Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jody Hedlund publishes number six!

 Since my review of her debut novel, The Preacher's Bride, I have posted several times about Jody Hedlund's historical novels, including a review of her second release, A Doctor's Lady; a review and interview with Jody about my favorite (so far) of her books, Unending Devotion, and even had my own giveaway of that book, with an additional interview where Jody answered questions posted by her fans on my blog.

It has been so fantastic for me to watch her career zoom! I discovered her by winning a copy of her first book, and since that time, I have enjoyed each of her other releases.

July 1st was the official release date for her sixth novel. This is her third book in her series of Michigan Brides.

I have been procrastinating when it comes to my Goodreads account...I logged on one day to find my reviews and ratings had vanished! Yep, all of them. I might have been hacked--I don't know--but it was so discouraging that I quit posting to it. (To this day, it says I'm still reading A Nobel Groom.)

I don't have the time to go back and repost reviews that disappeared, or even update ratings for what I've read, so I'm just starting again from today. I just posted my review of Captured by Love this morning. If you are a fan of historical/inspirational fiction, and are not familiar with Jody's books, I suggest you try one. Her research is extensive, and it shows in her writing. You will not be disappointed. If you are not a fan of this genre, I still suggest you try one! My 'Broadening My Horizons' post was about that very thing! Hedlund is the reason I now read historical fiction!

I hope you enjoy this latest treat from Jody as much as I did. If only I could take my video camera on the trek back in time...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Back on track. Uh, is this the train to...?

Or...A Christian Writing in a Secular World, Pt. II

I saw this Dr Laura post on a friend's Facebook page today, and it turned my focus back to my writing. Just because I haven't posted in a while or even picked up my WIP, doesn't mean it's far from my mind. I haven't given up on it. Life got busy. No. That's not the real reason. I was torn about which direction to take my story--and I'm still torn.

You'd think by now I would have it figured out, right? 'Bout time to knock the dust off that WIP?

Thanks to Facebook, email and financial business, my keyboard doesn't look like this--but if my manuscript was a hard copy, well, the dust would be thicker than the pages by now!

I started out writing a secular fiction story, but at some point,  I wondered if I should be writing it as an inspirational or Christian-based novel. At the beginning, I had a fairly clear picture of where I wanted the story to go...but as I grew, and I wrote, and I pondered, my story's direction became blurred.

If you have looked around at either of my blogs, you can find evidence that I am a Christian. Even so, my blogs didn't--and still don't--have a Christian focus, nor was the story in my head aiming for that genre. I knew the ending from the start. It is not, "so she fell to her knees and asked forgiveness..." or  "...allowed God to soften her heart." Nope. Not even close.

As a Christian, I struggled with the question, 'Should I be writing this story without a thread of Christian basis?' I even discussed it HERE when it first rolled into my mind. (And yes, it's been that long ago.) Bottom line: I would never write anything that I would be ashamed to admit to in church. I am not a fence-straddler. Well, except for the part about not being perfect, and stumbling...

where I found this
Well, the struggle over the language was quickly resolved. I am not writing a children's book. It is a story about real life adult situations. I consider it quite 'clean', as far as not being full of foul language and sex, but there will be times when the low-life characters will act like low-life characters. And I'm okay with that. (Side note: I have to make time to check out this new author blog I found via this image! Looks like she has awesome resources for wannabees like me. And yes, I realize this note is not on the side.)

Part of the difficulty is that my character is real. Not in the sense that it is biographical--but rather I know her. I created her based on experiences and people that have shaped my own life story. Some parts are bits of actual events in my life and the life of a long-time friend. Those bits are not pretty. They are pieces of real life, chewed up and spit onto a page. Not pretty at all. Nor the typical basis for a Christian novel.

I think having a base of reality helps create a framework for my character. I can feel her strengths and weaknesses. I know how she thinks and reacts. Even when she says one thing, I know what is really in her head and heart. That knowledge reveals to me where she is going, and how it will all end. And that was not on the bookstore's inspirational shelf.

So my WIP sat on the proverbial shelf. It should have had a title page written in 'finger' that said, "DUST ME!"  Every time I thought about it, I immediately was weighed down with the same question: 'Is this glorifying God?' Fortunately, I had two great answers from which to choose: yes, and no.

Many will say, "If God gave you a talent to write, you are glorifying Him by using that talent." Yes! Isn't that the truth! Oh...but what if my talent was...um...let's say--exotic dancing? Or maybe computer hacking? Okay, I know that is a giant leap, but can I just say, 'God gave me...' and justify anything I do? Of course, not. Still, I don't feel that it is necessarily not glorifying God by writing a secular novel. Well. Now we're getting somewhere. Again--not.

And then it hit me...


Yeah, like that! I don't read Christian novels! Okay, as a general rule, I didn't--past tense. You know from this blog that I'm a big fan of Jody Hedlund, an inspirational writer of historical romance. (I don't read romance either.) Well, that just kinda happened. For years, I went without reading anything from the Christianity shelf except for my Bible, devotionals, articles, Bible study books, etc. Never fiction. Want to know why? They suck. Sorry. They do. Okay, did. Yeah, turns out they did. Past tense.

Good news: They don't suck anymore! I don't know when it changed--how could I have, if I didn't read them? Whenever it was that I first read titles from that genre, they were as predictable as a Harlequin romance. I don't read those either. (Sorry if you're a fan of those--just not my cup of tea.) They are still somewhat predictable--after all, how can you write a Christian story without the traditional 'and God made it all come out alright' ending? But today's authors are top notch. Their stories have meat...depth...character development...everything that makes a best-seller. And you know what else?

Christian authors are stepping outside the churchy box. Yep. They're adventuring into new territory--writing about topics that never used to appear in this genre. Why not? Don't we, as Christians, have to live in the world outside our choir lofts and steeples? Don't we experience the same worldly situations as everyone else? So that brings me back to my book. My story deals with things way outside the church, and that's okay. The subject matter in my manuscript does not preclude it's placement in the inspirational genre. As a matter of fact, it almost mandates the inclusion of my Christian experience, as it reads like a testimony of  'Where I was before I met Jesus.'

So am I writing an inspiration novel? I don't know yet. And here you thought it was settled! I am going to pick up my book--(okay, not literally, as it's here on this laptop)--knock off the dust, and dig in. I need to get well acquainted with it again. And then, as I do another read-through of the fifty-thousand-plus words, I will let God's spirit dictate where it goes. And, if He takes me into the world of inspirational writers, so be it. I am fearless!

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! 
Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the 
Lord your God is with you wherever you go." 
Joshua 1:9 NASB

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Answers to Everything!

For those of us that just can't  get enough of best-selling author Jody Hedlund, I am posting the answers to the questions you left for her in your recent comments. Some of the questions you asked were addressed by Jody in her interview  with me back in August. In order to save a busy author/mother-of-five a bit of time, I have reposted her answers to those questions. Jody revealed quite a bit about herself in that interview as well as her 'secrets' post. I encourage you to go back and read these to get to know her better. Also, Jody has spent the past month visiting many blogs, sharing other secrets you'll want to know! Please visit her website to find links to these posts under BLOG TOUR for Unending Devotion.

Three of you had questions about the research required for writing historical novels: Writing about three different eras would take a lot of research! How much time do you spend researching for each book? What are your resources for your search? How long does it take to do the research on a book before you start writing it?  Here is the question I posed to her about research for writing historical fiction, followed by Jody's answer. 

I've mentioned in my past posts that, thanks to your book The Preacher's Bride, I am now a fan of Historical Fiction.  What draws you to write Historical Romance?  Are you a history buff, or do you just drown yourself in research for the books?
I’ve always loved reading historical romances and losing myself in past eras. And yes, I'm a big history buff, but I also have to immerse myself into the research specific to each book. I usually take a couple of months to read biographies, books on the time period, and everything that pertains to the story. Before I start writing the first draft, I have to feel like I could walk into the setting of my book and be mostly comfortable with that time period.

 I sent the rest of the questions to Jody, and here are those questions, with her responses.

Where do you get the ideas for your books?

 I usually get the ideas for my books from researching and reading. Whether I'm reading biographies or time-period related books, I usually keep a running list of ideas that interest me or that I could use in a story. Then when it comes time to start writing the first draft, I narrow down my brainstormed list and pick the most original, interesting, or provocative ideas to use in the story.

Do people in real life inspire you to write about them as historical characters?

Generally, I base most of my main characters on people that I've read about in biographies. But I do draw character traits from real life people. Usually I don't imitate one particular person, but pick unusual or stand-out traits to attempt to replicate in my characters.
When I'm at my desk, I have to have iced tea and most of the time a small bag of peanut M & M's. What are your must haves when you are writing?
My must-have is a hot beverage. In the mornings, I drink coffee. And then in the afternoon I usually switch to hot herbal tea. There's just something about having a hot mug in my hands that is inspiring and comforting!

From what I've gathered, it can be very difficult to have your first novel published. How did you go about seeking the publication of The Preacher's Bride?
Like most aspiring writers, once I was ready for publication, I began to query agents. The Preacher's Bride was rejected by every agent that I sent it to, except for one. Only one agent requested to see a full manuscript. With great excitement, I sent the manuscript to this agent. But then I didn't hear back from her for months!
In the meantime, I wrote another book and entered a national fiction writers contest for unpublished writers. I was fortunate to have both of my books final in that contest. After that I contacted the agent who still had my manuscript to let her know about the contest final. Three days later she offered me representation. Three months later she was able to sell my books!
What makes this "Christian" fiction? That's definitely not a section of bookstores here in Spain and I'm curious!
Unending Devotion, like all of my books, has a spiritual message woven throughout the story. In the characters' struggles to grow, they have to work through faith issues. For example, in Unending Devotion, the hero, Connell must learn that he's been complacent about the social ills that run rampant around him. Throughout the book, he changes from a man who turns his back on evil, to being a man willing to stand up for what's right.
Your first three books are set in three very different time periods. If you were an era, which one would you be?
Oh that would be really tough! I personally prefer the comfort of my modern conveniences! :-) But if I could go back in a time machine just to visit, I'd love to go back to the 1600's since it would be the most different from our time. I'd love the chance to experience the sounds, scents, foods, homes, and everything first hand.
How many more novels do you have in the works?
 I have two more completed novels that will be releasing next year in 2013. A Noble Groom releases in April (and is already available for preorder!). And then I'll have another book releasing in September of 2013. We're just now deciding on the name for it and starting to develop the cover. I'm currently writing the book that will release in 2014.
 Are you staying with historical fiction or will you be doing any contemporary fiction in the future?
I'm definitely a historical fiction girl! I can't see myself branching into contemporary fiction anytime soon. If anything, I'd love to go back even further in time and try a story set in the Middle Ages 1400's or 1500's during the time of castles and knights.
Did you come up with the title "Unending Devotion"? If not, what was the title you had in mind while writing the novel?
I can't remember exactly who came up with the title. Usually for each title, I come up with a list of possibilities that I give my publisher. And they put together a list as well. Then they narrow down their top choices and run them by me. In the end, they have the final choice, but I do get quite a bit of input in the process.
In what era is your next book set?
A Noble Groom is set in the 1880's in Michigan very similar to Unending Devotion.

Thank you again, Jody, for taking the time to answer our questions. I know I enjoyed getting a glance into your writing habits and life.  And thank you, readers, for participating in this interview with Jody. I loved the questions you thought up!  Of course, most of you only left those questions because it gave you an extra entry into my give-away for Jody's newest release Unending Devotion.  (I don't blame you. It's a really good book!)

I promised you that today I would reveal the winner of the signed copy of Unending Devotion.

So now...
     the moment you've all been waiting for...


Congratulations, WINNER! I will be contacting you for your mailing address, and you're signed copy of Unending Devotion will be on it's way to you. I know you will enjoy this book!

More on the winner next post...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

It's All Over

We knew this day would get here.

Yep, she sang.

As much as we enjoyed it... 

 ...we know only Heaven is forever.

I hope you entered my give-away of an autographed copy of Jody Hedlund's lastest novel, Unending Devotion. If not, there's still a little time.  Click HERE for details. (Contest info is right after the interview.) There are multiple chances to enter! If you missed a post, you still have a few hours to catch up. The contest officially ends TODAY. Well, tonight.  Let's just say midnight my time (EST).  Good luck! Check back Friday for the winner!  And remember...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Polling My Readers

Does this image bring to mind the two words we all dread?  

WORD VERIFICATION                   (contest detail at end)

I so hate it when I try to comment or submit something in the vast e-universe, only to find I can't seem to type the correct letters. Yes, a lot of these are hard to read. The easy ones, I don't mind. But what about you?

I had word verification turned on to avoid spam, but because of a friend posting about it on facebook, and the comments she received, I turned it off. So now my comments are set for moderation. I am NOT liking it.

A lot of you commented on yesterday's post with author Jody Hedlund. I would have loved to have 'real time' interaction for you with Jody, but unfortunately I cannot sit at the computer all day moderating comments. As a result, a lot of your comments didn't get posted until this morning.

Why not just let the comments post? Believe it or not, I get many times as many spam comments as actually reader comments. So why not just go back later and delete the spam? I would if they were just advertising. Sadly, a lot of them are links to porn sites, including illegal types of activity. I feel very strongly about not having them linked to my page--not even for a few seconds!

So I'm asking you... which do you prefer? Should I go back to the word verification so that your comments post instantly? Or should I keep them for moderation? Would you really stop commenting if you had to type in the word verification?

I realize this post has very little to do with Jody Hedlund's new book, but her name appears in the post... So, YES, comments on this post get another entry in the give-away! If you need the details, the bottom of this post  gives all the info.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Jody Hedlund's Secret #13

This month, Jody has been sharing 'secrets' with readers around the blogosphere. Today she is sharing one here on my page! This post counts in my contest for the book give-away, so don't forget to leave a comment.  

P.S.  Jody will be popping in today! Leave a question for her to answer.

Secret #13: The house chore I like to do the least.
As you can imagine, there are a lot of chores that come with having a large family. With seven people using bathrooms, dirtying laundry, and needing meals every day, managing all the work is almost a full time job.
Over the years, I've developed the motto, "Whoever lives in the house, helps with the work of keeping up the house." I've wanted to instill into my family that we're working as a team to maintain our house, that Mom isn't the live-in maid (or household slave).
So, to that end, I've always assigned chores to everyone. We all have certain jobs and responsibilities.
For example, my oldest son has the job of mowing the yard once a week, and he's also in charge of taking care of the dog on a daily basis. My 13 year old twin daughters take care of folding and putting away the laundry every day. My younger son unloads the dishwasher. And my six year old takes care of the many, many socks that have to be matched and put away.
I haven't given them work to do because I hate doing it myself. Because in reality, some days it would be easier and quicker to just take care of things myself. Instead, I relinquish my need to control everything and have it perfect so that I can intentionally train my children in the value of hard work, orderliness, and personal responsibility. I do it so that someday, when they leave home, they'll be well prepared for managing their own homes.
All that to say, the one chore that I like the least, that I wish I could delegate to someone else is cooking.
I realize some people love to cook and wouldn't even put it on the to-do list as a chore next to cleaning toilets. But I'm not one of those people who browse cookbooks for fun, try new exotic recipes, or have a cupboard full of unique spices. 
No, I cook to feed my hungry family. I cook in large quantities (doubling most recipes). And I make staple, fairly inexpensive meals that are mostly kid-pleasing.
Fortunately, one of my daughters really enjoys cooking. And as she's getting older, she's been able to help out more in that area. And my mom also really likes to cook. She invites us over to her house a couple of times a week for wonderful meals that she prepares.
So maybe someday, I'll be able to completely hand over the cooking to others. But for now I pitch in and do my part to make the house run smoothly.
What about you? What chore do you like the least?

Thank you, Jody, for sharing with us today. And thank you for promising to answer my reader's questions for the contest.

 Readers, don't forget about the contest. Next week I will be posting the other questions you have left for Jody with her answers. AND I will be announcing the WINNER of the book give-away! Don't forget to leave some way for me to contact you!