New Year + New Friends = New Opportunities

This month I have the honor of being the Spotlight Author on the fun website “FolksTalesThings”,  a joyous, eclectic site run by my author friend, Barbara Martin. A visit to the site is like wandering among the merchandise in a great old country store and bumping into friends, old and new. I’m excited to have a featured spot in such a charming atmosphere and to have the opportunity to make new friends for Bunny and the quirky bunch of pastors’ wives in the First Ladies Club.
     As you might suspect from the characters in my books, I’ve spent much of my life in small town churches, many of those years as the pastor’s wife. My characters tend to be compilations of people I’ve actually known. Like those real people, they have struggles with their faith in good times and bad. The bad may not have been as bad as the troubles I give my fictional characters, but the strength of faith they use to surmount them is as real as real can be.
     I hope you will explore the worlds I’ve created and enjoy the thrills and chills along with the humor and warm fuzzies I provide to help balance the scary bits…and as you read, please don’t be too hard on my characters when they stumble. Many of us in the real world have scars and bruises from similar slip-ups, as well.
     To learn more about me and my books, please drop by my website http://jbhawker.com/, anytime.  And have a joyous, blessed New Year!
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Own your passion! Respect your gifts!

3d FLC cover   I have a dear friend and former co-worker whose experience can be an inspiration to us all.  My friend, I’ll call her Michelle, joined the Department on a short-term contract to help out in technology. She did the work with such competence and flair that she was hired full-time as head of the education technology department. Michelle’s unique vision and passion for education soon led her to become CEO of her own educational consulting company and she is now one of the faces of the Maker movement for rural education.

Interestingly, along Michelle’s journey, she was frequently the object of resentment from coworkers and others. They tried to discourage her from implementing her dreams and seemed angry when those dreams became reality. Dreams, they seemed to say, are not to be taken seriously. 3d .png Body cover

Independent authors face this same attitude.

One member of an author’s Facebook support group posted this today: “What books have you written?” People ask this question when I introduce myself as a writer. This question has always been terrifying for me. If I give them the titles of my books or tell them where my writing can be found, they may read and find out…I’m not very good. This lack of trust in myself once kept me from publishing my work.3D Hollow

Why are so may of us afraid to trust our vision and gifts? Just having a dream is an accomplishment, putting it into action is an act of bravery and should be admired.3D Vain BRAG

While we never want to be accused of taking ourselves too seriously, we should be proud of taking our passions very seriously, indeed.

We may not all become CEO of our own successful company, or 3D seadriftsee our work on the best seller lists, but if we have followed our vision and stepped out to bravely use our gifts and passion to turn that vision into something concrete, we should not be embarrassed, ashamed or afraid of criticism.  3D Something Blue

The images on this page represent the fruits of my passion to write, they are books I’ve written and published for all to see.

Writers, creators and dreamers of all kinds, I urge you: respect your gifts and own your passion.

Interview with fellow author, Karoline Barrett

One of the things I like best about being a published author is the wonderful people I meet. This includes both readers and fellow authors.

Another of my favorite things is introducing my new friends to my old friends. So, today, old friends, I want you to meet Karoline Barrett, author of The Art of Being Rebekkah, and future releases in her Bread & Batter Mysteries series,  Bun for your Life, coming November 2015 from Berkley Books/Intermix, and Raisin the Dead. 

Karoline has lived in a variety of locations, but she and her husband are currently living in a small Connecticut town. She likes spending time by the water, traveling, indulging in social media, attending New York Yankees games, or anything not involving math.

Welcome to my blog, Karoline. I’d like to ask you a few questions, so we can get to know you better, if you don’t mind.

Karoline BarrettKaroline – Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Jonna! These are always so much fun to do.  Ask away.

  • My blog is read by writers as well as their fans. I know many of them would love to learn the process you went through to find your agent. –  Once I finished my first book, The Art of Being Rebekkah, I researched agents, made a list, and began querying. I had requests for partials and fulls, but no takers. I found my agent, Fran Black of Literary Counsel, while I was browsing Twitter one day; I’d followed another one of her authors. I queried her and the rest is history, as the saying goes.
  • Cozy readers love puns in book titles. The name of your series is perfect for an almost limitless number of cute food and baking plays-on-words for titles of the books in the series. How did you come up with this clever series title?  – I love the name of the series, and the titles, too, but unfortunately, cannot take credit. My publisher, Penguin/Intermix came up with both of them!
  • What made you decide to offer both of your first two books in the Bread & Batter series for pre-order at the same time? – That was my publisher as well! The second book in the series, Raisin The Dead, will be out April 2016, so they probably thought it was a good idea to offer both for pre-order.
  • Was that a lot of work? – Not for me!   😉
  • Your first book, The Art of Being Rebekkah, is women’s fiction. Is writing a mystery different? – For me it was different, yes.
  • In what ways? In my Rebekkah book, there was a little intrigue and suspense, but it was primarily a story about a woman’s journey in discovering who she is. It was more character driven than plot driven. My mysteries have to have a…well, mystery. They’re humorous and have lots of twists to keep readers guessing.
  • While writing your books, who is your target reader? – Anyone who loves interesting characters, a good mystery, and an interesting plot with lots of twists. Oh, and a very handsome detective!
  • How do reader reviews influence your writing? – With my Rebekkah book, I got all positive reviews. I’m hoping my Bread and Batter series will as well. No author likes unfavorable reviews, but with those I’d realize everyone is entitled to their opinion and I’d keep striving to be the best storyteller I can be!

Thanks, so much, for sharing with us today, Karoline. I can’t wait to start reading your new series. I’m sure a lot of us will pre-order today.

To learn more about Karoline and her books go to her website.

Be sure to come back to this blog every month for our Second Saturday Interviews to meet current authors and discover great new books.

November 14th we will visit with Maureen K. Howard, the writing team creators of the Lake Erie Mysteries series, featuring their well-reviewed first novel, Sunny Side Up.

Rave Reviews Back-to-School Book & Blog Block Party

Hi! Sadly, the party’s over, but wasn’t yesterday fun?

So nice of you to stop by to help me clean-up the mess. You can always tell a successful party by the after-glow you feel and the amount of clutter to clear away.

If you will grab those balloons, there, I’ll sweep up this graffiti…careful not to step in the spilled cider.

Did you hear? We have Five lucky winners of the door-prizes:

Nonnie Jules, S.M. Spencer, Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko, Robyn K,  and Shirley Harris-Slaughter will soon receive a personal email letting them know which prize each has won.  But, I was the big winner. What a blast!  I can’t wait for next time.

If you don’t want to forget what fun we had, just read my conversation with Bunny below and all the super comments from my other guests.

Thanks for coming!

[9/16/15 post follows]

Welcome wonderfBlock Party Badge(1)ul readers! I am thrilled you came to my party. I’m so pleased, in fact, that I am giving away door prizes to five (count ’em, 5) lucky guests today. Leave your comment below and tomorrow you may be notified that YOU are the winner of the signed paperback of your choice from my published works or the winner of a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate. In addition, three lucky guests will receive a digital copy (in your preferred format: Kindle, ePub or PDF) of the Bunny Elder series book of your choice.  How do you like those nifty party favors, just for showing up today?

It may still be warm where you live (here in Northern California it’s downright HOT), but September holds the promise that autumn is on its way. So, pull up that comfy wicker rocker on my shady veranda, sip some spiced cider (okay, a tall glass of iced tea may be substituted, since you asked so nicely) and settle in for a friendly visit.

Some of you may have read the Bunny Elder series books, but whether you’ve heard of her, or not, I’m sure you will enjoy meeting the woman herself.

Bunny, come on over here!

Bunny: Here I am, J.B. I was out back picking an apple from your tree. See how pretty it is?

JB: Yes, that tree is bearing a bumper crop this year. Be sure to take a bagful home with you. But, right now, look! We have company.

B: Well, hey, I didn’t see YOU sitting there. Hi, I’m Bunny Elder Banks. Would you like an apple?

JB: I thought we might have a chat and let our guest get to know a little more about you, Bunny. Would you mind if I ask you some questions?

B: Ask away!

JB: Bunny is a rather unusual nickname. Can you tell us how you got it?

B: My older sisters, Jean and Linda, gave it to me when I was about six. When my two front permanent teeth came in they were too big for my mouth. My sisters said I looked like a little bunny rabbit and the name stuck. I was more than happy to leave “Leveline” behind.

JB: I can understand. But where in the world did your parents get that interesting name?

B: I was told it was the middle name of a favorite great-aunt of my mom’s, but I never met her. I always figured my mother just made it up after hearing Chuck Berry’s song “Maybellene” and she was too embarrassed to admit it.

JB: You grew up in Northern California, is that right?

B: Yep. In a little mountain community called Clark’s Hallow. You’ve probably never heard of it, but I loved it, from its quaint old-west style downtown to the quiet lanes overshadowed by tall pines and cedars.

JB: Where do you live today?

B: My main residence is in Bannoch on the Oregon Coast. I also maintain a condo in Houston, Texas.

JB: How do you support two homes, if you don’t mind my asking?

B: My late husband, Max Banks, was a well-to-do business man and a savvy investor. He left me very well off. I’ve discovered managing wealth is a huge responsibility, but I try to use the money for God’s glory.

JB: So you don’t work?

B: Not so much work, but I do write and I’ve published a book which has gotten some nice reviews. I manage to keep busy with my writing, my church work, trips to Houston to oversee things there, and occasionally I take trips with friends or my sisters.

JB: That’s right! You had quite an exciting trip to Italy with your sister, Linda, a few years back. [This adventure is recounted in “Vain Pursuits”-ed.]

B: That was almost too exciting. Most of my travels have been much more restful…well, except when Max and I were captured by those nasty pirates on our honeymoon in the Indian Ocean. That was not restful, at all. [Read about it in “…and Something Blue”-ed.]

JB: Um, no, that doesn’t sound very nice, but tell us, if you have a place in Texas because of your late husband’s business, what made you decide to settle in Oregon?

B: I have so many wonderful friends in Bannoch. I’ve even been made a sort of honorary member of the First Ladies Club. [Bunny moved to Oregon in “Seadrift”- ed.]

JB: Is that a group of past presidents’ wives?

B: (laughing) No! In some churches the pastor’s wife is called the First Lady. The group is made up of the wives of some of the pastors in Bannoch.

JB: Your first husband, Eustace, was a pastor, is that right?

B: Eustace was a pastor, but he wasn’t my first husband. Max was both my first and last husband. Eustace was a rather unpleasant interlude between.

JB: I believe he died in a car crash, is that right?

B: Yes. Can we talk about something else? [You can read all about it in “Hollow” – ed.]

JB: Of course!  What are your plans for the future?

B: One of the first things I want to do is make certain Max really did die in that plane crash in Eastern Europe.

JB: I’m surprised. Is there any reason to think he didn’t?

B: Probably not. But his body was never found and Max’s daughter, Marki, insists she saw him alive, not long ago. It’s been bothering me ever since she told me about it. Most likely she’s simply indulging in wishful thinking, but I need to make sure.

JB: Well, that is certainly intriguing. Please let us know if you find out anything. I see that our guest has finished her drink and is ready to say goodbye. She has several more Block Party stops to make. Thank you so much for joining us, Bunny.

B: Thanks for inviting me… and thanks for the apples!

JB: Any time. Watch out for that loose step! Goodbye, Bunny.

Thanks for joining Bunny and me today at our Book & Blog Block Party.  Before you go to the next stops, be sure to leave a comment, then watch your email tomorrow to see if you’ve won. Come back, again, anytime. Look out for the loose board on that step, there.

Goodbye!