Small towns are popular settings in novels

My husband in front of replica of Mayberry Courthouse.

Take a careful look at many of the fiction books you read. How many take place in small towns? There is something about those settings that draw a reader in far more than large cities. Some of my favorite authors in a variety of genres set their stories in a small town and introduce me to a plethora of characters that eventually are featured in another book in the series. Sometimes those characters play a bigger supporting role in future stories while never moving away from their secondary character status. Don’t we all love those characters?

Mayberry fans- does it look familiar?

Setting can become a character all its own. Only in that small-town setting can the whole town know your business. Only in a closed community can stricter moral codes be enforced, i.e. Amish or historical settings.

My husband and I are presently visiting my son in North Carolina. On the way to his home, we took a side trip and visited Mount Airy, North Carolina, the prototype for the Andy Griffith TV Show setting of Mayberry. A show I grew up watching religiously.  Visiting this town and the fun sites they created to pay tribute to Andy Griffith and the cast of Mayberry was nostalgic. They even have replicas of Mayberry’s police car, which they use for driving tours of Mount Airy. It felt so much like I was visiting a long-lost family. The characters in the show were based on actual people and some of the stores and sites were actually in or near Mt. Airy at one time. (Remember Mount Pilot?) Some of the buildings are still standing and others were recreated for tourists. There is an Andy Griffith museum to tour.  And of course lots of souvenir shops.

Fun tour of Mount Ary in a replica of Mayberry Patrol car. The tour guide would run the siren and town’s folk and tourist would wave. So welcoming.

We took the patrol car tour and were introduced to other things in Mount Airy beyond Andy Griffith and the fictitious Mayberry. The driver was not only knowledgable but friendly. He made us feel like we were listening to family stories.

This is why small-town settings in novels bring readers back time and time again. Whether the story is a mystery,  historical romance, or a Love Inspired novel, small-town settings draw readers.

Not that you can’t set your crime drama in Chicago or New Orleans. But there is just something about a dead librarian that warrants an investigation by the citizens of the village. And the possibilities for quirky characters abound.  And who would Andy Taylor be without Barney, Gomer, and a town full of nosey caring neighbors? If he were sheriff of a large city his character would be labeled a buffoon. But in Mayberry, we accept his southern wisdom and a bumbling deputy Barney, who we immediately loved.

Otis’ personal cell in Mayberry jail.

You can set a romance in New York, Paris, or Tuscany. But it often focuses on a small niche of people rather than the whole city. But a series of romances circling around a family of males, be they firefighters, ranchers or billionaires set in a small town keeps readers coming back to purchase the next installment until all those hunky men are wed. Readers fall in love with the whole family and the secondary characters and can’t wait to see the next brother’s happily-ever-after.

If the setting is written with a you-are-there feeling, then the reader wants to return to that town time and time again. Some publishers prefer small-town settings because that is what sells for them. And sales are the bottom line. So consider creating or borrowing a real small-town setting for your next WIP and see how your characters develop.

Do you prefer small-town settings? What is your favorite book set in a small town?


Two things happening today

My book Secrets and Charades is on sale for 99 cents until the 25th. Part of some marketing I am doing to promote it.

This was my attempt at a meme on Canva. Still have a learning curve. I have other memes but wanted to try something new. Sometimes it feels like I do more marketing than writing.

Also today I am live on Wordplay, Kristen Raymond’s podcast. It was a fun interview. Being unrehearsed made it interesting and also very nerve-wracking. You can check it out at the link below. It gives you several options to use to listen. Listen quick because I’m talking fast. LOL! If the link doesn’t work for you from here cut and paste it into your  browser.

I waited to post my blog today so this link would be available.

If you’d like to promote your books with a podcast interview you can also sign up to be a guest on Kristen Raymond’s podcast at



Sex in Inspirational and Clean Romance

I know I am opening a can of worms here, but It’s my blog and I’ll say what I want too. 😊

As a romance writer whose audience prefers a clean read the question authors have is how to define it. Clean or cozy romance general means all the steamy stuff happens behind closed doors. The details are left to the readers’ imagination. But the attraction, the warm fuzzies, and sexual tension are part of what the reader sees on the page. Hugs, kisses that grow in intensity, cuddling close, and pressing close fully clothed are all acceptable in this definition. Lots of sparks and tingly sensations and a head full of thoughts of the love interest. Keeping the bedroom door closed is the basic definition of a clean romance. Inspirational romance falls in that same category. There may be intense moments and a suggestion of sex, but the shades are drawn for the reader.

Marriage bed

Now we come to the burning question, what about married sex?  That is an interesting question. I recently read a series of inspirational historical romance where among the scripture references and prayer the reader watches the main characters have sex for the first time. The author I suppose did it tastefully, but it still mentioned body parts and what the couple was doing including groans. Not something I’d want my middle-school granddaughter to read. And that is the key. Most people who read clean romance, especially of the inspirational kind will share the book with the younger generation. The characters are an example of the kind of successful relationship I would want my granddaughters to experience. Although we live in a very liberal society I find it discomforting to think she might stumble across something explicit on my bookshelf.

In the middle ages when royalty wed there were witnesses on their wedding night. A priest and perhaps another man would watch the couple consummate their marriage. Then there was no doubt that the two were truly married in every way. I’m sorry—but EWWW! I wouldn’t be married today if someone had been permitted to watch.

But it’s make-believe

Yes, I know, romance novels aren’t about real people. But explicit descriptions stir things in a reader that may make them uncomfortable. When they pick up what they expect to be clean and find more than they bargained for they will either throw it across the room or give the author a terrible review or both.

Because the scripture is my guidebook and every reference to sex in the Bible leaves the details to the imagination I use that as my guide as I write my stories. Sex in the confines of marriage is to be celebrated. Even if we have characters who struggle with the issues of intimacy the writer can show how they overcame it without giving graphic details.

Let’s define graphic

Graphic details have a different meaning from one person to another. Some readers don’t even want the name of body parts mentioned i.e. breasts would become upper torso. (I know that is extreme.)  For others, the steam can get intense but at that key moment the door is shut for the reader and we rejoin the couple the next morning.

Most publishers have their definition of what is acceptable in the pages of their novels based on their audience. Before you begin to craft those scenes, read books from their romance line, and learn what they expect. If it makes you feel uncomfortable then find a different publisher who fits your preferences.

A well-written romance will sell even without sex scenes. The story arc, the characters’ inner struggles, and eventually victories of the hero and heroine are what these readers want. A truly happily-ever-after ending leaves them giddy.

This whole post is about clean romance only. Now I’m going to ask you: –

What are your thoughts on the subject?  


Fiction outside the Box

I’m so excited to have Norma Gail here again to talk about her newest release Within Golden Bands. Could not put this wonderful books down.

Fiction Outside the Box

By Norma Gail


Fiction Outside the Box could be my tagline instead of Fiction to Refresh Your Spirit. My new release, Within Golden Bands follows the lead of my debut novel, Land of My Dreams in that it’s not a predictable “Hallmark Movie” scenario. I write Christian romance, and romantic suspense. However, if you don’t read romance because of worn and repetitive elements, you’ll find more than one twist in my books.


Set in contemporary times, American female protagonist, Bonny, moved to Scotland in Book One, where she met Kieran MacDonell, a Scottish sheep farmer. My second book, following the same characters, enters the realm of romantic suspense. Some elements edge toward women’s fiction, since the story explores infertility and adoption. Add in long-hidden family secrets and a crazed stalker who seeks to steal their livelihood and their lives. Kieran and Bonny, never have a dull moment.

Lest the term women’s fiction sound too heavy, throw in a blend of ingredients from happily-ever-after, to fast-moving suspense, with a dash of heartbreak. In a world where nothing goes as planned, fiction shouldn’t be predictable either. To borrow from one of my reviewers: anyone can write a love story where the couple falls in love and lives happily ever after. Within Golden Bands offers a tale of deep commitment, hardship, and loss, tied together by an abiding faith in Christ.


Abortion is a hot topic once again. As the adoptive mom of two adult children, I believe more people should see adoption as a positive option for an unplanned pregnancy. No spoilers, but fertility treatments can create tension in any marriage. This isn’t my story but Bonny and Kieran’s emotions are typical.


For added interest, tie in a desert-dweller’s adjustment to life in the rainiest part of Scotland. The comparison and contrast between New Mexico’s high desert mountains and misty Scottish Highlands create a backdrop for Bonny’s ping-pong ball emotions as a head-over-heels-in-love new wife to a frightened woman who longs for safety.

I invite you to hop over to my blog at to read the free first chapters of both books under “Norma’s Book News.”  Here’s hoping that my books will be your cup of Scottish Breakfast tea!


Author Bio:

Norma Gail writes Fiction to Refresh Your Spirit. Her contemporary novels, Land of My Dreams, which won the 2016 Bookvana Religious Fiction Award, and Within Golden Bands (released May 19, 2020), explore the theme of women whose faith triumphs over trials. A women’s Bible study leader for over 21 years, her devotionals and poetry have appeared at, the Stitches Thru Time blog, Inspire a Fire, and in “The Secret Place.” She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Historical Writers of America, and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Norma is a former RN who lives in the mountains of New Mexico with her husband of 44 years. They have two adult children. To connect with her, you can follow her blog, or join her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads, BookBub, or Amazon.


I am excited to announce that anyone who comments on my blog will be put in a drawing for a chance to win a copy of Within Golden Bands. The winner can choose either e-book format or paperback ( US only).


Tasting the air: senses heightened during the lockdown

The wind blew hair in my face as I walked beside my husband. The breeze sent the scent of impending weather I breathed in and tasted the coming rain. If you’ve never tasted the rain you haven’t been paying attention to the world around you. A sea breeze tastes salty while rain carried in the air tastes and smells of dirt and clean. My senses are on high alert now longing for a fresh perspective after being confined to the house. I’m smelling, seeing, tasting, feeling things in a new way. This is a great thing for a writer. Come walk with me.

Revived senses

After being lockdown for months I am even more aware of my surroundings. A bird’s song draws my eyes to the tree as the bird flies overhead. I hear a dog’s joyful bark in the distance. All the dogs in my life run through my mind and I wonder what bred the barker might be.

My neighborhood is a nice place to walk and my senses long for something different than the sounds of the mantel clocks chime, the smell of pizza in the oven, and the feel of the upholstery on my favorite chair.

I am consciously aware of the squirrels chattering in the trees. The lawnmowers’ distinct sound reminds me everyone will be busy in their yards before the evening comes. The smell of fresh-cut grass brings back memories of working with my dad in the yard. Yardwork brought him so much joy. The one thing he was excited to share with me.

Smell and times past

The air fills with the smoky smell of burning wood. Fire pits do the job of the long-ago days of burn barrels because open fires are against city code. My son was nine when he played archeologist as he dug into the dirt where a burn barrel had once been. He found antique bottles that he still treasures over thirty years later.

Sight paints a picture

Neighbors greet us as we walk. Most are waving acquaintances. A young man basks in the sun in a lawn chair in his front yard. Reminding me that so many aren’t yet working. A pang of sadness pricks me. I pray for the unemployed. His friendly voice as we exchange a few words speaks of hope.

Weather attacks our senses

Another day while we walked in the humid afternoon that sucked the energy from me, my steps slowed, sluggishness showed my age. I’m envious of the small children who ride their bikes in the driveway oblivious of heat.

Smell and Taste evoke memories

The smell of barbeque made my mouth water and my heart sad. The lockdown prevents my three sons from coming around anytime soon to grill a variety of meat each telling the other how they marinated their chicken.

Yardwork and senses

On Saturday hubby and I till the soil. The black damp mud clings to my shovel making turning the dirt more of a challenge. The fresh dirt smell clings to me, something familiar and normal after months of strangeness. I separate bulbs to replant. Even wearing garden gloves I can feel the shape of the bulbs between my fingers. My sister will be so proud to hear I took her suggestion. She is a wonderful gardener like our late father. She finds it relaxing I just find it drudgery.

Hubby and I near the end of our day of yardwork by spreading mulch. The cedar mulch between my fingers reminds me of Guinea Pig bedding and the sweet sister who is long dead who loved them so.

Outdoors revives creativity

These walks and times outside have sparked my creativity as I pay attention to the sensory stimulation all around me. When I return home after one of these walks I notice the whir of the ceiling fan that I took no notice of all morning. I listen to the echoed, watery sound of my husband using his electric toothbrush in the bathroom. I still haven’t master letting the brush do all the work after scrubbing my teeth with a manual one all my life. Charley is always more particular in the things he does. Not so much perfection as organized. (See what I did there? Gave you a peek at my husband’s personality through the sound of an electric toothbrush.)

Senses in storytelling

See how the senses around me stir up memories. The characters in your books should have the same sorts of memory. The manure and hay odor in a stable might remind a woman of the sweet palomino she had as a child. Watching a leaf drift down the river as the chilly wind permeates her jacket and chills her flesh could bring a sense of foreboding or loneliness. Maybe the cold wind excites her with the prospect of coming snow and ski season.

Write down the senses you experience. Then you can use them to deepen your character’s experiences. In return, your readers will be even more invested in your story as they smell, hear, see, taste, and touch along with your characters.


What senses bring memories to you? How would you describe them?

Ginny Dent Brant shares her upcoming release and why she wrote it


Although I primarily write fiction I love supporting non-fiction writers as well. Ginny Dent Brant is here today to share her upcoming release and the why behind it. Thank you for sharing your heart with us today.

Unleash Your God-Given Healing:

 Eight Steps to Prevent and Survive Cancer


By Ginny Dent Brant


This book explores nutrition, lifestyle, integrative and conventional medicine, and biblical wisdom in a practical way to assist people in preventing and beating cancer while surviving the journey.

Nonfiction Inspirational book

Blurb from Back Cover

Ginny Brant’s cancer diagnosis sent her on a quest to discover what caused a health nut to contract a deadly and aggressive form of breast cancer. What she found may surprise and inspire you. Whether you’re determined to prevent this deadly disease, survive it, or prevent its recurrence, this book pulls back the curtain on cancer and answers the question “What can I do to help my doctor beat this disease?” She challenges you to change what your doctor has no control over—your lifestyle and health habits.

Brant connects the dots between nutrition, lifestyle, integrative and conventional medicine, and biblical wisdom to reveal how your body was created with self-healing mechanisms that work optimally when you do your part. But you need to get back to the Garden of Eden—the basics in life. By implementing a few lifestyle changes, you can begin building your immune system while lowering your toxic load.

Learn how to enable your body to work as God intended, thereby unleashing your God-given healing!

Why I Wrote this Book:

This was the book I never wanted to write. Cancer was the word I couldn’t say and the nightmare I could not wake up from. But the more I learned about what causes it and what I could do to help my doctors to beat it, I felt compelled to share with others to help them avoid this nightmare.

Two questions drove my research. First, What caused an aggressive and deadly cancer in a health nut like me? And second, after being told by three cancer centers that every weapon must be brought out to save my life including chemotherapy for one year, I wanted to know what I could do to help my doctors to beat my cancer and lesson the side effects of the chemotherapy. Chemo has four options and everyone wants option #1 where the chemo works with minimal side effects. And praise God, I got option#1. My doctors called me their “Rock Star” cancer patient when six weeks after chemo all blood work was within normal ranges! This cancer babe endured the worst of chemo, and I was able to climb a mountain, walk miles daily, and snow ski in between infusions.

My Book is for:

My book is written for those who desire to prevent cancer, those who are in the journey, and those who don’t want it coming back. The eight steps in my book help prevent cancer in the first place, help you get through the journey and prevent recurrence (a cancer patient’s greatest fear). The eight steps in my book also help to prevent many chronic diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, etc., and any flu or virus—yes, even COVID-19! Keeping your immune system armed and ready for battle is one of the best ways to lessen your susceptibility to any flu or virus.

Author Bio:

Ginny Dent Brant is a speaker and writer who grew up in the halls of power in Washington, DC. She has battled cancer, ministered around the world, and served on the front lines of American culture as a counselor, educator, wellness advocate, and adjunct professor. Brant’s award-winning book, Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World, was endorsed by Chuck Colson and featured in many TV and media interviews. Her cancer prevention blog and website can be found at

Personal video about my book:

Links to my book:

My website has a link to Amazon at

Amazon link


Sign up for Ginny’s cancer prevention blog and get access to download one chapter of Unleash Your God-given Healing as thank you.

If you have any questions for Ginny place them in the comments. ( The Jubilee Writer blog site.)






It’s hard to stay focused on writing in isolation

I’ve seen a number of articles encouraging writers to use this time of isolation to create. We’ve got the time now to do those things that you didn’t get done before. Another mentioned a list of historical figures who created wonderful literary works during a time of isolation.

All that encouragement is wonderful. But at some point during this whole worldwide, never experienced before stay-in-place, social distancing thing stuff happens and no creative comes. I miss hugging my family. And although we can get together on zoom—it’s not the same.

As authors, we are encouraged to add the senses to our stories. Otherwise, the scene appears flat and lifeless. So it is in the real world. I’m blessed to be in isolation with my wonderful husband. Even so, depression raises its ugly head for me. My productivity is no match for those who encourage us to hunker down and do great things.

The strangeness of this new normal makes it hard for me to focus on writing and social media promotion.  I struggle with shutting down emotionally and crawling under a rock of distress. Focusing on my writing isn’t easy.

I work part time and how we conduct business has changed. Gloves, face masks and sanitizing my work space are part of the new routine. Masks make us distant. No more leaning in close to whisper. The muffled conversation that needs to be repeated because I can’t always make out what the masked person before me is saying.  No more hugging co-workers and clients alike because of social distancing.

Now my mother has declined even more since the isolation that she has to be moved from assisted living to a nursing home. She fell because of her confused state and an undiagnosed UTI. Somehow she’d evaded the nursing staff on the evening shift, took the elevator to a different floor,  moved her wheelchair to the other end of the building and opened a stairwell door, and fell ten steps. Mom was looking for something—whether it was her daughters or some other thought she was fixated on. Her mental capacity has slowly unraveled to confusion and little recall of past events either short or long term. I’m grateful she broke no bones in her fall, but I agonize over the state of my new normal. I can’t see her, touch her, offer her a comforting word. She is lost and alone in a strange environment. Zoom and Skype don’t bring her the reassurance that I am there for her like a hug and kiss on the check. Hard to write beautiful words when the world seems ugly.

Celebrating Lily at two months on Facebook

I have a beautiful new granddaughter born on March 8th, who’ve I’ve not gotten to hold. Lily is far away in North Carolina and I watch her grow via face time and google duo from my isolation in Illinois.

My five-year-old grandson lives across town and spends the night as often as he can. Now we chat briefly on the phone. He wants so badly to come for a visit. His new normal is confusing and sad. Perhaps if I wrote children’s books I might have some clever way to help him during this time. But like my mother, he must trust me when I say it’s important to stay inside until it is safe to come out.


David jr age five.

Prayer gets me through the feeling of hopelessness. Jesus comforts and keeps me when I begin to fear. I wait for the day I can gather the family around me and love on them. Just like books need all the senses to make it real. I need the closeness of those I love to make my life feel real.

For those of you like me who find it hard to be creative in this season of time, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, let me share with you a verse that encourages me that life will get better, my words will flow and family time is just around the corner. Ecclesiastes 3:11a He makes all things beautiful in his time.

I replay that promise in my mind. I recall all the times he has done that for me. When I’d almost given up hope, I got my first book contract. When finances were tight God provided in miraculous ways. His time is always the perfect time.  He will bring beauty forth. At the end of this narrow tunnel.  I believe my words will be deeper, stronger, and more inspired and so will yours.

How have you been handling this “new normal”?


Lauren Crews, a Proverbs 31 writer

Although I write fiction I love sharing the blog with those who write non-fiction. Lauren Crews is my guest today. Not only is her genre different than mine, but also her journey to publication. I think those of faith who follow Jubilee Writer will be inspired. Lauren, start by telling us how you began your writing journey.

Becoming an author was never a big dream. I wanted to be a teacher and a speaker, but I soon learned it is helpful to have my own material from which to teach. A friend introduced me to the concept of Proverbs 31 is an acrostic poem of the Hebrew alphabet and the imagery of the Hebrew letters.

My word nerd juices took over from there and I began researching the topic. The more I discovered, the more I felt others needed to hear about this perspective of the passage and I began writing a Bible study.

After a year of research and writing, I attended my first Christian writer’s conference. I went hoping I would receive confirmation from God that I had not wasted a year of my life and that I was handling what I was learning correctly. God did not disappoint. I left the conference with a first-place win in their Bible study category, first-place overall in their nonfiction category and invitations to submit my manuscript to all fifteen people I pitched at the conference. My head was spinning!

Wow! That is amazing.  What is the name of your latest published project?

I have recently released two books, Strength of a Woman: Why You Are Proverbs 31 and an accompanying devotional Strength of a Woman: 31 Days to Celebrate Your Place in Proverbs 31

You mentioned you did a lot of research for this project. I understand the process of researching for a historical novel. Tell us how you went about researching for a Bible study?

I love the research process. I start with various versions of the Bible. From there I do word studies on almost every word in the verse. I study the history and context of the culture and the last thing I do is read commentaries, journal articles, published papers, etc.

What inspired you to write your book?

I knew I wanted to write a Bible study but during the research process, I came across a quote in a Christian commentary about the Proverbs 31 passage that washed over me like ice water and gave me a new focus. The commentary acknowledged that Proverbs 31 is often read on Mother’s Day an opportunity to honor mothers. However, there are many mothers not worthy of the tribute given on Mother’s Day. I thought to myself, “sure there are some women who probably should not have had children. But to read a statement like that, from a Christian source? This man was piling on the judgment so many women already feel from this passage. You’re telling me even the worst mother can not be redeemed? That God loves her less and nothing in her life can be honored? What about the divorced woman? The single woman with children? The widow? Aren’t they deserving of honor too?” These thoughts set my perspective in stone. They helped me define my target audience; everyday women who are worn down from life to the point that they feel unworthy and not usable by God. They need to experience the strength of Christ and hear their heroic hymn sung over them.

Excellent! I’m inspired by your quest. The commentator’s words really spurred you on.

I think this is when I was struck by how difficult the Proverbs 31 passage might be for women. As I researched, I began to understand how the Jewish woman receives these verses. The passage is referred to as a heroic hymn which is a song in the Bible sung over warriors returning from battle. Jewish men sing this passage over the women of the home on Friday nights during their Sabbat celebrations. Christian women need to experience that kind of honor and I had a blessed opportunity to help them receive it.

How wonderful.

Lauren, do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?


Joshua 1:7-9  Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”


I believe this verse was instrumental in my calling to teach the Bible. It encourages me to be courageous but tethered to God’s word. Only then will I have success.


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

Hang in there, this is going to be a long journey. You will second guess every decision but keep turning to God for His confirmation.

You write Bible studies and devotionals, what’s your favorite genre to read for fun?

Mystery and historical fiction

Where is your favorite place to write?

At my office desk. I need a quiet place to think, I can’t even have background music playing. It’s too distracting. I’ll light a candle, grab some M&M’s, sit at my desk, and look out the window. When I’m in the writing zone, I feel like I’m entering another dimension. I call it entering the Holy. It’s time well spent with God.

Lauren, thanks for answering my questions and giving us some insight into your heart.

Now I’ll share the back cover copy from Strength of a Woman: Why you are Proverbs 31 click here to buy

The Proverbs 31 Woman seems perfect and is held up as a role model for Christian women everywhere. Would you believe she is a portrait of how God already sees you? You are that amazing woman God sings a song of blessing over.

Based on a word study of the Hebrew alphabet, Strength of a Woman will inspire you to celebrate as you understand the blessings already available to you. Dive deep into the Proverbs 31 Scripture passage and begin to understand the Jewish teachings and the true meaning of the passage. Through this study of the passage, you will:

  • Discover the hidden beauty in the imagery of the Hebrew alphabet through word study.
  • Understand the challenges you face now in comparison to those in biblical times.
  • Embrace God’s purposes versus society’s expectations.
  • Enjoy insights into a strong woman’s day-to-day life.

A bit more about Lauren Crews

Lauren is an award-winning author and holds an MDiv from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. With twenty years’ experience in women’s ministry, she dives deep into God’s word and is eager to share the many layers with women in all roles of life. She resides in Jacksonville, FL with her husband and two brown labs who have their humans well trained.

Facebook: Lauren Monico-Crews

Instagram @LaurenCrewsA2Z

Twitter @LaurenCrewsA2Z

Book Link:

Susan G. Mather shares her transition to writing Historical Fiction

Susan Mathis joins me today to talk about her latest release and how her journey shifted from writing non-fiction to writing Historical Fiction.

Thank you for joining us. Susan, you’ve had a long career in writing. Tell us how your journey shifted to writing novels.

I can’t remember not writing. I’ve taught Language Arts for nine years to 4-8 graders, had my own newspaper column, wrote missions curriculum, and have written just about anything God put in my path.


Before I jumped into the fiction world, I served as the Founding Editor of Thriving Family magazine and the former Editor/Editorial Director of 12 Focus on the Family publications. My first two published books were nonfiction, co-authored with my husband, Dale. I also authored two picture books and am published in various book compilations including three Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Ready to Wed, Supporting Families Through Meaningful Ministry, The Christian Leadership Experience, and Spiritual Mentoring of Teens. 


I swore I’d never write fiction, but never say never! My hubby and I went to a book talk/signing, and after we left, I jokingly said, “I could write a story about a quilt!” I then proceeded to tell him the entire story, and he said, “Well, write it!” Thus began my journey of writing historical fiction.


 What is your most difficult writing obstacle transitioning from non-fiction to Historical fiction?

Transitioning from writing nonfiction to historical fiction was a huge leap but a wonderful discovery in finding my sweet spot. I studied fiction writing for about two years before launching out in this wonderful journey. I read books about the craft, went to writing conferences, and learned from mentors, crit groups, and more, and I’m thrilled to dedicate the rest of my writing career to this genre. Now I’ll have five published historical fiction books on the market and am working on another for the end of the year.


What is your latest published project, Devyn’s Dilemma?


It’s 1910, in the Thousand Islands, New York. Others may consider The Towers castle on Dark Island an enchanting summer retreat, but to Devyn McKenna, it’s a prison. Yet as she works as a maid for Frederick Bourne, former president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, her life blossoms under the kindness of his family and fascinating entrepreneurs such as J.P. Morgan, Thomas Lipton, and Captain Vanderbilt. But more than anything, the growing friendship of Mr. Bourne’s valet, Brice McBride, begins to pry away the painful layers that conceal Devyn’s heart.

Brice is drawn to the mysterious Devyn even though he’s certain she’s hiding a secret, one far more dangerous than the clues they find in The Towers that hint of a treasure on the island. When Devyn is accused of stealing Bourne’s investment in Vanderbilt’s New York City subway expansion, he might not be able to protect her.

Why did you choose this time and setting for the second in your Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemma?


I grew up just twenty minutes from the Thousand Islands. In fact, my husband and I visit the Thousand Islands region in upstate NY every summer. It’s a beautiful, largely unknown, piece of the world where the St. Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario. There are nearly 1800 islands there, including the largest, Wolfe Island, which is in Ontario, Canada.


I chose the Gilded Age because that’s when the playground of the rich and famous took off…1872 until about 1910.

The Bournes were one of the Gilded Age titan families from New York city whose “hunting lodge” called The Towers was built on Dark Island. Intrigue, mystery, and beauty surround this Thousand Islands Gilded Age story.


All summer long, tourists enjoy cruising around the Thousand Islands, passing by Pullman Island, and hearing the stories of yesteryear. As a historic landmark, Pullman Island is invaluable, and so are the stories that go with it.


What kind of research did you have to do?


Ah, how I love research, and I love to be accurate. Besides combing through volumes of information, there’s nothing like being there, on the island. The owner of the island has had us over to visit the island twice now. He’s toured us around and let us roam at will to get the “feel” of being there. My sweet hubby took hundreds of photos, which make it really nice to jog my memory as I write.


I’m also super blessed because my historical editor is the president of the Thousand Islands Historical Association and has written several nonfiction books about the island. She’s awesome and has gone through each of my manuscripts with a fine-tooth comb. When I mistakenly have my character take a left instead of a right to get to the kitchen, she faithfully corrects me.




If you could go back in time where would you go?

I’d love to meet my great-great-grandmother, Margaret, and hear what she thinks of her story, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy.


What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

I enjoy reading everything from children’s picture books to nonfiction to contemporary and historical fiction. But if I had to choose, I’d settle in with Christian historical romance and that’s what I’m writing from now on. Smiles.


Where is your favorite place to write?

My dining room table overlooking the Rocky Mountain Front Range, Pikes Peak, and the Air Force Academy.


About Susan:

Susan G Mathis is an award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Her first two books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemma and Katelyn’s Choice are available now, and she’s working on book three. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are also available. Visit for 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.


Lighthouse Publishing:









Photos of Ancestors are valuable research tools

Last week I mentioned historical diaries for novel research. Today I want to talk about old photos as a research source. You can find them on-line by googling historical photos or something more specific like photos from the Civil War. These can be helpful.

But for me the best place to find historical pictures is in family photo albums. The ones my grandmother or great-aunts passed down. There you can see what people really wore on the prairie and in the fields and in the big city. For some of you that would be your great-great-greats.

My great-grandmother Ervin. Notice her elaborate collar.

When I do research for clothing for my historical novels, which take place in the mid-1800s I love to look at old photos. In case you weren’t aware photography was available then. There were photo studios in the larger cities and photographers who traveled from town to town capturing pictures. I’ll not go into detail about how photos were taken at the time. My post is about the use of said photos today.  Those who could afford the luxury would go to a photographer in their best attire to have a picture made.

A tintype of my Great Aunt Katie.

I love the photos taken by traveling photographers. They often capture the whole family, including their pets. Special items such as a gun or quilt might be held in their hands. Often the setting was in front of their house. Photographs like these give me an idea of architecture and other details.

Between my husband and I, we have many of these sorts of pictures from the early 1840s into the 20th Century. I love to look at their fashions. Simpler lines in dresses, men in suitcoats even when farming. Overalls were not always the preferred dress of farmers.

Schoolchildren’s clothes changed over the decades depending on whether the class photo was taken in front of a one-room schoolhouse or a town school.

My ancestors were farmers and coal miners in central Illinois. And my mother’s parents started their married life in Peoria Illinois and spent over 50 years in the same house.  My husband’s ancestors were also farmers who’d lived in the same area of Southern Illinois for 150 years. Family stories connected with many of our photos make for great story ideas.

This is Huge Kirkwood my great-great-uncle he and his brother joined the gold rush of 1849. Hugh became ill and stayed back. When he went to join William he was never found. A family mystery that gives me so many story ideas.

All the pictures in this blog are from these family photo archives. The advantage for me in sharing these is none have copyright issues and I can use them without concern. I don’t need to ask permission to post them because the photos belong to me and the relatives are all deceased. I can also use these photos in articles and guest blogs to promote your upcoming historical novel.

Do you have photos of your ancestors? If you write any historical genre do those pictures give you ideas?