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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Writer's Life: Jody Hedlund

Welcome to another edition of Writer's Life! Every Wednesday features a writer of inspirational or sweet romance novels. I'm excited to share some of my favorite authors and hope you'll find new books for your to-be-read pile!

Please join me in welcoming the mega-talented Jody Hedlund today!! Jody is one of my favorite authors for a variety of reasons.
1. Her books ooze with conflict, drama, romance, and history!
2. She's been a mentor and friend to me for many years.
3. She's one of the most generous writers you'll ever meet!
Her latest book, Captured by Love takes place during the War of 1812 on Mackinac Island in Michigan. We visit the island every few years, so I could not wait to read this book, and, let me tell you, it was worth the wait! I've read history books about Mackinac Island, but Captured by Love brought the rich past of this pretty island to life in a way history books couldn't. My review is below.

Let's get to it!

1. What about writing makes your heart sing?

As a writer, I love telling stories. I especially like the feeling that comes as I near the end of the book when everything looks hopeless, the characters are in big trouble, and somehow I’m able to wrap up the book in a satisfying way. I call it the first-draft love affair! I fall absolutely and madly in love with the story and think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.

2. What is the biggest hurdle you're facing right now as a writer?

My biggest challenge at this stage in my life is dividing my time between writing and being a mom. Since I'm a work-from-home mom, there are many special issues that arise around setting boundaries, time management, as well as teaching my children to respect my work time.

And like most modern authors, we're struggling in this new age of shrinking shelf space and closing bookstores to get the word about our books out. With many readers shopping online these days, it's difficult to find ways to promote our books and get discovered by readers. We count it such a blessing when fans spread the word and leave book reviews! We authors appreciate that so much!

3. What do you do to fill your creative well?

When I have a minute or two to myself, I love to read! I've taken to using audio books as a way to squeeze in more reading, especially as I'm doing house chores or exercising. I've realized that reading sparks my creativity like nothing else does. Not only do I glean nuggets of ideas that I can build upon for my own stories, but I also learn a lot about writing techniques from studying what other authors are doing.

4. What are you working on now?

Currently I'm in the middle of writing my lighthouse series for Bethany House Publishers. I took a trip in June to Michigan's Upper Peninsula to the far northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. I stayed in an assistant light keeper's cottage for a week to research. It was by far one of the most beautiful trips I've ever taken!

***

I love writing the first draft too, Jody! I call it first-draft-land, my happy place. Then revising kicks in, and it's not quite as happy. Ha! My son started listening to audio books this summer. It's a great way to read when you're pressed for time or have a less-than-perfect attention span. I try to read books outside my genre every month or two. It loosens my brain up! Oh, your light keeper's cottage experience sounds amazing!! Now I can't wait to read your lighthouse series!

Thanks so much for being my guest today!

***




Michigan Territory, 1814
A voyageur and a young woman swept up in a time of upheaval and danger
discover firsthand the high price of freedom.

The British Army has taken control of Michilimackinac Island and its fort, forcing the Americans to swear an oath of loyalty to the crown in order to retain their land. Pierre Durant is a fur trader who returns after being away from the island for years, only to find the family farm a shambles and those he cares about starving and at the mercy of British invaders.

Torn between the adventurous life of fur trading and guilt over neglecting his defenseless mother, Pierre is drawn deeper into the fight against the British--and into a relationship with Angelique MacKenzie, a childhood friend who's grown into a beautiful woman. She now finds herself trapped by the circumstances of war and poverty, and the cruelty of her guardian, Ebenezer Whiley.

As tensions mount and the violence rages on, Pierre and Angelique must decide where their loyalties rest and how much they'll risk for love.

***


About Jody ~
Jody Hedlund is an award-winning and bestselling author of inspirational historical romances.

As a busy mama-writer, she has the wonderful privilege of teaching her crew of 5 children at home. In between grading math papers and giving spelling tests, she occasionally does a load of laundry and washes dishes. When she’s not busy being a mama, you can find her in front of her laptop working on another of her page-turning stories.

She loves reading almost as much as she loves writing, especially when it also involves chocolate and coffee.



***

My Review ~ 5 Stars!!!


Captured by Love captured my attention from page one and didn't let go! I'm from Michigan, and I've visited Mackinac Island many times, so this book touched me in a personal way. I loved Angelique's sweet, spunky spirit. The stakes were high for her in this book. To help her dear, almost-blind friend, Angelique faced punishment from her jerky guardian and the British soldiers in control of the island--yet she continued to sneak away every morning. Her integrity kept me turning the pages.

And Pierre...what's not to like about Pierre? Protective, strong, charming, and very alpha male--I loved him! No spoilers, but there was a point midway through where I held my breath after Pierre did the most perfect thing! Yeah, he was my kind of hero.

As always, Ms. Hedlund excels at bringing the drama, the romance, and weaving it all into an interesting setting. 

Loved this book!

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book with no obligation to review it. All opinions are my own. **

***

Do you have a vacation spot steeped in history? Have you read any novels set there?

Have a terrific day!!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Taking the Week Off

Busy schedule this week so I'm taking a blog break. See you next week!!

~ Jill

Friday, July 25, 2014

Author Photos!! And Tips For a Productive Session

I had such a great time getting new author pictures taken yesterday! A HUGE thank you to Sarah Paull for her patience, mad camera skills, and eye for interesting poses!

I'm sharing my favorite photos with you today. I had a really hard time picking favorites! They were all so pretty!

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I'm really impressed with the variety of poses and settings Sarah used. I had a great time--it feels so good to have pretty pictures for my website again!

Jill's Tips for a productive AND fun photo shoot if you're heading outdoors:

1. Try on a variety of outfits with accessories before the shoot. Bring one or two changes of clothes (make sure there's a bathroom for changing!). I wore a white T-shirt, swapped accessories, and added a blazer for different looks. I also brought a dressy spring outfit and a bright sweater with jeans. This gives me options for the seasons. Put a bag of outfits together the night before.

2. Select a park that has interesting features. The one we chose has a huge brick mansion, formal gardens, a river, a boardwalk, a covered wooden bridge, an uncovered wooden bridge, brick walls, a gazebo, and tons of trees/flowers/lawn.

3. Take 15-20 pictures (both close-ups and full body) in each outfit and try at least two settings for each outfit.

4. Outdoor shots depend on light. If some shots seem too dark or shadowy, edit them in a photo editor. Don't be afraid to use effects to salvage dark pictures! Here's one I love--and it now has a retro-fifties look to it!


5. Since we chose a venue with plenty of options and one with a bathroom close by, we were able to move pretty quickly. We got about 100 pictures taken in one hour. And that's with three changes of clothes. Not bad!


Have you ever been part of a photo shoot? 

Have a wonderful weekend!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why New Author Photos Are Time Eaters

It's been over four years since I had professional author photos taken. Two years since I forced my kids to take pictures of me with our basic digital camera. I decided it's time to get new pictures.

*Time consuming tasks? I'd rather be in Saugatuck, Michigan.

There's a reason I don't get new photos very often. Well, there are several reasons, but the main one? It's time-consuming. Should be easy, right? Make an appointment, show up, let the photographer do her thing, and I'm done.

Oh, no. 

No, no, no.

I make this seemingly simple task difficult. *sigh*

Let's see why:

- I felt awkward in a studio, and the control freak in me wanted to be able to use more than the three photographs they allowed. So I could either shell out big bucks for a professional who would take pictures outdoors, or I could enlist the help of local friends who own good cameras. I opted to ask a friend. (It took me about a week to decide this.)

- Call said friend and set up a time and place to take the pictures. (15-20 minutes)

- Get my raggedy hair trimmed and highlighted. (2 hours)

- Purchase new foundation that matches my summer skin tone. (20 minutes)

- Buy a small thank-you gift and write a thank-you note to the photographer. (30 minutes)

- Pluck my wayward eyebrows. (15 minutes)

- Decide on outfits. I want these pictures to last, so I'm wearing summer appropriate and winter appropriate clothes. My clothes depressed me. Add shopping for a new shirt to my list. (2 hours)

- Do a test run on hair and makeup. (1 hour)

- Have the pictures taken! (2-3 hours)

- After the shoot, go through all the pictures. Resize and edit for various social media sites. (2-3 hours)

- Replace profile pictures on all social media sites. (1-2 hours)

What looks like a 2-3 hour task, actually works out to a full year of my life. Okay, not quite a full year! But all those details add up to 10-15 hours.

I remind myself it's worth it. I love having clear, pretty pictures on my sites, and having this done ensures just that. Hopefully, I can wait many more years before doing it again!

What have you put off because it will involve hours of time-consuming details?

Have a fabulous Wednesday!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Adorableness

Few things make me say "awww" as quickly as seeing pictures of babies or pets. So when I clicked on UsWeekly Magazine's online site this weekend and saw Prince George walking, my heart melted a little. The link above leads you to His Royal Cuteness. :)

Speaking of pets, look at this happy face! Sophie loves summer as much as I do! She's such a fun dog.



Not as adorable...being stung by a jellyfish. My son spent a week in Florida with a good friend, and the first night there was stung by one! Ouch! Thank goodness soaking the sting in vinegar for thirty minutes helped heal it. Phew!


Jellyfish

Oh, we have teeny-tiny jalapenos growing in our garden. So cute!!

What adorableness have you come across lately?

Have a terrific day!!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Art Fairs, Concerts, and Shopping

I've been packing in some summer fun since Wednesday. First, I spent an entire afternoon in Ann Arbor, MI at their annual art fair. This festival is HUGE and planned very well. It's actually four art fairs in one, and many of the roads are blocked off so you can wander from street to street and catch the various venues.


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The art fair delights my frugal soul. For the cost of gas and a $3.00 round ticket bus ride from Pioneer High School parking lot to downtown, I was able to wander around the gorgeous shopping district, browse art, people watch, and soak up the University of Michigan's incredible architecture.

Another plus? I went by myself! I could walk at a slow pace, browse each booth as long as I wanted, and dart in and out of the shops on Main Street without feeling rushed. A wide range of art was displayed--etchings, photography, painting, ceramics, jewelry, sculpture, textiles--you name it!

I wrote down the artists I loved the most so my husband and I could browse their sites later. This morning, I went to their websites. I purchased two breathtaking 8x10 photographs by one of the artists. I had already bought two large frames with mattes at TJ Maxx. The total cost for two framed, unique, professional art pieces will be $60.00. Not bad!

Earlier this spring, a Groupon deal came through my e-mail for our zoo's concert series. My hubby and I purchased concert tickets 40% off. The Gavin DeGraw and Matt Nathanson concert was last night. We had a great time. The artists sounded amazing. Plus, the zoo has a relaxed atmosphere and easy parking. A perfect date night for us!

Yesterday, I spent a few hours shopping. We have two outdoor malls nearby, but I rarely go to one of them. Well, I found three new stores I'll be returning to for Christmas presents. I love finding boutiques that specialize in eclectic gifts.

I love summer! Sometimes I have to force myself to take time off, but I never regret being outside, doing things I normally don't do.

Have you done anything different this summer? 

Have a fun weekend!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How I Make My Writing Life Easier

A few years ago, I was starting a new novel and I wasted time trying to remember my process. I also stressed about if I was forgetting anything. That's when it hit me. Why not write myself a template--a checklist--of steps to do each time I start a new book?

YES! 



Since I'm a plotter, I used OneNote. I created a Notebook with several tabs. The first tab was named, Plotting. I added several pages for character guides, GMC chart, Romance Journey, and Plot Points. Additionally, I typed up a numbered list of what order to fill the pages out. 

In addition to Plotting, I created tabs for Business, Research, Scene List, and Revising. 

This template made my writing life a whole lot easier!

Why? Having written instructions, an ordered way to tackle the project, and one place to keep all of my data frees my mind to focus on the book. I don't worry I'm forgetting anything. And I have every piece of information at my fingertips that I will need later. 

I called this OneNote Notebook my Book Plotting Template. I use it whenever I write a new book. So easy! 

Now that I'm facing new responsibilities with an actual editor (!!!), I created another section in the Business tab. It includes title lists, deadlines, and how-to-fill-out-the-Art-Sheet. I'm feeling much less stressed now that I've typed up instructions to myself. 

What is your best tip for making your writing life easier?

Have a terrific day!