By the Book

where a love of God and good books meet

Month: March 2020

Write Stuff Wednesday with Hope Toler Dougherty

Today’s guest post comes from Hope Toler Dougherty, author of three (soon to be four) contemporary Christian romances. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Hope, and the quote she shares today is very pertinent for the times we live in.

“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” Jane Austen

I saw that quotation painted on a bookstore wall in a Utah airport on my way to a mission trip in Montana. My fiction writing journey was in its infancy. My first novel consisted of several chapters in a word document, but I knew it was a love story. At the time, I didn’t admit to reading romance, and while only a handful of people knew I was writing a book, they didn’t know it was a love story.

 Not knowing where God was leading me, I wrote that quotation in my journal. It nudged me toward appreciating love stories. It suggested that everyone has different tastes—horror, science fiction, dystopian, fantasy, and, yes, romance—in reading and in writing.

At my first writing conference, I discovered I needed a tagline (I’m not sure that’s true now because about the only place I use mine is on my business cards.) Remembering Austen’s view, I considered it a bit before writing “Trading guilt and misery for God’s grace and mercy.”

The tagline is a good description of my stories to date. My main characters grow from a place of guilt or discontent or anger or fear and learn to enjoy God’s grace and mercy in new-found freedom of God’s love.

We can also adapt Austen’s quotation to our present age with the uncertainty and ever-changing status of the Coronavirus situation. I’m holding onto God’s peace because I’m sure He’s sovereign. I’m sure He isn’t in Heaven wringing His hands muttering, “Oh, no. What’s going to happen next?” He wasn’t surprised by this world-wide outbreak.

I’m not buying into the panic served up with every update flashing across my phone screen. I’m resting in the peace of my certain salvation.

Let other people dwell in misery and worry. I’ll hold on to God’s peace, and I’ll share it when I get the chance.

Hope’s bio: Hope Toler Dougherty holds a Master’s degree in English and taught at East Carolina University as well as York Technical College. She’s a member of ACFW and  RWA, and her novels are Irish EncounterMars…With Venus Rising, and Rescued Hearts. A native North Carolinian, she and her husband, Kevin, look forward to visits with their two daughters and twin sons. 

Social media links:

http://hopetolerdougherty.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AUTHORHOPETOLERDOUGHERTY/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13941031.Hope_Doughertyhttps://www.pinterest.com/hopetdougherty/https://twitter.com/HopeTDougherty

https://www.instagram.com/hopetolerdougherty/

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=hope+toler+dougherty

Purchasing links;https://www.amazon.com/Irish-Encounter-Hope-Dougherty-ebook/dp/B00XD3NMI8/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=irish+encounter&qid=1585055339&s=digital-text&sr=1-1
https://www.amazon.com/Rescued-Hearts-Hope-Toler-Dougherty-ebook/dp/B074SXJLH4/ref=sr_1_11?dchild=1&keywords=rescued+hearts&qid=1585055383&s=digital-text&sr=1-11

Hope’s new novel, Forever Music, will release in May.  College professor Josie Daniels is good at nurturing. Attorney Ches Windham is good at keeping secrets. When their lives intersect, sparks fly, changing hearts and lives forever.

Full of Character Interview with Neena Gaynor

Today’s Full of Character author is Neena Gaynor.

Neena Gaynor is a former nurse who has spent much of the last decade traveling with her husband, Wade, a former professional baseball player. Throughout the 29 changes of address and the stresses of moving a young family, Neena learned to embrace the peace that only comes from the steady accompaniment of Christ in her heart.

Today, Neena is ecstatic to be back in her old Kentucky home, beekeeping, writing, and being Mom. But first, let’s get to know Neena a little more from her interview.

What character from the books you’ve read has impacted you more than all the others?

Atticus Finch. The rational, principled lawyer and father from To Kill a Mockingbird models virtue. He’s a steadfast example of prudence, humility, and charity—a fictional example worthy of our aspiration.

It’s been a long time since I last read that one. I may have to check it out again. What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

The Bird and the Bees is written from a first-person point of view, so having a main character that was a female nurse from Appalachia wasn’t a stretch for me. Going into Larkin’s wounds, exposing what made her calloused to love and grace, proved to be more difficult. The hardest character to write was probably Larkin’s aunt, Aster. She was also the most fun. Aster also struggles with a past, one that has left her tight-lipped, antsy, and with a hint of humor.

The past does have a way of influencing who we are in the future. And isn’t it interesting how a past can move a person one direction while it may move others in a completely different way? We see that all the time, even in scripture. Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?

Right now, I’m trying to relate more to Mary of Bethany. She’s the one who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. Those who witnessed this were appalled at her actions, but Jesus praised her. “She has done a beautiful thing to me,” Jesus said. “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body to prepare for my burial,” (Mark 14:6-8).

Those words, “she did what she could,” takes the weight of the world off of our shoulders. As a writer, sometimes we wonder if what we are doing is significant. We worry if typing words on a screen and imagining fictional scenarios is worth the effort or time. If we do it FOR HIM, then I believe He would praise us too. So, whether it is in the writing, the mothering, the beekeeping, or even in how I respond to others, I’m striving to do what I can… for Christ.

I don’t believe I’ve ever heard her story with that particular focus before, but that’s a powerful statement for all of us to strive for.

Do you plan your characters and their backstories before you begin writing or are you as surprised by them as your readers?

More than a backstory, I had a forward story in mind. I knew the place where I wanted the wounded nurse to get in her relationships with her family, friends, the world, and Jesus. Navigating the path with some glances in the rearview mirror was just a part of the journey.

If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?

Audrey Hepburn. She’d add some elegance and style to this Kentucky girl.

If you could only read from one genre for the rest of your life, which one would you choose (and it can’t be the genre you write in)?

Religious Nonfiction. I love learning about our faith and being inspired by other’s testimonies.

It’s amazing how one person’s journey put into writing can touch so many lives.

What is your go-to snack and drink combination when you’re writing?

It’s coffee. With more coffee. Hot and black. I blame (thank) my mother.

I want to thank Neena for joining me today. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to learn a little more about her and her writing. Stay connected with Neena through the following social media links.

www.wordslikehoney.com

www.facebook.com/neenagaynor/

www.instagram.com/neenagaynor/

You can check out and preorder Neena’s book, The Birds and the Bees, at the link below. And don’t forget, the book releases on April 1st!

What I’m Reading: The Ravenwood Saga

If you’ve followed my blog or any of my social media accounts very long, you know I’m just as likely to sit down and watch an episode of Doctor Who as I am the latest Hallmark movie. I equally love the Lord of the Rings, Marvel movies, and While You Were Sleeping. There’s enough love in me for fantasy, action, sci-fi, drama, and romance. At least, there is when it comes to television and movies.

As much as my tastes in television and movies span the various genres, my taste in reading has rarely strayed from one genre, the romance genre. Any variations have come from whether or not I’m in the mood for historical or contemporary romance. Through the years a couple of suspense books have wormed their way onto my shelves. But it wasn’t until the past year that fantasy/speculative fiction made its own appearance, with the exceptions of a few that are not in the Christian market which I read to share the experience with my kids.

Anyway, a year or so ago, I won a copy of the first book in Morgan Busse’s The Soul Chronicles series and devoured it along with the second one. When I saw she’d come out with a new series and I found myself with a couple gift cards, it wasn’t a difficult choice to add The Ravenwood Saga to my cart. It wasn’t until last month that I had the chance to read them.

I’d just finished a couple contemporary romances, and I wanted something different. I opened up The Mark of the Raven as a way to cleanse my reading palette. I intended to read one book before returning to my standard genre. My plans changed.

The second I read the last page of The Mark of the Raven, I opened up Flight of the Raven. I didn’t have the third book yet, but I added it to my library as soon as I finished the second book. Cry of the Raven didn’t have a waiting period. I finished it the next day.

I loved the characters and the world the author created. Lady Selene is a strong character, gifted with the power to dreamwalk. It is the gift of House Ravenwood, and they have used it to exact revenge on the other houses in their land for abandoning them to the enemy many years before. Lady Selene has been raised on the stories of betrayal and the belief that through using their powers to torment others, steal their secrets, and at times, kill them in their dream worlds, House Ravenwood stays strong.

Only this idea and the reality of what she’s expected to do doesn’t sit well with Lady Selene. Deep inside, she feels there must be more to her gift than fear and death, and she is determined to find out where her gift came from and its true purpose.

As one man steps forward from House Maris to unite the different houses against their common enemy, Lady Selene has her first hint that her family has indeed missed something in the way their gift is used. To seek out truth could lead to more than being disowned. If her mother finds out she’s not following the ways of her house, it will most certainly mean death. But can she continue in the ways of House Ravenwood and dreamkilling when her heart is telling her the gift was given for a better purpose?

Selene’s quest to find the truth behind the gifting continues through each book. As war draws closer, she is faced with terrible choices, deadly consequences, and inner battles she never imagined possible. Finding the correct path for her life isn’t easy, and it’s made more difficult through the suspicions of those around her and the danger she faces from her own family.

The spiritual lessons of the book are clear but do not detract from the story. In fact, the story makes the scriptural truths more vibrant and inspire the reader to seek out and care for their own gifts and talents. The Ravenwood Saga is a beautiful example of truth clothed in fantasy leaving its message to resonate in the reader rather than being content to simply entertain, though it does that as well.

A Lot Happening

Congratulations!

First, I want to congratulate Rita Klundt on winning the e-book giveaway from my interview with C. Kevin Thompson. Enjoy the book and happy reading!

What Are You Reading?

If you haven’t checked out the Once Upon A Page YouTube channel, you should. For the month of March we decided to build off the idea of NaNoWriMo by switching it up and making it about reading. We issued a challenge for the month, and we’re sharing what we’ve read in the comments. There isn’t a prize for completing our nanoREmo, but we bet you’ll be a more relaxed, happier person if you do! Who wouldn’t be if they spent more time reading? Here’s a link to our video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDUDXWrlL_E&t=2s

So Excited!

The 2020 Selah Writing Competition finalists were announced last week. And guess who is a finalist in the Women’s Contemporary category. That’s right. Grasping Hope is one of six books competing for first place in the category. The winner will be announced at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in May. I can’t wait to find out if Grasping Hope will take the prize! But even if it doesn’t, being a finalist is amazing too!

What I’m Reading

You know those videos I was telling you about? Check out the comments to find out what I’ve been reading, and then come back here for my next post. I’ll share my review of the trilogy.

Full of Character with C. Kevin Thompson and a Giveaway!

While I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting today’s guest in person, I get a strong sense from some of his interview answers and bio information that we’d get along well. I hope you enjoy his interview and then take time to check out his books. And don’t forget to comment on this post to be entered to win Kevin’s giveaway!

What character from the books you’ve read has impacted you more than all the others?

The Ghost of Christmas Present from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. The scene where he and Scrooge are standing in the home of Bob Cratchit, watching the family eat their meager feast is one of the most powerful scenes in all of literature for me. When Scrooge asks the ghost if Tiny Tim will live, the ghost’s reply is masterfully done, especially when he uses Scrooge’s words against him.

“God bless us every one!” said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

He sat very close to his father’s side upon his little stool. Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”

“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”

 “No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.”

“If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,” returned the Ghost, “will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.

“Man,” said the Ghost, “if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

I often think that’s how Hell will be for those who do not know Christ, standing before God, having to listen to all their wicked cants replayed against them for all eternity while being instantly enlightened to all the opportunities they had to minister in the areas of what Marley called “the common welfare”: charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence. Yet, they chose to instead focus on the “dealings of their trade” at the expense of those less fortunate. I can think of no worse Hell than seeing how you could have helped someone and now have no way of ever changing your fortunes, or theirs, for all eternity. And to top it all off, you can’t go out and commit suicide because of your tremendous grief just so you can end all the suffering! Chilling, indeed!

It would be very heartbreaking to be endlessly faced with all our missed chances. That is a very powerful character choice. Now, let’s talk about your characters. What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

The easiest to write has been Blake Meyer. Although I’m saved and he is not as of Book 5, he and I do think a lot alike when it comes to wrestling with the concept of justice and our U.S. system that calls itself a justice system but seems to be one in name only.

The hardest (and we’re talking being true to a character here) was Rachel Hamar in The Letters, mainly because she’s a woman. There were several times when my wife or my daughters would read a section of the manuscript and say, “Uh, no. She’d never say that.” So, we changed those based on their suggestions. A close second was Dr. Evelyn Sims from The Serpent’s Grasp for the same reasons. Because she was a scientist and thought more scientifically and analytically, it was a little easier to write her character, but not by much.

If we’re talking about hard to write because of what the character has been through (meaning, I really felt true sorrow for the character), then Arina Filipov from the Blake Meyer Thriller series is hands down the “winner.” If I had endured what she’s been through, I just might be a top-level assassin on a revenge tour too.

Wow! Arina sounds like a character I’d like to find out more about. Sounds like she has a lot of stories to tell. Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?

It’s a tie between Daniel and Paul. Daniel because he stood up in the midst of his enemies and became the reason why Magi from a thousand miles away came looking for the King of the Jews in Bethlehem all those centuries later. The Apostle Paul because he was so staunch in his stand for Christ. And he was a prolific writer of books we still read today!

Paul is also one of my favorites.

Do you plan your characters and their backstories before you begin writing, or are you as surprised by them as your readers?

It’s a mixture. I often call myself a Plotser. I am a plotter, but I also write by the seat of my pants too (as a “Pantser”). You obviously cannot have purpose in your writing if you don’t know where you begin and where you need to end. For me, that’s how I start. I know where I want to start, and I know where the story needs to end. I always have that much mapped out before I begin. However, the fun part for me is in the journey from Point A to Point B. And yes, along the way, characters develop quirks or phrases or do things that surprise me because it just fits so well into that part of the story and obviously was not foreseeable at the beginning.

I tend to call that a plantser, but I like plotser too. Now onto a fund question about you. If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?

Are we talking about being realistic or stretching the truth? Just a little, of course…Ha!

For me, I’d say either Dennis Quaid or Kenneth Branagh (although Kenneth would have to lose the British accent and die his hair). At least in their acting (don’t really know anything about them personally), in the films or TV shows I have watched, they always seem to be down to earth, caring, yet are manly enough to take care of business when needed. They’re not uber famous (what I mean is, they are not on everybody’s top five list of Who-would-you-like-to-be? actors), yet they do not seem to be bothered by it. And they can act! Much better than some of those top five actors, I might add.

Interesting choices. I enjoy both of them for different reasons. But we are authors not actors so I need to ask, who is your favorite author and why?

That’s a tough one. I’d have to say I don’t have one favorite over all others. I like Charles Dickens for his humanity. His concern for the downtrodden—obviously a hot topic for him coming from his own boot-blacking background as a kid—is always refreshing.

I like Michael Crichton for taking pressing scientific questions of the day and asking if we really should go there. Will anyone heed his cautionary tales? That’s my question. Did you know there are scientists trying to replicate dinosaurs as we speak? Maybe they should watch next year’s Jurassic World III before they continue.

I like Tom Clancy for his patriotic characters, who are more worried about being truthful than being anything else, including patriots.

I loved the Shetland series on BBC, so my oldest daughter went out and bought me all the Ann Cleeves books in that series for my birthday last year, so we’ll see how that goes. They’re next on my reading list (which keeps growing!). If Cleeves’s books are anything like the series, she’ll have to be added to this list of authors for sure.

One more question because inquiring minds want to know. Or at least, we will pretend they do! What is your go-to snack and drink combination when you’re writing?

It depends on the time of day. If it’s four in the morning, then it’s coffee. And then more coffee. And then more coffee. And then, on my way to work, more coffee.

If it’s later in the day, then it’s Coca-Cola, if we have any around. I’m a recovering Cokaholic. Anytime I can recover some, I usually do.

As for snacks, chips mostly. I love Late July’s lime tortilla chips. But unfortunately, I love many other kinds of chips too. Hence, my current physique (and yes, I know, the Coke doesn’t help either, so you can refrain from commenting in the comment section with comments about my drink choices J). In this, I defer to the sentiments of the priest in The Count of Monte Cristo, “I’m a Christian, not a saint.”

Chips and Coke are a lethal combination to the diet. Thank you for taking time to let us get to know you today.

Readers keep reading for a little more on where to connect with C. Kevin Thompson. And don’t forget the giveaway at the end of the post. All you have to do is leave your comment below to enter.

C. KEVIN THOMPSON is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a kid at heart. Often referred to as “crazy” by his grandchildren, it’s only because he is. He’s a writer. Need he say more?

He is the author of the Selah Award-winning debut novel, The Serpent’s Grasp, and his Blake Meyer Thriller series, which includes Books 1-4 so far, with Book 5, A Pulse of Time, coming out Memorial Day 2020! And, his new standalone novel, The Letters, is now available!

Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24, The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, NCIS, Criminal Minds, BBC shows Broadchurch, Shetland, Hinterland, and Wallander, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic too. But you will never catch him wearing a deerstalker. Ever.

Website:                                  www.ckevinthompson.com/

Kevin’s Writer’s Blog:           www.ckevinthompson.blogspot.com/

Facebook:                               C. Kevin Thompson – Author Fan Page

Twitter:                                   @CKevinThompson

Instagram:                               ckevinthompson

Pinterest:                                 ckevinthompsonauthor

Goodreads:                              C. Kevin Thompson

BookBub:                                C. Kevin Thompson

THE GIVEAWAY: One lucky reader will win their choice of an e-book or paperback copy of The Letters. The drawing will take place and be announced on March 9th. Open to US residents, 18 and over. To enter comment below about your favorite answer from today’s interview or ask C. Kevin Thompson your own question. Here’s some more information on The Letters.

THE WORLD IS A CRAZY PLACE

WHEN THE LIVING ARE DEAD

AND THE DEAD ARE ALIVE.

Rachel Hamar—a Manhattan bank teller—lives nothing close to a Manhattan lifestyle. Residing in Washington Heights, NY, the only thing keeping her in The Big Apple is her mother—a long-time patient in a local psychiatric hospital. It’s December, 2014, and the twentieth anniversary of her high school sweetheart’s tragic death. She’s not sure how much more heartache she can endure, especially after being told earlier in the day she no longer has a job at the bank. A casualty of downsizing.

In the midst of spiraling depression, Rachel receives a mysterious letter in the mail. When she opens it, she becomes cautious and skeptical of its contents and discards it as a mistake, concluding it’s simply addressed incorrectly or a postal worker’s faux pas in the midst of a busy Christmas season. But another letter arrives the next day. And another the day after that. Before long, she is in possession of several letters. Each one more puzzling than the last.

Thinking that someone may be playing a cruel game, she contacts the police, and this propels Rachel and the two detectives into one of the most bizarre cases they’ve ever encountered. Is it a friend’s cruel joke? Is it some stalker’s perverse idea of manipulation? Or is it something more?

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