Friday, August 25, 2017

by guest author J. Grace Pennington

I chose science-fiction as my primary genre for many reasons, but one among many was the delightful fact that it limits the need for research.

Of course, ideally, if I wanted to do the most minimal amount of research, I would have gone with fantasy.  Fantasy is, by nature, supernatural.  As long as you stick to your own rules, you can do pretty much anything you want.  Since sci-fi is scientific, it does require a certain degree of knowledge—how things work in general—so that you can have at least some plausible basis for your technological advances.  But still, who's to say what the world will or won't be like in three hundred years?  Who can tell what the landscape of other planets may be?  You can't prove that we won't have starships in the twenty-fourth century, nor can anyone predict how exactly they will be run!

So for the first four books in my Firmament series, I blithely wrote along, amusing myself with the occasional scientific and medical research I needed to write with at least some believability.  After all, I love physiology, and all science is pretty cool, so it was something I could live with.

Then came book five, Gestern.

I want to keep the series moving—keep things fresh, keep the characters growing, force them outside their comfort zones.  Books one, three, and four all take place on the ship.  In book two, I did let them explore an alien planet, but for this installment, I decided to take them to the strangest new world of all:  Earth.

And in the first draft I went about things as usual, writing along my merry way.  Very minimal research.  They're out in the woods and in cities, not on a starship!

Then I started to look at the book for its second draft and realized I'd made a huge mistake.  I had set this story on Earth.  Which meant there were actual things I had to study.  Because Earth is real.  The geography and topography of Austria aren't theoretical—anyone can go there, or even just pull up a map and prove me wrong.

Enter Google Earth and Wikipedia.

I had to dive headfirst into calculating just how long it would take Andi and August to get from A to B.  I had to figure out just what locations A and B were.  And then I had to fit all of that into the plot somehow.  Google Earth became my best friend during this time.  I spent hours perusing the Austrian forests, cities, and fields via satellite images, finding new places for my characters to go.  I found an actual castle to base my castle ruins on, and I learned as much about it as the internet would show me.  I learned what kinds of animals would be native to the places they go and incorporated some into the story.  And then to top it all off, I realized I would have to calculate time zones between where they were, and where their friends were back in the United States!

And all of it had to be fit into the story.  I had to mold the plot and timelines to match what I learned.  I had to move people from one location to another several times.

And in the midst of it, I subconsciously went on the same journey I sent Andi on—a voyage outside of my comfort zone.  Away from easy daydreams and pure imagination and down to the ground to meet hard, unmoving facts.

And in the process, I learned.  I grew.  I'm a little less afraid of research and of the limitations on my creativity—and Andi is a little less afraid of growing up.

About the author


J. Grace Pennington has been telling stories since she could talk and writing them down since age five.  Now she lives in the great state of Texas, where she writes as much as adult life permits.  When she's not writing she enjoys reading good books, having adventures with her husband, and looking up at the stars.

About the book


Gestern
science fiction

You never escape your past

Andi Lloyd is more comfortable than most with interstellar travel, but she's not prepared for the perils and peculiarities of a world she has all but forgotten—the planet Earth. As the Surveyor undergoes repairs, her brother August receives a message with news that will send both of them across the world to a place he never wanted to visit again.

Neither of them are prepared to be thrust into a world of political intrigue amid the tangled forests and crumbling ruins of Austria. They aren't prepared to encounter wild animals and endure cross-country hikes.  And they definitely aren't prepared to face it all alone.

But despite the dangers they must press on into the unknown to find a way to save Andi's life, to decide the fate of Earth itself—and to rescue a lonely girl who just happens to be their little sister.

Find it on Amazon


Giveaway




J. Grace Pennington is offering three great giveaway prizes! One is the CD she listened to while she wrote Gestern. The other two are a signed paperback of the winner’s choice. You can enter here: 

Tour schedule


August 25
Frances Hoelsma – Excerpt
shout outs – Book Spotlight
Laurel's Leaves – Guest Post
The Destiny of One – Review

August 26
Jaye L. Knight– Excerpt

August 27
Kelsey's Notebook – Book Spotlight
Claire Banschbach– Excerpt

August 28
Rachel Rossano's Words – Guest Post
Rebekah Lyn Books – Character Interview

August 29
Bookish Orchestrations-Giveaway Winner

Q4U: Are there genres or aspects of fiction writing that, like Grace, you've avoided as outside your comfort zone? What encouragement do you take from her example?
Friday, August 25, 2017 Laurel Garver
by guest author J. Grace Pennington

I chose science-fiction as my primary genre for many reasons, but one among many was the delightful fact that it limits the need for research.

Of course, ideally, if I wanted to do the most minimal amount of research, I would have gone with fantasy.  Fantasy is, by nature, supernatural.  As long as you stick to your own rules, you can do pretty much anything you want.  Since sci-fi is scientific, it does require a certain degree of knowledge—how things work in general—so that you can have at least some plausible basis for your technological advances.  But still, who's to say what the world will or won't be like in three hundred years?  Who can tell what the landscape of other planets may be?  You can't prove that we won't have starships in the twenty-fourth century, nor can anyone predict how exactly they will be run!

So for the first four books in my Firmament series, I blithely wrote along, amusing myself with the occasional scientific and medical research I needed to write with at least some believability.  After all, I love physiology, and all science is pretty cool, so it was something I could live with.

Then came book five, Gestern.

I want to keep the series moving—keep things fresh, keep the characters growing, force them outside their comfort zones.  Books one, three, and four all take place on the ship.  In book two, I did let them explore an alien planet, but for this installment, I decided to take them to the strangest new world of all:  Earth.

And in the first draft I went about things as usual, writing along my merry way.  Very minimal research.  They're out in the woods and in cities, not on a starship!

Then I started to look at the book for its second draft and realized I'd made a huge mistake.  I had set this story on Earth.  Which meant there were actual things I had to study.  Because Earth is real.  The geography and topography of Austria aren't theoretical—anyone can go there, or even just pull up a map and prove me wrong.

Enter Google Earth and Wikipedia.

I had to dive headfirst into calculating just how long it would take Andi and August to get from A to B.  I had to figure out just what locations A and B were.  And then I had to fit all of that into the plot somehow.  Google Earth became my best friend during this time.  I spent hours perusing the Austrian forests, cities, and fields via satellite images, finding new places for my characters to go.  I found an actual castle to base my castle ruins on, and I learned as much about it as the internet would show me.  I learned what kinds of animals would be native to the places they go and incorporated some into the story.  And then to top it all off, I realized I would have to calculate time zones between where they were, and where their friends were back in the United States!

And all of it had to be fit into the story.  I had to mold the plot and timelines to match what I learned.  I had to move people from one location to another several times.

And in the midst of it, I subconsciously went on the same journey I sent Andi on—a voyage outside of my comfort zone.  Away from easy daydreams and pure imagination and down to the ground to meet hard, unmoving facts.

And in the process, I learned.  I grew.  I'm a little less afraid of research and of the limitations on my creativity—and Andi is a little less afraid of growing up.

About the author


J. Grace Pennington has been telling stories since she could talk and writing them down since age five.  Now she lives in the great state of Texas, where she writes as much as adult life permits.  When she's not writing she enjoys reading good books, having adventures with her husband, and looking up at the stars.

About the book


Gestern
science fiction

You never escape your past

Andi Lloyd is more comfortable than most with interstellar travel, but she's not prepared for the perils and peculiarities of a world she has all but forgotten—the planet Earth. As the Surveyor undergoes repairs, her brother August receives a message with news that will send both of them across the world to a place he never wanted to visit again.

Neither of them are prepared to be thrust into a world of political intrigue amid the tangled forests and crumbling ruins of Austria. They aren't prepared to encounter wild animals and endure cross-country hikes.  And they definitely aren't prepared to face it all alone.

But despite the dangers they must press on into the unknown to find a way to save Andi's life, to decide the fate of Earth itself—and to rescue a lonely girl who just happens to be their little sister.

Find it on Amazon


Giveaway




J. Grace Pennington is offering three great giveaway prizes! One is the CD she listened to while she wrote Gestern. The other two are a signed paperback of the winner’s choice. You can enter here: 

Tour schedule


August 25
Frances Hoelsma – Excerpt
shout outs – Book Spotlight
Laurel's Leaves – Guest Post
The Destiny of One – Review

August 26
Jaye L. Knight– Excerpt

August 27
Kelsey's Notebook – Book Spotlight
Claire Banschbach– Excerpt

August 28
Rachel Rossano's Words – Guest Post
Rebekah Lyn Books – Character Interview

August 29
Bookish Orchestrations-Giveaway Winner

Q4U: Are there genres or aspects of fiction writing that, like Grace, you've avoided as outside your comfort zone? What encouragement do you take from her example?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

By guest author SM Ford
First drafts are a bit like this...

Your first draft is done. Now what? Here’s what works for me.

  1. I read through the entire manuscript looking for bumps. If anything stops me, something is wrong. It could be awkward phrasing, missing information, unnecessary detail, lack of emotion, etc. I might even realize a scene is unnecessary or that I’ve left out major plot points.
  2. If the bumps are minor, I fix them as I go.
  3. Major bumps will need more thought and time, so I note them down in my story timeline to come back to later. (A story timeline is a mini-outline I create as I write since I am not an outliner. It helps me know when and where things happened in the story.)
  4. I watch my pacing. Shorter sentences help move the story along in tense times. Longer sentences can give a calmer more relaxed feeling. Did events happen too slowly or too quickly?
  5. Once I’ve reached the end, I ask myself, did the story feel satisfying or was something missing? Did my character change and grow? Was the main problem solved by the character? Did I make the character work to reach the solution? If anything felt too easy, it’s time to complicate my character’s life some more.
  6. Next, it’s time to look at my story timeline more closely. Besides looking at any major bumps I’ve noticed in my read through, I look at the order of scenes. Are they logical? Is each scene necessary? I check the subplots. Did any get lost? Are there places I need to expand?
  7. Now I add new scenes, rearrange scenes, expand or cut scenes as required. 
  8. I relook at the beginning of my story. Is my beginning strong? Compelling and believable? Did I start too early or too late?
  9. Is the setting clear in each scene so my characters aren’t standing before a blue screen? Including at least three sensory details will help with this. 
  10. Then I read through the entire manuscript again. Fix and repeat as above until I don’t see anything to fix.

Now it’s on to polishing. 
  1. I use “find” to search for and destroy (or replace) overused words. I know some of my weaknesses include forms of “looking” and “turning” which are filler actions. I consider each case. Is there a stronger action that will include sensory details? Is there a better action that will help establish setting? Often, the answer is yes. Others include: “just,” “very,” “finally,” “so,” “then,” “that,” “well,” and “really.” I ask myself, how can I say it better? My critique group calls me the “as” Nazi as I’m always on the lookout for overuse of that word, too.
  2. I search for adverbs and weak verbs that could be replaced with stronger verbs by searching for “ly.”
  3. I find passive writing by searching for “ing.”
  4. Of course, I’ve run spell check, but do I have the wrong word, such as to instead of too? Or reins instead of rains?
  5. Is my punctuation correct?
  6. Have I used the right adjective for a noun? Or would a more specific noun be better? E.g. A big dog is vague.  A humongous dog is stronger, but still relative. A German Shepard or Great Dane are both big but very different. Or use a metaphor, but not a cliché. E.g. The dog was as big as a horse.
  7. Have I overused my characters’ names in dialogue? 
  8. I check my “said”s. If I have a “said to him” and only two people are in the room, why would I need “to him?” Probably rarely needed even if multiple people are in the room. If I have a “said and” followed by an action, why not just use the action?
  9. Tightening. Are there redundancies that need to be cut? On the sentence level can I say it with less words?
  10. All this done, I reread the entire manuscript again. By now it should be flowing smoothly. If not, I revise some more.

Of course, once the book goes to a publisher, more editing will be done. I like this quote by Linda W. Jackson, “First drafts are paper plates. After many revisions, they become fine china.” Here’s to making china!


About the Author


SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too.

When she was 13 she got hooked on Mary Stewart's romantic suspense books, although she has been a reader as long as she can remember, and is an eclectic reader. Inspirational authors she enjoys include: Francine Rivers, Bodie Thoene, Dee Henderson, Jan Karon, and many more.

SM Ford is a Pacific Northwest gal, but has also lived in the midwest (Colorado and Kansas) and on the east coast (New Jersey). She and her husband have two daughters and two sons-in-law and three grandsons. She can't figure out how she got to be old enough for all that, however.

She loves assisting other writers on their journeys and is a writing teacher, speaker, mentor, and blogger about writing.

Connect with her here: website / blog RSS / Twitter / Facebook /  Goodreads

About the Book


ALONE is an inspirational romantic suspense published by Clean Reads in 2016.

Ready for adventure in the snowy Colorado mountains, Cecelia Gage is thrilled to be employed as the live-in housekeeper for her favorite bestselling author. The twenty-five-year-old doesn’t count on Mark Andrews being so prickly, nor becoming part of the small town gossip centering on the celebrity. Neither does she expect to become involved in Andrews family drama and a relationship with Simon Lindley, Mark’s oh so good-looking best friend. And certainly, Cecelia has no idea she’ll be mixed up in a murder investigation because of this job.
 
Will Cecelia’s faith in God get her through all the trouble that lies ahead?

Available here:  Amazon / Barnes and Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Smashwords

Do you have a revision checklist like this? What parts of revision do you enjoy most? Like least? Any questions for SM?

I'm on the road today and might be delayed checking in on comments. Welcome new visitors!!
Thursday, August 10, 2017 Laurel Garver
By guest author SM Ford
First drafts are a bit like this...

Your first draft is done. Now what? Here’s what works for me.

  1. I read through the entire manuscript looking for bumps. If anything stops me, something is wrong. It could be awkward phrasing, missing information, unnecessary detail, lack of emotion, etc. I might even realize a scene is unnecessary or that I’ve left out major plot points.
  2. If the bumps are minor, I fix them as I go.
  3. Major bumps will need more thought and time, so I note them down in my story timeline to come back to later. (A story timeline is a mini-outline I create as I write since I am not an outliner. It helps me know when and where things happened in the story.)
  4. I watch my pacing. Shorter sentences help move the story along in tense times. Longer sentences can give a calmer more relaxed feeling. Did events happen too slowly or too quickly?
  5. Once I’ve reached the end, I ask myself, did the story feel satisfying or was something missing? Did my character change and grow? Was the main problem solved by the character? Did I make the character work to reach the solution? If anything felt too easy, it’s time to complicate my character’s life some more.
  6. Next, it’s time to look at my story timeline more closely. Besides looking at any major bumps I’ve noticed in my read through, I look at the order of scenes. Are they logical? Is each scene necessary? I check the subplots. Did any get lost? Are there places I need to expand?
  7. Now I add new scenes, rearrange scenes, expand or cut scenes as required. 
  8. I relook at the beginning of my story. Is my beginning strong? Compelling and believable? Did I start too early or too late?
  9. Is the setting clear in each scene so my characters aren’t standing before a blue screen? Including at least three sensory details will help with this. 
  10. Then I read through the entire manuscript again. Fix and repeat as above until I don’t see anything to fix.

Now it’s on to polishing. 
  1. I use “find” to search for and destroy (or replace) overused words. I know some of my weaknesses include forms of “looking” and “turning” which are filler actions. I consider each case. Is there a stronger action that will include sensory details? Is there a better action that will help establish setting? Often, the answer is yes. Others include: “just,” “very,” “finally,” “so,” “then,” “that,” “well,” and “really.” I ask myself, how can I say it better? My critique group calls me the “as” Nazi as I’m always on the lookout for overuse of that word, too.
  2. I search for adverbs and weak verbs that could be replaced with stronger verbs by searching for “ly.”
  3. I find passive writing by searching for “ing.”
  4. Of course, I’ve run spell check, but do I have the wrong word, such as to instead of too? Or reins instead of rains?
  5. Is my punctuation correct?
  6. Have I used the right adjective for a noun? Or would a more specific noun be better? E.g. A big dog is vague.  A humongous dog is stronger, but still relative. A German Shepard or Great Dane are both big but very different. Or use a metaphor, but not a cliché. E.g. The dog was as big as a horse.
  7. Have I overused my characters’ names in dialogue? 
  8. I check my “said”s. If I have a “said to him” and only two people are in the room, why would I need “to him?” Probably rarely needed even if multiple people are in the room. If I have a “said and” followed by an action, why not just use the action?
  9. Tightening. Are there redundancies that need to be cut? On the sentence level can I say it with less words?
  10. All this done, I reread the entire manuscript again. By now it should be flowing smoothly. If not, I revise some more.

Of course, once the book goes to a publisher, more editing will be done. I like this quote by Linda W. Jackson, “First drafts are paper plates. After many revisions, they become fine china.” Here’s to making china!


About the Author


SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too.

When she was 13 she got hooked on Mary Stewart's romantic suspense books, although she has been a reader as long as she can remember, and is an eclectic reader. Inspirational authors she enjoys include: Francine Rivers, Bodie Thoene, Dee Henderson, Jan Karon, and many more.

SM Ford is a Pacific Northwest gal, but has also lived in the midwest (Colorado and Kansas) and on the east coast (New Jersey). She and her husband have two daughters and two sons-in-law and three grandsons. She can't figure out how she got to be old enough for all that, however.

She loves assisting other writers on their journeys and is a writing teacher, speaker, mentor, and blogger about writing.

Connect with her here: website / blog RSS / Twitter / Facebook /  Goodreads

About the Book


ALONE is an inspirational romantic suspense published by Clean Reads in 2016.

Ready for adventure in the snowy Colorado mountains, Cecelia Gage is thrilled to be employed as the live-in housekeeper for her favorite bestselling author. The twenty-five-year-old doesn’t count on Mark Andrews being so prickly, nor becoming part of the small town gossip centering on the celebrity. Neither does she expect to become involved in Andrews family drama and a relationship with Simon Lindley, Mark’s oh so good-looking best friend. And certainly, Cecelia has no idea she’ll be mixed up in a murder investigation because of this job.
 
Will Cecelia’s faith in God get her through all the trouble that lies ahead?

Available here:  Amazon / Barnes and Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Smashwords

Do you have a revision checklist like this? What parts of revision do you enjoy most? Like least? Any questions for SM?

I'm on the road today and might be delayed checking in on comments. Welcome new visitors!!

Thursday, August 03, 2017

How do you go about writing about faith in a way that isn’t off-putting to contemporary teens, but feels like it’s part of normal life?

My approach begins from understanding that a life of faith isn’t lived across a line in the sand, that this spot over here is where I have a spiritual life, and on the other side is where the rest of the world goes about its business. Real faith doesn’t need a sanitized bubble in order to exist. It walks with courage into dark places through the power of the Holy Spirit, and tries to act as Jesus did. He reached out to those who were at the margins, who were hurting. I write what I hope is an invitation to teens of faith to see their purpose in this way.

In my Christian YA series, faith is a piece of the heroine Dani’s framework for understanding the world, just like her artistic ability is. The imagery and stories of her faith weave through her thought world as much as the language of painting and drawing. Like any teen raised in a Christian home, she goes through a coming-of-age process in which she has to decide if she truly believes for herself, rather than believing in a parent’s belief.

Infusing lots of humor into the story where possible is also important. People of faith are often stereotyped as dour, fault-finding folk who take themselves way too seriously. So my heroine has a bit of a sarcastic streak and finds the funny in things, quite often the funny in her own foibles—a self-deprecating kind of humor that makes her approachable.

Most centrally, I wrote my novels as dramatic stories, not handbooks or manuals on “how to grieve well/how to handle a family crisis well.” Readers walk with Dani through sadness, longing, first love, turmoil, broken relationships, confusion, and doubt. The adults in her world sometimes help, sometimes fail her badly. She has to come to grips with what is really real, with who God is, and with how she must grow and change in order to become her best self.

Preachiness in literature comes when characters aren’t given this space to “come to their senses” on their own. Jesus’ example of how to show a transformation well is the prodigal son story. Did someone come and preach at the younger brother, and tell him he had been a selfish jerk and he should just go home and apologize to his family? No, the story events led him to that conclusion. So it is with my characters. They make their mistakes and gradually learn from them. When epiphanies come, they act on them, and test their new understanding. They move from blindness to insight to realized truth.

I don’t think you have to be a Christian to read stories like mine and get something positive out of them. I’m not Jewish, but I really love Chaim Potok’s stories, which give me a glimpse into Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish communities. One of the most lovely things about literature is how it opens a window into other worlds, gives us a chance to understand other perspectives by living inside them for just a little while.

About the books


Never Gone

Sunday school never prepared her for this kind of life after death.

Teen artist Dani Deane feels like the universe has imploded when her photographer father is killed. Days after his death, she sees him leafing through sketches in her room, roaming the halls at church, wandering his own wake. Is grief making her crazy? Or is her dad truly adrift between this world and the next, trying to contact her?

Dani longs for his help as she tries and fails to connect with her workaholic mother. Her pain only deepens when astonishing secrets about her family history come to light. But Dani finds a surprising ally in Theo, the quiet guy lingering in the backstage of her life. He persistently reaches out as Dani’s faith falters, her family relationships unravel, and she withdraws into a dangerous obsession with her father’s ghostly appearances. Will she let her broken, prodigal heart find reason to hope again?

Read an excerpt.
Add it on Goodreads
Purchase the e-book at Amazon.com / Amazon UK / Amazon (Aus) / Amazon (Can)
Barnes and Noble / Apple iTunes
With sneak peek chapters from the sequel, Almost There 

Purchase the paperback at CreateSpace / Amazon (US) / Amazon (Can) / Amazon (UK) /
Barnes and NobleThe Book Depository (free shipping)


Almost There

How do you find hope when a family crisis threatens everything you love?

Paris, the City of Lights. To seventeen-year-old Dani Deane, it’s the Promised Land. There, her widowed mother’s depression will vanish and she will no longer fear losing her only parent, her arty New York life, or her devoted boyfriend.

But shortly before their Paris getaway, Dani’s tyrannical grandfather falls ill, pulling them to rural Pennsylvania to deal with his hoarder horror of a house. Among the piles, Dani finds disturbing truths that could make Mum completely unravel. Desperate to protect her from pain and escape to Paris, Dani hatches a plan with the flirtatious neighbor boy that only threatens the relationships she most wants to save.

Why would God block all paths to Paris? Could real hope for healing be as close as a box tucked in the rafters?

Add it on Goodreads
Read sneak peek scenes for FREE on Wattpad
Purchase the ebook on Amazon (US) / Amazon (UK) / Amazon (Aus) / Amazon (Can)
Barnes and Noble / Smashwords / KoboApple iTunes

Purchase the paperback from Createspace / Amazon (US) / Amazon (Can) / Amazon (UK) /
Barnes and Noble / Book Depository (free shipping)


Do you find characters of faith compelling or off-putting? Why?


Thanks to Cecelia Earl for inviting me to write about this topic for her launch party. I repost it for broader sharing here with her blessing.
Thursday, August 03, 2017 Laurel Garver
How do you go about writing about faith in a way that isn’t off-putting to contemporary teens, but feels like it’s part of normal life?

My approach begins from understanding that a life of faith isn’t lived across a line in the sand, that this spot over here is where I have a spiritual life, and on the other side is where the rest of the world goes about its business. Real faith doesn’t need a sanitized bubble in order to exist. It walks with courage into dark places through the power of the Holy Spirit, and tries to act as Jesus did. He reached out to those who were at the margins, who were hurting. I write what I hope is an invitation to teens of faith to see their purpose in this way.

In my Christian YA series, faith is a piece of the heroine Dani’s framework for understanding the world, just like her artistic ability is. The imagery and stories of her faith weave through her thought world as much as the language of painting and drawing. Like any teen raised in a Christian home, she goes through a coming-of-age process in which she has to decide if she truly believes for herself, rather than believing in a parent’s belief.

Infusing lots of humor into the story where possible is also important. People of faith are often stereotyped as dour, fault-finding folk who take themselves way too seriously. So my heroine has a bit of a sarcastic streak and finds the funny in things, quite often the funny in her own foibles—a self-deprecating kind of humor that makes her approachable.

Most centrally, I wrote my novels as dramatic stories, not handbooks or manuals on “how to grieve well/how to handle a family crisis well.” Readers walk with Dani through sadness, longing, first love, turmoil, broken relationships, confusion, and doubt. The adults in her world sometimes help, sometimes fail her badly. She has to come to grips with what is really real, with who God is, and with how she must grow and change in order to become her best self.

Preachiness in literature comes when characters aren’t given this space to “come to their senses” on their own. Jesus’ example of how to show a transformation well is the prodigal son story. Did someone come and preach at the younger brother, and tell him he had been a selfish jerk and he should just go home and apologize to his family? No, the story events led him to that conclusion. So it is with my characters. They make their mistakes and gradually learn from them. When epiphanies come, they act on them, and test their new understanding. They move from blindness to insight to realized truth.

I don’t think you have to be a Christian to read stories like mine and get something positive out of them. I’m not Jewish, but I really love Chaim Potok’s stories, which give me a glimpse into Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish communities. One of the most lovely things about literature is how it opens a window into other worlds, gives us a chance to understand other perspectives by living inside them for just a little while.

About the books


Never Gone

Sunday school never prepared her for this kind of life after death.

Teen artist Dani Deane feels like the universe has imploded when her photographer father is killed. Days after his death, she sees him leafing through sketches in her room, roaming the halls at church, wandering his own wake. Is grief making her crazy? Or is her dad truly adrift between this world and the next, trying to contact her?

Dani longs for his help as she tries and fails to connect with her workaholic mother. Her pain only deepens when astonishing secrets about her family history come to light. But Dani finds a surprising ally in Theo, the quiet guy lingering in the backstage of her life. He persistently reaches out as Dani’s faith falters, her family relationships unravel, and she withdraws into a dangerous obsession with her father’s ghostly appearances. Will she let her broken, prodigal heart find reason to hope again?

Read an excerpt.
Add it on Goodreads
Purchase the e-book at Amazon.com / Amazon UK / Amazon (Aus) / Amazon (Can)
Barnes and Noble / Apple iTunes
With sneak peek chapters from the sequel, Almost There 

Purchase the paperback at CreateSpace / Amazon (US) / Amazon (Can) / Amazon (UK) /
Barnes and NobleThe Book Depository (free shipping)


Almost There

How do you find hope when a family crisis threatens everything you love?

Paris, the City of Lights. To seventeen-year-old Dani Deane, it’s the Promised Land. There, her widowed mother’s depression will vanish and she will no longer fear losing her only parent, her arty New York life, or her devoted boyfriend.

But shortly before their Paris getaway, Dani’s tyrannical grandfather falls ill, pulling them to rural Pennsylvania to deal with his hoarder horror of a house. Among the piles, Dani finds disturbing truths that could make Mum completely unravel. Desperate to protect her from pain and escape to Paris, Dani hatches a plan with the flirtatious neighbor boy that only threatens the relationships she most wants to save.

Why would God block all paths to Paris? Could real hope for healing be as close as a box tucked in the rafters?

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Do you find characters of faith compelling or off-putting? Why?


Thanks to Cecelia Earl for inviting me to write about this topic for her launch party. I repost it for broader sharing here with her blessing.