Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Surprise Box Winners

First Prize of the Christmas box goes to Miss Kallie. Hope you enjoy it. Second Prize of a book goes to Jackie and Third prize winner of a book is Joy Hannabass. Congratulations to the winners and a great big thank you to all who dropped by and left a comment.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Promise

The promise of Christmas lies in the birth and life of the child born on that day. He brought a promise to free us from sin and give us eternal life. In my new book, Winter Promise, a baby is born near Christmas day and he brings a new realization of God's love to a young doctor whose soul is tormented by a tragedy he believes he could have prevented.

The baby in the book is named for a very special baby boy whose life on earth lasted less than a month. In the brief weeks of his life, he touched so many hearts. His parents' faith and testimony during the weeks that followed little Connor's death had a tremendous effect on my faith and on that of so many others. I dedicated the book in honor of his parents and in memory of him. I named the baby in the book Connor Allen so that Connor Allen Peterson would live on in the pages of my book as Connor Allen Winston.

Forty-nine years ago last week, God performed another miracle with a tiny baby. Our middle son came prematurely and weighed around 4 pounds when he was born. His lungs were not fully developed and he had the same condition that caused the death of the Kennedy baby just months prior to Robert's birth. Robert was born on a Monday, and the doctors didn't expect him to make it through the next day, but he did. Then on Wednesday, my Sunday school class met in our classroom and had a prayer vigil. On Thursday morning the doctor came in to tell me that something had happened during the night and Robert was breathing on his own and his heart beat was strong. That morning was the first time I was allowed to see him. From that day on he began to thrive and grow. God gave us a miracle that Christmas in 1962. Today Robert has a wonderful career, a beautiful wife and two great sons.

Christmas is a time for special happenings. We've had some sad times and some extremely happy times at Christmas, but it is still a magical time of year to marvel at the miraculous birth of our precious Lord and Savior.

How do you celebrate the true meaning of Christmas in your home?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Food

Around our house, I have a standing order for Pralines and my Peanut Brittle every Christmas. Our middle son will even bring over a bag of peanuts and request that I make the whole bag up into brittle just for him. I gave him a batch just this past weekend for his birthday.

Along with her story in A Biltmore Christmas, Rhonda Gibson includes recipes with each chapter. What do a pastry baker and a beekeeper have in common? Not much, especially when the baker is allergic to bees. Then Peggy gets involved with Joshua, the son of Mark the beekeeper. This young boy and his reading problem bring Mark and Peggy together, but the threat of death from a bee sting keeps her from opening her heart and life to love. What will it take for these two to find the lasting happiness and love that the two of them desire? This is the basis for Rhonda Gibson’s story, A Honey of a Christmas in the Christmas novella collection. An easy read with a few twists and turns makes this story a great one to read curled up in a chair with a cup of coffee, hot tea, or hot chocolate. Add one of the recipes Rhonda includes, and you have a very nice treat for Christmas.

Read below where Rhonda found the recipes and why they were included.
     The recipes I used in this book are from a collection of different books I used from the early 1800's, that I found listed on the web. Most of them came from this website: http://www.vintagerecipes.net/ That's why some of them are hard to read/follow. I didn't try them all out, some I did but some I didn't try, such as Peggy's Sweet Sandwiches because I'm not sure how much "their weight in pounded sugar, butter, and flour" is. Since this recipe is from an 1861 cookbook, there is no way of finding out. But, the recipe sounded so good, I had to include it in the book. For readers, my understanding is that you can slice up angle food cake and use it in place of the actual bread in the Sweet Sandwich recipe.
     Why did I include the recipes? Well, that was easy, Peggy loved cooking and I figured why not share some of the pastries and dishes that she created. I hope the readers enjoy her recipes as much as I do. And to be honest, I was thrilled when my editor decided to allow me to include them. I feel like they give the readers a look into the past and how women cooked back then.

What is your favorite Christmas recipe? Do you have one that is requested or that it wouldn’t seem like Christmas if you don’t have some of whatever it is?

This is Round 4, so even if you’ve commented on the others, get another chance at the drawing on this post. Be sure to leave your email address so you can be contacted.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Christmas Journeys

Imagine Mary's discomfort on her long journey to Bethlehem. Although her time of delivery drew near, law dictated that she and Joseph must go to Bethlehem to be registered. Traveling a great distance in a car or on a plane at that state of pregnancy is diffictult enough, but to make the journey on a donkey would be unthinkable today. But Mary knew what had to be done and how special her baby would be, and she made the trip willingly.

One year, when our boys were one and two, we made a journey back to my husband's home. We had set a tradition of always having Christmas Eve at home then maybe traveling the day after Christmas, but his year my mother-in-law lay gravely ill. Traveling with two small boys is a chore at anytime, but add to that all the "Santa" stuff and other gifts and you have a lot of work. We didn't spend time making a decision, we were going. We began our journey to Arkansas with a stop in Longview on the way to visit my sister and her family and to see my husband's brother and sister-inlaw. My father, who was at my sister's home for Christmas that year, graciously offered to loan us his car for the rest of the trip. We had a small Ford Falcon and it was loaded to the max. Dad had an Oldsmobile sedan with lots more room. That offer made the second leg of our journey much easier. When we arrived at Rex's home, his mother lay near death. We visited with her in the hospital, and because of her living in a small town, and everyone knows everyone else, we were allowed to take the boys in to see their grandmother for a few minutes. We stayed over the weekend and returned home on December 27. On December 28, we received word that Mrs. Rogers had gone home to the Lord. Never have I been more thankful that we had broken our tradition and gone to be with Mrs. Rogers that one last time before her death.

In her book A Christmas Journey Home, Kathi Macias gives us look at another pregnant woman on an incredible journey and a woman who bears a hatred for all the the pregnant woman represents. It's a beautiful story of two women who lives are woven together in way that brings both of them redemption.

Kathi, how did you come to write this beautiful story?

Having become known for my “fiction with a mission,” issues-related stories, I had to keep that focus as I considered writing a Christmas novel for the first time. As I often do, I “cruised the news” for a bit, looking for something that caught my eye (and I hadn’t already dealt with in previous novels). The explosive issue of illegal immigration kept cropping up, and since my husband and I live so close to the Mexico/San Diego border and are therefore quite familiar with (and even somewhat impacted by) the topic, I began to look for a way to build a Christmas story around it. At the same time I knew I didn’t want the book to be a political statement, so I wanted to be careful not to let my personal feelings on the subject color or influence the story. Above all I wanted to show that just as in the original Christmas story, when the Light of the World came and shone in the darkness, God still shines His Light in the darkness today. Translation? I knew this would not be a warm, fuzzy Christmas read but rather a triumphant story of God’s unconditional love in the midst of difficult and even dire circumstances. That, of course, is a message that applies to anyone at any time in any situation, and it is the message I hope my readers will take away with them after reading A Christmas Journey Home.

Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored more than 30 books and ghostwritten several others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs. Kathi is a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences, and won the 2008 Member of the Year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association). Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband, Al.

To enter the drawing for the Christmas Surprise Box, tell us about a time Christmas didn't turn out exactly as you had planned or of a Christmas trip you took one year. Be sure to leave your email address so you can be contacted.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Christmas Celebrations

All over the United States, cities and towns everywhere celebrate Christmas in various ways, but beautiful ways. The River Walk in San Antonio is one such place. Twinkling lights abound all along the river through downtown with decorated barges to transport people, carolers, and dinner parties along the river to view the sights. Trees drip with lights up and down the river as well in other parts of the city. It’s a beautiful sight to see and inspired the stories for the Christmas Anthology, A River Walk Christmas. All four stories involve the River Walk at Christmas time. Authors, Beth Goddard, Lynette Sowell, Martha Rogers, and Kathleen Y’Barbo Turner collaborated to bring the River Walk to life.

Echo Lewis moves to Texas for a fresh start her mistrust of men almost ruins her chances at love. Valerie Murray is in danger of losing her gift shop unless she can open her heart and release old hurts. Gabriela Hernandez must learn to forgive that which she thinks is impossible before love can enter her heart. Sienna Montalvo struggles with her career, but will hosting the star of a new movie about the Alamo be the break she is longing for?

Four young women all learn the true meaning of love in the lights and beauty of San Antonio at Christmas.

Other cities and towns in Texas also celebrate Christmas. You’ll find ice-skating rinks open for business in seventy degree weather, giant Christmas tree lightings, decorations up and down the main streets and out in the suburbs. Homes compete for prizes for best decorated with Christmas themes, and in many neighborhoods, cars line up in a constant stream to drive by and take a look at the spectacular displays of light, sound and animation. Churches present concerts and pageants to tell the story of Jesus’ birth, theaters in larger cities present special Christmas productions.

Yes, Christmas is a time of celebration everywhere. No matter where you live, you’ll find something special at Christmas time.

My favorite thing at Christmas besides family gatherings is the Celebration of Christmas presented by the choir, orchestra, and members of our church. Hundreds of voices blend in the music as the songs, the spirit and the story of Christmas unfolds. I’m always worn out after the last performance, but I love doing it and have not missed a year in the forty or so we’ve been performing and celebrating Christmas.

So what is your favorite thing at Christmas time?
Be sure to leave your email address with your comment to be eligible for the drawing on December 17. The box keeps growing each week. You don’t want to miss a chance at this great package.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Remembering Christmas

Today I am happy to kick off my Christmas Box Surprise with Dan Walsh and his book, Remembering Christmas. His is one of the five books I’ll be featuring between now and December 17. On December 17 I will draw a name from all who have left comments for each author. That means you can have up to five entries for the drawing. You also get an extra entry if you invite friends and they mention you name in their comment.

Remembering Christmas is another wonderful Christmas book by Dan Walsh. The book begins with Rick Denton noticing all the changes that have taken place in his hometown since he lived there. That sets him to remembering the time he hadn’t planned on spending the Thanksgiving holiday in the hospital with his mother and step-father, but that’s what he did. Art’s stroke sets off a chain of events that forever changed Rick’s life. The memories are set in a quaint book shop in 1980, and the story will charm you right off your feet. Rick must run the store while Art is in the hospital, and meets a number of characters who will warm your heart, tickle your funny bone, and open your heart to those who have less than we do at the Holiday season. His part-time helper, Andrea and her daughter Amy also open his eyes to what the store really means to the community as well as to love. In giving up his hectic schedule to help his mother, Rick discovers the true meaning of Christmas and what it means to give one’s self to others, and what it means to love with all his heart. This is somewhat of a “framework” story as the first chapter and the ending are set in the present to wrap around the story filled with memories of that unforgettable holiday.

Here's more about Dan.

I met Dan at an ACFW conference in 2009 in Indianapolis. I took an instant liking to him, and after reading his biography, I understood why. Two interesting facts I learned about Dan. One is that he was born the year I graduated from college, so I’m old enough to be his mother. The second fact is that his dad was the first one on either side of the family to attend college and I was the first one in my family to attend college

Dan was born in 1957 to a hard-working, blue-collar family. Dan spent his childhood years playing basket ball and surfing in Florida where he grew up. His father became an engineer with General Electric on the Apollo space program. It wasn’t until his senior year in high school that Dan came to know the Lord. That same year he met his wife, Cindi. Then later Dan became an ordained minister and pastured the same church for 25 years. Their two children are now grown and on their own. Dan retired from the ministry in August and is devoting his time to his writing career.

Check out his website www.danwalshbooks.com for more information about his books and his latest project.

What is your favorite holiday memory? Be sure to include your e-mail address with your comment so I can contact you if you win.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Freezing Point

Recently, Martha featured my latest romance novel, Under the Redwood Tree, on her blog. That story is the first book in a series of contemporary romances I’m writing for Heartsong Presents. In almost all of my Heartsong Presents romances you’ll find an element of mystery or suspense. When I first plotted Seasons of Love, my first novel, the story ended up having elements from both the mystery and the suspense genre and I realized then that I prefer a romance with those elements.

I enjoy reading romantic suspense, but in writing for Heartsong the story must focus on the romance. That means that no matter if there is a suspense element or not, the heart of the story revolves around the romance between hero and heroine. The romance can exist on its own without any other plot elements.

Even though I enjoy reading romantic suspense, so I’m familiar with the genre, I had to take a completely different approach when writing my first romantic suspense for Love Inspired Suspense—Freezing Point. For LIS, the romance and the suspense plot are both integral to the story. From the first chapter, readers want to see a plot that is both suspenseful and fast-paced. The suspense plot is at the core and the romance is connected to the suspense plot so deeply, that pulling out the romance will kill the story. Neither plot element can survive without the other in a romantic suspense.

Depending on the publishing house, well-paced dialogue will carry most of the story rather than large sections of internalization or description. For me, writing romantic suspense is much easier than writing romance. That might be because its fast-paced so the story goes swiftly for me as the writer and it makes for a quick and fun read for you as the reader.

Thank you, Beth for being with us again this week. Beth is also a Carol Award winner for her book, The Camera Never Lies, a suspense for Barbour. Congratulations on that great award. I love reading suspense or mystery of any kind, and when a romance is involved, the story is even better. I'm in the middle of reading Freezing Point now, and is does move fast, and is keeping me turning pages. I hope to finish it today. Scroll on down for an opportunity to win a copy of Freezing Point. 
Now it's our readers' turn. Elizabeth is giving away a copy of her book to one of you lucky readers.
Leave a comment and answer the question below to enter the drawing. 

Do you enjoy reading suspense thrillers or mysteries? Why or why not?

Please leave your email address so we can contact you. Only those with an email contact will be entered. Sorry this must be limited to the United States and Canada.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Under the Redwood Tree

Where do you get ideas for your main characters, especially Romeo Merete in Under the Redwood Tree?

Well, this isn’t very romantic but sometimes when I need to come up with ideas I take an afternoon and sit outside in the quiet and just think random thoughts! I started with an artist and then, when considering the hero, it occurred to me that her wanting to paint him without his terrible facial scar would create a lot of conflict. When I began doing the research on soldiers in the Middle East and the IED’s or improvised explosive devices, I was horrified to read about how these bombs disfigure the soldiers. It broke my heart, and I knew this was right for Romeo.

How interesting. I've read about some of those men who were so scarred.  Tell us a little more about this young man and who he is.
 Romeo is an impulsive man who often acts rashly based on anger or other emotions, and this time, his actions end up sending him to the other side of the world. He has to find his way back both emotionally, and in a way, physically. He knows the Lord, but it’s still a journey for him to find himself again.

I'm looking forward to reading his story. What was the most interesting thing about writing this story?
This was a new kind of story for me. It was more of a “heart” story. I had to dig really deep to understand how Romeo would feel with his disfigurement, and how he would progress to trust again. The story was also interesting to me because the Redwood trees are one of my favorite things in the world. Writing the story was like being there again. Looking at the cover of the book takes me back there.

I understand, Beth. My last book was hard to write because of the subject matter and I had to dig deep inside myself to understand my hero. It makes your writing more meaningful for you and the reader.
How much research did you have to do for this book?
I probably had to do a little less research on this book than some of the others. After all, I have experience as an artist and my husband knows motorcycles. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Redwoods, specifically Jedediah Smith State Park where some of the story takes place. I also visited the little Victorian town on the Northern California coast, though my town in the story is fictional.

Sounds like you enjoyed this research. :) I love research that takes me places like that.
What is your writing schedule like?
Crazy and hectic. Usually I get some time in during the morning before we start home school, and then some in the afternoon. I shoot for between 1 and 4, but often I catch snippets of writing time anywhere I can. And when I coming up on a deadline, I write and edit for ten or more hours a stretch.
Ahh, the romantic life of a writer. :)
Which book has been your favorite to write?
You would have to ask that question. I love the one I’m writing at the time. How’s that for an answer. I will say that I just turned in Oregon Outback and I really loved the heroes in the four novellas of that collection. I wrote all four, by the way. Finishing up the writing on that was like ending a good book—you don’t want it to end.

I know the feeling. I end up loving all my books.
What made you start writing mysteries?
Writing mysteries is just a natural for me—I found out. Even in my first book, Seasons of Love, I put in a puzzle or a mystery, for the reader to work on. Someone told me that my story is full of mystery elements, hence, I decided to try writing a mystery and The Camera Never Lies was born.

I love mysteries, so keep writing them so I can read them. Of course The Camera Never Lies is great and a Carol Award winner. That's fantastic
Tell us about your very first contract.
I mentioned that above, but I brainstormed with Lisa Harris and we invited Lena Nelson Dooley to join the three book series set in Massachusetts. Years before I’d seen a news clip on cranberry farming which intrigued me. I knew I wanted to use that for a story setting one day and tada!
And it was a good one.
What is the main theme of your stories?
Each story is a little different and the themes sort of grow organically. I don’t set up, at least these days, writing toward a particular theme. What I’m seeing most, though, are women who are trying to find themselves, trying to figure out who they are and where they want to go. In the end, it’s a matter of trusting God to guide the way.
And that's the best way.
What do you want your readers to take away from reading your books?
God is always there to help and guide us.
I will say Amen to that and thank you for being with us.

A war hero’s scars are still raw to the touch until a gifted artist paints his heart. Romeo Merete was wounded in Afghanistan, and multiple surgeries couldn’t restore his face. But his scars run deeper than he ever imagined, and the last thing he expects is the beautiful artist who looks straight through him, threatening to expose his heart.

Camille Westover is one contest away from her dream of an art school scholarship. But she’s lost her inspiration to paint—until a wounded soldier captures her heart. Unfortunately, her dream could lead her far from the one place and the one person she loves the most.

When Camille’s chances of winning are sabotaged and a possible stalker suspected, Romeo is concerned for more than losing the woman he loves to her dream. Can he accept the truth of what Camille sees when she looks at him? Will Camille discover the hope of love that stands before her?

If you'd like a copy of the book, Under the Redwood Tree, answer the question below and leave your name and email address.

What is you favorite type of hero?

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Visit with Pam Hillman

I'm delighted to be hosting Pam Hillman on my blog this week.
Here's all about Pam. Her interview is posted after her bio. See the great giveaway at the end. 
Pam Hillman Bio:
Award-winning author Pam Hillman writes inspirational fiction set in the turbulent times of the American West and the Gilded Age. Her debut book, Stealing Jake, won the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis contest and was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart contest. She lives in Mississippi with her husband and family. www.pamhillman.com

Stealing Jake Blurb:
When Livy O'Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut,Illinois, where she's helping to run an orphanage. Now she'll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.

Sheriff's deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy--literally--while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town--as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off--Jake doesn't have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can't seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn't willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.

Stealing Jake Prologue and 1st Chapter:


Interview Questions: Pam Hillman
1. Tell us how this story came about.

Tyndale House Publishers used to publish 2 Heartquest anthologies a year. Tyndale has been my dream publisher from the beginning, and I submitted novella proposals several times trying to break in. Stealing Jake (then Stealing Jake’s Heart) was one of those submissions. Tyndale put out guidelines for a Cowboy Christmas anthology, so the story had to involve Christmas and have a historical setting. Stealing Jake didn’t make the cut for the anthology, but I loved the idea so much that I went back to it later and turned it into a full-length novel. It just happened to be the novel my agent and I were shopping when word went out that Tyndale was launching the Digital First Initiative.

I honestly can’t remember how I came up with the exact idea for the pickpocket theme, but it was the old adage of opposites attract. If she’s a thief, he’s a lawman. Okay, she’s a reformed thief…or is she? lol

Sounds like fun, Pam. My first novel, Becoming Lucy, was also a reject from the Heartquest anthologies. Sometimes rejection can be a good thing in the long run.
2. How long have you been writing on this novel?

I proposed the story several years ago as a novella, then put it aside to work on a different manuscript (Marrying Mariah that was a 2004 Golden Heart winner), then I worked on a couple of other ideas in that series, among other things. Then I came back to Stealing Jake and finished the rough draft in 2007. It came in around 75,000 words. Then in 2010, I revised it, dug deeper into the plot, and added Luke’s pov. At that point, the story solidified and everything…clicked, if you know what I mean.

3. How did you come up with your characters?

I hear something, see something, even smell something, and it gets me to thinking. I daydream about that while I’m driving down the road. Sometimes those thoughts dissipate with the wind, and I never remember them. But the gems come back again and again, and those are the ones that get put in the idea folder. It’s pretty sad (or interesting, I suppose) that on a still night I can hear the long, mournful whistle of the train as it passes my mother’s house about four miles away, and immediately I can conjure up a hobo down on his luck hopping off the train. All he wants is a little work in exchange for a bite to eat. But he comes upon an old farmhouse full of kids with an elderly grandfather at death’s door. Not knowing what to do, he starts taking care of the kids and the old man, and the chores around the farm. Then their aunt shows up a week later…. Oh, where was I? We were in the middle of an interview, weren’t we? Sorry about that….next question, please!

4. Are you a SOTP writer or a plotter with outlines?

I’m a plotter…to a certain extent. I get an idea, sometimes it’s a character or an incident. (Uh, see question #3) At that point, I open an excel spreadsheet and start typing thoughts for what might happen. Brainstorm some. Do some research. Just let the idea percolate. I throw one-liners into the spreadsheet. Anything goes at this point. I might even ask the Seekers or some of my other writer friends for input. But I don’t want too much input at this point. I’m easily swayed! Eventually, the idea gels, and I start to get the backbone of the story. The subplots, character motivation, layers, and even the geographical location might change as I build the story, but this “backbone”, or premise, pretty much stays the same. Once that’s in place, I write the first few chapters, and that reveals more about the characters and the story, so I plot some more. So, I’m a plotter whose plot constantly changes. How’s that for being concise?

LOL, Pam. I’m a SOTP writer who starts out with an idea, a beginning and an end then I write to see what will happen in the middle.
5. What do you like or not like about writing historical?

I like pretty much everything about writing historicals. I love the research. Sometimes I have to rein myself in, or it steals my time away from actually writing. I love the look and feel of old things, trunks, hatboxes, old houses. Louis L’Amour was my favorite author as an early teen. I’d say that the only thing I don’t like about writing historicals is that when I’m researching something very specific on the internet, I get frustrated when I get six million hits. What’s accurate and what’s not in this internet age?

Research can be frustrating with so many different ideas on some subjects, but it’s fun when you stumble on just the right one.

6. How much research did you have to do for this story?

A lot of historical writing comes from years of reading historicals and soaking in historical facts. Some things are just second nature. But when I get to a spot that sends up a red flag, then I research. Since Livy is a pickpocket, I researched a bit about street kids in Chicago in the late 1800’s. Then when I chose the location for the story, I found that the area was coal mining country, so that added another layer to the story. And I needed a railroad nearby and a creek. So, even though the town is fictional, it’s “South-Southwest” of Chicago, generally speaking.

7. What brings you the most joy in writing?

Creating the story. Just seeing it all come together. And when I can give a double-whammy twist at the end of a story, I’m in hog heaven! Hannibal Smith, A-Team leader, sums it up perfectly, “I love it when a plan [book] comes together.”

8. What are three things people wouldn’t ordinarily know about you?

I was a tomboy growing up, and was my daddy’s righthand “girl” until I married. I can cut, rake, and bale hay, or drive 40’ cattle trailer to the stockyard if needed. I’m a purchasing manager (my predecessors were all men) for an OEM company where I purchase tons of stainless steel, pumps, motors, relays, and solenoids all day long. And I know the difference in a Phillips and a flathead screwdriver, and that 26 gauge stainless steel is a lot thinner than 14 gauge, which is weird when you think about it!
Readers can click here to read “Daddy’s Girl” http://calicotrails.blogspot.com/2011/07/daddys-girl.html)

Oh, my, I would never have guessed it. I’m such a tomboy myself only mine was in sports. I busted my knee playing flag football with a bunch of boys when I was 14.

9. What or who has helped you most in your writing?

A must for those pursuing a career in writing Christian fiction is American Christian Fiction Writers. Join! Besides ACFW, hands down it is the Seekers. They are the 14 sisters I never had, and I can’t imagine life without them. They are there for me in thick or thin, good times and bad. In addition to my Seeker sisters, Robin Caroll is one of my best friends. I don’t know what I’d do without her.
ACFW is really important for fiction writers, and good writing friends are one of the greatest blessings.

10. How does it feel to have that first book under your belt and in publication?

Amazing! After working for years toward publication, it feels a little unreal to actually see Stealing Jake on Amazon, to read the reviews of strangers and how much they enjoyed the book. Knowing that somebody really, really enjoyed my book and wants to read another one makes me want to do it all over again.

11. Where can readers find out more about you?

My website is http://www.pamhillman.com/ and I hang out with the Seekers at http://www.seekerville.blogspot.com/

I’m giving away a Kindle in October. Last day to enter the giveaway is September 30th, 2011. Click here to enter.
Kindle Giveaway Link:

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Margaret Brownley and A Vision of Lucy

Today I have the privilege of featuring Margaret Brownley on my blog. The third book in the Rocky Creek Series is now available. Let's find out more about Margaret and her book.
Thrills, mystery, suspense, romance: Margaret penned it all. Nothing wrong with this—except Margaret happened to be writing for the church newsletter. After making the church picnic read like a Grisham novel, her former pastor took her aside and said, "Maybe God's calling you to write fiction."

So that’s what Margaret did. She now has more than 25 novels and novellas to her credit and has been published in 15 languages. The first book in her Rocky Creek series A Lady Like Sarah was a 2010 Women of Faith selection, and Romance Writers of American RITA finalist. She is currently at work on a new series for Thomas Nelson.

Happily married to her real life hero, Margaret and her husband live in Southern California, and have three grown children.

Book Blurb:
Trouble follows Lucy wherever she goes. So does a vision of second chances…and love.
Lucy Fairbanks dreams of working as a photographer at the Rocky Creek newspaper. If she can earn money making photographs, then maybe her father will see that what she does is worthy, more than just a distraction. And her deepest hope is that he’ll see her as an artist, the way he thought of her deceased mother, whose paintings still hung on their walls.
But trouble follows Lucy on every photo shoot: a mess of petticoats and ribbons, an accidental shooting, even a fire.
When Lucy meets David Wolf—a quiet, rustic man who lives on the outskirts of town—she thinks she can catch the attention of the town with his photograph. She doesn’t count on her feelings stirring whenever she’s near him.
Two things happen next that forever change the course of Lucy’s life. But will these events draw her closer to God or push her further away? And how will David accept this new vision of Lucy?
More Love and Laughter in the Old West
Sage Advice from A VISION OF LUCY
When sitting for a picture a widow should say “kerchunk” to present the appropriate mournful expression. To assure adequate sympathy, compose yourself to look brave or resigned but never happy. A merry widow will only raise eyebrows.
Say Cabbage

In 1850, Julia Shannon of San Francisco took the family portrait to new heights when she shockingly advertised herself as a daguerreotypist and midwife. After reading about her I just had to write about a lady photographer. Of course, the heroine of A Vision of Lucy doesn’t deliver babies but she still finds plenty of ways to get into trouble.

I loved writing about old time photography and have nothing but awe for the brave souls who first took camera in hand. Not only did they contend with unwieldy equipment but also dangerous chemicals and exploding labs.

Women had an advantage over male photographers who were often confounded by female dress. This explains why one photographer advertised in 1861 for an assistant, “Who Understands the Hairdressing Business.” Women also had a few tricks up their leg of mutton sleeves—or rather their skirts. Elizabeth Withington invented a “dark thick dress skirt” to use as a developing tent when she traveled.

Those cheerless faces in early photographs were partly due to vices that held heads still for long periods of time. Photographers used all sorts of devices to hold a client’s interest. One even had a trained monkey. Another photographer had a canary that sang on command. Mechanical birds were a favorite gimmick and “Watch the birdie” became a familiar refrain in studios across the country.

Magazines and newspaper ran ample advice for posing. An 1877 edition of The Chicago Inter-Ocean advised women with large mouths to say the word “Flip,” although one photographer preferred the word “Prunes.” If a small mouth was the problem the word “Cabbage” would make it appear larger.

Not everyone was enamored with cameras. One dog owner put up a sign warning “photographers and other tramps to stay away” after his dog had an unfortunate run-in with a tripod.

Did photography have a bearing on the suffragette movement? Indeed, it did, but it appeared to be more of a detriment than a help. The photographs of militant suffragettes or women dressed in bloomers did more harm than good.

If you think America was tough on suffragettes, think again. The women’s rights movement was considered the biggest threat to the British Empire. According to the National Archives the votes-for-women movement became the first "terrorist" organization subjected to secret surveillance photography in the world.

Photography has come a long way since those early daguerreotype days. One can only imagine what the brave souls of yesteryear would think of today’s “aim and click” cameras. Now days you can’t even drive down the street without having your picture taken. But as Lucy would say, Never leave the house unless you’re ready for your close up.

Speaking of photography, my publisher is running a “Vision of Funny” photograph contest with prizes. To enter go to margaretbrownleybooks facebook page and click on “Contests” under the book image. I think you also have to do something silly like click the “like” button. (just be sure you do it with a smile.) Hurry, contest ends July 13th.

Question: Having your photograph taken in the 19th and early 20th centuries was serious business. A person might have only one photograph taken in a lifetime. How has the ease of taking pictures today changed your view of picture taking? Do you think we place more or less value on photographs today? Was there ever a time that you felt a camera was intrusive?

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Top Ten Reasons for Going to ACFW Conference

So many good reasons come to mind as to why one should attend ACFW conferences. Heres my TOP TEN LIST
Number 10 Memories you make.
Number 9 Meeting old friends and making new ones you know by email only.
Number 8 Great books available in the bookstore and the authors ready to sign them.
Number 7 The wonderful Christian fellowship and being able to pray with and for ACFW members
Number 6 Great keynote speakers and "Early Bird" teachers who share their hearts and wisdom with us.
Number 5 The Genesis Contest where unpublished authors have a chance to shine.
Number 4 The awards for Mentor, Editor, and Agent of the Year; the Carol Award for Book of the year.
Number 3 Opportunity to meet with editors and agents and pitch your work and yourself
Number 2 Great teaching by brilliant authors who are willing to share their expertise on how to take our  writing to the next level
Number 1 It’s the best in the country for fiction writers.

Some of my most favorite memories in my writing career occurred at ACRW/ACFW conferences. From meeting wonderful authors for the first time to being recognized by Debbie Macomber in her speech at breakfast on Sunday in 2009, lots of good things, funny things, and crazy things have happened to me as well as lots of others.

One year one of our members forgot to bring her underwear. I won’t mention any names, but she knows who she is. Right CW? I forgot my makeup one year and had to buy some EXPENSIVE stuff from the store in the hotel. Another year I left some of my clothes in a drawer in our room and my roommate had to mail them back to me. I’m glad she found them.

Brandilyn MCed in KC the first year and did such a great job it became a permanent position. I was a finalist for the Noble Theme that year and that was exciting. Also met Rachel Hauck, Allison Wilson, Tiff Miller (and her Tiki Bird slippers), and Andrea Boeshaar. We shocked other guests with talk of WIPs, how to kill of a character and various other writing ideas. Some funny goings on happened in the cafĂ©/bar in the hotel, but I wasn’t there and don’t want to spread rumors. I also met Tamela Hancock Murray who became my agent a few years later. No appointment, just sitting with her at the dinner table and remembering her wonderful smile.

The night before the conference began in Houston, I hosted a dinner at my home for a number of those who had come in early. Kristy Dykes was one of the guests, and I liked her immediately. Her warm, southern charm really grabbed me. She is sorely missed, and I’ve saved her emails sent to me because I never want to forget the beautiful, brave lady she was.

In Minneapolis we had a book signing at the Mall of the Americas. I was leaving an appointment and heard the busses were boarding to go to the mall so I ran to get on. Got there for the book signing with NOTHING!!! No chocolates, no bookmarks, no postcards, and one copy of my book. Very dull book signing for me.

Meeting and getting to know “Mama” Ruth, seeing Chip McGregor in his kilts, Deb and Brandilyn’s “feud”, Anita’s hog-calling expertise, and getting to meet face to face with so many wonderful friends each year are things I will never forget about conference.

If you’re not able to go, you can share the experience through pictures and CDs of the classes. Start now saving for 2012 and look into the scholarships offered. You never know what God can do in your life until You ask for his guidance and make the effort to take advantage of the opportunities He will offer.

Leave a comment and answer one of the questions to be in the drawing for a copy of my latest release, Summer Dream. If you already have a copy, I have a list of other books you might like.

Question 1: What is one of your best memories of an ACFW Conference?
Question 2: Why do you want to attend the conference?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thank You, ACFW

One of the best things I ever did in my writing life was to join ACFW in February, 2000. DiAnn Mills urged me to join a group of writers who had just organized into the ACRW, American Christian Romance Writers. She then put together two conferences held here in Houston in 2000 and 2001. I helped her with both and met Lena Nelson Dooley and Lynn Coleman and Pamela Griffin whose writing I had come to admire and editor Becky Germany who gave me my first fiction writing contract with the novella Sugar and Grits.

DiAnn also formed a critique group we named Seared Hearts. Kathleen Y’Barbo and Myra Johnson were the other two members. We met for lunch every week and discussed our chapters. We managed to critique one chapter from each of us per week. When Myra had to drop out, Janice Thompson joined our group. Janice, Kathleen, and I have remained together all these years. We don’t critique as much, but we’re still good friends. Later Marcia Gruver, Marion Merritt, and Linda Kozar became members for a season.

After those first two local conferences here, ACRW organized a national conference in Kansas City, and I attended with DiAnn, Kathleen, and Janice. There I met a wonderful lady and admired her beautiful smile and fun hats. Her name was Tamela Hancock Murray, and because of that meeting, she later became my agent in 2004 and still is to this day.

Also at the Kansas City Conference I was a Genesis Finalist, one of the first group of contest entries. Since that time I have attended every conference thanks to friends, family, and scholarships. Last year my first full royalty check paid for the trip to Indianapolis. In 2003 I served on the conference committee for our Houston conference, and that was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.

Had it not been for all the wonderful authors, agents, and editors I met through ACFW, I would not have learned about the craft of writing and how to make my stories come alive on the page. Each conference helped me to build more confidence in my writing even though I wanted to give up so many times.

Then in 2009 I signed my first contract for a full length novel. A month later it was followed by one for three more to complete the series. All the years of conference classes, Tamela’s perseverance, great critiques by my friends, I was on my way to having books on bookstore shelves.

Although at times heartbreaking, disappointing and frustrating, it’s been a wonderful journey, and I would never have accomplished any of it without the Lord’s grace and mercy. He led me to DiAnn then to ACFW then to Tamela and then to publication. I praise Him because of His great love and faithfulness. Thank you, Lord, and thank you, ACFW for all you’ve meant to me in the past eleven years.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Birthday #2 God's Provision

I never cease to be amazed at how God blesses our lives by providing for our needs before we even know we need them. The most dramatic one happened with our now 17 year old grandson who has Cystic Fibrosis. Before he had a liver transplant at age 10, he had a problem with his platelets and every time he had surgery, he needed them. Friends always came through in the days prior to make sure plenty were available. After one particular surgery, several units of platelets were left over and stored at the blood bank to be discarded in a few days. Several days later Robert Mikell began bleeding and went to the emergency room. He needed platelets, buy there was no time to notify friends for donations. The nurse checked with the blood bank and his platelets were still there from the previous surgery, due to be disposed of at midnight that night. Around 11 PM the platelets were rushed to TCH in Houston and saved his life. God knew RM would need those extra platelets and provided them. What we thought was extra and just going to waste, was actually God taking care of RM before anyone knew it would be needed.

Then this year I was the recipient of God's abundant blessings. I received a very nice royalty check in March from my first series. We put it in my business account and used it to pay some bills and expenses for a few writing related trips and speaking engagements. At the time I wondered what we would do with the money left and how nice it was to have a little extra in the bank after years of struggling to make ends meet on our retirement and SS income. Then in May my 88 year old aunt in Washington D.C. was diagnosed with lung cancer among other health problems. She and her mentally challenged son (in his sixties) had made a mess of their bills and finances and she needed an evaluation of needs and some other things, but no money was available. My sister and I were able to step in and help take care of their needs and help financially. Then a few weeks later, my husband's sister was diagnosed with an inoperable, fast growing brain tumor with only weeks to live. Rex and I were able to fly to Roswell over the Memorial Day weekend and stay from Friday until Tuesday to be with her and his other siblings for a wonderful visit. We were able to help my aunt and pay  cash for our trip all because God provided the funds back in March. We would never have been able to do any of it without going into debt, but God knew we'd need it and took care of us.

Our God is never too late, never too early, but always right on time. He takes care of us like no other, and our Lord and Savior promised to never leave us or forsake us. Even when times are so bad we don't know how we can exist much longer, God will step up and provide when we least expect it and sometimes in the most miraculous ways. Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow. 

Answer this question and leave a comment to be included in the drawing from this post.

How has God provided for your needs in a special way?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

BIrthday Celebration

In honor of my 75th birthday, I invite you to my "party". Today, Saturday, Monday and Wednesday I will be posting about some aspect of writing. There will be 2 winners for each post and those will go into the final drawing for a gift box filled with goodies. So stay tuned and keep coming back for more chances to get your name in the final drawing. Just answer one of the questions at the end of this post to be entered for tonight and tomorrow.

Have You Got What It Takes to be a Writer?

Prayer, patience and perseverence are three main traits and habits a writer must have. Along with those go the stamina for hard work, thick skin for critiques and rejections, and an "I can do." attitude. However, the most important is the desire and call from God that this is what He wants you to do. When the Lord calls, He will equip. Along with that He expects you to be the best you can be. To make sure you are doing all you can to be that, you need to attend conferences whenever possible, meet other writers through a local writing group, join a national group like ACFW, and be willing to learn, change and grow as you study the craft of writing.
Learning to write stories that editors want takes hard work in studying, reading, writing, rewriting, and research. Never stop learning. Here I am seventy-five years of age, and I'm still learning how to be a better writer. It's taken great patience and perseverence laced with plenty of prayer to get where I am today. God has bless me beyond measure in my Golden Years. I hope it doesn't take some of you that long to have your first book published.

If you want to be a writer...write. Whether it's for one hour a day or day at a time, put words to paper. When you are faithful to the task He gives you, He will bring success, and it may not always be in the way you may think. Be open, be ready, and listen for God's voice to instruct.

So, my question is two fold for different journeys.
One: What obstacles have you overcome to persevere in your writing whether you are published or not.

Two: What is keeping you from that writing journey? Can you overcome it?