Convenient Brides Blog Hop Giveaway!

Welcome to The Convenient Brides Blog Hop!

Convenient Bride CollectionWe hope you’ll enjoy getting to know the nine authors and their novellas included in The Convenient Brides collection. My story, Bonnets and Bees, is set during the tinderbox year of 1871. Some people remember that as the year of Chicago’s Great Fire, but conditions were so dry that wasn’t the only blaze that erupted in the Midwest. The dry prairie succumbed to many smaller fires, but the Peshtigo Fire in Wisconsin was actually the worst.

My heroine is a Milwaukee bonnet maker, married in name only to a farmer and beekeeper after her father’s will stipulated she marry in order to inherit the shop. Since the ceremony, she and her bee-loving husband continued living separate lives, barely sparing a moment’s thought to one another. But when her bonnet shop is destroyed by fire, she learns her insurance company was one of the many that went bankrupt due to so many claims that year. The last thing she wants to do is ask her husband for help. After all, he already did her the favor of marrying her so she won’t impose upon him again.

But her husband is a man she’s known only by name—and he has more noble intentions than she ever realized.

Please enter our raffle, below, and sign up for my newsletter to let you know about future novels.
Prize Package Includes:

7″ Kindle Fire

Kindle Fire Cover (You’ll have a choice of colors)

The Convenient Bride Collection ebook – OF COURSE!

Kindle Versions of:

The Cactus Creek Challenge by Erica Vetsch

A Secret Hope by Renee Yancy

A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears

Two Brides Too Many by Mona Hodgson

The Oregon Trail Romance Collection with Jennifer Uhlarik

The Most Eligible Bachelor Collection with Gabrielle Meyer, Amanda Barratt, and Erica Vetsch

12 Brides of Summer Collection #2 with Maureen Lang

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you don’t like Rafflecopter, you may email mjagears AT gmail DOT com for an entry; put Loaded Kindle Fire Giveaway in the subject line to be entered.

Happy Reading!

The Sweetest Words Since He Said “I Do”

We’ve been doing a couple of remodeling projects in our house, and one of the more strenuous jobs my husband tackled was to pull up a rather long hallway of old tile. He was like a whirling dervish, pulling up the base flooring right along with the heavy tile while my youngest son and I carried the debris out to a waiting dumpster. Lots of work, but boy oh boy was I happy to see that tile go!

However, while my husband was working, one of his knee pads slipped and somewhere during the process he hurt his knee. Well “hurt” is an understatement. He burst the bursa, which is a sack between the joints that can fill with liquid to protect the body. He felt it immediately, but then like the hard working man he is just kept going.

This happened the week before Easter, and since then his knee went from an irritation to an infection that refused treatment—leading to surgery to drain the fluid so the antibiotics could work. My husband was pretty insistent on going home the same day of the surgery, assuring the doctor we could handle the dressing changes. For instruction, the doctor made an iPhone movie of how to clean and dress the incision.

I suppose you’re wondering where those sweet words come in . . .

Many of you know I’m a caregiver to my handicapped adult son. I’m familiar with cleaning more cavities of the human body than anyone would want to hear about. So what’s a little dressing change, right? Little did I realize my husband’s incision was going to be left open for healing.

Oh, my. It’s one thing to change a band-aid on a stitched incision, but this was something else entirely. I watched that iPhone movie three times with a sick stomach, thinking multiple exposure would help me get used to the idea of using Q-tips to stick gauze underneath the skin.

When I was finally able to show my husband the movie of how to change the dressing, you might guess what those sweet words were.

I’m doing this myself.

Four magical words, freeing me of the agony that I’d be hurting him—if I could manage to do it at all.

So the following morning we get everything ready. I’m standing by in case it’s harder than he thinks. We take off the old dressing. Despite the blood, I’m okay for about fifteen seconds. Have you ever seen an open incision? On your husband? I can only imagine what it felt like for him, seeing the insides of his own knee that’s just not meant to be looked at.

I tried to be of some help but shortly after those first fifteen seconds I knew only one thing: if I didn’t sit down I was either going to vomit or faint. How’s that for a helper? I sat, not even watching. Although he did pale a bit from the pain, my husband was able to dress the wound himself the way the doctor instructed.

Perhaps some day we’ll laugh about all of this, but honestly even just writing this makes my stomach churn. I always knew God didn’t wire me to be a nurse, and this confirmed it.

May I salute every single nurse and doctor out there, those steel-stomached gifts from heaven? My husband has said to me more than once he should have gone into a medical profession, and if I ever needed convincing this did it.

Who would have thought “I’m doing this myself” would be words I’d be forever thankful for?

Steady but growing!

As usual on a Monday morning, I’m sitting at my computer but beyond my desk is a window offering a view of our front yard. In the spring, I’m often struck by how quickly things seem to be growing. When the leaves on the bushes fill in, the color green floods my office. Farther out, the trunk of my favorite tree looks sturdier than ever! It’s in that sort of young adult phase, sapling years far behind and now offering strong branches and a trunk that withstands the best of the northern winds.

My own young adult phase is certainly far behind me – I’m at an age when I don’t think of myself as changing much. I guess if you don’t count the gray hairs that seem to be appearing every day, most of my changes are pretty gradual. But I think it’s important to keep growing, spiritually, intellectually, even physically although it might be mostly a fight against decay!

I was reminded just this morning about the changes a writer goes through during the course of a career. If I still had a copy of that first book I wrote back when I was ten years old, I’d probably cringe at the mistakes I made. But I wonder if I would see some of my own voice, unchanged through the years?

That prompted me to take a peek at my first Christian novel, published back in 2006 (Pieces of Silver) to see what differences I might find. It’s rarely a good idea for a traditionally published author to look back at something that was signed, sealed and delivered long ago – there’s no hope of changing it now. Every time I read something I write, whether it’s the second or the tenth read-through, I always spot things I’d change, edit out, improve.

But I did recognize my voice between the sentences demanding another edit. It’s largely the same voice as with my latest release (The Cranbury Papermaker). It simply sounds like my writing, even after nearly ten years of growing and learning more about the craft.

Change is inevitable, for good or ill. Healthy things grow and improve, while things that are neglected eventually turn chaotic or end. I’ve nurtured my writing so I’m hopeful it’s changed for the better through the years, even though that core voice remains largely the same, or at least similar to the sort of writing I’m still producing that (hopefully) entertains others.

It’s like my tree. It’s still my tree, with the same sort of leaves and symmetrical shape and lovely colors, but it’s growing each and every year. Bigger, stronger, a more visible presence in my yard that offers comfort in its shade and enjoyment from its beauty.

Here’s to change! Think about some of the ways you might have changed over the years. You might be pleased to see the growth!

Behind My Decision . . .

. . . to publish independently!

As I mentioned in my previous post, my upcoming novel, The Cranbury Papermaker, will be independently published. That is, I’m publishing it myself rather than going through a traditional publishing company the way I have for all of my previous titles. To many readers, how a book is published isn’t really important as long as it’s easy to buy and isn’t filled with errors. But I did want to share some thoughts on a few differences and why I chose to branch out this way.

In the past, getting into the traditional market meant authors had to outshine and/or outlast a great number of others vying for relatively few publishing slots. We’re thrilled to be chosen, our passion for storytelling noticed and validated by industry professionals. Then we’re assigned to a team that helps make the story not only shine but we get to see our books packaged nicely, and delivered to a waiting audience reached mainly through established distribution channels (bookstores which carry that publisher’s titles).

At that point the author begins the nail-biting part of the process. There may only be one name on the cover, but it’s not just one person on the line. Editors cheer hard for the projects they’ve adopted, and so does the cover designer, the marketing staff, PR, the publisher overseeing the projects holding their house insignia, the sales staff that works for the widest distribution and others behind the scenes like media personnel and warehouse staff. We all look good when sales soar. To some extent, members of the team bite their nails, too, because a winner makes everyone look good—and a string of tanking books may mean the end of a job.

The traditional publishing world as described is still there, but the industry has changed a lot in the last few years—due mostly to advanced technology like e-book readers (i.e. the Kindle) and how books are delivered. Traditional publishers used to be the only way to get a book to market—through brick-and-mortar stores. But with the Internet delivering books directly to the reading public in old and and new forms, traditional publishers have competition they never had in the past.

Nearly every author is feeling the upheaval. How it settles, whenever that happens, is anyone’s guess. One thing is certain: the old days where publishing houses alone determine which stories reach the reading public are gone. People are still buying and reading, but not necessarily traditionally published books. That means it’s even harder to get in, then stay in, the traditional market.

While I’ll continue to sell books traditionally like my two novellas that are being released this summer, I can already taste the freedom that comes with publishing on my own. Being part of the team I described above is great, but it has a few drawbacks. Waiting what seems an extraordinary amount of time for a place in the lineup of other books the publisher is releasing. Worries over how an agent, editor, publisher and the rest will be disappointed if sales don’t soar through the roof. Independent publishing is truly that—independent. No worries about meeting expectations apart from my own. No worries about comparison in an industry that is as competitive as you want it to be, not as defined by the rest of the traditional world.

For many of my fellow authors, taking control of both the creative and the business end of publishing is exciting. They count themselves blessed to be a writer in this era, when we can bypass publishing gatekeepers. Independent publishing is not only more affordable than ever, the tools to succeed are as near as your computer. Besides all that, the author maintains control over things like content, cover, release date, marketing and price.

But the nuts and bolts of independent publishing come with challenges, too.

When I first considered self-publishing, the control I described above seemed more overwhelming than exciting. I don’t consider myself especially entrepreneurial. In fact, the business end of writing is something I’d prefer to ignore. What do I know about designing a cover? And I may love to write, but putting together an effective blurb – the teaser on the back cover or the book description online – falls under marketing, not your typical storytelling.

Finishing a story without an “official” deadline, without an editor to encourage you along the way, or a team of experts collaborating on cover, interior design, and making sure all the “t’s are crossed the i’s are dotted”, leaves the author pretty much on his or her own. Accountability to oneself is actually a challenge I was warned about before jumping in.

Self-publishing offers authors the freedom to write whatever they wish, but the market is free to ignore any product it’s not interested in. Publishers are constantly tuned in to meeting the market demands. Lucky for me I write romantic books, so I didn’t have to do a lot of market research into a genre I already enjoy as one of many readers.

Surprisingly enough, getting my feet wet in this venture has been easier than I expected. Assembling a team to help with things I can’t do on my own was as simple as asking for a little help from my friends. :-) But I do know this: whether my first independent book soars or sinks, I’ll be the only nail-biter in the bunch. There’s something to be said about that.

So here I am, releasing a book that I had total control over. Not having the extensive team around me that I’ve so appreciated in the past is a little like stepping outside in my skivvies, but then, change often feels that way, doesn’t it?

MaureenLang_TheCranburyPapermaker_1400px

 

The Cranbury Papermaker is now available as an e-book through Amazon and will soon be available in print as well—hopefully by the end of March. It should also be coming up on Barnes and Noble for Nook readers, but I don’t yet have a link for that.

I hope you’ll enjoy the story, this first effort of my own doing!

 

Details:

E-book price: $4.49

Print price: TBD

Pages: 334 (print version)

What I’m Up To Lately

I nearly feel like re-introducing myself because it’s been so long since I’ve blogged here! My name is Maureen and I’m a blogging laggard . . .

Not that I haven’t been busy behind the scenes, and occasionally blogging with my Christians Read buddies. I did take a little time off to concentrate on my growing family, seeing those precious years of childhood coming to an end with my youngest son. But I couldn’t stay away from writing altogether, and I have been doing just that!

First, I want to share how I’ve been inspired by my friend and colleague Jane Steen who helped me take my first dive into independent publishing. Initially the prospect of tackling what seemed like more business than art seemed a little intimidating. I’ve loved working as part of a publishing team, trusting others in the traditional world of books to make all the important decisions. Just thinking about finding an editor, a cover artist, someone to format various versions for e-book and print was nearly overwhelming. But guess what? That old adage about taking one step at a time has been true since the first time those words were uttered. Once I made the decision to test the waters of independent publishing, breaking down the steps and following one at a time has been easier than I expected.

It started, of course, with writing a book I’m excited about. That’s always the easy part for me, and so I wrote The Cranbury Papermaker. But after that I needed to find the other team members I mentioned above—an editor, a cover artist, and someone to format the novel to be read in different ways (e-book readers as well as print). That’s where friends who have already plowed through this forest-of-the-unknown really proved vital! Between Jane’s example and the advice of several other authors I know, I was able to contact people in the right place to get the process started.

So I’m hoping to be ready to release this first independently published book by the end of March — just a few weeks away! Here’s the cover, which I’m really pleased with:

MaureenLang_TheCranburyPapermaker_800px

Isn’t it pretty?

 

And here’s a little blurb about the story:

Will he steal her inheritance . . . or save it?

Arianne Casterton is devastated when her father and his new wife are killed in a train accident. Despite her faith in God, her grief soon turns to despair when she discovers one-third of everything her father owned has been transferred automatically to his wife’s son and heir, Jonas Prestwich—someone Arianne never knew existed.

Jonas’s mother married a backwoods papermaker much too soon after becoming a widow, embarrassing Jonas who lives among Philadelphia’s elite. Though he’s distressed by his mother’s death within a year after losing his father, receiving a portion of the papermaker’s inheritance feels like justice. The man obviously seduced his mother before the flowers had wilted on his father’s grave—and perhaps even earlier than that.

Though God has blessed Arianne with the passion and talent to be the next gifted papermaker in her family’s tradition, she finds the demands of keeping the business going to be nearly overwhelming. When Jonas offers to expand the business to something more modern and profitable, Arianne is suspicious, reluctant to give up the art of handmade papermaking. But she realizes without his unwanted help she might lose everything anyway.

Can two people with such impossibly different views of art and business ever merge . . . even when love tries binding them together?

I’ll be sure to let you know the exact day in late March when the book will be available – actually getting the book to market is one of the steps I haven’t taken yet, so until I get there I’m not sure how it’ll go. It’s true that I’m taking this a bit on faith, but so far the steps have worked out and I hope that will continue to be the case!

I’m also continuing with the traditional market, where the publisher handles all of the details I’m only just beginning to learn about. I’ll have two novellas coming out later this year, short romantic stories that will release in July. The first, Bonnets and Bees, is a fun story in the upcoming Brides of Convenience series. I’ve always loved that particular romantic twist, putting two people together with seemingly no way out . . . until, of course, they discover they don’t want a way out at all.

My second novella is a re-gathering of the popular 12 Brides author group which got together to produce the 12 Brides of Christmas this past holiday season. Like that collection, our work will appear in print first and available exclusively at Walmart, or as an e-book online everywhere, starting in July. This time our collection is called The 12 Brides of Summer, and each of us are taking a minor character from our Christmas story and highlighting them with their own new romantic tale that will be set in the summertime.

I’ll introduce covers on those novellas as soon as I have them to share!

So there you have it. I’ve been in my chair writing after all, which is exactly where I sense God designed me to be.

My Writer’s Retreat

This past weekend I was blessed to be able to hang out with many of my favorite Christian authors. We had time to worship together, pray and share, talk about the industry and of course spend many meals together. It didn’t hurt that we met at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, and with the unexpectedly cold weather came their holiday displays. My phone takes terrible pictures so most of those I took came out blurry (okay, perhaps it’s operator error . . .) but it was an already lovely hotel dressed up with thousands of twinkling lights.

The Cascades Atrium at Opryland Hotel
The Cascades Atrium at Opryland Hotel

Screenshot 2014-11-17 10.40.13The tree of poinsettias is probably too dark to really enjoy the effect, but it was too gorgeous not to want to share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tamera Alexander, Jill Eileen Smith, Kathleen Fuller, Maureen Lang
Tamera Alexander, Jill Eileen Smith, Kathleen Fuller, Maureen Lang

It was great to share some time with others who have the same passion, not just for writing but writing for the Lord. Some people I knew only online, so putting faces to names was fun. Kathleen Fuller and I have known each other for well over ten years but only just met face-to-face for the first time. I told her she’s not nearly so tall in her emails! But she’s every bit as sweet in person, so we fell into the comfortable friendship we’ve enjoyed for years. The picture above is the first online critique group I was part of, begun before any of us had published in Christian fiction.

Have you ever gone to a conference and felt that way? Knowing everyone there shared the same passion? Whether it’s a writing conference, a woman of faith conference, a craft group, whatever it is—stepping into a room of like-minded people always brings a sort of “belongingness”, doesn’t it? If you haven’t already experienced such a thing, I hope you’ll take the opportunity in the future to enjoy something like this!

I also hope you’re enjoying the weekly releases of the 12 Brides of Christmas! This week is Miralee Ferrel’s Christmas novella, The Nativity Bride. Enjoy a little romance this season!