Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Coming Down Off The Mountain

We used to say that spring and fall were the seasons for writing conferences. Now there are writing conferences throughout the year, and I’m delighted to see them proliferate like that. It means there will be even more good books out there soon. But there are pitfalls for those who attend the conference. And whether you're a writer or a reader, I think you'll be interested in this advice.

One of the biggies, the annual meeting of the American Christian Fiction Writers, has just ended. For multi-published “veterans,” it is a wonderful opportunity to renew and strengthen relationships already established. For unpublished writers, it presents one of the best chances to hear things that make your fiction even better while forging friendships with like-minded folks. And for most of those who attend, the conference (and others like it) will represent a mountaintop experience that leaves you energized. You’ll return home with new determination and a sense of mission. That’s great, but a word of caution is warranted—coming down off a mountain can be difficult.

Think about the contrast between your life at a conference and your everyday existence. At the conference, those around you (by and large) understand your views, your problems, and even your activities. At home, most people have no idea what a writer does, what the roadblocks to publication are, how to deal with situations when the words just won’t come or the plot wants to bog down and grind to a halt. At the conference, there’s time for prayer, for worship, for listening to speakers who talk about doing a better job at what you do and why it’s important. At home, you work to snatch time to write, your support system is entirely different, and there are times when you wonder if it’s all worth it.

Once we’ve ascended the mountain to hang out at conference with others of a like mind, it’s tough to get back to the lonely valley below. We may discover that the agent or editor who said, “Send me a proposal” wasn’t as interested as they seemed. It’s possible that the brilliant idea we had for our novel looks less than golden when re-examined in our office at home. We may even find ourselves remembering snippets of conversation, shoved to the back of our consciousness at the time, that remind us of the limited opportunities for writers to hit it big.

Sometimes the answer lies in chocolate and talking with friends. In most cases, though, the best remedy for the depression that lies in wait at the foot of the mountain is to remember why we’re writing in the first place…and for whom. That’s why I have these lines from author B. J. Hoff on a card above my computer. I commend them to you now:
“It matters not if the world has heard
Or approves or understands…
The only applause we’re meant to seek

Is that of nail-scarred hands.”

I'm pleased to offer a copy of my latest novel, Medical Judgment, to a randomly selected commenter. Don't forget to include your email address so I can contact the winner, who will be chosen in about a week.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

THIS WEEK ON THE SUSPENSE SISTERS





It’s another awesome week on the Suspense Sisters!


Congratulations to all our Carol Award Nominees! Richard Mabry, Elizabeth Goddard, Cynthia Hickey, Nancy Mehl and our Genesis Award Winner, reviewer Iola Goulton. Our team rocks!

This week Therese Heckenkamp reviews SHADOW OF THE STORM by Candle Sutton. Therese says: “Shadow of the Storm delivers plenty of suspense while the main character battles the storms of life on an exciting journey of self-discovery. For fans of inspirational suspense, this book is a must-read.” Read her complete review HERE.







On Tuesday, Dana Mentink will share What’s Hot in Inspirational Suspense and Mystery!






On Wednesday we’ll hear from Suspense Mister Richard Mabry. His post is titled “Coming Down Off the Mountain.” Richard will be giving away a copy of his book, MEDICAL JUDGMENT!  












Friday, Suspense Sister Cynthia Hickey will interview author Rhonda Gibson. She’s giving away a copy of her cozy mystery, CLAIRE PARKER TAKES THE CASE! 













That’s what’s happening this week on the Suspense Sisters! Don’t miss a single day. Sign up through Email so you’ll get updates in the exciting world of inspirational suspense and mystery!




 The Suspense Sisters! We love books!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Interview and a giveaway with Julie Cosgrove!


We're excited to welcome author Julie Cosgrove! She has graciously agreed to give away an ebook of  Dumster Dicing and an ebook of Baby Bunco when it releases in 2017! Comment to be entered to win! 



SS: Tell us about your current release. 

I am under contract for a new Cozy Mysteries series called the Bunco Biddies Mysteries. So I have switched genres from suspense-romance, where two people bump into each other during a tense moment, to cozies where someone is bumping off people.

The first is Dumpster Dicing. Bunco is a dice game, so the titles in the series all reflect that theme. It is set in a retirement community called Sunset Acres where three vital elderly ladies discover a crime has been committed and decide to speed up the investigation by getting their fellow Bunco players involved. 

 SS: Where did you get the idea for this book? I see elderly people in my congregation in their seventies, eighties, even pushing ninety that still play golf, volunteer, and are a vital part of my community. In our youth-oriented society where gray hair is dyed and wrinkles smoothed by lotions and creams, I wanted people to see life doesn’t end at sixty. I like to say sixty is the new forty!

These graduated retirement centers, which offer everything from independent living all the way to full nursing care, are popping up all over the country. I was invited to be a part of a book fair at one and have since toured a good many of them helping an elderly friend find housing. Most cozies are set in small communities so I decided why not set a series in one of these places? Luckily my editor and publisher agreed.

 SS: Tell us about your main character.
Janie Manson is the widow of an Austin, Texas police detective. She decided to sell her house and move to Sunset Acres. Because the senior activities lean to the lame side, she hosts Bunco games in her condo every Thursday evening. Each morning, she power-walks with her two buddiesEthel is an avid mystery reader who cross catalogs her paperbacks by crime. Betsy Ann is a retired home and garden reporter for the local newspaper. 

Janie’s daughter, Melody, is married to Blake Johnson. He’s the Chief Detective in the police department of the nearest town, Alamoville. Like many central Texas towns, it is booming, and Janie sees that Blake is too busy for his family. So naturally she wants to step in and solve the crimes quickly so he can make the soccer games and band concerts, perhaps even take a family vacation to the coast.

 SS: Is there a spiritual message in your book? If so, what is it? 
The message is to cherish family and marriage, to honor the elderly, and to realize that no matter your age, you can be a useful person. Here is what one critic said

​“Dumpster Dicing, by Julie B. Cosgrove, was the most delightful book I’ve read in some time. A well-written mystery that had me guessing, this book also offers humor, a wee bit of romance, and a beautiful message weaved into the characters’ actions.

I loved Janie’s daughter and son-in-law, Detective Blake Johnson, as well many more of the secondary characters.

What I didn’t expect was such an encouraging message to come in the middle of a cozy mystery. Sometimes authors shove a Christian message in between crime scenes and car chases. However, Cosgrove seamlessly threads her message throughout the book. From the way Blake responds to his wife and his mother-in-law, to the way Janie is convicted about visiting friends in the assisted living center, the characters exemplify what it means to live a life of Christian love. Beautifully done!

I highly recommend this book and I can’t wait until the next installment in the Bunco Biddies series!” Christian Women Writers Reviewer



 SS: What are you working on now? 
I am in edits on a Christmas-themed novella called Hill Country Homecoming for my publisher as part of a holiday series (Nov 2016), in line edit proofing with Baby Bunco, (Winter 2017) the second in the Bunco Biddies series, and writing Threes and Sixes, the third one (Summer 2017).

 SS: Tell us three things about yourself that would surprise your readers. 
My writing career took off after I found my 59-year-old husband lying dead in the shower from a massive heart attack as he got ready for work. I had to fill my evenings and vegging out on popcorn in front of the TV for hours didn’t work. Ten novels later, I guess God had a plan, right?


I am the third daughter in my family. So was my mother, my grandmother and my great grandmother. However, the tradition ended with me. I had only one son, then a hysterectomy at 28. My niece picked up the ball and ran with it. She has three girls. Perhaps the third one, Rachel, will continue the tradition one day. But she is only three years-old. No pressure.

I grew up spending my summers in the Texas Hill Country at a cabin my grandfather built in 1923.  So, besides various rescue cats and a dog, our menagerie of pets soon included ducks, horned owls, opossums, squirrels and a rabbit. I once nursed a hummingbird back to health.

SS: Where can readers find you on the Internet? 
My website is www.juliebcsogrove.com.  I have an inspirational blog called Where Did You Find God Today?

I write regularly for several devotional publications and websites, and I am on Twitter @JulieBCosgrove, on Facebook as juliebcosgrove, and on Pinterest and LinkedIn. 
You can follow my Goodreads author page and my Amazon author page as well. 

 SS: Anything else you’d like to share with us?
Since you asked…I’d love it if the readers checked out my other fictional works. Of most interest to your audience would be my suspense romance series. A young widow, Jen, is kidnapped by a coworker named Tom who says it was her husband’s last bequest in order to keep her safe from the cartel that caused his car accident. But the more she tries to learn what really happened, the deeper she swirls herself, Tom and two trafficked teens into an underground tempest odeception that spans two continents. The first is Hush in the Storm and the sequel is Legitimate Lies. It won Best Religious Fiction 2016 by the Texas Association of Authors. You can preview them and watch the trailers on my website.





Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Our Writers' Circle: A Love Story

by E.E. Kennedy

It began as an author’s promotional gig. All I did was to offer my services as a speaker at the local Senior Center. Facilities like these appreciate having a speaker for free, and I can often sell a few copies of my mysteries. I like to call my basic speech “Taking the Mystery out of Mysteries.” A little corny, I know, but it’s self-explanatory and who doesn’t like mysteries?

This time, I was told that they’d love to have me, but I would need to fashion my presentation into four one-hour classes, a short course on writing mysteries. Since I enjoy public speaking and have a lot of material on the subject, I agreed. In preparing the lessons, I decided to go easy on the poor dears and keep things simple and elementary. After all, this was a Senior Center and these were oldies, probably a little dim and slow on the uptake.

Looking back, I’m embarrassed at my arrogance. The first class was well-attended and all the attendees were sharp and attentive. I quickly ran through at least two weeks of my prepared material in one session! In an attempt to fill the time, I asked if anyone would like to bring in something they’d written next week and share it with the class. I’d give them pointers.

It had been billed as a class on mystery writing, but the excerpts that these folks shared the following Friday ran the gamut of genres: police procedural, industrial espionage, mental health textbook, folksy cookbook commentary and memoirs—lots of memoirs. To my surprise, they were really good!

And that’s how our Writers’ Circle came into existence. The four weeks passed quickly and at the fourth meeting, the attendees asked if we could meet again, and make this a regular thing. I reluctantly agreed. I’d do it for a few months and then pass the baton on to some other person in the group.

I actually did try to escape—once—but couldn’t…quite…pull…myself…away. It was just too fascinating to come every week and listen to what these intelligent, experienced people had to say. Things developed into a pattern. We would gather every Friday morning at 9:30 and take our seats at the long conference table. As mentor and mistress of ceremonies, I would open the session and call on each person one at a time, going clockwise. They’d read their piece and the group would give advice. We generally had about eight people at any meeting, but sometimes as many as twelve, which meant each reading had to be brief!

One fateful month about a year into the group’s life, I missed the signup deadline and lost the use of the Senior Center conference room. Desperately, a friend and I searched for a new meeting place. The local bagel shop was far too noisy, the nearby brunch restaurant required us to buy food, the local retirement community wasn’t interested and the civic arts center was full up.

Time was running out when one morning I sat in my car in a parking lot after a doctor’s appointment and prayed, “Lord, I believe you have brought us together. This is such a great group of people. Would you help us find a place?” Immediately, the thought popped into my head, “Why not YOUR church?” I hesitated. Technically, the Writers’ Circle wasn’t a Christian group, though it was obvious that the vast majority of members were believers. Would my church agree to let us meet in one of the rooms? I made the call then and there.

And that’s how we got our permanent meeting place. Every Friday, we gather in a room that isn’t needed by the church’s preschool. It’s a much better location for us, because now we aren’t limited to seniors only, it’s all on one floor with easily accessible restrooms and the Christian spirit that seemed to pervade the meetings does so in Sunday School rooms with huge framed Bible verses on nearly every wall. Several members of my church have joined us, and have quickly become irreplaceable.

Sometimes, there’s even music, too, as the toddlers’ voices are raised in song or as they beat rhythms on makeshift drums in the classrooms next door. We’ve become accustomed to smiling and saying, “The natives are restless,” and turning up the volume a bit as we read.

Not long ago, I read an article on the Internet that had a title something like, “The Pitfalls of Belonging to a Writers’ Group.” It was full of dire warnings about the dangers of displaying your latest work to a roomful of egos. In critiquing each other’s work, the article said, there were bound to be sharp words, wounded pride, jealousies and back-stabbings. Lifelong resentments had been known to form. Many a group had gone down in flames, it asserted, and one was probably wise to approach such a notion with great caution. I’m so glad I didn’t see that article before our group formed. I would have been scared to death!
 

Perhaps it’s because we’re a bunch of amateurs, you might think, but you’d be mistaken. Our group boasts a large percentage published authors—both traditional and indie—one of our members has had over sixty books traditionally published in his lifetime. Another has had many pieces published in the various Chicken Soup for the Soul books, another in Christian women’s magazines, another has independently published (complete with audiobook), still another in a mystery anthology and I recently saw the release of my fourth mystery. There’s no envy when one of us publishes something, only celebration.

I think it’s what my daughter calls “a God thing.” There’s something terribly intimate about reading aloud what’s in your heart. We’ve had people recount some terrible experiences, generally in memoirs. It’s rather like a confessional and it has become an unspoken rule that such things will not be repeated elsewhere. During the life of the group, a few of us have battled cancer, lost loved ones and worried deeply about family members. This is always met with, “I’ll pray for you.” Sometimes, we have prayer right then and there, as we did when one of us was undergoing surgery that very morning.

And we laugh together, big belly laughs and little giggles. There are shared jokes and terrible puns. It’s a mighty witty group!

One person in particular—I’ll call him Henry—became special to all of us. He was in his nineties and walked slowly, with a cane. He’d never let any of us help him out of his chair, but struggled to a standing position when it was time for his son to pick him up. Henry was in delicate health, but his mind and spirit were raring to go!

He was writing his memoirs. Every week, this white-haired sage would keep us spellbound. His descriptions of his mother’s cooking made us all hungry. We were fascinated by his life on a bare and battle-torn island in the Pacific as a fighter pilot during World War II. We all smiled as he told us how he met his future wife and knew right away that she was the girl for him. Henry and Barbara (not her real name, either) were a true love match. One favorite Henry story described what happened when he had said goodbye to Barbara and boarded a train to ship out for military training far away. Suddenly, as the train began to move out of the station, Barbara ran, hopping aboard and into her husband’s arms, calling to her mother, “Ship my clothes to me!” Theirs was a long and passionate marriage. Henry would choke up every time he described her death from cancer.

So it wasn’t a surprise, but it was a shock, when Henry’s son called recently to explain that his father had died suddenly.  I quickly informed the group via email. The following meeting, we all admitted that we half expected to see Henry hobbling through the door, wearing his radiant smile. We sent cards and wrote condolences, trying to capture in words what Henry had meant to us, to the group. One person in particular wrote a beautiful prose poem, describing Henry’s arrival in Heaven and his reunion with Barbara. When she read it to us, it was a very emotional time. His family will publish his memoir and have promised to give us a copy. We’ll treasure it.

The title says it all. We love each other. It’s not me, it’s not where we meet, it’s not our successes or lack thereof. It’s all due to that one Member in particular who allows us to meet in His house.

SOME THINGS I’VE LEARNED:

1)      Our group formed almost by accident, but you can found one on purpose. As you may have noticed, there are benefits for writers to have a group of their peers to answer to. (For instance, my friends might point out that I ended that last sentence with a preposition!) You’ll need a room with a large table and chairs.

2)      Find a location first. There are many possibilities. Libraries often allow groups to meet in their facilities, as do some churches, retirement communities and civic centers. Ask around. Somebody might want to open their home.

3)      Establish a regular time and day of the week. We meet weekly, skipping only holidays. Some groups meet monthly.

4)      It’s a good idea to find other writers who are of a similar mindset. In our case, we are mostly over 55—with a few exceptions. And most of us share a faith in God.

5)      I try to give everybody an equal amount of time to read and will stop someone when they start to run on too long. Most people read for about 10-15 minutes

6)      Provide ice water and disposable cups. Our church kitchen has plastic pitchers that I use. I bring my own store-bought cups, along with some mints to help the readers.

7)      Bring pencil and paper and prepare to take notes as you listen. Then share ideas and suggestions after each reading.

8)      All advice given needs to be constructive, preferably couched in a positive manner. I established this rule by example. 

9)      There will be absolutely NO discussion of politics. I learned this the hard way during the last election! We love each other too much to argue.

10)  We rejoice with each other’s writing successes. We share tips and news, helpful websites, publishers looking for submissions, etc. We loan each other our books and give each other our email addresses.

11)  We make it a point to never gossip about one another.

12)  We arrive ready to enjoy each other’s work.
 

E.E. Kennedy the author of the Miss Prentice Cozy Mystery series about a high school English teacher. The titles include: Irregardless of Murder, Death Dangles a Participle, Murder in the Past Tense and Incomplete Sentence. Sample chapters are available at www.missprenticecozymystery.com
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