Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Author Behind the Story Series - Liz Tolsma

It's hard to believe summer is almost officially here (although for those of us in Florida, it's been here for a while). We started out as a tinderbox. Now we are about to start looking for Noah's Ark on the horizon. Dry one minute. Flooding rains the next. That's what we get for invading a swamp, I guess.

And should I note that we are nearly at the "six months until Christmas" stage of the year? Consider it a public service announcement. :-) 

It's also hard to believe that this is installment #6 of my Author Behind the Story series! How times flies!

This month, we want to welcome veteran author Liz Tolsma!

So, Liz, tell our audience, in 30-seconds or less, who Liz Tolsma is. Go!

I’m Liz Tolsma, a historical-writing, researching-loving, book-devouring, dog-crazy, gardening nut of an author who loves God, my high school sweetheart hubby, and our three children. I’m happiest in the woods or in or on the water – that is, when I’m not chained to my computer.


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?

The notion first struck me when I was in the fifth grade (I’m not saying how long ago that was), when my teacher told me she hoped I would be a published authress someday. Though my life took detours into school teaching and raising a family, it was an idea I couldn’t get out of my head.

Interesting. I too am in education. Makes me wonder how many authors have been accomplished educators, dabbled in it for a short time, or were in the middle somewhere before chasing this dream. Speaking of education, what is your educational background?

I started my college career at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania in the speech pathology department. After a semester, it was clear to me that wasn’t what I really wanted out of life, so I changed my major to elementary education and transferred to Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois. I chose those schools because they were colleges true to the Reformed faith. It was important to me to have a solid Christian education before I went out into the world, to have a biblical foundation for the rest of my life. I’ve never regretted that decision, and I’m thrilled that my daughter is going to be following in my footsteps.

Are you married? Single? Have kids?

My husband and I were high school sweethearts who endured four years of long-distance dating while we were in college. We’ve been married for twenty-eight years, and God blessed us with three beautiful children through international adoption. Our oldest and only son is 22 and serves as a U.S. Marine. We brought him home from Vietnam when he was 5 months old. Our daughter will be a high school senior in the fall and came home from Korea when she was 3 months old. And our youngest daughter came home from the Philippines when she was 5 years old. She has multiple physical and cognitive delays. We call her our “lifer” because she’ll always live with us, but she brings us so much joy.

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 Food: chocolate
Favorite Drink: decaf Chai spice tea
Favorite Song: that changes from day to day. Right now, it’s probably Slow Down by Nichole Nordeman.
Favorite Non-Fiction Book (other than your own & besides the Bible): Inside Out by Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck.
Favorite Bible Verse: Romans 8:37-39
Favorite Movie: Pride and Prejudice. The one with Keira Knightly
Favorite Actor or Actress: Tom Hanks
Favorite Novel (other than your own): That’s like asking me to pick my favorite child because I love so many!
Favorite Novelist (other than you): See previous answer ;)
Favorite Sport: baseball
Favorite Team (Can be any sport, any level): My daughter’s high school volleyball team because they endured a tough, tough season with grace and dignity.
Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: English and history
Favorite Subject Now: English and history
Favorite Teacher in School: Mrs. Rice, the teacher who inspired me to write
Favorite Time of the Year: fall
Favorite Place to Vacation: on a beach.


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?

Mary. I’d love to find out what her life was like, raising a child like our Lord. It would be a fascinating discussion.

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

I battled breast cancer at the time my first book was released and I was editing the second and writing the third. It taught me that I’m stronger than I thought I was and that I can handle the pressures of being a published author better than I thought I could. Even with the fatigue that came with my treatments, I was able to meet all my deadline. I also discovered that I have an amazing, supportive family who wants this for me as much as I want it for myself.

What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?

Lots of people thought we were crazy for going to Vietnam in 1995, just 20 years after the war. We were warned we would get a very chilly reception since we were going to be in Hanoi, in the north. Nothing could have been further from the truth. We were welcomed with opened arms and fell in love with the country. I'd like to do something even crazier some day and live there for six months or so.

Why do you live where you live?

I live in Wisconsin because this is where I’ve been since I was 8. My husband and I love the quiet countryside, the beauty of this state, and the changing of the seasons (though our enthusiasm for winter is waning the older we get). It’s hard for me to imagine myself living anywhere else.

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?

It’s hard for me to pick out one book. I don’t really read non-fiction, so I don’t have any “self-help” books that I’ve grown from, but I do read quite a bit of Christian fiction. The books always have such strong themes and messages, and I glean a little bit of knowledge about myself from each one. In the characters, I see myself reflected, and I grow and learn from that.

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

It has to be in the country, on some acreage where I can’t see my neighbors. It must be warm and inviting, and something I could make my own. My husband and I aren’t against fixing up homes because when we’re done, then they reflect our own personal style. I have to have central air, solid surface counters, hardwood floors, and lots of storage.

Funny you should mention those things. My wife and I are in the midst of looking for a new home in a new location. We keep going back to the mountains of North Carolina in our searches, looking for many of the same things you listed. Of course, that's if a condo on the beach doesn't work out! And judging by your answers, you probably get that sentiment, too.


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


Romans 8:28, which reads, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” When I was struggling with infertility, the Bible study I was attending studied this verse one week. It was the same week that another woman just my age announced her second pregnancy and someone else asked for prayer for their 16-year-old niece who was pregnant. I had reached my breaking point, and clearly told God I thought this was all very unfair. The Holy Spirit brought this verse to mind, especially the words “all things”. I questioned him several times to make sure I understood that this meant absolutely everything in life, even infertility. He continued to emphasize all things. That’s when I was able to come to terms with the fact I would never have a biological child and was able to embrace adoption as the way to build our family.


Liz, it's been a pleasure having you as part of our Author Behind the Story series!

Readers, you can get or stay in touch with Liz in the following ways:

Her Official Website: www.liztolsma.com
Her Blog for Writers: Pencildancer 
Her Blog for Life in the Midwest: Midwest Almanac 

(With all those pages, makes you wonder how she finds time to write, right?)


Hope everyone has enjoyed the time together with Liz!

Until next time, May God bless you and America, and may you and America bless God!

Kevin 

You can visit Kevin @ www.ckevinthompson.com

A Blake Meyer Thriller - Book 1
A Blake Meyer Thriller - Book 2

Kevin's Selah Award-winning Debut Novel
coming out in second edition June 22!






Monday, June 12, 2017

Confessions of a Middle School Administrator (An ACFW Blog)



Like many of my writing colleagues, I have two jobs. The one I had when I entered this crazy business we call “writing,” and the job of being an author, marketer, bookseller, and all the other hats we authors wear. For me, one is by day, and one is by night. The first one “pays the bills,” and I often hope the second one will usurp the role of the first one someday.

At least, that is what I’ve been saying since my first book was published.


Read on...






Friday, May 26, 2017

Welcome to the Cuckoo's Nest (A Seriously Write blog)




I just got done with another session of Saturday School. The last one of this school year, actually (I’m writing this on May 20th). As an assistant principal of a public middle school, I must point out that there are other pieces to the educational puzzle besides reading, writing, and arithmetic. Acceptable behavior in a group setting is a biggie. Classroom disruptions derail the academic process, which is why we get together in the first place.

Unfortunately, in a society that is slowly lessening the consequences of laws and rules day by day, it’s harder to get students to understand why certain behaviors are unacceptable, especially in a school setting. I mean, they go home and hear parents and relatives talk that way, so why can’t they? They hear the profane language in the movies they watch and the music piping through their ear buds. So, why Mr. Administrator, Mrs. Teacher, do you have a problem with it?

Read on...






Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Author Behind the Story Series - Janet Grunst


Greetings from the sunny South! If we do not get some rain soon, it will be the Sahara West!

It's the second Wednesday of the month. That means it's time for another page in our "Author Behind the Story" series! This marks interview #5 of the series. I hope everyone has enjoyed the series so far as much as I have. It's fun getting to know new people. It's even more fun getting to know the authors behind the titles I see on Amazon, Facebook, the store shelves of Barnes & Noble, your local, independent bookstore, and elsewhere. A book title and cover is great, especially when it's a great cover. But who is the person who wrote the pages in between? That's why we're here. So, when you finish reading this page, you can scroll down our home page and catch the rest of the series!

This month, we welcome - to the blog "Where imagination meets eternity" (drum roll, please) - Author Janet Grunst! 

Welcome, Janet! So, here we go! Give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Janet Grunst?

I grew up in a Navy family and had the opportunity to live in many different locations, mostly on the west coast and east coast, but also in Spain. I was fortunate to be able to live most of my adult life in Virginia – my favorite place of all.

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’d worked in the mortgage lending and banking industry prior to having children and knew that when the time came for me to seek employment outside the home I wanted to work in ministry. In my mid-thirties as a stay-at-home mom of two little boys I began writing two special interest columns in local papers. In one of the columns, I interviewed people in town who ran home-based businesses. It was fascinating to discover the creative things people came up with to market from their homes. That’s when the dream of writing fiction began to dog me. Could I write fiction while taking care of my children? God made a way.

That's cool. What educational background do you have?

I went to high school in Los Altos, CA and then to San Diego State for college. It was in the midst of the Vietnam War, and San Diego seemed a less hostile place for a conservative girl with a military background. I left before completing college because I was engaged to someone serving in Vietnam. When he got out of the Army, I worked in the banking industry so he could complete his college education.

So, what is your marital status? And do you have a family?

My husband and I were married in 2003. We met through Community Bible Study, the ministry I was employed in and in which we had both served for many years. Ken had a grown daughter, and I had grown sons. His son-in-law is a Colonel in the Army, my oldest son is a Commander in the Navy, and my youngest son is a Major in the National Guard in addition to being an intelligence officer in his civilian job. Ken has two grandchildren, and I have eight grandchildren, four of which are 15 month old quadruplets.   

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 Food:   healthy~ fish———less healthy~ popcorn
Favorite Drink: healthy~coffee/ice water————less healthy~diet Coke
Favorite Song:   Mary, Did You Know
Favorite Non-Fiction Book (other than your own & besides the Bible): Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
Favorite Bible Verse: But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” John 1:12  (It helped me to mature to being a receiver, not just a believer — from religion to relationship.)
Favorite Movie: There’s a tie 1. Pride and Prejudice (The 1995 version – most like the book – absolutely delicious!) 2. Ben Hur (The 1959 version)
Favorite Actor or Actress: That’s tough. There are many. Charlton Heston, Susan Hayward
Favorite Novel (other than your own): Pride and Prejudice
Favorite Novelist (other than you): Jane Austen
Favorite Sport: To watch – golf. To do – walking
Favorite Team (Can be any sport, any level): The US Naval Academy – Go Navy ~ Beat Army!!!
Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: History & English
Favorite Subject Now: History
Favorite Teacher in School: Can’t pick a favorite
Favorite Time of the Year: Living in Williamsburg, VA ~ it’s all good
Favorite Place to Vacation: Great Britain and Ireland

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? 

Milton Hershey, a man who continually failed in business, before he created his chocolate empire. He built a town, homes, hospital, and schools for his employees and the needy.

I didn't know that about him. I just know he's been responsible for my weight gain over the years. I wonder if he'd build me my own Planet Fitness???

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?   

The Apostle John, a man with many answers about the future.

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

In late 1993 I had to put aside my writing for many years because my life circumstances required I return to full time employment while raising two sons on my own. God was very gracious and answered an earlier prayer. I was able to get a job in ministry. Years later, with my husband’s encouragement, I returned to pursuing writing.

Why do you live where you live? 

We left northern Virginia eleven years ago to get away from the congestion and traffic. Williamsburg, VA, part of the historic triangle of Virginia (Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown), was our retirement destination. It is a charming and interesting college town (The College of William & Mary – the second oldest college in America). It’s not far from the Richmond, Virginia Beach, the mountains, the beach, and rural countryside. It has a small town atmosphere in the best sense yet is also sophisticated as people from all over retire here. 

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?

One of my favorite devotionals that I read periodically is 31 Days of Praise by Ruth Meyer
It really inspires and motivates me to be intentional about praising God in all circumstances. In the early nineties, when I was experiencing many trials, I discovered it improved my attitude as I faced each challenge.   

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

My husband and I designed the home we live in to meet our specific needs and wants. It is a ranch style with a walk-out basement and it overlooks a pond and two golf fairways. Ken is a golfer and a luthier, (a guitar builder) and wanted a large workshop in the basement with lots of light and a storage area for his woods. My writing space is on the main level at the opposite end of the house. Given that we are both introverts, it works beautifully for us. J

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

I enjoy reading historical novels, biographies, non-fiction, and history books. I’m usually drawn to them because it’s a subject I’m interested in reading.

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

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9  It’s a powerful reminder that no matter what I am facing, that the Lord is always with me.

Janet, it has been a pleasure meeting you. Thank you for taking the time to be  part of our blog series. May God bless your writing endeavors!

If you wish to connect with Janet, you can find her here:


Until next time, 

Kevin


Friday, April 28, 2017

The Dark Side of Writing (A Seriously Write Blog)


All new writers believe writing to be one thing: writing. Create a story. Write a treatise. Get it published. Write the next story or dissertation. Get it published. Rinse and repeat. Again and again.

But alas, there is a power afoot which disrupts this creative flow.

Welcome to The Dark Side of Writing.





Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Author Behind the Story Series - Penny Shane Richards

Greetings from the sunny South! 

It's the second Wednesday of the month. That means it's time for another page in our "Author Behind the Story" series! This marks Interview #4 of the series. I hope everyone has enjoyed this series so far as much as I have. It's fun getting to know new people. It's even more fun getting to know the authors behind the titles I see on Amazon, Facebook, and elsewhere. A book title and cover is great, especially when it's a great cover. But who is the person who wrote the pages in between? That's why we're here! So, when you finish reading this page, you can scroll down and catch the rest of the series!


This month, we welcome - to the blog "Where imagination meets eternity" (drum roll, please...) - Penny Shane Richards!




Give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Penny Richards? 

Among a few other things, I’ve worked as an interior decorator, store clerk, short-order cook, caterer, B&B owner, and florist’s helper. I love my God, my small town, learning new things, forensics, and anything creative. I believe in all the old-fashioned values of hard work, respecting people and property, fairness and honesty.

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

I was in high school, had always been a voracious reader, wrote poetry and liked to draw.

What educational background do you have?

I finished my first year of high school in Illinois, and then my family moved to Hot Springs, AR, my sophomore year, where I graduated. I had no desire to go to college, plus, back then, mostly the smart/or rich kids went. I had the grades, but I would have hated it. I was extremely shy back in those days. My high school offered something called Diversified Occupation, and you could take several different things for very little money.  I thought I wanted to be a nurse, but my grandmother was horrified and said, “I’ll pay for beauty school if you take that.” I said, “Okay!” LOL So I went to beauty school my junior and senior years in the afternoons and a month in the summer. It’s come in handy through the years.

I also finished a two-year long correspondence course from Chicago School of Interior Decoration when my kiddos were small. Very intense, but I could work at my own pace. I’ve used that a lot through the years, since my husband and I flipped mobile homes and houses before it was the going “thing.”

I’m also a Master Gardener.

Ugh. Gardening. Lawn Work. Landscaping. Those are all four-letter words to me. I know some people love it. They say, "Oh, it's my therapy working in the garden or the yard." After I work in my yard, I need therapy. Physical. Psychological. Spiritual. The gamut. So, my hat's off to you if your a Master Gardener. Now, next question. 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 Food: Country cooking, though I don’t turn down much of anything.
Favorite Drink: Sweet tea. I may be Northern born, but am a Southerner through and through.
Favorite Song: “Poeme” by Giovanni. It is so beautiful it makes me cry when I hear it.
Favorite Non-Fiction Book (other than your own & besides the Bible): DEVIL IN A WHITE CITY
Favorite Bible Verse: In His favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Psalms 30:5
Favorite Movie: ROB ROY. It is the story of an honorable man and shows what true love is.
Favorite Actor or Actress: Paul Newman
Favorite Novel (other than your own): THE MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH. It’s rich in historical information, has a very different, complicated heroine, mystery and story line.
Favorite Novelist (other than you): Ariana Franklin. Author of the above book.
Favorite Sport: Baseball or golf. I had grandsons who played both.
Favorite Team (Can be any sport, any level): St. Louis Cardinals, baseball
Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: English
Favorite Subject Now: History
Favorite Teacher in School: All of my English teachers.
Favorite Time of the Year: Autumn. I like the colors, and the fact that the earth is getting ready to rest for a time.
Favorite Place to Vacation: A lake somewhere. I’m not a fan of the ocean, hot sun, or rugged, rocky mountains. I like green, and shade and lakes and creeks so clear you can see the bottom.


           
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?  

That’s a hard one. Margaret Thatcher?

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?  

Mary, the mother of Jesus. I’d like to know what He was like as a child.

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

Trying to keep my career going while also helping my husband with his business. We were always self-employed, and I worked side by side with him most of the time. Also, trying to balance my work and family. I didn’t always do the best job with that.

What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?   

This was VERY scary to me. In 1991, my agent contacted me and said he had a client who had started a mainstream novel about a woman trying to break through the glass ceiling in big business. This man was a world renowned seventy-something scientist/businessman (helped develop the intercontinental ballistic missile, TRW to name a couple of his accomplishments) who wrote non-fiction books related to his work. Would I be interested in working with him since he had no idea how to write fiction? Uh, yeah! At that time, my mainstream novel about horse racing had won the Reader’s Choice Award for Best Single Title. So, we read each other’s work to see if we thought we would be compatible. He flew me to Los Angeles for four days, and we worked together, plotting and working out the kinks.  This was HUGE for me, since I am a fraidy cat when it comes to doing something like that.  I don’t think  I left my room unless it was to have breakfast with him. The work was a true collaboration. He provided all the business/technical/ “insider” type of information to me on cassette tape, and I transcribed what I needed and did the actual writing.
            We spent six months getting about 140 pages and a synopsis ready. It was sent to various houses, but unfortunately our agent got very ill, was out of the office for almost half a year and the agent handling his clients didn’t do us a very good job. Meeting and working with Dr. Simon Ramo (shameless name dropping) was one of the highlights of my career and my life. I could call him at any time and get put right through…unless he was talking to Bush the first which he did every day during the Gulf War. My brush with true fame.

Why do you live where you live? 

I live in a small Arkansas town of less than 300 people and LOVE it! I don’t like cities and traffic and hustle and bustle. I can leave my UPS packages at the local printers to pick up. People know you by name. This place is very supportive and has some wonderful people.

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? 

My son gave me a copy of JESUS CALLING by Sarah Young almost five years ago. There is nothing in it that I don’t know as a Christian, but it helps remind me of certain things, and it’s relevant every year, no matter what’s going on in my life. There are days it is so on target that I sometimes think God shuffles the devotionals so I’ll read a certain one just when I need it! I can’t tell you how many I’ve bought the book and given to others.

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

No subdivisions! Trees, trees, trees! A little land is good. I’m not too picky, because I can see the potential in any wreck of a house and love working on them.

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

Nothing new. Dave Ramsay made a believer out of me. As long as it looks reasonably okay, has four wheels, air and heat, I’m good to go. I’m not one who is after status in home, car, clothes, etc. I’m just simple, plain old me.

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

I like to read almost anything, including non-fiction. I love reading Medieval historical mysteries, and psychological thrillers. I’ll pick up a genre I don’t normally read if it’s recommended.

Are you married? Single? Have kids?

I’m a widow for more than 4 years now. My husband and I were married 50 ½ years. I’m the mother of two boys (both of whom are grandparents now) and one daughter (ditto), grandmother of nine, and great grandmother of 3 ornery, precious little boys, 4, 7 and 9.

I’m sorry for your loss, Penny. I'm sure the Bible has helped you over the years deal with your loss. What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?

“My grace is sufficient to you.”

This line seemed to be spoken in my mind at a time I was going through a very difficult time. I was having a lot of trouble forgiving someone who had hurt me and mine badly. I cried almost all the time, and didn’t sleep. When I heard those words in my head out of the blue, my world seemed to shift back into place and I was able to forgive and move on.

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

Even after writing and selling more than 40 books, I’m still very insecure about my work and worry that it will fall short.  As a dear friend of mine once said, “the book in my head is never what comes out on the page.”


I like that because I can relate. You always feel like it could be better, too. Well, Penny, it's been a pleasure having you on my blog site. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and give us a picture of the person behind the many titles you have produced so far. Take care, and may God continue to bless your writing!

Dear Reader, if you want to get to know Penny more, you can visit her here:


Twitter: @pennyRwrites

Facebook: Penny Richards, Author, Lilly Long

Until next time, God Bless you, and may you Bless God!

Kevin




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