Monday, December 31, 2012

STRONG HEROINES


“I have been in love with story all my life,” says Gayle Roper, the award winning author of more than forty-five books. “Give me a story with strong characters and a captivating plot, and I’m one happy reader. Or writer.”

Among Gayle’s awards are the prestigious Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award, the Carol Award from American Christian Fiction Writers, two Inspirational Readers Choice Awards, and three HOLT Medallions. She has been a Christy finalist three times and has received the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Reviewers Choice Award from Romantic Times Book Report.

For her work in training Christian writers Gayle has won special recognition from Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, St. Davids CWC, Florida CWC, and Greater Philadelphia CWC.  She lives in southeastern Pennsylvania. She enjoys reading, spending time at the family’s Canadian cottage, gardening, and eating out every time she can manage it.

 
STRONG HEROINES
 
I recently saw a movie that left me very dissatisfied. It had big name stars, and they did their usual good work, but I wasn’t engaged. Why didn’t the story work for me?

Because the heroine was a wimp.

“Why doesn’t she just tell him off?” my cousin kept asking.

Why indeed.

I know there are women like this character in real life, but they don’t make good story leads. They are too passive and their victories are so small that they seem without value because they scarcely move the story forward. I want to watch or read about someone who fights through with grit and bravery no matter how much she’s shaking in her stilettos.

It’s not that I’m against subtlety and small realizations. Story don’t always have to be big aha! moments. However it does have to be about stepping forward and doing something.

One of the great strengths of current romantic suspense is strong heroines. Oh, they may start off being knocked sideways by the calamity they’ve fallen into, but they don’t stay there. They rise to the occasion, facing the danger, going toe to toe with the bad guy. They are intelligent women, and they behave rationally (going down to the dark cellar with only a wavering candle excepted).

I want heroines I can respect, women I can emulate. Sure, I probably don’t have to one up a murderer but I do have to figure out how to face my more mundane life crises. If she can face her fictional threats, I can face my real life ones. After all, mine don’t carry guns and wield knives.

Who are your favorite heroines? One of my favorites is Abby in my Summer Shadows.
 
 
 
Enter to win a copy of Summer Shadows so you can meet Abby, a gutsy, funny lady I know you’ll respect and appreciate.

 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT


 
 
 
Award-winning author DiAnn Mills is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn’s first book was published in 1998. She currently has more than fifty books published.
 
Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011.
 
DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also the Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.
She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.
 
For more information, visit her website.


Storytellers have used symbolism since they gathered around the campfire to thrill listeners with tales of courage. They used figurative language to create visuals that frightened and impressed the listener. We suspense writers haven’t changed. We’re still using a dark and stormy night to set stories that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Biting their fingernails. Reaching for the ball bat under their bed. And reading with one eye open.

Ever wonder how a suspense writer uses symbolism to create the perfect setting? I’m going to let you in on a few tricks of the trade.

We use hard consonants, like b, p, t, d, k, and g in which the consonant sound stops the flow of air. Sort of how we writers want to stop the reader’s breath. Think brisk, probe, terse, death, kill, or gun.

We use colors to move you into a suspenseful mode or pull you out.

Red is a warm color that causes strong emotions. From warm and comforting to anger and hostility.      

Blue carries a range of emotions from calmness to serenity. Blue can also mean sadness. 

Green symbolizes nature and growth. The color has a calming affect. It can mean wealth, greed, and jealousy.    

Yellow can be a color of frustration. More tempers are lost in yellow rooms, and babies tend to cry more in yellow rooms.

Purple is often associated with royalty, wealth, wisdom, and spirituality. Sometimes it symbolizes arrogance.
       
Brown is a natural color that invokes a down to earth feeling. However, for a person who is isolated on a farm and feels imprisoned, the color brown may be depressing.

Pink is a romance color. It suggests love, femininity, calmness.
         
Orange mixes red and yellow to create a warm affect. It means excitement and enthusiasm.
     
White signifies purity and innocence. It can also mean spaciousness or a sterile environment.

Black means evil, power, death, or mourning. In the fashion world, it’s used to create a slimming affect, even sophistication.

Gray is a mix of black and white, life and death—gray clouds, a gray matter.

We use numbers: One indicates wholeness. Three represents the Holy Trinity. Six means incompleteness, as in 666. Seven indicates completeness and twelve is the number of fulfilled judgment, as in twelve months in a year and twelve jurors deciding the fate of someone accused of breaking the law.

We writers also use details of the environment to build suspense: a ticking clock, a dripping faucet, nature’s fury, or other tangible items to create an edgy feeling. A horror writer employs the colors of red and black, shadows, repugnant smells, and clanging sounds.
        
Suspense writers use whatever we can find to create mood for our novels. All carefully placed to keep you turning pages and reaching for the next novel and the next. Happy on-the-edge-of-your-seat reading!    

If you'd like to win a copy of DiAnn's novel, THE CHASE, just leave a comment, along with your contact information!  

Monday, December 24, 2012

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


I thought this might be a good time to share the REAL Christmas story with our readers. There are groups of people who would like to remove Christ from Christmas, as well as from our nation. This is a time when those who love God need to stand up and say, “No.” America was founded with the idea that its citizens would enjoy freedom of religion. Not freedom “from” religion.

In keeping with the “reason for the season,” here is the Christmas story. The beginning of redemption, forgiveness, and grace – extended to all men and women. Even those who seek to steal our freedoms and turn our nation away from God.

 

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.  So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

BLESSINGS TO YOU AND YOURS!

Nancy Mehl for the SUSPENSE SISTERS

 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Interview with Mystery Author Lorena McCourtney



Today Suspense Sisters welcomes Award-winning Mystery Author Lorena McCourtney.

Lorena is giving away a copy of her book, DYING TO READ. If you'd like to be entered in the drawing, please leave a comment and you must include your contact information.

Lorena McCourtney is a long-time resident of Southern Oregon and enjoys using Oregon settings in her books. She wrote numerous short stories for children before moving on to romances and now to mysteries, often with a bit of humor. She won the American Christian Fiction Writer's Mystery "Book of the Year" and twice won the Daphne Du Maurier Award of Excellence.

I met Lorena (Elizabeth here) when I lived in Oregon. I hadn't yet sold my first novel to a publisher and was writing book reviews. Lorena contacted me to review her mystery, Stranded. We were both thrilled and surprised to have another Christian fiction writer living in the same small town in Oregon. So we started getting together for lunch once in a while. Over the years, Lorena has been a great encouragement and friend to me, and I'm so blessed that God brought us together.

We're honored to have her with us today.

S.S: Do you write full time? If the answer is no, what else do you do? If you are a full time author, what other jobs did you have in the past?

McCourtney: I still write full time, more or less. Although I’m not quite as full time as when I was younger. I’ve been a writer for a lot of years now, but it wasn’t what I started out to be. I worked my way through college with a job in a seed laboratory, and earned a BS degree in agriculture. Which probably doesn’t often lead to a career as a romance and mystery writer! At the time what I wanted was a big ranch, or maybe do some writing on agricultural subjects. Unfortunately, I turned out to be less than thrilled writing about hog raising and making sausage, which was what they wanted at the meat-packing company where I got my first job out of college.  I then worked at various office jobs until I quit to be a full-time Mom and write children’s stories, and eventually moved on to romances and mysteries.

S.S: Tell us about the moment you finally felt like a “real author”?

McCourtney: I’ve had 42 books published, and sometimes I still feel like an imposter.  Sometimes at the beginning of a new book, I feel as if there’s no way I can do this. A “real author” should know exactly what to do – and I don’t! So I guess I’m still waiting for the “real author” moment.

S.S:  Why mystery? Do you write in any other genres? If so, what?

McCourtney: I started out, when I left magazine-length writing for both children and the womens’ market, doing mass-market romances. I think I did 24 of them. When I decided to switch to strictly Christian fiction, I still wrote romances. But in one of them I tossed in a murder and a mystery, and I thought – hey, I like this. So after a couple more romances, I changed to Christian mysteries and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I like the more complicated twists and turns. Sometimes I don’t even know who the killer is myself when I start out, or sometimes the killer changes halfway through a book. So that’s fun.

Mysteries do take a fair amount of research, especially, for me, on police procedure and legal details.  And I sometimes wonder if there’s some Big Brother out there suspicious of why I’m looking up how to embezzle a fortune or build an explosive device.

S.S: How does your faith play into your writing?

McCourtney: Faith is an integral part of my writing now. I want my writing to serve the Lord, and I think that means putting my beliefs into the story. I see reviews of my books occasionally that say there’s too much “religion” in some of them, but my own feeling is that if I haven’t put enough of a faith-based foundation in my characters and plot to bring some complaints, then I probably haven’t put enough in.  But I do want to keep from sounding preachy or holier-than-thou. I want the faith to flow out of the characters themselves.



S.S: Tell us about your current release.

McCourtney: My latest release is“Dying to Read,” Book #1 in the Cate Kinkaid Files series from Revell. Cate, desperate for a job, goes to work as an assistant private investigator in her Uncle Joe’s Belmont Investigations business. Her first assignment is supposed to be quick and easy, no danger or mayhem, definitely no murder. Instead, she soon finds herself up to her elbows in Whodunit ladies, a paint-blobbed hunk, a deaf white cat – and killers.

S.S: Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

McCourtney: I’d been thinking a lot about so many people out of work. Even people with good education and experience may not be able to find a job, and my Cate is one of them. She first thinks of working as an assistant private investigator as strictly temporary, but the Lord often has different plans than we do.

S.S: How do you come up with such interesting and unique characters?

McCourtney: The world is full of interesting and unique people! I never use a character based exactly on a real person, but I do like to take bits and pieces of real people and meld them into a character for a story. Or I sometimes pluck out a little bit of myself to put in a character. This was especially true in my Ivy Malone character, the woman who feels she has aged into invisibility. A definite part of me! I like both real people and book characters who are on the quirky side, so that’s the way some of mine are too.

S.S: What is the main thing you hope readers remember from your story?

McCourtney: I often tend to use the theme that God is in control. He may not take care of things exactly the way we’d  prefer, or the style to which we’d like to become accustomed, but he will never abandon us. He’s always there.

S.S: Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

McCourtney: My main character, Cate Kinkaid, of course! I like her because she gets herself into strange situations, but she’s fun and resourceful, never a quitter.
  
S.S: What are you working on now?

McCourtney: “Dolled Up to Die,” Book #2 in the Cate Kinkaid Files is already written and is scheduled for release sometime in mid-2013.  So right now I’m working on Book #3 in the series, title not decided on yet.

S.S:  Now let’s get a little personal. Name two things on your “bucket list” that you haven’t done yet.   

McCourtney: One item has nothing to do with writing.  I’ve long wanted to climb Ayers Rock in Australia (though I think it may have a different name now).  Why? Good question.  Especially since a recent fall off a ladder reminded me I’m not great in the climbing department.  But I’d still like to do it.

Another is that I’ve long had a futuristic story simmering in the back of my head. It’s way out of my usual brand of writing in romance or mystery, so maybe no one would ever read it if I did write it. But it keeps simmering. Closer than that, however, on the “list” is doing another book in the Ivy Malone Mysteries series that readers keep clamoring for.

S.S.: Where can readers find you on the internet? 

McCourtney: My website: http://www.lorenamccourtney.com
Or just put my name in a search engine such as Google, and you can never tell what might show up!

S.S.: Anything else you’d like to tell or share with us?  

McCourtney: Just that hearing from readers is one of the best parts of being a writer. I try to answer every letter or e-mail I receive, though I’m sometimes a little slow. You can go to my website and there’s contact information on there. Or I should get anything sent to: lorena.mccourtney@facebook.com

Thank you for joining us today, Lorena! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hurry Up and Slow Down

 
Hi all, I posted this some time ago to another blog but thought I'd share it here.  Hope you enjoy. God bless, Lynette

Throughout my thirty years of driving experience, I’ve come to know that blue lights flashing in your rear view mirror are usually never a good sign. But I saw them. Recently. On Saturday, July 14th, I was on my way to Concord, NC for a booksigning going through the small town speed trap known as Cowpens, SC. Now you have to understand how my month had gone up to this point. On July 3rd, after 2 and a half years of “sell this house in your time, Lord” we got a contract on our house—with a closing date of Aug 2nd. While still in a stupor over the fact that our house had sold, I was now saying, “Lord, I gotta buy a house before Aug 2nd. But which one?”

Fortunately, we had also been looking at houses for the past two and a half years, so we knew where we wanted to move. We’d also been pre-approved and all that jazz. On July 6th, we put an offer in on a house. And guess what the listing said, “$3,000 appliance bonus if buyer can take possession by July 31st.” The house was perfect. You know why? Because it was empty. No waiting on the people to move out so we could move in before Aug 2. And yes, I really liked the house.

So after we put in our offer, the craziness really kicked in. Packing, inspections, financing, underwriters, more inspections, appraisals, the house has termites, oh no, the people who are buying your house may not actually be able to afford it. Oh, wait, yes they can…crazy, right? I mean I have been running around, rushing here, rushing there, buying furniture, filling out paperwork to enroll kids in school. You can probably imagine.

And now I have this booksigning.
           
July 14th arrives, I hop in the car and head off to Concord for the booksigning. I’m in a hurry. I’m always in a hurry these days. Hence, the blue lights in the rearview mirror. I pull over. He pulls over and approaches the vehicle.
“Where are you going ma’am?”            
“To a booksigning in Concord.  I was speeding wasn’t I?”
Officer Burnett nods “55 in a 35.”
I duck my head in shame. “I’m so sorry.”
“Ma’am, that’s 4 points and $433.”
I shrink into my seat. “Oh please have mercy.”
“Well, since you seem to be such a nice person, I’ll knock it to 2 points and $100.”
“Oh THANK YOU!” He hands me the ticket.
I say, “You realize I’m going to blog about this.”
“So, you’re a writer?”
“Um…yeah. Hey, you want a book?”
“What do write?”
I grin. “About law enforcement.”
I wish you could have seen the look on his face. I give him the book and we wave our goodbyes.
But before I pulled out of that gas station parking lot, I thought about something.
I’m racing through life too fast. Sometimes when you’re in the biggest hurry is when you need to slow down. I completely missed that 30MPH speed limit sign. What if a child had been playing along that street or someone decided to cross the road? Disaster could have happened. Thankfully that didn’t happen. Thankfully, I had a little wake up call. But when we’re hurry through life so fast, we often don’t see the signs God has for us along our journey in life. And we miss the stops he has planned for us. Sometimes God just has to slow us down for our own good and maybe to even keep us safe—and those around us safe. Sometimes, he has to slow us down long enough to show us what HIS plan is and let us know it might take a little longer to get to the final destination than WE planned on. Sometimes he slows us down through illness or an unexpected financial issue or just whatever is going to get our attention off of ourselves and back on him.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, not to harm you.” I want to encourage you today that if you’re hurrying through life and are missing the stops God has along the way for you, that you’ll slow it down and pay attention and let God keep your speed at just the right limit.

Monday, December 17, 2012

SHERLOCK...FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER


Sharon Dunn writes both humorous mysteries and romantic suspense. Her book Night Prey (Love Inspired Suspense) won a Carol award for 2011. Her first book Romance Rustlers and Thunderbird Thieves was a Romantic Times top pick and finalist in the inspirational Novel of the Year. Sassy Cinderella and the Valiant Vigilante, the second book in that same series (The Ruby Taylor mysteries) was voted book of the year by ACFW. Zero Visibility is her fifth Love Inspired Suspense with another one scheduled for release in March 2013 titled Guard Duty. When she is not writing, Sharon spends time with her husband, three children, two cats and a nervous little border collie named Bart. You can read more about Sharon and her books by visiting her website.
 
 
The other day, I was tootling with my humungous cart through our local big box store when I saw a book: Sherlock Holmes: The Montana Chronicles. Are you kidding me?  Now the famous detective has been reinvented to have spent time in Montana. Years ago, I remember watching a movie that had Holmes and as teenager. I think it might have been called Young Sherlock Holmes. And I saw an ad for a television series in which Watson is a woman. I haven’t read of Sherlock’s adventure in Montana or watched this new American television version, so I can’t speak to those. It’s just that this 19th century detective seems to pop up in a lot of different places.    

Sherlock Holmes is like Batman, he’s one of those characters who just keeps getting reinvented. Most recently, Robert Downy Jr. has starred in two big screen version of everyone’s favorite emotionally unavailable detective. And the Brits have done a series called Sherlock which places Holmes in a modern London setting with Dr. Watson as a returning war vet. The series stars Benedict Cumberbatch (I put that in there just because his name is fun to say) Both these versions have good storytelling that remain true to the central elements that make Holmes such a timeless character.

For my money, my all time favorite reinvention of Arthur Conan Doyle’s 19th century detective is still the movie Without a Clue starring Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley. The premise of the movie is that Dr. Watson actually does all the crime solving, but he lacks the charisma to get the attention he needs, so he hires Michael Caine, an actor with a drinking problem, to portray Sherlock. The movie is hilarious and rated PG.

I don’t know why some characters get reinvented over and over. There is probably even a cartoon version of Sherlock Holmes somewhere. It could be that in all the incarnations I’ve seen certain elements remain. First, the friendship between Watson and Holmes is always preserved. The perennial villain of Moriarty returns in one form or another and finally, Sherlock is the flawed hero, a man who often lets his need for answers override his tact. A man who is more in touch with his intellect than his emotions. I’m not sure why the Conan Doyle stories keep getting recycled. Any guesses?                 

Sharon is giving away a copy of her Love Inspired Suspense novel, ZERO VISIBILITY. Two people are trapped in a snowstorm on a mountain while they are being chased by three thieves bent on killing them. A good winter time read!

Leave a comment, along with your contact information, for a chance to win!  

 

 

 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Suspense Sisters Interviews Elizabeth Goddard




  
Elizabeth Goddard is the award-winning author of more than a dozen novels, including the romantic mystery, The Camera Never Lies—a 2011 Carol Award winner. A 7th generation Texan, she graduated from the University of North Texas with a B.S. in computer science and worked in corporate America for a decade before retiring to home school her four children and write romantic suspense novels. She lives in Louisiana with her husband and children. 



S.S: How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing on and off as long as I can remember—articles, poems, short stories. You name it. I remember my mother wanted to send my stories to a publisher. Does that give you an idea about how long? Over the years I considered writing for publication but never pursued it. I couldn’t find much direction until I joined American Christian Fiction Writers. Back then it was called American Christian Romance Writers. I joined in 2001 and immediately hooked up with a critique group within the organization. We had to submit a chapter a week and from that group, I learned to write fiction. Today every person in my original critique group is published.
 
S.S: Do you write full time? If the answer is no, what else do you do? If you are a full time author, what other jobs did you have in the past?

This is sort of a trick question because as much writing as I do, it could be considered full time—but I write really fast, and have marathon weekends and evenings to make up the word count. My full time job is home schooling my three boys. Believe me, that takes up a chunk of my time. Before I stayed home to write and home school, though, I worked in corporate America. I sold high-level software and traveled around the country to meet with prospects.

S.S: Tell us about the moment you finally felt like a “real author”?

I don’t think anyone feels like a real author until they get “the call,” or in my case, “the email.”
My editor, JoAnne Simmons, emailed me to offer a contract for my story, Seasons of Love. I remember running up the stairs to tell my daughter, but I stopped halfway and ran back down to reply to JoAnne first. Then I ran up the stairs again and shared the news with my daughter. That was a grand feeling and I’m sure all authors hold onto that moment.

S.S.: Who has been your greatest supporter as an author? 

All my friends and family have been huge supporters of my dream, even before I began to pursue it. But my husband has been the most supportive because he has to put up with me writing, or living in another world, as he puts it.

S.S:  Why suspense? Do you write in any other genres? If so, what?

I’ve written romance for Heartsong Presents but even those usually have a measure of suspense. I’ve written a cozy mystery, The Camera Never lies, which I loved writing. That was my first cozy to write and I find that genre to be a lot of fun. Mostly I love suspense because the tension is much greater. It keeps me reading and writing.

S.S: How does your faith play into your writing?

My faith is a huge part of my writing. It’s why I write. I believe that God gave me the desire to write and he fulfilled that dream. I often think how blessed I am to be doing something I love so much. God has been good to me. In every story I write, I pray through the writing that God will inspire the story, put His message in the way He wants it. I’ve been surprised sometimes at what spiritual message surfaces. It’s my biggest goal to make sure I include a spiritual nugget in every story.

S.S:  Tell us about your current release.

I was excited when I came across the premise for this story. I loved every minute of writing it, and this is one of those stories where the spiritual message surprised me. My hero has failed at a couple of dangerous jobs already. Now he’s a test pilot and decides to try his hand at recovering a Learjet from Belize. His escape includes facing men with Uzi’s and then he finds a kidnapped woman on the plane. Not just any woman, but the daughter of a Colombian drug lord. Her father’s enemy wants his plane back and his hostage, and he’ll stop at nothing to get them back.
  
S.S: Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

I came across the story of a real Learjet repo man and read about some of his dangerous adventures in retrieving luxury jets and yachts from South American drug lords, presidents of third world countries, and other unscrupulous groups.

S.S: What is the main thing you hope readers remember from your story?

First I want them to have an intense ride, a powerful emotional experience while reading Treacherous Skies. Then I want to encourage them that our past doesn’t have to define our future.

S.S: What are you working on now?

I just turned in the edits for the second story in this series. Riptide is Jake’s story—he’s the brother of my hero in Treacherous Skies. I’m also writing the third story in this collection with a working title of Striking Distance.

S.S.: Where can readers find you on the internet?


Here’s another chance to win a copy of TREACHEROUS SKIES. Leave a comment, answering what you’d love to see in upcoming romantic suspense novels and we’ll draw one name. But you MUST leave your contact information.