Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Author Interview & Giveaway - Kim Vogel Sawyer - Part I

Not long ago, I discovered Kim Vogel Sawyer's historical novels. She takes on some unusual topics and timeframes. Without further delay, let's welcome our guest, Kim Vogel Sawyer to Christian Writer/Reader Connection.

1. Would you give us a thumbnail sketch of your writing journey? How long did it take to get "the call?"

Sometimes I hesitate to share my timeline because it can be discouraging to those who are trying to break into publishing. But the truth is I began writing seriously in 1981 and began submitting manuscripts in 1992. In 1995, I stopped submitting manuscripts because rejection was far too painful. In 2002, my dad insisted I try again, and I still refused, so he self-published one of my novels. Reader feedback gave me the courage to once again pursue traditional publication. In 2003, I signed with an agent, and in March of 2005, I signed my first contract; within the next six months I signed contracts for ten books between Bethany House and Barbour Publishing. So although the journey was long, when the door opened, God pretty much drop-kicked me into publishing.

2. I love it that you write about families, as well as the traditional romance. Your book, "Where Willows Grow," gave a realistic portrayal of the inner workings of a marriage. Where do you get inspiration for your novels?

I find inspiration everywhere--or maybe I should say, it finds me. *smile* Where Willows Grow sprang to life at a church bonfire, when I took a hayrack ride with several other members. The driver took us past an abandoned farmhouse. It was dusk, with lots of long shadows, and it seemed as though the characters stepped out of the shadows and into my imagination. By the end of the evening, Anna Mae had introduced herself and shared her deepest heartache: I love my husband, but he doesn't love my Lord.

As part of this interview, I'm giving away Kim's book, "Where Willows Grow." Below are the rules:

1. Comment on this post and leave your email address in the spam-busting format. No email address = No entry! If you comment on Part II of the interview next week, you'll get a second entry.

2. Mention you're a Follower or become a Follower and receive another entry.

3. Deadline: Saturday, July 10, 2010, at midnight. Winners will be notified via email and announced on the blog Sunday, July 11, 2010.

4. The drawing is void where prohibited. Only residents of the U.S. are eligible. Winners take total responsibility for their eligibility.

Disclaimer: No fees are required to enter this drawing. I purchased the book myself. Neither the author nor her publisher paid me anything to review this book.

Don't forget to stop by on Wednesday, July 7, 2010, for Part II of the interview.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Don't Slip on a Banana Peel

In the days of slapstick comedy, the banana peel provided more than its share of laughs. Of course, in real life it could bring about a painful injury.

I've discovered the banana peel has a positive side. Instead of chucking it in the trash, I now put it in my compost pile. Next year, when I start my garden, I'll have nutrient-rich dirt in which to plant my veggies.

Recently, I went on a cleaning spree. It became a necessity since I could no longer see my desk. I'm now contemplating clearing another area of the office. In a comment to my Blogging Buddy, Rita Gerlach, at InSpire, I told her I'd planned to discard some of the older versions of my manuscripts. Her post made me re-think that course of action.

That old "banana peel manuscript" could provide some important benefits to my current and future writing endeavors. Our progress as writers is often slow and not always noticeable to us. Looking back at an old version can show us how far we've advanced in our writing techniques and thereby encourage us. Not all of our past writing is trash worthy. Some of it didn't move the story along, but contained some good fodder for another project.

What are the ways you recycle words that end up on the editing room floor?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #104

Do you want to write devotionals, but need some guidance? Debbie Roome, at PixnPens, gives a brief tutorial.

Angela, at the Bookshelf Muse, talks about symbolism for the emotion, "hope."

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On My Nightstand - Splitting Harriet by Tamara Leigh

Torn by her past, Harriet Bisset works hard at the Christian life. When Maddox McCray comes to town as a church consultant, his unorthodox ways scare her silly. After all she left motorcycles and the wild life behind. She doesn't want the old Harriet raising her ugly head.

Tamara Leigh's themes of forgiveness and grace run through this fast-reading, chick lit tale. Harriet, Maddox, and the crew from First Grace made it hard to put this book down. Oh...and I now have this bizarre craving for Jelly Bellys.

If you're looking for a great summer read, this book fits the bill.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Real Deal

My Dad worked in a bank for most of his adult years. To spot a counterfeit, he wasn't exposed to fake bills. Instead, he learned the appearance and texture of the genuine article. When he encountered a phoney, it stood out like a neon sign.

Learning the craft of writing takes time and effort, but provides many dividends. The simple mistakes no longer plague us because we're familiar with the right way of expressing ourselves. If we do write stilted dialogue, it will bother us. We'll know something is amiss.

Setting, motivation, and deep POV are areas where I need improvement. Guess where my attention will be focused for the next few months. I need to study the real deal, so I can spot the problems in my work.

How do you overcome your writing weaknesses? Do you bury yourself in craft books? Practice exercises? I'd like to know.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #103

Your character's stage or setting helps the reader enter your story world. Laurel, at Laurel's Leaves, gives great information and examples on improving setting.

What are some of the methods you use to ground your character in a time period or place?

Suzanne Hartmann gives tips on making readers feel like they're in the Point of View character's head.

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On My Nightstand - Where Willows Grow by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Frustration and longing trouble Anna Mae Phipps. When her husband leaves for a Works Progress Administration job, she fears he'll abandon the family like so many other men. An argument prior to his departure adds to her concerns.

Harley Phipps loves his wife and children. He'll do anything to save their farm and provide for them. When he hears about the government job, he jumps at the opportunity even though it means leaving home for a period of time.

Misunderstandings pile up as distance and hardship tighten their stranglehold. Will the couple be able to handle the strain on their marriage or will love die in the fires of adversity?

Kim Vogel Sawyer brings us a Depression-era story filled with courage and hope. My grandparents often shared about those difficult times. The comparison between those who give up and those who become stronger piques my interest. Why do some get consumed by their circumstances, while others press on and triumph? I think Kim gets to the core of their strength.

Well-written, tugging-at-your-heartstrings characters, and realistic setting make this book a must read for historical fiction lovers. If you've never read her novels, this is a good place to start.

As a sidelight, it's interesting to see historicals being written about the 20th century. As I said to a friend, "they're getting closer to my generation every day." One no longer has to dive into the 17th and 18th centuries to produce a historical. The early 20th century is fast becoming a popular timeframe.

What do you think about writing a historical set in the 20th century? Is it something you'd consider?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Good Plant, Wrong Placement

My neighbor's full-grown tree sheds its seed pods on my 4' X 4' garden plot. The other day, I went out to water and found dozens of miniature trees sprouting. If left alone, I'd soon have a tree in the middle of my vegetable patch. Of course, I removed them. Otherwise, they'd take all the room and nutrients my tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, and other veggies need to grow.

I sometimes plant great thoughts in my manuscript. My mind takes off in fifty directions, but it sends me onto rabbit trails that don't fit the tone or theme of my book. Like my veggie garden, I must pull out that seedling and toss it. Sometimes I'll put it in another document for future use.

Have any misplaced scenes, characters, or plots shown up in your manuscript? How do you recognize and deal with them?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Winner of The Superlative Stream

Congratulations to FORREST SCHULTZ! You've won "The Superlative Stream" by Kerry Nietz. I've notified you by email. Please send me your snail mail address.

Thanks to all those who participated in the drawing. Watch for more giveaways in the future.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Woman Behind the Blog - Kathryn Lang - Part II

Kathryn Lang continues her guest post.

"I wrote because I needed the money - and because I have a lot to say. My first writing job after the baby was born was doing posts on forums. That expanded into writing blog posts on everything from green living to horses. The only limit to what I wrote and how much I wrote was the dial-up internet.

My husband left his full-time job in 2007 and that pushed me to write more. The slow speed of dial-up became an issue, and we put our 2008 tax refund toward running cable to our home to get high-speed internet. It was great, but the economy tanked, and so did our finances.

Finding writing jobs became a priority - more important than the words that I was writing. The more I pushed, the fewer jobs I found I had each month. The ones that did stay around were the ones that touched on my passion, but I could only see that they were not enough to do what needed to be done. This was another one of those times where I wondered if God was messing with me. After all, I was doing everything I could do.

Then I quit.

I quit trying to make things work out. I quit worrying about how I was going to pay the bills. I quit checking the stats on my blogs every morning. I quit stressing over the reaction that others might have about what I did or did not do.

When I quit trying, I turned to God, and the veil began to lift. I started to see the words I write are not about me, or my pocketbook, but about Him. He gave me the gift, the talent, and the passion to pour out words for others. The words must be all about Him.

I started spending more time with Him. Prayer time became a priority for my morning - no matter how late my day might be running. The moment He became the focus, the jobs began to expand.

The finances are still not where I want them to be. My consistency has not reached the level I know it needs to be. There are still a number of areas in my life where I'm struggling to let go, but I have seen the Truth and that makes it all a little easier."

Have you worn yourself out trying to make success happen? What stood out to you about Kathryn's story?

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Woman Behind the Blog - Kathryn Lang - Part 1

Welcome to a new feature of Christian Writer/Reader Connection! I'll still be doing the Friday Round-Up, but occasionally substitute with one of these specialty posts.

Kathryn Lang and I met through her blog, Successful Freelance Writer. She also shares the blogging duties at Author Haven. Recently, Kathryn posted on a shift in her thinking. I'll let her tell you about herself and the experience in her own words.

"I am unique. Ask anyone that has ever met me. They will at least tell you that I am not normal.

I am a sister. I have one older brother and one younger brother. I am not nearly as close to them as I want to be, which is another obstacle I am struggling to address.

I am a daughter and a friend. My parents and I talk and share on a level beyond parent/child. I think it is important that I prepare my own children for that transition one day.

I am a wife. I fell for my husband when I was 12 and he was 16. He finally realized my feelings when I was 15 (and only recently discovered that I joined the diving team because HE was on the diving team). I learned about unconditional love from him, and I'm trying daily to reveal that unconditional love back to him.

I am a mother. We have been blessed with three wonderful boys - perfect for me because I was a tomboy. My prayer every day is that I can be a faithful steward over these precious treasures that have been entrusted to me.

I am a writer. Words have always been a powerful part of my life. Most of my writing took place in the form of notes, letters, and cards. But although the words were intended for individuals, you never know when those words will touch the world.

My career as a writer launched the same year I found out I was pregnant with our third son. That was one of those moments where I was certain God was messing with me. My life was on track, and He shakes it all up with a surprise pregnancy. Sometime the blessings we receive are not the blessings we were expecting or even those we understand, but God's blessings always turn out exceedingly, abundantly more than we can think or imagine."

Have you ever had God "mess up" your plans? We'd love to hear about it. Watch for Part II of this guest post tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On My Nightstand - The Superlative Stream by Kerry Nietz & Giveaway

Author Kerry Nietz launched his much-anticipated second book in the Dark Trench series, "The Superlative Stream." To fully appreciate this volume, it would be helpful, but not imperative, that you read, "A Star Curiously Singing."

Sandfly, a fixer of all things robotic, and his female companion, Hard Candy, embark on a search for The Superlative Stream. They look for a new way of life, one promising freedom from the severe mind control of earth's regime.

The previous Dark Trench crew encountered strange things in the Betelgeuse system, but nothing compared to what Sandfly and Hardy Candy discover. Are the planet and civilization the source of the Superlative Stream? Or is it another cosmic dead end?

Kerry brings the main characters through a thought process that's both natural and believable. Their relationship, previously foreign and forbidden, provides an interesting story element.

To enter the drawing:

1) Leave a comment with your email address in the spam-busting format. No email = no entry.

2) Deadline: Saturday, June 12, 2010, at midnight EDT. Winner will be notified via email, and an announcement posted on the blog on Sunday, June 13, 2010.

3) No fee was required for this giveaway. Void where prohibited. The winner is responsible for their eligibility. I did not receive any remuneration for this review, and purchased the book myself.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chew Your Food

As a kid, playing held greater appeal to me than eating. I'd gulp down my food so I could get back to my dolls. This resulted in a frequent admonition from my mother to "chew your food or you'll choke."

When I'm rushing around involved in writing, reading, blogging, email, and all the other activities of life, I sometimes end up swallowing a concept that needs further breakdown. After gasps, sputters, and choking, I must go back and take time to meditate on the information in bite-sized pieces.

Writing a synopsis or proposal sends me over the edge. I finally located some study material and took the time needed to properly digest it. This principle holds true for any other aspect of writing such as character development, point of view, and grammar.

How about you? Do you take the time to break aspects of the craft into nuggets and chew on them?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Winner of Menu for Romance by Kaye Dacus

Congratulations to CINDY WILSON! You've won Kaye Dacus' book, "Menu for Romance."

Thanks to all those participating in the drawing. We'll have an extra drawing this week, so be sure to stop by on Wednesday.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Round-Up - #102

Bonnie Calhoun, of Christian Fiction Online, asked bloggers to spread the word about this problem. This message came from Barbara Scott, at Abingdon Press.

"Never fear! Our best people are on top of the 4shared site at least. And when you discover ANY site that offers free downloads, unless you know it's a promotion on Kindle, let us know. When our royalty people checked the 4shared site yesterday, they found more than 425 of our products listed for free download...even music for choirs!! It wasn't just fiction. And one of those supposed uploaders of material to the site had uploaded at least 50,000 books, etc. Someone must have a major piracy ring operating. The article in RWA was by a romance author who had no success with getting her work off the site, so she went after the advertisers and contacted them: AT&T, Starbucks, Toyota, etc., and when she told them the site was stealing copyrighted material, they immediately pulled their advertising. I intend to contact RWA to see if I can buy copies of the article for you all. Please spread the word through your blogs about this site."

Have any of you encountered this type of site on the Net? Let's raise awareness about the problem.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Giveaway - Menu for Romance by Kaye Dacus

As promised, I've extended the Happy Blogoversary month into the first week of June. See details of the giveaway below.

Meredith Guidry tires of waiting around for her love interest to notice her. She decides to give up on him and hunt for someone else.

Executive Chef, Major O'Hara, has resigned himself to singleness due to a family situation. How can he ask a woman to take on his problems? When Meredith begins dating another man, he wakes up to the fact he may lose her forever. As a chef, he serves up original menus. Can he concoct a menu for romance?

Having a relative in the restaurant industry, I found this setting rang true. The insane pace and attention to detail are shown in exquisite detail. The cast of multi-faceted characters could be people you'd meet in daily life. I thoroughly enjoyed this romance that relied on strong elements of faith.

To enter the giveaway: 1) Leave a comment with your email address. No email = no entry. 2) If you're a Follower or become a Follower, mention it in the comment for another entry.

3) Want another entry? Post about the contest on your blog and email me a link at susanjreinhardt (at) gmail (dot) com.

Deadline: Saturday, 6/5/10, at Midnight EDT. Winner will be notified via email and announced on the blog on 6/6/10.

Eligibility: Sorry, USA residents only. Void where prohibited.

Disclaimer: I won this book on a blog, and received no payment for this review.