Wednesday, July 31, 2013


UNFORESEEABLE: Book Three in the Road to Kingdom Series
By Nancy Mehl
Callie Hoffman knows she has a good life in Kingdom, Kansas. She's thrilled to be engaged to Levi Housler, the new pastor of Kingdom Mennonite Church, and she spends her days working with her friend and soon-to-be sister-in-law, Lizzie Housler, at Cora's Cafe.

However, Callie's idyllic life is interrupted when a body is discovered on the road outside Kingdom and the deceased turns out to be a victim of a serial killer. As Washington County's new sheriff begins questioning Kingdom residents, Callie and the rest of the town are appalled at the prospect of a killer among them. The very reason Kingdom exists is to protect the people from the temptations and dangers of the outside world, but all the town founders' attempts to plan ahead couldn't prevent a threat like this.

Unsettled at this unforeseen danger, Callie is concerned when it appears Levi knows more than he's telling. Desperate to find answers for herself, Callie never expected that she'd have to face some of her own past's skeletons.

As Callie and the residents of Kingdom fear this danger for which they never planned, they must learn anew that only God knows the future and their trust must always lie in Him.

 From Library Journal:
Life is good for Callie Hoffman, who is engaged to the new pastor at her Mennonite church. Things turn decidedly darker when the body of a serial killer's latest victim is discovered outside town and the residents of Kingdom, KS, must face the threat to their peaceful lives. VERDICT: Small-town life meets a dangerous outside world in this taut, suspenseful story, the third (after Inescapable and Unbreakable) in Mehl's Mennonite-flavored romantic suspense series. A good choice for readers who liked Amy Wallace's "Place of Refuge" series.

Only thirty days until the release of the third and last book in my Road to Kingdom series! Thought readers would like to know a little bit more about this book. Combining a Conservative Mennonite town with a serial killer pushes the genre to a new level. I hope my Amish/Mennonite readers will enjoy it and suspense readers will look past the “bonnet book” label and give UNFORESEEABLE a try. I think you’ll like it.

 Here’s a peek from Chapter Four:

 We rushed into the dining room and watched out the window as Levi’s buggy pulled up to the railing in front of the restaurant. He jumped out and tied up his horse, Stormy, while the other men climbed out and waited for the sheriff to join them. Two men got out of the car, the sheriff and Roger Carson. Everyone in the dining room was unusually quiet as the men walked single file up the steps and entered the room. I was alarmed at the expression on Levi’s face. Although his cheeks were ruddy from the cold, beneath them, his skin was ashen. The look in his eyes made my breath catch in my throat.

Lizzie and I stood there like our feet were glued to the floor. There wasn’t a sound from those gathered in the room. Before the sheriff had the chance to speak, the front door opened and another group of people shuffled inside. Most likely the folks who’d been waiting at Harold’s or Aaron’s. Some of them quickly found a seat. The rest stood expectantly near the back of the room.  

I wanted to hear about the woman on the road – yet I didn’t. At that moment, I wished I were somewhere else. Anywhere else. I wondered if Lizzie felt the same way. I snuck a look at her. Her face was set like flint, and I couldn’t tell what she was thinking.

“Well?” she said finally.

Sheriff Timmons removed his hat. Roger stepped up next to him, almost as if he were trying to offer support. He cast a quick glance around the room, looking rather uncomfortable until he saw Noah. Having a friend nearby appeared to relax him a little.

“She was definitely murdered,” the sheriff said slowly. “It’s too early to conclude that this is the work of the serial killer I told you about, but I certainly can’t rule it out. The KBI has taken over the case and will make that official determination.” He spoke without hesitation, but it was obvious there was something else on his mind. I tried to catch Levi’s eye, but he wouldn’t meet my gaze.

“You’re not telling us everything,” Lizzie said bluntly. “What is it? Is she one of us?”

Their silence alarmed me. The men looked back and forth at each other. Sheriff Timmons began to say something when the door to the restaurant opened, and Harold Eberly rushed in.

“John Lapp said he was turned away on the road out of town. Some men, official types, told him he couldn’t use the road, Sheriff,” Harold said in a loud, angry voice. “Many of us need to get to our homes. Why are we being forced to stay in town?” 

The young sheriff frowned at Harold. “I’m sorry, but the KBI has closed the road until they finish gathering evidence. Hopefully, it won’t be too long.”

“My little girl has been through enough,” Harold insisted. “She needs to go home.”

I heard Lizzie grunt. “Harold Eberly, you hush up. A woman has died. I don’t think asking you to hang around for a while is asking too much.”

Harold’s mouth dropped open, but instead of arguing with Lizzie, he turned and stomped out the door. He probably realized that trying to win an argument with Lizzie was an almost impossible task.  

When the door closed behind him, she hurried over and locked it. Then she gazed slowly around the room.  “I’m not planning to kick anyone out,” she said, “but if you came here out of some kind of morbid curiosity, I’d like you to leave. People of faith should be showing respect, not acting like the world.”

A few people hung their heads, and I marveled at her boldness. After several seconds, she pointed at the sheriff who was staring at her in surprise. “Okay, so what are you keeping back? Do we know her?”

Noah, who had been watching this scene unfold from a corner table stood to his feet and came over to stand near his brother and Roger.

“It’s not anyone from Kingdom,” Levi said in a low, strained tone. “She’s a stranger.” Even though I was thankful for the good news, his solemn manner frightened me.

“Levi, what’s going on?” Noah asked.

Although it seemed to take great effort, Levi lifted his eyes to his brother’s. “Do—do you remember the book of martyrs I lost a few weeks ago?”

“Yes,” Noah said slowly, looking confused. “What about it?”

Levi seemed incapable of continuing. Finally Noah looked over at the sheriff. “What’s he talking about?”

Sheriff Timmons took a deep breath and let it out. “The dead woman. Levi’s book was clutched in her hands.”

To celebrate the release of UNFORESEEABLE, three people will win signed copies! Leave a comment below, along with your contact info. I’ll pick three winners on Monday!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Conference, signings and authors, OH MY! RWA!

Okay, so conferences. Writing conferences in particular. I have to admit, I’m an addict. I simply love to go and be surrounded by other writers. Now you have to understand. At heart, I’m an introvert. I truly dislike large crowds in general. I much prefer to have friends over in small groups of four to six rather than thirty to forty. I’m more of a stay at home and chill on a Friday night kind of girl rather than go and hang out somewhere. BUT, when it comes to writers conferences, I turn into a different person! It’s really funny to me to morph into this very social person who loves to stay up late and talk WRITING. But there you have it. I can’t explain it other than to say God made me this way.

This week, July 17-21, I’m in Atlanta, GA at the RWA (Romance Writers of America) Conference. There are over 450 authors doing a literacy book signing, meaning the publishers donate ALL of the books and every penny from the sale of those donated books goes to benefit literacy. It’s an amazing event and one I was a part of two years ago in New York. (I didn’t sign up this year. L) Anyway, while RWA is not a Christian conference by any stretch of the imagination, there are still FABULOUS workshops offered and I ALWAYS meet new people. The networking and getting to know others is the most fun. I come away feeling like I’ve got about 600 new friends. LOL.


Here is a picture of the line of people waiting to get into the signing. Crazy, huh?

What about you? Do you enjoy conferences? Which ones do you recommend?


Friday, July 26, 2013


A writer’s voice is her trademark. It can’t be developed by studying a textbook or taking a writing course. Each writer has a unique way of stringing words and sentences, a subconscious activity that is stamped with individual style, word choice, punctuation, originality, and passion for the project.
A writer’s voice is much like her conversational voice, but with a strong additive: the character’s voice. That means no two characters can sound alike. A strong writer’s voice doesn’t overpower the character but hooks the reader’s attention and refuses to let go until the end of the story.

I like how Donald Maass describes voice: “... not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an outlook that enriches an author’s oeuvre ... An original. A standout. A voice.”

Emotion is what keeps the reader turning pages. The reader cares because of the character’s unique personality and the writer’s manner of showing the story. Ease into story by connecting the reader to the character. The reader needs to trust the character, which means the first fifty pages have to be like speed-dating. A writer’s ability to dive into character and create an adventure strengthens voice.

In developing voice, weigh each word choice. Is it clear, concise, colorful, and credible? Use strong verbs and vivid nouns, the ones the character would use. Is it the best word in the character’s voice and one you’re comfortable with? A writer’s audience dictates word choice.

I went through several stages of forming my voice while following rules, not following rules, then allowing my writing to morph into my voice. When I concentrated on good writing, my voice came.

The following areas are important to me. Not that these should be part of your writer’s voice, but to give you an example of the subconscious development that is necessary.

1.                   I realized after much reading that I detested exclamation marks. I will stay up all night rewording scene and dialogue to eliminate the little bat and ball at the end of a sentence. I prefer word choice, characterization, and the mood of the scene to indicate emotion. However, if an editor believes it’s the best choice, I will comply.

2.                   I use only said as a dialogue tag. It’s an invisible word used only to indicate the speaker. The only other tag I might consider is whisper. A question mark shows the sentence is an interrogatory statement and asked is not needed. 

3.                   I want my reading to be understood without hesitation. That means not sending the reader to the dictionary. Clarity with strong verbs and distinctive nouns are more important than the number of syllables in a word.

4.                   Italics bother me for internal dialogue. Always have. In my opinion, the use of italics tosses the reader out of the adventure.

Here are a few tips for developing your writer’s voice:

1.                     What do you value and respect about your favorite writer’s work?

2.                     What rules and guidelines are important to you?

3.                     What rules and guidelines do you consistency break?

4.                   What genre do you write? If you write historical romance and your voice is dark, then your voice needs to be altered.

5.                   List ten items you are passionate about. Every day spend twenty minutes writing about that topic. Close your eyes and simply create. It can be a story, an essay, a poem, a screenplay, a blog, or a song.

6.                   Use text-to-voice software to hear your work read aloud. Listen to the rhythm. Are you engaged as a listener? This is available through Adobe, and GhostReader for the Mac.

Don’t be afraid to be you. Voice is the confidence to allow your personality to shine through. Outstanding writing comes from composing one word after another. When a reader can say only (fill in your name) could have written that piece, then you have established your voice.


If you are a writer who’s looking for a guide to writing fiction, leave a comment for a random drawing of my The Dance of Character and Plot.


THE CHASE - Zondervan - March 2012
THE SURVIVOR - Zondervan - March 2013


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Writing Lessons from Casablanca
Sharon Dunn
I spent an afternoon watching Casablanca, a movie I have seen a dozen times. Only this time, I watched it not as a viewer, but as a writer. Movies contain some of the same elements as fiction writing (character development, story structure and theme) and are always a fun and short hand way to learn how to write better. 

What makes Casablanca such a timeless story and how could those same elements be applied to my own books? Although I am sure there are many things to be learned by studying Casablanca, I found three things to think about.

Lesson No. 1

A great story offers a little picture within a larger picture. The little picture is the character’s personal stories. The little picture in Casablanca is the love triangle between Rick, Ilsa and Victor. Ilsa loves both Victor and Rick and she must choose between them, a typical romance. But the bigger picture of the love story taking place during war time causes the movie to address much deeper issue of the human condition beyond romantic love. Themes like sacrifice, patriotism and morality and survival in war time are all touched on. There is tension between the small circumstances and the larger issues. As Ilsa puts it “with the whole world crumbling, we picked this time to fall in love.” Also the circumstances of the bigger story create the conflict within the smaller story. In a romance, hero and heroine are brought together and torn apart. Ilsa becomes involved with Rick because she believes that Victor had been killed in a concentration camp. The occupation of Paris instigates the separation between Rick and Ilsa. Victor and Ilsa’s need to escape to the U.S. sends them to Casablanca where Rick runs his night club.

Lesson No 2

Great stories have complex and seemingly contradictory characters. While all the characters in Casablanca are multi-faceted, Rick is one of the most intriguing. Twice in the early scenes, Rick asserts that he “sticks his neck out for no one” indicating he is not a man who gets involved with causes or helps other people. Yet other characters offer a different picture of who Rick used to be. In the past, Rick ran guns to the Ethiopians, fought against the fascists in Spain and generally took the side of the underdog. Scenes with Ilsa imply that she hurt him so deeply that he didn’t want to risk sticking his neck out again. More mystery about his character is presented through Rick’s actions. The fact that Rick doesn’t sell black market visas may be because he doesn’t want to get involved and it may reveal his integrity. Rick’s true character rises to the surface when he helps a young Bulgarian couple win at roulette so they will have money for visas and so the wife doesn’t have to continue to sell her body to get the money. Tension rises from the contradictions within a character. Rick changes over the course of the movie and is once again willing to stick his neck out to help Ilsa and Victor escape. Contradiction and change create an interesting character. 

Lesson No. 3

A great story has a twist ending that is both a surprise and makes perfect sense. If you are one of the three people in American who has not seen Casablanca you might want to stop reading. I am about to give away the ending. Up until the last few minutes of the film, it looks as though Rick and Ilsa will fly off into the sunset. At the last second, Rick tells Ilsa to get on the plane with Victor, his plan all along. This is one of the places where the big picture affects the little picture. Victor has been established as a man who not only shows his love for his wife by risking his own life, but has also risked his life for the war effort. His escape will make a difference in the outcome of the war. The twist here is that Rick doesn’t end up with the girl, yet he is still heroic because he has sacrificed his own desire for Ilsa (little picture) for a greater moral good (big picture). Though the choice is a surprise, the groundwork for it to be believable is laid when Rick helps the Bulgarian couple.   

Casablanca is a classic movie that can be watched time and again because of the complexity of the storyline and characters. Rick might assert that the “problems of three little people don’t amount to hill of beans in this world” but they certainly amount to a timeless story that we as writers could learn much from. Casablanca is so well written, so compelling every time I watch it, I find myself thinking that this will be the time that Rick actually gets on the plane. I invite you to sit down with this classic movie and a bowl of popcorn and discover ways to improve your own storytelling.   


Monday, July 22, 2013

Why I Write Issue Driven Books by Margaret Daley

Why I Write Issue Driven Books
By Margaret Daley

When I can connect with that passionate side of me, I get excited about the story. That's why issue driven books can be important to a writer. That passion is conveyed to the reader, adding a spark to the story. I used that to write the four books in the Men of the Texas Rangers Series (romantic suspense series).

In Saving Hope, my first book in the series, I got caught up in the research of human trafficking in the United States. It ignited my passion to write a story that would highlight the issue and how extensive it was in our country.

For my second book--Shattered Silence--I had a framework for the story. But something was missing for me in the story. I needed an issue I was passionate about. As a teacher I'd always been concerned with bullying in the schools. I took it a step further and showed it also in other situations--workplace and a marriage.

My third book--Scorned Justice--is about revenge and the lengths people go for revenge. This isn't a social issue, but it's a unifying theme to help me build my story upon. A lot of things are done for revenge because a person can't forgive.

When I heard of a friend who was addicted to prescription drugs talk about the experience, it became the theme for my fourth book--Severed Trust. It started with a painful affliction that he couldn't control without heavy-duty pain medication. It helped with the pain but left him addicted to painkillers. Certain prescription drugs can be as additive as illegal drugs like heroin or cocaine. My passion was sparked yet again.

What are some issues you like to read about or feel passionate about?

Friday, July 19, 2013


Hi everyone, it's with GREAT pleasure that I welcome my friend and fellow author, Lisa Carter, to the Suspense Sisters blog.  Be sure to leave a comment and one lucky entrant will win a free copy of Carolina Reckoning.


Lisa Carter is a writer, teacher, speaker and musician whose articles have appeared in FamilyFun, Thriving Family, MomSense and Christian Parenting Today. Carolina Reckoning is her debut romantic suspense novel, but she was always the child who made up epic tales involving prairie schooners and/or interplanetary voyages for the neighborhood kids to re-enact during summer vacation. Without realizing it, at the age of ten, she may have inadvertently invented steampunk. Now, she and her husband, David, have two daughters and make their home in North Carolina. When she isn't writing, Lisa enjoys traveling to romantic locales, quilting and researching her next exotic adventure.

        How did you come up with the idea for this novel?

Years ago, I worked as a staff docent at an antebellum house. Being an avid fan of mysteries and romantic suspense, I began to wonder what if a murder were to occur in this uniquely Southern setting. Scratch beneath the surface of the polite Southern drawl and hospitable sweet tea, there is a layer of the gothic—Southern Gothic—in our history. Family stories of lost causes, tragic love, and quirky Aunt so and so's, we've all got them.

My parents divorced when I was nine year’s old. In many ways, I am Claire in Carolina Reckoning. And like Claire, I was angry at everyone, most of all God, when my world fell apart.

I wrestled with feelings of anger, abandonment, forgiveness, and faith. I longed to find Someone upon which I could rely. At the foot of the Cross, I discovered a Father God who is always faithful and true. He is enough for every need, past, present and future.

As a teenager I came to a crossroads—to carry an anger that in the end harmed me more than anyone else or to choose to forgive, to forgive someone who’d never asked for my forgiveness nor deserved it. But to forgive anyway, like God had forgiven me. Because unforgiveness brings its own reckoning. It isn't how God wants us to live. And God's way is always the best way.

      Tell us about your tagline: Sweet Tea with a Slice of Murder. How did that come to be?

I was driving to pick up my teenage daughters from youth group on a Sunday evening and pondering the kind of stories I seem to weave. I realized that most of my main characters are southern and/or many of my novel settings take place in the South. That plus my penchant for killing people on paper characterizes the type of fiction I write. And the phrase "Sweet Tea with a Slice of Murder" immediately popped into my mind. I can't tell you how many people come up to me and can't remember my name, but they remember me as Sweet Tea with a Slice of Murder. It was a God thing that happened right there on Glenwood Avenue (yeah, kind of scary to be on the road the same time as me); I take no credit at all for the phrase.

What is the draw for you in writing Romantic Suspense with a southern flavor?

Would this sound weird if I said this is how the "pretend" people sound in my head?
Television has reduced Americans to a mind-numbing blandness. Southerners do not fit into that cookie cutter mold. And I love that. We are unique and proud of it.
A native North Carolinian, from the mountains to the sea, I am so proud to call this state home. We're a fun group and filled with real life quirky characters for which the South has a well-deserved reputation. And don't even get us started on such hotly debated topics like ACC basketball, Pepsi vs. Coca-Cola or Nascar.

What is your favorite televisions show? Do you watch crime shows?

I love The Amazing Race mainly because I like re-visiting via television many of the places I've experienced. My current crime show favorite is Longmire. I love, love, love that show. And I also watch NCIS, Hawaii Five-0 (in honor of my second novel, Aloha Rose, releasing in November), In Plain Sight, and Castle. And, harkening back to my unknowing childhood fascination with the yet-to-be-invented genre of steampunk, I'm always into sci-fi/fantasy/dystopian stuff like Falling Skies and Lost.

What kind of research do you do for your novels?

I read everything I can get my hands on regarding factual topics and law enforcement issues before I ever speak with LE officials. Once I've done this and feel I'm ready to ask semi-intelligent questions, I turn to various experts in their field.

Aloha Rose, a romance in the Quilts of Love line, involved a consultation with a member of my church who flies helicopters as well as a lot of interviews with families who've gone through the adoption process.

Beneath a Navajo Moon (releasing 2014) and Carolina Reckoning included manuscript reviews by two Sheriff's deputies.

Under a Turquoise Sky (2014) was an interesting research situation as it involves WITSEC. And that's all I'll say on that; loose lips sink ships, etc . . .

Can you give us a peek into what you are working on right now and when it will be published?

I just turned in the edits for Beneath A Navajo Moon, which releases Spring 2014. Here's the back cover copy:

What happens when danger and love collide under a Navajo moon?
The search for a woman who disappeared in 1906 has lead cultural anthropologist Erin Dawson to Cedar Canyon, where the iconic terrain of red rock walls and mesas keep Navajo traditions—and maybe criminal evidence—well hidden. When Erin’s search leads her to cross paths with tribal policeman Adam Silverhorn, it’s hardly love at first sight. But everywhere she turns, Adam is already there. And sparks fly.

Fighting their feelings for each other, the two are suddenly thrust into a battle far more dangerous—a common quest to rout an insidious drug cartel that has spawned the recent rise in gang violence on the reservation. Adam gives Erin a rare glimpse into Navajo life few outsiders ever see—and into a crime ring that no one dares to imagine. As danger mounts, Adam and Erin begin to wonder if they will live to tell how they really feel. 


My ultimate desire is to proclaim the truth of God’s Word, His redeeming love as seen in the life of Jesus Christ and to help readers know for themselves this great, awesome God of all comfort and wisdom. He is enough for every need.

Carolina Reckoning is for those who’ve ever felt alone or faced an unknown future. For those who've felt abandoned and betrayed by a friend, spouse or family member.
It is the story, in a small way, of my life. The story of my own journey toward faith.

I hope readers will enjoy Carolina Reckoning—a little bit of sweet tea and a whole lot of southern magnolia.

Where can we find you online?

Readers can find me at; on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads, too.
I also have a Carolina Reckoning board on Pinterest at where readers can get a behind-the-scenes look at the setting and characters. And I'd love to hear from readers.

THANK YOU, Lisa, for stopping by. What a GREAT interview. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Gasp Factor

Hi. Jill Elizabeth Nelson here.

When was the last time you were reading along in a suspense novel, and SUDDENLY something happened that stole your breath, widened your eyes, and sent your heart rate soaring? Hopefully, you enjoy this experience any time you read a suspense novel. It’s a phenomenon that should happen not once, but over and over when you savor your fav genre—suspense.

So what are these Gasp Factors, and how do we authors strive to make them happen? Those are two distinct questions, and I’ll attempt to address each one.

What I refer to as the Gasp Factor is an event that occurs in a story that incorporates the following elements:

1.                  It is shocking. By shocking, I don’t mean simply horrific with blood and gore and grossness. That can occur, as it does in real life, but horrificness (See? I coined a new word.) in itself does not create momentum in a story the way a true Gasp Factor should do. No, the shock element is found in the dire affect on the heroine. Does she lose something (or someone) irreplaceable? Is her life and her outlook on reality forever changed? Is she confronted with a seeming unsolvable problem that renders her world dark and scary?

2.                  It is unexpected. If the writer has done her job right, the Gasp Factor will involve a twist that you didn’t see coming. However, once the event occurs, you will believe the event because it snaps seamlessly into the plot picture and fits with characterization already present in the story.

3.                  It ratchets up the stakes and tightens the tension. As soon as the shocking event occurs, the heroine is placed in a position where she must fight for her life—either physically or emotionally or both—and perhaps even her sanity, on a whole new level of difficulty.

How do we suspense writers incorporate these Gasp Factors into our stories?

We must build toward each one subtly enough to preserve the surprise for the reader even while creating the plot and characterization infrastructure that will support the shocking nature of the event. Sound like a challenge? It is and it isn’t.

It is a challenge, requiring lots of practice, including trial and error, in order to develop the ability to deftly handle story rhythm and momentum. This is one of the reasons it takes a long time for a new writer to be ready for publication.

However, the writing process is not strictly cerebral, especially when the skill set is in place and honed. At that point, the intuitive nature of the creative process can really shine. What do I mean by that? Simply that strong characters can and do take on “a life of their own” and dictate events that seemingly take the author herself by surprise.

I’m letting you in on a bit of a trade secret here. ;-) When a story is pouring through our fingers onto the page, it’s no unusual occurrence that The Gasp Factor overtakes us. Our breath is stolen, our eyes widen, and our hearts go kapump in our chests as our characters do something or are confronted with something we hadn’t seen coming. But once the event has occurred, we recognize its validity and rejoice that our readers will get to experience the thrill of this heart-pounding twist as they devour our books.  

Okay, now it’s your turn to participate. Share with us a memorable Gasp Factor experience in a suspense novel you particularly enjoyed. One commenter will win a copy of my most recent release, Betrayal on the Border.

 About the Book:

Former army communications specialist Maddie Jerrard may not remember the details of the deadly mission on the Texas-Mexico border, but she knows one thing. She's not the one responsible for the massive ambush that left only her and investigative journalist Chris Mason alive. The culprit must be the only other survivor—Chris. Yet with suspicion—and danger—targeting Maddie and Chris, and a killer on their trail, partnering up is the only solution. But as Maddie and Chris get closer to uncovering the truth, they'll have to trust each other to make it through alive.

About the Author:

Award-winning author and writing teacher, Jill Elizabeth Nelson, writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith. Jill is a popular speaker for conferences, writers groups, library associations, civic and church groups. She delights to bring the “Ahah! Moment” to students as they make new skills their own. Her handbook for writers, Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View, is now available at Visit Jill on the web at: or look her up on Facebook: or Twitter:!/JillElizNelson. Her latest release is Betrayal on the Border from Love Inspired Romantic Suspense. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Writing Seasons

Elizabeth Goddard is an award-winning author with well over a dozen romance and romantic suspense novels, including the romantic mystery, The Camera Never Lies—winner of the prestigious Carol Award in 2011. After acquiring her computer science degree, she worked at a software firm before eventually retiring to raise her four children and become a professional writer. A member of several writing organizations, she judges numerous contests and mentors new writers. In addition to writing, she home schools her children and serves with her husband as he pastors a church in Louisiana.

This year has been a serious writing whirlwind. I spent most of last summer waiting on several proposals to sell and then ended up selling two different series--five books in total. That meant that I spent the last year writing those books. I won’t lie to you—it’s been a tough year on the writing front. But tough in a good way because a working writer is a happy writer.

Throw in home schooling three boys and I couldn’t remember my own name half the time. But with school out for the summer, I only have one book left to write--Love in the Wind--and it’s due in the fall. While I’m working on that book, I’ll also be working on proposals for future books, and waiting while my editor decides on the proposal already on her desk.

You’ve heard the saying, “It’s either feast, or famine.” That perfectly describes the writing life, at least the way I experience it. I either have multiple deadlines looming over me (just so you know—I work best under stress). Or I have no deadlines or contracts, which should be a relief, giving me a chance to breathe and rest. But that’s stressful as well because I worry over when I’ll sell another book.

There’s a season for everything and even though I have a novel due, it’s my last contracted book. So I’m entering into proposal season. While I’m finishing my book, waiting on a new proposal to sell, I’ll also be brainstorming to come up with new ideas for the future. This is one of my favorite parts of the writing process—finding new storylines.

I thought to write this post because I’m almost in the same place I was this time last July. The writing seasons seem to change in rhythm with nature.

Thanks for letting me get up close and personal to share some of the writer's life.

I’d love to hear about the seasons of your life—how they wax and wane. Leaving a comment with your reply will enter you into the drawing. Don’t forget your contact information!

I’m giving away both North Dakota Weddings and Riptide to one winner.  


Friday, July 12, 2013

Interview with Dana Mentink

Please Join us in welcoming romantic suspense author Dana Mentink! 

Dana is a 2013 American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award finalist for romantic suspense and an award winner in the Pacific Northwest Writers Literary Contest. Her novel, Betrayal in the Badlands, won a 2010 Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award. She has enjoyed writing a mystery series for Barbour Books and more than ten novels to date for Harlequin's Love Inspired Suspense line.
Dana will be giving away a copy of Jungle Fire! To enter the drawing please comment on the blog below and provide your contact information.

SS: How long have you been writing?

DM: Forever and a day, but I’ve been getting paid to do it for about 13 years now.

SS: 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?

DM: I have an odd split world between my part time job (third grade teacher) and my other part time job as a writer. Both jobs seem to creep towards full time, so it’s a constant juggling act.

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

DM: Hmmm. Most folks know me as a teacher around these parts so sometimes I still don’t feel like a real author when I get those disbelieving stares. I suppose after the tenth title or so I began to believe the writing gig was going to stick.

SS: Who has been your greatest supporter as an author?

DM: Papa Bear, hands down. He believed in me when I didn’t and he’s still right there through the good, the bad and the ugly. Sister Bear is also a pretty incredible support.

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

DM: I’ve written a mystery series for Barbour which was rereleased in ebook format through Spyglass lane Mysteries. Mystery is my first love, but the market tends to clamor for suspense, especially the CBA.

SS: How does your faith play into your writing?

DM: God made me to do this writing thing. Sometimes I don’t know why, but He’s behind it, I’m sure. Every once in a while I get a letter or note that tells me someone was touched and encouraged by the simple words I’ve hammered out. That’s a God thing. I’m blessed that He enables me to do it to serve His purposes.

SS: If you couldn’t write, what else would you want to do?

DM: Well, I wanted to be an Olympic Ice Skater but I’m thinking the ship has sailed on that dream. Frankly, I’m stumped by the question because I really can’t imagine doing anything else.

SS:  Tell us about your current release.

DM: The newest book, Jungle Fire, is my first with Moody’s River North imprint. You’ve got your missionary nurse, the untamed Petén Jungle and a very old secret that’s going to result in lives being lost and saved. I hope it’s a page turner. Bring along your bug spray and machetes!
Book Blurb:

The deadliest animal in the jungle is the two legged kind.

Nina Truman is a missionary nurse, serving in a tiny Guatemalan town not far from the Mexican border.  It's a fulfilling life, tending to the village poor, a way to serve in the country from which she was adopted. The day she leaves on furlough, is the day her life falls apart. Her bus is a
mbushed and she must flee from forces who inexplicably wish her dead. Trapped between a ruthless drug lord and his assassins, a corrupt police chief, and colleagues with ulterior motives, her friends may prove just as deadly as her enemies as she uncovers a plot tangled deep in the roots of her own past.

Nina's only hope of survival lies in the hands of Shaw Wilder, a man who despises missionaries and the God they serve.  His skill is in handling a landmine detection dog, not helping a woman he blames for the death of his sister. When the lethal drug kingpin El Escorpion seeks to capture Nina, and the local police are no help, Shaw has to choose: flee into the Guatemalan jungle with a naive woman who has vowed never to take a life or follow his own spiritual demons and walk away. His choice may leave them both imprisoned in a jungle from which neither will escape.

SS: Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

DM: I was approached by my agent to write a story about a missionary. My mother spent a short time in Guatemala and I learned a little about it as a child. I am in awe of the incredible geographical diversity of the country and the people’s resiliency in the aftermath of a horrific 30 year civil war.

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

DM: Our God is a forgiving God and a merciful God, even when we can’t see that because the jungle is closing in around us.

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

DM: I’m partial to the dog, Axel. He’s trained in detecting explosives, but he’s got that true loyalty and selflessness that all great best friends possess.

SS: Who is your least favorite character in this book? Why?

DM: Not too keen on the corrupt cops, but one must have some conflict, you know. There’s also Escorpion, who is pursuing Nina for a very dark purpose. He’s just…bad.

SS: What are you working on now?

DM: I’m writing a three book natural disaster series for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense. The first one, Shock Wave, releases August of 2013.

SS: A tough question: Where do you want to be career-wise in five years? Ten years?

DM: I’d like to be writing more mysteries, perhaps a children’s series as well. I’ll continue to teach the little guys as long as they’ll have me. I guess that means I’ll be juggling away for the foreseeable future!

SS:  Now let’s get a little personal. Name two things on your “bucket list” that you haven’t done yet.   
DM: I’d like to see the Okefenokee Swamp.
The bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico might be up there, too.

SS:  What is the silliest thing you have ever done?

DM: I’m a teacher, you know. I’ve worn nerd glasses to school with pencils glued to them and dressed up as an M &M. Can I just say, at the risk of sounding immodest, that I made a very fine green M&M?

SS: What is the hardest thing you have ever done?

DM: Dealt with pregnancy related depression.

SS: Where can readers find you on the internet?

DM: All the usual hangouts. My website is, and I’ve got a Facebook page and Twitter account. Also, my blog is and I have a gift card drawing every month.

SS: Anything else you’d like to tell or share with us?
DM: I’m sure most of the readers of this blog are women. I have this strong opinion that women are the glue that holds families, communities and churches together and they do it with love and encouragement. Thanks, all you women out there who lift each other up in a million ways. God bless each and every one of you! Thanks for having me. 

Thanks for joining us!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Focus, planning, and when things go wrong...

      During the last few months I’ve been traveling a lot with my husband, and when we’ve been home, I’ve spent as much time as I could with family.   Our daughter and son-in-law are in graduate school nearby, while our son and his family are just thirty miles away.  What a blessing it is to be close to them—though I sure wish our oldest son and his family weren’t two states away!  
      This summer, it has been a blessing to be working on proposals directed toward print publishers plus some self-published projects...rather than being restricted by tight deadlines.  But soon I hope to be back at work on new manuscripts, and with that in mind I’ve been focusing on reading more fiction, reading more books and magazines on writing, and I’ve been paying greater attention to the movies I see.  Reading the wonderful books by the authors here at SuspenseSisters  gives me something to aspire to and helps to prime the well of creativity, I think.  And movies—good or not so great—can be lessons on pacing and character development.
     Have you seen any movies this summer?  What did you think?  Did you have some favorites?  I’d love to hear about them, because we seem to be hitting the ones that end up with lukewarm reviews!
My husband loves watching old westerns on TV, so we went to The Lone Ranger on the first day it came out.  I love horses—we have three in the backyard—and I like good westerns.  I enjoy action, adventure, romance and comedy—but cruelty, violence and bloodshed, not so much.  I think Johnny Depp is wonderfully talented.

But after sitting through the Lone Ranger, which tossed in every one of those fictional elements—with a dash of steampunk and a lot more—framed by odd scenes set in what appeared to be a vaudeville museum of the old west, I’m still a bit boggled as to how to express my response to it.  And though it would seem like it should be a wholesome movie—you figure the guys in the white hats will prevail—some particularly bloody scenes will keep me from bringing my grandkids.

     And it all got me thinking.  Good fiction can combine a number of genres these days—paranormal romance, romantic suspense, historical/time travel, to think of just a few.  A talented writer can create compelling, realistic worlds that sweep me into the story and make me wish the story wouldn’t end. But that kind of writing takes hard work and careful planning, careful handling of details. And seeing several movies this summer has illustrated what can happen when that kind of focus is lost.

     I know that most people visiting this blog enjoy suspense...but what are some of the other genres you enjoy, and do you have some authors you particularly enjoy?
     Blessings to you all!
Roxanne Rustand

Monday, July 8, 2013


“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.
 You can find out more about Gayle by visiting her website.
Where do we get our ideas for our mysteries and suspense? People often ask that question, and the answer is, basically, everywhere.

Years ago I read in our local paper about a body found floating in the reservoir about a quarter mile from our house. My first thought as I read was, “What a great setup for a novel.”

Since I tend to write the innocent bystander dragged into a bad situation, that body was the perfect thing to put my innocent individual in jeopardy. What if my hero is out for a jog one evening at dusk and happens on the guys depositing the body in the water? What if they see him and chase him? What if he lives in a neighborhood just like mine and takes refuge in a backyard just like mine where my heroine just happens to live? And The Midnight Intruder was born.

Then there was the time I was vacationing with my family on an island in the middle of a lake. The weather turned bad and we were basically marooned because the lake was too rough for our little rented boat. “It’s just like a closed room mystery,” I thought. “No one can get in and no one can get out.”

The fact that we were the only ones on the small island didn’t stop me. I just made the island bigger and added more cottages. I took the cliff that in real life is at the end of the lake and attached it to my enlarged island, still a small, contained world but now big enough for victims and murderer. Voila, Death on an Island, fortunately out of print.

Another place to get ideas is from one’s own quirks. I’ve always had this thing about opening car trunks. What will I find when that lid goes up? A bad guy waiting to jump out at me? A body? The body won and Caught in the Middle came to be.

Or what if you’re hanging up curtains and you see something next door you shouldn’t see? What if you see a murderer? You get See No Evil.

There’s standing outside your garage door on a dark night as the door slowly rises. What’s waiting in there to get you? Or should I say who? I haven’t written that one yet.

Another experience I haven’t yet written about was the time I witnessed a hostage drama at the local police station. I went to interview the police PR person for the book I was writing. The cop I was to see forgot I was coming and wasn’t there. In fact no one was there but the dispatch guy behind his bulletproof glass.

“Let me see where your contact is and if he’s going to be back soon,” he said.

I stood in the anteroom on the other side of the bulletproof glass waiting when a tall teenaged guy came wandering in. He walked past me and through a door into the station. Next thing I knew, the kid had walked into the dispatch area and had a knife at the throat of the officer there.

“What do you want?” the dispatch guy asked as he tried to pull the kid’s arm from his throat.

“Call the cops,” the kid said, realizing that there was no one in the house.

The dispatcher put out an emergency call, then asked again, “What do you want?”

The kid said, “To die.”

As all this is going on, I’m still standing watching. What could I do? Call the cops? I was in the police station. It was one of those horrifying, fascinating moments.

In a few minutes a car pulled up out back and an officer walked in the back door. All he could see was me. “What’s going on?” he asked, perplexed by the emergency message but seeing only me standing there.

“Well, this kid’s got a knife on the dispatcher.” Strange moment.

The officer moved quickly to the dispatcher’s door and stood looking at the kid who had his arm about the man’s neck and the knife at his throat. “What do you want?” he asked the kid.

“To die.”

About that time several police cars drove up and officers came pouring in. They all blinked at me. One said, “Stand outside. Don’t leave. We need to talk to you. But don’t stand in front of the window.”

I went outside, my heart pumping mightily. In a couple of minutes, the officer came outside for me. there had been no noise, no shots. As I went back in, they were leading the kid away, his hands behind his back.  The dispatcher was collapsed in his chair, his face green and his hands shaking now that he was free.

I haven’t used this story yet. It requires the perfect story and I haven’t figured it out yet. But I remember that kid and his wish, and it breaks my heart. How sad that your life is so bad that you contemplate suicide by cop. Thankfully it never came to that.

But ideas come from life. All you have to do is run with them.