when your characters become real

when characters bcm real.png

I recently started a new novel and have been developing my main characters. What do they look like? Where are they at in their faith walk? What do each of them do in the face of adversity? What scares them? Invigorates them? Upsets them? What are their hobbies? What was their upbringing like?

Characters are the funnest thing to create as a writer. We spend a lot of time thinking about our characters and putting them in seemingly impossible situations. I love writing character-driven books, and as a very visual person, it helps tremendously for me to have pictures of the characters on hand. Although, the first time I had a picture of a guy taped to my computer monitor, my husband Lon asked, “Who is that guy?”

“Oh, that’s just Zach.”

“Zach? Do we know him?”

“Well, you may not, but I do. You see, he’s the main character in McKenzie, the first book in my Montana Skies Historical Romance Series. A figment of my imagination.”

Several years ago, Hailee, the third book in that series was published.

I remember when I first began creating the characters that made the series come to life. Particularly, busybody Lucille Granger, who makes her cameo appearance in all three books.

I sat perched on the staircase in our house, watching in anticipation for my husband Lon to come home from work. He was scarcely through the front door when I began tugging on his arm, “Lon!” I exclaimed.

“Is everything ok, Pen?” After all these years of marriage, he knows about my exuberant and creative personality.

“Yes, yes, it’s fine. I can’t wait for you to meet Lucille Granger!”

“What? Lucille Granger? Do we have company?”

I shook my head and laughed while leading Lon up the stairs and into the office. When he saw me pointing for him to sit in the blue “guest” chair in the office, he nodded his head knowingly. He’d been in the blue “guest” chair many times before. Yep, it was making sense to him now – Lucille Granger wasn’t someone visiting for dinner. She was one of the secondary characters I’d developed for my Montana Skies Series.

I read with excitement the chapter where I had created Lucille’s personality. She was nosy, presumptuous, and demanding, yet she had a good heart. I had waited all day to share my newest creation with the person I love most in this world, and now that time had come. Wasting no time, I flipped through the three pages of typewritten text, complete with voice changes to further bring to life Lucille’s character.

Being the sweetheart that he is and on a quest to earn “husband points”, Lon listened as I read.

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Ahhhh…the life of a writer. There’s nothing quite like creating new characters and watching the words flow on the page. There’s nothing quite like pressing the word count button and seeing the words increase at a nice rate. When you write, you come to know your characters as if they are family members, friends, or neighbors. I thank the Lord daily that He has given me the ability to do this job. I owe every word, every paragraph, every page, and every character to Him.

Portions of this post first appeared on Author Linda Yezak’s blog at https://lindayezak.com/2011/11/30/when-your-characters-become-real/

vote for the book trailer you like best and win!

Since it’s been awhile since we’ve had a giveaway…

Leave a comment about which book trailer you like best and I’ll pick a winner from all of the entries to win a copy of the corresponding book!

Is it the book trailer for Kaydie, Book #2 in the Montana Skies Historical Romance Series –

Here’s the blurb:

Kaydie2

Haunted by her painful marriage, Kaydie Worthington Kraemer is determined never to fall in love again, and it will take the grace of God to change her mind—the same grace that works in the heart of ranch hand Jonah Dickenson, a confirmed bachelor who has unhealed wounds of his own to overcome.

 OR…

The trailer for Hailee,  Book #3 in the Montana Skies Historical Romance Series:

Here’s the blurb:

hailee (3)For years, orphan Hailee Annigan was just a ragamuffin in the Cincinnati streets, stealing food to keep her two younger brothers fed. Her thievery landed her in a home for delinquent youngsters, where her life was changed, thanks to her teachers. Now, nineteen-year-old Hailee excitedly heads to Montana to be a teacher, yet she’s still plagued by her shameful past and the fear of never seeing her brothers again.

Based on his upbringing in high-society Boston, no one would have guessed that Nate Adams would attend seminary and become a church pastor in rugged Montana. Even now, Nate’s parents refuse to put aside their own plans for his future and accept his calling.

When their paths converge, an immediate attraction draws Hailee and Nate together, even as the pressures and demands of others pull them apart. Can the unlikely pair come to terms with their pasts and face the future together?

While there’s not yet a trailer for the book that started the whole series, I invite you to check out McKenzie, Book #1 in the Montana Skies Historical Romance Series:

McKenzie2

Desperate to save her sister from an abusive husband, socialite McKenzie Worthington responds to a mail-order bride ad in the Montana Territory—where God-fearing rancher Zachary Sawyer prays for a wife to share his life. But when McKenzie arrives with a plan that includes divorce, will Zachary’s persistent kindness and self-sacrifice change her heart?

All books are available in paperback, Kindle, and Nook formats.

McKenzie is available at your favorite bookstore or –

Amazon

Christian Book Distributors

Kaydie is available at your favorite bookstore or –

Amazon

Christian Book Distributors

Hailee is available at your favorite bookstore or –

Soooo… now here’s your turn! Tell me which book trailer you liked best and I will choose a winner at random to win a copy of the corresponding book! And although McKenzie doesn’t have a book trailer, you can pick that book if you’d like a chance to win it instead.
The small print: Entering is super simple. Leave a comment below about which book trailer you liked best (or if you’d rather choose McKenzie). Anyone can enter, and if you’re a subscriber to this blog, you get an extra entry. 🙂 The winner will be chosen at random. If the winner resides in the U.S., they will have their choice of either a paperback or ebook version. If the winner resides outside of the U.S., they will receive an ebook copy. Contest expires November 1, 2013.
If you’re on Facebook, stop by and say “hi!” 

Book Giveaways This Week…

Happy Wednesday morning! I hope you are all having a great week.

A couple of announcements to share (including a couple of freebies at the end of this post!)…

McKenzie2Today is the last day to have a chance to win a copy of McKenzie on Amada Chavez’s awesome blog at http://ascphotosanddesigns.blogspot.com/2013/02/interview-and-giveaway.html. Amada interviewed me and asked some fantastic questions about the writing life, including how I started writing, where I write, and how I came up with the idea for McKenzie. So…if you didn’t have a chance to download McKenzie while it was free on Kindle last week, here’s another chance for you to get your hands on a copy!

slide fam smSecondly, anyone who has read my books will notice that I’m a huge supporter of adoption. As such, when my fellow writing friend Jessie Gunderson told me of the dream she and her husband have of adopting two precious children from Ethiopia, I knew I had to help.

Jessie and her husband are attempting to raise $1,800 to begin their dossier to bring their children home. She is offering everyone who makes a donation a chance to be entered to win a first place prize of Disney Tickets. There is also a second place prize – a choice of one of any of five of my books (paperback form of McKenzie, Kaydie, Hailee, 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference, or Hollyhocks). All of the details are at Jessie’s blog. Please consider a donation of any size to assist in giving two children their forever home.

77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference

jake and jesusThird, don’t miss the awesome birthday celebration! My fellow author friend, Kelly Hagen, is celebrating the two-year anniversary of her delightful children’s book Jake & Jesus and you’re invited! When you purchase her book, you will have a chance to win an autographed copy of Kaydiebook #2 in my Montana Skies Historical Romance Series. You’ll also receive valuable savings off Amanda Beth’s books You Can Have a Happy Family and The Love Walk (both books I would highly recommend!) and a discount off JBAM Candles. All of the details are at Kelly’s blog.

Kaydie2

If you’d like to read the review I wrote of Jake & Jesus, you can find it here. The review I wrote for Amanda Beth’s You Can Have a Happy Family can be found here.

You Can Have a Happy Family is also free on Kindle today and tomorrow. The Love Walk is free tomorrow for Valentine’s Day.

Amanda_Beth_Book_cover

Lastly, join me in the coming weeks for a revamped blog, including some changes on my Movie Monday postings. I’m looking forward to sharing some more fantastic movie reviews with you and some hilarious and inspirational posts. Stay tuned! In the meantime, feel free to check out my Mom-Approved Movie Listings for some fantastic ideas for your next family night.

Planning on a get-together? Find out how to host your own Sisters in Christ Community Girls Night Out.

Have a fantabulous rest of your week and join me later today for my annual Valentine’s Day post.

And the winners are…

Wow! It’s been a busy Christmas and New Year, but not it’s time to announce some winners from the past few giveaways. First of all, thank you to everyone who stopped by and showed their support for my author friends. We all appreciate you!

And now, without further ado, here are the winners:

Winds of Wyoming by Becky Lyles – Amada Chavez

Grace, Miracles, and Chocolate by Marriott Cole – Kay M.

The Love Walk by Amanda Beth – Kelly H.

A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California by Keli Gwyn – Lilly

Thank you to everyone who entered. The authors will be contacting you soon.

And thank you to Becky, Marriott, Amanda Beth, and Keli for being my guests!

If you are looking to win my book Hailee, Book #3 in my Montana Skies Historical Romance Series, check out the Christian Book Review Blog at http://christianbookreviewblog.blogspot.com/2013/01/author-interview-and-giveaway-hailee-by.html where a copy is being given away to one lucky winner. But hurry! Contest ends January 19, 2013!

 

 

 

Interview and Giveaway with Author Deb Raney – 3 book giveaway!

I’m super excited to welcome Author Deb Raney to my blog and she is giving away, not one, not two, but THREE books. Yes, you read correctly! Deb is giving away a copy of each of the three books in her Hanover Falls Series.

Here is a bit about this awesome series:
An unlikely group of people are drawn together to cope with the tragic aftermath of a fatal fire at a downtown homeless shelter in Hanover Falls, Missouri. Four widows, one widower, a battalion chief, and a son of one of the heroic firefighters—a rookie fireman himself—struggle to make sense of their broken lives in the midst of discovering the mystery surrounding the fire that destroyed their dreams and their futures.
 
Doesn’t this sound like a series to be added to your TBR list? And now, let’s take a minute and meet the author behind the books…
Thank you for being with us today, Deb. It is such an honor to have you here discussing with my readers your latest series. Speaking of which, what was your inspiration behind your Hanover Falls Series? A few years ago, my husband placed a newspaper clipping beside my plate at breakfast one morning, the story of nine firefighters who died in a tragic blaze in South Carolina. “I think there’s something worth exploring here,” he said. I began thinking how the tragedy would change the lives of those firefighters’ families, yet how they would pull together, because the firefighting world is a “family” unto itself, and before long, the Hanover Falls series was putting itself together in my mind. My niece is married to a firefighter whose family has a proud history of serving as firefighters and my nephew-in-law was an invaluable resource to me, sharing stories and details about the world of firefighting, and loaning me his training manuals for most of the three years I was writing these books.

I love hearing the inspiration behind books, Deb! Do you have a favorite book in the series? A favorite character? I am learning that I’m a little fickle when it comes to books. At one time, I would have said that Almost Forever, the first book in the series, was my favorite, but with After All (book 3) just released with a nice review from Publishers Weekly and readers responding so favorably, now I’m leaning toward After All as my favorite. I really love my “middle child” Forever After, too! Fickle, I tell you!

I completely understand! I can never answer that question when I’m asked to choose which book I like most in my Montana Skies Series. Speaking of books, what is your favorite verse in the Bible and why? For several years now, I’ve thought I really should change my “favorite verse” because it seems like my verse is everyone’s favorite verse: Romans 8:28. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. And yet, that verse has been so foundational in my life that I want to shout it from the rooftops. It’s wonderful to know that even when I can’t see anything good in a certain circumstance, God’s intention for me is good. And everything that happens to me serves HIS purpose for my life. That’s a truth you can live by!

That is such a great verse!  And now, for my favorite question… if you were suddenly given one million dollars, what charity would you like to found and why? I don’t suppose I could talk you into letting me found the Deborah Raney Travel Through Europe Fund, could I? Well, in that case, I would want to fund a charity that provides workers to rebuild Haiti. My parents served on the board of an organization that supported a girls’ home in Haiti, and for more than a quarter of a century, they spent a week or two every winter working at that orphanage. Twice my family and I were scheduled to go with my Dad to spend time at the girls’ home near Port au Prince (I was researching my novel, Over the Waters, set in Haiti) but both times the trip was cancelled at the last minute due to unrest in Haiti. But because of my parents, I have a heart for the country and people of Haiti. What amazes me is how much an American dollar can accomplish in that poverty-stricken nation. We have so much and are so often discontent. They have so little, and seem always to be smiling. There’s a lesson there!

What a wonderful idea for a ministry – and I loved learning about your parents and their ministry to Haiti. Lastly, where can readers connect with you?

http://www.deborahraney.com

https://www.facebook.com/deborah.raney

https://twitter.com/authordebraney

http://novelgarden.blogspot.com

Thank you again for being here, Deb. You are truly an inspiration!

Deborah’s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after 20 happy years as a stay-at-home mom. Her books have won numerous awards including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. Deb’s 23rd novel will release from Howard/Simon & Schuster Spring 2013. She and her husband, Ken Raney, enjoy the wildflowers and native grasses in the Kansas prairie garden in their large backyard. They also love traveling together to teach at conferences, and to visit four children and four small grandchildren who all live much too far away.

And now, readers, here’s your chance to win all THREE books in Deb’s Hanover Fall’s Series! All you have to do is leave an encouraging comment for Deborah. A winner will be chosen at random. Sorry this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. If you are a subscriber to this blog, you will receive two entries.  The contest ends on October 25, 2012.

Also, stay tuned as I will be announcing the winners of Lisa Buffaloe’s book Nadia’s Hope and Darlene Franklin’s book A Bride’s Rogue in Roma, Texas tomorrow.

Starbucks gift card and book giveaway celebration!!!

In honor of Mother’s Day and my blog’s anniversary, I am giving away two Starbucks giftcards and two books to two lucky winners!

My mom and I on a hiking trip – love ya Mom!

When I first decided to begin blogging two years ago, I had no idea what I would be blogging about. I knew it would have something to do with my passion for writing books, inspiring and encouraging others, bringing humor into the lives of others, and sharing about movies for the entire family. Thus, A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, & Author was born!

I want to thank everyone for visiting my blog and leaving comments over the past two years. I have enjoyed meeting you all and appreciate you SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much!

So, in celebration of my blog’s anniversary and a very important upcoming holiday – Mother’s Day – I am giving away two prizes each to two winners. Each of the two winners drawn at random will receive both a Starbucks giftcard and their choice of one four of my  books: McKenzie, Kaydie, Hailee, or 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference.

Choose from a book in my Montana Skies Series:

McKenzie: Desperate to save her sister from an abusive husband, socialite McKenzie Worthington responds to a mail-order bride ad in the Montana Territory—where God-fearing rancher Zachary Sawyer prays for a wife to share his life. But when McKenzie arrives with a plan that includes divorce, will Zachary’s persistent kindness and self-sacrifice change her heart?

 

 

 

 

Kaydie: Haunted by her marriage to an abusive man, Kaydie Kraemer is determined never to fall in love again, and it will take the grace of God to change her mind – the same grace that works in the heart of Jonah Dickenson, a confirmed bachelor who has unhealed wounds of his own to overcome.

 

 

 

 

 

Hailee: For years, orphan Hailee Annigan roamed the streets as a thief trying to provide for her siblings. After turning her life around, she’s finally getting a fresh start. But what will happen when she crosses paths with the handsome Reverend Nate Adams?

 

 

 

 

 

Or from my nonfiction book…

77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Serving others is a vital part of the Christian life. Time and again Christ demonstrated the importance of putting others first and giving what we can to help those less fortunate. As adults, we recognize the importance of instilling these values in our children and youth, but simply telling them to love their neighbor isn’t enough; to leave a lasting impression, they need to see and experience love in action.

Filled with suggestions, activities, Bible verses, and topics for discussion, this re-usable manual inspires families to look for ways to make the world a better place by making a difference in the lives of others.

 

 

 

Keep the book  and giftcard for you, or win it for that special mom in your life!

Here’s all you have to do...leave me a comment about what you love most about your mom and which book you would most like to win if you were chosen as the winner. Anyone can enter (I’m sorry, U.S. residents only on this one) and confirmed subscribers receive two entries.

In addition, because this is a giveaway in celebration of Mother’s Day and my blog’s anniversary, you can earn an extra entry for “liking” my newly-remodeled Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pennyzellerbooks.

A big “thank you” to social media designer Carrie Chwierut of Carrie’s Social for the remodel of my Facebook page, which included some awesome tabs!

Giveaway ends on Thursday, May 10, 2012. Two winners will be chosen at random to each receive a Starbucks giftcard and their choice of one of my books.

I feel blessed beyond blessed that God has called me to be a mom. And to my own mom and to all the mother’s out there, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Exciting News!!!!

I couldn’t wait to share with you some exciting news…

Kaydie and Hailee just became available on Kindle! Now all three of my Montana Skies historical romance books are available to those who love to read books on Kindle.

Below is a bit about each book. And thank you for sharing in my excitement!

Desperate times call for desperate measures is the reasoning that prompts McKenzie Worthington, a young lady of Boston’s high society, to respond to an ad for a mail-order bride for a man in the Montana Territory. McKenzie is desperate, after all, to save her beloved younger sister, Kaydie, from her evil, abusive husband, who robs banks for a living. And so, it is with reckless determination that McKenzie runs away from the comforts of home and hearth to head West and meet her new husband-whom she’ll divorce, of course, after she rescues her sister.

Desperate times call for desperate measures is the reasoning that also prompts Zachary Sawyer, a rugged rancher after God’s own heart, to post an ad for a mail-order bride in various newspapers across the country. Managing a ranch and caring for his adoptive son, Davey, has become more than one man can handle alone, and Zach prays for God to send him a wife with whom to build a life and share his dreams.

When McKenzie arrives at Zach’s ranch, she immediately puts her plan in motion, searching for her sister and doing all she can to keep her new husband from forming an attachment. But his persistent kindness and significant self-sacrifices begin to change her heart-and ruin her plans. God has a way of working things out to the good of those who love Him, though, as McKenzie will soon see.

Available on Kindle and in paperback athttp://www.amazon.com/McKenzie-ebook/dp/B004IPPEW2/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

For the first time in years, Kaydie Worthington Kraemer can breathe easily. Although she is still haunted by memories of her abusive husband, Darius, she takes comfort in knowing the man is dead. Staying with her sister McKenzie and brother–in–law, Zach Sawyer, at their ranch, Kaydie is still wary of men, especially now that she has another life inside of her to protect. As she looks forward to her baby’s birth, she builds a protective wall around herself that won’t be easy to tear down.

Ranch hand Jonah Dickenson views his boss, Zach, like a brother. He does not, however, envy Zach’s new role as a husband. Deserted by his mother at a young age and forever despised and rejected by his own father, Jonah has few close relationships. But there’s something about Kaydie that draws him to her and makes him question his decision to remain a bachelor.

When Cedric Van Aulst, an old friend of Kaydie’s, comes to town, an unforeseen prospect of marriage arises. Cedric is someone Kaydie trusts. Will she settle for a safe union with him, or can she trust God to guard her heart and her life in the arms of Jonah?

Available on Kindle and in paperback at http://www.amazon.com/Kaydie-Montana-Skies-ebook/dp/B006OSND1A/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

For years, orphan Hailee Annigan was just a ragamuffin in the Cincinnati streets, stealing food to keep her two younger brothers fed. Her thievery landed her in a home for delinquent youngsters, where her life was changed, thanks to her teachers. Now, nineteen-year-old Hailee excitedly heads to Montana to be a teacher, yet she’s still plagued by her shameful past and the fear of never seeing her brothers again.

Based on his upbringing in high-society Boston, no one would have guessed that Maxwell Nathaniel Adams Jr. would attend seminary and become a church pastor in rugged Montana. Even now, Nate’s parents refuse to put aside their own plans for his future and accept his calling.

When their paths converge, an immediate attraction draws Hailee and Nate together, even as the pressures and demands of others pull them apart. Can the unlikely pair come to terms with their pasts and face the future together?

Hailee is available on Kindle and in paperback at http://www.amazon.com/Hailee-Montana-Skies-ebook/dp/B006OSNCF2/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

And the winner of the Starbucks giftcard giveaway is…

Ok…I have to keep you in suspense for a minute longer! A HUGE thank you to everyone who visited my website at www.pennyzeller.com for my Website Remodel Party and left an encouraging comment about what they liked about the site. I SO appreciate all of you!

Secondly, I am SO thankful for www.random.org because there would have been no way I could have chosen a winner on my own. Your comments and your kindness blessed me so much that I wish I could give you all a Starbucks giftcard! But, since I can’t, I let random.org choose a winner and that winner is…

JULIE LIPPO !!!

So congratulations, Julie! I will be in touch with you to get your address.

Be watching because I have more awesome giveaways coming up, especially during my 12 Days of Christmas Celebration beginning on December 1 where you can enter to win awesome books by some of my favorite author friends.  I’ll also be doing another Starbucks giveaway in the very near future.

Thank you again to everyone who entered. I hope you have a blessed Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

A side note: If you’re in a quandary on what to purchase your wife, daughter, sister, mom, grandmother, or friend for Christmas, I just discovered that Christian Book Distributors has all three of my Montana Skies Books available for $19.99! At that price, that’s almost like getting one free! Here’s the link: http://www.christianbook.com/montana-skies-series-volumes-1-3/pd/742744?item_code=WW&netp_id=916458&event=ESRCN&view=details

hailee

All three books are also available at your favorite bookstore and at most online retailers. For more information about my books, please see http://www.pennyzeller.com/books.html

Wooooo hoooooo!!!!!

After days of keeping a close watch on our local UPS man, my author copies for Hailee finally arrived! Wooo hoooo!!!!! Guess I’ll have to quit pestering the UPS guy for awhile. 🙂

There is just something SO exciting for an author to hold her published book for the first time! After dreaming up characters, writing scenes, and editing chapters, the dream has finally become a reality!

I absolutely cannot wait for readers to revisit the characters who call Pine Haven their home in the final installment of my Montana Skies  Series. There are new characters as well, including my heroine, Hailee Annigan.

Hailee is set for release on September 1, however, word on the street is that it’s already available in a number of places, including Amazon and some local bookstores. Awesome!

Thank you for sharing my excitement with me. Have a great week!!!!

The Humorous Side of Writing…

As I sit here pondering the creation of new characters for the third book in my Montana Skies Historical Fiction series, I recalled a hilarious incident regading a character from “McKenzie…” 

McKenzie (Montana Skies #1)

I sat perched on the staircase in our house, watching for my husband Lon to come home from work. He was scarcely through the front door when I began tugging on his arm, “Lon!” I said.

“Is everything ok, Pen?” he asked me. After 18 years of marriage, he knows about my exuberant, creative, and at times, far-fetched personality.

“Yes, yes, it’s fine. I can’t wait for you to meet Lucille Granger!”

“What? Lucille Granger?” Lon looked at me. “Do we have company?”

I shook my head and laughed while leading Lon up the stairs and into the office. When he saw me pointing for him to sit in the blue “guest” chair in the office, he nodded his head knowingly. He’d been in the blue “guest” chair many times before. Yep, it was making sense to him now – Lucille Granger wasn’t someone visiting for dinner. She was one of the secondary characters in McKenzie, the first book in my Montana Skies Series.

I read with excitement the chapter where I had created Lucille’s personality. She was nosy, presumptuous, and demanding, yet she had a good heart. I had waited all day to share my newest creation with the person I love most in this world and now that time had come. Wasting no time, I flipped through the three pages of typewritten text, complete with voice changes to further bring to life Lucille’s character. Being the sweetheart that he is and on a quest to earn “husband points,” Lon listened as I read.

Ahhhh, the life of a writer. There’s nothing quite like creating new characters and watching the words flow on the page. There’s nothing quite like pressing the word count button and seeing the words increase at a nice rate. When you write, you come to know your characters as if they are family members, friends, or neighbors. I thank the Lord daily that He has given me the ability to do this job. I owe every word, every paragraph, every page, and every character to Him.

On that note, it’s time to create the delightful, patient, and caring Miss Fanshaw for my third book…