Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Interview with Candace West and Giveaway

by Kathleen L. Maher

My guest today is a fresh new voice in Christian literary historical fiction. This lady is one to follow, because I see writing awards in her future… lots of them. I have read her three novels and they are the kind of stories that stay with you long after that final page turn and deep satisfying sigh.

Her name is Candace West, and I am thrilled to give her a shout out today.


Me: Candace, welcome! Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Let’s start with where you live, because it plays such a big part of your story setting and the authentic way you portray your characters.

Candace: Hi Kathleen, I’m thrilled to be here! Thank you for having me. I’m a country girl, born and raised in Arkansas. I’m blessed to live in the area where I grew up, not far from a small town where everybody knows everyone else.

 Me: How many generations of your family have lived in that vicinity, and what are some of your fondest memories and traditions??

 Candace: My stories are set in the Arkansas Ozarks. My mother’s family, on both sides, have lived there since the mid-1800’s. I grew up listening to my grandparents’ stories, going to reunions, and exploring all the places my ancestors lived and were laid to rest. I didn’t grow up in the Ozarks, though. Because my dad is a minister, we live in the southern part of the state—the Delta.

My fondest memories of the Ozarks are roaming the hills with my grandpa—visiting the homeplaces, the school, the cemeteries, and the creek that whispers and connects grandpa’s childhood with my present time. Getting to know my “kinfolk” who still live there was a delight. The most important tradition is the spiritual journey that God has led my family through even to this day.   

 Me: How long have you been writing?  Do you have any first drafts of stories that are collecting dust on a shelf or encrypted on a floppy disc somewhere?  Of course not. You’re not old enough to remember floppy discs, are you sweet friend? 😉

 Candace: Oh yes, dear friend, I am! I saved many a paper on floppy disks! Before I had my first computer, I filled notebooks with stories, and they are shut away in a chest under my mama’s bed, collecting dust. I started writing stories when I was twelve. Until then, I acted out my adventures in the fields and woods surrounding our place.

 Me: Tell us about Valley Creek and how you came to create such a visceral, beautiful, haunting and redemptive place? (I suspect some of this answer reveals your own faith journey, so please share how you have come to write about hard subjects with such grace and wisdom.)

Candace: I could talk about this for a while. Valley Creek was inspired by all of those places I explored in the Ozarks. My great-grandmother inspired Lane’s story in book one. She had a harsh upbringing but grew into a strong woman of faith despite the hardships she endured. When I wrote Lane’s story, I was also facing a spiritual battle unlike anything I had ever known. My anger and hurt became Lane’s. By the end of her story, God had used her healing and victory to become mine as well. I give the Lord the credit for leading me through these stories, granting me the words that I pray will touch and help others.

 Me: I loved Lane Steenyour first story in the Valley Creek Redemption series. And then I became consumed in the follow up story about Lane’s parents. Valley of Shadows is so rich, so touching. Sentimentally sweet without being saccharine. There wasn’t a single false note in the whole beautiful, tragic and gloriously redemptive book.

But now, you have written book 3 in the series. What is left to say now that I’ve used up all my superlatives on the first two? Dogwood Winter stole my breath. Poetic, lyrical writing combines with a tale that would almost be gritty if it weren’t for the refinement and dignity of your storytelling and your resilient and determined characters. They truly face some serious challenges, don’t they? 

Candace: Wow. I never cease to be blown away and honored you feel this way. Whenever I read your stories, I feel the same. I want to write like you when I grow up!

George and Ella do face some difficult challenges, but they never do anything halfway. What I love about them is that I never intended for them to be main characters in this series. They had different ideas, however. By the end of Valley of Shadows, Ella and George were begging for their own story. My challenge was how to get them back to Valley Creek.

I’d love to share the blurb for Dogwood Winter. Releasing August 24th 2021

A Lukewarm Correspondence. A Tattered Reputation. Two Hearts at Odds.

He is walking away while she is fighting to walk.

After a springtime swim, Ella Steen is stricken with a dire illness, leaving her without the use of her legs. Meanwhile, Dr. George Curtis, the man she secretly loves, faces ruin. For over a year, the crusty New York City bachelor and vivacious spinster have exchanged dozens of letters and formed a wary friendship.

Neither are willing to open their hearts completely. Until they face each other. The past looms between them, however. Does George still love another or is his heart completely free?

A trip to Valley Creek holds the answers. Instead, when George and Ella arrive, they encounter obstacles that force other truths to the surface. Is George brave enough to confront what he fled in New York? Can Ella confess why she hates dogwood winters? Will their hearts survive?

If only their pasts would keep out of the present.

Me: Please, where we can find your books, and when does Dogwood Winter officially release?

Candace: They are available at Amazon and on KU. Valley of Shadows is also available at other booksellers like Barnes and Noble. Dogwood Winter releases August 24, 2021.

Purchase links:

Lane Steen: https://www.amzn.com/B07VCZ5MV3

Valley of Shadows: https://www.amzn.com/B08BTQ5BPJ

And where can readers find and follow you?

Visit my website at www.candaceweststoryteller.com and sign up for my newsletter.

Author page: www.facebook.com/inspirationalnovel

Instagram: www.instagram.com/candace.west.posey.10

Also feel free to send me a Facebook friend request (Candace West Posey). I love forming friendships with other readers and writers!

Me: Thank you so much for spending time with us here at the Diamond mine of Christian Fiction. I understand you are willing to offer a giveaway. So exciting! Do tell our readers how they might win  your book.

For a chance to win a signed, paperback copy of Valley of Shadows, please leave a comment for Candace with your email 

-example: you (at) mailserver (dot) com. 

(contest for continental US residents only)


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Connie Queen

Connie Queen is one of my critique partners, and I’m excited to introduce her to you. She lives in Texas and actually lives closer to my youngest son than I do. It comforts me to know she’s nearby.

Connie, how did you decide to write romantic suspense?

Good question. I didn’t start out writing suspense, but rather western historicals. I grew up watching westerns on television, so it seemed natural. Finally, I started reading suspense, like Mary Higgins Clark, and I loved the stories, but I always said I wasn’t smart enough to write those. When I found Love Inspired Suspense books, I knew I had found my home.

Have you had any real-life mysteries or suspenseful moments? Moments you thought you might die?

A couple.

Not sure I should be telling this in case me kids or grandkids are tuning in. When I was in high school, I would stop by my boyfriend’s house (now he’s my husband…) every morning on the way to school for five minutes. One morning it was really foggy, and I couldn’t see his drive. I thought I saw it and slowed to make the turn when I realized it was the wrong place and I stopped in the highway. Suddenly, a huge semi-truck whizzed past me missing me by inches. All I could think was my parents would kill me if I’d gotten hit…

Not a bright move on my part, but once I stopped to help someone who had car trouble. This was before cell phones and a man in a broken-down Bronco was sitting on the side of the road about a mile from my house. I stopped and asked when I got to my house if I could call someone for him. He said no but I could give him a ride a couple of miles away. Instead of saying no like I should’ve, I didn’t want to be rude, and agreed to give him a ride. He went back to his vehicle and grabbed something from the floorboard, wrapped it in a rag, and got in my vehicle. I glanced down and realized it was a gun. I’m sure he didn’t want someone stealing it, but I put myself in an awfully bad situation.  Luckily, he had no ill intentions and I dropped him off safely.

Oh my goodness Connie, how terrifying! I’m glad it turned out okay. How do you find time to write? Do you have a favorite spot to write?

I have more time to write now than I ever had. All my kids are grown, and my husband works outside of the home. Things can still distract me, as well as everyday life.

I like to write at my table in the middle of the dining room. This is why I need the house to myself or I drive everyone crazy. I sit down early in the morning and get to work on critiques or research. But my most productive time is about 11-3.

Interesting, that’s my least productive time. How do you fight distractions?

If I really need to get the words in, I set a timer for 15-minute writer sprint followed by a 5-minute break for at least 4 rounds. Often, I do more, but I figure if I work from home, an hour of effort is never too much work.

Do you have a favorite place you go for inspiration? Or a favorite place to relax and renew your mind?

I love to take long walks. Not only is the exercise good for me, but just to give my mind a break and enjoy the great outdoors does wonders for my attitude.

Justice Undercover is a great story, and I love the cover.

Keeping her true identity a secret is the only way to stay alive.

Going undercover as a nanny brings presumed-dead ex-US Marshal Kylie Stone closer to catching the man who murdered the witness in her protection—and also killed Texas Ranger Luke Dryden’s sister. When someone tries to kidnap the twins in her care, Kylie must tell their uncle the truth…and convince Luke to help her. But will revealing her identity put all their lives at stake?

Keep your eyes open in October for Texas Christmas Revenge by Connie.

Connie, thanks so much for spending time with us.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Latest Cozy Mystery Series from Author Julie B. Cosgrove

 Good morning all you Diamonds in Fiction fans. This week I want to again introduce you to one of my favorite authors in the whole world—JULIE COSGROVE!!!!

 Besides being good friends, I am a super fan of this talented and magnificent author!

Julie, I’m delighted to be able to feature today not only you, but the first book of your latest cozy mystery series WORD HAS IT! From the first sentence I knew this was the crème de la crème I’d been waiting for. Welcome to the Diamond Mine dear friend!

 Aww, thanks. I am blushing now. Can you believe this is fiction work #16??  I was first published in 2010, so I feel very blessed to have landed so many contracts.

 For those of you who don’t know, Julie is a multi-dimensional author, a kaleidoscope of genres, many award-winning!  She writes devotionals, cozy mysteries, has written three suspense novels on human trafficking, as well as Bible studies, and…well, Julie give our readers the cliff-note trip through your writing successes.

 I first wrote Focused in 2008, which was a romance of a different sort. It is about an empty nest couple who have drifted apart. Throughout the course f the book, they find out why they fell in love to begin with by focusing on the good things. and it was picked up in 2010. Then after reading Richard Maas’ book on to how to write a breakout novel, I decided in 2009 to write a suspense romance, Hush in the Storm. But by the third chapter I hit a wall and prayed on it. I wanted to convey a message, but what?? Over the next month, three different Spirit-led scenarios introduced me to the plight of human trafficking (at the time it was not a household word). The plot about a young widow who begins to discover her husband’s accident was not that at all began to quickly emerge. I got several nibbles but no bites from agents and publishers. Then I read an advertisement about Prism Books expanding into suspense romance and accepting queries. Within 48 hours I was under contract!

The editor in chief then contracted me to write two sequels, then three romance novellas over the next three years, and after that the four-book series called the Bunco Biddies Mysteries between 2015-2018. The Bunco Biddies novels are set in a 55 plus community and features 12 senior women who share recipes, play dice games, and solve a few crimes along the way. They are light-hearted but each features a social awareness issue, as do all my fictional works. I want to entertain but also hope my readers leave with knowledge of ways they can act, pray, and support nonprofit organizations that help people in tough situations. Jesus always met people in the middle of their messes and I believe we are called to follow in His footsteps.

Anyway, Prism was sold to a larger publishing house, so I decide to contract with a new publisher, Write Integrity Press, whose editor-in-chief I’d met through American Christian Fiction Writers. At her request, I wrote three new cozy mysteries (my genre of choice to read and write) under the Relatively Seeking Mysteries―One Leaf Too Many, Fallen Leaf, and Leaf Me Alone. These featured three thirty-something friends who delve into genealogies and discover family secrets some don’t want revealed. They were written following the Hallmark formula, which is so popular.

But my heart remained with senior sleuths, so Write Integrity Press approved and contracted six books in the Wordplay Mysteries. Word Has It is the first one. Books two and three are in various stages of editing and I am starting to write book four.

 I’d love to pick a favorite, but I’d be here all day arguing with myself …I love them all! It’s amazing how God has guided you every step of the way through your writing career. Can you share a little about how you started writing and how you’ve arrived at this latest series?

 I began writing as a freelance writer because my late husband was transferred a lot in his career in structural construction. Therefore, whenever I had access to the internet I could work. I also contracted to write devotionals for several publications and did so for ten years. I still have a devotional blog, https://wheredidyoufindgodtoday, which has a good following in about 50 countries, and for five years (2015-2020) I wrote and edited for a digitally-based missionary group out of Canada, a division of CRU.

But fiction has always been my secret passion so I gave it a try. A professor friend of my sister’s read Focused and said I had potential but needed to hone my craft. I spent the next few years attending writer’s workshops and conferences, and also reading “how to write faith-based fiction” books. Like most newbie writers, I wrote many drafts during those early years until a publisher picked me up. 

I have always loved mysteries, and after I wrote the suspense and romances for Prism, my sister asked me why I didn’t write what I loved. Prism had never published that genre but gave me a shot with Dumpster Dicing, the first Bunco Biddies Mystery. It won Best Cozy Mystery in Texas 2017, and by then I had been contracted to write the rest in the series. I have been writing cozies ever since.

 In the early writing days, I was always advised, don’t change genres. Those established writers, “Each time you change genres it’s like beginning to build your fan base again.” Any truth to that statement?

 There is some truth to that. But in actuality, I have more migrated than switched. With Prism, I wrote romance, even though some of it was suspense.  The leap from suspense to mystery is not a huge one, and I include a flavoring of romance in the mysteries to add depth to my plots and characters. 

I think it would be hard to, for example, write historical romances and then switch to sci-fi or fantasy. Genres that far apart rarely have carry-over audiences. I do know some mystery writers who write various genres under several pen names, though. Still, it take a lot of marketing efforts to keep your name in front of so many audiences.

 And can I gather that cozy mysteries are your favorite genre?

 Without a doubt. I feel I have found my niche so I plan to keep writing them. If I am not writing them, I am reading them or watching them, especially the British series. I don’t mind reading historical novels and Biblically based ones, and a few YA’s (there, now I have confessed that!) but as a widow in her late sixties, romances just do not hit my hot button like suspense and mysteries. I prefer cozies because they are clean, have fun, quirky characters you get to know and love, and concentrate on solving the crime rather than committing the crime itself.

For those new Diamond Mine followers, can you share just a few words about how God called you to write? Did you always know you were meant to write?

 Three friends from three different states suggested I try writing for a living. They said my articles for church newsletters and even my personal letters showed a propensity for creative writing. I had taken that in school and excelled at it, winning a few awards. I prayed on it and felt somewhat confident God was leading me this way.

Now, I know the Holy Spirit “sits on my shoulders” when I get in my writing zone. Still working full-time, I must carve out writing time on weekends. I get antsy when I feel that prompting in my soul. My family understands when that happens, I am not available unless it is an emergency. Often times, I’ll sit down at the computer with a cuppa in the morning and then look up, astonished that it is after supper time. I am a panster, which means I have a vague idea of the overall plot but create the twists and turns as I go.

As I write, I marvel at where the Spirit leads me. Unraveling the mystery along with my main character is so much fun. I wouldn’t write any other way. By God’s merciful grace, the plot seems to always resolve, red herrings and all. That is when I know I have been steadily in His will.

 I’m sure we have many visiting the Diamond Mine today who are familiar with your work but haven’t heard from you recently. It’s obvious you survived the winter Texas storm of 2021, how rough was that storm in Ft. Worth?

 Not bad in my neck of the woods. Other than seven inches of ice and snow layered upon each other, we never lost power or water. I was able to work remotely the whole time. Others in Fort Worth were not as lucky, but all I know survived and that is a blessing.

 And now for the truly good part…what’s next? Will there be more books featuring Scrub Oak, Texas, Wanda Lee Warner, and her rookie cop nephew, Todd? I sure hope so.

Absolutely. As I said, six are under contract. It is up to my publisher when they will feature over the next 3-4 years, though. Write Integrity Press has fourteen faith-based authors of all genres, fiction and non-fiction, and is now closed to adding any new ones. But they are still determined to produce one work a month, so I fit in the queue somewhere in all of that. They let me know the release month by the second edit and a firm date along with the author’s copy for a final proof. Anyway, the future books are:

Word Gets Around, In Other Words, Away with Words, A Loss for Words, Hang on Every Word

To wrap this up, I always like to ask successful authors to share a word of encouragement or a “get outta Dodge” comment for all new writers joining us today.

 Write for One person and let Him decide who reads the books. Never get caught up in the numbers game. If one soul is comforted or encouraged, so be it. You have done your job. God will do the rest. As the old hymn says, “Trust and obey, there is no other way.” Otherwise, you will become frustrated, envious, and stressed.  A myriad of other unfruitful and stifling emotions will creep inside of you, too, eating away at your creativity and enthusiasm.

Jesus’ followers had to learn from Him in order to serve Him well, therefore so must you. Keep an open mind and heart as you grow your talent. Don’t let pride get in the way and do not let the devil steal your joy!

 There you have it, folks! Thank you for sharing with us Julie. And I highly recommend WORD HAS IT! You won’t be disappointed!

 'Til Next Time…Keep reading and writing!



Sunday, April 11, 2021

Interview and Giveaway with A.D. Lawrence

It is my great pleasure and honor to introduce to you A.D. Lawrence, one of the 2021 Christian fiction debut authors. Be sure to read the full interview and then enter the giveaway at the end for a chance to win a copy of The Purple Nightgown.

A.D. Lawrence makes her home in Northeastern Nebraska. She has been passionate about writing and true crime for years, and her two obsessions melded into the goal of authorship. She is an active member of the ACFW, writes a true crime blog, won the 2019 Crown Award and was a 2019 First Impressions finalist and a 2020 Genesis finalist. Her first book will be released through Barbour in March of 2021 as part of the True Colors series.

You can connect with her at https://adlawrencefiction.com/, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.

Before we dive into your book, let's learn a bit more about you. What are you reading right now?

ADL: Though it’s not my typical reading genre, I’ve been enjoying The Smoke River series by Adina Senft. The first two books are amazing, and I’m just starting book three. 

CC: For those who are interested in what genre that is, it's Amish. I'm so glad you are enjoying the series! I have to admit, Amish isn't typically my thing, but my interest is piqued.

What do you like to do when you aren't reading or writing?

ADL:  Please don’t judge me, but I’m really into 90 Day Fiancé at the moment. It’s pretty crazy.

CC: When I first read that, I read 90 Day FINANCE. LOL Fiancé makes so much more sense. 

What is your schedule like when you're writing?

ADL: I have a full-time job, so writing keeps me busy. Since I only had seven weeks to write and edit The Purple Nightgown, I woke up at five to write before work and wrote until late into the night. Thank goodness, it came together!

CC: Holy cow! Seven weeks AND a full-time job? Girl you amaze me. I'm not sure my brain can function that early and go to bed that late afterward. Bless you!

Thanks for sharing those fun things. Let's dive right into talking about your debut novel, The Purple Nightgown!

Marvel at true but forgotten history when patients check into Linda Hazzard’s Washington state spa in 1912 and soon become victim of her twisted greed.

Heiress Stella Burke is plagued by insincere suitors and nonstop headaches. Exhausting all other medical aides for her migraines, Stella reads Fasting for the Cure of Disease by Linda Hazzard and determines to go to the spa the author runs. Stella’s chauffer and long-time friend, Henry Clayton, is reluctant to leave her at the spa. Something doesn’t feel right to him, still Stella submits herself into Linda Hazzard’s care. Stella soon learns the spa has a dark side and Linda a mean streak. But when Stella has had enough, all ways to leave are suddenly blocked. Will Stella become a walking skeleton like many of the other patients or succumb to a worse fate?

CC: Which character was the most fun to create? What makes them fun?

ADL: I had the most fun with Henry, probably because I pictured him as James Norton. His conflicting emotions made him fun to write.

CC: That's a new actor to me. I had to look him up to know who you are talking about, but I can see him as being a character of conflicting emotions. He just sort of has that face.

What was your hardest scene to write?

ADL: Since I’m a romantically stunted person, the mushy scenes were a challenge. Emotions like fear and anxiety are easy for me to write, but warmer feelings … not so much. I’m thankful for critique partners who experience the full range of human emotion and gave me a hand.

CC: I am the same way! That does make writing romances so much harder, but you did a great job!

Thank you so much for joining me today and providing all of us with a wonderful distraction. The last question is always my fun one:

What are the top three things on your bucket list?

ADL: 1) Tour Highclere Castle 2) Hot Air Balloon Ride 3) Serve on a Jury (something serious, not some car theft or drug case.)

CC: Your third one is so funny to me. Everyone tries to get out of jury duty, and you want on it. In fairness, you want a serious case, but i still find it humorous. My dad served on a grand jury once, and I can remember the cameraman filming the shoes of the jury as they walked by and my family recognizing my dad's ratty tennis shoes. LOL

Readers, you can purchase A.D's book at any of the following retailers or your favorite bookseller, but be sure to enter the giveaway as well! If you win, you can make someone's day by giving it as a gift.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Christianbook.com

The Giveaway

To enter, please comment below with your name and email (name (at) something (dot) com). I'll check back on Wednesday to see if we have enough commenters for a winner! (At least 4 commenters needed to pick a winner.

Good luck and God bless!