Thursday, September 25, 2008

Everyone take a look at the cool book below. This is my first time to host a blog tour! Anyone who leaves a comment on my blog this week will be entered in a drawing (see info below) for a goodie basket.

Contest instructions: From comments on this blog post, I will draw one randomly drawn name and email it to enter into the drawing for a Christmas basket (valued at $200!) A list of the contents are at our Scrapbook blog. Those leaving comments on our Scrapbook blog during the Christmas Blog Tour will also be entered. All names must be sent to me by October 14. The winner's name will be announced on October 19.

Read about the terrific book and enter to win!

(Leafwood Publishers, October 2008)

A wonderful new gift book, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, is available in October for Christmas giving. Today, I’ve invited the six coauthors to share their unique story of how they came together to publish this exciting book full of stories, recipes, tips for simplifying the holidays and so much more (click on bookcover to see the trailer!).

First, let me introduce Cathy Messecar, Leslie Wilson, Brenda Nixon, Trish Berg, Terra Hangen and Karen Robbins. Thank you for being here today, ladies.

Karen: Thank you for the invitation.

You are from three different areas of the country—Texas, California, and Ohio. How did you all meet?

Terra: We all six joined The Writers View, an online group for professional Christian writers. Trish and Brenda met in person in 2004 for lunch, I understand, and on 9/18/04, after reading a post Brenda sent to TWV, I sent an email to Brenda, asking if she would like to join with me and walk alongside each other, as a Barnabas group. Brenda said yes that same day, and suggested Trish too. Very quickly Cathy, Leslie and Karen joined in and our stalwart band of six was formed. Living in California, I was so happy to find 5 Barnabas writers in other states so we could bring together a wealth of different viewpoints and expertise

Brenda: Actually, We haven’t met. We’re all great colleagues and friends via the internet. Four years ago Terra and I formed a dyad to support each other as Christians who write in the secular markets. Along came Trish, Cathy, Karen, and Leslie (not necessarily in that order) and we formed a close knit bond of support, creative energy, and professional accountability.

Karen: I met Trish through an online forum called The Writers View and she invited me to join the group.

Trish: Although we belong to the same Yahoo writing group, we met one by one online. Eventually, the six of us decided that since we all write as Christians for a secular market through magazine articles and newspaper columns, we could support and encourage one another.

Leslie: Though we met virtually through The Writers View, I have been blessed to give and get hugs from Trish (at a MOPS conference), Cathy (in the area on business) and Karen (in town for a writers' conference). I can’t wait to meet Terra and Brenda face-to-face, though I feel as though I already know them!

How did you come up with the idea to do a book together?

Brenda: The book is Cathy’s brainchild. She mentioned the concept of telling stories of events that happened for the first time at Christmas and sharing holiday historical tidbits and recipes and each said, “If you need any help, let me know.” That offer morphed into each of us equally contributing and co-authoring A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.

Trish: Yep, Cathy came up with the idea and the title, and asked us if we wanted to join her on this project. Of course, we said Yes!

Terra: Cathy mentioned the idea for a Christmas book to the group, and someone (I think it was Leslie) suggested that maybe our group could all write the book together. Cathy agreed to lead the way on the project. The earliest email I have on this is from 9/7/05, which shows that this has been a three year collaboration from idea to publication.

Karen: (Chuckling) Terra is a librarian and keeps our historical records by saving our e-mails.

Leslie: Actually, Terra, I wrote that comment (in a group e-mail) kind of tongue-in-cheek. Cathy, the ultra-sweet person she is, took my joking at face value and here we are. However, I believe God prompted the passion and ideas we all bring to the project and that He will do mighty things as a result of our collaboration!

Why did you decide on a Christmas theme?

Brenda: It was Cathy’s concept to write a book centering on Christmas.

Cathy: For several years, I’d been thinking about Christmas as a threshold to introduce Jesus to folks who aren’t familiar with him, and I love a simpler Christmas with the emphasis on family, friends and doing for others. I knew of some families who had experienced “firsts” at Christmas—reunions, losses, special surprises—and I wanted to collect those stories.

Terra: Cathy’s idea immediately resonated with me because Christmas books are “a way past watchful dragons,” as C. S. Lewis wrote. Many people won’t buy a book about being a Christian, but will buy a holiday and family fun book, thus the “past watchful dragons.” People who want to grow in their faith, and people who have no faith but celebrate Christmas will buy our book and hopefully be led to put the focus back on Christ for the holiday, and for their lives.

Leslie: Though Cathy birthed the idea, the rest of us quickly hopped on board. Not only is Christmas special to me—especially now that I have a family of my own—but also that particular holiday cries out to be simplified, to return to the meaningful aspects of celebration, and to lose some of the hype and commercialism.

Tell me a little about what is in A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts? What is your favorite part?

Cathy: I like that you can read one chapter in about 15 minutes and, with all the different suggestions, it feels like Christmas Eve. Makes you want to set up the nativity! Many of the suggestions for family activities can be adapted for any family get-together.

Karen: There are heartwarming stories about things that happened for the first time at Christmas. For instance, one of my stories is about the first Christmas with our adopted children. And the book is pretty. When I first saw the colorful pages and drawings, I fell in love with the illustrator’s work.

Brenda: I don’t have a favorite part – I love it all!

Terra: I like the way the parts are woven into a seamless whole, like a patchwork quilt, that is stronger and more beautiful than the parts.

Trish: It’s like everything you ever wanted to know about Christmas, all the best tips and recipes, and neat stories all wrapped up in this perfect little package.

Leslie: I love reading the special stories, hints, recipes—whatever—and imagining the precious family time that precipitated each moment. Plus, the book is gorgeous, beautifully printed, truly something to be proud of. And we are.

I’ve heard that the book is really a nice gift book; can you tell me a little about the format?

Cathy: Yes, it’s a hardbound book, full color interior. The layout makes it easy to read. It has a definite scrapbooky look on the interior. Different logos identify sections, such as an oilcloth-look Christmas stocking appears beside the “Stocking Stuffer Tradition” (help for connecting family members), and the “Cookie Canister” recipes are on a recipe card, and the back ground of “A Gift For You” is a gift box with bow. It’s a classy gift that they can be placed on a coffee table or in a guest bedroom during the holiday season.

Brenda: I like to describe it as a Starbuck’s sorta gift book. It’s high quality, crisp, and practical.

With six different personalities and areas of ministry, how did you manage to put this all together and still remain friends?

Karen: We pray a lot for each other and it helps that none of us have an over-inflated ego.

Cathy: There were no squabbles. Surely, we had differing opinions, but we knew that any of us could suggest an idea for this book and that each idea would get fair reviews from others. We actually voted on some aspects—everyone in favor say, “Aye.” If you’ve ever watched women at a Dutch treat luncheon when they divide up a meal ticket, it can be intense as they split the ticket down to the penny. As the project came together, I was in awe of my gracious coauthors, unselfish women who respect each other.
For some decisions, we did a round robin—things like book title and chapter titles and what categories to put into the book. Then, as compiler, I’d send out a list of needs to The Word Quilters, that’s what we call ourselves. For instance in a section we call “Peppermints for Little Ones” (hints for children’s activities), I’d put out a call, and the WQs sent in their hints, and then I put them into appropriate chapters.

Brenda: (Smiling) Are we still friends? Seriously, we each have our own platform, ministry, and family life, and those interests kept this project in perspective – it was important but not the only thing on our plates. No one was so enmeshed in this project that she campaigned for her own way. We never had a bitter disagreement or insistence to be “right.”

Terra: We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.We offer support and ideas for our separate writing projects and for personal prayer requests. I love these ladies, and I have only met one of them in person. So far, Karen is the only one who has met each of us, and one day we hope to meet in person, in a circle of friendship and love.

Trish: I think we are all very flexible and forgiving. We do have a variety of personalities here, but God has worked amazing things through our little group.

Leslie: Though I have seven non-fiction projects in various stages of completion, I could not be more thankful that this is the one to reach publication first. I am truly blessed to have worked with these women, learned from them, watched as they’ve poured heart and soul into crafting a product that will impact lives for the Lord.

Where can my readers get a copy of SOCF?

Cathy: The coauthors will all have a supply, plus our publisher, Leafwood Publishers, will have plenty of copies and discounts for buying five or more. Or they can be ordered at most online stores or by your local bookstore.

Karen: And anyone who leaves a comment here can be entered in a drawing for a free book and a gift basket worth $200! For a list of its contents, check our blog, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. And while you're there, leave another comment and increase your chances of winning!

Tell me more about your blog.

Karen: We started our blog in July and it is accumulating a wealth of information about Christmas. Each of us posts one day a week following the theme for that week. Watch for new recipes, tips, ways to simplify, stories, etc., similar to what is in our book.

Leslie: Ooh, ooh, let me answer this one. I’m probably the newest to blogging among the group, but I LOVE it. I’ve enjoyed posting and receiving comments back from readers. What an amazing adventure having an online voice can be! This blog will focus on a different theme each week—anything from tips to avoid overeating during the holidays to how to give a guest room special touches—and expand on the material in the book. I think readers will get to know the authors’ individual personalities and connect on a more personal level. Plus, they get that many more ideas, information, inspiration (!) at no additional cost.

WQs: As an added bonus for inviting us to your blog, we’d like to pass along this Christmas tidbit to you and your readers:

Enjoy a blessed Christmas this year! And thanks for inviting us to share our book, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, with you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

And the results are ----- Wrestling Demons wins 2nd place in the Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category at the ACFW conference!!!
Here I am with Carol Cartaino at the Highland County Writer's Meeting.
We took this picture for the local paper.

I am totally thrilled with placing at all even though second place might not seem like a win to others. In fact, one lady came up to me after the awards banquet, patted my arm and said, "Don't worry, honey, maybe you'll do better next year." Am sure I was polite enough not to roll my eyes but I wanted to. :)

This is such an honor to win. Once I hang the certificate on my wall, I'll be able to look at it this winter as I'm writing the rest of the book. It's going to be great incentive to finish.
The conference went better than I expected. The workshops were fantastic with lots of new information. It made me realize how much I don't know about writing and how much I do. Realized in the Early Bird class that I had been doing quite a few things I let others tell me were "wrong." Not so -- according to Margie Lawson. It made me more confident in writing with my own style and not stressing critiques or opinions so much.
Can't even list all the terrific people I met! It was just incredible having so many encouaging, supportive people. Will try to list just a few and if I've forgotten to list your name--you email me right away! There were, of course, the wonderful Ohio people--Sharon and Rosanna, Chris and Kathleen, Carol and Shelley. I'm so glad you all sat with me at the banquet and kept me calm. Thanks too for all the chats, the meals and the support.
Janet and Deb--thanks for showing me the ropes and all the fun meals.
It was great to finally meet you both in person.
Naomi -- wow, you are such a terrific person and I'm so glad we met! Really enjoyed the workshops we attended together. Thanks for sticking out the one sheet workshop until mine came under 'attack.' Yes, let's keep in touch!
Becky, Holly, Tina, Karen, Melanie, Rochelle, Amy, Laurie - well, I just know I'm going to leave someone out! There were just too many great people in the same place. Hope to see you all in Denver and that we can keep in touch through the year. Next time, I'm going to take more pictures.
And I have to give an extra special thanks to Sharon Dunn, my paid critiquer, who really made the conference special by taking the time to talk and encourage me. Thank you, Sharon for the critique, the excellent suggestions and encouragement! One of the nicest memories of Minneapolis is remembering how sweet you were to a beginner like me. Hope you sold out of books at the Mall of America book signing. I'm going to put the picture of us with our awards over my computer and hope someday I can be as nice to another writer as you were to me.
Guess what I'll remember most about the conference are all the great people. It was fun to win, even though I did trip going up the steps to the stage. If Brandilyn Collins hadn't grabbed my hand, I'd have fallen on my face. Realized later that I didn't even smile at Camy Tang I was too nervous. All I could think was "Brandilyn Collins is TOUCHING me and I read her books!"
I'm sure everyone wants to know what happened about my book manuscript since the purpose of a writer's conference is to meet editors and agents. Well, a lot happened and a lot didn't. Found out my dreaded one sheet---oh, how could I forget--THANK YOU, LORNA! You did a super, super job designing my one sheet. Anyway, my one sheet was darned good. It even interested Chip MacGregor, agent. I submitted it in a one sheet workshop where three agents offered suggestions. Mine passed and they liked parts. Had left out a crucial word which got a laugh (cringing) but my first paragraph drew them in. They suggested cutting the second paragraph and just using the first to entice a second reading.
SO, I met with two agents and an editor with my beautifully designed, though flawed in content one sheet. Two kept it, one said she didn't want a lot of stuff to carry home but would love--yup, that's what she said--:) --to read the finished product. The others said pretty much the same thing--they would be interested in reading it once it's finished. Which I knew.
Guess my main goal in going was to see if Wrestling Demons could "pass."
If anyone would find it interesting enough to read more. Am more than satisfied at getting an answer.
Oh, and I got my final round scores from the Genesis contest which were very surprising! One high, one low. The judges agreed on several points and those are items easily fixed. The rest of the scores were all over the place---one loved what the other hated. One judge admits to being a harsh judge and said my work was 'edgy' -- go figure. She also thought it might be a 'hard sell' due to the content. Am I discouraged? Nope. This is one book I'm sure of --- but it's sure going to be a lot of work!
It's nice to know that there are agents, editors and others who find it an interesting plot and premise. That should keep me going for awhile.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fall is in the air!

It's a drizzly afternoon, due to Hurricane Ike. While I love the cooler sleeping weather, the gray skies have done nothing to improve my already shaky mood. The closer the times gets to actually leaving for the writing conference, the more apprehensive I become.

I don't really think it's because of having to 'showcase' my writing. (In a sense anyway. It's like setting up a lemonade stand at the end of your driving and saying, "I don't care if anyone buys it or not. I just LOVE to make lemonade." Of course you are out there with something to SELL and you want someone to love it enough to BUY by offering a contract.) My work will either stand or fall and at this late date there is nothing I can do about it.

It could be that I'm excited and terrified at the same time of meeting so many new people. So many people who are names will become faces and we'll share a unique experience. Maybe some of them will become friends. Some I may never see again. The possibilities are endless for what might happen.

There are also people I've only met once or twice that I'm looking forward to seeing again. Several people I've only "met" online and would like to know better.

But, I have to keep reminding myself that I'm going to this conference with the blessings, the love and support of so many people. I couldn't have made it myself! My friend, Jean, who first gave me the money to join ACFW and to enter the Genisis contest. The super wonderful people in Ohio who gave me a partial scholarship so that the dream of going to the conference became a reality. Then my friend, Janet, who generously offered to pay for the hotel.

Then I have to count all the friends who did the small things - although not so small when you add up the spirit of generosity and giving each entailed. To Maribeth who kept scouting up odd jobs among her relatives so that I could earn extra cash for the trip. She also trudged through store after store with me and waited patiently while I tried on clothes. Together we went to a booksigning and an ACFW Meet and Greet so that I could meet some of the people who would be at the conference. We shared lunches and tea and she let me talk and talk and talk!

To her and Patty, who trudged through the mall with me and talked me into buying THE dress for the Award Banquet. To Patty who generously chipped in to pay for the dress and treated me to lunch so I could "save money for the trip." Patty was also one of the first to read the contest entry and whittle it down to a respectable length. She made suggestions that helped more than I can say.

Thank you, Maribeth and Patty!! You two are fantastic and I'm glad we're friends. (I'm Donna Patton and I approve of this message. :))

Then there are so many other wonderful people I have to thank for encouragement, support, friendship and just plain, 'atta girl!' It's like I'm going to the conference surrounded by a bubble of love.

To Kathi - super crit partner! - who read all the drafts and never got tired of the manuscript. She actually plans to do crits for the WHOLE book and will keep pressing until I finish the dirty darned thing! To April who read the first draft and made so many helpful suggestons. Also to Peaches who gave it and the synopsis the once over not once but several times. She also sent the sweetest gift for me to tuck in my suitcase - for the trip. I'm not ashamed to say I almost cried at someone being so thoughtful. It helps a LOT.

Then there's my Scribes group at church who keep encouraging me and telling me I'll be fine. Jean, Becky, Bev, Angie, Margaret and Maria - I appreciate you all so much!

Carol Cartaino and the Highland County Writers - how can I express what I feel for this terrific group of people? You've made writing fun again.

Kitty and Sherry - my oldest friends - who kept telling me I could do it! I almost believe I can.

Linda, Leona, Michelle, all the people in the valley who read my stories --thanks for all the great emails and comments!

To my new critique partners - Diana, Sheri and Nike - we haven't known one another long but I already feel like we are friends. Denver in 09?

Taking a deep breath and going ---- to Minneapolis . . .

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The countdown has begun - only eight days until I leave for Minneapolis.
Today I made a list (in my mind) of everything that has to be done before I leave. Since I'm one of those people who don't like to leave dangling 'to do's' it all has to be done. Things like lots of crits, cleaning my bedroom, shopping, packing, buying a new pair of shoes, going to the dentist - well, you get the picture.
Besides all that there are things that have to be done for the conference. Things like printing all the pertinant emails--bookstore schedule, conference schedule, hotel confirmation number, well--you get the picture!
Then I have to write things called one sheets that are supposed to give an editor or agent an idea of what my book is about - on one sheet of paper. I've done two so far and will work on one for the Jenny books this week. Hey, you never know. Not that any of the editors specified looking for children's books, but I plan to be ready just in case. Since Jenny is the character I love best that should be my best one sheet.
Not that the others are too shabby. I had hoped to find a totally cool, spooky picture for my mystery. Like the one above. It has trees, fog and looks a little eerie to match the ending scene. The only problem is there is no cornfield which figures a lot in the climax. Trust me - a cornfield at night is a truly frightening place. Especially in the pitch dark, no moon, miles from the house when your brother takes off at a run screaming, "Bigfoot!"
But, I did find a couple of pictures to put on the mystery one sheet that I thought were nice. Found them at a totally cool website that has free use photos. Then I stumbled across one that has historical photos. I managed to find several to match the characters in my historical book. So, I'm working on one sheets and trying not to stress.
Truthfully, I just want to go and have fun. There are so many people I want to meet for the first time, lots of new friends I'm looking forward to seeing again and plenty of writing talk to soak up. If something else happens, great. If not, it's been a fun vacation and I got out of a week of work. :)
My thought is that if you go expecting this HUGE, LIFE ALTERING experience and you absolutely HAVE TO SELL THAT BOOK, then you probably miss a lot of the little moments that can make the whole thing memorable. And if one is stressing about it all and you look at it as a make or break conference, a way to validate your whole writing life, then you'll probably be stressed the whole time.
I'd rather have a great time without stress.
Now if I could just stop stressing over my to do list - - - -

Monday, September 01, 2008

It's September

Where did the summer go? Seems like it was just June with long, lazy days stretching ahead. Now the season is sliding headlong into winter and I am not ready. I'm glad fall lasts awhile around here.

Today is September 1st which means another page of "Cookies and Milk." Check out the latest at I wrote a short piece on all the reasons to celebrate September.

This is also Fair Week. All the schools in the county are off for a week. The boys and I spent Saturday decorating cookies and cupcakes. Jarrod got up early today to finish baking chocolate chip cookies to enter in the taste category for Juniors. We don't know yet if they won anything. I'd like to go by the fair later tonight to see if they won any ribbons on their artwork or vegetables. Jarrod and I were up early to take the baked goods and vegetables. Now we get to relax until Wednesday when it's time to take the Flower Show entries.

Well, it's official.

We are homeschooling another year. After exploring a few options, Sister #2 had decided the best choice is to homeschool and go back to Leaves. Leaves has moved to a bigger building so we will earn more for the cleaning. Of course, we will have to do more cleaning but it should be worthwhile. The open house is next weekend and school begins the week I'll leave for Minnesota and the writer's conference.

I'll miss my first class too. That is also official--I'm going to take a class in Fiber Arts and learn to spin wool. That's my start at working on one of my dreams - learning historical sewing skills. Over the past month, I've joined a couple of heirloom sewing sites and scouted out some classes. Not many nearby, but I'm going to keep looking. A six week class might be doable if I could finish before the snowy weather. Also need to network a bit more with people I know who already have master sewing skills.

Am working steadily writing curriculum - rediscovering all I've forgotten about verbs and other parts of speech. Slowly working on other projects. In a sense it feels as if I'm in limbo until after the conference is over. There's still so much to do.