Monday Morning Coffee and Chat 11/11/19 – The Joy of Reading

Hello! Welcome to Monday Morning Coffee and Chat! Today I’m talking about beginning the journey to rediscover my joy of reading.

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What Veteran’s Day Means to Me

I love this country. It is truly the greatest country on earth, with so much promise and potential. I get annoyed a lot of times at gluttony, greed, laziness, entitlement, etc., and I sometimes forget and let those feelings overshadow the fact that there is so much good here, so much hard work that built this land — that we live in a land that people actually die trying to get to.

I am so proud of the military legacy of my family. I pray that my sons continue it, and continue to fight for and stand for America. Here is my annual “What Veteran’ Day Means to Me” posting of the honor of my family’s service to our country:

My Great-Grandfather, WWI

my great-grandfather, WWI

my maternal grandfather, WWII

my maternal grandfather, WWII

my paternal grandfather, WWII

my paternal grandfather, WWII

my father-in-law, Vietnam

My father-in-law, Vietnam

My dad, 2nd Ranger Battallion, 1980

My father, 2nd Ranger Battallion, 1980

My father-in-law and sister-in-law, Jump School Graduation, 1989

My father-in-law and sister-in-law, Jump School Graduation, 1986

My dad, Ranger School Instructor, 1986

My dad, Ranger School Instructor, 1986

My husband, his dad, his sister, Kuwait, 1991

My husband, his dad, his sister, Dharhan, Saudi Arabia, Easter Sunday 1991

my mom and dad, 1998

my mom and dad, 1998

my husband, Afghanistan, 2002

My husband, Afghanistan, 2002

my husband and me, 2003

my husband and me, 2003

Gregg and Scott, 2007

my husband and son, 2007

my children, 2008

My sister-in-law and my father-in-law during her promotion to COL (O-6) 2011

My husband teaching my sons the parachute landing fall (PLF) 2012

The valor and sacrifice of all Veterans can never be honored enough. I am so very proud of every one of you, and I pray daily for those of you currently serving. I hope you will accept my humble thanks.

Happy Veterans’ Day.
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Interview with Patrick E. Craig and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I’m so excited to bring you Amish fiction writer Patrick E. Craig. Because I’m completely and hopelessly tone def, musicians fascinate me. I always want to know how their minds work and how they perceive the world. I love that Patrick is a musician turned author, because it gives me a chance to glimpse into that part of him that a non-author couldn’t ever show me! I hope you enjoy his interview as much as I did. Read on to see how you can enter to win BOTH of his current releases!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Hi Everyone! My name is Patrick E. Craig and I am a 72 year-old author, former professional musician with two albums on Warner Brothers Records and a former pastor. I am one of six men who write Amish fiction. I am married with two children and five grandchildren and I currently lived in Idaho, but I lived in California for many years. I am what those in the know call a hybrid author—I have had books published by a traditional publishing house and I have published indie books. Right now I have seven books out and am finishing the edits on my eighth book, which will be released in February. I just signed contracts to write nine more books—a historical romance series set in the Wars of the Roses, a thriller series, and an Amish cozy mystery series. I love camping and fishing, and I enjoy working around my place in the rural Treasure Valley.

Tell us about your current release. I actually have two current releases. The first is The Mennonite Queen, which I published independently through my imprint, P&J Publishing. It is the final book in a six-book set that includes two series, Apple Creek Dreams and The Paradise Chronicles, about the same family. It is set in Medieval Europe and tells my fictional version of how a real Hungarian Queen came to write the first edict of religious toleration in Europe in 1556. Here’s the book blurb:  Isabella, Princess of Poland, is raised to a life of great wealth and leisure in the Polish Royal Court, destined to marry a king. But fate or divine providence intervenes when she meets Johan Hirschberg, a young Anabaptist who works in her father’s stable. This chance meeting leads the young couple into a forbidden love. Together they flee Poland and embark on a dangerous journey that brings them, after great peril, to the small parish of a troubled priest named Menno Simons, who with their help will become the founder of the Mennonite faith. Catholic Bishop, Franz von Waldek, paid by King Sigismund, Isabella’s father to find the princess at all costs, pursues them across Europe. Isabella does not know it, but if von Waldek captures her, she will have to make a choice that will change the course of European history forever.

My other release just came out in September and is published by Elk Lake Publishing. It is titled The Mystery of Ghost Dancer Ranch and is a YA mystery story in the tradition of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew with a little Frank Peretti mixed in. Here’s the story: Cousins Hannah and Jacie, known as Punkin and Boo, are at their grandparent’s ranch in California for the summer. While exploring the old ranch, the girls stumble on a mystery that involves desperate crooks, the ghost of a long-dead Sioux war chief, a young Native American man on a mission to save his tribe, and secret tunnels and caves left over from an old Spanish Mission. Throw in a guardian angel who protects the girls from some evil spirits that want to bring the story to a bad end, and you have The Mystery of Ghost Dancer Ranch, the first in a series of faith-filled mystery adventures for young adults, featuring Punkin and Boo.

If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? Sure I would. Being a Christian writer includes the mandate to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All of my books do that. The question makes me think of the many stories about pastors and ministers who struggled in obscurity all their lives, leading a few people to Christ but those people became great missionaries or speakers who impacted the world greatly for Christ. So I just keep writing, because you never know what God has in mind. A New York Times bestseller would be great, but that is not why I do this.

Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful? Interesting question because I am right in the middle of that quandary. I have just co-written a novel with Murray Pura, a brilliant Canadian author who has published over twenty novels. Our book is a WW II story about three Mennonite boys who join the Marines after Pearl Harbor. Each has their own reasons for joining up.  The three men end up on Guadalcanal and through the horrors of war come to a deeper understanding of their relationship to God and Christ. Our dilemma is this: We have had Beta readers with military background read the book and tell us that unless we put in some realistic “Marine” language, anybody with a military background (which would be a large percent of the readers) will put it down as “inauthentic.” So we have “salted” the language—no taking of the Lord’s name in vain or overt sexual references, but definitely “Marines in battle” language in some scenes. Because Christ is presented clearly in the book, we don’t feel we have compromised, but some of our Amish fan base have been put off by the idea and I guess that represents pressure from both sides.

What do you think is lacking in Christian Fiction? My opinion? Christian Publishing has become top-heavy with Happily-Ever-After romance and many publishers will not buy anything else. That makes it difficult for me because my books are about desperate people in desperate situations that only God can fix—not a popular theme in Christian Publishing.

Before I started writing Amish fiction, I did not know that “Amish” was the largest selling Christian genre and had been for many years. I had never read a Beverly Lewis book or Wanda Brunstetter. So when I was asked to submit an idea for an Amish series to Harvest House, I just did my own thing, not thinking anything would come of it. To my surprise, they bought the series. So I wrote it, unencumbered by any knowledge of what was selling in Amish books. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that most Amish books were light-hearted romances where everything turned out “peachy-keen” for the simple reason that the protagonists were Amish! Christian books can and should be entertaining, but not to the detriment of the Gospel. I have watched the Amish market get flooded with hundreds of over-romanticized books, many of which are poorly written—heavy on “love”, light on Jesus. I am not slamming the whole industry, because there are many, many WONDERFUL Christian authors. I just think it’s a tendency we need to look out for.

With all those characters in your head screaming to get out how do you write fast enough to get it all down? I am a morning writer, so I get up around 5:30 and just go after it. I am the kind of writer who gets the book organized (timeline, Chapter outline, notes, research) before I ever start. I also think about a story for a long time, so that when I do start I have the bones in my computer and in my head and I just start fleshing it out. Some books come right out, some take a long time. I have over sixty story ideas in my “projects” folder, and I hope I live long enough to get half of them written.

What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? I published my first article in the school paper when I was seven years old. I got such a good reaction from my family and friends that I decided writing would be a good thing to do. I also had a grandmother who was a real Irish Shanachie, a historian-storyteller and an aunt, her daughter who was a brilliant writer. My own mother wrote a book about her experience with MS which I wrote while she dictated from her bed. When I became a professional musician, my favorite part was song-writing and I always wrote “story” songs. As a pastor, I wrote several non-fiction teaching books, but I always wanted to write fiction so when I retired, I started doing it. That was in 2007 and I’ve written nine books since then.

How did you determine whether to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher? When I finished the Apple Creek Dreams series at Harvest House, they went through a major restructuring and eliminated most of their fiction department. So they did not pick up my second series. But I had it all laid out and ready to go, so I did a quick (one year) study on self-publishing and took the plunge. Now I teach classes on the subject for ACFW and other Writer’s groups. Interestingly enough, one of my Indie books was picked up by Harlequin and put into Walmart stores across the country. And I have just contracted with Elk Lake Publishing to produce three more series besides The Adventures of Punkin and Boo.

Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? Yes, I mentioned that in a previous question. I am not a “pantser”—I have to have the book laid out before I start, especially the historical fiction.  So I do a chapter outline with a blurb about what happens in each chapter, I do a timeline of all the events, I write a synopsis of the story, and I do at least a one-paragraph character study of each of the main characters.

Do you have pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book? I write novels so I do 80,000 to 100,000 words. At 2000 words per chapter, that’s about 40 chapters. My YA books are shorter—17 to 18 chapters with around 1500 words.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Tell the story—get it out of your heart and onto paper. Let God do the rest.

Here is where you can find Patrick online:

www.patrickecraig.com  Webpage

https://www.facebook.com/PatrickECraig  Facebook

https://twitter.com/PatrickECraig  Twitter
Patrick is giving away a signed copy of The Mennonite Queen and The Mystery of Ghost Dancer Ranch to a reader! See below how you can enter to win: a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Monday Morning Coffee and Chat 11/4/19 – Book Releases and Thanksgiving, oh my!

Hello! Welcome to Monday morning coffee and chat!

Monday Morning Coffee and Chat! Today I’m talking about releasing VALERIE’S VERDICT, my BLIZZARD IN THE BLUEGRASS being part of the WHEN SNOWFLAKES NEVER CEASE collection and how writing a child with autism was very emotional for me, and about doing a series of whole food/real food cooking videos the week before Thanksgiving.

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Blizzard in the Bluegrass!

I am thrilled to be a part of the latest Crossroads Collections book. Each collection has a shared theme or event and the final book ties them all together. The theme for the When Snowflakes Never Cease collection is a record-breaking snowstorm that hits the United States at Christmastime.

My book, Blizzard in the Bluegrass, is the story of Gloria Sutton, a divorced mom of an 8-year-old boy with autism, and widower Jeff Brock, Charula, Kentucky’s newest family practice doctor. When the storm of the century blankets Kentucky under several feet of snow and whiteout conditions on Christmas day, Gloria and Jeff batten down at her father’s house, counting their blessings and basking in the warmth of their love. Until they discover that eight-year-old Noah is missing. Will they find him before he succumbs to the elements, or will this day forever mark a tragedy in their lives?

That’s the first book in the collection. Then we also have these amazing books:

Buried Secrets by Alana Terry
Cosette travels to a remote Alaskan wilderness to finally meet the love of her life, only to discover the man she fell in love with may be a murderer. Is she his next target?

Wrong About Mr. Wright by Chautona Havig
Ronni is convinced that her early retirement plan just got buried under the snowdrifts of Juniper Springs. Stranded, she teams up with local resident, Hank, and helps “make Christmas” for the rest of her fellow passengers. Now, if he’d just stop messing with her idea of the perfect man.

More Than Enough by Jaycee Weaver
For single mom Ada, there’s never enough: time, money, patience, joy. She’s not enough, though compassionate Kent disagrees. When a freak snowstorm traps the couple and her three kids in a theater on Christmas, she’ll either discover her worth in Christ or crumble under the pressure.

When Snowflakes Never Cease by Amanda Tru
When her young patient needs the best care to save her life, Dr. Geneva Hutchins turns to top cancer specialist and the man who broke her heart, Dr. Carter Solomon. Together, they embark on a journey to save Allie and grant her wish to see her daddy by Christmas.

Get your copy on Amazon today!

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Interview with Tammy L. Grace and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I’m introducing you to Tammy L. Grace. I really enjoyed this interview and getting to know her better. She’s the first author I’ve had on here who talks about interviewing her characters! I think that’s fascinating. And, well, I love anyone who loves typing on a keyboard like mine. Tammy is giving away a copy of her latest Christmas release. Read on to see how you can enter to win!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m Tammy L. Grace and I live in my hometown, a rural community outside of Reno, Nevada. I’ve always loved to read and with the help of my middle school teacher discovered the joy of creative writing. I started writing stories and wrote a column for our local newspaper throughout my middle and junior high school years. At the time, I never considered a career in writing and instead got my MBA and worked for local and state government. I retired in my mid-40’s, excited to start a second career as a novelist, my dream job.

I published my first book in my Hometown Harbor Series in 2014 and am working on my fifteenth novel now. I write best-selling women’s fiction with a hint of romance, Hallmark-style Christmas romances, and an award-winning private detective mystery series that is on the cozy-side. I also write for Bookouture under my pen name, Casey Wilson, and will be releasing two dog-centric books in 2020, both of which will appeal to those who love stories like Marley and Me.

Speaking of dogs, I’m a huge dog lover and include canine companions in all of my books to date. My husband and I have one grown son and a new golden retriever puppy, who keeps us on our toes.

Tell us about your current release. My new release, The Magic of the Season, is a heartwarming Christmas novella set in the fictional town of Silver Falls, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s the sequel to last year’s Christmas release, A Season for Hope.

The inspiration for the first book came to me in a chance encounter I had with a woman whose car broke down in my hometown during the holidays. After hearing from readers who enjoyed the story and wanted to know more about the characters in Silver Falls, I decided to write the sequel this year. They center around a huge Christmas festival that takes place in the quaint mountain town.

They are both stories of family, friendship, small-town celebrations, and the kindness of strangers. My hometown has some wonderful Christmas traditions and I’ve borrowed many of them for these novellas.

What is your personal, most effective way to get past writer’s block? I find stepping away from my project and doing something physical usually helps. I come up with lots of ideas on walks or while vacuuming. Other times, I’ll take a break and binge watch a series or movie, just to let my brain go into neutral. That seems to be when an idea clicks and then I can go back to the project with a fresh outlook.

What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? Retirement actually inspired me to approach writing seriously. It offered me the freedom to spend my days writing and learning about the industry, without having to depend on it for a living. It’s difficult to make a decent living writing, so most writers start out, at least, working a regular job and writing in their off hours. It made retiring from a job I loved less scary, because I was so looking forward to embracing this second career.

Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? I always have my characters fully developed and use an interview process to make sure I get to know them well before I begin a book. I like to live with them for a bit and get to know them in my imagination before I dive into writing. For my mystery series, I usually have every detail outlined and plotted, but for my other books, I start with a loose outline and often develop more of the story as I write and let the characters string me along with them.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Each time I’m asked this, I encourage anyone who is interested in writing a book to attend a writing conference. It’s the best way to learn more about not only the craft, but the business, publishing paths, and marketing aspects of the book world. Not only that, but the ability to chat with other authors and professionals in the industry is priceless.

What is your preferred method of writing? When I start brainstorming ideas, it’s always with pen and paper. There’s something about actual writing that I enjoy and I love pens and pencils. I have way too many of them! Once I have fleshed out my ideas on paper, I begin writing and am most comfortable in my home office on a desktop computer. I’ve worn out several keyboards and finally splurged on a mechanical one that lets me change the backlight color and it’s so pretty, it makes me want to type.

What is your inspiration for writing? I tend to be inspired by travel. I came up with the idea for my Hometown Harbor Series while on a ferry to visit the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington, which is where the series takes place. A trip to Nashville inspired my quirky detective character who lives with his wealthy aunt in Belle Meade. For my Christmas books, my hometown and the beautiful area I live in near Lake Tahoe were the driving forces behind them.

My own golden retriever, Zoe, who is featured in my first book, was the inspiration for all the dogs I’ve included in my work. She was my writing buddy and I was devastated to lose her in 2017. I’m hoping my new puppy, Izzy, will become my new writing companion.

Who do you envision your typical reader to be? I think my typical readers are women, although I’ve had several men tell me how much they enjoy my mysteries, with a male lead. My female readers are usually over forty, enjoy escaping with stories of friendship and family that transport them to places they would love to visit or live, where they’re introduced to characters they’d like as friends. Chances are if you’re a fan of my books, you’re a fan of Hallmark and authors like Debbie Macomber.

Here is where you can find Tammy online:

Subscribe to Tammy’s monthly newsletter and get a FREE interview with the dogs from her Hometown Harbor Series: https://wp.me/P9umIy-e

Website:  http://www.tammylgrace.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tammylgrace.books

Facebook Group:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/AuthorTammyLGraceBookBuddies/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/tammylgrace

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/tammy-l-grace

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/authortammylgrace/

Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/tammylgrace/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/TammyLGrace

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7799289.Tammy_L_Grace

YouTube Channel:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCei5GUWLSuD3tLBl81-Fa9w

Tammy is giving away both ebooks in her Christmas in Silver Falls series to a reader! See below how to enter to win:a Rafflecopter giveaway

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