Mary L. Ball is a multi-published Christian author, a member of ACFW and a singer. She resides in North Carolina. She enjoys fishing, reading, and singing with her husband at church functions.
What’s your go-to when you need a pick-me-up to keep writing? Mary: When I need to lift my spirits, I practice my singing. Praising God in song is always sure to make you feel better.
What’s the weirdest way someone has died or been killed in your novels? Mary: In Escape to Big Fork Lake, a visitor at the Inn is poisoned by a slice of pie made from a Yew berry bush. The visitor’s murder was a mistake because the pie was meant for another character.
Have you ever regretted killing off a character? Why? Mary: In my recent novel, Sparks of Love, Lynette’s father is killed. I disliked that part of the plot because losing a love one pricks at the heart strings, but through that experience, Lynette learns several things about the Lord’s grace.
Current book: Sparks of Love Misjudged and accused, Lynette Cunningham walks away from God and everything she loves.
Sandpiper Cove by Irene Hannon — When a police chief and an ex-con join forces to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks fly. Given their backgrounds, it’s not a promising match—but in Hope Harbor, anything is possible. (Contemporary Romance from Revell [Baker])
Oh Baby by Delia Latham — Dawni Manors seeks peace in Angel Falls, Texas. What she finds is a cowboy, an abandoned infant, and emotional chaos. If the Heart’s Haven angels really are there, what in the world are they thinking? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])
A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti — Where does a relationship expert turn when his wife leaves him and carries a tiny heartbeat with her? (General from Abingdon Press)
Waiting for Butterflies by Karen Sargent — When tragedy strikes, Maggie discovers a mother’s love never ends–not even when her life does. Longing for her family after her sudden death, she becomes a lingering spirit and returns home where she helplessly witnesses her family’s downward spiral in the aftermath of her passing. Her husband is haunted by past mistakes and struggles to redeem himself. Her teenage daughter silently drowns in her own guilt, secretly believing she caused her mother’s death. Only her five-year-old, full of innocence, can sense her presence. Although limited by her family’s grief and lack of faith, Maggie is determined to keep a sacred promise and save her family before her second chance runs out. (General from Walrus Publishing [Amphorae Publishing Group])
Sunset in Old Savannah by Mary Ellis — When a philandering husband turns up dead, two crack detectives find more suspects than moss-draped oaks in charming old Savannah, including a scheming business partner, a resentful mistress, and a ne’er-do-well brother. (Mystery from Harvest House Publishers)
Above Rubies by Keely Brooke Keith — In 1863, young teacher Olivia Owens establishes the first school in the remote settlement of Good Springs while finding love. (Historical, Independently Published)
A Rose So Fair by Myra Johnson — Caleb Wieland would give anything to win farm girl Rose Linwood’s heart, but Rose’s stubborn independence is proving as thorny as the flower for which she’s named. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)
Under the Same Sky by Cynthia Roemer — In 1854 Illinois, Becky Hollister wants nothing more than to live out her days on the prairie, building a life for herself alongside her future husband. But when a tornado rips through her parents’ farm, killing her mother and sister, she must leave the only home she’s ever known and the man she’s begun to love to accompany her injured father to St. Louis.
Catapulted into a world of unknowns, Becky finds solace in corresponding with Matthew Brody, the handsome pastor back home. But when word comes that he is all but engaged to someone else, she must call upon her faith to decipher her future. (Historical Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing)
The Pony Express Romance Collection by Barbara Tifft Blakey, Mary Davis, Darlene Franklin, Cynthia Hickey, Maureen Lang, Debby Lee, Donna Schlachter, Connie Stevens and Pegg Thomas — Nine historical romances revive the brief era of the Pony Express. Join the race from Missouri, across the plains and mountains to California and back again as brave Pony Express riders and their supporters along the route work to get mail across country in just ten days. It is an outstanding task in the years 1860 to 1861, and only a few are up to the job. Faced with challenges of terrain, weather, hostile natives, sickness, and more, can these adventurous pioneers hold fast, and can they also find lasting love in the midst of daily trials? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
Plain Target by Dana R. Lynn — Horse trainer Jess McGrath only wants to clear her disgraced brother’s name, but enemies keep coming out of the woodwork and danger only gets closer. Jess soon learns that no place is safe—and no one can be trusted…except for the last white knight she’d ever expect to ride to her rescue. Paramedic Seth Travis was the boy behind her high school humiliation, but he’s also the man keeping her alive. When they find sanctuary in the Amish community, can they uncover answers in time to stop a killer—and resolve their past in time to build a future together? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Dangerous Testimony by Dana Mentink — Four weeks before she’s set to testify at a gang murder trial, someone is determined to make sure that Candace Gallagher Andrews never takes the stand. When nowhere is safe for the private investigator or her little girl, Candace turns to the only person she can trust—longtime friend and former navy SEAL Marco Quidel. For Marco, protecting Candace is not just another duty. As the trial date nears and the killer stalks ever closer, Marco knows fear for the first time—the fear of losing Candace and her daughter. But while Marco begins seeing Candace as more than just a friend, her late husband’s memory is never far from her mind. So he must keep Candace alive—and not get emotionally involved—long enough to put away a killer. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Deep Extraction by DiAnn Mills — Special Agent Tori Templeton is determined to find who killed her best friend’s husband. Tori finds an unexpected ally in the newest member of the task force, recently reinstated Deputy US Marshal Cole Jeffers. As Tori and Cole dig deeper into Nathan’s personal and business affairs, they uncover more than they bargained for. And the closer they get to finding the real killer?and to each other?the more intent someone is on silencing them for good. (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House)
Final Verdict by Jessica R. Patch — When Aurora Daniels becomes the target of someone seeking their own twisted justice, Sheriff Beckett Marsh is the only one who can rescue her. As a public defender, Aurora has angered plenty of people in town—and in her past. And while Beckett constantly clashes with the feisty lawyer professionally, it’s his duty to protect and serve. Guarding her 24/7 is now his sole assignment. He may not have been able to save his fiancée from a dangerous felon, but he’ll do whatever it takes to keep Aurora alive. Even if working with her to catch and convict this ruthless killer puts his heart in the crosshairs. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Guardian by Terri Reed — When a fellow FBI agent is kidnapped and a protected witness vanishes, Leo Gallagher will stop at nothing to find them both. So when he discovers a link between the case and a single mother in Wyoming, Leo and his trusty K-9 partner rush to question Alicia Duncan. Could she be the key to locating the missing persons? Not if a killer has anything to say about it. Someone is determined to keep Alicia from talking, so Leo and his chocolate Lab must keep her and her little boy safe on their family ranch. With danger lurking around every corner, Leo must work overtime to not lose another person who’s important to him. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Witch by Denise Weimer — Having restored Michael Johnson’s ancestors’ house and apothecary shop and begun applying the lessons of family and forgiveness unearthed from the past, Jennifer Rushmore expects to complete her first preservation job with the simple relocation of a log home. But as her crew reconstructs the 1787 cabin, home to the first Dunham doctor, attacks on those involved throw suspicion on neighbors and friends alike. And while Jennifer has trusted God and Michael with the pain of her past, it appears Michael’s been keeping his own secrets. Will she use a dream job offer from Savannah as an escape, or will a haunting tale from a Colonial diary convince her to rely on the faithfulness of his love? (Romantic Suspense from Canterbury House Publishing)
An award-winning author, June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in education and a MA in counseling. Her characters find themselves in tough situations but overcome through God’s power and the Word. She writes edgy topics wrapped in a good story. To date, she’s seen fourteen contemporary romances published.
When do you find time to write? June: Since I’m retired from 34 years of teaching elementary children and my entire house only takes 45 minutes to clean, I have lots of time to work on my work-in-progress. (My house cleaning duties are light because we live in our RV!) I’m blessed to have time day or night—any time I get inspired, which is most of the time. But I generally write my first draft early in the morning after my Bible reading when I’m feeling refreshed. The rest of the time I use for self-editing, critiquing, and other projects.
Why do you like writing romantic suspense? June: I love to write a story centered around a boy-meets-girl theme in which the driving force of the plot is getting these two together despite high stakes—a novel in which romance is at the heart of the tale. But adding an element of suspense keeps readers turning the pages of their kindles and enriches the story. Especially romantic is when the hero can protect and defend the woman he loves, the heroine, from harm. When they can work together to solve a mystery, it only drives them closer together.
Current book: Restorations of the Heart True beauty isn’t found at the Miss Idaho pageant but in a deserted ghost town in the mountains of Idaho.
Note: This piece originally appeared on the ACFW blog, 3/16/17.
I’m a details person, which translated well into my chosen profession of writer and editor. I notice things like misplaced commas, wrong usage of apostrophes (don’t get me started on how years can’t be possessive!) and subject/verb disagreement. It used to drive me crazy when I encountered grammatical or word choice mistakes in the real world, like church bulletins, business signage or political campaign literature.
But I’ve largely been able to turn off my inner editor—or at least hit the pause button—for most of those instances (with the notable exception of school communication…the people teaching my children should certainly understand the proper use of its versus it’s, but I digress). And lest you think I’m an overly strict grammarian, I mostly point out these missteps to my husband (who’s also an editor) and don’t call out the grammar hounds on the culprits.
However, I’m sure I’m not alone with how much it bothers me to uncover multiple mistakes in books. The hair color for the heroine started out blonde but ended up brunette, with not a whisper of a dye job in between. The hero had vivid blue eyes on page 16, but deep brown ones on page 230—and he wasn’t undercover with tinted contacts. A major secondary character undergoes a name change that was unintentional.
If a reader is pulled out of the story because of simple errors, then we run the very real risk of losing that reader. And the reader might not abandon this book only, but could decide not to bother picking up other books we’ve written (or will write) too.
Take heart, gentle writer! There are ways to avoid the pitfalls that have befallen many an author before you (and probably many after you too). Here are some common mistakes and how to correct them.
The Switcheroo. Eye or hair color are the easiest ones to mix up with a character. Word processing tools like Scrivener can help you have easy access to character sketches. One trick I use when writing a rough draft and I don’t want to slow down to look up those things is to write something like this: Sally Smith gazed into Burt Brown’s COLOR eyes and sighed. Then when editing, I can easily insert the correct color.
The Lost Time. This one I struggle with because I have a hard time creating timelines when writing, but I’m finally figuring out how to keep track of where my characters are in relation to months and days of the week. For example, some writers have a file with chapters listed and dates/days next to them. If you don’t keep it straight, you can bet sharp-eyed readers will notice!
The Pet Phrase. We all have them—those phrases that keep popping up in our books, sometimes within the same chapter, but the phrases are unusual enough that you notice. For example, the character “hits the [car] gas” not once, not twice, but three or more times (Lisa Scottoline, I’m looking at you!). I’ve found that my online critique group provides a much-needed service in this area—they are never slow to point out when I’ve overused a particular word or phrase.
The Missing Info. This one’s harder to pin down, but it can be so annoying when a character walks into a room with a brown bag, but then is able to gesture and hug and do all kinds of things as if the brown bag had never existed. This kind of magic isn’t going to endear your readers. Pay attention to what your characters are wearing, doing, taking or leaving. Beta readers can be invaluable in helping to point out these inconsistences.
Remember, editors are wonderful and they catch many things, but the cleaner we submit our manuscripts, the more likely the finished product will have very few errors. We don’t want our readers tripped up by these small mistakes in our writing—we want them entranced by our storytelling.
H. L. Wegley served in the U.S. Air Force as an intelligence analyst and a weather officer. In civilian life, he worked as a research scientist, then developed Boeing computing systems before retiring near Seattle with his wife of 50 years, where he has published seven novels and has more on the way.
What’s the hardest part of writing romantic suspense?
H.L.: My romantic suspense stories are high-stakes, high-action with near thriller-level intensity. The most difficult aspect of writing these stories is splicing in a romance that fits naturally into the thriller plot. The only way I’ve found to make this work is to integrate the romance into the thriller-level plot such that one could not exist without the other. If the romance dominates the thriller plot, or vice versa, the story can lose believability. It’s a tightrope that can only be walked by careful plot and character construction. Susan May Warren helped me do this integration for Voice in the Wilderness and I think it turned out well.
What is your favorite spot for reading or reflecting on your current work-in-progress?
H.L.: My favorite place to write, or do anything creative, is in the warm sunshine. Add some pink noise, like on an ocean beach in Maui, and my writing productivity goes up by a factor of 10. I wrote my first draft of my first novel in seven days while sitting on the shore of Lake Havasu drinking iced lattes. During the gloomy Seattle winters, I shine a grow light on my work area—just one light, don’t want any raids on my house!—and I drink a lot of coffee.
How do you pick the location/setting of your romantic suspense novels? H.L.: For me, loving a location and knowing it well are my primary criteria for selecting a story setting. My thinking is that if an author loves a place—e.g. Crooked River Ranch in Central Oregon, a place I love—it adds more passion to the writing. Knowing the place well helps remove fear of misrepresentation, and that frees one’s creativity, enhancing the vividness of story world description. Remember, readers local to the setting don’t take kindly to writers messing up their home town and local scenery.
Something else I sometimes do when selecting the setting—for example, using the Deschutes River for a battle scene in Voice in the Wilderness—is to choose a beautiful setting to contrast with the ugly deeds done there. Bad seems even more evil when it happens in one of the most beautiful places in creation. And good seems even better in a beautiful setting.
Current book: Voice in the Wilderness A political thriller with romance about an American president plotting tyranny and the young couple who risk their lives to stop him.