Writer Wednesday with Melissa Tagg

melissa taggMelissa Tagg, author of Made to Last and Here to Stay, is a former reporter and total Iowa girl. In addition to her homeless ministry day job, she’s also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for writers. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever (not that she’s biased), watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next story. She’s passionate about humor, grace, and happy endings.

When did you decided that you would be an author? Was it something you fell into, felt called to… ?

I have always wanted to be an author. I loved books as a child and at some point my little kid brain realized that somewhere out there were people writing these books I loved. So I decided I’d do the same one day. That dream never left me.

What’s your pet peeve?

People who give me mean looks at stoplights when I’ve got my music loud in my car.  I’m sorry, I like to blare Needtobreathe when I drive!

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?made to last

I don’t embarrass too easily, but I’ll never forget winning an award, going up to give my speech and blurting out “holy crap.” Not exactly the composed speech I’d hoped to give.

What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?

The biggest challenge has definitely been balancing my writing life with my fulltime day job with my attempts at having a social life. Juggling is hard, and this past year especially has been a challenge. But I keep thinking God doesn’t get us started on a path only to abandon us halfway down the road. So when my schedule gets overwhelming, I try to remember I’m not in this alone.

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

Ohhh those pesky reviews. I don’t yet have the self-control of some authors who just plain never read reviews. I definitely skim reviews and if I see a one- or two-star review, it’s similar to watching a scary scene in a movie when you know you should look away but just can’t. J Honestly, though, I have been blessed with somewhat thick skin…I don’t tend to dwell too long on negative reviews.

The couple times a not-so-great review has managed to get under my skin, I try to remind myself that not every story is for every person. And that very likely, the person writing the negative review doesn’t have anything against me personally…and also probably has no idea that the book they trashed was a piece of my heart. To them it’s just, you know, another book. I remind myself of all that…and then go eat ice cream.

Here to stayWhat do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?

Well, I’m still very much a newbie, but I think finishing my third book has been my biggest success so far. I have no idea what reader reaction will be to this story (From the Start, releasing April 2015) but it was definitely the hardest thing I’ve written so far…so simply getting it done feels like a massive success.

What would be your top three pieces of advice to newer, up and coming authors?

  1. Definitely, definitely focus on learning the craft…and the best way to do that is through joining a writing organizations like My Book Therapy. Hands-down one of the best things I ever did for my writing was to learn from award-winning authors like Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck who know the craft inside and out. Plus, the community and friendships I’ve formed through MBT are amazing.
  2. Find a craft partner…it doesn’t have to be someone who regularly critiques your work, although that can be beneficial too. But for me, simply having a craft partner to brainstorm with, to text when I’m stuck or frustrated, to share goals and prayer requests with, that’s such a wonderful thing. I have both a craft partner and a small group of writing friends who I work with and I can’t imagine doing this writing thing without them!
  3. Trust God. I know, it can sound like the most trite thing ever. And I’m great at talking about trusting God and not always so good at doing it. But I really, really believe he is capable of opening the coolest doors at the best times. There’s a lot of peace and rest that comes from handing our dreams over to him.

As a Christian author, what would you like your legacy to be?

Ooh, that’s a big question. I guess I’d like my legacy to be summed up in one word: love. I’d like to be remembered as someone who loves God and the people around me and who puts Gods love for us on display through my stories.

from the startWhat is your current work in process?

I just turned in the rewrites on my third book, From the Start, which releases next year. It’s about a jaded romance scriptwriter and a wounded ex-football player. She’s hungry for what she thinks is gritty, real life…and he just wants to keep living in the make believe world of his past fame.

Next up is book four which I’m plotting as we speak.

Links to social media:

Website    Facebook   Twitter   Goodreads

Instagram    G+

Wishing on Buttercups (Book Review)

buttercups      I managed to snag a free copy of Wishing on Buttercups by Miralee Ferrell. This is book 2 in her Love Blossoms in Oregon series and is a great stand-alone romance.
     Beth Roberts has run away to a small town in Oregon to escape heartache and a painful past. No only does she keep a physically painful secret but she also keeps her profession a secret as well. She doesn’t believe she could trust anyone with the truth of who she really is.
     Jeffery Tucker has run away as well, from family expectations and demands, in order to pursue his own dreams as a novelist. LIving in the same boarding house as Beth and her aunt, he finds himself drawn to the young woman of faith and mystery. He finds himself intrigued not only with who she is, but also her views of a personal God and a living faith.
     Memories surface revealing more and more of the pain of Beth’s shadowy past as two men seek her out. Who can she trust? She finds herself drawn to Jeffery and even more so when her illustrations are part of his debut novel appearing in a series in a national magazine. Little does she know that even with a pseudonym she has drawn attention to someone from her past.
Can she trust Jeffery with the truth? She’s drawn to the man but in her heart believes that no one would ever be able to love her. As the past merges into the present both Beth and Jeffery have ot confront their deepest pains and struggle to forgive. And maybe, just maybe find love she never thought could be hers.
     This is a sweet novel. Some of the dialogue seemed stilted but this is 1880’s West and even in the rough and tumble wilderness of Oregon politeness and proprieties would be observed so I’m not even sure that is an entirely just criticism. The story is well written and the characters make you want to care about them and their potential for a future together. Miralee does a good job at keeping Beth’s past as much a mystery to the reader as it is to her until it is fully revealed toward the end of the story. Sweet title and nice cover. This is a charming inspirational romance.

World Wide Blog Hop

I’m answering four questions from Cheri Burbach for the World Wide Blog Hop.

Baganz 0524 Edited color

What am I working on?

I’ve got a lot of things going right now. I’m trying to finish up some editing projects for other authors with Prism Book Group so I can be ready for November which is National Novel Writing month. I’ll be writing my fifth book in a series (the first two are already contracted. Pesto and Potholes releases Spring of 2015). This will be my third full length novel this year. I’ve never accomplished that before. This will be my sixth year doing NaNoWriMo. I also am working on edits of my historical.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Every author has their own unique voice. The Orchard Hill series is set against the backdrop of Orchard Hill Church to show the importance of a viable faith in this crazy, mixed up world. I guess that would be the biggest uniqueness is that the church is its own character in the novels. I love the local church and have found my own biggest growth has taken place in community with other believers and especially under healthy, godly leadership. I want to show how wonderful and messy that can be . . . and how vital it is for any believer. I think I manage that without being preachy as I focus more on relationships than deep theology.

Why do I write/create what I do?

The world is scary and hard and I wanted to tackle the reality of those struggles for especially 20-30 something adults but make faith in Christ an integral and fundamental part of facing those challenges. I think my hope is to give them solid truth to cling to in a world that tells them compromise is acceptable. Ultimately our emotional and spiritual growth compels us to maturity in our faith, but it’s through the challenges we really grow. I’m a romance author so that is woven in. I love happily-ever-afters.

How does my writing/creating process work?

I’m a panster which means I write by the seat of my pants. I often will come up with a title and maybe my two main characters. Sometimes I will do a character interview with them before I start writing but sometimes the story just comes. I get that first inciting incident and I write it and the characters take over from there. It’s a wild roller coaster ride wondering what’s going to happen next and at times even I am surprised at the way things go in my story or how my characters react to events. I love the rush of a first draft.

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That’s enough about me! Here are three writers I’d like to introduce you to. Feel free to visit them as they continue with the blog hop:

Rachel A JamesRachel James

Born and bred in England, Rachel writes inspirational medieval romance, she is also a pastor’s wife, and has three beautiful little princesses. She minored in creative writing at university and strives to entertain, inspire and encourage others in their own spiritual journey. She’s also captivated by romantic tales… combine it with a little history and a hot cup of tea, and she’s smitten! Find her at www.rachelajames.com for more information.

Connect with Rachel: Website   Facebook   Amazon Author   Twitter   Google+

 

Renee Headshot2Renee Blare

Renee Blare’s nose has been buried in a book for as long as she can remember. Raised in Louisiana and Wyoming, she started writing poetry in junior high school and that, as they say, was that. After having her son, a desire to attend pharmacy school sent her small family to the awesome town of Laramie. She’s been counting pills ever since. While writing’s her first love, well, after the Lord and her husband, she also likes to fish and hunt as well as pick away on her classical guitar.

After a brief detour to Texas, she back home, nestled against the Black Hills with her husband, crazy old dog and ornery cat. Add her son and parents dropping in for a home-cooked meal, and life’s never dull around her house. She serves the community of northeastern Wyoming as a pharmacist and pens her stories about struggling Christians as they travel along the journeys of their lives—meanwhile keeping things interesting with some action and intrigue, of course. She loves to interact with readers and invites you to check out her website, blog, and social media.

Social Media Contacts: Website   Facebook   Twitter     Groupblog   Pinterest   Goodreads  Tumblr    LinkedIN     Google+

HeadShotAug2014Lee Carver

Lee has lived in six foreign countries and studied nine languages including German and French. She and her husband traveled extensively throughout Europe while living in Spain. A five-week World War II history tour covering the areas where her father-in-law fought created the stimulus for this book.

Lee taught biology and chemistry, served as a volunteer church musician, and in retirement was a missionary in the Brazilian Amazon. She is a member of ACFW and president of its ACFW-DFW “Ready Writers” Chapter, and is active in Stephen Ministry and Kid’s Hope.

Lee is a member of ACFW and president of its local chapter, ACFW-DFW Chapter aka Ready Writers, and enjoys quite a few non-writerly endeavors.

Website   Facebook

 

The Forgotten Princess of Elmetia (Book Review)

Lost princessThe Forgotten Princess of Elmetia by Rachel James is a Medieval romance with plenty of action. The book takes place in the 600’s AD of Great Britain in the region of Elmetia where Princess Teagan as a girl finds escape from the carnage of her father’s kingdom in taking on the identity of a servant. She is transported to another land where she serves an evil king, all the while believing that not only had her father perished in the battle, but her older brother, Niall, as well.

Teagan comes across information that her brother is still alive and a warrior, Ryce is being commissioned to kill him. She escapes to try to seek out her brother and warn him. Unfortunately a series of misadventures occur when she is rescued by Ryce and his side-kick Sherwin, then captured and rescued and . . . well, I don’t want to give away spoilers!

Teagan is an intrepid young woman and devoted to her family but even finding her home as royalty again, she realizes that she didn’t gain the freedom she thought she had and struggles with her role as Princess in a new land. Learning to trust Ryce, the Saxon warrior who was initially her enemy adds an interesting wrinkle to the story as well as Ryce and Sherwin’s struggle to understand the God of the Bible as being superior to multiple gods.

I was amazed at the amount of research this author put into her story and I believe that women, young and old will enjoy the tale of this Princess and her struggle not only for freedom for her and her people, but also for her own identity and for love, will grip the heart of any princess-tale loving little girl who still lives in many women.

I look forward to reading the sequel when it comes out next year!

Breach of Trust (Book Review)

breach of trustDiAnn Mills is a fabulous romantic suspense author so when I came across her book Breach of Trust, I was thrilled. This book was the winner of the 2010 Christy Award as well as the 2010 Inspirational Readers Choice Award. And for good reason.

When Daniel Keary runs as a candidate for governor of her state, former CIA agent, Paige Rogers is on edge. Having worked with him seven years ago, his betrayal and lies cost her everything. Her identity, her family, her career . . . and her son. Now he wants her under his thumb but Paige isn’t quite so gullible. Her newfound faith since the tragedy of those events, propels her to work on the side of truth, before more people are killed to bankroll Keary’s dreams.

In hiding as a small town librarian, she runs into a snag with the attentions of the High School football coach. But if she admits who she really is, she will lose all she holds dear and risks lives of those she loves most, even those she had befriended in her new town.

But there’s at least one mole, in her town or in the CIA that is undermining her attempts to seek to protect the citizens of her state. But along with choices in who to trust becomes an issue of how she can live a lie while clinging to God. How far can she trust Him with the truth and the outcome if she steps out of the shadows to confront evil?

This was an anxiety producing read. It was hard to put down because the characters were so well-developed and the layers of mystery unfolded at such a pace to keep the reader wondering if Paige was really going to succeed, much less survive. Could all the dreams had sacrificed be restored to her if she stepped out in faith? You’ll have to read the book to find out! There’s a reason it won awards.

A Christ-like Hero

Tony New CreationI like strong male characters in my stories. Not so much the “alpha” male dominating type of man, but more a man who might struggle but ultimately seeks God and honors and respects the women around them.

When my editor, Joan Alley contracted my contemporary romance, Pesto and Potholes, due out spring of 2015 with Prism Book Group, she asked if my main man, Antonio DeLuca, was real. She wanted to give his number to a friend.

In reality I want my characters to be seeking to grow to become more like Christ. They are not God however, and make mistakes and mess up. But the love they show a woman and their overall respect for her, is what I would hope every man was like. In other,  older terminology–my heroes are gentleman.

I have prim and proper gentleman and I have cheeky gentleman in some of my stories. I have some that can whine and some that can be totally blind to the truth before their eyes. Some don’t like their life shaken up by love but eventually they understand the blessing of a relationship with a woman of godly character.

Tony - I want youWhile all this is well and good, this is why I write these characters: Because I want my daughter and others like her to aim high in their choice of a mate. To look beyond the charm to the actions of the man they might choose to spend their life with. I don’t write men that are “too good to be true” I write godly men because I know there are men out there like that. I want one of them for my daughter.

Hard worker. Responsible. Respectful of boundaries. Honors a woman because she is God’s creation. Serves God. Seeks God. Asks forgiveness and is willing to change when he recognizes his wrongs.

I’m not talking a feminized doormat. Who wants that? Ultimately our lives are characterized by our growth in Christ and that is manifested often in our relationships with others. I want my books, yes even romance novels, to reflect that reality

And then there’s attraction too . . .<wink>

Tried and True (Book Review)

Tried and TrueI had the opportunity to get a copy of Tried and True (Wild at Heart) by Mary Connealy in exchange for a review. Now this is not an onerous task by any means. Mary’s style of writing her westerns has always been flavored with a unique voice that adds a bit of humor to even the most challenging situations her characters encounter.

Tried and True was no exception to this as she starts a new series, Wild at Heart that I suspect will follow the adventures of the Wilde sisters who, in disguise, fought in the Civil war after their brother was killed. Their father is a bit wrapped up in his grief and they’ve traveled west to homestead using their time served to help pay for the time needed to claim a homestead.

That plan however is a bit unnerved by the fact that Kylie Wilde, the youngest sister, really likes being a woman. While wearing pants has its advantages at times, she likes her hair long and wearing skirts and dreams of a more civilized life in the East.

She encounters land agent Aaron Masterson who  quickly discovers the ruse the girls have plotted to gain their land. Can he let them keep their secret as he falls in love with Kylie? He just wants to finish his job and move far from civilization as possible.

As both struggle to reconcile their conflicting dreams with their growing attraction, outside forces threaten to tear them apart. Kylie has a choice to make to follow her heart and desire for this man over her desire for tea parties and pretty dresses. Can she give that up and live in the untamed West?

I love Mary’s writing and her characters are lively and I look forward to reading the rest of this series. This was a book that was hard to put down and I smile every time I think about it, because it was just that enjoyable. Kudos again to Bethany House for their amazing cover design.