Meet debut author, Eric Landfried….

Good morning, readers. Mary Ellis here. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing a fabulous new author, Eric Landfried.

First, the interview: If you had to describe yourself in one sentence, what would you say? 

I would say that feels like an extremely difficult task, but I’ll give it a try. There are good adjectives I could use to describe myself (creative, thoughtful, funny, loving) but plenty of bad ones as well (prideful, impatient, fearful, sinful). So instead of turning this into a glowing review of myself, I’ll say that I’m sinful, yet righteous, broken, yet being repaired, unlovable, yet loved beyond comparison, all thanks to the grace and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What do you do when you’re not writing? Any interesting hobbies?

I tend to be a homebody, so most of my hobbies revolve around being able to stay home and be comfortable. I love sitting down with a really good book (currently splitting my time between Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe), or listening to great music (Josh Garrels, The Gray Havens, and Wovenhand are a few of my recent favorites). I’m also a movie buff and an avid baseball fan, so I don’t mind leaving the house for a movie theater or an exciting trip to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play. I guess I’m a bit of a foodie as well, since I love finding new and different restaurants in my work travels and then bringing my wife back for a date night. 

What was your favorite book as a teen or child?

I’ve always been an avid reader. According to my dad, I was reading books before I even had the alphabet straightened out. The one book I remember most as a child was a picture book called We Were Tired of Living in a House by Liesel Moak Skorpen (The 1969 version with the original illustrations is much better than the update they did a few years ago. It’s out of print now, but you can buy a used copy on Amazon for only $75!). I loved the different houses the kids built and how they came to realize the best house was the one they already had. I also had a series of abridged, illustrated classics that I devoured: Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, James Fenimore Cooper, Jonathan Swift, Herman Melville, and many more. I loved them all so much that I’ve been revisiting them through the unabridged versions as an adult.

As a teen, I graduated to more adult reading, going through Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan books and also reading horror from Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I loved the sci-fi stories of Alan Dean Foster, and I was also really into crime novels by Elmore Leonard and Charles Willeford. Koontz and Leonard were probably my favorites of these, and had the most impact and influence on me as a writer, although Foster’s dry sense of humor crops up now and then in my writing. 

Tell us three things about yourself that might surprise your readers. 

People who meet me now are usually surprised to hear that I spent the 90’s playing drums in a handful of punk and indie rock bands, especially since I have no piercings or tattoos to show for it. Now I put my drumming talents to use on occasion in my church’s worship band (Crossway Church in Keene, NH. Please visit if you’re in the area!).

As someone who can bang out an 85,000 word novel, you might be surprised that I’m not much of a talker. I’m quite the introvert and have been since I was a child. I sometimes struggle with conversations, and am, far more often than I’d like to be, the source of awkward silences. But I’m happy to say that God is working on me, and while it’s still a struggle sometimes, I’m much better than I used to be. I’m thankful for His sanctifying grace.

As I struggle to come up with a third thing about myself, I’m suddenly fearful that I’m actually very boring as a person. I once rode a baby elephant when I was a kid. Does that count? I even have a photo of it, with this guy with a giant, curly afro leading the elephant around while I clung to its back. It was late 70’s/early 80’s so that afro was pretty stylin’. 

What genre did you start out writing? Have you changed course? Why or why not? 

The first story I ever wrote (at the age of 13) was about a kid struggling with his parents’ divorce. It definitely fell into the category of semi-autobiographical as my parents split when I was just an infant. Since then, most of my writing has fallen into the thriller/suspense genre, but I’m of the mind that a good story is a good story, regardless of its genre, and all good stories deserve to be told. So I’m definitely open to a change in course, depending on the random ideas that pop into my head. 

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment? 

While I was self-editing Solitary Man, I gave it to my friend Jerry, a pastoral assistant at my church at the time. He enjoyed the story, but pointed out numerous instances of latent error in the theology my character Jonathan preaches throughout the book. This was very humbling, especially since Jerry is actually around ten years younger than me. But I’m thankful for his critique, because it made Solitary Man a better book, and I had a chance to grow in my own knowledge and understanding of the Gospel. I’m so thankful for this faithful brother who is off now pastoring a church of his own in Ludlow, VT. 

In all honesty, I think the best compliment was my publishing contract. After thirty years of writing, wondering with every rejection if I was actually just a talentless hack, I got my first “yes.” And now people I’ve never met are telling me how much they’ve enjoyed my writing. Validation and affirmation are healing balms to a writer’s soul. 

Any other genres you’d like to try? If yes, what and why? 

As I said, I’ve dabbled in other genres, and some of the ideas currently fighting for space in my head are different from anything I’ve ever written before. I’m currently working on a sequel to Solitary Man, but once that’s done, I’ve got an idea for a science fiction comedy/satire that I’ve been mulling over for years. I think I finally understand it and know how to write it, so it might be next on my list. Of course there’s also a marital drama kicking around in my head, so that could be next as well. On top of all that, I’ve been talking with my best friend Chris about collaborating on a picture book, with me writing and him illustrating (follow his work on Instagram @thecmbutton! He’s amazing!). As to the why, I find once an idea cements itself into my imagination, I have to write it, or it will torment me until I do (like that sci-fi story has). Story ideas are often like toddlers, constantly begging for attention. 

If you could go back in time and do something differently at the start of your career, what would it be?

I’m turning 45 this year, but I’ve had the ability and talent to write for decades. If I could go back in time, I’d grab my 25 year old self and shake him, telling him, “Quit being lazy! Get yourself published! You have the ability, now do the work!” Procrastination is a career killer, especially for a writer.

What is the most important piece of advice you’d like to give to unpublished authors? 

Keep working, keep trying. If you have talent, you will eventually get your “yes.” Solitary Man received around 20 rejections before Ambassador International offered me a contract. Also, read good authors, both classic and modern. Immerse yourself in good writing, and eventually, you’ll find yourself becoming a better writer as a result. To end, I’ll borrow a quote from Galaxy Quest: “Never give up, never surrender!” 

Tell us a little about the story, Solitary Man:

Ten years after a brutal war, cannibals and humans fight over the pieces of a hardscrabble existence. Former Navy SEAL Doyle has been prowling the broken remnants of a devastated America for years. Alone in an armored bus loaded with weapons and supplies, he’s grateful for his solitude. Being alone makes it easier to survive, as others can become a liability in the end of the world. But when a particularly brutal attack leaves Doyle in need of fuel and repair, he has no choice but to venture into the nearest settlement. 
Jonathan has been pastoring a small church of Christians in that same settlement, but when he meets Doyle he sees an opportunity to expand his ministry. Cannibals have kept everyone from traveling, but Doyle’s armored transport and weapons bring hope to his small band of followers. The two men strike up a mutually beneficial bargain, but neither of them realizes that this journey will change them in ways they could never have imagined. 
As they search for other believers, they must battle cannibals, militant atheists, and a mysterious super soldier. Doyle’s unbelief and Jonathan’s faith will collide in this action-packed wasteland. Solitary Man is a gritty, action-packed post-apocalyptic story with a solid, Biblical worldview. 
And about you? Eric Landfried was thirteen years old when he realized he was a writer. Once he had this realization, he grabbed a spiral notebook and began filling it with all the stories bumping around in his head. He was young and inexperienced, and therefore terrible, but the ideas kept coming and he kept improving as a writer. As a shy and withdrawn kid living in West Virginia, writing became the best outlet to express himself, and he exploited it as much as he could. As an adult, he wrote less frequently, usually due to his procrastinating nature, but the ideas never went away. Many of them are still with him, waiting to be introduced to the world. “Solitary Man” is Eric’s debut novel ready for introduction. Eric now lives in New Hampshire with his wife Kristen and son Nathan. He is excited to begin a new chapter in his life that involves doing something he has always loved, and he is eternally grateful for this opportunity to share his thoughts and ideas with the world.F

 

To purchase Solitary Man, please click on this link: http://ambassador-international.com/books/solitary-man/

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Sea Turtles and the Gulf Islands National Seashore

Hi suspense and mystery lovers…Mary Ellis here. While researching for my mystery, Sweet Taste of Revenge, set in Pensacola, Florida. I had the pleasure of visiting Gulf Islands National Seashore and learning all about sea turtles. Here’s some info: For upwards of 150 million years, sea turtles have inhabited the Earth’s oceans. Sea turtles are well-adapted for life in the marine environment. Their large and streamlined bodies, along with their large and powerful fore flippers, allow them to migrate great distances to search for food, to mate, and to nest. 

World-wide, only seven species of sea turtles have been identified by biologists. Of these seven, six have been recorded in U.S. waters. Of these six turtles, five can be found in the waters of Gulf Islands National Seashore, including the loggerhead, green, Kemp’s, leatherback, and hawksbill sea turtles. 

Gulf Islands National Seashore works to protect and conserve sea turtles by protecting their foraging and nesting habitats. Through partnerships with state and federal agencies and local governments, the national seashore collects data to document the sea turtle nests to help guide management decisions that can minimize human impacts to sea turtles. Through education the national seashore increases awareness about the importance of sea turtles, the threats impacting these species, and what actions can be taken to ensure their future. Photos Courtesy of NPS, Dept. of the US Int.

Here’s a bit about Sweet Taste of Revenge, next in the Marked for Retribution Mysteries: When a wealthy socialite, owner of the largest yacht manufacturer on the Gulf Coast, is found dead, PI Kate Weller is sent on assignment to investigate. Plenty of people would benefit from this socialite’s demise, including her daughter, Lainey. But Agnes Westin created plenty of enemies on her climb to the top, both socially and in business, many with a taste for revenge. When Kate arrives in the only town she could ever call home, Pensacola, she must face why she’s been on the run for years. As a child she witnessed the crime which sent her brother, Liam, to jail. Now someone wants to make sure her suppressed memories stay buried. Can she find Agnes Westin’s killer and clear her brother’s name before their hometown enemy silences them forever?

Sweet Taste of Revenge releases February 1st. Click on this link to pre-book: 

And the winner is…..

It’s three days before Christmas…

And the Winner is…

The winner of The Suspense Sisters Christmas Contest is….
Sara Aimee!

Congratulations! We’ll soon be in touch!!

Thanks to all my readers who entered the contest! And have a very Happy New Year!!  Mary Ellis 

Remember, The Amish Sweet Shop, 3 novellas just in time for Valentine’s Day, releases very soon.

And for my mystery lovers, Sweet Taste of Revenge, releases on February 1st.


It’s Not About Me

Hello, readers! Although usually I write mysteries and romantic suspense set in the South, recently I wrote a story set in an Amish community. My characters use their faith and trust in God to solve their problems. My hope as an author is that my fictional stories will encourage readers during their own times of tribulation. Shortly after I began my writing career, and experienced a modicum of success, I made a sign to hang over my desk of a favorite Scripture:  “But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  Matthew 23:12 NLT

My mother had her own version of that particular passage: Stop tooting your own horn. And her favorite: The less said about one’s self the better. The immortal maxims of my late mother still ring in my ears today, making me smile. The problem is Mom was a stay-at-home housewife, not a published author. How does a Christian balance being humble with the necessity of self-promotion, essential in the world of publishing? Not only writers, but musicians, dancers, actors, salespeople, public speakers, sports figures and of course, politicians must do quite a bit of horn-tooting to stay in the game. Even doctors and lawyers appear on TV enticing us to file that lawsuit or get that tummy-tuck expressly from them. Often this type of marketing isn’t just expected but required in the fine print of contracts.
I have struggled with the dilemma of promotion vs. setting oneself above others. I don’t like having to say: “look at me and what I’ve accomplished” even though I’m expected to blog, Facebook and participate in author interviews. So I must walk a narrow path between not puffing myself up, and spreading the word that a book about God’s infinite grace, mercy and love has just been released.  I focus on one undeniable truth: God gave me whatever humble abilities I possess. As long as He continues to put words into my head, I will continue to turn them into gentle stories meant to inspire. I hope I never forget: It’s not about me. It’s all by His hand and for His glory.
Have a lovely Thanksgiving, readers!!   Mary Ellis

This week on Suspense Sisters

SUSPENSE SISTERS

 

We’re planning another great week on the Suspense Sisters. Check out our posts, our interviews, and our awesome giveaways!

THIS WEEK:

 
On Tuesday Mary Ellis will share What’s Hot in Inspirational Suspense and Mystery. 
 
Wednesday Roxanne Rustand will talk about season-themed novels. She’s also giving away an EBook copy of her book, MONTANA MISTLETOE !  
Wanted: a nanny for Christmas

A Rocky Mountain Ranch novel

The only job Abby Halliwell can find in her Montana hometown is temporary nanny to two mischievous little girls. But it’s on her ex-

boyfriend Jess Langford’s ranch. Jess needs help raising twins suddenly left in his care, so he and Abby are determined to be professional. But between unexpected holiday happenings and two mischievous matchmakers, will their business arrangement turn into something more?

On Friday, our own Patricia Bradley will review Lynette Eason’s new book, CALLED TO PROTECT.
She’ll have to draw on all of her resources to crack the case–and guard her heart.

After being dumped by her fiancé, Chloe St. John has decided that the only male she likes is her K-9 German shepherd partner, Hank. But being over the whole romance thing has perks–like giving full attention to her job. Attention she’s definitely going to need because a case of human trafficking with connections to her missing cousin just landed in her lap.

Deputy US Marshall Blake MacCallum is in a race against the clock to rescue his kidnapped daughter when Chloe and Hank are asked to be a part of the task force assembled to bring down the traffickers. Chloe finds herself attracted to the silent, suffering man. But can she trust him? And can Blake trust himself around this firecracker of a woman?

Buckle in. This fast and furious ride will have your heart pumping from the very start.
The Suspense Sisters
 
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A Recipe for Romance and a new Amish mystery is on the way!

Gourmets and cooking-show fanatics will shake their heads at this post, but I must share the story of the first dinner I cooked for my boyfriend (now my husband of many years). We were sophomores in college and had only been dating for several months. Yet, somehow we both knew this was the one. Keep in mind, any time my mom tried to teach me to cook I would run in the other direction. Even chemistry homework appealed more than anything in the kitchen. But when Ken asked me to fix him dinner during Christmas vacation, what did I say? Sure, why not? After all, how hard could it be? I packed all the ingredients from grocery store into my car and drove to his house. The rest of his family would be out for the evening. Did I take a cookbook? Of course not, since my mother didn’t own one. She’d learned everything from Grandma Ellis who also never wrote anything down. Ken chose fried chicken and potato salad as his favorite meal. I added iceberg lettuce with bottled dressing and green beans straight from the can—no butter or seasoning—to round out the meal. I breaded and fried the chicken, then kept turning the pieces in the skillet until I set off the smoke alarm. After all, I had no idea when they were done. But the extra crispy chicken turned out better than my potato salad. Since I had no idea when the potatoes might be cooked, the result resembled mashed spuds with tiny pieces of celery, onion and hard-boiled egg. But Ken loved my dinner. He not only cleaned his plate but raved about everything. Maybe it’s not surprising since I was cute-as-a-bug and he was enchanted. But here’s the best part: When his parents and sister returned from the movies, they all took plates and ate the leftovers. In fact, my late mother-in-law’s exact words were: “Oh, my, you better not let this one get away. Any girl who cooks like this is a keeper.”

I went home that night thinking I was a good cook. It would be some time before I found out the truth. But Ken proposed that Christmas and we marred six days after college graduation. I still miss my mom and my mother-in-law. They both taught me that unconditional love is more important than anything that goes into your stomach. Before she passed away, my mom did teach me to cook a few of her special recipes, but every now and then I still set off smoke alarms…just for old times’ sake.
You may pre-book at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Amish-Sweet-Shop-Emma-Miller-ebook/dp/B07BVGY2HD/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1536951371&sr=8-1&keywords=the+amish+sweet+shop&dpID=5143TwRcd%252BL&preST=_SY445_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

Setting ~ the first character I create in a novel

What first comes to mind if someone mentions the television show, Hawaii 5-0? The muscular actor who plays Commander Steve McGarrett, or perhaps a clever plot twist in an episode involving identity theft? More likely it’s a visual of tanned young surfers riding the perfect wave to the shores of Waikiki, or perhaps a volcanic peak rising from the mist above the rainforest. How about NCIS – New Orleans? Those who’ve seen the show might picture Scott Bakula chasing a murderer through the crowd of perennial spring-breakers on Bourbon Street, or maybe tracking a psychopath by airboat through the gator-infested bayous of Cajun country. Most TV shows and movies rely on setting for more than just backdrop. The setting becomes as integral to the story as protagonists and villains.
Yes, movie and television rely primarily on visuals, but books paint pictures in the minds of readers. Consider the imagery created by Michener’s South Pacific, John Grisham’s The Testament, or Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. Could you imagine moving Oliver Twist from the slums of London to the heath-covered Scottish highlands? I don’t think so. Setting can be either protagonistic as in Jane Eyre or Under a Tuscan Sun or antagonistic as in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath or Jack London’s Call of the Wild. Whether creating a romantic spot to rekindle the flame of lost love, or a dangerous snake pit from which characters must escape, an author must choose carefully to create a memorable world that readers can see, hear, taste and smell.
When an author contemplates a new series, location becomes even more crucial. Consider Jan Karon’s marvelous series set in Mitford, or Debbie Macomber’s lively romances in Cedar Cove. One of my favorite series by Nevada Barr involves Anna Pigeon, a federal park ranger engaged to an Episcopal priest. Mystery series particularly benefit by a change in locale as characters adapt to new challenges, both natural and man-made. Personally, I love to travel. I often set stories far from home, making several trips for research and to tweak final details. As my husband and I travel around the South, I find plenty of settings for my books.
For book one of my brand new series, Marked for Retribution Mysteries, I decided Charleston would be the perfect setting. In Hiding in Plain Sight, Kate Weller rents a room above an Italian restaurant owned by a handsome chef, where she lands in the middle of a family feud with robbery, arson and murder for the daily specials. Available in hardcover or in e-book, including B&N and Amazon.