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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10 Benefits Awaiting Writers’ Conference First-Timers

You think you might like to write? You’re consumed with a burning idea but no clue how to take it from writing to publication? Maybe you’re sure you don’t write well enough yet.

Don’t let that stop you! Go ahead and attend a Christian writers’ conference. The benefits are astronomical. Here are just a few.

You will:

  1. Jumpstart your writing dream (You know you have one, right?)
  2. Be inspired by fantastic motivational speakers
  3. Learn from professionals how to write and get published
  4. Meet editors, publishers, and agents face-to-face. Find out what they’re looking for and discover that these brothers and sisters in Christ really want you to succeed.
  5. Receive valuable feedback about your writing skills through manuscript evaluations—maybe even an invitation to submit it for publication or suggestions regarding where to submit
  6. Make enthusiastic new friends who will validate your passion to write
  7. Begin to discover your niche as a writer and God’s plan for your coming year of writing.
  8. Spend a few days in Christian writer’s heaven on earth where people are kind, helpful, encouraging—and fun!
  9. Go home believing you can make your dream come true because you’re no longer alone. God and your new writer friends have your back.
  10. Look forward to next year’s conference to reconnect with your new writer friends, learn more, progress more, and enjoy another few days in writer’s heaven.

Don’t miss out! Sign up for a Christian Writers’conference today!

Here are a few I can personally vouch for:

Or check the Christian Writers Market Guide under “Christian Writers Conferences & Workshops” for other options near you!

Experienced conference goers, please help us out here: What favorite writers conference would you recommend to newbies considering first time attendance? And why?

Aspiring Writer: The Writing Contest

Talk about scary! Enter a writing contest along with so many excellent writers? Yet I was pretty sure this was the next step I was to take on my writing journey. So I prepared to person-frightenedenter …

The Writing Contest

I was clueless.

Only the Lord knew the wonderful surprise he had for me at the 2014 Write-to-Publish Conference.

Years of effort had taught me to do my best with each writing project and take the next step. That’s exactly what I did as I prepared for this conference, hoping I might qualify for the Written World Communications Contest.

The contest was open only to those who met all of the requirements:

  • attend the conference
  • make a one-on-one appointment with the publishing house representative
  • participate one of her evening critique sessions.

But none of that would make a difference if I didn’t first polish my novel.

Two weeks before Write-to-Publish, I set a deadline of ten days to complete that work. I divided the manuscript’s 310 pages and 28 chapters into roughly equal parts and set to work. Nine days later, I finished. For the first time, I believed my novel was not only good—as others had tried to tell me—but the best I could make it. No more niggling doubts.

With the manuscript for Her Deadly Inheritance copied onto a USB drive, I arrived at the conference. That first day whenI met with J. Christine Richards for my one-on-one appointment, she approved my entering the contest and received my USB drive to download my novel to her devise.

The third evening of the conference, I joined her critique group along with six other hopeful writers. When it was over, I left knowing I had done all I could. The outcome was now up to the Lord.

The next evening at the conference banquet, three other big awards were handed out before Chris went to the microphone. She talked about the chosen novel, and mentioned “Beth” and her belief that she might slaughter the author’s last name if she tried begonia-stunnedto pronounce it.

The room fell silent as I looked around expecting some other Beth to get up and receive the award. Then I realized Chris was looking at me. I mouthed, “Do you mean me?”

When she smiled and nodded, I froze in my chair. The dear writer next to me smiled, took my hand, and leaned over to whisper, “You have to go up and receive your award.”

Still stunned, I joined Chris. Then turning my back to the microphone, I whispered, “Are you sure?”

She grinned and nodded.

In that moment, God gifted me with a mentor and an editing coach, the two desires of my writer’s heart. The award also included the possibility of publication, once we completed the chapter-by-chapter editing.

God’s Word says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” ~ Psalm 34:7, New Living Translation.

***

Dear Reader, do you sometimes wonder if God cares about the longings of your writer’s heart? He does! Please know that at the right time and in the right way, he will give you the desires of your heart. Until then … delight yourself in him and keep moving forward as he leads.

~ Beth

Copyright 2014 Beth Ann Ziarnik

Aspiring Writer – The Unexpected

As unpublished novelists writing our stories with no contract in sight, we sometimes wonder. Will all this dreaming and effort take us to the land of published books? And then, along comes …

The Unexpected

Am I getting close, Lord?

That Spring, I decided to find out and entered my novel in the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Genesis Contest for unpublished novelists.

Weeks later, the scores from three judges arrived. What would one day become Her question-reallyDeadly Inheritance didn’t final, but oh, how exciting–it had missed by a mere fraction! One of the judges, a multi-published romantic suspense author, gave my entry an astounding perfect score and assured me I had a publishable manuscript.

Lord, is it true? Is she right?

A month later at the Write-To-Publish Conference, the manuscript evaluations for the first chapters of my two novels came back running over with enthusiastic comments. The publicist who evaluated them urged me to use her name and contact a Guideposts editor she believed would be interested.

I was stunned. Really, Lord? But God had more encouragement in store.

During an evening critique session at the same conference, a well-known author of romantic suspense listened as someone else read a portion of my manuscript. “Now that’s great writing! ” she said.

I was overwhelmed.

Then in September at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, agents and editors and published authors shocked me with their enthusiasm about my novel. One agent told me the publishers gathered at that conference were looking for romantic suspense. I could hardly believe it. Somehow my novel and I had arrived at just the right time. A time when Christian publishers were for writers of my genre.

What happened, Lord?

God’s answer was abundantly clear. “For the Lord is a just God. Happy are all who wait patiently for him” ~Isaiah 30: 18 (The Living Bible, Tyndale House Publishers).

After years of working and years of waiting, I was surprised to discover my novel’s time was near.

***

Dear Reader, you may be hurting. You may wonder if all your hard work will ever result in a published novel. Please don’t give up. God is with you and working behind the scenes to bring you to that right moment.

Until then, believe in your growing ability and God’s purpose and for your writing. Trust in his timing.

~ Beth

Copyright 2010 Beth Ann Ziarnik

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.

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?

 

“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?