Thursday, August 14, 2014

On the Banks of Plum Creek with My Girls & A Winner!

I was overwhelmed by your love and support last week when I made my big announcement! That post alone received over a thousand views this week. Thank you for being with me to celebrate. I'm thrilled to announce the winner of the Little Falls gift basket is Laura McClellan! Laura, I'll be contacting you soon.

Next week I will share a sneak peek of my novellas, but for now, I want to share pictures from the recent trip I took with my daughters and mom to see Laura Ingalls Wilder's home site on the banks of Plum Creek.

My daughters turned ten and eight this summer. A perfect age to read through the Little House on the Prairie series and make a pilgrimage to Walnut Grove, Minnesota.

Walnut Grove is three hours south of our house, Pepin, Wisconsin (where Little House in the Big Woods is set) is three hours southeast, and DeSmet, South Dakota (where On the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years are set) is four and a half hours southwest. We chose to go to Walnut Grove because of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant, and because it was the 40th Anniversary of the television series, and many of the original cast members would be in Walnut Grove to celebrate.

I'm so happy we did.

We invited my mom to come with and we enjoyed seeing many small towns in Minnesota we've only heard of. We arrived a bit later than planned, because I relied on my car's GPS and it routed the wrong way (adding an extra hour to our drive), but eventually we pulled into town--and it was packed! Record-breaking numbers we were told.

The first stop was the Family Festival in the park where my oldest participated in a Laura Ingalls Wilder look alike contest. She did a wonderful job, but with 51 other contestants, she didn't win.

Throughout the day, we had people ask if they could take her picture, because she looked so much like Laura. We also had many people ask if she had been in the contest, and if she won. They were shocked when she said no. :) This bolstered her spirits a little.

After the contest, we went to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. Now, I'm a sucker for a good museum, and I wasn't disappointed. Very well done.

Our next stop was to the site of the dugout on the banks of Plum Creek, where Laura lived with her family. This was my favorite part of the whole day. There was something magical about standing where Laura stood, and playing in the creek with my girls.


After a quick bite to eat, it was time to go to the Cast Reunion and Pageant.

I was only able to take two pictures, because my batteries died.

The Cast Reunion was another highlight of the day. It was so  much fun listening to them reminisce about their days on the set of Little House on the Prairie. The people who played Almanzo, Nellie, Miss Beadle, Carrie (twins), Grace (twins), Eliza Jane, and John Jr. took the stage.

All too soon the Cast Reunion ended, and the pageant began under the star-studded sky. The weather was perfect, with a soft breeze. There were over 2,300 people at the pageant! It was amazing to see all the Little House on the Prairie fans--and to have two of the biggest fans sitting next to me.

Your Turn: Have you read any of the Little House on the Prairie books or watched the television series? Ever been to one of the towns Laura lived in?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Big, BIG Announcement!

The day I've been dreaming about for over twenty years has finally arrived. Today I signed my first book contract--and five seconds later I signed my second contract! I will have two novellas release with Barbour Publishing in 2015. I'm still in a bit of shock, and very, very excited!

The first story is called Four Brides and a Bachelor. It releases in May 2015 with the Most Eligible Bachelor Collection.

The second story is called A Groom for Josette. It releases in July 2015 in the Convenient Bride Collection.

In case you don't know, a novella is a short story. My novellas will be 20,000 words each (or about 75 pages). To give you a frame of reference, the full length novels I write are about 100,000 words (or about 360 pages).
Each collection will include nine stories (nine authors), in one book. If you're familiar with Barbour, you know their novella collections are very popular. Whenever I go to Wal Mart, I always check the bookshelves and I almost always see a new Barbour novella collection sitting there.
A recent novella collection from Barbour
I'm still in awe of God's hand in all of this. When I was a teenager, I asked Him to place desires in my heart that He wanted me to pursue with my life. He placed the desire in my heart to write stories, and He has lit the path on my journey to publication. The stories I write are an offering to Him, and I pray they bring Him glory.
I'm also in awe of His timing. I learned that I had sold these two novellas when my writing friends were in town for our second annual writers retreat! Talk about celebrating! I couldn't have asked for a better time to hear the news.

Right after I spoke with my agent, there were hugs and squeals, and lots of exclamation points in our conversation! That evening we went out onto the river and my husband took this picture. It was fun to revel in the moment with Melissa Tagg, Lindsay Harrel, and Alena Tauriainen.

The following evening, they took me out to celebrate at my favorite Italian restaurant. It was so much fun to share this time with them, because they know exactly what this milestone means.

I'll be sure to share more about the novellas in the near future, but for now I want to celebrate with all of you!
I put together a little gift package from places around my hometown where my novellas will be set. There are two glass mugs from our local historical society at the Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Museum, a ceramic mug and postcard from the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau, a hand-stitched handkerchief from Linden Hill Conference and Retreat Center (two historic mansions), and a 2015 daily calendar that says: "O Happy Day!" from our Christian book store to celebrate my 2015 releases--and this happy day! The winner will be announced next Thursday.
Thank you for celebrating with me today! I'll be sharing more about the novellas soon.
Your Turn: What are you celebrating lately? What dream has God put on your heart?
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Two Books Reviews

I've had the pleasure of reading two amazing books recently. I'm not surprised that they're both from Bethany House Publishers. :) One is a Contemporary Romance from the always amazing, Melissa Tagg, and the other is a Historical Romance from one of my favorite historical writers, Jody Hedlund.

Melissa's book, Here to Stay, is her second novel and it tells the story of Blake Hunziker, who we first met in Made to Last. I was really looking forward to reading Blake's story, because I fell in love with his character in Made to Last--and this story did not disappoint!

If you haven't picked up one of Melissa's books, I urge you to get one soon. Melissa has such a fun, spunky voice and her characters are so realistic and charming. The heroine in Here to Stay runs a historic inn, but her dream is to see the world. The hero has just come home from globe-trotting, and he wants to finally settle down and stay in one place. As their lives are brought together by a community event, we watch this unlikely pair fall in love. But how can either one give up their dream?

I especially loved the setting for Here to Stay. It's a small, lakeside town called Whisper Shores. Melissa did a wonderful job bringing the community, and it's citizens, to life. By the end of the book, I felt like I was a member of the Whisper Shores community. Melissa's story is funny, yet poignant, and you will experience all the joys and sorrows along the way. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy a romantic comedy.

The second book I had the pleasure of reading is Captured by Love, by Jody Hedlund. Jody writes inspirational historical romance--and let me say, the romance in this book is exquisite! The story is set on Mackinac Island in 1814. Because of its unique setting and time period, it was unlike any other story I've ever read.

The hero, Pierre, is a voyageur who left five years before to seek a career in the fur trading business, but now he's back to spy on the British Army who have overtaken the island he loves. The heroine, Angelique, is forced to live with her domineering stepfather, but sneaks away to take care of Pierre's blind mother, who has become the mother she's always wanted. When Pierre returns to Mackinac Island, neither is prepared for the love that grows between them. Amongst a war, Angelique's betrothal to another man, and Pierre's dangerous work as a spy, they must find a way to overcome the impossible obstacles.

I love so many things about Jody's books. Each one gets better and better. She allows her characters to get into so much trouble, you wonder how they can possibly overcome all the odds stacked against them! But by the end, you're completely satisfied. She's also skilled at creating a love story so realistic, you ache with the hero and heroine until they are safely in each other's arms.

If you're looking for a great read, I'd highly recommend both of these books.

*I was given a free copy of each book for my honest opinion, which I've given.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Little Teaser...

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Here's a little teaser for the story I recently finished. It's set in 1927 just after Charles Lindbergh made his epic flight across the Atlantic and his hometown of Little Falls, Minnesota prepares for his grand welcome home celebration.

Between July 1927 and October 1927 Lindbergh flew to 48 states and 82 cities on his Goodwill Tour with the Guggenheim Fund for the Advancement of Aeronautics. During the tour he traveled 22,350 miles, delivered 147 speeches, and rode 1,290 miles in parades. An estimated 30 million Americans went out to see him in person on the tour--that was a quarter of the population!

August 25, 1927
Courtesy of the Morrison County Historical Society
One of those stops was in Little Falls. You can imagine how excited the people of Little Falls were. The small town of about 6,000 residents swelled to over 50,000 for two days and my heroine is right in the midst of the planning and celebration.

I don't want to give away too much...but I can say the story involves a beauty pageant, a love triangle, a secret past, a mobster or two, and the heart and soul of a small town bursting at the seams with pride.

Your Turn: If you're a writer, can you give us a little teaser for the story you're working on? If you're a reader, what story are you currently reading, or what story is at the top of your to be read pile?

Happy (early) 4th of July! We'll be at the lake celebrating with friends and family. I'm looking forward to sharing some fun posts in July! Stay tuned...

Friday, June 13, 2014

Book Review: Full Steam Ahead

I just finished my latest Karen Witemeyer book, Full Steam Ahead. When I first saw the title, I thought it referred to trains, but I was surprised to learn it was about steamship boilers. Karen's books are always a fun read, no matter the subject, and this subject is something I've never read about.

Karen's characters are always funny, engaging, and likeable. Her heroines are spunky, her heroes are manly, and her secondary characters are colorful. Karen's plots are unique, although they tend to be a little predictable toward the end.

I've loved Karen Witemeyer's writing for years. After I finished her first book, A Tailor Made Bride, I immediately bought the other two she had already published, and since then, I've been quick to buy her new releases. Her books are set in Texas, and I always feel like I learn something new about the history and setting of that great state.

Short Review: Overall, Full Steam Ahead was entertaining to read and kept my attention. I learned a lot about steamship boilers, but sometimes the details bogged down the story toward the middle, and I found myself wanting to skip ahead to the interaction between the hero and heroine, which was always steamy. I would give it a solid A- rating.

Longer Review: Full Steam Ahead is about a young woman named Nicole Renard who must find a suitable husband to become her father's heir to take over the family business. Her father's health is failing, and as his only child, and a woman, she has no choice but to find a husband. She heads to New Orleans, to do just that, but a series of misfortunate events lands her penniless on the steps of an eccentric scientist--a man who is not husband-material.

Darius Thornton has locked himself away from society for over a year after he was nearly killed in a steamship explosion. Since then, he's dedicated his life to fixing the problems that caused the boilers to burst on the steamship. When a young lady answers his advertisement to be his secretary, he doesn't want the distraction he knows she presents--but he quickly realizes Nicole is exactly what he needs in a secretary--and a wife. But can he convince her that he's the man she needs before she collects her wages and continues her journey to New Orleans?

The set up is wonderful, with an amazing prologue, but once Nicole reaches Darius's home, the story sags a bit with a lot of details about boilers. After the hero and heroine discover their love for one another, the story picks up steam again, and quickly carries the reader through to the satisfying end.

Full Steam Ahead is a great story, and I definitely foresee a sequel, which I'm eager to read. I highly recommend this book and all of Karen's other books!

Your Turn: Have you read one of Karen's books? Which one is your favorite?

This book is now available from Bethany House Publishers. You can find it here.

I received a free copy of Full Steam Ahead from Bethany House for my honest review.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Writing Journey: Patience

I started this blog in February 2012 as a way to document my writing journey. Since then, I've blogged about all the amazing writers I've met (online and in person), the retreats and conferences I've attended, the stories I've written, and the day I signed with my wonderful agent, Mary Keeley, from Books & Such Literary Agency. I've shared personal struggles and victories, and I've talked about how this pursuit has affected my faith, my family, and my friendships. I've celebrated over being a semi-finalist, and finalist, in writing contests, and I've talked about receiving rejections when the answer has been no.

Now that I've been on this journey for a couple of years, I often have people ask if my books are published. I get a lot of questions about the process, and the time it takes to get published by a traditional publisher. I thought it would be fun to share where I'm currently at on this writing journey.

Very few people get their first, or second, manuscript published. I don't know the statistics, but I've talked with many friends, and read many blog posts by agents and editors. Pursuing publication is all about patience and persistence. And then more patience, and more persistence. If you're not a patient person, you will do one of two things: 1) self-publish your brilliant novel, or 2) learn how to be patient.

I have completed three full-length novels. I write historical romance and my stories are all about 100,000 words long. It takes me about three months to write the first draft, with about two-three weeks of intense research and plotting beforehand. After my first draft is finished, I take a couple of weeks to revise and polish it, then I send it off to my critique partners. They are very good at reading my manuscript and returning it within a couple weeks. After I go through and make the changes they've suggested, I send the story to my beta readers. This is a group of about ten ladies who are readers, and not necessarily writers. After I get their notes, I make more changes, and then have one more read-through before I send the manuscript to my agent.

Along with the manuscript, I also send a book proposal and a five page synopsis. My agent will read the manuscript and give me feedback, which I will use to make further changes to the story. After all my editing is done, my agent then submits the manuscript to publishing houses.

Here's where everything is out of my hands and the waiting really begins. There is a rhythm to the publishing world. There are seasons and times when publishing houses are actively acquiring new authors, and times when they are not. I trust my agent to send my manuscript at the right time. This might be right away, or it might be a month or two after I get it to her.

If an editor becomes interested in my story, she will then need to take it through all the different stages at her publishing house before she could offer a contract. This will require more patience! I have a rough idea of what this would entail, though I've never been through the process. She would present the story to other editors to read, then the marketing team would see it. After the marketing team punches in some numbers, she would then bring the story to a publishing board meeting where she would have to "sell" the book idea to the board members who would then vote yes or no. If the vote is yes, she would write a contract, which would then be sent to my agent and the negotiation would take place. If all of this is done, the story would then go through numerous rounds of editing and the book would be on shelves about a year later.

Where am I at right now? Currently, I am waiting to hear back from my beta readers on my third story. In the next couple of weeks I will send my manuscript to my agent and wait to hear her feedback. In the meantime, I am working on other writing opportunities my agent has presented.

Patience. Persistence.

Your Turn! If you're not a writer, does this process surprise you? If you're a published author, what surprised you most about the process? If you're not published, where are you on the journey?
Today I'm a guest on the Inspy Romance Blog! I'm talking about finding romance in the midst of parenting. You can find it here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Book Review: The Waiting

Last week I read the Books & Such blog and one of the agents, Janet Kobobel Grant, wrote about a special book project she has been working on for a little over a year. The blog post is titled "Not Every Book Follows the Standard Path to Publication" and it examines one book in particular: The Waiting: The True Story of a Lost Child, a Lifetime of Longing, and a Miracle for a Mother Who Never Gave Up.

As Janet described the unusual path this book took to publication, I became fascinated by the subject matter. When Janet gave a brief synopsis of the book, I immediately went to Amazon and purchased my own copy. I knew I wanted to get a hard copy, so I could pass it along to friends, because without even reading this story, I knew it would be one I'd want to share.

And I was right. Not only do I want to share my copy, but I want to encourage every person I know to buy their own. The Waiting is a non-fiction book that reads like a fictional novel--but it's even more powerful, because it's completely true.

The story chronicles the life of Minka DeYoung Disbrow who grew up on the plains of South Dakota, a shy and innocent farm girl who, at the age of sixteen, was accosted by a stranger at a picnic. For a young girl who still believed the stork delivered babies, she was shocked to discover she was pregnant.

Her parents sent her to the House of Mercy to deliver the baby. Minka was to have the baby, and then come home and pretend as if nothing had happened. But, for Minka, no amount of pretending would allow her to forget her sweet baby, Betty Jane. She knew the baby went to a minister and his wife, but that was little solace for the years of pain.

The book follows Minka's life through the Great Depression, WWII, getting married, giving birth to another daughter (eighteen years after the first), as well as a son. We see Minka as a hardworking wife, mother, landlady, daycare provider, and employee who traverses the country, and eventually ends up in California. We see her hardships and her joys, and our hearts are woven around this amazing, courageous woman.

For almost thirty years, Minka wrote letters to the ladies at the House of Mercy, and to her sweet baby, Betty Jane. She sent money and gifts when she could, and never forgot their kindness to her.

For seventy-seven years, Minka would mourn the loss of her baby girl. But on the day of her baby's seventy-seventh birthday, when Minka was ninety-four, she would ask God to allow her to see her daughter, at least once.

The very same day, back in South Dakota, a judge opened Betty Jane's adoption record, at the request of a woman named Ruth Lee--once known as sweet baby, Betty Jane. The adoption file contained over a hundred letters from Minka. And Ruth soon discovered Minka was still alive.

Ruth (Baby Betty Jane) and Minka during their reunion
My heart broke for Minka, and when her dream is finally realized, after seventy-seven years of waiting, I wept. I've never cried like that while reading a book before. This is a powerful love story, not only between a mother and a daughter, but between God and His people. We see the hand of God woven into every little detail, and it's truly remarkable.

Your Turn: Have you read The Waiting yet?