Year To Date: Change and Abide

christmas2014familyWell, it’s been quite a year – probably one of the most difficult ones of my life, and that’s saying something. For the past three years I’ve chosen a ‘one word’ to focus on throughout the new year. In 2014 my word was Change – and it has definitely been a year of change, transitions, upheavals, and surprises.

In February my husband was offered a full-time job that fit his skill-set and passions perfectly – Pastor of Music Ministry in a  church in Asheville, NC. This meant relocating our family from a place we’d lived for eight years, from a house I’d spent two years renovating, and from a job as a university instructor I loved with friends I adored. For the next four months, my husband stayed in Asheville most of the week and commuted home to us (about an hour and a half drive) for Friday and Saturday. There was so much to do to prepare for the move, of course, including finding a house, checking out schools, and looking for a new job for me. Those months were tough as the rest of our family prepared to transition to our new home with hubs.

IMG_1526Within this craziness, I had three wonderful opportunities. The first was to make a surprise road-trip to St. Louis to visit my crit partner and brand new mom, Amy Leigh Simpson. Along the way I had lunch with Julie Gwinn and dinner with friend and Alleycat, Krista Phillips. IT was a fantastic break in the middle of all the transition.

Secondly, I worked at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference as support staff for Edie Melson and Alton Gansky. It was so much fun to have the opportunity to give back to a conference and a community who had been such an encouragement to me over the years.

Last but certainly not least, was signing with my amazing friend and agent, Julie Gwinn. Wow, what a great match! I’m so thankful. She’s been a wonderful encourager and herald for my stories

IMG_1008We moved to Asheville in the middle of June, the same day I started my new job in a private outpatient clinic. The summer moved along at record speeds and I tried to learn a new paperwork system and adjust my skill set to meet the demands of something quite different than I’d done the previous thirteen years. I missed my colleagues, my students, and teaching. My kids were adjusting to missing their friends and school.

But behind the scenes, Julie was working her magic by beginning a massive network of my writing. She edited my manuscripts, encouraged me in the move and the writing journey, and believed in my writing more than I did at the moment. At the beginning of September, I received my first contract offer. My fun, 10646741_10204870944154085_8514285265217180766_nAppalachian modern day My Fair Lady story, A Twist of Faith, was headed to publication. I officially signed the contract at ACFW with many of my wonderful Alleycats present. God certainly knew what I needed most when he brought them into my life!!!! They’d been such a part of my writing journey I couldn’t imagine signing without them to celebrate with me!!

This conference I also spent time with fantastic encouragers like Jeanne Wynn, Julie Lessman, Beth Vogt, Susan Mason, Rachel McMillian, the amazing Janice Thompson, Jim Rubart, and SO MANY MORE! Wow, I’m blessed!! It was an amazing boost of support to head me into the next big transition.

 

In the middle of November, I received a contract to be a coauthor for a YA book coming out in 2015 associated with a new video game. The game creators, 2nd City Studios, have developed a Steampunk-like game called The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance. It’s been such a fun experience to get to work with these guys in creating a companion novel to go along with their MMO Role Playing Game.

On the heels of this contract came another at the beginning of December – a three-book deal with Vinspire Publishing for my historical romance series, Penned in Time Series. I can’t tell you how fulfilling it was to have an editor be as excited about my book as I was.

jetpackwithcutieI’m in awe, a bit overwhelmed, and really nervous about making this all work for 2015 while being a mom of 5 FABULOUS and FUNNY kids, wife of a minister, and full-time SLP, but I’m finding great encouragement in my new Word for 2015: Abide.

There are many things in this world. Good, bad, crazy, painful, thrilling, unpredictable – but one thing remains the same. God, and his ever-present, all-consuming love for his children.

In John 15, Jesus talks about how to abide, but what does abide mean? In a very generic way, it means to ‘live’, kind of like I abide in my house, but there is much more to it.

It means to rest, to find security, shelter, a ‘framework’ for my life, the structure for what is true and certain.

It’s a beautiful thing to consider abiding in Christ. There is a comfort, strength, and rest in it. It gives us strength because we know our foundation is secure and we’ll always be welcome. We are not called to abide with him because of our goodness, strength, power, beauty, or anything else of our own making, but all because of Christ’s love. That’s it.

As I go into 2015, I pray that throughout all the change, transition, and new adventure, I will keep my heart, mind, and spirit at home in Christ’s love.

Happy New Year and many blessings for 2015

Conference Tips with ACFW Worship Leader Rachel Hauck

The ACFW conference starts today – and what a better way to welcome the fun then with conference tips from the worship leader and fabulous author, Rachel Hauck.  One of the most fabulous parts of ACFW is the time when hundreds of people get together to sing praises to the Author of our Salvation – and Rachel does a fabulous job leading us in song.

What does she think you ought to bring to conference?

Three Writer’s Conference Necessities:

1. An open heart and mind. Go to the conference with hope, but looking to learn and listen! Be slow to speak. Quick to hear.
2. Do your research on the editor and agent you want to meet. Read their blogs if they have one. Email authors who work with them and ask for any advice.
3. Don’t let your hurt feelings or sense of rejection isolate you. If you feel hurt or rejected, go to the prayer room. Go to the worship sets. Reach out. There’s no need to get hurt and stay hurt. Trust me! Every one feels hurt or rejected at the conference at some point. Yea, even me. 😉 But I don’t stay in that place. It’s not fruitful!
GREAT tips, Rachel – and #3 is a doozy!
Those who God has called, He will also equip. I’ve had to repeat my writing mantra to myself a lot over the past few weeks:
God’s call, God’s timing, my perverance!
I hope you guys have enjoyed the conference tips for ANY writers conference you may attend in the future.
Blessings to you all – and stay tuned for updated info from ACFW!!
Pepper

Conference Tips with Siri Mitchell

One of my top FIVE historical authors is Siri Mitchell. Her books have a unique flavor to them with deep threads of faith interwoven through a colorful story. I love her contemporary novels too, but (to me) her historicals hold so much more depth.

Siri is an encourager too. Five minutes with her will make you aware of how much knowledge and insight into the writing world she has to share. She is one of the quiet dreamers, an observer, and a creator of beautiful fiction.

What does this award winning author tell us to bring along to conference???

1.       A cardigan sweater (or some sort of wrap or jacket). To keep you warm in those air-conditioned hotel conference rooms.

2.       Spontaneity. You never know what kinds of information you’ll learn or wonderful people you meet if you break with the schedule you’ve set up for yourself and ‘go with the flow’ instead.

3.       Courage. To meet new people, talk to your favorite authors, pitch to agents and editors. You can do anything for 15 minutes, right? A conference is just lots of 15-minute intervals strung together

Love it!! I feel so much better about breaking up my conference experience into 15 minute increments. It certainly doesn’t seem as frightening that way 🙂

Siri, thanks for the wonderul tips. Will I have the opportunity to have a cup of Caramel Hot Chocolate with you again this year? Here’s hopin’!

You can learn more about Siri and her books at www.sirimitchell.com

Conference Tips Lineup

Less than a week left before ACFW, but there is plenty of time to stop by and get some last minute tips from some of your favorite authors.

Check out who’s coming to visit:

Monday – Siri Mitchell

Tuesday – Cara Lynn James

Wednesday – Kim Sawyer

Thursday – Rachel Hauck

And Friday, I’m going to try to stop in and let you know how things are going at ACFW – maybe with a few pics too 🙂

Conference Tips with Audra Harders

There are some people God brings into your life at the perfect time for the perfect reason. Steeple Hill Love Inspired author, Audra Harders, was one of those people to me last year at  ACFW.

Besides being a partner in workshop ‘sneaking’, Audra was also an encourager during my nervousness. She took me under her wing and prayed for me right in the lobby of the hotel. It was a beautiful experience – an example of her gentle, kind, and lovely personality.

Audra is another one of the fabulous fifteen Seekers and her novel, Rocky Mountain Hero, debuted in January 2011.

So Audra, what are your conference tips?

 1. Bring your sense of curiosity and adventure. I know writers tend to be hermits, but a conference is no place to bow to those tendencies! Get out of your room and snoop around the hotel, you never know who you’re going to run into at the coffee shop or lobby. Or exercise room. Or pool.

 2. Think about your “brand” and bring a gimmick. It can be as simple as a business card with your picture, your log line, or anything to identify you and your genre. Or maybe something that relates to your genre such as a creative (crafty) bookmark representing the era you set your books, or special chocolate from the region where your book is set. Market yourself as simply, but as powerfully, as possible.

 3. You can’t look confident and relaxed if you’re not comfortable. While workshops and meetings are in session, dress for the image you want to exude. If it’s western, pack a jean skirt; if it’s urban, try stylish trousers and flats. Comfortable does not mean frumpy. Don’t leave your sweats at home if you like to relax in them, but make sure they’re publicly acceptable before you pack them. But don’t get too comfortable. I remember a conference I attended a few years ago where one of the authors was lounging in the lobby. This isn’t a bad thing…except she was wearing an old ratty t-shirt, dollar store flip-flops, and couldn’t have slumped down deeper into the overstuffed chair if she tried while she typed away on her laptop. Unfortunately, that is the image now burned into my gray matter of this author.

 Remember: Comfortable, not sloppy!

Thank you! Thank you, Audra.

And Audra brought the ‘brand’ word! Whew….tought stuff. What’s your brand?

To find out more about Audra visit her website, or stop by Seekerville.

And Audra – SEE YOU IN ST. LOUIE!!!!!

Conference Tips with Keli GwynI

If you’ve never been to Romance Writers on the Journey, you need to scootdaddle right over there and check it out. It’s the brain-child of Keli Gwyn, encourager -extraordinairre and debut author. I met Keli last year at ACFW, but she’d made an impact on my life well before then. She’s one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever met – and her timing is impeccable.

In January this year, right after receiving a pretty scathing critique from a contest, a card arrived in the mail from Keli. It read: 2011 – This is YOUR year.

What a sweet encouragement and reminder that there are people on this journey WITH me – so many cheerleaders. Keli is one of the BEST.

So – I’m extremely happy to cheer her own as her first book, A Bride Opens Shop in Eldorado, California, expects to arrive in bookstores in 2012.

What are Keli’s tips?

1) A willingness to learn
2) Realistic expectations
3) A map with directions to the nearest Taco Bell in case withdrawal symptoms appear
Good stuff here, Keli. Realistic expectations is a tough one  to keep under control because we all want the ‘big dream’ to happen to use while were among the famous and infamous at ACFW 😉
But just as Kaye Dacus reminded us last week, if we remember the root of WHY we  write (what our purpose is), then it helps keep our heads.
And Taco Bell directions? Oh yeah. Just had some today, in fact 🙂
Thanks so much, Keli.
You can learn more about Keli, her blogs, and her upcoming novel at www.keligwyn.com

Conference Tips with Ruth Logan Herne

For the unpubbed author, there is nothing better than finding people who support and encourage you.

People who teach and guide you.

People who tell you the truth, critique with love, and have a snarky sense of humor.

Ruth Logan Herne has been one of those people for me!

One of the fabulous fifteen of Seekerville, Ruthy has made an amazing hit into the published world since her first book Winter’s End came out in March 2010, Ruthy has successfully released  FIVE more books with many more to come! Her novels have consistently received excellent reviews and Winter’s End is a finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards this year (I plan to CHEER in person!!! Probably annoyingly loudly. Go, Ruthy!!)

So, without further ado, what are Ruthy’s top three conference tips?

Oh, honey, that one’s easy.

Write.

Write.

Write.

Everything else is extraneous.

Fluff.

Window-dressing.

Frosting.

Can’t make a cake without flour…

Writing’s your flour. THe basic ingredient.

Simple, yet profound. Thanks Ruthy.

Without words on a page, there’s little chance of publication – so….we have some work to do. 🙂

To learn more about Ruthy’s books, visit her website at www.ruthloganherne.com or stop by Seekerville!

Do you have someone or more than one someone who encourages you along this writing journey?

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photos courtesy of www.ruthyloganherne.com

www.wellsvilledaily.com

Conference Tips with Ruth Axtell Morren

Why not follow Julie Lessman with her ACFW workshop partner, Ruth Axtell Morren.

The first time I read one of Ruth’s novels, I was moved to tears. Her portrayal of romance framed in by the grace of God was truly breathtaking.

If you’ve never read her novels, I strongly recommend them – especially if you like to see how unlikely characters end up together AND if you like to experience a story woven with strong threads of redemption. They are truly lovely.

What does Ruth have to say?

I’d have to say as an introvert, although I love conferences with their chance to see fellow writers in person and talk up a storm and soak up all kinds of information, come nightfall, I have a terrible time shutting my thoughts off to sleep, so this time around, I’m going to bring some Valerian or over the counter sleeping pills and an eyemask to help in that dept.;
   friends’ cell phone numbers so we can connect during the conference. It’s like a zoo there, and I want to make sure I don’t miss people I either only know online or whom I only get to see rarely;
   non-judgmental attitude so I don’t begin to feel either full of myself or insecure by measuring myself

Thanks so much for these important tips, Ruth. Speaking of cell #s and meeting important people – I can’t WAIT to meet you!!! So excited you will be at ACFW this year!!

And the non-judgmental attitude? Definitely! As a pubbed-author-wannabe, I can easily see myself as leaning toward the ‘insecure’ side.

Thanks for being here today.

If you all would like to learn more about Ruth’s books, check out her website at www.ruthaxtellmorren.com

Conference Tips with Julie Lessman

With her brand new release, A Heart Revealed, and her upcoming conference workshop entitled A Kiss is NOT just a Kiss, Julie Lessman is as hot as ever 😉 Have you seen her latest pictures! Wowzers. Keith is one lucky man 🙂

I just finished reading A Heart Revealed  and it was beautiful. The slow spiritual arc of Julie’s characters is always well-done and reveals the heart of her fiction. (And then, of course, she adds the ‘heat’ of her fiction 😉  Oooh, sounds good. Julie Lessman, fiction with heart and heat 🙂 A new tagline, Jules?

Who better to start off this week with a bit of excitement and conference tips than Julie Lessman herself?

I’m a BIG Lessman fan because she is excellent at crafting novels that not only inspire the passion between a man and a woman, but a deeper passion for Jesus. Her fiction is called ‘edgy’, but I like life on the edge – so the temperature in her books suit me JUST fine! 🙂

To me, it’s sexual tension with class, heat without the bodice ripping, and passion with purity.

So what are The Kissing Queen’s tips for conference?

1.) Eye makeup remover … for all the times I cry during Rachel’s incredible worship, in Brandilyn’s prayer room and up in my room when I’m just feeling lonely (a bit of a joke, but not really).
2.) Laptop to catch up on e-mails, blog/interview/giveaways that always go on in Sept. due to book release.
3.) I-phone programmed with all the phone numbers of friends I am dying to see, especially the Seekers.
Thanks for the opportunity to respond, Pep. Big hugs coming your way in St. Loo.
Always my pleasure, Julie – and I’ll take all the hugs you want to send my way.
You can find out more about Julie’s books on her website – www.julielessman.com
And if you’re headed to St. Louis next week, make sure you stop in on her workshop with author, Ruth Axtell Morren.
Bring a fan.

Conference Tips Lineup for the Week

Time for another week of conference tips and who is coming to visit??

Monday – The Kissing Queen herself – Julie Lessman

Tuesday – Julie’s ACFW partner and fabulous author, Ruth Axtell Morren

Wednesday with Carol Finalist, Ruth Logan Herne

Thursday – Debut author and encourager-extraordinairre, Keli Gwyn

Friday – Seeker and sweetheart, Audra Harders

Saturday – historical and contemporary author, Siri Mitchell

Stop by and learn from the best.