Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Jessica Keller Visits the Mine This Holiday Season

In today's digital age, most of us can "meet" our favorite authors via some form of social media. I actually "met" Jessica Keller via Facebook when I enter a giveaway for one of her books. And I've been a fan ever since so I'm thrilled to introduce her to our Diamond Mine readers (and good news for all of you, Jessica's giving away a book here--keep reading for how to enter to win).

Here's a little more about Jessica: 

A coffee drinker, avid reader, and chocolate aficionado, Jessica Keller writes both Romance and Young Adult Fiction. As a child, Jessica possessed the dangerous combination of too much energy coupled with an over-active imagination. This pairing led to more than seven broken bones, countless scars, and even more story ideas. Jessica holds degrees in both Communications and Biblical Studies. She lives with her family in the Midwest. 

You can connect with Jessica in any of the following ways:

Huge thanks to Jessica for taking some time away from family and friends during the holidays to spend with us (she was even sick over Thanksgiving and had to miss out).

 SW: Your website states you are a semi-professional fangirl. Who or what do you fangirl over?

JK: The real question is, what don’t I fangirl over? I’m a pretty devoted reader of young adult fiction and am constantly fangirling over the heroes (and anti-heroes) in many of those books. But I fangirl over classical literature just as easily (looking at you Sir Percy, Mr. Thornton, and Henry Tilney). I fangirl my favorite authors too. Basically, when I love something, I’m pretty passionate about it and have a hard time not talking about whatever that is to anyone who will listen. So to whoever invented the term fangirl, I owe you one.

SW: Of your extensive list of previous jobs (zookeeper, librarian, camp counselor, horse wrangler, and finance clerk), which was your least favorite? Most favorite? Any great war stories from those jobs?

JK: There are good and bad aspects of all my previous jobs but I can honestly say I enjoyed the experiences I had during all of them. I also believe that many of the jobs and responsibilities I had during my younger years shaped me into a hard worker, which has helps shape my career and life even to this day. War stories? I can’t even share the name of the horse I was working on because his name carries a swear word in it (should have told me something…). While in the position of horse wrangler I had him out in the field and he got spooked and bucked. I was tossed in the air and caught by his hooves on the way down before he took off. Broken ribs, arm, and messed up hip joint later – I army crawled back to the barn because I couldn’t walk. However, I saddled up the next day and led a trail ride because there was no one else around to do it.

 SW: As an author of both young adult and sweet romance, what would you say is the most challenging aspect of writing in multiple genres?

JK: More than anything, juggling my time trying to build audiences for both readerships has been the most difficult part. I love writing in multiple genres and want to continue to do so. I believe the creative mind is like any muscle and only gets stronger when used differently – but having the time for everything … that’s where I struggle.

        SW: What items do you have to have on hand when writing?

J     JK: Music and a drink (doesn’t matter if it’s water, coffee, tea, or hot chocolate – as long as I have something close). I make playlists for every book I write and have certain songs that I play while writing specific scenes or chapters. Music draws so many emotions into writing that I don’t believe I’d be capable of taping into without it playing in the background.

      SW: You collaborated with five other authors for a boxed book set that was released in time for the holidays (Mistletoe Memories: Six New Inspirational Holiday Romances). How was this process different from being the only author involved with a release? What is your story in the collection about?

JK: The Mistletoe Memories collaboration was a riot because, first and foremost, I’m friends with the other authors. We all agreed on something (the idea of Christmas memories playing an important role in our stories) and then all wrote our own stories. Promoting a bundle is easier than when you’re on your own because you have the power of six authors talking instead of feeling alone while you wave a flag about your book release.

My story in the collection launches a new novella series I’m working on set in the small town of King’s Cove, MI. The story is titled It Was You and is about Natalie Rhodes returning to King’s Cove after saying she never would. Tanner Avery was her ex-boyfriend’s  best friend in high school. He always had a secret crush on Natalie and he’s not about to miss his only chance to convince her to stay in town for good.

            SW: I love Christmas stories any time of year. Since we’re discussing holiday stories, will you share a favorite gift, memory, or family tradition with us?

      JK: One of the family traditions that my husband and I started after we got married was to put together boxes for Operation Christmas Child every year. It’s a ministry through Samaritan’s Purse where you pack a shoebox full of items for a child across the globe who wouldn’t have received a gift otherwise. For many of these children it’s the first time they are receiving a gift in their life. The gospel message is shared with them when they are given their shoeboxes as well. Our daughter is now old enough to understand the tradition and helps us pick out items to send in the shoeboxes and joins us as we pray for the children who will receive our gifts.

      SW: Share with our readers a little more about Goose Harbor and your newest release, Apple Orchard Bride. I know this story is close to your heart.

JK: For anyone who is a fan of the show Gilmore Girls, my editor has often referred to Goose Harbor as the Star’s Hollow of Love Inspired. Goose Harbor is a picturesque tourist town found on the shores of Lake Michigan in the state of Michigan. Spunky and eccentric townspeople are the backbone of the town and they have a festival for every occasion – down to a Lost Sock Ball where they all donate socks that have lost their pairs to a widow in town who likes to knit them together into outfits she wears. That’s Goose Harbor in a nutshell, the people are loving and accepting and community focused.

Apple Orchard Bride features Jenna Crest and Toby Holcomb, two characters who have been on my heart for long time. The character of Jenna walked into my mind at least twelve years ago now, long before I ever started seriously writing. Jenna lived a sheltered life until her mother died and then she tried to become what she thought everyone wanted her to be, which ended up causing her to be badly burned in love. Toby was her best friend growing up but they drifted away in adulthood. Now circumstances have put them back into each other’s paths – but a lot of life and hurt has happened and from the get-go, it looks pretty difficult to overcome their past together.

    SW: Oh, I LOVE stories about best friends reuniting and finding love. Goose Harbor is a fictional town, but if someone asked your advice of where to vacation in this area, what are your top three suggestions and why

     JK: While Goose Harbor is fictional, I make no secret on the fact that it’s very heavily inspired by the very real towns of Saugatuck, Douglas, and Holland, Michigan. I’d say if someone wanted the “Goose Harbor” experience they’d just have to head to those three!

      SW: Many of your books are published through Harlequin’s love inspired label. As a reader, I love the note to readers the authors leave at the end of these books. Do you usually have an idea of what this is going to include before you write the book or does it come more as a process as you learn about your characters while writing the story

      JK: I always know the theme of the book I’m writing before I set out and write it and the theme always ties into the Dear Reader letter at the end of the book, but the funny thing about writing is that the process usually changes the way that the theme comes through in the book. My characters are always surprising me so I can’t rule out things changing before a book is completed! I don’t write my Dear Reader letter until after the first round of edits from Harlequin are done and I’ve had time to think and pray over what I’m going to say first.

             Apple Orchard Bride

Hometown Reunion 
When Toby Holcomb becomes guardian to his cousin's daughter, he goes from hard-living bachelor to father without a clue. One thing he can do is give Kasey a stable home. Returning to Goose Harbor, he takes a job at his childhood friend's apple orchard. But Jenna Crest isn't ready to forgive him for his past mistakes. Desperate for sweet Jenna's help in raising his little girl, Toby vows to make amends to the woman he wronged so many years ago. Suddenly, he and Jenna and young Kasey are feeling more and more like a family. But convincing Jenna he's a changed man will take all the love in his heart.

      Now for the details I promised you at the beginning of the post. Jessica is generously giving away paperback copies of Apple Orchard Bride to two of our readers . How do you enter? Simple...leave a comment below. Tell us about your favorite holiday tradition (or something you loved about this Christmas) and be entered to win. Be sure and leave a contact email so we know how to reach you.
***Fine print: we must have FIVE comments with unique email addresses for the contest to be valid.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

New Members Join in the Merry-Making!

Merry Christmas! May this season be more than your favorite gift. 'Tis the season of our Savior's birth! I hope that thrills your heart like no other news.

We have Christmas excitement here at the mine as well! Heading into the 2017 year, you might have noticed some changes. Several of our previous writers have went on to other pursuits, and we will sure miss them. But we are welcoming in five new contributors. Let me introduce them to you.

What a great gallery of Christian Writers! I know you, the readers, will enjoy getting to know these ladies over the next year. But enough of all the preliminaries. Let's unwrap some questions!

Welcome ladies! We are so blessed to have all of you. The readers are like children at the foot of the sugar plum tree, drooling over the goodies of Christmas. They can't wait to get to know you. Let's start the celebration!

All right, ladies. Tell us, what started all of you writing? 

Julie: Pure economics. When my husband was alive, we moved a lot for his job, and each time I found it harder to land a job. So at the suggestion of three friends, I began freelance writing eight years ago. As a thanks for the income, I promised God I’d tithe my writing time to Him first each day. Eleven fictional works later, I also write and edit for seven publications and websites regularly.

DiAne: From grade school forward I knew God gifted me to draw and paint. But in our household such things were frivolous, a girl needed to get a job at the phone company ‘til she married and had babies. But together with all that creative bent came a streak of rebellion. I’d show ‘em and I did. I entered art shows much to my mother’s horror—she referred to those years as my gypsy lifestyle.
At fifteen I won a local writing contest with the theme “The Basis of a Great Nation Is a Christian Home.” I still have the original and shudder at my grammar, but it wasn’t until I pursued every other brand of creativity known, moved to Texas, grabbed my camera and did some eyeball to eyeball photography with barrel racers and bulls in the rodeo arena that my ROPED series was birthed—and I won’t tell you how many years that took, but I have five other children’s books in the closet I’ve written and illustrated. My someday books.

Angela: I've been writing since I learned to read. I've always loved to do it and would spend time in my room crafting stories, which would concern and frustrate my parents.

V. Joy: In high school I realized that I actually liked writing assignments. . .and that, as they say, is history. By the way, who says that?

Abigail: I’ve always been an avid reader and wrote several books as a child, but about four years ago I read a book that had a predictable, boring ending, and I thought, I could write something better than that. So I started brainstorming and came up with a few ideas. I wrote the first chapter and just kept going until I finished my first book. In my heart, I believe God planted the idea and the desire to continue.

And what's your overall purpose of your novels? 

Julie: To help people find God in their daily lives. Too often people don’t “see” that. By reading how He moves in a fictional life, it might help them relate and start noticing Him in theirs.

DiAne: My purpose for writing is teaching. Years ago, I learned you can’t teach what you don’t know. And we have at least two younger generations who do not know the Word of God. Their parents didn’t teach them either because they didn’t know or became preoccupied with urgent things and forgot what was important.
Our young people face so many life altering circumstances each day. And we’re not talking about them until we find ourselves forced to react rather than act. The Roped series deals with difficult family issues good “church folks” refuse to believe can affect their children—‘til they’re forced to. Two Texas families and their generational feuds brings to light the differences faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ makes in the home, the school and their town. Of course, with a background in the arena with shoot-‘em-up cowboy flavor!

Angela: My overall purpose for my novels is to connect with readers who may not have any or very little acquaintance with the Gospels and try to open that door for them.

V. Joy: It's to write fun stories that don't just entertain, but that God would use to transform lives. Even if it's just my life.

Abigail: I write my books mainly to entertain. Regencies, but with a Christian message. Through them, even in a small way, I hope the reader can come away with a glimpse into the heart of God as well as an escape into the past.

Tell what your favorite thing is about writing. 

Julie: I write mostly by the seat of my pants (panster) and I love where my mind, guided by the Holy Spirit, takes the story. It’s like opening one of those Russian dolls.  Each one leads to another surprise. Isn't that what our earthly walk is? We know the beginning and kind of how it will end ( in eternity), but the joy is in the journey.

DiAne: Allowing my imagination to run wild! To sit in front of that blank page, like I sit in front of a canvas, and watch either the strokes of my paint-filled-brush or my words fill the page with color, movement, excitement, and purpose. Sometimes I succeed, other times I don’t. But like life in Christ, there are do-overs when we miss the mark.

Angela: My favorite thing about writing is how when I get "in the zone" an entire day can go by, and I haven't noticed, which beats the clock watching I used to do at work.

V. Joy: I think it's how the characters and their stories come alive. I feel their hurts. I fight to understand them. I love them.

Abigail: . Writing is my creative outlet where I am able to go on an adventure with my characters without leaving my home. And, the community of other writers is pretty wonderful.

How about letting us know a favorite thing about your readers? 

Julie: They are loyal and encouraging, and several pray for me. That means a lot.

DiAne: Now that’s a no-brainer for me—when a reader applies the story to their lives and says, “I saw myself in your words. Thank you.”

Angela:  Since I've only published one novel so far, I've not had much reader interaction. But it has been nice when someone reads my novel and the first question is when is the next one coming out? 

V. Joy: It's how encouraging and supportive they are! Each message blesses me so much!

Abigail: Well, I’m an unpublished writer, so I’ve had few readers yet, but already on social media and other platforms I’ve been able to meet such wonderful heartfelt people I’ve been able to connect with—because we’re all readers.

Given the season, I can't resist asking you all to reveal a secret Christmas wish!

Julie: As a widow dependent on freelance writing to make ends meet, I usually can’t afford to buy gifts. That’s okay because I have learned anew the importance of the season beyond all the materialistic hype. So my wish isn’t really a secret—that more people would discover Jesus and draw close to Him. What better gift is there?

DiAne: Our family is small and scattered. My son is an Air Force Fighter Pilot Colonel. My son-in-law is a retired Army Lt. Colonel. I would love to spend one Christmas with our whole family together. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But with military life things are rarely simple. That’s the price of freedom! Always appreciate the privilege of living with family close by; and remember Christmas is often difficult for families who’ve lost loved ones.

V. Joy: For someone to get me all the books in my Amazon wish list. Seriously. . .No, I am serious. 😉

Angela: I don't really have a "secret" Christmas wish, just that my family is happy, healthy, and living their lives in a way that is Godly, yet makes them happy.

Abigail:I’d love to sell my first book this year. J 

Now aren't these ladies awesome?! They've won some prestigious awards as well! (I'll let you dig those out on your own!) Now for the drum roll. In honor of the addition of these five gorgeous ladies, and in keeping with the Christmas theme of giving during this, our Lord Savior's birthday, we are giving away a $25 Amazon gift certificate! As usual, there must be 5 responders (please leave your email!) or it renders null and void, yada, yada, fine print as interesting as a three-hour monotone university lecture on the effects of caffeine on oral floral. (Which may, or may not have been the topic of my collegiate senior paper.)

Thank you all for joining us! We are very thankful for our faithful readers. May these authors touch your lives profoundly, enriching and entertaining you in the Christian spirit. And may it ever draw you closer to the One who is the very meaning of life. Jesus Christ.

Now if you win the $25 bucks, and you need a few suggestions on good books, I just happen to know of a few. . . .

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Meet Sarah - One Extraordinary Angel

          HI- this is Julie B Cosgrove, Christian author and brand new contributor to this blog. Today, I want to introduce you  to a very special person...um, angel. Sarah is the creation of Christian author Gay N. Lewis. 

                This sweet, trying-so-hard, bumbling love angel is given assignments by God to help orchestrate two people, whom He has chosen as right for each other, to meet and develop a relationship. Her way-too- human mistakes and shenanigans make this series delightful, poignant and memorable.

Hi, Gay. Welcome to the Diamond Mine of Fiction!
1    Tell us about this wonderful, and sometimes comical, angel Sarah?

Sarah was given empathy so she could relate more to humans when she comes to earth. Jesus is the only One who could truly relate to us, but the Almighty endowed Sarah with these qualities so she could do her job.  Some angels are messengers. Some are guardians, but Sarah is a love angel who brings couples together. These human-like qualities often get her into trouble—she sometimes breaks the rules for the humans. That’s a no-no. She didn’t do well in angel school, so the lessons she was supposed to absorb, she’s now learning the hard way. She’s also dyslexic and forgetful. These present complications while she’s on earth.

       She is also amazingly positive about life but has no sense of direction! I fell in love with her within the first few pages of the first book I read, Sarah and the Widow's Mate. I have read quite a few others. I know there have been a eight of them so far, (http://www.prismbookgroup.com/sarah-series) and your fans cry out for more! How did you get started writing Sarah books?

         I started writing women’s fiction, but that first book was going nowhere. Would you believe that book will be published now in June? I’m happy about that, but while I was learning my craft, I decided to write fantasy. About four years ago, vampires were the hot topic. As a pastor’s wife, I couldn’t write that stuff, and even if I weren’t in the ministry, I wouldn’t write it. I admire others who can, but it’s not me. I wrote the first book and titled it, Little Angel Screw Up.  That’s who Sarah is—a total screw up. The publisher loved the story but thought the title didn’t fit the Christian genre, so the title was changed to Sarah: Mission of Love.  The book was a best seller in three categories. A series was born, but each book stands alone.

3             I am so glad it took off. I have enjoyed reading each of the ones I've purchased.  
      Why did you write this newest one as part of the Cowboy Christmas 

     Novella Series?
Sarah and the Cowboy's Lady,  

           The publisher wanted a cowboy series and asked the authors to come up with a Christmas cowboy story. I think about thirteen authors wrote for the series. A winter bizarre Texas blizzard was perfect for Sarah. Innocent children can sometimes see angels, and Sarah found out animals can too. Pedro, Josiah’s horse, didn’t care for midair Sarah’s dancing and created a bucking ruckus.

4.             What message do you wish to send to your readers through Sarah's experiences and shenanigans?

           Good question. If an angel can mess up, there’s hope for all of us. Bhahahaha. Some of the sentences in my books, I’ve taped to my desk. I believe God inspired them, and they’ve helped me.  Here’s one. Mother Goodness smiled. “Don’t look below at the circumstances. Look above to the Father.” And “Stirring garbage with a stick makes it stink worse.”  
      I’ve used personal experiences in my books. For instance, I once kept a jar of M & M’s on my desk. When I wanted to say something unkind, I’d eat one of my “zip lip” pills. “A soft answer turns away wrath.” I’d choose a sweet candy and hope for honeyed words. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes those candies didn’t. I gained five pounds trying to keep my lips zipped. Sigh.

5                 Any more Sarah books (or something else?) in the works?

      Yes!  Thanks for asking. I’m working on Sarah and the Magical Makeover. She’s working with a shy lady that uses weight as a shield from pain. Sarah can assume any disguise she wants, so for this mission, she made herself heavy. She donned frizzy hair and mismatched clothes. In this scene, she must check into a hotel, another new experience.

Seeing a man in a uniform behind a desk, Sarah approached as if going to a lynching.
“May I help you? The man smiled at her.
“I want to stay here.”
“Wonderful. How many nights?”
Sarah blinked. “May I stay days too?”
 “Certainly.” The man blinked. “I merely need to know how long you’ll be staying with us.”
“Oh. Is it okay if I stay until I leave?”
The man swallowed a few times as if a bowling ball wedged his throat and then he coughed. “An indefinite stay then.” He keyed some messages into a computer. “May I have your name?”
“Oceana Waters.”
The employee did a double take. “Unusual name, but it has a lovely resonance. May I have a card please?”
“Sorry. I saw a magician produce a card out of the air once for a spectator, and it looked interesting, but I don’t do that. I don’t play with dominoes either. Never learned the games.”
The employee closed his lips in a smirk. “I meant a credit card. We need one on file.”
“Let me see if I can find one.” Sarah opened her hobo bag and called forth a payment symbol.
The man’s eyes widened as he gawked at the card. “Thank you. I’ll put it into the system.” After he made a few key strokes, he once more turned to Sarah. “Forgive my surprise. I’ve never seen one of these before. As I understand it, only a few people world-wide qualify for this membership.”
“I’ve been told I’m special, but I never believe it.”
The clerk gave instructions to room 1202, and Sarah waddled toward the elevator. With super hearing employed, she heard the clerk remark to a coworker. “There goes one wealthy, quirky lady.”
As I said, Sarah didn’t pay attention in Angel School

Oh, my. This sounds like one I will be downloading onto my ereader!  Thanks so much for letting me interview you, and for letting our readers know all about Sarah!

Thanks for the opportunity to tell you about Sarah. My goal is to bring faith mixed with humor. The Sarah books are not preachy, but we can identify with Sarah as she learns from her mistakes.

Okay, folks- comment away! One winner in a random draw will receive a $5 Amazon gift certificate so you can get your own Sarah and the Cowboy's Lady. But we need at least five of you to comment! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Diamond Mine's Renee Blare Releases a New Novella!

No, you're not experiencing déjà vu. You read that title correctly! Our own Renee Blare has sent out another release! Crazy Woman Christmas is just what you need to usher in a the holiday spirit. Stick around and I'll tell you how you can be part of a Renee's giveaway!

PT:  Hi, Renee. As always, absolutely love your new release! What catches my eye is the title. What inspired that?

RB: Believe it or not, Crazy Woman Creek is a real live place! The title of my Christmas novella was taken from a sliver of water that cuts a deep ravine through the rock of the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. The canyon left behind is named after the creek, Crazy Woman Canyon. As for who this canyon was named after, that is a mystery. A couple of theories float about. One is that an Indian woman went insane in the canyon and the other is about an old settler woman. Either way, nobody really knows the origin of the name.

PT:  So I know this is part of Prism's Cowboy Christmas series. So what Bible verse did you base this on?

RB:  2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Bianca and Devon are at a crossroads in their lives. They have decisions to make. Do they stay mired in the past or do they move forward into the unknown future? Bianca has a past of pain and hurt with her parents which hangs like an anchor around her neck. It keep her from moving forward even though the Lord has promised that all of her sins have been forgiven. Devon clings to the past, clinging to his parent’s ranch as his reason for living. He pushes all things aside including his own dreams until Bianca’s presence reminds him of what he’s missing.

PT: So what inspired this story?

RB: I love Christmas but many people have a hard time celebrating this amazing holiday, even Christians. I wanted to explore some of those reasons and Crazy Woman Christmas does that. (You’ll have to read the story if you want to see how!) Grief is a major component but other things are discussed as well. I celebrate Christmas to honor my Savior’s birthday, and to me, that’s the only reason to do so. The day we take Jesus Christ out of Christmas is the day it no longer is Christmas.

PT: Since we're in the midst of the Christmas season, I can resist asking this question. What is the best Christmas gift you've ever received?

RB: My best Christmas gift? Wow, do you know how old I am? I’ve been given so many awesome gifts! How do I choose? My Kindle? Tablet? I guess I’d have to say my best gift would have to be the camera my husband gave me a couple of Christmases ago. I love it! I’m still figuring it out though.

PT: Renee, I can't tell you how proud we all are here at the Diamond Mine! You're getting quite a list of titles under your belt now! And of course, you fans want to know the answer to the million dollar question. What's Renee Blare's next writing direction?

RB: I’m actually working on two manuscripts right now. The next book in my Snowy Range Chronicles and a story that my husband and I are putting together about the end-times. I’m excited about what the Lord is doing as I work with James to brainstorm on the one and write the other. I can’t wait to start writing on the collaboration book. I should begin doing that any day.

PT:  And here it is! What a great cover! Thanks Renee, for joining us today. Here's how you can win a copy of Renee's newest book. Leave your name and email and one will be chosen! Best of luck!