Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Break

The past three months have been very relaxing for me. Since going to the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis in September, I've become very intentional about my time. August and September were very stressful months as I prepared for (and attended) the conference--and I knew after that I had to take a breather.

My husband's job is seasonal. He owns his own landscaping company, so he's busy from May to the end of November. I try not to write in those months, because of our busy schedule, but sometimes I have to sneak in some work--which is what happened in August and September for the conference.

Not only was I busy with writing related responsibilities, but I also had family obligations that demanded extra attention. So I geared up for those months as best as I could, but I didn't realize what kind of a toll they would take on my physical health.

It became clear to me by the beginning of October that I needed a that's what I've done. I met my writing deadlines and then I slowed down.

Sadly, my blog has taken a hit because of this. I've heard from many people that they miss my regular blog postings, and I apologize, but it's been for the best. I've been using these months to catch up on work at home, relax with my family, and brainstorm my next story (which I plan to start in January after the holidays). Dave just finished his work at the end of November, so he's home more and it's been a big help.

I plan to use the months of January through May as my writing months (because Dave will be home). I did this last year and it worked very well. I also plan to come back to my blog with renewed ideas and content in January. I want to make my blog a worthwhile place for my readers to stop and spend some time. It's become very important to me that I use my time, energy, and resources to the best of my ability--not only for my own sake, but also for anyone who takes the time to read my words.

So, from now until the beginning of January, I will not be posting on my blog. I will be preparing for Christmas and spending time with my family as we worship the King of Kings.

My prayer for the remainder of 2013 and into 2014 is that you and I would meet Jesus in a whole new way. As we're intentional about our time, our energy, and our resources, I pray that He can use each and every one of us to spread the life-changing news of His salvation throughout the world--which is the most magnificent gift ever given.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I look forward to seeing you all back here in January!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sisters and a 5K

Seven weeks ago my sister called and asked if I wanted to run the Turkey Trot with her on Thanksgiving morning. I had been running on and off for a couple of months, so I agreed to the 5K run. My sister lives in Aurora, Colorado and she was coming home for the holiday. What better way to spend some quality time with her?

Um, it turns out there are LOTS of better ways. :)

Before the race. A balmy 19 degrees and snowing!
She has run in one other 5K race (a little over 3 miles), and she said she'd set the pace and it would be simple. We did run almost the entire 3 miles, with a short walk at the half way point.
Me, my sister, Andrea, and her husband, Justin.
About 400 people signed up to run the Turkey Trot. And about 360 of them (including children) finished before my sister and I! My brother-in-law, Justin, came in third overall--he's currently in training for an Iron Man Competition in August 2014, so a three mile run is just a warm up!

Coming in on the finish!
After Justin finished, he caught up with Andrea and me back at the two mile mark. He ran the last mile with us and kept us laughing the whole way.

I pulled ahead at the *very* last second, just to beat her. :)
Right before the race, Andrea and Justin shared with me their exciting news! I'm going to be an auntie again in June. Andrea is about 10 weeks along, so she assured me we would be taking the race slow. It was a fun opportunity to visit with her. We had little energy to laugh--but we did anyway. A lot.

Third place overall and 1st in his age division!
Congrats, Justin.
We might not have been "First," but we completed a race,
and that means more than anything.
There's nothing like a sister's friendship. Though years and miles have separated us from our childhood together, I don't believe there will be another person on this planet who gets me so completely. Andrea and I can laugh at ourselves, or laugh at each other, without hesitation. We can recall memories that no one else can recall. We can share our dreams, our disappointments, and our frustrations with a few words--or we can go on and on for as long as we need to. I'm so very thankful for my sister.

Your Turn: Do you have a sister? What do you enjoy doing together? If you don't have a sister, who is one person you'd love to have as a sister?
~ ~ ~ ~
I have a winner from last week's blog post with Author Amy Matayo! The winner of a copy of The Wedding Game is: Gwendolyn Gage!! Gwen, I'll be contacting you to get information for Amy to send you a copy. Congrats!

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

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Author Heather Day Gilbert ~ And a Six Author Giveaway

Today I'm thrilled to be welcoming debut author Heather Day Gilbert to my blog. Heather is here to talk about historical research and some interesting facts about Vikings! Her debut novel, God's Daughter, is the first in the Vikings of the New World Saga.

Heather's guest post is the sixth in a six week author spotlight series I'm doing here. 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, and week five I hosted author Joanne Bischof. This is the final week in this series. Be sure to look at the bottom of this post and I'll tell you how you can win a fun gift basket from these six authors!

For now, here's a word from Heather:

A Peek into Historical Research
I'm so thrilled to be guest-blogging at Gabrielle's blog today! I "met" Gabrielle soon after I switched blogspots, around two and a half years ago. I recognized that she knew a little something about Vikings... given that she lives in Minnesota. (That may or may not be a football joke, since I know precious little about football!)
Since Gabrielle is also a historical writer, I wanted to chat about research today. What inspires an author to write a historical? Do they fall in love with the time period first? Or perhaps the characters? I think it depends. For me, it was both, but primarily a character that inspired my Viking novel, God's Daughter.
Being of Viking heritage, quite a few years ago, I bought myself a copy of the massive tome, The Sagas of Icelanders. Since I'm supposedly related to Eirik the Red's son Thorvald, naturally I busied myself with reading everything I could about the dude. Turns out, he died of a native (Skraeling) arrow in the new world--North America.
And yet, another member of Eirik the Red's family began to fascinate me. Gudrid...a woman who was married three times, while still young...beautiful, wise, and from all accounts, a Christian. She also traveled to the New World and even had a baby here! I couldn't get enough of her story. And then the sagas introduced me to Freydis, Gudrid's sister-in-law, who was about as wild and unpredictable as Gudrid was kind and beautiful. Freydis will be the main character in my second novel, Forest Child.
I started a story, based on a slave character I invented, who would wind up with Eirik's family. But my husband asked why I didn't just write about Gudrid herself, one of the better-known Viking women (for those interested in Viking lore). I took a deep breath. Then I started writing.
The story flowed. And yet, I had to check my saga accounts continually. With historical fiction based on a real person, it's tricky getting your historical storyline and your fictional storyline to mesh. And since the sagas overlapped and had timeline discrepancies, I had a major task ahead of me.
I also referred to the Old Norse dictionary throughout the writing process. Talk about slowing a writer down...checking your adjectives, nouns, and verbs against a limited dictionary equals lots of extra time. But in the end, I was able to incorporate a few words I figured the Vikings had words for, even if they weren't in my dictionary, as long as they didn't shout anachronism.
I sort of bent the historical fiction rules (especially for Medieval fiction), by writing in first person present tense. I loved Tracy Chevalier's Girl with the Pearl Earring (first person past), and I wanted to capture that immediacy of being in my main character's head...walking through these situations with her.
I've vlogged here about how difficult it was to get my beloved time period published within the CBA, even though it was out over a year on submission. In the end, God seemed to open the door for me to self-publish my novel. Just like that, I became a hybrid author--represented by my agent for my Contemporary Appalachian Mystery novel, and yet self-publishing my Viking novel in the meantime.
November first of this year, God's Daughter, the fruit of years of hard work, will be available on Amazon. It's been a long journey and it hasn't turned out the way I planned, but I'm more excited than I ever dreamed I could be. After years of buried hopes of getting traditionally published, I can finally anticipate getting my novel--which deals with heavy, yet important themes like depression, paganism vs Christianity, and emotional infidelity in marriage--into my readers' hands.
Historical research can be a bear, but I think we usually do it because we love something or someone in the time period we're writing about. That passion will spill over into your novel. Stick with it...more than ever before, there are many avenues for authors to get their books out there!
Gabrielle here. Isn't this a fascinating look at historical research and Viking knowledge? Heather, thank you so much for sharing this behind-the-scenes look at your novel! I am a bit familiar with Viking history--and not of the football kind! :)
Heather has graciously agreed to give away a copy of her debut novel, God's Daughter, to one reader who comments on this post between now and Tuesday, November 5th at 11:59 p.m. (CST). Please include your email address.
A QUESTION FOR MY BLOG READERS: Do you know anything about Viking history? Do you have any questions for Heather?
Last weeks winner of My Hope is Found by author Joanne Bischof is:
Linda Finn!
Congratulations, Linda. I'll be contacting you soon!
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18364996One Viking woman. One God. One legendary journey to North America.
In the tenth century, when pagan holy women rule the Viking lands, Gudrid turns her back on her training as a seeress to embrace Christianity. Clinging to her faith, she joins her husband, Finn, on a voyage to North America.
But even as Gudrid faces down murderous crewmen, raging sickness, and hostile natives, she realizes her greatest enemy is herself--and the secrets she hides might just tear her marriage apart.
Almost five centuries before Columbus, Viking women sailed to North America with their husbands. God's Daughter, Book One in the Vikings of the New World Saga, offers an expansive yet intimate look into the world of Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir--daughter-in-law of Eirik the Red, and the first documented European woman to have a child in North America.
"Vivid, powerful...triumphant. This story took me by the heart." ~ Joanne Bischof, award-winning author of the Cadence of Grace series
"God’s Daughter offers a brave, fresh look at a lost way of life and the Vikings who left an indelible mark in history. Author Heather Gilbert weaves a riveting novel with unforgettable characters and circumstances, the first installment in a series sure to resonate with historical fans. The stunning cover is only the beginning!" ~ Laura Frantz, Christy finalist and author of Love’s Reckoning
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 Author Bio: Heather enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Sixteen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as ten years spent homeschooling her three children. Heather is the ACFW West Virginia Area Coordinator.

You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert--Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads. Look for her Viking novel, God's Daughter, coming to Amazon November 1, 2013!
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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 one in the Cadence of Grace Series & a worship CD from Joanne Bischof
A black & brown scarf from Heather Day Gilbert
Over the course of the last six weeks I hosted six authors on my blog. Each author agreed to offer a free copy of their newest release, as well as an item for a grand prize drawing at the end of the six weeks! To be entered to win a free copy of each book, all you had to do was visit my blog weekly (beginning September 25th) and comment on each author's post. A random winner was chosen each week--one will be chosen this week. To be entered to win the grand prize, visit my Rafflecopter below and follow the instructions.

I'll announce the winner of the Grand Prize next Wednesday, November 6th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Author Joanne Bischof ~ And a Six Author Giveaway

I've been waiting a long time to share this post with all of you! Joanne Bischof emailed it to me weeks ago in preparation for this series! It's a wonderful example of how an author uses Pinterest for her writing--and how a reader can experience a deeper connection with a story. Joanne is also here today to celebrate the release of her novel, My Hope is Found, the third and final book in the Cadence of Grace series. (By the way, if you haven't read this series, you are missing a magnificent tale! Joanne's debut novel, Be Still My Soul, the first in the Cadence of Grace series, was nominated for the prestigious Christy Award.)

Joanne's guest post is the fifth in a six week author spotlight series I'm doing here. Week one I hosted author Jody Hedlund, week two I hosted author Laura Frantz, week three I hosted author Wendy Paine Miller, and week four I hosted author Melissa Tagg. Check back here next Wednesday for the last author in this series. At the bottom of this post I'll tell you how you can win a fun gift basket from these six authors!
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As a writer, I love Pinterest. As a mom, I love Pinterest. As a fan of double-fudge peanut butter brownies…well you get the pattern! Pinterest has only been around for a few years, but it’s a great resource. Handy for life, and as a writer, handy in the world of story building. For readers and writers alike, this online pin board has been bridging the gap between words on the page, and the visuals that can often inspire them.

For characters, I pin to a board called that magic something. I don’t entirely know what that means, but it’s just that: that thing we can’t quite put our finger on, those quirks and appeals that make someone an intriguing character for a book.

All character boards are different, mainly depending on the setting and time period and the author’s preferences. As a writer of Appalachian romance, I’m often drawn to people who aren’t buttoned too high and tight and have a bit of rustic edge to them. It fits well with my genre and the people of the mountains I love to write about. One of the great things about character boards is following those of other writers! There are a ton of great ones out there and one of my favorites is that by Laura Frantz, called novel faces. Positively delightful! She captures a great human emotion and intrigue in a way that we can see deeper into the stories she has written, all the while yearning for more. 
I confess, as an Appalachian writer, I don’t have a dress board, mainly because with my period and region, dress was usually pretty simple. Homespun, affordable and frugal, dresses and shirts were rarely fashionable and often used until they were too threadbare to make it another day, then cut up for a quilt or curtains. But there are writers out there with genres that have exquisite history dress. Whether it’s the Civil War era or Edwardian England, there are some phenomenal boards that capture the costumes and dress of a time period.
Some of these pin boards are Gabrielle’s very own! Her 1850’s board is chockfull of stunning gowns and accessories that would not only help her pay close attention to the fashions in her writing, but must be incredibly inspiring for her as she’s in the decision stage of what a character would wear for a particular scene or event. I’m always amazed by boards like these and the rich attention to detail that they represent.
Not only with spotting characters, Pinterest is incredibly helpful for settings. Scenery, homes, tools, fabrics… the list goes on and on. For a glimpse into the 1950’s, Carla Stewart’s, Nostalgia and Vintage is a great one. There are so many fantastic boards that writing this post is like trying to choose a favorite flavor of ice cream! Impossible. J

My main setting board is called the spirit of Appalachia. I’ve been pinning there for nearly two years and it’s really just a gathering of inspirational images that remind me of Appalachia: the mountains, the people, animals, farms and on. Images that either remind me of actual scenes from my books, or could serve as potential inspiration for future scenes.
In addition, setting boards are great for writer’s block! When I was working on Though My Heart is Torn, the second book in the Cadence of Grace series, I knew the story needed something. My editing deadline was coming to an end, and I just couldn’t put my finger on what was missing within the story. I may have panicked and whipped up a batch of brownies (for moral support, of course). Then… knowing that the writer’s block had to be conquered, I poked around in my setting board for a while and stumbled upon a picture of an old white church on a foggy day. It sparked something in my mind, the root of a scene that ended up being the entire chapter 56 from the book. Surprisingly, it became one of my favorite scenes in the entire story. If you’ve read the scene of Gideon in the churchyard, you’ll probably recognize that picture!
While I think that many of us writers still enjoy shredding magazines to pieces, hunting inspiring faces as we walk through a crowded courtyard, or being captivated by a piece of scenery in an old postcard, being able to catalog so much of that online… and share it with readers…has been a phenomenal new tool in the last few years! Let’s chat:

QUESTIONS FOR MY BLOG READERS: As a reader, do Pinterest boards give you a richer experience of the story? As a writer, in what ways do you use Pinterest for your story building?

Gabrielle here: Joanne, thank you for this lovely blog post! I love how Pinterest has enriched our writing, and reading, experience.

Joanne has graciously agreed to give away a free copy of her new release, My Hope is Found, to one of the blog readers who comments on this post between now and Tuesday, October 29th at 11:59 p.m. CST. Please leave your email address under your comment!

Last weeks winner of Made to Last by author Melissa Tagg is:
Susan Johnson!
Congratulations, Susan. I'll be contacting you soon! 
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After finally finding love with his sweet bride Lonnie, Gideon’s heart was torn when a woman from his past claimed to be his true and rightful wife, forcing him away from his family. God’s merciful hand saw Gideon through the heartache, and with Cassie’s blessing, he is able to return home. But his journey back through the Blue Ridge Mountains will hold a trial he never anticipated.

Meanwhile, Lonnie determines to seal off her heart from Gideon, convinced he is lost to her forever. Strengthening her resolve to move on is her growing fondness for the handsome Scotsman, Toby McKee—the young reverend she has come to care for deeply. His proposal of marriage offers a bright future for her and her young son.

Yearning to allow joy back into her life, Lonnie must put aside the broken pieces of her heart that still love Gideon. When he returns to find her betrothed to another, he has to place his hope in God, trusting that the One who redeemed their love once can do it again.
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Married to her first sweetheart, Joanne Bischof lives in the mountains of Southern California where she keeps busy making messes with their home-schooled children. When she’s not weaving Appalachian romance, she’s blogging about faith, writing, and the adventures of country living that bring her stories to life. My Hope is Found is the third novel in her Cadence of Grace series.
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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 one in the Cadence of Grace Series & a worship CD from Joanne Bischof
A black & brown scarf from Heather Day Gilbert
Over the course of six weeks I will be hosting six authors on my blog. Each author has agreed to offer a free copy of their newest release, as well as an item for a grand prize drawing at the end of the six weeks! To be entered to win a free copy of each book, all you need to do is visit my blog weekly (beginning September 25th) and comment on each author's post. A random winner will be chosen each week. To be entered to win the grand prize, visit my Rafflecopter below and follow the instructions. If you do each thing listed you'll earn 45 chances to win the grand prize! Don't forget to visit here each Wednesday to earn more chances!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Author Melissa Tagg ~ And a Six Author Giveaway

Today I'm thrilled to finally welcome my good friend Melissa Tagg to my blog! Melissa is here to tell us a little about her writing journey and the new release of her debut novel Made to Last. I can't wait for you to "meet" Melissa. She's a lovely lady and a wonderful writer who just happens to be an incredible friend, as well.
Melissa and me at ACFW in September
Melissa's guest post is the fourth in a six week author spotlight series I'm doing here. Week one I hosted author Jody Hedlund, week two I hosted author Laura Frantz, and week three I hosted author Wendy Paine Miller. Check back here each Wednesday for a new author. At the bottom of this post I'll tell you how you can win a fun gift basket from these six authors!
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Melissa, I'm so excited that you're a guest on my blog today! I've been waiting a long time to have you here to talk about your debut novel, Made to Last!
For readers who might be "meeting" you here for the first time, can you give us a quick history lesson on your publication journey?
Sure…I started writing seriously in fall 2009 when I attended a My Book Therapy Storycrafting Retreat led by the fabulous Susan May Warren. Total game-changer in my writing life. I started pursuing publication, then, in fall 2010 when I attended my first ACFW conference. Early 2012 is when doors really started opening. First an editor from Bethany House contacted me after following me on Twitter and reading my blog. She invited me to send in a proposal—I sent two. :) And eventually sent both books.
Around the same time, I received a scholarship to attend the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. There I connected with Chip MacGregor—and following that, had phone calls with both him and one of his agents, Amanda Luedeke. In June 2012, I signed with Amanda. Two weeks later, we found out one of my books was going to the pub board at BHP. Two weeks after that, BHP offered me a two-book contract.
In other words, 2012 was a really good year. J
It's been so much fun watching the last couple years of your journey unfold. I was thrilled when I could finally hold Made to Last in my hands! What sparked your idea for Made to Last? Does the story look the same as you had first envisioned or has it changed a lot since then?
Oh man, this story has gone through SO many changes. Some of the characters who made it into the final version didn’t appear in earlier versions and some other characters got nixed early on. Recently someone asked me to submit some deleted scenes from the book and all the earlier pieces came flooding back. It’s amazing the transformation stories go through as we revise. But I think that’s part of what makes stories and storytelling so fun…
As for what sparked it, it started with the movie Christmas in Connecticut. It’s a 1945 movie starring Barbara Stanwyck, who has built a fake life for herself…including a fake husband. I thought the storyline was super cute, so I borrowed the pretend marriage angle and ran with it.

We both share a love for old movies, so I'm very familiar with Christmas in Connecticut, and Barbara Stanwyck! I was intrigued when I first heard the premise for your story and I waited a long time to finally read Made to Last! I have to say, it was even better than I had hoped! Each of the characters have distinct personalities and unique stories to tell. One character in particular has gained a lot of attention. Blake "Blaze" Hunziker is Miranda Woodruff's fake husband in Made to Last, but he definitely left many of us swooning! Can you give us a little glimpse into Blake's story in Here to Stay, which releases in May?
I would love to. Oh Blake… J
So, Blake is the funny guy in Made to Last. But I think (I hope) in MTL many readers will get the sense that there’s more to him than goofiness…that behind the hilarity is a vulnerability and a past he’s been trying to outrun. So in Here to Stay, we see him finally going home to face that past. Right away in the first chapter, you’ll get a glimpse of the weight he’s been carrying around and this desperate desire he has to settle down, live a normal life and make up for the past. Of course, while he’s there he runs into my heroine…a hometown girl who just wants to leave their little tourist town, travel the world, finally live her own adventure.
I'm already counting down the days until I find out what happens to Blake!! With book two set to release next year, you can soon say you're a multi-published author! What has surprised you the most about reaching the "published" stage on your journey?
Hmm, you know, I think it’s easy as an aspiring author to think once you hit the “published” stage, everything is perfect and you’ve arrived. But actually, the work gets more intense…and frankly, the emotions can get crazier if you let them. :) I’m enjoying this season SO much, but I have felt busier than I ever thought possible. So honestly, I think the most surprising thing has been that feeling of being stretched—mostly in a good way—spiritually, physically and mentally.
I was just talking to my hubby about this very subject last night. I think so many of us get a false impression that once we sign a publishing contract (or reach other milestones) it will be smooth sailing. The truth is that no matter what we are pursuing in life, God will use each leg of the journey to teach us a new lesson and grow us in ways we never thought possible.

Here's my last question, Melissa! Just for fun, if you could only eat one dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Haha, if I had to make this decision for real, after crying for awhile, I’d have to go with this frozen mocha dessert I make sometimes. It’s kinda the best dessert EVER—oreo crust and a filling made of cream cheese, chocolate syrup, sweetened condensed milk, whipped cream, instant coffee, basically everything that’s fattening and horrible and wonderful. I like a lot of desserts but that one beats out even the best restaurant desserts. I tend to offer to make it for family gatherings just because I want it…and because I love licking off the spatula after whipping up the filling.
I have a few of those special desserts too! I think mine would have to be Monster Cookies. :)
Thank you so much for being here today, Melissa. I'm praying for Made to Last, as well as Here to Stay, and all the other books you'll write in the future!
Melissa has graciously agreed to give away a free copy of her new release, Made to Last, to one of the blog readers who comments on this post between now and Tuesday, October 22nd at 11:59 p.m. Please leave your email address under your comment!
A QUESTION FOR MY BLOG READERS: If you could only eat one dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Last weeks winner of The Disappearing Key, by author Wendy Paine Miller is:
Wilani Wahl
Congratulations, Wilani! I'll be contacting you soon.
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Miranda Woodruff has it all. At least, that's how it looks when she's starring in her homebuilding television show, From the Ground Up. So when her network begins to talk about making cuts, she'll do anything to boost ratings and save her show--even if it means pretending to be married to a man who's definitely not the fiance who ran out on her three years ago.

When a handsome reporter starts shadowing Miranda's every move, all his digging into her personal life brings him a little too close to the truth--and to her. Can the girl whose entire identity is wrapped up in her on-screen persona finally find the nerve to set the record straight? And if she does, will the life she's built come crashing down just as she's found a love to last?
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Melissa Tagg is a former newspaper reporter and total Iowa girl. In addition to her work as a grant writer and communications coordinator at Iowa’s largest homeless ministry, she also serves as the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy. Melissa blogs regularly at Melissa Tagg  and loves connecting with readers on Facebook , Twitter (@Melissa_Tagg), Youtube and Goodreads.
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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 one in the Cadence of Grace Series & a worship CD from Joanne Bischof
A black & brown scarf from Heather Day Gilbert
Over the course of six weeks I will be hosting six authors on my blog. Each author has agreed to offer a free copy of their newest release, as well as an item for a grand prize drawing at the end of the six weeks! To be entered to win a free copy of each book, all you need to do is visit my blog weekly (beginning September 25th) and comment on each author's post. A random winner will be chosen each week. To be entered to win the grand prize, visit my Rafflecopter below and follow the instructions. If you do each thing listed you'll earn 45 chances to win the grand prize! Don't forget to visit here each Wednesday to earn more chances!
a Rafflecopter giveaway