Friday, July 18, 2008

Promises, Promises by Amber Miller

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Promises, Promises

Barbour - July, 2008


Amber Miller


Hi, I'm Amber, but my friends call me Tiff, short for Tiffany, my first name. Writing had always been a hobby, a way for me to express my innermost thoughts and feelings in a way I sometimes find difficult with the spoken word—although my friends will tell you "shy" is not in my vocabulary. Thanks to the gentle nudging of a fellow author—Tracie Peterson—in 2002, I took the next step in my writing career and joined the American Christian Fiction Writers. I owe all so many there a hearty hug of appreciation for their constant encouragement and unselfish assistance. I feel a lot more confident thanks to their support and love. For those of you who are also fiction writers looking for a wonderful support group, check them out!

I got involved with Web design in 1997, when I was asked to take over running the official Web site for the television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. That eventually led to a series of negotiations where I was offered the job of running world-renowned actress Jane Seymour's official fan site. That has branched into doing Web sites for a variety of clients, including: authors J.M. Hochstetler, Trish Perry, Kathy Pride, Louise M. Gouge, Susan Page Davis, and Jill Elizabeth Nelson, actor William Shockley (the voice of AT&T and Sony), and many others. With the help of a handful of other Web site "technos," Eagle Designs was born! Feel free to visit and see our other clients.

Books are a definite passion. Why else would I be writing and publishing them? I firmly believe that a good book can take you away from all of your problems, into a world you've never seen. My favorite food is Italian; I sing all the time, and I once worked with my church choir to do a professional recording for a music CD of our performances.

I am in my 30's, married the love of my life in July 2007, and live in beautiful Colorado, but I love to travel and visit new places. Ultimately, my dream is to own horses and live in a one-level rancher nestled in the mountains. For now, I will remain where I am and do what I love—design Web sites and write.


Raelene Strattford knows God has promised never to leave or forsake her. But after the catastrophic deaths of her parents, she doesn t believe it. What kind of God would take a girl's family and leave her alone in a wild land where women have no voice? Gustaf Hanssen has admired Raelene from afar for a while, but his poor attempt at courting her in the past has made him unwelcome in her life. When Gustaf promises Raelene's dying father that he will take care of her, he finds himself bound to her happiness, her success, and her well-being in ways he never imagined. To keep his word must Gustaf really oversee all of Raelene's affairs, find her a husband, and maintain her farm, while she does nothing but scorn him? Can God reach through Raelene's pain and self-centeredness and give her the love that awaits, if only she will accept His will?

If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE

At this time, Promises, Promises can only be purchased through the
Heartsong Book Club.

Margie's comments: Last evening, I took Promises, Promises with me to the Laundromat. (Here in Georgia we live in a very basic apartment out in the country. Smile. So we make a weekly trip into the closest "big" town to do laundry and grocery shopping.) In between washing and drying our clothes I got to read an excellent love story . . . and learn more about the early settlers to our country. That's why I love to read historicals—I love learning about how people lived, worked, and yes, loved in the times before us. And I'm not really picky about time periods or locations. Tiff made her characters come alive as they faced some unusual circumstances and worked through conflicts that we don't normally consider difficulties today. Like a woman alone trying to do business in a man's world. I enjoyed taking the journey to love with Raelene and Gustaf as they were forced by law and by a father's dying wish to work together to provide a home for Raelene in a rough, new world. As a proofreader for Barbour, I've read a lot of Heartsongs over the years, and Promises, Promises ranks pretty near the top of my favorites. I look forward to reading many more books by this author.

I'm glad I can count Tiff as one of my friends in the writing world. And over the past year since she married and moved to Colorado, I've gotten to know her better. This week she graciously allowed me to interview her. I think you'll enjoy reading this interview as much as I enjoyed it.

Thanks, Tiff, for joining us today on The Writer's Tool.

How did you get started writing, and where has that journey taken you that you may not have expected starting out?

My journey began many years ago. I wrote my first short story in 5th grade with several accolades from both my teacher and my fellow students. It was even entered into a “Young Writers of America” contest and placed but didn’t get selected for publication. Ever since I learned to read at age 3-1/2, I’ve been telling stories, and I could often easily keep a captive audience. Writing seemed to be a natural progression from the verbal. And in high school, my senior English teacher saw potential as well, encouraging me to pursue a career in writing. I chose an Education degree at the time, but that wasn’t a good fit for me.

In 1997, I wrote my first fan fiction and received a lot of encouragement and feedback that made me realize I might be able to make something of this ability. It took me another 5 years and encouragement from Tracie Peterson (one of my favorite authors) before I took the step professionally to begin a career by joining a national organization called ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers).

I did everything I could to improve my skills and develop my craft. I bought writing books, studied a wide variety of fiction, conversed with other writers and authors, attended conferences, purchased audio recordings of workshops and presentations, and soaked up as much information as I could handle. Four years later, I sold my first book and took the rather scary step into the world of authorship.

You’re still a newlywed, how do you balance family life with writing?

To be honest, since Stu and I married just after our 20’s, we had a lot of time to figure out who we are separate from each other and were able to share that with the other one. This has helped us tremendously with how we utilize our time and still make sure to be there when the other one needs us. We’re not the young married couple clinging to each other at every turn and impossible to separate.

Stu works outside the home, and I don’t. So that gives me a significant block of time during the day to take care of business related to my Web site clients, read and answer e-mails and get some writing done. He calls me when he leaves work, and I start dinner. When I’m not on a deadline, we enjoy a movie or TV or a card/board game in the evenings for about 2 hours after dinner.

How does your walk with the Lord affect your writing? And how do you balance time with the Lord with your writing schedule?

I turn each and every book over to Him first and foremost. I ask that He guide my fingers over the keyboard and write the story He wants written. Because my walk with the Lord is an ongoing, all-day dialogue, it’s closely intertwined with just about everything I do, including my writing. I often find lessons learned through the characters’ experiences in my books, or the editing process, or research as well.

I’ll admit it’s tempting to skip church when I’m on a deadline and the story isn’t coming, but I don’t. I realize I need that time to worship and fellowship and get a break from the book. Otherwise, I risk my writing not being refreshed or containing the underlying theme God wants me to have.

Since my blog is geared to writers who want to improve their self-editing, could you briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision?

Wow! This is a loaded question. But, since I wrote my very first complete book in 19 days and my second in 27 days, I’ll use those as the “brief” process. When I get an idea for a book, I usually sit down immediately and dump my thoughts on paper, then save it. That way, even if I can’t write immediately, I won’t lose the idea.

From the time the idea strikes, I begin planning what types of events and situations I’ll include. I start with my 2 primary characters and build upon them with friends, family and acquaintances. I put at least one of them (maybe two or three) in a situation to open the book by jumping right into the action, then let the story tell itself from there. I don’t often have an exact plan how the story will go, but I have a general guideline and outline to use as reference.

When I really get into a story, the words fly from my fingers. Because I am a bit of a perfectionist, I can’t often progress forward until I’m certain I have the primary bits of the story in place before moving to the next chapter. This means I might stop in the middle of a scene to do a little research or consult a writing book on how to “fix” a problem that’s bogging me down. If I can’t find it within 5–10 minutes, though, I skip it, make a notation, and move on. I also edit as I go, rather than dump and come back later to edit.

This process continues until I type the last word of the book. Then, I take a few days off from the story and come back to it with fresh eyes to make any necessary revisions. Since I am overly detailed in the initial draft, revisions for me don’t usually take too long. Even when I get the edits back from my editor after submission, most of the changes are minor compared to the overall flow and characterization and motivations throughout the story.

My own changes, the ones from my editors, and the suggestions from a couple of select readers who preview my work, all combine and take me a maximum of two weeks of work after the first draft is done. Altogether, it would probably take me 4–6 weeks to write a novel the size of Heartsong Presents books (mass-market). For trade-length, though, it would likely take me about 3–4 months, because there are so many more layers to weave into the story.

Oh, and I also have an online critique group of 2 other writers, plus an in-person critique group which meets weekly. They all point out the overuse of words, plot issues, character inconsistencies, and dialogue ID issues.

It’s definitely a team effort, and I’d be lost without those who help make my books shine in a way I could never do alone.

What kinds of things do you have to revise once the editor at a publishing house gets done with your manuscript?

From my experience, it hasn’t been a lot. Although, I will say there was a significant issue in my 3rd book where I had to do major revisions in the overall story. They wanted me to change the opening 2 chapters, which meant I had to go through every subsequent chapter to adjust the references back to the beginning.

Other than that, the minor fixes are made by my proofreaders and copyeditors at Barbour. The other corrections such as consistency, timeline issues, 2-dimensional character reactions, or plot issues, are all listed with chapters and page numbers and e-mailed to me with a proofed copy of the manuscript. I am given a deadline to get those changes back to my copyeditor. After that, I receive the galleys a couple months later.

So far, I haven’t had much to change. And that makes me feel good about the quality of the manuscripts I’m giving them.

Would you tell us a little about your future projects?

Book #3 is next up on the release schedule for December 2008. It’s the 3rd and final book in the Delaware Brides series and takes readers through the Revolutionary War, but from the perspective of Delaware’s significance in the events.

I have sold 4 books with the promise of 2 more and 2 repackages of those 6 novels into anthologies. By the end of 2009, I'll have 7 books in print. This year, I'm working on finding an agent so I can present my books to a variety of publishers and diversify a little more. I have 2 historical novels and 2 contemporary I’m trying to sell so I can break into trade-length fiction.

Right now, I’m working on book #5, which is the 2nd book in the Michigan Brides series. Book #1 was just submitted on July 15th. It releases in May 2009.

Finally, would you discuss Promises, Promises? The research, the idea, and the scope of the project?

About five years ago, I was driving by a house that I passed almost every day while running my usual errands. I spotted the historic marker at the edge of the driveway with a notation that said, “circa 1740.” I thought to myself, “If only those walls could speak.” What a story they would tell!

That started me on a research journey where I learned everything I could about the home. When I ran into a snag where historic details weren’t provided or were incomplete, I took a literary license and . . . made it up!

The “what if” moment came when I tried to develop the premise. Some excellent advice given to me said to take your character to a point that seems hopeless . . . and make it worse. So I asked, “What if a heroine with no siblings also loses her parents, then finds herself as the sole owner of land in a new world where women have no voice, feeling as if God has forsaken her?”

And thus, Promises, Promises was born!

The research required quite a bit. I had to dig into archives of letters and newspaper articles to get a feel for the voice and speech patterns. I also had to study the clothing and the everyday activities of the farming person along with the more elite members of society. Drawing the reader into the setting and making them feel lost in the past is important to me. It's what makes certain historical novels a part of my favorites list, so I try to do that for the ones I write as well.

When I began writing that first one, I knew it wouldn’t stop with just one book. So, I planned 2 others in the series, and they all became Delaware Brides.

Thank you so much, Tiff! We appreciate your time and the opportunity to spotlight your work.

Thank *you*, Margie, for hosting me and spotlighting my book. I appreciate the support. Looking forward to when I can return the favor!


Kimberley Woodhouse said...

Margie - I love you to pieces and miss you terribly!
Great post - and kudos to Tiff as well!

Tiffany Amber Stockton said...

Wow! Near the top of your favorites list for Heartsongs? That IS flattering. Perhaps one of these days, you'll be asked to proofread one of my future books. :) That would be awesome.

Thanks again for spotlighting me...all the way from Georgia. It'll be fun having you back in Colorado when you return.

Oh, and hi, Kim. :)

Patti Shene said...

Hi Kim and Tiff. Great interview! You both did a nice job. Tiff, I'm so jealous. I cannot imagine writing a book in 27 days! I don't even want to think of the number of years I've been working on mine, and according to my latest crit chapters, I don't even have chapter one right yet!

Patti Shene said...

Uh, sorry, that should be crit partners, not crit chapters! Guess it's time to put the laptop to bed!