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Posts tagged ‘mystery’

Interview with Deborah Dee Harper Author of Misstep

If you know me, you know that today’s guest is one of my favorite authors of humor. Deborah Dee Harper writes laugh-out-loud mysteries with characters that will never leave you. In between the laughter, there are a couple of tears, well, because Deborah knows how to take the reader on an adventure of mishaps and funny moments.

The following is the blurb for Misstepwhich captures the mischief of the story.

Winnie and Sadie are still fighting, and I’m still living in the strangest town on earth. 

It’s December in Road’s End, Virginia, a tiny town long forgotten by anyone but its residents, where Colonel Hugh Foster and his wife, Melanie, have chosen to live-for better or worse. The jury’s still out on that one!

Road’s End is comprised entirely of senior citizens whose kids have grown and left for greener pastures. Hugh, Melanie, and Bristol (one of the few sane people in town) are faced with a crumbling church in desperate need of repair and renovation, a dwindling congregation of opinionated, ornery senior citizens, and a camel-yes, a camel.

And if that’s not enough, the trio and the rest of the Road’s End residents, are soon mired in danger and intrigue when a group of gun-toting drug dealers arrive in town, bent on killing the church handyman, and conspiring to ruin the doggonedest record-breaking blizzard the town has ever seen.

Poor drug dealers.

Deborah Dee Harper currently resides in Alaska where she writes inspirational and humorous books for both children and adults and takes thousands of photographs. When she isn’t writing or taking photos, she stalks moose and other wildlife, survives earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, endures the long, dark, frigid winters, revels in the endless summer days, and is awestruck by the rippling northern lights of the Alaskan night skies. She also leaps mountains in a single bound and wrestles grizzly bears along hiking trails. (Not really. Just making sure you were paying attention.) Whenever she can, she loves being with her daughter, son-in-law, and three grandsons in Kentucky, and her son, daughter-in-law, and two more grandsons in Michigan. (For real.)

She can be reached at deborahdeetales@gmail.com, at her website www.deborahdeeharper.com, and her three blogs: www.deborahdeetales.blogspot.com, www.deetrails.blogspot.com and www.laramieonthelam.blogspot.com.

I have been wanting to ask this question to an author with a sense for comedic exploits, and you so exhibit that sense in Misstep. Does writing humor come easy to you or do you have to work at it?

Fay, I can honestly say that (for the most part) it comes easily to me. And that’s not necessarily a good thing or because it’s some special skill. It’s mostly because I can be a smart aleck at times J. I love to laugh, and I love to make others laugh. I firmly believe God gave us a sense of humor for several reasons—to enjoy the humorous things that happen around us every day of our lives, to defuse situations that might become volatile if we don’t look at the funny side, to help us enjoy others who might be different from us (but still beloved children of God), and lastly, a way in which to understand aspects of human behavior we can’t quite explain any other way.

I think many writers could easily write humor because all you do is get in the zone, i.e., enter the personality of your character, and let the thoughts flow. Once I established who the characters were in the Road’s End series, they sort of took over (what I call a “character coup”) and hijacked the whole darned thing. There comes a point in every writer’s book when it no longer belongs to them. The characters have banded together and taken over. That’s when it gets interesting J .

Ah, we are sister authors. My authors initiate successful coups as well.

Because I’m so fascinated with your ability to bring such joy to your story, and because when I do write comedy, the humor replaces something dark or something that troubles me, almost a coping mechanism that my brain brings to characters in my work as well. Many times my characters will cope with darkness with humor—at least I laugh at them. I don’t know if anyone else does.

(Fay, I’ve read plenty of your humor! I don’t know if you even realize what you’re writing is hilarious. It’s just a part of you, and I love it!)

Thank you. Sometimes I don’t even see what I’m writing as funny until I sit down and see what I’ve written about. I laugh best at myself. I do know from personal experience, that people laugh during your stories. From a reader’s perspective, it seems as if you must overflow with happiness to bring such pleasure to others. It’s hard to imagine that you write with perfect comedic timing with anything but perfect peace, but as a spectator in life, I sense that this is a misnomer. Life isn’t always rosy. So, how do you cope with writing humor when life for you at a given moment might be anything but humorous?

Actually, Fay, writing humor when I’m down is a great way to pull myself out of the pit. After all, when I write I’m “becoming” one or more of my characters, and since they’re such goofballs, I have no choice but to succumb to their silliness. I don’t mean to say that it’s always easy; sometimes writing is the last thing I feel like doing, and writing humorously seems impossible. But if I’m on a deadline, I have no choice. And oddly enough, being down in the dumps brings out the sarcasm in me, and sometimes humor is nothing more than veiled (and hopefully, good-hearted) sarcasm. Once you get rolling, it comes easier with each keystroke. Sometimes it’s all I can do to type fast enough to catch my characters’ goofiness. Humor is a great medicine for me, and I’ve relied on it my entire life.

One more question on writing humor only because I’ve seen so many try to accomplish it and fall short. Even a born jokester finds it hard to pull off the punchline, or as in writing, the setup and the payoff. If there is a budding author out there who wants to write humorous stories, is there any element of craft or any other advice that you can give them for honing that skill?

I honestly feel that a person who wants to write humor can write humor because it’s in their very essence, i.e., you won’t want to if you can’t. You don’t want to write humor unless you have it within you. Think of it this way (and try not to cringe like I’m doing as I type this): people write porn—yes, it’s a horrible thing, yet there it is. But a person who wants to write it can find it within themselves to do it. Those of us who wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole couldn’t do it anyway. It’s just not in us. It’s the same with mystery, romance, historical, horror, sci-fi, paranormal, or any of the zillion other genres and sub-genres that exist nowadays. There’s a part of us that can conjure up whatever it is that’s required in that particular genre. Now don’t get me started on how a person who can write porn should fight that desire to do so because it’s from the devil, because I could talk about that all day and that’s not what I’m here to do. Nevertheless, if a writer wants to write humor it’s because God has put that desire and ability into their make-up.

Okay, enough of that. I find that I look for the humor in situations—everyday, run-of-the-mill events that we all experience. For instance, we’ve all gotten behind the person in the checkout line who argues every price the cashier rings up then can’t find their debit card, and when they do, it’s declined, and they decide to write a check and have to dig to the bottom of their luggage-sized purse to find their checkbook, then ask the date, slowly write out the check, their pen runs dry, the woman behind you goes into labor, then delivers (twins), the milk in your cart sours … and still, that customer is up there clogging up the line without a care in the world. You’re furious, they’re oblivious. You can either laugh it off for the ludicrous situation it is, or let it bring you down.

I think most, if not all, humor writers find themselves looking for the laughs in their lives rather than the tears. Besides, humor is oftentimes taking a situation and exaggerating it, as in the example above. Another good example would be the relationship between Dewey Wyandotte and George Washington of Road’s End. Yes, they serve as one another’s BFF (best friend and enemy), but it’s an exaggerated association between two old men, both opinionated and obstinate. The humor comes with the embellishment of that behavior—and anyone who tries to do that with their humor will find it becomes much easier with time. Give it a try.

With regard to exaggeration and the example above in the checkout line, obviously everything I wrote didn’t happen. But because we’ve all been there, using exaggeration makes it funny. The purse is luggage-sized, the pregnant woman had time to finish her pregnancy, go into labor, and deliver twins, the milk sours. It all points to a ridiculously long wait in line, and while that in itself isn’t particularly funny, using it in a piece of writing and exaggerating the circumstances does two things: it gives you a funny scene, and it relieves your white-hot anger at that person at the head of the line.

To make an already long story short, look for humor and you’ll find it. I try not to read in my genre (against all the advice) because I want my humor to be fresh and entirely my own. I don’t want to accidentally latch on to someone else’s ideas or methods. That’s not to say reading humor is completely out of the question. As long as it’s not similar to what I’m writing, reading humor can get me in the mood. Surround yourself with it, look for the humor in the day God has given you, and make it your own!

Okay, about that lady in the checkout, are you sure you’re in Alaska? Or maybe you visited Florida and got in line behind my dear mother-in-law? That wasn’t an over-exaggeration of being in line behind her. *Smiles*

And now, I have to know how you came to meet these lovable misfits who live in Road’s End. Is there somewhere that you’ve visited that brought them to mind or do you actually know a couple of eccentrics like the residents that Pastor Hugh shepherds?

This is going to sound hokey, or worse yet, coming off as though I think I’m special to God (which we all are), but most of the characters were almost planted in my brain. Psychologists and psychiatrists would say, with good reason, that my subconscious conjured up everything, but I can’t help but feel that God helped me tremendously. It’s as though once I came up with a character, say, George, and he introduced me to Dewey, and they turn out to be perfect at playing off one another. Then came the wives who had to be a little nuts in their own right to be married to those men. It turns out they’re a little eccentric all by their lonesomes.

I’ve visited Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg about twenty times, so I’m in love with that time period—the homes, gardens, the beauty of Virginia in all seasons. So using my love for all things colonial, I put my characters in fictional Road’s End in Virginia, and made it a little village filled with history and historical buildings like The Inn at Road’s End and the Christ Is Lord Church. Road’s End has played a role in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and everything in-between, so the stories those buildings and grounds could tell are endless!

While I don’t have anyone in particular who matches the personality of any one of my Road’s End characters precisely, I think George and Martha, Dewey and Winnie, Sadie, Frank, Leo, Perry, and the rest of the gang are probably mash-ups of people I’ve run across during my lifetime. I think that’s true of most writers. People they’ve known, worked with, grown up with, or gone to school with end up in their books in one fashion or another. Humor’s no different.

Lastly, I think if I’d actually known someone with … say, Sadie’s personality, I’d have lost my sense of humor altogether! J

I don’t want to give away Sophie’s identity, but when she stepped into the story, I actually did fall on the floor laughing. Really. And as the exploits with Sophie continued, I found myself unable to breathe. My sides hurt from all the abdominal exercises that a true belly laugh can give to you. How in the world did you think of bringing Sophie to Road’s End?

Sophie was one of those characters who just happened. When Sherman DeSoto came to town, he was such a strange character I just knew he’d have someone like Sophie with him. Besides, the town was preparing for the live Nativity, so it just made sense. Sophie shows up in all the books of the Road’s End series. I think she’s here to stay. In my experience, the less planning I do and the more I let the characters take over, the better it turns out! When one idea pops into your head, somehow it leads to how that character can do something outrageous with it, and that leads to another and another, and pretty soon you have an entire scene or chapter or perhaps an entire thread in your plot–all from the addition of one crazy character.

I would be so disappointed if Sophie didn’t show up in each of the stories. But nothing will ever trump her first introduction. I’m laughing right now as I think of her.

I happen to know that there is a second “Mishap” which is about to overcome the Road’s End residents, and I can guarantee the reader it is as hilarious and as heartwarming as the first. Can you tell us a little about the next release? Also, you have a book in a different genre that will be out in the future. I’d love to hear about it as well.

You’re right, Fay, the second book in the Road’s End series, Faux Pas, is on the way, and thanks so much for your kind words about it J. It’s being released on July 4, 2017, and I’m really excited about it. A few months have passed since the incidents in Misstep, and Hugh and Melanie Foster are thrilled to find out their only daughter, Amanda, is getting married! The only problem (the first of many), though, is that the wedding is a mere two months away, and Mandy has asked Hugh to officiate the nuptials at the Christ Is Lord Church right there in Road’s End. Sadly, the church is threatening to collapse into the dirt floor basement and is in need of immediate repairs. Right off the bat, Hugh is faced with getting permission to repair the pre-Revolutionary War era building. And that’s just the beginning. The Fosters are unaware that Mandy’s fiancé, Jonathan Sterling, is the only nephew of Stuart Thomas Rogers, the President of the United States. And he’s coming to the wedding.

As if that isn’t enough to drive Hugh into the Witness Protection Program, the cranky residents of Road’s End have it in for the president for not coming through on his campaign promises to bring God back into the government and to the forefront of the nation. When they find out he’s coming to the wedding, all heck breaks loose as Sadie Simms prepares to give the president what-for and present him with a Constitutional amendment, while the men of Road’s End prepare to honor him with their version of a parade. A wedding, a president, an antagonistic senator, a new son-in-law, brand-spankin’ new grandson, a church under repairs, cranky senior citizens, and Sophie. What more could a man ask for?

The other book, Sin Seeker, is the first book in my Sin Seeker series. It’s darker than the Road’s End books and deals with sin and the very real battle we’re in every day of our lives with the forces of darkness. Graves (Gray to his friends) Hollister is a discouraged social services employee tasked with the thankless job of keeping children safe from parents who don’t deserve them in the first place and who neglect and abuse them regularly. He starts hearing demonic voices shortly before a hideous tragedy occurs, after which he quits his job and sinks to the bottom of a bottle of anything he can find that’ll put him in an alcoholic stupor. He spends two months trying to obliterate his memories. Finally, he realizes he can’t; he must face them, so he enrolls in seminary and becomes a pastor. With his new role as pastor and his newfound ability to actually see the sin on the people God has tasked him with helping, Gray finds himself thrown head-first into a world of evil and demons, angels and miracles.

Deborah, thank you for joining me here today. I will be so thankful if you’ll return in July to discuss Faux Pas. I’m thinking I’d like to interview Sophie. 

Here’s more about Deborah’s July release, the next story in the Road’s End series, Faux Pas:

What would you do if the President of the United States was attending your daughter’s wedding?

Panic. You’d panic. Add in a severe storm, crazy senior citizens who believe the POTUS lied his way into office, a crumbling, but historic church you happen to pastor, a cranky Secret Service agent, a four-year-old grandchild-to-be you know nothing about, and a son-in-law-to-be whose faith in the Lord has waned, and you’ve got yourself a humdinger of a wedding. Not to mention that same future son-in-law is a University of Michigan Wolverines fan (not a Michigan State Spartans fan) and prefers sweet tea to unsweetened. My gosh, what is the world coming to? Talk about a faux pas! Well, good luck with all that, Pastor Foster.

And Heaven help the president.

If you missed Monday’s interview with Hugh Foster, the hero of Misstepyou can find it here.

Interview with Cynthia T. Toney, Author of 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status

Toney, Cynthia- 006 3x5 BW.ret2.cropToday’s guest is Cynthia T. Toney, who is here to discuss her second book in her Bird Face series. I’m a big fan of Cynthia’s work, having had the pleasure of reading the first book in her series before publication, and I have championed her writing since that time. 

Cynthia is the author of the Bird Face series for teens, including 8 Notes to a Nobody and 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status. She’s always had trouble following directions and keeping her foot out of her mouth, so it’s probably best that she is now self-employed. In her spare time, when she’s not cooking Cajun or Italian food, Cynthia grows herbs and makes silk throw pillows. If you make her angry, she will throw one at you. A pillow, not an herb. Well, maybe both.  Cynthia has a passion for rescuing dogs from animal shelters and encourages others to adopt a pet from a shelter and save a life. She enjoys studying the complex history of the friendly southern U.S. from Georgia to Texas, where she resides with her husband and several canines. She is a member of ACFW, Writers on the Storm (The Woodlands, TX), and Catholic Writers Guild.

You can connect with Cynthia on her website, her blog, her Facebook Author Page, and on Twitter.

Welcome back to Inner Source, Cynthia. Wow! Book Two. Tell me how it feels to have Wendy step into high school for the first time?

Hi, Fay. It’s great to be back!

I must admit that Wendy was better prepared for high school than I was at her age. The summer between eighth and ninth grades taught her a lot, and I expected more of her than I did of myself at the start of high school. I loved the thirteen-year-old Wendy but was ready for her to experience new, more mature things, to see how she’d handle them.

I’ve said this to you before, but I have been captivated by the ability of your stories to transcend generations. When I walked into school with Wendy, I felt as if I experienced déjà vu with regard to some things, but other things have changed. I won’t tell you my generation if you don’t tell me yours, but what do you think is different about teenagers and schools even within the last twenty years?

Teenagers now have so much to handle. I first noticed it when my daughter was in high school. I don’t know if, as a teen, I could have juggled all the things some of them do these days. Not only is there more to learn academically, but teens are expected to participate in many extracurricular activities. The pressure to acquire material things seems greater, so many of them choose to work an after-school or weekend job to keep up with new technology products, for example. They have much more worry regarding their safety around strangers. And of course, the drug problem has grown.

I write for teens to show them how wonderful and powerful God made them. In spite of all their accomplishments, teens I’ve known have demonstrated that they don’t feel loved.

The story is about Wendy’s steps to girlfriend status. I’m really interested in hearing how you, as a writer, developed that list. Did anything that went on that list, surprise you?

*Chuckle* Unlike boys, a girl often reads signs of a potentially serious relationship into the most minor kinds of attention a boy might pay her. That idea prompted the list. I don’t think anything on the list surprised me. I just developed Wendy and David’s relationship as I thought it might in real life between two kids with pretty good heads on their shoulders. But I wanted readers to understand how important real friendship with a boy is in developing an emotionally healthy romance. If I had revealed that early in the story, it wouldn’t have made for as much fun.

I had a recent conversation with a friend and her teenage daughter about dating, and particularly about dating more than one person at a time. I’ve noticed that girls fall in love more quickly and easily, and when they develop strong feelings about that first boy, they think he’s “the one.” Boys don’t seem to think that way, and it usually takes getting to know several girls before there’s a special one.

I disagree with some of my friends in that I think a teenage girl should not limit herself to going out with only one boy at a time. If she’s honest with the young men she’s seeing, and she is upfront about what dating means to her (friendship and going out for good, clean fun—not sex), then that’s the best way not to fall into the trap of becoming too quickly attached to one boy. How can she learn what God wants her to learn about the opposite sex and eventually make a choice pleasing to Him if she doesn’t allow herself to meet and date a number of worthy young men?

You introduce a new character who has a handicap. I’ve heard that you’ve been able to make some great connections in this regard, and I’d love for you to share them with our readers in case they might want to make a connection with you.

Right now, two interesting people are reading 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status to evaluate its potential for the deaf community. One gentleman is an educator of deaf students in a mainstream school environment. The other person is a mother who is deaf but has both hearing and deaf children.

I want to find out how deaf readers will respond to my deaf teen character, who is deaf but also speaks and reads lips. He and Wendy do not communicate using ASL (American Sign Language) because she does not have time to learn it before they become friends. I plan to have her try to learn ASL in the next book.

My concern for the book’s acceptance in the deaf community is that the deaf designate as “oral” anyone who speaks and reads lips rather than relying solely on signing. The deaf generally do not regard deafness as a handicap but rather as a way of life, with ASL as the preferred method of communication. But sometimes a deaf person speaks and reads lips in communicating with the hearing if he or she was not born deaf but became deaf later and retained the ability to speak.

There is a lot for me to learn even though I worked among deaf adults for a number of years. I love American Sign Language and think it’s a beautiful and fun language to learn. If anyone who reads 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status would like to contact me to discuss my deaf teen character, is a deaf teen, or has experience with deaf teens, I would love to hear from them.

Email birdfacewendy@gmail.com.

Last question: is there anything coming for Wendy or any other stories on the horizon that you can share with us?

I’m in the process of completing the third book of the Bird Face series, with the working title 6 Dates to Disaster. All your favorite characters from books one and two will be there.

Another project dear to my heart that I wrote while seeking a publisher for my first book is called The Other Side of Freedom. It’s a coming-of-age historical with a young male protagonist. Set in the 1920s within an immigrant farming community, it’s about as different from the Bird Face series as one can imagine.

Thank you, Cynthia. I’m looking forward to reading more of your wonderful YA novels.

10 Steps to Girlfriend Status FC MedMore About 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status:

Wendy Robichaud is on schedule to have everything she wants in high school: two loyal best friends, a complete and happy family, and a hunky boyfriend she’s had a crush on since eighth grade–until she and Mrs. Villaturo look at old photo albums together. That’s when Mrs. V sees her dead husband and hints at a 1960s scandal down in Cajun country. Faster than you can say “crawdad,” Wendy digs into the scandal and into trouble. She risks losing boyfriend David by befriending Mrs. V’s deaf grandson, alienates stepsister Alice by having a boyfriend in the first place, and upsets her friend Gayle without knowing why. Will Wendy be able to prevent Mrs. V from being taken thousands of miles away? And will she lose all the friends she’s fought so hard to gain?

8 Notes to a NobodyAbout 8 Notes to a Nobody:

“Funny how you can live your days as a clueless little kid, believing you look just fine … until someone knocks you in the heart with it.”

Wendy Robichaud doesn’t care one bit about being popular like good-looking classmates Tookie and the Sticks–until Brainiac bully John-Monster schemes against her, and someone leaves anonymous sticky-note messages all over school. Even the best friend she always counted on, Jennifer, is hiding something and pulling away. But the spring program, abandoned puppies, and high school track team tryouts don’t leave much time to play detective. And the more Wendy discovers about the people around her, the more there is to learn.When secrets and failed dreams kick off the summer after eighth grade, who will be around to support her as high school starts in the fall?

8 Notes to a Nobody received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval. In its original edition, Bird Face, it won a 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, bronze, in the category Pre-teen Fiction Mature Issues.

Character Interview: Wendy Robichaud from 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status by Cynthia T. Toney

10 Steps to Girlfriend Status FC MedToday’s guest is Wendy Robichaud. Wendy is back for another interview now that she is starring in her second novel, 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status, written by Cynthia T. Toney. Wendy, tell the readers what you’ve been doing since your first novel, 8 Notes to a Nobody a/k/a Bird Face.

In this first semester of high school, Gayle has become one of my two best friends! If you remember Gayle, she was one of the Brainiacs in eighth grade who hung around with John (John-Monster). When John committed suicide, Gayle was devastated, and I wanted so much to help her get through her grief. I got to know her better, and we are both on the track team. But there’s even more to our relationship than meets the eye.

Of course, I remain interested in animal rescue and also enjoy helping my puppy, Belle, grow up healthy and happy.

This story finds you on the verge of a whole new life, not only starting high school, but other things are going on. Would you like to tell us about some of those changes?

I’m so happy for my mom because she has found the perfect man to love and spend the rest of her life with. He is Daniel, Alice’s father, so that’s even more special for me. Alice reached out to me in eighth grade, and she has enriched my life. Now she, her father, and her little brother are part of my family. Alice and I have our differences, but I wouldn’t want to be without my new sister.

My relationship with my real dad has continued to improve. I thank God that Dad found Alcoholics Anonymous.

I have worked to get over most of my shyness, learning to reach out to people and express myself well. I slip up and say something totally Bird Face at times, but I’m doing better.

David, the boy I had a crush on in eighth grade, has started asking me out. I am thrilled!

I remember my early high school years. I was scared to death. One of my biggest fears still haunts my dreams today—the high school locker combination. I still remember it, and … uh-hum … many years later, I dream that I’m late for class, and I can’t get the combination to work. I’d like to know if there is anything that frightens you about entering high school.

Remembering where your locker and classes are located can be a challenge in a big school during those first few days! Going from being one of the oldest kids in school to one of the youngest is scary, too. There are always people who try to make someone else feel bad, but I’m working on not letting that get to me.

You have a little family mystery going on. I don’t want you to give it away, but I’d love to know what you learned that had you hunting for answers.

Wow, I’ve always been such a curious person who can’t ignore a mystery, especially if it involves me personally or someone in my family. Do you think that’s because I grew up as an only child? Anyway, I love looking at old photos. I sometimes feel that I’m right there with the people in the setting of the photo. It’s their eyes that draw me in. Well, when my neighbor and surrogate grandmother, Mrs. Villaturo, showed me a photo of herself with two of my family members I didn’t even know she knew—and one I’d never heard of—you can imagine how I simply had to find out more.

I have to tell you. Number ten on your list made me go, “Ahh …” I couldn’t think of anything else to add to the list, but I’m wondering if after reaching number ten, if you have found there might be a number eleven, and if so, what might it be?

I think Step 11 might be “Agreeing to have God in our lives.” Once you get to know a boy as a friend, you should know where he stands on the subject of God. Often girls forget about that when they fall for a guy.

That’s definitely an awesome bit of advice.

Thank you for coming back to talk with me, Wendy. I look forward to speaking with your author, Cynthia T. Toney, later this week.

More About 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status:

Wendy Robichaud is on schedule to have everything she wants in high school: two loyal best friends, a complete and happy family, and a hunky boyfriend she’s had a crush on since eighth grade–until she and Mrs. Villaturo look at old photo albums together. That’s when Mrs. V sees her dead husband and hints at a 1960s scandal down in Cajun country. Faster than you can say “crawdad,” Wendy digs into the scandal and into trouble. She risks losing boyfriend David by befriending Mrs. V’s deaf grandson, alienates stepsister Alice by having a boyfriend in the first place, and upsets her friend Gayle without knowing why. Will Wendy be able to prevent Mrs. V from being taken thousands of miles away? And will she lose all the friends she’s fought so hard to gain?

8 Notes to a NobodyAbout 8 Notes to a Nobody:

“Funny how you can live your days as a clueless little kid, believing you look just fine … until someone knocks you in the heart with it.”

Wendy Robichaud doesn’t care one bit about being popular like good-looking classmates Tookie and the Sticks–until Brainiac bully John-Monster schemes against her, and someone leaves anonymous sticky-note messages all over school. Even the best friend she always counted on, Jennifer, is hiding something and pulling away. But the spring program, abandoned puppies, and high school track team tryouts don’t leave much time to play detective. And the more Wendy discovers about the people around her, the more there is to learn.When secrets and failed dreams kick off the summer after eighth grade, who will be around to support her as high school starts in the fall?

8 Notes to a Nobody received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval. In its original edition, Bird Face, it won a 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, bronze, in the category Pre-teen Fiction Mature Issues.

Toney, Cynthia- 006 3x5 BW.ret2.cropAbout the Author:

Cynthia T. Toney is the author of the Bird Face series for teens, including 8 Notes to a Nobody and 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status. She’s always had trouble following directions and keeping her foot out of her mouth, so it’s probably best that she is now self-employed. In her spare time, when she’s not cooking Cajun or Italian food, Cynthia grows herbs and makes silk throw pillows. If you make her angry, she will throw one at you. A pillow, not an herb. Well, maybe both.  Cynthia has a passion for rescuing dogs from animal shelters and encourages others to adopt a pet from a shelter and save a life. She enjoys studying the complex history of the friendly southern U.S. from Georgia to Texas, where she resides with her husband and several canines. She is a member of ACFW, Writers on the Storm (The Woodlands, TX), and Catholic Writers Guild.

You can connect with Cynthia on her website, her blog, her Facebook Author Page, and on Twitter.

 

Author Interview: Nike Chillemi

NikePixInner Source welcomes author Nike Chillemi. Like so many writers, Nike started writing at a very young age. She still has the Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned (colored might be more accurate) as a little girl about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better.

Nike is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and is its Chairman, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. Her four novel Sanctuary Point series, set in the mid-1940s has won awards and garnered critical acclaim. Her new contemporary whodunit, HARMFUL INTENT, is scheduled to release in the spring of 2014.

She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Christian Indie Novelists (CHIN) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning). You can meet up with Nike on her blog, Crime Fictionista, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Nike I have to tell you that I read Harmful Intent in almost one sitting. I enjoyed it very much.

This first question is one that I’ve been wanting to ask since we met online. Your first and last name are very unique. What is their origin?

My parents were looking for a name beginning with an “N” in honor of my uncle Nicolas who died in the Pacific during WWII. He was in the Air Force and his plane went down in the ocean. We’re of Eastern European stock (Ukrainian, Czechoslovak, and Yugoslavian). Among the Eastern European community at that time, Natasha was an extremely common name or girls, much like Chloe or Madison are today. So, they chose an obscure Greek name with an “N” ~ Nike. They were aware of the Nike of Samothrace when they named me, as they knew a bit about mythology. I’ve only met a handful of women named Nike and they were all born in Greece. Chillemi is Italian and is my husband’s surname. It’s not uncommon, but it’s also not the “Smith” of Italy.

Because I know you’re a New York gal, and you like the nitty-gritty of the big city in your stories, I was surprised to find your character facing her dilemma and her mystery in Abilene, Texas. How in the world did one of your characters end up down South?

It started due to a writing challenge I came upon. I started playing around with it thinking how interesting to put my heroine out of her geographical element. At the most, I thought I’d have a short story. Then the idea of the series hit me and I thought HARMFUL INTENT would turn into novella (about 35K words) introducing the series. Well, as sometimes happens with my characters, they started running away with me and before I knew it, I had 66,000 words.

The series I’m envisioning is quite ambitious. There will be four couples who are all involved in law enforcement or who have military backgrounds. Each couple will have their own novels, solving murder cases, terrorism threats, and the like. A main character in one novel may show up as a secondary or minor character in another.

Having been a foster mother and adoptive mother of children who had been in foster care for some time, I’m keenly aware of what long-term damage can be done to children due to parental neglect and abuse. So, as a subtheme in this series, at least one member of each couple will be emotionally damaged due to some type of childhood trauma. Naturally, as I usually do, I will be crafting characters who are likeable in spite of their flaws. And as always, some of my characters will be quite quirky.

I love Deputy Sheriff Dawson Hughes from his Stetson hat to his very Southern moniker. Is he sketched from someone you know, from an actor, or from any other venue or does he solely come from the imagination of Nike Chillemi?

Dawson Hughes came solely from my imagination. At the beginning of the novel, Ronnie thinks he looks like a famous country-western star she saw on the cover of People magazine who looks fabulous in a tux. However, I leave it entirely up to the reader who that singer might be. Hughes evolved as I was writing him and became deeper emotionally. In the second draft, I went back and layered in the trauma of his divorce. He’d always been a decent man, but having survived a nasty divorce during which he made some mistakes, he grew into a truly honorable man.

This novel is not an in-your-face Christian mystery/suspense, but it works, and it works well. In your novel is there a key scripture or biblical concept that you explore? If so, what scripture or concept do you hope to bring to the light for your readers?

Neither Ronnie nor Dawson are committed Christians, although I do have committed Christians in the story as secondary characters who walk-the-walk. I use Ronnie and Dawson to appeal to Christians who have backslidden or to those who come from a loosely Christian background. Dawson’s faith was shaken during his short marriage. I won’t explain exactly why as I feel that’s a bit of a spoiler. He tells Ronnie the Bible won’t do her wrong, but she doubts he spends much time reading it. There are moments he wishes he had more faith, but then life sweeps him up and he functions by rote. Ronnie is angry at God, doesn’t trust him due to her childhood trauma. But she asks a lot of spiritual questions as the novel unfolds. She wonders about the comfort of God. She’s not quite a seeker. She’s just beginning to admit to herself there is One she might want to seek.

I want to first of all thank you for naming a character in Harmful Intent after me, but do you think you could have made her a bit nicer.  J

Oh, yes, La Mayor. Faylene Hunt. She marches rather than walks, sort of like power walking. Her red framed glasses sit on her pug nose and she’s got harshly cut razored bangs. Hughes thinks they look like someone put a bowl on her head and wacked them off. She’s a manipulator as the mayor of Arroyo and in her personal life as well. She likes to play power games, that’s for sure.

Sorry I didn’t make your name sake nicer, but she’s so much more fun this way.

Do you have any future projects in the works, and if so, what issues do your characters deal with?

When HARMFUL INTENT ends Ronnie’s adulterous husband has been deceased only a little over two weeks. She’s falling in love with Hughes but is definitely not ready to jump into another relationship. She plans to come back to Texas for their mutual friends’ Thanksgiving wedding. And Hughes intends to travel to New York City for Christmas. However, as book two starts at the end of August, Hughes finds himself on the east coast in an official law enforcement capacity and gets drawn into a missing child case Ronnie is working on that might have terrorism implications. And that one is entitled DEADLY DESIGNS.

That sounds like it might be a page turner just like Harmful Intent. I hope you’ll come back and visit with us to share the Inner source on Deadly Designs.

Sheriff's CarAbout Harmful Intent (Soon to be Released):

Betrayal runs in private investigator Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels’ family. So, why is she surprised when her husband of one year cheats on her? The real shock is his murder, with the local lawman pegging her as the prime suspect.

Ronnie Ingels is a Brooklyn bred private investigator who travels to west Texas, where her cheating husband is murdered. As she hunts the killer to clear her name, she becomes the hunted.

Deputy Sergeant Dawson Hughes, a former Army Ranger, is a man folks want on their side. Only he’s not so sure at first, he’s on the meddling New York PI’s side. As the evidence points away from her, he realizes the more she butts in, the more danger she attracts to herself.

Be sure to meet Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels.

Character Interview: Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels from Nike Chillemi’s Harmful Intent

Texas Lone StarToday’s special guest, Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels is the heroine in Nike Chillemi’s delightful romantic suspense, Harmful Intent.  Ronnie, I’m so glad you could be with us today. I loved your story. Please tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do?

I’m a private investigator. I was born and raised in Bay Ridge Brooklyn. My father was a successful stockbroker and my mother was a stay-at-home mom until I was in college. One of my best memories is of being a Girl Scout. Mrs. Gosner was my leader, and she had the troop repeat lines from the manual so many times they seem to be etched into my memory. A Girl Scout is ready to help out wherever she is needed. Willingness to serve is not enough; you must know how to do the job well, even in an emergency. That had a great influence on me. I think whatever I commit to doing, I commit to giving my all.

I’m a Southerner, and well, your story just begs this next question. How much of a culture shock is it for a Brooklyn gal when she’s in Abilene, Texas?

Let me say this about that, you guys and gals never get into a conversation you don’t think couldn’t be made better with more conversing. What’s that about? I mean, I’m standing in line in a donut shop in Abilene, or in some gulch town, dying for coffee to the point my tongue is sticking to the roof of my mouth. Then, I hear the clerk asking the lady at the counter how her day has been. The lady begins to tell him, chapter and verse. It’s only eight-thirty in the morning. How much is there to tell?

Yes, we do love to chat, but it’s about the gossip, you know.

You suffered a devastating betrayal by your husband and the woman you considered your best friend. The truth is, they really weren’t the people you thought they were. How do you recover from not only the loss of your husband but also the betrayal?

I’m the type who believes you just put one foot in front of the other and somehow muddle through. I got a lot of support from my mother’s quiet grace. I’m not at all like my mom. I’m a klutz and have a talent for messing up social situations. I had always thought my mother to be too timid and a bit of a push-over. You might call her a type of Ms. Manners. Mom is quite at home with a pair of pearl earrings and a matching string of pearls around her neck. During my own personal tragedy, I came to see that her penchant for good manners was a kind of bulwark that protected her. Faced with some of the cruelest and rudest people I’d ever met, I came to appreciate the role of etiquette in smoothing the rough edges of life. I can’t say my social skills improved much, but my esteem for good manner did.

The betrayal you experienced was made more devastating to you because you had suffered this type of betrayal and abandonment as a child. Do you think that you made this choice subconsciously because of your past?

One thing I never wanted was to be was like my mother. Then I went and married a man just like my father, a womanizer. I suppose it’s hard to get away from the negative patterns of childhood. I prided myself that I was so different from my mom, and much stronger than she was. I guess pride goeth before a fall.

What advice would you give to someone who has suffered from betrayal and abandonment at any time in their lives?

When you’re down and out, you’ll find out who is in your corner. As I’ve said, I had my mom, but I also had my boss at the PI agency, Jack Cooney, who’s kind of a Dutch Uncle to me. Stern, but always has my back. Then I met a whole slew of eccentric and loving people in the hill country of Texas who turned out to be true friends. There’s an old saying on the streets: Keep you friends close, your enemies closer. What I learned is you ditch your enemies (don’t turn your back on them, but tell them to take a hike) and keep your friends close.

Thank you, Ronnie. I’m so glad I got to know you. I loved your tale of betrayal and “displacement.”

More about the soon-to-be released Harmful Intent:

Betrayal runs in private investigator Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels’ family. So, why is she surprised when her husband of one year cheats on her? The real shock is his murder, with the local lawman pegging her as the prime suspect.

Ronnie Ingels is a Brooklyn bred private investigator who travels to west Texas, where her cheating husband is murdered. As she hunts the killer to clear her name, she becomes the hunted.

Deputy Sergeant Dawson Hughes, a former Army Ranger, is a man folks want on their side. Only he’s not so sure at first, he’s on the meddling New York PI’s side. As the evidence points away from her, he realizes the more she butts in, the more danger she attracts to herself.

NikePix

About Author Nike Chillemi:

Like so many writers, Nike Chillemi started writing at a very young age. She still has the Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned (colored might be more accurate) as a little girl about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better.

Nike is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and is its Chairman, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. Her four novel Sanctuary Point series, set in the mid-1940s has won awards and garnered critical acclaim. Her new contemporary whodunit, HARMFUL INTENT, is scheduled to release in the spring of 2014.

She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Christian Indie Novelists (CHIN) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning). You can meet up with Nike on her blog, Crime Fictionista, on Facebook, and on Twitter.