September 28, 2012

My ACFW Experience


It’s really, really hard to put into words how it felt to attend my first big writers conference (American Christian Fiction Writers).

Suffice it to say…I felt like I’d finally come home.

And here’s some pictures to prove it. Notice my big cheesy grin in nearly all of them.

Thank you to everyone I met for making me feel so welcome! For those who couldn’t be there, we missed you! I hope I get to hang out with you next year at ACFW.

Muah! Happy Friday!

Me and Ruth Douthitt at the Phoenix airport EARLY in the morning

Me and Jessica Patch. I. Love. Her.

ACFW wouldn't be the same without crazy friends. And cookies.

Me before appointments. Didn't eat much!

Me and the amazing Keli Gwyn. She is the bestest!

Waiting for appointments with Casey Herringshaw and Melissa Tagg

It was awesome to meet fellow newbie Jeanne Takenaka

Donna Pyle has such a large heart and I'm blessed by it!

One of my roomies, Gabrielle Meyer, possibly one of the sweetest people ever!

The fabulous Beth Vogt. As amazing as I thought she'd be!

Me, author Katie Ganshert, Ashley Clark, and Gabrielle Meyer. I'm not showing the next picture in this sequence. Hehe.

Me and Susan Meissner at the gala. She's one of my favorite authors!

Ashley's grin kept me going several times during the conference.

One of the best things ever: meeting my CP, Melissa Tagg, soon-to-be-published Bethany House author!

Jill Kemerer makes me laugh, and encourages me so much.

Me and the Alley Cats. I'm trying to be cute, but my butt just looks huge!
 
Your Turn: Have you ever been somewhere new that immediately felt like home?

September 26, 2012

Secret #16: My Entertainment Addiction: Guest Post by Jody Hedlund (Plus a Giveaway)

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

I honestly don't have much time to watch TV. And even if I did, we don't have cable. With the big cumbersome antenna my husband rigged up on top of our roof, we get a few basic channels. So that helps in keeping the temptation to overdose on entertainment at bay.
Nevertheless, I admit, I do have one television show that I watch regularly, without fail. I don't know that I'd go as far to call it my entertainment addiction. But in the ten plus years that the show has been airing, I've maybe missed a handful of episodes. Maybe.

And what show is it that has the ability to hold my attention year after year?

Survivor.

Yes, I'm a Survivor fan.

Actually, my husband and I are fans together. The show is our once a week date-night. He stops on his way home from work at 9:00 pm and picks up a big burrito from Qdoba. Then when he gets home, we split the burrito, sit down in our reclining loveseat, and watch our show together. We do it every week, and during the summers or betweens seasons, we miss that special fun time.

We've tried watching other shows together, like Downtown Abbey. But there's just something about Survivor that has kept us returning to the show.

Of course, neither of us would EVER want to actually go out into the wilderness and participate in the game of Survivor. We're both too wimpy for that. I could never eat some of the food that they have. I'd likely be one of the first voted off. Or I'd get injured. Or I'd be complaining the whole time about being hungry, wet, and tired.

I'd much rather "participate" in the show from the temperature-controlled comfort of my couch.

I suppose it's my competitive nature that keeps me coming back to the show week after week, season after season.  It's always interesting to see who will survive the challenges and what lengths people will go to in order to win a million dollars.

Of course, I don't always agree with the tactics people use during the course of the game.

But the show has been an eye-opening study on human nature of both the strengths and weaknesses that people exhibit under intense pressure.

What about you? What's your favorite TV show? Any other Survivor fans out there?

Publisher's Weekly calls Unending Devotion "A meaty tale of life amid the debauchery of the lumber camps of 1880s Michigan . . . exciting and unpredictable to the very end."

To celebrate the release of Unending Devotion, Jody is giving away a signed copy. Leave a comment (along with your email address) to enter the drawing. Valid only with US or Canadian addresses. Giveaway ends Sunday, September 30, at noon (PST).

For more secrets about Jody and additional chances to win her newest release, visit her Events Page to see where she'll be next in her "Fun Secrets About Author Jody Hedlund" blog tour.

Also join in the Pinterest Photo Contest she's hosting. Find more information about it on her Contest Page.

Jody would love to connect with you! Find her in one of these places:
Website: http://jodyhedlund.com/
Facebook: Author Jody Hedlund
Twitter: http://twitter.com/JodyHedlund
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jodyhedlund/

September 24, 2012

Bless the Lord Reason #2: He Challenges Me

Okay, today I want us all to think back to childhood.

Now, whether you were a naughty child or not, you surely did SOMETHING you didn’t want your parents knowing about.

And even if what you were doing wasn’t wrong per se, surely there were times in your life when you weren’t doing something to the best of your ability.

You weren’t getting the best grades you could, because you’d figured out you could slack off and still pass. And that was alright with you.

You weren’t being the nicest friend or sibling you could be. Sure, sometimes you’d share, but maybe not all the time.

You didn’t eat all your vegetables, and whined enough times that your parents let you off the hook (this was NOT me, folks).

Whatever it was, none of us wanted our parents to call us out on it, right?

We wanted to keep going at status quo, to keep skating by in school merely because we didn’t care enough to do better.

To keep being somewhat selfish because, well, our friends weren’t ditching us or anything, so they must have accepted our behavior as normal.

To keep refusing vegetables because we didn’t care if we grew up strong like Spiderman (please tell me someone remembers that line in the Tobey Maguire version!).  

We were just fine with the strength we had, thank you very much.

Maybe some of your parents did call you out.

Okay, so here’s where I bring this around to God.

Because here I’ve been going in life, going, going, going, knowing I needed to change. Frankly, I need to spend more time with him. Sometimes, I forget. Other times, I don’t have time—or so I tell myself.

And all the time, lately at least, my quiet times haven’t really been filled with refreshment, study, meditation, reflection, and prayer.

They’ve been selfish. Me-centered. Me coming to God and asking Him to give me this or that, or bless me in this way or that way.

I’m ashamed, really.

But God doesn’t just let me keep going in the status quo.

Basically, God calls me on my crap.

Gently, of course. But He still calls me out. Not because He’s mean. Not because He wants to be a dictator.

Because He loves me.

He doesn’t want me forever staying the same. He wants me to grow. Be better.

And it’s not like this all just came out of the blue either. He kept nudging me, a little bit at a time, until my heart was ready to hear the truth.

I love that my God doesn’t let me stay in the status quo.

I love that He challenges me.

It flips my world on its head sometimes, but my world is better for it.

Your Turn: When has God challenged you?

*I just returned yesterday from an amazing week at a big writers conference! I’ll be posting pictures on Friday. Wednesday, come back for a blog post by author Jody Hedlund and a chance to win her new novel.

**Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

September 17, 2012

Winner, Blogging Break, & a Friend’s Site

Hey all!

First, I wanted to announce the winner of Joanne Bischof's debut novel. Thanks to everyone for entering.

The winner is …

Veronica!

Veronica, I’ll email you today to get your address and will pass that along to Joanne.

In other news, this week I’m headed to the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference in Dallas. I’m so excited. If you’d like to pray for me, I’ll gladly accept any prayers!

Specifically, please pray that I would stay focused on learning and making friends with others. Please pray that I’d have a chance to minister to and encourage others. And please pray that I don’t jump ahead of God with my expectations.

All of that to say, I’m taking the rest of the week off from blogging. I’ll be back next Monday with my next post in my Bless the Lord series.

But since I won’t be here, I’d love for you to stop by my friend Jennifer Hale’s website. She’ll be doing a ton of giveaways this week, so you won’t want to miss it!

I’ll miss you all! Have a great week yourself.

Your Turn: Since I’m asking you to pray for me, I’d love to return the favor and lift you up before the Lord. How can I pray for you this week?

September 14, 2012

Fun Friday: Dreams

A dream is a wish your heart makes…when you’re fast asleep…

Let me tell ya—Cinderella knew what she was talking about!

And thankfully, some dreams do come true.

For the last year, I’ve been dreaming about what’s going to happen next week, when I set foot in Dallas at my first major writing conference (American Christian Fiction Writers).

I’ve dreamed of all the hugs I’ll share with people I’ve met online but not yet in person, of all the awesome new friends I’ll make, and of the internal tears I’ll surely shed when I feel surrounded by people with a common gift and a common goal.

I know that I’m blessed. Not everyone will get to be there this year. I don’t know why I get to go, but I’m so incredibly exciting to see what God has in store.

And for you friends who I won’t get to meet, I’ll be praying for you, that God will allow a dream of yours to come true this year!

Your Turn: What wish is your heart making this year?

September 12, 2012

Getting to Know Author Joanne Bischof (and a Giveaway)

Today I’m so excited to have my writing buddy Joanne Bischof here. She’s one of the sweetest fellow writers I’ve met—always so encouraging—and, as it turns out, we have a lot in common. We both live in the western part of the country, we both are happily married, we both loved to read The Babysitters Club books when we were kids, and—wait for it—we’re both 1984ers. Yes, we coined that term.

Joanne inspires me with all of her accomplishments. I loved her debut novel, Be Still My Soul, and I know you will too.

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Married to her first sweetheart, Joanne lives in the mountains of Southern California where she keeps busy making messes with their home schooled children. When she's not weaving Appalachian romance, she's blogging about faith, writing, and the adventures of country living that bring her stories to life.

Connect with her via her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
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Because Joanne totally rocks, she’s agreed to hang out here today and answer a few questions. Not only that, but she’ll be offering an advanced copy of her book (which doesn’t release until October 2) to one random commenter. See below for details.

Tell me about the first story you ever wrote, no matter how old you were! How old were you, what was it about, and what was your inspiration for it?

I was in third grade and the story was called The Brave Coyote. The teacher that year loved all things Native American. So I sat at the Hopi table (as opposed to the yellow or blue table) and loved it all. I became fascinated by history and the people who came before us, which led me to write that story.

Since that first story, how has your writing journey unfolded? Tell us about the lowest low and the highest high along the way.

Oh, the lowest low. A lot of the writing journey is waiting, disappointment, and wondering if this is ever meant to be, but I suppose of all that, my lowest low was realizing that I was so worried about it, I wasn’t listening to God and what His plan was. The doing was all mine. Coming back to a place of finding joy in the journey and learning God’s lessons along the way brought me back to that place of rest—regardless of the outcome.

The highest high was probably when I was talking representation with my agent. She already had a publisher in mind to pitch to who might be interested in my story, which is a bit off-center. That publisher just happened to be WaterBrook Multnomah. It was such a surreal moment of everything coming together at once, I could hardly believe it! They’re a division of Random House, so suddenly getting emails from people straight from Random House was one of those pinch-me-this-can’t-be-happening moments! I’m pretty sure I started jumping up and down. Being rather pregnant, this was more like a hop/shuffle, lol.

Music plays a fun role in Be Still My Soul, and I remember you play an instrument…I just can’t remember which one! What do you play and how did you come to learn it? Do you ever perform publicly?

My dad is a musician and we grew up listening to folksy music from bluegrass to hymns to jazz. I play the mandolin and for a while, took bluegrass lessons from a local man up here on our mountain. I played mostly at church on our worship team, which was wonderful. It’s sort of fun to get that bluegrassy bit into worship. The folks at church seemed to really enjoy it, which made it all the more fun.

What was the first piece of your story that was solid in your mind before you started writing it?

Oooh, this is a great question! Right off, it was Lonnie. I saw her in my head, sitting in a rocking chair beside a window, wondering if she would always be unloved. I knew her heart was turned toward a man who did not love her back. That scene and her emotion—her yearning—stuck with me and I knew there was a story there that I had to write. Ultimately, a love story.

And what an awesome story it is. I’ve often heard it said that, as writers, we add pieces of ourselves or people we know into our stories. So I’m curious: In what ways, if any, does your main character Lonnie resemble you?

Many ways. Lonnie’s father is an alcoholic and while I am blessed that my own is not, it wasn’t always that way. Alcoholism is very strong in my family and my dad was among them until I was six months old. He gave it up, wanting more for his baby girls and has never looked back. Not one drop. I have so much gratitude and admiration for him. The life it’s given me. I’ve channeled a lot of that into Gideon’s story. It’s a victory when Gideon makes that same choice for the ones he loves. A choice of triumph that will continue through the Cadence of Grace series.

I love getting to know you better. Other than faith, family/friends, and writing, what three things are you most passionate about?

I’m passionate about chocolate!  And I must confess, I’m nibbling on some right now. I also love gardening. Sowing seeds, planting flowers, I love it all. Lastly, Redemption, I know that’s sort of related to faith. But it’s at the tip top of my list. My husband was saved just over a year ago. Saved from darkness into the light and neither of us have stopped smiling since. In fact, our smiles just keep getting bigger as we grow closer to the Lord together.

That’s unbelievably awesome, Joanne! Do you have a question you’d like to ask my readers?

Fun! You know, I so enjoyed your last question that I’d love to pass it along to readers. What three things are they passionate about?

*Giveaway Details: One random commenter will be chosen to receive a free advanced copy of Joanne’s book. Please leave an answer to the question above and your email address in the comments. Extra entries for tweeting and posting to Facebook (just let me know you did so!). Only U.S. residents are eligible for the giveaway. Giveaway open until Sunday at 5 p.m. (PST).

Gideon only ever cared about himself. Now that Lonnie is his wife, will he ever be worthy of her heart?

Publishers Weekly heralds Be Still My Soul “A gem…”

Pretty Lonnie Sawyer is shy and innocent, used to fading into the background within her family, and among the creeks and hollows of the Appalachian hills. Though her family is poor and her father abusive, she clings to a quiet faith.  But when handsome ladies’ man and bluegrass musician Gideon O’Riley steals a kiss, that one action seals her fate.

Her father forces her into a hasty marriage with Gideon—a man she barely knows and does not love. Equally frustrated and confused by his new responsibilities, Gideon yearns for a fresh start, forcing Lonnie on an arduous journey away from her home in Rocky Knob.

Her distant groom can’t seem to surrender his rage at the injustice of the forced matrimony or give Lonnie any claim in his life.  What will it take for Gideon to give up his past, embrace Lonnie’s God, and discover a hope that can heal their two fractured hearts?

September 10, 2012

Bless the Lord Reason #1: For His Patience

I’ll be the first to admit it—I’m a naturally curious person.

A question asker.

It’s one reason I went into journalism. It’s one reason I became a writer. I want to know all I can and figure out WHY certain things happen.

But sometimes, I can’t figure it out.

Sometimes, I’m probably like a pesky four-year-old, asking WHY? over and over, to no avail.

The cool thing about God?

He’s okay with that.

Eight years ago today, something very difficult happened in my life. I lost my mother when I was nineteen. She’d battled for a long time with cancer, and finally, went home to be with the Lord.

Of course, I was devastated.

Of course, I was angry.

But more than anything else, the main thing I felt was this…deep sense of injustice. I wanted to know WHY.

So I asked God. Over and over again, I asked Him.

Why did she die, when other cancer victims survived? Was she any less worthy? Were WE? Did she do something wrong?

Wouldn’t more people have been saved and affected if He’d allowed her to live at the last moment? If she’d made a miraculous recovery, wouldn’t that have been better?

What purpose was there in her death? Couldn’t God have found another way to draw me to Him?

Was THAT His purpose? If it was, that didn’t make me want to draw close to Him. It felt like He wanted me to run to Him so He could comfort me…but He was the only one who could make her better and…He wasn’t.

Why? Why? Why?

I still don’t necessarily know the answers to the majority of my questions. But I do know this, without a doubt.

God NEVER got tired of me asking them.

He was patient with me, even in my tears, and my anger, and my heartache. I said some not-very-nice things to Him. I raged, asked the same questions over and over. I doubted. I wavered.

If He’d been standing next to me, I probably would have been pounding my fists against His chest, alternately crying into His bosom and screaming at Him, fingers pointed.

But He was God enough to handle my questions, my anger, my heartache.

And through it all, He still loved me, patiently.

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15)

Your Turn: When was God patient with you?

*Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

September 7, 2012

Bless the Lord: New Series


Your Turn: What reasons do you have to bless the Lord?

*Note: The name of the song is actually 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord). Oops.

September 5, 2012

Little by Little: Staying the Course


First, I wanted to take a moment to announce the winner of the giveaway for Lisa Jordan’s new book, Lakeside Family. The winner is

Loree Huebner!

Loree, I’ll email you to ask where you’d like the book sent.

***

“I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition. I'm not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27, The Message)

As most of you know, I’m a writer.

I love making words come alive on a page. I love creating characters and, yes, hearing their voices in my head. I even—gasp!—love editing. But I AM an editor in my day job, so that shouldn’t be THAT shocking.

And yet, despite my love of writing, I often find myself with a whole day, whole week, maybe weeks gone by without adding to my WIP (work in progress).

Why?

Because there’s simply no time. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

Because I can somehow find time for other things, can’t I? Like watch The Bachelor (I know, I know). Or read (hey, it’s called market research…ahem). Or Facebook (yes, it’s totally a verb). Or just sit here staring off into space.

But I’m tired, or I’m out of ideas, or I’m this or I’m that. There always seems to be SOME excuse standing between me and my writing, isn’t there?

Between me and my dream.

It’s so easy to say, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Or even “I’ll double my efforts tomorrow to make up for slacking off yesterday.”

But the thing is, as we all know, dreams are not achieved overnight. They’re not. No, dreams and goal achievement are the direct result of continued, disciplined practice.

We cannot write a novel overnight or even in a week. Instead, we write a novel in 1,000-word chunks, or 3,000-word chunks, or maybe even 100-word chunks.

The point is, anything worth achieving takes time, focused energy, and a plan.

Let’s compare it to running a race.

I’m comparing it to this because I signed up to run a 5K at the end of September.

I am a writer. A runner? Not. So. Much.

But I have a goal of losing weight. Thus, the 5K.

I’ve only run one race before and I trained for like five months. I was surprised how much I loved the results. I was thinner and I accomplished something I never thought I could do.

But I didn’t just wake up one morning and say, “Hmm, think I’ll run a 5K today.”

While some may be blessed in this area, that sure ain’t me. (Can I get an amen?!)

And since I haven’t run in awhile (um, since that last race), I have to train again. This time, my training window is a lot shorter.

So I have to get up early to run. I have to run even though my side aches. Even though I’d pretty much rather be doing ANYTHING else at 5:30 in the morning…or anytime, for that matter.

But I’m doing it—little by little—and I see my progress. It’s not much, and someone else might not notice it right away. But it’s there.

Just like with writing. One thousand words does not a novel make—but enough 1,000-word scenes, over time, WILL make a novel.

So, friend, stick with it! Whether you’re writing a novel too, or running a race, or working your way toward a degree, or potty training your kids…whatever you’re doing, just do what you can today.

Make yourself face what’s difficult…today!

And realize that today DOES matter.

Your Turn: What goal are you working toward, and how are you planning to get there?

*I’m guest posting today at Jessica Patch’s blog. Come say hi!

**Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net