Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Jodie Wolfe joins us today!

Welcome Jodie Wolfe!

About Jodie:
Jodie Wolfe creates novels where hope and quirky meet. She's been a semi-finalist and finalist in
various writing contests and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). When not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband in Pennsylvania, reading, walking, and being a Grammie. Learn more at www.jodiewolfe.com.


Joi:Why did you start writing? How did you start writing?

Jodie: LOL. I can't remember a time where I didn't write. I remember my first writing assignment. I was in second grade and we were to come up with a poem. I wrote mine about my favorite thing at the time. Snoopy. I still remember it to this day…but I won't recite it for you. J
Joi: That's awesome!

Joi: How did you select your genre?

Jodie: Chuckle. I think I'd have to say my genre picked me. I loved watching and reading Little House on the Prairie as a child and the love of the era stuck with me I guess.



Joi: What is your writing day like?

Jodie: I guess it all depends if I'm working on a book or novella or if I'm in between projects. Sounds like I'm not giving you very straight answers, doesn't it? J My typical day begins around 6:30 or 7. First thing I do is spend some time with the Lord through devotions. Then I pull on my exercise gear and walk anywhere from a mile to a two and a half miles. This is my most favorite prayer time. I get to be out in the beauty of nature while I'm communing with my Heavenly Father. Exercise is just the added benefit. After breakfast and a shower, I sit down at my computer. My day is a mix of active writing (2-3 hours yielding 2-3,000 words), working on blog posts, marketing, social media, etc. I try to not sit overly long, so I usually putter around with things that need accomplished around the house as my 'break' time.


Joi: How do you organize your writing? (outlines/note cards/post-its)

Jodie: Well, right now my desk is a bit messy as I'm trying to transition my writing desk out of our dining room and into a separate office instead. I tend to use a lot of post-it notes, calendar, files, etc. to keep myself organized. I don't always do a great job with that, but I'm hoping to improve in that area.



Joi: What's the most surprising thing a character has “told you”?

Jodie: Oh, I wished you had asked me that question when I wrote one of my novels a few years ago. Unfortunately I don't remember now what it was.



Joi: Do you have a list of characters that you're saving for future use? What kind of information do you keep on these characters

Jodie: No, unfortunately I'm not that organized. At least I don't think I have a file like that. Although, I do keep a file of photos of people who could become potential characters. Does that count? J



 Joi: What does your work space/office look like?

Jodie: Like I mentioned before, I'm currently taking up part of my dining room, but I've outgrown the area. I look forward to having my own room where I can spread out. One thing I have hanging above my desk is a sign I had when my boys were still at home. It says, 'No Whining'.


Joi: What is your go-to snack when writing?

Jodie: It used to be chocolate until I stopped eating sugar this past summer. Now I usually snack on trail mix or not at all.


Joi: If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why?

Jodie: It's so hard to narrow it down to just one. I guess I'd have to go with one I've read recently. Roseanna White's, A Lady Unrivaled. Her characters were quirky and fun, and she is such a brilliant author.


Joi: If you could only recommend one CRAFT book (writing, no crocheting), what would it be? Why?

Jodie: The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.
I sometimes struggle with a different way of having a character express an emotion. This is my go-to resource for helping with that.


Joi: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Jodie: Thank you so much for having me here today. I look forward to getting to know your readers better.

Joi: Thanks for joining us, Jodie!

Leave a comment for Jodie, and be entered to win an ebook if you are a U.S. resident! Don't forget to add your email address so I can get ahold of the winner!



Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Marna Reed Swings by to talk about Home Sweet Cocoa


Today we welcome Marna Reed, and her Home Sweet Cocoa book! 

Tell us a bit about yourself:

Hello, hello! My name is Marna Reed and I’m a debut author with Lovely Christian Romance Press. I’m a Canadian, not born, but most definitely bred! It’s the only home I’ve known and will always know. When I’m not writing, or daydreaming about stories, I can be found baking, eating the treats I make, marathoning shows, art journaling, and, of course, reading. Home Sweet Cocoa is my first published story.



Why did you start writing? How did you start writing?
I couldn’t catch up with all the voices and plots in my head. They had to go somewhere, so I started writing them down. What a relief!



How did you select your genre?
I’ve always been drawn to the romance and love in stories. Imagine my surprise when I found some old Harlequin novels tossed aside by my dad. Ha! I skimmed through those titles, but I fell in love. I’m a diehard romantic, even if I’m cynical about my own love life.



What is your writing day like?
I’m blessed to be able to write full-time right now, so a typical writing day starts as early as I can. I’m a morning person. If I can get it down early, I’ve got the whole day to treat myself afterwards. Win-win!
That's fantastic, Marna! I'm more of a morning person, myself!



How do you organize your writing? (outlines/note cards/post-its)
For Home Sweet Cocoa I used chapter outlines, which was a first for me. I used to do tons of chapter outlining before. Really detailed, pages-long type plotting, but I never finished those stories and they continue to gather dust in my USB—so when I tried it out for Home Sweet Cocoa I realized the trick is going back and editing the outline, instead of setting it aside and forgetting all about it when you start drafting the story.



What's the most surprising thing a character has “told you”?
Well, I don’t remember my other stories as clearly right now, and I don’t want to talk much about my work in progress novella, but in Home Sweet Cocoa I was a little surprised Ren didn’t hate or resent Molly. It was weird. I thought there would be more anger to explore there, but it was diluted. Time had sort of tempered his resentment for her and it showed. I couldn’t tap into that anger/wrath. It just wasn’t in him anymore. Interesting, huh?


Do you have a list of characters that you're saving for future use? What kind of information do you keep on these characters?
YES! I’m hoping to explore a few characters in the Home Sweet Cocoa universe, and I’ve kept a few notes on them and I’m doing all the fun exploring now. I love following characters in series and seeing secondary characters get their HEAs! I’m so excited to be getting the opportunity to do that now. J



What does your work space/office look like?
Sadly I don’t have an office, but I have my entire furnished basement to myself. That’s where I’m typing up these answers now! See:







Magic in progress. Stand by to be amazed.


What is your go-to snack when writing?
I try not to eat, and I’m not much of a snacker (not a word) when I’m working. I like my hands on the keyboard (or notepad) and not digging through a chip bag. As long as I have my hands in that position, I’ll eventually get some work done. I DO drink a lot of water and sometimes I wake myself up with regular black tea.



If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why?
TOUGH question. If I had to choose one novel though I’d say The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler—it’s an amazing book. Words can’t really describe how funny, beautiful, well-written this story is, and I only wish I could get to meet him in person. Bonus, he’s Canadian!


If you could only recommend one CRAFT book (writing, no crocheting), what would it be? Why?
I’m embarrassed to type and admit I haven’t read too many craft books. But I did love NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem! I got the revised edition two years ago for my second (more serious) NaNo attempt and it helped lots! I almost reached 50K that year (ended up with 41K) and I really owed it to the book and all its wonderful inspiration, tips and tricks.


Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Nope, and not unless you want to talk about the greatness that is The Office and my Pam x Jim shipping. Now that’s a romance I could swoon over for days. Phew! Great show. Where have I been for the last how many years without it?

Thanks for joining us, Marna!! Leave a comment below with your email address to enter to win $10 Amazon gift card plus a free PDF version of her Cocoa story!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Stephanie Guerrero stops by and offers a giveaway!

Welcome Stephanie Guerrero!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Stephanie Guerrero. I am a Southern girl who married a tall, handsome mid-western turned pastor! We have lived a thousand adventures in our twenty-three years of married “happily ever after” and have four amazing children. I’m a former middle school reading teacher & curriculum writer; but traded 150 students a year to stay home with four of my own. I co-founded Sister2Sister Ministries, love music, travel, flowers, Mexican food and dark chocolate!




Why did you start writing? How did you start writing?

Originally, I was a middle school reading teacher who taught the elements of a story. When I made the decision to stay home with my growing family, I needed to do something for my overactive brain!  While my little ones would nap, I decompressed by writing. I promised myself that I would finish my book, and if no one else liked it at least I had the joy of writing. It took seven years to complete and three more years to publish. I nearly lost the manuscript twice due to computer viruses and mother board crashes!  There were times God would tell me to set my writing aside and focus on my family. Other times, He would tell me to pick it up again. It has truly been a joy and an adventure! I will also add that writing each book is an adventure in itself. What God is teaching me at that moment in life usually shines through My Novel Adventures! My latest novella: Cocoa Christmas Bride is no exception.


How did you select your genre?
I LOVE adventure, and I am fascinated by the way God brings couples together in love. Each one has a different story to tell. He is the ultimate matchmaker. I especially delight in the power of weaving His story into a grand adventure romance.
Love that, Stephanie!



What is your writing day like?
While writing Cocoa Christmas Bride, I was wearing many hats. J In addition to writing, I teach my four children (two high schoolers, a middle schooler and an elementary student) at home, am a Children’s Minister, co-founder of Sister2SisterMinistries and other crazy things. I aspire to write for about an hour and a half to two hours each morning from around 10am-noon while my children do online classroom videos. (I am not an early bird!) Mondays are dedicated to marketing during that time. Summer is a gift!


How do you organize your writing? (outlines/note cards/post-its)
I usually drag a spiral notebook along on our family adventures to get ideas started! We are surrounded by mountains and love to take day trips to go hiking/camping. I use my downtime in the car to brainstorm.
If you are familiar with writers you may know that there are generally two types: the plotters and the (by the seat of the) pantsers. I am a bit of both. I love to start with a basic plot and character or two, and then start writing. Along the way, I will stop and research, use a chart to develop my character’s quirks, etc; but I love to let the story lead.
During the planning of Cocoa Christmas Bride, I had a family member message me with a list of my husband’s family tree. I knew I had married a “prince among men”, but the number of kings and queens, dukes and earls in his line is shocking! The man is related to virtually every royal line in Europe! I decided to research one of his ggggreat-grandfather kings for fun and came away with amazing inspiration from the life of a truly magnificient yet humble man. The inspiration for a reluctant king being forced to take a queen was born! 


What's the most surprising thing a character has “told you”?
In Cocoa Christmas Bride, my female character Silvia Diamante chooses to be a person of strength yet vulnerability, of candor mixed with grace. I discovered personally that all these qualities can coexist in the life of a self-disciplined, Spirit-led individual. It is a tough balance to maintain, and writing my character challenged me higher. I had a moment of real soul-searching when writing certain scene in the book.




Do you have a list of characters that you're saving for future use? What kind of information do you keep on these characters
I usually have adventures or plots that I am saving for the future! Though I didn’t know it would revolve around cocoa or Christmas, Cocoa Christmas Bride  began this way! I toss the plot around in my head and daydream about it for a while. Eventually, a character takes it and runs with it! 


What does your work space/office look like?
I have an antique, Singer sewing machine, the kind that looks like a piece of furniture until you magically reveal the machine inside. It sits in front of a giant picture window with my laptop ready and waiting. I live on a desert mesa overlooking a river valley. From my window, I can see the cactus and Spanish courtyard of my front yard along with lights of my town in the river valley. Even now as I type, train whistles are blowing. I am blessed.


What is your go-to snack when writing?
Chocolate in any variety, I recently discovered cocoa nibs, the chocolate equivalent of a coffee bean! Writing a book about cocoa was a real treat! I also love hummus with either tortilla chips or snack peppers!
Cocoa nibs! I want some! :)


If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why?
If we are referring to one of my own, J it would be Shades of the Orient. It is a multi-layered plot with lots of twists and turns; it also has a lot of me in it. There are masks, intrigue and romance all wrapped around the themes of betrayal and grace.
If we are referring to a personal favorite read… Embrace the Dawn by Kathleen Morgan. It is a very adventurous, well-written historical about Scotland. The characters and setting drew me in and I even learned a few pointers on being a loving spouse!


If you could only recommend one CRAFT book (writing, no crocheting), what would it be? Why?
It’s an oldie, but really encouraged me to get started… How to be a Christian Fiction Writer ~ by Gilbert Morris. The man has published dozens of books, but described how he still receives rejections from publishers. He reminded me that sometimes a certain publisher isn’t publishing your genre, or may have different editors who like different styles. The point is… never quit.
He also keeps pictures of an eye, ear, mouth, nose and hand above his computer as a reminder to let the reader see, hear, taste, smell and touch the story.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Nothing helps an author more than positive reviews!!! If you are interested in reviewing or influencing for one of my books, please check out my amazon author page at: http://amazon.com/author/stephanieguerrero then contact me via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shadesoftheorient/ or email me: warriorranch@yahoo.com
I’d love to hear from you! Questions? Leave a comment below.
Two lucky posts will be selected to win the ebook: Love Found in a Christmas Village!

Thank you for joining us, today, Stephanie!
And readers, leave a comment with your email address! You want to win this book!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Welcome Linda Baten Johnson and Cocoa and Christmas Crackers







Linda Baten Johnson has spent many hours packing and unpacking as she and her husband George have lived in 20 different places in the United States and enjoyed a stint in England. In between moves, Linda earned her Master of Arts degree in English and history, worked as a Realtor, a teacher, and logged many volunteer hours. One of her favorite volunteer assignments was at a lighthouse in a National Park where they were housed in the assistant keeper’s cottage.



Growing up in White Deer, a small town in the panhandle of Texas, Linda won blue ribbons for her storytelling ability. She still loves telling stories, reading stories, and sharing stories. She has written twelve books.





Why did you start writing? How did you start writing?
I started writing for my students. I taught in middle school and looked for ways to engage my students in the learning process. I wrote readers theater scripts about the parts of speech, about different types of writing, about research components. I even did a rap to help them remember the names and realms of the Greek gods for mythology.




How did you select your genre?
I started writing for middle school students, because that was the age I taught. My husband and I learned about the Friendship Train while on vacation and I later discovered the man who spearheaded the humanitarian effort, Drew Pearson, had donated all his papers to the LBJ Presidential Library which was close to my home. I was thrilled to be able to use primary source documents for my first book.
To stretch my writing, I entered a contest for a romance novella and it was accepted for publication, so I’ve been writing in that genre for the past few years.


What is your writing day like?
Coffee! I drink coffee and plan my day. I learned long ago that a life must be balanced, so I allocate time for spiritual, physical, personal, social, chores, and work. In the work aspect, a speaker at the last ACFW convention suggested we should be working on four books at all times—writing one, editing one, marketing one, and planning one. I’m trying to incorporate her suggestion.
Oh, I use a timer—I set the kitchen timer so I have to get up and turn off the incessant buzzing. That helps me focus when I’m writing, and keeps me from neglecting the other things on my daily list.
That is great advice, Linda! Thanks for sharing that!


How do you organize your writing? (outlines/note cards/post-its)
I wish I could be more of a plotter. I start with the “save the cat” outline, and write character sketches, but sometimes my characters change the stories.


What's the most surprising thing a character has “told you”?
“I’m not the person you think I am!” She was so desperate to leave New York City that she would lie, cheat, and steal to accomplish her goals. Since we write Christian fiction, usually our characters have a strong moral and ethical compass, so I was a bit surprised by her actions. 


Do you have a list of characters that you're saving for future use? What kind of information do you keep on these characters?
Yes. When I see an interesting looking person in line at the post office or in a restaurant, I’ll jot down some notes. When I overhear conversations, I may write down the dialogue, if it helps define a character. I’ve also created a spreadsheet on characters used in different books. That excel sheet has first and last names, occupation, home, hair color, eye color, quirks, distinguishing marks, and the book. Having a list keeps you from repeating names of minor characters.






What does your work space/office look like?
I’m lucky to have a converted bedroom I can use as my office. Special things in the office are pictures of my family, including grandchildren, to make me smile, a metal owl to remind me that readers are very wise, and a glass apple my mother-in-law gave me, which reminds me we are always teaching, in everything we do, say, or write.  


What is your go-to snack when writing?
I don’t really have one. Sometimes I grab a piece of fruit when that kitchen timer goes off!


If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why?
How can you only choose one? I think it would be To Kill a Mockingbird. The characters are amazing, the plot is compelling from start to finish, and having the story told through the innocent eyes of a child is genius.


If you could only recommend one CRAFT book (writing, no crocheting), what would it be? Why?
I’ve found The Emotion Thesaurus by Ackerman and Puglisi very helpful. They give suggestions of how emotions are shown.  I’m always fighting to show, not tell.


Is there anything else you'd like to add?
One thing that helps me is the adage: write it down, don’t write it right. It is so tempting to stop and edit or reread and change wording rather than move forward.


I’d like to thank you for inviting me to be with your readers. My next book is called Cocoa and Christmas Crackers. It will be both an individual book and part of a boxed set called Cocoa Christmas and they’ll be available in time to put in someone’s Christmas stocking.



Leave a comment and your email below to receive a PDF version of this amazing book!
 
www.lindabatenjohnson.com
https://www.amazon.com/Cocoa-and-Christmas-Crackers/

Thanks for joining us today, Linda!

Welcome Linda Baten Johnson and Cocoa and Christmas Crackers







Linda Baten Johnson has spent many hours packing and unpacking as she and her husband George have lived in 20 different places in the United States and enjoyed a stint in England. In between moves, Linda earned her Master of Arts degree in English and history, worked as a Realtor, a teacher, and logged many volunteer hours. One of her favorite volunteer assignments was at a lighthouse in a National Park where they were housed in the assistant keeper’s cottage.



Growing up in White Deer, a small town in the panhandle of Texas, Linda won blue ribbons for her storytelling ability. She still loves telling stories, reading stories, and sharing stories. She has written twelve books.





Why did you start writing? How did you start writing?
I started writing for my students. I taught in middle school and looked for ways to engage my students in the learning process. I wrote readers theater scripts about the parts of speech, about different types of writing, about research components. I even did a rap to help them remember the names and realms of the Greek gods for mythology.




How did you select your genre?
I started writing for middle school students, because that was the age I taught. My husband and I learned about the Friendship Train while on vacation and I later discovered the man who spearheaded the humanitarian effort, Drew Pearson, had donated all his papers to the LBJ Presidential Library which was close to my home. I was thrilled to be able to use primary source documents for my first book.
To stretch my writing, I entered a contest for a romance novella and it was accepted for publication, so I’ve been writing in that genre for the past few years.


What is your writing day like?
Coffee! I drink coffee and plan my day. I learned long ago that a life must be balanced, so I allocate time for spiritual, physical, personal, social, chores, and work. In the work aspect, a speaker at the last ACFW convention suggested we should be working on four books at all times—writing one, editing one, marketing one, and planning one. I’m trying to incorporate her suggestion.
Oh, I use a timer—I set the kitchen timer so I have to get up and turn off the incessant buzzing. That helps me focus when I’m writing, and keeps me from neglecting the other things on my daily list.
That is great advice, Linda! Thanks for sharing that!


How do you organize your writing? (outlines/note cards/post-its)
I wish I could be more of a plotter. I start with the “save the cat” outline, and write character sketches, but sometimes my characters change the stories.


What's the most surprising thing a character has “told you”?
“I’m not the person you think I am!” She was so desperate to leave New York City that she would lie, cheat, and steal to accomplish her goals. Since we write Christian fiction, usually our characters have a strong moral and ethical compass, so I was a bit surprised by her actions. 


Do you have a list of characters that you're saving for future use? What kind of information do you keep on these characters?
Yes. When I see an interesting looking person in line at the post office or in a restaurant, I’ll jot down some notes. When I overhear conversations, I may write down the dialogue, if it helps define a character. I’ve also created a spreadsheet on characters used in different books. That excel sheet has first and last names, occupation, home, hair color, eye color, quirks, distinguishing marks, and the book. Having a list keeps you from repeating names of minor characters.






What does your work space/office look like?
I’m lucky to have a converted bedroom I can use as my office. Special things in the office are pictures of my family, including grandchildren, to make me smile, a metal owl to remind me that readers are very wise, and a glass apple my mother-in-law gave me, which reminds me we are always teaching, in everything we do, say, or write.  


What is your go-to snack when writing?
I don’t really have one. Sometimes I grab a piece of fruit when that kitchen timer goes off!


If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why?
How can you only choose one? I think it would be To Kill a Mockingbird. The characters are amazing, the plot is compelling from start to finish, and having the story told through the innocent eyes of a child is genius.


If you could only recommend one CRAFT book (writing, no crocheting), what would it be? Why?
I’ve found The Emotion Thesaurus by Ackerman and Puglisi very helpful. They give suggestions of how emotions are shown.  I’m always fighting to show, not tell.


Is there anything else you'd like to add?
One thing that helps me is the adage: write it down, don’t write it right. It is so tempting to stop and edit or reread and change wording rather than move forward.


I’d like to thank you for inviting me to be with your readers. My next book is called Cocoa and Christmas Crackers. It will be both an individual book and part of a boxed set called Cocoa Christmas and they’ll be available in time to put in someone’s Christmas stocking.




 
www.lindabatenjohnson.com
https://www.amazon.com/Cocoa-and-Christmas-Crackers/

Thanks for joining us today, Linda!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Teresa Lilly Stops By and Shares About her Christmas Cocoa Book

Welcome, Teresa! Thanks for stopping by and spending a bit of time with us today!


Tell us a bit about yourself:


.My name is Teresa Lilly.  I have about 17 novellas published in the Christian Ficition, about six children chapter books and over two hundred unit studies. 

Why did you start writing? How did you start writing?

I began my serious Christian Writing when my children were finally all done being homeschooled.  I quickly found my interest in pleasing publishers wasn’t what I wanted to do.  I wanted to have my own works published, so I opened Lovely Christian Romance Press and have been happily writing since.
And we writers thank you! You're a joy to work with!


How did you select your genre?

God selected it.


What is your writing day like?

I don’t start writing until 9pm at night and write til midnight.
Wow! That's crazy!

How do you organize your writing? (outlines/note cards/post-its)

In some cases I make a map of the town on a poster board. Sometimes just keep notes in a folder.




Do you have a list of characters that you're saving for future use? What kind of information do you keep on these characters

Just one in my head, but I sometimes write a paragraph outline of a story and keep that in my records for future novellas.


What does your work space/office look like?

I have an upstairs bedroom that is empty except my desk with my computer and a tv

What is your go-to snack when writing?

Cheese balls

If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why?

The Enchanted Barn by Grace Livingston Hill…. It’s the most beautiful book I’ve ever read.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Writers need to get their story out on paper and worry about fixing it up later.  Let the story flow…. And love what you do….and do it for you and God….

Thanks, for joining us, Teresa! Leave a comment below with your email address and you'll be entered to win a copy of her book! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Take a Breather and Hang out with Amanda Zieba today!

Welcome, Amanda! I'm excited to have you here today!

Amanda Zieba is a full time middle school teacher, a wife and mother always and a writer any minute she can squeeze in. She is the author of 7 books for young adults and children. Champion Chocolatier is her first book for adults. When she isn’t teaching, mothering or writing, she is building Lego creations with her sons or watching some sort of sports with her husband.


Why did you start writing? How did you start writing?


When I graduated high school and began to think about college I debated about majoring in education or some sort of writing. I didn’t know any authors. To me, they lived in a magical world of words… a place that seemed impossible to reach. On the other hand,  I knew what a life in school looked like. I knew many teachers. I knew their lifestyle. I had just lived it for 13 consecutive years. I liked school. I did well at it. And so, I chose the familiar. But less than two years into my teaching career, the writing itch began to resurface. I began writing “my novel”. A few years, a marriage, and two children after that I couldn’t ignore my desire to write. I began to look at my hobby with a new lens. I looked for paid writing opportunities. I practiced my craft. I published my first books. Almost eight years later, here I am, book number eight just published. Champion Chocolatier is my best work yet, and my first non-self-published book. I couldn’t be prouder of it. 
Congratulations, Amanda!


How did you select your genre? 

Fantasy and Historical Fiction are my favorite genres to read and subsequently my favorite genres to write. Realistic fiction just seemed so boring. If I wanted to experience something realistic, I could just turn on the TV, or look at my daily life. Why spend time in the real world when the imaginations of authors could provide someplace much more fun? So when Teresa (the publisher) asked me to write a realistic fiction story I was nervous at first. I didn’t want to write a boring story. But I was pleasantly surprised. I found that this genre wrote a lot faster. It didn’t require massive world building or rule creating. I could write about the world I knew in infinite detail without having to design it first… because I had lived in it for more than three decades. Finding interesting ways to convey the details of everyday life provided a new challenge, one that I really enjoyed.

What is your writing day like? 

As I mentioned before, I teach full time and have two kids. My husband also coaches baseball at the college level. (Don’t let the summer time sport mentality fool you. This is a five month commitment!) Needless to say, writing time can be hard to find, especially certain times of the year. When baseball is not in season, my husband works hard to make sure there is time for me to write. We have a deal called Writing Wednesdays. On Wednesdays after school I write until dinner. I don’t get the kids after school. I don’t make dinner. I don’t exercise. I write. It’s only about three hours, but I make the most of it. I also steal away on weekend conferences or retreats or workshops a few times throughout the year. On daily basis, I write mostly at night, when everyone else has gone to bed. I love that time because I feel like all of my daily responsibilities have been fulfilled and I can have a couple of hours for just me. 

How do you organize your writing? (outlines/note cards/post-its) 

There has been a lot of flack out there lately about being a pantser. But really, I think that is the style I adhere to best. First I write the scene that sticks out to me the most… the initial idea that makes me excited about the story. Then I jump around, repeating that process for multiple events throughout the novel. Next I write to bridge the scenes. To be honest it is not a very efficient way to write. Over time I have tried to refine the process, writing as chronologically as possible. But still, sometimes I get stuck and jump to the next scene I see clearly in my head. I have also started using some pre-writing workbooks, like the ones found on Kristen Kieffer’s site She’s Novel. (http://www.shesnovel.com) These templates help me think through my characters, world and plot before I write, so that when I do get down to business, I’m ready to go. 

What's the most surprising thing a character has “told you”? 
The name connections in the book Champion Chocolatier totally shocked me. I feel like it was a clever play on words that seemed masterfully planned, but to be honest, it just came to me (in Emmy’s mother’s voice). It was a sweet little treat, and I think it gives the story the something little extra to make it really good, rather than just good.

Do you have a list of characters that you're saving for future use? What kind of information do you keep on these characters

Names come to me, and also little pieces of information about them. I don’t write them down, but I probably should. For example, I want to write about a girl named Emerson, whose father is a University professor of poetry (and obsessed with Ralph Waldo Emerson). Despite her namesake, Emerson is nothing like the quiet poet her father wishes her to be, and despite her rebellious nature she can’t outrun her urge to fill blank pages with words. The conflict that builds between the two characters is sure-fire literary goodness. Don’t go stealing this idea… it’s gonna be a good one… one of these days. 
Love that! Can't wait to read it!

What does your work space/office look like? 
Usually my lap desk and computer. Like right now… recliner, green lap desk and shiny new MackBook Air. (Also… everyone else is sleeping.)

What is your go-to snack when writing? 

I could live on snacks and beverages alone. I often start out with a snack by my side (Sweedish Fish and a Diet Pepsi), but soon I get into a rhythm and they sit uneaten. Writing is one of those things for me that takes away the tired, the hungry, the urge to pee. I guess it’s a good thing I don’t get to write all the time!

If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why? 

What a terrible question to ask a writer!! The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly is the book I recommend most often. It has everything. It is a historical fiction romance with suspense. Fiona’s dream is to own and operate a tea shop in 1800’s East End London. When her family is attacked by a serial killer and she must become a fugitive on the run, all of her dreams are forced to change. It is the first book in a series of great books about strong women, doing something that is important to them. Do yourself a favor and read it!

If you could only recommend one CRAFT book (writing, no crocheting), what would it be? Why? 

I love the Character Thesaurus Collection by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. (Emotion Thesaurus, Positive Trait Thesaurus and Negative Trait Thesaurus). These books have helped me flesh out characters and take them from cardboard cut outs to real living and breathing people with quirks, flaws and motivations. They are a great addition to any writer’s bookshelf.

Is there anything else you'd like to add? 

I hope you love Champion Chocolatier as much as I do! If you have any young readers in your life, please visit my website to find some great reads for children of all ages. www.amandazieba.squarespace.com Happy Reading! 

Leave a comment below with your email address for a chance to win paperback copy along with a coco mug and packet of cocoa!


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Heart Beats for Europe

My husband saw this blog and shared it on our Copeland Clan to Ireland Facebook page yesterday. I read it this morning, and it burned in my heart! I had to share it here! But first, I have to say, I am not saying anything against missionaries over other parts of the world. We have dear friends in Uganda, China, Japan, and some headed to the Ivory Coast we support financially. My sis and her family were missionaries in Kenya for 2 1/2 years. We believe there ought to be missionaries EVERYWHERE. One thing Chrissy, the author of this blog, does not say is how long it takes to raise support. We've received comments like, "Maybe God is going to change the path for you" or "What happens if you don't ever raise the support?" For most missionaries in Europe, it takes twice as long as any other place because a lot of people don't understand the hardship of being a missionary in Europe. They believe a lot of what is spoken here. Yet, I laugh because when we visited Ireland, I saw how much one of the missionaries there was in the kitchen, making things from scratch. In Africa, my sister had house help. We won't get that in Ireland. So, please as you read this, open your heart to what God is doing ALL OVER THE WORLD, not just the outward broken places. Also, we aren't going to Iraq or Belfast. We're actually headed to Galway. :)




Chrissy's post:

Okay, so the Lord has burdened my heart to write about this subject that is so close to my heart. For those of you just joining us, I did a missionary internship in Marseille, France last year, and I’m going to Belfast, Northern Ireland next year as a missionary. So clearly, God has given me a heart for Europe. But I need to address something I have found very disheartening within the church: the lack of support I have received in these endeavors to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Europe that so desperately need it.
europe
Now when I say this I am not just talking about financial support, and for the sake of the rest of this post, support will not mean financial support. I am talking about prayerful, spiritual, and encouraging support. That is not to say I haven’t received any support, I have, and I am so thankful for those of you that have been supportive, and agreed with me in prayer as the Lord leads me to these amazing people. But we need to talk about the people who haven’t supported, the leaders that I had to fight tooth and nail to get on board with me, and even then it’s with much reluctance. This needs to be addressed, and I’m not going to stay quiet about this anymore, because my heart is weeping for Europe, and I know that it is a reflection of how God’s heart weeps for the lost that still reject Him.

The Great Commission Reinterpreted

We all know the great commission:
“Go into the unreached parts of the world, in Asia, Africa, and parts of South America, with the most poverty, that have the best pictures for your slideshows, and tell them about Me so I can come back sooner. But do not worry about those that have television, radios, and access to bibles, they’ve chosen to reject Christ, and that’s their problem, not yours. And I will be with you always.”
No?
Yeah, that’s not the great commission I remember either.
Here’s the real one:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
—Matthew 28:18-20, emphasis mine
Huh, that’s odd… I missed the part where all Jesus cared about were the unreached? Oh, maybe because that’s not all He cared about! Now, I have to say this, and it is one hundred percent true: I absolutely care about the unreached. I long to see them know Christ and make Him known in their nation. I believe that there are many people called to them, and I myself am called to one day go to the unreached. If you’ve known me for any amount of time you know I feel called to go to Iraq one day, and be a missionary there.
So yes, reaching the unreached is so important, and is very much on God’s heart, but is it supposed to be at the expense of other nations as well? Europe needs Jesus, and I will touch on that in the next section, but should we be making it difficult for people, like me, and many friends of mine, that are called to Europe to actually get there? When Christ has specifically said to go to all nations? I think there is something seriously wrong with a picture where other nations, that need Jesus, are being rejected and passed over because we want Jesus to come back sooner? Is it fair for us to pass judgement and say: “Well they had their chance, too bad, so sad…”?

“Europe Doesn’t Need Missionaries” And Other Lies I’ve Heard

“Europe doesn’t need missionaries.” This is one of the biggest lies I’ve heard. Here are a few others I have heard:
“Why are you going there?”
“Sounds like a vacation to me…”
“That’s too expensive, why don’t you go somewhere else that has a lower cost of living?”
All of them are arguments that have their root in the lie that Europe does not need missionaries.
So let’s have a little history lesson, shall we?
Since Christianity became a major player in world religions, and even before, there have been countless wars over religion. But let’s focus on the part Christianity played in religious wars… To name the major conflicts, there were the Crusades, where European “Christians” invaded the Middle East and North Africa to force Christianity upon the “heathens”… And yes, there was much more at play than just that going on, but it was all done in the name of Christ.
Many died, there was much bloodshed, and death. Then there’s the Inquisition, can’t forget our buddies involved in that one. Many were tortured, burned, and killed in the most brutal way for “not complying with the Holy Church”. Oh, and of course, the slaughter of Protestants during the Reformation. This is the conflict that has carried the longest… There is still fear amongst Protestants in France because of what was done to their grandparents, great-grandparents, and all the way back to the beginning of the Reformation.
Northern Ireland is still just coming out of the fog of war between Protestants and Catholics. Many times, if we’re being honest, there is much behind just Protestant and Catholic, Christian and Muslim that brings about these wars and killing, but it’s more often than not wrapped in the label of religion in order to justify it.
Okay, so what’s up with this history lesson? Well, now you understand the utter distaste many Europeans have for religion. Jesus has become this bloodthirsty tyrant to so many, that the true gospel of Christ has been lost in the shuffle of idolatry and war. He no longer is the loving, merciful God full of grace, but a man that has had so much blood shed because of His name. I don’t know how to put it in simpler terms other than this: The Jesus we know is not the Jesus the majority of Europeans know. At best He is a distant deity, at worst He’s a man that has been the cause of conflict ending in blood. So is it really any wonder they want nothing to do with Him?

Europe, the Missionary Grave Yard?

So why am I writing this?
Well, we, as a church have greatly forsaken Europe. Many look at Europe and see a warning, not a mission field. Before I went to France I was told it was “The missionary graveyard.”
I believe that is due, not just to the spiritual darkness there, but also because of the lack of support missionaries have when going to Europe. I, as well as many missionary friends, have been shot down and questioned when we tell people we are going to Europe as missionaries. Maybe it’s because we don’t have pictures of poverty and need, because you can’t always capture brokenness on camera.
There is such brokenness in Europe. Suicide, depression, broken families, broken homes, are so common there. But as I said, that can’t always be captured in pictures for me to show. All this to say: we need you church. I am pleading with you, to step up, and recognize that the lost are not just in Africa, Asia, and parts of South America, but they are in Europe, North America, Australia, they are everywhere.
They are not just the unreached, but they are those that have rejected God, they are those that have heard of Jesus, in passing, as a man that caused war and strife in their country’s past. I have had to fight to have this recognized, I have had to work hard to show people why I am going where God has called me, and I’m not complaining, because it has given me more passion, drive, and more of a heart for these people.
But I am saying this: stop making us fight for this!
We should not have to fight for your prayers, for your encouragement, for your spiritual support! God has called us to these amazing places, to these amazing people, not so we can be on vacation, or so we can “have it easy”, because being a missionary in Europe is not as easy as you might think it is, but because HE has a heart for these people. Because He has created them, He loves them, and He wants them to know that. His love and desire for them is no more, no less than the love He has for those who have not been “reached”.

My Challenge To You

So here is my challenge for you:
  • Start praying for missionaries in Europe.
  • Start talking to God about His heart for the people of Europe
  • Ask Him if there is anything He wants you to do for European missionaries.
If you feel the Lord lay it on your heart to write an encouraging note to a missionary there, do it! If you feel the Lord prompting your heart to pray or do something for a specific country, do it! Maybe you feel prompted to pray every day for a country in Europe: do it!
Whatever God prompts you to do, do it! Please do not forget us, do not forget what God is doing there, and recognize that as God moves through Europe He is raising up more missionaries to reach the unreached and the lost in this world. He loves them, and church, it’s time we stepped up and loved them too.
Blessings and Love,
Chrissy

Friday, April 22, 2016

Spring has Sprung!

The snow has melted from last weekend's snow storm. The grass is green, the trees are blooming. Outside of our condo, there is a tree with white buds on it. Children are now playing outside in shorts and tee shirts. Yes, indeed, Spring has sprung!
Spring is not my favorite season. I'm more of a Fall or Winter gal myself. Yet, as I watch Colorado wake up from its sleepy state, I realize in a way, I'm waking up from my sleepy state, as well.
I've been struggling with a story for a long time, now. It's been tough for me to get in the minds of these characters. For some weird reason, they've shut me out. I can't get back in. So, I've set them aside, let them keep their silence for a bit, and began writing on a new story with new characters.
I'm excited to write this story. As I sat down with my laptop one night at Starbucks (my son was doing his homework next to me), the story took such a turn, I had to stop writing and breathe for a moment. It was a turn I hadn't expected. I've woken up from a long winter's nap, and I am so excited to finish this story.
Spring has sprung, not only in Colorado and the rest of the country, but in my writing life, as well. I thank God for the winter I have recently experienced in my writing. And I thank God for the fabulous spring in my life!
What about you? What has recently sprung out of the darkness in your life?

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Change of Seasons

I have many friends who love spring and summer! Renewal of life, warmer weather, sunny days, playing outside. All good things to enjoy during these two seasons. My friends love to feel the rays of sun warming their faces, hearing the giggles of children as they play at the park. The earth comes back to life after a season of dormancy. Green grass, flowers blooming, birds singing a wake up tune every morning.
Yes, spring has sprung, even here in Colorado. Even though we've had a few snow storms since March began, the snow is gone, and warmer temperatures are to be felt this week.
But alas, I am not a spring lover. No, I am a lover of fall and winter. I enjoy the turning of the leaves, the numbers dipping into the 40's and even 30's. I love Jack Frost nipping at my nose. Give me a comfy sweatshirt and a pair of jeans any day over shorts and a t-shirt. I would love to stay bundled up in my house, a blanket wrapped around me, a great book in my hand, and a fire going in the fireplace.
However, we must go through each season. To have all summer and no spring doesn't seem right. If it were always cold, how could a person ever get warm? The sun needs to shine in all its brilliance. It's the way God created things here in Colorado.
We get all four seasons, and I love it. Yes, I do wish for more snow. Yes, I do wish for colder weather. But instead of dwelling on the change of seasons in a negative way, I choose to embrace them. I will embrace the seasons of the year.
It's like life, isn't it? We can wish for all the seasons in our life to remain the same. Summer seems to be a season of peace. Wouldn't we all love to live in that season of peace? Then we come to fall. Oh yes, fall. A season where change begins, and more often than not, leading to a place of death. Winter. The season when things die. This is the hardest place to be in. Winter. Death of a loved one, death of a relationship, death of a marriage. Death of what used to be and isn't anymore. But then we head into spring.  A place of renewal, rebirth, hope. We can't have one season with experiencing some of the others.
As we head into spring, may it be a season of rebirth for you. May you find hope. May you treasure this season. If you are in the other seasons, don't worry. You won't be stuck there for long. Keep looking at Jesus, who is walking through each season with you.