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.

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”

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 and I hang out with the Seekers at

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?