Monday, November 16, 2009

Guest Blogger Myra Johnson

Today it is my distinct pleasure to have fellow Heartsong author Myra Johnson guest blogging today. I'm so excited that our debut Heartsongs came out together. So, without further ado, here's Myra to tell us about the thrilling roller-coaster of the post-contract writing life. AND...Myra's graciously giving away a copy of Autumn Rains to one lucky commentor. So enjoy the guest blog, the interview, and learn a little about this great author and fun book, and be sure to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing.

The Writing Life: Glitz? Glamour? Think again!

First let me say what a joy it is to share my Heartsong Presents debut with Erica! I remember the excitement at the 2008 ACFW conference when Erica’s name was announced as a recipient of one of Barbour’s new-author contracts. Little did I know that only a few weeks later, JoAnne Simmons would also be sending me a contract!

When I look back at how much my life has changed over the past year, I sometimes have to pinch myself to believe it’s real. A year ago last August I was still hoping and praying for even a glimmer of editorial encouragement. Today I have not one but four book contracts in my filing cabinet, and two of the books are already on the shelves!

So what’s different? The amount of time I spend at my computer hasn’t changed much, but the way I spend that time certainly has! In my pre-publication life I usually focused on one project at a time, writing, rewriting, revising, and editing until I deemed the manuscript ready for submission.

As a contracted author my life has turned into one big juggling act. Two books coming out so close together (my debut novel from Abingdon Press, then my first Heartsong Presents novel) complicated things even more. Here’s a partial list of the various phases each book may go through in one form or another on the way to publication:

Editor approves proposal/synopsis
Complete the manuscript (if unfinished)
Revision letter and first round of edits (sometimes called the macro edit or content edit)
Brainstorm alternate titles
Revisions, round 2 (the micro edit or copyedit)
Fill out cover art questionnaire
Prepare front and back matter (dedication, acknowledgements, discussion questions)
Approve cover art
Review galley proofs for last-minute corrections

(Erica, did I forget anything???) Erica here: I think you got them all. :)

Then there’s the whole marketing side. Keeping my Website updated. Participating in blog tours. Trying to post something witty or relevant on my own blog semi-regularly. Maintaining a “published author” presence on Facebook and Twitter. Visiting with bookstore managers. Scheduling speaking engagements and book signings.

If writers are doing all those things and writing, obviously we have to say no to many other demands on our time. Like keeping up with the housework, volunteering on church committees, heading up the neighborhood watch organization. At least now, with two published books in my hand, I have some credibility when I get one of those “Can you please help with (fill in the blank)” calls and I have to say, “No, sorry, I’m under deadline.”

But even with all the busyness and craziness of the published life, I wouldn’t have missed this adventure for anything! I am living my dream and loving (almost) every moment of it. My point today is mainly to dull the sheen of glamour about life as a published author. The truth is, it’s work. So you’d better really love the writing part, because you’ll need every bit of that love to sustain you through the rest.

Erica here again. I read and loved Autumn Rains! One character really jumped out at me and I couldn't resist interviewing him to see what made him tick. So, here's my brief interview with Pastor Henke of Autumn Rains.

1. Pastor Henke, could you tell us a little about yourself and your ministry at the Zion Community Church.

We are a small congregation here in Aileen, Missouri. If you know where Villa Ridge is located, Aileen is not far from there. Many of our residents commute to jobs in the St. Louis area, but we treasure our small-town ambiance—such a pleasant reminder of my happy childhood in Shropshire, England.

In the early 1960s, I met and fell outrageously in love with a charming American woman touring the English countryside. I emigrated to the States to marry her, completed my seminary education, and then began my parish ministry at a large congregation near Philadelphia. My wife and I, both country folk at heart, found city life entirely too hectic, however, so when the opportunity came to serve at Zion Community Church in Aileen, we welcomed the change.

Sadly, my dear wife passed on to her heavenly reward many years ago, and I miss her terribly. In her stead, the Lord has blessed me with the love and support of my faithful parishioners, for whom I am ever grateful.

2. Your car. Tell us about your car and how you came to love muscle cars.

Ah, my car. That question always comes up. Why is it you folks have such a hard time accepting the idea of an elderly pastor tooling around in a red Mustang convertible? If I must provide a suitable explanation, let it suffice that while I may be a man of the cloth, I am . . . well, I am a man, and what male do you know who does not enjoy the roar of a racing engine, the feel of power and speed at his beck and call, the sleekness of a sports car chassis burnished to shimmering perfection?

And frankly, would you have found me nearly as interesting had I driven a Chevrolet Impala or Ford Focus?

3. When you first met Healy, what reservations did you have about sending Healy to the Paige family? What made you trust him given his past?

I learned long ago that one should never judge anyone by appearances alone, and Healy was no exception. It was clear to me from the moment the young man walked into my office that he had a story to tell. To the truly discerning eye, it is impossible to manufacture humility and sincerity, both of which Healy had in abundance.

However, respecting Valerie and the Paiges as I do, I owed them nothing less than full assurance that it would be completely safe, and even beneficial, to bring Healy into their home. Therefore I made a thorough check of Healy’s background and references—and naturally was not the least bit surprised by the glowing reports I received. Healy Ferguson is truly a man of honor and integrity.

4. How have your parishioners reacted to Healy and Valerie?

With utter joy! Valerie has long held a special place in all our hearts, and it was such a tragedy . . . ah, well, for the sake of those who don’t yet know her story, I won’t go into detail here.
But we all agree that Healy’s arrival in Aileen was God’s doing. The people of Zion welcomed him with open arms, and of course it was a happy, happy occasion when Healy and Valerie stood before family and friends in our little church to pledge their troth. They are indeed a blessing to each.
Thank you, so much, Pastor Henke. If I'm ever in Aileen, I'll be sure to pop into Zion Community Church. :)

About Myra: Myra Johnson’s roots go deep into Texas soil, but she’s proud to be a new Oklahoman. Empty-nesters now, she and her husband share their home in Broken Arrow with two loveable dogs and a snobby parakeet. Her debut novel, One Imperfect Christmas, released in September 2009 from Abingdon Press.
She also writes for Barbour Publishing’s Heartsong Presents line. Autumn Rains, winner of the 2005 RWA Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Romance Manuscript, releases October 2009, soon to be followed by Romance by the Book and Where the Dogwoods Bloom. Myra writes full-time and is active in her church as well as local and national writers groups. Myra and her husband have been married since 1972. The Johnsons have two married daughters and five grandchildren.

About Autumn Rains: Healy Ferguson knows all about prisons, both the physical one he’s been released from and the emotional one he keeps himself trapped in. He knows paying dues to society doesn’t always mean you’ve paid dues to yourself, and often the price you exact on yourself far exceeds the crime.
Valerie Bishop is caught in the emotional prison of post-traumatic stress disorder, unable to venture more than a few feet out her back door. Shadowy moments from a night she can’t fully remember bombard her without warning, keeping her trapped between the painful past and a future that seems hopeless.
But God promises to repay the years that have been lost; for those who trust in Him, He promises refreshing, life-giving rain. Will Val and Healy trust to see God’s perfect plan, or will they choose the chains that hold them back?
Myra sent me a copy of the book, and I LOVED it! I think you will, too!
Today's blog tour stop for The Bartered Bride is over at Myra's blog
Drop on by and learn more about Myra and see what she cooked up for The Bartered Bride Blog tour.


  1. I love that you interviewed the character! And what a character he was!

    Please enter me into the book draw.

    I think you ladies are fantastic. all the best as the writing continues :)

  2. Thank you for sharing today, Erica and Myra! I love when Myra says that we need to limit our activities now. I feel the same way when some asks if I can help or wants me to participate in an activity--having a contract lends some credibility when I have to say no, I'm under deadline.

  3. Amazing to learn all the behind the scenes things authors have to do to get their story from their head, to print, to bookstore. A red Mustang? The first car I bought was a Mustang, British racing green. Technically, Metallic Jade. Ford's red that year was more burgundy. Little Old Lady Red.

  4. Fun interview. Thanks for telling us about this book. Please sign me up for the drawing.

  5. What a cute interview! Sounds like the pastor has spunk!

    Congratulations, Myra :D

  6. Thanks Erica for hosting Myra. Fascinating to continue to learn more of the writing/authoring/publishing process. Glad all I have to do is come up with a sermon each week (okay, along with a teaching lesson, bible study or youth group session; well, okay there's more, but I really don't want to try to write and get published!)

    After reading the interview, I'm gonna have a hard sell with Ann about a red convertible mustang! So, I'd better win the book drawing, she can read it, cry a lot and then say to me, as only a truly loving wife can when confronted with a husband who now thinks he needs a red convertible mustang, "What! Are you nuts!?"

  7. Myra, it's so wonderful to hear your excitement about living your dream. Even with all the hard work, it's easy to see writing is your passion.

    I love the interview, thanks for doing that Myra and Erica! The book sounds wonderful, too.

  8. Good morning, everyone! I'm so thankful for all the interest in my first HP romance, and thanks especially to Erica for having me. (BTW, you can read an interview with Erica over on my blog

    Kevin, even pastors need to have a little fun now and then. I hope you get your own red Mustang someday! And I truly admire pastors for coming up with fresh sermon material every week and then delivering it with such aplomb.

  9. Rachel Overton10:02 AM

    Hey Myra--guess what's on my computer today? The process begins on Where the Dogwoods Bloom. I've already read it--it's gonna be good, guys!!

    And Erica--Lily just popped up in my inbox. You ladies are keeping me busy! Yeaaa!

  10. Rachel!!! I've been wondering where things stood with WTDB and hoping you'd like it! For everyone else, that's #3 of my Heartsong Presents contemporaries set in Missouri, and Rachel is my intrepid content editor. I always cringe to see what little glitches she discovers, but I'm equally grateful she finds them before readers get the chance!

  11. What a great interview - so clever to interview the pastor. Yes, he was a favorite of mine too. I've read the book and loved it (no need to enter me in the drawing). I think all y'all will too :-))

  12. What an interview! I'd love a chance to win Autumn Rains. Thanks!


  13. Yay! Thank you all you lovely people, for commenting and entering the drawing and supporting Christian fiction!

    Kevin, if you get a red mustang, first, you'll have a hard time getting Jonathan out of the driver's seat, and second, I want a ride!

    Rachel, Woohoo! Myra's right, I always feel so much better when you've gone over a ms. If it passes your eagle eye, then I know it will be okay to unleash on the unsuspecting public! :D

  14. Rachel Overton2:22 PM

    intrepid?! I'm ROTFL. I don't think anyone's ever applied that word to me before. Tee hee!

    You obviously have never seen me send off a hard review, ducking for cover in case the author starts throwing things my way! ... I should be done with WTDB hopefully by tomorrow afternoon. Don't know how soon JoAnne will have it to you after that, but it's coming. Soon! :-)

  15. LOL, Rachel--we authors depend on your eagle eye, even if we do occasionally feel like throwing things!

    And of course when it rains, it pours. Just today I got the galley PDF to proofread for Romance by the Book so have to get cracking on that!

    Let's see, and there's Thanksgiving coming up, and Christmas shopping to do, and cards to address, and ... AAAAAAAAGGGGHHHHH!!!!!

  16. That was great, Myra. A little peek into your circus life and a peek beyond the book at your characters.

  17. Myra, thanks for sharing and bringing us back to reality. Still, I believe publishing is still a dream of mine.

    Congratulations on your four book contracts in one year. That's awesome!!!