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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Real Page Turner: Mirrored Image

2010 ACFW Carol Award winning author, Alice K. Arenz, author of October 2010 suspense Mirrored Image, has been writing since she was a child. Her earliest publication was in the small, family-owned newspaper where her articles, essays, and poems were frequently included. In the mid-nineties, her writing earned her a stint with a well-known New York literary agency, and although it failed to produced the hoped for results, her determination to become published eventually led her to Sheaf House.
Arenz also writes cozy mysteries under A.K. Arenz. The Case of the Bouncing Grandma, was a finalist in the 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year contest. The second in the Bouncing Grandma Mystery Series, The Case of the Mystified M.D., won the 2010 ACFW Carol Award for mystery.
She lives in Missouri with her husband and two Himalayan cats.
Read the interview with Alice below and leave a comment and answer the question at the end for an opportunity to win a copy of this book.


Interview questions for Alice K. Arenz who recently won the Carol Award in the mystery/suspense category with The Case of the Mystified M.D. at the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis.

1. I think you told me that you’d written this story a while ago, but had never found much interest in it. Did you do revisions to update it and how much revision was required?

You’re right. I originally wrote Mirrored Image in 1986 – the year the story is set in. That year, I’d submitted it to a small press called Cliffhanger Press. I started with the requisite three chapters, and they kept asking for more. I thought I’d finally made it. In the end, they decided that the story was “too big” for them and suggested I get an agent and try submitting it to a bigger house. Whenever I’d get down in the old days, I’d pull out those old postcards and notes and remember what it felt like to be on the cusp of something big.

The story of Cassie and McMichaels just wouldn’t leave me alone. It’s been re-written almost every year since then – with my oldest daughter, Kelly, by my side editing. We’re both incredibly pleased with the way the story evolved. And having this finally in book form, is a dream come true!

2. Hmm, I have a manuscript like that. Maybe I’ll dust it off. I’m curious, this is so different from your two recent mysteries, so how did you come up with this story idea in the first place?
Stories like Mirrored Image are what I’d always written – until God gave me Glory Harper and the Bouncing Grandma Mysteries. I love the fun and complete honesty of Glory’s character. She’s a perfect foil to someone like Cassie – or maybe she’s more like what Cassie might be when she’s thirty years older. Um . . . I hadn’t thought about that.
As for how I came up with the story of MI, I’ve no idea how to explain it – for me, it always happens the same. Something, I like to think it’s God or the Holy Spirit, plants this little seed. Sometimes it’s the setting, sometimes it’s a person – I never know what it might be. And, just like a seed, it sort of sits in my head and germinates until the people are yelling to get out – or God says it’s time to get back in front of a keyboard. Since I’m a total seat-of-the-pants writer, I literally never know what or how something will happen.

3. Oh, how I can identify with that! That’s what makes writing fun. How much research was necessary for the story to come together?
Because it’s set in the year I wrote it, it’s pretty much what I already knew. I did, however, look up several things to do with the Vietnam war to make sure that plot point was plausible.

4. Did any surprises or unexpected developments come up while you were revising?
As the years passed, I think I started seeing things a bit clearer – not just the characters, but what they were living through. One of the subplots, which was added in the mid 90s actually happened in a small town near where I used to live. The only hint I’ll give you is that it’s kinda out there, on a different plane.

5. Now you’ve aroused my curiosity.  What was the most difficult thing about writing the story of these two women?
As Lynette’s story unfolds, and Cassie sees behind the fa├žade, it made me realize how so many of us tend to live the same way – showing different faces, changing our attitudes at times just to be accepted. It was a very sad realization.

6. Great observation. The need to be loved and accepted creeps into all of us at one time or another. What advice would you give to those desiring to write suspense?
READ IT! If you don’t read suspense, aren’t even sure if you like it, don’t write it.
And when you read, don’t just choose books by today’s mystery/suspense authors. Take a look at people like Phyllis A. Whitney, who was once considered the Queen of Suspense – and they were CLEAN, too! – but also look at Mary Stewart, Daphne du Maurier – remember it was her REBECCA that introduced the world to the idea of romantic suspense. There are so many fine, talented authors out there, both from today and yesterday that you have a wide choice of reading/studying material.

7. I love Phiyllis Whitney and Rebecca was a favorite, but I think I’ll stick to reading suspense. It’s my favorite genre, but I don’t think I’d write it. I’ll leave it to you and others. What was your favorite thing about writing Mirrored Image?
It was always that one day, somehow, God would show me where it needed to go to end up being a book. That’s why I kept on re-writing it – I believed Him.

8. How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first “novel” when I was twelve – The Adventures of Christopher and Christina – long lost. I got seriously into trying to figure out the world of agents, editors and publishers in the mid to late 70s. That was a long time ago.

9. I have to laugh at that one. I waited until the 90s to do that and began to think I’d waited too long. Any words of wisdom for new writers?
If this is where you feel God is leading you, what you feel deep in your soul this is what He wants you to do with your life, then study hard, read A LOT, go to classes at local colleges, take the ACFW free courses, attend conferences, work hard, and Never, Ever, give up.

10. Where may our readers find out more about you and your books?
My web site is www.akawriter.com and if you want a bit more in-depth interviews, Dianne Burnett of Christian Book.com just interviewed me - http://www.christianbook.com/

Thanks for having me on your blog, Martha!
You’re welcome, Alice. It’s been a pleasure having you. Now if you readers would like a copy of this book, leave a comment and answer this question.


“I like reading suspense novels because….” Your name will then go into the drawing for a free, autographed copy of this book.

Monday, October 04, 2010

A Christmas Fantasy

Donita Paul has given us the most beautiful gift for the Christmas season in her new novella, Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball. It’s a delightful romantic fantasy with quirky characters who will capture your heart and keep you turning the pages. Cora Crowder wants to learn how to really celebrate Christmas and from the first moment she steps into the book store and meets William Wizbotterbad and his grandson, Will Wizbotterdad, be prepared to for unexpected, fun and whimsical events. When her boss, Simon Derrick, comes on the scene, a chain of events begins that carries them both on a journey to a true Christmas and true love. Along the way you’ll meet Simon’s unusual family including his sweet sister, Sandy as well as Bonnie and Betty Booterbaw. Ah, yes, this is story is so much fun, you just might have to read it again to find the things you might have missed the first time around.


Donita, how did you come up with the idea for this story and how long did it take to write it?

This novella only took about six weeks to write. I usually take a year! But it is about half the length of one of my fantasy novels and set in contemporary times. It didn't involve metaphors and allegorical symbolism. And truthfully, it was like a busman's holiday. I wrote it to relax.

I never exactly know where my ideas come from. But this time I know I had the image in my head of a scene from "Shop Around the Corner," an old movie starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan. From that point sprang an old-fashioned, sweet romance.

I remember that movie and loved it. Thank you for sharing with us. If you’d like a copy of this book, leave a comment and your name will be drawn.

(I received a free copy of this book for review.)

Can't you see the impishness in Donita's eyes? Her books are as delightful as she is. Check out her website. http://www.donitakpaul.com/

Saturday, October 02, 2010

A Suitor for Jenny

In  A Suitor for Jenny, Margaret Brownley takes us back to Rocky Creek, Texas where Jenny Higgins arrives with her two younger sisters, Mary Lou and Brenda. Determined to find husbands for them, she posts notices around town and relies on one Miss Abigail Jenkins and her manual for attracting and procuring a husband. However, while Jenny scouts around and interviews prospects, her sisters manage to find their own beaus. Frustrated and losing control, Jenny is at her wits end and on top of that, the handsome Marshal Rhett Armstrong is needling his way into her own heart, and she doesn’t like it. Her sisters are rebelling, Jenny’s losing control, and God has plans for them all. How this all works itself out makes for a delightful story with memorable characters who will make you laugh and forget your troubles for a spell.  

Read further for Margaret's Interview and leave a comment to win a copy of this delightful return to Rocky Creek, Texas


A SUITOR FOR JENNY


Timely advice for landing a husband from Margaret’s new book, A SUITOR FOR JENNY


• Charm and composure must prevail at all times. If a gunfight erupts, exit the scene with grace and serenity.


• If you don’t know whether or not to kiss a handsome man, give him the benefit of the doubt.


• Never engage in boisterous laughter. If you must show mirth, a polite smile or titter will suffice.


• Never criticize your beau. If it wasn’t for his faults he’d probably be courting someone else.


• A woman more knowledgeable than a man is obliged to hold her tongue and feign ignorance in all matters except, of course, childbirth.


• Never show affection in public. Love may be blind but the townspeople are not.


• Once your vows are exchanged devote yourself to domestication—his.


• Eschew secrets, for they are normally discovered at the worst possible time. If confronted, weep and deny everything.—


Margaret, tell us how this series came about.


First, I want to thank you for letting me stop by for a chat. To answer, your question, it started with the first book A Lady Like Sarah. I became so fond of Rocky Creek and the characters living there, I didn’t want to leave. They practically had to boot me out.
I understand that. I felt the same way about my characters in Barton Creek. Have all your novels been historical?
I started by writing contemporary novels. It took me so long to sell my first novel that it became historical by default. I did eventually sell four contemporary novels for Harlequin, including three Super romances.


I hear you. My first novel is now a historical. What do you like or not like about writing historical?
I love the language, especially in the old west. Has there ever been more fun words to work with than picklement, caboodle, fluff-duffs (bake goods), and fiddlefooted? Hey, I even get to use ain’t and druther.


It is kind of fun. How much research did you have to do for this story?
I read a whole bunch of old books on etiquette and how to land a husband. Some of the advice made me laugh. It’s a wonder anyone got married back then.

What is the underlying theme of the series and what do you want your readers to remember?
Each book in the series explores a different theme. One of the main themes in A Suitor For Jenny is the many different ways in which people hide grief or guilt. What I hope readers will remember is that God has a plan for our lives—and it’s better than anyone can dream up for themselves.

And it takes some of us longer to learn that. What brings you the most joy in writing?

The pleasure of putting words on paper is what I love most. When the writing is going well, all is right with the world. Next, I love getting letters from readers telling me that something I wrote touched them in some way.

Ah, yes, those letters from readers like that are a blessing. What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

Putting the words on paper. Okay, so this contradicts what I said earlier, but there are those days when everything I write looks like chicken droppings.


Laughing out loud at that. Do we all feel that way? What or who has helped you most in your writing?

Prayer has helped a lot, especially on those chicken “you-know-what” days. But the person who has helped me the most is my friend and mentor Lee Duran. She’s my first reader and can make “This stinks” sound like I won the Pulitzer.


When does the next book in the series come out?

A Vision of Lucy will be out June 2011


Where can readers find out more about you?


My homestead is http://www.margaretbrownley.com/

If you want to have a laugh check out Stagecoach Etiquette for Readers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prY2q9Oasp4

I’m also a resident blogger at:www.petticoatsandpistols.com
Have A Little Faith
Thank you, Margaret. I'm sure others will enjoy this book as much as I did. Leave a comment below and you might win a copy of A Suitor for Jenny.