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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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: 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.