in operation. Fitness trainers talk about “muscle memory” and I believe writing skills are similarly expressed. Block out time to write and sink into that rich world of creating a story no one else has ever told. When life circumstances prevent me from writing, I begin missing the process immediately. I start scribbling notes, which is a promisorial ticket for a guaranteed return to my “normal” endeavor, the lifestyle of being a writer.

Here is where you can find Cindy online:

Winged Publications – Where your stories take flight!

Cindy is giving away a paperback of her book Derailing the Drifter to a reader! See below how you can enter to win:a Rafflecopter giveaway



Interview with Dorothy St. James and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I’m so happy to have Dorothy St. James as my guest. Dorothy hails from one of my favorite states – South Carolina – and writes one of my favorite genres to read – cozy mysteries. I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did! And, read on to see how you can enter to win a copy of her latest release!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Hi! Thank you for hosting me on your blog. I’m a cozy mystery author Dorothy St. James (I also write romance under the name Dorothy McFalls). I grew up and live in the Lowcountry just outside of Charleston, South Carolina—a place with vast marshes, stinky pluff mud, and ancient live oak trees dripping with silvery Spanish moss. I love this place.

My earliest memories are of my love of books. As soon as I learned to write, I started writing my own stories, mainly adventure tales. I also love animals. I hold a degree in Wildlife Biology and worked for various governmental and nonprofit organizations to protect the environment until one day I quit in order to pursue my love of writing.

I’m known for the White House Gardener Mystery series (where a Charleston takes on Washington), the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series (set on a sea island outside of Charleston), and have a new Secret Bookroom series (also set in South Carolina) coming in September 2020.

Tell us about your current release. Bonbon with the Wind is the fourth book in the Southern Chocolate Shop mystery series. There’s a legend in the Sea Islands that before a hurricane hits the Gray Lady can be seen walking down the beach warning of doom. Charity Penn, the owner of the Chocolate Box, doesn’t believe in such silly stories, but she does believe weather forecasters. A powerful hurricane is heading their way. Joe Davies, a local treasure hunter with an unquenchable sweet tooth, claims to have seen the Gray Lady walking toward him just that morning and is terrified for his life.

After the storm passes everyone returns to survey the damage. Thankfully, most buildings survived the raging winds and rushing waves. The Chocolate Box still lists to one side like a drunk in a windstorm, but the roof held and the interior is just slightly soggy. But as Penn walks her little dog Stella on the beach, they find Joe Davies’s body washed up onshore. Did the Gray Lady claim another victim? Many on the island believe that is exactly what happened.

Penn is sure there’s another explanation. She follows the clues and hints of lost gold to discover that the truth behind the treasure hunter’s death is as much of a maze as the boating channels winding their way through the local marshes.

How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher (or agent or audience if you self publish)? Anxiety has affected my life in many ways. It really seems to bloom whenever I sit down to write. Those “am I good enough?” and “who am I to write a book?” thoughts can be awfully loud some days. It’s a gut-twisting feeling (similar to having eaten egg salad at a church picnic after it’s sat out too long). The anxiety sometimes makes me want to crawl back into bed and stay there…forever. I’m sure anyone who suffers from anxiety knows the feeling only too well.

But, thankfully, the drive to write novels is bigger than the anxiety. I fall in love with the characters and their ability to overcome struggles. I laugh at the goofy things they do. I cry when they are hurting. And I sit on the edge of my seat and type like mad whenever they get themselves into dangerous situations when trying to solve a murder. These are the highs that help me push through whenever the anxiety dragons come to visit.

Learning everything I can about the craft of writing has helped tremendously too. When that voice of doubt whispers in my ear, “You don’t know what you’re doing,” I remind myself that, yes, I do know what I’m doing. I’ve taken several classes to help me do what I’m doing.

And, after arming myself with all this, I keep writing.

Have you always wanted to write a book? The desire to write a book and hold it in my hands is one of my earliest memories. I have always been drawn to books. I love the stories they tell and how reading makes me feel. The more I read, the more the stories in my own head clamor to get out.

For quite a while, the thought of writing a book felt too scary, too daunting. I pursued a career in Environmental Urban Planning, because that felt safer. And yet, in my work, I was drawn to the stories of the places I would go and assist, especially the small towns. I loved telling hearing the stories of these special Southern places, places that were disappearing, and I love telling others about these places.

And then one day I decided that I needed to pursue that side of my life, I’d waited long enough. It was time to take a chance on myself and start to write novels. In 2001, I quit my job to write full-time. It was scary and exciting all at the same time. I’m so glad that I took that leap.

Do you have pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book? I do have a pre-determined length. Publishers often have word-length requirements or guidelines. But keeping my publisher happy isn’t the only reason I like to keep to these word counts. Readers often expect a certain length novel depending on the genre. Cozy mysteries are generally around eighty thousand words long. Historical romances, in comparison, are generally around one hundred and twenty thousand words in length. Meeting reader expectations is important, especially for readers who like to read a certain genre.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Read. Read in your genre. Read books by best-selling authors. Read books by first-time authors. Try to figure out what those authors are doing to please the reader.

What is your preferred method of writing? I plot by hand in a spiral-bound notebook. This notebook is where I’ll also jot down facts about the characters, ideas that I might want to pursue later in the book, and brainstorm whenever I get stuck. It’s a very important notebook.

When I write, however, the words flow best from my fingertips to the computer keyboard. It feels as if my hands are doing the talking. After long writing days, my fingers will sometimes tingle while I stumble as I try to talk aloud. With my mouth. To real, live people.

What is your inspiration for writing? I love to do research. Reading about an area, talking with people, and researching events in history all spark the best ideas for me. The stories of people and places are my biggest inspirations. Often, the book’s setting becomes just as important as any of the characters in the book. I hope my readers feel the same way and will want to visit the places I’m writing about.

Here is where you can find Dorothy online:





Dorothy is giving away a signed copy of Playing with Bonbon Fire to a reader! See below how to enter to win:
a Rafflecopter giveaway



Monday Morning Coffee and Chat 2/10/20 – What Are You Working on Now?

Hello! Welcome to Monday Morning Coffee and Chat! Today I’m answering the question, “What are you working on now?” And I’m talking about Messianic Judaism, Messianic Christianity, and diverse characters.

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Monday Morning Coffee and Chat 2/3/20 – Do Your Kids Read Your Books?

Hello! Welcome to Monday Morning Coffee and Chat! Today I’m about my upcoming branded coffee Hallee’s Brew and answering the question, “Do your kids read your books?”

The books discussed in this chat are:
Sapphire Ice
Greater Than Rubies
On The Ropes

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