Faith, Friends, and Storytelling

acfwalleycatsLast weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference. I’ve been going to ACFW for five years now and over that time I’ve developed great connections with remarkable people, met some of my dearest friends (Go, Alleycats!!), and cultivated a deeper understanding of the ‘call’ God’s placed on my heart as a writer.

alleycatsI am a writer.

My Granny called me one when I was about ten years old, and I joyfully accept the mission. God just happened to sprinkle powdered sugar on top of my life by giving me an amazing group of writers to share the journey.

Tweet: ACFW is so more than meeting editors and making profitable connections. It’s a braided blessing of fellowship, worship, learning, and encouragement.

francineI’m reminded of this truth every September I’ve joined hundreds of writers, editors, publishers, marketers, daydreamers, and world-weavers.

We are taught great courses. The ones I took in marketing were particularly fantastic this year.

We develop amazing friendships. I absolutely love the camaraderie honed among professional daydreamers who love Jesus.

We worship. At the heart of this calling and these friendships is a bond bound by grace.12027752_10207297498386565_6334955013657674308_n

We find and give encouragement. Because the writing road has more twists than a pretzel, finding other journey-ers acfwjulie'sangels2along the way helps the stragglers stay the course and shores up the discouraged.

We create hope-filled stories. And encourage others to spread the endearing truth to the world through words.

What a gift!

News to Share

10646741_10204870944154085_8514285265217180766_nWell, so much has been going on lately that I figure it’s time for a recap…and just maybe I’ll get back on track to posting at least once a week on this blog 🙂

Ever hopeful!

God has an amazing way of surprising us with more than we expect.

I’ve been pursuing writing for the past ten years and in that time God’s done some amazing things like:

Introduced me to the fabulous Alley Cats

He brought the FABULOUS, Julie Gwinn to be my friend first – and then my agent

Brought wonderful authors like the Seekers, Janice Thompson, Beth Vogt, and so many others into my life

He’s brought teaching and resources to help hone my skills.

And now..well, I’ve joined the roller coaster of published authors.

1. I signed my first contract with Lighthouse of the Carolinas for my Contemporary Romance novel, A Twist of Faith, at the end of September. It’s a fun story that is a modern day retelling of My Fair Lady set in Appalachia. It’s scheduled to release in June 2015.

2. I signed my second contract in mid-November to co-author a Middle Reader/YA novel that accompanies a new video game releasing in 2015.

3. Yesterday I signed a three book contract with Vinspire Publishing for my historical romance series, beginning with The Thornbearer to be released in October 2015. This Penned in Time series takes place during World War 1 and follows the lives of three friends who each struggle with forgiveness and the definition of true beauty as they face a world at war.

I’m excited about these new opportunities but also nervous about how to make it all fit into a very busy schedule as a full-time speech language pathologist and mom of five. It’s great to know if God provided the opportunities, He’ll also provide the ability to complete them 🙂

Here’s to seeing what God ends up doing with MY story in the middle of writing these stories!!

ACFW!!

Just a quick stop in to share some pictures from ACFW. You can see some more over at The Writers Alley.

It’s been a fun time so far. I’m not expecting crazy stuff to happen (unless I’m spending time with the Seekers), so the HIGHLIIGHT of my trip has been getting to meet some of the Alley Cats – and especially rooming with Casey Herringshaw and Mary Vee. Our other roommate is Carol Moncado, my long lost twin. It’s been a blast.

(this pic is of me, Angie Dicken (Alley Cat), and Mary Vee (Alley Cat).

This next photo is just how crazy things are with Casey Herringshaw. Seriously! Look at that face. 😉

 Big stuff is going to happen for the gal to my left. Ashley Clark was a fantastic buddy to make – perky, fun, and totally nailed her pitch to a certain agent that I saw. WTG, Ashley.

There’s more to come, once I upload the pictures from this morning. But I hope you enjoy this sneak peek 🙂

 

A Day Off to WRITE

I can’t remember the last time I had a day off JUST TO WRITE!

The last day off I took to write, two of my kids got sick the night before and were home from school with me.

But today….

TODAY……

I am sitting at the kitchen table staring at an empty house and getting ready to open up a manuscript to DIVE INTO.

FOR. THE. DAY!! (or until 3:30)

It’s my big attempt to get ready for ACFW which happens in THREE WEEKS! I will get to meet CASEY HERRINGSHAW, ANGIE DICKEN, MARY VEE, WENDY MILLER, and SARAH FORGRAVE!! My ALLEY CATS!!!

Did I mention Casey is a FRASIER FINALIST!!

Did I also mention I get to stalk…er…meet RUTH LOGAN HERNE!!!

Anyone else get excited about writing days? I’m feeling very Connealy-esque here. Might have to shoot somebody! 😉

A Visit with Author Krista Phillips

If you don’t know this already, I am a member of a fantastic group writing blog known as The Writers Alley. It’s such a fun place to be – with nine awesome aspiring authors to help bounce ideas, share prayer requests, enjoy funny moments, and gab about writing. Interestingly enough though, many of us have never met in person. We started the Alley online last May with five: Mary Vee, Casey Herringshaw, Krista Phillips, Sherrinda Ketchersid, and me.

In the fall of 2010, God sent five other authors our way: Julia Reffner, Angie Dicken, Sarah Forgrave, Wendy Miller, and Cindy Wilson.

Since ten is one of my favorite numbers, I think our group feels pretty complete. But what would make it even better is to get to meet in person.

We’re all scattered throughout the U.S. so that makes meeting very hard, but this weekend I had the opportunity to meet Krista Phillips. Unfortunately, we met at the hospital where she’d just brought her sweet baby girl, Annabelle, back to the PICU. To learn more about Krista’s amazing journey with Annabelle this past year, you can visit her fantastic blog here.

It’s such a blessing to meet any of these ladies who’ve inspired and encouraged me so much this year. I was grateful to meet Wendy, Sarah, Angie, and Cindy at ACFW last year (and that was WAY before The Writers Alley ever came to be – cool, huh?!?)

With ACFW 2011 just around the corner, I look forward to meeting more of the Alley Cats. Particularly, Casey and Mary – but we’ll be joined by Sarah, Wendy, and Angie too.

Other writing buddies will be there – such as the EXCELLENT Seeker-gals! Oh dear, I love them!

And friends, Carol Moncado, Keli Gwyn, Laura Frantz…and so many more!

Any writing pals-meetups in your future? Whether at ACFW or otherwise?

Also, here are a few pics of the Parthenon in Nashville- a exact replica of the original Parthenon in Greece.

Great Encounters with author Mary Vee

Here is another wonderful visit from an aspiring author…and another great blog-buddy from The Writers Alley. Please join me in welcoming Mary Vee.

Not only are Mary’s blog posts for The Writers Alley insightful, she also keeps a consistent blog of her own, filled with beautiful retellings of Bible stories for kids (and all other ages J) You can visit it at http://mimaryvee.blogspot.com

Now Mary, what do you think makes a great first encounter?

I’m no expert, but it seems to me great first encounters can be traced to something small or simple.  Think of the fruit of one tiny seed:  redwood trees, mustard, cumin, flowers, apples, onions and etc.  If I can thread a small enticement into my scene and water it with sensory responses, I should grow a great first encounter.

And what do you have for us today as an example?

 Set up:

YA fantasy.  Prince Marcus received word of his father’s death yesterday.  Becoming king was not on his to-do list for at least ten years.   For his protection, Marcus has been restricted to his chamber until the coronation hour.

 “What can I say, Matthias?  You’ve been father’s advisor all these years.  What am I suppose to do? My life is destroyed.”

 “Do try to stay in your apartment.” Matthias sighed. “Your kingdom is counting on you.”

“I know—I know.” 

 Matthias spoke with the guard outside the door then nodded back to me. “I’ll see you in an hour, my Lord.” 

I nodded. Great, one long hour before the coronation of all coronations designed to ruin my life. I was duty bound to stay in my chamber until servants arrived to dress me.  What was I saying? Duty didn’t matter.  The guard would never let me out of here, my one-hour prison, even for a breath of air.

If Father hadn’t died in yesterday’s battle, I wouldn’t be in this mess.   My life—every minute of every day, will be planned to the infinitesimal detail until the day I die.  “Oh, hang it all. Let someone else be king.” I grabbed the first object in reach and smashed it against the wall. I always hated that vase.

“Everything all right, my Lord?”  The guard sheathed his sword.

Normally I’d have answered him, but my attention swung to someone in the hall, sneaking passed my room.  I glanced a second time and realized a servant girl, no—wait, that was no ordinary servant girl—I’d seen her somewhere before–she served my mother, the queen—and she’s– 

“My Lord?”

“What? Yes, I’m—I’m fine.” I glanced back at the door.  She was gone.  “Guard, care for this mess.”

“Yes, my Lord. I’ll call for a servant.”  He turned to the right in the hall and rounded the first corner. 

“Perfect.” I looked to the left and caught wisps of her chestnut hair disappearing into a corridor.   Her scent of rose trailed behind in the air. 

Before I realized what I was doing, I found myself trailing her, or her delicious scent, or, well, let me simply say I wanted to know where she was going.

I ran down the hall, wondering why she came to this wing of the castle.  I’d never noticed her in this area before.  But, by the way she sneaked passed my apartment today, she knew where she wanted to go. How could I’ve missed seeing her sneak down these corridors in the past? I must have been blind.  But, that one glace back in my chamber—that one brief glance of her wavy hair draped down her back, those deep walnut eyes, her lips—.  Wait–there she is.

I ducked into a doorway to giver her a space. Her name.  Mother spoke her name. What was it?  Kathy, Karly—Katia, yes, Katia.  I leaned forward in time to see her turn another corner.  She weaved through chambers with exits into other rooms and down hallways I rarely visited. Did she know I was behind her?

Katia’s quiet bare feet sped her through a path she confidently traveled.  Her scent of rose begged me to keep up.  I stopped short of the next hallway to catch my breath.   After a few pants I listened. The patter of her feet had stopped. Should I look?  There was a click followed by a something scraping. 

What was that sound?  I couldn’t loose her now. I lunged around the corner and found her touching the wall. She looked back at me, smiled then disappeared—right through the wall.

“Wait!”  I raced to where she stood.  Katia?  She was gone. I pushed and pressed every inch of wall where she stood desperately searching for a hole, release, anything to let me through.  Nothing.  Not a single clue.  Where’d she go?  I had to find her.

I drew in my fingertips close and breathed her sweet scent.  Where are you?

Oh Mary, that was a wonderful scene. So perfect to set up a mystery. And I love YA books set in a medieval era (or fantasy). Thanks so much for sharing your writing with us.

Parting is such sweet sorrow – and I am sorry to see the end of Sizzling First Encounters.

But be forewarned – authors and readers – I plan to have a new series in the works for September, just in time for ACFW.

Please stop by for devotional blogs and book reviews until then.

Blessings,