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Tag: Christian Romance

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manuscripts and receiving lots of rejections, I won the prestigious Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart for best-unpublished inspirational manuscript.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.

 



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Interview with FarmLit Author Valerie Comer and Giveaway!!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance. For those of you who know me as Hallee the Homemaker, you KNOW how excited I am to introduce you to Valerie Comer. Valerie has a passion for whole food, real food – much like me – and makes it a focus of her family life. I LOVE meeting other real food foodies. And, I absolutely adore the fact that Valerie incorporates this into her writing.  She also is a contributor, along with me, at Inspy Romance blog. Please welcome her to my blog, and enjoy her interview as much as I did.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters. Valerie writes farm lit where food meets faith, injecting experience laced with humor into her Farm Fresh Romance stories.

Wild Mint Tea 200x300Tell us about your current release.

Wild Mint Tea is the second book in the Farm Fresh Romance series, which follows the lives, romantic and otherwise, of three young women who buy a farm together to show the world they can grow their own food and live sustainably.

Wild Mint Tea finds chef Claire Halford hosting weddings at Green Acres Farm, but the first bride comes with a globe-trotting brother. Noel Kenzie’s reforestation company provides him the means to enjoy life. This is no time for him to settle down…or Claire to spread her wings.

How did you make the initial step into writing your first novel? What were some of your major roadblocks and how did you overcome them?

I toyed around with writing for many years with vague dreams of becoming a published novelist. I’d go into my local library and take out all the books on writing. We moved a lot so the selection varied, but was rarely more than five books. I’d read them and take them back to the library, unsure of how to apply the advice.

In 2002 I landed a job in a small-town flooring shop and soon realized I had many empty hours a day. I loved the clients and my bosses, who thankfully realized there was only so much dusting a gal could do. They were happy I could entertain myself between bursts of activity! So I did what I’d always done: went to the library.

This time was different. Not the how-to-write selection so much, but the Internet had been invented and I had a stronger drive than before. I settled in to study what I could and wrote my first (very bad) novel that year, took what I’d learned, and applied it to the next one. My fifth novel finaled in ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Genesis contest for unpublished writers. I kept learning but turned my focus toward publication.

My first big roadblock turned out to be an inability to learn how to plot.

Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write?

This was the problem. Early writing advice indicated that one was either a plotter or a pantser (a seat-of-the-pants writer). My first novel was mostly pantsed. I had a few vague ideas of the story, but I mostly jumped in and started writing. Every time I got stuck (often) I’d think a bit and then find some direction to go. I learned two very important things from that story: that I could, indeed, get to 100,000 words, and that I wasn’t a pantser. I’ve never even read that first story again. It’s a disaster.

I wasn’t a pantser, so I must be a plotter. I set out to learn how to do this, but I felt like I was staring at a black wall at night. I’d have some vague ideas but just couldn’t see past them. I beat my head against that black wall for several more books. It was very frustrating.

Eventually I realized something I should have figured out much earlier. Plotting and pantsing aren’t the only games in town. There’s an entire spectrum between them, and most writers fall closer to one end than the other. It turns out my “best practices” are very close to the center.

I’ve finally learned how to do the right amount of pre-planning for me and then jump in, trusting God and my imagination to keep the story afloat. Here’s an article I wrote on my method: Plotting with GMC.

Valerie-Comer-300x300What do you do when you hit a roadblock and have NO idea what to write?

Because I’ve now written 11 complete novels and a novella, I’ve begun to trust that something will come to mind. Sometimes I sit with my fingers poised on the keyboard, knowing where (in general) the story needs to go but bored at the moment. If I’m bored, my reader will likely be bored, too, and decide now is a good time to polish the silver—does anyone do that anymore?

At any rate, bored is a bad thing for all concerned. So I search for something unexpected, toss it in, and run with it. I love it when readers tell me they “totally didn’t see that coming.” Especially when I can reply, “neither did I!”

Do you write your books for your own enjoyment or more for what you think people would want to read?

Traditional publishers believe readers want “the same, but different.” They want familiar with a slight twist. I think indie publishing has proven that isn’t always the case, but I can see why big houses have trouble embracing something truly different from what they’ve released before. It’s a big risk for the whole business with many people’s paychecks on the line.

However, I don’t fit really well into the mold. Not in real life, and not in my stories. So my answer to the question is that I write the stories I would like to find on the shelves. I’d like to think there are more readers who are willing to stretch a little way out of the box!

Who do you envision your typical reader to be?

My typical reader is a believing woman between the ages of 25 and 40 who cares about the food she eats and serves her family, focusing on real ingredients—possibly organic, local, and seasonal food. She has begun to realize there is a point where food meets faith and is willing to go exploring in that neighborhood.

What is your inspiration for writing?

My kids and my grandkids. I’m very passionate about food and distraught about the prevalence of junk food, GM (genetically modified) food, and obesity. My kids are equally passionate and determined to raise their little ones on the healthiest possible fare.

To that end we live on a 40-acre farm, where our son’s family has recently joined us. Our daughter’s family lives about 85 miles away, but also partially depends on produce from our farm. We grow and preserve a large garden, raise animals for eggs and meat, keep bees for honey, and grow a variety of nuts and fruit.

RV-200x300They say to write what you know. I know farming and food. I know there are many young people concerned about the environment and food, and I have a deep conviction to write stories exploring these topics from a Christian point of view.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Write. Explore. Try different methods and genres. When you find what works for you, run with it. Don’t expect your first story to be great, or even your second. Learn from others: from critique partners, contests, courses, and books on craft.

Even having a book (or ten) published doesn’t mean you’ve arrived. There’s always more to learn. There’s no excuse for stagnation, which delights and challenges me.

If you’re a beginning writer or even a more experienced one looking to explore other methods, I invite you to sign up for my free course on fiction writing at To Write a Story. You’ll get a lesson a week via email for 41 weeks. It’s an overview of the various steps involved in planning, plotting, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing fiction—while acknowledging that everyone’s path is different.

To find out more about me, visit my website and blog. I’d love it if you’d connect via social media (the links are in my site header) and sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Thanks so much for inviting me here today, Hallee! Readers, what are you passionate about? How do you share that fervor with others?

I’d love to give one of you a digital copy (Kindle or ePub) of either Farm Fresh Romance novel: Raspberries and Vinegar or Wild Mint Tea. Let’s talk!

Find Valerie online:

Where Food & Faith Meet Farm Lit: http://valeriecomer.com  and  http://valeriecomer.com/blog

What is Farm Lit? http://farmlit.com



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Interview with Author Jean C. Gordon and Giveaway!!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance. This is a special edition of Readers Write to Know highlighting the wonderful Jean C. Gordon’s Small-Town Midwife. – Jean is giving away either a paperback OR ebook (reader’s choice) of this book I’m SOOOO excited because this book doesn’t release until March 1st!  Which means you’ll have a chance to win it just as it’s coming out!

Enjoy this interview and check out the Rafflecopter below to see how you can enter to win this brand new book!

Tell us a little bit about yourself
Writing is a natural extension of my love of reading. From that day in first grade when I realized t-h-e was the word “the,” I’ve been reading everything I can put my hands on. A professional financial planner and editor for a financial publisher, I’m as at home writing retirement- and investment-planning advice as writing romance novels, but novels are a lot more fun.

My college-sweetheart husband and I tried the city life in Los Angeles, but quickly returned home to our native Upstate New York. We share a 170-year-old farmhouse just south of Albany, NY, with our daughter and son-in-law, two grandchildren, and a menagerie of pets. Our son lives nearby. While I create stories, my family grows organic fruits and vegetables and tends the livestock de jour.

Although my day job, writing and family don’t leave me a lot of spare time, I like to give back when I can. My husband and I team-taught a seventh-and-eighth-grade Sunday school class for several years and currently serve on our church’s Evangelism Committee. I also share my love of books with others by volunteering at the church’s Book Nook.

jean gordonTell us about your current release.

My heroine Autumn Hazard feels her purpose in life has deserted her. My hero Dr. Jonathan Mitchell Hanlon sees his new position as director of the Ticonderoga birthing center as a stepping stone to achieving his. What neither realizes is that they can’t move forward without each other.

Like my other Love Inspired books, SMALL-TOWN MIDWIFE is set in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. An experience my daughter, a midwife, had inspired the story. I thought, what if Autumn was a midwife who no longer had the confidence to catch babies. Then, I brought in Jon, a man from her past, who exudes nothing but confidence in his technical approach to delivering babies. A man whose faith helps Autumn come to grips with her situation, while he’s unaware that he, too, needs to take some direction from above concerning his own career and life.

If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it?

I think I would. I recently received a letter from a reader who wrote how SMALL-TOWN MIDWIFE had touched her life and the satisfaction I felt was overwhelming.

How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher (or agent or audience if you self-publish)

I think it has helped me immensely that my day job is also a writing job. I’m used to people reviewing my work and my having to make changes to it for publication. So, when I’ve gotten a revise and resubmit letter from a publisher or agent, I haven’t been devastated (for more than the first day). I also belong to a very good and encouraging critique group. I think having the support of other writers is very important in having the courage to submit a project. But not as important as having God’s support. I put myself in His hands for the writing and the submitting. And, as a recent example, I was determined to write a particular story, and it took two rejections from my editor before I listened to Him and began the story He wants me to write.

What’s the first major news headline that you can remember and what do you remember? (ie. Moon Walk, Watergate, Pope being shot)

Going to give away my age here. It was the assassination of President Kennedy. I was in second grade and we were in an all-school assembly watching a space launch (maybe) and another teacher came over to my teacher and she started crying.

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

One thing I have always done is “just write.” Particularly, when I’m on a deadline (publisher- or self-imposed), I set a daily/weekly word count goal and try to meet it. If you have any words on the page, you can fix them later. When I get stuck on a detail or character action, I’ll put a phrase in brackets [look up later], [some kind of action/emotion here] and continue. Lately, I’ve started to write scenes out of order. If I’m stuck on something in chapter four, but I know what’s going to happen after that, I’ll skip ahead and write what I know.

What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write?

I have always wanted to write. I worked on the school newspaper in high school and sold my first piece to the Buffalo Evening News — a short essay on my family’s Christmas traditions — when I was in high school. I majored in journalism in college and worked on the student newspaper there, too. After I graduated, I went to work for the financial publisher I still work for. My writing expanded into fiction writing when I started doing romance novel reviews for a now-defunct review magazine. From there, I tried my hand at writing sweet romances and published five with Avalon Books that are now available in Kindle format from Amazon Publishing. After that, I had a renewal of faith and felt called to write Christian romance. And here I am.

MidwifeDo 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 know the beginning and end of the story and basically who my hero and heroine are when I start. The middle and other characters, as well as further development of my main characters, evolve as I write.

I assume when you start a book, you pretty much have the plot laid out. Do you ever change your mind later on in the book, and go in a different direction?

This is kind of a continuation of the previous question. I always change my mind on at least some things as I write. For instance, when I wrote my proposal for SMALL-TOWN MIDWIFE, it had nothing about Jon’s grandmother, who became a major character. She just appeared as I was writing.

Do you have pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book?

Not to sound mercenary, but I have always written my fiction with the intention of having it published. So, before I’ve started a book, I’ve always had a publisher or similar publishers in mind and have written to the word length of those publishers. I also keep a spreadsheet that tracks my count-up to the required length. I discovered early that my nonfiction writer has made me a better short-book writer than long-book writer.

Do you write your books for your own enjoyment or more for what you think people would want to read?

A little of each. I enjoy writing my books and I write them for people to read. I believe my story lines are my own. I don’t particularly fashion them to what I think people want to read. However, I do have a certain reader in mind when I write — Christian readers and other romance readers who want a clean read — and write my stories to those readers, knowing I can’t please all of them all of the time.

Find Jean on the web:


Small-Town Midwife| Love Inspired | Look for it in March 2014
Small-Town Mom| Love Inspired | July 2013
Mandy and the Mayor & Love Undercover| Montlake| July 2013

Facebook, Twitter, Website

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/small-town-midwife-jean-c-gordon/1116871029?ean=9780373878741

Harlequin: http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=50656
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Cooking from a Stay at Home Mom: Emerald Fire

Emerald Fire 3DLysska at Cooking from a Stay at Home Mom has given an awesome review for Emerald Fire.  Among other wonderful things, she said:

As soon as I started out in it I just could not stop. It showed real struggles, how to cope with them, and move on. It is a great Christian Romance, with a great moral baseline. I would highly recommend this book to everyone, even if you have never read a Christian Romance.

She is also giving away either an autographed copy of Emerald Fire -OR- all three books in the Jewel Trilogy in e-book form.  Her giveaway is open until June 7th.  Click here to enter.

Good luck!
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Sapphire Ice 80% Off for a Limited Time!!!

From now until April 23rd, Sapphire Ice, Book 1 of the Jewel Trilogy, is available to you for the special introductory price of just $0.99!!  That’s 80% off of the full retail price!

On April 23rd, the e-book version will sell for the full retail price of $4.99 and I will release Emerald Fire, Book 2 of the Jewel Trilogy in e-book format.  Sapphire Ice will be available in print mid-April.

Right now you can purchase Sapphire Ice just $0.99 at Smashwords by following this link.

Read a sample of Sapphire Ice by following this link.

You can also get a copy of Sapphire Ice at Amazon by following this link.
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Sapphire Ice Coming Soon

The first installment of the Jewel Trilogy, Sapphire Ice, will soon be available in eBook and in print.

I still have to finalize the cover design, the print layout, and a million other details but it will be available this month which is why I set up this website.

Stay tuned!

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