Guest Author Leeann Betts – Choosing a Setting

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Today we welcome Leeann Betts to Word Sharpeners. Leeann Betts contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. She has released five titles in her cozy mystery series, By the Numbers, with Hidden Assets releasing the end of June. In addition, Leeann has written a devotional for accountants, bookkeepers, and financial folk, Counting the Days, and with her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, has published a book on writing, Nuggets of Writing Gold, a compilation of essays, articles, and exercises on the craft. She publishes a free quarterly newsletter that includes a book review and articles on writing and books of interest to readers and writers. You can subscribe at or follow Leeann at All books are available on in digital and print.

Choosing a Setting

By Leeann Betts

With so many great places to set a book, how do authors go about selecting that perfect location that is not merely a backdrop to the plot but actually becomes an integral character?

For me, I go about this two ways: I either know the story and choose the setting based on what’s going to happen in the story; or I know the location and want to set a good story there.

For example, in my first book, No Accounting for Murder, since I’m familiar with small East Coast towns (I lived in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia before emigrating to the US), and because the culture in a small East Coast town is completely different than a city, I knew I wanted to set a story in such a place. That culture not only defines what happens in the story, it also defines the characters.

However, when it came to the setting for the next book, There was a Crooked Man, this was borne because my pastor was contemplating buying a property in New Mexico and turning it into a retreat center for pastors.

Having my main character, Carly Turnquist, start out in her town of Bear Cove, Maine, then travel to New Mexico meant I wanted the next book to be set back in Bear Cove, which is why Unbalanced was set around not only that small-town lifestyle and mindset, but also the larger regional city which tends to govern and sometimes bully the smaller towns.

And then we come to Book 4, Five and Twenty Blackbirds, which releases April 30th. In this adventure, Carly and husband Mike visit the area where my dad and step-mother were married. While I prefer setting my books in fictional towns, Raven Valley is fashioned after the town of Cave Creek, Arizona. Both my father and step-mother are now with the Lord, so when I read this story, I feel their presence and influence on my life, for which I am grateful.

Broke, Busted, and Disgusted was set back in Bear Cove, but this time I branched out a little into the surrounding countryside, which was fun. I love creating new worlds, even though I based it on what I knew about Maine.

And my most recent release, Hidden Assets, which comes out June 30th, was set at a B&B in eastern Wyoming and a small town in western Nebraska. We had been there recently, and I love the area, which is why I chose it. We are also choosing to stay at B&B’s booked through an online source because they are generally cheaper and nicer than motels, plus we get to meet some interesting people. One time, we met a man bicycling from Anchorage Alaska to Ohio for his 50th high school reunion. I think I’ll be putting him in a book soon.

Please leave a comment about connections you have with particular settings, whether in books you’ve written or books you’ve read.

Hidden Assets

Carly Turnquist, forensic accountant, responds to a call from her friend, Anne, who is in the middle of a nasty divorce, and travels to Wyoming to help find assets Anne thinks her husband has stolen. But the mystery begins before Carly even arrives when she sees a man thrown off a train. Except there’s no body. Husband Mike uncovers an illegal scam in a computer program he has been asked to upgrade, and then Anne is arrested for her ex’s murder. Can Carly figure out what’s going on, and why a strange couple is digging in Anne’s basement? Or will she disappear along with the artwork, coins, and money?

Guest Author Donna Schlachter – 3 Keys to Unlocking the Doors to Getting Published

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Today, I want to welcome author Donna Schlachter to Word Sharpeners.  Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick, her first-line editor and biggest fan. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts. She is a hybrid publisher who has published a number of books under her pen name and  under her own name. Her current release, Echoes of the Heart, a 9-in-1 novella collection titled “Pony Express Romance Collection” released April 1. Donna is also a ghostwriter and editor of fiction and non-fiction, and judges in a number of writing contests. She will be teaching an online course for American Christian Fiction Writers in June 2017, “Don’t let your subplots sink your story”. Donna loves history and research, and travels extensively for both.

3 Keys to Unlocking the Doors to Getting Published

By Donna Schlachter

Do you sometimes feel, in trying to get your book published, that you’re rattling at one locked door after another? Perhaps you’re struggling to find an agent, or maybe you’ve been submitting directly to publishers and gotten nothing except rejections. Or worse, silence.

It’s okay. We’ve all been there. Some of us are still there. And we understand that while we trust God to open doors that nobody else can close, and to close doors that we aren’t to go through, we also know that when the door is open, we have to walk through. God won’t drag us kicking and screaming. He’s too much of a gentleman for that.

So what are we to do? Following are three things to focus on as you go through this process of unlocking the doors to publication:

  1. Pray. Seriously. Seek the Lord as to His direction for you. Perhaps He has a better plan for you right now. Maybe He’s holding back on publication because He knows that’s not the best thing for you. I believe He delayed my publication path because He knew that I am an all-or-nothing kind of person: if I got a contract, life in our household would have to stop while I pursued and completed that project. And He had more important things for us to do during that time, including leadership in an international ministry.
  2. Pause. If you’re anything like me, publication has been a main focus for your books, and anything else is second-best. I had to take a step back and ask myself why I wanted to publish a book. Was it to see my name on the cover? To show somebody I had what it took to be a writer? For fame and money? My first book, a devotional, was done as a work-for-hire project and my name wasn’t on the cover. It was in teensy-weensy little print on the inside. Talk about humbling. But this experience made me step back and ask why I wanted to publish. Which brings me to number three.
  3. Praise. Yes, you read that right. Praise God for the gift He’s given you to string together words into stories that touch lives. Praise Him that He is writing the most important story in you right now, long before the written word gets on to the page. Praise Him that He would choose you to be the first person to hear this story. And Praise Him for using you to reach a lost world.

I truly believe that when we put our writing in the proper place in our lives—never above God, never above our spouse or family—then He will honor this calling to write and will reward our obedience. Your publishing path might be traditional or independent; it might be paper or digital; it might be full-time or part-time, but the important thing is that your path leads you—and others—to know more intimately the God of Words. He is the Word, and He has placed that Word in you to give to others.

So go ahead, unlock some doors. You have the keys you need.

You can find Donna online at these locations:

Echoes of the Heart

A mail order bride who isn’t who she says she is; a crippled station master who believes no woman would want him. Can they find love on the Pony Express, or are they doomed to being alone forever?

The Pony Express Romance Collection

9 novellas in 1 tell the tale of love, romance, and deep longings set along the Pony Express trail. Can our heroines find the love they are looking for? Or will the Wild West keep them from their deepest desire?


Guest Author June Foster Talks About 9 Things to Do when You’re Bored

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

June Foster’s is our guest author today.

I’m Bored by June Foster

I’m bored.

The message on the teenager’s shirt at Walmart glared at me. Why did it seem so offensive? I had to think a while then it dawned on me.

Life is a gift. When we’re young, we don’t realize how fleeting it really is. The Bible says we are like grass. We flourish like a flower of the field. Then the wind blows over it, and it is gone. Young or old. We don’t know when our last day will be. We don’t have time to be bored!

Boredom is telling God we don’t appreciate the day He made. He gave us today to enjoy. It’s a glorious opportunity, filled with chances to live for Him and do wondrous things.

Okay, then. Like what?

Maybe you live a mundane life with very little happening. Or you’re so consumed with “doing and going” that you don’t have time to think about or serve God. Maybe you believe you are only one person and can’t make a difference. Or your life is so routine, and nothing ever happens. Or your sphere of influence is limited. Or you don’t have any friends. Or you live in a small town with little opportunity. I could go on.

Don’t believe it. Instead of sitting around being bored, ask God how you can serve, how you can impact your community—rural or metropolitan, ghetto or suburban. You might be surprised what He’ll drop into your life.

Here are some suggestions.

  1. Become the best cookie maker you can and take the sweets to a women’s shelter or orphanage.
  2. Memorize twenty verses from the Bible and say each daily. Look for ways to incorporate those verses in your life.
  3. If a teen, do one thing every day to help your mother or father.
  4. Buy a pack of greeting cards from the dollar store and send out one a day to people who need encouragement.
  5. Go jogging in your neighborhood and pray for people you see or meet along the way.
  6. Form a literary group. Read and discuss a classic such as Pilgrim’s Progress.
  7. God has an infinite number of projects for you. Do something for the glory of His Kingdom instead of sitting around being bored.
  8. Oh yeah, one more thing. Turn off the TV.
  9. You don’t have time to be bored.

Misty Hallow

When two people are cultures apart, only God can bridge the gap.

Molly Cambridge arrives in the tiny Appalachian town of Misty Hollow intent upon bringing literacy to the area’s uneducated women, only to be met by opposition at every turn by the headstrong, unbending mayor. When she asks for use of Town Hall, he refuses her offer to teach without pay and turns her down flat saying he only allows village business conducted there.

Joel Greenfield, son is a poor dirt farmer, is illiterate. When he admits to his passion to turn the family farm into a dairy business, the obstacles are insurmountable. He couldn’t even read the manual on how to use farming machinery, much less generate the necessary capital. His father’s objections further frustrate his desires.

When Joel offers Molly use of the old barn on the Greenfield property, they discover an irresistible attraction for each other. But the mayor has plans of his own to break them up, send Molly back to Nashville, and seize the Greenfield farm for himself. Can Molly and Joel overcome the hurdles to fulfilling their dreams and find their way to each other? Only God has the answers.

An award-winning author, June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in education and MA in counseling. June’s book Give Us This Day was a finalist in EPIC’s eBook awards and a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards for best first book. Ryan’s Father was one of three finalists in the published contemporary fiction category of the Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Writing Contest and Awards. Deliver Us was a finalist in COTT’s Laurel Awards. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day, As We Forgive, and Deliver Us, and Hometown Fourth of July. Ryan’s Father is published by WhiteFire Publishing. Red and the Wolf, a modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, is available from The Almond Tree series, For All Eternity, Echoes From the Past, What God Knew, and Almond Street Mission are available at June enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. Recently June has seen publication of Christmas at Raccoon Creek, Lavender Fields Inn, Misty Hollow, and Restoration of the Heart. Visit June at


Interviewing Multi-Published Author Lisa Lickel

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Today, I’m interviewing Lisa Lickel. Lisa helped me a great deal with plot points and quilting info while I was writing Alice’s Notions. What was your favorite part of Alice’s Notions?

As a historian, I’m the nerdy one who adores and gets lost in research. I loved learning more about some of the things going on in the background of the government during the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War. Some of the facts we discovered about the setting, such as the DuPont factory, and how you worked so much pop culture into the events were thrilling. I suppose my favorite part of the story should be the quilts, but I really loved Alice and Rick’s adventures, getting themselves into and out of trouble.

You were a vast resource of information about quilting. Tell us a little about how you got started quilting and what you love about it.

Like you, I had a grandmother who was an inspiration to me. I would visit the farm while I was growing up, fascinated with the differences between city life and working farm life. She was a quilter, and showed me her methods. I have the first and last quilts she made. Piece in the summer and quilt in the winter was her wisdom. I love quilting because once I get the pieces planned and cut, I can sit and make squares while watching a movie or listening to the radio.

You are a multi-published author. Tell us a little about your newest book.

My newest book will be the upcoming release, Centrifugal Force, a sequel to Meander Scar, a romance about an older woman and younger man which won a Grace Award back in 2011. It took a long time for me to develop Centrifugal Force around an obituary I happened to see and cut out. I knew the man in the obituary was just like the main character in my story, but I wasn’t ready to write the story until about three years ago when my writer’s group helped me brainstorm. I spent a year on the manuscript with the help of the group and my crit partner. The story is about the main character from Meaner Scar, Ann Michel’s sister, Rachel. In Centrifugal Force, we learn how Rachel, the goody two-shoes, ended up raising a child as a single mom. When her daughter Maeve finally has her life together, superstar international academic Gervas Friedemann, Maeve’s father, shows up seeking a priceless artifact Rachel once took in revenge. It’s also the story of Gervas’s secret quest to find a cure for his oldest daughter’s genetic condition, which forces him to accept responsibility for a past he cannot change, but a future he’s desperate to save. Caveat: I wrote this book before Brexit. Centrifugal Force should release in September.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a sandwich story from my Love Is novella, Everything About You. This short romance, Post Production, is the story of how Danny and Shelly decide to follow through on their whirlwind love on the movie set. Danny’s business is going up in flames while Shelly wonders if she can give up her Hollywood life for the country. We know how it ends from Everything About You, but the fun is following on the journey while these two love-struck kids face reality without the camera and the option of splicing and editing.

Thanks for stopping by, Lisa. I appreciated all your help with Alice’s Notions.

It was fun working on the story with you!

Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin author who loves books, collects dragons, and writes inspiring fiction. She also writes short stories, feature articles, and radio theater, and loves to encourage new authors through mentoring, speaking, and leading workshops. Lisa is a member of Women Fiction Writers Association, the Council for Wisconsin Writers, the Chicago Writer’s Association, and vice president/instructor for Novel-In-Progress Bookcamp and Writing Retreat, Inc. She is an avid book reviewer and blogger, and a freelance editor. Find more at Readers can find a current list of available books on her website, Goodreads, and her Amazon Author page.


Bio pic included

Cover to Meander Scar included

Amazon link to Meander Scar:

Christmas in April with Author Rose Verde Giveaway

Rose Verde is an avid reader and has always enjoyed making up stories since junior high school. She is a nurse/midwife in her other life, married to her own real life hero and blessed with two lovely kids. When she is not writing, she is singing or reading. Rose is giving away an audio copy of her novel, A Christmas Wish. For details, check the end of this post.


Christmas Wish

by Rose Verde

Everyone has a wish at one point or the other—sometimes big, at other times small. Though, we have that wish and are expectant, we often don’t get them. But when we do, it makes all the difference.

Christmas Wish popped into my head when a call came for a Christmas story with a fairytale spin. I started with the “what-if” question which took me round and round for a while. I wanted a story in which my protagonist will have her wish come true, but why would that wish matter? It had to be something she really cared for.

And then an idea struck. What if she has never had any fantastic Christmas and wants one? How about it becoming something for which time was ticking? And “Christmas Wish” was born.

My protagonist was abandoned as a baby. Haven spent all her life in the orphanage, Christmas was just a little different from every other day. Yet, her little Christmas book—the one that was left with her when she was abandoned—promised something different. Plus she has outgrown the orphanage and now lives there at the mercy of the sisters who run the place. Just one wish and she would be OK.

It is often a wonder what the imagination is capable of with just a what-if question. At first, it may not seem like its heading anywhere—random ideas, right? But out of those scribbles, meaningless and meaningful ones are birthed the best stories.

It’s interesting and I always love the happily ever after, after my dear, dear protagonist has gone through the wringer.

Christmas Wish

Debbie Regan has just one wish…spend Christmas in a snow globe world. All the life she knows is a bare Christmas tree and meager meals at the orphanage. And then her wish comes true, and nothing will stand in her way.

Preston Campbell isn’t looking forward to Christmas. It’s a reminder of what he’s lost—his mom. He plans to sell her Christmas gift shop and move away from Reindeer’s mountain. Yet, he has to deal with the orders he hadn’t been aware of. Forced to find help until the shop sells, he hires vivacious Debbie.

Both of them never expect the sparks that fly, or the promise the future holds.

Book Giveaway:

To enter the book giveaway contest for an audio copy of Christmas Wish, leave a comment answering this question: “If asked why you love “Happily ever-afters”, what would you say?”

The contest will end next Thursday, April 13th. We will announce the winner on this blog post.

Guest Author Tanya Eavenson – Love is in the Air

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

tanya-eavensonTanya Eavenson is our guest author today. Tanya is a bestselling and an award-winning inspirational romance author. She enjoys spending time with her husband and their three children. Tanya is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Word Weavers International. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. You can find her at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google, or on Amazon.

Love is in the Air!

by Tanya Eavenson

Can you feel it? Whether it’s a romantic kind of love or the parental kind, love is in the air! Even in my fictional world from my new release To Gain a Valentine.

Last week, I released my second novella in the Gaining Love series entitled To Gain a Valentine. I had so much fun writing this story because I could relate to the hero, Patrick Reynolds, who works wonders with sick children as a pediatrician, yet when it comes to pets, he’s clueless.

That is so me! Several years ago we moved from the pastorium to the home we bought seven minutes away. Carrying all our possessions, including our cat, Woody, (he was named after Woody from Toy Story) I placed him in the garage. Little did I realize, I left the back door open.

Can you imagine my horror when I was the one who allowed my daughter’s cat, her best friend, to escape and wander around lost in a neighborhood during a rain storm? Yes, a storm! It was raining cats and dogs, pun intended. I could hardly see three feet in front of my face. I felt just awful! The way my eight-year-old cried, those tears, the words “he’s going to die out there!” just about killed me on the spot.

So me, who uses an umbrella at the first sign of rain or mist in the air, I charge out into the pelting rain in hopes of finding a cat and mending broken hearts—hers and mine. “Soaked through” wouldn’t even begin to describe my clothes, which clung to me seconds after stepping outside. Already exhausted from the move, I dragged myself through the process of combing the neighborhood.

But there, at last, was Woody, waiting under a stranger’s patio, sheltered from the storm. I still remember whispering a prayer of thanksgiving as I trespassed on this person’s yard with all intent to steal my own cat. But as I neared, he ran. And I chased.

Two blocks, yard after yard, calling his name. “Woody!”

Then, I lost him. What was I going to do now? How was I going to tell my daughter that not once but twice in one day I had lost her most beloved cat?

Heading back toward the house, I hung my sopping head and said another prayer that Woody would return, and soon.

Sloshing up the front steps, I heard my husband’s voice from the garage. It was better to tell him first, so I went to him. There, sitting in a folding chair next to our dresser, sat my daughter with a wide smile on her face, holding Woody against her chest.

Happy tears filled my eyes, but in the next breath I realized seeing him in her arms, dry, I’d been running down the streets of our new neighborhood like a crazy person, chasing after another person’s cat! Needless to say, in life, you have to learn how to laugh at yourself. This was indeed one of those moments that will forever be etched in my daughters mind and heart, as well as my own. She saw, in action, how much I loved her.

Yes, I see a lot of myself in Patrick from To Gain a Valentine, his attempts to care for animals when he has no idea what in the world he’s doing. Granted, I had one cat in my care, and he had one dog, three fish, two— Well, you’ll have to read the story, but it was also his desire to forget what was safe and love others with action and abandonment. And like my ending, Patrick’s actions will forever last in Amabelle’s heart and mind. For them, it was the day when love took flight.

togainavalentine_1400x2100To Gain a Valentine

Pediatrician Patrick Reynolds works wonders with sick children, yet when it comes to pets, he’s clueless. But caring for his sister’s menagerie while she’s on vacation is the perfect answer to working through a broken engagement. Hoping to escape the memories, he returns to his hometown, the last place he’d expect to find love.

Life as a single mom is never easy, but pet shop owner Amabelle Durand has found contentment. When an old friend returns to care for his sister’s pets, he enlists her assistance to keep the animals alive. But when Amabelle’s young daughter falls ill, she finds herself attracted to more than the handsome pediatrician’s medical skills.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, will Patrick and Amabelle miss out on the love they’ve always desired? Or will their love take flight under the stars on this very special night?

You can buy To Gain a Valentine at this link.

Guest Author Gail Kittleson – Equilibrium (Book Giveaway)

gailGail Kittleson is our guest author today. She is giving away a paperback copy of her new book, With Each New Dawn. Go to the end of this post for details.

Gail taught college expository writing and English as a Second Language. Now she writes memoir and women’s fiction, and facilitates writing workshops and women’s retreats. She makes her home in northern Iowa, where she and her husband enjoy their grandchildren and gardening. In winter, the Arizona mountains provide fresh novel fodder. You can find her online at these sites:


by Gail Kittleson

Recently, some dizzy spells have challenged me. A piece fell as I removed an old card table from the closet, so I peered under the leg to see if I needed to glue it back in there, and voila! A completely uncontrollable sensation enveloped me, and I caught myself just in time.

A new online writer friend commiserated—she’d dealt with vertigo for decades before finding healing. Her “take” on this malady inspired me. She said, “I’ve also had to have my spine fused, and think I’d choose to re-experience that rather than the vertigo.”

Wow—misery loves company, for sure. It helps to have someone understand how this wooziness feels. That reminds me of how the heroine of my World War II novel must’ve felt as a stranger behind enemy lines. She’s a secret agent in constant danger of Gestapo detection. Then, her network gets betrayed to the enemy and she’s cast out to make it on her own and still hopefully contribute to the war effort.

The parallel probably falls apart at some point, but for our purposes, maybe my heroine Kate’s sense of disorientation compares with dizziness. She’d relied on her network for stability—suddenly it was gone. I felt this way again today—once again, I leaned the wrong way and whop! The floor became my friend.

Hopefully this’ll soon pass. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a question: Which sense, if temporarily removed, would be hardest for you to handle?

Contest: Leave a comment on this post answering the question above for a chance to win a paperback copy of With Each New Dawn. Drawing will be held next Thursday. The winner will be announced on this post and will be notified by email. US Only.

with-each-new-dawnWith Each New Dawn

Kate Isaac grieves her husband, awaits their child’s birth, and welcomes her best friend Addie to London. But another loss and a meeting with mysterious Monsieur le Blanc launches her into Britain’s Secret Operations Executive(SOE). In late 1943, Kate parachutes into Southern France to aid the Resistance.

Domingo, a grieving Basque mountain guide-turned-saboteur, meets her parachute drop, tends her injured ankle, and carries her to safety. Reunited a few months later, they discover the injured Monsieur le Blanc who with his dying breath, reveals his familial connection to Kate.

In the shadow of the Waffen SS, Domingo and Kate subject their mutual attraction to the whims of war.  But can mere human will and moral courage change the tide and forge a future for them?