Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Welcome Author Leanna Sain!

Leanna-Sain-NC-Author-SquareHelp me welcome award-winning and accomplished  author Leanna Sain to my blog today. Leanna was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Feel free to add your comments below.

Leanna, which authors have influenced your writing and how?

I love the quirky humor of Mary Kay Andrews, the magical realism of Sarah Addison Allen, Nicholas Sparks’ sappy love stories (although I really think he needs to work on some happily-ever-after endings), and the queen of mysteries, Sue Grafton. I try to incorporate all the things I love in my writing.

What do you want readers to experience while reading your books?

I want to evoke every emotion from my readers, from laughing until their stomachs ache, to boiling with fury, to crying-their-eyes out.

HushTell us a little bit about your latest book, the title in two to three sentences. Is it part of a series?

My latest book’s title is Hush.

Someone is killing young women and using the lullaby “Hush, Little Baby” as a blueprint. Lacey Campbell dreams the murders in bits and pieces before they happen, but there aren’t enough clues to stop the killer. When she realizes all the victims look remarkably like her, she’s afraid to go to sleep … afraid the next face she sees in her dreams will be her own.

Are any of your characters based on people you know?

In all of my books, I often include bits of characteristics of people I know, but with Hush, the main character’s mother—who has Alzheimer’s—is patterned directly after my own mother. I wrote this book while watching Mama struggle through the final phases of that terrible disease. It was actually a sort of therapy for me; a way to release the sadness, anger, and frustration that came with it.

Which part of the writing process do you find most enjoyable? Most challenging? Most rewarding?

I love it when the characters take over and I’m just hanging on for the ride, when it’s all I can do to keep my fingers typing fast enough to keep up with the story my brain is telling. When I get to the end of the scene, I lean back in my chair and say, “Whew! Didn’t see that coming!”

The most challenging is when I paint myself into a corner. The answer generally comes when I’m in the shower. Something about that hot water beating on my head seems to jar things loose.

The most rewarding is when I surprise my husband with the ending. He knows me so well, how my mind works, I feel like I’ve “arrived” if I can keep him hanging in suspense until the very end.

Do you have a critique partner or belong to a critique group? If so, how has that helped you?

It is SO important to get other eyes on your work. As a writer, I tend to get too close to the story and can’t see the mistakes when they’re staring me in the face. I’m in two writing groups, and I get input on everything I write. And my husband is my number one book critic. He always brings out things I never even thought about. He has a good eye, and I rely on that.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m hard at work on the second book of the Amelia Island series. It’s title will be, Hoax. And I’m enjoying it even more than I did Hush. The third book is shaping up in my mind already. I really love this series.   

Leanna’s Bio:

Award-winning author, Leanna Sain, earned her BA from the University of South Carolina, before heading back to the mountains of western NC. Her Southern suspense or “GRIT-lit,” showcases her plot-driven writing that successfully rolls the styles of Mary Kay Andrews, Nicholas Sparks, and Jan Karon into her own delightfully hybrid technique. She loves leading discussion groups and book clubs. For more information or to contact her, visit: www.LeannaSain.com.

Connect with Leanna and her books:

Awards

  • Book of the Year Award from Foreword Magazine
  • Clark Cox Historical Fiction Award from the NC Society of Historians
  • Nominated for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award
  • Nominated for the Global Ebook Award


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Hey, Wanna Trade?

Many of the people in the lives of us fiction writers would make excellent characters in our stories. The thing is, inserting real people into our novels can be tricky.

First, they might recognize themselves and not like how we see them. Second, there’s the whole invasion of privacy issue. Third, alienating our whole families and all our friends isn’t too good for book sales.

DON’T WORRY, I HAVE A SOLUTION — CHARACTER TRADING CARDS!

Character Trading Cards would work like Baseball Trading Cards. Each card would include the character’s photo, a carefully chosen alias, physical and personality traits, and accomplishments or lack thereof. If one author had a character another author needed, they’d make a trade. My readers wouldn’t know your characters and your readers wouldn’t know mine. Pretty smart, huh?

baseball card DRUSILLAFor example, I may need a bombastic, Bible Belt-preacher, one who throws amens and halleluiahs around as much as he does drops of sweat. However, what I have is a PhD pastor, cautious and well-read (never fiction), a shepherd who doesn’t yell but watches over his flock with an eagle eye. I trade you my conservative Evangelical FOR your wild Pentecostal, and no one suspects a thing.

And for group trading, authors can hold meet-ups or conference calls. The negotiating might go something like this …

CLARICE: “I’m lookin’ to trade a loud-talker with a bone to pick for a close-talker, bad breath optional.”

JEREMIAH: “I don’t have a close-talker, but I have a soft-talker who gossips.”

DAVID: “Hey, I’ll take your soft-talker in exchange for my non-stop talker/traffic  cone enthusiast.”

JEREMIAH: “I can do that.”

CLARICE: “Anyone have a fast-talker with hammer toes?”

DAVID: “No, but I’ve got one who mumbles and has bloodshot eyes.”

CLARICE: “I’ve been looking for a mumbler. I can always put sunglasses on him. “baseball card NORBERT (1)

DAVID: “Changing the subject, I’ve got an accountant on special this week.”

CLARICE: “What’s so special about an accountant?”

JEREMIAH: “I’ll trade you one apprentice carpenter for that accountant.”

DAVID: “Not this accountant, you won’t. My guy has social skills and a sense of humor.”

JEREMIAH: “A bean counter with a sense of humor? If you tell me he has a tan, I’ll know you’re lyin’. Tell you what, I’ll throw in a proctologist and a hockey player.”

CLARICE: “I can beat that. I’ll up you one church elder and make that hockey player Canadian.”

DAVID:  “Deal!”

MORE POSSIBLE TRADES

Would you take one spoiled brat with delusions of entitlement FOR one former military man with his WWII uniform festooned with medals? … Maybe I could swap you one retired teacher, still re-gifting a closet full of cheap, apple-themed gifts from her former students, FOR one thoughtful person with a creative mind and a generous heart.

I’ll give you my lovers of people FOR all your haters (who, by the way, would come to an early demise in my stories). … I could trade you three women who’ve never had children but know everything about raising them FOR one mother who puts reading to her kids ahead of folding laundry. … And, how about I take one of your family felons FOR one of my ancestral heroes?

baseball card GLADYSWanna trade one naïve woman who finds the good in everyone FOR a big fat judgmental complainer? (Yeah, I know I could probably use myself here, but God’s working on me, and I don’t want to interrupt him.)

Finally, I’d be glad to shed three believers looking for biblical loopholes and cheap grace FOR one humble follower of Jesus.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast. ~ Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

 


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Writers: Have You Annoyed Anyone Lately?

A writer’s characters cannot all be perfect, because if they were it would be quite annoying.

We need to create conflict to keep our stories and our characters real and interesting. Conflict doesn’t happen when everyone is nice to each other all the time. Boredom happens. Conflict creates drama and tension. Boredom creates naps. And then you get nightmares starring Mike Lindell from My Pillow.

When I first began to look more closely at my stories, I saw that many of my main characters were nice, maybe a little too nice. Perhaps, because I find a lot of annoying people in my real life, I subconsciously didn’t want them to show up in my books. Powerless to change them in real life, maybe “editing” their  personalities made me feel powerful in fiction.

Upon further study of my work, I realized I did indeed have one very annoying person in my novels. It was the protagonist. This discovery excited me. I felt vindicated.

Annoying FloHowever, I noticed something else. Since my novels are written from a first person point-of-view, often my protagonists are a lot, well, like me.

Ergo, I am annoying. Often, I want to slap my protagonist (ergo, me) for being so stubborn, so angry, so impatient,  so prideful, so petty, so slow to get it (ergo, me).

Like right now. How annoying is it to use the word “ergo” three times in one paragraph?  Sheesh.

I’m asking my readers, “What do you find annoying in an author or a story?” Let me know . . . please . . . so I will stop doing it.


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Janet Grunst! Winner of the 2017 Selah Award for Historical Romance

I’m honored to call this Selah Award Winner my friend. 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

Janet is a great encourager! We met at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference in Dallas in 2012–before we were both published–and we’ve kept in touch ever since. What a blessing to share and celebrate our publishing journeys together!

I hope you enjoy our mutual interviews both here and on Janet’s website.  And, if you comment on this post, you’ll have a chance to win either a print or Kindle copy of Janet’s award-winning novel, A Heart Set Free.

CGJ:  When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

JSG:  I was in my mid thirties and a stay-at-home mom.

CGJ:  Who first supported you in this dream?

JSG:  My former husband, Bob, who never read anything in this genre. He would read each chapter as I finished it and ask for the next one.

CGJ:  Who is your biggest cheerleader now?

JSG:  My husband, Ken, who encouraged me to get back into writing after I’d put it aside for decades. He encouraged me to try again to get this first story published. I provide him with red pens, and he loves to comment and edit.

CGJ:  What did you do before you became a writer?

JSG:  I was in the banking and mortgage lending industry before I had children. When I returned to work in the 90’s I worked for Community Bible Study (CBS), an international and interdenominational Bible study program with many classes throughout the United States and world. I have continued to serve in CBS Leadership before, during, and since retiring from employment in the ministry.

CGJ:  What genre do you prefer to write?

JSG:  Historical Romance and Historical

CGJ:  Which authors have influenced your writing and how?

JSG:  Secular authors: Jane Austen for most of her work; Margaret Mitchell for Gone With The Wind; Nevil Shute for A Town Like Alice; Charlotte Brontë for Jane Eyre; and Elizabeth Gaskell for North and South and Cranford. Inspirational authors: Too many to list but my all time favorite is General Lew Wallace for Ben Hur. All of these stories are ones that stay in your mind.

CGJ:  What do you want readers to experience while reading your books?

JSG:  While the stories may be in an historical setting, they communicate feelings and experiences that are timeless and the truths of the Christian faith, as well as entertain and bring inspiration, healing, and hope to the reader.

CGJ:  Tell us a little bit about your book, the title and one or two sentences.

JSG:  A Heart Set Free  tells the story of a woman who flees Scotland in 1770 as an indentured servant to escape disgrace. In Virginia she finds forgiveness, faith, and a future she could never have anticipated.

CGJ:  How have your readers responded?

JSG:  I was so pleased with these reviews:

“I loved this tender and wonderful story. Amidst all the hurt and misunderstanding, we find forgiveness and grace. And along the way, we see love, slowly evolving, making its way into hearts that have been closed off due to hurt and loss. I found myself slowing down my reading as I approached the end because I just didn’t want the story to end.”

“This is a wonderful story! It has just the right amount of intrigue, romance, and adventure to keep the reader turning the pages – one of those books I didn’t want to finish too quickly, but didn’t want to stop reading. Please, where can I find the sequel?”

CGJ:  What lessons have you learned from this [publishing] journey?

JSG:  To always hold my writing with an open hand. I’m to do my part, and if it is God’s will, He’ll see it through to publication.

CGJ:  What writing projects are you currently working on? Is this book part of a series?

JSG:  A Heart Set Free  is the first story in a trilogy. Its theme is forgiveness. The second story is complete and in search of a publisher. Its theme is faithfulness. The final story is underway. Its theme is forbearance. They are each stand alone stories.

AUTHOR BIO: Janet is a wife, mother of two sons, and grandmother of eight. She lives in the historic triangle of Virginia (Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown) with her husband and West Highland White Terrier. A lifelong student of history, her love of writing fiction grew out of a desire to share stories that can communicate the truths of the Christian faith, as well as entertain, and bring inspiration, healing, and hope to the reader. Janet is represented By Linda S. Glaz, Hartline Literary Agency

Janet’s Website

Colonial Quill’s Blog 

Janet’s Facebook

A Heart Set Free ~ Winner of the 2017 Selah Award for Historical Romance.


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Linda Brooks Davis: An Inspiration

Ella McFarlandFor all you wannabe writers out there who think your AUTHOR date of expiration has come and gone, Linda Brooks Davis is the inspiration you need to see that your dream is not dead, just waiting on God’s timing.

ME:  Linda, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

LINDA: In high school I learned there was a spot inside me, somewhere around the heart, that came to life when I wrote. Later, at a local college, a quirky English professor asked me if I’d ever considered creative writing for a career. I was astounded. 

Expose my inner self to the world? Horrors!

It wasn’t until I went away to college that I discovered letter writing brought that spot to life. I wrote copious letters home. I remember hurrying back to the dorm between classes to start a letter or add to one, imagining my loved ones’ faces as they read and laughed and cried—experiencing college vicariously. (Think “The Waltons.”) Believe it or not, my mother saved every single letter. When she died in 1995, I discovered reams of them. I’ve organized them as a history for my offspring.

After college, life got in the way, and my writing pen remained in a drawer.

Fast forward to 2004. My daughter called me at work with news: Our first grandchild would arrive—in triplicate form. Not only was the news astounding, but so was my reaction. People in offices on the first floor came up to see what all the racket on second floor was all about.

My daughter’s at-risk pregnancy, mainly in the hospital, was indeed something to write home about. Her physician urged her to abort one baby, painting a landscape of dire predictions, but she refused.

When the babies were born at 28 weeks at just over 2 pounds each—and survived and thrived—you can bet that spot around my heart that comes to life when I write shifted into overdrive.

That’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I would leave a legacy of faith in writing. Pow!

ME: You mentioned your work place, what did you do before you became a writer?

LINDA: In 1968, I began a 40-year career working with individuals with special needs. I was a speech pathologist in public schools and in clinical settings. The last ten years were as an administrator of special programs. I retired in 2008.

When not writing, my husband and I dote on our six grandchildren.

ME: How did you get involved in writing for publication? 

LINDA:  Ready for another story? Remember my dream of leaving a legacy of faith in writing? That 2005 goal took me to the internet where I stumbled across an essay contest sponsored by the host of a local talk show. (One of the program sponsors was Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.) For fun, I wrote an essay entitled “Why I Should Attend the Writing for the Soul Conference.” I didn’t know what the conference was, but it sounded like a grand event. It was at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, after all.

I didn’t tell anyone I entered. Actually, I forgot all about it.

Weeks later, I received a call at work. I recognized the voice … the host of the radio show … calling me … I’m one of three finalists … and I’m to read my essay on air … in forty-five minutes.

What? I didn’t remember where I put the essay. Was it still on my computer? Could I even find it?  Yikes.

Whew! Found it. Printed it. And caught my breath. I read, and with the clock ticking down to the last seconds of the show, the announcement was finally made. The host had made his decision . . . What? I won?

That’s how it happened. My husband and I were treated to the Broadmoor and the conference and all that went with it. I was open-mouthed and uninformed and naive. But I soldiered on.

Ten years later came the Operation First Novel win and publication of THE CALLING OF ELLA McFARLAND, a novel based in my family’s stories about hardship and faith and grit—a legacy of faith in writing.

God is so faithful, even to a ditzy woman like me who prayed for something and then was astounded when it happened. Will I ever learn?

My advice: Get the story down, no matter the form or quality. Keep learning. And don’t quit.

 

Linda-Brooks-DavisLinda Brooks Davis, first-place winner of the 2014 Jerry B. Jenkins Operation First Novel award, has lived in multiple states and outside the U.S, but she speaks Texan. 

Set in 1905 pre-statehood Oklahoma, THE CALLING OF ELLA McFARLAND, an inspirational historical with a strong romantic thread, debuted on December 1, 2015.

When not writing, Linda enjoys teaching 4-year-olds at church, reading, and researching genealogy. She and her husband dote on six grandchildren.

 


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Through a Glass Darkly: The Quilter

As an author, here’s how I see things vs. how they really are. Sort of.

The way I imagined it . . .   

Jeff ConwayRecently, while walking through the Mall of New Hampshire, I noticed a man, probably in his mid-forties, with his hair rolled into a slick pompadour like Jeff Conaway as Kenickie in Grease. He wore a royal purple  satin jacket with knit collar and cuffs. Embroidered in gold on the back were the words “Perth Amboy Foreign Autos.”

A short, sandy-haired woman dressed in a flowered turtleneck and denim jumper held his arm and clogged along loudly beside him. She looked nothing like Stockard Channing as Rizzo.

While the happy couple admired the display of miniature hand-blown glass animals at a kiosk, I “found” them a family.

A trio of tittering pre-teens, windowshopping outside Claire’s, seemed perfect for the role of their daughters. I named them Sephira, Solara, and Sienna.

A 15-ish square-built boy, looking bored near the escalator, became their son. The crotch of his jeans was almost level with his kneecaps. Crippled by this ill-advised design, I dubbed him Yugo.Yugo

They’d traveled all the way up from Perth Amboy, New Jersey for the “Happy to be Scrappy” Ladies of the Lakes Quilters Triennial Quilt Show. It had been held over the weekend at Kingswood High School in Wolfeboro, where “Mrs. Kenickie” had taken first place.blue-ribbon

The family planned to return home directly after the judges’ decision in time to phone friends and family before the news got old. They would’ve, too, but for the nuisance of a dragging muffler on their 1992 Chrysler Town & Country mini van.

Rather than pay for an extra night at Motel 6, they hiked to the mall about a mile from the mechanic’s garage. Before they entered, their kids watched as their proud dad pinned the blue ribbon to their mom’s jumper.

The family whiled away the hours, not bothered by their car trouble, just pleased to be together to celebrate this milestone occasion.

The way it was . . .   

John Travolta hairThe couple, Hank and Betty Dutra, hailed from Raymond, NH. Hank combed his hair this way because twenty-seven years ago Betty told him he kinda looked like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

Hank bought the royal purple satin jacket (practically brand new) with the Perth Amboy logo for $5.00 at Goodwill because he’d never owned anything from Australia before. Betty hated it. He wore it today mainly because she’d made him come to the Mall.

Despite Hank’s jacket and hard-headedness, Betty wanted this day to feel special. That’s why she’d exchanged her comfy sweats for a proper jumper. After all, it was Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester, not Dollar Tree in Raymond.

Used to her everyday sneakers, she clung to Hank’s arm, unsteady in her dress clogs.clogs

As they passed by the kiosk filled with miniature hand-blown glass animals, Betty  whispered to Hank, “Who on earth would pay these prices?”

Hank answered, “Who knows? Maybe the kind of people who live in Hollis and Bedford and Exeter.”

They listened to a trio of girls cackling outside Claire’s and witnessed a teen boy’s jeans slip down to his knees.

Hank shook his head. “Aren’t you glad we have dogs?”

“Don’t forget the chickens,” Betty said. “They might cackle but at least they keep us in eggs.”

flex-seal-liquid_1000After a few hours of browsing, they bought some Flex Seal Liquid Rubber (as seen on TV) so they could repair the used truck bed liner they purchased for their 2016 double cab Ford 2500.

The blue ribbon on Betty’s jumper? It was there when they left the house. She’d taken first place in the “Happy to be Scrappy” Ladies of the Lakes Quilters Triennial Quilt Show held at Kingswood High School in Wolfeboro that weekend.

And Hank made sure everyone in the Mall of New Hampshire knew it.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)


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Word Search: First Christmas

Holy Family WSDecrease the stress and focus on the importance of the Christmas season.

Here are two Word Search Puzzles–one for adults, one for children, based on the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2:1-21 (KJV).  The words used in both puzzles are highlighted in red.

Click on link for Word Search Adult Puzzle (30 words): WS First Christmas Adult 

Click on link for Word Search Puzzle for Children (12 words): WS First Christmas Children

Mary onn Donkey“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 

“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the LordAnd this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Apparition-to-the-Shepherds“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

“And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” ~ Luke 2:1-21 (KJV)

Click on link for Solution to Adult Puzzle: WS First Christmas Adult Solution

Click on link for Solution to Children’s Puzzle: WS First Christmas Children Solution