Suspense Author Leann Sain shares her journey and her latest release

Today I welcome suspense author Leanna Sian to talk about her newest release Hush. Her writing journey intrigued me. I’ll let Leann tell you.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. My mother told me I was constantly making tiny books with illustrations. That carried over into adulthood. I was an art major in college with an English minor…the best of both worlds: drawing pictures and writing. But I’d never written a novel, never dreamed there was one inside of me. But that all changed on Halloween, fifteen years ago, and it was all because of a gate.

We were at a friend’s farmhouse for a Halloween party and after dinner we hiked out a gravel road to a spooky cemetery nearby. On the way back, my flashlight glanced over to the right, landing on an old wooden gate. Yes, this was a farm, so a gate shouldn’t be a shock. They sort of go hand in hand. But this one didn’t have a fence attached. It was just a gate, sitting at the edge of a pasture. It struck me as so unusual that I asked my friend, “Lisa, why is there a gate with no fence?”

“I don’t know,” she answered. “It was there when we bought the place.”

“Dum, dum, dummmm,” I replied in my spookiest voice. “The gate to nowhere…”

She laughed. “Sounds like the name of book.”

“Yeah, it does, doesn’t it?”

“Why don’t you write it?”

“Maybe I will.”

That conversation marks the beginning of my novel-writing life, resulting in the trilogy, Gate to Nowhere, Return to Nowhere, and Magnolia Blossoms. Hush is my seventh novel, its sequel is almost finished and I have two more manuscripts completed. And the ideas keep coming. It’s like a cork has been pulled from a bottle and stories keep glugging out. As it stands now, I’ll have to live forever to get them all written.

 

What’s your latest writing project?

My latest book is entitled, Hush. It’s a suspense novel set in the north Florida coastal town of Fernandina Beach. A serial killer is using the verses of the lullaby, “Hush, little baby” as a blueprint for murdering young women. My main character, Lacey Campbell, dreams the murders before they happen, but only in bits and pieces, not enough clues to be able to stop the crimes before they happen. Detective Ford Jamison is called in to help the local police and he soon has a working theory: the killer is targeting women who look remarkably like Lacey. This knowledge doesn’t slow the killings, and now Lacey is afraid to fall asleep because the next face she sees in her dreams might be her own.  Time is running out. Can they stop the killer before he reaches the end of the lullaby?

How do you research for your book?

If I can, I like to visit the setting…get a good feel for the place, take lots of photographs, and do tons of online research. I strive to make any history in the book completely accurate; same with street names, directions, landmarks, etc.… It’s important to me that everything is correct. Yes, it’s a fictional story, but the setting is real.

What inspired you to write your book?

The idea of a serial killer using the lullaby as his blueprint had been knocking around in my brain for a while, but I didn’t start writing the story until my mother really started going downhill with her Alzheimer’s disease. Watching my mother struggle through the final stages of this disease was awful. There was a lot of anger and frustration, as well as the sadness of watching the amazing woman who was Pattie Hewitt, disappear. Alzheimer’s isn’t just a death sentence. It’s the worst kind of death. The disease slowly steals away all that makes a person who they are, leaving an empty shell. First it takes memories, and if that isn’t enough, it steals abilities, like dressing yourself, brushing your teeth, speech, and even the basic ability to swallow. By the end, you’re praying for God to take them home.

I used writing Hush as therapy, a way to release those negative emotions. I made Lacey’s mom have Alzheimer’s, which was a mean thing to do, but it allowed me to weave some of the things my mom said and did right into the story. It helped me to have that small element of control at a time when everything else seemed out of control. I dedicated the book to her, but wanted to do more, so I’m donating my book royalties to Alzheimer’s research in hopes that they’ll find a cure for this terrible disease and that others won’t have to go through what my family did.

 

My father died of this horrible disease. I can so relate to your need to get the negative out.

 

Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?

John 16:33. “These things have I spoken unto you that in me you might have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”

If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?

Start writing sooner. Great advice.

Who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?

My husband is my number one fan and best critic. He always points out things that I never see. Maybe it’s the way a man’s mind works, but I depend on his input.

I’m also in two different writer’s groups. I think it’s important to have several pairs of good eyes on my work to help me polish it into the best that it can be.

I love to hear about supportive spouses. I think men do have a different view and it does help. My hubby is a great support too.

 

What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

I love the magical realism of Sarah Addison Allen, Mary Kay Andrews’ quirky, laugh-out-loud books, Jan Karon’s Mitford books, and Sue Grafton’s alphabet mysteries. It makes me sad that she didn’t get to give us the “Z” book before she died.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

There’s a little one-room cabin up in Maggie Valley, NC  where I’ve been going for a week at a time, by myself, for years. It’s isolated, quiet and magical. The words just FLOW when I’m there. Although I can write almost anywhere, I’ve found that the “magic” doesn’t kick in until I’m somewhere alone and isolated, with no distractions. That’s not easy to find at home. There’s always something that needs to be done.

How wonderful to have such an isolated place to get the work done. I’m envious. Thanks so much for joining me today. I found the story more than interesting. Here is a link to my review. It kept me from working on my own novel I was so intrigued.  I love the cover. Click here to order.

Back cover copy

Hush – by Leanna Sain

She dreams a murder before it happens.

A young woman is strangled while her killer sings the words from the lullaby “Hush, Little Baby.”

Lacey Campbell’s life is full, but not idyllic. As head chef for a chic restaurant and primary caregiver to a mother with Alzheimer’s, she doesn’t have time for the nightmare and at first she tries to deny it. But the next day, she discovers it’s a disturbing reality. When she dreams the second heinous murder she knows it’s time to tell the police.

Detective Ford Jamison is called back to the little coastal town to help with the case and soon notices an alarming trend: the killer is using the lullaby as a “blueprint” to target women who resemble Lacey. This doesn’t slow the killings and now Lacey is afraid to fall asleep at night because the next face she sees in her dream might be her own.

As a hurricane churns ever closer to the little coastal town, danger and suspicion spin out of control. Time is running out. Can they stop the killer before the last verse of the lullaby?

 

More about Leanna Sain:

North Carolina author, Leanna Sain, earned her BA from the University of South Carolina, before moving back to mountains of  NC. Her Southern suspense or “GRIT-lit,” showcases her plot-driven method that successfully rolls elements of best-selling authors Mary Kay Andrews, Nicholas Sparks, and Jan Karon all together, making it her own. Her writing accolades include: Foreword Magazine’s Book-of-the-Year; nominations for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award and the Global Ebook Award; and the Clark Cox Historical Fiction Award from the NC Society of Historians for her time travel trilogy (Gate to Nowhere; Return to Nowhere; Magnolia Blossoms.) She loves leading discussion groups and book clubs. For more information or to contact her, visit: www.LeannaSain.com

 

Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hush-Leanna-Sain/dp/1645262502/ref=sr_1_1?

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Leannasbooks

Twitter: https://LeannaSain@Leannasbooks

Website and blog: http://leannasain.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/LeannaSain

 

 

Avoiding Conflict? Not in good writing!

I hate conflict. I don’t like getting into disagreements with my husband. I don’t like having a spat with a friend. As a parent, I hated the constant conflict resolution that was needed when my two kids didn’t get along. As a teacher, I sure didn’t enjoy being the one who had to break up the many tiffs between pubescent girls. And as a Grandma? Well, let’s just say that I sometimes choose to become an ostrich.

 

So when I began writing fiction, I had a problem. I knew that conflict is a main ingredient to a good story, and if I was going to write good, compelling fiction, I had to have compelling conflict that would hold the reader’s attention. But how was I going to address the very thing I was tempted to run from? I had to settle that question, and quick!

 

Although conflict is often present in almost every day of most of our lives, we often overlook or ignore it. For me, when confronted with conflict, I tend to self-talk, fret, stew, worry, and struggle with sleepless nights. But those ways of dealing with conflict won’t make a good story.

 

Conflict is uncomfortable, and most conflict just plain hurts. But that’s what keeps readers reading. Like you and me, readers want to know how others deal with conflict, how characters try and fail and try again and finally succeed.

Because it’s hard for me to invent conflict when I want to avoid it, I had to be aware of this weakness. So when I was doing my rewrites and editing, I often had to add an element of conflict or deepen it. In Sara’s Surprise, there’s a lot of conflict going on—conflict I drew from personal experience.

Have you ever been harassed by an employer? I have, and it’s pretty traumatizing. In this “Me Too” movement, lots of women are speaking up about their trials and tribulations in the workplace, so I decided to explore the topic.

In Sara’s Surprise, her boss abuses her in lots of ways, as was all-too-common in 1873. Women had no recourse and often feared they’d be blamed and dismissed from their jobs, so they kept silent. Back then, women were often devalued and unappreciated, underpaid and treated poorly. And men took advantage of the cultural norms of the day.

As a single mom in the early 1990s, I was treated poorly too, and I regret that I was afraid to speak up and expose the nasty man who threatened, teased, and tormented me. As a leader in the organization, that should never have occurred, but it did. Thankfully, today’s climate is more open to reporting such abuse.

Sara’s Surprise explores this problem from several angles. But in the midst of Sara’s trials, she falls in love and learns a lot about the art of baking French pastries. And the lovely Christmas surprise will delight you this holiday season. I hope you’ll pick up a copy and enjoy the story.

Back Cover Copy of  Sarah’s Surprise:

Sara O’Neill, works as an assistant pastry chef at the magnificent Thousand Islands Crossmon Hotel where she meets precocious, lovable, seven-year-old Madison and her charming father and hotel manager, Sean Graham. But Jacque LaFleur, the pastry chef Sara works under, makes her dream job a nightmare. Sean Graham has trouble keeping his mind off Sara and Madison out of mischief. Though he finds Sara captivating, he despises LaFleur and misreads Sara’s desire to learn from the pastry chef as affection. Can Sean learn to trust Sara and can she trust herself to be an instant mother?

Author bio:

Susan G Mathis is a multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Katelyn’s Choice, the first in The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, is available now, and book two, Devyn’s Dilemma, releases in April, 2020. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family LegacyChristmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are available now. Visit www.SusanGMathis.comfor more.

 

Susan is also a published author of two premarital books with her husband, Dale, two children’s picture books, stories in a dozen compilations, and hundreds of published articles. Susan makes her home in Colorado Springs, enjoys traveling globally with her wonderful husband, Dale, and relishes each time she gets to see or Skype with her four granddaughters.

 

Buying links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Saras-Surprise-Susan-G-Mathis/dp/1087235715

Website: www.SusanGMathis.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SusanGMathis

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@SusanGMathis

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/susangmathis

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/susangmathisaut

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6044608.Susan_G_Mathis

 

Pat Nichols shares about things in her newest novel that came from real life

Pat Nichols is visiting Jubilee Writer once again. She has a new release in her Willow Falls Series The Trouble in Willow Falls releases this week. I think you’ll enjoy hearing how many little things from her life ended up in her novels. In years past I often wondered if writers wove snippets from their lives into their novels. When I retired from the corporate world and launched career number two as an author, details from my life somehow slipped into my stories. For example, Emily Hayes stirs vanilla creamer and honey into her coffee. I add the creamer and our daughter the honey. Rack of lamb is one of Rachel Streetman’s favorite dishes. Mine too. Although I don’t have a clue how to prepare it. In The Trouble in Willow Falls, which released November 11, Rachel orders lobster bisque and Dover sole; two of my favorite menu finds.

In The Secret of Willow Inn Emily picks up a dark-red pillow embellishing the gold bedspread in her parent’s room. An apt description of our bed—with five red pillows. Emily also mentions her mother loving books about the south, especially Eugenia Price’s novels. Who was my mother’s favorite author? You guessed it; Eugenia Price. Francine Rivers, who’s one of my favorite Christian writers, is also mentioned.

What about pets? Over the years black Labradors were part of our family. Emily’s dog Cody is a golden lab. Another golden finds its way into The Trouble in Willow Falls. My sister prefers cats, so Mittens shows up in Willow Falls book three, scheduled for release in February 2021.

Emily’s mother loved to decorate for Christmas, with lots of trees. The tradition continues at Willow Inn. Sadie’s favorite? A peacock tree. I have eleven decorated trees in my house, most of them tabletop and two only eighteen inches high. The tall tree in our living room is peacock themed, so is the fireplace mantle.

Because writers tend to write what they know, I imagine a lot of books provide glimpses into their personal worlds. Unless they write murder mysteries. So far, no dead bodies have shown up in Willow Falls. Although there is mystery and who knows what might happen in book four, which is my current work in progress, or book five.

Bio:

Retired from a twenty-seven-year corporate career, Pat Nichols draws on her experience in seven different management positions working with hundreds of amazing women from all walks of life to create stories about women facing tension-laced challenges and heart-warming triumphs in the pursuit of their dreams. Pat received a 2018 NGCWC Georgia Peach Awards for her short story, The Vet and Valentine’s Day, and a 2019 NGCWC Georgia Peach Award for Willow Falls series book three. She received the 2017 CRWNA Woman of the Year Award and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Word Weavers International. She has been featured on WATC Television Atlanta Alive and in Voyager Magazine http://voyageatl.com/interview/meet-pat-nichols-author-duluth/

The Trouble in Willow Falls and The Secret of Willow Inn are available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WGWFP72/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-secret-of-willow-inn-pat-nichols/1130029556

https://shoplpc.com/the-trouble-in-willow-falls/

https://patnicholsauthor.blog

https://www.facebook.com/pat.nichols.52459

https://twitter.com/PatNichols16

 

How many of you who write novels have added things to your story world from real life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for polishing your manuscript for submission

Again, today I will share a few things I took away from the Serious Writer Boot Camp I attended last month. Imagine you’ve finished your draft of your story and now you need to go back over it, polishing it to a fine shine. Editors will always find something that needs to change, it’s what publishers pay them for. 😊 But there are things that can get your manuscripts rejected out of hand. We all know to catch all typos and grammar errors. No matter how good the story, no editor will consider it worth their time to fix those. There are several things you can do beyond running the spell/grammar check on your word document. Read it out loud. I like to use a read-aloud app. Word has it in the review tab. A monotone voice reads to you and it’s amazing the errors you can hear.  Find a friend or family member to proofread for grammar and spelling. Fresh eyes find what you miss. After that is done, it is still not ready to send to a publisher.

 

 

Try the Look Method

Use the zoom button in Word and zoom out to view a whole chapter at once. ( Each version of Word has it in a different place. I won’t give instructions here.) Scroll through your chapter pages and look at the first word in each paragraph, does the same word appear often? Change some of those opening lines. Then do the same with each paragraph. How many times does a sentence begin with the same word?  Fix those sentences. When you do, you’ll be surprised how much stronger the paragraph becomes.

Boot “as” out of your manuscript

Eliminate “as” in your manuscript. Most of the time what you are describing is better said as two sentences.

Example: Clara worked on her sewing as the sunset, making it hard to see her stretches.

Instead: The sunset over the horizon. Clara strained to see the sewing in her hand in the fading light.

My example could still be improved upon. I hope you get the idea. It was recommended to remove 95% of them from your book. That’s a lot of “as”.

No “was”

Limit the use of was, and its tenses. In dialog it’s fine.

“I was with her.”

But find more creative ways to describe something without using was. Sometimes was is fine. But too many screams amateur writing. Also eliminate it, that, there, they especially preceding was.

It was a terrible day.

That was unexpected.

They were all together.

Can you improve on these sentences?

Just do away with overused words

Is there a word you use a lot? Just is my bugaboo. So, I use the find tab and it highlights just in my manuscript. Often a sentence is fine without it.

I just want to say.

I want to say.

Just leave me alone.

Leave me alone.

Just who do you think you are?

Who do you think you are?

I know these are dull sentences, but I think you get my drift.

 

You may have lots of grinning, teasing, chuckling going on that becomes distracting to the reader.  My suggestion is to grab a thesaurus or find one online to change up your wording.

 

Hope you found these helpful. Rather than overwhelm you, I’ll share a few more tips in my next post.

 

Share some of your best practice in polishing manuscripts in the comments.