Friday, February 12, 2016

An American Gothic

Alice K. Arenz. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, her first three novels were honored by two finals and one win in American Christian Fiction Writer’s (ACFW) Carol Award: cozy mysteries The Case of the Bouncing Grandma (a 2009 finalist), The Case of the Mystified M.D., (2010 winner), and mystery/suspense Mirrored Image (a 2011 finalist)—have all been re-released in the last few months by Forget Me Not Romances, a division of Winged Publications.

SFF: Leave a comment for Alice and be entered in a drawing to win an e-book of An American Gothic.

Tell us about your releasing book.
An American Gothic is a classic romantic suspense. The lead character, Lyssie, has always wanted to write an old-fashioned Gothic novel—you know the kind, an innocent young girl gets caught up in the mystery and intrigue in a drafty castle or mansion, falls for someone she shouldn’t and ends up putting herself, and/or others, in danger. A paragraph or two from Lyssie’s novel Craven starts each chapter, and the progression/tension of those paragraphs are a type of foreshadowing of the action about to take place Lyssie’s life. Craven, Lyssie’s book, is a true Gothic. The rest of the book is a combination of mystery/romantic suspense with elements of the original “gothic” feel. 
Where do you get your ideas for your books? What sparked this story?
From the time I first started writing thoughts down when I was about twelve, I’ve answered this question the same—the ideas have to come from God because I’m just not smart enough to attempt it on my own.
As for what sparked this story, every time I’ve visited the ruins of Ha Ha Tonka State Park (yes, that’s a real place, folks!) in Missouri, I would sit in the ruins and dream of writing something that featured this awesome place. The cover of An American Gothic is from a picture taken by my husband.

Did anything strange of funny happen while writing this book?
This would be the journey Gothic took to being published. Let me explain.
The first incarnation of Gothic was in the early 90s. After a five-year stint with an agent for this and one other book, the agent and I parted ways, and both books ended up on a shelf—as did my dreams of becoming an “actively publishing author.” After discovering Christian fiction, I joined ACFW. . .that was around 2003 or 2004. I promptly dug the manuscript out, re-wrote it to bring it more up-to-date, then started searching for a publisher. It was originally scheduled for release by the publisher who’d pubbed my first three books, but circumstances intervened, my health declined, and just when I thought I was out of the game…I’m back. So . . . in some ways, Gothic was 20 years in the making—or thereabouts.

Did you always want to be a writer?
Even before I started writing things down, I was creating stories for my friends or toys to act out. So, yes, I would have to say I’ve wanted to be a writer for about as long as I can remember.

Where do you write, a coffee shop, attic nook, or a cave?
We turned the third bedroom of our little house into an office. It’s not very big, and right now it looks more like a dumping ground for just about everything, but it’s got my computer and writing books—and my desk!  I’d give you a picture but I don’t want to scare anyone.

Of all your characters, which was your favorite and why?
Um, this is a hard one—Gothic has a lot of interesting characters. I would have to say the child, Dee. She’s sad, resilient, bright, and fun. Very real.

Share a few of the techniques you learned that changed the way you write.
Until more recently, I would spend a lot of time just listening to the way people talked with one another—not eavesdropping, just in passing. It was more like they were passing by where I happened to be sitting in the mall. That was before my hearing became hypersensitive, it’s called hyperacussis, I believe. Anyway, now I spend more time watching TV and movies at home and learn a lot of what NOT to do.

At any rate, watching, listening, seeing how people interact, how they move, facial expressions, everything that makes us who we are, all goes into it. But mostly, I rely on A LOT on prayer. That might not be a technique, per se, but it’s my standard operating procedure.

Now for the fun: Tell us 3 things your readers might not know about you.
  • I’m quirky & have a bit of OCD. It’s not always fun, but it’s true.
  • I love cats—all kinds, but especially Himalayans.
  • I’m a dinosaur—don’t engage in social media except for doing blog interviews, don’t have the latest and greatest (or not so great) computers, or software, and use my cell phone as ONLY a phone.

If you were a musical instrument, what would you be and why?
My daughters were both in band—the older one played the clarinet, the younger the flute. Remembering their early days practicing, I would have to compare myself more to the flute than anything else. It’s a very exacting instrument, as they all are, but there is something about it, the beauty of the melody when played just right to the harshness of the tone when the mouth isn’t pursed correctly. Unfortunately, these last few years of increased chronic health issues, the melody is more harsh than beautiful. But God and I are working on that. ;)

She came to Foxxemoor to write a mystery, not to become part of one.
Devastated by the death of a child in her care, Lyssie's heartstrings are tugged when she finds another child in danger. Amid past secrets, lies, and betrayals of an old college friend's family, she must choose a twin brother to trust. If she makes the wrong decision, she could not only lose her own life, but also the life of the child she's come to love. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Wait Till You Hear WHO is Coming!

The ACFW conference is in Nashville this year, and have we got exciting news!!! 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What's a One Sheet?

Every year as conference time rolls around, the new writers ask, "What's a one sheet?" I always say to think of it as an 8 1/2 by 11 business card for your book. 

You're going to be pitching to agents and editors, so you want to hook them from first glance. 

Also, if you get tongue-tied at the appointment table, you can hand them your one sheet instead of tumbling your way through your pitch, although I highly recommend you, at the very least, can verbally deliver your tag line without fainting. 

So, what goes on the one sheet? Your name, your contact info, and the tag line are the first things. Then the blurb, telling about the book. After that, you give the title, tell if it's completed, and the completed (or estimated completed) word count. After that goes your bio. 

They can be simple, like this one:
Or they can be colorful and more creative like this one:
Whichever type you decide on, plain or colorful, the content is the same. And it should reflect the story. 

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

An Interview with Two Characters from Sapphire Secrets

Two amazing young women are visiting us today.  Please help me welcome identical twins Livy and DeeDee McCreary, singers and dancers extraordinaire, who star in my new novel, Sapphire Secrets.

Dawn V. Cahill: Livy, since this is your story, why don’t we start with you? Tell us why you want to share your story with the world.

Livy: Picture this--a spooky graveyard at midnight. Howling wind. And a strange old man who tells me to seek the truth about my mother’s death. Wouldn’t you be curious, too?

DVC: Indeed I would.

Livy: Sapphire Secrets is basically my testimony. And what an incredible journey. Not only did I find out the truth about my mother’s death, I also found God. Now, I just want the world to know that God loves them. So many people have never experienced His love. They don’t know what it’s like when God grabs ahold of you and pulls you into His arms - so unlike anything you’ll ever experience.

DVC: But you weren’t raised to believe in God. What made you change your mind?

Livy: I met someone who wasn’t afraid to share Christ with me. At first, I was resistant. Our parents and grandma raised us to be suspicious of organized religion. But then, one day everything changed. I had an accident and…

DVC: Spoiler alert!

Livy: Whoops. Anyway, as a result, I might never dance again. But without the accident, I might not have found God.

DVC: DeeDee, what do you think about Livy’s conversion?

DeeDee: She’s always spouting religious mumbo-jumbo. Not my thing. But ask me anything about dance. I can get into that.

DVC: Okay, dance it is. One of my readers wants to know, were all those dance lessons growing up a pleasure, or a chore?

DeeDee: I won’t lie and say they were a piece of cake. Dance lessons are grueling. If I hadn’t had Livy to learn and practice with, I’m sure I would have given up a long time ago. But now, I marvel at what my body can do. I’m pumped that we get to pay it forward by teaching other little girls the beauty of dance.

Livy: Our mom’s passion for dance rubbed off on us. I couldn’t have quit if you paid me. For me, the downside of dance was the memorization. Not only the choreography, but all the French terminology. Like pas de bourres and ronde jambes

DeeDee: The intense competitions…

Livy: Outgrowing our favorite leotards…

DeeDee: Hardly ever any boys in class to tease or flirt with.

DVC: How times change! A couple of single fathers brought their daughters into your studio for lessons.

Livy [giggling]: Don’t forget to mention how cute they were.

DVC: And now you’re dating one of them, aren’t you?

Livy: Spoiler alert!

DVC: My lips are sealed. Let’s let the readers find out for themselves, shall we?

DeeDee: Don’t forget to tell them about your prequel, When Lyric Met Limerick, a short story about a fateful meeting…the day our amazing and talented parents met.

DVC: Readers, just click on my Amazon author page to find both books. Check my webpage,, for future giveaways and updates on Livy and DeeDee’s continuing saga. And thank you, ladies, for letting my readers get to know you  today.
Livy and DeeDee [in unison]: So long, lovely readers.

DeeDee: Peeps, you have to come back for Book 2, because this crazy author is going to put me through an even worse ordeal than Livy’s. I have no clue how I’m going to get out of this mess…

Sapphire Secrets
Filled with mystery, romance, and unforgettable characters, Sapphire Secrets is the story of a Seattle woman’s relentless pursuit of truth and God’s power to heal and transform broken lives. 

Twins Livy and DeeDee McCreary open a dance studio in honor of their late mother, whom they lost when they were six. Problem is, Livy remembers nothing of the day her mother died. The more she questions her family about that awful day, the more she suspects she’s been lied to all her life. While she’s seeking answers to what really happened, she keeps crossing paths with handsome engineer Scott Lorenzo, who compels her to question the New Age philosophy she was raised on. What if there is a personal God out there who cares about her? 

Before Livy can discover answers, a brutal accident interrupts her search. Her life flips upside down as she faces a future she is not prepared for. Yet the unanswered questions continue to haunt her. Can she find the strength to keep on with her quest, even if it means losing the two people most dear to her—her twin, and the man she loves? 

Author Dawn V. Cahill pens "Stories of Victorious Faith for the 21st Century," nearly always with a crossword puzzle, sudoku, or dark chocolate nearby. "The characters in my stories face situations that would have been unthinkable even 20 years ago. We live in a vastly different world than our parents did, and that's the world I write about." Seeing an unfilled niche in the Christian market for edgier fiction, Ms Cahill birthed Hot Topic Fiction (HTF) at an intensive four-day writers conference. HTF isn't afraid to explore the question, how does God want us Christians to live out our faith in this not-so-brave new world? Without insulting the reader by offering pat or easy answers--because there aren't any--HTF tells stories of ordinary Christians following hard after Christ in a world of terror and violence, of upside-down morality, of hostility to Judeo-Christian values. HTF's first book is due for launch in June 2016.

Monday, February 08, 2016

The Present

I saw this on Steve Laube's blog and had to share it with y'all. 

The Present from Jacob Frey on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

I'm a Cover Girl!

It took decades, but I finally got my mug on a magazine cover. And one that's all about bookS Ya gotta love it! Thanks to The Book Club Network and Book Fun Magazine!

Friday, February 05, 2016

Star Wars Fan Paula Rose

Author Paula Rose brings an “average” family into extraordinary situations, brushes with life-size strokes of reality, adding just a touch of humor, and coats with suspense inside Christian fiction. Paula’s research gives readers a panoramic view from law enforcement and lends to character authenticity. She enjoys writing in the romantic suspense, suspense, and mystery genres, but when she’s not writing, Paula Rose is reading or playing amateur photographer. Member of ACFW. 2015 Genesis Contest judge. NetGalley member. 2014 Grace Awards judge.

Tell us about your releasing book.
Revenge is a Christian Romantic Suspense story where you’ll meet Olivia Foster whose life revolves around her job, a police detective who is second-guessing his chosen profession, and a man without limits in his quest for vengeance.  

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
My stories come to me in various ways, and sometimes, the idea can come as a simple question or an answer, and even a single photo. What sparked this story? Revenge came about by an early photo not actually having anything to do with this story. The photo that sparked Revenge showed conveyer belts with one worker assisting another. It highlighted a theme that came from seeing the demonstrated assistance, and it was a theme that made it into a story.

Did anything strange of funny happen while writing this book?
Yes. This story got away from the author! 

I had character sketches and a story sketch and it was all going to be about a damsel in distress paired with an Alpha male detective. However, the muse and the characters changed this amid keystrokes. Olivia became fiery and not one to let others take the lead. Detective Lt. Phillip Landon had to not only undergo a name change during edits, since I seemed to like the letter J, but he underwent a personality change during the writing of Revenge. He was no longer the man that I met on his character sketch. He became brooding, sensitive, and conflicted inside the story. This detective didn’t portray the scenes that I wanted, and it was obvious that I really didn’t know this man at all.   

After a sit down with this detective on paper, I was able to understand the changes after the full story was revealed, and then in rewrites and edits, I allowed him his own personality. I stopped forcing him to be the type of hero that I wanted him to be, and he became the true character.

Did you always want to be a writer? 
No. I loved reading, but soon, my own stories took up residence in my head. Eventually, they landed on paper to only be seen by a few.

It was during a period of needing to be off my feet that my stories became a true focus with the help of my loving husband who discussed characters, plots, and themes over dinners during this time of our lives. With his encouragement, I took writing out of the hobby column and put it into our lives. I started to expand my horizons through conferences and critiques.

Where do you write, a coffee shop, attic nook, or a cave?
I have written everywhere but not in an attic nook, and I do believe if one existed for me to use, I would have done it there too. My desk is a mess with books, research, photos, and writing related paraphernalia. Meaning that when I’m writing at home, I’m usually over on the credenza. 

However, having the ability to write in any place means anyone can find me on a shopping trip taking a break on a bench to get down whatever popped into my head or inside the back of a cab to get a feel for the description.

Of all your characters, which was your favorite and why? 
My favorite became the one secondary character that inside Revenge didn’t really change on me. Officer Susan Bennett. However, I’m almost positive that by the time that her story is told she will have taken paths like her predecessors in changing everything from the timeline to the plot, but that’s what I love about writing. The story stays a mystery even to this author.

Share a few of the techniques you learned that changed the way you write.
In medias res made me remember not to start at the beginning while irony makes me ponder each of the characters actions, thoughts, and desires to discover whom they really are. This is the irony of being the author!

Thematic patterning is something I enjoy reading and using in my own stories.

Now for the fun: Tell us 3 things your readers might not know about you.
  • I’m a Star Wars fan.
  • Pink is my favorite color. 
  • Football makes me sleepy. 

If you were a musical instrument, what would you be and why?
Piano. As it is a percussion instrument, the piano is still graceful.

As a job coach, it’s up to Olivia Foster to ensure her clients work in a safe environment, understand their positions, and serve their employer’s mission. The death of her brother drives her career choice, and she loves her job. It remains her only focus until one of her autistic clients goes missing. Then Olivia’s employer ends her position and adds her to the suspect list, but she makes plans to bring the missing young man home.

Detective Lt. Phillip Landon is deep into second-guessing his career choice, but his well-honed instincts see major flaws inside this missing person’s case. Surprising contacts, mysterious happenings, and threats can turn deadly. Can he keep Olivia safe, protect his heart, remove the job coach from someone’s target list, and adopt a faith he never knew all while adjusting to the new lives of his old family?

Thursday, February 04, 2016

10 Tips for a Successful Conference

Conference time approacheth! The ACFW conference, in Nashville this year, will be upon us sooner than you think! As you prepare ... or as I prepare, here are a few things to remember:

Make a list for packing. You don't want to forget something your nightie. Yes, I've forgotten mine. It's not fun to get dressed once again at midnight and try to find an open store in the hotel which carries long t-shirts. Funny thing is in Indianapolis, I was able to purchase one. 

Take ear plugs. What if your roommate snores? You don't want to have to sleep in the bathtub.

Take one sheets and a sample chapter. Almost every conference where I pitched, the editors wanted to see a sample of my writing. No, they didn't take it home with them. They asked me to send it by email after the conference. But I might not have gotten that request if I didn't have a sample with me. 

Practice your "elevator pitch". One year many moons ago, my critique partners and I would call each other on the phone at random times. When the CP picked up, we'd say without a hello or anything, "Tell me about your book." The CP would stutter and stammer and we'd hang up. This went on until all of us could immediately launch into our 30 second pitch without stammering. 

Take breaks. Conference can be overwhelming, especially if it's your first conference. If you feel that paralyzing fear coming on or that your brain will explode if you hear one more fabulous tip, walk to the nearest corner and sit down. Go to your room for a nap. It won't be tragic to miss a class. You can always buy the conference tape for that class.

Find your golden nugget. I have always adhered to this gem: if I take home one single golden nugget of learning from a conference, it was worth all the time and expense. You can't get your MFA at a 4-day conference. Look for one piece of advice or tip to take your writing or marketing skills to the next level.

Network. One of the biggest ROIs of conferences is the network you gain. You're rubbing shoulders with agents and editors and multi-published authors, oh my. Be friendly. Ask the authors what they're working on. You might glean a tip or two from a lunchtime conversation. 

Smile and be friendly. This goes along with networking. People respond to a smile. If you want to meet an author you admire, go up to him/her and tell them you admire their writing. Believe me, inside we're all scared silly our next book will flop. 

Be an encourager to others and you'll be encouraged. If you see someone looking scared or lost, go up to them and offer help. You'd be surprised at the friend you make.

Have fun. Connecting the names you've seen online all year to their faces is lots of fun. Don't feel strange if you walk around looking at everyone's chest for their name tag. We all do it. I know faces. It's just the names that go with those faces I forget. Hey, I'm allowed. I'm a senior citizen. 

Okay, I'm done ... for now. Do you have any good tips for me? And yes, I already have my conference nightie/t-shirt folded and ready to pack.