Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Do You Remember Your FIRST Blogged Author Post? (THOSE WERE THE DAYS)

Oh, yes, those were the days:

I was in the mood to start my day with Google this morning, and I came across this interview from long ago that I apparently did with NOVEL ROCKETS (Novel Journey, I believe it was called back then).  I have to smile at some of things that were asked and how I answered those questions back then.  

(This interview was way back in 2008 -- back when there was barely such a thing as ebooks and this was my picture back then, not now.)

I thought to myself why not share it with you now. It's a little about me as a new author back in 2007 when I took the plunge as a "green" published author. It will be interesting to see if you think I've changed much since then.

It is now 2015 and I'm not so green anymore. I figure by now I have trekked past the green part to yellow and on to orange and then to an interesting shade of red. Though I really can't say for sure, I believe you can  if you have read my books or have gotten to know me as an author a little.

Has there been any progression in my writing life? Is my focus still the same?

Anyway, here is my very first interview as an author. 

Shirley Kiger Connolly ~ Author Interview (2007 - 2008) at Novel Rockets)

Shirley loves to read, write, sing harmony with her son, play the piano, and guitar, and do needlework, all in her spare time, of which she never has any. She also enjoys spending time with her animals, because when she is not writing historical romances, she is writing devotionals that sometimes involve allegories having something to do with the life of her animals, and how God teaches life lessons through being with them. Traveling is another favorite hobby, and moving furniture around in her house (not at the same time). Shirley and her husband Tom, love watching HGTV, and learning new ways to redo homes. They also love having their kids over for family night, cooking together, fellowshipping in the Lord. She and Tom serve in the ministry and have three grown children, and three grandchildren, where they live on the coast in Southern Oregon. You can visit Shirley anytime at her website athttp://shirleykoinonia.tripod.com/.                               

Plug time. What new books or project do you have coming out?
On the non-fiction side, I have a three-book lighthearted devotional series in the works right now, through Vintage Spirit which I’m very excited about: I See God in the Simple Things,
I See God in the Thorns n Thistles,
and I See God on That Narrow Road. (Simple Things will be a reissue).

On the fiction side, I have Flame From Within, my first historical-romance, which will be released in February 08

through Vintage on their Vintage Inspiration Line. I’d like to talk about that today.

Flame From Within is about the enchanting, Amethyst Rose LebrĂșn, who is about to wed…but 
after losing her betrothed mysteriously at the altar, she becomes inflamed by the war and now must flee her beloved Vicksburg, only to discover herself entangled on a riverboat with not one, but two passionate Yankee warriors determined to steal her heart. 

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

There was. The thought came to my mind back in the mid 70s, when I used to share romance novels with my friend Patti. We shared romance novels as young mothers when we were not watching soaps. (That was back in the olden days!) I had read one of hers about a heroine from New Orleans that I liked, and about that time, Patti had given her heart to the Lord. I wanted to see an historical romance I could share with her that was inspirational, but there weren’t anyI knew of at the time.

About 1985, I got the courage to attempt to try to write one. I managed to complete about fifty pages. They were terrible. I got as far as the name of my heroine, the basic plot, the setting, and part of an outline, but the guts were pretty iffy. My POV (point of view) attempt was a disaster, so I shelved it (not the POV but the story).

I have always loved reading historical romances but back then. (Still do.) But I had to be careful what I read. I often had to skip paragraphs since some got a little steamy for my comfort taste. I also began reading the work of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss back then. I loved her poetic use of words... 

I appreciate good use of the English language.

That story I started, which later became Flame From Within, I filed somewhere in a deep dark space far away in a trunk where the pages turned yellow but with the determination, I would someday pick it up and start it again and next time do it correctly. The rest is history.

Tell us about your publishing journey. How long had you been writing before you got a contract? How did you find out and what went through your mind?

My journey goes back into my childhood as with many other writers. I published for my high school newspaper then with my husband later when he went into the ministry in the early 1980s. There, I wrote as a pastor’s wife, staying busy publishing articles and several Bible Study Series for women’s groups; I organized retreat packets and began speaking at conferences. I created children’s musicals and plays for Christmas functions. You name it; I did it.

At the same time, I took a correspondence writers’ course called Institute of Children’s Literature, thinking, perhaps, Children’s ministry was where for me, so that is where I was headed. 

In 2002 I founded the online international women’s team ministry organization which I called Hearts for Christ Ministries. http://www.heartsforchrist.org/. I also began a large international Koinonia Community which began functioning as a large group bible study, devotional, prayer, and fellowship group where women could come together from all over the world and grow together in Christ online. This kept me quite busy and yet at the same time spurred me back to my love for fiction writing from the past. 

My prayer was to subtly witness through my writing in a way that would bring encouragement to both the saved and the unsaved without being preachy.

In 2005 I picked up another old story I had attempted to write back in the 1980s. After blowing off a few cobwebs, I decided to send it to an online publisher. Much to my surprise, that one was actually published! (To this day, because of how badly my writing was, in my opinion, I honestly cannot count that one as my first book, but it was all I needed to give me the boost I needed to keep me going.) It is what gave me the confidence I needed. We all need something.  Along with God, this was my inspiration.

After that, I went to that trunk and picked up that old historical of mine and begin rewriting it from scratch to see if I could not make it right. That’s when Flame From Within was born (again) more or less.

When it was ready I sent it off to Vintage Publishing (which is now Vinspire Publishing) at the editor’s request. The editor-in-chief liked it and gave me a call. 

The night I received my call, I could have leaped through the ceiling! And now, that I’m about to release that story as a published author, I have to say I am only beginning to understand what it feels like to truly be an author. In truth, when it comes to fiction writing, I am one of the new kids on the block.

What makes your book a good crossover story?

Flame From Within is a story that deals with an unsaved woman, who is in need of repentance (like the majority of the people who live in this lost world). 

One reviewer’s comment might help me best offer part reply. She wrote, “The inspirational aspects were not overdone, but instead were threaded seamlessly throughout the story as it unfolded.” 

I share her words perhaps because my story is one of those that will reach some people who would not normally step foot in a Christian bookstore or church. I like that she said, “The inspirational aspects were not overdone.”

I prayed hard for balance and that I would maintain a strong value in my writing. When we all get to heaven, we will be accountable for what we do. In this day, and age, and too often, it is difficult to get the world to be open to the Lord, outwardly, but they will still pick up a book. If I can reach them through the words written in a book, I will certainly try.

(To me) it is so important to reach a variety of readers and not just the Christian segment of society. I want to go both places if I can. None of us has any idea who will read our work once it is published. The truth is, God is the one we should write for ultimately. He is in charge of where our writing goes and in whose hands it will end. So I write for Him, and ask Him to send it out.

Since I write in the ABA, both through fiction and nonfiction, with my historical romances and devotional journals, I try through a subtle way to be a strong witness. I believe it is possible to do that. 
God did it in the Old Testament with a prostitute and with a widow named Ruth. He can use us as well. 

I tried to do it in Flame From Within. Titus 2:11 tells me in part, “… the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all….” That’s my motto too.

If God can discover the romance of the heart between any two people who are very much in love, then He can do wonders with their lives. All I have to remember is my own testimony of many years ago where I met my husband before we were saved (a couple of young people in a beer bar). God saw the potential in us and made my husband into a pastor a few years later much to our surprise.

Come February 08, Flame From Within will be placed in God’s hands to do with as He wills. He will fit it on both sides of the aisle and allow it to accomplish the purpose for which He intends it. You know the old saying, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven?” 

Maybe just maybe someone who reads this story will find themselves somewhere in one of the subplots. Maybe it might even help them in some small way realize God loves them just the way they are. 

My prayer is that Flame From Within will become a work of evangelism for them and a blessing to the Christian. Either way, I will then have then done my job.

Do you ever struggle with writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?
You mean where absolutely no words come to my mind? I have to laugh at that question . (You can probably see by my wordiness today I am seldom at a loss for words.) 

I am one who loves the power of any written word. I used to sit with my kids, and we would play a game we called “Word Association” just to think of any new words, we could come up with that would relate to the word before it. It was a good brain exercise.

As I got older, I would think about book titles I could come up with for a book before I even came up with the book. Then, I would start working on the book regardless of what it was.

When I think I might even begin to get “writer’s block,” I just brainstorm and words begin to flow from my head like crazy. Pretty, soon, I am back on track. 
It is the fastest remedy I can think of for any writer who has problems with writer's block. 

If I am in the middle of a chapter or ready to start a new one and I am stumped, I just print up the last two or three chapters and do some editing. By the time I finished, my writer’s block is gone.

What is the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your writing journey), i.e. plot, POV, characterization, etc? How did (or do) you overcome it?

POVs, hands down. Understanding point of view has been my greatest struggle from the beginning. Even when I took my three-year writing course years ago, I struggled with the correct usage of POV. 

Even more, reason we need to hone our craft. We never stop learning. I overcome it with the help of my wonderful editors and with the assistance of all my fellow writer friends at ACFW and FHL who have gone before me.

Where do you write? Do you have a dedicated office or a corner or nook in a room?

I have a personal secretary set up in my parlor. I write every morning for about three hours there. After a small break, I try to write again there for another couple of hours a day. I do my reading and research in my bedroom at night or at my other computer in the guestroom.

Do you have a word or page goal you set for each day?

No. I want to have a word and page goal, but I cannot…not yet, probably because I do both nonfiction and fiction and have to work both sides of my brain. 
I always have more than one project going on at the same time though I do have a calendar to tell me which to work which day to remind me. 

Sometimes, I am not physically able, either. Now, when I have a deadline in front of me that is a different story. During those times, I get stricter with myself and stay firm to my convictions until I am finished.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Weekdays after prayer with my husband, I start writing and editing around 7:30 until 10:30 AM. During that time I also have to get up to feed my chickens and gather eggs. I return later for another couple of hours and move along until I cannot keep my eyes open anymore. Somewhere in there I do laundry, clean house, and have women over I teach for Bible Study once a week. (Somewhere in there, I prepare for that BS lesson.)

I do research on the internet to keep my historical facts accurate for my stories as well. If I can get  half a chapter done in a day, I am praising the Lord. If I cannot, I praise the Lord anyway and shrug my shoulders and figure God knows. He will make things work out for me on the morrow. 
I always have to remember I am also working on my nonfiction devotional which is contracted to be finished by a certain date.  I wear a bazillion hats at the same time. 

All I know is it will all be done…eventually. And somewhere in all that I must get dinner ready for my husband. (Thankfully he likes to cook too.) (By the way, where is that cup of coffee I just poured myself an hour ago?)

Take us through your process of writing a novel briefly—from conception to revision.

Just refer to the question above for this query. It really looks about like that except when it comes to revision time, and I know I am under the gun with my editor. During that time, I don’t get much sleep. I am at my computer constantly and I eat an awful lot of red licorice and drink a lot of coffee with real cream. (I’m still looking for that cup of coffee I lost.)

What are some of your favorite books (not written by you)?

Here are a few…many for style—some for content:

The Great Divorce by CS Lewis; All of Victoria Holt Books (I love the simplicity of the way she wrote her stories in first person); Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (One of my all time favorites); Mark of the Lion Series also by Francine Rivers; The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim; Not Quite a Lady by Loretta Chase; Gossamer Wings by Anne Whitfield; Shanna by Kathleen E Woodiwiss; Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E Woodiwiss; Courting Trouble by Deanna Gist;
Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard (to name a few -- smile.)

What is the best writing advice you’ve heard?

Don’t be afraid to take risks
-- Believe God will give you the strength to do it, and you willResearch, research, research, but not at the cost of your creativity-- and Kristin Billerbeck, author said, among other great things, “Humility is crucial in this business.” I could not agree with her more.

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?

The importance of checking better into who your publishers are before you send to them! I knew nothing about Predators and Editors. I knew nothing about those that could take advantage of new authors. My frustrations came not because I was charged for my publishing and I’m thankful for my early books, but neither of my early books were properly edited and both were overcharged therefore could never sell.

As a newer author, I had to ask myself later, was it worth it just to get my name on the byline? My frustration came in seeing my friends and loved ones have to pay too much to buy my books, when I knew they could not afford them. It hurt when I could not do anything about it.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

We are an online society. I am all over the email, involved in groups…getting my name out there. It is the best way I know how to travel these days. I visit authors often and introduce myself as a guest. I make myself as available for interviews whenever asked, and I thank you for inviting me here. 

It has been a real pleasure being here with you and sharing with you about my February release, Flame From Within. May God richly bless you and the rest of your staff at Novel Journey (Novel Rockets)!

Do you have any parting words of advice?

At ACFW, we were asked our thoughts about writing once. Some of us called our list our Bill of Writes. Here is something I wrote in part:

"If you want to succeed as a writer successfully in the Lord, you need to remember He is the one who needs to get the glory for all you do, not you. It is not about money and fame. It is about Him. If you can remember your focus, God will honor you in the end even if you never make a dime."

(by the way: this is the present book cover for Flame from Within, which is still out there in the book world.

If you are interested in a copy of the book, I have added a link to where you can read more about it.  


6 (original) comments :

  1. Karla Akins9:53 AM
    As a pastor's wife and aspiring writer I enjoyed this post!
  2. Thank you for an inspiring interview, Shirley.
    Your influence for affecting lives through your writing is enhanced as an author in the ABA and CBA. How blessed you are. I agree that it is so important to remember our focus and that our words are for Him. All the best with Flame From Within. Pat
  3. I like the advice to not be afraid to take risks.
  4. Good interview! It was fun learning your story, Shirley. I used to read Woodwiss, too. And loads of other historicals. Yet after writing one historical (a Biblical), I switched to women's fiction .
  5. Shirley,

    Loved the interview!! Cannot WAIT to read Flame From Within!!

  6. Wonderful interview Shirley. I enjoyed reading more about you.

    I'm so happy you mentioned my book as one of your favourites! Woohoo!

    Thank you very much.

    Anne Whitfield.~

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Beauty from the Eyes of the Beholder -- a reflective moment with Caree

                         GOD'S WORD IN NATURE AND HOW I SEE IT                                                                                         Caree Connolly 

When I put words to pictures in Psalm 8 of the King James Bible, it's not that hard to imagine what David saw when he looked out the window or took a daily walk through the country side. With his knowing God's heart, I believe he was able to see past what the average person can see. 
When a photographer shoots a picture for a magazine, book, or newspaper, now, he or she likely sees the beauty within -- the story behind the image. 
When I study the pictures portrayed through the words of Psalms 8 and in other Psalms that David wrote, I find myself visualizing  the awe of God's power in creation -- how He show us a new born animal, an opening flower, or maybe even the sunrise and sunset. 
The scriptures laid out  in Psalm 8 and in others offers me, as the reader, so much about nature and creation throughout. Psalms 19:1  tells me: 'The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork.'
I can see nature also in Psalms 23. 'He maketh me lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me besides still waters.
Psalm 29 talks of the power of water, the beasts of the field, and how David talks of the deer. 
Around here where I live, we're sometimes annoyed by the deer. When they're walking across a busy road, blocking traffic or destroying yards by eating the flowers it can cause quite a hassle. Not only are they often a nuisance, we can't help but worry how we might harm one of them. 
Still, I have to  stop and try to remember Psalm 18:23. He maketh my feet like the feet of deer. And sets me on my high places.'
One of my favorite Palms is the 104th. My Bible has it titled appropriately:  'Psalm Rehearsing Creation'. Almost all 35 verses describe God's wonder. 
Looking back at Psalm 8 and verse one, I love how it begins.  'Oh Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who has set thy glory above the heavens.'
In Charles Spurgeon's Treasury of David, I read that David is proclaiming Jehovah Our Lord, How excellent is your name.  He was not just in heaven, but also Above the heavens. Greater, higher, and beyond.
In a quote by Adam Clarke, Charles Spurgeon wrote: "'No name is so universal, no power and influence so generally felt, as those of the savior of mankind.'"
In vs. 2 of Psalm 8, I read, Out of the mouth of babes and suckling infants hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
Here, David bring up the future purpose of children and infants that will do mighty works for God. 
  • Moses, who as an infant, was placed in the Nile River, and led the Israelites out of Egypt. 
  • Samuel, who was given by his mother to God, became a mighty prophet of God, and was ultimately led to find David, a young shepherd boy at the time. 
  • And we come to Jesus himself, who was born in manger, and brought us Salvation.

In vs. 3 I  read, When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers. The moon and stars, which you ordained.
When I attended college in California I took an Astronomy Lab. We spent two weekends out at Lake Sonoma on a hillside away from all the lights.  There, you could see the stars stretch from horizon to horizon. Uncountable,  although many scientist have tried. 
God knows them all though. He knows how many are there. He knows their names  every one. 
I obtained a picture of a moon cycle. We call it a Crescent moon. I found another picture of the stars rotating around the one star which stays stationery in the sky. (Another of God's amazing mysteries.) 
We are fortunate to probably know more about the galaxies and light-years than they did in David's time, and I sincerely believe  the universe and the firmament in all its beauty is still as wonderful today as it was back than.
In vs. 4 of Psalm 8, I read: What is a man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou shouldst visit him?
In Treasury of David Spurgeon helped simplify to me what this meant. From his commentary, I was able to glean, that 'man' used in this verse in the Hebrew translation means infirm or miserable man. This verse is not talking about the creation of man, but of his state of sin, misery, and mortality. And why would God even notice us, much less care for us? 
In my own words, we are not worthy of his mercy and love, but he loves us anyway. So much so, that he sent His only begotten son to die for our sins. (John 3:16) 
His mercy is pretty astounding. Thomas Washbourn wrote in 1654, "Thou didst thyself abase. And put off all thy robes of majesty, taking his nature to give him thy grace.To save his life didst die; He is not worthy of the least, of all thy mercies, one's a feast."
In vs. 5 of this 8th Psalm it says to me, Thou has made him a little lower than the angels.
Like in the poem I just read in part, I can see how Jesus took off the mantle of his  greatness and humbled himself to become man from his birth to his death on the cross. We don't really know what he looked like as a man -- in fact he was as a person people didn't generally notice. Regardless of his outward appearance, however, His character shown through and though. 
Like a light shinning in the darkness.
The last few verses 6, & 7  of Psalm 8 I read, You have made him to have dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen-Even the beast of the field, the birds of the air, And the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea.
Adam had dominion over the animals but lost that right when he sinned. Animals were converted to a more natural state after the flood, to give them more defenses against man. But we see in the gospels how Jesus can take a unbroken colt and ride it. He could stop the crow of a rooster till the right time even though we know roosters tend to crow whenever they feel like it. He can take a fish-less lake and fill an empty net. 
It's a wonder to me that so many were blind to Jesus then and still are today. The creatures God created just for the ocean itself are amazing and wonderous. 
You have to wonder why man still deny's the existence of God.
And finally vs. 8 of Psalms Oh Lord our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth!

What a great closing verse to reflect on. For how excellent is our Lord to provide this wonderful earth for you and me as our temporary home. Anmals to give us beauty and comfort. And that most of all, he gave a Savior, Jesus,so that no one would have to perish. 
Beauty in the eyes of the beholder comes in different ways, I realize, but for me, right now, what better way to reflect on God and his creation than to see it through His scriptures -- and right here in Psalm 8.  Looking at God in just this small way could make anyone's day. One needs to only open her or his eyes.