Saturday, March 16, 2013

Strait to You by Fran Reinert

Reinert, Fran. Strait to You: A Novel. Tate Publishing and Enterprises: 08/28/2012.
Publisher: Perfect Paperback ISBN-10: 1620241692 ISBN-13: 978-1620241691 $22.99
Publisher: Tate Digital Edition $15.99
Amazon: Kindle Edition ASIN: B008FQRFAO $7.99
For their thirtieth wedding anniversary, agoraphobic Fran plans an Alaskan cruise for herself and her husband Larry. She works with a travel agent to be sure there are no buses. To be sure there is a table for two. To be sure there are direct flights between Philadelphia and Seattle. All to deal with Larry’s phobias. The direct flights were not quite so straightforward, and they have to ride a bus from the airport to the ship, however there is a table for two.

At last they embark on the last cruise of the season, and things go well until the ship, with engines silenced, passes groaning glaciers. Larry and Fran watch from the terrace of their cabin. Suddenly, the ship's captain urgently asks all passengers to return to their rooms since there is a lot of glacial motion reported. Fran and Larry continue to watch, as massive pieces of ice break off and crash into the water, as the ship heads for the last port of call, a logging village called Pastore.

After visiting a few tourist shops, they head to an arena to watch a logging demonstration. Fran realizes they left the video camera in their room. Concerned Fran’s arthritis is bothering her, Larry seats her on a bench. There, just above they landing, where people are catching tenders going to and coming from the two cruise ships anchored some distance off shore, she can sit and watch for him. Larry moves toward the tenders, and Fran tries to keep him in sight, but soon the end of the line beomes the middle of the line…

Suddenly sirens go off in the town. Then the bone-chilling whistles of the cruise ships begin to sound their emergency signal. People with panicked faces rush toward the line leading to the gangways to the tenders. Fran loses sight of Larry as she joins the other passengers focused on getting to their ships. She panics. All she wants is to get to her room and Larry. Larry is not there. There is no sign Larry has been there at all. Anywhere. Fran falls to her knees.

Thus begins a journey. Way beyond her itinerary. Way beyond her comfort zones. With the help of God and the people she befriends, Fran sets out to find Larry. To go home. And to never leave again.
Reinert sends her vulnerable characters loose in Alaska where people take care of each other, just because that is what people do. Being in Pastore, the temperate fictional coastal town, a day’s drive from Anchorage, across the strait from Russia, as winter begins, provides layers of urgency and suspense to Fran’s search. The right people, in the right place, at the right time is a little over-simplistic. But, at the same time, this allows the reader to remain focused on Fran as she bravely sets out to do something she has never had to do before, without the one person she has been able to lean on since she was a teenager.

Minor inconsistencies in grammar and sentence structure, and uses of clich├ęs gives the writer opportunity to grow as she explores other characters in other settings. Reinert handles twists in the plot that could easily look contrived, in such a way to keep the reader turning pages. And, at the end, the reader will want to follow Fran home to see how the new Fran handles being home again. The reader will also want to follow Reinert home to see where she will take us next, and whom we will need to cheer on as we did Fran.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Conversation with Barbara Ann Derksen

Image of Barbara Ann DerksenDoes it sound like we’re patting ourselves on the back, insisting on our credentials, asserting our authority? Well, we’re not. Neither do we need letters of endorsement, either to you or from you. You yourselves are all the endorsement we need. Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it – not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit, not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives .… It’s written with Spirit on spirit, his life on our lives!  2 Corinthians 3:1-6 (MSG)

Barbara Derksen –

 Background and View of Life

Q:  What schooling, travel, training, personal experiences, or other formative parts of your background led you to write?

A: I began writing short pieces as a catharsis, weaving a mystery out of the problem that was my life at the time. Otherwise I had no intention of writing once I’d decided that my children were raised and I could get an outside job. It wasn’t until a newspaper published a short story of mine and then offered me a free-lance contract that writing became a consideration. The editors and publishers I worked with for the next six years taught me what I needed to know to be a journalist but, after my first book was published, I attended the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference several years and learned from some great Christian authors. We travel a lot so there is no end of people or places to feed my overactive imagination.

Q:  What keeps you writing?

A: The ideas percolating in my head keeps my fingers on the keyboard. I love listening to people tell me about my characters as if they were real people, asking me questions about something that I left rather illusive. I also enjoy it when people tell me they met God in the pages of a book or that it changed their thinking or the way they do things.

Q:  How is God working in your life today?

A: God continues to point me in the direction he wants my writing to go. He opens my eyes to the things going on around me and the needs in people’s lives. I try to feed them with some answers or some direction.

Q:  Where can readers find more about you and your books?

A: - -
Amazon author page - –


Q:  How do you keep God involved in your writing process?

A: There are days when I don’t always accomplish it, but for the most part I do my personal devotions and bible study before I begin writing on any given day. I ask for the Holy Spirit to guide me. As a rule, the writing flows better when God is my boss.

Q:  What blogs, books, websites, magazines… would you recommend to a beginning writer?

A: Rachel Gardner’s blog is one of my favorites but there are so many. Linkedin’s writers and authors groups often offers lots of information about different aspects of writing and, of course, the John 316 Marketing Network group is a great source of encouragement and support. American Christian Fiction Writers, the Word Guild, Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference, and many other sources offer all kinds of help and support as well.

Product DetailsThe Book

Q:  How many stars (1-5) would you give Presumed Dead? Why?

A: I appreciate five star reviews, of course, but I would only give my books a 4 star rating because I know there are better writers out there than I am. I try hard to do my best, to incite a reader’s interest, but there is room for improvement. Thank goodness. I’d hate to have reached the best I could ever do at this stage of my life.

Q:  Was there a question, theme, purpose, scripture, or key phrase you kept foremost in your mind as you wrote?

A: I always try to weave a God encounter into my mysteries so I can show people that the Lord has answers and needs to be the shield behind which we travel. When my characters are in a situation, I take a look at where God is in that situation, whether He is even someone they think about. If He is not, I look to see where a seed could be planted so their life will move in the right direction.

Q:  Did your vision of the book change during your writing?

A: My vision only goes so far. I write character led fiction so my characters take me on a journey, introduce me to people whom I never envision at all. So yes, it changes and is enriched because of these encounters.

Q:   Which part of the book was your favorite to write?     

A: I do not write romantic mystery so building a thread of romance is always fun, something my readers, even the men, appreciate and get into. If it were more than a thread, I think I’d lose some of them since they’re reading my books for the mystery/suspense/thriller aspect.

Q:  What did Presumed Dead teach you?

A: People can surprise you. They are not always who they seem to be and I probably should not make assumptions about them or their life.


Q:  Have any of your characters ever surprised you? How? What impact did it have on the rest of the story?

A: My female protagonist was originally supposed to be rather mousy, easily led, but certainly not a leader. She turned out to be stronger than I first thought and had no problem making decisions. So instead of having a powerful male counterpart, they ended up being quite equal depending on the situation. Sometimes she led the way and, at other times, he did.

Q:  If you gave your protagonists time to speak for themselves about you what would they say?

A: She would say that I’m teachable. He would say I have a problem with submission and he’d be right. I try to keep that part of me under God’s control but God lets me slip out once in a while to see that I haven’t learned it yet.

Q:  When should conflict enter a story?       

A: Right at the beginning … within the first five pages. Then it needs to be there, in one form or another, all the way through the story. That’s what keeps people reading.


Q:  Is the ending of Presumed Dead predictable, or is the intent to surprise the reader?

A: My intent is to surprise … have something pop up that is totally unexpected based on the clues I’ve left scattered throughout the pages.

Q:  What methods do you use to salt your book with clues?

A: I don’t know that I have any clear method. The story tells me when I need to drop something that will lead my reader to a place I want him to go, only to have the wheels pulled out from under them. The clue may or may not have anything to do with the fact of the story.

The Reader

Q:  What other writers or books would your readers enjoy?

A: Some are Ted Dekker readers but many read Colleen Coble, Wanda Dyson, Terri Blackstock, or Brandilyn Collins.

Dance With A BroomQ:  What are you currently reading?

A: I am reading a Wanda Dyson novel, Shepherd’s Fall.

Q:  What else have you written?

Product DetailsA: Besides mystery, I write devotionals, and children’s stories. I’ve also written a compilation of short stories from veterans of the Korean Conflict titled Second to None and a household management guide for busy parents, Dance With a Broom.

Q:  What can you tell us about your next writing project?

A: I am working on a new devotional on prayer, the first book of a new mystery series, and a children’s story for my three youngest grandchildren. I hope to have this one illustrated and made into a book for two year olds as well as one for 5 and 6 year old kids. The story would just be a lot shorter for the two year olds.

Q:  What is something you wish you had, but have never been asked in an interview?   

A: I can’t think of anything. I’ve done so many and had some really great questions but each interviewer has their own take on how they want it to go. Just like this one, no two interviews are ever alike. 

Keep watch here for reviews of Presumed Dead and Straight Pipes.