Thursday, September 23, 2010

Coming up next ...

Another book review and giveaway!  Check back
 next week for more details !

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Great Blog Idea!

I wanted to let you all know about a really fun blog that I recently learned about.  It is called Christian Book Giveaways and is hosted by a very creative young lady by the name of Carman.  On this blog Carman lists the current giveaways on many different blogs.  It is a  great place to visit for an overview of ongoing contests.  She lists only Christian books, both fiction and non-fiction, so you can be assured that, if you visit a link for a book that is posted on her blog, it is a good, clean, wholesome book.   You need not fear being surprised by the smut that is so prevalent in many books that are being published in this age of sin and depravity.

If you are a reader looking for a good book, I recommend that you pay a visit to Carman's blog.  If you are a blogger with a book to give away, Carman's is a good place to list that contest and receive some free publicity.  Everyone comes out a winner!  I applaud Carman, who is a high school student, for coming up with this great idea.   My latest giveaway was posted on Christian Book Giveaways and I now have several new friends and followers as a result.  Check it out - I think you'll be glad you did!

Congratulations ...

The winner of A Door County Christmas is ...


Congratulations!  An email has been sent to her and she will have one week to respond with her address.  If, by September 25th, I have not heard from katychick, another name will be chosen and a new winner selected. 

Another giveaway is coming up real soon so stop by again for another exciting giveaway.  Thanks to all who entered this contest and I hope to see you again real soon.

May God richly bless each one of you!
Jan Marie

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Book Review with Giveaway ... A Door County Christmas

This week has been a lot of fun with visits from each of the four authors of the Christmas collection, A Door County Christmas. Today we will wrap this series up with a review of the book and a chance to win a copy for your own reading pleasure.

The book opens with The Heart's Harbor By Cynthia Ruchti. Amanda Brooks simply wants to escape a cold, lonely Chicago Christmas and flees to Door County, Wisconsin, and the famous Heart's Harbor Victorian Inn. She gets much more than she bargained for when the owner, Lola Peterson, announces that she has been called for jury duty and is leaving Amanda in charge of preparations for the annual Christmas Tea. 

Cynthia creates exceptionally interesting and realistic characters, including Harland, Lola's quirky and hilarious husband. Harland is so lovable that I found myself wishing that Cynthia would write an entire book about him.

Since I abhor reviews that reveal too much of the plot, I will say no more about this story other than the fact that it is delightful from beginning to end and paints a truly wonderful picture of how God has a plan for each of us if we will heed His calling and follow His leading.

Next, we move along to Ride With Me Into Christmas by Rachael Phillips. Rachael adroitly shows us that, just because a person is retired and has already raised a family, it doesn't mean that life is over for them. God still cares about them and understands their needs and desires. He understands their loneliness and hunger for love and companionship. Best of all, He will supply and provide for those needs, often in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. You will fall in  love with Joanna and Paul as they tiptoe around each other. You will laugh at the antics of their adult children who try to nip this growing romance in the bud. You will rejoice with them as love, coupled with faith, prevails.

Eileen Key introduces us to the enchanting Vestal and Hilde Grissom, who are still very much in love after many decades of marriage. In My Heart Still Beats, we follow the story of these two elderly lovebirds as they come to the realization that they must reluctantly sell their cottage. They hire Madison Tanner to drive and assist them as they go about making the necessary arrangements. It is up to Maddy to deal with the realtor and his precocious daughter when the Grissoms change their mind about selling. Through it all, the hand of God is at work to bring peace and fulfillment to those who are willing to follow His leading.

The book concludes with Christmas Crazy by Becky Melby. Jillian Galloway just thinks she is going on a Christmas vacation to Door County territory. Instead, it is up to her to rescue and salvage her uncle's dinner theater in time for the annual Christmas production. In one hilarious catastrophe and disaster after another, Jillian and the enigmatic, young, and extremely handsome Ricky rise to the occasion and overcome all obstacles so that the show can go on. Once again, we see the hand of God at work, drawing together those who are faithful in His service.

Four stories, each entirely different and unique, are bound together with the common threads of Lola Peterson's Christmas Tea and the legend of the Christmas cactus that Lola shares with the main character in each of these novellas. I enjoyed this collection so much that I read it in its entirety in one day. I recommend that you add this book to your Christmas list, both for your own pleasure and for gifts for those you love.

A copy of this book for review purposes was provided to me by the authors. I received no compensation for this review nor was I under any obligation to provide a favorable review.  All comments are the true and unsolicited opinion of this writer.

For a chance to win a copy of A Door County Christmas, leave a comment along with your email address in this format:  yourname[at]domain[dot]com.  Become a follower for an extra chance to win.  Be sure to tell me in your comment if you are a follower. This giveaway will run until September 18th, at which time a name will be randomly drawn. Who will be the lucky winner?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Interview With Rachael Phillips

I am thrilled to have my friend, Rachael Phillips, with me today on Write About Now!  Rachael is the author of Ride With Me Into Christmas, one of the four novellas neatly tied together in the book A Door County Christmas.  Rachael, thanks for stopping by to visit with me and my reader friends today.  Can you tell us a bit about yourself for those who aren't lucky enough to know you?

I was a church music director when my unplanned writing career began.  The church secretary demanded monthly newsletter articles at gunpoint.  The pastors hated this task, but I loved writing humor articles based on Christian music and the Bible.  From that, I began to write a column for my local newspaper and take writing classes in the adult program at Bethel College, Mishawaka, IN.  There I made connections that resulted in my first biography in Barbour’s Heroes of the Faith series, Frederick Douglass.  Since then, I’ve written three other biographies for Barbour (Billy Sunday, Saint Augustine, and Well with My Soul (four hymn writers), as well as more than 400 articles, newspaper columns, devotions, and stories.  I’ve received the Erma Bombeck Global Award and the Genesis award for Young Adult Fiction, as well as others.   A Door County Christmas is my first published fiction.

I have been married 35 years to Steve Phillips, a country doctor, now also Taylor adjunct professor who teaches bioethics. We enjoy riding our tandem bike and have ridden almost 600 miles this summer. We have three grown married children: Beth (Frank), Christy (Bryan), and David (Janelle). We have four-going-on-five perfect grandchildren: Anabelle (6), Joey (4), Linus (2), and Jay (2). New grandbaby in January 2010.

The weekly column that you have recently begun writing for the local daily newspaper is certainly a welcome addition to that publication and your wonderful sense of humor is very evident in those articles.  What is your least favorite part of the writing process?

Plowing through the second draft. The first draft is spontaneous and fun. In the third and later drafts, I can shape fascinating details on the already-established frame. The second draft involves lots of focus and choices as to what goes and what stays, and I often tremble as I chop, chop, chop what I hope is irrelevant or detrimental to the story.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, what is your favorite part of the writing process?

Playing with the story possibilities in the very early stages or polishing the shine on the final drafts.

Tell us a bit about your typical (if there is such a thing as typical) day.

Alarm goes off at 5:30.  Pray with hubby for 15-30 minutes, up to study Bible and eat.  Usually at my desk by 7:30 because my best writing time is in the morning.  Work on the most urgent/difficult writing projects till noonish, lunch, a 30-45 minute nap, then work till hubby comes home.  I tend to do easier writing, marketing, e-mail responses, most social networking in the afternoon.  When I’m on deadline, I often work into the evening and beyond.  I meet friends at noon to socialize and talk writing sometimes. Hubby and I take a tandem bike ride after supper or do yard/house work.  Sometimes watch TV (often sports) or read together.  Not a glamorous life, but I enjoy it.

Hmmm... I see nothing in your day that allows for those trips to Ivanhoe's for a sundae or a strawberry shortcake.  When do you fit that into your schedule, I wonder?  OK, let's play a game here and pretend that you just finished your book two days before deadline. How will you celebrate or reward yourself?

A Moose Tracks sundae at Ivanhoe’s!  What else?

Aha!  I knew we would get to Ivanhoe's at some point in this interview!  For those of you who are clueless as to what we are talking about, I will let you in on a secret.  Rachael lives in a small Indiana town that you would miss as you drive through if it were not for the fact that Taylor University is located there.  Even more famous than Taylor to many people is the small restaurant/ice cream shop that is widely known for one hundred varieties of sundaes and shakes.  People drive from miles around to visit Ivanhoe's and finding a parking spot in their lot is usually a major ordeal.  (Rachael, do you suppose Ivanhoe's will pay me for this free advertisement?)  I digress -  let's get back to the interview.  What’s up next for your readers?

I also just finished a women’s fiction, Kneady Women, about a lonely Boomer writer who finds fun, food and fellowship with a bread-baking group called the Loafers.  I just sent it to my agent and, of course, hope it’s published!  I also co-wrote a reference guide, Women in the Bible, which Barbour is publishing in February 2011.

You have certainly been busy!  Don't forget that I want to be an influencer for Kneady Women; I am really looking forward to that.  What were your favorite subjects in school?

English, reading courses, Spanish.

Do you tend to turn to comfort food when approaching a deadline? Are you a nervous eater or do you become so engrossed in writing that you forget to eat?  What would be your first choice of comfort food?

Oh, definitely, I’m a comfort food/nervous eater!  Forget to eat? If I do, you’d better worry!  My first choice is ice cream sundaes—not good, since I live 3 blocks from Ivanhoe’s.  Pizza’s a close second.

What is your favorite meal?

Ooh, that’s like asking me about my favorite book!  WAY too many to count.  I do love seafood and pasta, so it would probably be a shrimp/scallops/clams pasta dish.

Would you share with us a favorite Bible verse?

My life verse: Psalm 103:1.  Above all, God has made me a worshipper.

Can you briefly describe your approach to beginning a new book?

Sitting and staring comprises a large part of it.  I like to use notebook and pen to brainstorm rather than the computer.  I also like to bounce ideas off other writers and my husband.  I often will create characters before setting or plot.  Those are often determined by how the characters act.

Do you like music when you are writing or do you prefer solitude?

Sometimes I need complete silence, but I enjoy playing classical instrumental music while I work.  I rarely play vocal because I’ll sing along and lose my concentration.

How do you overcome writer’s block?  Or is that a foreign concept to you?

I've struggled more with it this year—we moved from our hometown of 28 years—than I ever have. Usually it means I need to get up and do something physical, such as walking, riding our bike, working in the garden.  Even doing laundry seems to help me escape the “freeze,” which is akin to a computer’s stall. If it continues, I pray, read Scripture, play the piano and sing worship songs, and/or talk with my husband and writer buds.  Often I will write whatever comes to mind, even if it’s awful.  I heard Anne LaMott say she often spent days filling pages with bad, bad writing, but that bad writing could be corrected.  She couldn’t do anything with no writing.  I try to follow her example.

All of those methods must work well for you to have been as prolific as you have been in such a short period of time.  What (or who) inspires you?

Jesus, of course!  And my parents, who have never stopped laughing, never stopped creating, despite hard lives and enormous obstacles.

You must have inherited your wonderful sense of humor from both of them.  If not writing, what would you rather be doing?

Singing and composing.  Reading.  And definitely, eating.

Do you have any words of wisdom to share for those who are just starting out on the path?

Look to the Creator for creativity.   And if you’re looking for an easy path, choose another.

One couldn't ask for any better advice than that!  If you could choose in which you were born, what era would you prefer to live in and why?

Every era presents amazing challenges and opportunities.  But if I could have followed Jesus during His ministry, I can’t imagine anything more moving.

I agree -- that would have been an amazing time to be alive!  How did it transpire that you and the other three authors teamed up to write this book?

Cynthia and Becky were friends who lived in Wisconsin who loved the Door County area.  I had worked with Cynthia as ACFW choir director and humor columnists for the ACFW e-zine Afictionado, and we’d known each other from earlier classes and contacts (we share the same agent).  Cynthia and Becky wanted to write comic romances, and Cynthia suggested me because of my humor writing.  They knew Eileen, who had already published a book, and our foursome was complete!

And what a foursome you are!  I hope that you will all consider blessing us with another joint venture.  Where would be your favorite place to live?

Indiana, except during March/April, when I’d rather be south.  Second choice: Barcelona, Spain.

Following up on the last question, what place(s) have you not been that you would like to visit?

New England in the fall.  I’d also love to visit more countries in Europe (I’ve gone to Spain, France and England).

Name three things that most people would be surprised to learn about you.

I’m far more shy than some people think.  I love to watch sports live and on TV.  I’ve ridden in the trunk of a 1969 Mustang going 65 mph.

You certainly surprised me just now; I never would have guessed that there is a shy bone in your body! I will definitely have to hear more later on about this wild ride in the Mustang!  What was your most memorable moment from a conference.

Last year when I won my first fiction contract with Barbour!

I can readily understand why that would be a memorable event!  When did you know that you were destined to become a writer?

I’m just now beginning to believe it.

How much of ‘you’ can be found in your characters?

Certainly a little in each one.  But if one resembles me closely, I throw in some major curves to disassociate her with me.

Are you a plotter or do your characters tell you what direction to go?

My writing is definitely character-driven.

Rachael, it has been a real privilege to have you on my blog today.  I hope that those of you who are reading this can sense what a wonderful lady Rachael is.  I am lucky to be able to count her among my personal friends.  I met her a few months ago when she joined a mutual friend for lunch at Ivanhoes' (of course!) and immediately I felt a special bond with her.  The day we met was the beginning of one of the worst trials that I have ever had to endure and I was not my usual self.  Normally I am a relatively quiet person and tend to let others take the conversational lead.   But that day I monopolized the conversation telling my lunch-mates about my woes.  Rachael was so kind and supportive and didn't hesitate to pray with me right there over her empty ice cream dish.  Words cannot express how appreciative I am of her friendship and I am glad to have her as a guest on my blog and to be able to provide my support for her newly released book.  To learn more about Rachael and her writing, visit her web site or look her up on Facebook.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for the review of A Door County Christmas and a chance to win this wonderful collection!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Interview with Cynthia Ruchti

Today's interview is the third in a series with the four writers of A Door County Christmas.  Cynthia Ruchti is the author of The Heart's Harbor in this collection of four-in-one novellas.  I feel very honored today to have Cynthia joining me on my blog.  Cynthia, for those of you who may not be aware, is currently president of the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) organization.  With the national conference coming up just a week from now, I am extremely appreciative that she would take time our of her busy schedule to visit with us on Write About Now.   Let's begin with some background and biographical information and then proceed to the actual interview.  Cynthia, what would you like to share with us about your life to this point?

From my earliest days, I’ve had a fascination with words and stories, with their power to communicate, to heal, to bless, to press us to think.  My mom spent her life caring for others, empathizing with their pain and meeting their needs as a career nurse.  My father was an educator and a pastor.  Learning of all forms was an important part of our family life.  Dad taught music, but did not limit his curiosity to music education.  He read encyclopedias and dictionaries for fun, most fulfilled if he’d learned something new.  And his role as a pastor of small country churches (at one church, he “filled in” for a couple of months that turned into 22 years) encouraged me to early on to consider the truth that following Jesus is the meaning of life.  I’ve had my share of opportunities to write on many subjects over the years, but writing stories that communicate that truth with compassion, empathy, and ardor makes my heart dance.

You and I have much in common - my father was a pastor and very noted teacher also.  What is your least favorite part of the writing process?

I’m one of those authors who enjoys (or says she does) all parts of the process.  One of the most challenging for me is creating a synopsis before I know how the story will end.  I’m an intuitive, discovery-oriented writer who starts with a general idea where a story might be headed, but love to be surprised along the way.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

Is it cheating if I say that connecting with readers who appreciate the book and are moved by the Hope hiding inside is my favorite part?

It's imperative that writers have terrific imaginations so, just for fun, let's pretend that you just finished your book two days before deadline.  How will you celebrate or reward yourself?

This question made me realize that it’s an area in which I need to make significant improvement!   Usually, another project is waiting for me.  The “reward” is having the freedom to tackle that project.  But if I could dream a little, I would say I’d like to develop a habit of celebrating a successful deadline with a weekend getaway with my husband, who is patient and pretty tolerant when deadlines loom.   Usually as I hit “send” for a book or a proposal, the first words out of my mouth are, “Thank You, Lord!”

What’s up next for your readers?

I have characters and plots waiting for my attention.  Faith-in-working-clothes and Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark stories that explore real life with real problems seen through the eyes of real faith.  Whatever next hits the shelves will probably be that combo of heart-tugging emotions, a touch of stress-relieving humor, and word pictures that help draw readers into the story.

Everyone has to stop occasionally, even when creative juices are flowing, to replenish the natural body.  What is your favorite meal?

Grilled scallops probably top the list of favorite meals.   Let’s see—grilled asparagus, grilled baby Yukon gold potatoes, grape tomatoes, and may I add a few pieces of sushi?   No one at my house can tolerate it, it it’s always a treat to find a great sushi place here in Wisconsin.

I'd have to agree with your family on the sushi although my daughter loves it.  The first thing she did when she went off to college was to locate the nearest source of sushi.  Would you care to share a favorite Bible verse?

A long time ago, someone challenged me to live out Psalm 37:4—to delight myself in the Lord (not just honor or appreciate Him, but DELIGHT) and He would mold my heart’s desires to match His.  He proved the wonder of that truth many times in my life.  Still does.  I’ll be frustrated if I focus on the “heart’s desires” conclusion of that verse rather than on the most important part—delighting in Him.

A wonderful concept!  If we delight in Him, He will delight in us!  Can you briefly describe your approach to beginning a new book?

I find ideas poking their heads out of hiding and play with them as a kitten might bat around a ball of yarn.  I wasn’t as organized in my early projects as I am now.  I take advantage of the helps of brief outlines and character sketches, but often it’s a title, one scene, or a beginning line that sets me off and running.

Love that analogy!  Do you like music when you are writing or do you prefer solitude?

I love music so much that it distracts me when writing. Silence and solitude sound sweet to my ear. Music is not white noise to my writing or even an enhancement because it teases my brain to go play with the music rather than with my characters.

How do you overcome writer’s block?  Or is that a foreign concept to you?

I phone a friend who can help me push through.  I reread what’s been written to that point.  I just start writing, even if it’s garbage (Dumpster-diving writing) until a gem of a sentence pops out and gets me moving again.  Sometimes all it takes is to immerse myself in beauty of creativity of others—nature, a great book from an author I admire, a visit to an art museum.

What (or who) inspires you?

I’m inspired by ordinary people acting heroically, by potent worship music, by the simple but profound wisdom of my grandkids, by the “aliveness” and utterly beautiful vitality of the Word of God.

If not writing, what would you rather be doing?

It’ll sound so sedentary if I say reading is my other favorite thing.  I enjoy traveling.  When not writing novels (and sometimes WHILE writing novels) I’m usually hard at work on other writing projects, including the radio ministry in which I’ve been involved for 31 years.  I’m fascinated by the concept of home staging, too, helping homeowners stage their property to make is ready for resale.  I don’t DO that sort of thing, but think I’d enjoy it.

Do you have any words of wisdom for those who are just starting out on the path?

We’re told in God’s Word to “count the cost” and to “take up (our) cross daily and follow (Him).” Although there are romantic moments in the writing life, most of it is hard work, a dying to self, agonizing over passages, whole-hearted devotion.  If a writer comes into the writing life with unrealistic expectations—thinking it’s a great way to make an income, that it won’t require self-sacrifice, that a teachable spirit isn’t necessary, and they can skip over the parts they don’t like (marketing, editing, revising, learning about the industry)—that writer will soon face crippling disappointment and has little chance of success.  And that’s the other word of wisdom.  Writing success is less tied to sales numbers than it is tied to the joy of connecting with the heart of a reader.

Where would be your favorite place to live?

I’ve often fantasized about living in a beach cottage with wide French doors that open onto an ocean view.  Door County—the setting for this current release—would make a lovely home address for me.  It has that perfect mix of water, woods, rustic, classy, artistic, great restaurants, sweet harbors, charm, and culture.  The older I get, the more minimalist is the dream house that lives in my imagination.

What place(s) have you not been that you would like to visit?

The less congested parts of Hawaii, if there are any.  Short little four month tour of Tuscany.  Glacier National Park.  Nova Scotia.  (This could get to be a very long answer!)

Name three things that most people would be surprised to learn about you.

I played bass drum in the marching band because they wouldn’t let me carry my bassoon.  I used to sew a lot and once made my husband a powder blue leisure suit (It was the 70s.  What can I say?).  In the 80s I worked for a wool and knitting supply business just up the hill from our house…and rekindled a love for knitting.  I was hired by the business to knit bulky v-neck sweater vests for a boutique in California.  The other day I thought I saw someone wearing one of those vests!

Another thing we have in common - my bassoon teacher wouldn't even let me play in the marching band because he feared it would interfere with my embouchure and they were already top-heavy with percussion players.   With conference coming up in just a few short days, can you tell us what was your most memorable moment from a conference?

Too many to mention!  But one that held a strong lesson for me was while I led worship at a large writers conference near Chicago. Interior auditorium with no windows.  In the middle of a worship song, the lights went out.  We kept singing. No one in the large room panicked.  We just kept singing until the lights came back on a short time later.  What a life lesson!  This is what we do to survive those times when the lights go out—we keep singing, keep worshiping—and we’ll get through by God’s grace.

That sounds  like a very spiritual and blessed experience.  Is there anything you would like to add before we say good-bye?

Thank you so much, Jan, for inviting me to connect with your readers this way.  I’m looking forward to interacting with them.

People can find me on the Internet through Facebook, Twitter, and one of my websites: , or

Thank you so much for joining us today, Cynthia.  It has been a real pleasure.  I will be praying that the conference will be a blessing and beneficial to all who attend. 

Friends, join us tomorrow for the final interview in this series with Rachael Phillips.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Interview with Eileen Key ...

Today we welcome Eileen Key, author of the novella My Heart Still Beats from the Christmas collection, A Door County Christmas.  It's so good to have you with us today, Eileen!  Here is an introduction for our readers.

Eileen Key, a retired teacher, taught middle school for thirty years and survived.  She is now a freelance writer and editor.  She has published eight anthology stories and numerous articles and devotionals and a cozy mystery, Dog Gone.  A lifelong reader, Eileen has owned a library card from eight different cities. Eileen is an active member of Grace Community Church.  Keeping up with her three grown children and their families is her delight.  Any spare time is devoted to two amazing grandkids.  Visit her Web site at

What is your least favorite part of the writing process?

WAITING to see what the editor wants to cut/rewrite!  Remember waiting on that pass/fail grade in school?  What would the professor post?  Same feeling….. I’ve been blessed with AMAZING editors that made the whole process easier.

Tell us a bit about your typical (if there is such a thing as typical) day.

I had to laugh.  Typical?  I work as a part-time church secretary---am at the whim of the needs of my grandchildren—love to lunch with friends—hate to shop!  When do I write?  Sandwiched in between any and all activities.  Fortunately my office is very quiet and I get a lot done there.

I'm sure that, as a church secretary, there is not a lot of routine or boredeom in your day!  Let's pretend that you just finished your book two days before deadline.  How will you celebrate or reward yourself?

With my first book, I celebrated with the birth of my granddaughter.  Not sure I’ll want to do that every time!   And dinner out with friends or family is always a treat!

What’s up next for your readers?

Come mid 2011 I have a cozy mystery releasing from Avalon.  I really enjoy the mystery genre.  My first book, Dog Gone, from Barbour was a joy.

I've always been a mystery lover too - especially on a cold winter's night when it is dark outside and the wind is howling.  What is your favorite meal?

Sirloin steak from the grill and baked ‘taters.  My daddy was a meat and potatoes kind of guy, so that’s what Mama made.  I believe it’s my comfort food—takes me back a longgg way to childhood.

That's what my husband and I had for dinner last night!  Unfortunately, it was not a very good steak and the dog ended up eating most of mine.  Would you share your favorite Bible verse?

Jeremiah 29:11. I’m so glad the LORD knows the plans he has for me.  My life’s been full of unexpected turns and I’m not but what I’d been derailed without HIS guidance.

Do you like music when you are writing or do you prefer solitude?

Solitude.  I’ve never been one for music while I work.  I find myself caught up in the tune or listening for the words and lose my thread of concentration.

If you were not writing, what would you rather be doing?

Reading!  As my bio said, I’ve carried many library cards.  When I lived in one tiny Texas town with a tiny library, I started with the first fiction book on shelf A and read all the way to shelf M before we moved a year later. (Emphasis on TINY, but still…a lot of books!)

Do you have any words of wisdom for those who are just starting out on the path?

The publishing process takes TIME.  And few of us love to wait.  However, write/read/hone that craft/write/read/ and attend a conference or two so you might meet others.  Keep at it.  Articles, devotionals, letters, short stories.  Whatever you can get on the page.  The Lord knows the timing!

If you could choose when you were born, what era would you prefer to live in and why?

Right now.  I’m afraid if I’d been a pioneer, we’d all still be in Boston… I’m a creature of comfort: air conditioning is my friend.  When I get to heaven, I want to meet Mr. Carrier who invented a/c and thank him!

I'd have to agree with that!  I don't think I could have made it without running water and electricity.  How did it transpire that you and the other three authors teamed up to write this book?

Funny you should ask.  The team approached my critique partner who was swamped with work.  She pointed a finger in my direction.  I said sure, why not!   When the contract came I explained to my new buddies that I’d never even been in snow!   Writing about December in Wisconsin for a Texas gal? Thankfully they were up for a visit to Door County where I learned places are forced to close in winter because of that white powdery substance.  Wow!  Who knew?  I had to be careful: my characters couldn’t pop in for a cup of coffee when a restaurant was boarded up.

I'd love to trade places with you - I am definitely NOT a snow lover!  What was your most memorable moment from a conference?

Conference #2 in Houston - I met with Tracie Petersen.  She held 10 pages I’d sent in for a crit.   AND didn’t laugh me out of the room.  She was SO kind and encouraging, and I bless her for that.

That sounds wonderful!  I was supposed to go to my first conference this year but some events transpired that changed my plans so I'm hoping that maybe I can go next year.  When did you know that you were destined to become a writer?

So many people mention they knew as a child they would write.   I READ.   My mother said I was born with a book in my hand.  My dad predicted one day I’d write a book.   But I don’t remember thinking that.  In 2001, a friend asked me to edit a story she wrote.  (I was an English teacher, so I should know, right?)  Then she invited me to a critique group session.   I went and was…taken aback to say the least… at what I heard.  I went home Googled Christian+writers and found the American Christian Romance Writers.  I joined, began to learn the craft and decided I’d try my hand at a book.  (That was the one Tracie skimmed. Bless her heart!)  Because of the friendships formed online, the encouragement, and the conferences I began this journey.  God’s hand in my life, I think!

How much of ‘you’ can be found in your characters?

Quite a bit. They tend to have some “attitude” and a sense of humor.

I have to say that the humor was very much present in your novella!  Are you a plotter or do your characters tell you what direction to go?

I begin with the idea, write a bit, then try to sketch out where I want to go.  Not necessarily a carved in stone outline, but (especially with mysteries) an idea of where I’m going.  Believe me, it’s very flexible.

It's been delightful to have you with us today, Eileen.  Do you have any final thoughts you would like to add?

Thank you so much for this opportunity.  It’s been fun to chat about what I love to do and get to meet some new readers.  If you’ve never visited Door County, it’s amazingly beautiful!  I was swept away and hope to return one day.

 I'd really like to visit there.  All four of you ladies have made it sound like a wonderful place to visit.  However, I think I will try to plan my trip when the snow is not flying.  You can read more about Eileen on her web site

Don't forget to join us tomorrow for a visit with Cynthia Ruchti!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Interview with Becky Melby

Please join me today in welcoming Becky Melby, the author of Christmas Crazy, one of four novellas in the delightful Christmas collection, A Door County Christmas.  Becky, welcome to Write About Now.  Would you please give us a brief biographical background for those who have never met you before?

I have been married for 38 years to Bill, my high school sweetheart.  We have four married sons and eleven amazing grandchildren ranging from almost fifteen to five months.  Two of our sons live close, so we have six of our grandkids near enough to see every week and thanks to Skype, we can pretend we’re in the same room with the others.  I’ve co-authored nine books with my good friend of thirty-plus years, Cathy Wienke.  I’m currently working on the first of a three-book contemporary series for Barbour Publishing.  Tomorrow’s Sun will be released in the fall of 2011.

Sounds like a wonderful family.  It must have been interesting living in a house filled with males! 

Becky, I saw your tagline on your blog page and I really like it.  For all of you readers, her tagline is "Warm fiction with dollops of faith and sprinkles of joy."  Doesn't that sound delicious? 

Tell us a bit about your typical (if there is such a thing as typical) day.

Bill is a chiropractor and he works three full days and two half days, so I try to keep similar hours.  On my full days, I start out by fixing a cup of tea and a fruit smoothie, curl up in my prayer chair and do my Bible study (currently in a study on Jonah by Priscilla Shirer), spend some time talking, and hopefully listening, to the Lord, check email, read a bit of what I wrote the day before, and start writing.  I’ll take breaks to throw clothes in the dryer, stretch on my exercise ball, or grab another cup of tea or a handful of almonds, but my full days are pretty much spent at the computer.

Pretend you just finished your book two days before deadline.  How will you celebrate or reward yourself?

I’ll have what my oldest son and his family refer to as a “Jack Squat Day”—stay in your jammies, eat whatever you want, watch movies, nothing that is not convenient.  The next day I’ll start cleaning and organizing all the things that have been neglected.

Ah, that sounds like my kind of day!  Everyone needs one of those every now and then.  What is your favorite Bible verse?

John 15:4:  “Abide in Me, and I in You.”

That verse says it all!  Can you describe your approach to beginning a new book?

It’s like walking up to a gorgeous buffet table!  So many possible choices for characters, conflicts, settings.  I start with pencil and paper and scribble down ideas until I know my characters, the major conflicts, and where it’s going to end.  Writing that first sentence has a Christmas-morning feel to it.

How do you overcome writer’s block?  Or is that a foreign concept to you?

A mandatory weekly word count is essential for me because I’m not a self-starter.  There are many mornings when the words crank out very slowly at first, but pick up as I get reacquainted with the original spark that started the story in motion.

What (or who) most inspires you?

I am in awe of the Creator of the Universe who gifts all of us broken and undeserving humans with creativity in so many forms.  That he has allowed me to write words that I pray will please Him is so humbling and just makes me want to write more.

If not writing, what would you rather be doing?

Reading someone else’s writing. Can't wait to read another one from Cynthia Ruchti!   I relished every word of They Almost Always Come Home.   At the moment I'm reading Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist.   I knew within the first few pages that I'd be buying the rest of her books.  Besides the pile of recent releases by my bedside, I'd love to have time to read classics I should be familiar with but have never read.

Can you share some words of wisdom for those who are just starting out on the path?

Write.  Lots.  I was lamenting some time ago about all the unpublished stories collecting dust in drawers or taking up space in My Documents, and then I thought of my third son, who has an Art degree.  The practice drawings that boy threw out could paper a small house.  But the ones framed in my downstairs hall are beautiful.  It’s all about practice.  If you want to get good at something, do that thing, and then do it some more.

Where would be your favorite place to live?

I want to be a Gypsy!  There are so many places I want to experience for a short time—longer than a vacation, but not long enough to get bored.  A high-rise in Chicago, an adobe home in New Mexico, St. Augustine, San Francisco... My hubby and I dream of selling the house and upgrading our RV so we can hit the road (with frequent stops back in the Midwest to love on grandkids!)

That would be a fascinating way to live.  I wonder if you would ever get tired of moving around so much.  It seems to me that there is so much to see and do that there would never be enough time to see it all.  What places have you not been that you would like to visit?

Alaska, Australia, the Pacific Northwest, and New England.  Oh, and Italy, Ireland, Norway...

It sounds like you wouldn't run out of places to go for a long time!  And just think of the material you could discover for use in future books.  When did you know that you were destined to become a writer?

I’d been writing stories since I was eight, but in fifth grade my teacher put my poem about a bunny (cotton ball tail and all) on the hall bulletin board with a huge red A+ on it.  At that moment I knew!

It was almost like that for me too, but I really got sidetracked along the way.  How much of ‘you’ can be found in your characters?

According to my husband, all of my female main characters are me.  I will agree that bits and pieces of me get woven into every character, but they are usually gutsier, more confident, and more out-spoken. Vicarious living is so therapeutic—I project my fears and short-comings onto my characters and they figure out ways to overcome!

Are you a plotter or do your characters tell you what direction to go?

I’m very much at the mercy of my characters.  I have to know how the story will end before I can begin, but I leave a lot of the journey up to them.  A big part of editing is lopping off rabbit trails.

Anything you would like to add?

Besides the obvious advice of write, write, write, the most essential thing for a Christian writer is to seek the Lord before you begin a project or the day.  Make it your goal to please an audience of One first and foremost.

Thanks for visiting with us today, Becky.  It has been a real pleasure to have you.  For more infomation about Becky and her previous books, you can click here to  go to her blog or her web page.

Be sure to join us tomorrow to meet Becky's fellow writer, Eileen Key.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Interview, Review, and Giveaway Coming Up ...

Please join me throughout this week as I feature interviews from the four wonderful authors who collaborated on the four-in-one collection of Christmas novellas all neatly wrapped under the title of A Door County Christmas.  The excitement will begin tomorrow with a visit with Becky Melby; on Wednesday Eileen Key will be featured; on Thursday I'll be joined by ACFW president Cynthia Ruchti; and on Friday Rachael Phillips will be here.  The week will be wrapped up on Saturday with a review and a giveaway of their book - please stop in and join in a cup of tea (or cocoa or coffee or a Coke).