Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Good-book alert! Meek and Mild by Olivia Newport

My guest today is Olivia Newport, another Colorado author. She's here to discuss her newest release, Meek and Mild, and give us a peek into her writing world.

Meek and Mild by Olivia Newport
The leadership in an Old Order Amish community requires shunning friends and family whose only offense is to embrace the new Protestant practice of Sunday school among the Mennonites, but teaching Bible stories to children is one of Clara Kuhns’s great joys. Clara's on the verge of saying yes to Andrew Raber’s marriage proposal, but now he flagrantly refuses to submit to the bishop's authority by owning a car. When the lot falls to Moses Beachy to become the new bishop, the community waits for him to take bold steps toward change. Clara and Andrew step together into a more progressive Amish faith as the Beachy Amish take form.

When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I always loved telling stories. I can remember being four years old and using flannelgraph pieces in the preschool Sunday school room to tell a story about a little girl looking for Jesus. In fifth grade, a weekly assignment was to write a story using all the spelling words. I did really well at it. I’m thankful that my teacher told me so. But growing into that identity can take decades. Though I had several jobs where organizational-based writing was a big chunk of the position, I was 35 before I transitioned from “I like to write” to “I am a writer.”

What other books have you written?
Thanks for asking! The Avenue of Dreams series, set in 1890s Chicago, includes The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow, and The Invention of Sarah Cummings. The Valley of Choice series, set in contemporary Colorado, includes Accidentally Amish, In Plain View, and Taken for English. Hidden Falls is a 13-episode digital-only contemporary small-town series available in e-book and audible formats. Wonderful Lonesome, which came out last year, is the first in the Amish Turns of Time set of historical Amish novels. Meek and Mild, the new book, is the second in that set.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I often think I am not doing a very good job of that! I am a creature of habit, and that helps. I don’t resist doing what I need to do when I need to do it, and never have. But in recent years I have become more attuned to listening to both body and spirit. I try to pay attention both to what is abundant and what is needful. I believe a healthy life doesn’t come down to just what I eat or what health condition I might or might not have. It comes down to a balance of the major dimensions of my life. When I feel them swinging out of balance, I know it’s time to make some adjustments.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?
The task I took on with the Amish Turns of Time stories is exploring some true historical episodes in Amish history and looking at how Amish history took a turn because of what happened. In Meek and Mild, I look at the circumstances that led to break-off of the Beachy Amish, who eventually became more progressive than the Old Order. Because the district that experienced this break spanned the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, family members on both sides were caught up in divisive opinions and consequences. My characters are fictional, but they face the struggles we know real people faced in the historical circumstances.

How can readers find your book on the Internet?
Meek and Mild is available at all the major Internet retailers, in print, audio, and e-book formats. Here are some quick links.
You can find Olivia at www.olivianewport.com, @OliviaNewport and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/OliviaNewport?ref=hl

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The world's harsh, be kind!

We never know what others are dealing with. On the outside, we all look pulled together and ready to take on the world. But a broken person hides their wounds, carrying them deep inside. You can't look at someone and judge their behavior off the cuff. Often deep, personal issues guide a harsh action or cutting words.

We never know what hurts have motivated them. You can't imagine some of the awful things that have formed a personality. I prefer to think all my friends and all the people I come into contact with were raised in a safe, happy home and are in a loving marriage where they're cherished and respected. But that's not always true. You don't know, you simply don't know. 

A smile or a small kindness can make a huge difference in someone's day. I saw a story about a man who smiled and waved at strangers as he drove down the street. He'd heard that a kind gesture can save someone considering suicide. Isn't that amazing? On a smaller scale, just giving a kind word can brighten an otherwise ordinary day and provide someone a needed lift.  

Give others the benefit of the doubt. Go out of your way to help someone. Sure, you might not be appreciated, but that's not the point. Being kind is the point. Sometimes it might seem you're unappreciated, but perhaps the person doesn't know how to react in an appropriate manner. Do the right thing anyway.

Overlook a slight. Forgive a gaffe. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek (Luke 6:29). That's about one of the most difficult things to do. You want to defend yourself, you want to repair the damage to your reputation, but there are circumstances where that's not possible. If you hold on to the anger and resentment, you're the one who pays the price. Truly. When we forgive it doesn't mean the pain never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives.

The world's harsh, be kind! After all, nobody's perfect!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Good-book alert! Chapel Springs Revival by Ane Mulligan

Chapel Springs Revival

With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel.

Everybody in the small town of Chapel Springs, Georgia, knows best friends Claire and Patsy. It's impossible not to, what with Claire's zany antics and Patsy's self-appointed mission to keep her friend out of trouble. And trouble abounds. Chapel Springs has grown dilapidated and the tourist trade has slackened. With their livelihoods threatened, they join forces to revitalize the town. No one could have guessed the real issue needing restoration is their marriages.

 With their personal lives in as much disarray as the town, Claire and Patsy embark on a mission of mishaps and miscommunication, determined to restore warmth to Chapel Springs —and their lives. That is if they can convince their husbands and the town council, led by two curmudgeons who would prefer to see Chapel Springs left in the fifties and closed to traffic.
I met Ane several years ago when I first started attending ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conferences. She was the friendly lady with the ready smile. If you've ever traveled across the country to attend a BIG conference, without knowing a lot of people, you really appreciate someone like that. Since then, our friendship has grown. Ane cheered me on when I got my first publishing contract, and now I'm thrilled to see her dream come true. 

Let's get to know her a bit.

Megan: When did you first discover that you were a writer?

Ane: I loved to write when I was a kid, but I was too ADHD to sit still long enough, so I told stories. That got me into trouble when I was in elementary school. It was show and tell day and I told. My teacher called it lying and sent me to the principal's office. He and I became good friends after he suggested I play out the stories with my dolls. I did and some went on for days as the heroine got in and out of pickles.

Megan: How do you choose your characters’ names?

Ane: I have several sources:
I also like the Social Security site for the most popular baby names by year. You can put in the year your character was born and choose.
Then I use the BabyName Survey Book. It tells you what people think of or the image they get with names.

After I've done my character interview, I begin to write. However, I've often had characters that refused to go by the name I've given them. As soon as I changed the name, they story wrote itself.

Megan: What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

Ane: That would be the character's motivation. I could get the goals and create the conflict, but motivation eluded me for a long time. Then I took a course on PlottingVia Motivation. I took the course, and that really changed things for me. I learned how the character's motivation drives their decisions and thus the plot.

Soon after that, I learned about the Lie people believe about themselves. This translates to fictional characters beautifully. I studied these 8 basic Lies and discovered how motivation rises out of the Lie.

Now, I spend a good two weeks to a month learning about my characters before I move beyond that first what if.

Megan: What advice would you give to an author just starting out?

Ane: Enjoy the journey. Don't be in such a hurry to publish that you miss the networking and friendships within the business. Nobody understands a writer like another writer.

Megan: What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

Ane: I loved writing this book. It grew out of an actual event in our older son's life. An event he didn't tell us about until it was a done deed. Now, in his case, it turned out to be wonderful. But because he didn't tell us until afterwards, I said it would go in a book. And it did. And no, I won't tell you what he did. You'll have to buy the book to find out.

Megan: How can readers find your book on the Internet?

And I understand my publisher is putting it on sale for Valentine's Day. I believe that will be on Amazon and the LCP store.

About Ane:
While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, bestselling novelist Ane Mulligan has worn many: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and two dogs of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fictionwebsite, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

How an Author Handles Doubts

Some days it’s difficult to feel confident about your writing. Fears pop up like dandelions after the first spring rain. 

Those worries and questions play on a loop in your brain:
  • Is this good enough to be published? 
  • Does it make sense? 
  • Will anyone want to read it? 
  • Do I sound ridiculous? 
  • Am I wasting my time? 
  • Will I ever be pleased with this project? 
And on and on and on . . .

I'm not the first writer to have these doubts. And I won't be the last.

Want to know how writers handle these doubts? 

They keep writing!

They remember what got them started in the first place. Look inside yourself. Recall the dream that pushed tender sprouts out of the soil of your heart. Recall the delight you experienced in claiming that big dream. Dig Deep to reclaim your passion again. 

Believe again!

It's not over until God says it's over. Start dreaming again. Start pursuing what God put in your heart. 

Listen, no one knows better than I how discouragement can creep up on you and squeeze the life out of your dreams. But if the Author of dreams has planted one in your heart, then don't give up!

As for me, I shall remain~
A Prisoner of Hope!

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Publishing Industry News

Time to check out the February edition of Novel Rocket's industry news. There's some interesting news and some fun tidbits for book lovers:

  • Chipotle (one of my favs!) has a fun new literary flavor in their packaging.
  • Several fun lists: best websites and publishing predictions.
  • Literary prizes.
  • Changes in the industry.

There's a lot going on. Find it here!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Do the right thing!

A little inspiration and encouragement for you today, friend. 

My father-in-law is known for giving out this advice, except when he says it (he's from Brooklyn, NY) it sounds like, "Uh, do the right ting."

Have a great day, and surprise someone with an unexpected kindness. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fear not! You CAN overcome the pain of rejection.

Do you have regrets? I do. But the biggest one in my life was not of my making. 

I regret circumstances that injured me. The pain of a past betrayal and rejection nearly did me in. 

Someone once said I was broken, but that's not true. I was was shattered, but I still carried on. 

One of those home remodeling shows featured a mirrored wall that had to be removed. To do that, they put a film of adhesive over the mirror and then broke the mirror to remove it. Like that mirror, I was broken but still in one piece. 

That I could still rise every day and go about the business of living was miraculous. Truly. It was the hand of God and the love of my husband and children that kept me engaged in life. It was little bits of encouragement that prodded me on. 

Still, I looked back. I looked at the past and dwelled on the pain. But I've learned that if you spend time looking back, you don't make much progress going forward--and I really wanted to move forward. I wish I could say within months I'd moved on. But that would be untrue. 

It took me years to shake off the feelings of shame and loss. Years before I could admit to others what had happened. Years before I could shake the feeling of being not good enough for others. 

Friend, I don't want it to take that long for you to move forward.

Through that experience I've learned six ways to recover from rejection:

  1. Cling to your faith. When you find yourself in a world with a shifted reality it's comforting to know that God never changes. He loves you and wants the best for you. 
  2. Trust that God will see you through it. In the immediate months following my betrayal, upon waking a song of praise or a scripture verse would begin to play through my mind. What a blessing! That gift from God allowed me to crawl out of bed and begin my day.
  3. Don't allow the situation to define you. Realize that the hurtful behavior that broke your heart says more about your betrayer than yourself. 
  4. Live in the present. Spend time with loved ones and good friends. They are the people who count, and they don't see you as someone unworthy or unlovable. They are the mirrors that reflect our true selves. 
  5. Walk bravely toward the future. Keep moving forward. Choose to believe that happiness and purpose will be a part of your life. You still have a future. You still have goals. You still have dreams. Claim your future, and work toward your goals, and your dreams.
  6. Forgive. Yup. That's a hard one. Forgiveness means giving up the desire to clear your reputation. It means you stop wanting something from the one who hurt you (something you'll never get anyway). It frees you from having that person living in your head. 
I may add to that list as time passes. After all, it's a learning experience, and I'm still learning. 

You may wonder why I put forgiveness at the bottom of the list. It's not because it's least important. It's because forgiveness takes time. Yes, you should forgive. You can say you forgive. You can want to forgive. But it takes time for your emotions to catch up with your desire. Forgiveness needs to marinate. At least it did for me. You have to give your heart time to heal, and with healing comes the ability to separate yourself from the hurt. 

I have called myself a prisoner of hope for many years now. I never explained that designation, but it was because I deliberately chose hope in my darkest days. If you're suffering from a betrayal or a rejection, may I make a suggestion? Choose a new name for yourself, even if you keep it private. That small shift in thinking will help. One day after another will pass, and eventually you'll realize that you're not emotionally tied to the pain of your past. You'll be an overcomer!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Small Kindnesses are Better than Promising Words

I used to have a friend who seemingly was a very caring woman. She'd offer to extend kindnesses that made you feel ever-so-special. She'd tell you what she'd like to do for you . . .

But she never seemed to follow through.

After suffering through a few bouts of disappointment, I moved on -- all the wiser for my naivety. But also all the wiser for being careful of what I offer.

Being nice takes more effort than offering kind words.

I've discovered that often it's the small kindness that have meaning for me. I truly appreciate when someone holds a door for me or shares some excess from a summer garden. I have a friend who buys books by authors she knows at second-hand stores and either gives them away or leaves them to be picked up. As an author, that's a blessing. It's like a personal introduction to a new reader.

A few years ago my children were talking about things that they appreciated from their childhood. My youngest daughter recalled an incident when there was a book swap at school. She selected one of her favorite books for the project. Within an hour she had book-swapper's remorse. After lunch she rushed to the book room to find her book before someone else claimed it. She was too late. That night, cried herself to sleep.

The next day she when she returned home from school, her favorite book was sitting on her bed. After she'd gone to school, I bought another copy to replace the one she gave away. This small consideration meant the world to her, and she still remembers how happy and loved she felt to have that book again. But the thing is, I don't remember this incident at all. It was a small deed to me, but it meant the world to her.

We often don't realize how a small kindness, a simple deed, will impact someone. All it takes is a little consideration and a few moments of your time. It's worth it. And you never know what it might mean to someone else.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A 36-Year Adventure AKA Principles for Creating a Happy Marriage

What were you doing 36 years ago today? I was starting the rest of my life.

Yes, a Greyhound bus. The beginning of our adventure.
At the time, I thought I was all grown up. But looking back, I was so young, only 23 years old.

I probably wasn’t unusual in not realizing exactly what I was agreeing to when I said, “I do.” (Who knows what the future holds?)

I was in love. Still am.

I was seeking a grand adventure. Got that!

I was looking for a happily ever after. Got that too. However, since then I’ve realized happily ever after doesn’t occur without a bit of intentional living.

Yes, after living a day-by-day life with my husband, I’ve come to understand that I may not know everything, but when it comes to marriage—especially my marriage—I’m an expert. There are some principles that I’ve learned in the past three-plus decades that have helped to make my marriage work.

  1. Faith + marriage = happiness. We were in love but didn't really consider marriage until we got serious about God. Once our priorities were established, our life unfolded in a beautiful, blessed way I would have never imagined. Through better or worse, when you both serve the same God and have the same values, you've got a compass to keep you moving in the right direction, together.
  2. Your marriage must be a priority. You’ve got to place your marriage on a pedestal and keep it shiny and protect it against all the world throws at two people who are just trying to make a go of it. No one else (except your spouse) cares about your marriage. If it’s going to be a success, it’s got to be a priority. Give your spouse the best—the best of your time, the best of your attention, the best of your attitude.
  3.  Let it go. Don’t pick, pick, pick. Guess what? After living with someone for more than a few months you pick up on their quirks. Nagging is counterproductive, and no one wants to be around a nag. It’s a waste of time and a drain on emotions. The crazy thing is that we often want to pick on inconsequential behavior. Here’s my dirty little secret: I once was annoyed with my husband because after he did the laundry and put all the clothes away, he left the dresser drawers open by ½ inch! The nerve of him. I had to close those drawers! It took me about 15 seconds to realize how stupid my complaint was. Besides, I know I’m not perfect either.
  4.  Be nice. Of all the people in your world, you should treat your spouse best. Period.
  5.  Don’t flirt with anyone except your husband. Enough said.
  6.  Laugh together, every day. If you can find humor in the day-to-day business of living as well as the down-and-out moments we all have, you’ll make your day and your marriage brighter.
  7.  Respect one another. This is especially a biggie for men. They equate respect with love. Respect fuels and warms a relationship.
  8.  Don’t compare. No marriage is alike. Just because you friend’s husband buys her flowers weekly doesn’t mean they have a happier marriage. My honey is not a flower-buying guy, but at the beginning of the week he makes sure my car is fueled and I’ve got washer fluid in the reservoir. That may not be the grandest romantic gesture, but it does it for me.
  9.  Being right isn’t so important. Too easily little disagreements can blow out of proportion. No one is 100% right all the time. Not you, not your husband. So suck it up and button your lip. This falls under the pick-your-battle category. Give yourself a break, and give up stupid disagreements.
  10.  Never speak poorly about your husband. Never. Never. Never. This goes back to principle #3 and principle #4.
  11.  It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, and that’s okay. That’s life. Marriage, like life, has its ups and downs. Some days are just so-so, and that’s normal. Deal with it.
  12. Someone has to keep a cool head. When troubles come or a challenge presents itself, you both can’t let emotions rule. Somebody has to keep a cool head. Sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s your honey. Emotions fuel unexpected consequences. Cool it.
  13.  Hang out together. Find something to enjoy with one another. Go for walks. Do the dishes together. Watch a TV series together and chat about it. Keep talking and keep doing stuff together. Even if it's not the most exciting stuff, you're being a couple.
  14.  Express gratitude. No one likes to feel take for granted. Say the words, “thank you!”
  15.  Remember fun moments. Sometimes one of us will bring up a happy memory. It’s good practice to recall the good times, it gives you a warm feeling and a stronger connection to your husband. Shared good memories cement a relationship. 
  16. Expect the good times to continue. Find something to look forward to together. If you expect more happy moments to occur and more wonderful memories to be made, you’re moving in the right direction, together.
*This list would not be possible without the pleasure and honor of being married to my darling husband.