Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Complaining about wrapping too many gifts. Not cool. Not cool at all.

I wrote this two weeks ago. Merry Christmas folks.

I’m sitting here thinking how this will be my last day ‘off’ without all four kids in the house for the next three weeks. Here I am, getting more and more frustrated because this is the last day I will have the freedom to openly wrap Christmas gifts without my kids around. I would much rather do it out on the kitchen table then hiding in my bedroom, trying to wrap, on the carpeted floor late at night after they’re asleep.

I don’t want to spend the whole day wrapping, I want to write! My LAST DAY OF FREEDOM FOR THREE WHOLE WEEKS!!

So here I am, pouting because I’ll have to spend my day wrapping instead of writing when it hits me.

I have a ton of gifts to wrap.

And I mean a ton, and we are able to afford that stuff this year. I will still be ordering a few more after I look through them to make sure all my kids have a somewhat ‘equal’ number of gifts. And I can do this without batting an eye this year. What a humongous blessing!

With each passing year, God has given us a little more. With each new baby that came into our lives, God upped our income a little bit more to meet that need. He never failed. Four babies later, he has done some marvelous things with our income since my husband got this last job. We’re comfortable and content. We’re not scared anymore. We’re not freaking out because of the holidays. There is no massive lump in my gut threatening to steal the joy of Christmas this year. There is PEACE.

Yet, looking back, there’s always been a peace. Sometimes it was harder to find than others, but it always showed up at our doorstep. Literally, at our doorstep. Diapers, clothes, money. No joke. God always took care of us. And when we had faith he WOULD, He always DID. Even when our faith faltered and stuttered, He was faithful to provide. My husband and I are constantly shaking our heads, saying, what did we do to deserve this? How can God be so merciful and good to such rotten sinners such as us? When I look back on where we’ve been and where we are, all I can say is WOW, what a difference.

Our first few Christmases with our one little guy were pretty easy. We didn’t have much to give and he was too young to know any better.

I would hide and save all the toys that would come in a kids Happy Meal and save them to give him for Christmas. (I don’t think he even realized Happy Meals came with toys until he was five!) These were meals I couldn’t even afford. Anytime we went out it was usually my parents paying or someone else paying. We didn’t have the money. So, all these little ‘throw-away’ toys would be saved for Christmas.

I remember one particularly hard year when we had nothing for him and my husband had gotten a free hat and mug from work. Well, that would have to do. It sucked, but it was all we had. He also brought home this muddy, filthy rag and showed it to me.

“What in the world is that?”

He stretched it out. A boy’s hoodie caked in mud. It looked like it might be a tad too big for him. He found it on the side of the road. I was repulsed. I wasn’t about to give my son that thing. But my husband asked me to wash it and see what happened. I washed it, and sure enough, under all that mud there were dinosaurs. Dinosaurs were his favorite thing. It was perfect.

I may have washed it a couple more times to get it as clean as possible. Then it got wrapped and put under the tree. Our son never once complained about not having lots of amazing gifts. He never once said, “Mommy, Daddy, this isn’t enough. You didn’t buy enough toys this year.” He just smiled and said thanks. And guess what? That hoodie sweatshirt became his favorite piece of clothing. He wore it as much as he could for the next few years. When he finally couldn’t fit into it any longer we gave it to his younger brother.

Even if all these silly gifts I have to wrap, were not here, my kids could still have joy in knowing there is love in our family. The Christmas spirit would prevail. And material possessions mean nothing when you have the peace and love our Lord Jesus provides. Sometimes I even miss those hard years. When I HAD to cling to the Lord. When I fell at his feet continually and His presence and comfort were so real and near. It was such a beautiful gift…his closeness, his abundant love wrapping me up when I was at my lowest, crying out to Him. He answered me in His sweet and gentle way. Through love from others, through joy, peace, and laughter. Through strength.

I would not be the person today that I am, stronger than I’ve ever been, more firm in my faith and my convictions if I hadn’t been through the fire, only to come out the other side refined. God sure has more refining he needs to put me though, but for now, I’m glad for the respite. As tough as those times were, God never failed me. Even when it felt like he was gone, he never left me. He watched over my family and loved us through it, each and every step of the way.

I’m thankful for a loving God and Savior, full of mercy and grace who came to this earth as a babe, so that someday, he would offer himself up to be hung on a cross, to take away the sins of the world through his overwhelming sacrifice of love. I’m thankful for a God who loves us when times are good and when times are hard.

I know a lot of folks who are going to have a hard Christmas this year. Let’s pray for them, give them our ‘extras.’ Give them more than our extras. Sacrifice. Give and love.  And thank JESUS even in the hard times. Merry Christmas everyone.


And to wish you a Merry Christmas and as a gift to you, our readers, I have compiled a fun playlist for your listening pleasure. Just click on the link below. The last one is the best…just wait for it.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Our very own WINNER!!

A huge congrats to our very own Jebraun Clifford on her recent WIN of the 2015 First Impressions Contest for ACFW. She won for the Young Adult category.
We are so excited for you and proud of you, Jeb! We wish you all the best in your writing endeavors to come.

Click on the link below to check out the winners!

ACFW - The Voice of Christian Fiction

Monday, December 14, 2015

Heather Frey Blanton author of Hang your heart on Christmas visits Quills and Inkblotts

Welcome all!
Today I’m very fortunate to be interviewing Heather Frey Blanton.  
She’s the author of A lady in Defiance, Hearts in Defiance, In time for Christmas and Grace be a lady. *All of her titles are available at Amazon.*
Heather writes wonderful Christian Western Romances about strong pioneer women and men. If you love historical romances as much as I do, you will love her stories.
Recently, she released Hang your heart on Christmas.

Hi Heather, welcome to Quills and Inkblotts. We are delighted to have you at our little corner on the web.

Please tell us a little about you?  I live on a farm outside of Raleigh, NC with my three boys, 12, 15, and 54 (come on, you know what I’m talking about with that last one). We ride and shoot together just like every family oughta. If you like Duck Dynasty, you’d like us. We’re down home.
I am a freak about history; can’t get enough of it. I have a journalism background and love to research. I’ve walked parts of the Oregon Trail, climbed to the top of Independence Rock, and held an outlaw’s note in my hand. Now that’s living!

Favorite scripture and why?  God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 When my first book was rejected by a major Christian publisher – well, let’s just say I’m sure I’ve been punched in the gut harder but can’t remember when. It could have taken the wind out of my sails, but I knew God had a plan. I hung on to that thought and that scripture.

When did you decide to become a writer?  Oddly, I’m not sure it was ever a conscious decision. I am the youngest of six kids and my siblings were always busy, so I occupied myself with writing and drawing. I often wrote stories so I could keep a TV showing going (in my head) that I didn’t want to end. Just because the credits were rolling didn’t mean I had to say goodnight to the Hardy Boys. I had the biggest crush on Parker Stevenson!

What is the hardest thing about writing?  Getting to know my characters deeply and intimately. But once I’m there, writing their stories flows like water!

What is the easiest thing about writing?  Choosing my setting. For some reason, bam! I just always know it. Sometimes the decade can give me problems, but the geographic locations call to me for each story!

Are you a plotter or a panster?  I started out as a pantser. I built my first novel entirely around one scene and then just let the story unfold. That’s not a bad way to write, but I wind up cutting a lot of scenes. While they may help me get to know my characters, ultimately, if a scene doesn’t move a story forward, out it goes. With my last two books, however, I’ve done a lot of outlining and writing in my head. What I mean is, I do a lot of writing in my head (which is pantsing, basically), but then I transfer that “day dreaming” to beats, which help create the outline. Gee, I think that actually makes me a plotster.

You're a traditionally published author as well as an Indie author.  What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?  In February of 2012, I asked my agent if I could self-publish A Lady in Defiance; I wanted to sell two hundred copies for my Relay for Life team. By May, I had sold nearly three thousand copies! Well, ironically, at the same time, my book had made it all the way to the fabled “contract meeting” at a MAJOR Christian publisher. They passed on me because the sales team said my sales projections were too low. Imagine the publisher’s surprise when A Lady went on to sell eight thousand copies that year! I saved my money, quit my job, and started writing full-time a year later. To date, A Lady in Defiance has sold over thirty thousand copies, gathered 406 reviews, and earned 4.7 star`s on Amazon!

Since 2012, I’ve released three novels, two novellas, and been published in three collections. It takes a single traditionally published book sixteen months on average to see its release date.

If I had gone the traditional route with my first book, my advance would have only been around $7-10,000. So I would have had to keep my job and write in my spare time, while trying to market the book, raise a family, clean the house, and be a good wife. All while making less money per book. I didn’t care for that scenario so I released my agent and self-published Hearts in Defiance in September of 2014.

Praise the Lord, things have worked out for me.

But there is a very definite downside of being an indy author. Namely, you do everything yourself. You write the stories, hire editors and cover designers, plan the marketing, audition narrators for your audio books, develop the marketing plan, etc. Indy authors don’t generally command big bucks for their books, either. Most of us sell our stories for .99 to $2.99. Lastly, it is nearly impossible to get book stores to carry an indy author’s books, for a myriad of reasons.

The cover of Hang your heart on Christmas is gorgeous. Who designed your book cover Roseanna White is not only a fabulous designer, she is an author for Bethany House. I think her skills on both fronts are exceptional.

You’ve crafted some fine, well developed male hero’s in your stories. Dent Hernandez and Charles McIntyre are definitely my favorites. Do you have a favorite? (I promise I won’t tell Dent if it’s not him.)  Oh, I adore Charles McIntyre. He is a man who is trying to leave behind a dark past and walk in the light. He wants to surrender everything to God, but relinquishing control doesn’t come naturally and he struggles to find his way. He’s hard on himself for his failures, yet loves his family unconditionally. He’s so flawed, yet that gives me, as a writer, the chance to show God’s strengths in those vulnerable, human weaknesses. But I love all my leading men for various reasons.

In your latest release, you introduce readers to U.S. Marshal Dent Hernandez and schoolteacher Amy Tatee. What inspired you to pair Dent with Amy? Give us an insight into Amy and Dent? What makes them work as a couple?  Amy brings out Dent’s natural desire to serve and protect. That’s what makes him such a great lawman and lover. But he struggles with changing paths, letting go of his plans. Amy is a strong woman but not one of those annoyingly harpy characters that’s over the top. She accepts her femininity and is willing to cry in his arms. That doesn’t make her weak or fragile. I love that.

What came first to you when you started Hang your heart on Christmas?
Character, plot or setting?  Definitely the plot on this one. I wanted a hero who was keeping a secret and when it was revealed, the heroine was going to have to make a hard choice about their relationship. It’s so funny how characters “come to life.” In the end, BOTH Amy and Dent were grappling with right and wrong, duty and honor, standing or running.

Are you working on something at the moment?  I am currently working on Book 3 in my Defiance series. I expect that A Promise in Defiance will be out in late winter 2016. We’ll see. I also have a script that I wrote for A Lady in Defiance and a Hollywood agent is perusing it as I write this! That’s pretty exciting! I hope one day you’ll see A Lady on the Hallmark Channel!

What’s it about?  In A Promise in Defiance, I bring some things full circle. The town settled down a bit in Book 2, but things are fixing to heat back up. There is a pretty epic battle brewing for the soul of the town, not to mention a couple of my characters. This story will be fairly intense. The stakes for my characters are going to be extremely high. At least I hope so.

Your genre is historical romance, what draws you to this genre?  I am a history freak. Who knows why? But the people, their stories, the simpler lifestyle, the black-and-white morals, it all beckons to me. I am home when I’m writing an inspirational romance set against the back drop of the Rockies a hundred-plus years in the past.

Have you ever considered writing in a different genre?  Funny story there. I wrote a time travel Christmas novella. In Time for Christmas. This is a story that has rattled around in my head since high school, so I finally wrote it a few years back. As a Believer now, though, I was particularly excited to be able to put a Christian spin on it. Specifically, I found a scripture that could explain time travel (2 Kings 20:10). I love this story and overall it has great reviews (4.5 stars and 108 reviews), but I’ve been surprised by how many readers don’t think God can control time. That shocks me.

If Hang your heart on Christmas were to be made a movie, do you have an actor and actress in mind to play Dent and Amy?  Vikkas Bhardwaj is the gentleman on the cover of the book. He is an actor and a model and the nicest fella you’d ever want to meet! I mean truly a baby doll. He would be wonderful in this part! I’d like to see maybe Erin Krakow (When Calls the Heart) as Amy. She would fit perfectly.

One last question, do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?  #1 Pray like crazy for inspiration and God’s anointing on your work. #2 Learn to write by writing, reading craft books, and attending writers conferences. #3 Find great editors and beta readers. #4 Repeat step #1.
Thank you, Heather. It was a pleasure to have you on our blog.

Now we got a surprise for y’all! Comment below for your chance to win a kindle version of her novella Hang your heart on Christmas!  (I loved it!) Winner will be announced here on December 19th.

~ Lucy