Friday, January 27, 2012

Author Tracy Krauss--The Reason To Develop That Thick Skin Against Rejection

Tracy Krauss is our new guest this week on Everyone's Story. Tracy describes her novels as "Edgy Inspirational Fiction"but what stands out about her books is her independence and courage to write the story she wants to write and not worry about the market... write it and the reader will come! And because of this, Tracy is my new hero. A mom of four children, she has mastered the art of juggling a career and family, and in addition to publishing fiction (she was a finalist in the Indie Excellence Book Awards), she is also a playwright, artist, and teacher.

~*~Tracy is graciously offering one printed copy of her novel PLAY IT AGAIN to one randomly chosen commenter. She looks forward to hearing from you. And as always, I'd be pleased if you could Follow this blog.~*~

Short blurb about PLAY IT AGAIN

An unlikely duo meet in Play It Again, a story of love, life and faith. Sparks fly when an ex-rock and roll junkie and a stuffy accountant rendezvous at a local resort, but neither are prepared for the emotional entanglements, family complications, and threat from the past that unexpectedly resurfaces. Set in the 1980s, this story brings two opposing forces together in a clash of romance and danger, while its musical undertones highlight the theme that God can turn anything into beautiful music. Play It Again is the much anticipated prequel to Tracy’s debut novel And the Beat Goes On. Find out where Mark Graham’s journey began in this, the story of his parents. 

Looking Rejection In The Eye by Tracy Krauss

I often cite the birth of my first daughter as the beginning of my writing adventure. It was during this time, about twenty-six years ago, that I sat in front of an old typewriter I had borrowed from my mother and began my first novel. I looked forward to my baby’s naptime each day and savored those few hours alone with my imagination. It took me years to finish that first book, writing in those precious snippets of time, and when it was finally finished it was … well, it was terrible.
Courtesy Google Images
I can admit that now, a couple of decades and a few hundred rejections later.  At the time I thought it was brilliant and figured the first publisher I sent it to would snap it up as the next great breakout novel. I’ve learned a few things since then. When I think about it now, I can’t believe how naïve I was. Now that I have several published works under my belt (three novels, two stage plays, plus a couple of magazine articles) I know that an author never stops growing and learning. There is always room to improve your craft and admitting that is the first step to success. 

I got to thinking, though, that my obsession with the written word goes a lot further back than I normally recount. I wrote my first full-fledged stage play when I was in Grade Four, based on a book called Ghosts Don’t Eat Sausages by Marion Koenig. I was so absolutely thrilled with this book that I wrote a play and then convinced about ten of my friends to act it out at recess. In those days, there were no photocopiers, so I actually had to handwrite each person’s part out multiple times so that they could each have their lines. I guess this goes to show how excited I was about the whole idea. In any case, our teacher saw us rehearsing recess after recess and when she found out what we were doing, she arranged for us to use the school auditorium. It turned out so well that she then arranged for us to perform at the next school assembly. 

This was my first foray into the role of writer/director and I have since gone on to write, produce and direct numerous plays in my capacity as a high school drama teacher. I’m proud to say that two of my plays have been picked up by major theatrical publishers, but I really owe a lot to Mrs. Sullivan, my Grade Four teacher, for seeing the potential in what I was doing and then encouraging me to make my dream a reality.
Courtesy Google Images
It’s this kind of support that every writer needs at some point or other. Sure, there is going to be lots of rejection. Get used to it. It’s inevitable and it’s one of the best ways to grow as a writer. But somewhere along the line we all need someone to say, “You’ve got something here. This is worth something.” This glimmer of hope is what keeps us writing.  I was hurt after my first novel was rejected, but I also recognized the truth in much of the feedback I was getting.
Interestingly enough, this first novel lay on my computer’s metaphoric shelf for years after its first, early rejections. I went on to sign contracts for two different novels and saw them both published before I decided to dust it off.  After a ton of revision, it’s been resurrected as my third novel PLAY IT AGAIN. I never would have imagined that after all this time this little novel would now be available for the entire world to read.
I guess my message here is twofold.  Follow your dreams, and thank those whose encouragement has given you hope to carry on. 
Author bio
Tracy Krauss is a high school teacher by profession, and a prolific author, artist, playwright and director by choice. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Saskatchewan and has gone on to teach Art, Drama and English – all the things she is passionate about. After raising four children, she and her husband now reside in beautiful Tumbler Ridge, BC where she continues to pursue all of her creative interests. Her first two books, AND THE BEAT GOES ON (2009) and MY MOTHER THE MAN-EATER (2010), were both nominated for the ‘Indie Excellence Book Awards’ for religious fiction. A third novel, PLAY IT AGAIN, the much anticipated prequel to her first book, released in 2011. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cindy Procter-King: An Author With A Touch Of Humor, Romance, Present Day Issues, And One Fine Dog

Everyone's Story welcomes contemporary fiction author Cindy Procter-King who lives in gorgeous British Columbia, Canada. I've met Cindy back some years ago during my RWA days and I'm glad we've remained in contact. A multi-published author, Cindy reveals how the right attitude has helped her pen her novels as well as to cope through difficult times.

Cindy would enjoy hearing from you...perhaps with your anecdote of the right attitude that has gotten you through a trying time. Or, a mention of your grandpa and the age he lived!

The February 2012 RT Book Reviews gave your new contemporary romance a 4-star review. Congratulations! Two things caught my attention. First, one of the themes explores the need for a child/adult-child to come to grips that a parent needs their own life and love. And second, that out of anguish comes hope. Can you please address this, perhaps relating it to your own experiences?

Thank you very much for the kudos on the nice review, Elaine, and thank you for having me on Everyone’s Story! It’s great to be here. Wow, you’re starting with a difficult question. 

As far as the mother-daughter relationship in WHERE SHE BELONGS goes, let me say up front that it is entirely fictional. I have a close relationship with my own mother. However, when I was 21, my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I backpacked through Europe. Upon our return, both my parents remarked that I now saw them as people rather than as authority figures. My mother felt a lot more freedom to share her emotional life experiences with me, and we have related to one another in a “friend” as well as a mother-daughter capacity ever since. I’ve often wondered what it would be like NOT to have a close relationship with one’s mother, because it’s such a vital relationship. So I explored that in WHERE SHE BELONGS.

Most of the anguish I’ve experienced in my life has been from losing those I love, usually to old age, but sometimes a precious soul is just snatched away from you and it’s difficult to understand why. I lost someone I was very close to when I was 21 (a pivotal year!). It was very difficult, but eventually  I chose to view his unexpected passing as a life lesson—that his death could teach  me how to live, to not be bitter and drown in what-ifs and what-might-have-beens, but to embrace the future with a positive attitude. When I hear people complaining about aging, for example, hey, I’m no more eager to turn 80 than the next person, but with every birthday I think of the years and love and joy I’ve experienced that the person I lost was not given the opportunity to experience. To me, that’s hope.

Danny in WHERE SHE BELONGS is nothing like the person I lost. Not the same age or personality or relationship or reason for passing. However, I was able to draw from the experience of losing a dear friend at a young age to explore how it might affect Jess if the boy she thought she would marry died.

You have two novels, HEAD OVER HEELS and BORROWING ALEX, released on audio. What was your reaction when you learned about this opportunity? How much of a role did you, the author, have over the recording of the books?

HEAD OVER HEELS and BORROWING ALEX were both originally published in trade paperback and ebook formats, and my contracts allowed me to retain subsidiary rights (like audio and foreign rights). I’ve always been interested in pursuing those rights. However, I’m not agented and that makes it more difficult. When I learned about the new (at the time) audio publisher, AudioLark, I asked some of the authors who had signed with them about their experiences. I liked what I heard and so I submitted my two novels. I was thrilled when they were accepted. AudioLark’s third-party distribution has grown since I became one of their authors, and in the summer of 2011 the audio book for HEAD OVER HEELS appeared on Audible’s ChickLit Bestseller list for several weeks. BORROWING ALEX is in the queue for uploading to Audible and will hopefully be available around mid-February,  as well as being available (as HEAD OVER HEELS currently is) on iTunes and Overdrive. Now, WHERE SHE BELONGS is in production, with a targeted publication date of March 2012.

As for author involvement, when you sell to an audio publisher (as compared to hiring narrators and producers and paying their expenses up front yourself, which would be the equivalent of audio self-publishing), the audio publisher has final say in all facets of production. They create a new cover and story blurb that differs from the paper versions, and they hire the narrators. The author doesn’t pay a dime and isn’t involved with production until the narration is complete. When narration is complete, I’m given a chance to proof the audio files (listen to them on my computer and advise the publisher of any errors). The narrator makes the corrections, and the publisher puts the audio book up for sale on their website and third-party vendors.

The books that I’ve sold to audio have all already been through the editing process with their “paper” editors, so it’s not necessary to do more editing. They go to audio “unabridged,” that is, narrated as they were originally published in paperback. The books are not shortened for audio (which is what “abridged” means).

You’ve traveled to many exotic and fascinating countries that some of us can only imagine. Do you have an experience(s) from one of these trips that perhaps inspired your writing, whether story-wise or personal motivation-wise?

I did travel when I was young, the backpacking trip to Europe part way through university, but other than writing conferences and taking the kids to Disneyland and Disney World, my husband and I didn’t begin to travel again until our children were in their late teens/early twenties. For our 25th anniversary, we went to Peru for three weeks and we are now planning a trip to Ecuador. We also had an opportunity to visit Newfoundland last year, and in the future we plan to visit Australia (he has cousins there) and Chile. To be truthful, my traveling has not inspired my writing story-wise, but it might some day. For example, if I wanted to write a story set in South America, I like knowing I’ve been there (I’m a research hound). As far as motivation goes, I suppose I’m motivated to finish a project before I leave on a trip!  However, traveling has taught me, more than anything, that life is about more than the next publishing contract. It’s necessary to refill the creative well, and traveling helps me do that. Plus, learning about other cultures broadens the mind, in my opinion. If travel motivates me in any way, it’s to do more of it! I just love “exploring.” 

Tell us about your beloved grandfather, William, and how he had inspired you to persevere in the face of tough times. 

Cindy's Grandpa is the smiling man in the middle.

My grandfather, William Procter, was always known as Duke. The story has it that when he was three, he strutted around “like the Duke of Wellington” (if you can imagine the Duke of Wellington strutting around in the backwoods of British Columbia). His father, William George Procter, started calling him Duke, and he was Duke until the day he died at 106…and a half. 

Duke enlisted to fight in the Great War (WWI) when he was 16. He might have been 17 by the time he got to England (I’m not sure), but he was still underage. Many underage men were sent to France to fight in the trenches, and Duke planned to be one of them. They felt they were doing their duty. One of the reasons Duke volunteered for the army was because he didn’t want to get sucked into logging back home. Well, somebody upstairs had a different plan in mind for him, because the very day he was lined up prepared to board the train to travel to the English Channel and cross over to France, he was plucked from the line-up not only for being underage but also because he knew how to log. They needed men in Scotland to log wood required to build the trenches in France. My grandfather was sent to Scotland for the duration of his time in the War (three years). He felt a great guilt about this, because most of his regiment/battalion (I can’t keep the terms straight) were killed in France. Those who didn’t die overseas were affected by the gas. Duke carried his survivor’s guilt throughout his life, but he also believed in living life to the fullest, especially as he aged, to, in a way, help atone for the young men who died in his stead.

He was a man who didn’t know the meaning of “can’t”. He raised three sons during the Great Depression as a farmer/rancher. I once asked him what it was like living through the Roaring Twenties. His reply? “The Twenties didn’t roar down on the farm. It was just darn hard work.” He darn-hard-worked his entire life.

When he was in his early sixties, I believe it was, a tree fell on his head while he was clearing land for a pasture, and he required surgery. He nearly died. For the rest of his life, he had this soft spot in his skull, like a baby.  They didn’t have steel plates to put in his head in the sixties, I guess. But did that slow him down? No. When he was 81 or 82, he participated in the first Terry Fox Run (a run that raises funds for cancer research, named for Canadian Terry Fox, who had to end his cross-country fundraising venture when his own cancer returned). Now, Duke had never run as a sport in his life. In fact, he didn’t own runners. He wore his square-dancing shoes. My grandmother died when Duke was around 90. He took up five-pin bowling and didn’t stop square-dancing (he became very popular with the widows). He bowled his last strike at 104 or 105, before the last of three falls (that had occurred over a period of years) that finally made him have to move to a nursing home at 105. He lived on his own from about 90-105, albeit beside my parents. He canned his own fruit, changed his own tires in his nineties, drove until 100, and played horseshoes every day in the front yard from the time he was 75. At one time, he was the oldest competing horseshoe player in Canada, and when he died he was the oldest surviving British Columbian WWI veteran. So he knew a lot about perseverance!

Did I mention that he went skydiving for his 100th birthday? What can I say? He was a Leo.

I grew up either down the road or next door to him until I left for university. It’s hard NOT to be affected by such a strong personality. How can I not persevere when I had this fellow as a role model? When I think of all he achieved when he didn’t have a formal education, to me, with the opportunities available to me and my children that just were not available to Duke in his youth, it’s silly not to persevere. It’s practically disrespectful.

You’ve done an amazing job designing your own website and blog. Kudos. Are you a techie at heart? Any advice on how-to or what not to do?

Thanks! Oh, gosh, no, I’m not a techie at heart. I’m a terminal do-it-yourselfer, and also, when I first published, I could not afford a website designer. So I bought the necessary software, bought a bunch of how-to books, and taught myself enough HTML web design to build my first website. My current website was the third I designed. I also designed a site for an author friend and another for a business.

I discovered that I love web design! But it’s a time-suck. So I had to choose—web design or writing. I chose writing.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer and have time to take away from your writing to devote to web design, the great thing is YOU’RE in control. And it’s fun! But, for example, when I built my website, free software like WordPress, which a lot of web designers now use to build entire sites, not just blogs, was around but not in common use for web design. If I had it to do over again, I would probably design a site (the look) and then hire a professional to transport my design into WordPress. These types of sites are easy to update on your own. Even with my current site design, I had to hire a professional designer to code the blog so it looked like the rest of my site. I can understand HTML but CSS layout is like Martian to me.

And for fun: which authors do you tend to gush over during the writing conferences you attend?

I don’t gush because I don’t want to make authors feel uncomfortable. Can you imagine being a celebrity and people are gushing all over you? That sounds like a weird experience to me! After all, to you you’re just…you. But my favorite romance authors are Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I have sat in on their workshops and talked to them briefly at signings, but I can’t say that I’ve gushed. I’m more likely to gush over my personal author friends, because then they’ll buy me cheesecake. 

I’m in it for the cheesecake.  

Author Bio:
As a child, Cindy dreamed of becoming a writer. Well, okay, thanks to her grade three teacher reading a chapter of The Little House on the Prairie books to Cindy's class everyday, Cindy actually dreamed of becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder. It made so much sense. After all, Cindy's blond older sister always got to wear blue while Cindy with the "dark as cinders" hair was often relegated to wearing dull old pink­just like Laura. Laura was part of a pioneer family, and until Cindy went to school she lived in a minuscule farming community where her father and grandparents were born. What further confirmation for her future does an eight-year-old with an avid imagination require?

When Cindy realized becoming Laura meant learning to travel back in time and using­gasp!­outhouses where she believed evil trolls were hiding to gobble her up, she decided to remain in the present and become a writer instead. Her first poem began, "My father is a logger, He stirs his coffee with his thumb, He has a dog named Blackie, And in his truck they both look dumb." Thus another illustrious literary career was born.

Cindy earned a first class B.A. in English Lit. from the University of Victoria before unleashing herself on the unsuspecting workforce. However, she quickly realized her aversion to fluorescent lights and the numbers 9-2-5 wouldn't gain her kudos from her various bosses. Luckily, she married Steven King (note the lack of a "ph"), who whisked her to a tiny logging town where she couldn't find a job...unless you count her stint as secretary to the warden of a minimum security prison. There, Cindy began writing novels, and she hasn't looked back. Because, honestly, what other employer in their right mind would want her?

A Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® nominee, Cindy's mission in life is to see her surname spelled properly­with an E. So take heed. That's P-r-o-c-t-E-r. Not, no, never, under any flippin' circumstances should you spell it with two O's. Cindy lives in Canada with her husband, their two amazing sons, a tortoiseshell cat obsessed with dripping tap water, and Allie McBeagle.

Website: www.cindyprocter-king.comFacebook: Author Page:

James H. Pence--Encore Visit

I've been so impressed and spell-bound by Jim's visit on Everyone's Story last week that I've asked him a few additional questions. I hope you enjoy his responses.

No matter how many times I have read your account of how God united you and Terry Caffey, I am awed at how God led you to this grieving man by way of a single page from your novel to help lift Terry up from what must be one of the worst tragedies for the human heart to endure. A true testimonial of God at work! As for you, other than this incident turning your  career around, has it served to uplift you on a personal basis? In other words, has it changed the man James Pence?

It's changed me in a number of ways. First, it's totally changed my perspective on writing for publication. So much in publishing is about sales figures, platform, marketing, etc. We tend to measure the success of a book by how many copies it sells. I don't think that way anymore, because this showed me that it's not about numbers; it's about the lives God touches through my writing. That takes a lot of the pressure off. God wants me to be faithful to Him in my writing and trust him with the results. 

It's also changed me on a personal level because I realize that, while we tend to look at the big picture, God is in the details. I'm more attentive to the little things I do and how God can use them in the lives of others. 

With the publication of  TERROR BY NIGHT you became a collaborator. Are there any other collaborations happening in your life that you are more aware of now since meeting and working with Terry Caffey? Do you believe all of us need to tap into a collaboration--a working partnership--with a God who we don't see and therefore cannot sit across a desk from in an office and sign a legal document liable for penalties if invalidated?

Most definitely. This experience brought me to the realization that, whether I know it or not, I am in a "collaboration" with God. As I write, I trust him to use my words for his glory. I think that applies to whatever we do. As we trust Him to work in and through our gifts and abilities, God can do great things through us.

And for fun: if you had all the time in the world, along with no financial concerns, and let's throw in a binding publishing contract no matter what you wrote, what would you like to (or dare to) write about?

Probably the next wildly-successful ten-part end-of-times novel series. (Just kidding.) 

I have to be honest here. I don't have the slightest idea. Unlike many novelists, I've never been overflowing with story ideas. In fact, most of my fiction ideas have to be pulled out of me kicking and screaming. That's why I've begun to gravitate to narrative non-fiction. I enjoy being able to tell true stories of God's amazing works. 

With that in mind, if I had all the time in the world, no financial concerns, and a publishing contract, I'd be waiting for someone to come to me with an awesome, knockout story about what God has done in his or her life. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

James H. Pence--Trusting God In Tragedy

This week's guest on Everyone's Story is author James H. Pence, or Jim, as he prefers. Jim caught my attention when I read his account on another blog of how God reached out to two men, Jim, at a seemingly crossroad in his life, and Terry Caffey, a man who just lost his family in a tragedy too cruel to even imagine. I contacted Jim and he graciously accepted my invitation to share this fascinating story, that though sad, is uplifting and inspiring.

Jim is graciously giving away his novel BLIND SIGHT to one randomly chosen commenter. Please either include your email within the comment or email me privately with your email address. As always, I'd appreciate if you would Follow this blog.

You never know… by James H. Pence

Are you discouraged? Keep writing. 
You never know what God might do with your words.
In the late ‘90s I wrote Blind Sight, a suspense novel about a man who was struggling with God’s goodness in tragedy. Near the end of the book my protagonist, a man who lost his wife and two children in a car accident, understands that God is good even when circumstances are not.
Like all new authors, when Blind Sight was released in 2003 I had dreams of a bestseller. But that wasn’t to be. The book’s sales were mediocre at best and, when my second royalty statement showed massive returns—and a large deficit—I was crushed.
I pouted for a few weeks, but eventually realized that I was being selfish. Finally I prayed, “Lord, I wrote this book for you and I’m giving it back to you. If you’ll use it in even one life, I’ll be happy.”
Time passed and Blind Sight was consigned to the ranks of out-of-print books.
But God wasn’t finished with it.
The page from Blind Sight
On March 1, 2008, a terrible tragedy happened not far from where I live. Two men broke into the home of Terry and Penny Caffey. They shot Terry, Penny, and their two sons. Then they set the house on fire. Even though he’d been shot five times at point blank range, Terry survived and managed to escape the burning house. Terry’s wife and sons died. Even worse, his teenage daughter Erin was implicated in the crime.

Although Terry was a Christian, he struggled deeply in the aftermath of the tragedy. He couldn’t understand why God took his family or why He made him go on living. 
Jim Pence (left) and Terry Caffey (right)

About six weeks after the murders, Terry went back to his property to “have it out with God.” He stood on the ashes of his house and cried out, “God why did you take my family? I need an answer and I need it today.”

At that moment, he saw a brown, scorched piece of paper leaning against a tree. Terry picked it up.
It was a single page from my novel. But it wasn’t just any page. It was the page where my protagonist—a man who has lost a wife and two children—comes to grips with God’s sovereignty in his loss.
The first words on the page were, “I couldn’t understand why You would take my family and leave me to struggle along without them…but I do believe You’re sovereign. You’re in control.”
God used the words on that burned page to turn Terry Caffey’s life around. He forgave his daughter and the others who were involved in the murders, and even lobbied to have the death penalty taken off and now he travels all over the country sharing an incredible story of grace and forgiveness. 

God also used that page to change the direction of my writing.
In January of 2009, Terry asked me to help him write a book that would tell his story. 
I hadn’t written or published in four years and collaboration was not in my long-term plans. However, because I wanted to encourage Terry, I agreed to help him write a book proposal. 
Because of the intense media interest in Terry’s story, Tyndale snapped up the proposal and put the book on an accelerated publication schedule. We signed a contract in March of ’09 and the book was set for a September release. 
I had to write it in twelve weeks.
The accelerated writing schedule was probably a good thing, because I didn’t have the time to give in to sheer panic. I’d never collaborated before and I had no earthly idea how to go about it. But it was a door that God had opened, and so I trusted Him for the wisdom. 
I dusted off my little digital voice recorder and began interviewing Terry. Then I worked at outlining the book, selecting the stories that would go into it, even using my fiction-writing skills to lay out a plot-line. 
As I worked with Terry and wrote what would become Terror by Night, I began to notice something unexpected.
I was enjoying myself immensely.
I love telling stories, but I had no idea how much I would enjoy helping other people tell their stories. 
And so now I happily call myself a collaborator. I spent most of 2011 writing a book about Nate Lytle, a young surfer who made a miraculous recovery from a massive traumatic brain injury. I also collaborated on a novella with bestselling author Stephen Arterburn. And I’ve got proposals in the works for two more collaborations, one fiction and the other nonfiction.
I never intended to be a collaborator.
But God led me through an unexpected door and down an unplanned path. And in doing so, He changed the direction of my writing ministry. 
Has God placed some unexpected doors or unplanned paths before you? I hope that in 2012 you’ll take a chance and go through them.
You never know what God might do.
“A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps,” (Proverbs 16:9, NET Bible).  
Do you have an experience of God acting His will in your life? Jim would enjoy hearing from you.

Author Bio:
 James H. (Jim) Pence is a published author, an accomplished singer and speaker, a performance chalk artist, and in his spare time he teaches karate, writing and art to home-schooled children. Jim, a Renaissance man, prefers to be known simply as a storyteller and follower of Jesus Christ. Jim turned to writing in 1988 as a helpful means of expression after the death of his baby daughter Michelle. 

A versatile writer, Jim has been published in both fiction and nonfiction. He is the author of Blind Sight (Tyndale, 2003), a suspense/thriller set in mind-control cults. His second novel, The Angel (Kregel, 2006), is set against the backdrop of the euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide movements.

Jim moved into collaboration and narrative nonfiction with Terror by Night (Co-authored with TerryCaffey, Tyndale, 2009), and collaborated with bestselling author Stephen Arterburn on a book titled The Encounter: Sometimes God Has to Intervene (Thomas Nelson, Nov. 2011). 

Also a talented chalk artist, vocalist, and speaker, Jim has shared Christ across the United States through music and art. Jim often takes his art and music into prisons, where he is able to share the grace of Christ with an often forgotten and rejected people. 

He and his wife Laurel recently celebrated their thirty-first wedding anniversary. They live on six acres northeast of Dallas, Texas, and have two grown children and a granddaughter.

Contact Information:

For Jim:
Web site –
Facebook Page –
Twitter -- @jameshpence
Amazon Author Page –

For Terry Caffey:
Web site –
Facebook – Terry Caffey

My Friend Diane

Diane at age 14 (left) and Elaine (right) at age 15

Today is January 13th. To be more specific, it's Friday the 13th. This isn't a blog segment on superstition, though that could be fodder for a story since my mother had died on a Friday the 13th).
Rather, this is a tribute to my childhood friend, Diane Kamm (Freidman) who passed away January 13th, 2008 after a thirteen-year-old battle against Stage 4 breast cancer. She lived long enough to see her only child graduate from high school.

Diane slipped into eternal rest the day before her 46th birthday. 
A kindergarten teacher, a talented cellist, she was a loving mom, a wife, and for the majority of my life, the closest I've had to having a sister.

Born into a Jewish family, she embraced Buddhism the last few years of her life. I pray the One, All Loving God, will one day unite Diane and me so I can hear her wild laughter and see her mile-wide smile again. I pray that no matter what we here on Earth believe that we all will live, in peace and love, in eternity.

Diane, my friend, may you be enjoying the sights of heaven and playing a beautiful hymn for our Lord, making Him smile, as you have done for me. May God bless you and love you always.

Diane Kamm Freidman

Friday, January 6, 2012

Jean C. Gordon--A Multi-Published Author With A Big Heart From A Small Town

This week's guest on Everyone's Story, author Jean C. Gordon, and I grew up on the extreme opposites of New York state. Jean from a small town in the western part, and me in Brooklyn. We met in-between at a writer's group and have been friends since. Jean, a devoted wife and mom, is a strong, versatile, and most beautiful woman. It's been exciting to watch her publish so many books through the years.

Although I'll be asking her some questions, Jean would enjoy hearing from you. She is also graciously offering one book giveaway of her newly released Love Inspired novel, SMALL-TOWN SWEETHEARTS to one randomly chosen commenter. Please leave your email address within your comment, or contact me directly if you're aiming for privacy. And, I'd love for you to Follow this blog if you choose.

As a fellow New Yorker I cannot resist this question: why do you set your stories in New York, particularly upstate New York, a place seldom visited by novelists, especially the Christian author?

Because I’m a native Upstate New Yorker, a native Western New Yorker to be precise, and proud of it.  I have a personal crusade to share my part of New York with others that started when my husband and I were first married and living and going to college in Los Angeles. It seemed that everyone I met, from all over the country, thought the entire state of New York was like New York City and within a short driving distance of the City. It’s a seven-hour drive from my hometown to New York City. At that point in my life, I’d never even been to there.

Upstate is quite different from the Downstate New York City area. Upstate we have dairy farms, mountains, lakes, orchards, and lots of villages and hamlets with fewer than 5,000 people that aren’t near any major cities. Wyoming County in Western New York, where I grew up, is the number one diary county in the state and has about the same number of milk cows as people (40,000). I also think that small-town New York has as strong a Christian element as small towns elsewhere in the country.

Your just released novel, SMALL-TOWN SWEETHEARTS, a Love-Inspired book, is your first venture into category fiction. Have you found writing for this market and its reader different from your other novels? Are you self-promoting it any differently?

I have to disagree that SMALL-TOWN SWEETHEARTS is my first category fiction. I think all of my novels from Avalon Books are also category fiction. The big difference between them and SMALL-TOWN SWEETHEARTS is the stronger faith element in my Love Inspired novel. I’ve found that many Avalon Book readers also read Love Inspired romance.

I am doing a lot more promotion for my Love Inspired book, though, since the main market for Avalon is libraries. I’ve been blogging more than I ever have before and am taking part in a contest on Fresh Fiction with my fellow The Story Garden: Where good books make good friends authors. I have an author page on Facebook, and am on Twitter, @JeanCGordon. I also went around to all of the stores in my immediate area that sell Love Inspired books counted the number of books available and put local author stickers on all of the stock. I plan to go back later in the month and see how they sold.

This Love Inspired release is also your first venture with working with an agent. How has this collaboration varied for you?

My agent, Diana Flegal with the Hartline Literary Agency is great. I like knowing I have someone who believes in me and my writing mission working for me. I don’t really need an agent to write for Love Inspired, but Diana brings more than just selling the manuscript to the table — encouragement, promotion guidance, career guidance, a connection with her other authors though her Pencilbox Crew email group.

As a professional financial planner and editorial manager for a financial publisher, do you ever have right-brain vs. left-brain wars when it comes to the more creative side of writing fiction?

Although I do take an organized, more linear approach to writing my books, I don’t find that my analytical side interferes with my creativity.

Do you see an author’s theme developing from one novel to the next?

That’s an easy one. Home, or coming home, is the theme of all of my books, so far, at least.

You favor writing love stories/romances. Do you itch to try another genre?

No, I like writing and reading happy stories. My favorite reads are romance, women’s fiction, and historical novels. I’m not much of a mystery or suspense reader. But, whatever I read, I like it to have a happy ending.

Between working full-time outside of writing, and writing, family and church, are you able to enjoy any downtime? Any secrets on how to have such pleasure without the tag of guilt?

To be honest, I don’t have much downtime. When I do, I like to spend it with my family. And, sorry, but I have no insights into how to indulge myself without having at least a tiny tag of guilt. But I’m working on that.

Please indulge the fantasy: if someone were to give you a never-ending check to do what you want, what would be your top three priorities? And for fun, since finances wouldn’t be a worry, what three things would you like to try (think bucket-list)?
Remember that I’m a financial planner. I’d (1) retire from my day job, (2) set up college funds for my grandchildren, (3) and work on restoring our nineteenth century farmhouse. My fun things all involved travel. I like to (1) visit all of the U.S. states I haven’t been to, (2) visit Scotland, especially the highland areas where my and my husband’s families came from, and (3) go to the Grand Ole Opry. One more thing I’d do that doesn’t quite fit either category is start a nonprofit organization or donor advised fund with my husband to help those less fortunate. We always say we’ll do this if we ever came into a large amount of money.

Author Bio:

Jean C. Gordon’s writing is a natural extension of her love of reading. From that day in first grade when she realized t-h-e was the word “the,” she’s been reading everything she can put her hands on. A professional financial planner and editorial supervisor for a financial publisher in Albany, NY, Jean is as at home writing retirement- and investment-planning advice as she is writing romance novels, but finds novels a lot more fun.

She and her college-sweetheart husband tried the city life in Los Angeles, but quickly returned home to their native Upstate New York. They share a 170-year-old farmhouse just south of Albany with their daughter and son-in-law, two grandchildren, and a menagerie of pets. Their son lives nearby. While Jean creates stories, her family grows organic fruits and vegetables and tends the livestock de jour.

Although her day job, writing and family don’t leave her a lot of spare time, Jean likes to give back when she can. She and her husband team-taught a seventh-and-eighth-grade Sunday school class for several years and currently serve on her church’s Evangelism Committee. She also shares her love of books with others by volunteering at the church’s Book Nook.

Twitter: @JeanCGordon
Harlequin Love Inspired website:

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