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Monday, May 30, 2011

Interview with Amanda Cabot, author of Tomorrow's Garden

Today I am blessed to have author Amanda Cabot as my guest on Write About Now.

Welcome, Amanda! It is so nice to have you with us today. Before we begin the interview, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

The short version is, I’ve always wanted to be a writer and now I’m living out that dream, but here’s my official bio:
Amanda Cabot has always been a dreamer, and so it’s no coincidence that her first books for the CBA market are called Texas Dreams. Set in the Hill Country beginning in 1856, these deeply emotional historical romances showcase God’s love as well as that between a man and a woman. The first in the trilogy, Paper Roses, was a finalist for the Carol Award. Scattered Petals received critical acclaim, and the final Texas Dreams book, Tomorrow’s Garden, has just been released. A former director of Information Technology, Amanda has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages. She’s delighted to now be a full time writer living in Cheyenne, WY with her high school sweetheart/ husband of many years.

That's quite an impressive background! Let's talk about your writing. Why don't we begin with your least favorite part of the writing process?

Without a doubt, first drafts are my nemesis. I used to get halfway through one and be convinced that I had created the worst prose in the English language and that my editor would roll on the floor laughing just before she canceled my contract. Now I know that it’s not the worst prose – perhaps it’s the second worst – and that I can fix it during the second draft. The truth is, I’m always pleasantly surprised when I start the second draft and realize that that what I had written wasn’t awful. It simply wasn’t finished.

On the other side of the picture, what is your favorite part of the writing process?

Hearing from readers. There’s nothing better than that. But I think you’re asking about the actual writing process. Having told you how difficult I find first drafts, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that I enjoy second drafts. Perhaps I’m an editor at heart, but once I have the first draft completed, turning that ugly manuscript that I refer to as the skeleton into a flesh and blood, living thing is pure joy.

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

I’m one of those terribly organized people who needs a lot of structure, so I do have a typical day. It starts with exercise (essential for reducing stress, not to mention chasing cobwebs out of the brain), a shower and breakfast, and then the rest of the morning is spent writing. Afternoons are for fun, which might involve cooking or sewing or a simple walk around the block, and for the publicity-related part of writing, including email, Facebook, and web page updates.

It is kind of difficult to make the connection between being so organized and being a dreamer. Most dreamers that I have met are not terribly organized so that alone makes you very unique and interesting. Pretend that you just finished your book two days before deadline. How will you celebrate or reward yourself?

I’m cringing at the thought of getting within two days of a deadline and not having the manuscript finished. At that point, I’d be the proverbial nervous wreck, probably not sleeping, and drinking far too much caffeine to stay awake while my fingers flew over the keyboard. The truth is, I try to finish my books at least two months before deadline. I suspect that’s the result of all those years I spent in corporate America, juggling deadlines and trying – unsuccessfully, I might add – to convince my boss that he really could not give me a third Number One priority two days before it was due and expect it to be done on time. As for celebrations, I usually take a few days off between books so my husband and I can take a trip.

It does indeed sound as if you are an extremely organized person and I envy that. I used to be much more organized but lately it seems that any plans or schedules I develop are inevitably doomed to failure. I hope to be able to get some of those skills under better control while school is out for the summer. Do you focus on one project at a time or do you have multiple projects going simultaneously?

I have a lot of admiration for authors who can work on multiple projects, but that just doesn’t work for me. I get so deeply involved in my characters’ lives that it would be jarring to switch to another story.

What was your favorite subject, or subjects, in school?

I loved foreign languages. It started with Latin, which I learned in seventh grade. I found it exciting to be able to read classics in their original language, but there were some disadvantages to dealing with what everyone called a dead language. After all, how many people do you meet who actually speak Latin? All that changed when I started learning French. I really fell in love then. The language is so beautiful, and people actually speak it. After that, I was hooked on modern languages and studied Russian, German and Spanish as well as French. I wound up majoring in French in college and was fortunate enough to be able to study in France. I also lived in Germany while my husband was stationed there with the Army, so I’ve had a chance to put all those classes to use. Ironically – or perhaps not – my first job out of college was as a computer programmer, learning a couple new languages that no one speaks. I felt as if I’d come full circle.

I wish you could meet my daughter. She is studying to be a translator and is studying several different languages simultaneously. She lives in Paris and is attending the university there, so you would have much to share with her.

You and I have had previous discussions about things that we have in common. You have revealed even more with your remarks about Latin and computer programming. I too studied computer programming and also took four years of Latin and loved it, especially when we got to the point that it was all the translation of historical works such as Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic Wars.  I too wondered about the value of studying a dead language but the advantage of understanding root words in English vocabulary was extremely beneficial. Now I am teaching Latin to our students in fifth and sixth grades and loving every minute of it. I just received a letter from one of my students thanking me for the instruction and indicating how much it has helped her with her English.

Moving on with the interview, what is your favorite meal?

I used to travel a lot for business, and – though some might find it hard to believe – restaurant meals quickly lost their appeal. But I did develop a favorite meal and tried to have it once on every trip. It started with a tossed salad with lemon wedges instead of a dressing. That was followed by grilled salmon, a naked baked potato and green beans with no butter or spices. Are you frowning at this point, thinking that I must be some sort of weird person who’s afraid of fat? Not the case. All that virtuous eating was for a good reason: dessert. Yes, my perfect meal ended with something truly decadent. Sometimes it was French bread pudding, covered (of course) with a caramel sauce. Other times, it would be cheesecake. Still other times, a hot fudge sundae. And then there was my favorite – a restaurant that produced a dessert sampler. Half a dozen different treats, all waiting for me to eat them. I’m getting hungry, just thinking about it.

You are really making me hungry and it's a good thing I haven't been to the grocery yet.  Otherwise, I would be walking away from this interview to go to the kitchen and gather the ingredients to concoct a dish of bread pudding but I think I would go with lemon sauce instead of caramel! I agree with you about restaurants not having much appeal. About the only thing I enjoy about eating in a restaurant is that I don't have to clean up after the meal. 

Do you have a favorite Bible verse?

Joshua 1:9 – “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

I like that one! Too often we allow fear to govern our lives and need to be reminded that there is no need to fear for He will never leave us and never forsake us.

Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have a space that is all yours just for your writing? Can you describe your work area for us? If you don’t have a place of your own, can you describe what you would consider to be an ideal work area?
 Although I’ve managed to write everywhere from hotel rooms and airport lounges to a friend’s guest room, since we moved to Cheyenne, I’ve been fortunate to have my own office. It’s wonderful to have all my research books close at hand, not to mention having framed copies of my book covers on the wall as inspiration. The best/ worst part is that I have sliding glass doors leading to the back yard, and sometimes the view from those windows, particularly the antics of birds at the birdbath, are distracting.

That sounds ideal to me. What’s up next for your readers?

The big news right now is the publication of Tomorrow’s Garden, the third of the Texas Dreams books. I’m very excited about its release and hope that readers enjoy it as much as they did the first two books. I know some readers have been frustrated with the fact that those books weren’t released as quickly as they would have liked. It was fourteen months between Paper Roses and Scattered Petals and thirteen months until Tomorrow’s Garden. The good news is, my publisher listened, and the wait for Summer of Promise will be shorter. It’s the first of my Westward Winds trilogy, and it’ll be out next January. For me, 2012 is going to be an exciting year, because in addition to that full-length book, I have a Christmas novella scheduled out in September. It’s a stand-alone story, also set in Wyoming.

I have to confess that Tomorrow's Garden is the first book of yours that I have read. However, I enjoyed it so much that I recently obtained Paper Roses and can't wait to find time to read it. Do you have any words of wisdom to share for those who are just starting out on the writing path?

I have three pieces of advice. The first is to read extensively in the genre you want to write. That’s the best way to learn what a publisher is buying. Secondly, join a writer’s group. ACFW is wonderful for writers in the Christian marketplace, and Romance Writers of America is excellent for anyone interested in writing romance. A writer’s group provides support, networking and so many other resources to the aspiring writer that I can’t over emphasize the importance of joining one. And lastly, never give up. Rejection is a fact of life. I won’t sugarcoat it: rejection hurts. But if you let it defeat you, if you stop sending out your manuscript just because it was rejected, you’ll never be published. Believe in your book and in yourself. Oh … that was four pieces of advice. Sorry!

All of those are excellent advice. Thanks for sharing the wisdom and lessons that you have learned with us.  Is there anything else you would like to add before we say farewell?

Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog. I’ve enjoyed our time together.

Thank you, Amanda, for joining us today. It has been my pleasure to visit with you and introduce you to my followers. Readers, be sure to check back in a few days for my review of Amanda Cabot's recent release, Tomorrow's Garden. To learn more about Amanda and her books, visit her website at http://www.amandacabot.com.









Saturday, May 7, 2011

Where Love Once Lived by Sidney W. Frost

Where Love Once Lived is a well-written love story, a story about a love that has remained constant even though the lovers have been separated for thirty years.

From the cover:

She'd once loved a bookmobile driver. Memories of that time with him poured in so rapidly she caught her breath. It'd been long ago, but her heart remembered. At first she remembered the love she'd felt back then, but the good memories didn't last long. She'd gone to the bookmobile as usual that last day, but nothing was to be the same again. She went to Brian with love and exciting news. She left alone. Not just without him, but alone in the world and apart from God.

Is it ever too late to find happiness? "No," says Sidney W. Frost in his inspirational Christian novel, Where Love Once Lived. Brian Donelson returns to his hometown after a thirty-year absence to win back his beloved Karen. But Karen, who has grown closer to God than he has, harbors a secret that keeps her away from Brian at all costs. While driving the local bookmobile, Brian struggles to earn her trust, even as he grapples with secrets of his own. With God's help, can these two find happiness? Beautifully written and told with wit and grace, Where Love Once Lived is a moving love story filled with the glory of God.

About the author:

Sidney W. Frost is a Stephen Leader, a Stephen Minister, and a member of his church choir at First United Methodist Church in Georgetown, Texas. He has served on the session at a Presbyterian church, and has been on the vestry at Episcopal churches.

While singing with the Austin Lyric Opera Chorus, he was in 42 productions. He and his wife, Celeste, sing with the San Gabriel Chorale and have been in several Berkshire Festivals.

He is an Adjunct Professor at Austin Community College where he teaches computer courses. He received the adjunct teaching excellence award in 2005.

While attending the University of Texas in the 1960's he worked part-time at the Austin Public Library driving a bookmobile after completing service in the U.S. Marines.

He is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Writers League of Texas, and the San Gabriel Writers' League.

He has a Master of Science degree from the University of Houston and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Long Beach.

My opinion:

Most of the books that I read, and there are many (just ask my long-suffering husband), by male authors are books about mystery and suspense, filled with breath-taking action and adventure. Therefore, when I heard about this book, written by a male author, and learned it was not the usual fare but was, instead, a love story, I wondered how a love story might be presented by a  male author. I was very interested to see if it would be very different from a love story written from a female perspective. I have to say that Mr. Frost has written a touching, heartfelt, romantic story. He has done an excellent job of portraying the love from the viewpoint of the male figure. In Brian, Mr. Frost has molded a character who portrays the attributes that Christ demands of a husband in Ephesians 5:25-33 (KJV) when He says, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church..."

This is not a story about the love of a young person who is discovering love for the first time. It is about a love that is seasoned, a love that endures the test of time and still burns just as brightly, if not more so, as it did in its youth. For anyone who has ever doubted the power of love, I recommend that you read this moving story of two people who made mistakes and consequently lost that first love and their subsequent journey to recover it. In a very realistic and heartfelt manner, we see how how each of the lovers dealt with those mistakes. One drew closer to God while the other turned away. Through it all, God remained constant and steadfast, never-changing, never failing. This is truly a story that demonstrates the truth of the scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:4 (KJV) that says, "Charity suffereth long, and is kind..." Since Cruden's Bible Concordance tells us that the word charity is also translated to mean love, then we could substitute the word love in this scripture to read that "Love suffereth long, and is kind..." Indeed, the love that Brian and Karen share and the love that Christ displays to them most definitely fit this description.

But, will love be enough to overcome all of the past mistakes?  Will love endure when the secrets that both Karen and Brian have hidden from each other are revealed?  Will it be enough to surmount all of the obstacles that stand in the way?  Can love break down the barricades of hurt and bitterness that have been allowed to fester and flourish?  Is it strong enough to bring about healing and  forgiveness? For the answers to these and many other questions, you will have to read the book - I'm not telling!

Where Love Finds You can be purchased online at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. It is also available in Kindle format.

I received a copy of this book from the author for review purposes. I was not obligated to provide a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Announcing the Winner:

You know what they say about the best laid plans? Well, I am here to testify that you can make all the plans you want to, develop all the schedules you desire, set time-frames to complete certain tasks, and all of those detailed plans can come to a screeching halt when technology enters the picture. For example, it was my PLAN to announce the winner of the drawing for Kaydie, written by Penny Zeller, yesterday afternoon. What was not in my plans was for was for my Internet to go down for several hours, thus completely negating all of my carefully laid plans.
So, with my apologies once again (I seem to be doing that a lot lately), it is now time to announce that the winner of the drawing for Kaydie is:
Diana
Unfortunately, there were several comments submitted for this drawing which had no email address accompanying them. Therefore, I reluctantly had to disqualify those entries since I had no way to contact those people. Please accept this as a friendly reminder to always leave an email address when you enter a giveaway so that the blog host will be able to notify you if you win.
Diana, I will be sending you an email shortly requesting your address. Readers, Diana will have ten days to contact me. If I don't hear from her by May 11th, another name will be drawn and a new winner selected.
Thanks so much for all of the encouraging remarks that were left for Penny. I have grown to love Penny and consider her a dear friend. She has such a sweet, kind, and generous spirit; I feel honored to have had the opportunity to introduce her to so many of you.
A new giveaway will be posted very soon so check back again for the chance to win yet another good book.
May God richly bless each and every one of you!
Jan Marie