Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Author Interview & Giveaway - Mindy Starns Clark - Part 1

Mindy Starns Clark is the award-winning author of 19 books, bth fiction and non-fiction, including the #1 CBA/ECPA bestseller The Amish Midwife (co-written with Leslie Gould) and the perennial favorite The House That Cleans Itself. Her works have been finalists for ACFW's Carol Awards, RWA's Inspirational Book of the Year award, RT Book Club Magazine's Reviewer's Choice Award, and the ECPA's Christian Book Award. A former stand-up comedian, Mindy is also a popular playwright and inspirational speaker. She lives with her husband and two daughters near Valley Forge, PA.

I'm excited to have Mindy with us for a 2-part interview and giveaway. Be sure to check out the contest details below.

1) How did you and Leslie meet and decide to collaborate on a series?

We have the same agent, Chip MacGregor, and it was his idea. Leslie was wanting to write an Amish but didn't have the knowledge; I was wanting to come out with books more frequently but didn't have the time. For at least a year, Chip kept telling me about this author and how great she was and how we really ought to co-write a book. I didn't think I'd like the co-writing process, but I finally decided to give it a shot. As it turned out, I liked co-writing so much, I now work with three different co-authors! I love them all, but each situation is unique. Working with Leslie is incredibly rewarding and way too much fun. I also think we bring out the best in each other's work, and that's the main goal, to write a really great book.

2)What was your inspiration for The Amish Midwife?

It was Leslie's idea. She had read A Midwife's Story by Penny Armstrong and Sheryl Feldman a long time ago and had been wanting to use the information in a novel somehow ever since. She also had home births with her own children, so she had that experience to draw from as well.

3) Since I'm collaborating on a book with my friend, Karen Lange, I'm interested in your process. How do you divide the research, planning, and writing?

You know, it's different with each of my co-authors. With Leslie, she comes up with the basic plot then we hammer out the salient details together with lots of emails flying back and forth, until we've got an outline that runs several  pages. Then she writes the rough draft and sends it to me. I write the next draft, which sometimes involves significant changes and sometimes is just a matter of polishing up what's there. Our "voices" are very similar, so it's not hard at all for us to make it sound like one author rather than two. Once we've each had a crack at it, we work together on the finishing touches, and then we're done.

The best part is that we each bring different strengths to the table. She's a character-driven author and has a beautiful way with prose, which constantly has me in awe. (She's also far more organized and prompt than I am, so she keeps us on schedule. Haha.) I'm a plot-driven author with a real knack for pacing and storytelling. Together, we pretty much cover all the bases.

As for research, in the beginning, I was the "expert" on the Amish and handled that part of the equation. But she's learned so much since then-much of it through first-hand experience from her own research trips among the Amish - that nowadays she knows as much as I do about them, if not more. Beyond the Amish elements, it just sort of works out that we both research the things that seem needed at the time. For example, in The Amish Midwife, she handled almost all of the birth-related stuff. In The Amish Nanny, which involves characters who are traveling, I worked a lot with logistics, geopgraphy, and timelines, because as a former travel agent, I'm kind of obsessive about getting things exactly right. Overall, she does a lot more research than I do, though, because she's the one who's writing that first draft.

Thanks, Mindy! Wow, I can't imagine working with three authors.

And now for the giveaway details:

1) Mindy has generously offered to give away one copy of The Amish Midwife and one copy of The Amish Nanny. Two books = two winners! The contest is open to current and new Followers of Christian Writer/Reader Connection. Only residents of the U.S. are eligible for the giveaway.

2) You have the possibility of four entries. A comment on each of the interview posts will give you two, mentioning it on your blog gives you a third opportunity, and posting it on Facebook will get you a fourth entry. You must let me know in your comment if you mentioned the contest on your blog or Facebook.

3) I will need your email address in your comment. No email = no entry.

4) The deadline is Saturday, March 10, 2012, at midnight. The winner will be notified by email, and an announcement will be made on the blog on Sunday, March 11, 2012. I will forward your snail mail address to Mindy, who will send the two winners their books.

Disclaimer: I did not receive any remuneration for doing this interview.

Question for Writers: Does the idea of collaborating on a book appeal to you? Why/why not?

Question for Readers: When you read a co-written book, does it seem like it's written by more than one person or is it seamless?

Hmm, I think I'm going to pick up that book The House That Cleans Itself!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Processing Advice - Prayed, Weighed, and Saved

Advice. We all get it, but how do we make our decisions when so much is contradictory? I've come up with a 3-part process that helps me decide what actions to take.


Before I go to anyone else, I pray. Yes, there's wisdom in many counselors, but I need to go to the Greatest Counselor and the scriptures.

When I'm facing major decisions, I don't go to just anyone. I go to people I know who pray and who understand me both as a person and as a writer.


Recently, I requested input on a certain matter. Each person I approached brought up things I hadn't considered. Their thoughts gave me additional information to sort through and make a decision.


I tucked away their comments in my memory bank. Further research and more prayer helped me reach the answer I needed.

Writers & Readers: How do you make important decisions regarding your writing and your life? Do you have any other methods to share with us?

I couldn't resist this cute piggy bank. :)

Photos: bjearwicke, kirsche222

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #194

Jean Fischer, at The Walrus and The Carpenter, gives 5 ways to polish your word weaving skills.

Writers: Do you have any fun ways to improve your writing? Please share.

Readers: What types of word games do you enjoy? Puzzles, Word Search, etc.?

I like the Word Search puzzles. It stretches my brain to look for words in odd configurations.

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On My Nightstand - Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke

Annie Allen watches the Titanic set sail. She wishes her brother, Owen, had allowed her to go along with him, never dreaming the most precious individual in her life would soon be a casualty.

Even though he faced a sure death, Owen worked hard to secure the safety of his young friend, Michael Dunnagan. Annie deals with resentment that Michael lived while her brother died.

Owen made Michael promise to bring Annie to America. His correspondence and the encouragement of her friend, soften her heart. Friendship turns to love, but will a world gone mad keep them from ever realizing their dreams?

Cathy Gohlke's beautiful writing, stirring plots, and vibrant characters make her one of my favorite writers. This release comes at the 100th year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. She knows exactly when to send the tension into overdrive. Just when you think everything will work out, the characters face another hurdle to overcome.

This book is a keeper from both a historical and a romantic perspective. Don't miss the latest offering from this Christy Award-Winning Author.

Disclosure: Cathy sent me the book. As always, the opinions are all mine. I did not receive any remuneration for this review.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Birthday Thoughts

"You can age, but you don't have to get old." - Author unknown

On Thursday, I celebrate another year lived. Although it may seem strange, 30 was the hardest birthday for me. As a kid, I viewed 30 as ancient, and asked my parents what it was like in the olden days. It's amazing how young it looks to me now.

What do I like about aging?

1) I've lived a certain amount of history. I remember when the first astronaut was launched into space, when the World's Fair came to New York, when Carol Heiss won the Women's Olympic Gold Medal, and when the country mourned JFK.

2) The shared memories of family and friends. Looking at old picture albums brings back many happy times.

3) Years lived give one a unique perspective, an overview of life. I see what works and what doesn't and hopefully I've learned from my mistakes.

4) My relationship with the Lord gets sweeter each year. Every other joy pales in comparison.

5) No one knows when their pilgrim journey will end, but heaven stirs an excitement once reserved for major life events.

Most people talk about aging in a negative manner. What are some of the positives for you? How has aging impacted your writing?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #193

Gina Holmes, author of Crossing Oceans, guest posts on Chip MacGregor's blog. She talks about all the unplanned, serendipitous things that occurred on her journey from debut author to the bestseller list.

Published Authors and Writers: Do you have a story to share about an event or being at the right place at the right time?

Pre-published Authors & Writers: Have you had any "God Moments" that spur you on to publication?

Readers: How does a new book catch your eye? Is name recognition of both the author and the book a factor? Please elaborate.

Have a safe and blessed weekend!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On My Nightstand - Chasing Lilacs by Carla Stewart

Sammie Tucker's life undergoes drastic changes when her mom is hospitalized. She wants things to be normal and have a mom, who bakes cookies, takes her shopping, and does all the special things her friends' mothers do for their kids.

When things get worse by the minute, she learns who she can trust and how to evaluate relationships apart from the opinions of others. Mystery shrouds a great deal of her past, and she's desperate to know the truth.

This novel is set in Graham Camp, Texas in 1958. I relished the familiar details of that era. The author did her homework.

Someone said, "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader." In certain parts of the book, Carla Stewart must have cried buckets because I sure did. She gets into the mind and heart of a young girl, who's trying to sort out her life.

If you enjoy character-driven books, you'll be drawn into this story immediately. Carla does a wonderful job with the entire cast and brings the tale to an exciting conclusion. I'm glad I discovered this author's work through book reviews and hope you'll discover her novels as well.

Writers:  There's a lot of inner dialogue in this book. How do you give your readers insight into the minds of your characters?

Readers: How do you feel about stories with young main characters? Do they captivate you or must they be closer to your age to resonate?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Climbing Out of the Pit

Whenever there's a mining accident, many people are needed to free those trapped underground. It takes the same kind of support to pull someone from the depths of despair.

Ideally, we wouldn't get into such trouble. Alas, we live in a fallen world with an enemy, who does all he can to snare us in a trap.

My merciful Heavenly Father once again came to my rescue. He reminded me that He'd never leave me nor forsake me. As I poured out my concerns to Him and WAITED for His answers, peace evicted panic.

Did the discouraging thoughts keep trying to get my attention? You better believe they did. When they came, I told them, "Go see my Father. He's handling that matter."

With gratitude welling up in my heart, my emotions calmed, and I began to think clearly. The words of comfort, love, and encouragement from the scripture and my writing friends soothed the tender areas.

One friend reached out and did a guest blog post to lighten my load. (Thanks, Karen!) Another friend's interview filled in two more blogging slots. Taking it slow, I began to write again. The momentum I'd lost grows day by day.

Instead of quitting, I'm entering my manuscript into the ACFW Genesis Contest. Hold me accountable on that one! It's still touch and go. My devotional writing is going forward, and I plan to query another agent.

I'm making time to take care of myself. With proper rest, exercise, and nourishment, my body has shaken off the persistent physical miseries of the past months.

Thank you, dear friends, for your posts that lift my spirits, for your loving words, and for hanging in there with me as I climbed out of this pit.

Do you have any words of wisdom for those who wonder if the stories God has put in their hearts will reach their intended audience?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Round-Up #192

Mike Duran talks about Speculative Fiction. Since I'm thinking about entering the Genesis Contest under this category, the article piqued my interest.

Defining this genre is not easy. As one commenter noted, the term is more of an umbrella term with sub-genres like Christian Supernatural fiction, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy underneath. Most publishers shy away from the category, but there's an untapped demand from readers.

I'm interested to see what you think of the article and the genre. Since my book is near-future, I thought I might fit here.

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

On My Nightstand - The Amish Midwife by Mindy Starns Clark & Leslie Gould

Lexie Jaeger avoids commitment. When boyfriends get too serious, she bails out. Her latest love interest, James, thinks it's because of unresolved issues concerning her adoption.

When her dying father gives her some tantalizing items, the questions they create in her mind push her to search for her birth family. Will she get the answers she wants, and will she want the answers she gets?

Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould team up to produce this tale fraught with dark secrets, tormented souls, and freedom. They hooked me from the get-go, and I finished in record time.

This is not your typical Amish book. There's interaction between Mennonite and Amish characters. They're portrayed as people with real problems, heartaches, and family dysfunction.

After reading Mindy's book, "Shadows of Lancaster County," I knew I'd be picking up more of her titles. I'm glad I selected this one.

Writers: Do you ever think about jumping into the Amish trend? Why or why not?

Readers: It's time for you to weigh in. If an Amish book has a great story line with elements of mystery, would you pick it up?

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Dangers of Discouragement

The dance with discouragement put me on thin ice. The more I entertained those thoughts, the more I spiraled down emotionally. What was the result?

1)  I got into a negative way of viewing past and present events.

2)  My decision-making ability went askew. I felt pressed to make quick decisions without giving them prayer or careful consideration. Full-blown panic mode entered the picture.

3)  Quitting seemed like it would be a welcome relief from pressure. Guess what? We're going to have stressful situations in life whether it's writing or something else.

4)  My problems became bigger in my eyes than God. Writing that sentence made me shudder. How I must have grieved His heart.

5)  All of the blessings dimmed, and I lost sight of how far I'd come on this writing journey.

I'd like to make all sorts of excuses, but the bottom line is I agreed with the temptation of discouragement. Next week, we'll see how God graciously pulled me out of this latest scrape. Yes, as Joyce Meyer often says, "The battlefield is in the mind."

Do you see any other dangers to dancing with thoughts contrary to God's Word?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Round-Up - #191

Tess Gerritsen posts at Novel Rocket about how an editor revived her career in the United Kingdom. It's an amazing story.

Has another writer or editor impacted your life? Please share.

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On My Nightstand - Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist

Georgie Gail desires to live an independent life. Her job as a telephone operator in rural Brenham, Texas comes with her own cottage. She's free to tend her garden and make a habitat for the songbirds she loves so much. Too bad, the new troubleman comes along and turns her world upside down.

Luke Palmer is a hardboiled Texas Ranger. The only thing he cares about is bringing criminals to justice. He goes undercover, but doesn't reckon with a sassy woman stealing his heart.

I've read one other Deeanne Gist book, "Maid to Match," and knew I'd be in for a treat. I wasn't disappointed. The characters learn the importance of love and getting along with others.

Deeanne threw in a twist that almost knocked me out of my chair. Looking back, I should have seen it, but she wove it in with such skill that I totally missed it.

If you're a historical romance fan, you'll adore this novel. I'm glad I discovered another author that promises and delivers a great tale.

Writers: Do you like the independent woman/macho man type books? Are your heroines more traditional or bucking the status quo?

Readers: What's your take on heroines, who seek greater freedom?