Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Welcome Cheryl Wyatt! Win a free book

Cheryl Wyatt's closest friends would never dream the mayhem she plots during announcements at church. An RN-turned-SAHM, joyful chaos rules her home and she delights in the stealth moments God gives her to write. She stays active in her church and in her laundry room. She's convinced that having been born on a Naval base on Valentine's Day destined her to write military romance. Prior to publication, Cheryl took courses through Christian Writers Guild. An active member of RWA, FHL and ACFW, she won numerous awards with multiple manuscripts. Visit her on the Web or here. Sign up for her newsletter for news and chances to enter contests with great prizes. You can also find her skittering around Steeple Hill's message boards as "Squirl" at www.SteepleHill.com.

Welcome Cheryl,

I'm so glad you were able to stop by and say hello.
Tell us about your new book that's now out on the shelves? (I just bought it last night at Target!) And how you came up with the ideas for your Refuge stories.

Thank you for buying the book! I give away your books frequently on my Free Book Fridays on my blog.
Ready-Made family is the third book in Wings of Refuge. Each book is its own story and a person need not have read the previous books to jump right in. Each WOR book features one man from a fictional Pararescue Jumper (PJ) team.

Ready-Made Family
April 2009-Steeple Hill Love Inspired--IN STORES NOW!
(Received 4.5 Stars from Romantic Times)

Wings of Refuge Series
This is Ben's story.

Back cover blurb:

Amelia North needs refuge, and finds it--in Refuge, Illinois. Stranded there after a car wreck, the single mother expects to be cold-shouldered. After all, she’s already been rejected by her parents, her church and her daughter’s father. Instead, she finds a town full of people with open hands and hearts…including pararescue jumper Ben Dillinger.
Ben wants to help Amelia and her daughter find safety and stability. Instead, he finds himself freefalling—right into love with the ready-made family.

I come up with ideas many different ways. I love to eavesdrop on conversations and sometimes all it takes to spark an idea is hearing something say something original that sparks a story premise.
I don't really have to (thankfully!) try very hard to think of stories. Ideas come to me in droves...they stalk me really. I have to fend them off. I get countless story ideas every single day. Other aspects of writing don't come so easily though. LOL!

I want to hear the story (abbreviated is fine) about how you detained an ambulance while driving a stick shift!
HE HE! WHO TOLD? My sister was trying to teach me how to drive a five speed car. I had learned to drive on a stick shift pick-up, but for some reason I could NOT seem to keep from grinding the gears in her little car. I kept getting the clutch timing off and the car kept stalling in traffic. So in a panic, I swerved the car into the next available parking lot. Unfortunately that was a hospital. And more unfortunately, when I swerved in the car stalled at an angle that blocked an entire row of the lot. An ambulance with lights and sirens quickly approached (not for the car! LOL) and I could NOT get the car to GO! My sister was shrieking at me, "GO!" And laughing hysterically. I was sobbing and yelling, "I'M TRYING!" And the ambulance driver was jabbing fingers at the windshield and yelling what looked suspiciously like, "Move that stupid car!" And I think there were a few #&@!* words in there somewhere too! I finally jumped out and my sister crawled across the consol and moved the car. I felt HORRIBLE for the poor patient having to wait on that ambulance.

Why in the world is Cricket your favorite sport?

I think because it's so different than any sport we play in the U.S. I became addicted to it when I went to India on a media/humanitarian mission after the big tsunami. We watched it constantly. I brought a real Cricket bat back to the U.S. but it was so huge (like a boat oar) that it would NOT fit in my luggage. So I tried to carry it on.
I was accosted by security who said I could technically use it as a weapon if I wanted. Of course I had no intentions of trying to hijack a plane but they didn't know that. So they would not let me get the bat on the plane in India. This was after 9-11 of course and security was uber tight.
Security in India seemed even more daunting than in the U.S. The Indian security guards have an automatic weapon strapped to one side of them plus another rifle plus belts of ammo criss crossed over their chests. They all look like Rambo. Most of them also carried at least one sidearm or other handgun plus these wicked looking machete swords. I mean these guys were STRAPPED with weapons. At least at this particular airport.
Trust me, I did NOT want to tick them off.
So I bid goodbye to the Cricket bat which was to be my souvenier to my husband. They confiscated the bat and I burst into tears. Part of it was because I'd walked so many miles to get that bat and had wanted to bring it home more than anything.
Security must have felt sorry for me because they chased me down and told me they could try to send it through along with the checked luggage, but they doubted it would ever make it to the U.S. much less past Paris. They tied this itty bitty rubber band and a two inche tag that had my name on it and the destination.
I never thought that bat would make it home...but it DID!
My husband terrorized my children (kidding) by telling them it was a paddle for when they didn't obey me and Time-Out didn't work. LOL! They were a little worried for a few seconds until he started laughing. Because that bat is about five feet long and flat like a paddle or a boat oar.

What are you working on now?

Wrapping up A Soldier's Devotion (Vince's story which releases in January 2010) and mailing influencer copies out of A Soldier's Reunion (Nolan's story which is will be in stores June 1 and is available for preorder now). Then I'll finish writing Chance's story (title pending) which releases in Fall 2010.

How long does it take you to write a novel?

Rough draft: 4-7 days. All the other stuff that goes with it? 2-3 months.

What do you do when you're not writing?

Read! Spend time with family and friends. Worship. Go to NASCAR races and sound gigs with my hubby who runs sound for just about every major Christian band out there.

Do you have a certain process when it comes to writing? For example, do you create your characters first or do you come up with the story idea first? And so on.

It varies. I might have a premise first then create characters around the premise. But more often I have an idea for a character first and create a story around that character. I do extensive research on the character's career. Then comes the characterization then I brainstorm the story structure with friends like Camy Tang, who is an ace at sensing sound story structure. I also love brainstorming with my editor and agent. And getting their feedback before really diving into the story. Then I do a brief and scantily clad scene index and I'm off and running.

Any advice for new writers out there?

For authors targeting CBA:
Write as worship.
Be willing to hear hard things about your writing yet never let anyone discourage you into giving up.
Remain teachable and join supportive groups such as the eharlequin community www.steeplehill.com , American Christian Fiction Writers www.acfw.com and Faith, Hope and Love http://www.faithhopelove-rwa.org/ the Inspirational Chapter of Romance Writers of America. http://www.rwanational.org/

What are your goals for your writing/career?

I hope I can always write category romance and especially for Steeple Hill. I love working with them. But I'd also like to branch out into single title romance and also so I can focus more on the more complex/longer action-driven stories. Romance that is high-action where I have room for subplots.

Are you driving yet? LOL!

LOL! YES! Finally. (For those of you who don't know, I was in a car accident last year that resulted in several surgeries. The accident broke my right foot and ankle so I was unable to drive for a few months.) I tell you, have a new respect for shut-ins and those homebound.

What's your favorite food?

Grilled chicken caesar salad, ribeye steak salad, baked potatoes, McD's sweet tea, my husband's chicken and my daughters' famous chocolate. Well, famous in our household anyway.

Any parting comments?

Thank you for having me here on your blog! It's an honor. And thanks to those of you who drop by and take time to read it.
Blessings everyone!

Cheryl! What great answers. Thanks so much for stopping by to visit.

All right, people, leave those comments and tell Cheryl what you think about her books and I'll enter your name to be drawn on Saturday for a copy of Ready Made Family. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Bonnie Leon is here today...leave a comment to win a free book

Storytelling has always been an integral part of Bonnie Leon’s life. From childhood, she cherished the legends and family history handed down through her Aleut ancestors.

Throughout the ensuing years, Bonnie dabbled at writing but didn’t seriously consider becoming a professional author. Instead, as a young woman, she happily stepped into the full-time profession of homemaker and mother. Pollywog hunting, finger-painting, blackberry picking, and creating fun messes in the kitchen with her children are some of her most precious and irreplaceable memories.

When her youngest child was nine years old, Bonnie decided it was time to return to the working world. She took a position in her hometown of Glide, Oregon, working with the elderly and handicapped.

Then on June 11, 1991, her world was shattered when a log truck hit the van she was driving. The accident left her unable to work, and after months of rehabilitation she was told by physicians that she would never return to a normal life. Facing a daunting fight to reclaim her life and feeling as if she had nothing to offer the world, she asked God to give her something to do that mattered.

His answer came when she received a scholarship to attend the Oregon Christian Writer’s Summer Conference. That conference ignited Bonnie’s passion for literature and for writing, and she has been writing ever since.

Her first book, The Journey of Eleven Moons was released by Thomas Nelson in 1994 and made the CBA bestsellers list.

Since that time, she has written and published thirteen historical novels. Her most recent series, The Queensland Chronicles, published by Revell, has been contracted for a Dutch-language edition by Ultgeverij De Banier bv, an organization based in The Netherlands. Her books are truly being read across the globe!

And with each book she writes, her love for the craft and the challenges of writing grows. “The learning never ends,” she says, “But I relish the challenge of becoming a writer known for quality storytelling.”

In addition to her work as a writer, Bonnie has a passion for teaching of all kinds, especially on the art and intricacies of storytelling. She teaches at conferences and workshops and says, “There’s nothing more thrilling than to see a student’s eyes light up with understanding as she grasps the concepts of the writing craft and begins to believe she can tell stories someone else will want to read.”

Hi Bonnie! Welcome to my blog. Thanks so much for joining us.

Plug time! Please tell us a little about your latest release and why readers should run out and buy it as soon as it hits the shelves.
“Enduring Love”, book three in the Sydney Cove Series, will release on May 1st. I’m very excited about this book. It’s a great ending to the series and will keep readers wondering how even God can fix the mess my characters have gotten themselves into.

How many full manuscripts did you write before you sold? And how many have you written to date?
My path to publication is not typical. I sold the first book I’d ever written to the first editor who looked at it. In 1992 I attended the Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference. The coaching conference is fabulous and provides endless opportunities for learning. That first year I learned enough to write my first book, which I sold the following summer.

In your opinion, what’s the most fascinating thing about writing?
I’m still surprised by the process of story development. I never know exactly how it’s all going to work out, but it falls together, somehow. Although I outline before I begin I’m always surprised by unexpected plot twists and new and interesting characters who jump into my stories.
At this stage in my career I’ve written enough books to have confidence in the process. Ideas for foreshadowing often just seem to appear, characters become real and their lives intertwine with one another and the story makes sense. I’m fascinated at how it all just seems to work and it’s always great fun.

What’s something you can tell us about yourself that most people don’t know?
I’m a very open person and there’s little people don’t know about me. But readers might be surprised to know that at one time I was addicted to drugs. It was a very long time ago. Back in the late 60’s I fell into the “drug scene” and amphetamines were my drug of choice. With the help of a friend (who is now my husband) I kicked the habit. At the time I was very unhappy and could never have imagined the wonderful life that waited for me. I’ve been blessed beyond measure.

Wow, thanks for sharing such a personal issue. Your husband must be an incredible man.

When did you start writing for publication and what did people say when they found out?
In 1992 I started to imagine that one day I might publish my writing. I kept it a secret for a long while because I was embarrassed. After all, who did I think I was? Only extremely intelligent and incredibly creative people wrote books—right?
My family was very supportive. My mother got real excited and bought me a computer, and my husband made sure I had a good desk and chair. My children were a little miffed because instead of being a full-time mother I was working. However, they adjusted and are very proud of their writing mom.
Friends were surprised. They had no idea what I’d been up to. I remember a long-time friend read my first book when it released and she admitted that she was surprised that the book was good. I guess she’d never imagined me as a writer. I’ve heard from other friends, who read my books, that while they’re reading they sometimes stop and think, “I can’t believe Bonnie wrote this.” I take that as a compliment. :- ]

What is your favorite food?
I’m a pasta lover. And of course there’s always chocolate.

Tell us a little about your family.
I grew up in a large family—there were five of us kids. My parents were married twenty-eight years and then my father died at an early age. My mother remarried and is now in her 31st year of her second marriage.
I met my husband when I was seventeen. We married two years later and are still together thirty-eight years later. We have three children Paul, the oldest, Kristi, our middle child and Sarah our youngest.
Paul has his mind on his career so children are not on his radar yet, but Kristi has a little boy—Gabe. Sarah has three children—Corey, Ezra and Olivia. Her husband, Fernest, is in the army. Please keep him in your prayers.
My husband and I decided early on that I should stay home with the kids and that’s what I did. Those years as a full-time mom were my very best. Now I get to be a grandma and I adore my grandchildren. They are so cute and smart and . . . well I really have no clear perspective—they’re nearly perfect. 

LOL! Funny, that's what my parents think about MY children. What is it with you grandparents?? HA!

Who are your favorite authors?
In the Christian market I have two favorites—Francine Rivers and Ann Shorey. They write beautiful stories. I like a book with characters who feel real, people that I care about.
In the general market I’d have to stick with some of the classic writers, such as John Steinbeck and James Michener. Their writing styles are very different from one another. Steinbeck is a magician with words and Michener writes great stories.
Now, if you asked about favorite novels that’s easier—Redeeming Love, The Thorn Birds, The Girl With the Pearl Earring, Hawaii, The Kite Runner, and The Last Sin Eater to name a few.

What are you reading now and what’s in your “to be read” pile?
Presently I’m reading the book of the month for the ACFW Readers Group—Suspicious Minds by Christy Barritt. I’ve never read one of her books, but so far it’s great fun. And the next book in my to-be-read pile is Secrets on the Wind by Stephanie Grace Whitson. I can’t wait to begin. Historical fiction is my favorite genre to read and write.

Do you set out to write each story with a particular theme or does the theme develop as the story does?
I always begin with a theme, but occasionally the theme changes as I discover the story. When I write I want to say something of significance and I hope what I pen will make a positive difference in a reader’s life. That, however, does not mean characters and plot are not important. Careful plotting and creating characters who feel like real people are imperative. After all, what good is a noteworthy theme without a great story?

Do you have a particular method for tracking the details in your story? Can you tell us a little about this?
I use a time line for every book. It may look a little complicated to someone seeing it for the first time, but it really isn’t. I use a chart. Across the top I divide the book into months because my books usually span a year or more. Along the left hand column I write in different geographical areas that matter to my story, usually it’s world history plus state and regional history. Also on the left hand column I include the main characters names and the plot lines of my story and fill in events in the date columns.
Using this method helps me connect the events of the time period with the story my characters are living. The world’s events have an effect on how my characters live and think. Knowing what was going on at any given time adds realism to the story. Sometimes I find incidents in history that fit perfectly with my story, and also some that drive home the message of my theme. I love it when that happens.
The written description of this may be confusing. I’d be happy to send an example to any of your readers who’d like more clarification. They can contact me at www.bonnieleon.com.

Who has had the most influence on your life in general? In your writing life?
The most influential person in my life has to be Jesus Christ. He took a sad, empty person and filled me with love and gave me hope. He’s my inspiration for every book I write. When I’m working I always keep Him in mind. I want to honor Him in everything I do and say.
In my persona l life, my husband is my greatest influence. He’s a fine man who loves me just as I am. I know he prays for me and always supports me. He’s forever patient and works hard without complaint. He’s a wonderful example of living sacrificially.

Do you have an agent? If yes, did you have the agent before you sold your first book or after?
Presently Wendy Lawton is my agent. She’s wonderful to work with and has been a great help to me. However, when I signed for my first book I was unagented. Back in the early nineties most writers didn’t use agents. But things have changed a great deal since then. Most publishing houses prefer to work through an agent and unless a writer can get their manuscript in front of an editor at a conference they’ll have a difficult time finding a home for their work.

What advice do you have for a beginning author?
Most budding authors don’t understand how much work lies ahead of them. The process of learning to write for publication is a long road. There are highs and lows and lots to learn.
I was one of the few who sold right off. However that’s not all good. I had a great deal to learn about the art of writing. I was truly a newbie. I’m certain there are readers who tried my early work who didn’t stay with me.
Having time to mature as a writer is a gift. I know it doesn’t feel like that when writers work hard year after year, hoping to publish and find themselves waiting. But the time and the work will pay off. It’s wonderful to explode on the writing stage already tested and tried and able to present a great read right from the beginning.

Any parting comments?
Stepping into the writing world takes courage. It means people will know who we are. We always show up in our books in one way or another, at least our views do.
Writers need to develop thick skins. There will be those who adore every word we write and others who will be unimpressed. We mustn’t be afraid of growth, but we must also sift out the voices we should listen to and those we need to shut out.
Relish the gift and the joy and fulfillment found in serving God in this creative and surprising life. It is a fabulous, frightening and unforgettable journey.

Thank you Bonnie! What a wonderfully inspiring interview. I so appreciate you taking the time to answer the questions as it's always fun to learn a little more about a fellow writing buddy.

All right everyone, it's time to tell Bonnie how much you want to read her book! Leave a comment for the possibility to win. The winner will be announced on Saturday, so check your email. God Bless!