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Monthly Archives: May 2015

Author Chat with F. John Hurr

Today we have a real treat for our Christian suspense fans. Joining us on Quid Pro Quills today, is author F. John Hurr!

F. John Hurr is a biblical scholar, philosopher and free-lance writer. Light of the Damned is his first book of fiction. Major influences include C.S. Lewis, Henning Mankell, Arthur Conan Doyle and M.R. James. He lives with his wife in the UK.

Fred, from the brief description above we know a little bit about your background, those who have influenced your writing and where you reside, but what else would you like for our blog readers to know about you? For example, when did you first discover you wanted to be a writer?

I grew up in a poor family in post-war London in a very working class neighbourhood. I left school without any qualifications and was at work one month after my 15th birthday employed as a uniformed messenger boy in the busy London Docks. One rainy day I ducked into a library to escape the downpour. My eyes almost popped out of my head. I had never seen so many books and so many shelves of books. That was the first time I had been in a library. I was simply overwhelmed and I had an amazing epiphany … from that moment I knew I wanted to read as many books as I could. From that revelation came the desire to write. Over the next 10 years I wrote continuously, plays, poems, short pieces, stories and many unfinished novels filling boxes with handwritten and typed pages.

None of it was published. One Theatre Director read one play and threw it into the dustbin. When I became a Christian in my early 30’s I built a bonfire in my backyard and burnt all of it, not a line survived the fire.

I’ve heard other authors talk about how they burned up or threw away their earlier work as well, either because they didn’t feel like it matched up with their beliefs as a Christian or because they didn’t feel like it was any good. Whatever the reason was for you, we’re glad you’ve resumed writing, because Light of the Damned is a great novel. Now that you’ve picked up the pen and paper again, what does a typical day of writing look like for you?

I normally start in the middle of the night around 2am. I wake with visual scenes playing in my mind, characters speak and the story begins to evolve. I write it all down in a notebook in a scribbled shorthand that sometimes days later even I can’t decipher. This process is feverish and can last hours. Then over the next few weeks I try to put it down on my PC in the semblance of a story and it begins to take on bone and flesh.

Do you plot or outline your books before you write or are you more of a seat-of-the-pants (SOTP) type of writer?

I do not do any research. My life is my research. Everything is somehow stored deep in my subconscious and when I am writing it rises up and evolves. I don’t know what the plot or storyline is actually going to be until I am writing. I really do not know what is going to happen two pages ahead.

The vivid descriptions and breathtaking scenery of the small village of Penrhos Bay plays a crucial role in this novel. Why did you choose this particular setting for the battle of angels vs demons to take place?

For me a small town embodies everything that is good and all that is not, just like any great metropolis. North Wales is a stunning part of the UK and a perfect setting for the novel.

My wife organised a Christian concert in the largest church in Llandudno (Penrhos Bay in the book). Many people who came were not believers. The main singer, a famous Christian in the UK, preached the good news at the end and invited folk to come forward and accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Many did. The minister whose church it was purposely stayed away that night knowing it was going to be an ‘evangelical’ event. Later that night another minister sidled up to me and said “You know Fred, that’s the first time the Gospel has been preached in this church for many years!” That comment started me thinking … what if the largest church in town was run by a selfish vicar who unwittingly set himself up for being manipulated by Satan? He was an easy character to develop … I guess I have met many just like him. It was fun to see what depths he would stoop to satisfy his own desires.

How did you come up with the title of the book?

It’s a quotation from the Old Testament. Job 18:5 ‘Yea, the light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark of his fire shall not shine.’ I like paradoxes, especially in literature and the idea that the wicked could emanate light intrigued me. The personification of this thought is embodied in the charismatic fallen angel ‘Ganymede’.

Oh, yes. Ganymede. I shiver as I remember how smoothly he was able to manipulate and twist the truth of God’s word. His beauty was the perfect disguise for his deception. It’s scary to think how many people everyday are pulled away from the truth by crafty lies like his. Is this one of the reasons that you feel like stories like Light of the Damned need to be told?

Read Dr. Karl Payne’s book on Spiritual Warfare. He has tried to truthfully describe the spiritual battles that so adversely affect the lives of many Christians, particularly in the USA. His book had a profound affect on me and I wanted to tell a story that helped to propagate these truths.

An emotional connection with the reader is essential in writing. What has been the typical response that you’ve received from your readers so far?

Some read the book for enjoyment. It has had some success as a cross-over book. Non-Christians have written good reviews (see my website www.fjohnhurr.com) and many Christians have told me that it has opened their eyes to the truth about spiritual warfare which is vital in comprehending the full nature of the kingdom of God on earth and as St. Paul writes ’…and in the heavenlies.” A wise man once said that Satan’s greatest lie is to get people to believe that he does not exist. Even in Christendom he has largely succeeded.

Readers like to have a spiritual connection as well as an emotional one. As an author, why is the Christian Fiction genre important to you?

The spiritual life is immensely important to me. I have read many books on the subject of how we can know God more by allowing His Spirit to commune with ours. One of the best speakers on this subject is Father Thomas Keating. Catch him on YouTube.

What would you like the reader to take away from this novel?

Enjoyment, deep thoughts, question what is truth and reality in ourselves and in our world and most of all somehow through the pages come to know that Jesus loves us and we can be alive to Him anytime, anyday. I did respond to Him when I was utterly lost in disbelief, intellectual arrogance and conceit. He was waiting for me to open my eyes and see.

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

In book 2, ‘Light of the Holy’ I tried very hard to make a place for Paul Stewart, the police detective, in the book. Loads of people identified with him and there is much of me in the character. But as hard as I tried to ‘fit him in’ it simply would not work. So I am also writing a novel where Paul (renamed John) Stewart, a police detective is the central character. It is a crime thriller where the murderer covers his tracks in surprising ways. I have done about 50,000 words so far and I think Stewart is mighty pleased he has been truly resurrected.

Yes! I’m so glad to hear that Stewart will be featured in his own novel and I can’t wait to read it. Please stop by again to keep us updated on the novel’s progress. Until then, how may our reader’s contact you?

Via the website www.fjohnhurr.com

I am always pleased to hear from readers and will respond. I like the interaction very much.

Fred, thanks again for stopping by. We look forward to hearing from you again soon!

For those who’d like to read my personal review of Light of the Damned, click here.

Kara loves to read and write supernatural suspense thrillers and is an ACFW Genesis 2013 Finalist in the Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category. BlogPhoto Resized

She’ll also keep you updated on the newest releases in Christian fiction and upcoming writing contests.

 

To contact Kara, email her at fictionwithfaith@gmail.com or by choosing one or more of the below links:

@KaraHunt2015 on Twitter

 

 

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That Crazy Writer

that crazy writer

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2015 in Humor, Writing

 

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Memorial Day

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Join the Quid Pro Quills in honoring the individuals who’ve sacrificed their lives. Freedom is not free.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Holiday Greeting

 

The Balancing Act: Flexibility, Fact, and Fiction from Author Robin Patchen

DSC_8915-25edWelcome! You’ve picked a perfect day to visit the Quid Pro Quills. Today we chat with our very own Robin Patchen, author of One Christmas Eve, Faith House, and her latest release, Finding Amanda.

QPQ: Hi, Robin! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and wit today.

RP: My pleasure. Though you say wisdom and wit, I think foolishness and folly, but maybe I can fake my way through.

QPQ: I have no doubt you’ll do fine! First, how do you do it? You’re a wife, a mom, and a writer. How do you balance those roles?

RP: It helps that my kids are teenagers, so while they still require a lot of emotional effort and prayer (a LOT of prayer!), I don’t have to tie their shoes and button their shirts anymore. And since I quit home schooling them a few years back, I don’t have to teach them, either. So I have more time on my hands.

I also guard my time very carefully, to the degree that some might call it hoarding. I have learned to never say yes to an opportunity without praying about it first. I believe the Lord has given me a few tasks—caring for my family, writing, editing, and a couple of volunteering commitments—and He wants me to focus on those. He wants me to do those well, to improve on those always, to reach for excellence in those few areas. When I take time away from those, even for something good, there’d better be a good reason.

QPQ: That sounds like wisdom to me. Next question: How important is imagination (discipline, wit, etc.) when your title switches from author to wife and mom?

RP:  Such a good question. I’ve always had excellent concentration. A gift—and a curse. I can sit at my kitchen table surrounded by kids—mine and others’—and work, completely drowning out the people around me.  When I do that—and I’m embarrassed at how often I do—I realize I have to shut my laptop and force myself to focus on the people, because they matter most. At the same time, switching into author-mode isn’t easy in the morning after the rush of getting the kids out the door for school. Some days, it takes serious discipline.

Tweet this: Focus on the tasks God has given you and refuse to get distracted, even by good things. 

QPQ: Indeed it does. What do you consider the single most important aspect of writing? FaithHouse_w11619_680

RP: Never settling. Being a writer is hard work, and the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. I don’t want to be a good-enough writer. I want to be an excellent writer. I’m not there yet, but as long as I’m still walking the journey, I’m successful. When I get so busy with other things that I start settling, then something’s going to have to give.

QPQ: Speaking of successful, talk goal-setting and deadlines.

RP: Do I have to? When you’re not under contract, then deadlines are nearly always artificial. Nobody cares if you get your word count in today. Nobody’s watching to see if you work ten minutes or three hours. But if you don’t write, then you’re not a writer. And all I want to be is a writer.

Since I started my freelance editing business, my life is busy. Even with my kids at school all day, I have to scramble to get everything done. I realized at the beginning of this year that I no longer had the luxury of setting word-count goals for my novel. I couldn’t keep writing until I got those 2,000 words on the page, because I had other work that needed to be done. And I’m not willing to cut into my family time too much (though it’s happening more and more lately.) So now, rather than setting word-count goals, I set time goals. This week, my writing goal was to write six hours. Just 72 minutes a day for five days. I exceeded it by nearly an hour, and I finished the editing that needed to be done, too. It’s been working for me lately. God-willing, I’ll finish my latest manuscript by next Friday.

QPQ: That’s awesome. And with your time-goal system, you’re able to take weekends off and enjoy your family. Oh yeah, back to family. How do you deal with family challenges differently from, say, your latest heroine, Amanda?

RP: Oh, Amanda is a mess. I know—I was just like her until about 15 years ago. Rather than face her problems, she runs away from them. She ran away from her abuser when she switched colleges and changed her name. Then when things got tense with her husband, she was ready to throw that relationship away, too.

I struggle with the temptation to run away. Not literally, but metaphorically . . . isn’t that why God invented chocolate and wine and good books? So we could escape? But I’ve gotten more straightforward in recent years. Rather than skirting a problem these days, I much prefer to just throw it out there and deal with it.

QPQ: Do you ever wish you could respond to challenges like Amanda does when we first meet her?

RP: It would be easier—in the short run. But Amanda didn’t know what I know, that God is in it—whatever “it” is—and He has a plan. When we trust Him, we don’t have to fix things ourselves or run away.

QPQ: Trusting is the key, isn’t it? But it’s tough to trust when we’ve been wounded. As a romantic suspense author, do you find it difficult to write Happily Ever Afters (HEAs) in a world that is often cruel and unjust? OneChristmasEve_h11283_300

RP: Absolutely, because sometimes, our endings feel too contrived. In this world, endings rarely get tied up in neat little packages. My husband read one of my unpublished novels, Longing for Birches, and when it was over, he said, “I knew you were going to wrap it up like that.” It wasn’t a compliment. He felt like the Happily Ever After was a little too easy in that novel, and he was probably right. Truth is, we long for happy endings, because we so often don’t get to see them in real life. So I’ll keep writing them, whether my husband likes them or not.

QPQ: I’m so glad! You recently stated the following as a favorite quote from author D. L. Doctorow: “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” Are there times you wish your protagonists would give you some peace and quiet?

RP: Not as much as I used to. In fact, I miss those voices. These days, I have to coax them out. Not sure what the psychiatrists would say about that.

QPQ: They’d say you’re a writer. Now, if your life correlated with a fictional character, who would you be?

RP: In a way, I’m like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. She was slightly clueless (though in her case, she was a child, so she has a good excuse), observing the world and trying to figure it out, and often jumping to completely wrong conclusions.  At the same time, she truly wanted to understand, and she learned through the process. I can see that aspect of her personality in me.

QPQ: Interesting. And if you could choose to be any fictional character? Who would you choose?

RP: Harry Potter’s brilliant friend, Hermoine Granger. She’s smart, she’s talented, and she can perform magic. What’s not to like?

QPQ: If you weren’t an author, what career would you pursue?

RP: If I weren’t this author, I’d want to be bestselling author. Is that a cop-out answer? I love my job.

QPQ: It shows! Tell us about your latest novel, Finding Amanda.

RP: Here you are: findingamanda

Chef and popular blogger Amanda Johnson hopes publishing her memoir will provide healing and justice. Her estranged husband, contractor and veteran soldier Mark Johnson, tries to talk her out of it, fearing the psychiatrist who seduced her when she was a teen might return to silence her.

But Amanda doesn’t need advice, certainly not from her judgmental soon-to-be ex-husband. Her overconfidence makes her vulnerable when she travels out of town and runs into the abuser from her past. A kind stranger comes to her rescue and offers her protection.

Now Mark must safeguard his wife both from the fiend who threatens her life and from the stranger who threatens their marriage.

QPQ: I love it! For your fans, what’s next?

RP: For all my fans (Hi Mom!), I’m planning to release a prequel novella this summer that tells the story of how Mark and Amanda met. It’s tentatively titled Falling for Amanda, and it’ll be free on Kindle, so be sure to check it out. I’m about to finish a first draft of another romantic suspense. I have a couple of finished novels waiting in the wings, but I’m not sure what God’s plan is for them yet.

QPQ: I can’t wait to find out! Thank you for sharing with us, Robin. God bless your writing! RobinFinding Amanda is available now from: Amazon, iTunesKobo, and Barnes & Noble. Robin loves to hear from her readers. You can find her at her websiteRobin’s Red Pen, and Goodreads. Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband and three teenagers. Her third book, Finding Amanda, released in April. When Robin isn’t writing or caring for her family, she works as a freelance editor at Robin’s Red Pen, where she specializes in Christian fiction. Read excerpts and find out more at her website, robinpatchen.com.   ~ Jericha Kingston

 

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Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Take this journey of broken souls restored and tentative hearts brought fully to life.

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Bethany House Publishers

When a family tragedy derails Henry Phillips’s college studies, he’s left unmoored and feeling abandoned. Although Henry tries to find escape in bad company, the only things that can tamp down his anger and grief are the family farm, his fiddle, and sweet but unusual pre-teen Mayfair Hoffman.

Unfortunately, Mayfair’s older sister, Margaret, with the freckles and cute, turned-up nose, has the opposite effect. Worse, she’s his grandmother’s housekeeper and helper, so she’s always around and ready to push his buttons. At first he thinks she doesn’t care about his loss, before beginning to understand she’s facing her own struggles. Mayfair’s health and unique gift sit at the heart of those worries, and Henry and Margaret soon find themselves relying on each other as both Henry’s future and Mayfair’s life are put at risk.

My Review

A captivating story of lessons learned, growing faith, and the power of love. Until the Harvest is a beautiful reminder of how different the world could be if we all strove to be more like Jesus. 

Henry Phillips longs to redo the last night he had with his father. His new-found responsibility as provider to his mom and grandmother has him looking for solutions in all the wrong places. On his reckless journey between young adult and man, he befriends Margaret and her younger sister, Mayfair, a diabetic preteen with a special gift. As Henry finds his life’s purpose, he stumbles upon truth–a truth that sets him free.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Miracle In a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas, to anyone searching for a unique story line, and to those who believe in the power of healing.

I gave this book 4.5 stars!

~Review by Candice Sue Patterson

_______________________________________________________________________________Sarah Loudin Thomas

Sarah Loudin Thomas is a fund-raiser for a children’s ministry who has also published freelance writing for Now & Then magazine, as well as the Asheville Citizen-Times. She holds a bachelor’s in English from Coastal Carolina University and is the author of the acclaimed novel Miracle in a Dry Season. She and her husband reside in Asheville, North Carolina. Visit her online a www.sarahloudinthomas.com.

 

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Author Interview with Neal Abbott

bhI’m happy to welcome Neal Abbott to the author chair today. I met Neal through an author Facebook group and was honored to be a guest on his blog this spring. I’m thrilled he could return the favor and stop by to celebrate his newest release.

QPQ: Glad to have you here, Neal. Tell us about your latest book.

Neal: Bloodhound is my fifth novel. It’s the tale about the pathos of a Depression-era Oklahoma lawman named Oscar Morgan, the city marshal of Blanchard.

QPQ: Blanchard. What a small world. My grandparents grew up in Blanchard, Oklahoma. For those of you who don’t know, Blanchard’s a pretty small town southwest of Oklahoma City. How did you come up with this story idea?

Neal: there are two sources of inspiration. First of all, Oscar Morgan is a relative of mine. He was the marshal of Blanchard in the 1930s and 40s. But everything in my novel is fictional. He was fairly famous for tracking and arresting a serial killer, so I’ve wanted for a while to write a fictional account of his manhunts.

But the story is more than one arrest. I’ve always enjoyed using intertextual layering in my writing. In the past I’ve used such classic tales as Faust, Thomas Supten, Don Carlos, and Aeneas. I’ve wanted to write a novel based on the labors of Hercules, and Bloodhound is that effort. Oscar Morgan endures the same struggles as Hercules, but instead of hunting lions and boars, he’s after bootleggers and thieves, and yes, a serial killer.

QPQ: How is this story different from your other books? How is it similar?

Neal: The similarity is easier to discuss. All of my novels so far deal with a main character who struggles with the choice between doing what he wants to do and what he ought to do. They are all challenged with obstacles and tempted with an easy way out. But in the end they learn that sacrifice is better than selfishness. Oscar Morgan also faces this same challenge.

Bloodhound is different than my previous four novels in that … well, I can’t really see how it is different. All of my novels have their own setting, and all of the characters have their own quirks, but Marshal Oscar Morgan in Bloodhound struggles against interior and exterior forces to be a good person. All of my protagonists fight that noble fight (that is, until my next novel)

QPQ: Interesting. Seems your writing is taking a new direction. What advice do you have for others who want to publish a book?

Neal: There are some things I wish I knew before I started my first novel. Most of these things have to do with the business side of publishing. An author should learn the publishing business, including marketing. And even before you begin writing you should start building you platform. The best way to go about that is with a blog and a social media presence. Also, there are experts out there who can help in ways you will never know until you go after them. There are professional editors, cover designers, and marketers who can help you.

As far as writing advice, keep on writing. You don’t have to be Hemingway to start your first book. Start it and then finish it. Nothing will stick in your craw more than an unfinished manuscript. Make friends of other writers, both local and on the Internet. Get a few readers whose opinion you trust to read your stuff. And never refer to yourself as an aspiring writer. You are a writer!

QPQ
: What’s coming next for you?

Neal: In June I plan on starting my sixth novel, Entanglement. It’s a slight departure from my previous books. My main character, Rex Monday, is faced with the same challenge of choosing what he wants to do and what he ought to do. But this time, Rex goes with what he wants to do, and his selfishness ruins his life.

I love Russian literature, and one character type common in 19th century Russian literature is the Superfluous Man. They were the idle rich who chased women, gambled, and often got in duels. Rex lives recklessly and other people pay, but he pays the biggest price at the end.

QPQ: And finally, where can readers connect with you on-line?headshot
Neal: Here are a few links to my social media pages:

Bloodhound Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Bloodhound-neal-abbott/dp/150608964X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1430933263&sr=1-1
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/nealabbottcreativewriter
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/neal-abbott/e/B009T36LWK/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_11?qid=1431357361&sr=8-11
Creative Writing Blog “A Word Fitly Spoken”: https://nealabbott.wordpress.com/

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Colonial Steamed Brown Bread

Brown BreadA big part of writing historical fiction is research. If you don’t do the history well – it’s just fiction. And trust me, you’re going to honk off a bunch of history geeks in the process. Having been that honked off history geek a time or two, I know what I’m talking about.

I love to cook and bake. Always have. It’s another creative outlet for me. Combining my love of history with my love of cooking and baking was a no-brainer. So researching colonial-era cooking for my book? That was fun!

My grandma used to make what she called Boston Brown Bread. I discovered that the Colonial Steamed Brown Bread is very close to what grandma made. I think hers was considered “Boston” because it was served with baked beans.

Home ovens were rare in Colonial times. The fort or settlement would have one oven, maybe two, that were shared. Yeast breads were baked only when the oven was available and heated.

Steaming breads was something that could be done in the hearth over an open fire. The bread – not a yeast bread, but more like our modern-day quick breads – was poured into a bowl of some sort, placed into a Dutch Oven with water about half-way up the sides of the bowl, covered with a lid, and swung over the fire to steam for anywhere from one to three hours, depending on the size of the bowl.

Wash 3 soup cans, roughly 15 oz size, grease well

Prepare your steamer, get the water boiling

Mix together:

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup rye flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. cooking oil (lard or bacon grease would be more authentic)
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup milk
1 teas. salt
1 teas. baking soda

Divide into the 3 greased cans (cans will be just over 1/2 full to allow the bread to rise). Top each can with a square of aluminium foil. Secure with a rubber band or string. Set cans into the steamer. Steam for 1 hour. Remove to a rack to cool. Immediately remove foil. Cool 10 minutes. Remove bread from cans. The texture is like a moist cornbread, but the flavor is unique. Wonderful served warm with butter and jam, or for the “Boston” variety, smothered with some rich and tasty baked beans.

~ Pegg Thomas

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Pegg Thomas, Recipe

 

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