Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fabulous Fay Lamb Joins Us Today!

I met Fay in ACFW's critique group. I absolutely loved the story she was writing and could
not wait to read more of it! If you haven't read Fay's books, I highly recommend doing so!

Fay Lamb is an editor, writing coach, and author, whose emotionally charged stories remind Stalking Willow and Better than Revenge, Books 1 and 2 in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series are currently available for purchase. Charisse and Libby the first two novels in her The Ties That Bind contemporary romance series have been released. Fay has also collaborated on two Christmas novella projects: The Christmas Three Treasure Hunt, and A Ruby Christmas, and the Write Integrity Press romance novella series, which includes A Dozen Apologies, The Love Boat Bachelor, and Unlikely Merger. The romance novellas have also been combined into one volume entitled The Heart Seekers. Her adventurous spirit has taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast. Fay has contracted two series.

Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor. And, yes, there’s one more: Goodreads.

Anyone interested in learning more about Fay’s freelance editing and her coaching should contact her at

      Joi: Why did you start writing? How did you start writing?

Fay: I know that these days it sounds cliché to say that I’ve been writing since I was very young, but I have. I always had stories dancing through my head. I never checked this theory, but I truly believe I could have been the youngest recorded insomniac in history (five years old). As a fearful child, I didn’t sleep. My brain had to relieve me of my childhood anxieties and keep me entertained at the same time so it formulated characters and stories. Before I could write, I directed. All the kids in the neighborhood would gather around, and I’d have them act out the stories in my head. I can remember reading the newspaper to my father when I was five years old because I wanted to learn to read all of the books in my grandmother’s library (and she would take a lot of those books from me when I tried to read them at that age), but I also needed to learn to write because I simply wanted to write the stories I’d envisioned.

Today, the characters and stories still dance inside my imagination, and I’m still directing in my mind and on the page.
Joi: Love that, Fay!

          Joi:   How did you select your genre?

Fay: Could I get away with saying, “A funny thing happened to me on the way to my last line …”? I actually started writing what I considered women’s fiction. Then someone came along and whispered to me, “Don’t say women’s fiction. It doesn’t sell. Call it contemporary fiction. It’s the same thing, but readers don’t buy women’s fiction any longer.”

In those early days as I wrote my contemporary fiction, I’d exclaim, “I don’t write romance.”

Well … Oh, yes, I did, and I do. I don’t write it like Love Inspired and other formula romance publishers like it, but everything I write has romance in it. Romance is important to story. But that truth never hit me until the first novella I participated in entitled A Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt, in which I was the only author who introduced a romantic figure. I tried not to do it, but I stopped fighting against it. Since the contemporary fiction I cut my teeth on when I thought I wasn’t writing romance turned out to be filled with romance, I learned that I am a hopeless romantic—at least on paper. My husband would say that in real life, I’m pretty pathetic when it comes to romance, but I love a great conflict filled story of romance. Add suspense to the mix, and I love it even more.

          Joi: What is your writing day like?

Fay: Ugh … No, I don’t mean the writing part. It’s actually getting to the writing. I have a to-do list that meanders through housework, editing, coaching, promotion, bookkeeping … and writing. Now, when I start the writing, I don’t have trouble with word count. I can write a thousand words in an hour on a mediocre day. I love to dance through those thousands of words. Here’s my problem: I have to convince myself that I’m not wasting my time, my husband’s time, and the time of everyone else who needs me. The reason I have to daily convince myself of this is because writing is so much fun. It’s the escape it has always been since my insomnia at five years of age. Even editing my work is fun for me because in edits I can include another layer of story. If someone asked me if I’d like to visit Disney World or spend a day alone writing, I’d be at my desk writing away, enveloped in the world I created with the characters I love—even the creepy ones—while my family enjoyed the attraction.

I do believe, though, that my husband and my loved ones are beginning to realize how important my daily writing time is to me. I get pretty cranky when I can’t spend time with my imaginary friends.

      Joi: How do you organize your writing? (outlines/note cards/post-its)

Fay: Writing is probably about the only thing I don’t organize. On occasion, if I get stuck on a plot, I’ll use a system similar to the LOCK system that James Scott Bell created and teaches. Otherwise, the story at hand is always running through my head. Sometimes it needs to compete with other stories, but even when I’m not sitting at the computer, my mind visualizes scenes so that when I sit down to type, the scene is mostly written in my head, and I put it down on paper.

          Joi: What's the most surprising thing a character has “told you”?

Fay: I love this question because this just happened to me, and it wasn’t one character, it was five of them. I’m writing away, and the hero and heroine are receiving information that points to the antagonist. That’s when the villain started snickering and asking me how foolish I thought he was? He taunted me with “Why would I do that? That doesn’t make sense. Of course, they’d catch me if I did that.” His chastisement lasted for a few days, and I was pretty ticked at him for ruining my plot. Then four characters approached me. When I asked them what was going on, they each told me their part in everything I’d written, “Well, I’m the one who did that because …” and I got an answer from each of them that put some great twists into the story, put the entire plot into perspective, and kept me moving forward. The villain ain’t too happy, but the other four high-fived me.
Joi: That is fantastic!!!

        Joi: Do you have a list of characters that you're saving for future use? What kind of information do you keep on these characters

Fay: A list? Like a written list? Ha Ha. That thought never occurred to me. I’ve probably outed myself as an insane individual before this question, but in case there’s any doubt, I can give you a list of characters (all from memory) who are vying for attention. When I bring them on stage, I have a perfect picture of them in my mind; I remember where they live, what they do, what their story is about, and how they know each other, which ones belong with each other, and which ones have really never met the others because, of course, they’re from different series, and then there are those who cross over from one series to another. I’m clearly under-estimating the number of characters when I say there are at least fifty of them inside my imagination.

I want to be careful here: these are characters and not levels of my personality. I’m a little off of center, but not that far. I’m the director, and they never, ever take over—not completely.

       Joi: What does your work space/office look like?

Fay: I work in a bedroom turned office at the far end of the house from my husband’s office. From behind my L-shaped desk sitting in front of the window, I look out onto my front yard at oak trees, azalea bushes, squirrels, birds, birds chasing squirrels, the two outdoor neighborhood cats that everyone believes belong to me (probably because I feed them), and the lizard that has taken to playing peek-a-boo and tormenting our indoor cat by sticking his head around the shutter and moving back and forth. My desk sits between two bookshelves, one filled with writing references and the other with my to-be-read collection, which is just about as large as the same type of collection in my Kindle. A portrait of my grandmother when she was a small girl watches over me from its place on the wall, and a picture of a dog at the typewriter, reminds me, “Do not waste a day without adding words to the page.”

                    Joi: What is your go-to snack when writing?

Fay: My go-to snack anytime is ice cream and/or sweet iced tea (of course in the South it’s called iced tea—sweet is redundant) from our town’s wonderful Moonlight Drive-In. I’m enjoying a cup right now. We don’t keep snacks in the house mainly because, heaven forbid, we’d eat it. Well, we don’t keep that much real food in the house either because, heaven forbid, I’d have to cook it. But we do head to the Moonlight Tuesday through Saturday (they’d call the police thinking foul play had occurred if we didn’t show up) for the best iced tea ever, and quite a few times during the week, we enjoy their ice cream.
Joi: My husband loves ice cream! It's his favorite!

      Joi: If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why?

Fay: You mean besides one of mine? Only kidding.

That’s a very easy questions because I’ve been thinking about the novel lately. It was required reading for Florida high school students for a number of years because it was written by an author who was only seventeen years old at the time. I don’t remember if the author used the elements that I believe go into crafting a well-written novel, but I do know that when I was seventeen, my mother came into my room one night to shake me awake because I was crying out a line from the story: “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.” The novel is S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. The reason I recommend it is because that story captured my imagination when I was seventeen, and the story lingers with me still today, and that’s what the best stories do. They linger with the reader. They aren’t forgotten as soon as the last word is read.

      Joi: If you could only recommend one CRAFT book (writing, not crocheting), what would it be? Why?

Fay: I’m going to cheat on this one. I can’t recommend just one book, but I can recommend one author I credit with most everything I have learned about writing fiction. If I’d read no other books on the craft of writing but his, I would have been well-served. Every author should read and keep on their shelves for reference, each book written by James Scott Bell on the craft of writing. Mr. Bell teaches without all those highfalutin phrases and boring feats of engineering other writers on craft use. He cuts to the chase, tells you the job is hard, but he explains it so well that a writer, working diligently to learn can’t help but improve. He uses great examples and simplistic terms. The man has been, and continues to be, a tremendous blessing to writers.

Oh, and I don’t crochet, but I do tat. I could recommend some books for tatting, if you’d like.

      Joi: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Fay: I get the feeling that by the time you got to my answer for this question, you were cringing.
Joi: Absolutely not! I have loved this interview!

Fay: Joi, I just want to thank you for letting me have fun with the interview today. I bet you couldn’t tell that I love to chat, and I appreciate you’re inviting me to do so.
Joi: Thanks for joining us, Fay! Fay has graciously offered to do a giveaway! Tell her in the comment below what your favorite snack is!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Interview and Giveaway with Candee Fick!!

Stories of Faith, Hope, and Love

by Candee Fick!

Danielle Lefontaine, a fledgling actress raised to the lullaby of Broadway, searches for her long-lost brother and her place on the stage, but a jealous cast member and numerous fruitless leads threaten to drop the curtain on her dreams and shine a spotlight on her longing for a place to belong. Meanwhile, Alex Sheridan is living his dream except for someone to share it with. When Dani dances into his life, he hopes he’s found the missing piece to his heart but fears the bright lights of a bigger stage could steal her away.

Will the rhythm of dancing feet usher in their deepest desires or leave them stranded in the wings?

Today we welcome author Candee Fick to the Diamond mine!And don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of Candee's latest book!

Hi Candee! Great to have you on the Diamond Mine!
I see that you’ve written a number of non-fiction books before your fiction novels. What made you decide to write novels, and was it a difficult transition?

I actually started out trying to write a novel, but in the process of taking an online writing course, I was assigned a few non-fiction articles that led to books and so that’s where my publishing journey began. Along the way, I continued to write fiction on the side, grew in my craft as a storyteller, and regularly submitted my work to critique partners and contests until I finally attracted the attention of an editor. My experience with non-fiction, including blogging, taxes, queries, and proposals, has made the business side of the transition easier, but I’m still learning how to write a better novel faster.

Me too! So, how do you get your story ideas?

Some of my best story ideas have come either while waking up from a dream or when daydreaming about a person or situation I observed. My two favorite questions to ask are then “Why?” and “What if…?” because that’s where I discover who these people are and why they are in this current situation. If I’m interested in the answers, I’ll dig deeper with more questions until I’ve harvested the foundation for a short story, novella, full-length novel, or even a series idea. Some story nuggets have been percolating on the back burner of my brain for a very long time.

I can really relate to that, as I'm sure so many writers can! 
Do you plan out your story with an outline or general framework, or do you write as you go?

I definitely work out a general framework for the story before I start writing, but I leave plenty of room for my characters to walk onto the page and surprise me. There’s a lot to be said for a solid believable plot that initiates an internal change in the life of the characters, and both plotters and pantsers eventually reach that same destination. Personally, I don’t like investing time in extensive rewrites so I’d rather put in the work ahead of time to make sure there’s a solid story arc with good character motivations before I start romping on the page. As long as I don’t stray too far from the framework, I can enjoy the journey while minimizing the necessary time for revisions.

Good plan! 
How much of your own life and self do you put into your characters?

I definitely invest myself emotionally into my characters. While I might not be an athletic trainer in a football program or a tap dancer at a theater, I know a lot about trying to come up with a Plan B, struggling to forgive, or wishing I could fit in with the popular crowd. The situation might be different, but I can identify with the basic emotions that make us human. That said, I like to write about things I enjoy so watching a college football game, attending the dinner theater, or even hiking in the Rocky Mountains have made it into my stories.

Are any of your characters based on real people?

Yes…and no. Certain antagonists may or may not have been inspired by the actions, words, or sneers of real people I’ve known, but I’ve certainly changed names, professions, physical characteristics, and more to protect the guilty. I’ve even combined several “inspiring” folk into a single antagonist before. As for my good guys, some of them might do or say something that a real person in my life did, but the rest of the character is unique. For example, my husband started our first date with prayer but he can’t play an instrument or even enjoy watching a musical. When my mom read an early draft of my latest release, she immediately recognized that event in the story, but it was clear that my trumpet-playing, theater-running character was a completely different person.

I know what you mean about weaving in some reality throughout our stories! 
Tell us a bit about the main characters in your latest book, and what you like best about them.

Danielle, aka Dani, is an orphan who survived years in foster care, discovered the joy of dancing, found a new home, and now is forging a path toward a professional career in theater while still searching for the younger brother she was separated from at age six. I love her sense of humor and the deep spiritual connection she shares with God while dancing. Alex on the other hand is a talented musician and college business student who is using his gifts to help run his family’s dinner theater, but he’s skittish when it comes to dating an actress because his last girlfriend put advancing her career above their relationship. I love his charming mixture of stability and vulnerability…and those dimples are so adorable!

They sound like very engaging characters! 
Since you’re writing romance stories, what part of a romance do you find most compelling?

I like the part where a couple falls in love because it’s a journey of discovery filled with giddy emotions and confusing signals. Does she like me? He just brushed up against my arm and I still feel all tingly. What is that look supposed to mean? People rarely fall in love at first sight and so there’s a natural progression of attraction and getting to know each other and being turned off by one thing about the other person while adoring another aspect. Until they finally kiss for the first time and tentatively form a couple who then navigate the rest of the story. I love discovering what draws my characters together and then what makes it stick for the long haul.

Nicely explained! 
If your stories have a basic interwoven theme for the reader, what is it?

As a faith-based writer, I tend to weave in some aspect of God’s character in such a way that my characters’ journey can inspire the reader as well. For example, in Dance Over Me, I wove in the idea of God as an adoptive Father as well the idea that He is at work behind the scenes in our lives. My tagline is “Stories of Faith, Hope, and Love” because my mission is to show God’s love through a romance story, illustrate genuine faith in action through the challenges my characters face, and then leave readers with hope that God is real and they too can overcome their challenges with His help.

I think all faith-based writers can relate completely to your sentiments, and share the same hopes as you've just expressed.
What do you like most about being a writer?

I love the creative process where I get to dream up interesting people and situations, block them into a corner, and then figure out a way to rescue them. I especially love it when my creative juices start flowing and the perfect plot twist drops into my imagination. That’s when I can’t type fast enough to keep up with the story unfolding in my head. Those are the moments where I feel God smiling as I write. (Unfortunately, even when writing inspired, I still have to edit and revise. Bummer!)

I hear you!
What are you working on now?

I’m currently updating an older manuscript that has yet to be sold. Once that proposal is back out the door, I’ll give the sequel to Dance Over Me another revision pass with fresh eyes before diving into the fast draft of the third book in The Wardrobe series. In the meantime, there are a few more ideas clamoring for their turn. I have to keep telling myself to focus on one book at a time.

Thanks so much for the interview Candee!! It's been a pleasure.
Readers, remember to leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of Candee's latest book.

Here's a short excerpt from Candee's book: Dance Over Me:

(Partway into the Prologue)
After introducing herself, Miss Amy put her hand on Dani’s shoulder. “Mrs. Johnson, this is Danielle Barker.”
Dani reached out her hand to Mrs. Johnson the way Mommy had taught her. “Nice to meet you.”
Mrs. Johnson’s hand felt warm as they shook hands. “Welcome to our home.”
“Dani’s joining her brother, Jacob.” Miss Amy squeezed Dani’s shoulder.
“Jacob?” Mrs. Johnson’s face got really white. “He’s gone.”
Gone? That’s what they said about Mommy and Daddy. Dani’s heart stopped beating for a moment and then pounded under her sweater.
“Nobody told us there was a sister. The Wilsons took him home yesterday.” Mrs. Johnson sounded mad.
Dani’s arms tingled and a noise like a waterfall echoed inside her head. “Why did the Wilsons take him?”
The grown-ups got that look like when they forgot kids were listening. Mrs. Johnson pulled them inside the house and shut the door. Miss Amy left to use the telephone. Trembling, Dani stood by the wall. Mrs. Johnson sat on a chair and covered her face with her hands. Down the hallway, music played and children laughed.
After a long time, Miss Amy returned. Her eyes looked sad as she got on her knees in front of Dani. “You’re going to stay here with Mrs. Johnson. But your brother’s being adopted. He has a new family now.”
A new family?
Dani shook her head and tears filled her eyes. No. J. D. was her family. They couldn’t take him away. Not with Mommy and Daddy gone to heaven. She had to take care of him.
She pushed Miss Amy away and screamed.

Chapter 1

Danielle Lefontaine wiped sweaty palms on her short skirt. Auditions always put her off balance.
“Next up. Number seventeen.”
Dani rolled her shoulders once, gave each leg a shake, took a deep breath, and clicked her way up the three steps to the polished hardwood. Approaching center stage, she scanned the house and zeroed in on the older couple seated behind a table on the second level.
“And what will you be showing us this morning?”
Dani’s gaze skipped over the tall woman who’d checked her in earlier and focused on the middle-aged director who was busy rolling a pen between his fingers. She swallowed hard to dissolve the cotton-like feeling in her mouth.
“I’ve prepared a series of tap combinations.” Dani did a quick shuffle step to draw attention to her footwear and break the tension that seemed to have paralyzed her body.
A snort of laughter erupted from an area to the right of the judges’ table.
Dani shifted her gaze to the critic. Female. About her age. The blonde bombshell diva-type leaned over to whisper something in the ear of the dark-haired man beside her as two other women giggled behind them. Based on the logo on their T-shirts, they were part of the theater company and therefore in a position to enjoy watching the auditions without the fear of dashed hopes.
“Do you have accompaniment?” The director rested his chin on folded hands.
“I do.” Heat from the stage lights sent a trickle of sweat down Dani’s back.
“Whenever you’re ready.”
She glanced at the cluster of actors. The diva picked at her nail polish, and the others looked equally bored. Time to let her feet do the talking.
She stepped into position and nodded in the direction of the soundboard on the third level at the back of the room.
Okay, God. Here we go.

And readers, there you go! A little taste of a wonderful story!
And here's a short bio about Candee:

Candee Fick is the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job or writing, she can be found cheering on the home team at football, basketball, baseball, and Special Olympics games. In what little free time remains, she enjoys exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book. 

And here are her social and purchase links:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Mine Discovers More than Just a Book with Christine Lindsay (Giveaway)

Christine Lindsay
Please welcome Christine Lindsay to the Diamond Mine! She’s telling us all about her latest release, Finding Sarah, Finding Me. This is a special book for her and we’re going to find out why. I can’t wait! You can even win a copy of this great book…check out the giveaway at the end of the interview. Let’s get started!

Renee: Hello, Christine, welcome to the Diamond Mine, can you tell us how you came up with the idea for your book?

Christine: Thanks, Renee, I’m so happy to be here. I wanted to tell the true-life story of giving up my baby girl to adoption since the very day I relinquished her in 1979 and of our heart-breaking reunion 20 years later. But as time went by I wanted to tell not just my story, but other people’s adoption reunion stories as well so that the issues of adoption and reunion could be looked at from different angles. People are made up of such different emotional stuff. We can’t all be expected to feel the same in shared situations. I had to learn to respect the emotions of my daughter’s adoptive parents when their emotions were so vastly different from mine regarding the reunion. Everyone has a right to their emotions.

The Reunion

Renee: That sounds like a powerful topic and such a personal one. I can understand why you’d want to write it. How did you pick your title?

Christine: My working title for this book was originally Just Like Hannah because so many of the people in the book referred to their adoption experience—whether they were an adoptive mother or a woman who struggled with infertility, or me as a birth-mom—as “just like Hannah.”
But my publisher suggested the title Finding Sarah, Finding Me because that is the main theme of my personal story—finding my true identity in Christ while I was searching for a love relationship with the child I relinquished.
One other thing you might want to know about this book—100% of author royalties will be donated to the Mukti Mission in India. If you want to know the special reason for this, you’ll have to read the book.

Renee: Well that’s a teaser isn’t it, folks? LOL You have a very giving soul, Christine. On a more professional note, what’s easiest about writing for you?

Christine's daughter, Sarah
Christine: Strangely, I find it easy to be transparent in all I write and when I speak in public. Perhaps that’s because I had to live with a secret for so many years that I felt such freedom when that secret was revealed to the world. My secret was having a baby out of wedlock and keeping that secret for almost 20 years before I could even tell my kids that I later had with my husband. But that was the way things were done back then. I felt that I was living but people didn’t know the real me. I didn’t even know the real me.
So with that background as the inspiration for all I write, I find it easy to delve into those deep human issues and emotions that affect our lives and show us our great need for God.

Renee: Secrets can be destructive. They can cause a lot of pain. How long have you been writing and why did you start?

Christine: That’s a long-held secret for sure. That and my desperate need to tell others that I had another child. I wanted so badly to write that book about my reunion with my birth-daughter shortly after the reunion in 1999, and I completed that manuscript, but no doors to the publishing world opened at that time. That was when I felt the Lord urge me to put the spiritual and emotional healing I had received from my birth-mother experience into Christian fiction to hopefully help others.
That was the beginning of my Christian Fiction career. Then 16 years later, and after the publication of 6 successful novels, my publisher wanted to release my non-fiction book. Finding Sarah, Finding Me is a very different book from the one I wrote all those years earlier though. There was so much to learn, mostly about who I was in Christ and how He used my heartache to draw me to himself in a deeper love relationship.

Renee: How has your life changed over the years in other respects? Do you have any fun hobbies or activities you like to do?

Christine: I’m a grandmother of 5 grandsons, and just two days ago my first granddaughter was born. So I love to spend time entertaining my grown kids and their children. I love to make our home an oasis for our kids to come and relax, so I work on my garden and outside living area as well as making the house as cozy as I can. Cooking large family meals around the holidays and decorating too are what inspire me.

We know you’re a Christian, so I have a couple of quiz questions for you. If you were at a party, what would you do?
I like to meet new people and make them feel welcome. So I’ll go up to strangers and start a conversation, get them to tell me about themselves and their lives. It’s great to see people’s faces light up when someone takes an interest in them.

Oh, you’re bolder than me. I’m not as shy as I used to be, but it’s still hard for me to approach strangers. LOL Has God ever told you NOT to do something you wanted to do?

For sure. He definitely told me back in 2000 that I was not to publish my birth-mother story in a non-fiction format. He wanted me to wait on that book until He had taught me all the deep things of the heart about my daughter being someone else’s daughter. He wanted me to see the situation from their point of view, and that took time. It took time for the heartache to be healed so that I could see things from the Lord’s perspective, and thereby write that story the way He wanted it written.

Thanks for joining us at the Diamond Mine, Christine. It’s been a pleasure and I know your book will be a success!


I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know more about Christine Lindsay! She’s also offering a digital copy of her new book, Finding Sarah, Finding Me.

To Enter, simply ask her a question about the interview or leave a comment on the following:

Who taught you the love of God?

(Leave your name and email address with your comment or question to validate your entry. Minimum of five comments required. One winner will be selected by random draw on 9/21/2016)


About Finding Sarah, Finding Me:

Sometimes it is only through giving up our hearts that we learn to trust the Lord.
Adoption. It’s something that touches one in three people today, a word that will conjure different emotions in those people touched by it. A word that might represent the greatest hope…the greatest question…the greatest sacrifice. But most of all, it’s a word that represents God’s immense love for his people.
Join birth mother Christine Lindsay as she shares the heartaches, hopes, and epiphanies of her journey to reunion with the daughter she gave up...and to understanding her true identity in Christ along the way.
Through her story and glimpses into the lives of other families in the adoption triad, readers will see the beauty of our broken families, broken hearts, and broken dreams when we entrust them to our loving God.
Amazon (Paper and Kindle)

About Christine Lindsay:

Christine Lindsay is the author of multi-award-winning Christian fiction with complex emotional and psychological truth, who always promises a happy ending. Tales of her Irish ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India inspired her multi-award-winning series Twilight of the British Raj, Book 1 Shadowed in Silk, Book 2 Captured by Moonlight, and explosive finale Veiled at Midnight.
Christine’s Irish wit and use of setting as a character is evident in her contemporary and historical romances Londonderry Dreaming and Sofi’s Bridge.
A busy writer and speaker, Christine, and her husband live on the west coast of Canada. Coming August 2016 is the release of her non-fiction book Finding Sarah—Finding Me: A Birthmother’s Story.

Please drop by Christine’s website or follow her on Amazon on Twitter. Subscribe to her quarterly newsletter, and be her friend on Pinterest , Facebook, and  Goodreads

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Getting Personal with Melissa Tagg

If you’ve not found Melissa Tagg on social media yet, you are missing out. Whether she’s sharing about her favorite band (Needtobreathe), her crush on the cover model of one of her books (which in turn led to a fun Christmas novella), her conversations with friends about her characters as if they were real people, or her insights into life, you are missing out. Melissa is honest, transparent, and very often humorous. I’m so excited she’s graciously agreed to spend some time with us here at The Diamond Mine today so our readers can get a little glimpse of the heart of this amazing author!

Melissa Tagg is a former reporter, current nonprofit grant-writer and total Iowa girl. She’s also a multi-published novelist. Her latest book, Like Never Before, was named by Publisher’s Weekly to their spring 2016 “Religion and Spirituality” Top 10 list. Upcoming books include Keep Holding On (Sept 2016) and a sequel to last year’s One Enchanted Christmas, releasing in late 2016. Melissa has taught at multiple national writing conferences, as well as retreats and workshops. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever–not that she’s biased–watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. Melissa loves connecting with readers at and on Facebook and Instagram.

Welcome, Melissa, and thank you for joining us. Since you are the queen of three-word titles (Three Little Words, From the Start, Like Never Before), let’s begin with a lightning round. Give the first three answers that come to mind.

1  3 of your favorite things to have on hand when writing:

Diet Coke with Lime

Apparently I’m big into beverages. LOL! Also super important: flannel pajama pants. I’m convinced they help me write better. :)

1    Your 3 favorite movies:

AHHH, this is too hard! I have too many. Like, legit: I could go on and on about this. But here are three I return to constantly:

The Philadelphia Story
What’s Up Doc?
His Girl Friday

(It’s killing me to not also mention Bringing Up Baby, It Happened One Night, Holiday, Roman Holiday, It’s a Wonderful Life, both Anne of Green Gables movies, Sound of Music, My Man Godfrey…I wasn’t joking about going on and on… :) ) 

1    3 books in your TBR (to be read) pile:

Ooh, great question, because my TBR pile is consistently overflowing…can I cheat and mention three books in one series? And it’s even a series I’ve already read! Joanne Bischof’s Cadence of Grace series. I read this series when it first released and completely fell in love with Bischof’s writing and the emotional depth of her stories. I just recently read her latest book, The Lady and the Lionheart, and I loved it so much I read it twice in one week. It made me want to go back and re-read her earlier series again. So all three books in that series are on my TBR pile.

     3 things that make you smile:

My family…which I suppose sounds like a cliché answer, but it’s true. I’m really never happier than when I’m surrounded by the people I love most.

A new story idea…there’s just something so deliciously fun about discovering a new story, peeling back its layers and getting a taste of the storytelling fun to come before I even start writing.

Kind readers…I will never stop being grateful for readers who uplift and inspire me with their kind words, notes of encouragement, gracious reviews and just overall sweetness.

1      3 places you’d like to visit:

Italy! I studied abroad in London in college and while I had the chance to visit several amazing countries, Italy is one I missed out on. I’m dying to go there.

London! Solely because I would absolutely love to see my British friends again. It’s been too long.

The Smoky Mountains in autumn…I looooove the Smoky Mountains. So, so much. But I’ve never been there in the autumn and I have a feeling they’re even more beautiful then.

For our readers, here's a picture Suzie took at Grotto Falls in the Smoky Mountains (She's not visited in the fall either).

   That was fun, but let's dig a little deeper. You admit to loving the editing process of writing, which can become a tedious process for authors. Why do you enjoy this part of creating your stories?

Honestly, I think I love editing because it finally allows me to feel a bit more “in control” of my story and my characters. Whenever I’m writing a first draft, no matter how much I’ve brainstormed and plotted and planned, the story always ends up getting away from me…which is actually kind of cool when you think about it. The characters start saying and doing things I never expected…which is, on the one hand, completely awesome. Anytime the story starts telling itself, I know there’s more at work than my own brain. But it’s also scary and messy and frustrating at times.

When I’m editing, I feel a little more in control…a little less unnerved. J BUT it’s also the part in the process when I discover nuggets in the story I didn’t even realize were there the first time around. And it’s often during edits that I realize why I’m writing this story at this time. I often discover the hidden spiritual theme that was there all along…and it’s like God sending an arrow straight to my heart.

As much as I do try to write for readers, I think I also write for myself…for my own heart. I feel like writing stories is my lifeline to God. And I always see that in action most clearly during editing.

 I love reading your social media statuses and blog posts because your share life with your followers and readers. You share your insights, your struggles, and your obsessions. And very often, I’m laughing out loud at what you’re sharing (hello, baby goats?). Even though we’ve not met in person, I feel like you’re a friend because you share things with your readers and you’ve got a talent for using social media as a promotion tool.

Awww, thank you for saying that! <3 

That’s a long build up to the next question…Do you ever need a break from all things social media?

Yessssss!! In fact, I’ve gotten more and more consistent about taking social media breaks. It’s always hard at first to break away…because, honestly, I love the interaction! I love chatting with friends…I love the opportunity to connect with people I wouldn’t have even met if it weren’t for Facebook or Instagram or my website or whatever.

But man, it’s so easy for my headspace to get cluttered. I don’t know if other people have that problem, but there are times when I struggle to be present in my everyday life. To be present with the people actually physically around me. To hear my own voice or God’s voice or the voices of my characters. Social media breaks go a long, LONG way in curing that. 

In addition to your job as an author, you also work for a homeless nonprofit and take time out to speak at events and retreats. First, if someone is interested in having you attend one of their events, how should they contact you about that? Second, how do you balance getting your writing in with the other everything else pulling at your time?

Ooh, I LOVE speaking at events and retreats. The two easiest ways to contact me are by email ( or via the Contact form on my website:

As for balance, I honestly feel like I’m still learning there. A couple years ago, I was big into hustling…fitting every single thing in to every last minute of the day. I would get up before work and write…then work eight hours…then come home and write some more. I spent tons of Saturdays and Sundays writing. And I tried to convince myself it was worth it and I was happy.

But it wasn’t worth it and I wasn’t happy. In fact, after writing my third book, From the Start, I felt so drained, stressed and unlike myself, that I decided I’d go ahead and write my next contracted book and if something didn’t change, I’d quit writing books and focus solely on my day job (which I love) and getting back to being even-keeled, happy Melissa. :)

Thankfully, God did a mega turnaround in my heart. I feel like He just completely gifted me with the writing of Like Never Before. Sure, it was still hard and stressful at times…but it was nothing like the last one in terms of, oh, me falling apart. LOL! And then toward the end of last year, I made some decisions and changed up some priorities in my life in an effort to be more balanced. Instead of forcing myself to write every day, I’m now taking long weekends every now and then to do a bunch of writing at once. I’ve cut down on conferences, blogging and other industry-related stuff. I’ve stopped feeling like I have to DO everything.

And the super funny thing is, I’m now writing more, faster and happier than I was before. It’s like, as soon as I decided to take a couple risks, stop pressuring myself and just trust God, things started falling into place in a new and much more balanced way.

(Sorry I got so ramble-y here!)

Can you give our readers who have not read your books a quick overview of the Walker Family and Maple Valley?

Absolutely! Maple Valley is a made-up town in Iowa, lightly based on a couple real Iowa towns (Boone and Webster City) as well as a fictional town—Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls. It’s quirky, it’s charming, it’s eccentric. Everyone knows everyone and there’s some kind of town festival, fair or event, like, every other weekend. Haha!

The Walkers are so ridiculously real to me. The dad, Case, is a widow and former Army soldier turned diplomat who now runs the Maple Valley Scenic Railroad and Museum. Case’s children, in the order of their books, include:

Kate—a screenwriter of Hallmark-type movies with heartbreak in her past, the main character in From the Start 

Logan—the oldest, a political speechwriter, the fictional love of my life, father of a little girl named Charlie and main character in Like Never Before

Beckett—the mysterious son! All you know in the first couple books is that he’s a lawyer in Boston and he hasn’t been back to Maple Valley in years. He’s the main character in my upcoming book, Keep Holding On

Raegan—the youngest who still lives at home. She’s 26 and works a slew of part-time jobs. She’ll be the main character in the final Walker book next year. She’s pining for a recurring character named Bear.

There’s also Seth Walker, a cousin, who is the main character in Three Little Words—a free prequel novella!

The Walkers are a super close-knit family with lots of quirks and lots of love for each other. They all miss Flora Walker, Case’s wife who passed away years ago, and continue to be impacted by her legacy and love.

It’s been a pleasure visiting with you today. Thanks again for taking time out of your schedule to chat with us.

About Melissa's books

Three Little Words

Ava Kingsley and Seth Walker might be the most unlikely friends ever. The only thing these two polar opposites have in common is a knack for wordsmithing. Back in college, they were known for their written sparring in the campus newspaper's popular "He Says/She Says" column. 

At their ten-year college reunion, they pick up right where they left off. Except this time their squabbling leads to a surprising turn: friendship and a year-long exchange of emails. So when Ava approaches a crossroads in her athletics department career in Minnesota, Seth is quick to offer the open apartment above the restaurant he's been remodeling in Maple Valley, Iowa.

Ava doesn't know where her career will lead her next, but she's starting to suspect she might see Seth as more than a pen pal. Which would be exciting...except for the fact that he only sees her as a friend. As Maple Valley grows on her, Ava wonders if there might be something here for her even though Seth is unavailable. And maybe, just maybe, after all the words the two of them have exchanged over the years, they'll finally be able to say the three that matter most.

Three Little Words is an e-only novella that gives an exciting introduction to Melissa Tagg's new series about the charismatic Walker family and the endearing town of Maple Valley!

From the Start

Kate Walker used to believe in true love and happily ever after. While her own love life may have left her brokenhearted, it hasn't kept her from churning out made-for-TV romance movie screenplays...until a major career slump and a longing to do something meaningful send her running back to her hometown of Maple Valley. 

Permanently sidelined by an injury, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene is temporarily hiding out in a friend's hometown to avoid the media and the reminders of all he's lost. Maple Valley seems like the perfect place to learn how to adjust to normal life. The only trouble is he's never really done normal before.

While Kate plays things safe and Colton is all about big risks and grand gestures, they both get what it's like to desperately need direction in life. An unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their new lives, but old wounds and new dreams are hard to ignore. Starting over wasn't part of the plan, but could it be the best thing that's ever happened to them?

Like Never Before

Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley's haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But her new life as a newspaper editor is shaken when the small-town paper is in danger of closing. Her one hope: A lead on an intriguing story that just might impress the new publisher...if only she knew who he was.

After his biggest campaign success yet, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker now has the chance of a lifetime--a spot on a presidential campaign. But his plans are interrupted when he finds out he's inherited his hometown newspaper. He travels home intent on selling the paper and spending some much-needed time with his young daughter before making the leap into national politics.

But instead of a quick sale and peaceful break from his hectic career, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She's scrappy, but wounded. He's dependable, but lost. They may butt heads more than expected, but a series of leads on Maple Valley's quirky unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.

(available Sept 27, 2016)

Beckett Walker hasn't stepped foot in Maple Valley in years. There's no getting past the painful memories, and there's every chance he'll be arrested as soon as he shows his face. Which is exactly what happens when he finally returns. Suddenly his dream of adventure as a military lawyer comes skidding to a halt.

Horticulturist Kit Danby has spent too much time missing home and her childhood best friend--Beckett Walker. Now she might have a shot at reclaiming both. After years of living abroad, she returns to run her family's apple orchard. She has one season to turn a profit and impress the father she barely knows. But she can't do it alone.

It should be simple: Beckett needs community service hours. Kit needs a helping hand. But there's more at stake than either of them planned. With a tangled past and futures that look nothing alike, they'll have to find a way to weather the storms of the present . . . or risk losing everything.

Would you like an opportunity to win one of these wonderful books? Melissa is giving away a digital copy of her newest, Keep Holding On, to one lucky readers. All you have to do is leave a comment below. All comments left before midnight PST 9/14/2016 are eligible.

(Minimum of 5 comments required to validate contest. Please include your email address with your comment to facilitate contact if you are selected as the winner.)