Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Author Behind the Story Blog Series - M. B. Aznoe


This Christmas feels different. For me, for the first time in forever, it's not about the hustle and bustle. It's not about the lights and the presents. It's about God. About what He did, invading our sin-soaked world, evading those who wished to kill Him before He ever spoke one word, and devoting His life, here on earth, for one sole purpose: To pay a penalty we could never repay in a thousand lifetimes. Name one other God who did that. 

You can't. Because none exist. All other gods demand something from the worshipper as payment. A baby son or daughter to burn in the fire. A trek across hot coals. A climb up a gazillion steps on one's hands and knees. A debilitating depravation of food and water. Do these things, and that god or goddess may allow you to enter their presence. They are all "religions of human achievement."

But not Christianity. It is the "religion of Divine accomplishment." Our God came to us. Our God realized there was nothing we could do to earn a seat at His table. Perfect adherence to the Law couldn't do it, because no human could pull it off. So, if our God wanted to be like the other gods, then He would have left us alone, to burn in hell for all eternity. His rightful response to any questions about His lack of love would have been, "All you had to do was follow the one rule of the garden in Eden. It was that simple. Believe in me. Trust my Word. But instead, you believed in the Serpent, believed his lies, and thought me to be the jealous con artist and the crook, trying to keep you from getting all that was coming to you. But you see, it was never about the tree, really. It was about Truth. And what is not the truth. Who you should believe in and who you should not trust. Sadly, you failed the test. You chose the serpent, so with him you shall reside for all eternity."

I am so happy God did not end the story there. From Genesis 3 on, the Bible is a love story about a God - as awesome and fearful as He is - who came down to earth and dwelt among us. Why? So He could redeem those who cannot redeem themselves. Once we accept this gift, then our allegiance changes from one devoted to self to one devoted to God.

The Babe in the manger. The work of the Holy Spirit. The work of God. It's all because of Him, and for Him.

That's what we are celebrating on the Florida Front Porch this holiday season! 

With wind-whipped storms spiraling down from the plains to mini-heatwaves pushing back from the tropics, it's December in Florida, where 359,000 moved to in the last twelve months, according to a report I just read. Soon, the peninsula will break off, because of the weight, and float out into the Atlantic. If it doesn't sink, then all that land becomes island property. And those of us in the interior suddenly have oceanfront views. It's a win-win (wink-wink).

Therefore, to round out the year of 2023, we want to celebrate some Floridian authors, yes, I said authors, who have a unique setup. Please welcome fellow Word Weavers, M. B. Aznoe, better
known to us as the husband and wife writing duo, Matthew and Bethany Aznoe!

In ABTS fashion, give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is M. B. Aznoe? 

Being the writing duo we are, we seek to explore God’s faithfulness through fantasy, because we can wrestle with real-life struggles without the real-life baggage that often gets in the way. Our main desire is to encourage and challenge people toward a deeper walk with Jesus.

Obviously, you are married? Tell us more.  

Yes, we have been married for over twenty years, and God has blessed us with six children (5 teenage boys, and one princess).

Congratulations! Twenty years. A great milestone!

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

In addition to a house full of kids, we have a dog named Peppermint (a black lab mix who tops the scales at a hundred pounds), a cat named Glacier (a stray who graciously adopted us and manages to tolerate our presence), and a hamster named Lachonk (who pretty much just does his thing).

I saw a sign in a veterinarian's office once that read: "Dogs think they're human. Cats think they're God." That is so true!  

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

Since we are two people, we have two lines. 

The first is from the movie, The Two Towers:

            Frodo asks Samwise, “What are we holding onto, Sam?”

Samwise responds, “That there is some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it's worth fighting for.”

The second is by J.R.R. Tolkien from the book, The Fellowship of the Ring.

             “I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.

"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Sometimes it feels like we are living in one of those times where we really would rather not be. But God has placed each of us here for a purpose. These quotes remind us that we are not only placed here for a purpose, but we are called to fight “the good fight” of faith.


Besides storytelling, what talents do you have?

We are both musical people. Matt plays the keyboard, and Bethany plays the bass guitar. We serve on the worship team at our church and like to write songs (some of which have managed to make their way into our books). Bethany is also an excellent cook and loves experimenting with new recipes that she creates on the fly. Matt is a skilled software engineer and, in addition to his professional work, is working on an application to generate chord sheets that he hopes to someday release to the wild.

Tell us about what project you are currently working on. 

We are actively working on the fifth and final book of the Swordflower Saga. It has been a real challenge to complete due to many life struggles in the past two years. However, the end is in sight, and we feel like we’re finally getting a handle on the complex conclusion to our series. We’re hoping to be done by March of 2024.

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

We write whenever we can find a spare couple of hours, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening. Matt works a standard 9-5 day job, and we are both active in our church. These combined with having six children who all live at home makes finding those hours a real challenge sometimes. We have a writing nook set up in our bedroom with a large monitor that we can share. We take turns typing while the other offers suggestions or corrections or does research on their cell phone.

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?

Find a good writing group… like Word Weavers! Seriously though, we published our first four books without having one. There were many ups and downs and several mistakes we think could have been avoided if we had been a part of a writing group. A great writing group encourages you and gives helpful feedback on your work-in-progress. It is so rewarding, and it revives you with renewed energy to get your project done.

This is so true. Writing is one of those professions where encouragement from those "in the know" helps so much.

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

We get asked this question a lot, especially because our character names are often quite exotic. We start with a good understanding of the culture and language of whatever character we are naming in our fantasy world. Each of the cultures in our books have their own specific sound and feel to the names they use. The Auxlanders have a more guttural, consonant-heavy tone and often use the near-silent “h”, while the Jyrye have a more fluid, light feel using a lot of “ya” (female) and “ye” (male). One other trick we have used in our current series was to use Biblical names that are transliterated into the native language of that character. For example, Aaron became Ahron. David became Davyed. We even devoted a section of our website to sound clips for all of the people, places, and things in our make-believe world.

On a fun side note, Khomar Tyrinian was originally the name of an old role-playing character that Matt used back in college. The name was brought forward into the series and split into two different characters. The characters themselves are quite a bit different from the original.

What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?

We live crazy, but not in the way people might typically associate with that term. God calls; we follow and leave the rest in His hands. One instance of this was when we moved to Texas solely because we felt God would have us attend a specific church there. We lived in a small, 900 sq. ft apartment with our (at the time) 5 boys until God provided us a bigger space to live. Years later, when we were living in Kalispell, MT (near Glacier National Park), we felt called to pastor a small church in Poplar, MT (on the flat eastern side of the state on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation). So Matt left his computer
programming job, and we headed east to heed that call.

Why do you live where you live now?

After pouring ourselves into the church in Poplar, we were approaching burn-out. Matt was called out of the blue by a pastor friend of ours, and as he was explaining all that was going on, our friend suggested that we come down to Florida to rest for a while. Filled with a peace that this was God’s answer to our prayers, we left for Florida. We did not have a job lined up nor even a place to live. We just packed our belongings into a storage unit and headed south. God not only provided us a job and a home in which to live, but He also gave us a church with a great youth pastor for our kids which was sorely needed. In addition, He led us to Word Weavers of Lake County. They have been a tremendous encouragement. We had been struggling to write again after our recent experiences, and they gave us the support and enthusiasm we desperately needed.

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

There are so many scriptures that have carried us through both difficult and amazing circumstances over the years. As a result, we had a hard time narrowing it down, but we settled on Romans 8:28.

“And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

Some might find this answer cliché, but for us, it has truly been a lifeline that we’ve clung to through some pretty dark and trying times. As the old hymn “’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” says,


“Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him.

How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er!

Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus.

Oh for grace to trust Him more!”

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

Our writing journey began after we watched an episode of Deep Space Nine. We spent over an hour complaining to one another about their inaccurate portrayal of marriage in that particular episode. Finally, we stopped and looked at one another as the thought struck us: why were we complaining about someone else’s work? We should write our own.

We had been talking about it for years, and each of us had created separate fantasy worlds, characters, and ideas. We joined them together, combining the strongest elements of each, and set to writing a compelling story with a more realistic view of marriage. And thus spawned the Swordflower Saga!

Interesting how each writer has his or her own story about what launched them into the career they have forged.

Well, readers, like always, we encourage you, if interested, to find out more about our guests by checking them out via their social media outlets. You can find M. B. Aznoe in the following locations:



X, formerly Twitter:

Until next time, Merry Christmas! And a Happy New Year!


Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Author Behind the Story Blog Series - Catherine Goonen (aka C. G. Clark)

I logged in to upload this post and was pleasantly surprised. Last month, this blog logged over 3,500 hits. The most ever. We're not even halfway through the month of September, and we're sitting at almost 2,500 already. On one day alone, we had almost two hundred. 

I am so happy, because that's why I started this blog so many years ago. It's to be a database of authors and other writing of mine from way-back-when as a monthly contributor to Seriously Write, a once-in-a-while contributor to More to Life Magazine, and other online locations.

However, it's always been about the other authors, of which I am just one, and the field of writing in general.

So, thank you, to all of you who have found us and are making history here at ABTS. We hope you are finding some new authors to read as a result of a blog like this. Otherwise, you would never have known they existed.

Now, to keep up our ABTS tradition of introducing new authors, please welcome to the Florida Front Porch another fellow Word Weaver, Catherine Goonen! 

Cathy, have a seat in one of our Adirondack chairs, grab an "Arnold Palmer," and in ABTS style, give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Catherine Goonen? Or should we call you C. G. Clark? 

Hi. I’m Catherine Goonen, a grandmother of nine, and married to a retired military pilot. Writing as C.G. Clark, I’m an award-winning author, and my characters find redemption, restoration, and salvation as they witness the spiritual battle over mankind’s future when their realities collide with the unseen heavenly realm.

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?

My father was a computer technician in the Air Force. When I was ten years old, we were living in Great Falls, Montana, and he took me with him to check the computer in one of the missile silos. I didn’t understand the purpose of such an enormous machine, but the flashing lights and strange sounds fascinated me. It filled a room the size of my living room, and it seemed as if the metal, wires, and bulbs had a mind of their own. It was a tangible perspective of a world where rockets launched into space and people walked on the moon, and my imagination began to take off with them.

Sounds like a scene out of War Games? Remember that movie? Good movie. Lots of blinking lights in the WOPR too.

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?

If mathematics had not been such a nemesis, I might have become an architect. I always wanted to design something that would make a difference and stand the test of time, like Frank Lloyd Wright did. I also had a serious interest in photography, but never had the time or resources to fully pursue it.

Funny you should mention that. I, too, has dreams of being an architect at one point in my life. Interesting...

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

Of the five books I’ve written so far, I think Restoration is my favorite. It’s the story in which I took the most risks, especially for Christian fiction. My main character, Rebeka, is someone I aspire to be when I grow up. She’s stubborn, determined, and has a fierce faith that can’t be shaken, no matter how hard the enemy tries. (I’m getting there.)

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

To be honest, I would not have listened to all the nay-sayers that kept me from pursuing my writing when I was younger. Even with my first three books, I made mistakes … everywhere … but I took my granddaughter’s advice and self-published them anyway. After all, I could always revise and republish them, which I’ve recently done. I’m not writing to make money. I’m doing it because the Lord wants me to write, and I trust His plan. As long as I do that, I can’t go wrong.

So true.

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?

In a word, write. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t let other opinions sway you. Pray about it, get your marching orders from the only One that matters, then get to work. That’s the “pep talk” part. As for the practical part: read, research, write, read, re-write, and write some more.

And edit. And edit...

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

Good question. I’ve used name catalogs. I’ve researched names in other languages based on what they
mean. Sometimes, it’s a name I hear in passing. They all end up in a database where I can find them when I need them.

Now, let's switch gears and talk about you personally. What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?

I’m not a fan of heights, nor am I a thrill-seeker of any kind. My husband is the one who will happily experience the Sky-Coaster, the Reverse Bungee, or skydiving. I prefer to watch from a secure spot on the ground. But … I took a literal leap of faith on my 60th birthday. I stepped off the top of the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas to drop 855 feet while connected to a cable controlling my fall until I slowed to a standing stop at the bottom. It took approximately seventeen seconds from the time I stepped off the platform until I touched down, unhooked, and walked away.

It's never made sense for me to jump from a perfectly good airplane or rooftop. I guess I'm just practical like that...  

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

I have an opinionated, stubborn, far too smart, very vocal, and extremely loyal black cockapoo named Zander.

You know Zander is short for Alexander, right? And Alexander the Great was very much like your dog, so maybe it's all in the name...

Why do you live where you live?

I’ve lived all over the country, from Maine to California, and Texas to Montana. I was born in Cocoa Beach, Florida, and met my husband in Orlando. When we finally chose where we wanted to build our final home, we chose Clermont, Florida. Despite how it’s grown, it still retains its old-Florida-charm, and has just enough rolling countryside to satisfy the needs of a flatlander wanting a change. We’re almost equal distance from the east and west coast beaches and we never have to shovel snow. Granted, we may have the occasional hurricane, but we know it’s coming can board up the house, head up to Missouri to visit family, and clean up when we get back.

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?

Charles Stanley’s The Will of God: Understanding and Pursuing His Ultimate Plan for Your Life. It helped me to decide whether to publish my first book during a time when I struggled with understanding God’s purpose for my life. Even though I know He has a plan for me, sometimes I need to be reminded. This book helped me get back on track.

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

I draw inspiration and courage from Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” This scripture that has given me the boldness to forge ahead and do what the Father has called me to do … write.

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

Writing is the perfect occupation. You can write almost anywhere, with or without the internet. You can even write “old school,” using pen and paper. No matter how or where you do it, you have the ability to bring characters and worlds to life for the enjoyment or enlightenment of others. In a way, God has gifted writers with the ability to create. Perhaps not literally—only He has that power—but it gives us ways to glorify Him that are unique to each author. It’s also a sacred duty, because words have power. They can build up, but they can also tear down. So, handle your gift with care. Foremost, make prayer your constant companion and keep open those lines of communication with He who equips you to do what He has asked of you.

Good advice.

Dear Readers, If you wish to get to know Catherine better, here are some place on the web you can find her and her books: 

~ Website link:

~ Facebook page link:

~ Instagram link:

~ FictionFinder link:

~Amazon Author Page link:

Thank you again for stopping by and make ABTS part of your busy day!

Me wearing my granddaughter's 
sunglasses several years ago.


Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Author Behind the Story Blog Series - Tom Hall

There is one thing I've learned in life. I always joke around and say, "If I had nine days a week and seventy-two hours in a day, I might get everything done I need to do and still have enough time to average five hours of sleep." 

I saw a meme recently that said, "I added up all the time needed to complete my current TBR pile. I will officially complete reading all the books on my 842nd birthday."

I know the feeling. 

Of course, I know having enough time if only the days and weeks were longer is fallacy. Someone or something would fill up the time and then some, and we'd still be behind. 

The point is, life is short. The Bible calls it a vapor (James 4:14). Compared to eternity, it truly is. A teenager may look at an old person and think otherwise. However, the old person knows better, for he was once young and ignorant too. 

This is why we must live life to the fullest, and that means living for God daily, hourly, every minute (Luke 9:23-27) by following His Son.

Our next guest on the Florida Front Porch gets this, I believe. I want everyone to welcome another fellow Word Weaver to the ABTS family, Tom Hall!

Tom, we have a tradition here, besides the virtual porch, the virtual sweet tea, the virtual ceiling fans, and the virtual Adirondack chairs. We ask each guest to give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Tom Hall?

I am a retired Marine with over twenty-five years and several continents behind me. I am also a retired state law enforcement officer with over eighteen years and several investigations and trials in the rearview mirror. I have taught at the elementary, undergraduate, and graduate levels. 

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 am the quintessential late bloomer. I didn’t really start writing seriously until I was 60. Which actually works in my writing. When I detail a felony arrest in one of my books, I’ve actually done one of those things. Further, when I describe the morale on a nuclear submarine, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I started because frankly, I wasn’t ready to sit on the porch and watch life go by. 

What educational background do you have?

My educational background mirrors my late-bloomer approach to life. I did not have a college degree until the year before I retired from the Marines. A pretty good trick under Department of Navy rules for a commissioned officer. Then I spent ten years in state law enforcement before I got around to getting a Master’s in Juvenile Psychology. A few years later, I accidentally achieved a Ph.D in Criminal Justice. 

I didn’t know you had a doctorate…See? You learn something new every day.

I know you're married. Tell a little about your family.

I am married to the same wonderful woman (Patty) I met over forty-three years ago. Amazingly, she has remained through several worldwide deployments, being the typical wife waiting on the Trooper to come home, and through it all kept the team together. We have a daughter (the lawyer) and two sons (the veterans). 

Does she get a Purple Heart for sticking with you all these years? :-)

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

Our home is one of a constantly rotating collection of pets and animals. From horses to cats to dogs. In the middle school years, our kids seemed to collect an assortment of animals, including a cow for 4H. Our most endearing pet is Scooby, who is a massive Great Dane (what else would a dog named Scooby be?). At present we are temporarily hosting an Australian Shepard called, Chilli Dog. Also, the world's most arrogant and overweight cat is called….cat. The cat has allowed us to feed her and remain in our home with her.

I saw a sign one time that read: “Dogs think they’re human. Cats think they’re God.” I have yet to meet a dog or cat that does not fit that description, so I get it.

You’ve done a great deal already, and I’m sure you’ve cross off a lot of items, but remains on your bucket list? Or do you not have one?

I don’t really have a bucket list. Frankly, any sort of planning for this sort of thing really rests with Patty. I kind of am interested in having her see some of the things I already have. Personally, I am too busy with the day-to-day business of life to have a bucket list, or to put it another way, the honey-do list tends to occupy my time right now. 

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

My all-time favorite line from a movie is from Jaws. When Roy Schneider’s character sees the shark for the first time he says, “You’re going to need a bigger boat.” And that goes to my personal delight in seeing, hearing, or reading about common people placed in extraordinary circumstances. 

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?

That’s an interesting question. One for which I do not have a good answer. From a secular level, I must turn to Hunter Thompson: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” From a Christian perspective, whatever the adventure, it must have our Father in mind first and foremost. I don’t really ponder about “Oh what might have been.” I’ve lived a blessed life starting with an upbringing that would cause Andy Griffith and Opey to be envious. My hometown in Michigan was so boring that I couldn’t wait to escape, which is what I did at seventeen when I left for the Marines. Subsequently, of course, there are some regrets, like not getting my formal education prior to becoming a fossil – that would have been nice.  I do admit a small, slight twinge of possible regret the first time I stepped out of a C-130 and parachuted onto the drop zone at Fort Benning. However, upon a successful landing, I could only think, “Wow, what a ride!” I used to think that I was completely in control, but looking back it's evident to me that I was just a common guy tripping through extraordinary circumstances. I also can see a divine aspect to this having done some exceptionally dangerous things and through no action on my part managed to survive. The bottom line is that I lived the life that I was afforded (or stumbled into) and in the closing years managed to come to an understanding it wasn’t about me, it was about Him. My guardian angel is thinking, “It's about time.”

Besides storytelling, what talents do you have?

I have developed–or perhaps recognized–a talent for listening and observing. It has taken me years to learn to shut up and listen. To stop and observe this wonderful place and time. I really envy one of the Word Weavers of Lake County (FL) authors, Tracy Smoak. The talent, the patience, and the skill to capture those wonderful photographs. What she sees and captures has eluded me for almost a lifetime. Too busy moving from one point to another, I forgot to stop and see. However, in keeping with my late-blooming skill sets, I am trying to see and hear things that used to get lost in the hustle. 

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

My favorite project so far is my book Liberty’s Echo. It started with a great idea. I had to teach my Constitutional law students about how they are part of the American system of justice. I gave the class the U.S. citizenship test on the first day. The results were frightening. Only one student passed, and then barely. I spent a couple of years pondering this and came up with the book to present the ideas of a representative republic to the next generation of young people (old ones also). I used the idea of a committed communist North Korean general talking to a retired Marine colonel and having a dialogue about their respective governments. I also was able to base it upon the foundations of Western Civilization and the Bible. This was a great vehicle to insert themes such as sacrifice and how all things work for the greater glory of God.  

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

Oh goodness, I’ve had some negative reviews. They don’t really bother me. I did enjoy the negative comment from someone in England who took exception to my description of the events leading up to the Battle of Concord. All I can say is, next time, tell King George to lay off the taxes. Another reader took exception to my naming the submarine in Liberty’s Echo the USS Concord. His contention was that there was no USS Concord. By the way, it is a fictional story.  Wait until he realizes that the supply ship, the USS Duportail doesn’t exist either. You will have to look up the name to see its significance. 

Okay, so I did look it up. Now, I wonder how many readers will…

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

As a writer, I think that I probably should have started earlier. However, that works against my writing in the present. Much of what I write is based on my personal experiences. To be clear, I am not writing autobiographical stuff, but rather using my experience to place common men and women in extraordinary events. I would like to think that my background allows me to fully explore the characters, how they react, and why they do what they do.

Tell us about what project you are currently working on.

My current project(s) are kind of all over the place.  I have several books written but in one case, I need to write the prologue book – one that sets the rest into perspective. This is the Elliot (anglicization of the name Elisha) Heston series. The first book in the series is nearly ready. In this series, biblical truth is applied to a real-world situation. Since you asked, Book One is Ephesian Sunsets, where I deal with the clinical depression of a main character. Book Two is Dining with Pharisees, which deals with public corruption and a serial firesetter. Book Three is The Isaiah Decree, about artificial intelligence and murder at the Bushnell Technical Institute (only we central Floridians will get the humor).

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

My research for The Isaiah Decree led me to the importance of language. This might seem strange coming from a guy who wants to write novels, but the deeper I dug into the current rage about artificial intelligence the more I realized that “words and their meaning” was the key to the evolution of artificial intelligence. Then, looking at the issue biblically, we find – “In the beginning was the Word…” When God escorted Adam around the Garden of Eden, He asked Adam to name the various items and plants…the beginning of language. Our perception of reality is tied to how we describe it. In the end, words matter.

Oh, I have an entire talk around this topic. As well as with why Adam was tasked with naming all the animals.

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

I am an early riser. This comes from years of physical training with the troops, who train typically in the morning before it gets too hot. Also, being an early riser affords me the opportunity to sit and think in some solitude before the mad morning rush.

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?

Get a friend, get a beta group, and join Word Weavers. Finally, jump in. 

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

I have already published in professional and scientific journals. Most of that work would put most people to sleep. So, my writing has crossed from academic and scientific work to fiction.  By the way, fiction is much harder. Another aspect is that I have had to learn to be descriptive in my writing as opposed to legally accurate. There are no official homicide reports that start out, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Interestingly, though, a few of the homicides that I investigated did occur on a dark and stormy night.  

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

They are derivatives of actual person’s names. Those who are in the know, realize that I am using them as my characters. So far, it has been met with good acceptance. On a possibly interesting note, the real person behind Colonel Sutton in Liberty’s Echo called me to say how disappointed he was to have been killed within the first two paragraphs. We both had a good laugh. Spoiler alert:  Some of my bad guys are people that I have met, and my appraisal of their character matches their names. If one cared to look into it, my protagonist in Liberty’s Echo is loosely translated from Korean as “Mangy Wolf.” But these names are not derivative. They are known only to me. 

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 have found that the hardest thing in life is simply showing up. I spent far too much time worrying about what others would think about my writing. Through my association with Word Weavers in Lake County (FL), I became comfortable just admitting that I wrote the book. In the end, I felt that success—to be authentic—had to be a genuine effort involving quality. The quantity thing will take care of itself down the road. 

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

Yes! Writing in the Christian Genre is a very niche market. Writing non-romance stories in the Christian genre is minuscule. Christian historical fiction might be another route, and I have some ideas. In the end, to me, it is about foundational beliefs, not success. I’m pretty sure that every struggling author has said something similar, but going back to a previous question, I write for a purpose.

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 and why?

Benjamin Franklin. I suspect that Ben was an astute observer. We also know that he was an accomplished orator. Most of my students think that Ben and I hung around Philadelphia back in the day. Not saying I’m old or anything. Regardless, to have a sit down with Mr. Franklin and just talk about what those crazy founding fathers were thinking would be great. Also, I would love to drive him around and show him what their efforts resulted in. Could you imagine his terror sitting in the front passenger seat on the interstate? Do you mean you can travel from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. in a single day? 

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

I would pick Thomas. Not because we share a common name, but because I think that I understand him. I cannot help but think that I also would be skeptical of all those “sightings” of Jesus after the crucifixion. Yet, when shown the truth (and literally touching it), he went on to become one of the most adamant believers. Thomas takes some hits in history for his doubts, but I don’t believe that I am any better in the end. 

What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?

I have never done anything crazy. I have always carefully analyzed the situation, weighing different aspects of a probable result against harm or injury. See, I told you I wrote fiction! The real answer is car surfing. That’s an underrated sport of standing on a car roof while the driver speeds down a road. Those that survive go on to do other spectacularly stupid things.

I believe that’s why TikTok was invented. To display the “other spectacularly stupid things” people do.

Why do you live where you live?

I live in Floral City, which is probably the last of the cattle country in western Florida. I live here because that’s where the state sent me when I was a trooper. Prior to that, I lived in Brandon, because the Marines sent me to Central Command. Prior to that, we lived in Japan, because that’s where the Marines sent me. The fact is, someone else is always telling me where to go. Particularly those who review my books. Since retirement from the Marines, the State, and academia, I kind of like not having to move for once. So sleepy little Floral City is fine….for now.

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

I am a voracious reader. In that light, I find myself having to limit my searches to at least four stars and good reviews. 

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

Romans 1:19-20. The universe is a revelation of God. For me, it is a reminder that for all the supposed intelligence we think we have, God and His creation remain a testament to His Glory.  Further, and this really comes out in my writing, we remain small, minuscule players in a much larger cosmic drama.  Ernest K. Gann wrote in his book, Fate is the Hunter, “For all our technological prowess we remained small and insignificant men who stink in the sun.”

To further elaborate, my favorite verses change over time with me. Occasionally one can hear me shout, “Oh, that’s what that means.” It's been a process over time. 

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

This is kind of a difficult question for me. If I had to do it all over again, me being a gazillionaire would be kind of cool. But….then I would have to give up something I did. I am not sure that I would be willing to trade the places I went or the things I did for something else. On top of that, I would have to relinquish working with and knowing some of the greatest people our country has ever produced. I was never a hero, but I met quite a few. Interestingly, the real heroes never bragged about what they did. In fact, they kind of acted a little embarrassed about it. I had adult beverages with Michael Durant who was the helicopter pilot shot down and captured by the Somali insurgents. Two Delta Force operators died and subsequently earned the Medal of Honor for their actions to save him. This is all detailed in the movie Blackhawk Down. I found him to be thoughtful and humble. A common man violently thrust into extraordinary circumstances. 

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

My biggest kick in life is helping others. Looking back I see a trend of service to a nation, to a state, to a community, to the church, etc. That’s why I really like the writing community. I get to read other believers' books, steal their ideas (just kidding) and learn from them. I like the Word Weavers format, and while I have no interest in being an editor, I do enjoy beta reading for others and offering hopefully good advice. To that point, the Word Weavers of Lake County (FL) have been one of the best and biggest blessings in my life. Below grandkids but certainly above mowing the yard. 

This is another weird thing about me. I am not on social media for the most part.  But, I can be reached at Ephesian Sunsets will come out later this year.

Readers, you can find Tom's books on Amazon, so check them out, and if you have questions, or if you want to find out if and when he will have social media, a newsletter, etc., send him a quick note via email.

Thanks for stopping by, and as always, May God Bless America, but more importantly, May America Bless God first.



PS - And just in case you didn't know, Kevin's Blake Meyer Thriller series is getting a reboot! Book 1, 30 Days Hath Revenge, came out in April 2023! Book 2, Triple Time, will be out very, very soon (by the middle of June)! Books 3, 4, 5, & 6 will be out this year! You can keep track by visiting his website:!

A Clandestine Mission.
A Cryptic Message.
A Chaste Moment.

Blake Meyer dreamed of a peaceful end to a dutiful career with the FBI. Married now, his life was taking him in a new direction – a desk job. He would be an analyst. Ride it out until retirement. Be safe so he could enjoy family life.

But when a notable member of the IRA is murdered in his London flat, Blake’s secretive past propels him into middle of an international scheme so twisted and sadistic, it will take everything Blake possesses – all of it – to save the United States from a diabolical terrorist attack.

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!