Friday, May 29, 2020

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR SHAEN MEHL



​I’m a USA Today Bestselling author who writes inspirational cozy mystery from my home in the Midwest, where I live with my artist husband, Danny, and our two rambunctious, but adorable, little boys. Trained as a literary novelist and with a decade of librarianship under my belt, I love discussing all things bookish with my readers on my website and on social media.  

First of all, tell us about YOU.

Whew! That’s a hefty question to tackle! We all contain multitudes, don’t we? I guess at the top of the list of descriptives would probably be that I try my best to live an authentic Christian life, that I love my family and friends, and that I’m happy as a clam when I have a book in my hand. I also enjoy writing poetry, running, organizing, and cooking (but not baking, strangely enough!). My weakness is dark chocolate or chips and queso 😊
 

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I have this line I’ve used in a couple of interviews already, that I “found a home early on in the world of words”. It’s true, though. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t making up stories, and as soon as I was old enough to think about a future career, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I’m so thankful and blessed to be living that dream now, thanks to a lot of support from my amazing (AMAZING!) family.
 

You’ve co-written three books, but now you’re writing on your own. What’s that like?
 

Co-writing with Nancy was an absolute blast and such a wonderful introduction to publishing. Even though we have different creative approaches (she’s a “pantser”, who writes more spontaneously, and I’m a “planner”, with all my plot diagrams and character charts), we were able to collaborate really well.

The day I signed the contract for my first solo book, I had to take a deep breath. Writing a book on your own is so different. It’s a lot more solitary. You don’t necessarily have someone to bounce ideas off of all the time– unless you have a critique group or beta readers hanging out in the wings. You can’t hand off the baton when you get tired and need a break. You’re doing all the heavy lifting yourself, practically and emotionally. It can be such a good, strengthening thing, though... writing alone forces you to rely a lot more on God and trust the creative process, too.
 

You’re at the beginning of your career. What are the positives? The negatives?

There are so many positives! I love getting to spend my day being (virtually) surrounded by other writers and readers. I feel like I’ve really found my tribe of people! I also love building a reader community from the ground up. I’ve been able to get to know a lot of my readers personally, and right now, I have the time to engage with them on social media, which I really enjoy. I also appreciate the relative freedom that I have as a newbie writer. I’ve found a nice niche with cozy mystery (and it’s a genre I truly enjoy writing), but I don’t yet have pressure to commit to any other particular genre. I can try out a bunch of different options to discover which one fits best.

As far as negatives, there really aren’t many, other than I have to work a little harder than an established author to build name recognition 😊
 

Writers are encouraged to promote themselves and their work. How do you do this?

Promotion is so necessary, but it can often feel awkward to hawk your own work. Collaborating with other authors helps it feel more natural to me. Right now, I’m running a “page hop” on my Facebook page, where a few other authors and I take turns reading chapters of Little Women on Facebook Live each weeknight. We’re not directly promoting our books, but we are doing something important: connecting with our readers and providing them with an experience.

I also like to participate in giveaways when I can. I’m taking part in a Celebrate Lit book tour this summer with a bunch of other CF authors, and I’m personally running a big contest this June on my author website, where I’ll be giving away a stuffed-to-the-brim bookish box of reader-centric items, as well as two of my cozy mysteries, to the winner.
 

Where do you want to be in five years? Ten?

If God wills, I’ll still be writing! I’ve learned to hold things loosely in life, though. Corrie Ten Boom was a wise woman and had a quote about that very thing. I have learned to hold all things loosely, so God will not have to pry them out of my hands. God is so good to give us the desires of our hearts, but I want to make sure to always trust Him first and not put my plans above His.

In five or ten years, I also hope to see my boys, who are little now, grow into strong, kind young men, and I’d love to get involved with some kind of worldwide ministry that helps children, like Compassion International.
 

Tell us what you’re working on now.

I’m excited to have a lot of writing projects in the queue right now! Guideposts has been very good to me, and I’m currently working for them on three separate series: The Mysteries of Lancaster County, Savannah Secrets, and their upcoming 2021 series, Mysteries and Miracles of Mercy Hospital, set in the absolutely charming Charleston, South Carolina. I also have a novella that will be included in a holiday suspense collection called Mistletoe and Murder: A Christmas Suspense Collection, along with a bunch of other fantastic Christian Fiction authors, including Nancy, Mary Alford, Cara Putman, Loree Lough, and more.
 

Anything else you want to share with us?

I’d love to connect with any readers on Facebook in Shaen Layle’s Reader Room! The community is small but growing and includes such wonderful people. You can also find me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads, or on my website at www.shaenlayle.com. Thank you so much to the Suspense Sisters for hosting me on your blog today! Y’all are awesome!


Shaen is giving away a copy of her book, A SLOWLY DEVELOPING STORY. Please leave a comment, along with your contact information for a chance to win. 


A Slowly Developing Story

When Lauren Collier sells a vintage camera from her late grandfather’s estate to Secondhand Blessings, Elizabeth opens the back and is surprised to discover an undeveloped roll of film inside. After Elizabeth tells Mary about the film, with Lauren’s permission, Mary offers to get the roll processed, and the prints she had made reveal a mystery involving a local Amish man who mysteriously disappeared decades earlier. Can Elizabeth help Lauren discover who this mystery Amish man is and how he is connected to Lauren’s grandfather? Could it be possible that Lauren has family in the Amish community? Meanwhile, Mary gets involved with making baked goods for Lancaster County’s Helping Hands program, which is hosting a fund-raiser to aid foster children. However, Mary’s repeated failed attempts at baking only tempt Martha to take over the project herself—an unwelcomed proposition, to say the least! Can Martha and Mary set aside their differences long enough to help Elizabeth solve a decades-old mystery?


Buy A SLOWLY DEVELOPING STORY here.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

WHEN YOU HAVE TO SAY GOODBYE




What’s it like for an author when a series ends? Sometimes we’re relieved, but most of time, we feel a sense of loss. Characters carefully created aren’t always easy to leave behind.  

In my latest series, Kaely Quinn Profiler, walking away from Kaely was difficult. She came to me in a dream, and putting that dream on paper excited me. Now that book three has been released, it’s time to say goodbye. Many publishers believe a series that stays around too long will lose readers. Why? Sometimes it’s hard for an author to keep the character and plots fresh. Stories can become stale and repetitious. And unfortunately, there are sales numbers to back up the idea that, for the most part, series shouldn’t go on too long.  

Of course, there are authors who have had great success with a continuing series. Sue Grafton comes to mind. Her character, Kinsey Millhone, almost made it all the way through the alphabet. Her books were very popular. Unfortunately, Grafton never got to use “Z” before she passed away. But Grafton seems to be the exception, not the norm.

So what do authors do when they have to say goodbye to a character that has been important to them? Some writers kill them off. Arthur Conan Doyle tried it with Sherlock Holmes. He was tired of his “consulting detective” and tried to get rid of him. Holmes and his arch nemesis, Professor Moriarty, locked in mortal combat, fell to their deaths at Reichenbach Falls. Although Conan Doyle thought he was rid of Holmes, public outcry brought the detective back to life! Most inspirational authors can’t and won’t follow Conan Doyle’s example since we’re trying to present a positive message. At this point in my career, I’ve never killed my main character. Is it possible I might bump someone off in the future? Maybe. But right now, it’s not a concept I would entertain.

For those of you love Kaely Quinn, I have good news. In my upcoming series, The Quantico Files, my main character, Alex Donovan, is a behavioral analyst working out of Quantico. If you’ve read the Kaely Quinn series, you know Kaely was bounced out of Quantico because her father was a serial killer and she had an unusual way of profiling that didn’t follow protocol. But her desire was always to go back. So…plans now are to have her show up in book two. She won’t be a primary character, but at least I’ll be able to bring some closure to her character.

So how do you feel about continuing series? Do you like them? Or do you lose interest?

Leave a comment, along with your contact information. You might win a copy of DEAD END. (U.S. only, please.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

WHAT'S HOT IN INSPIRATIONAL SUSPENSE

by Patricia Bradley

Wondering what's new in inspirational suspense and mystery this summer? Johnnie Alexander has a new mystery, The Mischief Thief which released May 6, 2020, and is a part of the Mosaic Collection. 





Two wrongs don’t make a right . . . except when they do.

For con artist Chaney Rose, life hasn’t been easy. In desperate need of cash, she readily agrees to find Mischief, a stolen racehorse. Hunting for clues, she breaks into the suspected horse thief’s home only to be caught—with a few pilfered items in her pockets—by the police detective who’s tailing her.

By-the-book Adam Thorne was fired from his church because of his father’s involvement with the valuable thoroughbred. In a burst of Les Miserables-inspired grace, Adam tells the detective that he gave Chaney the stolen items.
Adam wants Chaney to find his missing father. When Chaney learns that Mischief’s owner intends to kill the racehorse, she needs Adam’s help expose the cruel plan before it’s too late.


Will a con artist with a conscience and a minister without a ministry risk imprisonment to do the wrong thing for the right reason?
You can purchase The Mischief Thief at Amazon.



We love books!








Monday, May 25, 2020

THIS WEEK ON THE SUSPENSE SISTERS




We’re planning another great week on the Suspense Sisters. Check out our posts, our interviews, and our awesome giveaways!
 

THIS WEEK:



 


On Tuesday Patricia Bradley will tell us What’s Hot in Inspirational Suspense and Mystery.


Wednesday Suspense Sister Nancy Mehl will talk about ending a series. How does it feel to walk away from characters you’ve created? She’ll be giving away a copy of DEAD END, the last book in her Kaely Quinn Profiler series. And she’ll give us a hint as to what to expect from her new series!

 
DEAD END

When a body is discovered in a field in Iowa, the police uncover fourteen additional corpses ranging from 20 years old to recent. The remains point to a serial killer with an MO the authorities have seen before--Ed Oliphant, a man who has been in prison for over 20 years . . . and is Special Agent Kaely Quinn's father. After several failed interview attempts to discover if Ed has been training someone to be a copycat killer, the police turn to Kaely in St. Louis.

Kaely promised herself she would never step foot in her hometown or set eyes on her father again. She's always refused to confront her past, but if she wants to prevent any more deaths, she must come face-to-face with the man she's hated for years. 

As more bodies are discovered, Kaely races against time and her own personal turmoil to uncover the killer. Will this most personal case yet cost Kaely her identity and perhaps even her life?



Order it HERE!


On Friday author Shaen Layle will talk about what it’s like to experience a burgeoning career as a writer. What are the positives? What are the negatives? She’ll give away a copy of her book, A SLOWLY DEVELOPING STORY, to one winner!
 
WAVES OF DOUBT (Mysteries of Martha's Vineyard)

Prickly Virginia Lawrence, a preeminent scholar of Vineyard history, is also a notorious recluse. Therefore, the island is abuzz when Priscilla manages to book a library lecture with the local eccentric. However, on the evening of the event, Virginia is a no-show and nowhere to be found, and the valuable museum artifacts in her possession are now missing as well. As Priscilla delves into the mystery of Virginia’s ill-timed disappearance, a seemingly unrelated puzzle emerges. Could a rash of random cemetery plunderings somehow be connected to the missing historian?

As pressure builds to find Virginia and the missing priceless artifacts, she begins to doubt her own instincts—especially when she spies Gerald having mysterious dinner meetings with a lovely blonde-haired woman.

Order it HERE!
 
A SLOWLY DEVELOPING STORY (Mysteries of Lancaster County)

When Lauren Collier sells a vintage camera from her late grandfather’s estate to Secondhand Blessings, Elizabeth opens the back and is surprised to discover an undeveloped roll of film inside. After Elizabeth tells Mary about the film, with Lauren’s permission, Mary offers to get the roll processed, and the prints she had made reveal a mystery involving a local Amish man who mysteriously disappeared decades earlier. Can Elizabeth help Lauren discover

who this mystery Amish man is and how he is connected to Lauren’s grandfather? Could it be possible that Lauren has family in the Amish community? Meanwhile, Mary gets involved with making baked goods for Lancaster County’s Helping Hands program, which is hosting a fund-raiser to aid foster children. However, Mary’s repeated failed attempts at baking only tempt Martha to take over the project herself—an unwelcomed proposition, to say the least! Can Martha and Mary set aside their differences long enough to help Elizabeth solve a decades-old mystery?

Order it HERE!


 The Suspense Sisters


We love books!

Friday, May 22, 2020

An Interview With Sherri Shackleford

by Patricia Bradley

I discovered Sherri Shackleford when I bought a few Love Inspired Suspense books and her Stolen Secrets was one of them. I quickly got caught up in the story.
 I think I read it in one sitting!

I'm so happy to introduce her to our Suspense Sisters' readers! I think all of our readers will enjoy her romantic suspense stories and she also writes historical westerns, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Me: Sherri, if you had to describe yourself in one sentence, what would you say?

Sherri: Dreadfully empathetic with a masochistic ability to absorb copius amounts of solitude and criticism.

The perfect personality for a writer!

Me: I so agree that's the perfect personality for a writer, Sherri. What do you do when you’re not writing? Any interesting hobbies?

Sherri: When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. Or reading. Other than that, I’m a fairly proficient baker. Over the quarantine, I’ve mastered homemade marshmallows, kolaches, noodles, and sourdough bread. Unlike my other qualities, cooking is a terrible hobby for someone who sits and stares at a screen all day! In my next life, I’m going to enjoy running…

Me: Oh, my goodness. I almost said, come to my house before I realized what that would mean for my waistline. To change the subject, what genre did you start out writing? Have you changed course? Why or why not?

Sherri: I started out writing historical westerns, and now I’m writing romantic suspense. Most of my westerns had an element of mystery, and that was easy to expand upon, but there is definitely a learning curve. The pacing and plotting are FAR different in romantic suspense! After writing 11 historical westerns, I’d developed a certain rhythm to my writing. Writing suspense has meant relearning my process.

Me: I totally learned that when I tried to write a cozy mystery. Any other genres you’d like to try? If yes, what and why?

Sherri: I can see myself gravitating more toward straight mystery in the future. But that will be a distant future!

Me: What is the most valuable piece of advice you’d like to give to unpublished authors?

Sherri: Each book is harder to write than the last. If not, then you’re not doing it right. I was really naïve in the beginning, and I thought the more books I wrote, the better I’d get at writing. Nope! Turns out, the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.


Me: Sherri, do I ever agree with that. It seems every time I start a new book, I have to ask myself, "Now how did I do this the last time?"

Sherri is giving away, not one but two, copies of Stolen Secrets. (US addresses only) Leave a comment with your email address (like this: pat at ptbradley dot com) and tell us how you would describe yourself in one word. Or how ever you want to comment. :-)
Here's the back cover copy to Stolen Secrets:

From investigating a security breach

to becoming the target of an unseen foe

Someone has been impersonating software engineer Lucy Sutton to steal classified technology secrets, and it’s up to her to figure out who. National Security Agency employee Jordan Harris is the only person she trusts to help her set a trap. But with an unknown enemy watching Lucy’s every move and threatening her life, capturing the culprit becomes an even deadlier task than they expected.


You can purchase Stolen Secrets at:

Christian Books

Sherri Shackelford

A former naval reservist with a top-secret security clearance, Sherri writes rapid-fire suspense featuring captivating characters and heart-pounding romance. She's authored more than a dozen novels for Harlequin publishing, including both historical and contemporary suspense.



Her first suspense book, No Safe Place, was a finalist in both the New England Readers' Choice Award, and the Faith Hope and Love Readers' Choice Award.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR DAPHNE SELF with DOUBLE GIVEAWAY!

Happy Wednesday suspense readers! Mary Ellis here and today I have the honor of interviewing Daphne Self, who has a new book coming in June, Alabama Days. Daphne is giving away one copy of Mississippi Nights (book 1 of A Southern Saga) and one copy of Alabama Days (book 2 of A Southern Saga.) But first, the interview:

ME: If you had to describe yourself in one sentence, what would you say?
DS: I am a dreamer who sees the bright side of everything.

ME: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any interesting hobbies?
DS: I am usually playing video games (Ark Survival, Minecraft, or Forza), or painting or sewing, yet definitely reading. And I am still on the hunt for another 3D Sudoku book.

ME: What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
DS: As a child, when I was eight, it was Disney’s The Black Hole. By the time I was around twelve, Louisa May Alcott’s Eight Cousins. When I became a teenage, I had quite a few Louis L’Amour books that I absolutely loved: Jubal Sackett, Too the Far Blue Mountains, Son of a Wanted Man, and Lonesome Gods.

ME: Tell us three things about yourself that might surprise your readers.
DS: 1) I served as an EMR (Emergency Medical Responder) for a volunteer fire department.
       2) I’m terrified of deep water, yet ironically, I love the ocean.
       3) Despite a life of chronic pain and cognitive difficulties, I still pursue my dream of being an author and work to become an advocate for those with chronic illnesses.

ME: What genre did you start out writing? Have you changed course? Why or why not?
DS:  I started in fiction (Mississippi Nights), mainly suspense/romantic suspense. Then I ended up writing a nonfiction book (30 Days: A Devotional Memoir), which is a cross between a devotional and a memoir. The next book was my children’s book (The Case of the Missing Firehouse Dog), which is the first of a five book series. The one that is about to be released, Alabama Days, is a romantic suspense. And even though I will have another nonfiction book (Journey On: Through This Shadowed Valley) releasing later this year, I enjoy writing fiction. I write across the board, it seems. Probably because of how my mind perceives things. I think there are too many stories in my head (maybe a side effect of being a bookworm in my childhood?).
ME: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
DS: The toughest criticism was when someone told me that my book read like a rough draft, even after professional edits and proofing. The best compliment is when readers say they were excited about the book and can’t wait to read more by me.

ME: Any other genres you’d like to try? If yes, what and why?
DS:  I plan to write science fiction and fantasy. In fact, I’m collaborating with a few fellow authors about a science fiction short story collection. I do want to delve a bit more into a pure romance book. No suspense. No action. Just the romance. But knowing me, I would probably throw some kind of conflict in there and turn it into a suspense.
ME: If you could go back in time and do something differently at the start of your career, what would it be?
DS: To not be discouraged when doors kept closing on me and to finish the next book. I waited too long to come back to writing after feeling discouraged for so many years. That was my mistake. Redoing and reconnecting is tough.

ME: What is the most important piece of advice you’d like to give to unpublished authors?
DS: As they say in Galaxy Quest: Never give up, never surrender.
Never give up on your books and your talent. And never surrender to doubt and fear. Your fellow authors don’t bite. You can reach out to us and we would be happy to connect with you.

Here's a little bit about Alabama Days: How could a loving God hurt so many people? Paramedic Scott Wilson believes he can chase death away, but his spirit is shattered when people he loves are taken from him. As a paramedic, Scott sees every day the pain that people suffer, and he wants no part of a God that would allow bad things to happen to good people. As a result, he hides behind his work and addiction to ease the pain within his soul. But once newspaper reporter Angela Mabry and her son, Max, move into town, Scott can’t help but notice the feisty redhead. Angela is determined to uncover the town’s seedy underbelly and reveal the strange coincidences of so many car accidents at one location. When a prominent city official dies in a car wreck, Scott and Angela find themselves tangled in intrigue and deception. Together they search for the truth and discover that not all is what it seems. 

Here's little bit about Daphne Self:
"I am a stranger in the earth; Do not hide Your commandments from me" (Psalm 119:119). This verse is Daphne's life. "Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Peace, be still!' And the wind ceased and there was a great calm" (Mark 4:39). This verse is the promise made to Daphne.
Daphne Self, formerly published under the name D.M. Webb, resides in Iowa. As a Mississippian transplant, she spends her days in the Midwest state writing, editing, reading, antiquing, and planning adventures with her husband and sons. She pursues her dream as an editor and author with one goal in mind: To Glorify His Name. Daphne is also an avid reader who devours book in many genres. As a long time member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), she volunteers her time helping published and unpublished authors.




To pre-book Alabama Days, click this link:  https://www.amazon.com/Alabama-Days-Southern-Saga-Sagas-ebook/dp/B082K9RZHJ/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2500CHTFIN6VE&dchild=1&keywords=alabama+days+daphne+self&qid=1589574615&sprefix=Alabama+Days+%2Caps%2C1218&sr=8-1




To buy Mississippi Nights, click this link:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006NG8OEE?notRedirectToSDP=1&ref_=dbs_mng_calw_0&storeType=ebooks


Leave a comment for Daphne to be entered in a drawing for one print copy of Mississippi Nights and one print copy of Alabama Days (to be shipped after its June release date) You must leave an email address in order to win. Contest is open to anyone, worldwide. Drawing in one week.