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Monday Morning Chat – Christmas in Our Home

Hello! Welcome to Monday morning coffee and chat!

I really appreciate all of the questions that I get from my readers. Today I’m the question:

What does Christmas look like in your home?

I’m excited about this question!  I hope you learn more about me through my response:

 

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Interview with Author Connie Pease

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 happy to have author Connie Pease as my guest. Because I can’t hear music, I am always so impressed when I meet someone who not only hears music, but writes music and musicals! I’m in awe of that talent. And, she’s a writer of books, too! Check out her release – the premise sounds absolutely fascinating and fun!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m a Minnesota girl who loves the beauty of lakes and woods but could do without the cold of winter and frozen toes. I have four adult children who I love and worry about aConnie Miller Peasend am proud of and treasure. I’ve been married for 28 years to a nice guy I met in college. Writing was never on my radar. I started writing music after my fourth child was born, then started writing musicals and fiction. To be at this place in my life as a published author just goes to show the truth of the proverb that tells us how we might plan out our lives, but the Lord directs our steps.

Tell us about your current release. Mrs. Covington’s Sunday School Dropouts follows the adventures to Cathy Covington and her drop-dead gorgeous cousin, Andi, as they track down her former Sunday School students who have dropped out of church. Subplots along the way (including a town parade Cathy is unwillingly elected to organize, found money, and a small-time swindler) add to the fun.

Who was your first Screen/Musical Crush? Oh this is going to date me, but I don’t care – he’s darling! When I was a little girl, I remember watching Andy Williams on television and his voice was like happiness and goodness swirled with smooth chocolate. We lost a good one when we lost him.

What is your personal, most effective way to get past writer’s block? Ha ha. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find something that worked and market it? You could make a bundle! When I’m stuck, I do a lot of ineffective things like getting up to get another cup of coffee, bake cookies, straighten up a room – in other words I become the procrastination princess. Honestly, the most effective thing for me is to just plow through and write horribly until I start coming up with something decent again.

covingtonWhat advice do you have for aspiring writers? Be willing to write a few books before you get one published. Those first books might be your favorites, but you will be a better writer if you put in time to write more than just one. Secondly, persist. You must keep going even when your work gets rejected. Thirdly, ask God to bless your work with His direction.

What is your preferred method of writing? I sit at the desk in front of the computer and type. I sometimes stare into space and sometimes out the window. I drink coffee with a splash of milk. Every once in a while I talk out loud. I tell myself that’s not crazy, just creative. What? Isn’t it? 🙂

Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever had a great writing idea? I’ve had a few story ideas I’ve jotted down up at the cabin. Actually, music is the thing that gets written in my head when I’m out driving or taking a walk. It’s kind of funny and great fun when it happens. The steering wheel is percussion and old receipts get lyrics written all over them. Are you worried yet about being on the same roads as I drive?

Do you write your books for your own enjoyment or more for what you think people would want to read? I write for my own enjoyment. If I didn’t, Mrs. Covington would never have shot at the squirrels in her yard with a BB gun, because a few readers didn’t like that. I wanted it left in, though, because it amused me. (And red squirrels really are very territorial and mean.) It’s only after the book has been published or the musical has been performed that I start getting nervous about what other people think.

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? Your assumption of my plotting skills is flattering! I’ve yet to write any fiction in which I know where the story is going to go. In fact part of the last chapter of Mrs. Covington. . . was actually the first paragraph when I began that story.

Find Connie online: Facebook and her blog.

Find Connie’s books online: Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

 


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Interview with Author Laura Hilton 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.  This week, I am so pleased to introduce you to author Laura Hilton. As the mother of three, who can only write when she is alone in the house, I am always SO impressed with homeschooling authors — especially homeschooling authors who produce such great content as Laura. Please read on and meet this amazing woman — and, she is giving away a copy of her latest release! Read on to see how you can enter to win.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:  Award winning author, Laura Hilton, her husband, Steve, and their five children make their home in Arkansas. She is a pastor’s wife, a stay-at-home mom and home-schools. Laura is also a breast cancer survivor. Her publishing credits include three books in the Amish of Seymour series from Whitaker House: Patchwork DreamsA Harvest of Hearts (winner of the 2012 Clash of the Titles Award in two categories), and Promised to Another. The Amish of Webster County series, Healing Love (finalist for the 2013 Christian Retail Awards). Surrendered Love and Awakened Love followed by her first Christmas novel, A White Christmas in Webster County, as well as the Amish of Jamesport series, The Snow Globe, The Postcard,  and The Birdhouse. Other credits include Swept Away from Abingdon Press’ Quilts of Love series. Laura is contracted for another three book Amish series set in the Jamesport area, with the first book, The Amish Firefighter, planned for April 2016. She has indie published a Christmas novella, Christmas Mittens. Laura is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a professional book reviewer.

Laura HiltonTell us about your current release:

Twenty–year–old Greta Miller’s daed has been injured in a farming accident during the summer. The supportive Amish community tries to help out, but Greta and her sister must work outside the home to make ends meet, and so Greta rents a booth at the farmers’ market. Because Greta is still in her rumspringa and free to explore the world, her family selects her to sell her homemade jams, jellies, and preserves to Englischers. Josh Yoder wants to court Greta, but years ago, he made the mistake of rejecting her during a seemingly innocent game; which resulted in him leaving the Amish. Three years later, he’s back, but Greta wants nothing to do with him. Josh struggles to fit in and rebuild relationships he destroyed. Knowing Greta’s family needs help, he steps in, hoping to win her back. When Greta admires one of his birdhouses, he gives it to her, hoping that it will open the door to more. But as their friendship begins to grow, a series of unfortunate events pull Greta away from the Amish, leaving her rejected by those she loves. Will Greta get beyond her family’s distrust and return home? Will she prove her innocence? Or will she remain outside her Amish community?

If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it?  Yes, because that one person is important to God and He wants that person reached with His love and care.

Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful? No. I’m writing for God, I gave my life to Him to be used as He saw fit. I am not going to compromise myself to become more successful. He knows who He wants to read my books and will make sure the book gets to that person.

Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write?  In my case, they develop as I write. I might have  a basic idea (paragraph length) in mind, and know the characters names, but that is all I know. God tells me the story as I write (I pray a lot.)

Do you have pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book?  Depends. The publisher generally gives me a maximum and minimum word count and I shoot toward that.

lhbirdhouseWhat advice do you have for aspiring writers?  If God’s given you a passion for it, He’s given you permission for it. Read a lot. Write. And don’t give up.

What is your preferred method of writing? (computer, pen & paper, etc.)  I write on the computer, edit as I write, and when I finish, the manuscript is ready to go to the publisher.

Who were some of your favorite authors as a child? (Book series, maybe?) I was raised on my grandmother’s Grace Livingstone Hill books. I devoured them. But really, I read anything back then, even cereal boxes.

I’m always intrigued by how writers get started…did you always have these books inside you and knew that you wanted to write them or did the idea just pop into your head one day and you decided to put pen to paper?  I always wanted to be a writer.  When people asked me as a child what I wanted to grow up to be, I said a wife, a mom to five kids, and a writer. They laughed, told me I’d never have five kids, and maybe I should become a librarian, because only certain types of people write (not sure about that!)  I did marry, we’ve been married almost thirty years now. We have five kids. And I write.

What do you do when you hit a roadblock and have NO idea what to write? Kill somebody. J Seriously, I pray a lot when I write. But I have been known to wander around the house muttering, “Somebody has to die.” My children assure me, “Nobody has to die, Mom.

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?  No, I don’t have a plot laid out. I know nothing except a basic blurb, maybe about three sentences, about the idea. I just pray and write.

Find Laura online: book blog, personal blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Find Laura’s books online:

 



On Barnes & Nobile:

On Kobo:

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Interview with Author Ginger Solomon

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 happy to have Ginger Solomon, a fellow Inspy Romance contributor as my guest. I have long admired homeschooling moms who are able to write — I am the type of writer who has to be alone in the house to truly find productivity. Ginger homeschools five children, and still writes amazing romance novels. I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did!

Tell us a little bit about yourself: Ginger Solomon is a Christian, a wife, a mother to seven, and a writer — in that order (mostly). When not homeschooling her youngest five, doing laundry or fixing dinner, she writes or reads romance of any genre, some sci-fi/fantasy, and some suspense. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, president of her local writing group, and writes regularly for three blogs. In addition to all that, she loves animals, horses especially, likes to do needlework (knitting, crocheting, and ginger solomonsometimes cross-stitch), and loves to sing in the choir at church.

Tell us about your current release:

–Blurb for Love in Mistletoe Springs:

The Mistletoe Springs animal shelter loses their grant, endangering the lives of countless stray dogs, cats, even birds and turtles. The community attempts to save the shelter by running a Christmas in July fundraiser. Groups of volunteers scramble to get all the details together while managing their personal lives. For ten people, love gets in the way.

–Blurb for Mr. Christmas and Miss Scrooge:

Mitch Silverton agreed to be in charge of decorating for the fundraiser. And he needs his boss, Margaret Holberg, to donate her family’s vast array of decorations to make the day unforgettable. BUT…

She’s not sharing. Christmas is not a holiday she wants to celebrate in July, and saving the animal shelter is not high on her list of important things to do.

He wants her to share more than the decorations. He wants her heart. Will he succeed in changing Miss Scrooge into Mrs. Christmas?

If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? Absolutely. I write because I can’t not write. Even if my story only ever helps my teenaged daughter, who reads all my books, then that’s enough for me. I aim to always glorify God in my life, which bleeds into my writing. While I don’t share the salvation message, I do write from a Christian worldview. Even when my characters are struggling with sin, I write them back into the fold of God byMistletoe Springs the end of the book.

Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful? I think this ties in to the previous question, and my answer would be no. I don’t write for the monetary rewards. I write for the glory of One. If He’s not pleased, it doesn’t matter how many people like my book or how much money I’ve made, it was a failure. On the flipside, if He is pleased and glorified, then I’ve done what I’ve set out to do.

What is your personal, most effective way to get past writer’s block? I have a fantasy novel that I play with. I’ve never intended for it to be published. It’s something that I’ve just had fun with. I don’t have to worry about believability, grammar, consistencies, etc. I just write and enjoy the characters as they come alive to me. Amazingly, it is one of my daughter’s favorites, and she often begs for a new chapter. Maybe someday I will publish it, but that wasn’t the goal when I started writing it.

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 a few things researched before I begin—location, weather, and moon phases. I also generate a calendar so I can make sure I keep the days straight. I’ve tried doing the plotline and character development in advance, but it backfired and I found the story stifled, so I deleted it all and started over. And even for my current work-in-progress, I tried to do a character worksheet, but as I wrote the story my heroine revealed herself differently than she did in the “interview.” I’ve decided I just need to write the story. That’s what works for me.

Do you have pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book? With Mr. Christmas and Miss Scrooge, I had a predetermined length because it was going in the Love in Mistletoe Springs set, but otherwise I aim for 75,000-90,000 words. Typically my first draft finishes in the 65,000 word range, and with edits and extra description, I add the extra necessary words.

What is one thing that you “never saw yourself doing” and either do it now or have done?This answer is not writing related, so I hope that’s okay. Believe it or not, when I was a teenager, I didn’t think I’d ever be a mom. I didn’t really care for children, though I babysat regularly. Maybe that’s why. 😀 Then after I got married, I thought two children would be a good number. My husband wanted five. And in God’s wonderful sense of humor, he sent us seven—five boys and two girls. Ironically enough, I still don’t care for other people’s children after more than a couple of hours.

Find Ginger online: website, Inspy Romance BlogPinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

Find Ginger’s book on Amazon.




 

 

 

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Interview with Darlene Franklin

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 pleased to introduce you to Darlene Franklin. I loved this interview. I love that Darlene has devoted her talents to God even now, while in a nursing home. She has had an incredible writing career, and I am so blessed to have her with us today.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself: Best-selling author Darlene Franklin’s greatest claim to fame is that she writes full-time from a nursing home. She lives in Oklahoma, near her son and his family, and continues her interests in playing the piano and singing, books, good fellowship, and reality TV in addition to writing. She is an active member of Oklahoma City Christian Fiction Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Christian Authors Network. She has written over forty books and has written more than 250 devotionals. Her historical fiction ranges from the Revolutionary War to World War II, from Texas to Vermont.

Tell us about your current release:

Becky Patterson escapes the stifling life at her father’s parsonage for an exciting life as a mail-order bride. . .only to learn her potential is a part-time preacher, Jake Underwood. Her dreams of working alongside Jake in his store stall when an itinerant preacher wants to ordain him as pastor of the growing church. Will Becky accept God’s calling on her life—or will she reject Jake’s love and the future God has planned for them?

If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? What a difficult question! If that one person lived a hundred years in the future, then I would say yes. (I have a favorite quote: Don’t write for the 100 books who read your book, or the 10 people who’ll read it in 10 years, but for the 1 person who reads it in 100 years.) But as I get older, with little assurance of how long I will have a mind clear enough to write, the more I realize what limited time I have left to write. Would I write to benefit one—or write something else, hoping to benefit more? Because I might not have time to do both. And we’re talking about benefits and not sales. If a book will only sell one copy, then, no. I lose time and money (expenses).

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)? At first, I was too inexperienced to know how poor my writing was, and I sent it everywhere. I met with other writers face to face (before digital communications were common) and they encouraged me when I was rejected, yet again. I was encouraged by published writers and editors at conferences, people who read my work, liked it, and said it was good enough to publish. I just might not have my market right. In fact, my first book contract from such a meeting with Tracie Peterson, who represented Heartsong at the time. I also entered contests—and won a few. That encouraged me. I asked God many times (I still do) if I should quit writing—the learning curve took me twelve years before my first book contract. Every time I asked, God said, “Not yet. You need to write . . .” I wrote in obedience to God, trusting the ultimate publication to Him. Most of those early books haven’t been published, BTW. I still believe I’m a fairly average published author. I describe my situation this way: look at professional sports. Only a small handful people get to play pro football and get paid for it. And of them, we mostly only know the superstars. But every single one of them is lucky to play at all. I figure I’m one of the pool of bit players who’s privileged to write Christian fiction.

jacob'sdreamWho was your first Screen/Musical Crush? Oh, Ilya Kuryakin on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I remember cleaning the church with my mother and my best friend, making up stories about the series. Seeing David McCallum again drew into NCIS right away. After that it was Dr. McCoy on classic Star Trek, Manolito Montoya on High Chaparral. Shall I go on?

How did you determine whether to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher? I’ve always been a huge supporter of traditional publishing, because you have to learn your craft and learn marketing to sell to a print publisher. Also, self-publishing when I started meant paying for the printing costs up front and figuring out how to market to retailers—nothing I was able to do. Having said that, I understand that there are fewer opportunities now. E-publishing is fairly easy. When Heartsong closed, I jumped into self-publishing myself. I still think many writers go into it before they’re ready.

Do you have pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book? Oh, my, yes. That comes from writing to length for traditional publishers, both fiction and non-fiction. The length of the book determines how long I need to write it, and how I plan it. No, going to another question (plotter or pantser), I’ve converted to more of a pantser than a plotter. I still have a basic story idea, characters, an obvious ending (I do write romance, after all); and I decide the number of chapters and the basic thrust of each chapter.

Find Darlene online: her website and Facebook.

Find Darlene’s books:

 

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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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