Friday, January 31, 2014

Meet Anita Higman, author of A MARRIAGE IN MIDDLEBURY

Can you pinpoint one decision, one moment, one action that changed your life forever? We all have definable moments that shape who we are and the path we follow, but sometimes other people make that decision for us. In A Marriage in Middlebury (Abingdon Press/November 5, 2013/ISBN: 978-1-4267-3387-1/$14.99), Anita Higman weaves a heartwarming tale of how one choice takes a woman down an unexpected path to forgiveness. 

Best Selling author; over 30 Books!
Thank you, Anita, for visiting with us today, and congratulations on your new release! I'm sure all your fans can't wait to get their copy! And I'm just honored to have you. Give us some insight to your inspiration for A MARRIAGE IN MIDDLEBURY.

The idea for this book came from my absolute love of tearooms in Texas. More than a decade ago I met a woman named Linda Becker who opened a tearoom in the Houston burbs called Tea for Two. Her eatery and gift shop did so well she opened a second shop. Throughout the years I’ve enjoyed her wonderful tearoom fare as well as the quaint ambiance. Linda’s tearoom isn’t just a café — it’s a gathering place for friends, a place to eat home-cooked food and a place so cozy you don’t want to leave. As a writer I thought it might be fun to create a heroine who owns a tearoom similar to Linda’s and set her shop in a small town on the gulf coast of Texas. So, that’s how the novel A Marriage in Middlebury was born. Even though the story, the characters and the town are fictional, Linda’s tearooms are real places you can visit and enjoy.

So everything was going smoothly for the main character when suddenly it all changes when her first love returns. What advice do you have when life throws us a curve ball?

Isn’t that just like life? I get curve balls thrown at me daily! Sometimes little ones. Sometimes big ones. As Christians we should trust in the One who made us, the One who’s known us from the first day when we were knit together in our mother’s womb, the One who loves us best. Trusting in Him when everything goes wrong  is the only answer, and it’s more than enough.

Amen, and it's true, we all get pitches hard to hit. I think that goes back to..."in this world you will have tribulations" but Praise God, we CAN be of good cheer because He HAS overcome the world! In your story, Sam’s father pressured Charlotte into breaking off her relationship with his son. How do you think we should react to people who threaten our dreams, wrong us in some way, or are just deliberately hurtful?

Bathe the situation in prayer and then talk things through no matter how painful. But once the air is clear, forgive and move on. Don’t keep going back over and over. Forgiveness is not easy, but it’s the only way to live free. It helps to remember that forgiveness is what God offered us when we sinned against Him.

Honestly, I’m not able to forgive on my own. This fallen world is filled with people who can at times be unkind and unjust. I can only give these people to God and let him transform their hearts and my attitude toward them. Does it sound unbelievable—too mystic? It might sound that way, but Jesus is the only supernatural glue that will ever be able to mend this broken world. Through Christ I am able to forgive what is unforgiveable and love those people who seem unlovable. After all, that is exactly what Christ did for me.

That is some good advice, Anita. Is there a certain Bible passage or verse that goes along with the theme of A MARRIAGE IN MIDDLEBURY? 
Don't miss this one!

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV)

I love that verse and quote it often. I know when I'm writing, I use a lot of incidents from my life. How about you? Are any of the characters or events in A MARRIAGE IN MIDDLEBURY based on your own experiences?

All my characters are a mixture of many different people. Perhaps a hand gesture will come from someone at the grocery store. Or perhaps the idea of a uniquely shaped beauty mark will come from a woman I know at church. Or maybe that obnoxious habit of always needing to be right comes from the clerk at the local coffee shop. See how that works? It’s a safer way to design characters than taking all the attributes from one person, especially if you’re creating a villain!

I get it and understand after THIRTY books, you'd have to start using strangers! So do you find yourself returning to similar themes in your novels (i.e. forgiveness, trust, etc.), or do you have a new message with each release?

Yes, I tend to go back to the themes of forgiveness and reconciliation, because these are the same themes that have dramatically impacted my life. If we can’t forgive and reconcile with our friends and family and our fellow man, we will be very lonely people. Even if we long to be an island, that’s not how God created us. We were created for fellowship. So, these themes are not only good for a story, but they are paramount in living the Christian life.

Like several of your books, A MARRIAGE IN MIDDLEBURY is set in our home state of Texas. Mine, too! I mean, really, don't you just love it? What are some of your favorite things about the Lone Star State?

Texas has a unique array of scenery—mountains, beaches, deserts, hills, bayous, canyons, big cities, quaint towns, all spread out under a big open sky that embraces it all. Also, Texas is an inexpensive place to live, it’s a great place to raise a family and it’s one of the friendliest places on earth. I’ve lived here for about 30 years, and I’m proud to call Texas my home.

Me, too, Anita. You left out the gianormous Texas trees; I live in the Piney East Texas woods and love it. I've been here sixty-three years, since before my first birthday, and only talked about being born in California when the Beach Boys came out with "I Wish They All Could Be California Girls" :)  Tell us what do you hope readers will walk away with after they turn the last page of your new book.

Ultimately, I hope readers see that with God all things are possible!

My goal with A MARRIAGE IN MIDDLEBURY is to entertain, challenge and inspire women. I hope each reader will come to the end of the novel with a smile on her face, excited to tell a friend about the story she’s just read and the characters she’s just met.

Every author's dream, right? Why is it do you suppose that novels set in Mayberry-esque towns in America becoming so popular?

I think women want to escape from the harshness of real life—and maybe for a little while enjoy things the way they used to be. And these kinder, gentler stories can encourage the reader to bring those small-town values back into the real world.

From your lips to God's ears, dear one. As a Baby Boomer, I can tell you that is true, at least for my generation. The changes in my lifetime have been astonishing! Before becoming a writer, you had a number of interesting jobs. What was it about writing that drew you in?

I had an incredible need to tell stories. I guess God made me that way.

Yes, ma'am, I comprehend! What are you working on next?

A novel entitled A Question of Destiny. I’ll leave the plot as a surprise, but I will say it’s a romantic comedy. That novel will be released in 2014.


Anita, it's been a pleasure, and thank you again so much.

Y'all can learn more about Anita Higman and her books at anitahigman.com. Readers can also become a fan on Facebook (Author Anita Higman) or follow her on Twitter (@anitahigman).

Friday, January 17, 2014

MARY SUE SEYMOUR, a Very Special AGENT's POV

I’ll credit my Father in Heaven for the wonderful idea to interview my literary agent, Mary Sue Seymour. She divinely stepped into my life at the end of April, 2012. I’ll never forget her getting off the elevator and coming to hug my neck. She said, “You’re the first McAdoo I’ve ever met who isn’t family!” As though God tapped us on the head with His velvet hammer—Pay attention here, ladies, I have a plan! I could hardly believe her maiden name was McAdoo, she grew up one, I married one! But then we serve an able and awesome God!

 
Mary Sue McAdoo Seymour, The Seymour Agency, New York

ON BEING AN AGENT

Mary Sue, knowing how busy you are, I want to thank you right off for giving me this time to get to know you a little better. I know you’ve been an art teacher and taught piano, too, but I’m curious as to that first book you sold, beginning this career you’ve so excelled at. What and when was your first ever sell?

A four book deal to Bantam back in the early 90’s.

And how did it all come about?

She had some pretty serious violence in the book’s beginning toward women, so I did a line-to-line edit on the work and edited that out. Her name was Tammy Schmanski, but since it was a medieval series, she used the aka of Tamara Leigh.

Have there been any near misses? Someone you passed on that made it big?

Not that I know of.

Well that’s good, but not surprising. I know from following you on Facebook that you are one traveling woman! How many writers’ conferences do you typically go to in a year?

About 12 or so – then last September, I did ACFW, The Baltimore Book Festival, and CT Fiction Fest, so it really varies. I try to go wherever I’m invited. Last spring, went to Wisconsin RWA and to a conference at Shreveport, LA. Was crushed when my flight was canceled do to heavy thunder storms and missed ICRS. Had to cancel 30 appointments with editors but they all said how bad the storms were.

Wow, yes, I didn’t even think of agents and editors during that terrible storm, but no doubt! You probably spend more than your fair share in airports during bad weather. There are so many conferences all over the US, which one or two do you remember as being the most fun and why?

Speaking honestly, the conferences that are the most fun are the ones where I do the least amount of work. ‘Meet the Agent’ in Philadelphia, PA is pretty easy. We do speed dating pitches one day there, but they put us up for two nights in a Marriott in downtown Philly. Lots of shopping/restaurants, and it’s beautiful. But again, it’s always great to see my clients at conferences. I have the most clients at ACFW and RWA. So in the end, even though much work is involved, I guess those would be the two.

You seem to have a sixth sense as to who should write what. I know you told me very specifically to write you a historical Christian romance set in the 1800s. And another one of your authors—Jen Beckstrand or Mary Ellis?—told me you told them to write an Amish book. How do you do that? Know what we should write? Because now, I can’t imagine not writing the genre you suggested for me!

God is my guide in everything, but I keep in close touch with editors. I maintain extremely positive relationships with editors to find out who is buying what. I appreciate them! Respect the time they put into their job. They are all overworked as far as I’m concerned.
Sometimes, I send them little Christmas gifts to let them know I’m thinking of them. When the Thomas Nelson team took me out for breakfast at ACFW, I gave them each a sterling silver bracelet with a cross on it. A dear friend of mine who is an editor at Harvest House was having surgery, loves cats, so I gave her a cat prayer book at ACFW. I love the editors I work with and try to show that in all things. I appreciate them buying my clients’ books.

I know you have several Texas authors, do we represent the most in any one state, and if not what’s #1? (be it known I cannot even THINK of Texas coming behind any state J)
Mary Sue took all her authors attending ACFW Conference to dinner at P. F. Changs! My first time to meet all these wonderful Seymour ladies. What a treat!

I do believe I have more clients in Texas than any other state. But Ohio is a close second.

Yea, I’m so glad to hear Texas is #1!! I can’t begin to imagine how many manuscripts you must have read. Have you kept a count?Care to make an educated guess if not?

1,000’s and 1,000’s

Have you ever been involved in a floor bid?

Yes, I have had auctions.

Who do you read for pleasure?

My clients’ works, they are my favorites!


PERSONAL & FAMILY

Were you born and reared in New York State? Ever live anywhere else?

Yes, father was a dairy farmer, and we were very poor. I was one of 8 children, and I remember my brothers not always having socks in the cold Northern New York winters. When I was young, my mother became ill, my father couldn’t afford a sitter so my 3 sisters and I were placed in different foster homes.
Since I was the oldest, I tried to raise my younger sisters from afar. Having said that, I didn’t do a very good job of it, but I was there for them. I looked at this experience in a positive way. If this hadn’t happened, I would have missed knowing my foster family who has meant a lot to me over the years.

Where in the wide world would you like to go that you haven’t been yet?

Scotland because my ancestors migrated from Scotland to Ireland.

How did you meet your husband?
Michael and Mary Sue
A friend flew back from NYC reading a bridal magazine. She was engaged, but when she returned home, her fiancée broke it up with her. She was so sad, she asked me to go to a dance with her and socialize. My hair was dirty and going out was the last thing I felt like doing, but I did, and was introduced to my husband of 35 years, Michael.

What’s your absolutely favorite family memory?

Rocking my two sons Matthew and Luke when they were babies. Sometimes I’d sing to them when they could put up with it.

When you put the literary world behind you, what do you enjoy doing?

With Kelly Irvin at the Seymour Retreat in Florida! Jan. '14
I love Disney and Mickey Mouse and the whole childish set up! I love watching The Voice and watching the contestants grow with their God-given abilities. I love walking on the beach and appreciating everything God has put here for us.

What about a special memory with another loved one?

My oldest foster sister Barbara called me after I received my diagnosis to tell me she wished she could take it for me. I was very touched by this.

No greater blessing than a new wee family member!
Last but never least (the first will be last…) I know you to be a woman of faith, Mary Sue. I want to offer you the chance to give God glory. Will you share your testimony with us?

Ah, God! Who is responsible for my wildly successful literary agency, who gave me my husband who has loved me for over 35 years and my sons and daughter-in-law Nicky, and now a new grandbaby Grayson? It’s Him. 

He has given me clients that pray for my current health challenge, and I love being a part of the wonderful Seymour Agency family. He has given me Nicole –my co-agent –who is the daughter I always wanted but never had. 
Mary Sue and Nicole Resciniti
And all the people I’ve met in the last 20 plus years, I’ve met from agenting. Editors, publishers, clients, interns and even especially the authors who have queried me, pitched to me, or wanted to become clients, but aren’t quite ready. God has placed all these wonderful people in my life and it has caused me much joy! I will be eternally thankful to HIM!


Well, what a great note to end on, Mary Sue. Your faith certainly drew me to you, and I’m very thankful that God brought you into my life, not just because you sold VOW UNBROKEN either! J Just to know you has added a sweetness to it, and now that I know you even better, you occupy a little more of my heart. Thanks so much for sharing! 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Mary Ellis and her THE QUAKER AND THE REBEL

Oh, Mary Ellis! 
          I am so excited to interview you and certainly consider it a privilege!

          I first met Mary at P. F. Changs in Indianapolis when our mutual agent took all her authors at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference last September and just fell in love with her. She’s so sweet and such a honey! 
          So first things first! THE QUAKER AND THE REBEL is her newest book. 
          It has a great cover, Mary. Where can we go to buy our copy?
          It is available at www.christianbook.com and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all Christian bookstores, internet and brick-and-mortar stores everywhere. It's in both print and electronic versions. It debuted on January 1st .

Give us a little sneak peek, could you?
          When a conductor on the Underground Railroad crosses paths with a Rebel Ranger, everyone expected sparks to fly. How could a Quaker governess fall in love with the enemy? Two lives of deception, both believing God is on their side. Sometimes love is more powerful than any army…North or South.


How did you come up with these fun characters? Choose their names? I know I sometimes think of someone I know when writing a new character so I can see them in my mind’s eye, hear their unique voice. Do you have a process?
          I love picking characters’ names. I usually create a character sketch before starting the story and select names that comes to mind when writing. Only problem is, I have a tendency to get stuck with a certain letter, such as Cora, Clara, Carl, Corrine, etc. and have to go back later and change some.

That’s so funny because I have the same problem! You’re so much fun, but what’s your craziest quirk?
          When a person has an entire bushel basket full of quirks, it’s difficult to pick just one. I suppose it would be I love to talk to myself while walking the dog. I plot entire conversations for scenes sometimes. One day the neighbors will have me checked into a hospital for observation if I’m not careful.

Ah ha ha! I imagine your dog enjoys his walks more with the conversation. How long does it take you start-to-finish to write a novel?  Since we know only God writes in stone and the rest of us rewrite, how many of those does that include?
          It takes me around six months, start to finish. I usually research, outline, and then write a solid first draft, tweaking as I go along. Then hopefully, I won’t have to spend long on the rewrite. But you know how that goes. I often find plenty I want to change.

Indeed I do, however many times I go over a manuscript, I’ll find little changes to make. I guess authors are like painters who can always make one more brush stroke. So give us faves list, Mary.
Scripture?  You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you.  Remember, the Lord forgave you, so must forgive others. (Colossians 3:13)
Rare or Well done?      Well-done 
Color?                           Green  
Soda or Tea?                Iced Tea
Food?                            Popcorn
Country or City?          Definitely country
Animal?                        Oh, please, I can’t think of an animal I don’t like…I even like snakes.
Cook or Eat Out?         Eat out, but I only do so once a week
Flower?                         Lilies
Ferris wheel or tilt-a-whirl? Neither, I get motion-sick
Movie?                          The Legend of Bagger Vance  
Song?                            Truly, Madly, Deeply.
Genre to read?              Historical Romance and Romantic Suspense.

We share green as favorite color, and a love of country and animals, too! I’m glad you like historical romances; you can read my VOW UNBROKEN when it debuts in March J So if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and how would you get there?
          I would like to get on a plane and go to Tuscany, Italy for a month. I love seeing pictures of the Italian countryside and coastline. I would need a month at the minimum because I know there’s plenty to see.

Sounds like a lovely trip! If God told you that you could pray one prayer and He would immediately answer it, what would you pray?
          Our entire nation would come together in prayer and stop the constant bickering that’s tearing us apart.

Amen! I could pray in agreement with you on that one! What would make your heart burst with joy?
          That my Rheumatoid Arthritis pain would go away, but hey…everyone has something wrong with them once they reach a certain age.

My mama suffered with RA. I’ll put that on my prayer list. We know there’s nothing too hard for God. Be sure to share all you links with us!
Here’s my links:


Thank you so much for letting me into your world. I’ve loved getting to know you a little better, maybe someday we can visit and visit and visit face to face. Hugs and Blessings from your Seymour Sister!
          Thanks so much, Caryl, for interviewing me! I hope to see you in St. Louis, if not before!!


Oh I hope so! It was a true miracle of the Lord that I got to go to ACFW Conference in 2013. I’ve never done anything like that in my life, but He provided. I’ve been telling Him that now He’s got me spoiled and I want to come every year! SO I pray I do get to see you again in September. You know that song ¸.•¨¯`•.¸¸.♥♪♫ Meet me in St. Louis •♥* Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ¨♥* Louis.♪♫.•*♪¨*♥ •♫♪Meet me at the Conference! :).♪♫.•*♪¨* —if not before, indeed! 
Here are all The Seymour Agency authors who attended the 2013 ACFW Conference in Indianapolis! Our own Mary Sue Seymour (front and center in red) treated us to P.F. Chang's. We all love Mary Sue! I'm so honored to be in this group!
            If you ever head toward North East Texas, Mary, you better let me know you’re on your way! Blessings and favor to you!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Jennifer Beckstrand's Got a New Release!

Jennifer Beckstrand, author of
THE MATCHMAKERS OF HUCKLEBERRY HILL
1. So, first off, let me say I love the title of your new Amish romance THE MATCHMAKERS OF HUCKLEBERRY HILL. I’m so glad to have this opportunity to interview you, Jennifer, and get a little better acquainted. As Anna sang in The King And I, how about we jump in with 'Getting to know you? Getting to know all about you'? Tell us a little – your family, what you’ve been doing...

          For almost 30 years, I have been married to the same wonderful guy I fell in love with in college. I have six children. The four oldest are girls with two boys at the end. My three oldest daughters are married, and I have two grandsons.
          I have a degree in mathematics, which comes in handy when one of my six children needs help with algebra. After twenty-five years of being a chauffeur, cook, maid, and nurse, I started my writing career. I love writing Amish Inspirational Romance. I am a member of Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers and am represented by Mary Sue Seymour of The Seymour Agency.

2. Hey, we’re Seymour Sibs! I tell you, that Mary Sue is one special lady. I’m so blessed as I’m certain you are to have her as my agent! When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? I’m sure with six children, it wasn’t a huge consideration for awhile.
          When I was younger, I had no aspirations to be a professional writer. I had an interest in math and statistics before starting a family. As a young mother, amidst diaper changes and soccer games, I discovered my love for writing as I wrote Christmas updates and PTA newsletters. After my fourth daughter was born, I had trouble sleeping at night, so I would lie awake and make up stories. I wrote one of those stories down and loved every minute of it. That’s how my writing career was born.

3. Oh, that is so fun, so it was right in the big middle of rearing all those blessings of yours that the writing bug bit! Tell us about your writing process—are you a plotter or a pantser?
          I am a plotter, but a fairly loose one. I don’t make extensive charts or character sketches, but I do draw up an outline of the story and solidify the characters in my head before starting a book. I try to write 10,000 words a week. A typical writing day involves four to five hours of intense writing segments. I make an hour-by-hour schedule, set the timer for one hour at a time, and write as fast as I can. This keeps me from wandering around the house looking for food or surrendering to a nap. As long as my fingers are busy, I can usually stay awake. Although even on good writing days, my son often comes home to find his mother sprawled on the couch trying to steal a few minutes of sleep. I spend about four hours a day writing, three or four days a week.

4. It must be wonderful to catch a nap during the day. I’ve never been able to nap unless I had a fever. Sounds like you’re pretty dedicated though and focused. Do you ever have writer's block? What do you do about it?
          Even if I am not sure what to write, I get in that chair and start typing. The most important thing every writer must know is that writing is hard work. I tell myself that I must go to work whether I have any inspiration or not.
          The ideas usually flow once I put in the effort to get myself into the chair. I have found that if I ponder and contemplate and stew, ideas will come (if I am awake) and a great plot or character will speak to me. The advantage of being a task-oriented, stay-at-home mother is that many of my daily jobs allow ample time for musing. I ruminate while puffing on the treadmill or running a vacuum over my carpet. I still do a lot of brainstorming right before I fall asleep. My best thinking is done in the shower—I’m notorious for long showers for which I apologize to my dad. (He had six daughters, and long showers were his pet peeve.)
          Food has always been a big distraction for me. If I can’t think of something to write, I get out of my chair to search for a Twinkie. Setting the timer on my writing has helped that problem quite a bit.

5. Wow, I can empathize with your dad as I’m rearing all boys – four grandsons now. And I had three boys myself, but God blessed me with one girl in the bunch. Still lots of testosterone to deal with. So you had five sisters, that’s awesome. Your house must have been so much fun. So how did you meet Mary Sue and land her as your agent? I know you’re blessed to have her represents your work.
         
First in Jennifer's APPLE LAKE SERIES
I originally wrote a historical Western that I pitched to an agent at a writers’ conference. Since the Western had an inspirational feel to it, the agent referred me to agents representing Christian fiction authors. Mary Sue Seymour took a look at my manuscript and asked me to try my hand at writing Amish. I sent her a few chapters of Kate’s Song, my first Amish novel, and she signed me a couple of weeks later.

6. I know she goes to lots of conferences; I met her at one, too. Seems besides being gifted at spotting talent, she’s great at guiding them(us), too. She told me to write her a historical Christian romance set in the 1800s and she’d sell it, and she sure did. Guess she knows what she wants. What about the editing process with your publisher? How’d that go?
          My first editor at Guideposts Books asked me to rewrite the entire second half of Kate’s Song. I was demoralized because I’d spent so much time on the first draft and had no idea how I was going to remake the ending. But the rewrite turned out to be just what that book needed, and I was extremely grateful to my editor for her feedback and hard work. Different editors have different styles, but I have appreciated every bit of feedback I’ve received.

7. So true, it’s amazing, isn’t it? Any advice you want to offer writers who haven’t landed a contract yet?  
          Read. Good writers are good readers. When I get in a rut with my word choices or characterizations, there is nothing like a good Orson Scott Card or Julie Garwood to inspire me.
          Read about writing. There are lots of great books on writing out there. Story by Robert McKee is one of my favorites. Self-editing for Fiction Writers changed my life. There are thousands of blogs out there about everything from grammar usage to plot development. These can be extremely helpful.
          Get an education. Attend writer’s conferences and writing workshops. This is a great way to meet other writers and learn about the craft.
          My most important piece of advice: Remember that writing is HARD WORK. Writing isn’t like cleaning toilets. Cleaning toilets isn’t fun, but at least you know exactly what you have to do to get the job done. With writing, I might put in three hours and have a paragraph to show for it. That’s the nature of the creative process. Even though it can be painful, it is important to sit in that chair and write even if you can’t think of anything to write. Even if you know that most of what you write is going to get deleted. No writer has a book handed to her on a silver platter by the Muses. Writing is hard. As long as you remember that, you’ll be okay.

8. I so agree, studying writing is all important. You can learn the craft of penning good creative fiction, but you have to be a story teller. No one can teach you that, it’s a gift. So tell us about your newest book, Jennifer.
Debuts January 7, 2014
My latest Amish romance series, The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill, follows the escapades of two scheming Amish grandparents who try to help their grandchildren find suitable mates. What could be more fun than throwing two young people together to see if sparks ignite?
          Huckleberry Hill, the first book of the series, comes out on January 7, 2014.
          In Huckleberry Hill, Lia Shetler is helping her pretty, spoiled sister Rachel secure the perfect husband–Moses Zimmerman. But the more Lia sees of Moses’s gently teasing ways and quiet understanding, the more she wishes he could be hers alone.
          Moses knew his grandparents couldn’t resist trying to find him a wife. But he never expected it would be the graceful, sensible Lia–a woman who is tall enough to look him in the eye and honest enough to make him question a promise holding him to his past. Now both will need the kind of miracles only faith and courage can bring to finally reach for a lifetime of happiness.
          RT Book Reviews gave Huckleberry Hill 4½ stars. “Beckstrand has written a sweet romance with a lot of heart…The storyline is feasible, the characters are well written, with both their strengths and weaknesses on display. Readers will treasure this series and put the first outing on their keeper shelf.”

9. Congratulations. That’s got to be so exciting! I’m thinking you might have some experience in falling for a guy that a sister likes, especially with five sisters! But I won’t go there. What did inspire your story?
          My mom is the perfect grandmother: loving, fun, energetic, and convinced that her grandchildren can do no wrong. When I first developed the concept for the Huckleberry Hill series, I was enchanted with the idea of a well-meaning Amish mammi who meddled in her grandchildren’s lives. I have always cherished my strong family ties, and faith and family are core values of the Amish. What a fun topic for a story!

10. Indeed. I have fourteen grandsugars and would love it if they’d let me meddle a bit. I love it that such a godly group of folks have become so popular in novels. Sounds like yours would make a great movie. I can hardly wait to read it, and it’s only TEN DAYS from this interview! How long did it take you to write it? Do you adhere to extensive rewrites?
          Huckleberry Hill took about four months to write. I edit as I go (yes, I realize that this is not a very efficient way to write a book) so I don’t do extensive rewrites once I’m done with the first draft.

11. I’ve heard so often that an author has to market as well. Have you found this true?
          Yes! Marketing is hard work. I have a website and I’m on Facebook. My son is appalled that I have no idea how to tweet.

12. I’m a singer lady, but that tweeting is a talent all its own, isn’t it? I’m trying to learn, and my first historical Christian romance debuts in March, so I have about two months longer to wait. I might pick your brain a little since you’ve gone before… What specific marketing ideas worked best for you?
          Contests have been a great way for me to get my message out there, and I think Facebook is a wonderful vehicle for marketing. I’ll keep you posted on my tweeting experience, if I ever have a tweeting experience.

13. Oh, I’m certain you’ll master it, especially with that son to help you. My ten year old is my go-to when my iPhone confuses me. The younger generation is sure techie-smart! So Jennifer, what is it that you like to do you like to do when you're not writing?
          Most of my spare time revolves around my family. I attend lots of tennis matches, soccer games, and choir concerts. I am an avid reader. If you come to my house and I’m not writing or playing with grandchildren, I’m probably reading or doing a crossword puzzle. I also love to sing, direct musicals, and put on Shakespeare plays with my kids. And believe it or not, I love cleaning my house. (I really appreciate a clean bathroom, especially when mine is dirty.)

14. Hey, this Grami-mom of four boys is right there with you appreciating clean bathrooms. O'Pa at least has taught them to always put the seat down! And you’re a singer? We have that in common, too! So, who is a famous person who has inspired you?
          There are so many! J.K. Rowling is a particular inspiration to me because she embodies persistence and determination. She didn’t let less-than-ideal circumstances get in the way of her writing. She wrote in pubs on napkins—anything she had to do to get her story down. Then she was rejected several times before landing a contract. That kind of perseverance encourages me on the days when it’s not so easy.

15. I can’t even imagine trying to write a book on pub napkins, it’s hard enough on a computer. And to think how all the authors of yesterday had no such machine. Make a mistake at the bottom of the page? Type the whole thing again. Yuck. If you could go back in time, what person would you most like to meet and write their biography?
          Well, I truly dislike research. Would I have to do a lot of research? J Again, very difficult to narrow it down to one person, but one historical figure I would love to meet and spend the day with is Abraham Lincoln. I’ve always had a deep admiration for him.

16. Yes, ma’am, any ‘going back in time’ definitely requires lots of research because we didn’t live there or then, and to make the story realistic, you have to dig into history. What about the people in your life, has your success affected them?
          My husband is my greatest support and cheerleader and checks the reviews and sales numbers way more often than I do. My kids are proud of my success, and they give me feedback on my stories before they are published. I don’t think I will have really made it big in my son’s eyes until I have a Twitter account. It might be a good New Year’s resolution.

Sounds to me like you need to schedule an hour with him and get you that Twitter account set up and you tweeting! I’m sure he’s proud of you. And I’m plenty impressed that your children will read your stories. I resorted to tears to get my firstborn son to read an earlier book on a plane flight I dropped him off for. He took it and told me later he really enjoyed it, sounded surprised! Oh the joys!

          Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing this time and your life with me. I’ll be looking forward to getting to know you better and reading THE MATCHMAKERS OF HUCKLEBERRY HILL. I love your title by the way. I send blessings from Northeast Texas and pray that the favor of God will go before you and that your sales and reviews will be even better than you ever expected. And thank you, again.
See more at Jennifer's website! http://www.jenniferbeckstrand.com 
Hey, I hope y'all have enjoyed meeting Jennifer. If there's anything I missed that you want to know, just ask her in a comment. And Amish novels are enjoying a huge platform these days, what drew y'all to reading the genre?
Blessings from Texas!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A First Day Treat! Meet the Author: Heather Manning

Isn't she beautiful?

Hello my friends!

I've wanted to jump on the bandwagon to promote other authors, and so here I am today to introduce you to a young woman with all the best to come! Meet Heather Manning who’s first novel SWEPT TO SEA debuted last month. I've had a great time visiting with Heather and here's what she had to say!
  
It’s so exciting to have your first book out. When was its debut and what do you have planned?
            My novel, Swept to Sea, debuted on November 15th. I have a series of guest blog posts and interviews scheduled around the internet, including a post on the USA Today book blog.

I heard about your USA Today news. That’s so awesome. So it’s almost been a whole month. Tell me this, how has it compared to what you thought having your first book out for the world would be like, and what’s been your favorite part?
            Being published is a little different than I expected, I must admit. It's kind of a weird but good feeling. I thought that I would be really nervous and just absolutely not know what to do with myself, and that no one would want to buy my book. But that is not the case, and for that, I am glad. :) I sometimes find myself thinking that someone out there who I've never met could be reading my book right now, and hopefully enjoying it. The thought makes me smile uncontrollably. 
            My favorite part about being published is getting to see strangers reviewing my book on Amazon, and all of the sweet texts and messages my friends have sent me who read my book.

How about we go back to when you first got the idea to write SWEPT TO SEA. I know you’re still in school and am interested in what got you started at such a young age. Can I ask how old you are?
Lovely cover, right?
            I first got the idea to write Swept to Sea in 8th grade. I have always loved inspirational historical romances and pirates, so I decided to write my own. I just turned 17 years old literally two days ago, so everything involved with the publishing of Swept to Sea happened when I was 16 years old.

I’m so impressed, Heather. When I was a little younger that that, a 7th grader (in 1962), an essay on what we’d be doing in the year 2000 was assigned, and I wrote I was an intergallactically famous author (so funny!), but I did not write my first novel until the late ‘80s! It must be exciting to think of what you can accomplish getting started so young! Tell us about SWEPT TO SEA. What’s the story about? 
            That is awesome. I wish I was intergalactically famous! LOL
Swept to Sea is about a young lady who stows away on a pirate ship to escape her abusive fiance. She ends up taking care of the son of the ship's revenge-seeking pirate captain. That's Swept to Sea in a nutshell. :)

Excellent! Many authors find it difficult to boil down their story like that. Good job! SO how about some fun insight to you. I enjoyed Carrie Underwood on that live Sound of Music almost as much as Julie Andrews. I’m wondering, what are a few of your favorite things?
            It's funny that you should ask that, because I really enjoyed that live Sound of Music as well. Musicals are one of my favorite things! Some of my other favorite things are eating donuts, reading, painting my nails, and acting in theater. 

Heather as Millie Owens in Picnic!
Oh yes! I saw your photos of you and the cast of a play. I love y’all’s costumes and I’m with you on Musicals! What about favorite FOOD, COLOR, AUTHOR (I always specify “that I don’t know”), and BOOK? Throw in anymore you think of, too!
            Thank you! My favorite food is...whipped cream, if you count that as a food. :)  My favorite colors are lime green and neon pink. I can't choose my favorite author, but a couple of my favorites are Mary Connealy, MaryLu Tyndall, and Deeanne Gist. My favorite book? Oh my goodness, I don't know if I can choose! I love anything written by the favorite authors I mentioned. 

Why don’t you give us the links where we can get SWEPT TO SEA (I love that alliteration) and your Facebook author page so we can go like it and support you! And I just want to say again congratulations on your success!
            You can find Swept to Sea on amazon, smashwords, and Astraea Press's Website.

Thanks so much, and thanks for having me!

Absolutely, Heather, it's been my pleasure, and thank you! I pray the Lord blesses the works of your hands! I'll be looking forward to seeing many more books from you in the future! Hugs from Texas!

Hey, I'm wondering - if you're an author reading this, how early did you know you wanted to write?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

GOD PROVIDES

           “Hey, Auntie, what is ya doing on your knees? Ya hurt?” Sue turned and held an arm out. Little Levi walked into her embrace and wrapped around her as far as he could reach.
She kissed the top of his head. “No, sweetheart, I’m praying.”
“Oh.” He grinned. “We eating dinner on the bed today?”
She picked him up, carried him to the rocker, then eased down. “No, sweetie, I talk to God all the time, not just before meals.”
He snuggled tight. “Oh.”
For a good while, she rocked her nephew with his head resting on her shoulder, then as though he’d had enough mothering, he slipped out of her lap. Smiling as only a five-year-old could, he rubbed her tummy. “He don’t like me squishing him.”
“Could you feel the baby kicking?”
“Yep.”
She tousled his hair. “Remember you manners, please.”
“Yes, ma’am. He kicked me to make me get up.”
She nodded toward the door. “You can go play for a bit. The beans need to boil a while longer.”
He nodded then touched her belly again. “Hurry up cookin’ my brother, will ya?” He spun whinnying for his imaginary horse then galloped out the door.
That night after she finally got Levi to sleep, she returned to her knees beside her bed. “Oh, Lord, help us. Send someone to buy the sawmill, please. I don’t want to sell any land. And Father, You know the beans are about gone. The turnips are coming on, but the boy needs meat, and we’re running real low on powder and shot. A milk cow would sure be great, too.”
She closed her eyes and pressed her forehead into the quilt. “Ease my heart, Lord, and heal it. Sometimes I miss Andy so bad, but You know. You know everything. Tell him I’m sorry, and that we’re making it.” She raised her head and looked to the ceiling. “I love you, Lord, and thank you for your many blessings. Not my will but Yours Father. Help me know what you want me to do. In Jesus name, amen.”
As most nights, Levi slipped into her bed. Poor little thing; haunted too long by nightmares of that most horrible day. Terrible for a little boy to see his father killed right before his eyes. Not much better for her, and she was twenty years old. Would she ever forget seeing the awful accident that took the lives of her husband and his brother?
That next day started like most, cold cornbread with a slop of molasses. Too soon, it’d be cornbread only. Next, she and the boy worked the ground, except mostly he rode the mule while she guided the plow.
So far, she’d only managed to break barely over two acres. Even though she had enough seed for three, if she didn’t get the plowing done before the rains set in… And with her belly swelling by the day, she wasn’t sure she’d even be able to get any cotton planted come spring.
Levi sat taller on the mule and pointed east. “Auntie, look.”
She stopped the mule, tied off the reins and shaded her eyes, but couldn’t make out the driver or recognize the team. “Run get the rifle.”
He slid off Mabel, and she stepped away from the fresh plowed ground. Before the boy got back, the teamster stood waved his hat then sat back down. Seemed friendly, but that didn’t stop her pulse quickening or her breath coming harder.
“Here, Auntie Sue.”
She took the long gun, cradled it across her chest, then went out to meet the man. Levi ran off galloping and whinnying. “Don’t go far, young man.”
Shortly, her visitor stopped the team. “Morning, ma’am. I heard tell about your man and his brother getting themselves kilt. Right bad shame I’s plenty sorry to hear. You got my condolences.”
“Thank you, sir.” He looked familiar, but she couldn’t figure out why. “Do I know you?”
“Well, yes’em, leastwise I was here back in the spring. Took a load of saw boards off your hands to San Antonio.”
Of course, she nodded. “Yes, that’s right. It’s so good of you to stop by, and I certainly appreciate your kind words.”
He locked the break then climbed down. “Ma’am, Mister Jacob wanted surety, and I give him my pap’s gold watch. I gots the coin now for them saw boards and come after Pap’s timepiece.”
“Yes, I remember that.” She closed her eyes and searched her memory. Where had her bother in law put it? She could see the thing plain as day, but couldn’t put her mind’s finger on exactly where. “But to tell you true, I’m not sure where it is. Let me go look.”
“Well, while you’re findin’ it, don’t suppose you’d mind me workin’ your mule while I’s stretch my legs breaking a bit of this fine black land.” He smiled.

“Why, no. not at all, and you’ll surely let me heat up some dinner after I find the watch. The least I can do is feed you after you coming all this way.”
He tipped his hat then wrapped the harness straps over his shoulder. “I’d be much obliged, ma’am.”        
She hurried inside and between searching and cooking, praised the Lord with every step. The teamster had brought coin. How much was it?
Shortly she had a pan of cornbread a nice mess of turnip greens with yesterday’s beans hot, but she hadn’t located the man’s watch. She’d looked everywhere, could it have been lost during the accident?
For sure, watch or not, dinner needed eating. Once around the treeline guarding her home, the man turned the far corner, and she waved him in. He’d turned two right smart rows and a good start on a third. How could he have plowed that much in such a short time?
She watched him tie off the mule, then hollered up her nephew. “Levi, come eat.”
Grace offered, she ladled her visitor’s and Levi’s bowls full of beans then stood. “Sir, I’ve not been able to find your watch. I hope you won’t mind staying a little longer. I intend to keep looking through your meal.”
“Hey.” Levi dug into his pocket. “This here what’chur lookin’ for, Auntie?” He held the chained watch out in his little dirty hand. “I got it.”
“Levi!” Horrified, she took the timepiece then passed it to the teamster. “I’m so sorry, sir. I don’t know what to say. I had no idea –”

The man’s hearty laugh cut her off. “Naw, no problem at all.” He looked to the boy. “Thank you, son, for taking good care of it for me.”
Levi beamed. The man promptly handed over four gold coins, at least a year’s worth of hard money. She enjoyed his company at dinner, catching up on the news. Hadn’t realized how she’d missed having an adult to converse with and promised herself a visit to the Dawsons soon. How long since she’d seen Elaine?
Time came for him to get himself gone, and she thanked him profusely on his way out the door. Like he’d saved the best for last, he told her of a man over DeKalb way name of Phillips looking to buy himself a steam powered saw mill.
Sue waved goodbye as grateful to the Lord as she’d been since Andy’s passin’. Once the man got his rig turned around and on his way, she turned to Levi. “We are blessed, nephew, God has provided for us just like He promised.”
“Yes, ma’am! Can we buy us a cow now?”
“I think that’s a grand idea.”
“Good, ‘cause my brother needs plenty of milk.”
She smiled, nowhere near ready to explain about nursing mothers. “What’s if the baby is a girl?”
He crossed his arms over his chest and frowned. “Then she can’t be my brother.”