LISA E. BETZ – Engineer Turned Award-Winning Author

Lisa E. Betz infuses her novels with authentic characters who thrive on solving tricky problems. Her debut novel, Death and a Crocodile, won several awards, including Golden Scroll Novel of the Year (2021). Lisa combines her love of research with her quirky imagination to bring the world of the early church to life. She and her husband reside outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with Scallywag, their rambunctious cat—the inspiration for Nemesis, resident mischief maker in the Livia Aemilia Mysteries.

Tell us about your new release, Fountains, and Secrets, Book 2 in the Livia Aemilia Mysteries. Imagine a world where Nancy Drew meets ancient Rome. In first-century Roman culture, few women challenged the status quo, but spunky, headstrong Livia dives right into a swamp of danger after learning that her new husband’s mentor has been murdered.

As Livia chases clues in secret, she discovers injustice toward multiple victims and the nasty web of affluent men behind it all. But when her husband, Avitus, learns what Livia is up to, they go head-to-head. Avitus doesn’t want his wife to be in danger, and Livia wants to prove to her husband that she’s capable of solving crimes. Their lack of mutual trust and respect turns into a bitter test of wills—can they learn to trust each other, or will they continue at cross purposes until someone gets hurt?

For readers who enjoy mysteries and historical fiction with a touch of humor, Fountains and Secrets is an engaging tale of identity, purpose, and hope.

What brought you into writing? I’ve followed an unconventional path to becoming an author. I started my career as a mechanical engineer working in a manufacturing plant. That led to fifteen years as a substitute teacher specializing in math and science. And that lead to an opportunity to direct a high school play.

The first play was so much fun that I directed school plays for ten years. I even wrote one. By then, I’d discovered that I really enjoyed writing and toyed with writing a novel, but I kept putting it off.

Then my youngest son went off to college, and I faced a choice: should I return to engineering or follow the new dream of being a writer? I chose writing. I spent the next ten years honing my craft, attending conferences, and writing practice novels. All the work paid off, and my first published novel has won several awards.

Your main character’s adventures take place in Rome. What prompted you to write about this time period? My interest in the Roman Empire stems primarily from many years teaching Bible studies. I have tried to absorb as much as possible about the culture and history of first-century Rome so I can bring the ancient world to life and make the New Testament more relevant to modern Christians.

Also, I favor books set in unusual eras or settings, so Roman times seemed an interesting choice. I particularly like the fact that women in the Roman Empire had more rights and freedom than in many other eras and cultures. For example, they could own and run businesses, like Lydia, who’s mentioned in Acts. So, it’s a reasonable choice for a female sleuth.

How do you come up with character names? As much as possible, I try to use actual Roman or Greek names. I like using NovaRoma.org’s Choose a Roman Name page. Unfortunately, Greek and Roman names can be unwieldy and hard to pronounce, so I sometimes give a character a nickname to make it easier on readers. For example, I gave Asyncritus (mentioned in Romans 16) the nickname Brother Titus. I also try to assign characters names that begin with different letters to help readers keep everyone straight.

How do you decide when to use Latin terms and when to translate terms into English? This is an issue that all writers of foreign settings must face. My decision has been to use English whenever possible to make it easier for readers. I reserve Latin for key place names or for concepts that don’t translate well into modern usage. For example, I use the Latin word dignitas, which encompasses a whole list of qualities, including honor, status, reputation, influence, moral standing, and even physical appearance.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters who are different from you? I’m an introverted, non-emotional, non-assertive, analytical thinker, but I wanted a heroine that was spunky, nosy, headstrong, extroverted, intuitive, and a little reckless. I must frequently stop and remind myself that my instinctual reaction to any situation is likely to be quite different from how Livia would respond. I have found the enneagram personality type information very helpful in guiding me to more realistic responses for my characters.

In fact, I’ve developed a workshop to show writers how to use the enneagram to create consistent, believable characters.

Many of your characters are misfits in some way. Why is that? My tagline is Quietly Unconventional for a reason. I’ve never been good at fitting molds. That’s why I’m drawn to stories that feature misfits and underdogs. I understand the pain of not being cool or popular, and I respect others (real or fictional) who are brave enough to overcome and succeed despite their underdog status.

My novels feature characters who don’t fit the conventional mold in some shape or form. I show the heroic or honorable qualities hiding inside these people whom others see as flawed or useless.

My heroine, Livia, is a free spirit who flaunts convention more publicly than I would dare. Her sidekick, Roxana, is a streetwise maid who speaks when she should keep her mouth shut and lacks the polish of a traditional lady’s maid. Avitus is an outcast among the aristocrats because he defends lower-class clients against powerful senators.

And then there are the followers of Jesus, who are leading a quietly unconventional revolution, spreading a message of love and forgiveness, and caring for the outcasts and rejects of society.

What else do you write besides mystery novels? I blog weekly on my website about living intentionally—which to me means making daily choices to live according to my deeply held values instead of mindlessly conforming to the mainstream attitudes, behavior, and priorities. When we live intentionally, we live a more authentic and meaningful life. But we also stand out for making unconventional choices. That’s why my tagline is Quietly Unconventional because I try to live and write as authentically as possible, conforming to God’s will and calling rather than conforming to the world.

How can readers contact you?

Visit my website at lisaebetz.com to find more about me and my books.

Go directly to my Live Intentionally blog here.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Your choice of using ancient Rome as the setting for your books is very interesting. You described how you meet the challenges of doing this very well. If I get the chance to teach my Writing in Different Genres class again, I’ll be sure to use your books in the Writing Historicals section. Good luck.

    Reply
    • Lisa Betz

      Thank you. That sounds like a very interesting talk.

      Reply

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FOUR AUTHORS WORKING TOGETHER – Part 4

DAVALYNN SPENCER is a Publisher’s Weekly and ECPA bestselling author with novellas in three Barbour collections, The 12 Brides of Christmas, The 12 Brides of Summer, and The Cowboy’s Bride.

Davalynn won the Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Inspirational Western Fiction and is the author of ten additional titles, both contemporary and historical. She blogs monthly for Christian Authors Network, Heroes, Heroines & History, contributes to the American Christian Fiction blog, and writes her own weekly inspirational blog. She appears on an area radio broadcast, Write Time Radio, and teaches writing workshops when not wrangling Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley.

As the last author to join the Always a Wedding Planner collection, I had the advantage of coming into a story world that had already been created – a four-member team of friends who ran Weddings By Design in Loveland, Colorado. With the overall theme and setting established, I was free to concentrate on partner number four. I established a life, a personal story world, and a threatening challenge for my character, Saffron Fare, whom I made the chef for the business.

Each story is complete unto itself. In the writing of this collection, we four authors were in constant communication with each other, asking questions, double-checking on personalities, confirming the names and locations of key elements in a town like the business’s office. We’d often send emails to each other containing dialogue, followed by, “Would your character say it like this or not?” It was great fun reading excerpts from another author’s use of my character in a scene or two from her story.

I have contributed to several Barbour novella collections. Still, this one was unique in that all four stories focused on the same business yet were told from the point of view of a different business partner. We worked together to create the collection the same way our characters worked together in their wedding-planning business.

Where may our readers find you and your work?

Free Book and Quarterly Author Update: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/h3d8g8
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1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    Sounds like an interesting variance of POV. Best of luck to you.

    Reply

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FOUR AUTHORS WORKING TOGETHER – Part 3

LEEANN BETTS writes contemporary romantic suspense. Her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical romantic suspense.

She has released nine titles in her cozy mystery series. Together, she and Donna have published more than 25 novellas and full-length novels. They ghostwrite, judge writing contests, edit, facilitate a critique group, and are members of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, and Sisters in Crime. Leeann travels extensively to research her stories and is proud to be represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary LLC.

When the idea first surfaced about writing an interconnected contemporary novella collection featuring the same characters with different main character roles in each story, several potential writers turned us down, believing we couldn’t be able to carry off the premise.

However, a dear writing friend, Darlene Franklin, who helped with the original idea, had recently published a similar collection featuring four friends who worked at different businesses but were involved in solving mysteries.

Our story was only a tad bit more difficult in that all four of our heroines worked for the same partnership and were not only co-workers but best friends.
Finding the perfect set of authors was probably the most difficult part of the process. We knew the stories would be a little tongue-in-cheek, so that was the number two requirement for each author. Number one was that they are followers of Jesus, strong in their faith and that their writing should reflect that.

Once we had the four in place, the process worked like a dream.

My approach to writing is to start with a one-sentence blurb – if I can’t encapsulate the story in twenty words or less, I don’t know what it’s about. Then I do the “back cover copy” or two to three paragraphs, and then I begin with the synopsis. I usually write all that by hand then transcribe it to the computer.
But before I write one word, I pray that the Lord would help me faithfully transcribe the story He wants told.

How may our visitors find you and your work?

Website: www.LeeannBetts.com Stay connected, so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!
Blog: www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com
Facebook: http://bit.ly/1pQSOqV
Twitter: http://bit.ly/1qmqvB6

4 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’ve got everything pretty well organized. Good luck.

    Reply
    • leeann betts

      Thank you, Michael!

      Reply
  2. leeann betts

    Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog today!

    Reply

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FOUR AUTHORS WORKING TOGETHER – Part 2

R.L. ASHLY is a master seamstress with a Master of Arts degree in Literature.

R.L. hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Literature in the near future. A mother and grandmother, she is active in her local writing community, never says never to a home improvement task, and strives to one day write the Great American Novel.
RL Ashly writes on the run, enjoys a good mystery with a complicated plot, and iced tea is her beverage of choice. Hemmed In is her first traditionally published novel.

The nice thing about working on Always a Wedding Planner was the collaboration with the other writers. I enjoyed working with them and would do so again in a heartbeat. Leeann Betts and I share a mutual character, Camilla Parsons. We collaborated on Camilla’s characterization and how we were going to incorporate her into our stories. Leeann has a great sense of humor and when I read The Worst Kept Secret, I chuckle at how Leeann integrated Camilla into her tale. She did such a good job.

Since I am a seamstress by day, it was easy to give my lead character that career. The well-used saying, “write what you know,” works. It helps with planning the plot and adding flavor to the story. My approach to writing is different from other writers. I keep a notebook and my tablet in a bag and write on the go. I even write using my phone. Between work and chasing grandbabies, this system works best for me. In fact, I am writing this blog post on my phone while I sit in a waiting room for an appointment. Then I will finish it in my car before I run to my next stop on my errands.

One positive thing about living in this era—we have access to such wonderful technology. There is a learning curve, especially for us older folks, but it is so worth discovering how to use it. I can write while I’m taking a walk. Peddling on my exercise bike and writing is another option. I tied a shelf onto my exercise bike, and it holds my tablet. There’s something relaxing about writing and pedaling.

I have learned that it is important to write almost every day. It is easy to get out of the habit of writing and let life get in the way. There are days when getting any writing done is impossible. But I have found that even writing a few sentences keeps me in tune with my story and thinking about it. Then the next writing session will go faster because I processed the next scene or chapter in the story.

How may our visitors reach you and your work?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rl.ashly.1
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rl_ashly
Website: https://rlashlyauthor.wixsite.com/rlashly
Buy the book~Paperback link on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3qNivJ8
Kindle link on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3kiQQgL
Barnes and Noble-Nook (eBook): https://bit.ly/38hPTAx

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    I imagine being a seamstress is a lot like being a writer, taking some materials and putting them together to create something nice. Good luck with both of your careers.

    Reply

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FOUR AUTHORS WORKING TOGETHER – Part 1

Working Together in a collection by authors of “Always a Wedding Planner” Romance

TONI SHILOH is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.

When I was first presented with the opportunity to join the Always a Wedding Planner collection, I immediately jumped at the chance to have a character who was a wedding cake baker because . . . cakes! Although I have no experience baking on that level, I do love to bake. So, I delved into the world of cake baking and pinned way more cakes than was necessary on my Pinterest board for inspiration.

But I also wanted to create a character who had a deep desire to be married but couldn’t. Through brainstorming and maybe inspiration I saw through real life, I came up with a character who wasn’t able to have kids.

Felicity Edwards never knows when is the perfect time to tell a guy she’s dating that she’s infertile. This is a major conflict in her life and the reason she feels she’s remained single. But when Will Davenport walks into the story, she has to decide if being vulnerable is May 31st
worth the risk.

How may our visitors find you and your work?

Facebook: www.facebook.com/authortonishiloh
Twitter: www.twitter.com/tonishilohwrite
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/tonishiloh
Instagram: www.instagram.com/tonishiloh
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/tonishiloh
BookBub: www.bookbub.com/authors/toni-shiloh
Newsletter: http://tonishiloh.com/subscribe
Blogs I’m part of: www.inspyromance.com; http://diversitybetweenthepages.wordpress.com

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    Interesting concept having a wedding cake baker, Toni. Did you know that in ancient times it was a custom to throw the wedding cake at the bride? Good luck with your writing.

    Reply

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