Monday, December 29, 2014

Books That Changed My View of Christian Mystery/Suspense

I started reading Christian fiction in its infancy. Gilbert Morris was one of the most prominent authors at the time, and I read nearly every book he wrote - YA, mystery, historical and more. Terri Blackstock was just getting started, and I became a fan of her writing from the beginning. I spent several years reading a mix of Christian and secular novels.

In college, I made the decision to stop reading secular fiction. My reading time was limited, and I wanted to get away from the bad language and inappropriate content of the mysteries I'd been reading. When I moved exclusively to Christian fiction, I found a few more good authors, but something was missing. The gritty, realistic mysteries I loved didn't exist in Christian fiction at the time. Around the same time, I got married and started a family, and for a while, I quit reading fiction altogether.

A few years later, my boys were getting older, and I found myself craving good fiction again. I discovered some great authors, but I was still looking for something more. Then I discovered Ted Dekker. Everything I knew about Christian fiction was turned upside down. Over the next several years, I discovered several books that changed my view of Christian fiction and turned me back into a voracious reader.

1. Thr3e - Ted Dekker

This was the first book I picked up when I decided to start reading fiction again. My boys were one and four. I was a stay-at-home mom looking for the kind of fast paced fiction I'd loved as a teen and college student. I'd heard good things about Dekker's books, so I splurged and bought a copy.

I had no idea what I was in for.

I started the book one night, curled up in a recliner in the study at the parsonage. Two days later, I finished the book, but I still couldn't pull myself out of Kevin Parson's world. I was so drawn into to the story that I couldn't put it down. By the end, I sat in that old recliner, shocked, thinking, "Did he really just do that? He can't end it like that, can he?"

This was exactly what I'd been missing. That book reignited my passion for reading, and I devoured as many Dekker novels as I could. I wanted to branch out and find new authors, though. That's when I found Steven James.

2. The Pawn - Steven James

I picked this up as a freebie on Amazon a few years ago. I'd had my eye on this author for a while, because his name kept popping up as an Amazon recommendation when I bought Ted Dekker books. The Pawn blew me away. Fast paced with a unique angle on crime scenes, this was another book I couldn't stop reading. FBI agent Patrick Bowers remains one of my favorite fictional characters.

The final book in the series, Checkmate, was released earlier this month. I have to admit, I'm a little reluctant to read it because it marks the end of this incredible series. Thankfully, there are more Patrick Bowers books coming in the future.

3. The Bride Collector - Ted Dekker

This was a controversial book for a lot of people. I thought it was a brilliant idea when Ted Dekker started working with a non-Christian publishing company, moving some of his books into more secular fiction circles. What an opportunity to reach people who wouldn't normally read Christian fiction.

This book took an even darker turn that his previous books. While it was a turn-off for many readers, I thought this book reached a new level. The message was toned down a bit, but it was definitely still there. The writing was brilliant. The mentally ill main character was unforgettable. Just don't read this one alone at night.

4. Isolation - Travis Thrasher

I thought Ted Dekker scared me...until I read Isolation. Not for the faint of heart, Travis Thrasher walks the line between suspense and horror. He pulls in a theme of spiritual warfare in this story of a missionary couple desperately in need of rest and healing. Unfortunately, they find themselves under attack. The message in this book is amazing, but it's definitely for readers who enjoy an edgier story.

What books have left their mark on you? Which authors make you look at life and faith differently?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Interview with C.L. (Cindy) Ragsdale

Interview with C. L. Ragsdale
1) Tell us a little about yourself. Well the "C" in C. L. is for Cindy, never mind the middle name (but it's not what you think). I'm a California girl, and am husbandless, childless, and petless. In other words I mostly get to do what I want when I want, unless God has other plans, then I do what He wants. Sooner or later. Sooner would have been better. When I'm not writing I'm usually reading, knitting, crocheting. All in all, I'm pretty boring and I like it that way. My characters get all the excitement I can handle.
2) Tell us about your most recent book/or the book we are focusing on.  The Wooley Weegie is the sixth book in my Christian Cozy Mystery Series, The Reboot Files. These books are Scooby Doo style mysteries with humor, dubious hauntings, monsters and are worked in with an actual non-murder mystery. This particular monster was a story told by my Dad (yeah that's where it comes from). Here's a brief description of the plot:  Reporter Irene Waters and her cameraman Troy Stenson are on the campus of an exclusive private school hunting a local legend called The Woolly Weegie for an episode of their TV show. At least that's what the locals think. In reality, for once they have been sent on an actual investigative story to uncover an alleged academic cheating ring. But just when they think they have escaped the weirdness that usually accompanies their stories, weirdness comes looking for them when The Woolly Weegie comes pounding on their door. Literally.
3) Why did you choose this particular genre?  I love puzzles, word games, mysteries, you name it. But not just to solve. I dissect them. If I fail to solve them I go back and figure out where I went wrong. Also the cozy mystery crowd adopted me, as I was a writer without a genre when I first started.
4) What was your journey to publication like?  When I reached a certain age (hey you've seen the gray hair) I decided that since I always wanted to be a writer, I would actually sit down and write a story all the way through. Not just bits and pieces as I had been. After doing some research, I decided that because of various factors I would self-publish. So in 2011 I published my first book of The Reboot Files, The Mystery of Hurtleberry House.
5) What is a couple of your favorite books and what are you reading now?  The Voyage of The Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis and The Hound of The Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. Currently I'm into the old detective novels (like over a hundred years old) and am reading The Mystery of the Boule Cabinet, a detective story by Burton Egbert Stevenson.
6) What are you working on now and can you give us a little peek inside?  Well I have three projects in different phases of development. The first one coming out in 2015 is the first in a series called The Law of The Lands entitled Wonderful Loses Its Head. A cozy mystery (really) of which involves a Mexican-American policewoman named Inez Ariana Castillo Medina who ends up being assigned as The Sheriff of Fairytale Land (she's not sure who she upset to get stuck with this job). In the course of her duties she'll have to keep the peace between the various "lands" by solving mysteries that could prove to have serious consequences if she doesn't. They are a high strung lot in "the lands". The first mystery is finding out what happened to The Queen of Hearts of Wonderland who has disappeared. No, it's not that Queen of Hearts. Inez will be helped with the mystery solving by her "posse" which includes her Deputy, a fairy named Twinkle, her Abuela (well you can't have a single girl going off all be herself away from her family now can you?) and a very large blue dragon named Percy. Yeah I do cozy mysteries kind of different.
7) What advice would you give authors who are on their own journey to publication?  Keep in mind writing is not just about writing. It's formatting, marketing, proofreading and editing. Whether you're traditionally published or go Indie you will be doing a lot of work that's not writing. Also, write what you love, don't try to follow a trend, because they change too fast to follow and you won't have any fun. Writing should be fun because that's why writers write.
8) Do you have any books or websites that have helped you with your writing that you could share with us?  Well technically it's not a website but I got a lot of help from other authors on Goodreads. These are people who've been there and have learned along the way and are willing to share their experience.
9) Is there anything you'd like to tell us we haven't covered?  Thank you to all readers who took a chance on an unknown writer. Also, to my fellow authors who gave me advice where I really needed it. But mostly thank you to The Lord who gives me these crazy stories that somehow seem to work as entertainment and sharing the Gospel.
10) Please let us know where we can find you on the web.  You can find me on my blog, Short Stories and Tall Tales at:
Twitter:  @clragsdalebooks


Friday, December 12, 2014

Interview and Giveaway with Mary Manners

I recently interviewed Mary Manners. Her latest release is A Splash of Christmas, a romance that includes suspense.

Mary Manners


I cannot remember a time when I didn’t write. In fact, my earliest memory consists of me sitting on the floor beside the washing machine in my family’s laundry room and scribbling (I didn’t yet know how to read or form words, but I could certainly scratch across the paper) because I had a story in my head that just had to come out and be shared.
Since that day, I have never stopped writing. To me, writing is as essential to life as breathing. I am convinced that, prior to the use of my trusty laptop, I killed a forest of trees on my quest to record all of the stories woven through my brain and my heart.
I wrote my first full-length novel in the sixth grade. Thanks to my supportive parents and a few wonderful teachers who encouraged me along the way, my fledgling confidence flourished and I figured I’d be published by the time I turned thirteen (after all, S.E. Hinton had managed a similar feat with her acclaimed and edgy young adult novel, The Outsiders). God had other plans, though, and many years (and countless edits) would pass before that first novel finally became published as Wisdom Tree.

Definitely Nora Roberts has been an influence. I love the way she makes the reader feel like her characters are best friends and close neighbors within the first few paragraphs of her books. Her voice is fantastic.

Write, write, and write! Get involved with a critique group and online or in-town writer’s workshops. Build a network of support where you can learn and thrive. Most of all…believe in yourself!
I feel very strongly about sharing messages of faith and hope with my reader-friends. To me, writing is a ministry.
Of course, I love to read, so I do a lot of that. I spend time with my family hiking and watching movies. I also love to run, and have finished three marathons.


I* love to hear from my reader-friends! Visit my website at for the most up-to-date information about new releases and writing events.
Mary Manners is an award-winning romance writer who lives in the beautiful foothills of East Tennessee with her husband Tim and daughter Danni, and the cherished cats they've rescued from local animal shelters...Lucky and Gus. She loves flavored coffee and Smoky Mountain sunsets.

Mary was named Author of the Year by Book and Trailer Showcase. She writes inspirational romances of all lengths, from short stories to novels—something for everyone.
Learn more about Mary Manners at her website:

A splash of Christmas

When Faith O'Fallon’s best friend ropes her into attending a popular reality show audition, the last thing she expects to find at the studio is the love of her life.
Ben Ward resents his family for coercing him into holding auditions to snag a date for the holiday episode of their reality show, Poolside Oasis. But when a studio mishap accidentally matches him with the lovely, rambunctious Faith O'Fallon, he finds that sometimes family knows best.
This holiday season is filled with the perfect blend of heartwarming surprises splashed with a dose of sweet romance.

“Actually, the gifts are handed out by Santa at the annual Christmas party that’s held each year on Christmas Eve. It’s a pretty big deal to the kids.”
            “And to you, I’d say.”
            “Yes…I want it to be special.”
            “Who’s your Santa?”
            “Usually Mr. MacGregor, our cook’s husband. But he’s recovering from a stroke and I don’t think—” Faith lowered her gaze to Ben’s belly. “Hmm…you’d require quite a bit of padding but you might do.”
            “No way…oh, no.” Ben shook his head. “Uh uh.”
            “Party pooper.” Faith frowned. “This could be a way to redeem yourself, you know, for bailing on the spring fundraiser.”
            “I told you—”
            “I know what you told me, and I guess that’s reason enough to expect you wouldn’t show up for the party even if you committed to doing it.” Faith stood. “Forget I asked. I’ll find someone more…reliable.”
            “Is this reverse psychology?” Ben stood and started after her. “Because if it is, it’s not working.”
            “Good. I didn’t expect it would.”
            “OK, OK…you win this round. I’ll do it, just to prove I’m a man of my word.”
            “We’ll have to have a screen test first. Let me hear you laugh. And not just any laugh. I’ll need your best round of  ho, ho, ho’s…”
            “You’re kidding me, right?”
            “Do I look like I’m kidding?”
            “Good grief.” Ben glanced around, saw the boulevard was clear. He drew a slight breath. “Ho, ho, ho.”
            “That was pathetic. Nope, I can’t allow you to pose as the bearded man. The kids would see right through. They’re tough cookies.”
            “Really? Really?” Ben sucked in air to the limit, and then unleashed it with a vengeance. “Ho, ho, ho!
            “Perfect.” Faith rewarded him with a flurry of claps. “That’ll do for now. You still have a few months to practice.”
            The words, a few months, gave Ben hope. So she planned to know him—to spend time with him—when the filming was completed and the segment aired. He wasn’t sure what caused the change in him but suddenly that sounded good…very, very good.
            Ben took Faith by the elbows and gently drew her to him.
            “Now it’s my turn.” He murmured as his gaze connected firmly with hers. Without another moment’s hesitation, he dipped his head and claimed her lips as moonlight spilled over them. For the length of a breath, two, he was completely and utterly lost. When he released her and stepped back, relief flooded as he saw that her gaze clearly mirrored what he felt in his heart. He found his voice once again as he grazed her cheek with the pad of his thumb. “Hmm…that’ll do, too, Faith—for now.”

To be entered to win an e-copy of A Splash of Christmas....
(1) Leave a comment for Mary.
(2) Please leave your email address so I can contact the winner (you may spell it out--name(dot)person(at)gmail(dot)com). Your contact information will not be used for any other purpose.  

The winner will be randomly selected and announced on December 19th. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Interview with LoRee Peery

Recently, I interviewed author LoRee Peery.

LoRee Perry

I’ve been a reader all my life. The defining moment came when I slapped a magazine in my lap and said, “I could write better than this.” My husband challenged me. “Why don’t you?” Thus began a journey that spanned many years. I wrote short stories of women’s fiction and romance, submitted – without much polishing – to the magazines of the time that published those stories, and amassed rejections. Then I took a snail-mail course through Writer’s Digest and ended up with a cathartic novel of a woman returning to her home town and solving the questionable death of her father. I took a couple courses at our local tech college and met with other writers. Then I had health issues and a job outside the home that took all my energy. Others encouraged me when I had a few nonfiction slices of my life published. I went to a local author’s talk and found out about RWA, where I learned more in six months than I had in ten years. It still took some time before my first contract, but I believe the Lord is in the timing no matter what I do.
Read in and out of your chosen genre. Read first for the experience of the “take-me-away” joy as a lover of fiction. Then read as a writer and take note of the author’s elements of story. Write and write and write some more. Find your comfort zone. Get lost in your own characters, know them well, because story is built on characters. It’s such a thrill to be so into a hero or heroine’s head that they say things without forethought on the author’s part. Meet with other writers, take the opportunity to learn your craft through conferences, workshops, and online courses. Find a critique group or two or three and be open to learn forever.
Every day is a little different but I try to devote most of two days a week to whatever story I’m working on. In between appointments and life happenings of a large family, when I’m setting down the first draft I aim for 1,000 words a day. Those days I decide how many words I’ll write before I check email and social media posts. I brainstorm and meet my characters with papers strewn over the kitchen table. I do that pre-writing with pen in hand and take notes. I also edit on a print copy from my easy chair. Snippets come to me at all hours and in strange places, often the shower, so I sometimes have several scribbled pieces of paper when I sit down at my desk.

A Blessed Blue Christmas

Dahlia Delisi is the heroine of A Blessed Blue Christmas. My pre-planning involves selecting collage pictures from magazines, I’ve concluded I need the tactile for creativity. At some point I was captivated by the photo of a black-haired beauty that I set aside while concentrating on another story I’d begun. Her hairstyle reminded me of a movie star from the forties and brought to mind The Black Dahlia, which when I was ready, evolved into her first name and her boutique, The Blue Dahlia. The Black Dahlia remains one of Hollywood’s most famous unsolved homicides and resonated with me because I’ve lived most of my adult life under the shadow of my father’s unsolved homicide. There is a reference to that mystery changing the course of the hero’s life. Of course I favor the hero, Sloan Letheby, as much as Dahlia in this story.

Since I don’t write historical fiction, research is a part of the writing process I don’t invest a lot of time in. I would say most of my research is done in the beginning stages and could even involve searching out character names. If I need how-to answers or background for specific jobs or situations, I turn to the Internet and/or ask family and friends for answers. Getting each story on its way varies depending on how much I’ve thought about it beforehand. I usually spend a concentrated 3-5 days on details before I enter notes and do computer pre-writing. It has taken less time and when things didn’t gel, up to a couple weeks.

Where did we get to know others before the Internet? Readers can find me handily. And I’m glad I’ve met you via this means, Heidi. Thanks for the invitation to be your guest today.

Dahlia Delisi has poured her life into her store, The Blue Dahlia.  Once her faith was strong, and her life was on a different course.  But when Sloan Letheby left town, Dahlia drifted away from God. 
Sloan Letheby has been transformed. His brush with death brought new meaning to his faith in God, and he needs to right old wrongs.  However, there's a murder plot in the way of his reunion with Dahlia.  Can he find a killer before it's too late?  And can Dahlia accept him...and God, back into her life?
LoRee Peery is a lifelong Nebraskan who thanks her mother for teaching her to read when she was four. LoRee has devoured books ever since. She and her husband have tackled some interesting projects over the course of their married life. For one, they built the home they live in with their own hands. They used to want more acres further away from city life, but one day LoRee realized they had their “greener on the other side of the fence” already. All it took was removing the hedge made of trees and bushes. LoRee feels grounded in her sense of place and considers it a blessing to have lived most of her life in the country. She is also blessed to have five children and eleven grandchildren, whom she enjoys spending one-on-one time with. Her Frivolities Series and other publications are available at Pelican Book Group.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Jeff's Favorite Books Of 2014

by Jeff Reynolds

This is my last blog of the year, and I'll do as I did last year by giving the fifteen favorite novels I've read in 2014. I know this year's not over yet, and I'm planning on reading three more novels this year (all of which are sequels to books that are on the list), which will put my total at 26, by 21 different authors, a dozen of which I hadn't read previously. At first, I was going to give just the top ten, except it would exclude some good books I've read. They will be listed in alphabetic order by title.

Allow me to also throw down the guantlet. I'd love to see the lists for my other contributors, and also for the readers of this blog. It would be interesting to see how much overlap there is on the lists.
But first, let me start with the five non-fiction books that I most recommend for the year, in alphabetic order:

  • Christian Theology of Public Policy by John M. Cobin. This book is challenging my thinking of the role of Christianity to the state -- I'm not sure I agree with all his points, but he did get the grey cells working.
  • Creature Of The Word: The Jesus Centered Church by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger. Excellent on looking at the role of the church and how it can be cenetered on Christ.
  • Getting To Know The Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction by Brian M. Litfin. A good look at ten people who had an impact on Christianity prior to 500 A.D., including my long-time favorites Tertullian and Athanasius, and a new hero, John Chrysostom.
  • Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. This edges out a similar book, Follow Me by David Platt. Both are good dealing with the cost of being a follower of Christ.
  • Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul's Path To God by Gary Thomas. It develops the premise that there are nine spiritual temperments by which we worship, and gives tests on how to develop them.
I'll start my novel list with an honorable mention: Friend Me by John Faubion (interviewed Feb. 9, 2014). This was on my list from last year, but it wasn't released till this year.

So without further ado:

  1. The Advocate by Randy Singer. When I interviewed him in February, 2013, his book Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales had yet to be released, but he was more excited about this story. Unlike his typical contemporary legal thrillers, this goes into history, giving a fictional look at the historic character of Theophilus (Luke 1, Acts 1). This book borders on being literary fiction.
  2. Amberly by Mary Elizabeth Hall. Flirts between being a fantasy and a historical romance the setting is fictional but mirrors the time of the American Revolution. I love the politics involved in this story.
  3. Amish Vampires In Space by Kerry Nietz (interviewed November 3, 2014). Sounds like camp, but this is a top notch, very creative science fiction story. 
  4. Blown Away (re-released on e-book as Bumping Off Binky) by Nancy Mehl. I interviewed her June 3, 2014 about her latest book, Gathering Shadows. I loved this book because it's a great cozy mystery with a lead character who's both entertaining and smart (most cozy mysteries have a main character who's more one than the other).
  5. Conspiracy by Suzanne Hartmann (most recently interviewed April 3, 2014). The second of the Fast-track thriller series. 
  6. Dark Road Home by Elizabeth Ludwig (interviewed October 24, 2014). Second installment of the wonder Edge of Freedom trilogy.
  7. Deadly Devotion by Sandra Orchard (interviewed July 3, 2013). Excellent suspense novel -- grabs you at the first sentence. Or is it a mystery? Actually, it's successful at being an excellent hybrid, fufilling both genres, a rare feat.
  8. Death by the Book by Julianna Deering (interviewed most recently July 3, 2014). The second Drew Farthering mystery.
  9. Heaven's Prey by Janet Sketchley (most recently interviewed two days before this one is posted). Another suspense story that plunges you into danger in the first chapter and never relents. 
  10. The Merely Mortal by J. P. Leck (interviewed May 5, 2014). This horror story is very creative, with an intriguing writing voice, and characters that aren't ones you'd normally be associating with. 
  11. Murder At The Mikado by Juliana Deering. Third of the excellent Drew Farthering mystery series, and my favorite of the three. If you like traditional mysteries, you'd love this.
  12. A Newly Crimsoned Reliquery by Donna Fletcher Crow (most recently interviewed July 28, 2014). The latest in the Monastery Murders, featuring Father Anthony, one of my all time favorite fictional characters. A highlight is a debate between Father Anthony and an athiest. My favorite in the series was last year's An Unholy Communion, but this one isn't far behind.
  13. No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig. One of the best woven stories I've ever read.
  14. Prophet by R. J. Larson. The start of a fantasy trilogy, looking at a 17 year old girl called to be a prophet, and her encounters with various heads of state.
  15. Son of Truth by Morgan Busse. Another fantasy story, this one being the second part of a trilogy.

I'd love to know what my fellow contributors consider the best books they read, as well as the readers here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Interview and Book Giveaway with Janet Sketchley

by Jeff Reynolds 


 Last year, I had the privilege of interviewing Janet Sketchley about her Redemption's Edge series' debut, Heaven's Prey. Her follow-up, Secrets and Lies, is now off the presses. At the end of the interview, you can have an opportunity to win a print copy of this book if you live in the U.S. or Canada, or an e-book other-wise. Here's her bio:

Janet Sketchley is the author of Heaven's Prey and Secrets and Lies, two novels of suspense and redemption. She also blogs about faith and books. Janet loves adventure stories, worship music, tea and Formula 1 racing. Like Carol in Secrets and Lies, she loves music and tea. Unlike Carol, Janet isn't related to a dangerous offender, has a happy home life, and has never been threatened by a drug lord. May those tidbits continue to hold true!

Jeff Reynolds: Welcome back to Sleuths and Suspects. I'll get to your writing in a minute, but anything new going on with you outside of the literary world? Are you prepared for a nice balmy Canadian winter like last year's?

Janet Sketchley:
I seem to recall shivering last winter, Jeff! After what the citizens of Buffalo endured in November, whatever we get, I'd better not complain. New outside the literary world: this summer, my husband and I celebrated our 30th anniversary with a European river cruise. Definitely the trip of a lifetime, although we catch ourselves scheming about doing it again someday.

JR:  Congratulations on your anniversary, newlywed! (My wife and I celebrated our 31st this past July.) On to inside the literary world: You've just released Secrets and Lies, the second book of the Redemption's Edge series. Sounds like it could be inspired by Washington (or, since you're Canadian, Ottawa). Would you like to tell us about the novel? And let me be psychic and predict that you'll give the previous question an affirmative answer.

 And this is why I enjoy your interviews – you make me smile as well as making me think. I like to write stories with happy (or at least hopeful) endings, and I'm not sure I could pull that off in a political novel. Here's a bit about my version of Secrets and Lies:

A single mother must protect her teenage son—from organized crime and from himself.

Carol Daniels thinks she out-ran her enemies, until a detective arrives at her door with a warning from her convict brother. Minor incidents take on a sinister meaning. An anonymous phone call warns her not to hide again.

Now she must cooperate with a drug lord while the police work to trap him. Carol has always handled crisis alone, but this one might break her. Late-night deejay Joey Hill offers friendship and moral support. Can she trust him? One thing's certain. She can't risk prayer.

JR:  There are great suspense stories I enjoy reading, and there are great suspense stories that make me miserable, being a nervous wreck worrying about the characters as I keep turning pages. Your first installment, Heaven's Prey, was that kind of story. Is the sequel like that as well, or is it a different type of story?
JS:  This one's a much easier read. For one thing, it's a romantic suspense instead of suspense on its own, but the biggest difference is that in this story we're not inside the head of a serial killer.

JR:  I heard once that a person who puts soggy Grape Nuts in a sock, allows it to harden, and uses it as a weapon is a cereal killer, but let's get back to reality. There's a difference between the two stories that has nothing to do with writing. The publisher for Heaven's Prey closed its fiction line. How did you approach getting the sequel out?

  Because I was blessed to know other indie writers who could answer my questions, I decided to take the independent publishing route. Working with the same editor and cover artist from Heaven's Prey helped me match the quality, and I practiced for releasing book two by reacquiring the rights to book one and republishing it myself over the summer. Releasing Secrets and Lies this November went surprisingly smoothly.

JR: Helpful advice. I had a publisher I wanted to target my novel for, and that publisher also closed their fiction line. With that in mind, I'll ask the same question two different ways:

  1. What do you think is the future for Christian fiction, or is there much of one?
  2. What advice would you give to a young aspiring Christian novelist?

  I think there's a great future for Christian fiction, and the genre is widening to include something for nearly everyone who enjoys a clean read from a Christian perspective. People who haven't darkened a Christian bookstore's doorway for years would be pleasantly surprised. I think we'll see more independent publishing, because it looks like the traditional publishers are dealing with the changing dynamics by concentrating on trusted names and topics. Unknowns, especially with stories that break new ground, may have to publish independently (but it doesn't hurt to try to land an agent or a publishing contract with a reputable house).

In some ways the advice is the same as ever: write a quality novel that people will want to read; establish a network so readers can hear about the novel; make contacts within the industry. But I'd add this: consider writing your first three novels and polishing them well, before seeking publication. If they're a series, you may want to adjust the beginning once you reach the end. And when it's publishing time, editing and promoting book one won't leave much time for writing book two. If you choose self-publishing, don't do it until you can invest in quality editing, formatting and cover design. Many people can do some of this themselves, but we always need fresh eyes on our writing.

JR: How's your blog going? If you had a top ten list of books you've read this year, what would be on it? (BTW, I'll be posting my list on this blog in a couple of days.)

I look forward to your list, Jeff. Off the top of my head and in no particular order, these books stood out to me this year: 

  • Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson 
  • Blind Trust, Sandra Orchard 
  • Fatal Exchange, Lisa Harris
  • Ithaca, Susan Fish
  • Consider the Sunflowers, Elma Schemenauer
  • Soulminder, Timothy Zahn
  • When God Interrupts, M. Craig Barnes
  • The Patmos Deception, Davis Bunn
  • Veiled at Midnight, Christine Lindsay
  • Miranda Warning, Heather Day Gilbert
My blog's still active, with reviews on Mondays, devotionals on Wednesdays, and a variety of posts on Fridays.

JR: What's next on the horizon? I noticed that there's a part 3 to Redemption's Edge. Do you have any other plans after this?

  I'm discovering book three now, and this is my favourite part of the process. After that, the ideas are pretty vague, although there may be something set in a seaside inn, with an author as a guest. I do want to branch into science fiction, but I'd like to write a few more suspense novels first.

JR: Thank you for your time, Janet. Can you remind us how we can keep up with your latest goings on?

 I'm most active on my blog, at, and I invite Christian suspense fans to sign up for my monthly newsletter: Newsletter subscribers often hear things first. Also:
Secrets and Lies page:
Sample Chapter: 

Amazon Author Central:

Jeff Reynolds to reader: As promised, we'll be giving away a copy of Secrets and Lies. Three steps:

  1. Leave a comment. 
  2. Include info on how to contact you should you win, like e-mail. 
  3. A question for you to answer: If you were running from bad guys, what would be the place you hide in and what occupation would you take up? If you want, you could also let me know if you'd change your hair color (I've thought about making mine indigo).

Monday, December 1, 2014

Interview and E-Book Giveaway with Nadine Brandes

by Jeff Reynolds


 If you knew how long you had left to the second, how would you live your life?

This is the premise of A Time To Die by Nadine Brandes, who I have the privilege of interviewing this month. We'll be giving away an e-book copy via Rafflecopter -- note the rules below.

Jeff Reynolds:  Welcome to Sleuths and Suspects, Nadine. How did you get interested in writing?

Nadine Brandes: 
Thanks for having me, Jeff! I’ve always been interested in writing. From the moment I knew what “story” was, it wormed its way in to everything I did. I used to tell stories to my younger siblings whenever we were on long road trips and eventually they said I should write books. That idea stuck and eventually set me on the road of being an author

JR:  You've just released your debut novel, A Time To Die, the beginning of your "Out of Time" Trilogy. Would you be interested in telling us about your book and the series? And any chance you'll be the first author to answer this question "No"?
NB:  LOL, no. As in, no, I won’t be the first author to answer “no.” :) A Time to Die is about a world where everyone has a Clock showing them exactly how long they have to live. My main character has only one year left to live when she realizes she’s wasted her life. She spends the book trying to discover purpose by rescuing others from her town’s crooked justice system. But things don’t go as planned (of course) and her time is running out.

JR:  What inspired the concept for this story?

That’s a story in itself. But in short, an acquaintance of mine died and, through his death, I started asking myself how I was living. Was I living with purpose or was I wasting time? Then I thought, “How would I live if I knew when I’d die?” Thus the concept was born.

JR:  This book is published by Enclave Publishing, previously known as Marcher Lord Press. This company specializes in what's called "speculative fiction" -- I interviewed your fellow EP author Kerry Nietz. (I don't know if anybody remembers me talking about his book Amish Vampires In Space.) How would you define specualtive fiction?

Speculative fiction is fiction written without boundaries — these stories (fantasy, sci-fi, etc.) are free from the constraints of time, of space, of species, of laws, and of anything else that we’ve used to define the functions of our universe. Some people call it “the weird stuff”  because it is the most unusual genre.

JR:  This book is in the sub-genre dystopian science-fiction. When I had the privilege of critiquing some of the early chapters of this book, I asked what that was. Could you describe it to the readers? And is it a genre that should encourage us that things could get worse than they are, or more of a warning that things probably will get worse? Any implications for the Christian in this genre?

  Dystopian fiction are novels set in s society that is under the power of a single oppressive force, like a government. Basically, if you break down the Greek roots of dystopia, it literally means “bad place to live.” Think Hunger Games, Divergent, 1984, etc.

I think it’s always been too much of a stretch to view dystopian futures as predictions or warnings. I wrote my own dystopian book more to encourage believers that, whatever may come in our world, it can still be withstood with Christ as our foundation. Mine certainly isn’t an implication of the future.

The Christian has a huge opportunity to portray hope in this genre. Dystopian books are often hopeless but, if we have Christ, there is always hope. That’s something that is only just beginning to be captured in dystopian literature now that the CBA market is publishing the genre more.

JR:  One question I regularly ask: Are you more of a structured plotter, or are you more of a blank pager? What are the implication s of this both for A Time To Die and for the Out of Time Trilogy as a whole?

  I’ve always been more of a blank pager with a rough plot/outline kept only in my mind. I think this has benefited the Out of Time trilogy because I’d originally planned it to be only one book. But since I was open, God adjusted the plot and showed me that it’s, indeed, a much vaster story than I ever imagined.

JR:  Since this is a trilogy, and you've just written the first one, I assume parts two and three will be in the future. Anything else in mind? Any chances of following a dystopian sci-fi series with a comedic historical romance?

Ha! I definitely have books planned for the future after the trilogy is complete. I have an alternate reality book in the works and a portal fantasy I’ve been wanting to write for ages. There may or may not be a dystopian sci-fi comedic historical romance on the horizon. [wink]

JR:  Thank you for your time. How can we keep up with what you're up to?

  Thank you so much for having me! You can find me on my website (, Facebook (, Goodreads ( or sign up for my newsletter to get monthly updates! (

A Time to Die is available on Amazon ( in e-book and paperback.

Jeff Reynolds to reader: It's time for the giveaway, the first on this blog (I believe) using Rafflecopter. In addition to leaving a comment, I'd like to ask what you would do if you knew you had only one year of life left.

<a class="rcptr" href="" rel="nofollow" data-raflid="2fb503a31" data-theme="classic" data-template="" id="rcwidget_4in0klrt">a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>
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I'm trying Rafflecopter, but if it doesn't work, leave a comment along with a response to the above question, and include a way to contact you.