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Month: August 2015

Perspective and Blessings

This is a busy time of year for me. It’s harvest season, and even though I didn’t put in a garden this year, I have friends who did and still find myself blessed with a bounty of produce that needs to be “put up”. For those of you who don’t do home preserving, what I mean by that is that it needs to be prepared in some way and then preserved in some way.

canningThis weekend, in the midst of the weekly paperwork that I process for Olivia Kimbrell Press, I processed about two bushels of tomatoes (I’m sure there’s a stray tomato seed stuck on some invoice somewhere). I made a massive pot of spaghetti sauce (which has currently been cooking for three days and is now on the stove reducing and thickening up) and filled two crock pots with quartered tomatoes that stewed from Saturday night until Sunday evening. Monday morning, I canned the seven quarts of tomatoes that came out of the two crock pots. I should get at least seven quarts of spaghetti sauce.

As I washed the jars and prepared to can the tomatoes, I realized how blessed I am to be able to perform this process. Not only do I have running water (something my ancestor sisters who had to can tomatoes didn’t have, and something way too many people in today’s world don’t have), I have a big pressure canner, I have a big pot in which to cook the sauce, I have an immersion blender to blend the sauce, and I have not one but two crock pots in which to stew the tomatoes — saving me an entire day of cooking.

tomatoesThinking about my ancestor sisters who had to haul water by hand and mash tomatoes with something other than a high-speed rotary blade, I realized that I am truly blessed to be living where I live in the time period in which I live. Consequently, I was able to get seven quarts of tomatoes canned and still have five hours of writing time to spend on Valor’s Vigil, book 8 in the Virtues and Valor series.

Getting in the frame of mind for entering into 1942 Occupied France in the midst of canning makes me think of one of my prized possessions: The Ball Canning Book from 1948. I love it. My grandmother bought it the year my mother was born. A huge portion of my childhood memories revolve around my grandparents’ garden in Oregon and my mom and grandmother canning in the fall. Growing up, we always had a shelf full of home-canned items that we would bring home from my grandparents’ home.

So, now I’m getting back into Occupied France while I smell the spaghetti sauce reducing on the stove. We’ll know the influence if I end up bringing the Italians into my German fight. I’m also going to start thinking about a preserving cookbook.
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Interview with Author Patrick Craig

Welcome to Readers Write to Know!  I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance.  This week, I am thrilled to introduce you to Patrick Craig. I absolutely loved this interview. He makes me wish I could sit down and listen to his grandmother tell stories — and I love that he uses her for inspiration so many decades after her death. Please enjoy this interview as much as I did.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I’m 67 years old, married with two daughters and five grandchildren. Judy and I live in patrickcraigIdaho in the Boise area. I was a professional musician and had a fairly successful career in the San Francisco Bay Area until I came to Christ in 1984. Then I gave up secular music and went to Bible College. After that I was a worship leader and pastor for many years until 2007 when I retired from professional ministry and set about to fulfill my lifelong dream to tell stories and set them down on paper.

Tell us about your current release: The Amish Heiress is the first book in my new series, The Paradise Chronicles. When I was writing the Apple Creek Dreams series for Harvest House, I was going to tell the stories of Jerusha Springer, her adopted daughter, Jenny, and then Jenny’s daughter, Rachel. But I fell in love with the character of Jenny, and then there were two books about Jenny where I had only planned on one. Now I finally get to tell Rachel’s story. It’s a different kind of story, but then I’m not exactly known in Amish circles as someone who writes a typical Amish novel. I think that’s because I read too many Zane Grey books when I was a kid.

Who was your first Screen/Musical Crush? I fell madly in love with Hayley Mills when I saw the original version of the Parent Trap back in the early sixties.

What is your personal, most effective way to get past writer’s block? When I moved to Idaho last year I brought my Aunt’s old writing desk, which had been in storage for twelve years. In the drawer I found a picture of my grandmother. She died when I was one year old so I never knew her, but I heard about her all my life. She was an incredible horsewoman, a crack shot and a self-trained musician who could hear a song one time and then sit down and play it on the piano. But most important, she was a storyteller, an Irish Seanchaí. My father remembered a bedtime story she told him and my Uncle Jack. Every night for years, she made up a new chapter, never the same and always wonderful. So I putThe-Amish-Heiress her picture on my desk and when I’m writing and I get stuck, I remember: a new chapter every night and never the same…

What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? I had my first article published in the school paper when I was seven years old. I got such positive feedback from my relatives and friends that I decided writing was something I could do well. I’ve been writing ever since.

How did you determine whether to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher? My first series was published by Harvest House but just when Jenny’s Choice was released, the publishing industry had a serious downturn and lots of Houses, mine included, dumped many of their newer authors. I was disappointed of course, but I had a story to tell and a fan-base that was asking for it. So I just pretended I had a contract, set deadlines for myself and wrote the book. When it was done I hired a professional editor, enlisted the man who designed the covers for my first three books and started working on my mailing list. I published The Amish Heiress through Create Space and Barnes and Noble, let my fan base know it was coming out, and here I am. The Amish Heiress just hit #1 in Hot New Releases—Historical Christian Romance—on Amazon.

Have you always wanted to write a book? Back in my high school days I started my career as a professional musician. I always loved the musical part of it but my favorite thing to do was always songwriting. And not just “Yummy, yummy, yummy, I got love in my tummy” songs, but songs that told stories. When I was a pastor I wrote several teaching books but always in my heart was the desire to tell stories and put them in books.

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 have been writing about the same families for the last four books so my characters are pretty well developed. I do write a complete synopsis of the story and then do a chapter outline before I start. Then when I want to get off task I look back on those and get centered on where I am in the story.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? If I want the story that’s in my heart to come out, I have to show up at my computer, ask the Lord to tell me the story and then write it down the way He gives it to me. You have the only real storyteller in the universe living inside you. As a Christian writer you must listen to the story that He wants to tell through you and stay at it until you know that you have written it the best you can. And then trust Him to do the rest.

 



On Barnes & Noble:

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Christian Fiction Friday: August 28th

Welcome to this week’s edition of Christian Fiction Friday brought to you by me and my lovely and talented co-host, Alana Terry! This is a chance for Christian authors to post short snippets from their works in progress! Easy and fun!

This week, I finished a Christmas novella that is a second generation Jewel Series titled Christmas Star Sapphire. It follows the story of Madeline Viscolli and Joe Westcott. Here is a snippet from Chapter 5:

star sapphire boatMadeline stared at the sleek white sailboat docked at slip 67. Near the bow and at the stern, the words “Star Sapphire” surrounded a blue oval with a brilliant white starburst in the middle of it. The bright white of the deck of the ship nearly blinded her in the radiant November sunlight. A dark blue canopy stretched over the bridge of the boat, and the line of sleek portholes rising up out of the center of the deck gave evidence to the living area below deck. She could see the sails stored and ready among perfectly coiled ropes.

She knew she’d found the right boat. His bike sat next to a small grill on the dock. Both were chained to the dock railing. What confused her – and had caused her to walk the length of the dock and back once already – was that this was not a Westcott boat. It was an Elohim. Why would a Wescott Marine Wescott live on an Elohim vessel? It did not compute. She frowned, trying to mull that through when she saw the craft shifting in the still water, as if someone moved around inside, and she heard footfalls on stairs.

Her heart gave a little flutter. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. She had a pretty strong backbone, and typically the opinions of others didn’t overtly affect her opinion of herself. However, an outright rejection from one Joe Westcott after the efforts she put into this little surprise might just be her undoing.

When she saw his head through the porthole, she shifted the sunglasses off of her face and onto the top of her head.

“Ahoy!” She called, loud enough for him to hear her through the gunwale. “Permission to come aboard, Captain?”

Joe emerged onto the main deck with graceful, surefooted motions born of years of practice. He spotted her and, as recognition dawned, his face lit in a blend of surprised smile and pale shock. “Madeline?”

“Maddie.” She corrected and hefted the picnic basket. “I come bearing a holiday feast.”

Now it’s your turn! Just link your Christian Fiction Friday! Here are the rules:

1. Christian Fiction Friday is a blog hop where authors post short (400-ish words or less) snippets from their current works in progress (not published pieces).

2. Keep it PG-13 or lower. No swearing, no sex scenes. If you have a particularly violent scene or deal with a heavy or controversial subject matter, please include a disclaimer at the beginning of your post.


Suggestions:

1. Visit at least some of the other Christian Fiction Friday authors each week and comment on their blogs.

2. Don’t offer critiques unless the author specifically asks for it in his or her post.

3. Please include this blurb at the end of your weekly post:

Christian Fiction Friday is a weekly blog hop where authors post snippets from their current Works in Progress. It is hosted by Alana Terry and Hallee Bridgeman.
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You would bless me if you added me to your Subscribe via any Reader feed reader or subscribed Subscribe via Email via email.
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Interview with Author Valerie Comer

Welcome to Readers Write to Know!  I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance.  This week, I am so happy to welcome Valerie Comer back to us! Valerie is a fellow foodie, a friend, and will be in a Christmas box set with me due to come out in the next couple of months. I always love having her here!

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Hi, Hallee’s friends! I’m glad to be back. I’m a farmer, foodie, and author from British Columbia, Canada. I’m thrilled to be able to help provide tasty and nutritious food from our farm and garden for our three young grandgirls. It’s so important to give them a good start in life, isn’t it! I love to bring stories featuring fresh local food and sustainability to my readers, as well.

Tell us about your current release: Plum Upside Down is the fifth book in my Farm Fresh Romance series. The series began with three young women banding together to buy a farm to prove to everyone that they could grow their own food and live sustainably. The valeriebookwomen’s vision has grown along with the farm, and Plum Upside Down features Chelsea, the sister of one of the original three.

Chelsea has lived a safe life in an upscale Portland neighborhood, where she’d attended a Christian school — plus church, every time the doors opened. Joining the team at Green Acres Farm feels like a big step to her, even though it’s really not that much different in terms of remaining sheltered. Her faith has never been challenged until she meets Keanan Welsh, an overgrown hippie who is passionate about reaching outside the bubble to help those less fortunate, whether in North America… or in Africa. Through Keanan, Chelsea begins to see what is lacking in her Christian life, but how far out of her comfort zone is she willing to go?

As you can see, the main themes in this story aren’t food/sustainability themes, but the backdrop of the farm and its mission permeates everything that happens. While you’ll probably want to read all of the books in this series, Plum Upside Down can be read as a standalone. However, if you want to start at the beginning, Raspberries and Vinegar is free for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Kobo.

How did you determine whether to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher? Traditional was the only game in town when I began writing about fifteen years ago. I did land that elusive contract from Barbour for a novella in Rainbow’s End, a 4-story collection, which released in 2012. I was sure this would open all sorts of doors! But it didn’t. In 2013, a very small house picked up the first two books in my Farm Fresh Romance series, but the rights reverted to me a year later due to dismal sales. I believed in the books and had more stories to tell in that setting so I took the jump into indie publishing in July of 2014. God has been so good at connecting the right readers with this series. It now sells quite well and has many loyal fans. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m thankful for every step of the way.

Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful? I don’t, really. That’s one of the things I love about being an indie author. I feel there is a large enough readership who might be interested in my books, if only they knew the stories existed. As an indie, I stand (and fall) on my own choices. Anything I choose to put in my stories might lose some readers… or gain others. So, which readers do I want to attract? I focus on those, stay true to God and what He’s called me to do, and then don’t waste time worrying about those who would like my stories better if they had more sex, less God… or whatever.

What is your personal, most effective way to get past writer’s block? Three steps.

1. Get off Facebook. 😉

2. Ask God what He wants to teach readers and me through this part of the story.

3. Doodle on my three-by-four foot whiteboard with dry-erase pens in many pretty colors, looking for interconnecting thoughts and ideas.

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’ve recently finished my nineteenth manuscript (Team Bride, a Riverbend Romance Novella due out in September) and, the more I write, the less I plot in advance. I have a good handle on the valeriecomersetting for both of my current series, and do spend time getting to know the characters a bit before I start. Once I have a few ideas of how to create conflict between the couple, I jump in. I love writing this way! I hope readers are as pleasantly surprised as I am with some of the twists and turns I didn’t see coming.

Do you write your books for your own enjoyment or more for what you think people would want to read? I look for the sweet spot between the two. Like everyone else, my husband and I have bills to pay, so I can’t ignore the market, especially since writing is my fulltime job. However, it takes a long time to write a book. Plum Upside Down was my main task for three full months of first draft work, and subsequent drafts also took time. I couldn’t bear the thought of writing strictly for the market if the work would feel like it was sucking my soul dry. The Riverbend novella series has been fun to intersperse between the longer Farm Fresh Romances. They’re lighter on the farm-and-food themes, because I do have other stories in me as well. However, the Farm Fresh series has been such a success that I’m planning a spin-off series that will start releasing in 2016. So, in this case, I can follow both my own passions and what readers are buying.

Which of your characters most reflects your personality? Authors will tell you that there’s a tiny bit of themselves in every character, but it is usually impossible for readers to pick out which bit. For me, Chelsea in Plum Upside Down struck a bit close to home. I also lived quite a sheltered life with conservative Christian parents, a Christian boarding school during high school, then three semesters of Bible college. I had a lot of head knowledge and, yes, quite a bit of heart knowledge, too. But it is easy to get into a rut, at least for me, and over the years I’ve struggled to truly believe in God’s personal love for me. Corporate love? Sure. God loves His creation. He sent Jesus to die for us because He loves us. But there have been times I didn’t feel the One-on-one love I craved deep inside. Remember, I don’t plot! When I realized where Chelsea’s story was taking me, I admit to being a bit nervous. How could I give her a happy spiritual ending when I don’t always feel I have a solid grip on it myself? While her story is definitely not the same as mine, I’m so thankful that God met me through the pages of Plum Upside Down and deepened my walk with Him. If you read Plum Upside Down and find Chelsea’s spiritual journey meaningful, I’d love to hear about it!

Find Valerie online!



On Kobo:

On Barnes & Noble:
 

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Christian Fiction Friday: August 21st

Welcome to this week’s edition of Christian Fiction Friday brought to you by me and my lovely and talented co-host, Alana Terry! This is a chance for Christian authors to post short snippets from their works in progress! Easy and fun!

This week, have been writing a Christmas novella that is a second generation Jewel Series titled Christmas Star Sapphire. It follows the story of Madeline Viscolli and Joe Westcott. Here is a snippet from Chapter 3:

“Morning, Joe,” the seventy-year-old owner Paula said. “Little early for this cool weather, eh.”

“If the air were drier, it would be a lot better. After that ride, I could do with some of your hot coffee.” He removed his bike helmet, fastened the chin strap to the shoulder strap of his bag, and absently and pointlessly attempted to smooth his hair back down.

“Fresh pot’s brewing right now. I’ll bring it on over to you when it’s ready. Take a seat.”

starsapphireHis eyes scanned the room and he spotted Barbara Mullins, the reason for the early morning meeting. The sophomore from Birmingham had her head bowed and sniffled into her paper napkin. As Joe approached, he felt his steps pause when he saw Madeline Viscolli seated across from Barbara. As soon as he recognized her, he waited for the skip of the beat of his heart and the catch of his breath. When he expected to see her, he could usually brace himself and control it. But the unexpected times, like this, actually took his breath away and made him feel nervous, jittery, and uncharacteristically shy.

He had seen a lot of beautiful things in his life. He had seen sunrises and sunsets over crystal seas that would envelop every sense like a symphony. He had seen longboats and yachts hand crafted with the finest attention to the smallest detail that soared over the water like sea foam. He had seen beauty in his lifetime. But he had never seen anything as beautiful as Madeline Viscolli.

Now steeled against the feelings, he felt he could safely approach the table. He mentally wished Barbara would look up and scoot over to accommodate him, but she didn’t even see him walk up. Instead, Madeline looked up at him, her ultramarine eyes shining like sapphires, and a warm smile lit up her face.

He wondered, absently, how a woman devoid of any makeup, wearing a worn out Florida Gators sweatshirt with her hair piled on top of her head could possibly look so beautiful that her loveliness could steal a grown man’s breath. As she moved over for him, he took the time to slip his bag over his head and set it on the ground next to the table. When he slid into the booth, his hip and thigh brushed up against Madeline’s.

Now it’s your turn! Just link your Christian Fiction Friday! Here are the rules:

1. Christian Fiction Friday is a blog hop where authors post short (400-ish words or less) snippets from their current works in progress (not published pieces).

2. Keep it PG-13 or lower. No swearing, no sex scenes. If you have a particularly violent scene or deal with a heavy or controversial subject matter, please include a disclaimer at the beginning of your post.


Suggestions:

1. Visit at least some of the other Christian Fiction Friday authors each week and comment on their blogs.

2. Don’t offer critiques unless the author specifically asks for it in his or her post.

3. Please include this blurb at the end of your weekly post:

Christian Fiction Friday is a weekly blog hop where authors post snippets from their current Works in Progress. It is hosted by Alana Terry and Hallee Bridgeman.
halleeLOGOspinefinal


I’m so grateful for your visit, today.
You would bless me if you added me to your Subscribe via any Reader feed reader or subscribed Subscribe via Email via email.
You can also become a fan on Become a Facebook Fan Facebook or follow me on Follow me on Twitter Twitter. I would love to see more of you!


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Interview with Author Merrillee Whren

Welcome to Readers Write to Know!  I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance.  This week, I’m so pleased to introduce you to Merrillee Whren. I always love hearing about how authors come up with their story ideas, and as a suspense author, I find a special kinship with authors who get ideas about how to murder someone! I very much enjoyed Merrillee’s interview and hope you do as well.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: This may be more than a little bit. I was born on my mother’s birthday in Rapid City, South Dakota, USA. Soon afterwards my parents moved to Montana. This would be the first of many moves in my life. After I graduated from high school in Spokane, Washington, I went back to South Dakota to attend Dakota Bible College where I received a degree in Christian Education. Then I attended Milligan College in Tennessee for another degree in Bible and Elementary Education. After graduation, I got a job teaching sixth grade near Cincinnati, Ohio, where I met my husband. We were married on Valentine’s Day and had our reception in Loveland. No wonder I became a romance writer.

merrilleewrenWe started married life in Greenfield, Ohio, where my husband was a pharmacist at the local pharmacy. I continued teaching. Just before the birth of our first child, we moved to Hillsboro, Ohio. Daughter number one was born on June 18, 1978. One year later, to continue a family tradition of sharing birthdays, daughter number two was born on June 18, 1979. The girls are now grown and married.

The moves I made while growing up prepared me well for life with my husband whose career took us on a journey from a small town in Ohio to the cities of Atlanta, Boston, Dallas and Chicago. I have visited all fifty states in the USA and two dozen foreign countries. When my husband decided to start his own company, we moved to Amelia Island, Florida. We lived there for nearly twelve years until we moved to Arizona to be close to our granddaughters.

My writing journey has had as many stops along the way as my life’s journey. In 2003, after writing and revising eight manuscripts and receiving lots of rejections, I won the prestigious Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart for best-unpublished inspirational manuscript. The following year, I made my first sale to Love Inspired Books, and I have written a dozen more books for them.

Tell us about your current release: Nursing the Soldier’s Heart is the second book in my Village of Hope series.

Nurse Kirsten Bailey places her family above all else. She refuses to give former army medic Brady Hewitt any leeway for being weeks late in visiting his ill grandmother. But Brady has a good excuse, and he’s eager to show the pretty nurse that first impressions aren’t always right. While working with Brady to care for his grandmother and two orphaned boys, Kirsten realizes that his charm and kindness aren’t an act. But Kirsten plans on doing missionary work abroad and she’s determined Healing the Soldier's Heartnot to fall for this engaging soldier. Could the man she once dismissed be the one to make her stay forever?

What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? I write romances because I always loved to read romances. They have happy endings, and I love a happy ending. After reading so many romances, I thought I would try to write one. I had always been a storyteller, but I had never considered writing something for publication until I was grown with children.

How did you determine whether to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher? When I first started writing, I didn’t even know about self-publishing. I bought a book about writing romances and learned about publishers from that book. After I had sent in my first manuscript and received a rejection, I started in on the second book. About that time Romance Writers of America had their conference in Atlanta where I lived at the time. That was thirty years ago, and I was able to register at the door. After many years of writing and many rejections, I finally made a sale to Love Inspired. When self-publishing lost much of its stigma in the writing community, I decided to self-publish the manuscript that won the RWA Golden Heart Award. I published A Place to Call Home in 2013. I have plans for future self-published books, as well, but they have been on hold while I completed a three-book contract for Love Inspired.

Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? When I start to write, I usually have a hero and heroine and the beginning scene in mind. I may know some of their background and the initial problem that they face. To sell on proposal to a publisher, I have to know more than that, but my preference is to start writing and see what develops most of the time because I really can’t figure out what is going to happen until I start writing. I liken it to walking down a dark hallway and having lights come on as I walk making things clearer as I step forward.

Do you have pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book? Because I’ve written over a dozen books for Harlequin Love Inspired that has a pre-determined word length, my stories tend to be in that length, but my independently published stories tend to be longer because Love Inspired book were longer when I first started writing for that series, and I still have that length programmed into my internal storyteller. I always have to cut my books for Love Inspired to keep within the word count.

What is your preferred method of writing? (computer, pen & paper, etc.) Definitely computer. I started out with a typewriter, but I believe I may never have finished that first book if I’d had to complete it on the typewriter. Thankfully, my husband brought home one of the first portable PCs from his office, and I used that. 

Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever had a great writing idea? This wasn’t a strange place, but an unusual object that prompted the idea for A PLACE TO CALL HOME. We lived in Massachusetts at the time, and I was outside shoveling snow and noticed this huge, huge icicle hanging off our garage. It was so big that I was sure it could kill someone if it hit them. I began to think about what might happen if someone actually used an icicle to kill someone. It would melt, and there would be no weapon. Of course, I write romance and not murder mysteries, so the story idea morphed over a decade before I actually sat down to write the story about a man who was unjustly accused of killing his wife. 

Do you write your books for your own enjoyment or more for what you think people would want to read? I try to do both. If I don’t enjoy the story, how can I write it? Of course, when I write for a publisher, I have to write a story that will fit within their guidelines and expectations of their readers. Sometimes, I haven’t always agreed with what my editor wanted me to write, and so I didn’t write that story for a publisher. Those are the stories I am planning to self-publish. 

Find Merrillee online: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and website.

 



On Barnes & Noble:

On Kobo:
 

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