Thursday’s Quote

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To produce a mighty book, you must produce a mighty theme.
~ Herman Melville

This quote brought to mind something that happened about four years ago. I was at Mount Herman Christian Writers Conference in California. My second time in attendance and I loved the classes. At one point, we sat in a circle, with two instructors leading a discussion. They asked that we share our ideas for our current story, and then gave us feedback. When my turn came, I told them what the story was about. One of the instructors looked at me, serious as can be, and said:

What makes your story unique?”

Huh? I elaborated on the key points, not sure what else to say, feeling like she’d put me on the spot, though I know it wasn’t her intention.

When I didn’t say more, feeling at the centre of attention, with all eyes on me, and probably turning several shades of red, I stared at her for a moment, and then at what I thought was my well-prepared synopsis. She repeated the question, this time stressing each word.

I’ve read stories that deal with that. What separates yours from the others?
What makes it unique?”

Angela’s  words stayed with me. I’m thankful she asked that question. She had me thinking outside the box, looking for a different approach. Something unique as she said so well. After the class, I went to thank her.

Later, while writing my story, I had to keep asking myself what made it stand out. How was it different from the others?

Take a romance novel. I love a love story! From the start, you know the hero and heroine will end up together at the end of the book. The question is HOW. What struggles will they overcome from start to finish? Of course, each story is different.

In suspense stories, you never know what will happen next. At least that’s the main focus in writing suspense, keeping your readers guessing, and turning the pages.

So how do you write a unique story that sets it apart from all others?

  1. Do your research.
  2. READ. Read books in the genre you write. Read books in different genres as well.

In my opinion, those are the best ways to see what’s out there. Then, you’ll know how to make it different.

Emma’s Prayer is about a teen mom. There are plenty of stories out there about teen moms. After she puts her son up for adoption, she changes her mind and wants him back. Yup, there are stories about that too. Mine has a deaf character in the story, but it’s not the only one that deals with the deaf people.

So, what made it unique?

I’m not going to give you any spoilers but I will say this: she had to do something unexpected.  Am I saying mine’s the only story with that twist? Certainly not. But I do hope I had my readers guessing and turning the pages.

Are you writing predictable novels? What makes your story different from others in that genre?

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Share The Book part IV with special guest, Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Happy Friday ! This week’s post will take an interesting twist. I have a very special guest, international bestselling author Cheryl Kaye Tardif, whose bestseller, How I Made over $42,000 in 1 Month Selling My Kindle eBooks, has made a huge difference in how I promote my book. She’s written several novels, but I really want to focus on that one.

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Belonging to several writing groups, whether locally or online, I’ve learned a lot, but I must admit I lacked market savvy. Sarah Butland, a writer-friend, knew I had published a novel and highly recommended that I read Cheryl’s book. She’d read it and talked about it. I’d already downloaded several marketing books and honestly couldn’t help but wonder what was different about this one. But when Sarah said “Read it, and make sure you take notes,” I decided to give it a shot.

From the moment I started reading, I was hooked. Not only did Cheryl have a lot of great ideas I hadn’t thought of, there were a lot of them that I simply didn’t know about. This book is worth more than its cost, and definitely worth the read. I’ve asked Cheryl a few questions wanting to know more about her and what led her to write this book.

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Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m an international bestselling author with 12 eBooks and 9 trade paperbacks published, and I’m represented by Erica Spellman-Silverman from Trident Media Group. I was born in Vancouver, BC, but grew up all over, including Bermuda, as my father was in the military. I currently live in Edmonton, Alberta, with my husband and our Pomeranian, Chai (named for my favorite Starbucks drink). When people ask me what I do, I like to reply, “I kill people off for a living.” Sometimes I’ll add, “I’m a suspense author.” Sometimes I won’t say anything else. I’m mischievous that way. 😉

How did you get into writing and why?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, even as a child. There was such mystery and power in creating story plots and breathing life into characters, and I was an avid reader with a vivid imagination. When I was about 14, I became a paid journalist, earning $5/week for a regular column in a small town newspaper. At 16, I wrote my first novel, and though it was stolen from my high school locker, I never forgot the sense of accomplishment I had felt after completing that book. I write because I am most fulfilled when writing. There are always millions of intriguing stories and compelling characters in my mind. I have to write. Besides, they want out, and it’s the only way to shut off their incessant chatter.

What genres do you prefer writing and why?

I write anything with suspense, whether this is a mystery, thriller, paranormal, romantic, horror or supernatural novel. I love exploring the unknown and mysterious. I strive to leave my readers always wondering, searching for clues, holding their breath, looking over their shoulders—I want them to FEEL something. Suspense covers so many genres that it leaves me open to exploring in ways that other authors may not be able to if they’ve boxed themselves into a tight niche.

Who are your favourite authors?

Stephen King and Dean Koontz are tie for my #1 author idol. As well, I enjoy Sandra Brown, JD Robb, Heather Graham, Tami Hoag, John Saul, John Grisham, Andrew Gross and so many more.

How or where do you get inspiration to write?

Inspiration comes to me in my fears, for the most part. Most of my novels explore a fear that is close to me, like the fear of losing a parent (WHALE SONG), the fear of my child being abducted (CHILDREN OF THE FOG) or the fear of being trapped in a vehicle underwater (SUBMERGED). Often inspiration comes from something I hear about (THE RIVER) or an area of interest (DIVINE series). Sometimes it comes from my dreams and nightmares (SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET & OTHER CREEPY STORIES). Chatting with friends, watching a movie or TV, and sometimes the words of a song have been known to inspire me. Inspiration is everywhere—if we’re open to it.

You write suspense/thriller-type novel. Why did you write this book? (How I Made $42K)

Over the 10 years that I have been a published novelist, many writers and published authors have assisted me, shared their journey or their advice, helped me with marketing and more. My non-fiction marketing book, HOW I MADE OVER $42,000 IN 1 MONTH SELLING MY KINDLE eBOOKS, is my way to pay it forward.

I’ve been criticized for selling my techniques and strategies, but unless you knew me or really understood my journey, you won’t know my true intentions, which are to help other authors whenever I can. I can’t do the work for you, but I can certainly share what has worked for me and what has worked for many others who are using my strategies. As authors, we aren’t in competition with each other; the only competition you have is YOU. So it takes nothing away from me to share my tips, just as it took nothing away from the many authors who helped me early on.

Maybe one day, you’ll pay it forward and help a writer. In the meantime, I hope you’ll not only read my marketing book, but put the steps into action—because that is the true test of my strategies. If you’re willing to do the work, the rewards are endless.

Thank you, Cheryl, for sharing your story with your readers. Writing is a constant learning process and I too have had immeasurable help from fellow-authors, and your book has helped me even further. I also feel very strongly about helping others. So now it’s time for me to pay it forward by telling others about it.

Whether you’re a new author about to publish your first novel…. or if even you’ve recently published one and would like to see it do better, read this book. If you put into practice all of Cheryl’s strategies, you’re sure to see results.

Writing is hard, publishing is harder, but I believe promoting is the hardest part of being an author. This book has made my job easier.  Go for it, Download this book. You’ll be glad you did. Until next week, blessings, and happy reading…. oh… and happy marketing.

Share The Books: Part II, with Guest Deanne Durrett

It’s Friday and I’m back with a second post of Share the Books. My guest is Deanne Durrett, author of Rogue Trust and Wren’s Nest. What an amazing story she has to share with you. If you’d like to win a FREE download of Wren’s Nest, just leave a comment to enter the draw. And please, remember that if you enjoy the book, the best way to thank an author is a customer review/comment on Amazon, Goodreads, your Facebook Timeline, and Twitter. Without further ado, I’ll let Deanne take over.

Thank you Renee-Ann for inviting me to be a guest on your blog.

First, I want to say that I believe every author who writes under the Christian banner should offer their testimony to their readers. So, here’s mine, the short version: I decided to follow Jesus when I was seven years old. This means I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that I’m committed to following his commandments: Love God and love one another.

You asked how I began my writing career – I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until I was a writer. My husband and I bought a partnership in a small weekly newspaper. One of the partners turned out to be a little shady and the loss of our investment ended our newspaper venture. Except, I received a gold nugget when I heard the editor say, “What this paper needs is some new and fresh writing.” I thought I can do that. (I’m prone to think that way. Don’t know if it’s a blessing or not.) So, I went home and wrote my first column, ‘Tween Us Gals. The editor liked it and my weekly column appeared in that newspaper two years… until I sold my first story to Highlights for Children. After that, I sold many stories and articles and my first Christian novel was published by Abingdon Press in 1985.

And then, God sent a Divine Appointment my way.

Our son’s marriage disintegrated and he came home with a fourth-month-old baby. My writing time almost vanished and I went into full time mothering mode nurturing our son through a broken heart and helping him with his responsibilities as a single dad. During this time, I had new experiences and learned a lot about life!

Over these many years, I’ve studied to show myself a workman, approved under God, that need not be ashamed – Believing that God gave me talents He expects me to use, I took creative writing classes, attended writer conferences, and practiced, practiced, practiced to hone my skills.  I’ve walked through the doors that opened for me and learned from my editors while adding titles to my list of published works – Twenty-two nonfiction books.

About three years ago, the time seemed right to return to my first love, Christian fiction. I joined ACFW and attended conferences to learn more. The door opened to publishing eBooks for Kindle, and I walked through. My books are about people in the right place, at the right time, willing to do God’s will. I thought the first book would have two story lines: how God provided the money for the His plan (Rogue Trust) and the beginning of His plan (Wren’s Nest). As it turned out this made one book too big, so it’s two books. Rogue Trust is romance with a twist of suspense, Wren’s Nest is suspense with a touch of romance, but they both involve a community of characters who are willing to be God’s boots on the ground. Anything can happen on an Ordinary Day in Myrtle Hill.

The idea came from a very small seed that sprouted, and grew, and kept growing. When one of my dearest friends told she would one day be heir to a fortune. Wow! I was happy for her. But then, I realized sudden wealth would bring changes to her life and our relationship. Would she still be my friend with an economic chasm between us? From there the “what ifs” took over. Characters emerged in my head and they dictated the chapters of Rogue Trust.

The idea for Wren’s Nest emerged from Rogue Trust. The characters in Rogue Trust are called to minister/help young women in trouble. Loren (Wren) is the first to arrive seeking help. She’s on the run after her unscrupulous lawyer uncle changes his files to implicate her as the surrogate after the real surrogate disappears. A very shady, and connected, grandfather wants the child he believes to be his grandchild and his hired thugs are on Loren’s trail. How will retired cop Joe Chandler and his buddies protect this young mother and her newborn?

Chronologically, Wren’s Nest follows Rogue Trust, but my next book. Lucy’s Mansion picks up where Rogue Trust ends with Becca waiting for J.T’s first kiss.

Deanne Durrett

Deanne’s blog – Ordinary Days

https://www.facebook.com/deannedurrettauthor

Click here to download your copy of Wren’s Nest Wrens-Nest-kdp-cover-new-t-187x300

and Rogue Trust 51Pc2yEiY3L._AA200_

My Own Book Giveaway – Stella’s Plea

In November 2012, I self-published my first novel, Stella’s Plea, on Amazon and Smashwords. It is a Christian suspense, and a work of fiction.

I remember thinking how hard writing could be, and editing was harder still. However, for me, the hardest part of the process, was promoting and pushing that book to sell. Now that’s a job and a half. And to be honest, it tends to be discouraging when the book doesn’t move. So much so that some want to throw the towel in. Oh, been there…. The temptation was strong… all that hard for what…

But I didn’t give in. I even talked about this in one of my posts. It is hard work but though it may take a while, and for some of us, it takes longer than others, in the end it pays off. We just have to keep at it. The most important thing is to learn from the work we produce and go from there.

Once my novel was formatted, I uploaded it and filled the required information on the website. Then I sat there with my 15-month-old grandson on my lap… and we stared at my screen… and waited. I was petrified to click the Publish button. There were a lot of “what ifs” going through my mind, and if it weren’t for my grandson pressing the space bar, which actually clicked the Publish button, I have no idea how much longer I would have sat there, stared at the screen, and asked a whole lot more “what ifs”.

I’ve learned lessons from this first novel and hope to make the next one better, and the next one after that. Currently, I’m working on my second novel, a court drama about a teenager who gives up her child for adoption but changes her mind before the adoption process is finalized. This book is harder to write because I know very little about the judicial system, and much less about the adoption process. I had to enlist the help of the department of social development that handles adoptions in our area to answer many questions. I know many think one should write about things they know. I see logic in this statement, but Benjamin Disraeli once said “The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it. There’s a lot of truth in that and I’m sure I won’t forget any time soon all I’ve learned in my research for this book.

With this new novel, the hardest hurdle I’ve encountered was to find a lawyer to help me with the court battle itself. I’m still having a hard time getting answers to some of my questions but who knows how many nice lawyers will be reading this post and offering to help me (just kidding!!!!).

Honestly, I love the idea I have for this book. Plus in my stories, I like to dispel myths about the deaf community for readers who aren’t familiar with these people (and surprisingly, there are still many who aren’t).

Last week, Jennifer Beckstrand (the author of the book Kate’s Song, which I so highly recommend) offered to do a giveaway after I reviewed her book. It not only generated more-than-usual  traffic to my blog, and a few more subscription, it was also awesome–and well deserved–publicity for her novel. A Win-Win situation.

This week, I’m giving away copies of Stella’s Plea. (yes I said copies, plural). 🙂

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I’ll do things a little different with this draw. First, I’m selecting not ONE but TWO winners. Comments #17 and #27 will win a copy of my novel. Please keep in mind that this book is not in paper format. If you don’t have an eReader and would like to read this and other novels right on your laptop, click on the following link to download the Kindle for PC version. So go ahead and post your comments. I’ll draw for the book on Friday, July 12.

Blessings and Good Luck.

Renee-Ann

Cynthia Ruchti’s “They Almost Always Come Home” – Book Giveaway

I tend to review only the books I like. And of the several books I read lately, I reviewed every one of them. And… I’m about to do it again. It’s a fantastic read by author Cynthia Ruchti, They Almost Always Come Home.

I picked up this book for two reasons:

First, the cover spoke to me. Loud and clear, I heard it say mystery… suspense… the kind of books I love to get lost into. Second, I’d met Cynthia Ruchti in Chicago at the Write to Publish Conference last June. This urged me even more to pick it up.

Here’s the scoop on this book.

When her husband, Greg, doesn’t come home from a fishing trip, Libby reports him missing to the police but soon realizes she has to look for him. With the help of her best friend Jenika, and  Greg’s father, Frank, she heads to the Canadian wilderness where she believes Greg has gone. So many questions run through Libby’s mind. What could have happened that delayed his return? Did he leave her? Did something terrible happen to him? Is he even alive?

The story is more than just about Libby and Greg’s marriage, though. Since the death of their daughter Lacey three years ago, their marriage hasn’t been the same and they begin to grow apart. Alone while her two sons are traveling abroad, Libby is now forced to think long and hard about what she really wants out of her relationship with the man she married, for better or worse.

One of the things I love most about the book is Ruchti’s sense of humour. You’re absolutely right if you think her husband’s disappearance is no laughing matter. But the author is witty and at times right down-to-earth  hilarious. Yes, even when dealing with serious matters. This is not to say she turns this drama into a comedy. There’s a time and place for everything, and she uses laughter only when appropriate.

There’s something else I love about this book. Ruchti is phenomenal at using the “show-don’t-tell” principle of writing. You always get a clear picture of Libby’s surroundings, whether at she’s at home, in the car, and even in the wilderness. But this story is highly emotional and Ruchti shows Libby’s agony, pain, sorrow, and even misery, in such a way that you become Libby, and you don’t just feel her pain, you know it. Personally, I’ve never experienced the loss of a child and can only try to imagine what it’s like. But after reading this book, I can have a better understanding.

I sat on pins and needles waiting to find out why Greg didn’t come home, and never would have guessed what happened to him, nor did expect that kind of ending. But it’s all good! This book is an “edge of your seat” kind of read. Those familiar with my blog know I never give spoilers. You’ll have to read the book. And it’s well worth it, I might add.

It is a Christian story, which I didn’t find preachy. Ruchti adds a nice touch to the story by quoting a few biblical passages which have their places in the story. Christians are not immune to struggles and suffering, though some seem to think so. Libby goes through a major faith struggle in light of many things happening in her life.

This said, I dare you to go ahead and get this book. Oh wait, I promised a giveaway, didn’t I!!! If you want a chance to win a copy of They Almost Always Come Home, make sure you leave a comment and click on the Facebook and/or Twitter link under the comment box. It’s that simple.

Then, get yourself a box of tissues because you’ll need them for both sets of tears… joy and sadness.

Unauthorized Access – Andrew McAllister

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I’ve always enjoyed a great “whodunit” book; the kind that keep you guessing from the first page to the last. Face it though, there are a lot of suspense sub-genres: Romantic, Military, Political Thriller, International… you name it, it’s out there.

Recently a new member joined our online writing group, Andrew McAllister, and he writes suspense. I was curious which sub-genre he was into. I didn’t need to wonder too long because upon learning that I was a book blogger/reviewer, Andrew asked if I would read and write a review of his novel, Unauthorized Access. I quickly said yes… and wondered if I’d been too eager. No offense, I love suspense, though not necessarily ALL its sub-genres. Did he write the kind I like? Oh well, I’d said yes and I’m a woman of my word. So I would give it an honest try.

He sent me the e-book version (an advantage of being a reviewer, free books!), which I set aside as I already had one book on the go. When I picked it up, I was in for the surprise of my life. First of all, Andrew’s book is not a “whodunit” story. He tells his readers from the beginning ‘who did what’. Still, I was totally captivated with this novel.

Unauthorized Access is the story of Rob Donovan, a computer programmer who is framed for a successful cyber-attack on an American bank. Customers are furious; some close their accounts and take their business elsewhere. The bank’s survival depends on Rob to fix the damage with a team. That is, until he’s charged him with the crime. Facing jail time, not to mention the loss of Lesley, the love of his life, Rob needs to figure out who set him up. The only way he can do this, however, is to find him—or her first.

I couldn’t put this book down. I read it—at work between calls—in three days which is very unusual for me. I normally take a week or more. I literally devoured this book.

For a first novel, I found it incredibly well written and full of “Oh no! What next?” It’s a real page turner. Andrew McAllister does a fantastic job with his clear descriptions of the characters and places, thus bringing the reader into the story with him. He’s also very unpredictable, something I love about suspense novels. Every time I thought something was going to happen, he threw a plot twist and something else took place instead. That’s my kind of books.

The biggest problem I’ve come across since finishing that book last Thursday, was finding another great book, one that at least compares with this one. Oh I know there tons of them out there… but I’m still looking.

I’ve yet to meet in person this fine author and shake his hand, but for now I say Kudos to you, Andrew, for a job superb job on a first novel.