Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Enjoy an interview with the talented Tracy Higley!!

A warm welcome to the Diamond Mine, Tracy. I would love to start by asking you how you are doing and what you have going on right now. J

Thanks, Misty! I’m glad to be here. I’m doing great, currently working hard on manuscripts in several stages. I’ve been writing historical fiction for awhile now, with my last eight novels set in the ancient ruins of Greece, Rome, Egypt and Persia. My latest book, The Queen’s Handmaid, just released a couple of months ago, and follows a servant girl on a secret quest through three empires. Right now I’m working on a follow-up to that book, that features the magi who came to Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus.

One question  I am always inclined to ask another writer is: why did you want to become a writer?

I’ve always loved writing, from a very young age. Lots of short stories, plays, poems!  There has always been a love of words, a love of reading, in my heart. The stories I read as a child captured and transported me to wonderful places, and I wanted to give that gift to others.

Did you ever have any frustrations to the point you decided to quit writing? And if so, why didn’t you? What advice would you give to someone struggling the same frustrations?

There have been lots of frustrations along the way. Early on, it was trying to land an agent, hoping to find a publishing house that would publish my work. Eventually those things happened, and then a writing career becomes about doing the hard work and hoping people discover your books. I don’t think I’ve ever seriously considered quitting. Since I started my first novel not long after I learned to spell, it’s impossible for me to think about not writing!

What book have you written that stands out as your favorite, and why? As a writer myself, I have a favorite that I can’t seem to let go and I’m just curious if you do, too.

This is always a hard question. Often, it’s the book I’m working on now, or the one I just finished, because I feel I improve every time.  I have a new book coming out next month, one that is a little different than what I’ve been doing. It’s a globe-spanning contemporary suspense with some historical elements woven through, called Awakening. I’m really excited about it. It was fun to write, and I let some of my inner fantasy-writing out to play, which I don’t always do!

In the books you have written, who is your favorite character, and why?

I think I have two favorites – Hemi from Pyramid of Secrets and Sophia from Keeper of the Flame.  Both of them are trying hard to wall off their hearts, protect themselves from being hurt by isolating themselves from everything and everyone. I love writing that type of character, and watching him or her gradually awaken to life and love.

We’ve always been told every author leaves a little piece of themselves in every story they write. What character you’ve created most resembles who you are?

Most of the female protagonists I’ve written have been strong-willed and opinionated, and don’t quite fit in to their society. I think that’s a thread running through most of my books, and through me as well.

Have you ever had a book you struggled to finish, and if so, why? And did you finish it?

Every book is a struggle to finish! Writing is hard, hard work. At least for me!  I greatly enjoy the dreaming and plotting and researching, and even the revising and rewriting and editing afterward, but getting that first draft down is often painful and accomplished through a sheer act of discipline.  Yes, I have finished all of them, because I know that this is truly what I want to be doing.

My fellow miners have all garnered contracts. What advice can you give to aspiring authors like me who are still waiting?

Keep writing. Do your best with what you’ve written, start getting it out there and networking, but don’t wait for the contract to start writing the next thing. No one really wants to hear this, but often it’s the second or third or fourth manuscript that finally finds a publishing home. If you’re hanging on too tightly to a single piece of writing, never growing as you write the next and the next, you are hurting yourself.

I know you travel to different locations, and use them in your stories. What is your favorite location, and could you tell us a little about your trip?

Yes, I’ve been blessed to do quite a bit of fun traveling around the Mediterranean and the Middle East. I absolutely love Egypt – the ancient temples and massive statues, the grand pyramids, the Nile. Even the people are wonderful. I’ve had some adventures there!

I’ve saved the best for last. Do you have any questions you would like to ask about us; individually or as a group? Have at it, but be gentle. J

You look like an eclectic bunch of writers! I’m wondering how you all found each other and what made you want to start a blog together?  I’ll bet there’s a fun story there!

Thank you so much for stopping by and please come again and tell us how you’re doing and what you have going on.

Thanks, Misty!  And in the meantime, I’d love for your readers to stop by my website, where I’ve got some free stuff, like a free short story to try out my writing, plus lots of fun photos and videos of my research trips to the settings of my books.  Visit me at!

 In a few days we'll be drawing some names from those who comment and sending them a free copy of Tracy's newest release called the Queen's Handmaid. Make sure you leave a comment and your contact info. In the meantime, enjoy!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Welcome May the K9 Spy!

I'm so pleased to welcome KC Frantzen and May (her Schnauzer) to the Diamond Mine today. They are a unique writing team with a heart for adventure and a message of hope. With three books currently published in this series (which you have a chance to win in our giveaway below) and a fourth on the way, you don't want to miss these stories which bring smiles to children and adults.

Welcome, KC, it's so good to have you here. You and May seem like quite the writing team. How does that work?

Thanks for asking. We’re so glad to be with you today. Here are some de-tails…

Since May speaks critter and has no thumbs, I’m officially the transcriptionist as she tells her stories. If you know Schnauzers, you know how verbose they can be. (I see several heads nodding.) So, she shares the story then I type. Afterwards, she naps while I research, add input and run first edits. She comes back in on final edits before we submit to our pawmazing editor, Sandra Byrd. Three books later, we have it down pat. :)

Ok ok. Seriously… She is the inspiration, especially since our stories are written in first dog. We usually find a quiet spot around the house or on the screen porch, then May cuddles in my lap or nearby as I work. When I come to a situation, she’s right there so I attempt to figure out exactly what she would do, given the particular circumstances, fictional or otherwise. So far, so good.

What is May's story?

The series chronicles May’s adventures as she becomes a K9 Spy. The first book shares how she is rescued from an abusive situation through adoption. (By the way, most is really what happened when we adopted the real May.) She tries to figure out how to be as she interacts with the humans, “Dad” and “Mom,” and her grouchy Labrador sister and empathetic Schnauzer brother. One day she disobeys and plays out in the fields. After interaction with a Copperhead snake and a skunk she thinks might be a cat - ruh roh - she comes upon a “birdie” drone and a rickety old shed with a secret passage deeeeep underground. That starts her adventure to become a K9 Spy. Through most of this book, she wonders what her purpose is since everyone else seems to have one. By the end, she’s figured it out, and it’s on to the K9 Service.

Book two starts in the K9 Service boot camp where an airport training exercise goes awry. She’s dognapped - Oh NO! - and lands in Paris, where she teams up with a feral cat who lives in an old cemetery. In searching for the perfect setting, I looked for the closest cemetery to the American Embassy. It was the Cimetiere de Passy, in the area Benjamin Franklin lived during his time as Ambassador. What a perfect link to American history. Of course, this called for a research trip. So fun!

In the third book, she’s finally a full K9 Service agent so the mission is classified. We can share a few things… like enemy dolphins and nuclear submarines! It’s quite the tale.

We’ve just started plotting Book 4. You’ll discover what it’s about after we do! So far there’s a luxury cruise liner in the Baltic…

That sounds so exciting! And research trips are always a good idea. :) What do you hope readers will take away from your books?

Time well-invested in a story that offers hope and a different perspective on what opportunity might look like in real life. We strive to offer strategies to deal with difficult situations, so when kids (and adults for that matter) find themselves in similar circumstances, they know what might work for them… or not… when they recall how May handled things.

And humor. We’ve been told May is funny. We like to think so!

We write from a Christian worldview but the books aren’t “Christian” per se. They’re just good stories you don’t have to be concerned about your kids or yourself reading. We highlight morals and values and honor “freedom and the American Way.”

Do you have a favorite part of writing?

Ha! This depends on when you ask! Each new story is a challenge because we respect our fans so much. We work hard incorporating the best of our previous work, including what readers say are their favorite parts, while being true to May’s character and our mission. Creating the various stories is fun for sure. Seeing how the illustrators enhance our work is terrific too. Interacting with our fans at schools, fairs and festivals is so rewarding. When you receive a hug from a child to thank you for writing, or you hear from a parent or grandparent how you’ve changed a child’s life, or an adult fan makes a bee line to your booth to get the next book in the series or publicly shares that they purchased the set because others have told them about it or sends an email about how they sat down to read a few chapters and didn’t get up until they finished the entire book… It makes those long, long hours worth it!

If I must choose a favorite part though, it’s editing. By then our ideas are somewhat in place and much of the research is done. Then we work MANY hours to cut/craft to make it the best we know how. Finding just the right phrase or situation to illustrate what we want to say is quite gratifying. When readers comment enthusiastically in their reviews on something we struggled with, that is pure fun!

That's a great way to look at editing. A lot of writers would say that's their least favorite part. Speaking of which, what's been the biggest challenge associated with these books?

Great question! Not sure I can answer what the biggest challenge is, because each phase has its share. The first major challenge is dreaming the story then allowing myself to write badly on the first draft. Editing can be challenging but as you know it’s my favorite part of the process. Writing “the end” can be daunting, because the words you write must stand on their own - there’s nothing to add once in print.

One of the biggest challenges is simply to be noticed. (Gracious interviews like yours help so much. Thank you again!) You see, we don’t have a large marketing budget. Today so many good writers are available, we are honored when someone chooses to spend time with us, then thinks enough of our work to share with friends and writes an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads or their blog.

Any final words for your readers?

Come join us! We’d love you to join May’s pack on Facebook. . You can keep up with us there and on our website too. Our website has terrific sections for reader and writer resources, photos, a little more about us, a place to shop. And please email any time: May will write you back! PAWSOME!

Thank you so much, KC and May. We're so glad to have you at the Diamond Mine. Make sure you leave any questions or comments for them in the comment section below. And stop by KC's Amazon page or KC and May's shop to purchase the books and the cutest plush toy of May! Or check out the giveaway below to win free a free copy of all three books.

Here's your chance to win the first three books of the May the K9 Spy series! Contest runs until May 28th, after which the winner will be notified by email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author Bio:
KC Frantzen learned to speak "critter" at a young age. As a veterinarian's daughter, she was surrounded by four-footed friends. Occasionally her dad would bring home a patient needing care during the night. He'd put the pet carrier on the dryer, and she would stand on tippy toes to comfort the guest as best she could.

She began writing in elementary school and even won the school-wide contest with a story on deep sea fishing. Though she kept writing here and there, it was mostly just for fun. KC taught fifth grade, worked for an oilfield supply company, a pharmaceutical company, created and managed her own supply business, owned and operated a franchise welcoming new movers with her husband... The list goes on...

Many years after winning the elementary school award, KC began to think seriously about telling May's story, and completed the Christian Writers Guild Apprentice level course, which helped her to prepare.

She and her husband volunteer with a variety of projects, including the Joni & Friends Wounded Warrior Getaway. They enjoy traveling just about anywhere, which helps formulate ideas for May the K9 Spy. The family lives in the country hills of middle Tennessee with two Arabian horses and several dogs, including the real May.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Interview today with author Morgan Busse

Morgan writes Christian fantasy and the first two books of her three-book series are already out, soon to be joined by the third one. For our giveaway, the winner will choose whether to receive book one, "Daughter of Light" or the second one, "Son of Truth." Enter by leaving a comment. Winner will be notified by email on May 21st.

Daughter of Light:
What if with one touch you could see inside the soul?

Rowen Mar finds a strange mark on her hand, and she is banished from her village as a witch. She covers the mark with a leather glove and seeks sanctuary in the White City. She lives in fear that if she touches another person, the power inside her will trigger again, a terrifying power that allows her to see the darkness inside the human heart . . .

But the mark is a summons, and those called cannot hide forever. For the salvation of her people lies within her hand.

Son of Truth:
Can a killer find forgiveness?

The war in the north is over, but the war for all the Lands has just begun.

As the Shadonae solidify their hold on the city of Thyra, Rowen Mar, the last Eldaran and savior of the White City, awakens to find herself hunted by those she has saved.

Meanwhile, the assassin Caleb Tala finds himself in the presence of the Word. The time of reckoning has come, and he must pay the price for all the lives he has taken. But in his moment of judgment, Caleb is given a second chance to change his life.

These two hold the power to save the Lands from the Shadonae. One must escape slavery, and one must choose to forsake everything before the world is consumed in darkness.

Okay! Here we go!

Hi Morgan, glad to have you on the Diamond Mine! Christian science-fiction and fantasy appear to be blooming, and in that genre, your books certainly stand out. Tell me what inspired you to write.

I never grew up wanting to be a writer. However, I always had a huge imagination and so the seeds to someday be a writer were there. As an adult, I had a lot of ideas and would share them with people, who in turn would say I should write. I would laugh, but inside I would say, “No way!”
Then one day I walked into a Christian bookstore looking for Christian science fiction and fantasy. I asked the lady working there and she gave me a weird look then pointed at the lone Frank Peretti book at the bottom of the shelf. What? That’s it?
I went home and my husband said I should write a fantasy. I still wasn’t convinced until we were on a long car ride to Seattle and I had this idea of a woman who could see inside people with a touch of her hand. As soon as I was back home, I found my husband’s old laptop and started writing. Eight years later that story was published and the title is Daughter of Light, the first book in the Follower of the Word series, a fantasy series.

         It’s always interesting to hear how an author begins this incredible journey into writing. I find it especially true with fantasy or speculative fiction, since the author is creating a world. I’m wondering, how much of yourself do you infuse into your characters?

All of my characters carry a piece of me inside of them. I know many authors who write characters apart from themselves, but I don’t know how you can dive deeply into your characters without firsthand knowledge of what they are like. That doesn’t mean they are all copies of me, but there is a quality, a fear, or a quirk that trails back to me.

         What aspect of writing do you enjoy most?

I once heard Jerry Jenkins say he doesn’t like to write, he likes to have written. I didn’t understand that at the time. Why write if you don’t like writing? But now having finished three books, one under a tight deadline, I get it. Sometimes you get so tired of writing and pushing yourself that you just want a break, but you can’t stop until you finish the story. So I love writing the end.
However, before you start to think I hate writing, I love it when the ideas flow, when everything comes together in a scene. It’s that aaaaahh moment! And it’s those moments that keep me going.
I also love the emails that come after the book is published. I love hearing how much people enjoyed my story and how it touched them or helped them through a difficult time (fiction can be such an encouragement during dark times).

         That’s so true. Good books and movies have given me many moments of inspiration and encouragement. What do you find is the least enjoyable aspect of writing?

Slogging through the wordcount each day. Sometimes the ideas flow, sometimes they don’t. But you have to keep pressing forward. However, it is very gratifying to look back after a couple months and see how far you’ve come and the scenes or chapters you didn’t think were good are actually quite good!

         Outside of your own books, if you were a literary character, who would you be?

Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. She’s smart, confident, and can be counted on through thick and thin.

         Good choice! How about describing your series in a single sentence for each book.

What if with one touch you could see inside the soul? Daughter of Light
Can a killer find forgiveness? Son of Truth
What would you sacrifice to save mankind? Heir of Hope

         Now describe each one of your main characters with a one-word attribute.

Rowen Mar: Hope
Lore Palancar: Loyalty
Caleb Tala: Strength
Nierne: Faith

         Admirable traits! What’s the most important thing you want your readers to know?

I write stories about how in darkness there is light. There is always hope, no matter how small. I have been through cancer scares, my husband has lost his job twice followed by months of unemployment, we’ve lost a house, and our youngest son almost died. Dark, dark moments in my life. But God was still there with me. That doesn’t mean I didn’t cry or wasn’t afraid. It means that even when I couldn’t see Him, He was still there, holding my hand. That is what I want readers to take away when they read my books: that God is with them.

         A message we all need to hear and remember, especially during the times of fiery trials and chastening that we all go through. Thank you for sharing some of your heart today. May God continue to bless you, your family and your writing. It’s been a pleasure to host you!

Morgan L. Busse writes fantasy for the adult market. She is the author of the Follower of the Word series, including Daughter of Light, 2013 Christy and Carol Award finalist. Morgan lives in the Midwest with her husband and four children. You can find out more about Morgan at

Facebook: Facebook page

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Carlene Havel's The Scarlet Cord (with Sharon Faucheux)

Welcome to the Mine, everyone. We’re digging for diamonds in Christian fiction. Are you ready to get your hands dirty? I sure am.

Today, I'd like to introduce you to Carlene Havel, a fellow Prism author. Join us as we discuss her literary gems.

Hello Carlene, welcome to the Mine. I'm so glad you could be here today. 

For those readers who may not know, what kind of books do you write and can you enlighten us on your 'process'? You you create one of your jewels?

Thank you, Renee. I'm happy to be here. Let's see.

I write Biblical fiction with co-author Sharon Faucheux. We start by discussing Bible characters, finally narrowing the choice down to the one whose story we're most interested in telling. Then she peels off to do research while I begin writing the plot synopsis.

As a solo act, I’ve published two contemporary Christian romances and one historical novella. There are always new stories bubbling through my imagination. For me, ideas come easily. Staying focused on one long enough to complete a book is the challenge.

As busy as life can be, I can believe that. Still, I can see you've reached the finished line. Congratulations! And you've been published which is awesome as well. I see you're an author with Prism Book Group, like me and a couple of other miners at the Diamond Mine. What may a reader expect from a Prism book?

Congratulations on winning a Prism contract, and welcome to the fold! Like most writers, I also love to read. Prism Book Group publishes works that are clean, well-written, and carefully edited. I don’t care to read filthy language or casual sex disguised as romance, and you'll never find those things in Prism books.

You hear that, folks? Clean, and well-written. Thank you, Carlene. I'm honored to be part of a publishing company such as Prism. Speaking of publishing, have you ever been published by anyone besides Prism?

The answer to this question could fill a book. Hmm, maybe someday it will. I got off to a rocky start, but my mother, who also happens to be an author, kept encouraging me. I considered asking Mom (pen name: Barri Bryan) to intercede with Desert Breeze, where she has several books. Ultimately, I decided I would get a publishing contract on my own or not at all. Prism began accepting submissions at a perfect time for me, and I love working with Joan Alley and her crew.

That does sound like quite a story; one I would love to hear (or read) one day. Anyone else agree? I believe you have writing in the blood, so to speak. And did you say Desert Breeze Publishing? What a small world. One of our miners has a contract with them as well.

Back to your latest gem... what are you working on now?

Next up for publication is “The Scarlet Cord”, co-authored by Sharon and me. It’s the story of Rahab. You may recall she was the harlot who survived the fall of Jericho when the walls came tumbling down. Rahab and her family were spared because she had the faith and courage to shelter Israel’s spies. Later, she married Salmon, the Prince of Judah. The Bible doesn’t tell us much more about her life—that’s the part Sharon and I imagined and wrote.

What a story... and in the Bible. I've reviewed several Biblical romances for my blog. I enjoyed reading them, although I don't write them. I'll definitely have to check this one out. Can we get a glimpse?


     The tall man held up a hand, and his companion fell silent. Rahab was accustomed to men who could not afford her services, but the reactions of these two stung her. One seemed completely indifferent, while the other made her feel unclean. The truth flew into her mind with such force it escaped from her mouth. “You are Hebrews.”
     “Yes, we are,” the tall man said, much to Rahab’s surprise.
     They were such beautiful young men. What a pity it would be for them to be impaled in the public place. “Do you not know the king’s men keep track of foreigners in Jericho, because of all the trouble across the river? If you hurry, you may be able to escape.”
     The shorter man quickly pushed his food away, stood up, and shook out his clothing. The taller one stood and faced Rahab. “Would you hide us?” he asked.
     “I could be executed for helping you. And my whole family along with me.”  Looking into his eyes made her heart beat faster. Yet his face would no longer be handsome after a beating from the soldiers’ rods.
     The tall man spoke gently. “Help us and you will live when we take this city.”
     “Take Jericho? You cannot,” she whispered. “Our walls…”
     “Your walls are nothing to the Lord. We will conquer this city and all others who stand in our way, just as we have overcome the Amorites.” His manner conveyed absolute confidence. “Our lives in exchange for yours. Yes or no?”

I remember the fall of Jericho in the Bible. What an awesome story to tell. How do you decide which characters to pick for your books?

The Bible is filled with fascinating characters! How would it feel to be truly "given" in marriage?To live in an environment where a malevolent king had absolute authority? To be one wife among many? Those thoughts, coupled with a wish to write about a heroine from the Bible, eventually resulted in selecting Princess Michal, King Saul’s youngest daughter, to take the starring role in our first co-authored novel. After Sharon and I sifted through numerous possibilities, Rahab grabbed us next and wouldn’t let go. We were intrigued by the unlikely inclusion of a pagan harlot in the lineage of the Messiah. Once we selected our heroine, we include characters named in the Biblical account and invented the others.

I'm so excited for you (and Sharon). This book sounds absolutely amazing. Do you have any special events planned involving its release?

Prism covers are always smashing—perfectly reflective of each book’s theme—so I’m planning my first ever “cover reveal” event for “The Scarlet Cord”. A year and a half ago, Sharon and I looked at a picture Joan suggested for the cover of “Daughter of the King”. Almost as if we were leafing through a family album, we both said, “This is not a picture of Michal. She’s Rahab!”  

That is so cool. I love it. And I can't wait for the reveal. I can't wait to see her shine. After all, I think we have a diamond. Thanks for stopping by the Mine, Carlene. Are you open to taking some questions?

I’m honored to be your first featured author. It has been my pleasure to visit your lovely site.  May your jewelbox be filled with sparklers! I am most definitely open to questions, but I will be away from my computer for a while today, beginning a new Bible study. So if I’m slow to respond, you know why.

I completely understand. Don't worry, we have plenty of time. After all, we'll be here all week! (Oh my, I sound like a comedian.)

So if you have a question for Carlene, have at it, folks and don't forget to enter the giveaway for her latest release and a $25 gift certificate on Amazon! (see details below)




Carlene Havel's Daughter of the King
(e-copy or signed print version)
winner's choice

Enter via Rafflecopter!
(drawing on 5/14/14)

About the Giveaway's Prize:

Princess Michal was the youngest daughter of Saul, the first king of Israel. In an age when fathers arranged marriages, Michal dared to fall in love with a handsome young musician named David, from the little town of Bethlehem. As recounted in the Bible, Michal helped David escape from her insanely jealous father. King Saul punished his daughter with forced marriage to a distant war lord. Princess Michal unexpectedly returns from seven years of exile to find a changed world. Most of her relatives are dead. David has become King of Judea. He has acquired six additional wives, one of whom is a princess from Geshur. Michal longs to have a son to reign over Israel and reestablish the rule of King Saul's heirs.  But each royal wife has hopes of placing her own son on the throne. Can Princess Michal's love for King David survive war, madness, infidelity, and betrayal?

About the Author:

I grew up in Texas and married a military officer.  Courtesy of the US Air Force, I’ve also lived in six or seven US states, the Republic of the Philippines, and Turkey. My husband loves to travel, and we’ve had lots of fun satisfying his wanderlust. Although I prefer peaceful mountain forests, he enjoys big cities, exotic locales, and archaeological excavations. Glenn and I still laugh about our adventure in a Parisian coin operated laundry, and I’m pretty sure a couple of French housewives do, too. 

My home is now in Texas, in the midst of a big, extended family. I had no interest in writing until 2005, when I became a believer in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. Along with everything else that changed, I developed a passion for writing. I love Bible study, normally devoting most of one day each week delving into the scriptures with a small focus group. I also enjoy sewing, knitting, crochet and embroidery.

Amazon, Daughter of the King:
Amazon, all my work: