Author Interview: Cindy Ervin Huff

I’m excited to welcome my friend, Cindy Ervin Huff, as my first author interviewee. Her debut novel, Secrets and Charades, will release in March 2017. Can’t wait for readers to get to enjoy your historical romance as much as I did, Cindy.cindy-huff-headshot-2016

Here’s a sneak preview of Secrets & Charades’ plot:

Jake Marcum’s busy ranch leaves him no time for courting, and his wounded heart has no place for love. Battlefield nightmares add to his burden, but his tomboy niece, Juliet, needs taming, and a mail-order bride seems the logical solution. When an inheritance threatens to reveal a long-buried secret, Dr. Evangeline Olson abandons her medical practice and travels west to become Jake’s wife.

Jake soon realizes Evangeline is more than he bargained for, especially when her arrival causes a stir in the community. As the two try to find their way in a marriage of convenience, they are faced with cattle rustling and kidnapping. Will they be able to put aside their differences and work together to save the ranch and their fragile relationship?

Now, back to Cindy: How did you decide to take up writing?

I worked at writing for many years, though there was a season when I gave up. Then on a mission trip, God said it was time to pick up my writing again. “If you want me to start writing,” I said, “I want to take a writing course to sharpen my skills. If you really want me to write, I need ($$) to take this online course.” I had just enough doubt in myself that I needed definite confirmation.

Within a month of the mission trip, I received a letter from a law firm about a class action suit against a company who had run credit reports and targeted specific people. I was one of them and agreed to put my name in the lawsuit. Well, you can guess the outcome. I received the money I needed to take the course.

The Lord does provide, doesn’t he? So, Cindy, what sparked the idea for Secrets and Charades?

It came about the same time. I not only have a serious reading addiction, I also have some near-and-dear people who struggle with serious emotional baggage due to their past.

My heroine, Evangeline, appeared to me in a mid-1800’s dress. As a doctor, this intelligent woman struggled with a society that felt women were a bit feeble-minded and helpless. She also had a dark secret from her past and problems in her present. I suggested she go west as a mail-order bride. She was appalled. But, of course, I am the master of her fate and brought in a few other surprises that gave her little choice.

gate-to-texas-ranchJake is a great guy who had his hands full with a tomboy niece to raise, and a large ranch with a too-small crew. His only experience with women left him feeling betrayed, and he had no idea how to make a successful marriage, especially with an educated wife. Other characters added stress and drama to their fragile relationship along with mystery, intrigue and some I-did-not-see-that-coming moments.

Ten years ago, I wrote the rough draft in five months. I edited it over the next year, and promptly got rejections. I had no idea that if publishers request the proposal or even the whole manuscript, they could reject it. Some publishers gave me edits. Those were precious even though it meant a lot of rewrites and deleting. I discovered I had a lot more to learn about the craft of writing a novel.

After 20 rejections I almost trashed the manuscript. Then I won the 2014 Editor’s Choice Award at Write-to-Publish. My novel and I then went on an editing journey through Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. I knew that even after receiving the award, I might not get published through LPC, but God is good, and they offered me a contract.

Ten years and twenty rejections–wow! You really hung in there. What was it like when you finally received “the call”?roses

I got “the call” by e-mail. How did I feel? Grateful, surprised, and stunned that my ten-year journey was nearing the finish line.

And what surprised you the most during this year of preparation to launch your novel?

This year of preparation has been daunting. I have a great editors working with me, Andrea Merrel and Kathy Davis who is acquisitions editor for Smitten, the new romance line for LPC.

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas gives their authors lots of training and encouragement to help them succeed. I had so much to learn. I’m still trying to get my head around the best time to accomplish various tasks.

What’s it like as you continue to prepare–challenges and solutions?

I am a deadline person, so I asked writer Erin Curtis to help me meet my personal deadlines. A recent graduate from Taylor University, she made me her beta test to see how well she can help me launch my book. She not only has a heart to launch debut writers and become a mentor, but is young and willing to do what it takes. I am grateful God brought us together in our critique group and has kept us in contact for such a time as this.

And what do you count as the best thing that’s happened during your preparations?

I was so blessed by the seven people willing to endorse my novel. Sometimes getting one is tough. I’m still looking for more launch team members. My “Stage Crew” consists of four people so far. So I seek the advice of my more experienced author friends for the how-to. Those friendships are golden and their insights will make this new phase of my life successful.fear-and-doubt-meme-from-cindy-huff

While I wait for Secrets and Charades to release, I am working on a sequel, and my agent, Cyle Young from Hartline Literary Agency, is sending out proposals for New Duet, a contemporary romance. I realize if I wait for fear my first book doesn’t sell well, I’ll miss opportunities. Fear and doubt are a writer’s worst enemies.

Any advice to aspiring novelists?

If I could share one piece of advice with aspiring writers, it would be “network.”

  • Get to know other writers. If you don’t know any, go to conferences to meet them.
  • Join a writer’s group with members who are serious about getting published.
  • Have a presence on social media long before you’ve written the rough draft of your first novel. There you establish friendships and future fans who will want to buy your book because they know you.
  • Pay it forward by promoting other authors on your social media. Do book reviews.
  • Before your book comes out, people should know you from the way you’ve helped others.
  • Your social media presence should be easy to find if someone googled your name. Don’t wait until you have a contract. Those face-to-face and social media contacts are a catalyst to book sales.

Thank you so much for sharing your writing journey, Cindy, and for that great advice. All God’s best to you in your new life as a romance novelist.

Here’s more about Cindy:

Cindy Ervin Huff is a multi-published writer and winner of the 2014 Editor’s Choice Award from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is a contributor to Splickety Publishing Group’s anthology and has been featured in The Christian Communicator, Suburban Dog,, and Splickety Lightning Blog. Cindy is President of the Aurora, Illinois, chapter of Word Weavers where she and her husband make their home.

You can connect with Cindy on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog.

A Very Happy Birthday!

2016-birthday-cakeThis morning was different. I woke up at home on my birthday for the first time in years–instead of in Michigan at Mom’s. The house was silent. No “Happy birthday, Beth” from Mom first thing because she went to heaven this past April.

But God is good, and so are loving family and friends who are filling the gap:

  • My sister Aimee texted “Happy birthday!”
  • My sister Shelly called with birthday greetings.
  • Next, my son Bret called to say he planned to visit with me later today.
  • Then my friend Susan Baganz called to sing “Happy Birthday” and chat.
  • My dear friends and next door neighbors, Jackie and Dennis Kotloski brought a big bouquet of fall flowers with a card and sang “Happy Birthday” and visited a bit.
  • 2016-birthday-flowers

The morning flew by, and before I knew it,  and I had to hurry to get ready to meet my former Oshkosh Public Library co-workers for this month’s lunch at Primo’s. We discovered the restaurant had a special menu of free birthday dinners. I chose the tenderloin steak with mushroom and onions, garlic mashed potatoes that came with soup & salad bar. I also ordered the birthday cake to shared it with my friends. After they sang “Happy birthday,” Mary and I cut and served the cake.


Left to right, that’s Mary, Lou Ann, Doris, Sherry, and me. We had a great time.

In the meantime, at home:

  • my sister Mary Jo texted, “Happy birthday!”
  • my friend Bonnie sent a fun card and gift certificate
  • My Aunt Donnis and brother-in-law Larry sent lovely cards
  • And many dear family and friends posted birthday greeting on my FB page.

It’s been a fun day so far, with more to come. As The Word says, far more than I could think or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Thank you all–those who have already celebrated with me and those who will as the day goes on. You’ve made this day special with your love and prayers. Can’t thank you enough.

God bless you all. When I woke up this morning, I never dreamed of all the Lord had waiting for me. What a blessing you are.


Finding Your Dream

Do you dream of what you would like to do with the rest of your life? I’m reading Finding Your Dream by Jane Rubietta, and it’s gotten me to thinking. Am I living my dream? Do I still have a dream? Or have I given up on dreaming?

img_20161011_161615042Years ago, I dreamed of writing exciting romantic suspense novels with Christian heroes and heroines. Of exploring how their choices might differ in challenging circumstances. Of readers loving my novels so much that they couldn’t wait for the next one to come out.

I even cross-stitched a prayer that hangs on the wall near my writing desk. As you can see, it’s from the Precious Moments collection, but I changed it slightly from help with bills that are owed to help with writing manuscripts and finding editors who would say yes. Do you see the girl holding one “dear editor” paper and another marked “mss” (manuscripts).

I dreamed of one day receiving the Write-to-Publish “Writer of the Year” award. It seemed impossible. Yet the Lord surprised me on June 10 2016-wtp-writer-of-the-year-awardthis year at the Write-to-Publish banquet. That plaque also hangs on the wall near my writing desk.

Yet today, though I’m close to finishing that next novel (and I love it), I wonder If I’m still dreaming, or if I’m too scared or too busy to dream. Am I a one-book-wonder? Or will the Lord enable me to create yet another novel that will excite readers as much as the first.

In the meantime, I keep writing and praying, hoping to offer something of value to you, and hoping to sustain the dream.

Do you have a dream? Are you living that dream? Or have you simply given up on dreaming?


Book Lovers Treat–ACFW New Releases for October 2016

moody-seaYou love to read, right? Surprise–I do, too. Okay, that’s not much of a surprise. Anyway, this week I have a treat for all of us book lovers!

ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) just published its list of New Releases for October 2016. Taking a moment to dream here–sometime next year, my second novel might be included.

But for now, you can enjoy the two romantic suspense novels below. I’ve read stories by both of these authors, and they are excellent.

Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon — After a disastrous Middle East mission ends his six-year Army Ranger career, Finn McGregor needs some downtime in the woods. But when someone threatens his neighbor, publishing executive Dana Lewis, Finn and Dana must work together to discover who wants her to leave her lakeside cabin before it costs both their lives. (Romantic Suspense from Revell–A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Identity Unknown by Terri Reed — When a John Doe washes up on the shores of Calico Bay, no one knows who he is—including him. But one thing’s instantly clear to deputy sheriff Audrey Martin: the man’s marked for murder. And she’s the only one who can protect him from the assassins who lurk at every turn. The arrival of a team of men claiming he’s Canadian Border Services officer Nathanial Longhorn only further complicates the matter. As his memories slowly start drifting back, Nathanial and Audrey work to uncover who wants him dead and why. If they don’t, this Christmas might be their last. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

tangled-web-spiderAnother 41 October novels are arranged by genre on ACFW’s blog. Explore and enjoy!

It’s kind of obvious that romantic suspense is my favorite genre, right?  But I also enjoy:

  • historical romance–especially Karen Witemeyer‘s novels. Every one of her novels is a must-read if you like novels set in the 1800’s in Texas. And who doesn’t?
  • some fantasy–like Gloria Clover’s “Children of the King” series available at Dessert Breeze Publishing. What an imagination and how beautifully she handles visits with the King (God the Father in heaven). Totally amazing!
  • contemporary romance, historical romance and Regency by Susan Baganz. You may enjoy Pesto & Potholes which takes place in Milwaukee and features a hero whose large family are avid Packer fans.

Actually, I enjoy novels by too many authors to name them all. You probably do, too.

So let’s “fess up”: What are your favorite novels and authors?

Writing a Sequel to Her Deadly Inheritance

pabst-mansion-my-photoMany of you reader fans have blessed me by asking if I’m writing a sequel to Her Deadly Inheritance. The answer is yes!

I’m now polishing this second romantic suspense before I send to my editor at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. If LPC contracts it, they expect to release it next year.

And, yes, in this novel, Jill meets her birth father. She and Clay arrive at her father’s home to spend the Christmas holidays and find him gravely ill. They soon realize someone is trying to kill him, but who? I’ve had fun weaving lots of intriguing complications into this story along with difficult challenges to their growing love. I can hardly wait for you to read my new novel whose working title is Her Father’s Eyes.

In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy a peek at her father’s house where most of the action takes place.You may recall that in Her Deadly Inheritance, I used Mark Twain’s Connecticut house. Well, for this second novel, I borrowed the Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee. (Can you tell I love historic houses?)

On our vacations, my husband and I never failed to tour a town’s historic house!

Here is a photo I took on my last senior bus trip to the Pabst Mansion. It’s a fabulous house, and I’ll write more about it and post additional photos in future posts.

Thank you to the staff at the Pabst Mansion who have been most helpful on my two on-site research visits.

Do you love historic homes, too? What are some of your favorites?

What’s So Fun about a Book Club?

pens-fiction-9-2016-pens-of-praise-book-clubWhat’s so fun about a book club? Apparently plenty!

I interviewed two friends about their respective groups. Shelly Zraik’s meets in Michigan. Becky McLafferty’s meets in Wisconsin. (That’s Becky on the left standing next to Susan Marlene Kinney and Kathy Leist.)

So, girls,what do you love about belonging to your book club?
BECKY: We so look forward to our meetings. What can be better than combining godly friends, godly books, and prayer? It just doesn’t get any better!

SHELLY: I love getting together to talk with my book club friends. The books are always interesting, and I hear and gain insights and new perspectives I had not thought about before.

Who started your group? Who leads it?

BECKY: Sue and I co-founded the Pens of Praise Christian Writers Fiction Book Club. We take turns leading, and everyone chimes in.

SHELLY: Amy Corron (an author herself) leads our book club and its discussions. It’s called the Bedford Alliance Church Book Club or BAC Book Club, for short.

How do you decide on the books you want to read and discuss?
BECKY: Often by word-of-mouth suggestions. We read the “blurb” on a novel, and possible author bio or reviews. Did I mention COVERS? Book covers are so important, and yours is fantastic! Then we choose by general consensus. We vary genres so everyone enjoys their favorites.

SHELLY: Amy chooses the book, although she is open to suggestions and usually takes them as long as she feels it would be appropriate. Most often it is a non-fiction book, but she usually chooses something fiction or lighter in subject matter for the summer meeting.

What is your group meeting like?
BECKY: We open the discussion with general questions about “major likes and dislikes.” Our members usually highlight passages or jot notes as they read, and then we comment on things that came to our attention. Usually those were noticed by a number of readers, which is fun! We compare notes and then discuss those questions that catch our attention. In addition to those you provided, we asked what points members really liked or found thought-provoking. We looked quite thoroughly at plotting and characterization, and also what wasn’t liked…in your case, there was absolutely nothing!! We had a lively discussion about the characters in great detail, including depth of character and character traits. We also examined character arcs and story plotting. You generously provided discussion questions for our group, which proved to be a valuable resource.
SHELLY: Amy emails discussion questions ahead of time so we are familiar with them. When available, she uses all or some of the author-provided questions and maybe adds a few of her own. She reads the questions, and we share as we feel led. Oftentimes we go off on a “rabbit trail” and have to re-center. <smiling here> We had such a wonderful discussion about Her Deadly Inheritance. We shared if/how we could relate to the various characters and situations based on our own life experiences, how we might have acted/reacted under the various circumstances, and how we felt about the plot twists and who were the villains, including when we figured it out. Everyone said how much they loved Her Deadly Inheritance and hoped there was another book in the series.
Where do you meet and for how long?
BECKY: Our meetings last about 2 hours, and as much of it goes toward the book discussion/review as naturally occurs. We usually meet at Kathy’s house, and she always provides a scrumptious treat.

SHELLY: We meet in someone’s home, whomever offers to host. Everyone usually bring some sort of snack to share. Discussion is approximately 2 hrs, with fellowship either before or after. Typically we are together for about 2.5 – 3 hrs total.

How often do you meet?
BECKY: About every six weeks, depending on members schedules.

SHELLY: Every other month, the odd numbered ones.

How many participants?
BECKY: It varies, but five regulars and sometimes more.

SHELLY: Participation varies, but typically between 5-10.

As you can see, book club groups are not all the same. If you’re in a book club now, what do you find most fun about it?

“I Don’t Have Diabetes!”

The day after the Write-to-Publish Conference in June, I got the news.

“I don’t have diabetes!” I insisted.

My nurse practitioner grinned at me and my spunky audacity. “So now, you’re the doctor?”

“Well, no,” I said, “but if you and I agree that I don’t have diabetes, then I don’t.”

Charmaine was’t buying it. She packed me off to another nurse who specializes in coaching new diabetics.

My writing life was about to acquire a new distraction. One that would challenge me and gobble a good chunk of time each day while I tried to understand and do what was necessary.

No more grabbing snacks and eating anything I pleased, whenever I pleased. Time to stock lots of fruits and veggies and start making meals again. Oh, byosemite-1646512__180 Yosemite National Park mountainsother!

But I did it.

Time to stop making excuses and start exercising regularly. Good grief!

But I did it.

The good news?

  • When the nurse tested my blood sugar, it was 102 (60-99 is normal). She said I only had to test my blood sugar three times a week when I woke in the morning.
  • Because the wellness tests indicated my A1C was 6.7 (kissing close to 7), no medical bracelet and no medications necessary
  • Colleen told me I could beat this by losing the weight, eating right, and exercising.

She sent me home with a blood glucose monitoring kit and my Healthy Living with Diabetes manual. I enrolled in a six-week hospital course by the same name.

Over the last three months, the confusion lifted, and I learned how to fit this new distraction into my writer’s life. In the meantime, I’m always looking for better ways to manage my blood sugar.

What did you find helpful in controlling blood sugar?