Friday, June 27, 2008

Guest Author: Allie Pleiter

Hi Allie, so glad you’re visiting! (Allie and I met during one of her research trips for a book called "The Perfect Blend." Our local writer's group met with her and answered what questions we could about our region. Very enjoyable lunch meeting!)

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve been writing for about ten years now, with eight books in print and another four in the works to come out over the next two years. I grew up on the East Coast, now live in the Midwest, am an avid knitter, a die-hard coffee junkie, and am very serious about chocolate. I have been married for 19 years to my husband Jeff, who is an engineer by day and sportscar enthusiast the rest of the time. We have two children and the world's most spoiled dog.

Tell us about the book which just came out.

Masked by Moonlight is my first historical for Steeple Hill. It’s a swashbuckling tale of a man who stumbles by accident into a secret identity, and how he falls in love with the woman who created that identity. Trouble is, neither of them knows of the other’s secret role in their lives—and that makes for lots of drama. Think if Zorro fell for Lois Lane—that sort of thing, only in 19th century San Francisco. It’s an historical adventure, but still carries the wit and humor that I think readers have come to expect from me. Where else will you find an historical with drugged chickens and exploding pajamas???

How did you get started in writing?

I have an amazing story in this, completely God’s doing. The short version is that a friend dared me. The more complicated version is that friend happened to be an editor at a major publishing house, and I happened to have this secret talent I’d never discovered. I have a theater degree, and was a professional fundraiser for many years before accepting the dare to write a novel. I tell people God set it up as such an amazing story because He knew I’d try to find a way to take credit for it if I could. I can take very little credit for my start in this business. No one is more surprised and amused by the whole thing than I. Moral of the story? Some dares are definitely worth taking. Aspiring novelists out there---I DARE YOU!

How do you balance home and family with writing?

It’s much easier now that my children are older. My first two books were written in McDonald’s, I think. God bless laptops! I’m a very serious student of my productivity, so I start each day with a complicated to-do list that interweaves writing, home, church, and other tasks. That means you may find me throwing in a load of laundry while the printer spits out Chapter 3, dropping off a manuscript into the DHL box on my way to baseball practice, etc. It’s much harder in the summertime, but in the winter I try to cram most of my creative writing into the school day (while they’re gone) and the more task-oriented stuff while they’re around. I’ve been writing since the kids were 2 and 6 (they’re 12 and 16 now), so I’ve become used to writing in fits and spurts—I wouldn’t know what to do with a “Book in a Week” program…

What are your dreams in regards to writing?

That’s a funny question, because in many ways I’m “there” and it doesn’t feel like I thought it would. After 12 books, I suppose you could call me “established.” While I’ve come to recognize the ups and downs of the process, it’s gotten no easier and I don’t feel much calmer. Some books come delightfully easily, others are like peeling your skin off one cell at a time. My dream was for it to come easier, for the pressure to let up. In a sense, that’s happened. It doesn’t come easier, but I’m more at ease with the process. Some pressures have let up, but they’ve been replaced by new pressures. My core dream isn’t, I suppose, that much different than any other working writer’s: to be able to continue writing what I love in a way that brings me satisfaction. That being said, having to decide who gets to play my next hero in a blockbuster movie by auditioning Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig, and Colin Firth—well, that’d be dreamy, too.

Tell us about your next project and what else is lined up for you.

My next big project is a series of three books set in a fictional Kentucky town called Middleburg. I had a grand time taking on a small town—that was a totally new setting for me, and let me really play with a large cast of characters. Bluegrass Hero comes out very soon—August of this year, followed by two more; Bluegrass Courtship in February 2008 and Bluegrass Blessings in July 2008—all from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. We’re in conversations about a sequel for Masked by Moonlight right now, but it’s too early to say when that will all come together.

Thanks for visiting!

Thanks for having me. Stop by the website, and click on the link that lets you hear me reading Chapter One of Masked by Moonlight to you—you’ll get to see that theater degree in action….

Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Allie's "Masked by Moonlight"!! We'll have the drawing on July 2nd. So, tell your friends and get entered twice. ;)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Summer Walks

I've decided I want to have a purposeful summer. Yes, I need to work. But I also want to play, spending time with my daughters and husband in memory-making ways. We have trips planned, but even the day-to-day moments can be a celebration of our relationships.

My daughters and I have been taking walks this summer. Some of my purpose is research. Just what flowers are blooming in the NW during the summer? I've got some characters walking to church in one of my novellas who will need to know this. Some of my enjoyment is pointing things out to my girls. "Oh, look, a bald eagle!" There he was, gliding higher and higher over the lake. Beautiful. Majestic. Higher than the annoying blackbirds or smaller birds would soar. Love the symbolism there---soar up there with the Lord, above the circumstances of life. And don't just sputter, but glide freely because everything is in God's hands. Sometimes, we'll discover hidden pathways we plan to explore or lovely little nooks by the lake we can dream about. "I wonder who lives there. Someone with children." "Someone who loves nautical themes." or "Someone who loves gardening." Sometimes the clouds wisp away on the wind, but not before we notice. These walks are delightful, a superb way to spend time with my children.

What ways are you making the most of summer?

I heard this somewhere and it's starting to really take root in my life: Live Intentionally. See what you can do with that little phrase.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

ACFW Conference 2008

I know. I know. Everyone attends conferences for the writing, right? For the workshops, or to fellowship, for networking and the all-important agent/editor appointments. Well, that’s true of me, too. Except for two things. First, the worship. Two years ago, I attended my first ACFW conference in Dallas. Wow, such worship times. I’d only been a member of ACFW for a short time, so I’d only heard from fellow attendees via the loop emails. But one person stood out to me—her understanding of God’s love so mirrored mine. So, I’m heading down the long hall to the prayer room, and I hear the worship team rehearsing. Beautiful! Drawing. Wooing, even, as the presence of God reached into the hallway and took hold of me. I had to go introduce myself. So, I veered left for a little detour. Between songs, I met Rachel Hauck and told her I’d love to help out, if I could. She said not this year (something about mics, but probably also about hello, who in the world are you?? ;) So, I just joined in from my perch, wherever I happened to be in the room during any session which began with worship.

And wow, the Harp and Bowl night! Friday night of conference, it’s a tradition for folks to gather with the worship team who hosts an hour of prayer and worship. So, here’s how it works—whoever feels led to come pray, walks to the mic, bringing his/her Bible. She or he prays the passage to the Lord. Then, the worship team creates a spontaneous song based on a phrase or two of the Scripture or prayer that’s just been prayed. It’s Holy Spirit-led and quite a wonder to experience as God orchestrates the evening.

My second favorite aspect of conference, as I’ve already hinted, is the prayer room. Oh, the sweet presence of God in that room, even if I walk in and remain alone, I’m not alone. And if you’ve been in there, or want to be in there this year, you won’t be alone either. There’s plenty to pray about at conference. Sure, the usual things—like oh, could I please get a contract this year? or Please help this meeting coming in ten minutes to go well. Yikes! or That meeting didn’t go very well at all. But, then there are much more “serious” prayer needs. Someone who needs prayer for healing from Lyme’s disease or someone who’s just lost a daughter or someone else who’s just had a diagnosis but still managed to make this conference and wonders if this will be the last one. Whatever the need, there are pray-ers in the room, ready to pray with you or ready to leave you be, if you would rather pray alone. Last year, I went in and just sat down. A woman sat across the room from me, and a group gathered in the corner, but I met with Jesus right there. What a warm memory of enjoying His presence.

You’re going off to conference. You’ve got high hopes, or a long list of connections you need to make. He’s with you. He’s the One who called you to this pursuit of writing and publishing. Keep Him as the focus and everything else will fall into place in the right timing.

Maybe you’re an agent or an editor. You’ll have a lot of people pulling on you, hoping for a big break. So, be sure to take a break. Get into His presence, either in worship (where everyone will be focused on the One who ministers to His ministers, and therefore not trying to pitch their proposal to you) or in the prayer room, (where I’m sure others will respect your quiet moments), and just breathe.

Let His goodness, His peace, replace all the weights and burdens, all the concerns and worries, all that’s drawn out of you. Let His life flood in and rejuvenate yours.

Conference isn’t all about writing or networking, it’s also about meeting God in the midst of the meetings. Whether this is your first conference or your 101st, God is with you. He wants to meet you there. He wants to cover you, assure you, inspire you.

Have a great conference.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Guest Author: Debra Ullrick

I'm excited to host Debra Ullrick, author of "The Bride Wore Coveralls." This book was fun to read, even though I know very little about mud-bog racing. The cover is so great, I had to find out more about it---see below. I enjoy stories where the hero is more noble than the heroine understands, but he plays it cool and lets the truth be discovered. This story's hero and heroine had that dynamic. Then, you throw in the romance and you're hooked.

Here's my interview with Debra:

Welcome, Debra. Tell us a bit about “The Bride Wore Coveralls.”

The Bride Wore Coveralls, is about pride, acceptance, forgiveness, and love.

Camara (pronounced Ca-mare-ah) Cole is a southern female mechanic, who loves to race and build bog trucks. But several of the jealous old fashioned men she competes against strive to make it extremely difficult for her—especially her long time rival Chase Lamar.

Camara, a Chevy lover, and Chase, a Ford lover, have been bitter rivals for years. Not just in the mud pits either. Camara sets out to prove to Chase, and all the other men, that she’s just as capable of building and racing bog trucks as they are. Her goal is to win the mud-bog racing championship at Swamper Speedway, and hopefully earn her fellow workers and competitors respect. When Chase becomes a Christian, Camara has a hard time believing he’s a changed man. Just when she starts trusting him and even liking him, someone starts sabotaging her bog truck. And who else but Chase would do such a thing? After all, he’s done it before.

Chase Lamar is a changed man, but proving that to Camara is his biggest challenge. That, and overcoming a controlling father who hates the Coles. When his feelings for Camara begin to change, he tries desperately to win her heart. But Camara doesn’t trust him. And he doesn’t blame her.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

For years I wrote poetry, usually in the form of my deepest thoughts and expressions. Never once giving thought to writing a book. In fact, that was the furthest thing from my mind. Then one day I prayed for God to give me something to replace a bad habit. As I was reading a novel, a thought popped into my head. I wonder if I could write a book. This story idea came to mind. I sat at my computer and wrote a book in two-and-a-half weeks. Of course I didn’t know anything about POV, active vs. passive, showing vs. telling, or succinctness at the time. But writing that one book hooked me. So here I am writing novels.

Was there anything that intimidated you about writing/publishing/submitting manuscripts? If so, how did you conquer your fears?

Not doing it perfectly was my biggest fear. I was so afraid of making a mistake, mostly because I learned that you have to send in your best work because there are a scads of writers out there and if yours isn’t good it will go in a slush pile. So needless to say, being rejected intimidated me. Another thing that scared me was I’m a hands-on learner. I have a hard time comprehending instruction manuals or how-to-write books. I can grasp some of it, but usually I just end up confused and frustrated. Then the Lord sent me a friend in the most bizarre way. This person worked with me right where I was at. She never tried to change me or my writer’s voice. She spent endless hours pouring over my manuscripts, proposals, and synopsis. As an English teacher, Staci Stallings exercised great patience with me and never gave up on me. Jeanne Leach did this for me too. In fact, she was my first mentor. She believed in me, encouraged me, and helped me. Whenever I got frustrated and thought I didn’t understand something, I would call Jeanne. She always said, “Deb, you know it. You just don’t know that you know it.” Today, these ladies are two of my dearest and most treasured friends.

What was the process for seeing The Bride Wore Coveralls accepted for publication?

It was a long process. I pitched my story to Jim Peterson at the Denver ACRW conference in 2004. (I think that was the year it was held here in Denver.) When I finally finished The Bride Wore Coveralls, I sent it to him. However, by then the guidelines had changed. So under the new guidelines, Jim had to reject it but said if I would make some changes he would consider it. So, I spent months revising it and resubmitted it. By then, Jim and Traci Peterson had handed the reins back to Barbour. They no longer bought for Heartsong Presents. I asked Traci where my story was, and she assured me it was in good hands. Then in December I received news that I would be getting a contract for The Bride Wore Coveralls. In April of 2007 the contract came.

I love the cover for your book. How do the book covers come together for Heartsong Presents novels? Is there one specific artist who designs them? Do they use models, or only descriptions from the authors?

I’m not sure if they use live models or not. All I know is, they sent me a cover art questionnaire to fill out, and I was allowed to attach pictures.

Tell us about your next project. Are you doing a series for HP?

Actually, I have several projects going. Twenty-eight books started. (I wrote several chapters of each, as I didn’t want to forget the story ideas.) One of them is my first historical, You Ordered What?

As for an HP series, Déjà vu Bride, the sequel to The Bride Wore Coveralls, is sitting on my acquisition editor’s desk. I’m also working on, Powder Puff Bride, the third and final book in the racing series.

My romantic suspense, Forewarned, is in need of a home. *smiling*

Do you have dreams where your writing is concerned? Would you mind sharing them?

My biggest goal is to minister and offer hope to those who are hurting through my stories. And of course I would love to see them all published. Right now, I’m happy writing for Heartsong Presents. I’d like to write a 100K story and submit it to Barbour. They are a wonderful company to work for. And I’m praying about whether or not to turn, The Bride Wore Coveralls, into a screen play and submit it into a Christian screenplay contest in October. I know that motor sport movies are extremely popular. And let’s face it. Have you ever seen a movie about mud-bog racing? I truly believe it has a chance of winning because of its uniqueness, its hot rods, and its racing content. Am I dreaming? Perhaps. But nobody can take away my dreams. *smiling*

Ooooh, I love that attitude, Debra! I’m behind you 100%. Thank you for visiting!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Being Clean

I am sooo happy to do laundry this week! Last week, our washing machine’s timer blew and then the beast emitted a burning motor odor as it chugged away on its last load before giving up the will to live.

So we ordered a new one; it arrived yesterday. Right now, it waits like a race horse, pawing at the linoleum floor, waiting for the dryer to finish its current basketful so I can run a new load through both machines. Oh, the joys of humming laundry equipment.

In prayer this morning, as God met me in His Word and in worship, I drew near. I came away from my private moments with the Lord feeling clean and loved.

For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb 9:13-14, NKJV)

Like fresh-smelling sheets for my toddler’s bed, our lives can be free from the odors of our sin before God. He cleanses us as we get into His presence, read His Word and worship Him. He grants us a clean conscience. What a gift! Just like salvation, it’s right there waiting for us to come and meet with God.