Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Author Behind the Story Blog Series - Tracy Smoak


I've heard a lot of references to it lately. In movies, in TV, personal conversations, overhearing other conversations. It seems the concept of "time" is on everybody's mind these days.

  • "Time is a predator. It's stalking you."
  • "Time is running out. The world cannot go on like this indefinitely."
  • "Time is what you make it."
  • "Ain't nobody got time for that."

I don't know if it's my own physical mortality taking notice because I realize I have much less time ahead of me than I have behind me. Or maybe it's "my ear to the ground," listening for the "thief in the night," who will come and snatch me away to be with Him as His follower (Matthew 24:41-42). The times we live in sure look like they could be the Last Days. Yet, when you think about it, we all have "last days," don't we? Every generation has. Today could be your last day of your last days. Or this month of March could be. Or maybe the remainder of 2023. Jesus could come back before you finish reading this blog post.

Point is, God has counted every hair on your head and mine. He knows us that well. And for some of us, it didn't take Him long to complete the mathematical procedure. :-) He also knows how much longer we have on this round rock we call Earth. This world isn't going to last forever. He's going to make it implode (2 Peter 3:10). He's going to create a New Heaven and a New Earth for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Revelation 21). He's going to make things like they were intended to be back in Genesis 1-3, before the serpent showed up and lied to Adam and Eve. 

In light of all this, how are you spending your time? And is it in the presence of God Almighty? An everyday presence that reflects and shines forth the rock-solid truth that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, just like Jesus said it was? 

I hope so. If not, they're are people praying for you. The Holy Spirit is calling, nudging, pointing the way, doing everything He can. But He won't drag you kicking and screaming into heaven. And Jesus is waiting patiently, with open arms, to welcome you in as a brother or sister. And God is waiting too. Waiting for you to finally "see the truth" and come to an understanding of who you are in light of Who He is (Matthew 5:3). 

It's at that moment in your life when you can truly say, "Time is simply something this dying world laments. But in the Kingdom of Heaven, time is eternal, so it need not be feared."

It's also moments like these when a writer captures such sentiments and wraps them up in a thing we call a "book."

This brings us to our next guest on the Florida Front Porch, where the rain has been little, the pollen has been much, the heat has been record-setting, and allergy season is in full bloom! We'd love to have some graupel about now.

Please welcome fellow Word Weavers author, Tracy Smoak!

Tracy, give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Tracy Smoak?

A native Floridian, Tracy L. Smoak grew up in Clermont riding horses and climbing citrus trees. Her passion is to encourage others in their faith journey. She is an author who loves photography. She has a wacky sense of humor and adores eating chocolate.

I remember when the Clermont area had citrus trees. From the Citrus Tower, you could actually see citrus. Now, it should be called the "Rooftop Tower," because that's all you seem now. Homes and businesses everywhere.

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?

I never would have worn open-toed sandals to work at the maximum-security prison where I taught GED classes to young men!

There's a story there...want to elaborate in the comment section below? Or maybe not.

Besides storytelling, what talents do you have?

Photography is a joy! I love sneaking up on wildlife during nature walks to capture an image. Gardening and flower arranging also are favorite pastimes.

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

God does have a sense of humor as He invites me to write about areas of my deepest pain such as job loss and failure. The novel that is coming out in June 2023 started with the grief surrounding watching my dad have a massive heart attack the morning of Thanksgiving Day in 2011.

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

I adopted a pit bull six years ago through Cornerstone Hospice’s Pet Peace of Mind program. He snores loudly and rumbles when his back gets scratched. He strolls through the neighborhood as though he were the mayor chatting up constituents.

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?

In 2011, I wrote Who Brought the Dog to Church? and had an editor commit to a contract. Unfortunately, she soon lost her position as the publishing industry reeled from ebook impacts. Then I had a literary agent represent the book. No luck, so I literally threw the manuscript in the closet for a decade. Gave up on the dream completely. Twelve years later after dusting off the work and going to a writers’ conference in 2021, I got the contract with Ambassador International after deleting fifty pages that were outdated and revising to add seventy more.

It's all about God's timing. (Where have I heard about this "time" thing before...?)

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

Who Brought the Dog to Church? makes me laugh out loud at the characters’ crazy antics. (One may suggest therapy as I “talk” with my imaginary friends LOL). But the story also touches on deeper themes of dealing with grief after the death of a loved one and how to help women trying to escape domestic violence. During 2011, I also trained as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and met many courageous people. Part of why I never gave up on the story was because I think many who are trapped in abusive relationships will find hope.

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

I want to cry, then stomp around a while. A veteran reviewer early on gave me great advice: Ignore hurtful reviews, particularly if the writer isn’t coming from a Christian perspective. My job is to write as best as I can for Kingdom glory. If not everyone enjoys the work, then that is their prerogative.

What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?

I do lots of crazy things when I think God is calling me to move forward in faith. I lived in a Mongolian ger during a mission there. I got locked up with young men ages 17 to 21 so that I could teach and maybe even touch a heart with hope. I even dodge snakes walking through the woods and marshes to get photographs for the devotionals I write.

Why do you live where you live?   

I live in Florida because I can go barefoot most of the time and live in shorts. The sun usually shines and creates a diamond effect on the lakes. The natural scenery is breathtaking.

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

Matthew 7:7 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened unto you.”

I get bored easily and like having adventures. This passage makes feel confident that if I keep asking to
grow, God will guide me.

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

Thank you to Kevin and the other members of the Lake County Word Weavers writers’ critique group. They supported me in 2021 when I showed up at a meeting grousing silently to God about why was He asking me to write again when the doors closed a decade ago. That merry Word Weavers crew encouraged me and gave me hope.

We are a merry little band of writers. A group that keeps growing, by the way. It has been interesting to see how God has developed the group over the ten years or so. 

Thank you, Tracy, for taking time to share with our readers. Is there anything else you'd like to add before we wrap things up?

If you like to view short videos with Scripture, music and nature art, please check out my YouTube channel at I also have a playlist there “Carnival of Craziness” to provide resources for survivors of domestic violence.

Also, I have another project coming out soon! It's a Bible study with Bold Vision Books, titled Refuge of Grace: Finding Your Safe Place. The book cover isn't quite ready yet, so I can't share it here. But it will be on my website as soon as it's finalized. We will be starting the edits later this month. 

Readers, in addition to that YouTube Channel, you can also find Tracy at these locations:


Readers, as always, it's fun to introduce you to authors you may or may not have heard about before and give you the opportunity to meet them, get to know them, and possibly find a new author you like.

Until June 2023, take care!


PS - Did you know? Kevin's latest work, a novella titled, The Near Distant: Eye of the Beholder, was announced on March 2nd as a finalist in the Novella category of the 2023 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Awards! Winners will be announced in May at the conference.


Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Author Behind the Story Blog Series - Suzanne Bratcher

I'm sitting here, listening to Michael W. Smith's song, Christmastime, while I type away. Then I always skip ahead to We Three Kings. They tie into each other so well. The design of the artist, to be sure. 

Despite the theological and historical issues I have with the lyrics of We Three Kings, I still like the music, especially this version. Maybe it's because there are no lyrics sung in this particular rendition. 

This little song list dance I play reminds me, every year around this time, how much being biblically accurate and theologically sound matters to the King of Heaven. There will be a great many folks - good-intentioned souls, mind you - standing before Jesus someday, convinced that they have been servants worthy of God. They probably are fans of the lyrics to songs like We Three Kings too. Sadly, though, despite their busyness, they will find out - too late - that they were biblically and theologically in error (Matthew 7:21-29). Wrong thinking does not lead to righteous living, no matter how good it sounds to the human ear.

Therefore, I am challenged again, to dedicate myself to the God Who became flesh, Emmanuel. Like John the Baptist, I must decrease so He can increase. I must become a beggar, poor in spirit, so I can begin to taste the Kingdom of Heaven. I must mourn over my sin, for it is then and only then when I can be comforted. I must become humble and meek, like a bridled horse (power under the control of another), so I can inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. I must hunger and thirst for righteousness that is of God and His ways, for if I do, I will be filled without limit. I must be merciful, remembering what a poor beggar I really am so that I can be shown mercy at the throne of the Almighty. I must be pure in heart if I wish to see God both now and forevermore. I must be a peacemaker, bringing the only thing to people that can bring about peace, the gospel of Christ, for it is the pathway to the only true peace that exists on this angry globe. If I do this, then God will call me His child. Then, I must be willing to be persecuted, which should not be surprising after bringing the gospel of peace to that angry world who hated my Lord so much, they saw to it He was put to death for delivering that gospel the very first time. I must rejoice and be glad because if I live thusly, my reward in heaven will be great (Matthew 5:3-12).

Being a believer in the Babe from Bethlehem is not for the strong and mighty.

It's for the weak and lowly. So they can become strong and mighty in the righteousness of God.

From all of us at, may the King of kings and Lord of lords become that real to you this holiday season! 

* * *

Now, that brings us to our latest guest to the stable of ABTS writers we have amassed over the last five years! Please welcome fellow Scrivenings Press author, Suzanne Bratcher!

To kick us off, in ABTS fashion, Suzanne, give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Suzanne Bratcher? 

My name is Suzanne Bratcher, and I live in Arizona. My novels are set in real places in the Southwest:
Jerome, AZ; Chaco Canyon, NM; and the hills around Pikes Peak, CO. Adventures sparked by a mystery, the stories grow from these unique settings.

Ah...from one snowbird capital (where I live) to another (where you live), thanks for being willing to take some time to help our readers get to know you.

Tell us about your educational background. 

I probably have more education than is good for anyone! My family moved three times while I was growing up, so I went to two high schools: Shawnee Mission East in Overland Park, Kansas, and Waynesboro High School in Waynesboro, Virginia. I also went to two colleges while I was working on my Bachelor’s degree. I attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, my freshman year because my family was living in Virginia when I graduated from high school. I qualified for in-state tuition, and I loved wandering around colonial Williamsburg that year. But the social life at William and Mary revolved around campus fraternities and sororities and lots of alcohol. Because I didn’t drink, I had a hard time making friends. My sophomore year I transferred to Baylor University in Waco, Texas. At Baylor the social life revolved around church activities, so I enjoyed my time there. Over the next fifteen years I went to three graduate schools. After five years of teaching, I began a Master’s degree at Baylor. Three years later I completed the degree at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. Shortly after that, I took a job in the English department at Northern Arizona University and was told I needed to get a doctorate. Over the next five years, I completed a Ph.D. at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas. I was an English teacher all the years I was in school, so taking classes became an integral part of my life. When I finally finished my doctorate, I wondered what I was going to do with the extra time I suddenly had.

Wow. That's a lot of school and traveling. So, if you had your life to live over again, besides being an author (which we guess would be your obvious answer), what profession would you choose? (And semi-professional student doesn't count.) :-)

If I could go back in time and be something other than a teacher, I’d work with plants. I might own my own plant nursery, I might work in a botanical garden, or I might be a landscaper.  Whenever I’m frustrated or upset, I head for the nearest nursery, even if it’s just the outdoor area of my neighborhood hardware store. I prowl up and down the aisles looking for an exciting new variety of ivy or the comfort of an old favorite like a red geranium. I might work with xeriscaping--gardening without extra water, a real necessity in the dry Southwest. For years one of my favorite places in Flagstaff, Arizona, was the Native Plant and Seed Company. There I discovered ground covers, deciduous trees, and colorful flowers that thrive in the high desert. I’ve always had a garden or planters filled with a constantly-changing variety of plants. Over the years I’ve lived in the mountains of Colorado, on the plains of Kansas, in the desert of Arizona, and even on the seashore on Guam. Everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve enjoyed learning the names of the native plants and trees. These days I live in an apartment, but I have plants growing in front of a bay window, including one enthusiastic Begonia, that I have to keep cutting back. I can’t bear to throw away the leaves, so I put them in water until they root and then give the new plants to friends and neighbors.

Besides storytelling, what talents do you have? 

I don’t know if I would call making quilts a talent because I learned how to design and piece quilts by taking classes—many of them twice! When I was in school, geometry was the one class I almost failed, and quilt patterns are based on geometry. It hasn’t been easy to get good at making quilts, but I love bright colors and a variety of patterns. Whenever I walk into a quilt shop, I get the same feeling I had as a child walking into a toy store: there’s always something new to play with. In the last thirty-five years, I’ve made probably a hundred quilts. I still cut beautiful fabrics into squares and triangles and piece them together in new patterns, but I’ve downsized from queen bed quilts to wall hangings and pillow shams.

"Math. Why did it have to be math?" (That was the real line in the first Indiana Jones movie, I think, but they changed it to snakes. Just kidding.)

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

I guess I’d pick Kokopelli’s Song. Kokopelli is an ancient petroglyph of a flute player carved in rocks along trails from the tip of South America up into Canada. His song is, of course, a mystery. The title Kokopelli’s Song knocked around in my head for two or three years. I finally discovered found the story to go with the title at Chaco Culture National Park in New Mexico. I first visited Chaco driving from Arizona to Colorado. I saw the park on my map and decided to stop. I was amazed at the ancient ceremonial center I saw there. Built in 850 CE, people came from the four corners states and as far away as California to attend religious ceremonies. The center was active for four hundred years. The buildings are in ruins, of course, but you can still see three-story walls, and the outline of many kivas, or ceremonial centers. Intrigued by Chaco, I returned twice and read archaeological research. I also visited satellite sites that were part of the Chaco culture. The Young Adult novel that emerged follows three teens (Amy, Mahu, and Diego) as they race against a waxing moon to prevent ancient evil from entering our world and tipping the universe into chaos. Like a fairy tale, the story takes place in our contemporary world. It was a delightful book to write, and I was thrilled when Kokopelli’s Song won first place in YA in the prestigious Selah Awards (2021).


So, tell us about what project you are currently working on. 

Right now I’m working on Tommyknocker’s Gold, the next book in the four corners folklore fantasy series. (Kokopelli’s Song, set in New Mexico was the first book in the series.) Tommyknocker’s Gold is set in Colorado, another of the four corners states: New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah. Like Kokopelli’s Song, it’s a young adult novel that revolves around a character from folklore. Instead of a petroglyph, however, this character descended from the Irish leprechaun. Like a leprechaun, a tommyknocker is a tiny magical creature with a hammer. But instead of a hammer for mending shoes, the tommyknocker carries a miner’s hammer. A tommyknocker is every bit as unreliable as a leprechaun sometimes leading a miner to a rich deposit of ore, sometimes to an empty mine shaft, where the unlucky miner falls to his death. Like all my books, the contemporary mystery is sprinkled with history, this time the history of the Irish who came to Colorado during the potato famine. It’s early days in the writing process, but Tommyknocker’s Gold promises to be another fun adventure.

Sounds interesting, as does its predecessor. 

Readers like to know what writers do during the day. Tell us about your writing day. How do you go about making the blank page come alive? 

When I first retired from teaching, I wrote from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. every morning and from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. most afternoons. Three years after I retired, I was diagnosed with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. When I was in remission (a lot of the time) I kept to that writing schedule. But MS is a progressive disease, and I’ve entered the Secondary Progressive stage. Now my energy is different every day. Some days I can write for two hours; other days fifteen minutes is all I can manage. Some days I sit at the computer and write. Other days I sit in my recliner and dictate words that become a rough draft. Some days I begin writing at 2:30 p.m. Other days I don’t start until 4:00 p.m. I’ve had to learn to be flexible! When I was writing four hours a day, I could complete a book in one year. After my MS diagnosis, I needed two years to write each of the first two books in the Jerome Mysteries Trilogy, The Copper Box and The Silver Lode. My most recent book, The Gold Doubloons (Book 3) took three years. I’m writing more slowly these days, but I’m still writing!

So sorry to hear this. However, blessed are the flexible, for they will never bent out of shape. Right? :-)

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

During the thirty-five years I was a teacher, except for poems and a handful of short stories, I wrote nonfiction. Besides hundreds of handouts, I wrote dozens of articles for professional journals and three textbooks about teaching writing. Since I retired from teaching, I’ve focused on writing fiction. In the last couple of months, however, I’ve started outlining a nonfiction book, tentatively called Starting from Setting: Another Way to Imagine a Story. Based on a workshop I’ve given to writers, the book looks at how to develop characters and a plot from setting, rather than the other way around. So far all of my novels have started this way. I got the idea for My Jerome Mysteries Trilogy (The Copper Box, The Silver Lode, and The Gold Doubloons) in the very real town of Jerome, Arizona. In the same way, I got the idea for Kokopelli’s Song began in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. And the story for Tommyknocker’s Gold started when I was hiking in the hills around Pike’s Peak, Colorado. Most writers have been taught to begin either with characters or plot, so starting from a setting offers an interesting alternative.

You've talked a lot about where you have lived and currently reside. Why do you live where you do? 

I live in Prescott Valley, Arizona, a town of about fifty thousand.  The most important reason I live here instead of in Arkansas (where I lived until a year ago) is that it’s only an hour and a half from where my daughter and her family live in Phoenix. When I relocated, I chose Prescott Valley because it sits at five thousand feet, four thousand feet higher than Phoenix. (Altitude is important in Arizona because it determines climate.) Phoenix, of course, is in the desert, and summer temperatures regularly climb above 110. But less than a hundred miles from Phoenix here in Prescott Valley, summer temperatures rarely go above 90. Since heat makes my MS much worse, Phoenix wasn’t a good choice. A third reason I live where I do is that I can watch the sun come up over Mingus Mountain (where Jerome is).

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

I suppose the scripture that has impacted my life the most is Romans 8:38-39: For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I think most people cling to this scripture because it promises that death won’t separate us from God’s love. But for me, the critical promise has been that life can’t separate us from God’s love. My grandparents were missionaries, and when I was a teenager, I felt called to follow in their footsteps. But except for occasional mission trips, I’ve never been a missionary. I also believed I would get married and be a stay-at-home mom with three or four kids. That didn’t happen either. I’ve been married and divorced twice. I have one child that my ex-husband raised. I taught my entire working life. My life has not conformed to what I believed God was calling me to. Every time I faced another rip in the fabric of my life, I clung to this scripture. Life, no matter what it threw at me, has never been able to separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Suzanne, thank you for being a part of ABTS! Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?

I’d like readers to know that I write for fun - both for readers and for me as I write. My books begin in an interesting setting as I imagine what sort of adventure could happen there that couldn’t happen anywhere else. Usually I find a mystery running through the adventure because mysteries keep characters (and readers) guessing: who isn’t what he/she seems? As the adventure unfolds, I discover the theme embedded in the story. Often, as I look back at a book I’ve written, I see that I was working out a personal faith challenge. For example, in The Copper Box, Marty and Paul were both paralyzed by the past. The theme that emerged was the Apostle Paul’s example of putting the past behind so he could run the race God was calling him to (Philippians 3:13b-14). Because my life has taken so many unwelcome turns, I’m sometimes tempted to be paralyzed by the past. And as my MS has progressed, I’ve had to give up hiking and travel, two activities I really enjoy. Writing provides me with a reflection of past fun as I imagine myself with my characters. In Kokopelli’s Song and The Gold Doubloons I explored ancient ruins. In The Silver Lode it was abandoned mine tunnels. In The Copper Box it was an old Victorian house and a big hotel. I hope my readers have as much fun reading my stories as I have writing them, and I hope in the process they are encouraged in their faith journey.

Readers, if you want to find out more about Suzanne and her writing, you can find her at these
"cyberspatial" locations:



Because our next guest won't be until March 2023, here's wishing everyone a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!


PS - And in case you didn't know, I also had a new book come out a few days ago! It's called The Near Distant, a novella series with two other Scrivenings Press authors, Erin Howard and Brett Armstrong. It would make a great Christmas gift for a Young Adult reader in your family, or a regular adult too!

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Author Behind the Story Blog Series - Jan Thompson

All is right in the world again. For months, things have kilter. With a hint of boring and a dash of "meaningless, meaningless, all is meaningless." 

But now, things have gained focus. The world's flipped right-side-up once more.  

College football is here.

Of course, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek. But there is truth in my words as well. And if you disagree solely because you are not a fan is grounds for us to part ways.

One has to take a stand sometimes. :-) 

It is in this environment where we introduce our next guest on the Florida front porch. She hails from the same university a good friend of mine cheers on each Saturday in the fall. And it is these friendships that are living proof that God is a God of grace, and Christianity can indeed bring people together as brothers and sisters in Christ who otherwise would get into a knockdown, drag out, bar-fight-like brawl in the middle of a tailgate party.

(If you look closely, my tongue is still firmly jabbing my cheek.)

Anyway, enough with the silliness. It's time to get serious. 

Welcome our next guest, from the world of self-publishing, Jan Thompson! 

Jan, in ABTS tradition, give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Jan Thompson?

USA Today bestselling author Jan Thompson writes Christian coastal city and beach town romance with flavors of women’s fiction, Christian romantic suspense with elements of mystery, and inspirational near-future technothrillers with threads of sweet Christian romance. Jan’s books are for readers who love inspiring stories of faith, family, and friends.

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?

There is a multi-year saga to this. I remember vividly the moment I was typing out a personal letter to my aunt on my parents’ Olivetti typewriter. I was eight years old, and I didn’t have an outline. I was free-writing whatever popped into my head. I don’t recall what I wrote, and I am sure that the sent letter has been lost to time. However, I know that since then I’ve written more and more, all the way through high school, including flip picture books, poetry, essays, short stories, and even comic strips. Anything creative.

My love of writing was not borne out of thin air, but I believe it came out of the reading environment that my parents created for my brothers and me. My parents loved to read both the classics and popular fiction, and they loved pop culture. My brothers and I sang along with nursery rhymes on vinyl records and listened to Mom read storybooks to us. Our family home was filled with books everywhere. As we got older, we started reading lots of fiction, including clean mysteries and suspense.

All that background influenced me later on after college and career. During my off hours from work, I would sew and quilt and paint and write. Around my thirtieth birthday, I prayed to God to clarify my calling in life for me. I felt strongly that all I wanted to do for the rest of my life on earth was to write my books and get them published. Two years later, I finished my first full-length novel. Just in time for motherhood. It would be twelve years before I wrote another book. I wrote part time until my son graduated from high school. When he went to college, I knew that it was finally time for empty-nester me to be a full-time novelist to fulfill my calling.

What educational background do you have?

Go Dawgs! (Here we go...) College football is huge at the University of Georgia, and it was the case even back then in the nineties when I attended the main campus in Athens, Georgia. However, I wasn’t a football fan then, since I had grown up on soccer, volleyball, and track-and-field. I remember not paying attention to the UGA colors when I walked to the library one fine game day, wearing a random purple sweater. You should’ve seen the glares I got from the tailgaters as I walked by them—my brain lost in thoughts of math and computing—while being unaware that I was wearing the colors of the visiting team! What was the probability!

My major was computer science in college, but I’ve always loved reading and writing. I took a journalism elective in which we had to write an essay a day. I finished my homework very quickly. One of my favorite electives was American literature, in which we had to write essays on paper in class for our midterms and finals. I am most creative when I’m writing with a pen or pencil on blank paper. To this day, I still draft all my books on paper.

After college, I went to work for over a decade in the IT world, writing database software programs on large multiuser systems. They say that in God’s economy, nothing is ever wasted. My background in computer science is why I enjoy writing cyberthrillers and near-future technothrillers.

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

Well, I love all of the thirty books I’ve published thus far. Every single one. Nevertheless, if I have to name titles, I would say that my most favorite books at this writing (caveat!) are the first books in my current series. To save space, I’ll just pick sample starter books from three genres.

His Longing Heart (Seaside Chapel Book 1): Christian Beach Romance

I grew up on a tropical island and have always loved the ocean. When I moved to Georgia, I was landlocked for thirty-some years. I hear the ocean and long for the ocean, so when I added contemporary Christian romance and romantic Christian women’s fiction to my book inventory, my beach and island memories returned to me.

Once a Thief (Protector Sweethearts Book 1): Christian Romantic Suspense

I wrote this book because private investigator Helen Hu has been in several books in my coastal romance (e.g., Tell You Soon) and beach romance (e.g., His Wake-Up Call) series, and it was time for her to headline her own story. Her mother from Tell You Soon (Savannah Sweethearts Book 2) must tag along, so I decided to put Mama Hu in jail. This was a fun mystery suspense to write as I put my main characters on a hunt for some bejeweled eggs and the Amber Room.

Zero Sum (Binary Hackers Book 1): Near-Future Romantic Technothriller

As mentioned earlier, my background is computer science. But I’m also a fan of science fiction and fantasy. In fact, in the nineties, I wrote two unpublished science fiction short stories. Thus, it’s natural for me to write this near-future thriller genre where my heroes battle enemies within and without, in the real world and also in the virtual cyberspace.

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?

If you have book in you and you know God has called you to write, do it. Don’t delay. Don’t wait. Don’t give up. Writing craft, you can learn. Software tools to write in, you can learn. And yes, marketing, you can also learn. However, the story bottled up inside you can only be told by you and no one else.

“Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name.’
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
I was weary of holding it back,
And I could not” (Jeremiah 20:9).

While people say “there’s nothing new under the sun” and that “ideas are a dime a dozen,” those are simplistic statements. The way you write your book, the way you want to tell your story, those things are always uniquely yours. This is why you, the author, have the freedom to copyright your own books.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NKJV).

Good advice. 

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

Speaking for myself, success is fulfilling the call of God for my life. As I mentioned earlier, I had an epiphany at age thirty that I needed to utilize the skillset that God has already gifted me, which happens to be what I love to do the most: write. It’s not just any type of writing, but it’s a specific creative writing in which I can be free to talk about what God is doing in people’s hearts in the journey of life.

Whether the setting is a church, in a busy city or small town, or in cyberspace, and regardless of genres, I want to show a slice of real Christian life for my audience to read. I want to share about how loving and merciful and forgiving God is. When readers tell me that their hearts are uplifted or they draw nearer to Jesus after they read my novels, then I am encouraged as well. To me, I’ve succeeded.

“That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Thy wondrous works” (Psalm 26:7, KJV).

Ultimately, my goal is to glorify God in everything I do. Whatever I write, whether non-fiction or fiction, should be a shining light in this difficult and dark world we live in. As Jesus said:

“I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46, NKJV).

I want my readers to finish reading my books with a smile on their face and satisfaction in their hearts. Since I write under the Christian romance umbrella, my readers expect happy endings every time. And I do too.

Also good advice.

Now, on a more personal, and kind of off the wall way, answer this one: When you look for a new car, what are the things that are important to you?

Safety, safety, safety. After that, functionality. What’s the point of vehicle if it only looks pretty but is not safe or functional? We don’t own a trailer, but it’s always good to know that our vehicle can haul one. We moved from Georgia to Florida last December, and even though we rented PODs, we still had to drive the remainder of our “collectibles” (you might call it junk, but one man’s treasure is…) on a long road trip. A U-Haul trailer came to the rescue, and my husband drove our SUV all the way, as I followed behind him in our Accord.

We usually buy used cars (new to us!) because they’re in our price range. We’ve owned numerous used cars over the years. I remember our first car as a married couple. A wedding gift from my in-laws, our Oldsmobile Delta 88 was a tank. I felt safe in it. When we drove out on the highway, the Oldsmobile was a cruiser. Smooth as a boat on water. I miss that old car. I call it our wedding car because we drove it to our honeymoon on the beach some thirty-three years ago last month.

When I did research for my novel, Look for Me (Vacation Sweethearts Book 4), I was intrigued by the muscle cars of yesteryear. They all look like they had been built with some serious metal, heavy and safe to transport the precious cargo of life onboard. Many cars today have lighter frames, as though they could be tossed about in a gale. Not those muscle cars of old. I finally settled on one, and I made my main character, Martin MacFarland, drive a 1966 Shelby GT350 that he and his father restored in their shop in Savannah, Georgia.

You've mentioned several Bible verses. What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?

John 3:16 is my life verse. This is primarily why I keep writing and why I love being a novelist.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, KJV).

No, my stories are not parables. My books are to entertain my readers, cups of fresh water for the weary soul when the going gets rough. I tell my readers to come sit a while in a comfortable chair, read my books, and enjoy the happy endings. Readers who are not familiar with the romance genre might question why I just gave away the endings of my beach romance, romantic suspense, and romantic thrillers. The heroes will not die in a book with a happy ending. They will live and finish well in my story world.

Why do I write such stories? On earth, not all things end happily. In fact, our fallen world, cursed by sin, is filled with many events in history too horrible to imagine. So many sad and tragic endings everywhere. Isn’t it good for us to know that in the future, God wins? In the Bible, the book of Revelation tells us that there is a true happy ending in real life that Christians can hope for. That is the ultimate happy ending that we can rejoice about. No secret about this happily-ever-after!

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful’” (Revelation 21:4–5, NKJV).

Amen to that! Before we close, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?

I love to read. I was a reader first before I was ever a writer. These days, I have to read my own books before and after my editors do, so I am rather busy meeting editorial deadlines in my own story world. When I’m free, I read non-fiction books or study a new language or watch dramas in a foreign language. And I read novels outside the genres I write in. I have a policy of not reading the genre I write in at the same time I am writing it. For example, when I am writing my thrillers, I don’t read other people’s thrillers. I might read a historical fiction or a non-fiction book. When I write my beach romances, I don’t read other people’s romance novels. I would read a suspense or a thriller. Right now, I am writing both a technothriller and a beach romance, so what do I read? My fallback is always non-fiction. I am reading a couple of marketing books.

Most importantly, I do my best to read the Bible daily. I feel that one way to tithe my time to God is to start off by reading a few passages of Scripture each day. It matters not whether I’ve checked off everything on my to-do list. But it matters that I sit quietly before Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, and learn from Him. For example, in an epic climb that spanned months of life events, I finished reading Leviticus. My readers tell me that they appreciate reading Bible references in my books, especially my beach romance novels that cover church life. Those were not random passages I grabbed out of thin air. God taught me something, and I felt compelled to share it. I love spending time in God’s Word!

Jan, thank you for taking time to open up your life for our readers. I know they appreciate it an always dig deeper into cyberspace to find out more about our guests, hoping they will find another author from which to garner good reads.

Readers, if you wish to find out more about Jan, you can find her in these locations on the web:

Jan’s Website:

Jan’s Mailing List:

Jan’s Books:

Follow Jan Thompson at:

·         Amazon:

·         BookBub:

·         Goodreads:

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We will see you in December!



Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Author Behind the Story Blog Series - Eva Marie Everson


I saw a cartoon recently. The principal of an elementary school was on the PA system, holding the microphone. The clock on the wall said 3:00 p.m. She said, "I know you all are excited, but please refrain from throwing books and running in the hallways. If you could at least wait until the students have left for the day, it would be greatly appreciated."

I'm hearing shouts of joy across the nation as students walk off campus for the last time in the 2021-2022 school year. Some of those exclamations are from the kids. Most are from the teachers. It's been two years of "Quarantine Hades." Two years many would just as soon forget and never relive. They are so excited to head into summer with the prospect of starting next year in a "pre-pandemic" state of mind.

Then, of course, you have the somber, tragic moments, such as what occurred in Uvalde, Texas, that demonstrate for the nation once again how much teachers and other staff members are truly on the front lines as well. You don't have to wear PD Blue, Fire Engine Red, or Military Green to be on the front lines. 

Therefore, as you transition into summer mode, remember your child's teachers in your prayers. Remember the other school staff members as well. In a day's time, they often spend more time with your child collectively than you do in a normal weekday.

And when you think of it, pray for us writers too. Developing stories readers want to read is hard work, as our next guest points out. And believe it or not, many writers out there are or have been in the teaching field at some point in their lives. 

Our featured author in this summer quarter has been a friend and mentor of this writer for several years now, and I am so happy and humbled to have her as a guest on ABTS.

So, pull up an Adirondack chair, grab a glass of sweet tea or lemonade (or mix it into an Arnold Palmer), and please welcome author, speaker, organizational president, contest organizer, and all around Grand Poohbah (just ask Mark Hancock about this title), Eva Marie Everson! 

Eva, in ABTS style and tradition, give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Eva Marie Everson?
Eva Marie Everson is a multiple award-winning author and speaker of both fiction and nonfiction. She is the president of Word Weavers International, the director of Florida Christian Writers Conference, and the director of all Blue Ridge Mountains CWC contests, including The Selah Awards. She and her husband live in Central Florida where they enjoy their children and grandchildren.
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?
Like most writers I’d always had the notion of being a writer/author, but instead of choosing that path educationally, I went into nursing. In 1992, I contracted a disease that “sent me home” and kept me there for the next five years. But it was during this time that the Lord opened my eyes (and all the right doors) to the possibilities of entering into the publishing arena.
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: “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra
Favorite Non-Fiction Book (other than your own & besides the Bible): Living Prayer by Robert Benson
Favorite Bible Verse: John 6:68
Favorite Movie: My Favorite Wife
Favorite Actor or Actress: Cary Grant, always
Favorite TV Show: The Chosen
Favorite Novel (other than your own): Mr. & Mrs. Bo Jo Jones
Favorite Author (other than you): Nonfiction: Robert Benson / Fiction: Richard Paul Evans
Favorite Sport: To watch: Baseball. But I love to hike.
Favorite Team (Can be any sport, any level): Atlanta Braves!
Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: Anything English or History
Favorite Subject Now: History, especially biblical history
Favorite Teacher in School: Mrs. Boddiford, who recently passed away at the age of 101
Favorite Time of the Year: Christmastime
Favorite Place to Vacation: Long Vacay: Ireland / Short Vacay: Daytona Beach with the hubby (we go about every other month)
Favorite Drink: I honestly don’t have one.
Favorite Food: That list is pretty long.
When the words aren’t flowing, what is your favorite comfort food and why?
Oh, now, I can relate. If I'm not careful, I can inadvertently perform a magic act during a sporting event or movie and make and entire box disappear.

For all the pet lovers out there, answer this question: Do you have any?
I loooooooooooooooove dogs (better than people!). And I’ve had quite a few. Right now, we have a cat, Vanessa. Or, she has us. Vanessa was my brother’s cat. When he died in 2019, one of his last concerns was over his cat. I promised him that I would take care of her and give her a wonderful life. I have kept that promise.
You have something in common with Mark Twain. He has been quoted saying, "The more I get to know people, the more I like my dogs."

Everybody seems to have a bucket list. Do you? If so, what’s on it? If not, why not?
I do. Recently it became so short because I fulfilled so many of the items that I decided to add to it . . . you know . . . without a bucket list, it gets a little scary. 😊 Still on the list (but not inclusive):
Be driven down the 7-mile Bridge in the Florida Keys at Sunset
Return to Ireland
Vacay in Bryce Canyon
Return to Bennington, VT
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?
I made an appointment to speak with an editor while at my first Christian Booksellers Association Convention back in 1999. We set the time for 2:00 the following afternoon. I arrived about 1:45 (always early!) and began a conversation with a man who sported a long ponytail, John Lennon glasses, and a safari-style jacket. He seemed a quite scholarly and so comfortable in his skin standing there with his arms crossed over his chest. I asked if he was with the publishing house, and he said he was . . . in a way.

We were standing next to a display of books that were to be signed and given away a little while later. I pointed to them and said that I’d heard a lot of good things about the author . . . that he was a great speaker and writer and that I should get a copy of his latest book. The man gave me a copy of the book “on him.” I asked if I should wait until the book signing (which was scheduled for 2:30), and he said that I could come back and get it signed then.
About that time, one of my friends rounded the corner of publishing house booths and, upon seeing us, went wide-eyed. “Ohmygoodness!” she squealed. “Robert Benson!” I assumed she meant the stack of books. The man beside me then moved in such a way that revealed his name tag from beneath his jacket. Yep, it was Robert Benson, who not only became a great spiritual influence in my life, but he is also a man I call “friend.”
Do you ever receive negative reviews from readers? If so, how do you respond when you see them?
Of course. And they hurt, especially when the review is a misunderstanding or what I feel is horribly unfair. For example, one reviewer of DUST said that there was sex on every page. Well, that’s not possible. For one, the book is over 400 pages . . . and I don’t know that much about sex. For another, there is not sex on every page. However, at the core of the story, we have two couples—one who, as young-and-in-loves decided to “wait until they get married.” This is not easy, but they manage to keep their relationship pure. As the years go by, and while they experience heartache as any couple would, they are blessed within their marriage. The other couple are in the throes of an affair. Everything they touch is destroyed, including themselves. Now, this is not the WHOLE of the story, but it’s in there. So, I have to wonder if the reader was not so affected by those two choices perhaps because of her own life story that this is what resonated with her.
I have also had reviews that lead me to realize that the reviewer has had a very cloistered life. That’s great for them. I did not and most people I know have not. I write about those characters. I write about those lives, lives that get caught up in the muck and the mire of life but who find the goodness at the end of it all.
But my favorite is this one: I’m giving it one star because I didn’t have time to read it.
I wish reviewers understood how hard we work at what we do and how much their words can cut. I also wish they understood how a one-star review based on not reading it or their misunderstandings can hurt us as well. Or, if they simply don’t understand the industry (the reviewer who said, “I’ll never read her work again because she doesn’t capitalize the pronouns for God” which was followed by others saying, “Thank you for warning me.” Well, dear reader, that is the choice of the publishing house, not the author . . .).
But I digress.
Oh, I loved the one about my first Blake Meyer book being a "cliffhanger" (it was the first in a six-book series). The reviewer wrote it as a "warning" to all those readers who might get snookered. Now, every time we watch a TV show, and it leaves the viewer "hanging," I shout out, "Cliffhanger!" I guess you could call it passive-aggressive author therapy. Ha!

Eva, what are you working on right now?
Forty years ago, I read a Dear Abby column that told a story so unimaginable, I tucked it away in my storyteller’s brain only to bring it out every so often and “work on it.” I built my characters, my setting, etc. for years before I started writing in earnest.
Beth Bettencourt is the story of a 28-year-old woman who, one November morning in 1962, wakes to the sound of a man snoring in her guest bedroom. She calls the police but, the following day during his arraignment, feels guilty after realizing this stranger in town, Marty, had simply gone to the wrong house. Beth changes his life by giving him a place to stay and work (he’d just been released from the army), and he changes her life by forcing her to come face-to-face with her past and present demons.
Marty is everything she never knew she needed . . . but is he everything he claims to be?
That sounds interesting...and November of 1962, eh? That's a great month and year...just sayin'...

Has your writing crossed over into other areas? If so, how? If not, will it?
I write both fiction and nonfiction, books and articles, for adults and children. I didn’t intend for it to be this way, but that’s the way my career evolved. Then again, there is the being president of Word Weavers International and the director of Florida Christian Writers Conference. I never intended it to be this way, but God moved in another direction than the one I saw fit. 😊
As a writer, what is “success” to you? And has that “definition” changed over time as you have traveled down the writer’s path? 
Success does change and should change over time. Success, initially, is getting at least one thing traditionally published. Then, it’s getting another thing published . . . and then it’s getting better at what I do. My last book should be better than my first book. Success can then also be having one of my books named as a finalist for an award and then, with that accomplishment, winning that award in subsequent years. Success can then move on to being recognized favorably by those within the industry. Finally, and most importantly, success comes at the end of this life when Jesus says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?
I tend to have a daredevil mentality. Not like I would jump out of an airplane without a parachute, but that I don’t always see the consequences “if things go south.” Back in 2007, while traveling the land of Israel with my friend Miriam Feinberg Vamosh for a book we were writing about Israel—a Jewish woman and a Christian woman traveling, photographing, and writing about the land together—we went up to the Church of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor. While there, Miriam said, “There is a wonderful scripture that says, Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name. Sometimes,” she said, “on rare occasions, you can see Mt. Hermon from Tabor.”
I looked northward and, there in the sky, I could see the snow-capped glory of Mt. Hermon. I said, “Like now?”
Miriam was stunned.
I knew I had to get not just a good photo of the moment, but a great photo of the moment. We went up this staircase on the side of the church, but the view, while fine, was not impressive. Then I spotted this ancient wall that, if I could somehow get to the top of it, and then shimmy to the middle of it, I could get the most wonderful photo ever. I pointed this out to Miriam, who said, “How are you going to get to the top of the wall?”
I said, “With your help.”

So, here I was, being hoisted up an ancient “I hope this doesn’t crumble from under me” stone wall by my friend. Once I got to the top, I sort of straddled on top and reached down for my camera. Then, with that secured around my neck, I began to shimmy along the wall’s edge until I got to the middle. I took several photos, then shimmied back, straddled on the wall again, handed the camera back to Miriam, and then said, “Now, how am I going to get down?”
I rolled onto my belly and, clutching the wall, headed feet-first. My arms stretched until Miriam caught my feet, and then I let go and came tumbling down. No one was hurt in the process and the photo that we used in the book (Reflections of God’s Holy Land, A Personal Journey Through Israel, Thomas Nelson, 2008) was amazing. I still sit in awe of that moment whenever I look at the photo.
Why do you live where you live?  
I live in Central Florida because my husband’s job moved us here in 1992. I remain here because this is where two of our three children live and three of our grandchildren as well. I’m not a fan of Florida heat, and I could probably list a few other places I’d rather be, but this is where God planted me, so I’m gonna sit here and bloom!
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?
Because I’m the president of Word Weavers International, I gravitate toward books on leadership and, in particular, being a godly leader. The book Discipled Leader by Preston Poore, was an icing-on-the-cake kind of book for me, especially seeing as it came during the pandemic. The style was conversational, which I appreciate, and showed the successes and not-so-successes of a man truly trying to live, work, and lead according to God’s principles.
When you are looking for a book to read, what are the things that are important to you?
If you don’t grab me within the first page (and sometimes two pages), you won’t keep me long enough to know if the rest of the book is good. There are too many good books out there to waste my time on a book I had to struggle to read.
A title catches my attention first, then the subject matter. But if that first page doesn’t grab me . . . our time together on Planet Earth is done.
What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?
Moses said, “Now show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18).
Eva, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule and allow our readers a chance at getting to know you.

Readers, if you want to find out more about our guest this quarter, you can visit her on the following websites: 
Eva Marie Everson’s Amazon Author Page (you can join my newsletter (Southern, monthly) subscription here.

Until next quarter, enjoy your summer, and we'll see you again on the Florida Front Porch in September!