Hope you all are having a wonderful week. I'd like to introduce you to another great author who I interviewed here on The Mustard Seed. 

Let's meet Staci Stallings...

A stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from.  Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again.  Every title is a new adventure!  That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading.  Although she lives in Amarillo, Texas and her main career right now is her family, Staci touches the lives of people across the globe every week with her various Internet endeavors including:

Books In Print, Kindle, & FREE on Spirit Light Works:
Connect with Staci on her blog
Spirit Light Books--The Blog

Follow Staci on Twitter @StaciStallings

Come on over for a visit…
You’ll feel better for the experience! 

Staci, can you tell us more about your book, The Price of Silence?

Where do you turn when the watching eyes are everywhere? Where do you go when no place is safe? Who do you turn to when saying anything could get someone killed? Who can you trust when “they” could be anyone?

Robyn Lockhart liked her simple but predictable life in the small Iowa town she grew up in. But when her mother moves them to the big city, Robyn has no choice but to brave the tumultuous high school she’s thrust into. Then, with barely a blink and as an outsider looking in, Robyn begins asking questions that no one seems willing to face. Is it possible to stay silent while simultaneously shouting from the rooftops that something is deadly wrong? And if you shout, beyond those watching every move you make, who will even hear?

99 cents at:  Purchase Link for The Price of Silence on Kindle
99 cents at:  Purchase Link for The Price of Silence on Nook

Staci, thank you for sharing. Sounds like a very intriguing book! 

Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?

My second grade teacher, who I adored, told me I was a great writer after I finished a story about Rudolph the Red Nosed-Reindeer.  Since I thought she hung the moon, of course, I decided I was going to be a writer.  I’m sure there was some natural talent and enjoyment there already, but that was when I knew writing was for me.  And I never looked back.  In high school, I did writing contests—ready writing and two types of journalism.  I thought I would be a journalist, but in college, I realized that wasn’t for me.

So I taught English for three years and then quit to have my family.  At home with a baby and thousands of hours on my hands, I turned back to writing—this time doing novels.  That was in ’96, and I’ve been at it ever since.

What was the inspiration for your latest work of fiction? 

My newest book is called “The Price of Silence.”  When I was student teaching, a student brought a gun to the classroom right next to me and threatened two other students during class by showing it to them.  It was only in talking with the other student teacher that I found out about it.  That made me wonder how many other guns and dangers there were at school that I didn’t know about.  Then when I was teaching for real, I had a gun brought to my own class though I didn’t know about it until later.  It was hidden in a backpack, and the student showed it to another student during the following class.

In the second incident, a student of mine saw the gun during the next class and told the administration.  The handling of it from there forward was pitiful.  It was as if no one had any kind of plan.  The student who alerted authorities was threatened and eventually left school.  Two years later the student who brought the gun was on trial for murder.  I just always thought, “What happens to kids in that situation?  What do you do when you know something bad is happening?  Who do you tell?  And what if you tell but they don’t do anything about it?  Where does that leave the student?”

That’s where “The Price of Silence” started.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

For the most part, my characters come from my imagination.  I do use real actors and actresses though.  I find it easier if I have someone to watch and look at.  When I start a book, I pull a bunch of photos off of the ‘net.  I will put together ProShow “trailers” combining music with those photos.  These jog things in my mind like the actor’s fashion sense.  What does he wear?  What does he look good in?  T-shirts?  Pin-stripes?  Of course, this has to fit the character, but most of the time the two are a mesh.

Further, with an anchor character (the dominant of the hero or heroine), I will watch movies with that person in it or concerts if it’s a musician.  I watch for mannerisms and little things—a favorite piece of jewelry, a particular color, the way they smile—things like that.  Then I try to incorporate those into the story.  For example, one musician I followed would “roll” his wristband during interviews.  I realized it was his “tell” that he was nervous.  So I put that into his character.

I try not to use too many real people from my real life.  If I do and it’s obvious, I get their permission because I’d hate for them to realize it was them and then see their character get smashed in a car wreck or something.  They might think I was wishing that on them.

How do you go from an idea for a book to the birth of the story?  Is the process the same for every book you write?  How long does it take you to write a book? 

I have written 30 novels.  No two of them have been just alike.  Some sit in my brain and “stew” for months, sometimes even years.  Others I get the idea or have a dream, and the next morning I’ve written 12 pages.  I used to stress out about that lack of consistency, but I don’t any more.  Now I just know that every book is going to be God asking me to trust Him again. Every book, like every person, will have its own personality.  If I had a method, I would try to force everything into that method.  For me, that just doesn’t work.  I have to let God do it the way He wants to and trust that it’s going to work.

Every book is also different in how long it takes me to write it.  The fastest I’ve ever written one was 30 days.  That was like lightning.  There was one I wrote in 7 years.  That was like molasses, but when I got to the end of that one, I knew why God had me wait.  I didn’t know the pieces God gave me along the way.  Had I forced it, it would not have been the same book and it would not have led right into the 2nd and 3rd book the way it naturally did.

I have one right now that I’ve been working on for about 10 years.  Will it ever be done?  Good question.  I hope so.  But I just keep taking the steps God asks me to take trusting He’s going to get me where I’m supposed to be going.

Very inspirational outlook. I totally agree about trusting God to give you the stories and help inspire you. Are you currently working on any new book projects?

I’m usually working on around six new books at a time.  But the one I’m most into at the moment is about a writer who falls for a coffee waitress.  When we first meet Jake McCoy, he is stashed in the corner of a coffeehouse working on his newest book.  I knew immediately that this guy was a loner.  He lives in New York City but has no friends.  He wears a dark, woolen coat and talks to no one.  The waitress and her co-worker have been fascinated with him.  Liz takes the first step by trying to strike up a conversation.  It is very slow going from there.

However, as I wrote this book, I began to realize there was more to Jake’s reticence than just being a loner.  There was a reason he was a loner.  It was when he refused to let me see what was on his laptop that I began to know there was more to the story.  About the same time I was working on the beginning of this story, my son was diagnosed with dyslexia.  When I got back to my story, it hit me.  Jake was dyslexic!  Sure enough, I had written about 50 pages that only made sense with this piece that I hadn’t even known when I started.

This story has been fun and challenging because I’m writing the story Jake is writing inside of writing the story I’m writing.  That’s been interesting.

Sounds very interesting. What is your favorite work of literary fiction and why?  Do you have a favorite literary author?

I am not going to say I’m a big fan of the wording and writing of Shakespeare, but his grasp of human proclivities is spot on.  The problem with Shakespeare is that teachers don’t always understand it and those that do love to get into the poetry of the words.  That’s okay, but for me, I love the stories.  I love the understanding of how “insane” a person can look when they are trying to make sense of a life that doesn’t make sense like in Hamlet.  Or a “friend” who is using the friendship against you like in Othello.  Or how when you go with ambition, you can be led to become a destructive person which then imbeds in your soul so that you can’t “get it out” like in Macbeth.

Shakespeare understood people.  He got how people act and react based on what they know rather than on what’s actually real.  This causes so much tragedy sometime devolving into madness.  He wrote about broken people, people who were trying to make sense of life but failing miserably.  The only thing I wish he would have added in is where God would fit into all of this human tragedy.  That’s what I try to do with those same broken people.

What’s your writing schedule like?  When do you find time to write?

Chaos ordered by God.  I don’t have a schedule at all.  With three kids, a husband, two businesses, a house, two large extended families, two schools, friends, and a church, my life to anyone looking in would amount to complete chaos.  Add to all of that, I help other authors with editing and learning.  Plus I do marketing for the books that are out, and I write a blog twice a week...  So there are no two days that are the same.  I may write 30 pages in a day and then not write again for a month.  I have six books going, so I don’t always even work on the same one consecutively. 

For me, I write when I write, and I write what God leads me to write at any one time.  I have found that God will all of a sudden give me an hour or so to write, and I do.  But it’s all on His timing not mine.  You would think this would be impossible, that it would make me crazy, but I’ve found it much more peaceful than trying to force anything to work.  When I tried to schedule, I was stressed out all the time because my schedule never worked.  So now, I go where God is working, knowing He’s working there because that’s where He leads me.

Great plan to go where God leads. Always trying to do the same. How have your friends and family received your career as an author?  Are they supportive?

My friends are extremely supportive.  I also have several young readers—in my daughter’s high school class—who are beyond supportive.  In fact, they read the last book I wrote as I wrote it!  That’s what I’ve found… my friends who are readers push me.  They want to read the next book.  They have their favorites, and they will die on a hill for those favorites.  My latest book “The Price of Silence” is one of those.  I have a friend who has bugged me for five years to put this one out.  It was her that made sure this one got out.

I have another friend who read the very first book I wrote back in ’96.  Every time she sees me, she asks when I’m going to put that one out!

My oldest daughter just started reading my books in January, and she devoured one a week for about two months.  While she and her friends were then reading the book I was writing as I was writing it, she came home one day.  I had written 20 pages that day.  She said, “What?! Only 20 pages?  Come on, Mom.  Can’t you write any faster than that?”  I guess you would call that supportive.

Love it! Staci, thanks so much for stopping by today. I enjoyed chatting with you and learning more about you and your books. 

Hope you all are having a great day today. Winfield H. Strock is here at The Mustard Seed to share about his writing journey. Let's meet Winfield...

Can you share a little about yourself?

After a successful 23 years as a navy submariner I struggled for a new career and identity.  A massive brain tumor taught me the importance of love, faith and hope.  With my bride of twenty-five years beside me, I plunge headlong into my second love, writing.

Adventures Above the Aether Blog

Why I became a Writer

Growing up with my head in the clouds, I’ve largely been happiest alone with my thoughts and dreams.  As strange as I seemed to other kids, they seemed equally strange to me.  I could not understand the allure of their interests.  My imagination served as my longest and closest best friend.  We enjoyed each other’s company more than baseball, wrestling, or fishing.  Exceptions came occasionally.

With few close friends and fewer prospects for employment in West Virginia, I joined the navy.  Eventually I set aside my imagination for ‘more important’ things.  I kept my daydreaming to myself.
When I finished my naval career I didn’t easily slip into a second career.  I jumped from job to job.  Once I could confidently and proudly tell people, “I’m a submariner,” or, “I’m a chief in the navy.”  Without those labels, without that uniform; I felt lost, without an identity.

As a hotel desk clerk, in the middle of the night, I searched for ways to stay awake while simultaneously seeking a new career and a new identity.  If only I might turn my daydreaming distracted mind to some useful purpose.  On of my few epiphanies struck.  I know, I’ll write.

Clueless and thrilled I wrote.  Long solitary nights behind the hotel desk became therapeutic and productive.

Bills piled up so I changed jobs often, each time earning more, each time writing less. 

A brain tumor diagnosis sent my life for a loop.  Again I wrote less.

December 5th 2007; a lengthy surgery and a short coma later I emerged altered.  Aside from the obvious physical changes, my spirit also changed.  I didn’t know it then.  I denied it any time my actions came into question.  Early in my new life denial reigned supreme. 

Only in retrospect, years down the road I looked back amazed.  The paths chosen provided irrefutable evidence.  I left the hospital a different person.  Some say I’ve become emotionally immature.  They might be right in general.  Passionate conversations come more readily.  The rudder of my heart makes tighter turns, leaving a larger wake.  The biggest, the best alteration in my life’s perception came with a deepened desire to pursue my passions.  My love for my wife ran deeper and my drive to write burned brighter.

One day I spied a poster; a writer’s workshop.  Giddily I go.  Reading my work to others for the first time set me all aquiver.  Patiently they listened.  Anxiously I heard their critique afterward.  My clumsy first works garnered few positive reviews.  Well imagined tales failed to leap from my mind to the page without losing something along the way.

Driving home from those initial meetings I recognized the first sign of being on the right track by writing.  Most times I tried learning something new, initial failures dashed my hopes and deflated my desire.  This time critical commentary excited me.  Instead of stinging, the exposed flaws offered hope.  Though awful at first, I sought to salvage each sliver of universal truth from the trash heap.  Each encounter helped hone my skills and sharpen the focus of my story’s purpose.

As my fervor grew to write I also diversified my projects.  I put aside my science fiction manuscript and wrote short stories on a variety of subjects.  I wrote articles for my company’s newsletter and the local newspaper.

Looking back now I smile.  Writing seems so obvious a path.  My identity lost is now an identity proudly found.  And now as a writer a new dream dawns.  I dream of others reading my work and falling in love with my characters as I have.  I dream of putting a smile on a reader’s face, a tear on their cheek, and a gasp in their throat. 

Winfield, thank you so much for sharing your writing journey and letting us know why you write. Very inspiring story.

If your book was made into a movie, which actors do you see portraying your characters?

a. For the lead role, Pittsburgh reporter and Civil War veteran, Solomon Hanson:  Chris Evans.  I’m looking for a hero who can balance action and a sharp sense of humor.  Any guy that makes Captain America look that good has my vote.

b. British doctor, explorer, Henry Wells:  David Hyde Pierce.  His role as Frazier’s brother as well as his voice acting for ‘The Amazing Screw-On Head’ nailed it for me.  He has a calm presence in the midst of chaos.  He seems able to portray a man smitten by a woman whose desires he no longer satisfies.

c. The doctor’s wife, assistant, and love interest for my lead Regina Wells:  Karen Gillan.  Regina Wells is more woman than her husband Henry can manage.  Solomon Hanson’s frontier experience makes him an ideal partner for the brave and bold Regina.  This Scottish actress portrays the courageous Amy Pond in Dr. Who.  Opposite the iconic doctor Karen’s character shines a light of her own on the adventures they take through time.  Her beauty, courage, and calm in the midst of adversity make her the perfect choice. 

d. Russian engineer and revolutionary Nikolai Kibalchich:  Colin Farrell.  An intense misunderstood man who’s lost touch with his humanity; I figure who better to pull this off?

e. Bodyguard and mercenary, Claude Dufresne: Mark Strong.  This guy shows a silent strength indicative of the character.  He’s scary, in a good way.

f. Bankroller, expedition’s ‘leader’ and coward, Julian Turleau:  Gene Hackman. While all smiles at the dinner table, Julian bites off more than intended with his unfathomable expedition.  Dustin’s age is about right and he plays the agitated ‘man in over his head’ well.

Sounds like some great actors and reasons why you'd think they'd play the parts well. Where is the most exotic place you’ve ever traveled to?  

In the navy, aboard a nuclear powered submarine, we set out to sea and weathered a hurricane from hundreds of feet below the waves.

Not sure I could ever go in a submarine...I've very claustrophobic. What was the setting for the most romantic scene you’ve ever written?  

In a world devoid of men, Nikolai regains his humanity in a tender moment with a lunar native.  He share a passionate kiss and in the process renews his own appreciation for love. 

Can you tell us about your book, Adventures Above the Aether?
What secrets justify hiding from history mankind’s first foray into space?  In 1881, in an age of steel steam and innovation, an eclectic collection of adventurers gather.  As resources pour in and hints at breakthrough technologies leak out, one man is sent to investigate.

Follow Solomon ‘Hap’ Hanson, Civil War veteran and Pittsburgh reporter as he uncovers a maze of mysteries.  Deeper and darker events become.  As his story unfolds more dangerous the perils become, more rewarding the venture grows.

An enigmatic message along the way keeps Hap focused on his task:  “Save this adventure from itself.”  Who will be this voyage’s downfall?  Will it be the swarthy terse soldier, Claude?  Surely the sallow British doctor, Henry Wells, and his beautiful, brave, resourceful wife pose no threat to the voyage’s success.  The most obvious danger lies in the expedition’s most brilliant member.  Nicolai’s nihilistic views come to the fore as tensions rise and crises converge.  But as Hap joins the chaotic crew he wonders, will he see the crew and voyage to its doom?
Worlds beyond our own, Earth’s nearest celestial neighbors, beckon to be explored.  Join in the voyage textbooks cannot know happened.  Learn why such an epic event goes unwritten until the dangers of our past no longer threaten to destroy the future.  Discover the lessons learned on distant worlds a century ago which serve as harbingers of horrors hanging above our hectic globe.
Where can readers find your book online?Purchase Link for Adventures Above the Aether

Winfield, thank you so much for stopping by to share your writing journey. I enjoyed chatting with you. 
Hope you all can stick around and chat for a while. 

Happy Tuesday everyone. Welcome back to another day at The Mustard Seed. Jennifer Slattery is here today to be interviewed. 

Let's meet Jennifer...

Jennifer Slattery is the marketing manager for the literary website, Clash of the Titles. She writes for Christ tothe World Ministries, The Christian Pulse, and Samie Sisters and has written for numerous other publications. She has a short piece in Bethany House’s Love is a Flame (under a pen name) another piece in Cathy Messecar’s A Still and Quiet Soul and a third scheduled to appear in Majesty’s House’s Popcorn Miracles

You can find out more about her and her writing at her devotional blog, Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud or her writing blog Words that Keep.

Jennifer, can you share with us about your recent projects?

I recently finished a six-part mini-series for Christ to the World Ministries geared toward thirteen to nineteen year olds. In this series, we discussed peer relationships from lying to bullying.  I write radio dramas for each topic and another writer, Tanya Eavenson, writes correlating in-depth Bible studies called “Hear the Word.” Both programs are currently in the pilot stage, but I'm excited to see what God does, not only with this youth program, but with Christ to the World Ministries as they share the gospel of Christ world-wide. Readers can find out more at Christ to the World Ministries. We also welcome prayers and donations. God continues to exponentially expand Christ to the World—currently they broadcast in 23 different countries, many times in areas hostile to the gospel. It’s wonderful to know Christ’s saving message is being listened to by millions, often in the comfort of their own home, in areas where missionaries aren’t welcome.

That's an awesome ministry to be part of. Thanks for sharing. 

Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?

Actually, writing hit me by surprise. I’ve always been very passionate about outreach. When we lived in Southern California, I was involved in children’s and family ministries and I started writing stories to strengthen or illustrate various lessons. I wrote dramas and curriculum for outreach events, along with newsletters and short stories for Sunday school classes, but I never really thought about writing for writing’s sake. Until we went through a series of moves and God placed me in a position of temporary isolation. While in transition, we started attending a home church and suddenly, my opportunities to serve dwindled. There weren’t any outreach events to plan or Bible studies to lead. Needing an outlet, I poured my passion onto the page. Looking back, I believe God used that time to awaken the writer in me.

What was the inspiration for your latest work? 

For the Christ to the World material, I work on assignment. The program was chosen by ministry partners in different countries (At least, that’s what I assume).

What was the most interesting research you had to do for any of your projects? 

Since this is a contemporary youth series, I spend a fair amount of time reading secular teen magazines. Wow! As a mom, some of the stuff I read shocks me! But at the same time, it reminds me of the importance of the series we’re working on. Our teens receive so much contradictory, and often damaging, information, it’s very important they learn to interpret things through a biblical lens.

Where do you go to do your research? 

I pretty much stay home. I’m lucky that my editor, Dr. Art Criscoe, sends me whatever resources I need. And because our programs broadcast in 23 different countries and need to be culturally translatable, I also spend a great deal of time on the internet. My teen daughter helps a ton! I read each drama to her before sending it to Art, and she shares the stuff she hears at school. This helps me stay in the “teenage mindset” so to speak and allows me to keep the material relevant.

How do you go from an idea for a drama to its completion?  Is the process the same for every drama you write?  How long does it take you to write a drama? 

Normally, before I write, our “contemporary youth team” at Christ to the World gets together to brainstorm our next set of topics. Art and Larry Alston, President of Christ to the World, sent us a list of topics—76 in all—and left the order of completion largely up to us. Then, once we have our six to eight topics for a mini-series determined, I start 1) researching using the material sent by my editor, perusing parenting and youth ministry websites, reading through teen magazines, and doing a topical search through the Bible and commentary sites 2) stalking my daughter and her friends and any other teens that are within ear shot 3) I sketch out a rough idea for the scenes to make sure I can carry the plot for the entire drama—20 to 25 minutes 4) I write the rough draft 5) I time it and add or shorten as needed 6) I read it to my daughter and send it to the other team members for feedback 7) I do a final edit then send it to Art and Larry

Then they do the rest like sending the scripts to broadcast partners, finding translators, voice talent, etc.

Such an interesting process. Sounds like you really enjoy your work. Are you currently working on any new book projects?

I’m always working on a large number of things at once. Right now Joanne Sher and I are finishing the first part of a two-book tween biblical fiction devotional. I’m also in the big-picture planning stage of another novel and will soon begin my next drama series for Christ to the World.

Always great to keep busy...I know the feeling. Do you have any advice for beginning writers on how to write dramas or Bible studies?  

The most important thing when writing Christian material is to take the time to research it fully. Spend time reading through commentaries and analyze your ideas in terms of entire passages and the Bible as a whole. I’d also suggest writers spend a great deal of time in prayer.

What’s your writing schedule like?  When do you find time to write?

I spend most of my time writing, although I do work part time doing critiques and marketing for other authors. Most of my “creative writing” is done in the morning. Evenings are spent critiquing and on Saturdays I do freelance type writing.

Do you have any writing idiosyncrasies? 

Hm…. I tend to get lost in my writing world a bit and will lose track of time. One weekend my daughter and family were away and I went into my office early that morning to start on a drama. I took a break to eat sometime in the early afternoon, then next thing I knew, I glanced around and noticed it was getting dark. I’d lost track of time—like a lot of time. This can be good when I need to get writing done. Not so good when something’s in the oven or I have errands or other jobs to do.

Totally understand about losing track of time...has happened to me many times before. 

Jennifer, thank you so much for guesting today. I enjoyed chatting with you and learning more about you and your writing projects. 

Hope everyone sticks around to chat for a bit. 

Congratulations to Delia Latham for taking the crown in last week's Staff Clash. Two anonymous COTT staffers went into the ring and readers had another hard choice to make. Some said:
  • "This was a cruel choice!! LOL! They were both excellent."
  •  (About Delia's excerpt): "Beautiful words expressing emotion and making the reader want more."
  •  "Intense emotions on both excerpts! Great job!"
  •  "Terrific excerpts!"
  • (About Katie's excerpt): "I need to know Wulf better! I have a feeling he's dreamy."
  • "Awesome clash with two well-written, emotion-packed scenes! Great job, authors!"
Of course, nobody knew at the time that those authors were Delia Latham and Katie McCurdy. Both are recent additions to the staff. Delia has come on board as a Blog Alliance Correspondent, and Katie is the official Talent Scout. (Looks like COTT scouted some talent when they found these two gems.) This fun excursion was a great interjection into the usual good times shared at Clash of the Titles. This week sees another fierce challenge with nameless authors nominated by COTT staff. Be sure to head over there and vote now! And in just 2 weeks, the party begins! Mark your calendars for October 10th and be ready to play for extra prizes all month long as COTT celebrates it's first anniversary. Your vote will determine which of the year's winning authors will receive the ultimate honor: the Laurel Award.
* by Assistant Editor of COTT, Michelle Massaro 
Are you all ready for another week here at The Mustard Seed? Linda Hall is visiting today. Thanks everyone for stopping on by. Let's hear from Linda about herself.

I spent the early years of my writing career as a journalist and freelance writer. I also worked in the field of adult literacy and wrote curriculum materials for adults reading at basic reading levels.

Then, in 1990 I decided to do something I'd always dreamed of doing, I began working on my first novel. The book I wrote, The Josiah Files was published in 1992.

Since that time I've written eighteen more mystery and suspense novels. I have been published with Multnomah/WaterBrook, Evangel Press and Harlequin’s Love Inspired line

Most of my novels have something to do with the sea. I grew up in New Jersey and my love of the ocean was born there. When I was a little girl I remember sitting on the shore and watching the waves and contemplating what was beyond. I could do that for hours. I have roots in two countries. In 1971, I married a Canadian who loves the water just as much as I do. We moved to Canada and have lived here ever since. One of the things we enjoy is sailing. In the summer we basically move aboard our 34' sailboat aptly named Mystery.

Both my husband Rik and I have achieved the rank of Senior Navigator, the highest rank possible in CPS, the Canadian Power Squadron. My Senior Navigator diploma hangs proudly on my office wall.

What this means is that I know how to use a sextant and can 'theoretically' find my way home by looking at the stars.

Rik and I have two grown children and four wonderful grandchildren.

Linda thanks for sharing, where can readers find you online?

Website: Linda's Website 
Facebook: Find Linda on Facebook
Twitter:  @Writerhall
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WriterHall

Please share with us about your books.

Most recently I have been involved in the exciting project of revising, bringing up to date and getting some of my earlier books up as eBooks. With so many people now reading their books on Kindles or Nooks or iPads etc, we thought it was time to make these books available. I’m especially proud of my Coast of Maine series which include Margaret’s Peace, Island of Refuge, Katheryn’s Secret and Sadie’s Song.  These have long been some of my favorite books, but I hated that readers weren’t able to download them onto their reading devices. So, we decided that getting them up as eBooks would be a priority. At the same time I knew they needed a bit of up-dating and rewriting. These are now completed and available where eBooks are sold - the Kindle store, Smashwords, etc.


That's great to have your books now available in eBook. 

Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?

Writing has always been a dream of mine, plus, it was always something I did. When I was a child I was a daydreamer, and a crybaby, (Really. I was.)  It was only much later that I realized that my tears and emotion were a gift - they helped me to become the novelist I am, delving into the human psyche and they give me the ability to understand my characters. (I still cry. Movies. Books. So many things bring tears to my eyes.)

When I was a young girl I would walk home from school, and it was a long way, and on the way home I would invent stories. They usually involved me saving my school from some certain disaster, with me, front and center as the hero. Pretty heady stuff for a shy introvert. When I would get home I would find a new binder and begin writing these stories down. But, I never completed any of them back then.

Can totally relate to being a daydreamer and very emotional. Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

My characters are totally from my imagination. Oh, sometimes I might see a person with a quirk and think - “I’m going to put that in my next novel,” but I never put real people in my books. I’m not totally sure that’s a wise thing to do. (Although, I have heard that even if you do use real characters they never recognize themselves anyway!)

What was the most interesting research you had to do for any of your books? 

My book Dark Water features a PI who on the side has a whale watching boat business. My husband and I have a sailboat, and we’ve been very fortunate to see whales up close on the Bay of Fundy, but I’d never been on an organized whale watching tour boat. I knew that if my main character owned a whale watching business, I needed to see first hand how they operated. So, I called a whale watching boat owner and told him what I was up to.

Even though this was September, past the time when tourists come, he said he’d take me out in his fast cigarette boat. For this sailor who spends her days cruising slowing along in our sailboat, this was exhilarating! So, there we were, out on a gorgeous fall day, the two of us speeding around the Bay of Fundy. We saw every kind of whale the Bay has to offer. I even saw a Basking Shark breach. I learned all about the biz, and when I was driving home I thought to myself, “I love my job!”

Sounds like an awesome experience. Where do you go to do your research? 

Mostly the web. Sometimes I travel to the various settings in my books, although, I have not been averse to honing in on places with Google Earth.

How do you go from an idea for a book to the birth of the story?  Is the process the same for every book you write?  How long does it take you to write a book? 

Every book is different, but it usually takes me nine months to a year to write a novel.

Are you currently working on any new book projects?

Right now I’m working on developing a new mystery series character. It’s with my agent now - so more about that later...

I love a good mystery series. Can't wait to hear more about that one. Do you have any advice for beginning writers on how to write a book?  Do you have any advice for them regarding promoting that book once published?

My advice for beginning writers - Start it and then keep on going, and don’t stop until you’ve finished your book. As for promotion, be involved in all the usual suspects - Twitter, Facebook, and a professional looking website.

What is your favorite work of literary fiction and why?  Do you have a favorite literary author?

I was first introduced to Edgar A Poe when I was in junior high school. In high school I memorized The Raven even when I didn’t have to. I have always loved mystery and ghost stories.

Who is your favorite contemporary author?  Are you currently reading any contemporary novels?

I always have a novel on the go - even when I’m in the middle of an intense deadline, I can always find fifteen minutes to read a novel. I think it’s important for writers to read, and I really, really don’t understand writers who say they have no time to read. Reading good authors is the way we learn to write! Currently, I’m reading Long Lost by Harlan Coben.

Couldn't agree more. I love to read, always have and find it so helpful, especially now that I'm an author. How did you find your publisher?  What was your journey to publication like?

My journey was easy at the beginning but has become more difficult as time has passed.  My first novel, The Josiah Files was accepted by the first publisher I sent it to. The same thing happened with my next mystery series which featured a Canadian mountie.  I thought, “So, what’s so hard about this?” I soon learned. Since I began writing I have had four series cancelled before I got the third or fourth book written. But, that is the way of publishing. I’m not stopping, however. I’m still that little girl walking home from school and making up stories.

So glad you're persevering. Do you have any writing idiosyncrasies? 

I get my best work done in coffee shops and cafes. I don’t like the high price of some of these coffees, (since I can make it just as good at home with my Tassimo), but I consider it my table rental. So, I gladly get a skinny latte, find myself a table, and hang out for a couple of hours. Another idiosyncrasy of mine is that I mostly write my first drafts by hand on the back sides of scrap paper. (Because I go through so much paper, I get scrap paper, one-side-good at the university.) I’m also very particular about my pens. They must be gel pens and in interesting colors, like green and red and light blue. Right now my favorite brand is Sharpie fine points.

What’s the most challenging aspect of writing for you? ~ POV issues; using too much passive voice and not enough active voice; trouble creating active and engaging dialogue; using too many similar words in starting sentences; or something else?  

I find the middle of books the most difficult. Beginnings are easy. I’m full of great ideas, and I love writing the “set-up” part. Endings are okay too, because I know how I want it to end. Yet those durn middles get me every time. When to release that clue? Should it be in this chapter or the next? And how much shall I reveal? Plus, usually by that time I’m tired of the book, wish it would end, and it suddenly I get this feeling that it’s the worst book I’ve ever written! And who will read this? And why am I wasting my time?

But then by the end of the book, I’m in love with it again. 

We must be kindred spirits because I've felt that way so many times as I'm writing. Linda, thank you so much for guesting today. 

If you're interested in entering to win an eBook copy of Linda's book, Steal Away, feel free to comment on this blog post. 

Steal Away is book one of the Teri Blake-Addison private investigator series. Teri's specialty is finding people. But Teri often finds a lot more than her clients want! In Steal Away Teri is hired by a well known evangelist to find out what really happened to his wife. Five years previously she was in a sailboat accident with two friends. Their bodies were found. Her's wasn't. The minister wants to get married again yet is troubled by "ghosts of the past" and he wants to put to rest once and for all what happened to his wife.

Steal Away was a Christy Award finalist, a Daphne finalist and was given top honors by The Word Guild. As well, it was the 2004 Beacon Award winner for Best Inspirational Novel, the Winter Rose Award Winner for Best Inspirational Novel, and it was given the Award of Excellence from the Colorado Romance Writers. 

Pam Hillman is here today at The Mustard Seed to discuss eBooks and industry trends. Let's meet Pam.

Award-winning author Pam Hillman writes inspirational fiction set in the turbulent times of the American West and the Gilded Age. Her debut book, Stealing Jake, won the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis contest and was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart contest. She lives in Mississippi with her husband and family.

Find Pam online:
Pam's Website 
Personal blog: Calico Trails
Group blog: Seekerville

With ebook sales rocketing skyward, established publishers, authors and readers alike are taking a second look at electronic publishing. Several factors lend credence to the fact that ebooks are not just a fad, but will be a mainstay in publishing from now on.

In May 2011, Amazon reported that sales of ebooks had surpassed print books just four years after unveiling the Kindle. While Amazon isn’t the only game in town, they do command a significant slice of the pie. Barnes & Noble is doing a brisk business selling ebooks for their ereader, the Nook. Contented readers tout the superiority of both devices.

Recently, a young friend told me she read my debut novel, Stealing Jake, on her iPhone on a road trip. I was very honored that she’d spent her trip reading my book on that tiny device! Young, hip consumers are more apt to grab an iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Kindle, or Nook when they want something to read. People don’t carry books around with them (well, some of us do!), but if they have a digital device with them, they’re more likely to actually connect to the internet, download a book and start reading it, than they are to go in search of a print book.

Those of us who grew up with stacks and stacks of print books by our beds, on the floor, spilling out of our shelves, still love our print books, but we’re also embracing ebooks as well. Readers, regardless of age, are getting hooked on the fact that they can stuff a Kindle or Nook in their bag on the spur of the moment. These days when I travel, I grab my Kindle and I’m ready to go. I can carry hundreds of books with me, not have to limit my choice to two or three. I have several versions of the Bible, fiction, non-fiction, and games. All at my fingertips and ready to go wherever I do.

Elderly readers have the option of reading their books in mega-size font. My husband’s 93 year-old grandmother has read my Kindle and enjoyed the experience very much. It’s easy to adjust the font to whatever size to accommodate her aging eyesight and the learning curve is not difficult at all. With a little ingenuity, a friend in the nursing home with extremely limited motor skills can read her Kindle. Since she can’t hold the device, it’s attached with Velcro to a “pyramid pillow” purchased on Amazon. A ribbon strap holds the pillow in her lap so her Kindle doesn’t slide off into the floor.

Free sample chapters and many times offers of free books are exposing readers to new authors, an opportunity that might not have arisen with traditional print books. And instant download capabilities fit right in with today’s drive-thru mentality.

From an established author’s standpoint, ebooks are offering an option for breathing new life into old backlists. Fans who missed their favorite authors’ earlier works are grabbing them up as ebooks. In other cases, authors are partnering with their publishers to re-package their backlist as ebooks. And the icing on the ebook cake is when an ebook is offered for free for a limited time. The author gains new readers, and those readers are more likely to purchase that author’s newer releases. It’s a win-win situation all around. Cliché alert. I suppose this means we can have our cake and eat it too!

Ebooks have given unpublished authors more opportunities to be published than ever before. Yes, right now there are some growing pains, and sometimes it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, but quality will rise to the top, and readers will sort it all out eventually. With established and well-respected publishing houses partnering with unpublished authors with programs like Tyndale’s Digital First Initiative, readers know they’re getting a quality read they can trust.

As long as people believe in storytelling, ebooks will continue to rise in popularity. The programming platform and the devices themselves will change, but the fascination of story will draw readers back time and time again.

Regardless of format.

Pam, thank you for sharing on eBooks. I enjoyed hearing your insight on this topic.  Can you tell us about your book, Stealing Jake?

When Livy O'Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she's helping to run an orphanage. Now she'll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.

Sheriff's deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy--literally--while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town--as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off--Jake doesn't have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can't seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn't willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.

Interwoven throughout is a group of street kids arrested in Chicago and sold as child labor. Leading this band of ragamuffins is young Luke, a scared, determined orphan intent on rescuing his little brother at any cost.

I already read Stealing Jake and loved it! Where can readers find your book:

Find Stealing Jake on Amazon
Find Stealing Jake on B & N
Find Stealing Jake on CBD

If anyone would like to read an excerpt of Stealing Jake you can click this link: 

Stealing Jake Prologue and Chapter One

Be sure to check out Pam's Stealing Jake Kindle Giveaway. Click below for more info. 

Pam, thank you so much for guesting today and sharing your thoughts with us. 

I hope everyone sticks around for a bit to chat with Pam and don't forget to check out her giveaway.
Janet Perez Eckles is a guest today at The Mustard Seed and she's discussing how as a writer, she perseveres and doesn't give up. I hope her story is as inspiring to you as it is to me.

Once I lost my eyesight completely, Jesus came into my dark world and opened my spiritual eyes for me to see the best of life. Faith replaced the bitterness, anger and fear I once held.

Freedom to live life to its fullest fueled my desires. I longed to tell others about my transformation. And although I didn’t know how, I knew who would guide me through this process.

The journey began with the technology God provided—a voice synthesizer to operate my computer. But learning the skill to operate it equaled the challenge to master the writing craft.

“Lord, you’ll have to guide me,” I pleaded as I slipped my hand in His. My limitations then turned to opportunities, and my insecurity to confidence in Him. My heart beat faster with a desire to shout what God had done for me. I wanted to show how He turned my pain and darkness to peace and light.

My writing began. At times, I fought inadequacy that clouded my enthusiasm. But fueled by the commitment to obey God’s command to trust in Him, renewed confidence nudged me forward, and a desire to inspire others danced in my soul.

My fingers skipped on the keyboard, and I paused only to wipe tears when relating details of my pain. Then I continued to string words describing how God brought victory and triumph when my world tossed violently in the midst of enormous storms: my sudden blindness, the tragic loss of my son, the pain of infidelity and financial devastation.

I learned diligence not only in working in my writing craft, but more importantly in seeking God first. I directed my efforts first in spending time in reflection pondering upon His promises. I saw how each of them came true displaying the radiance of His faithfulness. He opened doors I’d never imagined: my articles published in local, regional and national magazines, 17 anthology books featured my stories and 20 chicken Soup for the Soul titles include my writing.

Losing my sight sharpened my memory. I remembered the rough terrain the Lord had carried me through. I remember His whisper to never give up because He’d be by my side. I recalled His loving nudge when faced with limitations to review printed material. And the recount of people in the bible flashed through my mind—flawed, insecure and timid—yet God signaled them to move forward. I do remember His  direction when, with clammy hands, I hesitated not knowing which way to turn. Yet he ushered me through obstacles and hurdles only He could see.

God’s grace equips even the blind. With gratitude swirling in my heart, I see how His hand, in the darkness of my world, placed a sparkle of joy. The joy that weaves through the tasks He puts before me.

I must say it again, I'm awed at your truly inspiring journey and so blessed by you sharing it. 

What’s your List of Top reasons why you can’t live without writing?

1. Stories threaten to explode within me.
2. I delight in inspiring others with my writing.
3. My desire to create is satisfied.
4. The feedback I get from my readers.
5. Life’s episodes beg to be retold.
6. Creativity invigorates me
7. I meet someone who needs encouragement
8. My commitment to write my columns
9. I keep episodes of life alive through my writing

That's a great list. Thank you for sharing. What's your favorite childhood memory? 

When my abuela (grandmother) would take my brother and me to a special room in our old house in Bolivia. She would grab a key from the myriad of keys that hung from her belt. She would slip it into the door of a large glass book case and pull out “Aesop’s Fables.” My brother and I sat mesmerized by the details of every story.

What a wonderful memory to cherish. What are the Top Five Random facts about you?

1. I’m from Bolivia.
2. Although blind, I love to travel on my own.
3. I just went para-sailing
4. I love to cook…in the dark.
5. I make up my own nutritional recipes

I'd love to have one of your nutritional recipes. I hope you can share one with me some time. 

I know we'd all enjoy hearing more about your book, Simply Salsa. Can you share with us?

Simply Salsa: Dancing Without Fear at God’s Fiesta, Judson Press, August, 2011 

What keeps women from dancing to the sweet freedom God offers? With a bit of sass, humor and a uniquely passionate “Latina talk,” Simply Salsa exposes the lies and misconceptions that imprison women today. Simply Salsa is not just a book, but a delightful experience to discover the joy lost in life’s struggles, the freedom from fear and with each engaging story, restore confidence to face Tomorrow.

No matter the degree of adversity or pain, Simply Salsa will have you dancing to Gods melody of victory over what burdens you today.

Sounds like a book  I'm going to read. Can you share an excerpt?

Excerpt from Simply Salsa: Dancing Without Fear at God’s Fiesta.

“.., for now, turn down that salsa tune, grab a cup of café con leche, and settle into that overstuffed chair. We’re about to find out what to do with broken plans and melted dreams. No matter where you are, even if your world is jammed with trials, God promises to reveal the secret to success, to lives of purpose, content­ment, and confidence. ...Hold on to your sombreros…we’ll be heading into the sunshine of freedom…”

Love it! Where can readers find your book online?


How can readers connect with you online?

Janet's Website - Igniting a passion to overcome

Janet's Blog

Find Janet on Facebook

It’s a tough world out there, treat yourself to a brief inspirational video: A Brief Inspirational Video

Janet, I am so glad you could guest here today and share your inspiring story. I enjoyed chatting and getting to know more about you and your book. 
I hope everyone stays for a while to chat.  

J D Webb is a guest today at The Mustard Seed. We're glad to have him visit with us and we hope you stick around for a bit to chat with us. Let's find out more about J D.

J. D. (Dave) Webb resides in Illinois with his wife (43 years in Dec 2010 and counting) and their toy poodle, Ginger, losing all family votes 2 to 1. Dave served in the Security Service of the Air Force as a Chinese linguist and weather analyst in Viet Nam and the Philippines prior to spending 25 years in corporate management. A company purge promoted him to cobbler and he owned a shoe repair and sales shop for 11 years. But being a full time author, always a dream, became a reality in 2002. Dave has garnered several awards. A short story called The Key to Christmas placed third in the 2006 La Belle Lettre literary contest. His first novel Shepherd’s Pie won a publisher’s Golden Wings Award for excellence in writing. His second novel Moon Over Chicago was a top ten finisher in the 2008 Preditors and Editors Poll in the mystery category and was a finalist in the prestigious 2008 Eppie awards by the Electronic Publishing Internet Connection. He is also the Owner and Moderator of the Publishing and Promoting Yahoo group with just under 1000 international members. 

You can find J D and his work online in the following venues: 

Short stories are available through: 
Stuck in Valhalla (www.sniplits.com )
Revenge Anthology II (www.lldreamspell,.com - coming soon)

Facebook: Find J D Webb on Facebook
Blog: (Twice a month) Make Mine Mystery Blog
J D's Website

At Wings Press   Wings Press
Shepherd’s Pie      Moon Over Chicago    Her Name Is Mommy 

At L & L Dreamspell    J D at L & L Dreamspell

Before we chat, can you share about your book, Smudge?

All paralegal Trish Morgan wants to do is grab a few bucks at her ATM one night. She finds blood on the screen and then hears a moan. Should she investigate or not? Fighting her apprehension, she ventures into the alley next to the bank and discovers a dying woman. While Trish’s attention is diverted frantically calling 911 for help, the injured woman slips a DVD into Trish’s purse. The DVD is a video of a hit of a Chicago mobster, which identifies the hit man.

The assassin stalks Trish somehow seeming to know her every move. He calls her at work, demanding the return of the disk and warning her not to notify the police. Too late, the police are already involved. Trish is torn about what to do.

Best friend Heather, a wanna-be PI, tries to help. Then Trish learns her abusive husband, Jim, is involved in shady dealings. She decides to separate and file for divorce, moving to a local bed and breakfast to begin a new life. How deeply is her husband involved? How will he react to her leaving?  

Jim’s silent partner decides to resolve his problem. Trish again must rely on her inner strength and wisdom to escape a life-threatening nightmare.  

Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in life?

I think I’ve always been a writer but since I’m published I think I can claim the title of author. That’s how I look at the difference in those two categories. We’re all writers of some sort, blogs, emails, letters to the editor or just letters to a friend or family. When I was younger I wrote short stories and had moderate success at publishing them but I wasn’t dedicated to writing as I am now. So I don’t believe it was a dream, merely a folder in the back of my head titled “possible idea for a novel.”

What was the inspiration for your latest work of fiction?

My latest is Smudge. The tagline is – a small-town paralegal wipes a smudge off her ATM screen one night, and it’s blood. Then she hears a moan. She probably shouldn’t go into the alley next to her bank, but she does. That began with asking some what-if questions as I often do. I’d just left a meeting at night, and across the street I saw a woman at her ATM. She was alone so I guessed it had to be an emergency, and the area is not a high-crime area. But I got to thinking what if she discovered something odd and terrifying? From there my brain engaged and off I ran.

Definitely sounds like an intriguing book. Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

I suppose there’s a bit of someone I know in my characters. Some quirk they have. For my villains I try to find a picture of how I envision they look. One of my characters Ferlin Husky Lewis is patterned after an FBI most wanted fugitive – a Russian mafia guy. I actually printed his picture and taped it to my computer when I wrote his part. Scared my wife half to death.

What was the most interesting research you had to do for any of your books?

I love to do research. The internet is an amazing source to find obscure and unusual things. In my book Moon Over Chicago my hero Fulton Moon a cobbler and amateur detective tries to help a customer free herself from an abusive husband. Her spouse is a 6 foot 8 inch, bald-headed florist. Since he is, well different, I wanted an unusual hobby for him. So I gave him an ostrich farm west of Chicago. I have to admit I spent way too much time researching ostrich farms and their operations.   

I enjoy researching for my books too. So thankful for the easy access of the Internet and how it is a big help in researching. How do you go from an idea for a book to the birth of the story? Is the process the same for every book you write? How long does it take you to write a book?

I’m a pantser, that is, someone who does not outline but charges ahead developing the story as I go. It takes a year to write and revise a novel. My books begin with a story idea such as the one for Smudge. Then I work on the first chapter which always involves some type of action relating to the story. That chapter will trigger more what-if questions and invariably some additional character will show up. At that point I have a vague idea of how the book will end. And so far in each of my books that vague idea never comes to pass. My endings always differ from the original thought.   

Are you working on any new book projects?

Actually I have three in various stages of development. My main focus is on a book titled Gulf Terror. The premise is what if (there I go with what –ifs) the explosion of the Gulf oilrig was an act of terrorism and one of the two suicide bombers survived and is now loose in Louisiana? My protagonists are two Homeland Security agents who track this person down. I’m about 25% done with it.

Love that idea! Who is your favorite contemporary author? Are you currently reading any contemporary novels?

Well I have too many favorites to list. I just love a good story. And in an effort to draw me out of my mystery genre, I joined a book club at my local library. Finished Left Neglected by Lisa Genova last week. A great book which follows her best seller Still Alice which I also loved. A talented writer. Our list included The Help, Unbroken, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. In all 48 books in four years and still counting. And I still read my mystery compatriot’s books as well.

J D, always a pleasure when you guest at The Mustard Seed. Thanks for stopping by today and chatting. 

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Happy Anniversary, Clash of the Titles!
It's been almost a year since COTT opened its voting-booth doors and invited everyone in. Over the past twelve months, readers have chosen 25 Clash winners and received 48 free books. And along the way, a family formed. That family consists of the voters, authors, staff, and the 25+ blogs who have banded together in mutual support with COTT. This is cause for major celebration! So COTT is doing it up to the nines. Clash of the Titles' first annual Tournament of Champions begins next month! Over the course of four weeks, past winners from the previous year will compete in a series of clashes for the ultimate prize: the Laurel Award. The Laurel, COTT's most prestigious honor, is awarded by public vote to a single author among the year's champions. Voters are expected to turn out in droves to support their favorites and participate in games just for readers. Each week, COTT sponsors—consisting of various authors and staff—will issue fun challenges to readers along with the chance to win gift cards, critique services, a business card design, and more. A dozen sponsors are lined up for the event so far. That's a lot of prizes! Throughout the month, details and updates on the Tournament of Champions will be shared on the COTT website and featured within the Blog Alliance. To help spread the word, please grab the special Tournament Button (below) to display on your site. Then send a link to your page to: contactcott at gmail dot com to enter the special COTT Shout-About drawing. The drawing will take place during the first week of the Tournament and the winner will receive a Clash of the Titles mug.
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Mark your calendars and spread the word. This BYOV (Bring Your Own Vote) party begins on October 10th!
Dennis Collins is here at The Mustard Seed today for an interview. He's also doing a book giveaway. Let's hear from Dennis as he shares about himself.

My professional life was spent in automotive engineering where I enjoyed a rewarding forty year career.  I’ve always had a taste for adventure and risk taking spending my idle hours flying airplanes, skydiving, scuba diving, motorcycle racing, and over thirty years of professional automotive powered hydroplane racing.

My first publishing credit came as a complete surprise when an article that I wrote for a powerboat racing club newsletter found its way onto the desk of the president of The American Power Boat Association and he submitted it to Propeller Magazine. My first novel The Unreal McCoy was self published and surprisingly successful. I was able to follow up with Turn Left at September published by Behler Publications, a small mainstream publisher in California. Both titles have been converted to electronic format and are now available through Amazon’s Kindle. The next book The First Domino is now also available on Kindle as well as Nook. My Short story, Calvin was a finalist in a contest sponsored by Futures Magazine.  I am a co-founder of the Huron Area Writer’s Group in Huron County Michigan and I write a bi-monthly column and review mysteries for www.myshelf.com 

The First Domino is available on Kindle format at Amazon.com and in Nook format at Barnesandnoble.com 
The Unreal McCoy is available in Kindle format at Amazon.com
Turn Left at September is available in Kindle format at Amazon.com and in paperback wherever books are sold.

Where can readers find you online? 

Find Dennis on Facebook
The Unreal McCoy
The Unreal McCoy Blog

Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?

I think that I always dreamed of being a writer. The goals changed over the years but the desire to be heard has been there as long as I can remember

What was the inspiration for your latest work of fiction? 

Some family history has recently come to light. We’ve begun to uncover a few amazing facts about an uncle who went missing-in-action during the Second World War. These revelations started me thinking about the thousands of our boys who never returned.  It was the inspiration for The First Domino.

Sounds like a great source of inspiration. Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

A little of both. During my lifetime I’ve run across a few characters that are just too interesting to be allowed to fade away. But then sometimes I need a certain type and I have to invent them. The real ones are easier to develop though.

Agree with characters that are just too interesting to be allowed to fade away. What was the most interesting research you had to do for any of your books? 

A good portion of The First Domino takes place in Florence, Italy and I’ve never been there.  I bought a tourist guide of the city, a tourist map, contacted their tourist bureau.  I even picked up a few restaurant menus.  I downloaded countless photos of the city as well as the brochure for the American Military Cemetery. 

Part of my last book took place in England and I had to some similar research. Where do you go to do your research? 

The internet is really handy for research because plenty of little known facts about people and places permeate its massive database. But I still like to visit an area that I’m writing about whenever possible.  There are some impressions that you just can’t get unless you visit in person.

How do you go from an idea for a book to the birth of the story?  Is the process the same for every book you write?  How long does it take you to write a book?

My inspirations are usually really small; sometimes no more than a single sentence or a newspaper obituary.  I have a handful of established characters that have distinct personalities so I know how they’ll react.  The only thing I have to do is create situations and then throw my characters in.  They’ll find their own way.   If I could stay at it, it probably would take me about six months or less to have a working copy of a manuscript.  But distractions generally stretch that time frame out to about nine months.

Are you currently working on any new book projects?

Actually I have two new projects in the works.  The first is about the rumored four hundred million dollars in Confederate gold that was lost on the bottom of northern Lake Michigan during the civil war.  The other is about a psychopath who has found a way to breed Bull Sharks in Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay.

Very intriguing ideas. Do you have any advice for beginning writers on how to write a book?  Do you have any advice for them regarding promoting that book once published?

For beginning writers?  Don’t be afraid and don’t give up.  Enter any writing contest that catches your fancy. You may find it helpful to take some creative writing classes.  Once your book is published… network.  Begin with the writer’s community and do whatever you can to earn their support.  Make as many public appearances as you can.  I began by sending out letters to over a hundred bookstores. It resulted in only three appearances but that’s where it begins. Now I’ve gathered a moderate but loyal following and the opportunities are quite regular.   With my latest book The First Domino making its debut in electronic format, things are different. Internet presence is much more important and it’s an area that I’m just learning.  I’m excited about the future.

What’s your writing schedule like?  When do you find time to write?

Since December of 2003 I’ve been a full time writer. You’d think with writing being my primary focus that I’d have some sort of regular schedule.  But that’s not the case with me.  I like to write early in the morning and then late in the afternoon. I tell myself that the middle of the day is for “thinking.”  My biggest distractions are the sugar sand beach out in front and the Harley in the garage.  I write a little more regularly on rainy days and during the winter months.

Not so sure about the Harley, but the beach could very easily distract me too. What’s the most challenging aspect of writing for you? ~ POV issues; using too much passive voice and not enough active voice; trouble creating active and engaging dialogue; using too many similar words in starting sentences; or something else?       

The biggest difficulty for me is the fact that, although my stories are pure fiction, I want to send a meaningful message of morality and personal responsibility.   I specifically want my characters to have a strong social conscience yet remain apolitical.  I can’t stand books with a political agenda.  I guess that I’m just trying to send a subliminal message supporting strong moral character.

As far as technique goes, I find it particularly satisfying when I can find a new and 

profound way of stating an ordinary situation. I tend to agonize over this point.

Can you tell us about your book, The First Domino?

Joe Pellerito thought he could murder his way into the mob. The son of a high powered Mafia lawyer and negotiator, he assumed that he’d be welcomed into the Family. When Joe’s father died of cancer he waited anxiously for the invitation to join the ranks. But the call never came. Feeling shunned, Joe devised a plan to show his dedication and fearlessness.  From a list of Detroit cops who have been problems for the syndicate Joe chose three candidates and pulled off a string of three brutal murders in less than two hours on a bright spring morning.

The philosophy of the mob has moved into the new millennium and has all but abandoned confrontations with law enforcement. Joe’s actions threaten to undo the progress that took two decades to build.  The problem of Joe Pellerito must be addressed.

With a price on his head, Joe is forced to flee and tries to hide in Italy where he attempts to gain a whole new identity.

The diligence of Detroit Police detectives Otis Springfield and Albert McCoy helps them sniff out Joe’s trail but the mob has its resources as well and soon the race is on to see who can get their hands on Joe first.

Sounds very intriguing. Adding it to my TBR list.

Dennis, thank you for stopping by to guest today. I enjoyed chatting with you and getting to know more about you and your books. 

If you'd like to enter for a chance to win an ebook copy of Dennis' book, The First Domino, please comment on this blog post. Hope you all can stay and chat for a bit. 

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