Monday, September 26, 2016

DOWN SQUASH BLOSSOM ROAD - Janet Chester Bly - One Free Book

Welcome back, Janet. Why do you write the kind of books you do?
One of the toughest challenges we face on this earth is doing relationships. Whether fiction or nonfiction, my books deal with the tough stuff of figuring out how to get along with others. Also, Bly Books fiction evolves around the historical and contemporary lifestyles of western culture.

We’ve always lived in and traveled the many highways and dirt road trails of the western states. This was my late husband Stephen Bly’s passion and I caught it from him. He knew the history of the Old West and could recall most every detail he ever studied or learned. In keeping with the western theme brand, but staying in a more familiar and doable zone for me, my mystery fiction stories happen in a contemporary western setting. The most recent solo series, The Trails of Reba Cahill, takes place the summer of 1991.

Most all my nonfiction books go back to the theme of tackling relationships, whether devotionals or family topics or themes such as The Heart of a Runaway.

Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
Maybe it was the day Stephen received nine book contracts from Crossway Books on the very same day … six of them for the Nathan T. Riggins Series (8-12 yrs old) and three for the first of the Stuart Brannon Series (which eventually became a total of seven). We made a habit of eating a steak dinner at our favorite restaurant whenever we got a contract. We weren’t quite sure how to properly celebrate such an incredible multiple bonanza. So we included all the members of our family in the outing—three sons and their wives and the grandkids. A sweet memory! Also, that day plunged us into fulltime writing.

How has being published changed your life?
Being published confirmed my God-given task in how I could communicate God’s truth—through the written page. I knew where to invest my time, strength, and gifts to learning how to improve the messages He created me to share. Also, I’ve gained so many friendships that otherwise would not have been possible—readers, other writers, as well as various folks in the publishing field.

If I had never been published, I would presume writing wasn’t for me. I’d have pursued other avenues of ministry. Now that I’m in my senior years, I still plug away with stories and projects and keep chasing the sparks of ideas that might work in print.

What are you reading right now?
A variety of books that make an intriguing combination. 1) The Revelation Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Prophetic Book of the End of Times, by Dr. Henry M. Morris, founder of the Institute of Creation Research. 2) I’m re-reading Heaven by Randy Alcorn. 3) The last three novels I just finished were very different, but kept my interest and impressed me with the likeable characters, settings, and writing style: From Russia With Love, The Heirs of Anton, Book 1, by Susan May Warren; A Stillness of Chimes by Meg Moseley; and Silenced, Alaskan Courage Series, Book 4, by Dani Pettrey—loved the uniqueness of the rock climbing skills of the main character in this one.

What is your current work in progress?
Now that Down Squash Blossom Road, Book 2 of the Trails of Reba Cahill Series has been launched, I hope to re-release about nine more of our out-of-print children’s books, including The Crystal Blake Adventure Series (9-12 yrs old). Then sometime next Spring, I’ll be adapting several former devotional books into a revision entitled Grace Spilling Over/True Stories of God’s Tender Mercies.

As soon as I’ve completed these projects, I’ll begin Book 3 of The Trails of Reba Cahill with the working title: Beneath a Camperdown Elm. Most of the research has been done for this conclusion of Reba Cahill’s story and a number of scenes have already been rumbling around in my mind. In one way, it’s hard to wait to get started with the next book in the series. In another, I truly need the break from the tyranny of that consuming pace and pursue some semblance of a social life. With the other writing projects, I can have a more relaxed schedule.

What would be your dream vacation?
My late husband and I traveled so many places. We visited every state in the U.S., including Hawaii, traveled across Canada, and all over Europe. We enjoyed all those sights and adventures so much. However, our favorite trips happened in his pickup when we had a general direction in mind, but no appointments or definite destination. We pulled off every side road and into any town that got our attention. So much of our creative writing ideas were generated during those long hours of sightseeing. Just thinking about it makes me miss again my travel buddy. Hard to imagine a dream vacation without him.

How do you choose your settings for each book?
First of all, it has to be in one of the western states. That narrows it down a bit.

Second, it has to be somewhere I’ve spent some time or will be headed to. The beginning scenes in Wind in the Wires, Book 1, Trails of Reba Cahill, happen in a fictional town in north-central Idaho, high on the mountain top Camas Prairie, just like the one I live in. So, the setting’s one I experience every day. No one can tell me I didn’t get it right.

But then one of the characters, an elderly man named Seth Stroud, insists on taking a long journey in a Model T to Goldfield, Nevada. My heroine Reba Cahill is nudged to go with him. That required more work. I had to take the same trek myself. Much of that research I could also use in another road trip, for Down Squash Blossom Road, Book 2 in the series.

The two cozy mystery fiction series co-authored with Stephen were placed in towns we visited and enjoyed. Fox Island, Washington; Jerome, Arizona; and Columbia Falls, Montana, were all part of the Hidden West Series, contemporary mysteries. We set the historical Carson City Chronicles in a Nevada town near Lake Tahoe, a wonderful place to vacation while doing research.

If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
Whoever is reading this blog right now. Would love to sit with you, listen to your stories, and empathize with your troubles. I’d like to find out who you are, what you’ve done, and what you still want to do. I love meeting new people and finding out interesting things about them. There are always pleasant surprises. And who knows? You might be the inspiration for a character in a novel sometime.

What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
I used to have all sorts of hobbies, such as making wreaths, pottery, and embroidery. But all of those fell to the wayside when I started writing. Besides, I overdid it on all those activities. I made so many items for friends and family and myself, yet wasn’t interested in traveling to fairs and bazaars to sell them. There was no point in continuing.

Any extra time these days is given to library board (as president) and church board (as clerk) and ministering with the church worship team and choir (as director).  

What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
Readers have told me that I tend to have too many people and names in my stories and sometimes they get lost. I have tried to correct that by cutting the number of characters, such as totally deleting lesser important ones or combining some of them. I also added a Character Names List to the newest novel just released, Down Squash Blossom Road. I am hoping that will help!

What advice would you give to a beginning author?
Today is so different. Anyone can publish a book about anything, anytime. That’s the benefit and also the bane. If you want to become a good writer and find a sizeable reader base, steady yourself to be able to take critique. Develop a team that will provide helpful, honest feedback and who understands your genre and writing style. That may take some time and testing. Determine to improve your skills with each project and welcome evaluation.

If you’re not under contract with a mainline publisher who has their own editor, I recommend you hire at least one pro. Trading editing favors with other writers can also be very helpful.
Stephen and I had a rule that either of us could edit the other with any amount of red marks we felt were warranted. However, the creator of the project had the last say on what stayed and what got deleted. We learned from each other that way over the years. We each had a different approach and gifts that complemented the team effort.

Tell us about the featured book.
Cowgirl Reba Cahill’s schedule is full. Save the family ranch. Free her mom from a mental institute. Solve a murder and kidnapping. Evade a stalker. Can she also squeeze in romance? 

Reba tried to focus on ranch duties, to help out her widowed grandmother. But a crippled Champ Runcie returns to Road’s End, Idaho in a wheelchair and seeks revenge for the accident that put him there. He blames Reba’s horse. Meanwhile, a letter from her estranged mom forces her and Grandma Pearl back on the road: I can leave now. Come get me. Love, Mom 
When they arrive in Reno, her mother issues a demand and refuses to return to Idaho. They head west instead. In California, Reba’s friend Ginny’s marriage is on the rocks. The family business is threatened. And squabbles turn deadly.

Reba digs deep for stamina to forge a relationship with her mom and escape a crazed man’s obsession. She also faces an uncertain future as a trainer offers her another horse … and maybe more.

Please give us the first page of the book.
July 4, 1991, Road’s End, Idaho
The dark speck in the sky seemed to float toward them, then swooshed at a fast clip. Or so it seemed to the Welcome Home party of several hundred Road’s End residents scattered along the field behind the Grange Hall.

“Here he comes!” Six-year-old Kaitlyn Runcie clutched handpicked bunches of Syringa and Indian Paintbrush for her great-grandpa flying in the sky. Three-year-old brother William crowded beside her on a child-sized tractor.

As the helicopter droned closer, Reba Cahill followed the gradual, graceful descent with a mix of trepidation and curiosity. Her head throbbed and her stomach cramped. Soon they would greet Champ Runcie for the first time since his tragic fall over a cliff in the Nevada desert, while riding Reba’s favorite black horse Johnny Poe, and despite a protest and warning. This grand appearance of the city’s leading citizen incited excitement and angst for them all amidst the July 4th city-wide celebrations.

He was supposed to arrive in time to be Grand Marshal in the Main Street parade, same as the past nine years. But when word arrived of a delay, Grandson Tim Runcie and wife Sue Anne took the honors on his behalf, riding and waving with their children in Champ’s 1957 white Cadillac. The Mathwig triplets who owned the Road’s End Hotel rode horseback behind them on their proudest possessions, sidesaddles with plush red seats. Afterward, parade participants mulled around to wait for the mayor’s homecoming, including rodeo royalty and high school band members.

The woman who raised Reba clutched the arm of old friend and temporary fill-in Cahill Ranch foreman, Vincent Quaid. “Can you imagine? Paralyzed from the waist down.” Grandma Pearl whispered the diagnosis everyone now knew.

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Thank you, Janet, for sharing this new book with us.

Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.
Down Squash Blossom Road (Trails of Reba Cahill) (Volume 2) - Paperback
Down Squash Blossom Road (Trails of Reba Cahill Book 2) - Kindle

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Cathy said...

Interesting interview/background. I have read and enjoyed many books from the Blys. This sounds to be another good one. We have traveled quite a bit in the west, and it is fun and educational to read books set in those states. Cathy - TX

Unknown said...

Cathy: Thanks much for the note. So glad to hear you've read some Bly Books! Love your state too! Blessings, Janet

Connie Porter Saunders said...

Janet, your late husband's books were very popular when I was a librarian and I am looking forward to reading your books. Thanks for sharing.
Connie from KY

SavingsInSeconds said...

My husband and I haven't traveled many places, but we would like to.
It sounds like you have some very special memories of travels with your late husband. So sorry for your loss.
Dianna in TN

Mary Preston said...

Reba does have a lot on her plate. Loving this title too.

Mary P


Beth Gillihan said...

Sounds like a good book. Thanks for the chance to win.

Beth in Montana

kim hansen said...

Sounds like a good read. north platte nebraska.

Unknown said...

Appreciate so much all your notes! Enjoyed each comment! Blessings, Janet

Brenda Arrington said...

Sounds like another good read. Loved the interview. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
Brenda in VA

rubynreba said...

Sounds like Reba has her hands full. I want to find out how she comes through it all!!
Beth from IA

sounds like

Janet Chester Bly said...

One of you will soon find out who will get the book giveaway!

Sharon Richmond Bryant said...

Enter me!!
Conway SC.