Friday, November 27, 2015

Elaine Manders and The Perfect Gift

So now that everyone has a full belly, and has taken a moment to give thanks for all of their blessings, let us continue with our Christmas book & author spotlight. Today, we have Elaine Manders and her Christmas novella, The Perfect Gift. The cover is quite lovely.

But first, allow me to introduce Elaine Manders and share her BIO.

Elaine Manders writes historical romance to inspire and intrigue. She began her writing journey with feature articles for a Christian newspaper and turned to fiction in 1992. Her debut novella series, the Annex Mail-Order Brides, was published July 8, 2015, and serves as prequels to her long historical novel series, Under Cerulean Skies, scheduled for release in December. Her greatest joy is to create endearing characters and intriguing plots with humor and faith woven throughout, and her fondest hope is that these books will entertain the reader and bring glory to God. She lives in central Georgia with the love of her life, her husband, Robert.

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?

Stories have been popping up in my imagination since childhood, and I’ve been writing since 1991. When I decided to begin writing professionally, I turned to Christian fiction because that’s what I most like to read and, hopefully, glorify God in the process.

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?

I do write full time, every day, six days a week. I don’t have a set time limit, letting the story flow until there’s a natural break. I know a lot of writers who can only dream of such a schedule!

Could you tell us a little about your novel?

The Perfect Gift is a novella at about 125 pages long. That’s my favorite length for Christmas stories. So much is going on at Christmas, I prefer shorter reads for this genre. I hadn't thought of that. 

What lead you to choose a Christmas theme?

The characters in The Perfect Gift were created in 1963 when I received my first typewriter for Christmas. Last year, as I was digging through old manuscripts, I came across this story, yellowed with age. The writing was immature naturally, since I was a child at the time, but I liked the premise. The plot has been changed radically, but the setting and characters are like they were in 1963. That is awesome! I have a book that was once a grade 10 high school English assignment.
Would you take us on a brief tour of your novel and the world you’ve created?

The setting is Macon, Georgia, 1963, a pivotal year in history. The world was changing, including the role of women. The heroine, Macy, is a college girl studying to become a chemist, an unusual career for women back then. Macon is a college town, including Wesleyan, the first woman’s college in the country. But I sent my heroine to Mercer, a former all-male private institution.

Where does the inspiration for you main character and story come from?

I really don’t know. The premise comes as a flash and leads me to imagine “what if?” The Perfect Gift is a “rich guy/poor girl” story, except this poor girl is climbing out of poverty herself and has no desire for riches. This is what attracts the hero. She’s the one woman who isn’t after him for his money. But there’s a deeper reason why Macy believes as she does and keeps her past hidden. OK, now I want toknow more!

What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?

Macy isn’t able to reveal her true self to her fiancĂ© until she accepts the truth about herself. This can’t happen without the healing power of God’s redemption. After that Macy can experience the Christmas Spirit, much like Scrooge did in A Christmas Carol.

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?

I usually work from a rough outline.

What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years? 

Two weeks

Could you tell us how you go about your research, how you ‘catalogue’ information to make it all work?

Since I write historical, I do a lot of googling, and keep notes in a folder. Since I live near Macon, I visited the local newspaper and got most of my questions answered that way. That actually sounds like fun, more so than simply using Google.

How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?

It differs from my western romance in that the westerns have more humor, definitely more action. The Perfect Gift is a more serious character study. 

How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?

I probably couldn’t write nearly as much without the computer. I have to agree. Although I prefer to write using pen and paper, having your work typed right into the computer is a time-saver.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?

I honestly haven’t done much marketing yet. I’ve posted to a number of reader groups and been featured on a few blogs. My books are in Amazon KU Select, and they are the best marketing tool I have at present. It’s my goal to have 9-10 titles out by this time next year, then I’ll start putting a lot more effort in marketing. Having that many books is a worthy marketing tool to start off with.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Take a lot of courses to learn the craft and make sure the craft books or courses are by experienced, proven professionals. There are a lot of shams out there. After that, write what’s in your heart. Sound advice. A well structured course and an experienced instructor give us sound coaching and life-long writing tools.  

Could you tell us what you’re working on now?

I’m glad you asked. I’m editing and proofing my first full-length novel, the first in a series entitled, Intrigue under Western Skies. The first title is Pursued, and is about an idealistic young woman on a philanthropic mission who joins forces with a handsome cattle baron to defeat a diabolical enemy in 1884 Nebraska. 

Shall we take a step back and return our attention to this wonderful book?

Tag Line: 

A mistake from Macy’s past threatens her perfect future.

Macy has a secret.

It’s Christmas 1963, and Macy Lance has it all. She’ll soon graduate from a prestigious southern college, and a position in a top pharmaceutical firm waits for her. Best of all, Jonathan Tennent has proposed. Jon is not only the love of her life, he’s the son of Macon, Georgia’s wealthiest and most prominent family, and heir to Tennent Pharmaceuticals.

All would be perfect except Macy isn’t the woman Jon thinks she is. No one suspects her persona of a wealthy, college co-ed is a charade meant to help her fit in with the in-crowd—and hide her past. She must confess by Christmas Eve. But before then, she searches for a gift to rival the engagement ring Jon is giving her, and convince his society-obsessed mother she is good enough for her only son.

Despite everything, Jon is determined to make Macy his wife. Then he discovers the one thing that can destroy their future.

Familiar Christmas themes run through this love story, from the ironic twist reminiscent of The Gift of the Magi to a life changed by repentance in A Christmas Carol. These reminders of God’s eternal love makes The Perfect Gift the perfect Christmas story.

“Macy girl, you have a bad habit of not answering a body straight-up. Did you say yes?”
“Of course.” A nervous laugh escaped before Macy realized it. She cleared her throat. “I love him…and he loves me. But we won’t become officially engaged until Christmas when he’ll give me a ring.” She held out her left hand and fanned her fingers, imagining how the ring would look. It would be a solitaire set in twenty-four caret gold, and knowing Jon, the diamond would be big.
She hoped not too big.
“The wedding won’t take place until June. I’ve always wanted to be a June bride.”
Esther wove around a couple of cars. “June’s a pretty month all right. So you got around to telling him everything, and he didn’t care. I told you he wouldn’t.”
Macy knew what she meant but refused to get into that now. Sometimes Esther acted more like a mother than a friend. “No, I haven’t told him yet, but I will before Christmas.” Jon would definitely have to be told before then. He’d have to be given the opportunity to get out of the engagement without the family knowing.
For a fraction of a second she considered telling him tonight. Get it over with. Find out if he loved her enough—she recoiled from the thought as she would from a hot stove. She wouldn’t test him like that. He deserved a thoughtful explanation, one that would assure him she wasn’t a blatant liar.
Esther pursed her lips. “Honey, that boy’s got to know the truth.”

Available only on



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Can you believe that Christmas is right around the corner? Our American friends and neighbours will be celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend, setting off the final leg to the climatic entrance of yet another New Year. This year, I will be participating in a different way. Aside from decorating, cooking and gift wrapping, I will be sharing a series of Christmas reads. Now how awesome is that? kick off our event, I would like to introduce you to author Liwen Ho, and her Christmas novel, The More the Merrier. Are you ready?

Meet Liwen Ho, author of The More the Merrier, Season of Love Book 1.

Can love be sweeter than ice cream?


Fed up with a string of bad blind dates, health blogger Alyssa Wu just wants to drown her sorrows in ice cream. But there’s one more evening she must endure - a fake date with her best friend Barry Chang. They must convince her family they are in love, an act which may (or may not) be easy to pull off, thanks to the magic of some mistletoe. 

“I’m a lost cause in the love department. I need to find a date. The last thing I want to do is show up alone and put a damper on my dad’s party.”
“Okay, so we’ll find you a date. There are plenty of guys who would love to go out with you. We just have to find one.”
Barry’s confident tone made Alyssa sit up straighter. Had he really called her attractive? Maybe her smoky eye shadow and red lipstick gave her appearance an extra oomph tonight. She did notice his eyes widen in surprise when he opened the door earlier. Even if he was just being his usual positive self, it was nice to hear that he thought she was a worthy catch. “Even if there were guys lined up at my door, chances are they wouldn’t be free for the party. It’s really short notice.”
“How short?”
“Like Sunday short.”
“As in the day after tomorrow?”
Nodding, she sighed. “Now do you understand why I’ve been so desperate?”
“I do. And now I really feel sorry for you.”
“Great, thanks Barry for your sym-.”
“Hold on,” he interrupted with his spoon pointed at her. “I have an idea. How about we help each other out this weekend?”
“What do you mean?”
“I need some assistance for work tomorrow and you need a date for Sunday. You help me, and I’ll help you.”
“You’ll pretend to be my date?” She mulled over his suggestion and smiled. What a great idea. Going to the party with someone as harmless as Barry would make the evening not only bearable, but enjoyable. If there was any guy she trusted and felt comfortable with, it was him. “That would be awesome.”

Nice, eh? (Yes, I am Canadian). So, would you like to meet our guest author? I thought so. Hang on, I'll go get her and see if she'll answer a few questions for us. 

BIO Liwen Y. Ho works as a chauffeur and referee by day (also known as being a stay at home mom) and a writer by night. She penned her first children's picture book, "A Rainbow of Nine Colors" in high school (available at and has published two novellas in the Taking Chances Series for grown-ups. 

She also enjoys writing about real-life matters, such as marriage, parenting and faith because truth can be just as strange and entertaining as fiction. Her work has appeared in various online publications, including and and she is a regular contributor at

She has a Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Western Seminary and loves makeovers of all kinds, especially those of the heart and mind. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her techie husband and their two children, and blogs about her adventures as a recovering perfectionist at

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer? I’m a girly girl who loves all things pink, retail therapy and chick flicks. I live in California with my hubby and two kids, and in my pre-mamahood life I worked as a counselor. I’ve always loved to write, but I didn’t start pursuing it seriously until about five years ago.

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing? I would write full time if I could, but alas, that would leave my family with no food to eat or clean clothes to wear. I tried that wasn't pretty. I try to write a couple of hours a day either when the kids are in school and after the whole family goes to bed. So, basically you keep standard author hours.

Could you tell us a little about your novel? My short story is a sweet friends-to-something-more type of romance. The main characters are neighbors who share a love of ice cream. 

What led you to choose a Christmas theme? I originally wrote this story for a Christmas-themed anthology that didn’t pan out (due to a lack of submissions), so I published it myself. Ah! And you get to share it with us. Perfect!
Would you take us on a brief tour of your novel and the world you’ve created? The world my characters live in is one that many have heard of and some have visited – the city of San Francisco, California. 

Where does the inspiration for your main character and story come from? Alyssa, the main character, is based somewhat on myself. She is what one might consider a typical Asian girl to be – hardworking, lives by the rules and plays it safe. The character of her neighbor, Barry, was inspired in part by Barry Allen (of The Flash) and my maternal grandfather; both of these men have a big heart for others. I love it when friends fall in love, and I totally believe in the opposites attract theory, so I based the story off of these two ideas. They already sound like interesting characters.

What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life? There are two main messages of the story: the first is that what you want may not be what you need; and the second is that a person’s heart matters more than their status in life or their bank account. These are two important lessons I or loved ones have personally experienced. That for sure is true. Nice.

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it? I am a planner in real life, but when it comes to writing, I just go with the flow. This makes it both frustrating and freeing, but I do love seeing how the story unfolds and being surprised by it! It is such an amazing experience to watch the story unfold before us, isn't it? I think (for myself), that having to rely on a predetermined outline would be like stuffing the proverbial square peg into the round hole.

What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years? How much research went into it? My story spans a week in December and ends on Christmas day. My research for the book included some random things, such as finding out the size of ice cream cartons, as well as financial investment terms.

Could you tell us how you go about your research, how you ‘catalogue’ information to make it all work? I do all my research online (thank you Google!) and just include whatever information I need into the story. I haven’t needed to get so involved to the point of taking notes or cataloging information yet.

How does this book differ from what you have written in the past? This book is my first attempt at a short story (10k words). I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make the story complete with so few words, but I actually ended up loving the process, so much so in fact that I plan on writing three more short stories for the Seasons of Love series. So it would seem that the premise for writing was the nudge you needed to get writing. I am thrilled to know you have more stories lined up.

How have the changes in present-day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer? As an indie author, I like the flexibility I have to publish as often as I want to; I just wish my schedule allowed me to write more often! On that, I agree! I dream of 'alone time' to write, where nothing or no one is vying for my time lol.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time? I’m slowly learning the ins and outs of marketing as an indie author; it’s a whole other challenge apart from the writing. I market via Facebook and Twitter, as well as my blog, and also try to connect with other writers and readers. It definitely is a one day at a time endeavor that takes a lot of patience and perseverance.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? Write, struggle, celebrate, and write some more! Get some good critique partners and beta readers who will help you improve in your craft. Join some writers groups in person or virtually and build a support system. Learn from others on how to market and don’t be afraid to try new methods. Above all, write for yourself and enjoy the process! 

Could you tell us what you’re working on now? I’m currently working on a sci-fi/romance book with my hubby and also the third book in my Taking Chances series. Both should be available in 2016! We'll be looking forward to their release!

“Friends falling in love -- could anything be more romantic? Add the fact that Christmas is right around the corner and this story is sure to banish any bah-humbugs. I loved it.”

“The writing was excellent and polished without errors. Overall, I highly recommend this to someone who wants a one-to-two sit read and appreciates real romance.”

“This short story novella is a heart warming, sweet, funny romantic story.”

“The characters were easy to visualize, and I found the dialogue to be believable and engaging.”

If you would like to connect with Liwen, you can find her here:
Twitter: @2square2behip

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Just Keep on Keeping on...

The other night, when I started this blog post, I was still waiting for the release of my latest novel, Snow Job. Although that was only supposed to be the working title, I got some people who were adamant that I use there you have it. Novel number five has made its appearance before the Holidays. YEAH!

I truly wondered if I was ever going to finish it. Not because I had nothing to write, but because I have yet to sleep through one single night! Yes, you guessed it. Savannah, although two-years-old now, still wakes up several times a night. Each and every night.

There were days I never got to open my laptop. There were weeks I had not found time to write a single sentence. I was beyond frustrated...because there was this story that demanded to be written. And I wanted to know what was going to happen! No...I do not plot and plan how my story will unravel, I let it come to life and write what happens. I am an observer, a reporter.

Fear not, because it all adds up in the end. It all comes together, and the result is sweet. Pure bliss. And to top it off, I really like this story.

Have you had the chance to see the new cover? I 'll even throw in a little excerpt lower down if you're interested.

 My publisher had sent me two covers to start off with, and every time I looked at this one, I smiled. And that is how, or why, I chose this one. I was asked today what genre the story fell into. And I really don't know what to tell you. This one is filled with ongoing action, suspense and a bit of a mystery to unravel as my main character tries to figure out what happened to her and why, and although I have never written a romance novel before, there is an underlying romantic element in the story. 

Maybe, had I set out to write a romance novel, I would be all gung ho about shouting it out. I wrote Sarah's story, and I love how it turned out. 

OK, now how about a little EXCERPT! Now since you can read the beginning of the book on Amazon or B&N or even Kobo, I figured I'd pick a scene from later on in the story. 

Jim stood. “Enough.” He grabbed me by the elbow with a firm hand and led me out of the living room. He stood me up against a wall and leaned in close. “Sarah, these guys have gathered here to try and help. You either cooperate or we’ll drop it.” He rubbed a hand across his jaw. “I called in a favor because my gut is telling me that your life is in danger.” He pointed with a thumb over his shoulder towards the living room. “They have lives and families. So before we go any further, do you want our help or not?”
I clenched my fists out of frustration. I wanted to scream. I turned full circle upon myself before letting out a breath. “Let me try and explain it to you. If I accept your help, it would mean acknowledging that my life was in danger.” I shot him a desperate glance. “And that scares me a lot more than I care to admit.” My voice quivered. I lowered my eyes, letting out a breath of defeat. When I dared face him, he was still staring at me…waiting.
“I need you to be clear on that, Sarah. I won’t put any lives at risk if you aren’t going to cooperate, or ignore what we say.” He searched my face. “The guys who dumped you won’t be happy when they find out you’re alive. Whoever paid them to get the job done, will more than likely be furious because the last thing guys like that want is to get caught.” He paused a moment and touched my cheek with the back of his hand. “Do your best to keep it together.”

I closed my eyes, afraid to take the step into admission that I was in some serious trouble and that my life would remain in danger until this was over. I nodded. “Fine. I… I’ll trust you,” I said.

There you go. 
Now, the book has been out for under a month, but I already have some amazing reviews, so I am happy about that. There seems to be an amusing trend around the book so far. Which is that readers who started reading in the evening were unable to put it down and ended up with either a sleepless night or a very, very short one. Sorry! Although as the author, that is kind of nice to hear. 

Would you like to see what people are saying?
OK, I promise to keep it short. 

It was Amazing
I couldn’t put it down....I was reading whenever I work...home...bed....if I could have brought it in shower, I would have....when my break was up at work...sometimes I got carried away and went over my

The action doesn't stop from the first page onwards. It was so exciting, I couldn't put it down. I kept wanting to know what would happen next.

I really enjoyed the chemistry between Jim and Sarah too and I also thought the mystery angle (and the court room drama) was such a thrill. Keeps you turning pages till you find out what really happened.

Debbie Brown is the next James Patterson with her mystery / thriller writing! I felt like I was watching a movie. I couldn't put down and finished in an evening between waiting at the dentist's office and one more hour in the recliner at home. Very fun read. THANK YOU. 

I'll stop there because some of the others are quite long and detailed (though just as awesome). 

As an author, I like to tell readers that "I have all the answers" -when it comes to my book, of course. So feel free to ask. In the past, I have come across comments by reviewers that could have been easily demystified, had they asked.'s my promise to you...IF you have a story related question, and you ASK me about it, I promise to get back to you with the answer.

Back on track here...
In the end what I wanted to say is that had I given up, or not pushed myself to write 'just one more word', I wouldn't be sitting here sharing this with you. I am happy with how my story turned out, and I have a good feeling about this book. Maybe it's nothing more than the satisfaction of knowing that I did it. I finished it, and now I can share it with all of you.

So don't be too hard on yourself. Don't waste time and energy getting on your case for not writing. Just write one more word. In the end, they all add up.

Thanks for listening in on my ramblings!