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
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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.

Summmertime…and the livin’ is easy!

Summer is my absolute favorite time of year. And although there are lawns to mow, gardens to weed, and extra laundry to wash, just about everyone has a shady spot to sit with a glass of lemonade and read. For me, it’s my screened-in porch where I read, work, or simply watch the deer coming and going as the sun sets. When I know friends will be dropping by, I brew a batch of iced tea, mix up some lemonade and bake this luscious treat. Bake two and freeze one, so you’ll be ready when neighbors arrive unannounced. Just remember to take it easy…after all, it’s summer!    Mary Ellis

Fresh Lemon Sheet Cake

Cream together:
1 ½ cups white sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick)
Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
Add dry ingredients to creamed ingredients alternate with 1 cup milk.  Next add in the juice of ½ lemon and about 2 tsp lemon zest.  (Optional:  a few drops of lemon food coloring)  Fold in 2 well beaten eggs last.
Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees – your oven temp may vary)
For approximately 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Hint:  This cake is great with lemon sherbet for a cool summertime treat or you can frost with a lemon butter frosting…
LEMON BUTTER FROSTING:
Cream 3 tbsp room temperature butter
Blend in 2 egg yolks
Stir in 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 tsp grated lemon rind (zest)
2 tbsp lemon juice

Now, go find a shady spot, along with a good book to read!

Enter our Suspense Sisters Contest ~ Great prizes!!


 

HAPPY SUMMER!

Summer is for relaxing on the beach or next to the pool. Picnics, long car rides on your way to a great vacation. What can you do during those times? Why, read of course! The Suspense Sisters will give you a great group of books, including some awesome audio books. You can win Patricia Bradley’s books, JUSTICE DELAYED and JUSTICE BURIED in audio! E.E. Kennedy is giving away an audio copy of her wonderful mystery, IRREGARDLESS OF MURDER! You’ll also win all three of Nancy Mehl’s Defenders of Justice series in audio. As you sit by the beach, you can listen to FATAL FROST, DARK DECEPTION, and BLIND BETRAYAL!

For those of you who like print books, there will be plenty of those too!
ALSO FOR YOUR SUMMER ENJOYMENT YOU CAN WIN:

$100.00 Amazon gift card for additional books! (Or whatever you want!)

A great Suspense Sisters tote bag!

An awesome towel for the beach or the pool!
And a personal CD player!

For your chance to win, enter below! (All images are representative of the prizes given. Actual prizes might be a little different. U.S. entries only, please.) a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Summer!  Mary Ellis and the Suspense Sisters
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