Friday, January 25, 2019

May This Blog Haunt You Pleasantly - Part 1 (A Seriously Write Blog)

One of the things all authors do regularly is read about the craft. How to write, what to write, what makes exceptional writing, what doesn’t…all the nuances, opinions, debates, professional advice, and sometimes contradictory “rules” out there can make a writer’s head swim.

Especially if you’re a new author.

I am convinced, however, that if new writers wish to “get their minds right,” they should be reading about famous authors, for it may be just as important, if not more so, than reading what other authors have written—especially when seeking insight into “how” stories come to be.

I did just this very exercise over the holidays, reading Les Standiford’s The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits. There were a few things I pulled from the pages that have inspired me. In the next three months, I will bring three major “gleanings,” if you will, that arose from those pages and have relevance for us all.

Gleaning #1: Authors have always wished to get their works in as many readers’ hands as possible, sometimes at the chagrin of their publishers (if they are traditionally published) or themselves (if they are independently published).And if not handled properly, it can become an all-consuming fire.

For the remainder of the blog, click HERE!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Author Behind the Story - Cindy Ervin Huff

Happy New Year, Everyone! I hope your new year has been treating you well, and your Christmas season was a joyful one. It seems these events get closer and closer together until one is over and...Poof!...365 days have flown by, and we're celebrating another!

As we move ahead, it's always good to get to know somebody new. As it's been said before, enemies are easy to make, but friends are hard to come by, and you can never surround yourself with enough of them. So, in that spirit, I welcome Cindy Ervin Huff to our Author Behind the Story series!

Cindy, to jump start our conversation, give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Cindy Ervin Huff? 

Cindy Ervin Huff is a multi-published freelance writer who loves to bring her imaginary characters to life. She's a mentor for Word Weavers International and founding member of the Aurora, Illinois chapter. Her award-winning Historical Romance, Secrets and Charades, debuted in 2017, and her contemporary romance, New Duet, came out in 2018.

Being a founding member of two Word Weaver groups, I know all about helping get projects like that off the ground. And being a Word Weaver is a great boost and help, isn't it? What educational background do you have?

I graduated from Marion High School and then got married. This was not uncommon in the seventies. Lack of a college education didn’t stop me from writing for publication. I took Jerry Jenkins’ Writing for the Soul online courses, have a library of writing craft books, and attend a yearly writer’s conference. I am constantly learning and have yet to graduate from the writing school of life.

Who has? Do we ever graduate from that school? Are you married? Single? Have kids?

I met my soulmate Charley 45 and a half years ago. We dated a few months and married after I graduated from high school. We have five adult children and six grandchildren. I’ll soon have two step-grandchildren added to the mix. I’m a home-school veteran. I began back in the 1980's when everyone asked if could get arrested for teaching my kids at home. I soldiered on for fifteen years. My youngest attended a Christian school for a few years due to his learning disability. My two daughters experienced public school to complete their education. We were the minority white family in our neighbor. My children learned a lot about other cultures. 

When the words aren’t flowing, what is your favorite comfort food and why? 

Chocolate - always chocolate. Women reading this will need no explanation. 😊

If your life was a story, and you were the lead character, what kind of role would you play?

I’d be the wise, older character that guided the main characters to make good choices. But I’d be a bit wacky and at times clumsy making my character fun to be around.

For all the pet lovers out there, answer this question: Do you have any? 

Yes and no. We had hamsters, parakeets, fish, and dogs when my children were growing up. I preferred the dogs. Then our nest-emptied of all pets and most of our children. Then three adult children came back home at the same time with their dogs. That was more of an adventure than I wanted. We still dog-sit my daughter’s mini-doxie. Toby is old, blind, hard of hearing, and suffers from separation anxiety when he’s not with people. So, when neither she nor her husband is home, he stays with us. 

Everybody seems to have a bucket list. Do you? If so, what’s on it? If not, why not?

I’m not a bucket list person but if I had one this would be it:
  • Personal list: 
    • Traveling to my ancestral home countries: Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and England visiting the towns my ancestors immigrated from.
    • Visit places in Canada where some of my favorite books were written.
    • Take a family vacation that includes all my kids and their families.
  • As a writer:
    • I’d love to teach and speak at a conference
    • Make a decent living at my craft

Those sound like doable things. Although, the "make a decent living at your craft" one might prove the hardest. Besides storytelling, what talents do you have?

Until recently I sang on the worship team. I love singing. I do enjoy acting and performing readings. (These may fall under the writing-related topic, though.) If you want someone to keep kids quiet or make newbies feel comfortable at an event, I’m your gal. Once during a mission trip the others in my group abandoned me with a bunch of strangers while they stepped away to pray for our time together. When they were done, I’d made the strangers my friends, and they were very receptive to what was shared.

Besides the usual things authors face, has there been an unusual event that changed your perspective about being an author? 

I grew up in the military. That means you make friends fast and then leave them. Writing became an outlet for me. The story characters in my head at times felt like the only friends I had. I’ve always been an avid reader. Reading filled a void. So, writing to reach people who may be as lonely as I once felt is important to me. I understand how valuable reaching hurting people through a fictitious story can be.

It is interesting what motivates writers to write...It seems we all have similar aspirations, but they differ just enough to make them uniquely our own. Yet, all of us can relate to some degree. (Introverts Unite!) 

Do you have a crazy, interesting, behind-the-scenes story about the publishing world you’d like to tell your readers without boring them to death with industry gobbledygook?

It took ten years for my first book to get published. During that time I attended a writer’s conference every year. I helped with the set-up and volunteered for whatever needed doing. I met an array of interesting people along the way. Because no one stays a stranger around me long it was fun to reconnect each year and find sweet friends. A publisher and I met at one of my first conferences. At the time she was an acquisition editor for another company. Over the years we’ve organized a semiannual get-together of local authors who attend the same conference. It’s so fun to encourage one another in the conference off-season.

As a writer, if you had one thing you would do over again, what would it be? 

I would have gone to writers’ conferences when my kids were small and started my writing career. By now I would have had dozens of books published instead of two. I was published back then and have been through the years. It’s been a hit or miss thing until recently. My do-over would have been to be more consistent in submitting.

Do I hear an "Amen!" from the writer's crowd out there? Don't we all wish we would have started earlier? Tell us about what project you are currently working on. 

I have two projects. I have a historical romance involving a female architect who designs a town to build in Kansas where women run the majority of the businesses. She is a wealthy aristocrat. She hires a contractor who hopes the association brings him future work from the wealthy. But at times he wonders if his reputation will be ruined before it even starts. I have a pile of note cards full of possible catastrophes common to the era. A publisher is interested in the full mss so I need to finish it. It is book one in a series. Also, I need to finish my contemporary romance about a dog groomer, a widower with an adorable son, and a disobedient mutt. So fun. I’m hoping Love Inspired will say yes. 

What surprised you the most during the research for the book(s) you are currently working on?

I tend to over research and read things I will never use. I just read about the winter of 1886 in Kansas was so bad that several blizzards went through the area, one lasting five days and the temperature falling to forty below. Most of the cattle died, and in the spring, they found some dead in trees. They’d climb up them to eat the bark. Teddy Roosevelt at 29 had invested in cattle and lost 60% of his herd.

While reaching dog grooming, I visited my daughter at her shop. I laughed when they told me one dog plays dead every time he is groomed. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would be to cut its fur while he lays limp on the table.

Tell us about your writing day. How do you go about writing?

I work part-time and also watch grandkids, so my writing day can be a challenge. I rise early and try to get stuff like social media and my blog posts out of the way before working on other writing tasks. On work days I may only do editing and blog post, but no new chapters. On my days off I try to get new chapters written. Those days, I set out to write all morning. Because my office is currently overrun with stuff (my son’s family is living with us), I share space with my hubby. Actually, my desk is the dumping spot so I take my laptop to the kitchen table, or the couch or my bed and use the portable desk. Sometimes I’ll go to the library. I seldom write late at night. I’m a morning person, and my brain shuts off it’s creativity by 8 pm. If I set a goal to write X number of words a day when I need to get a book done I usually can do it. If I’m starting a new idea and haven’t pitched it to anyone, I’m not as productive. A deadline makes me move.

Knowing what you know now about writing, publishing, etc., what piece of advice would you give to the person thinking about writing that novel they have always wanted to pursue since they were young, or the person who believes they have a non-fiction book in them that would be helpful to others?

Learn all you can about the writing craft. Write the book and join a critique group either online or in person. Learn all you can from their input. If the group is too negative or self-absorbed, find another one. Word Weavers and ACFW have serious writers in their groups that want to help each other get published.  Attend conferences to gain knowledge and network. Sometimes it’s who you know that opens publishing doors. And if you decide to self-publish, get a great editor who knows how to edit for publication so your work is stellar. Don’t forget to pay for a great cover artist so you attract attention to your content. However your work is published, be prepared not to quit your day job from the sales.

But Cindy, in every movie or TV show I watch, the nobody person who writes a novel becomes an instant success. Why can't it be that way in real life? (hehehe...) 

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

They tell me their names.

That sounds a little ominous...but if you could have them deposit money into your bank account, too...well, then, there's a book everybody would want to read.

If you had one person you could meet (think outside the Bible here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be?

Mary Connealy. I love her novels. She writes non-stop. I could learn a lot from her.

I know when I read other writers I enjoy, I learn just from reading their works...a turn of a phrase, new words, how to describe, when not to, etc. 

If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus?

Paul. I’d like to hear him preach and teach about the things I’ve studied in his letters to the church.

When you look for a new home, what are the things that are important to you?

My hubby and I have been talking about this lately. We’d like to downsize. Our home needs office space, a guest room, and no outside maintenance. So we are thinking town homes or even an apartment. Preferably in a quiet neighborhood. We love walking, so sidewalks and nature trails are a must. Walking helps my creative juices. There needs to be enough parking for family get-togethers and a lovely view off the patio where we would have cook outs.

When you look for a new car, what are the things that are important to you?

Hubby and I have been talking about this, too. We are in need of a new car. The ideal car would have great gas mileage, a reputation for durability and longevity, too. I’d like a key fob that starts the car and turns on the heat in the winter. A great sound system and auto headlights. And if the seats warm in the winter and cool in the summer that would be heaven. Lots of leg room in the back because I’m tall. When we pick up my mother, she rides in the front, and she pushes her seat back.

When you are looking for a book to read, what are the things that are important to you? 

I love a good story. The cover needs to match that story. I may pass a book up if the cover doesn’t catch my eye. I tend to prefer Historicals. But I love a good mystery, and a few sci-fi and fantasies with great covers and back cover copy have found their way on my to-read pile. Recommendations of friends can influence my selection. And if I love the first book I read by an author, I will usual grab another.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?

Hear my cry, O God; give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61:1-2).

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover? 

I’m a late -in-life novelist. At 63, I’m working on my fourth book. I have friends in their twenties working on their first. The beauty of a career in writing is you’re never too old or too young to get started. Find your niche and keep writing.

Amen to that! 

Cindy, I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to be a part of our Author Behind the Story series! May God richly bless your writing ministry.

And friends, if you wish to get to know Cindy better, please stop by and visit the sites below:

Until next time, May God bless America, and may America bless God!