Monday, July 4, 2011

Seek Me with all your Heart - a BookSneeze review

Seek Me with all your Heart, written by Beth Wiseman, was a fantastic book! I've had the privilege of reading and reviewing several of Beth's books, and I have to say they're just fabulous reads. Beth never lets her readers down!

Seek Me with all your Heart is book one in the Land of Canaan series. Emily Detweiler, the heroine, and her Amish family had recently uprooted from their Ohio community and settled in Canaan, Colorado, where they had hoped to start anew. Emily had faced unbelievable circumstances in Ohio, which caused her faith to be battered.

David Stoltzfus's family moved to Colorado due to financial reasons. Because of a health condition that David had suffered, his medications would be costly for the rest of his life. However, David's parents hadn't told him this, so he wasn't aware of the real reason for moving to Colorado. David was determined to save his money and eventually move back home to Paradise, Pennsylvania. David had his own burdens and reasons for remaining single. But then he met Emily and things began to change.

If you're an avid reader of Amish fiction, you'll love this book! I highly recommend it and I have to say that this is definitely:

Beth has available a sample of the first few pages of this book that you can listen to on her website.

Please visit Beth today!

I am a member of BookSneeze, a fabulous program through Thomas Nelson. BookSneeze sends members free books to read and keep in exchange for written reviews on a blog and on a major retailer's website (such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble).

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Author Interview - Tracy Krauss!

It is my great pleasure to host an interview with Tracy Krauss, who is a best selling author, playwright, artist and teacher. She currently has two 'edgy inspirational' novels and one play in print and is working on several other books and plays. She is a member of 'American Christian Fiction Writers', 'Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship', and 'Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers', as well as several writing related social networking groups. Originally from a small prairie town, Tracy received her Bachelors Degree from the university of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Sask. with majors in Art, and minors in History and English. She teaches High School English, Drama and Art. Apart from her many personal creative pursuits, she also directs an amateur theater group and leads worship at her local church. She and her husband, an ordained minister with the PAOC, have lived in many remote and unique places in Canada's north, including Churchill Manitoba - the 'polar bear capital of the world', the Yukon, and the NWT. They raised four children and were active advocates of the homeschooling movement for many years. They currently reside in beautiful Tumbler Ridge, BC, known for its waterfalls.

And now, on to the interview!!

Jami: When did you begin writing?

Tracy: I started writing seriously about 25 years ago shortly after I had my first child. I wrote every afternoon while she napped. Although I had dreams of publication even back then, I never acted on those dreams until years later.

Jami: I think a lot of writers can relate to that! What are your motivations for writing? What/Who inspires you?

Tracy: Like many authors, I am compelled to write. It certainly is not for the fame and fortune, since these are very hard to come by. I get ideas from all kinds of places. It’s pretty hard to narrow it down to one thing. Long ago, I did decide to dedicate my writing to God, so a Christian theme has appeared in each of my novels so far.

Jami: Amen. You have experience in the classroom. How do you feel that teaching has impacted your writing?

Tracy: I teach high school Art, English and Drama. Teaching is actually a very creative process, so I think this transfers to my writing. I’m constantly trying a new approach, tweaking, and making things better. Also, dealing with people all day long can be practically applied in terms of characterization. As far as each subject goes, Art simply inspires me, my English classes have kept me immersed in ‘words’, and my Drama classes have inspired me to write many plays. For those who love to teach, like me, the educational field is very rewarding, and living a fulfilled life can only help you as a writer. The down side is the time commitment. I’m always burning the midnight oil, squeezing in my writing after hours.

Jami: I can empathize with you. As a teacher myself (now homeschooler), I agree with you. I found myself being inspired a lot by my job. Going back to the questions, you're not only an author of books, but you're a playwright! Tell us about your passion for theater.

Tracy: I’m glad you used the word passion. I truly love live theatre, and writing and directing affords such a wide range of creative outlets. Seeing a play you’ve written performed is so immediate, because you get to feel the audience response directly. I’m not sure there is anything that compares. Also, it is a very collaborative art form – each actor brings something to the play that you maybe didn’t even realize was there.

Jami: I agree with you. Theater is word put to life! Speaking of life, your characters in your books are so full of that. They're so real! When I read the title for your novel My Mother the Man-Eater, I couldn't contain the laughter. All sorts of crazy images burst through my head. I can say that Joleen's character definitely seems to fit the title. Can you give readers a brief view into Joleen's world?

Tracy: Joleen Allen is a ‘cougar’ – a forty something woman who finds fulfillment and self-worth through relationships with men – lots of them. On the surface this might seem shallow, but we discover she actually has some dark secrets from the past that keep driving her penchant for sexy younger men. The story gets complicated by the fact that she is also the mother of five grown daughters, all with their own strengths and issues. Unknown to any of them, some of her current boyfriends also get involved with her daughters, with comic (and sometimes messy!) results. Added to this, her ex-husband, who is a convicted criminal fresh out of prison, arrives back on the scene out for revenge. It’s a twisted merry-go-round that is both humorous and very dramatic at the same time.

Jami: The first chapter of And the Beat Goes On is quite riveting and different from My Mother the Man-Eater. Tell us about the inspiration behind this story.

Tracy: This book is about an archeologist who discovers pterodactyl and human remains buried together in the mountains of Africa. In his quest for the truth, he soon discovers that some of the ‘powers that be’ don’t want this kind of evidence for ‘Intelligent Design’ to surface. There is also speculation that the giant human bones are actually the ‘Nephilim’, a race of ‘god-men’ mentioned in the Bible during pre-flood times. The chapter you are referring to is the prologue, I assume, which is a peek into that ancient world where a Nephilim king is about to witness an orgy involving human sacrifice and pterodactyls. This was my imagination running wild as I tried to portray just how low man had become before the flood. The topic of creationism vs. evolution has been very interesting to me since I became a believer. I wanted to know how creation lined up next to accepted scientific theories of the origins of the universe. Years of research led to the idea for this book, which also has a romantic twist.
In fact, both books are ‘Romantic Suspense’ with lots of action, intrigue, murder and mayhem, so even though they may seem different on the surface, my writing style isn’t really that divergent.

Jami: Most writers find themselves diligent readers. I know that's certainly the case for myself. Other than your own books, what is your favorite book of all time?

Tracy: I love good spec fiction and nobody does it better, at least from a Christian perspective, than Frank Peretti. I have all his books, but Monster is still probably my favorite. I also love Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – not a Christian book by any means, but still riveting and twisted, the way I like it.

Jami: I always wonder about how other writers get themselves in the "writing mode." Describe your preferred writing environment. What tools do you use, what room or outdoor area, music, comfort food/drink?

Tracy: I mostly sit in my office/library at my desk, or sometimes I use my laptop at the kitchen table. Once I’m in the zone, it doesn’t matter much where I am. As long as I have good light, I’m fine. I don’t actually eat, drink or listen to music while writing. I just get so tuned in to what I’m doing that I forget everything else … the snack sits uneaten, the coffee gets cold, the music stops … and I rarely notice.

Jami: Has a funny or inspirational event spurred your creative juices? If so, in what way?

Tracy: I know this sounds cliché, but I feel as if I’m constantly internalizing everything for later use. My head is in a constant swirl of ‘possibilities’ for the next novel, play, painting or lesson. I can’t help it. So this question is very difficult to answer. When has something NOT spurred my creative juices? In my thirty years with my husband, an eternal optimist and adventurer, I have been in some interesting (read ‘scary’) situations. I’ve been stampeded by a herd of buffalo (on foot), come face to face with a polar bear, (more than once with nothing more than the car window between us) slept out on the tundra with no gear, been out to sea in an 8 foot boat with giant waves almost capsizing us, had whales go under the canoe and almost capsize it, slept in my vehicle for weeks on end while on ‘vacation’, driven for five hours just to meet someone for ‘coffee’ and then driven home again … I could go on. Raising four kids, homeschooling for many years, being in ministry … these have all contributed to my stockpile of fodder.

Jami: Crazy! You've definitely been inundated with inspiration, it seems! As God's word says, "All things work together for good to them that love God (Rom. 8:28)." How has God's word encouraged you during your writing career?

Tracy: I love that ‘God makes everything beautiful in its time’. He knows the plans He has for us and each day is marked out for us even before one of them came to be. This has given me the drive the continue writing despite the setbacks and rejections. I believe that God did not make a mistake when He made me with this burning desire to write. What happens with those words is up to Him, and I am content with that. My path is not the same as someone else’s and I try not to measure my success in dollars and cents.

Jami: What advice would you give to someone who wishes to publish?

Tracy: Perseverance is key. Do not get easily discouraged, especially if your goal is traditional publication. The competition is fierce and you really need to do your homework in terms of how to make a good pitch etc. Then sit back and wait for the rejections to come in. It takes fortitude and courage to expose yourself to criticism, but in the end it is worth it. Of course, there are many options open to writers these days, but make sure that your writing is excellent. Sub standard writing is one of the pitfalls of self-publication, so if you go that route, spend the extra money to get outside editing.

Jami: Great advice, Tracy. If you could recommend one book in aiding someone whose goal it is to be published, what book would that be?

Tracy: Sally Stuart’s Guides are like the Bible of Christian publication. It’s tried, trusted and true, so go with her. There are lots of other good resources, too, but it might take some weeding online.

Jami: What's next for you?

Tracy: A third book called
Play It Again is now in production. It is actually the prequel to And The Beat Goes On. I also have another manuscript I am preparing to pitch, and of course, I continue to work on several other projects.

Jami: I've really enjoyed this interview and learning more about you, Tracy. I hope that in a few years I can have you back to find out what new things you've been delving into! Do you have anything else to add that you'd like readers to know about?

Tracy: Thanks so much for hosting me today. You can check out any of these sites for more information:
FB fanpage:

Also, you can check out this trailer for Tracy's book And the Beat Goes On:

Thanks for joining me, Tracy! God bless you in your efforts! Be watching this blog for future author interviews!

If you're a Christian author and you're interested in being interviewed, you can contact me at xjacielbx @