Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Author Behind the Story Blog Series - Kimberly Russell

Well, school is in session for much of the country. Both K-12 and colleges. There are a great deal of debates happening too. Masks? no masks? Vaccinations? No vaccinations? Social distancing (I guess COVID knows to stop at six feet), wash your hands (apparently, we weren't doing this before???), and sneeze or cough into your elbow (and then do elbow bumps so you don't use your hands - SMH). 

I do believe that historians will look back on this time in human existence and determine it to be one of the strangest, most confusing times in human history. Just the amount of conflicting information and data alone will be enough to make any honest historian say, "What were they thinking? It must have been a very mind-boggling and challenging time to live in, for sure. And this estimation doesn't even take into account all the venomous attacks on social media."

It makes me think of the comic strip, Frank and Earnest, published August 14, 1990. Frank and Earnest are standing in front of an alien spaceship, and the alien is standing next to them. Frank asks, "What do you think of civilization on our planet?" To which the alien replies, "I think it would be a good idea."

If the comic writers saw it years ago, surely historians will in the not-so-distant future.

In an effort to bring some hint of civilization to an otherwise spiraling out-of-control world that wishes to set itself ablaze for cause after cause, we welcome another author you may not know yet to the Florida Front Porch. It's balmy here in F-L-A in September, and the peak of hurricane season is three days away. So, grab a cold beverage, pull up a chair, and welcome author Kimberly Russell!

Kimberly, kick us off with our traditional lead-in question: Give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Kimberly Russell? 

I’m from Michigan, retired four years from the Department of Corrections after 30 years of service as a Warden’s Secretary. Yes, I have stories. I have the best life ever, grateful for the peace and freedom that
comes from walking hand-in-hand with God along His exciting path. It’s a journey, not a destination.

Oh, corrections. I too spent four years in a state prison. As a C.O. and C.O. Sergeant, not an inmate! 

Are you married? Single? Have kids? 

I’ve been divorced for over twenty years and am happily single. My three step-children have remained in my life, and I’m Nana to ten. I have an amazing extended family-small but mighty-and we gather often, keeping in touch even as the generations have spread across the country. Ah, the beauty of Facebook, right?

I spend my days creating literary magic in my favorite place on earth, the She Shed, wading through marketing, and pursuing my fiendish passion, pickleball. It’s a marvelous tennis-like sport that can be played by any age (usually I’m the youngest at 60 and the oldsters are really, really good.) The sport fills many areas in my life that were lacking after I retired: great exercise, a community of friends, and the maintenance a competitive edge I never knew I had. If you’re not familiar with the fastest growing past-time around, Google it and you’ll soon be hooked.

I’m going to give you a shotgun list of favorites. List your favorite in each category and then tell us in one sentence why it is your favorite. 


Favorite Song of All-Time: Old Time Rock and Roll (Bob Seger)

Favorite Non-Fiction Book (other than your own & besides the Bible): Divine Romance

Favorite Bible Verse: Matthew 11:28-30

Favorite Movie: Sound of Music

Favorite Actor or Actress: Kevin Costner

Favorite TV Show: America’s Got Talent

Favorite Novel (other than your own): Gone With The Wind

Favorite Author (other than you): Ginny Dye

Favorite Sport: Pickleball

Favorite Team (Can be any sport, any level): American Ninja Warrior (I know, weird, right?)

Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: English (of course)

Favorite Subject Now: English still.

Favorite Teacher in School:  Ms. Culy (English)

Favorite Time of the Year: Spring

Favorite Place to Vacation: I’d rather stay home

Favorite Drink: COFFEE!

Favorite Food: Carrot chips, cherry tomatoes, & hummus


For all the pet lovers out there, answer this question: Do you have any? 

I’ve always had critters, but they were just part of my world more than something I was attached to. After many years of pet parenthood, I’d come to a place where I was going into retirement and through attrition, had downsized. Then Facebook happened… A post popped up from our local Humane Society, (that I never should’ve seen, by the way—a share of a share) and I knew he had to be mine. A week later, Toby, the Shih Tzu came to live with me. We immediately bonded, and he has been the light of my life for eight years. When I’m invited anywhere, I know better than to show up without him and often the invitations are for Toby with a disclaimer of, ‘Oh, you can come along too.’ I may have rescued him, but he totally rescued me.

If you could go back and have a “do over” concerning something in your life (we’re thinking about something non-writing related here), what would you have done differently?

There are several things I’d like a do-over on, but since they are all interconnected, I’ll start with the fact that I wish I had gone to college. It was never presented as an option, and after high school, I got lost for a while, which brought me to the bad choice of marrying an abusive alcoholic. While those years were difficult, I found the Lord, and they brought me to my second marriage. I won’t qualify that as a poor decision since I would have missed becoming a step-mother, but the marriage ended after ten years. Divorce is never something you want, but it happens. I’ve come to a peaceful place in my life, and despite all the heartache, I can honestly say I wouldn’t change any of it because without all that, I wouldn’t be where I am (or who I am) today.

Besides the usual things authors face, has there been an unusual event that changed your perspective about being an author?

I’ve always considered myself a contemporary fiction writer, but God had other ideas. It happens, right? I had three full-length manuscripts to work with, yet, He downloaded a story that took over my soul. I couldn’t walk away because it was about me. Through my own experiences and His miraculous emotional healing, He gave me an allegory that I would never have considered writing. Me? A fantasy writer? No way. I argued with Him, finally got on board, and Journey to ChiYah was released July 1st.

Check out the back cover blurb:

Jade Pepperdine has a problem: Her life is crumbling beneath the weight of the past, events of the present, and fears for her future. Things need to change, but she doesn’t know where to start. Answers come in the form of an unexpected opportunity when Jade finds herself stuck in a mythical land. She meets Mayor Dudley, who insinuates she is emotionally broken and in need of repair...a fact she’d just as soon ignore. He offers to help her get home if she is willing to face her issues through a process of restoration. Frightened and skeptical yet out of options, Jade grudgingly agrees. And soon figures out that change is a journey, not a destination. Come along on the adventure of a lifetime, and maybe you’ll find someone you never knew you lost: Yourself.

As a writer, if you had one thing you would do over again, what would it be?

Being an Independent Author was a whole new world for me. So much to learn. So many unknowns. And then there’s marketing. Whew. In November 2020, I had reached a point where my manuscript was with beta readers, and it was time for me to jump into the learning curve of Indie publishing. I spent several months exploring every resource I could get my hands on and, as I tend to do, researched myself into such a frenzy, I was paralyzed, unable to figure out which way to go. I finally came to a point where I sifted through the material and began to implement what I had discovered. Here’s a few highlights:


Everyone has a different opinion about Alpha and Beta readers. I used several Alphas prior to editing, when the manuscript was in its rawest form. While I can see the advantage of gathering opinions about the story line, sharing an unedited project isn’t for me-I would rather work with an editor on content. As for Betas, be sure to send to them before a paid editor or their input (and your output of cash) will be wasted. (A lesson I learned the hard way.)


Start early. I had many learning curves, and it was slow going to get it all set up. Plus you need to do lots of research to see what works for you (not just copy others or take every piece of advice thrown your way.) Be sure to evaluate ROI, (both time and money) and if something doesn’t work, make changes balanced by the fact that marketing is an investment that needs to be paced over time in order to experience gradual, steady returns.


I had planned on formatting myself out of my writing program, Scrivener, but there was quite a big learning curve, and I ran out of time. I ended up learning how to eBook format myself in Word and contracted out the paperback. The problem was, I got in too big of a hurry and sent it to the formatter prior to completion of ARC readers, who caught many typos. I also didn’t read it myself one last time because frankly, I was sick of it. Just being honest. But that decision created a situation where I ended up paying almost as much to fix errors in the paperback as I did for the original formatting. I plan on learning to format both eBook and paperback myself so that I have total control to fix pesky errors that always seem to weasel their way in.

Tell us about what project you are currently working on.

I have returned to my first manuscript written over two years using NaNoWriMo from 2009-2011. I’m still excited about the story that came from a co-worker that went on vacation and found a digital camera then tracked down the owner, which got my creative juices all a dither.

Photo Finish has been through a lot: ripped apart multiple times and put back together, edited once, and abandoned to gather dust on a cyber shelf when life got in the way of writing. I then took a few years to publish Journey to ChiYah, but the time has finally arrived. I believe the project will touch readers with its message of hope, and I can’t wait to share it with the world.

Knowing what you know now about writing, publishing, etc., what piece of advice would you give to the person thinking about writing that novel they have always wanted to pursue since they were young, or the person who believes they have a non-fiction book in them that would be helpful to others? 

NEVER rush to publish. I started writing in 2009 and just released my debut a few months ago. Everyone’s path is different as far as timing, however, with the advent of Independent publishing, I think authors hurry and skip steps that ensure they have the absolute best product prior to release-a lot can be learned during what NOT to do experiences. It’s tedious, but worth the effort. Here are a few highlights from my journey:

Self-editing - This one turned me into a convoluted pretzel as I tried to figure out what worked for me. I did a lot of circling the mountain, over-complicating the process. The goal was to clean up the manuscript as much as possible before a pro editor which saves time on both parts and you dollars in the end.

 Professional editing - I’m a proponent of always hiring an editor. Your high school English teacher or savvy BFF might do a great job, but there is no substitution for someone that edits professionally. Be discerning when choosing an editor. It’s not only about what they bring to the table, but your needs and expectations. Have a frank, open discussion (preferably by phone or in person as messaging/email can lead to misunderstanding) and discuss honest communication, deadlines, payment, and anything else to do with the business arrangement. A contract with clear guidelines and expectations is always a good thing.

Cover - Never scrimp on a professional cover, created by a designer that knows your genre, and is well versed in the process. Fortunately for me, my great-niece is a graphics arts major, and even though this was the first foray for both of us, she researched diligently, consulted with her college prof, and hit it out of the park. Fun fact: The model on Journey to ChiYah’s cover is her younger sister. Yes, we made it a family affair.

As a writer, what is “success” to you? And has that “definition” changed over time as you have traveled down the writer’s path? 

When I started writing, success wasn’t part of the equation. In fact, I was nothing but confused because I knew God was speaking to me, but I had no idea why. For the longest time, I never even told anyone—not even my family. I was so insecure about my skills and what others would think; I couldn’t even broach the subject. After I started entering the Weekly Writing Challenge at, everything changed. It is a writing contest with prompts where you enter 300 words for judging, with recognition in varying levels of achievement. I experienced success, including being published in several of their anthologies, and my confidence grew to the point that I could actually share my secret. Eventually I wrote here and there under a pen name, still afraid to come out to the world, until God told me, "Enough."

Publishing brought out a new level of fear to battle, and in a few weeks I will do my first local book signing—a bit step that has my knees quaking. It’s an on-going process, but I know He’ll help me through.

Success now is all about the assignment He’s given me. If my writing touches and helps others, I have accomplished the goal, hence my brand, “Sharing Hope Through Words.” Profits aren’t important and I have given away many more books than I’ve sold. It just doesn’t matter as long as my CEO is pleased.

What’s the craziest thing you have ever done? 

Three years ago, I got on a plane with my two sisters, and we flew to Minnesota to meet our older brother Bill for the first time after finding him on Ancestry DNA. We knew there was another sibling, but never dreamed God would allow us to find him. He is ten years older than me, never knew he had a single blood relative on the planet, and now has all of us. (Yes, we can be a lot.) I always wanted a big brother, and now I have a Bill plus a bonus sister in his wife, Marsha. It took a few years, but I can finally buy him a birthday card without standing in the card aisle weeping.

Why do you live where you live? 

I live in Coldwater, a small town in southern lower Michigan. It’s smack dab in the middle of the state, five miles from the Indiana line. (Hold your hand up like a mitten and it is easy to find-that’s a Michigan thing.) I was born less than five minutes from where I currently live, raised in the nearby small town of Quincy.

I’ve never felt the need to stray from home as the majority of my family was here even though we have dwindled over the years as the extendeds have spread out. I do detest Michigan winters, but also struggle with heat related issues so the mix of seasons mostly suits me. Besides, I don’t think I could ever leave my little gal’s house that I’ve lived in for over twenty years. My life is perfect. I have everything I want and need. I am content.

We know “Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers.” Is there a book you’ve read in the past five years or so that has helped you become a better you? If so, which one was it, and how did it affect your life?

“The Story of With” by Allen Arnold. It is an allegory about learning to be a Creative Bohemian, creating with the Creator. The story teaches you about how our art (whatever form it may take) needs to be birthed by working in tandem with God and allowing him to open your mind to endless possibilities. It entirely changed my perspective about writing and was the inspiration for Journey to ChiYah.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?

A big thank you to Kevin for letting me hang out and sharing a little about my world. I leave you with the words the Lord gave me for book signings of Journey to ChiYah: May God hold you tightly as you continue on your own journey.

Kimberly, thank you for being a part of ABTS! And Readers, if you're wishing to connect with Kimberly and learn more about her writing, you can find her in the following locations in cyberspace:

Purchase Journey to ChiYah at Amazon:

Sign up for Kim’s newsletter:


Web Site:




Until next time!



P.S. - And don't forget about Kevin's latest novel, The Letters! If you're looking for a Christmas story for the upcoming season that is not your typical "Hallmark movie" Christmas story, then this one is for you! Winner of two awards, you cannot go wrong. :-)

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Author Behind the Story Blog Series - Cynthia Roemer

Signing a contract for a new book never gets old. Having just done so for what will be my 10th book by the time of the October 2022 release date, I can honestly say I never thought my writer's life would turn out like it has. Trying to predict how such a journey will transpire is about as fruitless as trying to predict the weather.

Instead, I have learned how to sit on the front porch and enjoy the sound of the raindrops falling from the sky. Listen to the thunder off in the distance. Be amazed by the lightning show and the awesomeness of the power it wields. 

And more importantly, be in awe of the One who created it all. For I know this world as we see it now was not what He intended. The wonder and majesty of what we experience with our senses in nothing like the antediluvian world of Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel. Yet, even that Masterful creation pales by comparison to what's coming (Revelation 21-22). The Law of Entropy doesn't exist there. And for that, I'll be eternally grateful.

This month, I'm wondering if our next guest on our Author Behind the Story blog series feels similarly. For each author has a journey.

Welcome to the Florida Front Porch, where it is raining right now as I "pen" this missive. It's summertime. Humid. And raining. The consequences of invading a swamp, I suppose.

And welcome to the front porch fellow Scrivenings Press author, Cynthia Roemer!

Cynthia, in classic ABTS tradition, give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Cynthia Roemer?

I am a country girl who loves the Lord. I enjoy reading, hiking, biking, gardening, and riding side-saddle with my husband in the combine or motorcycle. I consider writing my main ministry and pray the Lord will use it to for His glory.

You mentioned that you were married. Tell us about your family? 

My husband and I have been married twenty-seven years. He is a grain farmer, and farms our small, three-hundred-acre farm the old-fashioned way rotating crops of wheat, soybeans, and corn. We have two grown sons. Our older son recently married (so I have a daughter now too 😀). Our younger son is currently still at home. Both work in Ag related jobs.

When the words aren’t flowing, what is your favorite comfort food and why?

I would have to say my favorite go-to comfort food is chocolate chips smothered in peanut butter. (This is a little-known confession! LOL!)

Little-known? Not anymore.

For all the pet lovers out there, answer this question: Do you have any?

We have one outdoor cat named Chad. I say “outdoor,” but he pretty much gets the royal treatment come cold weather. We often let him in our mudroom on cold wintry days to sleep in a cozy pet bed. He gets milk every morning and likes to go on walks with us.

My aunt and uncle had a farm in Virginia. They had cats infinitum. She would take the leftovers from dinner and put them in a large pan. Then she'd add milk and other things to it before taking it to the barn. The feline woodwork would come alive. Apparently, they never had any mouse of mole issues.

Has your writing crossed over into other areas? If so, how? If not, will it?

I’ve always wanted to write novels, and did write a rough draft of my first book while in college. Then life hit—I married and had kids! So, my novel aspirations sat on the shelf for quite a few years while I raised my boys. But I never stopped writing. I wrote Christian articles and short-stories, gaining a few publications a year until I topped one hundred in print. I also tried my hand at writing church plays and had three of those published. I also wrote Book Reviews for Christian Retailing Magazine. But now that my boys are grown, the Lord has closed some of those doors and opened the door to novel writing. He knew I would need something worthwhile and time-consuming to occupy me as I settle into the “empty nest” years of life. 😀 I do continue to utilize my non-fiction inspirational writing on my Sowing Seeds of Hope Blog.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

Since I write historical novels, I usually refer to an on-line list of popular names from the time period—census names. Other times, names just come to me that suit the character and I go with them.

As a writer, what is “success” to you? And has that “definition” changed over time as you have traveled down the writer’s path? 

Like all writers, I dreamed of being signed by a large publishing house and selling thousands if not millions of copies. But now, having signed with a small publishing house where we are like family, I know I’m where the Lord wants me to be. To me, success is being obedient to God’s plan and allowing Him to do whatever He chooses with my writing. Whether He touches the hearts of few or many, the outcome is in His hands.

If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus, and why? 

Boy, that’s a toughy. There are so many. But the first one that came to mind was Mary, sister of Lazarus. Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen what was best, and it would not be taken from her. I tend toward being a diligent, hard-working Martha that has a hard time sitting still. LOL! I’d love to spend time with Mary and learn what it is to really seek quality time with Jesus and get to know Him deeper.   

When you are looking for a book to read, what are the things that are important to you?

It is really hard for me to break away from reading historical/historical romance. I just love the genre. I do, however, enjoy reading a variety of time periods—Biblical, Regency, Prairie, Civil War, WWI & II. What draws me is a great cover along with an intriguing back cover blurb. It’s also a plus to read a sample of the writing. If those don’t grab me, I’ll likely pass it by. I also have my favorite authors and pay attention to the “buzz” and what others say about a novel for my TBR list.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?

There are so many, but Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the top: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This was the theme verse for my first novel, Under This Same Sky.

Having recently dealt with cancer and treatments, I’ve had to cling to this verse as well as others. Through it all, the Lord has never left my side, and in the worst of times, this verse reminds me He is in control and has a plan for my life.

Just know that we are (still) praying for you and your family.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?

I love connecting with readers! The most gratifying aspect of writing to me is positive feedback and gaining a relationship and trust with readers. When I sense the Lord has touched the heart of a reader through something He’s enabled me to write, that brings me joy.

If there is one thing this world needs more of right now it’s kindness. The hero and heroine in my new Civil War novel, Beyond These War-Torn Lands, both face challenges in which they must choose between harboring bitterness or responding with Christ-like love—a challenge each of us face in our daily lives.

Thanks so much for hosting me!

Cynthia, thank you for taking time to share with our readers!

Readers, if you wish to get in touch with Cynthia or find out more about her writing, you can catch up to her in the following locations on the web:




Author Newsletter Sign-up:





Fiction Finder:


Until next time, Bless God.




Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Author Behind the Story Blog Series - Beth Westcott

Summers fly by. When you're an educator.

Some people cringe when educators makes statements like that. They say, "Must be nice to have summers off. Holidays off. Weekends off."

I always respond, "I'll trade you." Then I go on to explain what I do every day, and somehow, I'm the one who ends up "being crazy."

Funny how that works. 

Parents, deep down, love school. It's six-to-seven hours of respite from whiny kindergartners, emotional preteens, and know-it-all teenagers. Yet, they'd never trade that respite for summers off, holidays off, and weekends off, knowing they'd have to deal with anywhere from 18-200 (As an educator, you get more as they get older!) carbon copies of their own children, all the while being held responsible for their capability to learn.

So, if you know a teacher of administrator, pray for them in the upcoming weeks and months. Especially with the looming aftermath of a "global pandemic" that doesn't seem to want to go away.  

Enough with the infomercial. :-)

Let's get to the heart of why we're here.

Let's welcome an author you may or may not know. She's got a new novel out, and I've invited her to be part of our Summer Extravaganza as being the second author we have featured this month. You, the reader, are the beneficiary of a scheduling blunder we have turned around and made into our Summer Extravaganza. :-)

Welcome, fellow Mantle Rock Publishing-turned-Scrivenings Press author, Beth Westcott!

Beth, pull up a chair on the Florida Front Porch (sorry about the heatwave!) and give us a quick bio about yourself. In fifty words or less, who is Beth Westcott? 

Born on Long Island and raised on a farm in New York State, I’m the youngest of seven siblings. After graduating from high school and completing my B.A. at Hartwick College, I married Frank. We parented three children and worked together in Christian ministry for 38 years.

Before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author, how old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life? 

For the first six years of my life, I lived 30 miles from New York City (never visited it) on Long Island. When we moved to rural New York, I learned that milk came from cows. I loved school, belonged to 4-H, and became active in church. My life was never boring because I always had something to do.

I wanted to be a nurse. I changed my mind in third grade and decided to become a schoolteacher. Although I lived on a farm, and I enjoyed the outdoors, nature, and animals, I never wanted to become a farmer. I left that to my two older sisters.

My father loved animals, especially sheep, and we kept a variety of animals. I had market lambs and Jersey heifers as 4-H projects and exhibited them at the county fair each summer. One year my heifer qualified to be shown at the New York State Fair.

In school I sang to the elementary and high school choruses and played clarinet in the band.

As a preschooler, I loved having books and stories read to me, and I loved reading from the time I learned how to read. A poem I wrote in second grade was published in the school newspaper. I liked writing assignments and literature throughout high school and became an English major at Hartwick College. As a college English major, I had the privilege of spending a term abroad in England. At some point during college, I decided not to become a teacher. Then I married Frank.

Are you married? Single? Have kids? 

Frank and I have been married for 48 years. We have three married children, two girls and a boy, and five granddaughters. Our grandson passed away in 2017 at the age of five and a half.

Congratulations on 48 years! Yet, I am so sorry to hear about your grandson. That's a loaded paragraph, to be sure. 

What makes you cringe? 

Snakes, cats on food surfaces, leaking sky lights, out-of-tune pianos, strong thunderstorms.

Based on the different personality profiles out there (Meyers-Briggs, etc.), what profile was the latest one you took, and what were the results? 

It has been a long time since I last filled out a personality profile, and I don’t remember which one(s) I completed. I’m melancholic, an introvert, with perfectionist tendencies. This knowledge helps me understand who I am and how I react to life.

Besides the usual things authors face, has there been an unusual event that changed your perspective about being an author? 

Cancer: an ugly word. In 1984 my husband was diagnosed with cancer. We had three young children, and he had just resigned from his job with CEF. The radiation treatments made Frank sick and weak, but the Lord chose to cure him. Along with our own families, we had the support of our church family and fellow-believers. Their prayers and love gave us a better understanding of Christian community.

Our sweet grandson Rylen was born with hydrocephalus in 2011. Although the doctors predicted he wouldn’t survive outside the womb, we were gifted with him for five-and-one-half years before he succumbed to a virus that attacked his brain. Rylen loved people and enjoyed life. He had physical and mental challenges that slowed his learning, but his contagious laugh echoes in our memories.

As an author of Christian romance, and I like happy endings, I realize that not everything in life is sweet and lovely. But God is with us though the painful times, still loving, still caring, still supporting us.

Of all the stories/books you have written, which one is your favorite? And what compelled you to write this story? 

Meadow Song was republished by Scrivenings Press in 2020, and I have other, unpublished novels. However, because Heart’s Desire has just been released, I’ll call that my favorite for now. In elementary school I had a best friend with whom I shared many interests, and she and I spent a lot of time together outside of school. As time passed, our interests began to diverge, and I discovered that she had a new best friend. Our relationship distanced. I decided to write a story about why friendships change as we grow up. I learned about the Iroquois “Three Sisters” garden, which included corn, beans, and squash growing together, mutually benefitting each other. Aubrey White, Katie Mann, and Haleigh Abbott became the Three Sisters, “best friends forever” until middle school, when their less than cordial split -up occurred. Originally intending to write one book for teens, I instead developed a series of three romance novels, a romance for each of the friends, and over the course of the three novels, the three friends reunite. Heart’s Desire is Aubrey’s story, the first in the series.

Tell us about what project you are currently working on. 

I intended Meadow Song to be a stand-alone novel, but readers asked for a sequel. I’m currently working on the proposal for the sequel, Melody of Life, which begins about six months after Meadow Song ends and focuses on two secondary characters from the first novel.

Knowing what you know now about writing, publishing, etc., what piece of advice would you give to the person thinking about writing that novel they have always wanted to pursue since they were young, or the person who believes they have a non-fiction book in them that would be helpful to others?  

Don’t just think about it--start writing. Many authors keep journals, or they write short stories or articles which they submit first. And don’t think you’re a failure when you receive a rejection letter or your novel doesn’t become a best-seller. Attend writers’ conferences to learn the craft and connect with other writers, editors, publishers, agents, and anyone else in the industry. Take advantage of on-line classes and join groups of like-minded people. Colleges offer classes. You can also use and improve your writing skills writing for church newsletters, sending editorials to your local newspaper, or volunteering to write on behalf of a non-profit. Send a thoughtful, caring letter to someone shut-in, ill, or experiencing another difficulty. Learn how to write well. Expect to invest effort, time, and money as you would in training for any job or career. And don’t give up.

Looking back, have you ever wondered if choosing a different genre would have worked better for you, as a writer? Have you ever thought about switching genres, or writing in different genres? 

I’m satisfied with contemporary romance, but I sometimes think I’d like to try romantic suspense or historical romance. I also desire to be a devotional writer, to encourage readers in their walk with God.

If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus, and why?

I’d like to meet and spend time with Daniel because he knew who he was and to Whom he belonged. He “purposed in his heart” to stay true to God when torn from his home and everything familiar and taken captive to Babylon. They changed his name, immersed him in their culture, and threatened his life if he didn’t give in to their religious practices, but he remained firm in his stand for the Lord God and His Word. With God’s help, he performed his given responsibilities well and earned the respect of the king.

Why do you live where you live?  

I’m back where I came from, in a manner of speaking. I’ve lived in New York State for most of my life. I grew up in the rural town of Otego, and I attended school in the village of Otego. I moved away when I married Frank because of his work. We lived in other places, mostly small towns, for over forty years, including six years in Pennsylvania. We returned to our home area when Frank was called to pastor a church here and to help care for our aging mothers. When Frank retired, we moved to Otego and now reside about five miles from where I grew up.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?

Provers 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (NKJV)

Is my faith in God strong enough to believe that He will do what He says He will do? Can I trust Him to keep His promises? My knowledge and understanding are limited, but God's knowledge and wisdom are limitless. He loves me and wants me to depend on Him. So often I’ve had to turn back to these verses to be reminded that the wisest choice is to believe, obey, and acknowledge Him in every aspect of my life, even when circumstances try to convince me to respond otherwise. I can trust Him to direct me the right way.

If you had life to do all over again, would there be any changes? If so, what would they be?

If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and to ask other people for help, and I’d be more open and vulnerable. I’d step out to help others more often as well.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover? 

In Heart’s Desire, Aubrey is motivated to “make her life count” in part by the death of a close friend while they’re in high school. I believe that every person desires to be significant in some way, to make their life count. Writing gives me an avenue to honor God and touch readers’ lives as I put words together in a meaningful way, to share God’s truths by using story. Authors and readers form an essential team to encourage and support one another.

How true. Authors love it when readers makes comments, leave reviews, telling them how they liked a book, what it meant to them, etc. It's definitely a two-way street.

Beth, we appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to allow our readers to take a glimpse into your life.

Readers, if you wish to find out more about Beth and her writing, you can look her up in the following locations on the web:


FB author page:



Twitter: Beth E. Westcott (@BethWAuthor) / Twitter 

See you in August!


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Author Behind the Story Blog Series - Donna Mumma

Almost three weeks of vacation this close to retirement is quite the self-imposed form of torture. You get a taste of what retirement can be, but alas, it's over. The sweet taste of lazy mornings and the ability to go see whatever you want when you want turns to ash. Three and a half years seems like a long time to wait. Yet, I know it will be here before I can say, "Snap out of it, old man." Life tends to fly by that way. We long for what's ahead, missing what's passing by at that very moment. And will we ever really get to that "dream-like" existence? I know of many who had dreams. They made their plans. They saved their fortunes or spent them, depending on the dreams they had, only to never truly see the full realization because of a life cut short. A tragic end that wasn't in the plans. Was never part of any dream.

It makes you realize how fortunate we are to be here. Period. At this very moment. Breathing in and out. Beggars on the verge of life in the spiritual realm tend to think that way (cf. Matthew 5:3). "Rich" people, not so much. That's why I sit here, torn between the life of a beggar and a life that can only made possible if God wills it, learning how to savor the ash and understand that the taste is of your own making. It doesn't have to be that way. The lazy mornings and the ability to jump in a car and see some of God's handiwork were gifts. Ones we will treasure for good. They were glorious because of "who" we were with, not just what we saw. Had my wife not been with me, I would not have even trekked to the mountains. Neither would she have. But together, the trip will be one we talk about for the rest of our lives. And this is where the "ash" turns to honey. Even sweeter than honey, straight from the comb.

Okay, enough with the devotional. :-)

We're here to introduce new authors (or at least ones who may be new to our readers). this next guest is brand new! Her debut novel just released, but she's been a friend for years. Cheering me on when I had writing successes, and now, I get to return the favor.

Please welcome to the Florida Front Porch no stranger to Florida, Donna Mumma!

Donna, it's so cool having you as part of this blog series. For our readers out there who don't know you, we have a tradition here at ABTS that always kicks off our interviews. Give us a quick bio. Fifty words or less. Who is Donna Mumma? 

I am a native Floridian and a former farm kid. I grew up in the country and now live in a large, metropolitan area on Florida’s west coast. Even though I live near the gulf, I don’t eat seafood. I think alligators are the coolest animal on the planet, and I’m no fan of snakes. Being around trees and water brings me peace. My favorite type of music is movie soundtracks, especially anything written by John Williams. I love books but to be honest, I love movies a little more.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve had vivid stories and characters roaming around in my head. With some encouragement from my husband, I decided to write them down. And now I’m a published author.

I love John Williams. Have his "Best of" CD set. I, too, listen to movie soundtracks when I'm writing. Helps to block out the noise, both outside and inside my head. Must be a writer thing.

Before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author, how old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life?

Since I was around six years old, I’ve always had a taste for monster movies and watched as many as I could. We had a local channel that showed the old, campy horror and monster movies on Saturday afternoons, and I would sit with my dad and enjoy those or the old Star Trek series. When I was eight, I started taking piano lessons and continued until I was a sophomore in high school. I also learned to play alto saxophone and was a very busy band geek though middle and high school.

My parents owned a dairy farm in central Florida, and that kept me, my four older brothers and my sister busy. I loved living in the country, going fishing, climbing our giant oaks and swinging from their boughs in a swing my dad made from a burlap feed bag. I swam in lakes and natural springs as well as a local pool club. The tiny town where I grew up was filled with wonderful storytellers, and I listened to tales about flipped airboats, alligators, hunting, and wild things that always happened after midnight on Saturday nights when the local bar closed down. I grew up in a tiny Baptist church, dressed as an angel for the outdoor Christmas pageants, and sang in the choir with my mother. When I was older, I played piano for the choir when our usual pianist was out of town.

I never liked school until I reached college. I started out studying medical technology with hopes of working in a hospital lab. God had other plans and in his own way he steered me to elementary education. I became a teacher in 1989 and taught for eight years. I also homeschooled our two boys for eight years.

I remember WTOG Channel 44! The Saturday afternoon Creature Feature with Dr. Paul Bearer...The Master of Scaremonies. 

What educational background do you have?

I went to Wildwood High School, in Wildwood, Florida.

After graduating from there, I attended Lake Sumter Community College (now Lake Sumter State College) in Leesburg, Florida and received my AA. I went on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) and am now officially a Florida Gator. My oldest brother attended UF, and when I went with my mother to drop him off, we walked around the campus. I fell in love and vowed at age nine that I was going to go there when I was grown. And I did!

Go Gators!

Are you married? Single? Have kids?

I have been married to my husband and best buddy for thirty-one years. We have two adult sons.

For all the pet lovers out there, answer this question: Do you have any? 

We have a collie, named Duke. Duke is mostly white, with a sable head and a sable spot on each side of his body. He is striking, and when we’re out walking him in our neighborhood folks often stop their car to pet him or gush over his looks. He is the sweetest dog we’ve ever owned, but he is also the most angsty thing I’ve ever met. Thunderstorms terrify him, which makes life complicated since we live on the coast in an area many deem as the lightning capitol of North America. He’s not fond of the tropical weather either. But, as long as he can sit with a human on either the couch or a bed, he will hunker down and shiver his way through the storm. I’m hoping someday he learns to cope a bit better, but until then we will snuggle up close and weather the storm together.

We know what makes Duke cringe. What makes you cringe? 

Heavy metal music, especially when it’s played at a volume that allows it to seep into your skin, vibrate through your bones or rattle your dental work.

If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus, and why? 

I would love to sit and talk with John the Baptist. His story always fascinated me. He wore camel’s hair garments and lived like a wild-man, but yet spoke with such authority that he intimidated a king and queen. And yet, he understood true humility and what serving God was all about. I’m sure when he entered a space the entire atmosphere changed and probably felt electrified. I think he would be interesting to talk with, and I’d be very certain to get straight, no-holds-barred type answers from him. First question would be, what was it like and what went through his head when the heavens opened up and God spoke after Jesus was baptized? Once I got him talking, I’d just sit back and take in everything he said.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why? 

My favorite Bible verse, and the one I base my life on is Hebrews 12:1-3. I’ve faced many challenges along the way, and this verse reminds me to keep going so I can finish this race set before me. Good words for life and my writing.

Why do you live where you live? 

I live in St. Petersburg because I met a city boy in college. When we married, he had a job here so I followed him to this area. He is a native to this part of Florida, and his family was here. Coming from rural Florida, it took me a while to become accustomed to the traffic, huge highways, and all the people. But being in love makes you take on new adventures and I adjusted to seeing palm trees, lots of cars, and sandy beaches instead of grassy pastures filled with cows. Now, both of our boys are in college here, and I’ve expanded my roots from rural Florida to the coast. To me, home is where the heart is, and since these three are my forever favorites, I’m right where I need to be.

When you are looking for a book to read, what are the things that are important to you? 

The most important thing for me when choosing a book is how quickly it pulls me in. A good cover always catches my interest, and I read back covers. I also read the first page, and if I’m not intrigued and wanting to know more when it’s time to turn the page, I usually pass and put the book back on the shelf. My attention span rivals a mosquito’s, and if a book hasn’t engaged me after the first few chapters, I’ll stop reading and move on to another. My to-be-read pile is always tall, and I’m forever buying and adding new titles based on friend’s recommendations or new releases.

My favorite genre is psychological suspense and crime thrillers, but I love a good historical that explores the human condition. Always up for exciting science fiction and action/adventure too.  

Of all the stories/books you have written, which one is your favorite? And what compelled you to write this story? 

The very first book I ever wrote was a sci-fi/action/adventure story called Eripio. I had so much fun writing it because I threw reality to the wind and let my mind create this world where I combined modern day tech with whatever my imagination came up with. I love a good quest story, and this one included all the elements that make that genre interesting to me. There were no boundaries, and I kept making up things as I went along like I did when playing pretend as a child. The male lead is probably one of my favorite characters I’ve created. Can’t really say what compelled me to write it other than a love of the classic adventure stories like Robinson Crusoe and movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark. It never found a publishing home, but I promised my family I would pull it out someday and try again.

Tell us about what project you are currently working on. 

I am currently working on a book meant to be a follow-up to my debut novel. It tells the story of a family pariah who was wrongly blamed for an event that shattered her large, close knit family, causing a rift that tore the family apart. She is now middle-aged and discovers that her dead sister, who was really the one responsible for the break-up, had proof of my main character’s innocence in this event. She goes on a sort of scavenger hunt to find it, planning to present it to her family at her sister’s funeral. It explores the concept of being right vs. doing the right thing.

Sounds interesting. What surprised you the most during the research for the book you are currently working on?

The characters in this story are from Louisiana, many of them are Cajun. I’ve had a lot of fun learning about their history and culture, especially the ways they made a living off the land and water. I’ve also discovered some very interesting parts of Louisiana history in the fifties and sixties that I never knew, such as many of the residents gaining jobs in the space program when it started expanding in Texas.

Tell us about your writing day. How do you go about writing?

I’m probably the worst person to ask this. I don’t have a specific routine. My real life is very busy, and my writing gets tucked in among all of my other jobs. Our youngest has a physical handicap, is also in college, so I’m his chauffer, scribe, typist, and aid whenever the need arises. On a good day I’ll complete all my regular life chores in the morning then work on writing from 1-5pm. I do sometimes stay up late to write, as I’m a night owl who also gets up early in the morning. And I do take off periodically and run away from home to a place where I can write without distraction for a few days.

Donna, it's been a pleasure having you on ABTS, and congratulations on your first book! There never is another debut novel. You only get one. That's why I always tell writers to try and make it the best one you have. :-)

Before we wrap things up, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?  

I write about flawed people who have challenges but keep pressing on. My parents taught us that it’s not important how many times you got knocked down but how many times you got back up. I strive for my stories to show that life is often hard, but we can survive and thrive if we keep our faith, look to God for help, and just run that race to the end. Limping, crawling, and dragging ourselves across the finish line count, and are often the only way we make it. And that’s okay.

Good words to conclude our interview!

Readers, if you are wishing to get to know more about Donna and her writing, you can find her in these cyber locations:

On her website:

On her blog:

On Twitter: @DonnaMumma1

On Facebook:

On Instagram: dmumma748

Thanks, again, Donna, for being a part of ABTS! 

Until next time, 


And did you know, Kevin's latest novel, The Letters, won First Place in the Speculative Category in the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference's 2021 Selah Awards? You can click HERE to find out more! When wondering about the story itself, think: A Christmas Carol Meets Frank Peretti. :-)  




Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Author Behind the Story Blog Series - Christine Dillon

Greetings from a swamp. A hot, humid swamp. We invaded one, you know. We call it Florida. But it's really a swamp that is being transformed into overpriced housing. I don't know about your neck of the woods, but here in FLA, we are experiencing some of the largest population growth in the state's history. If you want a cheap U-Haul, drive down her and drive it back to wherever, and U-Haul will probably pay you for doing it. Houses can't be built fast enough, and they're being built in some of the strangest places. Old ones are being snapped up too. Houses that need a lot of work are selling at prices over their appraised value in two weeks or less. Some as little as three days. If you're moving here, just wait until you get here, because if you find one online, by the time you drive down to see it, it will probably already have five or more offers. Most of them cash offers. We're just waiting for FLA to break off from all the weight and become an island. That's when we sell, move, and retire. Ha!

In retirement, there's one place I'd love to visit, and that's Australia. I like it so much I made one of my main characters in my Blake Meyer thriller series hail from the "Land Downunder." And that's where our next guest calls her homeland on earth, even though she's hardly ever there.

Please welcome to the Florida Front Porch, where the ceiling fan is running on high, but the sweat still beads up anyway, Australian-born author, Christine Dillon!

Christine, glad you could stop by! We have a tradition here on ABTS. In fifty words or less, give
us a quick bio. Who is Christine Dillon?

I am an Australian raised in Asia. I had the privilege of attending schools in Malaysia and the Philippines. Most importantly, I’m a child of God and follow him. I studied physiotherapy and worked several years before attending Bible College and returning to Taiwan as a missionary.

I love the great outdoors - hiking, photography, and swimming.

Before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author, how old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life? 

I was in my thirties when I started writing non-fiction and it came out of my experience in mission. Writing fiction didn’t happen until into my forties, and it is still very much a part-time occupation. I am still telling Bible stories in Chinese (and English) to anyone who will listen and having the joy of seeing lives transformed.

Chinese, eh? I have to admit, I don't think I know anyone who speaks Chinese. Personally, anyway. 

I’m going to give you a shotgun list of favorites. List your favorite in each category and then tell us in one sentence why it is your favorite.

Favorite Song of All-Time: Many of the songs by Keith Getty/Stuart Townend e.g. In Christ Alone, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (We used to sing those back in the day when we attended a Calvary Chapel.)

Favorite Non-Fiction Book (other than your own & besides the Bible): Mountain Rain, the biography of James O Fraser of Lisuland (China). A wonderful stimulus to pray for things that will last to eternity.

Favorite Bible Verse: 1 Corinthians 1: 27-29  God chooses the weak … so that no one can boast before him. This verse is true of me and is a great encouragement when I feel weak (which is often).

Favorite Movie: Lord of the Rings. I waited a good while to watch the movies because the books are such favourites of mine.

Favorite TV Show: Antiques Roadshow - I love the history and stories behind the items people are getting valued.

Favorite Novel (other than your own): Narnia series. I’ve read them every year since I was a teenager and still glean wisdom from them.

Favorite Sport: Too many: volleyball, cycling, swimming … I prefer participating to watching.

Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: science or social studies.

Favorite Time of the Year: Spring or summer (love the slow, hot Australian days)

Favorite Place to Vacation: UK - for hiking and the history.

Favorite Food: anything Thai.


Of all the stories/books you have written, which one is your favorite? And what compelled you to write this story? 

Grace in the Shadows (Book 2). The ending of this story is the one that God gave me when he suggested I write a novel during a day of prayer (an idea that horrified me, and he had to ease me into the idea over the subsequent six years). The ending (which I’m not going to tell you :) is deeply significant to me because it demonstrates much of the heart of what it means to be a Christian.

Tell us about what project you are currently working on.

I am about to start the planning for the sixth novel in my series. I think this is the last in the ‘Grace’ series. It is a spin-off story from the main family who feature in books 1-4. One of the themes will be an issue I struggled with until I was 26 - low self-esteem and comparing myself with others.

Tell us about your writing day. How do you go about writing?

My brain works much better in the morning. I only write one novel a year (since I am a full-time missionary), and it has worked out that I write in the last third of each year. I block out Saturdays as my main writing time but during the writing months, I also aim to write 500 words a day on at least four other days of the week and then at least three thousand on the Saturday. If the words are flowing, usually the per day count increases.

Kind of a NanoWriMos...instead of NanoWriMo. See, you writers out there? You can spread November out into more than one month. You can even make your National Novel Writing Month happen in a different month. Whatever works for you. 

Knowing what you know now about writing, publishing, etc., what piece of advice would you give to the person thinking about writing that novel they have always wanted to pursue since they were young, or the person who believes they have a non-fiction book in them that would be helpful to others?

Being a Christian adds a completely different dimension to writing. Take the time to really pray about whether God wants you to write. The world is cluttered up with books and as a believer, I think we should only write for a bigger audience if it is an important and (in the case of non-fiction) a unique contribution.

Also, take time to consider your motivations. If you are writing for the wrong reasons you will have a tough time. Writing is difficult and involves being able to take lots of criticism both in getting a book published (editing, early readers …) and from readers who write reviews. If you’re someone who is sensitive or easily hurt, work on dealing with the underlying reasons for those things before you put yourself in the firing line.

And take your time! Rushing produces poor results and especially for a first book, it will likely take far longer than you could imagine and that is a good thing. There is a lot for most people to learn about the craft of writing. We don’t want to release a book that we’re later ashamed of.

How true. Good advice!

Has your writing crossed over into other areas? If so, how? If not, will it?

For me it was my training ministry that led to writing non-fiction (rather than vice versa). I wrote a book on 1-to-1 discipleship (Christian Focus, 2009) and also one on Bible storytelling (Telling the Gospel Through Story, IVP, 2012). I run many seminars on evangelism, storytelling, and discipleship.

The fiction was a surprise and as a result of a prayer day in which two titles/ideas for novel were placed in my mind. I didn’t think I could ever learn to write fiction but left it in God’s hands. Six years later he pushed me forward and now I have five novels released. My latest non-fiction, Sword Fighting: Applying God’s word to win the battle for our mind, was released as a companion to my fourth novel as it fleshes out ideas that are touched on in the novel but couldn’t be expanded on there.

I have also had various Chinese translations of my non-fiction, and we’re working on a German translation for the Sword Fighting book and have a Dutch translation of the first novel. Following Jesus is certainly an adventure, and I am constantly having to learn new skills like project manage translations, even in languages I don’t speak.

If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus, and why? 

Probably Daniel or Paul. I’d just have so many questions about their faith journey and their struggles. Also, how they lived as ‘salt and light’ in their era. I’d also ask Paul about missionary strategy because this is something that is my daily life and he could teach me so much.

Why do you live where you live?

I live wherever God has led me. For the past 22 years that has been Taiwan but now I’m returning to Australia to be a better support to my ageing parents. I trust that God knows exactly what he is doing and has plans for me here.

When you are looking for a book to read, what are the things that are important to you?

I read several kinds of books. Some are just for mental relaxation like thrillers/mystery/detective novels and my only requirement is that they’re well-written.

I also like historical fiction and particularly enjoy learning new things and more about history.

If I’m reading Christian fiction, I want the story to not only be well-written but to inspire me to follow Jesus ever more closely. It is much harder for a CF book to gain a 5-star review as I only give 5-stars for books that I rate as excellent and also eternity-impacting.

I do check out covers/blurbs/first page but I also take word of mouth recommendations from people whose recommendations I’ve learned to trust. In the CF world, I also look for undervalued books that may be excellent and seek to encourage those authors.

Oh, really...may I interest you in an undervalued book by an author I know very well? It's called The Letters. Full of mystery, suspense, and has a great "eternity-impacting" ending. And it must be written pretty well. It just won a Selah Award. :-)

(I should have warned everyone that a shameless - shameful? - plug was coming.)

Christine, it's been great having you on our blog. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?

Following Jesus should be an adventure. If we’ve submitted our lives to him, then he will lead us in many different, and often surprising, directions. Part of my journey has been writing, but yours is likely to be completely different. The key is being ready and willing to obey. I look forward to where he leads after I finish the final novel in the Grace series and what he does with the books over the coming years. My responsibility is to keep my eyes on him. May you also be greatly used to bring God glory in whatever he puts in front of you.

Challenging and encouraging words, for sure.

Readers, if you are wanting to learn more about Christine and her ministries, you can find her here:

Author website:

Subscribe to Christine’s newsletter and download Christine’s first novel:

Until next time, 


PS - As mentioned above, Kevin's latest novel, The Letters, won the 2021 Selah Award at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference in the Speculative Category!