Monday, November 25, 2013

Author Amy Matayo ~ And a Book Giveaway

Today is an awesome day! When I first started blogging I came across this really funny blogger named Amy Matayo. I'll never forget the first post I read on her blog. She was talking about substitute teaching and how she spent part of her day speaking with a British accent. She didn't think the kids really appreciated her speaking abilities and then she lamented the fact that she was born in the wrong era...I could totally relate!

Amy and I at the 2013 ACFW Conference
I started following Amy's blog and she came over to mine and was my very first non-relative follower! Since then, I've had the pleasure of seeing Amy at two ACFW Conferences, cheering her on to winning the 2012 Genesis Contest, and now I'm celebrating with her as she launches her debut novel, The Wedding Game.

I was especially excited to read her novel, because Amy is one of the funniest people I've ever met. Her Facebook posts are definitely a highlight of my Facebook feed and her blog posts always leave me laughing out loud.

From the very first page of The Wedding Game I was hooked! I love her characters, the plot is really fresh, and her dialogue is incredibly witty. You'll fall in love with her characters and cheer them on to the finale.

Without further ado (or gushing), I'll get to Amy's interview. Check out the end of this post to see how you can enter to win a FREE copy of The Wedding Game!
~ ~ ~ ~
Gabrielle: Hey, Amy! I'm so excited to have you as a guest today. For readers who might be "meeting" you here for the first time, can you give us a quick history lesson on your publication journey?

Amy: Well, I started writing my first novel in January of 2009. In May I typed THE END, didn’t bother editing it (because isn’t that what they pay real editors for?) and sent it out to 72 agents. Shockingly, I got 68 rejection letters, one so awful it was covered in pizza sauce and coffee stains and read something like this: “You’re the worst writer in the history of writing. Please don’t bother anyone in my profession with your pointless drivel ever again.” Maybe not word for word, but that’s what it felt like. Next came another book, another 12 submissions and rejections, then another book with more rejections, and then I wrote The Wedding Game. I never queried that book. In a weird turn of events, this time my now-agent contacted me. But I do still have that shoebox full of letters hidden under my bed.

Gabrielle: Oh, the lessons we learn from rejection! I just finished The Wedding Game and it was so much fun to read! Can you give us a brief description of the book and tell us where you got the idea?

Amy: The basic plot is a Hollywood playboy and a small-town Arkansas girl both need money, so they audition for The Wedding Game—a nationally televised Bachelor-type reality show—make the cut, and eventually win. But if they want their hands on the two million dollar prize, they have to stay married for six months and convince America by a revote at the end that they’ve fallen in love.

As for the idea, a couple of years ago I was watching Good Morning America while getting dressed for work. They were running a feature on Kim Kardashian, telling about her recently-announced divorce. Well, I had just watched clips from her televised wedding a few days earlier, so I knew she had only been married for a month or so. Annoyed, I turned to my oldest son and said "You know, pretty soon there's going to be a reality show where two strangers get married for money. Wouldn't that be awful?" I meant to sound outrages, but instead my brain started spinning. I started writing The Wedding Game the next day.

Gabrielle: Isn't it amazing how one little seed of an idea can turn into a full-length book? The same thing happens to me all the time. Are you working on your next novel? Can you give us a glimpse into the story?

Amy: I’ve already written my next two, actually. Love Gone Wild is a sort-of sequel to The Wedding Game in that it’s reality-show based (a Survivor-type show set in the Alaskan wilderness). It comes out in March of next year. And then later in the year will come Sway, a New Adult romance that intersperses a political theme of separation of church and state.

I am writing another book now, but I'm not sure about the publication date yet.

Gabrielle: I can't wait to read both of those books! They sound like they were a lot of fun to write. Speaking of writing, as a mother of four I'm sure you get asked all the time: "How do you manage it all?!?!" What is your best advice for pursuing your dream while your children are still young?

Amy: Lock them in a closet and get to work. Kidding! (mostly)

But truthfully, my oldest is nearly eighteen and my youngest is six, so I will admit that as far as hands-on parenting goes, life is getting a little easier. Not to say that it doesn't have its moments, but it is definitely easier now than it was when I first started writing. It's much harder to get things done with a baby on your hip and another tugging on your leg. But, if that's where you are, just press on. There really is never a good time to start trying to reach for your dreams--for years, my list of excuses grew and grew right along with my amount of responsibilities. But go for it anyway, even if you only have a few minutes every day. It will be worth it in the end.

Gabrielle: I would definitely agree. Pursue your dream, even it it's only in ten minute increments a day--at least you're getting somewhere.

Here's a question just for fun: What's one food item you can't live without?

Amy: Chocolate. All kinds. The thought of life without it makes it really hard to breathe.

Gabrielle: Ahh, chocolate. My personal mantra is: If it's not chocolate, it's not worth it! :) Thank you for joining me here today, Amy! As always, you put a smile on my face. I'm praying great things for your writing career. The Wedding Game is just the beginning!

Amy has agreed to give away a free copy of her book, The Wedding Game, to one lucky commenter! Just follow the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win.

Reader's Turn: Have you read The Wedding Game, yet? Do you have any questions for Amy? What is one food item you can't live without?

~ ~ ~ ~
Cannon James has a plan: Sign on as a contestant for his father’s new reality show, marry a blonde hand-picked by the producers, and walk away two million dollars richer. It’s all been arranged. Easy. Clean. No regrets. Until Ellie McAllister ruins everything by winning the viewer’s vote. Now he has to convince America that he’s head over heels in love with her. Not easy to do since she’s a walking disaster.

Ellie McAllister has her own problems. She needs money, and she needs it now. Despite her parent’s objections and her belief that marriage is sacred, she signs on to The Wedding Game…and wins. Now she’s married to a guy she can’t stand, and if she wants her hands on the money, she has six months to make voters believe she loves him. Not easy to do since he’s the most arrogant man in America.

It doesn’t take long for Ellie and Cannon to realize they’ve made a mess of things…even less time for their feelings for one another to change. But is it too late for them? More importantly, can the worst decision they've ever made actually become one of the best?
~ ~ ~ ~
I graduated from John Brown University with a degree in Journalism. I came this close (holds finger and thumb together until they practically touch) to also having an English degree, but decided I wanted to get married instead and besides, who needed it? After all, managing an entire six-credit-hour semester seemed just so exhausting, and one degree was more than enough.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Not the marriage—that’s all good. But the pseudo-exhaustion. It might be nice to have that degree right now.

Anyway, after graduation, I went to work for DaySpring Cards—a division of Hallmark—where I worked for seven years as Senior Writer and Editor. After the birth of my first child—a ten pound boy—I became a freelance writer before pursuing novel-writing full time.

My first contracted novel—The Wedding Game—won the 2012 ACFW Genesis Award. It released on November 16, 2013.

As the mother of four children with a husband immersed in political life, I have very little free time. I prefer to spend that time enjoying intellectual pursuits such as: watching television with my feet propped up, watching movies with a bucket of popcorn, and watching my laundry pile high—with no desire to do anything about it. It’s a fun life.
~ ~ ~ ~

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Way Back When-sday: The History of Television

I'm constantly amazed at the advancement in technology. The concept of the television was first sketched in 1878, shortly after telephones were invented. At the same time, science fiction authors imagined that light could be transferred over copper lines, much like sound was.
Over the next fifty years, numerous scientists developed the idea and great advances were made. In the early 1930s, John Logie Baird produced about a thousand television sets in the United Kingdom called the "Televisor." The 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin were carried by cable to television stations in Berlin and Leipzig for the public to view live. In 1939 RCA brought the television to the general public at the World's Fair in New York, but with the outbreak of WWII, mass production was stalled. It wasn't until after the war that televisions began to grow in popularity in American households.
Here are a few pictures documenting the change in televisions from 1930 to 2013.

One of the earliest television sets, introduced in the UK
The Baird "Televisor" - 1930-1933
RCA introduced this television at the 1939 World's Fair in New York
Early 1940's Television Set

The television became popular after WWII
when they became mass produced.
This is a late 1940's model.
The first national color broadcast took place
on January 1, 1954 - the Tournament of Roses Parade

In 1965, half of the networks switched to color, which boosted
sales of color televisions

In 1972, the last of the national networks switched
to color and sales of color televisions surpassed black & white



Your Turn: Did you ever own a black & white television? Which of these models do you remember from your childhood?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Minnesota Monday: 10 Facts About Deer Hunting

This past week was the rifle season for deer hunting in central Minnesota. For nine days hundreds of thousands of men, women, and youth take to the fields and forests of Minnesota and harvest over 100,000 deer. It's quite an event!
I don't know of anyone in Minnesota whose life isn't impacted by deer hunting. It's a family tradition for many of us, with tales of deer hunting camp told for years. I still hear stories about my great-grandfather, who passed away when I was young. It's a great time for multi-generational gatherings--even if you don't hunt. Just this year my twelve year-old niece and nephew hunted with their dads.

In honor of deer hunting, I thought I'd share ten fun facts I discovered about deer and hunting on the Minnesota DNR website.
  • Adult female white-tailed deer weigh about 145 lbs., males 170 lbs. – the average weight of female and male humans.
  • The biggest white-tailed deer ever recorded was a 500-pound Minnesota buck.
  • A whitetail’s home range is about one square mile.
  • Minnesota’s deer population is about 1 million deer. Texas is No. 1 with 3.5 million deer.
  • Last year’s total deer harvest was 186,000.
  • Minnesota has averaged deer harvested 200,500 deer during the last five years. The Midwestern state with the largest deer harvest is Michigan at 425,000.
  • More than 725,000 deer hunting licenses and permits (all types) were sold in 2012.
  • Nearly 500,000 deer hunters in Minnesota.
  • Salaries, wages, business owner income – $127 million.
  • Number of directly supported jobs – 3,760.
Your Turn: Do you hunt? How popular is deer hunting where you live?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Women in Early Aviation

My next story will be set in 1917, as America enters WWI. At this time in history, flight was a fairly new phenomenon.

My heroine is captivated by airplanes. In central Minnesota, where she lives, she has only seen one airplane in her life. When a Curtiss JN-3 (bi-plane) flies overhead and lands in a nearby field, she will do whatever it takes to get a ride in the air...and eventually she convinces the handsome pilot to teach her how to fly.

1916 Curtiss JN-3 Bi-Plane
In my research, I've discovered some amazing women who pioneered aviation. I thought I'd share just two of these women, but I'm including a fun link to the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, where you can learn more.

National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution
The Baroness Raymonde de le Roche was the first woman in the world to receive her pilot's license. She learned to fly a plane in 1909, just three years after the plane was invented! She lived in France and won a competition for a 4 hour non-stop flight, as well as set a record for altitude in 1919. Sadly, the same year, she was attempting to be the first female test pilot for a new type of aircraft and crashed to her death. There is now a statue of her at the airport in Le Bourget, France (which I visited in 2010).

National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Harriet Quimby was the first woman in the United States to receive her pilot's license, in 1911. Harriet went on to be the first woman to fly across the English Channel. Her advisor wasn't sure a woman could accomplish the task, so volunteered to dress like her and complete the feat in her name--but she refused him. In 1912, Harriet was flying in the Harvard-Boston Aviation Meet and was tossed from her plane, to her death. Ironically, the plane glided to a perfect landing.

Sadly, both of these early aviators died pursuing their passion, but many more lived to tell amazing tales about their flying days. I encourage you to stop by the Air and Space site to discover more. You can find that link here.

Your Turn: Would you be brave enough to fly an airplane only three years after it was invented?

Friday, November 8, 2013

When Being a Mommy is Tough

It's tough being a mommy, especially when you have to discipline. It can break your heart.

At the age of three, one of our boys is our "spirited" child. He's not naughty, or even high energy, he's just very curious, strong-willed, and non-conforming. He reminds us a little of Dennis the Menace. In one day, he gets into more trouble than most kids get in a month. Usually it's innocent trouble.

He's curious, and often asks himself questions like: what will happen if I flush my brother's underwear down the toilet? What will happen when I put a cookie in the microwave and turn it on for five minutes? What will happen when I empty a bottle full of glue on the floor (in a corner where mom won't see it until it dries)? What will happen when I bring a fist full of frogs into the house, and don't tell mom for an hour?

We have more rules in this house than ever before. Rules that we never had to even consider before our little turkey was born. Each rule was put in place after an incident occurred.

We now have rules like:
  1. You may not take all your clothes off and run through a restaurant toward the bathroom.
  2. You may not push open random doors in the library (especially an emergency exit that will sound an alarm).
  3. You may not climb into the bin of toys at Wal Mart when mom is price comparing five feet away.
  4. You may not squeeze into the museum exhibit and wave at mom from behind the plexi-glass.*
  5. And, under NO circumstances, can you throw anything in the house--especially a toy car at the plasma television, simply because you don't like the cartoon on the screen. The last rule was put in place just a week ago after our television had to be replaced.
And lest you're concerned, I do keep a close eye on my children--and, given his track record, I'm even more diligent about watching this one in particular. The other three seem to stay out of trouble. My little turkey, on the other hand, is quick. Very quick.

The other problem is that he has a twin brother, and he tends to treat his brother with the attitude of: "You're either with me--or I'm against you." This often leaves his brother in tears.

This past week, after a series of mishaps, including the plasma television, we decided it was time to buckle down on discipline.

One of his worst punishments is being put in his room on a time out. On Monday he had five timeouts before lunch. After lunch he bit his sister in the leg (this one surprised us, because he's usually not hurtful and has never been a biter). When his sister came to me crying, I called for our little turkey and he came into the room with big green eyes saying: "But I don't want a time out!"

After apologizing, that's exactly where he went. As I ushered him into his room he said: "But I'll listen and obey! I'll listen and obey."

I said: "You'll have to listen and obey the next time, buddy."

All the hard work of disciplining has started to pay off. We took an uneventful trip to Wal Mart, where he agreed to stay in the cart--and actually did it! No bin diving this time!

But last night, disciplining him broke my heart...

He and his twin brother don't like their door to be closed at bedtime. I've told them that if they stay in their room, then I won't have to close the door. So we went through their nightly routine. We brushed teeth, put on pajamas, read two books, and said prayers. I told them goodnight and then went downstairs to work.

Ten minutes later I was back upstairs checking on everyone...and I found the little turkey with his feet in the bathroom sink! He said he was washing the toothpaste off his feet...and the toothpaste wasn't in the bathroom.

I put him in his room, found the toothpaste in his brother's hands, and removed the toothbrushes from their floor.

That's when I told them they had lost their privilege and I had to close the bedroom door. They cried and begged, but I had to hold my ground.

I closed the door and immediately heard the little turkey say: "Let's throw toys at the door!" Followed by a bang.

Remember, one of the rules is no throwing in the house.

I popped open the door (my mommy face in place) and my little turkey's eyes grew large. I reminded him of the rule, put him in his bed, and gave a stern lecture about listening and obeying. His brother huddled under the covers, big blue eyes blinking away tears, and said: "Mommy, I scared with the door closed."

First crack in my heart.

But as much as I hated to hear him say that, I said: "I have to close the door. You have to learn."

I closed the door and waited for a moment. There was a slight rustle and then I heard my little turkey say to his twin brother: "Don't be scared. I'll stay with you."

That's when my heart broke all the way. I peeked back into their room and sure enough, my little turkey was comforting his brother. I looked at him and said: "Tomorrow you can try again."

And he said: "I know. I listen and obey later."

Being a mommy is tough. Really tough. But if I've learned anything, I've learned that if I can follow through on the discipline now, the rewards will come later. My little turkey needs to learn how to be disciplined in the small battles now, because when he's older, the battles he'll face will only get harder.

Today is a new day, with no mistakes in it. I'm cheering my little turkey on to great things.

Your turn: Do you have any fun parenting stories? If you're not a parent, what kind of trouble did you get into as a child? Any "spirited" children out there?

*The museum escapade just happened last week. I'll share the story on an upcoming blog. Needless to say, it was interesting...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Author Giveaway Winner!

Seven Authors, One Grand Prize!
We were in the middle of the first week of this author series when I realized I wasn't offering a Six Author Grand Prize (even though I had six authors visiting), I was offering a Seven Author Grand Prize! With the $25 Amazon eGift Card I put in the basket, I am the seventh author. :)
It's been a blast hosting all of these ladies here on my blog. Each one is a unique voice in the writing world. I count myself blessed to call them friends, and I love to spread the word about their books.
Over the course of the past six weeks, I've had the privilege of inviting each of these ladies here to share their recent release. As a bonus to my readers, the authors each donated an item to a grand prize gift basket.
The Grand Prize:
A $25 Amazon eGift Card (not pictured) from Gabrielle Meyer
A stationary and notepad set from Jody Hedlund
A handmade jewel bookmark from Laura Frantz
A multi-colored peacock necklace from Wendy Paine Miller
A copy of the movie Christmas in Connecticut from Melissa Tagg
Book 1 in the Cadence of Grace Series & a worship CD from Joanne Bischof
A black & brown scarf from Heather Day Gilbert
And today I have the honor of announcing the winner of the grand prize!
Renee Smith
Renee, I will contact you to get your mailing address, and you'll soon receive your package in the mail!
Thank you to everyone who participated in this giveaway! My Rafflecopter calculated over 1882 entries over six weeks! That's incredible.
I hope you'll continue to come back often and visit. I have some fun things in store for this fall and winter. I plan to go back to my regular posting schedule with Minnesota Mondays, Way Back When-sdays, and Faith Filled Fridays. There will be more authors, more giveaways, and more fun in the coming months.
Your Turn: What genre do you enjoy reading most? Is there a genre you would never read? Or are you pretty open to all of them?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Final Day for the Six Author Giveaway!

These past six weeks have been so much fun! I've been able to host six author friends and share my favorite things: great books!

This author series has been especially exciting because we're giving away a fabulous gift basket full of items from each author. Week one I hosted author Jody Hedlund, week two I hosted author Laura Frantz, week three I hosted author Wendy Paine Miller, week four I hosted author Melissa Tagg, week five I hosted author Joanne Bischof, and week six I hosted author Heather Day Gilbert.

Some of these authors are multi-published, some are debuting their first novel, some are traditionally published, and some self-published. There are also contemporary writers, as well as historical ones among this group. All are amazing writers with a heart to share God's love and grace with those who read their writing.

The winner of the fabulous gift basket will be announced on my blog on Wednesday! It's not too late to enter the drawing, just follow the Rafflecopter directions below and you could be the big winner!

Six Authors, One Grand Prize
The Grand Prize:
A $25 Amazon eGift Card (not pictured) from Gabrielle Meyer
A stationary and notepad set from Jody Hedlund
A handmade jewel bookmark from Laura Frantz
A multi-colored peacock necklace from Wendy Paine Miller
A copy of the movie Christmas in Connecticut from Melissa Tagg
Book 1 in the Cadence of Grace Series & a worship CD from Joanne Bischof
A black & brown scarf from Heather Day Gilbert
I'll announce the winner on Wednesday, November 6th! Good luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway