Friday, May 19, 2017

J.M. Hackman | Author Chat


I'm so excited to welcome author J.M. Hackman to the blog for an author chat. So grab your drink of choice and let's get to know J.M. ...
I’m an only child and have lived most of my life in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. I married my soul-mate 22 years ago (this June), and we have two fantastic, beautiful daughters, 17 and almost 12.

I’ve always written. Articles, essays, poems, to-do lists, even (bad) song lyrics. I began writing my first novel in 1995. After taking a hiatus to have two incredible kids, I came back to writing in 2006. I won the Editor’s Choice Award for the Realm Makers Short Story contest in 2015. That story, “The Escort,” was published in the anthology RealmScapes. At the Realm Makers Conference in 2015, I pitched Spark to L2L2 Publishing. The rest, as they say, is history.

My free time is spent reading, card making, and cheering the Penn State Nittany Lions football team on to victory.
Let's get real...

How did you start writing and why are you still writing?
I started writing when I was very young (probably around five years old) and I’ve continued to write because of joy. Despite the difficulties (after all, there are no “perfect” jobs), the joy of creating worlds, characters, and stories to share with others keeps me going. Right now, I feel I’m where God wants me to be, doing what He wants me to do.

That's great! So then...why do you write? 
Because the stories keep coming! There’s always one or two ideas percolating, but I can’t write fast enough. I’m a very slow producer, as well as being a wife and mom of two girls. So I use notebooks and index cards to capture the ideas before they slip away. They’ll be there when the current work in progress is done.

Let's talk a little bit about your book, Spark. Why did you write it? (P.S. LOVE that cover by the way!)
After my daughters were born, I started reading the Harry Potter series. When that was finished, I picked up Gregor the Overlander (by Suzanne Collins), then the Percy Jackson series, followed by the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I started to wonder, “Where are the girls?” (The Hunger Games and Divergent series hadn’t been released yet). Girls need to read about a female leader, not a sidekick, who is strong, yet vulnerable—a character looking for something special inside that makes her valuable.

Oh, I love that! Very true. So, do you have a favorite character in the book? If so, why are they your favorite?
Although all of my characters are special, Brenna’s my favorite. She’s a blend of a younger me and both of my daughters. Even so, sometimes she surprises me with what comes out of her mouth. What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with? Brenna, who struggles with insecurity and ADHD, eventually accepts the new role she’s been created to fulfill. Everyone has a unique gift. Everyone has a purpose, something only they can do on this Earth. I hope others, whether they deal with ADHD, autism, a learning disability, or some other problem, can relate to Brenna and her struggles and come away knowing that these struggles are not what defines them. Their gifts and talents and how they use them are what makes them special.

Let's talk about the details for us writers. How long did you write before you got published?
A loooooong time! I started writing Christian romance in 1995 and finished three novels before I got pregnant with my first daughter. At that point “the voices in my head” went silent. They stayed quiet until after my second daughter was born. Apparently, hormones and creativity don’t mix! I started playing with words again around 2006 and never stopped. Only this time, I was interested in speculative fiction. So I’ve been on the writing journey for about 15 years. Last year my short story was published in the Realm Maker anthology, RealmScapes. And my debut novel Spark was released on May 16 from L2L2 Publishing!

We often here "keep writing" as advice for younger writers. Do you have any other advice or encouragement that you can share?
Become content with where God has you, right now. I spent a lot of years obsessing and wondering why I kept getting rejection after rejection. But every rejection taught me something so that my writing improved. It helps to view the writing profession as a marathon, not a sprint.

It also helped when I understood I was writing because I had to, because it made me a better version of myself. I realized if I died without publication, I’d still lived a pretty great life. And always, always, always, keep reading!

Are you a Panster or Plotter?
I’m a hybrid. I usually know the starting incident and where I want the plot to go, but I give the characters a lot of leeway in between major plot points. I’ll list the major events that must occur on index cards and give myself permission to keep things fluid.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
My favorite is creating characters and worlds. The actual writing itself is fun if it’s a good day. If not, I’d rather have a root canal, although I force my way through it so I have something to edit. My least favorite would be writing the synopsis because it’s so different from writing the story. Explain what happens in a 200+ page book in a single page?!? Who comes up with this stuff?

In honor of Mother's Day, do you have a favorite memory of your mother you'd care to share?
My mother is an amazing woman. She gives some of the best advice (even sometimes when I don’t want it!) I was bullied in high school, and my mother became my sounding board. Her common sense advice was a life-line (and I’ve found myself sharing it with my kids!) When you’re faced with the negative every day, every month, every year from a classmate, you begin to wonder why you’re unlovable. My mother and father were my advocates and made sure I always knew I was loved.

Care to share what are you're currently reading?
Right now, I’m reading So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane. It’s an older YA book (1986) that was mentioned somewhere as a good read. The first line on page 1 completely pulled me in.

Thanks so much for being on the blog J.M.! Reader Friends, check out her amazing giveaway below and make sure to connect with her through these links: 


--> Website: http://jmhackman.com/
Blog: Jilligan’s Island, found at the same address as above, as well as co-contributor to Lands Uncharted http://www.landsuncharted.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15648309.J_M_Hackman
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jmhackman/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jm_hackman

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber | Blog Tour

Welcome to the: Thomas Nelson's Young Adult Summer of 2017 Feature with

 

Emilie here: I'm so excited to be hosting Mary Weber on the blog today with her new release, The Evaporation of Sofi Snow! I've started an advance copy of this amazing book and am in LOVE already. Check out the information below about the book, the excerpt, and then hop on over to pre-order your copy! It comes out June 6th!

About the Book

Title:  The Evaporation of Sofi Snow
Series: The Evaporation of Sofi Snow, Book 1
Author:  Mary Weber
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date:  June 6, 2017
Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Sci-Fi

For fans of Ender’s Game and Blade Runner comes a story of video gaming, blood, and power.

Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi’s dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth’s corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth’s Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi’s the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she’s convinced he’s been taken to the ice-planet.

Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there.

For Miguel—Earth’s charming young playboy—the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight’s bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he’s a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.

From the award-winning author of the Storm Siren Trilogy, step into a diverse cast of characters spanning from the electric metropolises of earth to the chilling alien planet above, in a story of re-finding yourself in the midst of losing the one thing you love. Before it all evaporates.

Excerpt

Taken from “The Evaporation of Sofi Snow” by Mary Weber Copyright © 2017 by Mary Christine Weber. Used by permission of http://www.thomasnelson.com/.

THE PLANET
The ice-planet arrived in the dusky heat of summer twilight during Earth’s Fourth World War. Just when the moon’s jeweled fingers were slipping through that one broken slat in the barn roof that Papa always said he’d fix but never did. The same slat through which he’d pointed out Ella’s favorite star to Sofi and her brother, Shilo.

As if everything within Papa’s wrecked heart was trying to keep their focus off Earth’s brutality by reminding them of their half sister’s spot in the heavenly skies. As if their forsaken little hearts needed any reminding of where her spot—or their mother’s—should be.

“Shh.” Papa put a finger to his lips and beckoned Sofi over to watch the planet settle in place. “I won’t let anyone harm you. See how it’s moving across the moon?”

Six-year-old Sofi mimicked him to her brother, putting her own finger to her lips. “Shh. They’re coming, Shi, but we won’t let them harm you.” To which baby Shilo spit and giggled before swatting at a firefly.

Sofi pulled his tiny hand into hers as the sinister globe stopped a good distance beyond the moon—and

Uncomfortably too close to Earth. To them. To their little broken-slatted barn that sat planted like a patch of sumac right on the decimated border of Old North Carolina and the rest of the starving, war-ravaged world.

“Planet Delon” the broadcasters had called it.

“The Delonese Death” was what her expatriate neighbor, Mr. Watte, was calling it.

“The blasted planet from the pit of you know where” was what Sofi had decided to call it . . .

That had been years ago.

Eleven to be exact.

But now here she was . . .

Standing in the same place, same barn—just missing a few walls—with Shilo.

Still calling it that.

A sudden rustling emerged from the overgrown bushes, causing Sofi to glance around.

“You think it’s the tech buyer?” Shilo’s twelve-year-old voice cracked mid whisper.

She peered into the dark. “I don’t know, but if I tell you to run for the hover, you run.”

He looked insulted. “And ditch? More like I’ll kick whoever’s sorry bu—”

A boy emerged. Two boys in fact, each barely older than she was. Clearly drugged up. Skin and bones. Like many in the populations being “overseen” by the United World Corporations. The bigger kid held out a broken-tipped knife and Shilo slid in front of Sofi—never mind she was half-a-head taller than her brother.

Sofi scowled. She shouldn’t have let him coerce her into bringing him. Especially for the thrill of earning a few extra bucks off her old tech devices.
TO PURCHASE A COPY OR ADD IT ON GOODREADS



About the Author
Mary Weber is a ridiculously uncoordinated girl plotting to take over make-believe worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives. In her spare time, she feeds unicorns, sings 80’s hairband songs to her three muggle children, and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. They live in California, which is perfect for stalking L.A. bands, Joss Whedon, and the ocean.

CONNECT WITH MARY:  website ⎸ facebook ⎸twitter ⎸instagram


Tour Schedule

5/15 - Reading is My SuperPower (review)
5/16 - Thorn & Vine (review) & A Baker's Perspective (review)
5/17 - My So Called Chaos (review) & Between the Pages of This Bookish Life (Spotlight)
5/18 - Bibliophile Reviews (Review),  Singing Librarian Books (Spotlight) & Thinking Thoughts (Spotlight)
5/19 - Bookworm Mama (review) & YA Book Divas (Spotlight & Excerpt)
5/20 - Just Commonly (review)


Giveaway

(3) Winners will each win a finished hard copy of The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber, courtesy of Thomas Nelson Publishers. Giveaway ends on May 26, 2017, 11:59 PM EST.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Season to Dance by Patricia Beal | New Novel News

A Season to Dance
by Patricia Beal

Published: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Bling! Romance, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
Purchase: A Season to Dance

Small town professional ballerina Ana Brassfield has her path to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and her future with fiancé Peter Engberg all figured out—until her first love, renowned German dancer Claus Gert, shows up in Georgia to dance with her and win her back. Claus kisses her after a Romeo and Juliet rehearsal, a kiss Peter witnesses from the darkened audience. Convinced the kiss is more than a one-time mistake, he breaks off the engagement.

Rejected by Peter, and knowing Claus is dancing at the Met soon, Ana decides to repave her path to her dream. With her 2002 Torch Red Ford Thunderbird and Baryshnikov, an old dog crippled by arthritis, she moves to Germany to be with Claus. But the ghost of his late wife, Ana’s own memories of Peter, and the pressure of earning a spot in a large ballet company are a high price for a shot at success.


Get to know Patricia...

If your book became a movie, who would you cast for your main characters?
Peter would be Blake Shelton. Claus would be Mikhail Baryshnikov, a young Mikhail Baryshnikov—I’m thinking late eighties, when the movie White Nights was really popular. And Ana would be me and you. I think there’s a bit of Ana in each of us.

Favorite season? 
A Season to Dance. Yes, I had to go there 😊

What are the names of your pets?
My yellow Labrador is Kendra Simões Beal—the greatest champion. She’s the daughter of a famous Hungarian champion and her future was bright. Then I bought her. Apparently my dog-rearing skills are as good as my child-rearing skills. Kendra is the champion of mischief and of all things goofy.

Connect with Patricia:  http://www.patriciabeal.com/

Patricia has graciously offered a copy of A Season to Dance! Enter below:


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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Brave is the New Beautiful by Lee Wolfe Blum | Re:View

Powerful and inspiring, Brave Is the New Beautiful will draw you in with true-life stories that showcase real women with real struggles and a real God who is there to heal, comfort, and empower. 

* * *

Lee Wolfe Blum proposes a new and powerful definition of beauty in Brave is the new beautiful. Her focus on "finding the courage to be the real you" is a message all women need to hear no matter their life situation, age, status, or past.

What first intrigued me about this book, aside from the eye-catching title, was the fact that Lee used stories from women that she had known to create the majority of her content. As someone who loves reading biographies and real-life stories, I was really intrigued to see how Lee would incorporate the stories into a book that was devotional in nature.

@createexploreread
Each chapter is titled with a single word like Hoping, Belonging, and Trusting etc., and mingles Lee's personal history in counseling, her mental health work, and personal struggles along with stories from women she's come in contact with. Then, at the end of each chapter, there are "For Reflection" questions which make this a great tool for Bible studies and group sessions.

This book is powerful. Not all of the stories told are wrapped up with a happy little bow on top or told in a way to make you feel good about yourself. Instead, they depict real life and encourage you to ask God the hard questions without fear knowing that He will answer you. I was brought to tears many times during the course of reading this and found myself craving the next chapter to see what else Lee had to say. I think this was (at least in part) due to the fact that Lee is very open in this book, detailing her own struggles with a frank honesty that is refreshing and encouraging.

I think this quote sums up the focus of the book perfectly:
"Be vulnerable. Be real. Be raw and let your naked bravery shine bright. In doing so, you help others see hope. You help others have faith. That is brave. That is beautiful."
(Brave is the new Beautiful, page 215)
I highly recommend this book to all women! It would be perfect in a small group setting (or even a slightly larger group). With a focus on being raw and honest with one another, I think women could truly see lies exposed, walls broken down, and true, beautiful bravery as the result of reading and discussing this book along with prayer and Bible reading.

My rating: 4.5*
Purchase: Brave is the New Beautiful

Book Description
(from Amazon)
In a culture that bombards women with "thinspiration" messages and pressure to "do it all" while wearing the mask of perfection, women are left feeling alone and overwhelmed. How can they stop comparing themselves to others? How can they live out who they really are?

Lee Wolfe Blum offers stories from everyday women who have answered these questions with their lives—and found true beauty in the process. In Brave Is the New Beautiful, Blum weaves reflections from her own journey with inspirational stories from everyday women who chose to take off their masks and live authentically. Through call-to-action questions and ideas, she encourages readers to be brave enough to be who they really are and the beloved that God knows they are.
_______________
I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Friday, May 12, 2017

When Planets Fall by Abby J. Reed | New Release


I am so excited that WHEN PLANETS FALL by Abby J. Reed is available now and that I get to share the news!
If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author Abby J. Reed, be sure to check out all the details below.
There is also a giveaway for a finished copy of the book and swag, US Only, courtesy of Abby and Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.
About the Book:

Title: WHEN PLANETS FALL (Stars Fall Circle #1)
Author: Abby J. Reed
Pub. Date: May 10, 2017
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Pages: 420
Formats: Paperback, eBook

On a planet where the only difference between three tribes is their blood color, war is on the horizon. Breaker, an amputee, wants peace for his family and home. Malani, a kidnapped POW, wants to return home. Luka wants justice for his home. All three teens come together when Breaker is given seven days to fix a wrecked enemy starship or their home, and peace, is forfeit..

"In this richly imagined start to a new sci-fi series, Reed brings optimism to the goal of solving entrenched violence in a galaxy far, far away . . . A propulsive, sharply crafted tale about a planetary war." -Kirkus Reviews

Excerpt:
I cupped my hands around my mouth. “Brody! Brody!”
Nobody was allowed to break boundary unless you were on hunting rounds and wanted a shot at the deercorns—three-horns, good meat—or on boundary duty. The land between here and the Heron Mountains in the west was technically neutral territory and belonged to no one. Too many good game trails passed through and everyone needed good protein. You’d think this meant a peace card for any who marched through the area. Then a handful of cycles back, attacks started becoming more frequent. Now, neutral territory meant open hunting season on everyone.
And if you were in trouble . . . the compound wouldn’t help.
I couldn’t leave him out there. I had to go over the fence. Beyond the compound’s boundary.
I was going to murder that kid.
The tree branches on the opposite side created a tunnel. Ravines on either side had been dug deep for a grave ditch in case of a future blood bath. Water filled them now. No need to waste time or tears while shoveling, just dump the bodies in the pre-dug ditch. Time and pain in the past saved time and pain in the future.
I set my foot on the lowest rail. The wood jiggled. Bangit. I couldn’t climb over the stupid thing. I pocketed the pick, got back on my bike, reversed, and aimed it at the fence. Even though the bike ran on solatech energy, the magnetic polarity of mineral deposits in the ground kept it afloat. In theory, the bike should pass right over the fence, since the fence wasn’t quite solid, so the bike would never lose complete contact with the ground.
I revved the bike. A surge of solaenergy sent me flying toward the fence. I shoved on the handles right before I hit the broken rail, bouncing and soaring right over the fence. The bike didn’t even bounce on the ground on the other side.
My chest tightened a notch.
I just broke boundary.
I hadn’t broke boundary in eight cycles.
I swear there was still a faint smell of cinnamon, though the gun smoke couldn’t have hung in the air this long. Lining the ravine were the twelve gravecrosses. Rainwater ran like thinned-out blood off the names carved into the bars. The letters were slowly being erased by weather and time, as though the people were being slowly erased from our memory until they never existed.


About Abby:

Abby J. Reed writes young adult science fiction and fantasy novels that ask what if. She has a degree in English Writing and is drawn to characters with physical limitations due to her own neurological disorder called Chronic Migraine. Her debut novel, WHEN PLANETS FALL, will be published in April 2017 by Soul Mate Publishing.

Abby lives in Colorado with her husband and two fluffy pups. If her hands aren’t on the keyboard, they are stained purple and blue with paint.


Giveaway Details:


1 winner will receive a finished copy of WHEN PLANETS FALL & Swag, US Only.


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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Amy Clipston {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Amy...

Amy Clipston has been writing for as long as she can remember. Her fiction writing "career" began in elementary school when she and a close friend wrote and shared silly stories. She has a degree in communications from Virginia Wesleyan College and is a member of the Authors Guild, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America. She is the author of the bestselling Kauffman Amish Bakery series with Zondervan, which is part of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. An advocate for organ and blood donation, Amy donated a kidney in 2011 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Through her donation, her husband received a second kidney transplant. Amy and her husband matched another couple and swapped kidneys with them. Amy's memoir, A Gift of Love, will be available in early 2014. She hopes her story inspires others to become organ and blood donors. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, mother, and four spoiled rotten cats.

Connect with Amy...

Website: amyclipston.com
Goodreads: Amy_Clipston
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AmyClipstonBooks/
Twitter: @AmyClipston
Instagram: www.instagram.com/amy_clipston/

Get to know Amy

You and Writing

How did you start writing?
I’ve always loved to write. It’s always been a stress reliever for me. I started creating stories in my head when I was in elementary school, and I carried around notebooks that I filled with silly stories. I’ve always felt like something is missing if I’m not working on a book.

The strange thing is I didn’t want to pursue a career in writing until after college when I accidentally found a local chapter of Romance Writers of America (RWA). Until I joined RWA, writing was a hobby. When I attended a meeting, I realized I could possibly turn my hobby into something more. Through RWA, I met writers in all stages of their careers, and I learned how to polish a book and then find an agent.

What or who is the biggest influence in your writing?
I’ve written one non-fiction book, A Gift of Love, which is my memoir featuring my story of donating a kidney through a swap for my husband, and I’ve also written four young adult books. I’m most known, however, for my Amish fiction books.

I was always fascinated with the Amish when I was a child. I remember visiting Lancaster County when I was younger, and my father, who was a German immigrant, told me the Amish speak the same dialect of German as my relatives. I was drawn to their simplicity and faith. Due to my German heritage, I feel a loose connection to the culture. I was inspired by other Amish authors to try to write my own Amish stories.

Why do you write?
I’ve always loved to write. I feel like something is missing if I’m not working on a book. Writing is always challenging because I try to make my current book better than the last. I always strive to take the stories deeper emotionally, and I hope that my writing grows with each book.

Your Writing

Lets talk about your book. Why did you write it?
The Beloved Hope Chest is the fourth and final book in my Amish Heirloom series, which is about the Fisher family. The Fishers live in Bird-in-Hand, PA, and they are Amish. The first three books in the series detail the lives of their three daughters. This book goes back in time to tell the parents’ story, and it also reveals the mysteries I have woven throughout the series.

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
Leroy Fisher is my favorite character because he is loyal and dedicated to Mattie throughout the challenges they face together.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
Both Mattie and Leroy, the main characters in this novel, go through tough times, and they learn to rely on God. I hope readers feel God’s love throughout the story.

What’s the theme? How did you come up with it?
The theme for my books is always hope and faith. I pray my books will give my readers a sense of peace and help them find hope and renewed faith in God.

What was a challenge you faced while writing it?
The Beloved Hope Chest is very close to my heart since it is the last in my Amish Heirloom series. I’ve grown to love the Fisher family, and writing Mattie and Leroy’s story was bittersweet since I didn’t want to let these characters go. I hope readers enjoy this book since it reveals all of the mysteries that have been woven throughout the series.

Was there a passage of scripture you came across or used while writing it that you’d like to share?
I used the following scripture verse in The Beloved Hope Chest: 2 Corinthians 1:7: “And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” This verse really spoke to me since it tells us that God is always with us—especially during the tough times. Since my husband has endured two kidney transplants, I have learned to rely on God, and verses like this one always speak to my heart.

What’s your favorite snack while writing?
Hot tea and Pringles Stix – honey butter flavored. Yum!!

Writing

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”?
People often ask me what the secret is to getting published. I don’t believe there is a secret to getting published, but I do have a list of things that will help writers on their journey to publication.

1. Join a Writers’ Group
I accidentally found the website for a local writers’ group while in search for a professional group to join as part of my day job as a technical writer. That group is Chesapeake Romance Writers, which is based in Chesapeake, Virginia, and is a local chapter of Romance Writers of America. When I attended one of the monthly meetings, I met writers in all stages of their careers – from brand new (like me) to multi-published. It was then that I realized that I wanted to become a published author. Through this group, I learned how to plot and polish my novels, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter that would pique an agent’s interest.

I strongly suggest you find a group near you and socialize with other writers. You’ll have fun and also learn a lot. If you’re not interested in attending local meetings, you always have the option of joining a virtual group. There are organizations that host discussion groups, and a few include America Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Join the group that best fits your interest and needs and get connected.

2. Attend a Conference
If you have the money and the time, attend a writers’ conference, where you can network and attend instructional sessions that cover many aspects of writing and the publishing business. Conferences are fun and informative.

3. Find a Critique Partner
During my journey to publication, I’ve made some wonderful friends, a few of whom have become my most trusted critique partners. They help me plot and polish my books before I submit them to my editor. Don’t write in a vacuum; share your books with trusted friends. Your buddies will not only find your typos, but they may give you story ideas that you hadn’t considered and will make your plot even better.

4. Find Time to Read
I know what it means to be busy. I balance a day job, two active sons, and my writing deadlines. I enjoy listening to audio books in my car during my commute to and from work. I listen to everything from Christian fiction to young adult to romance. While reading is fun, it’s also a way to improve your skills by seeing what techniques work (and sometimes don’t work) for other authors.

5. Keep Writing
It may sound silly, but writers need to write! Finish your novel and polish it as best you can before submitting it to an agent or editor. Your book represents your best work. Show a potential agent or editor that you’re a professional and also eager to write for them.

6. Don’t Give Up
No matter what, believe in yourself and believe in your dream of holding your book in your hand! If you’ve been rejected by an agent or editor, don’t give up. I received plenty of rejection letters and I wanted to give up many times. I’m thankful for my family and my friends who told me to stop whining and keep writing.

How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
I believe I received at least a dozen rejection letters from both agents and publishers. I wrote seven novels that my agent tried to sell before landing a contract for my first Amish book, A Gift of Grace, the first book in my Kauffman Amish Bakery series. The rejection letters were tough, but my agent and my family kept encouraging me and wouldn’t let me give up on my dream of seeing my name on the cover of a book.

Are you a Pantser or Plotter?
I’m definitely a plotter! I’m very organized and know how my story will start and end before I start writing.

What does your writing process look like?
I start off with a blurb and then turn that into a detailed outline. I outline my story chapter by chapter, scene by scene, and I use it as a roadmap for my story. The plot changes and grows, but my outline keeps me on track so that I’m don’t get stuck.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share?
I used to need complete quiet while I wrote, but now I like to listen to music. It becomes white noise for me and blocks out distractions. I’m a moody writer. Sometimes I like pop, such as Taylor Swift, but other times I need more hard rock, such as Daughtry, Staind, Nickelback, or Seether. Other times I listen to the Beatles. Lately I’ve been listening to Latin Pop, specifically, Enrique Iglesias, and I blame my love of Zumba for that influence.

How do you grow in your writing craft?
I grow by reading books and studying other authors. Since I work full-time and write many books per year, I listen to audio books. I listened to many different genres and I always learn something new by listening to a new author.

How do you balance your writing life with “real” life? Any tips or tricks to share?
My life is insane since I work full-time, write full-time, and have a family. I’m super organized. I keep a day planner with my schedule on hand so that deadlines don’t sneak up on me. I plot out my books and use a detailed outline to keep my stories on track. When I’m on deadline, I write every chance I can. I write late into the night and all weekend long to keep up with my deadlines. I celebrate when I turn in my books by doing something fun with my family. My mother lives with my family and me, and she is a tremendous help. She keeps the household running and on schedule while I work to finish my writing projects.

You

What is a favorite memory you have of your mother?
My mom lives with my family, and me, and she is my best friend. We enjoy watching movies together and sharing favorite books. She’s also my boys’ second mother, and she helps keep my family on schedule when I’m floundering on a deadline. She’s the best mom and nana our family could have!

If you had to choose one type of food, what kind would it be?
That’s a tough one! It would be a toss up between Asian and Mexican. Since I’m half German, however, I do enjoy German dishes too.


::GIVEAWAY::
Amy has graciously offered a copy of The Beloved Hope Chest and a fun Amish goodie as a giveaway. Enter below! 

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Monday, May 8, 2017

True to You by Becky Wade | New Novel News

True to You 
by Becky Wade

Published: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Bethany House
Purchase: True to You

After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he's diagnosed with an inherited condition, he's forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother.

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John's already dating someone and Nora's not sure she's ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they're seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

Get to know Becky...

Favorite season? 
My favorite season is fall! Here in Texas, we endure, long HOT summers. I'm always thrilled when fall brings cooler temperatures and I get to wear jeans and boots, admire the colorful foliage, and spend more time outdoors. (I huddle inside in the air conditioning most of the summer.) Plus, fall offers awesome holidays.

What’s one thing you must have/do in the morning? 
I have to clean my kitchen and straighten the main rooms of our house. I can't write surrounded by mess! So I either chat with friends via the Voxer app or I catch up on news via the Today Show while I clean each morning. My efforts do no extend to my kids' rooms. I just close their doors.

@CreateExploreRead
If your main characters were animals, what would they be?
John, the hero of True to You, would be a boxer, because he's athletic and smart and not afraid to tackle huge challenges. Nora, the heroine of True to You, would be a russet colored cat. Russet-colored because she has red hair. A cat because she's a bookworm who loves tea. Cats are mellow enough to fit right in with books and tea!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Mesu Andrews {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Mesu...

Mesu Andrews' deep understanding of and love for God’s Word brings the biblical world alive for her readers. She and her husband, Roy, live in a log cabin snuggled into the beautiful Appalachian Mountains with their dog, Zeke. The Andrews' have two married daughters and a small tribe of grandkids. Mesu loves movies, football, waterfalls, and travel.

Connect with Mesu...

Please visit http://www.mesuandrews.com/ to order free bookmarks, download Bible studies or group discussion questions.
Facebook: Mesu Andrews
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Google+: Mesu Andrews
Instagram: Mesu Andrews

Get to know Mesu...

You and Writing 


Tell us a little bit about yourself...

I never intended to be a writer. In fact, I read my first full novel in my late twenties (don’t even ask how I got A’s in high school Lit classes). As an off-the-charts extrovert, I was always too busy talking to sit still and read a book—let alone write one!

Until an annoying flu-bug hit in 1996, I was a healthy, happy pastor’s wife with two elementary-aged girls. Just a harmless little virus, right? Nope. After a fever of 102º for six days, it finally broke, but the other symptoms didn’t go away. After a month of prolonged aching joints and muscles, brain fog, and fatigue, I returned to the doctor to find every test result within normal range. During the year it took to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I began journaling daily for the first time in my life.

Fast-forward to July 2002. I’d learned to manage fibromyalgia with exercise and medication—so I thought. My life had grown crazy again with a busy speaking schedule, a husband who was both full-time pastor and full-time PhD student, and two very active teenage daughters. I woke one morning unable to move my arms and legs and barely able to breathe, so I whispered a cry for help. Once again, medical science had no answers. My blood work showed some anomalies, but nothing conclusive. I spent six months in bed with a laptop as my best friend. I wrote my first book. Writing saved my sanity.

My stamina never returned, and in 2005 I spent two weeks at Mayo Clinic where they diagnosed four chronic issues. If I didn’t have writing, I would feel pretty useless. One day of “normal” activity wears me out. Though I still enjoy speaking occasionally for retreats and conferences, I must rest the following week to recover. Writing makes me feel like I’m still very much involved in reaching folks with Jesus’ Word. I can sit in my cushioned chair for hours during a day and love people through words. It’s a joy and privilege to serve my Jesus in this way!


Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book....

Miriam is a fascinating character for many reasons. She’s the first woman to be deemed “prophetess” in Scripture and yet God chooses her brothers—not her—as His instruments to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. As I read about the ten plagues and the Exodus, keeping in mind that Miriam, Aaron, and Moses were all over eighty years old, I pondered how the “octogenarians” in my life today would have handled all that upheaval and change.

My mom was Miriam’s age at the writing of this book. How would Mom have reacted to uprooting her life and leaving the only house she’s ever lived in? What would my mom have thought if God suddenly sent frogs to fill her house, her oven, and every nook and cranny without any explanation? I wanted to write this book from the perspective of those who—unlike Moses—didn’t have that 1-800-GOD hotline to know what was coming.

However, as I wrote this book, I found that my favorite characters were the secondary ones, Eleazar and Taliah. Why? Because they asked the hard questions of Yahweh. They were the non-believers, the ones who either didn’t know God or had some knowledge but had turned away because of life’s disappointments and/or hardships. I found myself—through these two characters—asking questions that were too difficult to answer! And that became the unexpected theme of the book. A god we can understand or explain completely is man-made, an idol in essence. Yahweh, on the other hand, is God beyond comprehension, and every character in this book—as well as its author—had to reach that conclusion in order to cross the Red Sea.

It took countless pots of coffee and lots of revelations during my morning showers to let my characters struggle with answerless questions. I like neatly tied bows, but life isn’t like that, and neither is this story. It’s messy, but it’s victorious.

Writing

Let’s talk about your writing life...

When I started writing, I was convinced I should write Bible studies. I was a non-fiction girl through-and-through. I studied God’s Word like it was my job, taught adult Sunday school and women’s Bible studies, and spoke at every retreat and conference where someone gave me a microphone.

The first critiques of my fiction writing came from an editor and an agent. The editor said my writing was so bad I should stick with speaking, and the agent called my biblical fiction heresy. Ouch. When I finally worked up the courage to attend another conference, I proposed non-fiction, got an agent, and for three years she tried to find a publisher. Still no nibbles. My agent and I parted ways, and I registered for the 2008 Fiction Mentoring Clinic at Mt. Hermon with Gayle Roper as my mentor.

I submitted three very bad chapters of my novel on Solomon’s Song of Songs, and Revell’s editor happened to be looking for biblical fiction at that conference. The first day of the mentoring clinic, I realized how AWFUL my first draft was and expected to have the same terrible experience at my critique appointment. However, Revell’s editor knew I was being mentored by one of CBA’s best teachers and said she saw the seeds of a good storyteller in my writing. My first novel was published twelve years after that first horrifying writer’s conference.

I never counted rejection letters. I only count God’s intervention. It wasn’t my talent or skill that got my first contract. It was all God’s timing, His plan, and His grace. And every contract since then has been by the same reasons. When the contracts and book ideas stop coming, I’ll know this part of my ministry to the Body of Christ is over, and I’ll look for the next step in God’s plan for me.

You

What is a favorite memory you have of your mother?
For as long as I remember, my mom has been the strongest example of Christ I’ve known. When I was a rebellious teenager, she was a thorn in my side, but at the lowest points in my life, she’s been my earthly anchor in the storms. I was nineteen, an alcoholic, and had gone through a life-shaking break-up with the guy I’d been dating for five years. Mom had no idea I’d nearly taken my own life the night before, but the next morning she called me into her bedroom and asked me to sit down on her bed. She reached for my hand and held my gaze.

“I know you may not believe this, but I saw Jesus this morning,” she said. “He sat right here on my bed and told me you were going to be all right, darlin’.” She hugged me, and we cried together.

I didn’t believe a word she said, but a week later an old friend and I went to a football game together. Six weeks later that old friend led me to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Seven months later, I married that old friend. Now, I totally believe Jesus sat down on her bed that morning!

If you had to choose one type of food, what kind would it be?
Give me comfort food! Is that a category? I grew up in rural Indiana, and we raised our kids in northern Indiana Amish country, so I’m all about mashed potatoes, noodles, gravy, and fried anything! We moved to the Pacific Northwest where they eat grass and twigs, and I felt like a fish out of water, but we recently moved to the Appalachian Mountains, and I’m back in my element. Give me that southern home-cooking any day of the week and twice on Sunday—with a baked dessert please!

What are you currently reading?
I’m reading The Walls of Arad by Carole Towriss. She’s a dear friend, and this is her first self-published novel though it’s the third in her series. It’s wonderful! It continues the story of the Israelites at the end of their forty years of wandering, and I’m halfway through…just as they’re about ready to start taking the land of Canaan. Very exciting.

And I guarantee my next read will be biblical fiction! It’s my passion to read and to write. My favorite standbys are Tessa Afshar, Tosca Lee, Jill Smith, Lynn Austin, and any of Francine Rivers’ books, but since biblicals are making a comeback, I’ll be trying some of the new authors like Connilyn Cossette and Texie Susan Gregory. I’ve heard all good things about them! I’ll post reviews of the books I read in my monthly newsletter. You can sign up for it on my website (in the right-hand column of any page) and also get inside info on some of the other fun stuff going on in my writing life.

Thank you so much for being my guest Mesu! Readers, check out the amazing giveaway below and spread the new about this lovely book!!!


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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh | Re:View

Enthralling and inventive, Flame in the Mist will grip you with its creativity, delight you with its humor, and hold you to the end, leaving you wanting more.

*** 

I absolutely loved this book! I wasn't sure what to expect when I first chose to read it for review - I knew it was "making the rounds" as a new, popular YA Fantasy but I was hesitant to pick it up. Not for any other reason than that my TBR is rather insane and I had other books I was working through...but this cover drew me in. It tricked me, luring me to give in. So I did. I am SO glad I did!

From the moment I began Flame in the Mist, I was hooked. Ahdieh's writing is lyrical and beautiful. Like a song played by a skilled musician, you can't help but sit and listen--or in this case, read. And read I did. I ran through pages and pages with ease because of the story as well as the skill of the story-weaver.

I was intrigued by the characters. Mariko is such a beautiful, complex character who is at once strong and weak in the best ways. Strong so that we can view her as a she truly is, and weak so that we can see her shortcomings and where growth must happen. On a note about Mariko and women in general in Flame in the Mist, I really appreciated how Ahdieh represented women in this book. None of the girls were "looking for a hero to save them" (as some even stated) and the bent was definitely toward strong, female protagonists, but not for the sake of strength alone. It was about finding the beauty and strength in being a woman, not becoming like a man to find that strength (which is slightly ironic giving the plotline). Mariko's strength was in who she was as a person, not her gender, but her gender didn't mean she was weak either. I like that both men and women were portrayed as strong in this book, working alongside one another.

I won't say more about characters at this point since I don't want to give away even the smallest of spoilers, but I will say the web of intricate characters Ahdieh weaves is beautiful and complex.

@createexploreread
The setting and magic depicted in the book was also delightful. If anything, I would have loved to know and see more of the magic. I did enjoy how it was woven into the plot, but sometimes it left me wanting more or an acknowledgment of its strange nature within context. The characters just seemed to accept it without question which, without being given a reason for this acceptance, seemed strange to me.

Lastly, I am a little frustrated that I didn't realize this was a series. While the ending was not exactly a cliffhanger...it kind of was. It doesn't take away from the beauty of the story or writing, nor does it diminish my love for this book, but it does make me a little annoyed that I have to wait (probably a year) before I get book 2. *sigh*

I highly recommend this to lovers of YA Fantasy (or Fantasy in general). I think you'll find it enjoyable as well as intriguing.

*A final word*
I have heard some say that the plot is a loose retelling of the elements of Mulan into Japanese culture and, personally, I'm really enjoyed having that thought in the back of my mind because, loving the story of Mulan as I do, it made me think of that story with fondness and be able to appreciate the skill and ingenuity that Ahdieh wove her own tale. It's not exact to Mulan's story, but there are things that are similar in a good, creative way. That said, I think the Flame in the Mist is completely its own story and diverges in all the right ways.

A note to my clean readers: This book was relatively clean - there were a few cuss words and some kissing scenes as well. I'd probably rate it for ages 15+.

My rating: 5*
Purchase (comes out May 16, 2017): Flame in the Mist (book 1)

Book Description
(from Amazon)
The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.
Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and track down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she's within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she's appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she's ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.
_______________
I received this book for free from the publisher but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.