Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Weeds or Wishes with Mary Manners

" The Small Town"

 Life Made for Heaven

Howdy, folks and welcome back to the Diamond Mine for another week of exciting chatter about Christian Fiction. I'd like you to meet a fabulous new friend of mine, Mary Manners. She hails from the beautiful state of Tennessee. In addition to being an awesome writer, she's a generous soul and offered an e-book of her latest release, Promises Renewed in exchange for a few healthy comments. Check out the giveaway details after the interview! How about we get this show on the road?


Renee: Mary, are you ready?

Mary: Yep, thanks so much for hosting me today. I am thrilled to be here!

Renee: Thanks for stopping by the Mine on this glorious day. I was trying to think about what to ask you first. Writing, playing, then I thought about how I tried to write today and  I couldn't bring myself to do it. It was absolutely gorgeous outside. (Not that I could do a whole lot about it, mind you, but still...) The point is that I could not, for the life of me, concentrate on the computer, much less make sense of the words on it! Not with the warm sun shining all around me. What is your biggest challenge as an author, Mary?

Mary: That would be tough. As for me, my biggest challenge as an author is keeping my cat Colby out of my chair! No, really…protecting my writing time is a challenge. With a dog, two cats, 12 chickens, 13 fish, and a husband, there is always something that needs attention. It takes creativity to adapt to the daily challenges, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Renee: Wow. That would be tough. I don't know if I would be able to keep track of that many animals! Plus a husband? Maybe you could teach me about chickens? I want to have chickens one day. Hey, stop the snickering out there! I can hear y'all! As much as I can hear the amount of work and dedication all of this takes, I can also hear the joy in your answer. What is it about your job or jobs that you like the most? Is there anything you dislike?

Mary: How long do you have? I'm just kidding! Truly? I love the freedom. I don’t have to leave my house and battle rush hour traffic every day. I can (and sometimes do) work in my pajamas. And I can drink coffee all day long. I am my toughest boss, as I really push myself on projects. I love receiving emails from readers…so encouraging! The only thing I dislike about my ‘job’ is that there aren’t enough hours in the day to write all of the stories that are waiting to be told.

Renee: Oh, Mary, I love the way you talk about it. I know you are so grateful to have your life. As I'm sure you are aware, many, many authors dream of such. You are blessed. What is it about your home that is unique?

Mary: I grew up in Chicago but relocated to East Tennessee in my early twenties. I love the scenery of the Smoky Mountains and the small town setting, so that’s where most of my stories take place. It works for me, and readers seem to love it as well.

Renee: Ah! So that's where the small town comes from. I love the Smoky Mountains. I've only been there a time or two but I'll never forget it. I want to visit them again. They are special. What do you like to do when you aren't writing? Do you have any hobbies or anything?

Mary: Of course, I love to read (all writers should do their ‘research’). I also run marathons (a nice balance to the time sitting at my desk) and enjoy mowing the lawn and antiquing. My husband and I are closet pickers!

Renee: How fun! I grew up antiquing with my mom. Marathons, uh, no, but I love to check out auctions. They are cool. Not that I have the money to buy anything but they're still fun! I'm into fun. Speaking of that, if you could spend a week anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Mary: I would love to go out west to Montana or Wyoming and spend a week on a ranch. It is on my bucket list. I am a country girl at heart and love the outdoors.

Renee: Really? Well, I don't know about Montana, but there are some awesome ranches here in Wyoming. It depends on what kind of experience you want...fancy, dude-ish, down-home...Wyoming has it all and everywhere. Uh, except people. We don't have a lot those. More cows are wandering around than people. But you know how that is, right? You're outnumbered at your place!

Mary: (laughing) That is very true. But even with my gaggle of pets—my dog named Axel, two cats named Colby and Jax, 12 chickens (all named, of course), and 13 fish, I am trying to talk my husband into a potbellied pig, but so far no luck. Stay tuned, though…

Renee: Believe it or not, I've seen some pigs around here. No matter where you're from,  Tennessee or Chicago, I think you'd be right at home in Wyoming. I guess we'd better rap this thing up, but before we move on to the giveaway, is there a particular quote or saying that comes to mind during times of need or adversity that you can share with our readers?

Mary: “When you look at a field of dandelions you either see a hundred weeds or a hundred wishes…” Author Unknown. I see the wishes.

Renee: Mary, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today at the Diamond Mine. You are a blessing to Christian Fiction and I am honored to know you.

Mary: I appreciate you inviting me, Renee. To the readers, thanks so much for joining us today. I am always happy to hear from you, my reader friends. I’d love to give away an ecopy of my latest release, Promises Renewed.



Comment below (on blog) to enter giveaway!
(Leave your name and email with comment to validate entry)

One winner selected by random draw on 5/23/18 from valid entries and notified via email. Prize will be awarded by Mary Manners via email within 15 days of selection and includes one e-copy version of Promises Renewed.


About the Book:

A heartbreaking secret stands between Brianna and Jackson, and she plans to keep it that way...
When Brianna Caufield hosts an online auction to raise money for her fledgling youth center, the last thing she expects is to be matched for a date with Jackson Reed. Lured by the fame of an NFL career, the hometown hero and all-star quarterback broke off their engagement without so much as a backward glance. Now, washed-up and wiser, Jack’s come home with renewed faith and a changed heart—and he wants Brianna back. 
No matter how much she still cares for Jackson, Brianna knows the secret she harbors will destroy any chance of a future together. Can Jack find a way to coax the secret to the surface? And if he does, will forgiveness draw them closer together…or will their love be shattered forever?

About the Author:

Mary Manners is a country girl at heart who has spent a lifetime sharing her joy of writing. She has two sons, a daughter, and three beautiful grandchildren. She lives in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee with her husband Tim and their rescue dog Axel, two rescue cats, Colby and Jax, 12 chickens and 13 fish.
Mary writes stories full of faith and hope. Her books have earned multiple accolades including two Inspirational Reader’s Choice Awards, the Gail Wilson Award of Excellence, the Aspen Gold, the Heart of Excellence, and the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award.
Mary loves long sunrise runs, Smoky Mountain sunsets, and flavored coffee. She enjoys connecting with reader friends through her website:

Your Rough Diamond Miner:

Pharmacist by day, by night and any other time she can spare, Renee Blare writes Christian romantic suspense from her home in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming where she lives with her husband, crazy dog, and ornery cat. She loves to fish, hunt, or pick away on her old guitar…most of the time next to a mountain lake. 
Life is tough, but Renee finds great joy in it by letting the Lord lead her pen and writing about Christians and their exciting journeys. Most of these tales take place in Wyoming, God’s country. She invites you to come along for the ride and discover for yourself what it means for the wild to meet the Forgiven...
You can always find Renee at her website, blog, or on social media where she loves to interact with readers.
Website/Blog: Wyoming Walkabouts

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Traveling Abroad with Kyle Hunter + a Giveaway

It’s Wednesday, which means we’ve got another author interview for you. Today’s guest is someone I roomed with at the 2016 ACFW conference. She released her debut novel earlier this year, and it's a delight and privilege to introduce her to each of you.

Kyle Hunter

I wanted to write fiction since the age of ten. My first book was at the age of eleven, about the adventures of a frog and turtle. Though I got away from writing for many years, the desire never left me. So, in 2009 I finally dove back in. I was living in France at the time.

I love to read and write stories about strong women who still have flaws, but are ready to pursue their dreams, even if it takes them out of their comfort zone ... or their country. 

I write inspirational romance novels and women’s fiction with a twist: My characters sometimes go places. This led me to create the Love on the Move collection of novels. Readers can take a trip with them and experience their journeys. They can see how the characters’ lives unfold as they make decisions to trust God (or not) in their next steps, learning about themselves and their faith, and finding love along the way! 

I currently live in North Carolina but spent over a decade in France (where some of my books take place.) I also write non-fiction and teach French. In my free time I enjoy doing pottery and salsa dancing.

Connect with Kyle:


SW: Welcome to the Diamond Mine, Kyle. I am thrilled you could join us and share a little about yourself, your writing journey, and your debut novel. (Readers, I should mention here that the pictures in this post are all from Kyle's personal collection).
Let’s start with a quick round of this or that. 

Cake or cookies? 

KH: Cookies, though right now I’m trying hard to be disciplined and eat the right things! I never eat “industrial” cookies anyway but have a weakness for homemade…especially chocolate-chip coconut.

SW: Oh, those sound amazing! Morning or evening?

KH: I’m definitely a morning person. I feel more energetic and mentally sharp at that time. I can be creative in the evening too but start dozing off around 10:30.

SW: That's about the same time I shut down. Chocolate or vanilla? 

KH: Absolutely chocolate!  Dark only. It’s the European influence, I guess.

SW: Painting or drawing? 

KH: To do or to admire? I’m more of an artistic type, so I’ll opt for doing! I like doing both but am only average. I think my talents must lie in other areas!

SW: My sister got the artistic genes in my family, I try and steer away from most artwork. Painting pottery is the exception. It's so relaxing to me. 
Sandals or sneakers? 

KH: Both! I try to stay active but in North Carolina where we’re blessed with wonderful spring and fall (usually) and scorching summers, sandals are preferred.

SW: That was fun! Now that we’ve learned some basics about you, let’s go a little deeper.
A Parisian cafe. Welcome to Nikki's World!
After living in France for more than a decade and now living stateside, what do you miss most about living in another country and what don’t you miss at all?  

KH: After 13 years I was ready to come back to my own country, so I don’t have any regrets there. With so many years and experiences, though, it really feels like my second home. I miss some cultural things, like the way people linger at restaurants, buy produce at the open markets (which are set up twice weekly and easy to find!) as well as the beauty of nearly everything. I guess I’m just in love with France!

SW: I loved the open markets in the book. Speaking of, in One December, the heroine takes several trips to other countries during her year in Paris. Were you able to travel like this during your time in France?

KH: Yes, I did travel, but not as much as I would have liked. I still have a very long travel list, as well as my favorites I’d like to return to repeatedly, like Provence, Greece, London, and Italy! I’m planning to write novels in all of those places! (I have one in Provence already and am about to write another in the same area.)

Peaceful street on the Ile de Saint Louis (smaller of the 2 islands in the Seine)

SW: Italy is on my bucket list! On the flip side of the previous question, what one country or place that you have not yet been to would you most like to visit? 

KH: I’d love to go to Portugal. I’ve heard wonderful things about Lisbon in particular. Also, I had one trip to Spain, but was with friends and couldn’t explore as much as I wanted to. I’d like to see Seville and Barcelona. (That may be for next year!)

Book sellers along the Seine

SW: Your book touches on the complacency the French have toward Christianity. As a Christian living in a foreign country, what did you find most difficult or surprising? 

KH: I was in France in a ministry role, so I encountered this fact daily, the French indifference to Christianity, and the attitude that it was mainly for traditional holidays, but otherwise outdated. It was surprising the number of atheists in France, and many French people consider this a French cultural trait! If you look at their religious history, it’s tragic. The Reformation began very strong but was snuffed out with 200 years of brutality and wars of religion. Today there’s some distrust of small evangelical churches and ignorance about them. Churches and Christianity are slowly growing, however. God is still at work there.

Notre Dame Cathedral
SW: Amen! You’ve published some non-fiction works. Share with us a bit about the decision and journey to fiction. 

KH: As I mentioned in my bio, I wanted to be a fiction writer since the age of 10. The decision to write non-fiction began as a desire to create something that would be useful, fun to write, able to take me back to France, and also help finance me until I could publish fiction! I write travel books for France and I blog through Oliver’s France, a website I created. I also wrote a French language book for travelers. But fiction has always been the main goal for me. I discovered I enjoy writing non-fiction too, but it doesn’t thrill me in the same way as creating a scenario and setting where characters interact with each other, with God, and with themselves, facing challenges, growing, etc. That is thrilling for me, and I’d say it is my main calling. 

SW: From cheerleaders to critique partners to beta readers, reviewers, and more, every writer has a support system behind them. Tell us a little about who makes up your team. 

KH: I live in Raleigh, NC and about a year ago we got our own ACFW chapter. I joined right away and have really enjoyed our meetings. We have speakers, encourage each other, give critiques, network, and sometimes reviews. It’s wonderful to be part of this community, because I was alone as a writer for many years. Now I feel part of a community. As a newer writer, I can learn from the experience of others. I’ve been encouraged by their helpfulness.

SW: The ability to spend time with other authors is such a blessing for authors since writing
Island in the Seine River
is so often a solitary experience. What are some of your plans for your upcoming trip to France (anyone else want to try and sneak into Kyle’s luggage)?  

KH: The last novel I wrote was called Prodigals in Provence and is my next one to be published. This takes place in a gorgeous area of Provence called the LubΓ©ron, where there are hilltop villages, vineyards, and a lot of history. I’m now planning a sort of sequel to that book, to continue the journey of the character’s best friend, Lauren. That will take place in a town called Cavaillon, in the same area. Part of my goal in going on this trip to Provence is to research for that book. Since I also have a France travel blog, I’ll take a lot of photography and video of Provence, Lyon, and Paris while I’m there. I’ll also reconnect with old friends and enjoy tearing across France from the south to the north! (and catch up on my croissant and cheese consumption!)

SW: Nikki and Mike go on very different journeys in One December. Share with us some of the motivations behind the book. 

KH: I was intrigued by the idea of two people who had known each other since childhood but come together much later as adults and as believers. That being said, Mike and Nikki were still not ready for each other. Things get started between them but they’re pulled away for a time, while all the while there’s the thread tying them together as they grow through their individual change journeys. I won’t get more detailed than that, but hopefully that will intrigue potential readers!

Arc of Triumph
SW: As we all know, reading is a personal experience. We all leave a story with different takeaways. What do you most hope your readers come away from your books with? 

KH: Hope in the growth process as well as the idea that God is really at our center as believers, and relationships are complementary, yet important. Mike and Nikki each have a different perception of relationships and how these balance with one’s relationship with God.

SW: And a reminder that while the answer we seek might not be yes or no. Sometimes the answer is wait. What are you working on now? Can we expect more travels to foreign places in future stories? 

KH: The next book to be published takes place in Provence, France. As I mentioned, the next project will be a follow-up of that book. I want to have ongoing books in the Love on the Move series, which will take readers to other places, not just France. Eventually I’d also like to write in other genres, like romantic suspense. 

Thank you for spending some time with us this week and congratulations on your debut novel. I’m looking forward to what you’ve got in store for readers next. For those wanting their first taste of Kyle's books, she's offering an eBook to one of you! Keep reading for details on the giveaway.

About the Book

Nikki has loved Mike for as long as she can remember (as early as age seven!) Mike has his own past hurts to resolve, having lost both parents in an accident when he was fourteen. He’s tried to escape those painful memories by leaving New York and starting a new life on the West Coast. New facts indicate, years later, that his parents’ deaths might not have been an accident. 

At Christmas Mike comes back to New York for the first time in three years. He and Nikki rekindle the friendship they had as children and share their newfound faith. Under a Christmas moon romantic sparks fly . . . but their mutual attraction takes an unexpected detour. 

Nikki is devastated, believing her one chance for a relationship with Mike is over. She impulsively takes a one-year teaching opportunity in Paris, so that she can face her own fears and get over Mike. 

If Mike and Nikki run away, how can they find each other again? 

Amazon // Goodreads


Kyle is generously offering one of our readers an eBook of One December. To enter, simply leave a comment below and let us know what country you would visit if time and money were not an issue. Be sure and let us know how to contact you if you win. Let us know you followed Kyle Hunter on social media or signed up for her newsletter to get an extra entry in the drawing. 

*Giveaway not valid with fewer than 5 unique commentors. Giveaway ends midnight EST, Tuesday, May 15, 2018.