An Invisible Army


Writing, by it’s very nature, is a solitary occupation, especially for a novelist.

The picture at the left is a good example of my writing time lately. I’m a hard-copy freak and will print out pages I’ve written, make correction, additions, deletions on the paper, then make the changes on the document on my computer.

Yes, writing can be lonely. But the truth is, we’re never alone!

Every writer has a small, invisible army behind her. Editors, friends, beta-readers, critique partners, the Internet—for research—how-to books on the craft of writing, fellow author blogs, not to mention all the social media we use for marketing what we write.

But in the end, WE’RE the ones charged with the actual writing.

I find it hard to turn off my infernal, internal editor. Banishment, chains and lock don’t work. Not for me, anyway. She’s constantly on my shoulder, watching, criticizing, spell-checking, and will halt my forward motion by stopping dead to find just the right word or phrase, before allowing me to continue. You see, she’s a pain-in-the-neck perfectionist.


On the other hand, while we try to isolate ourselves during our writing time, outside distractions can bring our progress to a screeching halt. Life happens. WE get sick. Someone in the family needs our immediate attention. Oh, yeah, there’s that book I need to finish reading because I promised to post a review. A blog to write. Bills to pay. Laundry. Preparing meals. Grocery shopping. Ugh.

(I really miss Von’s—a west coast grocery chain—and their home-delivery I had in Las Vegas. Go online, place my order, and have it delivered the next day within a specified two-hour window.)

Can I sigh again?


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COTT’s April New Releases

Hostess: Michelle Massaro

Writing Gladiators…. Step into the ARENA!

Welcome to another Clash here at Clash of the Titles! Below are FIVE New Releases, hot off the presses in April, for your entertainment. They all look wonderful to us, but YOU will decide which one takes Top Honors this month.

Please check out the covers and descriptions below and vote for the one that most appeals to you. The one that would be at the top of your To-Be-Read Pile. You may vote ONCE, and the polls will remain open through next Tuesday night.

The Captive Imposter by Dawn Crandall

Sent away for protection, hotel heiress Estella Everstone is living under an assumed name in the awkward presence of her ex-fiance. However, as hotel manager Dexter Blakeley, slowly captures her heart, will the layers of family secrets and the knowledge of her true identity end up severing his love for her?

Diamonds or Donuts by Lucie Ulrich

With her wedding put on hold, and her fiance halfway across the world, Sarah Alexander makes some much-needed changes. A new job in a new town are just what she needs to wait out her fiance’s absence, but what is she to do when a handsome policeman enters the picture?

Pesto & Potholes by Susan M. Baganz

Renata moves to escape the monsters of her past and finds refuge at a church in and in the friendship of Antonio. Savory pesto combine with the inevitable potholes in the process of healing define their journey to . . . love.

Sedona Sunset by Tanya Stowe

Alexander Summers investigates art theft for UNESCO. His quest for the source of priceless pottery leads him on collision course with Lara Fallon’s search for answers, putting her heart and her life in danger.

Waking Beauty by Sarah E. Morin

When fairy-Gifted Princess Brierly opens her eyes after a century-long snooze and finds a guy hovering over her with puckered lips, can she trust he’s not just another dream? What if Sleeping Beauty refused to wake up?

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Introducing Biblical Fiction Author Stephanie Landsem

This week Clash of the Titles is proud to feature Stephanie Landsem, author of The Living Water biblical fiction series. She will carry you back into the times of Jesus and explore beautiful truths that resonate deeply with readers.

Let’s hear from Stephanie about her books and how she handles the interesting challenge of writing about Jesus.

1.) What was your favorite part of writing The Living Water series?

Research is the part of writing I love best. I usually spend about a month just doing research before I start plotting a book. I find some of my best plot twists, characters and settings right in the pages of history. Maps and pictures of archeological finds really help me get the feel for the setting. As I craft the story, this research comes out and helps the reader become fully immersed in the story.

2) How do you balance the real person of Jesus with the other characters in your story?

I like to think of every encounter with Jesus recorded in the Bible as a stone thrown in a pond. We know the initial splash — the cure of the man born blind, or the raising of Lazarus — but I want to write about the ripples. I love to imagine how these personal encounters with Jesus moved outward in ever-widening circles to touch more people than we can even imagine. So I start with the event described in the Bible and move outward into imagination, always keeping in mind that Jesus knew exactly what ripple-effect his actions would have and they would always be for his father’s glory.

3.) What are the binding themes throughout the Well, The Thief and the Tomb and what do hope to bring to your readers in this series?

I love the gospel of John and how it shows the very personal way in which Jesus connected with the people of his time. Each of the stories in The Living Water Series begin with an encounter with Jesus from John—the Samaritan woman, the man born blind, and Jesus’ relationship with Martha. Each of these encounters were intensely personal and led to deep conversion. I hope that in reading about these one-to-one meetings with Jesus, readers can imagine themselves face to face with our Lord and come to know him more deeply.

The Living Water Series are a set of intersecting stories based on personal encounters with Jesus in the gospel of John. The first book, The Well, is the story of the Samaritan woman at the well told from the point of view of her daughter, Mara. Mara, a desperate Samaritan girl, must make a dangerous journey across Galilee to find Jesus and save her dying mother. The second book focuses on Jesus ministry in Jerusalem, starting with the healing of the man born blind and continuing on to Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and resurrection. It is told from the perspective of a poor Jewish girl and a Roman centurion – both of whom don’t know what to think of the so-called Messiah. The Tomb, A Novel of Martha, is—of course—about the family of Lazarus in Bethany. It focuses on Martha, her doubts and anxieties, and finally the desperate decision she must make to save her brother’s life.

~ * ~
Stephanie Landsem, author of The Living Water Series, writes historical fiction because she loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, she’s explored ancient ruins, medieval castles, and majestic cathedrals around the world. Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband, four children, and three fat cats. When she’s not writing, she’s feeding the ravenous horde, avoiding housework, and dreaming about her next adventure—whether it be in person or on the page.

Connect with her online:!/stephlandsem

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Cozy Den: Guest Author James Callan



The Story behind the stories, by James Callan

People always ask me where I get the ideas for the books I write. My answer is always the same: from the news or things that happen around me. I don’t write those stories. But they provide the genesis for the book plot. They act as a spring board. They lift me into a story often quite different from the idea that served as inspiration.


The first Father Frank Mystery was Cleansed by Fire. Several years ago, a number of churches were torched in a part of northeast Texas not far from where I live. The police finally caught the two men who committed the arsons. But throughout the trial, the only reason for the arsons was, “Could we get away with it.”

I couldn’t imagine creating such destruction for, basically, no motive. I began to ask what might be a motive to burn multiple churches. That thought tumbled around in my brain until the plot of a book began to emerge. When the book was published, it was complete fiction. But the idea came out of my mulling over aspects of a real event.


clip_image004[6]Quite some years ago, our youngest daughter sang with the Sweet Adelines, women who sing barbershop harmony. One year, her chorus made it to the international competition, and eventually her chorus was named the fourth best in the world that year. Of course, we went to the weeklong competition. Imagine 10,000 women dressed in bright, gaudy costumes. Everywhere you went that week, there were plenty of sequins, and you could expect a group to break out in song any place, any time. Our youngest is also a writer. Afterwards, we began tossing ideas around. Wouldn’t it be fun to weave a murder investigation into the singing competition. Sequins and bullets. Out of that came Murder a Cappella, which she and I wrote together.

For the past three or four years, the Keystone Pipeline has been in the news. It is still a point of contention between the Congress and the President. My involvement with the Keystone came when they used eminent domain to run the pipeline through my land. With court order in hand, they clear cut a swath one hundred and fifty feet wide and about a third of a mile long across our property. They bulldozed down hundred-foot pines and forty or fifty year-old oak and hickory trees.

I decided I wanted to write a murder mystery where eminent domain played a part. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I clip_image006[4]couldn’t make it about the Keystone. First, to my knowledge, there was no murder connected with the pipeline. Second, I could foresee future problems if I weren’t extremely careful how I handled Keystone. And by moving away from the pipeline, I had much more freedom to weave the story any way I wished.

Last week, Over My Dead Body released in paperback and Kindle editions. The use of eminent domain to the benefit of a private corporation was the flash point for this murder mystery. While it is completely fiction, the real incident involving eminent domain and our property was the writing prompt for the book.

The same thing is true of other books I have written. So, where can you get an idea for a book? Just read the newspaper, watch TV news, or listen to what your friends are saying happened in their lives. You will have plenty of ideas before the sun sets.

Back Cover Blurb for Over My Dead Body

A large corporation is taking land by eminent domain. Syd Cranzler stands in its way, threatening a court battle. After a heated meeting with the corporation representative, Syd is found dead from an overdose of heart medication. The police call it suicide. Case closed.

But Father Frank, Syd’s pastor, and Georgia Peitz, another member of the church, don’t believe Syd committed suicide and begin to look for clues of what really happened. Will this affect Georgia’s romantic interest in the lead detective?

When the priest is almost poisoned, they convince the police to investigate further. Immediately, Father Frank becomes the target of rumors and speculation he might have had something to do with Syd’s death.

The more clues Father Frank and Georgia uncover, the more danger they find themselves in. Can they find the real killer before they become victims?


Brief Bio of James R. Callan

After a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans, James R. Callan turned to his first love—writing. He wrote a monthly column for a national magazine for two years. He has had four non-fiction books published. He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mystery/suspense, with his sixth book releasing in 2015.

Thank you so much, Jim, for accepting my invitation to join me in my cozy den. I thoroughly enjoyed our visit. As a writer myself, I know that story ideas are everywhere…one just has to be aware. But I so love hearing how my fellow writers come up with the starters for their book. You satisfied my curiosity. You’re more than welcome to come back for another visit.

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Reading / Writing Ambiance


I think my devotion to background music harps back to my childhood. I grew up surrounded with music. Old 78rpm records, and eventually the new 33-1/3, seemed to be always on the record-player any time the family was home. Of course, in those days, we actually sat down to a family meal every evening, and Sunday’s after church, out came those records again.

As a young married adult living in Milwaukee, I had the radio on all day long. So constant music in the background became like a second skin while I did the housework, laundry, bathing the kids, cooking meals, doing dishes, and reading when I could steal the time…always music.

Even in the car I had at the time, which had both a cassette and an 8-Track player, (anyone remember them?) the ride was never silent.



Now in my Golden years, and writing full-time, for a while I was writing in total silence. The radio/phonograph is in the living room, and for me to be able to hear it, the volume had to be cranked up some. So I forfeited my background music. The writing moved along so-so, but I did miss my music. So, about a year ago I discovered Pandora, a computer application that plays on my desktop PC and external speakers. Others can hear it from about ten feet away, but since I’m in a bedroom/office of my own, it doesn’t disturb anyone beyond the doorway.

With Pandora you can create your own “station” so that you get (mostly) only the type of music you want. My selections are all instrumental, mostly classical, but I do like the Big Band song and some good Rock ‘n Roll. Again, all instrumental…no vocals. THAT distracts me too much.

Now I can’t write without it. My words come more readily, along with inspiration to keep going. I love my music!

Whether you are reader or writer, or even both, what is your ambiance preference?

Join the conversation!

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Series Feature: The Hawk and the Dove

Welcome Penelope Wilcock!

Clash of the Titles is proud to feature The Hawk and the Dove series by English writer Penelope Wilcock! With the first books written in the early 90s and the remainder published 20 years later, the Hawk and the Dove series has captivated readers for decades.
Set centuries ago, these books offer an authenticity not often found in historical novels of this time period. The author has woven truths through the books that resonate with the deepest struggles of our own hearts, but she has also lived out much of what she writes about. She has spent time working with nuns and monks, heavily involved in palliative care in the most primitive of modern facilities. Her experiences most closely mimic care that would have been offered in the medieval setting of her stories. Read more about this author’s incredible journey and life in the interview below with International Christian Fiction Writers.

The Hawk and the Dove

14th-century Yorkshire, the time of Chaucer

Father Peregrine is appointed Abbot of St. Alcuin’s Benedictine abbey. An arrogant, impatient man, a hawk trying hard to be a dove—his name in religion is “Columba”—he is respected, but not loved.

A sudden, shocking act of violence changes everything. As the story unfolds, this community of monks, serious about their calling but as flawed and human as we are, come to love their ascetic but now vulnerable leader.

They lived six centuries ago, but their struggles are our own: finding our niche; coping with failure; living with impossible people; and discovering that we are the impossible ones.

Read the first chapter

Praise for Wilcock’s work:

“Not to be missed.” —Mel Starr, author of The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon series

“Poignant, moving, rich with imagery and emotion . . . Modern readers will easily identify with each character in Wilcock’s timeless human drama. Highly recommended reading.” —Midwest Book Review

Penelope Wilcock is a full time writer and a former Methodist minister, prison and hospice chaplain, who lives in Hastings on England’s south coast with her family. Her popular blog, Kindred of the Quiet Way, attracts a wide international audience.

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The War Years: A Memoir

The War Years: A Memoir, by Peggy Blann Phifer

1940 Philco Radio

I was one month shy of three years old, my sister just seven months, the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Of course I didn’t understand what that meant. I remember sitting on my mother’s lap as we listened to Roosevelt’s Day of Infamy speech on a Philco radio…the big kind that stood on the floor with all kinds of knobs and dials.

I didn’t understand the import of the President’s words, but I saw the worried looks on my parent’s faces, so I knew something was wrong.

I didn’t understand, or even realize until much later, that my dad wasn’t called up. When I was about one year old, Dad had completed his Master’s Degree in Chemistry and had a job that was important to the government. We had just moved into a brand new house in Stamford, Connecticut, but Daddy’s job was in New York City, so he commuted.

My baby brother came along in March, 1943, on St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t remember a whole lot about those early years except the heavy blackout curtains, ration cards, Green Stamps, gold stars in some windows, rolling string, painstakingly peeling the foil off gum wrappers and rolling them into a ball, and Mom volunteering to roll bandages to be sent to our servicemen overseas .

I was six when the war in Europe ended, and just recovering from chicken pox. My dad was in California on one of his many business trips at the time, and wanted us to come to him by train. I was no longer contagious, but, sadly, my sister and brother had just come down with the disease and couldn’t make the trip. So they stayed with my maternal grandparents while Mom and I made that memorable cross-country train ride.

TrainI’ll never forget that time. Grand Central Station in New York was packed with servicemen, some returning home, some headed to the west coast to be sent to the Pacific Arena against the Japanese.

The train consisted mostly of soldiers and sailors getting off and others boarding. My mom, a true redhead, and me with curly blonde hair and missing my two front teeth, gained a lot of attention from these heroes. We never lacked for anything. We traveled Pullman and the wonderful black porters treated us like royalty.

Meeting up with Dad in San Francisco, we returned home in his 1937 Ford by way of Route 66. We stopped one night at the Grand Canyon where they had penny machines filled with corn to feed the deer. We were shocked to see snow on the ground in the morning. It was summer…there wasn’t supposed to be snow.

Then east through the desert, passing Indian tents along the road, selling baskets, pottery, and woven blankets. We’d stop now and then, but Dad kept an anxious eye on the gas gauge, praying we’d make it to the next gas station.

My sister never forgave me, blaming me for giving her chicken pox. She never did get to ride on a train.


My sister Martha and me, 1944

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