Author Chat: James Pence

Thank you, James Pence, for joining our chat circle today. This chalk art drawing of a lion is totally beautiful.

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Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.
Nehemiah 9:5

~~~

Welcome, Readers.

Today we are chatting with author James Pence, author of ten books, fiction and non-fiction and a chalk artist extraordinaire. (The lion above is my favorite!) Check out others at jamespence.com. Pence_James_mountaintop

Gather ’round as we get to know this multi-talented author/artist/musician who claims he lives “out in the boonies.”

Sounds very interesting …

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~~~

Welcome, James Pence. I know you’re a busy man, so accept my gratitude for finding the time for another item on your to-do list.

Pence_James_chalk-drawing_IwoJima

  1. Tell us about how you came to be a writer.

    Our daughter Michelle died when she was only a week old. We learned via sonogram, about 20 weeks into my wife’s pregnancy that she would not survive long after she was born. The next several months were a deep emotional and spiritual struggle, and I told myself that someday I’d write a book about our experience. I never did write Pence_James_army-buddies_971000_10153061104335244_128109610_nthat book (although I did write an article), but the loss of our daughter set me on the path to becoming a writer.

  2. Have you had formal writing education? Have you had mentors?

    Sort of. When I decided to begin writing, I took the Writer’s Digest Writing to Sell Fiction course. I also did a lot of reading and studying on my own. When I worked on my master’s degree at Dallas Seminary, I took their journalism and creative writing courses.

    Piper_90MinutesMovieEd_alt3D1I’ve had several mentors over the years. The three I remember most are Dr. Reg Grant from Dallas Seminary, Becky (Freeman) Johnson, and Cecil Murphey, co-author of 90 Minutes in Heaven. Cec is a dear friend and has been a huge influence in my life and work in recent years.

  3. Are you in a writing group?

    Many years ago I was, but I’m not currently involved with a group. I live out in the boonies, and connecting with other writers regularly is a bit of a challenge.

    James Pence, the non-fiction author:

  4. Give us the scoop on your first book.

    Pence_James_html_htdehtmlMy first book was How to Do Everything with HTML. I’d been trying to break in as a fiction writer with no success. It’s a long story, but I was in the process of trying to develop a class on HTML and I noticed that most books on the subject were written by technical writers who didn’t know how to communicate to “regular” people. On a whim I sent off 13 query letters to computer book publishers, pitching a book on HTML written for non-techies by a non-techie. McGraw-Hill liked the idea and the rest is history.

  5. Please tell us about your other books.

    Pence_James_html-and-xhtml_htdexhtml_cover-236x300I’ve written ten books to date. Three were computer books on HTML, XHTML, and CSS, and all of those were published by Osborne/McGraw-Hill.
    Pence_James_CascadingStyleSheets_CSSABG


    James Pence, the novelist and collaborator:

    I’ve released three novels with Mountainview Books, all of which are enjoying their second life:

    unseen-cover-front-sm
    Unseen (originally published by Tyndale as Blind Sight
    mercy-killer-front-sm-194x300

    Mercy Killer (originally published by Kregel as The Angel


    Friendly Revenge
    (oriFriendlyRevenge-coverginally released by Hard Shell Word Factory under the same title).

    I also work as a collaborator. I ghostwrote a novella, 
    The Encounter, for Stephen Arterburn (Thomas Nelson). TheEncounter_41R+NnW0ZlL

    Terror-by-Night_tbn_200x301

    I co-authored two memoirs: Terror by Night, with Terry Caffey (Tyndale)

    More-God_511AIttUP3L._AC_US320_QL65_


    More God
    with Nate Lyle (Westbow).

    I also collaborated with pastor Bill Cornelius on the motivational book Today-is-the-Day_51LNSWK5g-LToday is the Day (Baker). I have three other collaborations, all nonfiction, in various stages of development.

  6. What genre do you write and why?

    When I’m writing fiction, I gravitate toward suspense/thriller. I write those kinds of stories because that’s what I enjoy reading. I like a novel that will keep me turning the pages until late in the evening.

    Now that I mostly work as a collaborator, and so I don’t do much fiction writing. I enjoy helping people tell their stories. I strictly do nonfiction collaborations, though. I tried working with someone else on a novel and it didn’t work for me at all. When I write fiction, I just go where the story takes me, and it’s difficult to do that with another person in the mix.

  7. How much of these stories comes from your life or someone you know? Have some ideas come from headlines or media reports? Or something else?

    There’s something of me in every one of my novels, but you would have to know me well to know what those elements are. When my wife read Unseen (Blind Sight), she was shocked at how much personal information was in the book. But, again, unless you know me you won’t be able to pick out what is from my life.

    Unseen was directly inspired by the Heaven’s Gate cult mass suicide back in the late 90s.

  8. Have you received feedback that your book(s) have impacted someone?

    Yes. And in an amazing way. The story is too long to tell here, but my book Terror by Night tells how a single page from my novel Blind Sight (Unseen), changed the life of Terry Caffey, a man whose family was murdered and his daughter implicated in the crime. The killers (his daughter’s boyfriend and another man) killed Terry’s wife and two sons, and shot Terry five times. Then they burned the house down. Terry escaped but was severely wounded.

    He learned in the hospital that his daughter had survived, but then learned that she had been arrested as the mastermind. Terry was crushed and lost the will to live. But about six weeks later he returned to his property and found a burned piece of paper leaning up against a tree. The paper was a single page from my novel that had survived the fire and subsequent clean-up, but it wasn’t just any page. It was the page where my character came to grips with God’s goodness in the face of his loss.

    The first line that Terry saw when he picked up the paper was, “I couldn’t understand why you would take my family and leave me to struggle along without them, and I guess I still don’t understand that part of it. But I do believe you’re sovereign. You’re in control.”

    That page turned Terry’s life around, and now he goes into churches and schools and shares Christ with kids all over the country.

  9. How do you advertise your books?

    Mostly through my speaking engagements. I do the Pence_James_eagleusual online things: blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc., but I’m not a particularly good marketer. However, whenever I speak or do a chalk art program somewhere, I try to take books with me and make them available.

  10. What have been your high and low points along the way?

    Unquestionably, the high point has to be learning about how the burned page from Blind Sight (Unseen) put Terry Caffey on the road to recovery emotionally and spiritually. After that happened, I told my wife, “If I never write another word, I’ll still be fulfilled as a writer.”

    As for the low point? I don’t know that I can identify a particular low, other than the uncomfortable realization that writing isn’t remotely glamorous as a career. It’s mostly a lot of hard work and long hours for not very much pay. I came to that realization early on, and I’m still writing, so I guess the low wasn’t too bad.

  11. Tell us about your interests and involvements apart from writing. (You’re an artist. Cool.)

    Pence_James_Jesus-my-captainI’m a performance chalk artist and have been drawing for 38 years. I’ve drawn in venues as large as the Anaheim Convention Center and as small as a family’s living room. I also sing and play guitar and keyboard. I’m a former pastor and do prison ministry when I can. I’m an avid rock collector and just recently began tumbling rocks. I live on six acres in North Texas with my wife Laurel, two dogs, and two cats. We have two grown children, Chris (27) and Charlene (23); a wonderful daughter-in-love, Betsy; and an amazing seven-year-old granddaughter, Elly.

How amazing, James. Your involvement in the Terry Caffey story makes your journey live and breathe in ways few authors can point to. Thank you for sharing a bit of your inspiring life journey with us. 

~~~

Readers,
James Pence is a man worth knowing and a writer/speaker/artist of note. He can be found in cyberspace at http://jamespence.com. Check out his chalk drawings, book table, and writing/editing/speaking services. Check out James’s current project, Nate Lyle’s story.  

Lord, blessed is Your name in all the earth. How marvelous–how beyond understanding–are Your ways. Give us eyes to see Your fingerprints in our lives and in the lives of others, ears to hear Your voice in storms and in quiet places, hearts that long to know and follow You, and minds that seek Your perfect and holy will. For Jesus’ sake …

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Author Chat: C. J. Darlington

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control;
against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 ASV

Reader Friends,

The Apostle Paul admonishes his student and beloved friend and helper Timothy in 2 Timothy 1 to hold onto Paul’s sound words and to guard the treasure committed to him in the faith and love of Jesus. He reminds the younger man that doing so is possible through the Holy Spirit which indwells him.

In Galatians 5 Paul speaks of the “fruits” of the indwelling Spirit. These come to mind when I read our guest author C.J. Darlington‘s answers to questions about her journey from aspiring writer to award-winning author and now publisher as co-owner of Mountainview Books LLC. In particular, four fruits of the spirit–love, joy, peace, and long-suffering–shine when C.J. writes about her Paint mare named Sky

Look carefully, and I think you’ll find the clues …

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C.J. Darlington Welcome, C.J. What an honor it is to have you as our guest today. 

1) How would you categorize yourself as an author?

I mostly write contemporary stories that include elements of suspense, but I also have a lot of fun writing my speculative YA stories. It’s a great time to be a writer because we don’t necessarily have to stick to one genre. I love the variety!

2) You won the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild Operation First Novel award for Thicker Than Blood. Can you give us a brief summary of the plot, C.J.?

thicker-than-blood-250Thicker than Blood is the story of two sisters who meet again after fifteen years of estrangement. The older, Christy, is a troubled alcoholic who works at a rare bookstore. The younger, May, is the co-owner of a failing cattle ranch. They both have something the other desperately needs, but they don’t realize it.

A bit about the main character … The majority of the story follows Christy, who is becoming adept at the intricacies of rare book buying and selling. She works at a four-story used bookstore called Dawson’s Book Barn. But on her thirty-third birthday she’s arrested for drunk driving and has to decide whether to return to her abusive ex-boyfriend or face the consequences. It isn’t long before she hits rock bottom.

The main theme? No one is ever too far gone for God. (Tweet That!) I also love weaving a story of sisterly love and devotion.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

It was always about two very different sisters. The plot grew from there. I loved being able to share about rare books, and that was something that developed over time. Christy was actually a real estate agent in early drafts! A first edition of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls plays an important part in Thicker than Blood, which is especially neat for a book lover like me.

3) Tell us about the other three novels in the Thicker Than Blood series: Bound by Guilt, Ties That Bind, and the latest, Running on Empty:

Brief summaries and a little about the characters:

bound-by-guilt-250Bound by Guilt: A botched robbery at a used bookstore sends a teen girl on the run. The story focuses primarily on teen Roxi Gold who’s desperate for the love of a family. She’s been in and out of foster care since she was eight and just wants to fit in and have some stability. We also get to know police officer Abby Dawson who’s determined to find out who killed her brother.

ties-that-bind-250Ties that Bind: On a quest to find her father, a young woman discovers she has two sisters who have no idea she exists. Brynn Taylor has just gotten out of prison and is finally ready to fulfill her mother’s dying wish and find the father she’s never known. She ends up in the small cattle town of Elk Valley, Colorado, where her plans and her life begin to unravel.

running-on-empty-250Running on Empty: A lonely, down-on-her-luck young woman suddenly finds herself the guardian of her much younger half-sister. Not only is she blindsided with the news that she has a biological mother out there somewhere, but now she has to take care of Callie. But Del and Callie soon develop a sweet bond that I really enjoyed writing. Plus there’s a greyhound named Utah who I hope readers come to love too.

The theme of families and reconciliation is woven into all my stories (Tweet That!), right along with the theme of Thicker than Blood about the amazing reach of God’s love to all of us, no matter what we’ve done.

How would you compare/contrast the four novels?

I wrote all four with the intent that they stand completely by themselves. You don’t have to read Thicker than Blood to be able to enjoy Running on Empty, for instance. But there is a deeper experience if you read them in order. They all have the same flavor but take a look at a different issue.

Do the novels’ main characters intersect in the four stories?

Yes! That was something I enjoyed a lot. Most of the main characters from each book have a supporting role in the next.

In which main character do you find the most of yourself?

I think May Williams from Thicker than Blood is the closest to me in some ways. She has a deep love for animals and the outdoors and she’s trying to live a good Christian life. When she messes up and makes mistakes, which she does, she picks herself back up and keeps going. That’s what I hope I can always do in my life.

3) Your novel Jupiter Winds was a finalist in the 2015 American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award contest. How does it compare with the other four? How different was the writing experience?

jupiter-winds-250Jupiter Winds was a novel I wrote originally for pure fun. I had all these crazy ideas in my head and just spilled them out on the page, which I think allowed for some interesting plot twists! The book is different from my other books mostly just due to the genre change and that it features two teens. I came away from writing Jupiter Winds with a renewed respect for those who write fantasy and science fiction because world building is hard!

4) Having won Operation First Novel Award for Thicker Than Blood, you’ve been asked many times how the win changed your world. Now that you’re a publisher, how do the life changes compare?

Every new venture creates some great experiences. The great part about working as a publisher is the chance to bring even more stories to readers. I love great stories. Period. So it’s been a privilege.

5) How do you balance writing and publishing on a daily basis?

I am still learning! One thing I am discovering is the need to set a writing quota based on words rather than time.

6) Tell us about your Paint mare named Sky.horse-422111_1280

Sky is a sixteen-year-old Paint mare who has been such a blessing to our whole family. I have learned so much from this horse. Sky teaches me how to be patient, listen to animals, work hard, and have fun. (Tweet That!)

Have you written into a story an equine character with Sky in mind?

Not yet, but in Ties that Bind I wrote about a troubled horse named Lacey who was based on the horse I rode before we got Sky.

piercing-the-darkness7) You’ve said reading the Frank Peretti novel Piercing the Darkness was a turning point in your writing journey. Can you point to one scene or one element of the story that transformed or inspired you?

His character Sally Beth Roe is still one of my all time favorite characters. Her spiritual journey (I won’t give too much away) is beautiful. In fact, I think it’s time I picked the book up again!

8) Mountainview Books is a family endeavor. And home schooling was a family endeavor. How do they compare? Which has been the most challenging?

Each are uniquely challenging, but homeschooling taught me so many value things I am now able to bring to life as an adult. Pretty much everything I do stems back to the sacrifices my parents made to homeschool me. I am convinced I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.

8) Describe for our readers your spiritual purpose in writing for the Christian market.

You know, each book provides a different answer to this question. With Thicker than Blood I was focusing on a salvation message.

In Bound by Guilt it was about unconditional love.

Ties that Bind continues with that.

Running on Empty is about child-like faith.

And Jupiter Winds challenges us to realize no matter where we go, God is with us. (Tweet That!)

I also value just telling a good story and have learned not to try too hard to force a spiritual take-away.

9) What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from your writing/publishing experiences?

Oh, my. Trusting God with everything!

Thank you so much, C.J., for taking the time to chat with our circle of friends. You are a young adult possessed of uncommon wisdom. Thank you for sharing with us.

~~~

Did you see the fruits, Readers? Look at how C.J. described the lessons she’s learned from her Paint mare Sky:

…What’s patience if not long-suffering?
…Doesn’t listening to animals require a listener at peace?
…Doesn’t love of life require hard work?
…And isn’t having good fun just plain joy?

Father God, we bow before you as Creator, Sustainer, and Thicker-Than-Blood Friend. We thank and praise You for stooping to love us, for coming so near You’d reside within us. Keep us in You, the Vine. Feed us as we cling to You. And produce fruit from us according to Your perfect will. For Jesus’ sake …

12 thoughts on “Author Chat: C. J. Darlington

  1. Thanks so much for having me, Linda!

     
     
    1. Having you was an honor, C.J. Thank you for being our guest.

       
       
  2. I like your thought on not forcing a spiritual take-away, C.J. So many books that have challenged my faith really didn’t seem to have a spiritual agenda, but it was THERE.

     
     
    1. Thanks for joining the chat this past week, Gail. Sometimes I feel as if C.J. writes her books–and lives her life–rather effortlessly. And that’s a spiritual lesson in itself.

       
       
    2. It’s a challenging balance, I know, but you are right–sometimes we get the most out of books that were more subtle.

       
       
  3. G.J. Hoffman

    Thank you, Linda, for hosting this.

    And thank you, C. J. Darlington. It was fun to hear more about you.
    A couple of years ago, I picked up Bound by Guilt at a Barnes and Noble to read the back and realized you were an Operation First Time Novel winner. At the time I was taking classes from the Christian Writers Guild, so I actually knew what that meant. So I bought your book.
    I enjoyed it and found it refreshing, particularly because it was different from the run of the mill adult romance or teen genres. And, I just finished Ties that Bind a couple of months ago.
    I did not, however, know that you had published anything in the speculative genre so that was fun to find out here. I too love the fact that, as writers, we can jump from contemporary to speculative, or in my case, to period medieval.
    So, I’m curious. What are you working on now/next?

    G.J. Hoffman (https://whentherocksspeak.wordpress.com/)

     
     
    1. Thanks for joining the chat this past week, Given. C.J. and her writing and publishing story are an inspiration to both of us and many others.

       
       
    2. Hi G.J.! Thanks for the comment, and I’m glad you enjoyed the stories. Running on Empty was just released in December of last year (Book 4 of the Thicker than Blood series), but I just finished the first draft of the next Jupiter story (sequel to Jupiter Winds.) I am also in the beginning stages of a completely new book! I still don’t know where I’m going with it, lol.

       
       
      1. G.J. Hoffman

        Wow, sounds like you have been busy. 🙂 I look forward to checking out your other books. Thanks.

         
         
  4. C.J.’s books definitely held my interest–for all the right reasons: well-developed characters, mystery, tension, history, and clean, crisp, intelligent writing!

     
     
    1. Ditto, Clarice! Thank you for joining the chat.

       
       
    2. Thanks, Clarice! Appreciate it.

       
       

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