Wednesday’s Writer with Janell Butler Wojtowicz

Today I’m interviewing Janell Butler Wojtowicz. Welcome Janell!

Some people listen to music when they write. Some people write outside, near a window, etc. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I’m a concrete sequential personality, which means I prefer regimens. I like my desk organized; all emails, phone calls and social media dealt with; devotions finished; the radio tuned to KLOVE; and window coverings open. I deal with interruptions as they come, but if I can bunch them up to take care of all of them at once when I take a break, I’m pleased. Allison, my heroine in “Embracing Hope” is like me in that sense.

How long does it take you to write a book?

I’ve only published one book. It took me nine years from typing the first word to launching “Embracing Hope” to the masses in November. I spent practically every evening after work and 4-6 hours Saturdays and Sundays the first two years pounding on the keyboard. Fortunately, my husband didn’t mind; he would ride his moped or watch NASCAR. Life interrupted—job changes/losses, family issues, moving an entire household, publishing apathy. I’d haul the manuscript out when I felt inspired. At one point I didn’t look at it for a year, and when I dared to, I was afraid it would stink. It didn’t! I’ve worked on two sequels. The second one (90% done) has gone a lot faster; the third (50% done) has been written in fits and starts.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to walk in the regional park preserve across the street. I usually walk about four miles 4-5 times a week. Walking keeps me sane. I’ve even developed dialogue and scenes for my books on my treks.

Where do you get your ideas for your books?

I watched a BBC version of “Jane Eyre” and that night dreamed the beginning, pivotal scene in the middle and the ending of what became “Embracing Hope.” The concept for a sequel came from a friend who teased me about writing a series. It took me just a few minutes to realize who the sequel would be about.

Is there a message in your book you hope readers will relate to?

As the title illustrates: Hope. And it’s not the wishful thinking type of hope. It’s tangible. It requires action: goal-setting, taking steps to achieve those goals. In “Embracing Hope” the steps the hero had to take to find hope were mentoring, a gritty missions experience, bravery in a crisis, and forgiveness that seemed impossible. He had to look beyond himself. The result was he gave tangible hope to others, he discovered what God wanted him to do with his life, and he found hope through the love of a strong woman.

What are your future projects?

Finish books 2 and 3; develop books 4 and 5, which are just twinkles in my eyes.

What kinds of research do you do for your books?

“Embracing Hope” is set on a Christian college campus in Omaha, Nebraska. I attended and worked at a Christian college for a total of 16 years, so my research was based on personal experience. I have family in Omaha who I’ve visited, grew up on a farm, and lived in small rural towns, so the novel’s settings were also experiential. Book 2 took more research (substance abuse treatment centers), but I know a little about treatment centers from my work in higher education and at a Christian inner-city nonprofit. I had to fill in some gaps with internet-based research.

Did you always want to be a writer?

Since childhood. I liked writing essays and papers (except for the research aspect of index cards, bibliographies, etc.). It seemed only natural that I’d major in written communication in college. I spent 10 years in community newspaper journalism in Iowa, 12 years in Christian higher education PR, and four years in local government public information. The last seven years I’ve balanced writing novels with freelance writing and editing.


Embracing Hope by Janell Butler Wojtowicz

Christian college dean Drew McKinley mourns his dead wife and still wears his wedding ring. He stumbles on a desperate journey to understand God’s motives for her tragic death. Crossing his perilous path is Allison, a graduate student and new employee in the dean’s office. Even as she deals with financial hardships, she recognizes Drew’s unresolved grief from her own loss. Putting up a roadblock is Chris Whitney, the handsome but egotistical student senate president. He carries the secret burden of a dysfunctional family and a below-the-surface temper. The road Drew must navigate is fraught with career upheaval, a reawakening heart, substance and domestic abuse, a violent assault, and the struggle for forgiveness and restoration. Will Drew finish his journey to embrace the hope God offers, the love Allison shares, and the guidance Chris needs, or will he turn his back on all three with catastrophic consequences?

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Tuesday’s Teaser with Lisa Belcastro

The Matchmakers

Today I’m with Lisa Belcastro asking her a few questions about the characters in her book, The Matchmakers.

How would you describe your main character(s)?

The Matchmakers has four strong female leads. Ellie, the matchmaking grandmother, has spent years working as a missionary oversees and can handle herself in any situation. Her granddaughters, Libby, Natalie, and Stephanie, are also strong single woman able to stand on their own, set and achieve goals, and succeed in their business lives. Their strength, however, can also be their downfall. All three granddaughters are avoiding men and romance, for various reasons. Each needs a little shake up in her life, and each is going to get just that.

What is the problem your character(s) face in your book?

Strong women who might be a tad, or a lot, stubborn, self-reliant, and overly protective of their hearts. Not that any of them would admit that to you.

What would you like your readers to know about your character(s)? You could and would be friends with them. They’re average women, working hard and trying to make their way in the world. They have faith and values, and the love their family, fun, and healthy doses of laugher and adventure.

Excerpt from A Match Made in Freedom:

Thank God she only had one more “date” to go. The evening had been proof positive why shee should never participate in a speed dating event. It also confirmed that she had no interest in dating for the rest of this year, maybe ever.

Resting her head in her hands, Stephanie massaged the pressure point above her ears.


She recognized that deep voice. Lifting her head, she ran her fingers through her long hair and settled back into her seat, unexpectedly alert and ready for a bit of snappy repartee with Captain Henry Lewis.

“No headache. How about you? Enjoying your evening?”

“I am now.” He stood, smiling but more stiff and formal looking than relaxed and comfortable. If he were the picture of enjoyment, she wouldn’t want to see him tense.

“May I?” he asked, pulling out the empty chair across from her.

“Am I your last resort again?” The annoyance in her voice was louder than her actual words.

Taking the seat, sitting very upright, Captain Lewis looked her directly in the eyes and held her gaze. “I saved the best for last. Intentionally.”

“Oh,” passed through her lips as the air left her lungs.

“This surprises you?”

All she managed was a nod. They were approaching dangerous ground, territory she wasn’t prepared to walk in.

Time to run.

No, he was faster than her.

Hmmm, time to divert the conversation.  “Who was the uber-fit woman you were talking with?”

“I have no idea,” Henry answered.

“What? You just spent five or six minutes in conversation with someone and you don’t remember her name?” That felt better. Safer ground. Plus, his answer sort of ticked her off.

“I know her name, but I don’t know who she is. I asked superficial questions to pass the time of day. I knew where I wanted to be and when I was going to get there,” Henry stated.

The buzzer signaled the end of their date and the end of the speed dating rounds. Stephanie eased her chair back. “Looks like we survived. I don’t want to be rude, but I’m planning to make a break for the exit before the start of the after-party.”

Henry stood. “If you don’t mind, I’ll escape with you?”

“Let’s go then,” Stephanie said as she rose.

“Hey, don’t you want to fill in your last date and turn your card in?” Henry grinned and waved his dating card.

“If I make a confession, can I skip turning my card in?” Stephanie asked.

“What’s your secret?”

“I gave everyone a zero, so they wouldn’t match me with anyone. There’s no point turning my scores in.” Stephanie passed him her card.

Henry turned it over. “You left one blank.”

“Uh,” Stephanie nibbled on her bottom lip.

“I don’t get a score? Or were you planning to give me a zero, too?” If he wasn’t smiling at her, Stephanie might have felt guilty.

“Captain Lewis—”


“Henry, if you insist on a score I’ll be happy to make you number one on my card.”

He gave her a curt nod, grinned, and passed her the scorecard.

Stephanie smiled, picked up the pencil on the table, glanced up at Henry to be certain he was watching her, and then she wrote “Henry,” peeked up at him again, and in the score column wrote 1.

He groaned. She chuckled.

“May I borrow your pencil?” He asked.

Placing his card on the table next to hers, she noticed that he, too, had rated his previous nine dates a zero. She watched him write her name, and then almost laughed out loud as he wrote a 1. Her mouth went dry as his pencil then made a 0 next to the one.

“The best for last,” he said without looking at her.

He straightened and offered her his arm. “Shall we hightail it? No need to turn these in. I think I’ll keep my scorecard as a souvenir. Did you want yours?”

Words stuck in her throat. If she’d had a voice, she would have said that she wanted his. Instead, she stood there mute.

“Well, if you don’t want yours, do you mind if I keep it?” Henry reached in front of her.

“No,” the word eeked out. Stephanie cleared her throat, then opened her water bottle and took a sip. “I want mine.”

Snatching the card up, Stephanie all but sprinted to the door. Henry caught up to her and held the door for her. She said nothing, just kept walking as quickly as she could toward the main lobby.

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Thursday’s Throwback with Pamela S. Thibodeaux

The Visionary

I never considered myself a Paranormal writer until my book The Visionary (2011) was reviewed by Romantic Times: “Readers will be offered inspiration, science fiction, supernatural events, drama and ultimately, redemption.”

Since my latest release, Keri’s Christmas Wish (Dec 2016) also contains paranormal elements I thought I’d feature The Visionary on this Thursday’s Throwback post.

Blurb: A visionary is someone who sees into the future Taylor Forrestier sees into the past but only as it pertains to her work. Hailed by her peers as “a visionary with an instinct for beauty and an eye for the unique” Taylor is undoubtedly a brilliant architect and gifted designer. But she and twin brother Trevor, share more than a successful business. The two share a childhood wrought with lies and deceit and the kind of abuse that’s disturbingly prevalent in today’s society.  Can the love of God and the awesome healing power of His grace and mercy free the twins from their past and open their hearts to the good plan and the future He has for their lives?


Excerpt: Once ensconced in his apartment, Trevor allowed his emotions to run their course. Exhausted and in pain, he took a couple of pills, stretched out on the couch, fell into an uneasy slumber, and dreamed.

He stood alone in a meadow. Two lions approached, one scraggly and unkempt, the other stately and regal. He turned as they circled in on him, closer and closer until he could almost feel their breath on his neck. One grunted, growled, and snarled. The other responded likewise. They crouched, prepared to attack, then lunged. He ducked, rolled out from beneath the tangled mass of muscle and fur, and watched them go at each other in a battle of wills. Within moments, the large, regal cat had the other pinned beneath his huge paws, his teeth clasped in the throat of his foe. He snarled, shook his head, and released the lesser animal which then pounced to his feet and ran off with his tail tucked between his legs. The big cat roared in triumph then sat, head high, and eyed Trevor.

Trevor kept a wary eye on the lion and inched backward until a tree stopped his escape. Though his eyes followed his every step, the animal never flinched. Trevor watched and waited for him to pounce, but the lion didn’t so much as twitch a muscle. That’s when he noticed the crown. Trevor shook his head and rubbed his eyes. Sure enough the crown remained, embedded in the animal’s scalp. The crown turned to thorns. The lion’s face changed into that of Christ crucified and then back into a lion’s face.

Trevor rubbed his eyes again and shook his head. “Who are you? What do you want?” he felt compelled to ask.

“I am the Lion of Judah, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Come, Trevor, follow me,” the cat answered and turned to walk away.

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Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”


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