Monday, July 29, 2013

Grace Awards Showcase: The Life and Times of Lucas McGilley by Suzanne D. Williams


Suzanne D. Williams
Feel-Good Romance

 Purchase Links:

About the Book:

“Go ahead and plan to leave,” Lucas said. “Hold onto your ticket. I’ll even drive you to the train. But I’ll do it with Sam and John and Charles and Will. With Marcus and James. Even with Jesse. And you’ll have to look us all in the eye as you board and decide what’s more valuable to you. Your plans in Atlanta. Your friend, Christine, who I’m sure is great. Or ten people who love you.”
The second of eight boys, Lucas McGilley spent his youth pulling pranks. Yet growing up comes hard, and he’s learned his lesson. Or so he thinks.

Then Iris Willow shows up for the summer, and along comes love, strife, and a terrible family secret. He needs her now, more than he’s ever thought possible.

But can he convince her to stay, or will she catch the train and be gone forever?

From the author of best-selling novella, ME & TIMOTHY COOPER, comes another young adult romance of first love and the importance of family.

Welcome, Suzanne Williams!

1.       When I hear any title that begins with The Life and Times... I imagine a quirky, fun story. Can you tell me what inspired the title for you?

I woke up early one morning with that title in my head. I saw it like a headline. I am a graphic artist as well as a writer, so initially it came to me like the top of a newspaper. But when I made the book cover later, I decided to use a couple instead and give the title an old-fashioned headline effect.

2.      I sometimes begin with a title too. Since you did, then where did the storyline come from?

The storyline was originally a historical fiction. But because contemporary YA sells so well, I changed it. This enabled me to use a modern young couple on the cover and to include things like trucks and cell phones. But it keeps it’s “country” feel somewhat. I am a native Floridian and love to include descriptions of the landscape and lifestyle I am so familiar with in my books. This was the first YA I’ve written that I could really indulge myself in that and it still be contemporary.

3.      I understand there are a host of sibling brothers in this story. What was the most difficult part of creating your characters?

Remembering all those brothers – Jesse, Lucas, Marcus, James, William, Charles, John, and Sam.

I try to make each story unique in some way. Lucas being one of eight boys is definitely unique, but add in the challenge of having so many names in the text, giving each of them a personality, and the rapport brothers in a large family would have with each other, and I had to stop and think…a lot. Sam’s my favorite brother next to Lucas. Lucas, being the troublemaker, I needed a brother who’d continually stir the pot, so to speak, and he became it.

Here’s an unusual fact about the book, my editor is herself a mom of five boys, so she identified with the feel of the family, and that was a huge help to me in finalizing the story.

4.      So the female lead is Iris Willow. Interesting name. What’s her part in the story?

I love naming characters. As a mom, I personally tried to give my daughter a normal name. After all, I grew up having to explain “Suzanne.” But when it comes to books, I can indulge myself and choose things outside of the box. In Iris’ case, I asked a friend to name a flower, completely at random, and then a tree. I then put them together. It was that simple.

It being a YA romance, I had to have a girl in the story, and since the story is set in a small town way off the road, it made sense to bring her in from the outside, where she’d be unfamiliar with the area. It also seemed a good idea she not be used to a large family, and that created the problems between she and Lucas, her reluctance to get involved, and the mystery of why exactly she was there.

5.      What do you love about writing YA?

The innocence of it, two young people first falling in love, and the thrill that brings to the heart and the mind. The older I get, the more I appreciate this.

I never set out to be a YA writer, and actually, write many other romance titles, but it’s the YA that I always come back to, which brings me the most joy and feedback. As a Christian writer, I add Bible morality into each story as well. Some have more of a Christian theme than others, but all have foundational truths behind them.

No one person’s life is perfect, and I try to reflect that in the mistakes and foibles of the characters, and write what’s best for that particular tale because what works for one doesn’t work for another. Yet when all is said and done, love always triumphs because that, after all, is romance.

Suzanne D. Williams is a native Floridian, wife, mother, photographer, and writer. She is the author of both nonfiction and fiction books. She writes a monthly column for on the subject of digital photography, as well as devotionals and instructional articles for various blogs. She also does graphic design for self-publishing authors.

To learn more about what she’s doing visit or link with her on Facebook at

Monday, July 22, 2013


On this first week of the Grace Awards Summer Launch, I'm featuring Tracy Krauss and her novel Wind Over Marshdale, one of the best books I've read this summer.  I hope you'll enjoy the interview and excerpt that follows, and give her novel a try.

About the book:
Marshdale. Just a small farming community where nothing special happens.  A perfect place to start over… or get lost. There is definitely more to this prairie town than meets the eye. Once the meeting place of aboriginal tribes for miles around, some say the land itself was cursed because of the people’s sin. But its history goes farther back than even indigenous oral history can trace and there is still a direct descendant who has been handed the truth, like it or not. Exactly what ties does the land have to the medicine of the ancients? Is it cursed, or is it all superstition?
Wind Over Marshdale is the story of the struggles within a small prairie town when hidden evil and ancient medicine resurface. Caught in the crossfire, new teacher Rachel Bosworth finds herself in love with two men at once. First, there is Thomas Lone Wolf, a Cree man whose blood lines run back to the days of ancient medicine but who has chosen to live as a Christian and faces prejudice from every side as he tries to expose the truth. Then there is Con McKinley, local farmer who has to face some demons of his own. Add to the mix a wayward minister seeking anonymity in the obscurity of the town; eccentric twin sisters – one heavily involved in the occult and the other a fundamentalist zealot; and a host of other ‘characters’ whose lives weave together unexpectedly for the final climax. This suspenseful story is one of human frailty - prejudice, cowardice, jealousy, and greed – magnified by powerful spiritual forces that have remained hidden for centuries, only to be broken in triumph by grace.

What others are saying:
The characters were realistic and the conflict was palpable
-          The Wordsmith Journal

Krauss weaves a story that satisfies the romantic soul and caresses the puzzle solver in each of us at the same time…
-          Barbara Ann Derksen, author

Krauss typifies all that is good in modern Christian authorship. She is consistently there for her readers and elevates her every effort
-          Joyce Godwin Grubbs, Author

Tracy’s characters are raw and real; her plots edgy and electric.
-          Lisa Lickel, award winning author

There is plenty of intrigue and mystery to keep any reader's attention, but for lovers of romance, this one will make your heart pound.

-          Michelle Sutton, author of more than 25 inspirational novels

Krauss writes about real stuff that real people, including Christians, struggle with. Her fiction is at times earthy, but that drew me into the very real characters, their failures as well as their hopes and triumphs.
 Ken Winters, author

Author bio:
Tracy Krauss is a high school teacher by profession, and a prolific author, artist, playwright and director by choice. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Saskatchewan and has gone on to teach Art, Drama and English – all the things she is passionate about. After raising four children, she and her husband now reside in beautiful Tumbler Ridge, BC where she continues to pursue all of her creative interests.

Q: Tracy, when I read the book, I was immediately immersed in the eerie feeling imbued in the story. What inspired you to craft this tale of simple small town life suddenly threatened by the emergence of hidden evil?

A: It started out with some interesting characters that I had been thinking about. I am from a small town and have lived in many small towns and I’ve noticed that every place has its own  ‘colorful’ people. I also have an interest in spiritual warfare and native history and I saw a way to weave all of these elements together.

Q: I think the title of the book really portrays sense of spiritual warfare. What other types of significance do you ascribe to the book's title?

A: It works on many levels. For anyone who has visited the prairies, they know that the wind plays an important role in the psyche of the people. Also, I saw this as symbolic of the spiritual forces at play within the book.

Q: I felt as torn as Rachel did between the two new men in her life, and I really didn't know who she would ultimately choose or if it would work out for either of them. Why is it so difficult for Rachel to choose between her love for both Thomas and Con?

A: She is rebounding from a previous relationship and her feelings of inadequacy have made her confused about her own feelings. Basically, she is subconsciously trying to boost her own self worth.

Q: She's definitely a "real" character, flaws and all. Sometimes I caught myself thinking, No Rachel, don't do that! Why do you think it's often so easy for us to give way to sin, whether major or minor in scope?

A: I suppose it’s what the Bible calls ‘the flesh’. It’s part of human nature to want our own way, and let’s face it, most sin is also fun – at least for a season.


Thomas shot up in bed, panting. The T-shirt he wore clung to his body with sweat. It was not the first time the dream had come to wake him.

He took a deep breath, disentangled himself from the sheets, and rose to get a drink of water. No point going back to bed now. He wouldn’t sleep anyway. He padded down the narrow hallway,
passing the half closed doorways that sheltered his sleeping children. Ducking to avoid hitting his head as he entered the tiny kitchen, he paused for a moment to look at the expanse of landscape beyond the window. Mostly flat, with a rise of gently rolling hills in the distance, it was clothed with a carpet of rippling grass except for the odd patch of dry fallow. Just like in the dream.

The early morning sunrise was just beginning to filter in, reaching to shed some light in the shadowed corners of the room. Thomas had managed to rent a house near the outskirts of     town. Correction. It wasn’t exactly a house. The realtor called it a “double wide.” Okay, it was a trailer, but it was the only property for rent in Marshdale at the moment. At least, that was what    the realtor had said. It wasn’t the nicest place—rather dingy if truth be told—and it was farther from school than Thomas would have liked, but it was still within walking distance. Better than    the overcrowded and dilapidated homes he’d been used to as a child.

But that was another time. Another life.

He was here now, for better or for worse, and the people of Marshdale would just have to accept it. He was Thomas Lone Wolf, proud of his Cree ancestry, and determined to do something about it. As a community liaison, he’d worked with dozens of indigenous groups all over the    western provinces trying to set up business propositions. This time was different, though. It was personal.

With practiced fingers he undid his nighttime braid and shook out his hair, which fell well past his shoulders. Even at forty, there was no sign of graying or hair loss. It was straight, coarse and
black, just like his ancestors’ - the perfect picture of a Cree warrior.

Now that he was awake, he allowed himself to replay the dream in his mind - at least the parts that he could remember. Like most dreams, the initial clarity soon faded after just a few waking moments. There were buffalo - always buffalo. And they seemed bent on suicide, careening to their deaths before he could stop them somehow.

He was going to start writing it down. The theme was too familiar; the mixture of fear and power too real. Some people said you dreamt in black and white. Thomas wasn’t sure about that. He knew there was blood in his dream - and lots of it. The redness of it stood out in stark contrast to the muted prairie landscape. And the stench. That unmistakable metallic scent filled his nostrils to such a degree that he could almost swear he still smelled it. Almost. But that was ridiculous and he pushed the memory of the coagulating stains out of his mind.

With a sigh he turned back to the cupboards and started readying the coffee. It would soon be time to wake the children and get ready for work himself. Another grueling day of lobbying for something that should be rightfully his to begin with. Reality didn’t stop for dreams.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

When Is a Story Ready To Write?

Most of us novelists have new ideas churning around in our heads well before we write "The End" on our current projects. We chomp at the bit to begin the new work, for there's nothing quite so exciting and frightening as starting a new novel. It's like the first time you drive a stick shift -- in traffic!

Sometimes those story ideas have churned around for months or even years. They are ready to write. By the time we're able to put those first words down, the idea is fully fleshed and flowing like a fresh cut from our veins. At other times, however, the idea isn't quite so well articulated in our thoughts, and if we sit down to start writing, it becomes more like lying in a hospital bed while a nurse pokes us four times over just to find a vein. The idea is in there, but it doesn't want to come out.

So should we try to force it? Not really. Not that way.

Nothing beats writers block like just writing. Writing anything. Writing something. The same could be said for starting on that new idea. It might not be time, yet, to write an opening chapter. However, it might be the perfect time to brainstorm using processes that will expand those lurking scenes and ideas.

Start an outline. I would suggest using the 15 point Meet in the Middle method to brainstorm. Write the first point - how you basically see the story beginning (no worries, you're not committed yet). Then write the last point - what you think the flash bang happy ending might be. Now keep going back and forth, from beginning to end, working toward the middle. You'll be surprised at how the ideas will start flowing.

But if that isn't enough, it's definitely time to ask the Big Story Question. What is the big story question your character must resolve? What are her dreams and her fears? What themes have you noticed in your own life lately or in the lives of those around you that might find their way into your current story idea? What questions are you asking in your life that your character might ask in theirs? What do you know that your character doesn't and needs to learn? These are all good story-builders that will prime the pump to the place where you're actually ready to begin writing.

It's not time to begin the actual story until you have some if not all of these answers. You might not know the entire journey your character will take. Seat of the pants writers would make a point of telling me that. But you should have a truly good overall feel for the story you have to tell, or else you're just talking. That's my opinion. Jumping the gun on starting a story can burn you out. You're more likely to give up and quit part way through if you take off running without a goal or without knowing something of the route.

So let the story marinade. Part of the writing process isn't really the physical writing. It's the daydreaming.

Write on!
Coming August 11th from Desert Breeze Publishing
a novel of contemporary women's fiction.
When still life artist Ethan Day discovers a fantasy painting by Althena Bell in a consignment shop, he's sure he's found Ava, his wife who abandoned him and their two little girls three years ago. Finding her is one thing, but forgiveness and second chances are impeded by outsiders, and conflict between Ava's search for identity and Ethan's new faith might break the safety net he offers.