Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Author Behind the Book Blog Series - Elaine Marie Cooper

Isn't weather weird? Some people in a nearby town had what's called a "dust devil" spin up in their back yard. It looked like the Tasmanian Devil off Looney Tunes. It roamed around their back yard and knocked over the goat pen, lodged the lid to another pen in a nearby oak tree about thirty feet high. It threw a garbage can across the yard, messed up the fencing for the little farm. Yet, despite all the trouble, not one goat, not one chicken, or any other animal, for that matter, walked off or got transplanted by the storm. As a matter of fact, they seemed unfazed by the incident by the time the reporter showed up.

It reminded me that despite life's troubles, and even when the Devil comes and tosses our backyard of life around like rag dolls, those who truly know "their owner" (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) need not be afraid when the Devil throws his tantrums or tries to invade the life of a believer.

Isn't God good?

I think that after you read our next guest's interview today, you'll find that she, too, feels that way about our Heavenly Father.

Let's welcome to the Florida Front Porch, which is still covered in pollen and is now dealing with blind mosquitos, a transplanted to Californian, Elaine Marie Cooper! 

Elaine, give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Elaine Marie Cooper?

Elaine Marie Cooper is a quiet soul who occasionally breaks out into lively song. I love Celtic music, dogs and cats, reading, and playing with my grandchildren (I have five). I’m married and have two sons. I retired from being an RN when my older son and his wife had triplets. Cross-stitch is my “thing.” I’ve had eight books published, and I’m working on the ninth.

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’ve always been in love with books since before I could read. I really never thought I’d become an author even though I liked to write. I wrote a heartfelt essay in elementary school that got a terrible grade and I felt SO bad! I tried writing for the school newspaper in high school but my work never got published.

By now I thought my word crafting skills were mediocre at best. I became a Christian at the age of 21, then met and married a local newspaper writer who had recently become a Christian. We had three children, two boys and a girl, and I was a stay-at-home mom. Having three “Littles” kept me so busy and to cope with the craziness, I wrote silly poems about motherhood.

An editor at my husband’s newspaper saw them and asked my husband if I might be willing to write feature stories. I was shocked. Someone actually liked my writing? It didn’t seem possible! Of course, I agreed and was off on my first professional writing jaunt. I loved meeting local people to interview and writing stories about them.

I did freelance writing for many years and dreamed of one day writing a novel. But by now I’d gone to school to become a nurse and was still raising my ever-growing kids. Creating a book would have to wait. But then the unthinkable happened when my daughter was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor.

Each day seemed like a battle to survive, knowing at some point that my daughter likely would not. Doctor appointments, MRI’s, treatments at the hospital, and the ever-present knowledge that cancer would win unless the Lord intervened with a miracle, filled my days. I continued to write freelance to help with the bills. My daughter lived a year and nine months after her diagnosis. After she died, I tried to write one story, then put my pen down. I was determined that I’d never write again.

Four years later, on the anniversary of her passing away, I hid under my bedcovers so I could hide from the world. But I couldn’t hide from God, and He “spoke” to me beneath the quilt. At first, I ignored His inaudible voice, thinking I had imagined it in my head. Until I “heard” it again. I was to write a fictional story based on my ancestors.

At that point, I threw off my bedcovers and went to find my husband. With embarrassment, I shared the directive I was given. I thought he’d laugh for certain, but he didn’t. Instead, he took me to the used book store where we could find books on the era. That led to my first novel, Road to Deer Run.

Are you married? Single? Have kids?

This month marks Steve’s and my 46th wedding anniversary. Our older son, Ben, is in the military. Our younger son, Nate, is part owner of a business in SoCal. We’re so proud of them both. It’s not easy losing a sibling and then rising above the pain to make successful choices in life but both of our sons have done so, with God’s help. I have five grands who call me GiGi: eleven-year-old triplets, a three-year-old girl and a one-year-old boy.

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

I am SUCH a pet lover. We currently have just one little dog but in the past, we’ve had multiple pets at a time. Our current sweetie is our Chihuahua/terrier mix named Mocha. I fell in love with her on Facebook when my editor/friend, Alycia, posted photos of her litter of pups that had just been born. Mocha was born with a white heart on her back! J Although the heart merged into a multi-color coat as she grew, she still provides lots of love for us. Now four-years old, Mocha is full of energy and fun, and she frequently makes us laugh.

I can’t imagine not sharing our lives with at least one pet. After so many years together, Steve and I have memories of the many pets we’ve owned and rescued through the years. Two of our memorable rescue dogs were both black, long-haired dachshunds.

Lily was our first. I’d gone in to the shelter looking for the dachshund who’d been advertised in the newspaper but she had already been adopted. That’s when I saw Lily, running around the shelter office, rolling over to have her tummy scratched. It was love at first sight and she lived with us for over ten years. What a sweetie. We still miss her.

Tooni was our second rescue. Overweight and with a serious medical history, Tooni attracted lots of attention at the dog adoption fair, but it was mostly laughter. “That dog looks like a sausage,” said one male bystander. I wanted to give him a stern lecture. It wasn’t the dog’s fault she was fat but the previous owner had obviously fed her too much. She had a scar on her abdomen from removing bladder stones, and she had been shaved. But she had the sweetest personality that seemed to cry, “Please love me.”

Steve and I already had two dogs at home, and when I told him about Tooni, he said “We have enough dogs.”

“I know,” I answered, “but please just go look at her. She’s so sweet, and I don’t think anyone will adopt her.” 

I had to go to work but I received a call from my husband later. His demeanor and voice had totally changed. “She really is sweet …” 

I rejoiced! We adopted her the next day.                                              

Tooni was older but her age was never really known. We enjoyed her sweet spirit for at least five years, until one day, a disc problem left her paralyzed. We were heartbroken but made the difficult decision to put her to sleep. We’ll never forget those wonderful, final years of her furry life.  

When you look for a new car, what are the things that are important to you?

My dream car is a new Subaru Forester, Apple Red. Safety features are top priority.

Do you have a favorite line from a movie or book? If so, what is it and explain why it is special to you?

“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs. They don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”  -- Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. 

I love this character of a loving father who takes opportunities to teach his children. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

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

IF I had to choose a favorite, Scarred Vessels would be near the top of my “Favorite List.” It’s a historical romance involving a young widow during the American Revolution and the soldier who comes to break the news of her husband’s death. Besides this romance however, the story revolves around the formation of the 1st Black Regiment of soldiers in Rhode Island during the American Revolution. This idea was birthed through a suggestion from my military son. The research took me on unexpected findings of slavery in the New England colonies, a part of our nation’s history that I had previously been ignorant about.

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

I would NOT have self-published my first book. I was too new in the writing field to understand the importance of editing.

Editing is always a thing, isn't it? Even after a book has been published, I find that I can go back over it and think, "I wish I had written that sentence differently."

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

Since I am unable to provide enough royalty money to pay all the bills, I work part-time as a cashier. However, I love it! I work at Hobby Lobby and love interacting with the customers and praying for those who seem to need it. I write any time of day or night, depending on my deadlines. I’m better writing in the morning, however, as I tend to be a morning person.          

Tell us about what project you are currently working on.

I am currently working on Book 2 in my Dawn of America series. It is called Winter’s Ravage and is under contract with Scrivenings Press. It’s the sequel to Love’s Kindling.

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?

The key to publishing a good book is to learn the trade of word crafting. That includes classes online or at conferences, reading basic books about writing in general and finally, hiring a good editor. You may have a great story to tell, but if the reading is not a pleasant experience, then no one will want to publish your book.

Isn't that the truth! And if the book gets self-published and isn't crafted well, then readers don't want to read it either, even if the story is amazing. Writing is definitely an art.  

When developing the story for a novel, how do you come up with the names for your characters?

Since I write historical fiction set in the American Revolution, I Google names from the era and choose from those lists.

Why do you live where you live?

My husband and I moved to Southern CA two years ago to be close to our son and his family. My husband was still recovering from a stroke and my granddaughter had cancer in her foot, requiring amputation. I was so stressed, I needed to be close to family.            

Wow, you and your family have been through a lot. But God is good, right? As you get older, glorified bodies and the promises of Revelation 21:1-4 sound better and better, don't they?

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?

What could be a better answer than the Bible? The words of truth within the pages have strengthened me when I am weak, encouraged me when in despair, and cautioned me when I’m not trusting in the Lord. So many people read “how to” books or “inspiring thoughts” without ever studying the Word.

So true. 

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

Proverbs 31: 8-9

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
  for the rights of all who are destitute.
 Speak up and judge fairly;
  defend the rights of the poor and needy.

This verse speaks to my heart about my responsibility to speak out against abortion. Who is the most voiceless of all victims but babies in the womb?

Interesting. my book, The Letters, deals with the subject of abortion, and I used Matthew 2:17-18 (and it’s quote of/reference to Jeremiah) along with Psalm 68:4-5. The Matthew reference was used a bit allegorically, which I will be explaining in an upcoming blog as to how I came up with the idea of The Letters (a question I get asked a lot).

The aborted do need a voice, don’t they?

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

My first thought is a personal one. I’ve told your readers that my daughter died of a brain tumor in 2003. I’m mentioning this in hopes your readers will understand that losing a child is the worst kind of grieving. I have lost many other people in my life but nothing compares with losing a part of yourself. If you know anyone who has lost a child, whether through miscarriage, accident, illness or suicide, please understand that one never “recovers” from such a loss. Losing one’s future generation is the pain that never leaves, although it may submerge for a time in the busy-ness of life. Be patient with them. Listen to them speak of their child and their experience. Let them cry. Give them a tissue.

My second thought is that Love’s Kindling is re-releasing on April 20. My original publisher closed and the book was contracted with Scrivenings Press. It’s the first time I’ve had a book release that already received a finalist award in the Selah Awards. ;)                                               

Congratulations on being a finalist!

Readers, if you wish to know more about Elaine and her writing, you can find her at the following locations on the web:

Elaine's Website & Blog:

http://www.elainemariecooper.com

http://www.facebook.com/elainemariecooperauthor

Elaine blogs here once a month: http://www.hhhistory.com


Until next time, if the Lord tarries, 

Kevin


https://ckevinthompson.com/

PS - We also have a special announcement! Kevin's latest novel, The Letters, was recently announced as a finalist in the 2021 BRMCWC Selah Awards in the Speculative Fiction category too!




Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Author Behind the Story Blog Series - Amy Anguish

Moving is for the young, both of heart and back. When you downsize at the same time after being in the same place for twenty-five years, what was "important" and "special" is viewed in a different manner as you grow older. High school yearbooks have comments from people you haven't seen in decades, and sometimes from people you never knew very well then and definitely don't remember now. The nicky-knacky stuff accumulated through the years looks just as good in a picture than taking up space on a shelf. The possessions we treasure shift from the physical to the spiritual. The memories we cherish are now of family we have been blessed to create as well as of friends we've met long after high school ended.

Major shifts in one's life always causes reflection. It forces one to reorder life. Refocus. On the things that matter most. Then, when you add global events, like COVID, it just adds another layer of eternal introspection and inspection.

For those of us who write, becoming a "published author" is a dream all writers have. It's a process many people say they want to complete but never do. To type the words "The End" is the first major hurdle. But there is so much more to follow after that moment. Editing and re-editing. Finding and agent. Finding a publisher. Attending writing conferences. Growing in the craft to become a better writer. Marketing. Etc. Etc. So many people never get to "The End." SO, when a person does, and then he or she begins the walk toward publication and finally accomplishes that, it is a major one, to be sure. Many manuscripts, although finished, never make the cut.

That's why I like doing what I do on this blog, introducing you, the reader, to other authors you may or may not have heard of before. They've persevered. They've spent the time and resources to get to this moment in time.

Therefore, let me introduce you to one more author, fellow Scrivenings Press author, Amy Anguish! There are no regrets having her on our blog today!

Amy, let's kick this off Florida Front Porch style. Give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Amy Anguish? 

Christian, wife, mommy, author, preschool teacher, preacher’s daughter, Bible class teacher, book reader, tea drinker, crafter, gardener, cat-lover, Southerner, wearer of fun socks who sometimes has pink streaks in her hair.

What makes you cringe? 

Rude drivers (think here of people who speed in a school zone or pass in a non-passing zone putting others at risk).

Also, people who use “I” instead of “me” or vice versa where it should be the other. Really, any grammatical error makes me cringe a bit, so social media isn’t always the best place for me to spend time. 😊

I should probably go back and fix the sentence that ends in a preposition, huh? Eh, we're informal here on the front porch. 

Everybody seems to have a bucket list. Do you? If so, what’s on it? If not, why not?  

I don’t know that I have an official bucket list, per se, but I do have some things I would like to do if possible. I’d love to take a cross-country train ride, do a road trip from one end of Route 66 to the other (Chicago to California, although the road doesn’t even exist all the way anymore). See all fifty states (and we’re not just talking the inside of an airport). If possible, see at least a little of Europe, although that dream is becoming less important with age. Finish the quilt I started back in high school that keeps getting set aside for other projects (for the record, I’ve made multiple quilts since I started that one).

We want to do the Route 66 trip too. I want to hit all the bar-b-que places along the way. So, if we do it, I should probably walk Route 66 instead of drive. Ha!

Besides storytelling, what talents do you have? 

I like to call myself a Jill-of-all-trades, although it’s not completely true. I am super crafty, though. My mom, aunt, and grandma made sure I had all sorts of ways to be creative. I can sew, embroider and cross stitch, crochet, quilt, paint, make jewelry, scrapbook/stamp, and have even come up with my own patterns for a few things. My poor husband has to give up half the bedroom and a big part of the garage for all my supplies. 

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

I am one of the few people who hate personality profiles. I’ve been around a lot of friends lately who are obsessed with which number personality they supposedly have, but whenever I try to take one of the tests, I second-guess myself and never trust the results. Did I make the results say I was that number by choosing what I thought was the right answer, or is that really who I am? Plus, I find my personality doesn’t fit perfectly into just one slot, but has aspects of several of the numbers. Maybe I’m a rebel. 😉

I'm with you there. I've always said my enneagram is 45 (the total of all nine). 

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

I’m going to cheat and tell you about two, because each of them means a lot to me for how it worked through different struggles.

My book, Faith & Hope, was written while I was in the middle of an infertility struggle and wasn’t sure we’d ever be able to have children (we have two now). By writing my character Faith going through a similar circumstance, I was able to tie in some of my own emotions and struggles and insecurities, and not only create a moving story, but also release some of those problems into my writing.

My upcoming release, No Place Like Home, is sort of my “could have been me” story. It’s about a preacher’s daughter who left the faith when she moved away. She chose the opposite of me, but it would have been very easy for me to do the same, and it’s a way I worked through some of the remaining emotions and hurt from some things that happened with my family growing up.

Do you ever receive negative reviews from readers? If so, how do you respond when you see them? 

I haven’t had any really negative public reviews, but in the comments of one judge from a contest I entered years ago, I saw “characters go to church A LOT.” It made me blink, for sure. I mean, my characters were Christians, so I’m not sure what she was expecting. I didn’t have them attending services any more than I do myself.

Tell us about what project you are currently working on. 

I am in the middle of multiple projects. I’m working on a proposal for a novella to be in a collection with three other authors, all in a different season. Think small-town main street festival with a Hallmark feel.

I just finished writing a book set in college where a girl has reserved the wedding chapel, but doesn’t have a groom. I’ll edit it down the road sometime.

And I’m getting ready to write another book in a few months which will be the third of a trilogy I’m calling Road Trip Romances. Hoping to hear back about my proposal for that soon.

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

I never knew how amazing it would be to have someone tell me I made them cry. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But the first time someone mentioned that their book made them cry, or that they stayed up until the wee small hours to finish reading it because they couldn’t put it down...my heart sang! Because it meant my story had sucked them in and entranced them as much as it did me when I was writing it. Success is being able to weave God into stories that do that, and show His love through my fiction.

If you had one person you could meet (think outside the Bible here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be? 

Jane Austen. To be such an amazing author in a time period when it was not easy to be published as a woman. Or even as a novelist, because a lot of people considered novels to be frivolous and wasteful back then. Man. I’d love to talk to her and ask how she kept up the courage and didn’t get discouraged.

What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?

I lead a fairly tame life. My craziest thing to do was put hot pink streaks in my hair a few years ago. And now I try to do it again every few years, because not only do I love it, but my husband does too.

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

I discover a lot of authors through freebies, and I’ll be honest, the cover doesn’t always draw me in. Sometimes, the title catches my eye, but most often it’s the blurb that helps me decide if I’m going to read them or not. If I like their stories, I’ll go read more. The story has to be well-edited, and make me want to keep reading, in order for me to go looking for more of their books. Otherwise, I’ll move on to another author. I find having gone through the editing process several times now has ruined me to read without having an eye for catching mistakes. It’s a blessing and a curse.

Isn't it? Same goes for watching movies or TV shows. I don't know how any times I sit there and say, "That would never happen..."

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

I have a tendency to give my characters pieces of myself, as I’m sure most authors do. A lot of the tendencies seem to be about food—whatever that means. My first heroine in An Unexpected Legacy drank chocolate smoothies, no fruit included. I love Tex-Mex like the younger sister in Faith & Hope. I dip my fries in gravy like my characters in Saving Grace. In Writing Home, I gave her my love of Christmas lights and snow. In No Place Like Home (coming in Dec. 2021), my character loves old movies, especially Meet Me in St Louis, my favorite. 

I've not heard of that movie. I'll have to check it out. 

Amy, thank you for spending time with us today.  

Dear readers, if you wish to connect with Amy and her writing, you can learn more at the following locations:

http://abitofanguish.weebly.com

http://www.facebook.com/amyanguishauthor

https://twitter.com/amy_r_anguish

 

Learn more about her books at https://www.pinterest.com/msguish/my-books/

 

And check out the YouTube channel Amy does with two other authors, "Once Upon a Page" @  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEiu-jq-KE-VMIjbtmGLbJA


Until next time,


Kevin

https://ckevinthompson.com/



PS - We also have a special announcement! Kevin's latest novel, The Letters, was recently announced as a finalist in the 2021 BRMCWC Selah Awards in the Speculative Fiction category!




Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Author Behind the Story - Deborah Sprinkle

In the old days, wearing a mask into a bank would get you shot. Now, they require it. 

In the old days, social distancing from people and not having friends over was a sign of a troubled person who needed either psychiatric care, a padded cell, or both. Now, these people are champions and model citizens.

In the old days, doctors had to see you face-to-face in order to renew your prescriptions. There was no other way. Now, they "examine you" through a computer screen, trust you're telling them the truth, and renew those prescriptions without hesitation.

We could go on and on, but you get the point. When a person's life is on the line, whether it be a personal situation or involving employees, rules change. Those changes create circumstances we never thought would happen. Some of those changes have been an annoyance. Some have been a welcomed change, and we hope it never goes back to the way it was.

However, you need not fear here at The Author Behind the Story blog series. No changes necessary. The relentless march goes on. We're adding new authors each month (unless someone cancels at the last minute). It is becoming a database of new author information. Surely, our readers don't know each and every author featured. Therefore, there's always a new author to investigate and possibly read. You never know, he or she may become one of your favorites, which by the way, was one of the major reasons why we do what we do here. :-) So, please share this blog with friends. Tell others about it. The more the merrier. COVID has no teeth here at The Author Behind the Story blog series! Ha!

In keeping with this tradition, I would like to introduce to you our next guest at ABTS, Deborah Sprinkle!

Deborah, give our readers a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Deborah Sprinkle? 

I’m an ordinary woman serving an extraordinary God. Like everyone else, I’ve gone through seasons in my life. I’ve been a research chemist and a chemistry teacher. I remain a wife, mom, grandmother, Bible study leader, and author. In everything, I strive to let God take the lead.

A research chemist, eh? Good to know when I have some questions about such things as I write my stories...

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? 

When I retired from teaching chemistry in 2004, I planned on doing three things: attend the women’s Bible study at my church, join a local book club, and write a mystery novel. You know what it says in Proverbs? “Within your heart you can make plans for your future, but the Lord chooses the steps you take to get there.” (Proverbs 16:9 TPT) At that time, I was 55 years old.

I began going to Bible study on Wednesday mornings, and when my local library started a book club, I was one of the charter members.

After two years, I was asked to be one of the Bible study leaders. In 2009, I was asked to be part of a group that attended the She Speaks Christian Writers’ Conference put on by Proverbs 31 Ministry. After that, I began writing questions for studies, connecting the written word to Biblical truths. By then I was 60.

It was at the 2009 conference that I met Kendra Armstrong. And it was our friendship that led to my first book written in collaboration with Kendra, Common Sense and an Uncommon God, published in 2012 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. The second edition was later released under the title of Exploring the Faith of America’s Presidents. (It’s out of print at this time.)

In 2014, I was inspired to write my first “mystery” which turned out to be a romantic suspense! But it was five long years before I saw it published in May, 2019, at the age of 70! My second book came out in November, 2020, and my third is due out November of 2021. 

What educational background do you have?

I went to high school in a suburb of St. Louis—Florissant, Missouri. I took chemistry as a sophomore and fell in love with the subject. So when the opportunity arose as a senior to take advanced chemistry, I jumped on it, and my future was sealed. I would be a chemist.

I attended University of Missouri—St. Louis mainly because we didn’t have much money. They didn’t give scholarships like they do these days. But, it had a good reputation, and I feel I got a decent education. I received my B.A. in Chemistry in May, 1971, and was married that November.

I worked as a research chemist for a number of years both at St. Louis University Medical School and Washington University Medical School. During that time, my bosses at each institution wrote papers on our work and I was named as a co-author. So I suppose those were my first publications even though I didn’t write a word of them!

After our son was in school, I went back for my certification to teach. By then we had moved from St. Louis. I got that in 1994 and taught at a Catholic school in Memphis, for ten years. It’s an independent Catholic school and very progressive—which was a good thing since I’m Presbyterian and the art teacher at the time was Jewish! 

What makes you cringe? 

The sound of two things colliding or something falling and breaking. Let me give you some examples.

You hear the screech of tires and boom! That unmistakable sound of two cars ramming into each other. Your shoulders go up around your ears and your face squeezes shut.

Or you see the waitress with a tray full of glasses trip on her way to a table.

Or just about any of the clips on America's Funniest Home Videos!

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

I began writing my first book, Deadly Guardian, in summer of 2014. At that time, my mother had been bedridden in a nursing home in St. Louis for almost two years. My dad would spend his days at her bedside, and I was the only one he trusted enough to leave and take a break. We lived in Memphis, and I would go visit at least once a month to see Mom and help Dad out.

On December 26th, 2014, my sweet mother passed away.

In January, 2015, my brother and only sibling, was diagnosed with colon cancer—which had metastasized to his liver, lungs, and brain. He began radiation and then chemo. Again, I made monthly trips to St. Louis to see him and my dad. My amazing sister-in-law, nephews, and niece who took care of him at home through it all.

In October, 2016, we lost my sweet mother-in-law, and in February, 2017, God took my brother home after two years of suffering.

In May, 2018, my dad got sick. He was 92 years old and still living at home! In fact, he’d driven down to Memphis the Christmas before! But this time, he couldn’t bounce back. I spent from May through September in St. Louis taking care of him until he passed.

Somehow I finished Deadly Guardian, found an agent, and even started another book. It was while my dad was in hospice that I got the call from my agent that a publisher wanted my book. I remember looking at the ceiling and saying, “Now God? We’re going to do this now?”

So what did I learn? That if God calls you to write, He will give you the strength and the words no matter the circumstances. And His timing is always perfect.

Do you have a crazy, interesting, behind-the-scenes story about the publishing world you’d like to tell your readers without boring them to death with industry gobbledygook? 

It was four o’clock in the morning of Halloween Day, 2018, and we were fast asleep in our beds. When all of a sudden there came a terrible racket at our front door. “Help me. I been shot. Oooh.” Pounding on the door. “I’m dying. I been shot.”

Les sprang from our bed to see what was the matter—grabbing his gun just in case. He cracked the door and found a man with his shirt off rolling around on our porch. He was holding his arm and moaning, “I’m dying. I’m dying.”

So Les did the logical thing. He shut the door and told me to call the police. Which I tried to do. But our phone was dead. So I grabbed my cellphone. The call wouldn’t go through. Strange. And my panic button was about to be pushed—when we saw a police car cruising up our street with a spotlight. Les yelled out the door, and I flipped the porchlight on and off. They turned in our driveway. Phew…

And that’s how I met Detective "X" of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. After giving our statement, I heard my voice saying, “I write romantic suspense books. Would you consider being one of my consultants? I could use your expertise.”

He said he’d love to, and now we talk on a semiregular basis.

We assume the guy who had been shot was running from the deputies? Did he shoot the sheriff? But not the deputies? Inquiring minds and Eric Clapton fans want to know! Ha!

Tell us about what project you are currently working on. 

Currently, I’m working on the third book in my series, Trouble in Pleasant Valley. It seems each book becomes easier to write in some ways, but more difficult in others. By now, I’ve finally understood some principles of writing a book that’s easy to read—like making sure there’s just the right balance of dialogue and narrative and thinking about white space on the page. But, in this third book, I’ve brought characters back from the first book and added new ones. So keeping everything cohesive and easy to follow is far more difficult. The basic story revolves around an ex-Army intelligence man who’s now driving a cab and gives an assassin a ride from the airport to his hotel. He realizes something is wrong about the guy and a piece of evidence is left in his cab. So when the assassination takes place, he’s sure he knows who did it. But for reasons I won’t reveal, he can’t go to the police. What should he do?

Silence Can Be Deadly comes out in November of this year with Scrivenings Press.

Pleasant Valley doesn't sound very pleasant, by the way. Just sayin'...lots of death and deadly stuff happening in that town. :-)

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?

I like to start my day with a devotional, reading the Bible, and in prayer. The last few years, I’ve been using Sarah Young’s Jesus Always as my daily devotional. It’s amazing to me how often the daily meditation speaks directly to what I’m feeling or going through at that time. My faith and understanding have grown through this little book.

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

It’s so hard to choose only one! So I’ve narrowed it to two. My life verse is Psalm 28:7: “The Lord is my strength and my shield. My heart trusts in Him” (NASB).

I know that I can’t accomplish anything in my own strength, or get through trouble either. And I need Him to guard me against the attacks of the enemy—which most often come from myself! My feelings of inadequacy or failure. My frustrations when I mess up. I need God to shield me and help me see things from His perspective.

The other verse that I hold dear is Psalm 46:10: “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (NASB 1995).

This one has been a key verse for me this past year. With everything that’s happened, this verse keeps me constantly reminded that God is in control! And always will be.

Deborah, it's been a pleasure having you on ABTS! I'm sure you have encouraged some people who thought it was too late in life to switch gears and try something new.

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

I have an idea for a new series of books based on a short story I wrote in 2016. The main characters are two young women who run their own private investigation firm in a small town in Missouri. I’ve started the first novel and hope to have it out in 2022. So stayed tuned.

Dear readers, if you wish to learn more about Deborah and her writing, you can find her at the following locations on the web!

https://authordeborahsprinkle.com/

https://www.facebook.com/deborah.sprinkle.5/

https://twitter.com/debbiejsprinkle

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6860378.Deborah_Sprinkle

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/deborah-sprinkle

https://www.pinterest.com/deborahs4509/_saved/

Me with my wonderful wife
at BRMCWC in 2014

Until next time,


Kevin

www.ckevinthompson.com 


PS - And readers, if you're looking for an award-winning Christmas read that deals with the issue of abortion, but not in the way you may think it does (i.e., not heavy handed), may I interest you in my latest novel, The Letters? As one reviewer put it: 

“THE LETTERS IS AN INSPIRING STORY OF HOPE AND FORGIVENESS. FILLED WITH MYSTERY AND MESSY RELATIONSHIPS, THIS STORY WILL KEEP YOU TURNING THE PAGES UNTIL YOU REACH THE SURPRISE ENDING."

~ Kimberly Rose Johnson, award winning and multi-published author of the Librarian Sleuth series.


You can check out The Letters here: 

The Letters by C. Kevin Thompson 










 

 


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Author Behind the Story Blog Series - Shannon Taylor Vannatter (and a giveaway!)

Well, 2020 is gone, and already people are closing their 2021 accounts, claiming the 7-day trial was enough. It's in jest, for the most part, but their is some truth in there somewhere. 2021 has not gotten off to a great start, but in its defense, it didn't have a great progenitor, so there's that. :-)

I, for one, am having a good year so far. Some plans are coming together. My relationship with the Lord is strengthening. My writing is plugging along. So, it's a matter of perspective, as always. It's about upon Whom you keep you eyes, not the what, when, why, or how.

We had a break in 2020, as December's spotlighted author had some things occur that caused a cancellation. Life happens, right? But that's not the case for January 2021. Our next guest on ABTS was introduced to me in a unique way. She and Linda Fulkerson purchased a portion of the company that owned the rights to my latest novel, The Letters. I have since gotten to know her a little, and have even been featured on her website. So, with further delay, let's welcome to the Florida Front Porch, where it's been a little chilly of late, Shannon Taylor Vannatter!

Shannon, start us off in ABTS tradition by giving us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Shannon Taylor Vannatter?  

I’m a pastor’s wife, mom to a nineteen-year-old son, editor and part owner of Scrivenings Press, and an author of going on nineteen Inspirational Romance novels. I love to craft and go flea marketing. Almost every piece of furniture in my house came from a flea market. I’m a fan of wing back chairs, white wicker, and seashells. I’m equally a dog and cat person, a tea and coffee person. Tea should be sweet and iced. I love anything from a Frappuccino to a cup of hot coffee, lukewarm, or gone completely cold as long as it’s sweet. I’m an only child and introverted. I love being with people, especially church members and writers, but I need recovery alone time afterward. I love high heeled shoes, glitter, sequins, rhinestones, and lace. For years, I thought if I had somewhere to go, I’d dress like a modest Dolly Parton. A dozen years ago, I decided church is somewhere to go. Our ladies dress in anything from jeans, skirts, dresses, and slacks. And then there’s me. I bought a champagne-colored rhinestone jacket with my Christmas money. My husband is still cringing.

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 early thirties, an ex-hairdresser, ex-bank clerk, working as a receptionist in the corporate offices of a large fragrance company. My husband and I had been married thirteen years and were still childless. I had the most boring job ever and wondered what I’d really like to do. The answer came to me through a great friend who was always redecorating her house and it looked like fun. Yes, I wanted to be an interior decorator.

But I live in small town, with little call for such things, and it would probably take some sort of schooling. There is an area where all the rich people live and I thought if I could get a foot in the door there, it would be my big break. And it hit me, decorate the doctor’s office where the rich people go, for free and leave my business card.

I never did it. I transferred to accounts payable in the company and enjoyed that job. My friend moved to Memphis and dabbled with interior decorating as a career. She told me how hard and frustrating it was, so I changed my mind. But thinking about that interior decorator, yep, it became a book.

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: "Martyr’s Song" by Todd Agnew. It’s from God’s perspective, tells how He’s been waiting for me to get to Heaven to dance with me in fields full of colors I’ve never seen. I love it because I never thought of God anxiously awaiting my arrival. And I love color. I always want to know the exact name for color. It’s not pale blue, it’s aqua. It’s not orange or peach, it’s watermelon or salmon. So, thinking about seeing colors I’ve never seen is awesome to me. I cry every time I hear it. Not because of the colors, but because God can bring me there any time He wants to, but He’s waiting for His perfect timing. And even though He knows when that is, He’s anxiously awaiting my arrival. Gets me teary just writing this.

Favorite Bible Verse: For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 KJV) This assures me that no matter how I flub up, I’m still okay. Because God loves me anyway and he can’t see through the blood of Jesus to my flaws.

Favorite Movie: Remember Sunday. It’s a sappy romance about a guy who has no short term memory after an emotional breakdown. Every day, he wakes up in a new world and has to read all the notes his sister put together for him to catch up on where he is in his life. He meets a girl and really likes her, so he records everything about her, so he can remember. He basically has to fall in love with her all over again every day. I love it because I love romance, it was a clean movie, and it had some twists and turns I didn’t see coming.

Favorite Actor or Actress: The guy in Remember Sunday – Zachary Levi. I first saw him in a silly Chipmunks movie when our son was little. He played a really dorky guy who was annoying. Then he did the voice for Flynn Rider in Tangled, which is a cartoon take on Rapunzel. I loved the movie and fell in love with Flynn Rider. I couldn’t believe it, when I found out Flynn’s voice was the guy from the dorky Chipmunk movie. And then I saw him as the hero in Remember Sunday and fell in love with him all over again. I’ve only seen him in a few other things, but he’s convincing in every role he plays.

Favorite Novel (other than your own): The Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter. It has a really good premise. The characters are so real, and I love them. And the main thing is the hero has been in love with the heroine for years, but she barely sees him. He finally gets a chance to fix her life and be her hero. Hallmark made it into a movie, but the book was so much better.

Favorite Author (other than you): Denise Hunter. I discovered her when I was looking for comparables – where you have to list books similar to yours when pitching a book to a publisher. After reading one of her titles, I quickly bought all of her backlist, and I preorder each new release. I want to write like her when I grow up.

Favorite Teacher in School: Mrs. Edwards. She was my only true friend there for a while when I moved to rural Arkansas when I was twelve and had a hard time fitting in.

Favorite Time of the Year: Fall. I hate being hot, so much so, I prefer winter over summer.

Favorite Place to Vacation: Texas. We have family there and love visiting the ranch in Medina. All the ranches in all my cowboy books are based on the family ranch. My husband’s step-mother still lives on the ranch, and she’s an amazing woman. She loves completely as if we were really hers.

Favorite Food: Shrimp Carbonara. Yum. I love seafood and noodles and creamy sauce, so it covers all the bases for me. I’ve told my husband if I ever develop an allergy to shell fish, to just shoot me and put me out of my misery. 

Do you have a crazy, interesting, behind-the-scenes story about the publishing world you’d like to tell your readers without boring them to death with industry gobbledygook? 

Let’s see, without going into all the boring details, I once had a book stolen by a publisher. This was back when everything was submitted by mail. The publisher wanted the entire manuscript with a self-addressed stamped envelope to return it in case the answer was no – to the tune of $16 in postage. They said they’d take floppy discs, and that was so much cheaper to mail, so I sent the book that way. I never heard back from them. A year later, when my husband tried to order my first published book from a store, they didn’t have it, but they had another of my titles. Yep, the one I’d sent on floppy disc. The publisher said it accidently got loose in his system. I guess that’s why he went ahead and sold five copies and never sent me any royalties.

And that’s not all. My second agent lost my very first book contract for me. She had a bad reputation in the industry, but I didn’t know it.

I reported the publisher and the agent so no other authors could get taken in by them and both are out of business now. I landed on my feet, so I don’t have any bad feelings. But they make for interesting stories.

I think we all have a story or two like that. There are miscreants in every industry, aren't there?

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

I’m a night owl. I go to bed at 2:00 am and get up at 10:00. For the first time in my life, I’m living on my internal clock schedule. When I was a kid, I had to get up and go to school. As adult, I had to get up and go to work for sixteen years. As a stay at home mom, during our son’s school years, I had to get up and get him off to school.

Finally, he’s graduated and works nights, and I have a job where I can set my own hours. I usually work from noon until five or six, then get in another three hours from eleven pm until two am. Sometimes, I write during the day and edit at night. Sometimes I edit during the day and write at night. It depends on which deadline is tighter.

My husband does his studying and sermons during the day while I’m sleeping or working, since he’s an early bird. We usually have family time in the mornings or evenings when our son is off. My husband and I have our time each evening. And back when the world was normal, he did his church member and hospital visiting during the day, and sometimes I’d go with him in the evening.

When the world was normal...will we ever get back to "normal"?

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?  

Join a local writers group. Join a national writers group specific to your genre. Join a critique group, preferably through a national group. Writing can be such a solitary pursuit. It’s important to find other people who understand you more than even your spouse or family can. And there’s always a writer farther along in the journey, learn from them. Enter contests that give feedback. I got to publishable level by joining ACFW, a critique group through the organization, and contest feedback.

Why do you live where you live?  

I was born in rural Arkansas. When I was a year old, my dad followed the pipeline to Michigan, then Indiana. When that job ended, he followed the housing boom to Chicago when I was two. We stayed in a Chicago suburb until I was seven, then followed the housing boom to Atlanta, Georgia. We lived in an Atlanta suburb until I was twelve, then moved back to rural Arkansas where the bulk of our family is.

The only thing wrong with that was my favorite cousins stayed in GA, and all my friends were there. My plan for several years was to graduate and go back to GA. I didn’t like the country. Farm animals stunk, there was nothing to do, the skating rink floor was wavy and none of my classmates liked to skate. The closest neighbor my age was a quarter of a mile away. I was used to a neighborhood where my back yard connected to my best friend’s on the other side of the block. There weren’t any sidewalks for bike riding. I was a city girl and had a hard time fitting in.

Finally, when I was fourteen, I met my future husband. Once he finally noticed me, I was fifteen. He’s a Texan, but grew up an army brat. He’s all country. Over the years, country life grew on me. The city of 7,000 people ten miles from us would be much too big for me to live in now. Farm animals still stink, but there’s a new skating rink, though I wouldn’t go if my life depended on it. I’m pretty sure if I fell these days, I’d break something. It’s peaceful and relaxing where we live. My parents live across a hayfield from me. My cousins are across the gravel road we live on and my aunt and uncle live at the end of it. It’s only fifty yards off the highway. Yes, there are paved streets here, you just have to take a gravel road to get to my driveway.

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 Screwtape Letters. It’s completely different than what I normally read, and I only read it because my husband insisted. It opened my eyes to the spiritual warfare we face daily as Christians. When things go wrong, I can just see that demon’s evil glee. It makes me pray and harder to get past his evil plan.

What a book for today's headlines, right?

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

I look for Contemporary Romance and occasionally, I’ll delve into Women’s Fiction. But I’m leery of WF because I like a good happily-ever-after. There for a while, it was hard to find CR. Everything was Historical or Amish. So I’ve pretty much gotten to where if it’s a long length Contemporary Romance, I’ll read it. If I like it, I’ll buy the author’s entire back list and preorder new releases.

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

Signing on as acquisitions/content editor and part owner of Scrivenings Press has been a joy. There were times when I wondered what I’d gotten myself into at first. But now that I’ve gotten the hang of editing and am faster, I’m able to keep a schedule and not feel overwhelmed. And find time to write.

I hate e-mailing rejections, but I always give the writer advice on how to improve whatever they need to work on. I love sending acceptance e-mails. I’ve gotten to send them to the authors we acquired with the company on their new projects.

My favorite part has been discovering new authors and contracting their debut novels. I’ve gotten to do that twice. Every writer dreams of The Call, when an editor calls to say they love your book and want to offer you a contract. By the time, I got mine, it was an e-mail. I’ve gotten to make The Call twice to debut authors and both signed with us.

Editing other’s work has also made me a better writer. As a result, I’m better at revising my own work before I turn it into my editor.

Shannon, it's been wonderful having you on our blog. Thanks for taking the time out of your hectic, "country" schedule to be a part!

And readers, there's more! Shannon would like to hold a giveaway by giving one lucky reader a paperback copy of her book, A Texas Bond! All you have to do to enter is leave a comment in the comment section below, and when you do so, please leave your name and e-mail address. Shannon will be contacting the winner directly. The giveaway starts Jan. 13th and ends on Jan. 20th!

Readers, if you want more information on Shannon, here's an author bio she shared that includes all of her social media links as well:

Award winning author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter writes contemporary Christian cowboy romance and has over a dozen published titles. A romance reader since her teens, she hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as she demonstrates that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does.

She gleans fodder for her fiction in rural Arkansas where she spent her teenage summers working the concession stand with her rodeo announcing dad and married a Texan who morphed into a pastor. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her husband and son, flea marketing, and doing craft projects.

Connect with her: Shannon’s Website, Shannon’s Blog, Shannon’s Facebook, Shannon’s Goodreads, Shannon’s Pinterest, Shannon’s Twitter, Newsletter Archives, Shannon’s Amazon Author Page and Shannon’s Bookbub. Sign up for her Newsletter to get a free e-book, recipes, behind the scenes info, & enter exclusive giveaways: Shannon's Newsletter

Recently, Shannon joined Scrivenings Press as co-owner/acquisitions/content editor.


Until next time, may God bless America, and more importantly, may we, as Americans, bless God!

Kevin

www.ckevinthompson.com


PS - If you're looking for an example of Shannon's and Linda's work, look no further that Kevin's latest novel, The Letters! And see what other readers are saying:


"Wow. I wasn’t sure what to expect as this doesn’t fall into the genres I tend to read, but I am so glad I read it! The story quickly grabbed & held my attention. It has many twists and turns. And behind it all, an amazing message of love, forgiveness, and redemption." - Amazon Reviewer


"It has been awhile since I read a great story . One with joy and sorrow and most of all suspense. Rachel had so much to overcome only to be plagued by letters in her daily mail. I believe that you will enjoy this story to the very end, I know I did." - Amazon Reviewer


"What an intriguing story! I did not know that the setting of this book would be in December and that the story would include Christmas. I love to read books around this time of year!...Once I began to read this book I could not wait to get to the finish. The time went quickly for me. I was very surprised and glad for the way the author led us to complete this journey." - Goodreads Reviewer


"From the start of this book it drew me in and I simply could not put it down (just ask my husband). What a beautiful faith filled story. Please write more for us to read." - Amazon Reviewer



THE WORLD IS A CRAZY PLACE

WHEN THE LIVING ARE DEAD

AND THE DEAD ARE ALIVE.

Rachel Hamar—a Manhattan bank teller—lives nothing close to a Manhattan lifestyle. Residing in Washington Heights, NY, the only thing keeping her in The Big Apple is her mother—a long-time patient in a local psychiatric hospital. It’s December, 2014, and the twentieth anniversary of her high school sweetheart’s tragic death. She’s not sure how much more heartache she can endure, especially after being told earlier in the day she no longer has a job at the bank. A casualty of downsizing.

In the midst of spiraling depression, Rachel receives a mysterious letter in the mail. When she opens it, she becomes cautious and skeptical of its contents and discards it as a mistake, concluding it’s simply addressed incorrectly or a postal worker’s faux pas in the midst of a busy Christmas season. But another letter arrives the next day. And another the day after that. Before long, she is in possession of several letters. Each one more puzzling than the last.

Thinking that someone may be playing a cruel game, she contacts the police, and this propels Rachel and the two detectives into one of the most bizarre cases they’ve ever encountered. Is it a friend’s cruel joke? Is it some stalker’s perverse idea of manipulation? Or is it something more?