Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
Ashley Clark | Writing Compelling Characters in Short Story
Author Guest / January 22, 2016

When I got the contract for my first short story publication with Guideposts, I was thrilled. And then it hit me. I had an M.A. in creative writing, years of teaching experience, and several yet-to-be-published novels under my belt… and no idea what I was doing. So I started with what I knew. The characters. In “The Christmas Thief,” I wanted to show that people are not always who they seem, and everyone has a story. That sounds trite, I know. But as storytellers, I truly believe it’s our job to challenge to craft characters that surprise the reader, and perhaps more importantly, characters that challenge the reader. This story highlights a homeless man who was once materially successful, and the pastor of a fancy church who does not react to the homeless man quite as you’d expect. I tried to dig deep into the question of what it means to live on both sides of the church walls. As I found my main character searching for hope, I realized the story was coming alive because the character had. So here’s what I learned! Give your character a compelling setting from which to thrive. I write southern fiction, usually southern…

MK Schiller | Life Lessons
Author Guest / January 22, 2016

My father taught me many valuable lessons. As an immigrant, he came to this country with an abundance of hope and very little capital. Yet, he was able to achieve great things. He once told me when I chose to read a book, I was choosing an experience instead of merely passing the time. He went on to say that stories broadened our horizons, fueled feelings of compassion for others, and in general made us better people. He said there was some kind of magic in books that couldn’t compare to anything else. I remember crying after I read THE GIVING TREE by Shel Silverstein as a child. I cried my eyes out for a freaking tree! Now, if that isn’t powerful magic, I don’t know what is. I believe the deceased are never really gone. Not if they loved someone. Then they left a mark that will carry forward. As long as we have stories to share, their memory lives. So, I share with you these things my father taught me, knowing his story lives on. He encouraged a passion for reading. With each book, I got lost in amazing worlds, rich with quirky characters and unique settings. This…

Sara Walter Ellwood | Strong Heroines
Author Guest / January 22, 2016

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a HUGE Star Wars geek. Several of my favorite heroines come from this series of movies and the old Expanded Universe books and comics: Rey (from the new movie), Princess Leia, Mara Jade Skywalker (who first appeared in the Timothy Zahn books in the 1990s), Jaina Solo (who also is a Timothy Zahn contribution to the series), and many others. I even think the heroine from the prequel series, Padme Amidala (until her character is murdered by her creator) is a strong woman. See, I’m a geek, but I digress. The universal thing these women have in common is their ability to overcome hardship and not just survive, but become even stronger. They are leaders, even if they don’t know it. Some of my favorite heroines from books are Claire Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Scarlett O’Hara from GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell, Cat Crawford who is the half-vampire spitfire from Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series. I could go on, but these heroines will do. None of these woman wanted to do anything heroic. They were all living their lives when life turned inside out and upside down. When Claire is…

A Conversation with Jan Drexler
Author Guest , Interviews / January 22, 2016

Jan Drexler is the descendant of Anabaptists who settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s and then migrated west. She’s started a new series, Journey to Pleasant Prairie, that is based in part on her own family’s history in migrating west. Join us in a conversation with Jan as she talks about the series and the first book, HANNAH’S CHOICE, which is out now. Your ancestors were Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren. Did this ever cause controversy within your family? I’m sure the controversy was there, but it was before my time. Most of my Amish ancestors moved to the more liberal Amish Mennonite church during the Great Schism in the Amish church in the late 1800’s, and from there to Mennonite and German Baptist Brethren churches. One of the reasons I started writing was to explore that time of division. As I study my family’s genealogy, it is apparent that the schism didn’t only cause churches to split, but divided families. Parents and children, brothers and sisters all found themselves on one side of the divide or the other. My stories came about as I tried to explore how that would affect a family and the close relationships within the community….

Lisa Richardson | What the Editor Saw
Author Guest / January 22, 2016

I’d venture to guess that every avid reader, and most average readers have come across an error or six in the books you’ve read over the years. Some errors you probably forgave for the sake of the narrative, but others may have been the kind of howlers that ruined the whole story for you. For the author the whole process of being edited can be disconcerting. My most recent novel, THE PEACOCK THRONE, is a Regency adventure story with spies, and treasure, and high intrigue. It is just releasing from Lion Fiction a new-to-me publisher based in England. The editing process was even more rigorous than I am used to. Here are some of the things the editors questioned: Chocolate. Specifically, did they have chocolate candies in England at the time, or simply drinking chocolate? Answer: Contrary to conventional wisdom among regency fans, chocolate candies were available. In Savoring the Past: The French Kitchen and Table from 1300 to 1789, culinary historian Barbara Ketcham Wheaton cites a 1750 cookbook that specialized in desserts: “There are also some chocolate candies: the still familiar diablotins — flat disks of bitter chocolate, thickly sprinkled with nonpareils, chocolate “olives” (which we call chocolate truffles),…