September 8, 2014

2014 Pre-Conference Mix and Mingle

In less than 3 weeks, I'll be attending the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference. This is seriously one of my favorite times of the year. I get to gather with other authors who have the same passion as I do -- to reach people with the love of Christ through fiction. Nothing better than that.

This will be my third year attending. Last year, a few of my favorite moments included:
Hanging with my beautiful author friends at the Gala, where I was a finalist for the Genesis awards.

Performing as the Tin (wo)Man in the My Book Therapy musical.

Goofing off. (I'll miss you this year, Jess!!!)
Of course, I also loved learning more about the industry from professionals who know what's up, and connecting with editors and agents.

One of my author friends, Laurie Tomlinson, has arranged a fun pre-conference mix and mingle via a mini-blog tour. I'm supposed to answer a few questions so others can get to know me before we meet up! So, here goes!

Name: Lindsay Harrel

Location: Phoenix, AZ

What you write: Contemporary fiction with romantic elements

Place in the book world: Pre-pubbed author represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Management. I'm working on my third manuscript and will be pitching my second at the conference!

On a scale of hugger to 10-foot-pole, please rate your personal space: Bring on the hugs!

The unique talking point that will get you going for hours: Um, writing? And dogs. And the upcoming birth of my first baby.

Loved ones at home you'll be missing: My husband and two golden retrievers

Conference goals we can pray for? That my pitch sessions will go well and I'll be encouraged by them.

Anything we can celebrate with you? I signed with my agent in November, so am excited to meet her and pitch with her name and efforts behind me. And the aforementioned upcoming birth of my first baby -- a boy!

One or two ways we can help you build your platform? Like my Facebook author page and follow me on Twitter! Sign up for my blog if you'd like as well!

Thanks, all! Can't wait to see you at ACFW.

July 21, 2014

Behind the Scenes of Captured by Love: What I Hope Readers Take Away From the Novel (Guest Post by Jody Hedlund)

By Jody Hedlund (@JodyHedlund)

Every inspirational fiction writer faces the challenges of weaving spiritual themes and messages into stories without coming across as sounding "preachy."

While I don't want my stories to come across as "preachy," I also don't want to neglect a spiritual message since I desire for God to touch lives through my stories. Finding that balance between preachy and heart-touching is always difficult.

During the planning stages of a novel, I always try to give my characters real spiritual struggles. In fact, I prayerfully consider those struggles, asking God to make clear what issues he wants me to tackle. Then I attempt to have my characters wrestle through those issues in meaningful ways that hopefully readers can relate to.

Often I intertwine the spiritual growth with their character arc growth (also known as the internal plot). The two are usually building upon each other, because in real life as we grow in spiritual awareness, we put ourselves in a place where God can change our character so that we become more trusting, less anxious, more forgiving, etc.

In Captured by Love, both of the main characters (Angelique and Pierre) have unique spiritual/character struggles.

The heroine, Angelique, struggles with the instability of her past. Since her father was a fur trapper and gone for long periods of the year, she desires the safety and steadiness of a permanent home on the island. Mackinac Island has become the bedrock of her life.

My hope is that readers, like Angelique, will learn that only God can be the steady foundation. Everything else in our lives is like sand. It shifts, blows away, and leaves us dry and empty. God longs for us to stand on Him, the Solid Rock, that never moves and never forsakes us no matter where we go or what we experience. If we plant our feet on Him, He'll see us through our most difficult days.

The hero, Pierre, struggles with living for himself and his own pleasures without thinking about the consequences to others. He's the prodigal son who's returned to his home after years of wild living. He claims to be a changed man, but quickly realizes that he has a long way to go. Little by little, he begins to understand what it means to sacrifice for those he loves -- until in the end he's willing to sacrifice the thing that matters the most.

My hope is that readers too will learn what it means to do the right thing no matter the personal cost. And I also pray that readers experiencing the hardship of prodigal children will draw encouragement to never stop praying like Miriam, Pierre's mother.

My own mother is a prayer warrior, like Miriam, and I dedicated the book to her, because I'm deeply grateful for all of her prayers over the years. Here's what I wrote:

"To my wonderful mother, Your solution to every problem has always been prayer and plenty of it. Thank you for praying without ceasing for me and for all your family. We couldn't ask for a greater gift."

What about you? Do you like books to contain a spiritual message? When does the message become "preachy" to you? And are there times when you thought the message was too skimpy?



Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling books, The Preacher's Bride, Unending Devotion, and A Noble Groom. She received a bachelor's degree from Taylor University and a master's from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. Connect with her on her website, Facebook page, Twitter, or email.









Lindsay here: See below for details on how to enter Jody's Captured by Love giveaway! I adored the book -- like all of Jody's writing -- and I know you will too! The giveaway ends at midnight on Saturday, July 26 and is only open to U.S. residents.

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May 26, 2014

Writing Blog Tour

Hey all. I can't believe it's Memorial Day already!! Craziness. The days have been flying by. I'm busy working and revising my book and...being pregnant. Yep. My energy is currently being zapped away by a tiny little entity inside of me!

Here's the fun announcement we posted on Facebook a few weeks ago:

These are our pups, Pascal and Chloe. We had to use treats to bribe them
to sit so still!
Anyway, today I'm participating in a writer blog hop. My friend (and also one of my awesome critique partners and fellow Arizonans!) Tari Faris invited me to participate. You can find out more about her and her writing at www.tarifaris.com.

For the blog hop, we're asked to answer a set of questions about our writing. So here. We. Go!

What am I working on?
I'm currently revising a book -- and am almost done! It's due to my awesome agent June 1, so I'm busy putting the finishing touches on now.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
My work is a mix of inspirational women's fiction and romance. Some women's fiction is very character driven. While mine definitely delves into the characters' lives, it also has a strong plot element to it. Plus, my poetry background means I LOVE METAPHORS! I take great pleasure in weaving in imagery and metaphors/analogies throughout my work. That's not necessarily unusual in my genre, but my unique voice helps my writing to stand out (or so I hope!).

Why do I write what I do?
I write a lot about mother/daughter relationships because I was close with my own mom before she passed away in 2004 -- and it brings me a lot of joy to write about reconciliation in relationships. I also write inspirational fiction, which means it has a faith element to it. I couldn't imagine NOT writing this type of fiction. Because my faith is so integral to who I am, it's also integral to my writing.

How does your writing process work?
I'm a planner in everything I do, so my writing is the same! I brainstorm and plot out my scenes, getting a really firm picture of who my characters are, what they struggle with, and what they need to learn in the course of the story. I give myself a little wiggle room to veer from my plot outline, but it's rare! I always brainstorm with at least one of my critique buddies -- if not more! Some of the best times of brainstorming have involved sitting around with three of my brainstorming friends (or hanging out via video chat to do the same) and brainstorming my stories with them. This is soooo helpful, especially if I'm stuck!

Once the book is written and I've taken it as far as I can, I exchange with my critique partners and take a few weeks off while I await their feedback!

---
Thanks for taking the time to read a little more about me and my writing! As part of this blog tour, I was supposed to ask three writers if they'd be willing to carry on the post next week. However, I'm feeling like a rebel, so I'd like to invite anyone reading this post to go ahead and answer these questions on your blog! If you do, be sure to let us know in the comments so we can come check out your post!

Your Turn: What's your favorite genre to read?

April 28, 2014

What I've Been Up To...

Hey all. Sorry I haven't been around the blog much lately. Life has been, shall I say, a bit CRAZY lately. A good crazy. Just crazy.

Here's what I've been up to...

With the help of some good friends, we threw my husband Mike a surprise party for his 30th birthday. We did a "leaving the roaring 20s" theme. People dressed up, and we had lots of food, drinks, and gambling. Fun was had by all. Here are a few pictures:
Fun decor for the party!
Mike, me, and our friends Rachel and Jon, who hosted the party.

 Also, Mike and I visited my grandparents in south Texas. It was a nice trip -- and relaxing!
My grandpa and I by the Rio Grande. Mexico is in the background.
In the world of writing, I sent my book draft off to a few critique partners. I'm racing toward a June 1 deadline to get the book to my agent. Here's hoping -- and praying -- it's almost ready to send into the hands of editors soon after that!

Your Turn: What have you been up to lately? I've missed you all!! 


April 7, 2014

Choosing Gratitude

A few weeks ago, I sang offertory at church. I had to pick a song, so I went through the list of songs in my repertoire.

When I came across Nichole Nordeman's "Gratitude," I started to cry.

Because we may make all sorts of plans for our lives -- but God might not have those plans for us.

And in those cases, we have a choice: to curse him or thank him for what results.

To curse him is easier. Way easier. We can kick and scream and ask why, why, why?

Or...we can make the harder choice. We can thank him for teaching us to trust him.

That doesn't mean we don't question or express our anguish or uncertainty. I think God always wants us to be honest with him.

But it does mean approaching him with humility, with open hands.

Listen to this powerful song and the lyrics -- and be challenged as I was challenged. To be thankful in all things.



Your Turn: What are you grateful for today? 

March 24, 2014

An Honest Post About Prayer

I'm going to get real here for a minute. Because I think too often as a Christian, I shove my struggles under a mat and pretend like I'm fine.

But no one ever said living the life of a believer would be easy. Jesus least of all.

So, I realized something about myself recently.

I'm not sure I believe in the power of prayer.

Yes, that sounds blasphemous. What I mean is...I know it's true. But I'm not sure I pray like it's true. I'm not sure in my heart of hearts that I really believe it makes a difference.

And that scares me.

I know there are all sorts of Bible verses and passages about how prayer changes lives, how when two or more are gathered, there the Lord is. I know He listens to our prayers, that it's good for us to pray so we communicate and build a relationship with Him.

I know all that in my head. And I pray, because I love talking to God.

But when it comes to praying for someone to be healed, or for someone's heart to change, or for there to be peace -- I hesitate.

I recently noticed this hesitation in myself and despised it. Because that's not what a Christian should feel, right? We should be offering to pray for others and praying that God would change us.

Here's the thing.

I ABSOLUTELY believe God has the POWER to change lives, to heal people, to ensure peace.

I'm just not sure how me asking for it makes a difference.

I know it does. The Bible says it does. So I believe it to be true (and that's not a blind faith...I've seen it happen).

But...I don't know. I still struggle. I think the root of that struggle is definitely the fact that I'm not naive about things. God will do what he sees is best, even if we don't understand it. He didn't heal my mom from cancer -- his answer to that prayer was no. Why? I don't know. I'm not God.

So it's hard for me to really ask God for something and expect him to change his mind. Because why should my asking for it switch his course of action?

I realize I'm opening myself up to criticism. Again, I'm NOT saying I don't think prayer matters. I know it does. But I still struggle with praying, because I'm still reconciling his purpose for prayer in my own life.

I know many times, the real purpose for prayer is to change us. To bring us closer to him. To remind us who is God and who is not.

I get that, and I keep praying because of it. It's only through communication with my God that I'll ever understand how all of this works anyway.

Your Turn: Have you ever struggled like I do? I'd love to hear a time in your life when you felt prayer made a difference! 

*photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

March 17, 2014

Friends Are the Best Medicine

I'm so incredibly blessed to have amazing friends. Truly. I don't deserve such blessing!

One of my best friends happens to be a writer I met online. Crazy, isn't it? Melissa Tagg and I became critique and craft partners nearly two years ago, even though we'd never met in person. She lives in Iowa. I live in Arizona.

But I truly believe God gave us to each other! She is one of the coolest girls I know, and I'm so blessed by not only her writing expertise but her friendship, accountability, and the truth she speaks into my life over and over again.

Melissa came out for a visit this last weekend -- and we had so much fun! We did a little brainstorming, but mostly, we spent time relaxing, taking walks/hikes, sitting around in the sunshine, playing with my dogs, watching Boy Meets World (best show ever!), meeting up with other writers, and having deep conversations about our faith and our writing.

It was an amazing weekend! We also both got revitalized and plan to hit our writing/revisions hard this week. We'd love your prayers as we head toward our deadlines.

Here are a few pictures from our awesome weekend!

Melissa and I (middle and right) got to meet up with Texas author Anne Mateer!
We also had a fun dinner with author Tari Faris to celebrate this last year's
writing accomplishments!
The amazing white chocolate brownie we ate after dinner. Yum!
I introduced Melissa to Grimaldi's pizza. Mmm. Interestingly, the former baseball
coach Tommy Lasorda sat at the table next to us! 
Being from Iowa, where it's cold right now, Melissa enjoyed sitting in the sun. A lot.  
My dogs hung out with us most of the weekend! So of course I had to post a cute picture
of Pascal. ;)
Your Turn: What did you do this weekend? Happy St. Patrick's Day!