Yesterday was such a fun day at The Mustard Seed with Marianne Evans as a guest. I so enjoyed the chat with everyone. Thanks so much for stopping by. I just finished reading Marianne's book, Hearts Communion and wanted to share my review with you.

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My Book Review of Hearts Communion, by Marianne Evans

Publisher:  White Rose Publishing
Length: 53,840 words
Category: Contemporary Drama
Rating: Sweet
Purchase Link: Purchase Link for Hearts Communion

The one thing Jeremy Edwards dreams of is getting married and having a family of his own. He has strong ties to his own close-knit family.

Monica Kittelski runs a daycare and pours her heart out every day into the lives of other people’s children. She wonders if one day she will have children of her own to love and care for.

Jeremy and Monica meet and their attraction is intense, but once Jeremy learns of Monica’s infertility, can they overcome that unthinkable hurdle and find love despite their situation?


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My review:

Hearts Communion is the third book in the Woodland Series by Marianne Evans. I did not read the first two books in this series, but after reading Book three, I have added Book one and Book two to my TBR list. This first thing about Ms. Evans’ writing that caught my attention is the depth to her story telling ability. Once I started reading, I did not want to put the book down. The characters were captivating and I related so well to Monica’s story. Ms. Evan’s depiction of this struggle with infertility and the raw emotions involved were so true to life. She did not miss the mark on this one.

The second thing that kept me reading was the fiery chemistry between Jeremy and Monica. Their romance sizzled, but seemed grounded in reality as well. It tested the boundaries of true love and the possibilities of following the leading of your heart regardless of heart-wrenching circumstances. I love inspirational stories that show characters’ struggles with real life issues and how they connect with God and learn to trust in His plan for their lives. Ms. Evan’s depiction of that faith journey did not disappoint.

Hearts Communion is a novel of outstanding fiction. I highly recommend this book and I look forward to reading the rest of Ms. Evan’s Woodland Series and her future books.

My Rating (Hearts Communion): 5 Stars—Outstanding Fiction

5 Stars--Outstanding Fiction: Rivals my love affair with the classics of Jane Austen
4 Stars--Top Notch Fiction: Highly recommend you read this book and watch this author
3 Stars--Ordinary Fiction: Not earth shattering revelation of greatness, but worth reading
2 Stars--Disappointing Fiction: Hoped for more and you won’t find this book fulfilling
1 Star--Not-so-good Fiction: Difficult to keep reading; you won’t want to read it either

(Disclaimer: I reserve the right not to post reviews with a rating below 3 Stars)

A gratis copy of this book was sent to this reviewer by the author / or publisher in exchange for an impartial evaluation.


 
 
Marianne Evans is a guest at The Mustard Seed today. I'm excited to feature all three of her books in The Woodland Series and tomorrow I will be posting my review of her recently released, book 3, Hearts Communion. Stay tuned...

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Let's meet Marianne...

Marianne Evans is a multi-published author of contemporary romance novels.  Her professional career began when Kensington Publishing purchased her book, Friends & Lovers.  Her second novel, Right Hand Man, followed shortly thereafter.  Her third release from Kensington, Hannah’s Heart, won critical acclaim from reviewers and in the local media.  Her fourth book is her inspirational romance debut at White Rose Publishing – an award winning novel entitled Hearts Crossing.  Hearts Crossing led to the creation of a four-book Christian romance series: The Woodland Series. Book 2, Hearts Surrender, released in late 2010 with Books 3 and 4 – Hearts Communion and Hearts Key, released in 2011. Her final secular romance, With This Kiss, was released in late 2010 by The Wild Rose Press.

A lifelong resident of Michigan, Marianne is an active member of Romance Writers of America.  She’s a long-time member of Greater Detroit RWA where she served the chapter in a number of capacities, but most notably for two terms as Chapter Treasurer and two terms as Chapter President.  She also belongs to the Faith Hope and Love chapter of RWA, American Christian Fiction Writers and the Michigan Literary Network.

Marianne loves connecting with readers, so please touch base with her at:

Marianne's Website
Marianne's Blog
Facebook Page

Let's take a look at The Woodland Series.


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Collin Edwards, a former parishioner at Woodland Church of Christ, has renounced God without apology, his faith drained away in the face of a tragic loss.

Daveny Montgomery cares deeply about her relationship with God and the community of Woodland.  But lately she's been in a rut, longing for something to reignite her spiritual enthusiasm.

A beautification project at Woodland seems the answer for them both.  Daveny spearheads the effort and Collin assists—but only with the renovations, and only because he wants to know Daveny better.

Despite his deepening feelings for her, even stepping into the common areas of the church stirs tension and anger.

Can Daveny trust in Collin’s fledgling return to faith?  And can Collin ever accept the fact that while he turned his back on God, God never turned his back on him?

Purchase Link for Hearts Crossing


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Kiara Jordan is a sophisticated modernista, but beneath an engaging personality and super-model looks, her heart hungers, and she longs for deeper meaning in her life.

Ken Lucerne is the charismatic young pastor of Woodland Church; he's adjusting to life as a widower and copes by keeping as busy as possible with his parish and missionary work.

A home-building mission in Pennsylvania brings them together, and forces them to look hard and deep at the relationship they share, and where God means for it to go. Already bound by mutual respect and caring, love dawns, a love that takes them to a life-point neither would have expected.

After all, can a chic, vivacious woman find fulfillment within the quiet, mission-centered life of a clergyman?  Can they trust God's hand strongly enough to surrender their hearts to one another...forever?

Purchase Link for Hearts Surrender


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Jeremy "JB" Edwards dreams of one thing: Having a loving wife and children of his own. Not a surprising ambition, since he was raised at the heart of a large, tight-knit family.

Monica Kittelski spends her days at Sunny Horizons Daycare Center pouring her heart and faith into other people's children. But Monica harbors one impossible dream: Having children of her own someday.

JB and Monica seem the perfect match, but what will come of their electric, sassy relationship when Jeremy learns of Monica's infertility? Hopes and reality collide when they must confront the idea of finding God's plan and following His will when a dearest hope is destined to remain unfulfilled.

Can these two loving, passionate hearts survive a communion of dreams and reality?

Purchase Link for Hearts Communion

Don't forget, I'll be posting my review of Hearts Communion, tomorrow on my blog.


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Ok, now for the fun part. Let's get to know Marianne. 

Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?

Hmm… to be honest, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a writer.  Even back in middle-school I wrote stories and gave them to friends to read.  They seemed to enjoy them, so writing quickly eclipsed the rest of my actual school work!  LOL!

That's neat...I can relate to that. What was the inspiration for your latest work of fiction? 

The Woodland Series, which is my current offering from White Rose Publishing, was born from an instant when I watched people coming forward for communion at church.  As they approached the altar, I began to consider the fact that they each had stories to share, lives that included successes, failures, joys and pains, love and loss. From there, the idea dawned of centering a series of books around a church home and exploring the lives and loves of the people who worship there.  I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see this series – my first ever – come to life in such a beautiful way!

What an awesome place to be inspired for a series. Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Imagination.  I might draw on the circumstances I observe, or I might ‘combine’ the traits of a number of people I know into the aspects of a character, but my characters generally come to life on their own and start knocking on my door until their story is told!

Where do you go to do your research?

Whenever possible, I really enjoy the process of diving into the settings/times of my stories.  I’ll give you a case in point.  I’m just finishing up Hearts Key, which is Book 4 of The Woodland Series.  The bulk of this story takes place in Nashville, Tennessee.  I had never been to Nashville, and while the Internet is a wonderful tool, it doesn’t ‘put’ you into a setting.  So, my DH and I took a road trip to Tennessee and stayed at a beautiful bed and breakfast in Franklin.  It was, honestly, like stepping into the home and life of Tyler Brock, who is the hero of Hearts Key.  We toured Nashville, we researched parks and waterfalls and paid them a visit, because that was something I wanted my characters to do – and we discovered there’s nothing like first-hand research to make a story come to life. I loved it!!

First hand research experience is the best and the most fun! Are you currently working on any new book projects?

For the time being, Hearts Key will conclude The Woodland Series (I’m hedging here because I think there’s one more story to be told – the exploration of a Christian marriage that rides through rocky times and a couple who need to re-find their loving commitment and the joyful spark of when they first fell in love…) but after Hearts Key is turned in to my editor, I’m going to be exploring the idea of materialism, goal-seeking and professional success versus peace of soul and joy of heart. The story is called Homeport, and it’s set in one of my favorite places on earth – Northern Michigan.  I can’t wait to share it with everyone!!

Who is your favorite contemporary author?  Are you currently reading any contemporary novels?

There isn’t even a contest.  Karen Kingsbury.  Karen is so skilled it blows my mind.  I want to be her when I grow up!  LOL!  She brings faith, love and the overcoming of tribulations into beautiful focus and is an anointed story teller without being overly preachy.  Her stories are tender, emotional, uplifting and top rate.  I have yet to read a “klunker.”

I'm a big fan of hers too. Love everything she writes. For me as a reader and an author, she's such an inspiration. What’s your writing schedule like?  When do you find time to write?

I write whenever (and I do mean WHENEVER!) I get a spare chance.  I can read and write in the car, so long road trips thrill me because there’s nothing to interrupt or bother me, I can chat with the DH as he drives and work on my current project.  I work full time, so after work, I discipline myself to spend at least an hour or so on my writing.  It’s my treat to myself, and I love every second of it – except when the words don’t flow, of course! LOL!

How did you find your publisher?  What was your journey to publication like?

After a long, horrible exercise in coming so close to a sale I could taste it, my agent kept fighting for me and broke me in at Kensington Publishing.  With them I published three books.  From there, real life took over for a number of years, and my writing took a back seat.  Once my muse reemerged, I followed a dream I had always held of writing a Christian inspirational romance.  It was then that I heard about White Rose Publishing and the “Hearts Crossing” contest.  The challenge?  Write a 25,000 word novella and the best entry would be published.  I ended up winning!  What a thrill!!!  Here was my gamble, though.  As I waited to hear the results of the contest, my series idea really took form!  Secondary characters from Hearts Crossing came to life and their story literally flew from my fingertips.  After earning publication, I told my editor I had a sequel, and she not only purchased it, she asked for the remaining two as well.  From there, I am writing for White Rose on a ‘query/first few chapter’ basis of submission, so I’ve grown within their ranks, and I can’t tell you how fantastic this publisher is.  They care about their authors, and the quality of their offerings are outstanding. They’re growing by leaps and bounds, so check them out – you won’t be disappointed!

That's wonderful...so happy for you and your success. How have your friends and family received your career as an author?  Are they supportive?

In this particular area, I can only say I am abundantly blessed.  Honestly.  My entire family – from the DH and kids to the extended family near and far, get as excited as I do about new releases, new contracts, new book covers…etc., etc.  I can’t imagine taking this sometimes wacky journey as a writer without their support, because it is VITAL – and I’m so deeply grateful!

That's awesome. Support is so important. Marianne, thanks again for guesting today. I enjoyed chatting with you and featuring The Woodland Series. I look forward to posting my review of Hearts Communion tomorrow. 

Hope everyone can stay and chat with Marianne. 

 
 
*Guest post by Michelle Massaro
Congratulations, Lisa T. Bergren, author of Waterfall! Lisa's winning excerpt was discovered by COTT's new Talent Scout, Katie McCurdy. You can read Katie's review here. This YA title is being highly-praised by adults and is only the second YA title to win at Clash Of The Titles. Visit Lisa's site to learn more about her.
About the book: Gabriella has never spent a summer in Italy like this one. Remaining means giving up all she’s known and loved… and leaving means forfeiting what she’s come to know…and love itself.
Most American teenagers want a vacation in Italy, but the Bentarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives with their parents, famed Etruscan scholars, among the romantic hills. Stuck among the rubble of medieval castles in rural Tuscany on yet another hot, dusty archaeological site, Gabi and Lia are bored out of their minds… until Gabi places her hand atop a handprint in an ancient tomb and finds herself in fourteenth-century Italy. And worse yet, in the middle of a fierce battle between knights of two opposing forces.
And thus does she come to be rescued by the knight-prince Marcello Falassi, who takes her back to his father’s castle—a castle Gabi has seen in ruins in another life. Suddenly Gabi’s summer in Italy is much, much more interesting. But what do you do when your knight in shining armor lives, literally, in a different world? Sounds amazing, doesn't it? No wonder it won! If you're ready to read it, head to Amazon now. You can read Lisa's COTT interview here or check out her excerpt here. Lisa, welcome to the COTT Hall of Fame. We're very happy to have you join us! Readers, do you hunger for a well-written convo--one dripping with sarcasm or perhaps laced with unspoken meaning? Maybe you like a quick wit or a character whose comments make you LOL. Wish you could influence the dialogue of the fictional characters you read? This week COTT is hosting a showdown for the Snappiest Dialogue. Hurry on over and let our authors know what you like, and what you long to see, in the spoken interaction between characters. See you there! * Michelle Massaro is the Assistant Editor for COTT and has a passion for evangelizing through fiction. She writes contemporary inspirational novels with heart-rending themes intended to frame the message of God’s healing love. Michelle has written for Romantic Times, Circle Of Friends, and Pentalk Community, among others. Find her on twitter @MLMassaro, Facebook, or her blog, Adventures in Writing, and join the fun.
 
 
Author, Chuy Ramirez is a guest today that I'm interviewing here at The Mustard Seed. Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope you stick around for a while to visit with Chuy. 

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Let's meet Chuy...

Chuy Ramirez is an attorney who practices law in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas and is a partner in the firm Ramirez & Guerrero, LLP.  He grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and is no stranger to the strawberry fields, to which he traveled over the years with his family and thousands of families from South Texas.  Ramirez attended Pan American University at Edinburg, Texas and is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law.  At the law school, he served as Articles Editor for the International Law Journal and published a note entitled, “Altering the Policy of Neglect of Undocumented Immigration from South of the Border, Vol. 18 in 1983.  Strawberry Fields is his first fictional work. Ramirez lives in Texas with his wife of 39 years Aida, who is a retired public school teacher. He has two children and five grandchildren. 

For more information: Chuy's site

Chuy, please describe the genre of this particular title, and is the only genre you write in?  

Strawberry Fields is a novel told in stories & vignettes.  I am an attorney so most of what I write is legal essays and articles.  I published a legal article on immigration reform in 1983.  I am currently finishing two longer stories and working on a second novel.

When did you start writing toward publication?  

With fiction, about 10 years ago.  As a college student I wrote for the newspaper. And in law school, more than 30 years ago, I wrote and published a legal article on immigration.

Did you have several manuscripts finished before you sold? If so, did you send them out yourself?

No.  Unlike writers who have sold their manuscripts, my book is closer in concept to the self-published writer.  We looked around for small publishers and saw the printing quality, very limited units on first edition, and virtually no distribution.  We decided to create a publishing company and use my manuscript as the guinea pig.

That's great to take hold of your dream and run with it. Why have you become a published author?    

At this point, I have the unfair advantage of owning the publisher.  Whether a larger, successful publisher will be interested in my work remains to be seen.

Do you have any rejection stories to share?

No.

What is your writing routine like?

I prefer small quiet areas such as my law office on weekends, or picking a room at home or during traveling longer distance away from home. My writing is very slow.  Many, many drafts and rewrites.  My best work comes off of a computer once I have a third or fourth draft.  I return to the beginning often and redraft.

What sort of promo do you do? Do you have help?

-A lot of internet messages, e-mail, blogs, twitter, networking sites, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Facebook, newspaper releases, libraries, museums, writer’s groups, book festivals, other Hispanic organizations, book stores, reading clubs.

Having achieved your goal to be a published author, what is the most rewarding thing?    

A good review by a sincere, published author is for me the most rewarding. They know the difficulty of writing and know when you are at your best.

I agree...that is very rewarding for an author. Are you a member of any writing organizations and, if so, have they helped?

No.  But I need to join up.  I can use the independent review of my work.

Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract? 

Read, read, read.  Save your manuscripts regardless of how crappy you feel.  There are usually gems you will find later in your work.  Often times, a short story published here and there will give you some credibility.

Great advice. Thanks for sharing that. What’s next for you?

Keep reading and reading. Continue to learn to write.


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Can you share with us about your book, Strawberry Fields, which I understand is a collection of short stories. 

A successful, middle-aged attorney, Mexican American, whose practice is tax work (drudgery) gets a nostalgic urge to revisit an area of Michigan that he visited as an adolescent migrant farm worker. The setting is approximately the year 2000.  

His initial recollections are of an innocent and jovial time.  He recalls the strawberry fields fondly, not for their back-breaking labor conditions.  As he begins his physical journey, his memory becomes more focused.  His search for the unresolved source and resolution of a conflict with his father begins to take center stage in his nostalgic remembrance.  Then, a violent scene of a young blonde woman keeps recurring in his nighttime and day time dreams.  At some point, the protagonist realizes that a murder must have taken place and that he was at least a witness or perhaps a participant.  He wonders whether the memory of that event is at least one of the things drawing him back to Michigan.

When he arrives in Michigan, his nostalgia is converted to a painful reality of what life in the strawberry fields was really like.  The daily life of the strawberry picker is illustrated in much original detail through numerous vignettes and stories that can also be read and enjoyed independently of the novel. The stories include light-hearted, comical, and tongue-in-cheek reflections by the author, who was himself a migrant farm worker during the middle 1960s.

In the longest three chapters at the end of the novel, the protagonist resolves each of the conflicts: (1) father-son, (2) the lingering memory of a murder, and (3) his own relationship to the people of the strawberry fields.

What people are saying about Strawberry Fields:

■-Strawberry Fields is a reflective reminiscence of Chicano life, providing a glimpse into Mexican-American—and Mexican—migrants interacting at home, in the fields, and along the roads that link them, Dr. John Hart, Boston University of Theology

■-The author’s language in these final scenes and throughout the most critical scenes is poignantly vivid and sometimes heart-rending. Ramirez is deft with his descriptiveness, Dr. Thelma T. Reyna, author of The Heaven Weeps For Us

Where can readers find your book? Do you have a book trailer and how can readers connect with you online? 

Readers can go to the publisher's homepage: First Texas Publishers or Amazon   Barnes and Noble

Book Trailer

FacebookBlog or e-mail author at firsttexaspublishers@gmail.com

If you'd like to read an excerpt, click the "Read More" link below. Chuy, thank you so much for being a guest today. I enjoyed chatting with you. 



 
 
Glad it's Friday...time for another Reader's Corner Interview. Hope you're enjoying the Reader's Corner on The Mustard Seed. If you're interested in participating, please contact me. 

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Let's meet our reader today...

Lorianne Lynch is a wife and mother of one child, a six year old daughter. She is also a paralegal. Her parents instilled in her the love of reading in childhood and she is passing that love on to her child. She is rarely bored because she is surrounded by books.

Love that you are rarely bored because you're surrounded by books. I totally relate to that statement. So, on a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being the highest) how much of an avid reader are you? 

10

What kind of books do you like to read? 


I like all kinds of books, fiction and non-fiction, but I really enjoy a good mystery or thriller.

Always love a good mystery novel. Do you like reading multiple genres or do you stick to only romance or mystery etc.? 


I will read anything if it’s good and interests me.

Interesting is definitely the key for me...if a book doesn't catch my interest right away, I'm not so keen on reading it. Why do you like to read?  


To immerse myself in another world and make new friends with the characters. 

Great answer...totally agree with that.  Once you read a book, do you read it over again? 

Yes, many, many times.

Most contemporary books I've read, I haven't re-read. Although, the classics I love, I've read those over and over again. 


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Do you like to browse books in the bookstore or do you like to shop online? 

I love going to bookstores and libraries. If I know exactly what I want then I will go online.

Love browsing book stores. I remember taking many trips to the library as a child. Do you prefer eBooks or print books? 


I’ve recently fallen in love with eBooks.

Me too. Do you have an ereader? Which one and why do you like it? 


Yes.  I have a Kindle. I like the fact that the screen is non-glare and that reading it is like reading a book. It’s very lightweight and I take it everywhere.

Agree with those answers. Recently got a Kindle and love it. Take it everywhere with me.


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Who is your favorite contemporary author? 

Too many to name. If I have to pick just one it would be Stephen King. I’ve never been disappointed by him.

Do you have a favorite author of classic literature? 


I guess it depends on the definition of classic but I like the Bronte’s.

Love the Bronte's and Jane Austen. As a child, did you have a favorite book? 


Yes. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

What is your most favorite book and if you had to pick actors to play the parts of the characters, which actors would you pick? 


The Diary of Anne Frank. I’ve read it at least once a year since I first read it as a pre-teen. I don’t think any actors can adequately portray the people in that book, although it’s been tried.

What books are currently on your reading list?

Under the Dome- Stephen King, Frankenstein Series by Dean Koontz and the new Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child.

Are there any other avid readers in your family?

Yes, all of us. We learned our love of reading from our parents.

My mom passed on her love of reading to me and my brothers and sisters. So glad she did. Of all the classics you’ve ever read which book is your favorite?

The Catcher in the Rye.


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What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to ask an author? 

How does it feel to have a character die?

Sounds crazy, but it's hard. I actually got attached to one character in my book that I didn't want to kill her off as originally planned so I killed off another character. In my current WIP, it was also sad for me when another character died, but it was part of the story and needed to happen. Have you ever gone to a book signing before? 


No.

Have you ever wondered what an author was thinking in regard to where he or she generates story ideas etc.? 


Yes, especially when reading a good thriller.

Which do you prefer in a book: dialogue or prose or do you like a good combination of both? 


I like a good mix but too much prose is just filler and I tend to skim ahead.

Couldn't agree more. I like a good balance. Do you think characters’ names are important? 


Not really, some of the most memorable characters have commonplace names that became larger than life because of the story.

What about characters’ physical descriptions? Do you like specifics or would you rather leave most of it up to your imagination? 


I prefer to imagine what the person looks like.

Happy endings or endings true to life, which do you prefer? 


True to life.

I like realistic stories, but I am a sucker for the romantic happy endings. Have you ever thought about writing a book? 


Yes, I’ve actually started a few times.

That's great. When you finish your novel, I'll have you over on the blog for an interview. What book do you think should absolutely be made into a movie? 


Hard question because I’m always disappointed by movie adaptations.

Have you seen any movies based on books and thought the book was better? 


Yes, most books are better than the movie. 

Lorianne, thank you so much for being here today. I really enjoyed chatting with you. 

To participate in the Reader's Corner, please send me an email. We hope you stick around for a bit today to chat with us. Thanks and have a great weekend!

 
 
June Shaw is here today. So glad you all could join us. She's going to discuss why you shouldn't give up on your dreams to write. There's also a book giveaway. 

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Let's meet June...

June Shaw’s series of humorous romantic mysteries features a spunky widow who wants to avoid her hunky lover so she can rediscover herself. But he opens Cajun restaurants wherever she travels—and she is horrible at avoiding tempting dishes and men. RELATIVE DANGER, KILLER COUSINS, DEADLY REUNION—just out.

Website: June's Website
Group Blog: Murderous Musings
FB: June Shaw
Twitter: @juneshaw

                                        Why Not Give Up on Your Writing Dream?

“Every good author is an old dead man from Europe, and you must struggle trying to figure out what he meant.” That’s what I believed about writers. I couldn’t relate.

When I was in ninth grade, my beliefs changed. My English teacher was sending me to a literary rally and said I should practice writing a paragraph. He told me to write about a splinter. A splinter? How dull. I wrote a description and carried it to his desk. “This is boring,” he said. “Yes, but you told me to do it.” And then he wrote “Ouch!” He said to write from the splinter’s point of view. Someone just sat on it.

Wow, a writer could do that? Writers could create things or people and make them say or do anything? That splinter was my inspiration. “Ouch!” was the only creative writing instruction I ever received. It introduced me to modern humor and made me decide one day I’d be an author.

I married my high school sweetheart right out of school, had five children in six years, and became a widow when they were five to eleven. After my mind functioned, I knew I needed to work. Family members asked what I’d like to do. That splinter flashed into mind. But my silly kids wanted to eat and wear shoes and wouldn’t sit around, waiting for years while I read novels and tried to write some. All I’d been reading were cereal boxes.

I finished a college degree and taught junior high students, eventually finding a little time to write. What I knew best was my family, so I studied writers’ magazines and wrote an essay called “Five Left to Love.” I sent it to a magazine I thought would snap it up. Soon a rejection came. I pouted but remembered advice I’d learned from periodicals. Don’t give up. Expect rejection—most authors receive lots of it—and send your work out again while you write something new. I did and presently received a letter of congratulations with a check! Pleased with myself, I looked to see where I’d previously sent my manuscript. It was the same place. The first editor who received it turned it down. Another editor at the same magazine bought my work.

Finally I found time to read novels and study how to write them. I didn’t sell my first or second attempt but determined they were for practice. I later jumped with excitement when I received THE CALL.  I sold RELATIVE DANGER! 

By the time I sold a novel, I had been teaching twenty years. My visually-impaired aging mother had come to live with me, and my children had given me grandkids.

I then sold KILLER COUSINS, second book in that series of humorous mysteries. The third book, DEADLY REUNION, has just come out.

I learned that if you don’t have time during a certain period of your life, keep holding onto your dream. When you can’t write, read. Read in the area that interests you. Study magazines that instruct and encourage. You’ll be learning and working toward your goal.

You have to love the creative process of writing just like those who paint or sing because every word you write will probably not sell. Learning and perfecting your craft may take quite awhile. That’s okay. Expect it. Enjoy the words you create.

I learned how to write smaller pieces and sold some before I found time to try writing novels. While I was working on them, I became caregiver to my mother. After she moved in, I tried to spend time with her, almost giving up on my writing, while the desire burned a pit inside me. Something major was missing from my life. We finally discussed this. She said I should spend more time writing. I did—and soon afterward sold my debut.

Don’t give up. If you must write, write. Enjoy the process.

Give yourself freedom to write. Careers normally drive men. Women put everyone else ahead of themselves, especially for time. You deserve time for yourself, for going after your passion.

No matter your age, you can succeed as a writer. Just do it!


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June, what type of book do you prefer to read for pleasure 

I prefer to read the type I write—humorous romantic mysteries.

What about movies...if your book was made into a movie, who would play each character? 

If my series were made into movies, the main characters would be played by Bette Midler and Sean Connelly when they were a little younger. In fact, I once heard Bette say she fell off her high heels and broke her foot—which gave me an idea for my latest book!

What about the most exotic place you've ever visited?


My children sent me to a writers’ conference—in Maui! While in Hawaii, I swam under a waterfall, snorkeled over a shark (which was supposed to be a bottom-feeder that we shouldn’t fear—yeah, right), and flew into mountain crevices in a helicopter. It was all great!

Loved Hawaii! Such a beautiful place to visit. Don't know about snorkeling over a shark, though. I'm not brave enough for that. 


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Can you tell us about your new book, Deadly Reunion? By the way, I love the cover. 

DEADLY REUNION --- This is one class reunion you won’t want to miss! What could be better than a class reunion on a cruise ship in Alaska? But are former friends really the people we thought we knew well? And which of them is capable of murder – or being killed? 

Hop aboard the ship to find out!    

Sounds like a book I'd like to read. Definitely going on my TBR list. Where can readers find your book online?

Purchase Link for Deadly Reunion

June, thank you so much for guesting today. I enjoyed learning more about your and your books and had fun chatting. Thanks for sharing your encouraging advice to follow your dreams. 

If you'd like to enter for a chance to win one of June's books, please comment on this blog posting. June will be giving away an eBook of one of her first 2 books, Relative Danger or Killer Cousins—the chosen commenter’s choice.


 
 
Ashlynn Monroe is here today to discuss promotional tips from a published author. 

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Promotion is one of the biggest challenges for new authors.  Let’s face it; to reach a large audience can be very costly.  One thing for ebook authors to remember is that their audience is in cyberspace land so they should focus on reaching the readers where they live…the internet.  Gadgets and freebies are cool, but unless you’re at a conference, they aren’t getting into the hands of readers.  Giving away eBooks is easy and cheap, but let’s face it; if you give the books away, they aren’t being purchased.  I save my physical promotional for conferences and for sending to places to Romance junkies where serious readers request these freebies by sending a SASE. 

My big promotion this year is romance trading cards.  You can find all the details at Romance Trading Cards these are a fun idea to get your book info into reader’s hands and get them a paper (inexpensive) item they’ll want to keep.  I’ve done many bookmarks in the past but these items often don't last long.  One perfect use for paper bookmarks is to sign them and leave them at a friendly local bookstore.  For the stores that aren’t so friendly I have no guilt sneaking my bookmarks into similar books.   My website info is on all my marks and a picture of my books.  I Use Microsoft word to make these and get them printed on card stock, I can fit six on a page.  They only cost 35 cents a page at Office Max.  I sign them and then self laminate them for a quality promotional that costs me pennies but are more likely to be kept because of the sturdy lamination and signature.  Another commando promo is business cards.  Every time I go to Wal-mart, I pull out my business card holder and slip pristine cards into books.  You can use an old mint container but I like my professional cardholder I bought for a buck on clearance.  It’s important to keep your cards looking clean and new.  I sign all my cards too, anything to make them more retainable.

I love the people who do the lip balm promos.  I think they are wonderful, but it can run you hundreds of dollars.   If you want to do these and can make your own stickers you can order balms in any quantity you’d like with plan tubes for twenty-one cents each here Bulk Apothecary.  I wish I had the skill to make the stickers.  The nice part of doing it this way (if you can make the labels) is that you can order any amount you like.  Have a small reading group or local workshop and only want twenty lip balms this is your answer.  Most of the time, you have to order in quantities of one hundred or more and that gets very expensive. 

You can also make your own buttons and key chains.  Go to Michaels craft store and you can make six buttons for two bucks.  If you’re crafty, you could make something that relates to your book.  I found adorable mini cork board stickers that I’m giving away with my business cards attached and a sticker with my info on the back of the sticker just in case they toss the card without reading it. These cost me about a nickel each from a clearance deal at the craft store and I have 56 of them to give away.

You can get free items (you pay the shipping) from Vistaprints.com.  If you pay 1.99 for the free business cards, the vista print logo won’t be on them and you get a good quantity.  You can also get bumper stickers, pens, stamps, so many good products for very little dough.  I usual order all the freebies and the shipping is roughly twelve dollars for me. 

For internet promotion Whip Cream Reviews will trade you an original short story for ad space, Coffee Time Romance will give you an author corner, and if you put their banner ad on your website, you can win free ad space.  Keep your eyes open and network.  That is the most inexpensive and important part of the puzzle.  Social networking and reading your publisher group emails often open the doors to wonderful opportunities.  Don’t be afraid to Google what you’re looking for either.  Good Luck, thanks for taking the time to read this.

Thanks so much for sharing these promotional tips. 


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So, Ashlynn, let's chat. Tell me the Top Five Random facts about you?

1- I’m afraid of heights.
2- I’m a cheap date.
3- Both my kids have names that start with “A”
4- I hate my day job.
5- I’m a geek.

Can totally agree with #1. How do you relax after a long day at work?

Sadly, writing is my hobby.  I go from one job to another lol.  I just wished I enjoyed the day job as much as I enjoy writing.  When I start to feel burned out I will take a movie night or relax in the bubble bath with a good book.

Love movies and a relaxing bubble bath with a good book sounds nice. What is your preferred type of book to read for leisure?

Paranormal, urban fantasy, or science fiction romance or erotica, sci-fi erotica is my guiltiest of pleasures.


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Can you tell us about your new book, Slave to His Desires

As Madison Edwards is walking home one night, she finds herself face-to-face with strange creatures—aliens. They kidnap her and sell her into slavery. Out of place and alone, she struggles to understand the alien world where she’s being held captive. Her feelings about her new master are conflicted, and she’s torn between wanting to go home and wanting to fulfill all his desires.

Spontaneous and out-of-character, Jul purchases a rare human female at the market. Her people are known to have mystical sexual powers. He believes the tales are only myth until he has Madison in his home, and she soon consumes his life. She’s valuable, magical, and he fears he can’t protect her. His friends complicate the situation when they become involved, but they also offer him hope.

When everyone on the planet desires what you value most, it takes more than love to protect her.

Where can readers find your book?

The book is available from Beachwalk Press Purchase Link for Slaves to His Desires 

Ashlynn, thank you so much for guesting today and sharing your promotional tips and about you and your book. I enjoyed chatting with you. 

If you would like to read an excerpt from Ashlynn's book, click on the "Read More" link below. 



 
 
Laura Tolomei is a guest today at The Mustard Seed and she's doing a book giveaway...more details at the end of this posting. Let's meet Laura...

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Born 1965 Rome, Italy, Laura grew up in Nigeria, US and India. 

In 2008 she published her first short story in eXtasy’s Anthology and has been writing and publishing since, in Italian and English, releasing several full length novels and short stories at eXtasy Books, WCP and Romance Divine.



Connect with Laura Online:

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I know readers are often interested in knowing why authors started writing, what sparked the instinct to set down words and spin them into structured stories. Well, in my case, it all started with my love for reading that from the earliest age made books my very best friends. Growing up I only increased the genres and number of books read, so I guess the real question for me is—why did I start writing after reading tons of books? As usual, the answer’s complex and covers a range of explanations, some of which still aren’t clear to myself either.

I’ll start by saying I got to a point in my reading I was tired of other people’s stories. Not often did I disagree with their plots’ twists & turns, but also with the way they made their characters evolve. Sometimes I wanted more action, others more romance, or the sci-fi setting didn’t sound right. Then their characters were too strict, they didn’t want to compromise in order to get what’s really important in life, or they were depressed suicidal freaks, or…well, you probably get my point. Safe to say, when I wasn’t satisfied, I’d imagine how I would conduct the story and that got me spinning new tales out of the ones I just read. One thing led to another and the stories started to come to me without any prior prompts, simply popped up in my head with their plots and characters. Soon I put them on paper, or rather on my computer screen, and that’s one way of explaining why I write.

Another way to look at it is more personal and intimate. My love…no, sometimes I think it’s more of a need…started early, in high school, with a short story, Nostalgia, in released in the Crestwood High School Journal. The title kind of says it all, about the need I mean, because the story was born out of longing for my country. It was the time I felt out of place in the US, an Italian losing her roots is how I felt, and I chose writing not just to express it, mainly to understand it. And these are the two driving needs behind my writing.

The first is that of expression. I’m not a very talkative person, never have been, always preferring to listen to people’s stories rather than tell my own. Somehow I thought theirs more interesting than anything I could ever say, so kept my mouth shut and my ears open. I know many might interpret it as a Cinderella complex, but I still feel this way, and when I see my husband, a born actor, talking to people, I know I have neither the flare nor the style to make my things sound as interesting as he makes his sound. In writing, though, it’s totally different. There I can choose and edit my words. I’m not afraid of giving the wrong impression or being boring. And the fact I’m not so forthcoming with my voice only increased the need to say what was on my mind.

But the truth behind my need to write is to help me understand myself, who I am and what I’m going through while I’m writing a particular thing. It’s the reason I wrote my second full length novel, Piccolo Crocevia a Cinque (loosely translated Little Five Points), to give voice to an experience that had tormented me since my American days. And if the book came years after the experience itself, years I’d spent living certainly not writing, it was the sign I couldn’t digest it, so to speak, without putting it down on paper. This for me remains the best way to delve into my mind Whenever unexplainable emotions trouble me to the point I can’t think of nothing else, inside, I can never quite understand them unless I order them in a logical format—‘cause that’s what writing is to me. So the Crocevia set me back on the writing track, to the point I can’t think about not writing today. In fact, I compiled a list of reasons why I can’t live without it. Because:

1. It makes for great sex in real life

2. It makes me understand myself and the people that surround me

3. It sets my mind spinning

4. It makes for more exciting living all- around

5. It gives me one more reason to listen to music, something I can’t

6. It makes me connect to people I It sharpens my skills

7. Wouldn’t otherwise know how to live without

9. It deepens my knowledge of the English language

10. It keeps me busy

11. It helps me relax

And this sorts of sums up my reasons for writing and loving it, even if I had to wait until about five years ago to become a WRITER.

Well, there’s a difference you know between writing and being a writer, and I understood it only after releasing my first story with eXtasy Book and receiving the 2010 EPIC nomination for Sacrificial Sex. But that’s another story.

Laura, thanks so much for sharing with us today. Now I have a few questions for you. 


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Are you a true romantic at heart or not really?

Absolutely not! Never believed in it or in candlelight dinners with prior flower gifts. No, I’ve actually laughed in the face of men who would bring me a whole bunch of flowers simply to impress me. I go for the facts, not the nice gestures that usually don’t stand the test of Life—problems piling up, routine suffocating romance and sex, jobs intruding in personal lives, washing dirty dishes becoming an issue, etc. Instead, I believe in strong feelings that connect people to the point they can overcome these adversities and still be together in a very fulfilling way—physically, mentally and spiritually. That’s why my books aren’t about romance, rather about characters finding a way to each other beyond a purely romantic emotion, or more appropriately turning it into the beginning of a bond they will feel so strongly it involves their senses as much as their feelings.

What is your all-time favorite movie and why?

My all-time favorite movie, and I know many will agree with me, is Gone with the Wind. Now the reasons for liking it, no, loving it actually, are many, a lot connected to the fact I lived in Atlanta GA and could find traces of the city the movie portrays even in the modern skyscraper skyline it has become today. And the actors, of course, are simply fabulous, but those are not the reasons that make it my all-time favorite. You see, I read the book before seeing the movie, and I must say in my experience it’s one of the few transpositions where the actors were exactly like I imagined the characters. Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, Hattie McDaniel…it was like they had walked straight out of the book and gone upstage to be Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler, Ashley Wilkes, Melanie Hamilton, Mammy. And I never experienced that with another book turned movie!

Loved that movie and book. Where is the most exotic place you’ve ever traveled to?

In my times, I’ve traveled quite a bit, my parent’s fault for taking the five-years-old me to Nigeria. What really blew my mind, instead, was India, a country I love not just for its beauty, mostly for its people and the age-old culture you can still breathe in it. There again I lived for a time and went back to visit, too, fascinated by their way of thinking and of seeing life. But that was living, not traveling, and as you probably know, they’re two very different things. Still it didn’t stop me from going all over the world—Australia and Far East excluded—and there are a few places that have impressed me to the point they found their way into my books. One of them, probably the dearest though less exotic, is Sicily, particularly in their fabulous archeological sites that sparked the novel Spying the Alcove, a cross-over from past to present, from ancient Roman to modern day excavations. Undoubtedly, though, the most exotic place I simply visited is Jordan, a wonderful desert-like country under scorching heat and fabulous sights. What makes it extra special for me is the fact it’s the setting of the planet Sendar of my ongoing fantasy series, Virtus Saga.


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Can you share with us what your book, The Festival, is about.

The Festival
Virtus Saga Book 3
GENRE: GLBT, m/m, m/m/f, f/f, Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror.
ISBN: 978-1-55487-614-3
HEAT LEVEL: 5 flames
RELEASE DATE: July 15th, 2010
PUBLISHER: eXtasy Books

Situations change fast and Prince Duncan Caldwell, as the new leader of Sendar, is now in charge of the pyramid’s destiny. And like Arthur Fairchild before him, he knows his duty is to put it back from where Cecilia Huts stole it. But first his world has to celebrate the end of the most destructive period it can remember, so Prince Duncan Caldwell calls for a Festival, three days completely devoted to food, drinks and sex. And many things happen. Connections are established, especially between his two unruly loves, Christopher Templeton and Ylianor Meyer. But it’s all part of their story just like their journey to the Nephis Valley order to set things right again with the three-sided pyramid Cecilia Hurst stole and the reason their world was plunged into mayhem.

Purchase Link for The Festival

Laura, thank you for stopping by today. I enjoyed chatting with you and getting to know more about you and your books. 

If you' like to enter for a chance to win an eBook copy of Laura's novel, please feel free to comment on today's posting. An excerpt from the book follows the "Read more" link.



 
 
Guest post by: Jennifer Slattery Do you remember those dances held during junior high and high school? How you and your friends would spend hours pre-dance talking about what you'd wear, how you'd do your hair, and...giggle, blush, giggle...who might ask you to dance? Only those dances never quite ended up how we envisioned, at least not in my school. Inevitably, the guys huddled near the far, heavily-shadowed wall while the girls spent their time crying in the bathroom or trying to comfort their near hysterical friend hiding in the stall. At least in Junior High. High School got a little better and people actually danced, and the bathrooms were far less crowded with splotchy-faced, sniffling girls. But reading this week's excerpts actually brought me back even further...to sixth grade. We didn't have dances--instead, our school hosted skating parties. Do you remember those? "Elvirah" blaring from those gigantic speakers while a disco ball lit up the room, making that feather pinned in your hair really stand out. (Those have come back, btw. Seriously.) We'd do the hokey-pokey, skate on one foot, then backward...but what the girls waited for, holding their breath and scanning the glittering room for their short, waif-thin and equally shy hero, was when the DJ announced, "Find a parnter!" Now here's where it gets really fun, and extremely embarrassing, but remember I was a stupid kid with absolutely no life.... Who knew come skating party time, a boy--maybe even the boy--might hold my hand. Oh, the very thought made my stomach twirl. In preparation, I slathered lotion on my hands the week leading up the event--and I mean slathered. Then, I'd rub it in and hold my hand out to my mom. "Are my hands soft? Feel them." She'd laugh and feel my hand. Then I'd slather on more. "Feel them now." She remained patient for about three or four applications. What about you? Any stupid, cheek-burning stories to share? Be sure to come meet our competing authors this week on COTT
 
 
Author, Melinda Evaul is at The Mustard Seed today. So glad you all stopped by to visit. She's doing a book giveaway...more details at the end of this posting. Let's meet Melinda.
 
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Melinda Evaul is a North Carolina native transplanted to Tennessee. Her contemporary Christian romances give readers a unique view of rural life in both states. Not afraid to tackle tough questions, she writes about people who grow spiritually through the difficulties life tosses in their paths.

Melinda is a pastor’s wife, mother of two, and grandmother of three. She’s a registered nurse, CPR instructor, and a water aerobics instructor. She is an award winning article writer. Her debut novel, Grow Old With Me, is a 2011 Dan Poynter Global eBook Award Finalist.

Avid photographers, Melinda and her husband enjoy traveling America’s back roads where rural culture and history are preserved through a unique art form—quilt barn squares. Each book in the Quilt Trail Series deals with some aspect of quilting and its influence in the Appalachian region.

Proceeds from note cards, post cards, and photographic prints sold on her website contribute to the preservation of quilting and rural American culture. Melinda also donates money from her book sales to support various charities or quilting related projects.

Contact Melinda at www.melindaevaul.com
Follow her on Facebook at Melinda Evaul-Author
Sign up for a quarterly newsletter or follow her blog on her website
.


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Before I ask you about your book, Grow Old With Me, I just want to congratulate you on being a Dan Poynter Global eBook Award Finalist. Congrats! 

So, please share with us about your book. 

Novel # 1 in the Quilt Trail Series

A modern-day Beauty and the Beast meet in their fifties when a disfigured carpenter becomes a long-term guest at a bed and breakfast in the western-style tourist town of Love Valley, NC. 


Benjamin Pruitt plans to repair the town’s buildings before retiring to a solitary life. Sarah Campbell longs for freedom since her long task as caregiver has ended. 

Can Benjamin and Sarah piece the tattered remnants of their lives into a beautiful design to warm their waning years?

Download an eBook from Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Get all ereader versions or one to read on your computer from Smashwords.
Purchase a paperback edition on Melinda’s website.

Love it...sounds like a great book. I can't wait to read it.
 


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Now for the fun part. Let's chat. What was the inspiration for your latest work of fiction?

A female friend who is middle-aged and had never married found her mate a couple years ago. This sparked the idea for an older couple relationship in Grow Old With Me.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

My characters are fictional but some have loose roots in the real world. Ella Baxter sprang from an article about a woman who searches for missing persons. I like real locations so Mosey Inn’s layout is a modification of a B&B near New Orleans. I found the “real” Mosey Inn while following a quilt trail through Erwin, TN. The Unicoi County Heritage Museum was the country home I had imagined while writing. That house became my cover art.

That's so neat and must be fun research to check out actual locations for your novels. What was the most interesting research you had to do for any of your books?

I chose to set Grow Old With Me in the town of Love Valley, NC. In 1954 Andy Barker established this cowboy town. It's like walking the streets of the old west. I visited there on several occasions to take pictures, meet residents, and get a feel for the tourist town he'd created. If you visit my website, you'll find pictures of Love Valley plus my human and animal friends who live there. Horse lovers will drool when they see my shots of Love Valley, NC.

Where do you go to do your research?

I like to write about places I know. Part of my writing style is to have accurate and detailed descriptions. I’ve had fun doing research for my next book. During my spring book singing tour I stayed at the home of a quilt barn painter. I also went to Ohio for “The Quilt Trail Gathering.” It was a treat to meet the first people who hung a quilt barn square, and to rub shoulders with quilters, painters, and artisans from across the USA. I add my brush strokes to a quilt block we painted at the convention.

Sounds like such fun fellowship! Love reading books where I know the author has done his or her research. Are you currently working on any new book projects?

Yes, I’m writing Book #2 in the Quilt Trail Series. For those who read Grow Old With Me, I’ll expand Ella Baxter’s story in this book. You’ll meet Sheriff Marcus Bruster’s daughter. She’ll introduce you to the art form of quilt barn painting when she seeks refuge on a Christmas tree farm in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Can't wait to meet your book characters. Do you have any advice for beginning writers on how to write a book?  Do you have any advice for them regarding promoting that book once published?

1. Readers should relate to your characters.
2. Identify your target audience and establish roads to reach them.
3. As publishers shrink their yearly acquisitions, the field for new writers becomes very narrow. If the traditional publishing route isn’t working for you, consider publishing your own books.
4. Be prepared to market your books via many avenues. In this day of e-books and POD companies, the cost can be reasonable and your story won’t languish in some drawer or hard drive.
5. If you have a book worth reading, God will place it in the hands of those He wants to reach with its Christian message.

Such great advice, especially like # 5. It is comforting to know that we can trust God to work out all the details in our writing careers. What’s your writing schedule like?  When do you find time to write?

One aspect I enjoy as an independent publisher is the freedom to set my own schedule. Writing the first novel was easier. I didn’t have marketing to consider. Part-time jobs consume much of my time. I spent the summer wearing my grandmother hat. I teach water aerobics two days each week and attend class most other days so I write in the afternoon or evenings. I want to have another book ready as soon as possible, but I’m thankful I don’t have a publisher imposing a rigid deadline.

How did you find your publisher?  What was your journey to publication like?

I wanted to have an older couple and a bed & breakfast in a rural area. I discovered Love Valley, NC through a publishing company. I wrote a synopsis and book proposal. They loved it and wanted to see a full manuscript. With no guarantee of a contract, I wrote Grow Old With Me and sent it away with high hopes. Six months later, the rejection letter arrived. I had a niche market in place and a book ready for those readers. I chose to begin my own publishing company, Winding Road Ink, and selected a POD printer. It was the right move for me. I’m happily getting fan mail instead of rejection slips.

That's an inspiring story of perseverance and following your dreams. I actually just received a rejection letter yesterday from a publisher I waited six months to hear from. God is good, though and He has a plan. Who is your favorite contemporary author?

I read many genres from a wide selection of authors. My laptop has 104 books loaded for reading. I’m currently enjoying Lynn Dean’s More Precious than Gold. A couple on my “to read list” are Naomi Musch’s The Green Veil, and Penny Zeller’s Hailee.

These are a few of my friends who write Christian fiction. We write to spread the gospel to people who might never read a Bible or attend church. When I read a book I try to post reviews. A simple positive review or a mention on a social media site can create sales. It’s a precious gift any reader can give an author.

A blog interview is another gift we treasure. I’ll end by thanking Joanne for this opportunity. I’ll stop by to read comments and answer questions while you wait for Joanne to announce the winner of the Grow Old With Me
giveaway.

Melinda, thank you so much for guesting today. I really enjoyed our chat and getting to know you and your work. 

If you'd like to enter for a chance to win a copy (reader's choice of print or eBook) of Grow Old With Me, please feel free to leave a comment. Melinda would love to chat with you.

 
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    DISCLAIMER: Book Reviews

    In accordance with FTC Guidelines for blogging & endorsements, I want to post this disclaimer. From time to time, I do purchase and review some novels. However, most of the novels I review are given to me as a complimentary review copy by the author or publisher. I do not receive  monetary compensation for the reviews I complete.

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