Meet Author Cindy Ervin Huff

Please help me welcome author Cindy Ervin Huff, friend and fellow writer for many years whose debut historical romance, Secrets & Charades, has won three awards. The most recent is the Serious Writer Medallion for 2018. Congratulations, Cindy!

Now how about giving us some insights and behind-the-scene peeks at your writing life and your newest release, New Duet?

Beth, I’m so excited to be your guest again. While I’m still writing historicals, I felt God telling me to write a story of broken people in a more modern setting. New Duet is a contemporary romance set in my hometown of Aurora, Illinois. It has a population of over 200,000 and lots of historical architecture. We also have a thriving art community which appeals to Isabella Wilson, my novel’s heroine. The veteran community in our city is very active as well. So, Dan Sweeney, New Duet’s wounded warrior hero, is getting all the help he needs after returning home. And of course, we have strong people of faith in our community. What better place to set a novel?

Book Blurb: Isabella Melinda Wilson has been squeezed into the music ministry model of her controlling husband’s making. Before she can leave him, he leaves her a guilt-ridden widow. Her mother-in-law is no comfort and presses the guilt button at every turn. Isabella flees to her sister’s home in search of her own identity and a new beginning.

Dan Sweeney has one goal. Be as normal as possible. After losing a leg, some fingers and his self-worth, he needs his service dog Brutus to help keep his PTSD at bay. Career-less and clueless about the future, he struggles to put his life back together.

Isabella isn’t looking for a new relationship and Dan feels unworthy of one. Can these two broken people heal into one whole love?

The idea for New Duet came while I served on a worship team. A writer’s mind can go to strange places! As I glanced over at the worship leader, I thought, what if he died? (No, I had no evil intent.) My characters tend to talk to me before I even get started on a novel. Isabella told me about her late husband, a worship leader, and her need to get away and find her art muse.

My son is a vet with PTSD which can take many forms and isn’t, as is often portrayed by Hollywood, a walking time bomb. Dan Sweeney has PTSD. He also has a prosthetic leg. Starting his life over after planning to make the Army a career is hard. He needs a service dog. Thus enters Brutus. This pitbull-shepherd mix was a delight to write.

Isabella Wilson goes from serving in the music ministry being remade by her husband to becoming a widow to discovering a new love who allows her to be herself. Thus the novel’s title, New Duet. And yes, some singing is involved.

I loved the opportunity to address domestic abuse within the Christian community and touch on what life is like for a disabled veteran. After all, God is the healer and restorer of the broken, and he gives us gifts we can use for his kingdom when we put him first.

In New Duet, readers will find lots of unique and fun characters who surprised me at times with their insights.

For me, the hardest part of writing any novel is editing. Man, I can miss the most obvious things! That’s why I rely on my hubby and my critique partners to point them out. I just was made aware of the audio app in Word. A monotone voice reads my manuscript. Wow! It is amazing what I see as I follow along. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about this app when I was writing New Duet. *sigh*

Anyway, I wrote the majority of New Duet during Speedbo, a NANOWRITMO month in March. I finished it in time for Write to Publish in June 2016 where I pitched it to my now agent Cyle Young. Then I continued editing it until it sold to Clean Reads.

Marketing is evil. I manage what I’m comfortable doing but hired a marketing person to do what I’m not comfortable with or good at. I’m doing more book signing this year. Some venues produce great sales, others are a bust, but if I relied only on online sales I might not build a fan base. Fans are the ones who buy books and tell their friends.

If I wasn’t confident God called me to write, I’d curl up into a ball and quit. His strength keeps me pressing forward. Authors kept saying. “Once you’re published the work is only beginning.” It’s kind of like labor. You don’t truly understand the pain until you go through it. Marketing and building a platform and fighting doubts about the quality of each new novel are a daily challenge.

My favorite things to do when I’m not writing are walking with my husband Charley and reading. I do lots of book reviews because I know how important they are for writers. I also love going to the theater to see super hero and Star Trek flicks. What can I say? I’m a geek at heart. Oh, and I love Hallmark movies. My hubby rolls his eyes at those. Hey, who doesn’t like a feel-good movie.

What am I writing now? I’ve just finished a novella for a Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas historical romance collection, The Cowboys. It will release in August 2019, and I’m happy to share the byline with Linda Yezak, Jennifer Hough Uhlarik and Sandra Merville Hart. Since I’m an 80,000-word gal, it was a real challenge to produce a complete story in only 22,000 words. Learned a lot. So excited for my fans to read the collection.

I’ve some other projects on my plate and a novel at the pub board, but nothing else to announce.

Thanks for letting me talk about New Duet, Beth.

Your’e welcome, Cindy. Was great having you visit. All the best to you and your books.

Readers, here’ s little more about Cindy and how to stay in touch with her:

Cindy Ervin Huff is a multi-published writer, and her debut novel, Secret’s and Charades, won the Editor’s Choice Award in 2014 and placed third in the Maxwell Awards in 2017 and took a first place Serious Writer Medal in 2018. Her contemporary romance, New Duet, released in May 2018. She has been featured in numerous periodicals over the last thirty years. Cindy is a member of ACFW and founding member of the Aurora, Illinois, chapter of Word Weavers. Although she has been creating stories in her head since childhood, it wasn’t until high school those imaginary characters began appearing on paper. After raising her family, she began her novel writing adventures. Cindy loves to encourage new writers on their journey. She and her husband make their home in Aurora, Illinois. They have five children and six grandchildren.

Visit Cindy on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cindyehuff, follow her on twitter @CindyErvinHuff, or check out her blog at www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com.

Facebook Author Page: https ://www.facebook.com/author.huff11/
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/cindyervinhuff
Google+:https://plus.google.com/u/0/117599590227912410637
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8029703-cindy-ervin-huff
Twitter: https:// twitter.com/CindyErvinHuff

Links for Cindy’s books:

Amazon Buy link for Secrets & Charadeshttps://www.amazon.com/dp/1946016144/
Amazon Buy link for New Duet: https://www.amazon.com/New-Duet-Cindy-Ervin-Huff-ebook/dp/B07CRV or https://www.amazon.com/New-Duet-Cindy-Ervin-Huff/dp/1621357635

For those of you who would like a taste of New Duet, here’s the first page. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

Bitterness and Guilt

Isabella Melinda Marklin scurried ahead of her husband Ron. She reached the driver’s side door of the red Dodge Durango first. Ron closed the gap between. His breath brushed across the top of her head, “I’m driving.”
She faced him feeling for the handle and pulling the door open.
Anger flashed in his dark brown eyes. Melinda stood her ground. “You have one of your migraines. I’ll drive.” She climbed in before he could grab her arm.
“Fine.” Ron moved to the passenger’s side, slammed the door, and leaned back on the gray leather headrest. “It’s so bright.” His forearm covered his face.
“Here’s your sunglasses.” Melinda took them from the visor before gazing into the rear view mirror. The gravel driveway flowed beneath the tires. Her chest tightened and her hand shook as the gears shifted into drive.
Ron adjusted the sunglasses. “Can you drive a little faster?”
“No.” A tremble escaped her lips. White knuckles gripped the steering wheel. Fear wrestled her confident tone. “We’ve got time.”
“You’d better be right.” Ron massaged his temples with his index fingers. “If we’re late, it’s all on you.”
Typical.
Everything always seemed on her lately. Always her fault, always her problem. Blame had been the morning focus.

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In the Shadow of Salem

Please Welcome Donna Gawell, history buff who’s not only the author of her novel set in 1600’s New England, but also a direct descendant of its heroine, Mehitabel Braybrooke. Yes, the name is a mouthful, but many names of that era were.

In the Shadow of Salem: For Mehitabel Braybrooke, life in Puritan New England moves from bad to worse when her orphan cousin arrives to live with her family. Jealousy and lies result in Mehitabel’s being “sent out” as a servant in a neighbor’s home. Foolishness and bad judgment further unravel her life until the unspeakable happens: Mehitabel is accused of crimes that warrant a death sentence, not once, but twice−the first time for arson, the second for witchcraft.

What sparked your idea for In the Shadow of Salem?

Mehitabel’s story has been told piecemeal by historians, and her historical records are anything but complimentary. It was clear from the neighbors’ testimony during a court trial that her stepmother despised her. I thought it intriguing to consider how Mehitabel must have felt being raised by a woman who hated her, one who could never have any children of her own. Mehitabel was the only child of a wealthy Puritan man who was instructed by the town court to raise her.

As I examined the facts from her historical records, I tried to consider what lead up to each event. For example: what background and story lead up to her being found in the mud with the pigs tearing at her clothing, and the rescuers declaring she was drunk? I ended up with an intriguing story about a very emotionally complex woman who lived through some horrible times.

Did anything interesting happen to you during your research?

I developed a great appreciation for the Puritans and their beliefs. They have a pretty bad reputation in today’s culture, but I admire their passion, focus, and dedication. They certainly weren’t Sunday-only Christians. On the other hand, they lost focus of God’s guiding principles during the Salem witchcraft trials, which are also part of my story.

What did you find the most challenging about writing In the Shadow of Salem?

The research essential in historical fiction is a perfect fit for my personality. I love that part of writing and blending in this interesting information, but I had no idea of how much time I would spend uncovering details. For example, it took hours to find the name of a real lawyer in 1670 in that area of Massachusetts. And I want to make my New England historian friends proud!

What details or choices of material in this story required special research.

I spent three years actively searching through New England archives, old town records, and information about the Salem witchcraft trials and life in Puritan New England. One of my favorite experiences was a trip to Ipswich, MA where I met with archivist and renowned historian, Richard Trask at the Danvers Institute. He sent me some newly uncovered details about the accusation of witchcraft Mehitabel endured..

What do you hope readers will gain from reading In the Shadow of Salem?

I wrote it as a story of redemption. Mehitabel started out in life as the “bastard” child of an indentured servant and had a nightmare childhood. She continued to struggle through much of her adult life but didn’t understand what God wanted of her.

How did you first come to realize you wanted to write this novel?

Although I have written various professional and travel articles and taught my students to write, I never thought much about fiction writing. Until I discovered my 9th great grandmother, Mehitabel Braybrooke. Before I began genealogy in 2012, I had almost no knowledge of my ancestors who came before my grandparents.

As my search wandered back to the 1700’s, a direct ancestor named “Mehitabel Braybrooke came into view.”  My first thought was “Wow, Mehitabel is an ugly name!” Then I noticed clues with the words “witchcraft” and “witch” in them. I discovered many records from the town and court records about Mehitabel and began to put together the facts of her life. I told her story to everyone I knew and then decided someone needed to write her story. That someone ended up being me! I felt God had given me the gift of discovering so many ancestors all the way back to the 1600’s and that Mehitabel was a special assignment.

Any future novel readers can look forward to?

I am currently researching and writing a novel set in a small village in Poland during WWII. My grandparents’ village has an amazing story.

The Nazis occupied it during the first days of the war. The Germans destroyed the villagers’ homes and forced the people into what we would consider slave labor. This village became the site of the largest SS training camp outside of Germany. Hitler also moved his top-secret V1 and V2 research facility to the area. My family who still live in this village are thrilled that someone is finally interested in the story. Many Polish Americans and people in Poland have provided me with incredible details and stories.

What is a typical day like for you?

I wake up at about 6 AM, do my morning devotions (Charles Spurgeon) and email, and then begin writing about 8:00. I write or research until about 8:00 PM,  but sometimes unchain myself from the computer to volunteer, cook, eat, clean, and visit with friends.

What advice would you offer to writers just getting started?

Write about something that is a personal passion, and ask God to provide you with people who will support and encourage you.

More About the Author:

Genealogist, historian, and author of several nonfiction books and journal articles, Donna Gawell is also a presenter on genealogy and family history writing for school, community organizations, and church groups. Donna holds volunteer leadership roles with Samaritan’s Purse as a Relay Center Coordinator for Operation Christmas Child. She is also Church Coordinator for International Friendships, Inc., a Christian outreach to international students at Ohio State University.

Donna earned her master’s degree in Speech Pathology and worked in the field of education for over thirty years. She lives in Westerville, Ohio with her husband Mark when not traveling to research her ancestral homelands in Europe and New England. Her website www.DonnaGawell.com allows her to reach out to readers with similar passions and interests.

From In the Shadow of Salem, Chapter One:

September 21, 1692

 The lock on the door of the Ipswich prison clanged, and the bar raised to open it. No good news ever came when we heard those creaking hinges. Unwelcomed breezes stirred the poisonous stench of dung from the corners of our cell, as one solitary prisoner was delivered to our group of women. The dark shadows at sunset did not allow me to recognize the woman immediately, but old Goody Vinson could see her. “Mehitabel,” she whispered, “you will not believe who has come to join us!”

Joan Penney’s voice raged throughout the dungeon as she was hurtled down the stairs by the two night guards. They showed little respect for the elderly woman, and she stumbled on the last step. In disgust, the guards allowed her to fall onto the filthy straw floor. Her eyes were downcast as she hobbled over to sit with the older women.

A heavy silence fell over us, until Rachel Clinton spoke, “Joan, we have been waiting for you. Soon all of the townswomen will be here to replace those already hung in the gallows. Look, even your own daughter is here. Are your eyes so weak you don’t see her face?”

Rachel’s loathsome manner was unwelcomed by all. “Mehitabel, go to your mother,” she commanded me. “Share your warm blanket with her.”

Sandra Merville Hart Talks about A Rebel in My House

What happens when a Yankee woman in Pennsylvania finds a wounded Confederate soldier on her doorstep in the midst of battle? Find the answer in Sandra Merville Hart’s Amazon bestselling novel, A Rebel in My House. Released July 2017, it already enjoys a four-and-a-half star rating.

A Rebel in My HouseWhen the cannons roar beside Sarah Hubbard’s home outside of Gettysburg, she despairs of escaping the war that’s come to Pennsylvania. A wounded Confederate soldier on her doorstep leaves her with a heart-wrenching decision.

Separated from his unit and with a bullet in his back, Jesse Mitchell needs help. He seeks refuge at a house beside Willoughby Run. His future lies in the hands of a woman whose sympathies lay with the North.

Jesse has promised his sister-in-law he’d bring his brother home from the war. Sarah has promised her sister that she’d stay clear of the enemy. Can the two keep their promises amid a war bent on tearing their country apart?

A first page glimpse of the novel:

Friday, June 26, 1863

Two miles outside Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Running feet on the dirt road outside quickened Sarah Hubbard’s heartbeat. Her fingers stiffened on her sewing machine and her back straightened.

Were they coming? Every conversation these days centered on the Confederate soldiers crossing into southern Pennsylvania.

“Miz Hubbard. Miz Hubbard, please let us in!”

Not soldiers but friends. Sarah’s body sagged at Elsie Craig’s voice, but why did she yell? Sarah dropped the gingham dress she’d been sewing and ran to throw open the front door. Alarmed at the fear lining Elsie’s dark face and eyes as she clutched the hand of her four-year-old daughter, Mae, Sarah scanned the horizon for Confederate soldiers. “Hurry inside.”

Elsie needed no second bidding. She guided Mae over the threshold and closed the door. “Miz Hubbard, you gotta hide us.” Her tall, thin body leaned against the door. “The Rebs are in town gathering up all the colored folks they can find. Someone said they’ll be taking them south as slaves and that they’re warning folks not to hide us.”

Sarah gasped. “Why do such a terrible thing?”

“Don’t make sense, does it? Some of us have lived in Gettysburg for years. Others like me have always been free, but it don’t seem to matter to the Southern army.” A long loaf of bread peeked out among jars and clothing in a well-laden basket Elsie set on the rug. She dropped to her knees and wrapped her arms around her trembling child

Exciting beginning, Sandra! Why did you choose this time period? When I was a young child, my adult relatives talked about how terrible the Civil War was, how brother fought against brother. That remained tucked in the back of my mind until a high school teacher sparked my love for history.

History books today don’t give a complete picture. They leave out many details that better explain prevailing attitudes of the time. Over 600,000 men died from battles, starvation, disease, or accidents during that war.

I studied the Battle of Gettysburg and read accounts by residents. Then I plopped my characters into the nightmarish setting and the days that followed to give readers a glimpse of the resilience of the human spirit even during those turbulent days

Has anything else prepared you to write this story? Because I felt a story waited for me in Gettysburg, my husband and I traveled to the town. We discovered that Tennessee troops were among the Confederate division that fought the first battle early on July 1st and then participated in Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd to end the battle. It seemed fitting to choose a fictional soldier from a regiment that history deemed important and I had my hero, but what about my heroine?

I visited several Gettysburg museums and tramped the streets during walking tours. The terror that the townspeople endured touched me. I had to write their story through the eyes of a Gettysburg seamstress.

What interesting fact did you discover during your research? I learned that the Confederates occupied this Yankee town. Imagine the horror of residents. Much more that will surprise readers as the story progresses.

What did you find most challenging about writing A Rebel in My House? it not only broke my heart, it changed me. I am hoping it touches the hearts of readers, too.

What do you hope readers will take away from your story? I hope they will be moved by the love and sacrifice of characters who find themselves in a situation that pushes them to their limits.

What keeps you writing? It fills a void inside me. I feel like I have to write. When I’m away from it even for a few days, I start to feel depressed. When my imagination soars as my fingers fly over the keys, it is so much fun.

Any advice for writers who are just getting started? Take writing classes or correspondence courses. Attend writers’ conferences. Begin writing. This career is similar to tossing a basketball into a hoop—you can read lots of books about it but can’t really learn until you practice. Your early writings may not be publishable, but keep at it. You are learning more than you know with each article, each story.

About Sandra Merville Hart: Assistant Editor for DevoKids.com, Sandra loves to find unusual or little-known facts in her historical research to use in her stories. Her debut Civil War romance, A Stranger On My Land, was an IRCA Finalist 2015. She is currently writing another Civil War romance. Visit her blog at https://sandramervillehart.wordpress.com/.

Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_j3JI-wECyY&feature=youtu.be
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/sandra.m.hart.7
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/sandramhart7/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/100329215443000389705/posts
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8445068.Sandra_Merville_Hart
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sandra_M_Hart

 

 

Larry Timm Talks about Murder for Emily’s Sake

Please welcome debut author Larry Timm whose recently released novel, Murder for Emily’s Sake, boasts four-and-a-half stars on Amazon!

Here’s a bit about the book …

Murder for Emily’s Sake: On a moonlit night in Wichita, Kansas, a tormented father stands by the grave of his teenage daughter, Emily, and makes a chilling vow to avenge her death. Once he gets his hands on the three women he holds responsible for his daughter’s death, they will regret the day they met Emily outside the abortion clinic. And after their caskets are in the ground, they will die…for Emily’s sake.

Those three women, committed to defending the lives of the unborn, must now fight for their own lives.

Drawing for an autographed copy: Intrigued by the teaser? Enter the drawing for an autographed print copy of Murder for Emily’s Sake. Just leave a comment at the end of this post along with your email address. Drawing ends at midnight on Saturday, September 2 (CST). Open only to those living in the United States (USA).

So, Larry, why did you choose to write suspense? It’s not only my favorite genre to read, it’s a great way to grab readers on both sides of their brains and keep them engaged from chapter to chapter.

When did you realize you wanted to be a novelist? It first happened when I was a child. But it’s only in the last ten years that I took steps to make this desire a reality by writing a novel.

What sparked your idea for Murder for Emily’s Sake? I wanted to wrestle with the dangers that threaten or otherwise devalue the sanctity and sacredness of this precious gift from God called Life.

The concept for the story setting and some of the characters popped into my head one day, and I knew I had to start writing and see what happened. I also wanted to show the incredible bravery and commitment of people who stand up and defend Life.

What did you find most challenging in writing this novel? My biggest concern was that I develop the characters in a fair and realistic manner … complex, yet understandable. I wanted to show people reacting to whatever was happening in a way that readers could identify with, even if they didn’t agree with the choices the character was making.

For me, the biggest character challenge was Emily’s father, Jack. His mind was so consumed by hate, yet I wanted him to be “real.” In the mind of any sane person, there is no justification for the hideous acts he was planning. Yet I wanted the reader to step into his shoes and see how his mind led him to do what he was doing. I wanted readers to feel his pain, while loathing his actions.

What details/choices of material in the story relate to your own life (such as hobbies, professions, etc.) or special research? I’ve been a preacher for years, but at one time I was also a licensed funeral director. Things in Murder for Emily’s Sake draw from my experiences in both professions. Certain aspects of funerals, caskets, and other funeral-related items I referred to in the book are things I know about. I’ve also been in a morgue and a forensic science unit. And, of course, as the father of a daughter, I can relate to Lindsay’s dad and his emotions when his daughter is threatened.

What do you hope readers will take away from your story? I want readers satisfied that they just enjoyed a wild ride. I hope the lingering adrenaline rush will leave them wanting to read other books I write. But, in addition to being entertained by the story, I hope they will walk away with a renewed appreciation for the gift of life as a sacred blessing from God and be reminded that Life is not only fragile, it is also precious.

What do you like best about the writing life? The whole creative process gets my juices flowing. Since I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, the thrill of creating, exploring, and watching a story unfold before my eyes is consuming. I love it!

When not writing, what do you most like to do? Hang out with my family.

What is your favorite food? Pizza buffets are one of God’s greatest provisions to man!

What advice would you offer to writers? No one else can write your stories. So, whether writing is your career or your hobby, pour your heart and soul into every story as though it’s your unique creation. Because it is! Writers just starting out must decide if they are willing to merely live with the warm and fuzzy idea of being a writer, or dedicate themselves to doing the hard work of being a writer. Write … a lot!

About Larry Timm: Husband, father, and writer, Larry is also a preaching minister with the Morton Christian Church in Morton, Illinois.

For more information: Find Larry’s website at www.booksbylarrywtimm.com

And don’t forget to enter the drawing! Leave a comment at the end of this post along with your email address. Drawing ends at midnight on Saturday, September 2 (CST). Open only to those living in the United States (USA).

Author Cindy Huff on Fascinating Facts about Life in the Old West

So excited to welcome author and friend, Cindy Huff, whose debut novel, Secrets and Charades, releases today! I read and loved this historical romance which is full of action, surprises, and a very touching romance. Be sure to check out how to win a free copy of Cindy’s novel at the end of this post.

Before Cindy shares some of the fascinating  research that helped to bring her novel alive, here’s the back cover copy to give you a bird-eye view of her story’s characters and plot.

Jake Marcum’s busy ranch leaves him no time for courting, and his wounded heart has no place for love. When battlefield nightmares disturb his peace and his tomboy niece, Juliet, needs taming, somehow a mail-order bride seems like a logical solution.

Dr. Evangeline Olson has no idea her niece is writing to a rancher on her behalf, and she sure isn’t interested in abandoning her medical practice for a stranger. But when an inheritance threatens to reveal a long-buried secret, she 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, their fragile relationship is further tested by cattle rustling and kidnapping. Can their hearts overcome past hurts to create a real marriage?

And now … here’s Cindy!

Beth, I’m delighted to be back. The timing is perfect for sharing interesting the things I learned in my research. I love Jake and Evangeline and the crew of the Double M. But their story would be so flat without the research that helped to build my story world.

Beyond the internet

Before I created my story, I spent a few months reading books because the internet is not as detailed. When I googled female doctors in the 1800’s, I found some information. But the library, used books on Amazon, and my friend Chris’ extensive library offered far more interesting information. Chris is a Civil War reenactor and history buff. These resources also helped me create Evangeline’s backstory.

1800’s Women fought for education

In the 1800’s, educated men believed women’s brains were too frail to understand weightier subjects beyond what finishing school provided. Professors in medical schools did all they could to discourage women from attending. And those women who did were often excluded from cadaver dissection. The instructors insisted it was unseemly for a single woman to view a naked male body, even a dead one. Women had to work harder to prove themselves.

Naming the town

My story’s town of Charleton is fictitious. It took a lot of digging to create a town name not found anywhere in Texas. Google helped here.  Surprisingly, many names I made up were actual towns and each in the wrong part of Texas.

“Soldiers heart”

Jake and most of the Double M crew are Civil War veterans. The trauma of war affected each of them differently. Many who survived dealt with Soldier’s heart. (PTSD today) Strong, brave men became frightened, irrational, or violent at the least provocation. Some spent the rest of their lives in insane asylums. Others acted out and became outlaws. The James gang is an example. Bart, one of the secondary characters in Secrets and Charades, exhibits the negative attributes of soldier’s heart. This adds an unexpected twist to the story.

Horses

Jake served in the Confederate Army and, like his fellow-soldiers, admired General Lee. This is evident by the naming of his personal mount. The stallion resembled Lee’s steed, Traveler, who was both intelligent and loyal.

I was surprised to learn most ranch horses had no name. They were just tools of the trade. Most cowboys owned a saddle but not a horse. A few of my characters have horses with names. Being named made them more than just a horse.

Dishes and decorum

Evangeline brought trunks and crates with her. One special item was her grandmother’s china. Fine dishes could be found even in soddies and dugouts. New settlers built homes by cutting large sections of sod into bricks. Others dug holes in the side of hills. The interiors had carpet on the dirt floors and maybe a few nice furnishings and even curtains. These along with china represented civilization to the settlers. Mr. Farley, Jake’s wealthy neighbor, even takes his china on a cattle drive. He has a portable table covered with a cloth and china dishes for every meal. Families came west with at least a few pieces of china they used as everyday dishes.

Sewing and fancy work

Sewing machines might cost a few months’ wages, but the peddle-driven contraption was a wonderful time-saving device. Still, women prided themselves in their fancy work (embroidery, needlepoint, and tatting) and neat hand-sewed stitches. Bertha Wood, another secondary character, weaves wool into linen and dyes wool thread into a variety of colors for knitting. The description of the dying process got the ax in the final draft of Secrets and Charades.

Jesse James influence

Evangeline practiced medicine in Missouri before her adventure west. The James gang robbed banks and trains in Missouri. I ran across a story about them that made me laugh. Roadside inns with dormitory style rooms were places weary travelers stayed the night. The story goes Jesse James dressed as a woman while fleeing with bank loot. He stayed at one of these inns. Everyone thought it odd the woman insisted on sleeping with her valise under her head. This gave me the idea to have Evangeline carry cash hidden in her petticoat when she traveled west on the train.

Wild west chivalry

An outlaw refused to steal a woman’s horse. Instead, he rode past the female rider and continued until his horse gave out and he had to walk. At which point, he was arrested and hanged. The outlaws in Secrets and Charades are not as nice.

Former slaves populated the west

After the Civil War, many former slaves immigrated west. They ranched, farmed, founded towns and pursued other occupations. The blacksmith on the Double M is a former slave.

Gunfire

I discussed the types of guns available during this period with my friend, Chris. He explained how the Winthrop sniper rifle could hit its mark from a mile away. Unbelievable.

The one description I was constantly fighting not to get edited out of my story was the firing of this rifle. Bullets travel faster than the speed of sound. A victim fell before the report of the gun was heard. And yet, editors and critique partners unfamiliar with weapon fire wanted my character to hear the shot then see the victim fall.

Of course, most of my research never found a place in my novel. Some are destined for the sequel. And yes, I’m working on a sequel and have ideas for a third in the series.

To celebrate the release of Secrets and Charades I’m gifting a copy to a lucky commenter. Beth will choose the winner, and I’ll send them either a paperback or Kindle version. You must have a United States address to be eligible to win.

To be entered in a drawing for a free copy of Cindy’s novel, leave a comment responding to her post here. I will post the winner here next week Wednesday. You will then have a week to claim your free book.

Thank you Cindy for sharing such interesting facts about life in the West, and congratulations on the release of your first novel.

More about Cindy:

Cindy Ervin Huff is the 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 on Christian Communicator, Suburban Dog, ChristianDevotions.us, and Splickety Lightning Blog. Cindy is President of the Aurora, Illinois, chapter of Word Weavers. She and her husband make their home in Aurora, Illinois.

Visit Cindy on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cindyehuff, follow her on http://www.twitter.com/CindyErvinHuff, or connect with her at www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com.

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946016144/

Amazon author page:  https://www.amazon.com/author/cindyervinhuff

Like my Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/author.huff11/

Author Interview: Elaine Marie Cooper

Since I absolutely loved reading Saratoga Letters (October 2016), I’m pleased to welcome author Elaine Marie Cooper. She made stepping into Revolutionary War times so real I could weep for her characters. Thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions about your writing adventures, Elaine. We’ll get started in a few moments.

elaineBut first, here’s quick look at Saratoga Letters: It is 1777. The Battle of Saratoga, a turning point of the Revolutionary War, encourages the American Continental Army with their first great victory. But there seemed little to celebrate for one patriotic woman forced to nurse wounded British soldiers right in their war camp. Thrust into deception by a cruel Loyalist uncle, Abigail is forced to lie in order to survive, all the while dealing with fears that challenge her faith. Danger stalks her everywhere, yet her salvation springs from an unexpected source.

Then …

Two hundred years later, on the anniversary of the Battle of Saratoga, thousands arrive from Europe and the United States to celebrate the event—including descendants from the war. One young American, Abby, meets another offspring of a British soldier. When her life is threatened, Abby turns to the only person she knows at the event—her British ally. Can she trust him with her life? Or will he betray her in the same way Loyalist spies betrayed her ancestors? Perhaps letters from long ago will reveal the truth.

Now back to Elaine … would you tell us a little bit about yourself? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I was about eleven-years-old when my dad encouraged me to pen my first short story. I am forever grateful that he gave me the confidence to try.

What attracted you to writing historical romance during the American Revolution time period?

Since I grew up outside of Boston, immersed in the landmarks of the American Revolution, I also grew to love the history of our country, the stories and lifestyles of Colonial America. Add my own family history, and I was ready to write historical fiction!

9781938499142Where did you get your unusual story idea for Saratoga Letters?

Writing two different love stories 200 years apart was not my normal plot line. Yet my writer’s muse was piqued when I visited Saratoga: A park ranger told me about the bicentennial celebration of the 1777 Battle of Saratoga … and I lost my motel key! The lost key morphed into a mystery-suspense story that connected to the past.

What was the most challenging about writing Saratoga Letters?

Definitely the research! It became a nightmare. But with the Lord’s help, I managed to pull the story together. It was actually easier to get the information needed for 1777 than to gather the facts for 1977. I made a series of phone calls and sent emails to numerous people in the Saratoga Springs area to dig out the details of the bicentennial celebration. Now I can’t wait to meet the many historians and others who helped me in my research to thank them in person.

So, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?

I always hope readers will understand that our ancestors who lived long ago were not unlike us in many ways. They shared the same hopes and dreams, and while times and customs change, what is in the hearts of mankind—both good and evil—remains the same. And God continues to seek the hearts of men and women to serve Him today, just as He did long ago.

What do you like best about the writing life?

Working in my jammies? LOL!

Oh, my goodness, I do that, too! Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I just want to say “thanks” to readers who enjoy my stories and take the time to share their thoughts in reviews. It means so much that others are blessed by my stories, and I praise God Who has given me the ability to write.

Here’s more about Elaine:

Elaine Marie Cooper’s other published novels include Fields of the Fatherless, Bethany’s Calendar, and the historical trilogy the Deer Run Saga. She grew up in Massachusetts, the setting for many of her historical novels. Her upcoming release is Legacy of Deer Run (CrossRiver Media, Dec, 2016), Book 3 in the Deer Run Saga.

Find out more about Elaine on her website/ blog, www.elainemariecooper.com

 

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, ChristianDevotions.us, 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.