By the Book

where a love of God and good books meet

Category: Guest Post

Main Character Monday with Dean Blackburn

Welcome to Main Character Monday. Today’s guest is homicide detective, Dean Blackburn, from Song in the Dark by Jessica White. Thank you for joining me.

Thanks for having me. But honestly, I’m used to being the interviewer not the interviewee.

What three words would you use to describe your author?

Curious, tenacious, and courageous enough to discover the truth. She reminds me of my three Dobermans when they catch a scent and refuse to abandon it until they discover the source. She never stops digging until she gets to the heart of the story.

Just for fun. Go with your gut.

Sunrise or sunset?

Sunset. It means I get to go home and spend time with my dogs.

Pie or Cake?

Honey Cakes & Moon Pies makes this pomegranate cake that’s to die for.

Tulip or Iris?

I guess irises, because they were my mother’s favorite. But whatever Jenna prefers.

Chocolate or Vanilla?

Hands down, dark chocolate.

Interesting. Next question. If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go?

I’d probably get out of Albany, New York and visit some warmer climates. I’m not really the touristy type, but I like quiet places where the boys can stretch their legs and I can relax and read a book cover to cover without worrying about looking over my shoulder. Perhaps discover some unique bookshops hidden around the world, like the one in Coober Pedy, Australia that’s built inside a cave. Or Atlantis Books in Santorini, Greece that carries old hardbound books.

Speaking of books, let’s talk the Bible. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Which of these traits do you find easiest to display in your life? 

Wow. I guess self-control would be my strongest. You can’t be a good detective if you don’t learn to control your thoughts and emotions and not let them get in the way of the evidence or project onto your victim or your suspect.

Which of them is the hardest to display?

Hardest? All the rest! Again, with my job, it’s really hard to see the good around you—but that’s why Jenna amazes me. She’s got the whole package. She even makes my curmudgeon of a neighbor grin like an old fool.


Jenna sounds like someone we all need in our lives. I’d love to meet her, but for now, we should continue with the interview. What is your favorite story from the Old Testament?

Old Testament? Probably the story of Gideon. Growing up a military brat, I learned to trust in numbers and weapons. But since meeting Jenna, I’ve learned God has us covered. Whatever we need, we’ll have when we need it.

What is your favorite book in the New Testament?

Acts. It’s practical. Stories like Ananias and Sapphira really hit home. I hate it when perps get away with lying to the cops. It’s good to know that even when I can’t see the truth in a situation, God knows. In the end, justice is His. If He chooses to let me be a part of that, then it’s a privilege.

If you could leave us with one message, what would you want us to know?

That darkness can’t extinguish light, but light can expel darkness. So surround yourself with people who bring light into your life. And never take them for granted.

Thank you for joining me today. I think you must be the first detective I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing, and it gives you a slightly different perspective than most of the characters I interview.

Readers, you can find out more about Dean and meet Jenna in Song in the Dark by Jessica White. Keep reading for more about Jessica and where to find her book.

More on Song in the Dark:

After graduating from Juilliard, harpist Jenna Fields returns home to Albany to escape her manipulative ex and prove to her controlling mother that she can orchestrate her own life.

Homicide detective Dean Blackburn spends his days seeking justice for the dead. But darkness taints everything, including him.

When his three Dobermans lead him to Jenna playing in the park, he tries to resist the beautiful musician and focus on his cases. At least until he witnesses Jenna’s ex attempt to blackmail her and learns she’s being stalked, just like one of his homicide victims.

When her world crumbles beneath her feet, and Dean learns she has her own dark secrets, he helps Jenna see that the key to escaping her mother’s gilded cage is already in her hands.

Where to connect with Jessica: AuthorJessicaWhite.com for more info

Write Stuff Wednesday with C. Kevin Thompson

“Everything has a purpose, or premise. Every second of our life has its own premise, whether or not we are conscious of it at the time. That premise may be as simple as breathing or as complex as a vital emotional decision, but it is always there.”

If you read this quote out of context, you may think it’s from a theologian or Bible teacher. Rick Warren would surely agree. Other experts in other fields would as well. However, the quote comes from the very beginning of Lajos Egri’s The Art of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives. He goes on to acknowledge that some writers may call it a “goal.” Others refer to it as a “root-idea” or a “theme.” Others still ask the question, “How can you tell what road to take unless you know where you are going?” In the end, however, they are all talking about purpose, or premise.

He then uses some well-known plays from Shakespeare and others to show how each of these popular stories has a premise that drives every aspect of the story. Nothing in the lines on the page is wasted or superfluous.

Some examples of premise he gives are:

Romeo & Juliet: “Great love defies even death.”

King Lear: “Blind trust leads to destruction.”

Macbeth: “Ruthless ambition leads to its own destruction.”

Othello: “Jealousy destroys itself and the object of its love.”1

These overall themes or premises become the anchors to which every word, every character action, every plot twist is tethered. Otherwise, stories will ramble. Characters will flail. Readers will lose interest.

As I write, the premise becomes the umbrella under which the storyline resides. For example, in The Serpent’s Grasp, which won the BRMCWC Selah Award in 2013 in the debut novel category, the overarching theme was: What is Truth? And in this case, within the scientific community. The storyline addresses that theme throughout. As the main character, Dr. Evelyn Sims, says in an article she “wrote”:

“One question keeps haunting me as a scientist. One query’s answer eludes me. I ask and ask, search and search, research and research, and not one scientist can give me a definitive answer. I posed the question when researching the Scopes Monkey Trial as a graduate student. I inquired when ‘Little Lucy’ was unearthed. I have combed the halls of academia, scoured the journals of science, and questioned leading experts searching for the answer to this question: Of what or whom is evolution afraid? If time is on the side of truth, then there is nothing to fear if it is truly truth we seek.”

In that last line, therein lies the premise. Scientists who seek the truth honestly should not care what they find, if they are truly seeking truth. All they should wish to do is discover what the truth is. And if the evidence points to a Creator, then why should they fight against it? Unless they are not seeking the truth…  

For my Blake Meyer series, the overarching theme is: What is true peace? We talk about peace all the time. We plan for it with retirement funds. We build up our military to defend it. We change laws and create new ones in an attempt to legislate it. We hold conferences to discuss it. We even give out prizes to people who supposedly embody its true meaning. However, what is true peace? Supervisory Special Agent Blake Meyer, a non-believer, is on that journey right now.

My latest novel, The Letters has an overall theme of: How much do the physical and spiritual worlds intertwine? Or do they collide? Or is it both? While it deals with the issue of abortion, it’s not a heavy-handed book on that subject at all because I didn’t want it to be. Instead, it uses the topic to delve more into character and plot rather than topic and opinion. In the end, Rachel Hamar finds out how much these two worlds mesh together

1 pp. 1-5 of Egri’s book.

Short bio:

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

Full Of Character with Hope Toler Dougherty

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Hope Toler Dougherty, author of Rescued Hearts, Irish Encounter, and Mars…with Venus Rising. Keep reading after the interview to find out a little more about Hope’s books and where you can connect with her on social media. Welcome, Hope.

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

Jane Eyre! Despite being an orphan with plain looks and nothing but her intellect and strong will to help her navigate the world, she remains true to her Christian character. Jane Eyre is a classic novel, not Christian fiction, but Charlotte Bronte wrote Christian lessons throughout the whole story.

What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

I loved writing Agnes in Irish Encounter, Jancie and Winnie in Mars…With Venus Rising, and GiGi in Rescued Hearts. They’re senior saints who have a zest for life. They were so much fun to write! I hope to be like them many years from now!

I’m struggling with a character in my fifth manuscript. I know a few things about her, but she’s pretty quiet about her real main goal. She’s a tough nut to crack.

I have no doubt you’ll find out exactly who she is and be able to share her with the rest of us! Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?

You know when Paul writes in Romans 7:15 about knowing what to do, wanting to do it, but then doing what he hates to do? Sometimes I feel like that, like the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

I wish I was bold like Moses’ sister, Miriam, when she appealed to Pharaoh’s daughter or Abigail when she appealed to David when her husband, Nabal, was being foolish or like all those new Christians in Acts who spread the Gospel amid so much persecution and fear. I love reading about average people acting courageously for God.

I don’t know about our readers today, but I can also relate to that verse and the reasons you chose those people. Do you plan your characters and their back stories before you begin writing or are you as surprised by them as your readers?

I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, but I try to get to know my main characters as much as I can before I begin. I have a character sketch activity with about 100 questions from a writing class I took at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writing Conference. I fill out as many of those questions as I can before I begin because it makes the writing easier for me.

I think Blue Ridge is where I first met you. It’s a great conference. If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?

Maybe Sandra Bullock. She’s got a quirky vibe going even when she’s dressed up. Plus, we both studied at East Carolina University, but I never saw her there.

I love her, and I like that you have that connection to her, no matter how distant. I can’t think of anyone famous that I’m even distantly connected to. Just two more questions and a fun fact. What is the most encouraging thing you’ve heard or experienced as an author?

A couple of years ago, I was shocked to find myself sitting beside Steve Laube, a top literary agent and owner of his own agency, at a meal at ACFW. During dessert, he asked what I write. I answered, love stories. He asked, “Do you mean love stories between men and dogs or men and cats or…?” I said, “No, men and women.” He replied, “Ah, romance. Then you should say it. Own it. Romance is the biggest genre in the publishing world. It’s the biggest for a reason. People love it.”

I’ve always struggled a little with the idea of writing romance because I used to teach real literature. Now I’m trying to focus more on gratitude for the perfect path God’s created for me. I write romance!

What a great reminder for the tough days as an author. What is your biggest challenge as an author?

Marketing. I’m sure that’s true for a lot of introverted writers.

I hated selling Girl Scout cookies, and they should be the easiest thing in the world to sell. I don’t even like asking people for reviews. If they’ve shelled out money to buy the book, taken the time to read it, taken more time to tell me in person or my message or email that they like, I feel greedy asking for one more thing. And those reviews are so important!

And now I’ll share a fun-fact Hope included as the answer to an alternate question. Her favorite go-to snack whether writing or not? It’s Cheez-Its. I couldn’t pass up sharing that one since it’s also my youngest son’s go-to snack! And now a little about Hope’s books and where to find her.

Back cover copy for Rescued Hearts:Children’s clothing designer Mary Wade Kimball’s soft spot for  animals leads to a hostage situation when she spots a briar-entangled kitten in front of an abandoned house. Beaten, bound, and gagged by the two thugs inside, Mary Wade loses hope for escape when a third villain returns with supplies.
Discovering the kidnapped, innocent woman ratchets the complications for undercover agent Brett Davis. Weighing the difference of ruining his three months’ investigation against the woman’s safety, Brett forsakes his mission and helps her escape, the bent-on-revenge brutes following behind. 
When Mary Wade’s safety is threatened once more, Brett rescues her again. This time, her personal safety isn’t the only thing in jeopardy. Her heart is endangered as well.

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. 

Where to purchase Hope’s books:

Irish Encounter 

Rescued Hearts

Here are Hope’s social media links:

http://hopetolerdougherty.com/

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

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13941031.Hope_Dougherty

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

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

Write Stuff Wednesday with Michelle De Bruin

Michelle De Bruin reflects on the writing of L.M. Montgomery

The quote I am sharing today comes from the book, The Blue Castle. This book is one of my favorites. It was first published in 1926 by L.M. Montgomery, the Canadian author of the Anne of Green Gables series. Here is the quote from the book where we get a chance to see the world from the perspective of the heroine, Valancy Stirling:

Valancy was happy, gloriously and entirely so. She seemed to be living in a wonderful house of life and every day opened a new, mysterious room. It was in a world which had nothing in common with the one she had left behind, a world where time was not—which was young with immortal youth—where there was neither past nor future but only the present. She surrendered herself utterly to the charm of it.

The book is about Valancy who is a member of a large family clan. They are respectable, but stuffy. Their values and philosophies are left over from the Victorian era. Valancy has always been looked down upon and subdued by her family. She reaches her twenty-ninth birthday and also receives some bad news about her health. She has one year to live so takes the risk of leaving home and living her life the way she wants to live it and not according to the expectations of her snobbish clan. In the end, Valancy is pleasantly surprised in her choice of a husband and goes on to live a beautiful life of romance and freedom.

The story of Valancy is appealing because we all dream dreams and struggle against forces and attitudes that get in the way of them coming true. Even though it is fiction, The Blue Castle proves that dreams do come true, and we can help that happen by taking a stand for our values and being true to ourselves like Valancy did.

Meet Michelle: Michelle De Bruin lives in Iowa with her husband and two teenage sons. She has a bachelor’s degree in Religion with a Christian Ministry emphasis, and in Music. Michelle is the spiritual services provider for an organization that offers services for people with mental and physical disabilities. She has been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) since 2015. Michelle writes inspirational historical romance about people who live in rural communities. Characters that bring to life the delights of farm and small-town living, whispers of Dutch heritage, and Christian faith make Michelle’s stories distinct. A romantic at heart, Michelle is always on the lookout for glimpses of God’s love through the window of a good story. Her first book, Hope for Tomorrow, released in 2018. The sequel, Promise for Tomorrow, released November 2019.

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