Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Interview with Deborah Vogts with book drawing

I'm so excited to have Deborah Vogts visit my blog today. Debbie and I have been crit partners and friends for years and she's become like a sister to me. Last year, she sold her Seasons of the Tallgrass series to Zondervan. I remember reading this story a number of years ago and am so excited that it is now in print. At the end of the interview, be sure and leave a comment for a chance to win your own copy of this fabulous new book, Snow Melts in Spring.

Lisa: What was your initial reaction in finding out you sold your first book, Snow Melts in Spring?

Debbie: Well, I had forewarning that Zondervan had interest in it, but when I received “the call” from my agent, Rachelle Gardner at WordServe Literary, she asked me if I wanted to sit down. I did, and then she went on to tell me that we’d received an offer from Zondervan for two books. She later was able to turn that into a three book offer. My youngest daughter and husband were home at the time, so there was a LOT of celebrating—screaming, laughing, dancing, jumping, giggling, screaming. You get the idea. ☺

Lisa: That is very exciting! Tell us some of the background behind the idea for this book.

Debbie: Years ago, I took a Flint Hills Folklife summer course at Emporia State University that was taught by Dr. Jim Hoy. Along with classroom study, we took field trips into the heart of the Flint Hills and visited with old-time ranchers, schoolmarms and post-mistresses. It was such a delightful experience, especially our drives into the pastures. We would get on these back roads and drive over pasture guards into the open range. We would travel for miles without seeing another car or even an electric line—just pure, native prairie. That summer, I fell in love with the Flint Hills and it has stayed with me all this time. I’m so glad I have this chance to share this place with my readers through the Seasons of the Tallgrass series.

Lisa: I find in my own writing that I often grow alongside my characters. Is there a character who you relate to from the book and who made an input on your life?

Debbie: My love for country life and the Flint Hills comes out in my main character Mattie Evans. Mattie is a large animal veterinarian in the ranching community of Charris County. Although she struggles with her practice, she is determined to settle in the Flint Hills, a place that is firmly planted in her heart. Almost against her will, she finds herself falling in love with the owner of one of her patient’s—a man who is determined to run away from the Flint Hills and his problems at home. There are many family relationship issues in this story, but the land and particularly the Flint Hills are a major focus. As a young woman, I remember living in Topeka, KS and yearning for wide open spaces. I soon found myself returning to my home roots. My character Mattie is intent on never leaving hers. I guess I can identify with that. ☺

Lisa: Snow Melts in Spring is book one in a three book series. Can you tell us what it’s like writing a series? Do you think you’ll miss your characters once the last story is written?

Debbie: Whew. I don’t know. I’m sure I will. The Seasons of the Tallgrass is actually a 4 book series. Zondervan has contracted for three of those with options on the fourth, so hopefully that will go through. So far, I’m enjoying writing this series. Each of the stories are what you would call a “stand-alone” in that you won’t need to read the first book to know what’s happening in the second. What will be the same is the setting and the community of characters. While each book has its own main characters, readers will see glimpses of past characters running about. Many of my readers have “fallen in love” with Gil’s dad, the gruff old rancher. You’ll see him again in the third book & if contracted, he’ll have a big part in the fourth when he gets a little romance of his own.

Lisa: Tell us a bit about the research you had to do for this story, including the native tallgrass?

Debbie: I did lots of research on the Flint Hills and on ranching. For that I especially enjoyed reading through old journals and books that told about the time period when this land was settled. My husband and I took several trips into the pastures to take pictures, see the land and visit the community. Because the story centers around an injured horse, it was particularly important for me to get the veterinary scenes of the story correct. In doing this, I studied and visited four different veterinarians and tagged behind a couple of them for an afternoon. My male lead character, Gil, is a retiring professional quarterback, so learning more about football was also important. For this, I packed home piles of books from the library and asked a TON of questions to anyone who knew anything about the game. Oh, and I watched a LOT of football that season. My girls weren’t overly happy about my “newfound interest” but my husband enjoyed it! LOL

Lisa: What is the number one thing you’ve learned from your writing journey?

Debbie: I met my first agent in 2005 at an ACFW conference. She took me on and we shopped my “Seasons of the Tallgrass” series for a year and had a few bites but no sale. At our year anniversary, she released me, which was a real heart breaker for me. However, we don’t always see the big picture like God does, and six months later I signed with agent, Rachelle Gardner with WordServe Literary, and we signed with Zondervan three months after that.

The year my series was being shopped around was especially difficult. My agent would get a bite and then nothing . . . and then a little interest and then nothing. I believed God had placed me on this journey, and things were going so well. Then, all of a sudden, everything stopped! That can really mess with a person’s mind. So, for me, that period between shopping my manuscript and finally getting the sale with Zondervan was a time of learning for me. I had to learn to trust God and put everything in His hands. Not easy. During that time, I bathed myself in prayer, read Bible scriptures that reassured me of God’s promises (no matter whether I became published or not), and I sang many hymns. The verse I leaned on most was “Be still and know that I am God,” as well as Philippians 4:13, Proverbs 3:5-6, and Isaiah 41:13.

Lisa: Because I know where are many aspiring writers out there, can you share any tidbits of wisdom on getting published?

Debbie: When you receive a rejection, cry and scream if you need to but don’t give up. Keep dreaming and studying the craft, and reading. Stay tuned to what God wants for you and let scripture keep you afloat. Learn to depend on God for everything—every step of the journey. Just knowing that He is in charge and knows what is best for you, helps to alleviate the pressure so that you’re able to ENJOY the journey AND life.

Lisa: Great advice! Thanks again for stopping by, Debbie, and congrats again on the sale of this wonderful series.

Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of Debbie's Book. I'll draw a winner on Monday.

Visit Debbie's blog and website to learn more about her and her upcoming books!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Greetings from a very chilly South Africa!

We're staying at a missionary guest house, and quickly remembering how cold SA can be in the winter. But not only do we have a nice cottage to stay in, we also have internet!

We dropped off the team on Tuesday with plans to have our cars serviced and then head home on Friday, but as normal, things don't typically go as planned. The car had some problems (four holes in the radiator for starters) that had to be taken care of, so it looks as if we will be here through the weekend.

God is good, though. Some of you received the prayer request for Gabriel. We took him to the doctor Wednesday to check out a lump in his chest. The doctor had a sonogram done and it was determined that he needed a biopsy. After a night of prayer, we went to the hospital this morning for the biopsy with a second doctor, who decided to do another sonogram and an xray first. When the results were done, both doctors agreed that the lump was only a swollen gland and nothing serious. It had also shrunk considerably since the first exam the day before.

Praise God!

We will watch it, but don't have to go back until next year to have it rechecked.

Here are a few photos taken during our time in the village last week. The team worked together with the villages to transport water from another pump to the one being dug as part of the drilling process. God opened doors in some amazing ways into the village. We also were blessed to baptize Pascoal in the ocean last Saturday night. Scott, David, and Pascoal will start their follow up next week to those interested in hearing more.

Thanks for all your prayers!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Quick Update

Just a quick update from South Africa where we just dropped off the team from Katy, Texas. Last week in the village with the well water project and showing of the Jesus film turned out to be an amazing adventure, full of God's handiwork. We've been without internet, though, so I've been unable to check email or post photos and updates as I'd hoped.

We'll be in South Africa a few more days for maitenence on the car and doctor's appointments. Please continue to keep us in our prayers as we travel home and as the team from Texas travels home.

More later!


Monday, June 15, 2009

Mission Team: Day One

Our first full day with the team was incredible as they visited with four groups. In the morning, Scott took them to a village on the other side of the bay. Scott transported one house church to a new village preaching point for a combined worship service.

In the afternoon, we again combined two house churches. After a wonderful service, we went to the bay where a young man and his parents, a couple in their seventies, were baptized. This family knew nothing about Jesus until Barnardo, one of our Christians began talking to them. Scott and David continued sharing with them every week since then. It was such a blessing to see their joy as they begin their new life.

Today, we head out to the village in preparation for the well-digging that starts tomorrow. The rest of the team arrives then as well. I'll be sharing photos throughout the week.

Please pray that we can be a blessing to these people this week and that lives will be transformed.



Thursday, June 11, 2009

Switching gears

Typically, my life is filled with home schooling, writing, and supporting Scott in the ministry. Tomorrow begins a few changes in our schedule that we are all excited about. Last night I sent off my manuscript revisions to my editor and today was the last day of school for the kids for a couple weeks.


Because we will be hosting 18 Americans who are coming to help with a well digging project and hygiene classes in one of our nearby village. Several of them are also spending this weekend with our precious orphans in Zimbabwe. We are so excited about their arrival. Please pray that God will transform lives during this time, and for health and safety of the team.

Thought for today: I was moved to tears over several responses from my last post on the struggles we often have in hearing God's voice when faced with hardships. It reminded me how God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and a life of slavery. He performed amazing signs before them including driving back the Red Sea and giving them manna and quail to eat. He was the One who protected them and drove out other nations before them.

These were markers in their lives. Times when they could look back and see the powerful hand of God working in their lives and know without a doubt that He is real. That He cared for them. And that He loved them. Markers work like anchors to help us to preserve in our faith and help us to hold to our decision to follow God no matter what is happening around us.

What markers do you have from your own life that help keep you steady when difficulties arrive?

I'll be posting photos next week from the village of Masavana. See you then!


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Random Photos from Africa and Open Doors

I downloaded photos today and thought I'd share some from our daily life. I've posted them below, but first, Elise recently ask if I would share how Scott and I decided to move to Africa. The question has reminded me of the amazing ways God works in our lives. About seven years ago, we knew we wanted to move back to the mission field, but we weren't sure where God was calling us. At the time, we were looking at joining friends in Japan and started pursuing that option. But as much as we wanted to work with them, God closed every door with a resounding slam.

I remember going to church one Sunday feeling a bit discouraged. The sermon was on missions and we both believed strongly that we wanted to go, but again, where? On the way home, we talked about different options and Scott mentioned how he'd love to work with his aunt and uncle who'd been on the field for over thirty years. They'd mentioned us joining them in passing, but it wasn't ever anything formal. "If they sent us a letter of invitation," Scott then said, "I'd go."

Scott dropped us off at home while he went to do some errands. I sat down and checked my email and immediately began bawling. There, in my inbox, was an official invitation for us to join his aunt and uncle in the work in Africa. Two years later, we moved our family to Joburg, South Africa.

We spent a number of years with them in South Africa, working throughout Zambia and Zimbabwe until again, through a set of amazing circumstances, God called us to move to Mozambique to expand the ministry. For me, these "God moments" are what keeps me here, because I know without a doubt that this is where He wants me.

I'm also reminded, though, that there have been times when I couldn't feel God's presence or the peace He's promised. We all struggle, especially when faced with heartships, to hear God's voice. If you feel that way today, look to the times when He has worked a miracle in your life. He has promised to be our strength when we are weak, to give us hope when we are hopeless, and to love us when we feel unlovable. It’s never relying on our own strength to get us through difficult times, but leaning on the mighty arm of God and being continuously filled with His Spirit. Isaiah 41:10 says not to fear, because “I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

How has He spoken into your life recently? Are you still waiting to hear His voice? I'd love to hear from you!

Scott teaching at one of the house churches.

Jayden finally has his own room. Because we need more beds due to all of the company coming through, we took down the school room which gave us a small, extra room for him. His friends had fun helping him put the bunk bed together.

One of our newest disciple, Anthony (right) with David, our evangelist.

After a year of waiting for a new transformer and dealing with the lack of electricity, they are working on upgrading electricity for the entire neighborhood. You can see why this photo has me smiling!!

New ice cream shop in town has become a special treat.

We've learned to be careful driving through town. This isn't a tree growing in the middle of the road, but a warning that there is a hole. I saw a truck run over one recently and the hole was big enough to literally swallow his front tire. Took a dozen guys to lift the vehicle out.



Friday, June 05, 2009

And the winners are. . .

My kids drew numbers at random this morning, and I'm happy to announce the winners of Love Finds You in Revenge, Ohio!

Deborah Vogts, Linda, Ausjenny, shebapolly, and RGermany! Congratulations, Ladies! I'll be contacting you today for your snail mail address.

For those of you who didn't win, don't worry! I'll be holding another book drawing around July 1st for copies of my next Barbour release, Cranberry Hearts! This is a fantastic three-in-one contemporary romance collection with Lena Nelson Dooley and Elizabeth Goddard. I'll also be giving away several goody baskets filled with delicious treats and a few surprises from the heart of Africa later this year so stop by often!

Thanks again for all the wonderful feedback and comments many of you shared this week on my blog. I really enjoyed it!



Monday, June 01, 2009

Win Love Finds You in Revenge, Ohio!

I can hardly believe that June is here! The year is flying by, and we're gearing up for an even busier summer (It's actually winter here, though it won't get very cold). We have over thirty people arriving throughout June and July for a well digging project and an English camp. Mid-terms are upon us for school, and I'm finishing macro edits for Blood Ransom and final edits on a medical thriller.


In the midst of these busy months, I'm having to remind myself of what is important. Remember when Jesus told Martha, "You are worried and upset about many things, but only one things is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her."

It's not easy to do, is it?

In these coming months, I really want to watch out for the pulling of the urgent and focus instead on what's important. I want to spend more time with God, and make quality time with my kids and husband. I want to really see those around me, and look for opportunities to minister. So while this world tugs at me with the urgent, Jesus said, "Seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33

In Love Finds You in Revenge, Ohio, Katherine Morgan has her hands full taking care of her three sisters and sometimes loses perspective on what is really important. If you love historical romance--with a handsome lawman, a con man, and grubstaker included-- I think you'll love this story. Carol Cox, author of A Bride So Fair says, ". . .riveting suspense, and enough twists and turns to keep me guessing until the very end. Fans of historical romance won't want to miss this one!"

So what things do you want to focus on as important during your busy summer? I'd love to hear your responses and let me know you'd like to be entered in this contest. I'll draw FIVE winners on Friday. If you're signed up for my newsletter, you'll automatically be entered. Leaving a comment here will give you an extra chance!