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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Welcome, guest blogger Shelley Shepard Gray!


Shelley :: Thank you, Inkwell Gals, for inviting me to visit! I’m honored to be here!

Giving up control is really hard for me. It’s why I never was any good at skiing--I never wanted to go too fast. Going fast puts you at risk, you know. There’s a chance of falling. Yet, of course, the consequences of choosing not to sail down the hill are great. Going slower hurts your knees. The skis don’t move as easily. There’s an even greater chance of falling--and to get hurt.

Yes, I learned all about falling on the ski slopes when I went to the University of Colorado.

Yet still, time and again, I try my best to stay firmly ‘in charge’. I’ve tried to ‘manage’ things. Plan. Organize. Make lists. Check. Double check. My poor family’s used to my need for control. Sometimes they let me be in the driver’s seat. Sometimes they even let me pretend I’m in control…and then they do what they want.

Over time, I’ve become at peace with that.

Since I like to write books, my quirky character trait works well for me. Being a bit of a control freak is a good thing when you have a whole group of made up characters just waiting to do what you want! But every once in a while, I’m reminded that God has a different way of looking at things.

I was really reminded of that when I was working on AUTUMN'S PROMISE, the third book in my Seasons of Sugarcreek series. My deadline had gotten moved up so AUTUMN could have an August release date and GRACE could come out in October. On paper, it was no problem. I write fast, and writing is my only job, so I’ve got lots of time to spend in front of the computer.

Except, things weren’t going so well with that plan. In short, I was past deadline, and I was never past deadline. Each morning I would wake up, a bundle of nerves, and make myself sit in front of the computer with the calendar right there, too. To remind myself that I needed to get the book done.

Of course (you might have guessed this was coming!), in spite of all my ‘wants’ and ‘reasons to work hard’… I was really struggling. For the first time in a long time, I couldn’t think of anything to write. And I had to--I had over a hundred pages to get done! I kept pushing and pushing myself. One day it took me six hours to write ten pages. Six hours! On a good day, I can get ten pages written in under two.

I was really frustrated.

By Friday, I was almost in tears. I had to get the book done. It had to be good, too--if it wasn’t the editor wouldn’t be shy about telling me. But I was really stuck. At a loss, I opened up a chapter from Philippians, the book our small group is studying. I reread the passage that we’d just discussed. Then I closed my eyes and relaxed.

Here’s what I read:

Philippians 4: 4-7

Verse 6.

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Finally, FINALLY, I realized that I needed help. I prayed for guidance. I began emailing people who I knew could help me. To my surprise, I heard from four people within the hour. One person even made a phone call and was able to help me with my research. God had placed lots of people in my life to help me over my little writing hurdle. All I had to do was reach out!

On Sunday when we went to church, I quietly gave thanks. I thanked God for reminding me that my best isn’t always good enough-and it doesn’t have to be. That when I stop trying to manage everything…when I open my heart (and eyes and ears and hands!) to His word…and to friends and family, the gifts come in abundance.

Two days later, with all that help, I finished the book. : )

That experience, though it was rather rough and tough for me~ was a learning experience, I think. It reminded me, of course, that I don’t have to do anything all on my own. That I don’t have to always be my best. On some days, I just have to be me. The stumbling girl who tries really hard, but sometimes needs a whole lot of help so I don’t fall.

Dear Lord,

I stand before you so grateful for all the blessings you given me. Thank you for giving me opportunities to remember that you are in charge. And that with your help, anything is possible.

Amen.


When were you last stressed beyond your ability? How did you manage? What helps you manage? How did you give God thanks through it?

~*~
Shelley Shepard Gray writes Amish romances for Harper Collins’ inspirational line, Avon Inspire. Since HIDDEN, her first novel with Avon was published, Shelley has gone on to write several more novels. FORGIVEN, the third novel in her Sisters of the Heart trilogy, won the Holt Medallion award for Best Short Inspirational Novel of 2009.

In 2010, the Seasons of Sugarcreek series debuted. In addition, GRACE, a Christmas Sisters of the Heart novel, will be published in October, 2010. The INSPY’s named WINTER'S AWAKENING a finalist in their Amish Fiction category. Currently, Shelley is under contract to write her third series with Avon Inspire. The Families of Honor series, will launch in March 2011.

2011 will also bring the publication of A TEXAN'S PROMISE, her first western historical for Abingdon Press. A TEXAN'S PROMISE is the first book in a trilogy which will be released annually.

To date, Shelley’s novels were highlighted in the Philadelphia Enquirer, Time Magazine, and USA Today.

Before writing romances, Shelley lived in Texas and Colorado, where she taught school and earned both her bachelor’s degree in English literature and elementary education and later obtained her master’s degrees in educational administration. She now lives in southern Ohio and writes full time. Shelley is married, the mother of two teenagers, and is an active member of her church. She serves on committees and volunteers in the church office. Shelley looks forward to the opportunity to continue to write novels that showcase her Christian ideals.

Shelley is active on Facebook and also has a website, http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com/.

AUTUMN'S PROMISE
Until Robert Miller met Lilly Allen, his world had been dark. A widower after only two years of marriage, he'd been living in a haze, feeling that, at twenty-four, his life was already over. But thanks to his friendship with Lilly, he now has new reasons to wake up each day. He knows his connection to her doesn't make sense. She's only nineteen, with a past the whole town talks about. Even more, she's not Amish, like Robert. A marriage between the two of them could never happen.

Lilly's heart is drawn to Robert, not to his faith. No matter how much she admires his quiet strength and dependability, she doesn't think she could ever give up her independence and reliance on the modern world. Is their love doomed before it even begins?


AUTUMN'S PROMISE (and Shelley's other books) can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, CBD, Family Christian, or IndieBound.

For a review of Autumn's Promise, click here.

15 comments:

  1. Hi Shelley, thanks for coming by and sharing with us. I feel like God has been trying to teach me to live day by day. I tend to want to have everything planned out far in advance, but it rarely works the way I want it too.

    I have a question for you. Is there any difference in writing for Harper-Collins than for one of the typical CBA houses?

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  2. Hello Shelley thanks for stopping by and bringing some food for thought.I have been learning to slow down and enjoy in the little moments of life.I am very go go go all day long.As of late I have hit what I call a God bump (thats a spiritual speed bump).I have had to slow down and focus on Him and I have started singing just simply because I want to Praise Him not for any other reason.

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  3. Hi Dina,

    Thank you, I'm thrilled to be here today!
    I'm so glad you asked about Harper-Collins. Many don't know (I sure didn't before I sold to them) that Harper-Collins has a whole section of their company that prints only religious fiction and nonfiction. This branch is called Harper-One, and its offices are in San Francisco, not NYC. Avon Inspire is under that Harper-One umbrella, so my editor works in the San Francisco office. They work very well with the CBA. Writing for Avon Inspire gives me the best of both worlds. I get to work with an editor who works solely with Christian and Inspirational works, but we have the awesome support system that Harper Collins can bring, as far as marketing, promotion, and a sales force.

    Wow! I guess my answer was a little long! I hope it helped, though.
    If anyone else has a question, I hope they'll ask!

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  5. Louise, I love that phrase, 'God Bump'. We were just talking about that sort of thing in our Bible Study the other day. How even at church, it's so easy to get caught up in committees and 'to do' lists...I guess at times, maybe we all need to take a moment to reassess what's important to us.

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  6. Shelley, this was a timely post. I needed the reminder to not worry but to go to God in prayer about troubles. :-)

    And I'm glad Dina asked about your publisher. Can you tell us more about Avon Inspire? Are they still only working with established authors? What genres do they prefer?

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  7. Super inspirational! Thank you so much!

    I have Autumn's Promise up at my blog at this very moment with some thoughts at the end of the publisher's info.

    Can't wait to read "Grace"!

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  8. Shelley, Hi
    Question, When sending in a query and a manuscript to an agent for the first time, how long does it take to get a reply? I have my faith, but this is nerve wracking!

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  9. Hi Shelley! I loved your post about giving up control and knowing when to seek the help you need to move forward. As you know, one of my boys has been really sick and not being able to take care of my other boys by getting them to practice, doing homework, tucking them in at night was hard for me. Plus asking other people to do it for me and my DH while we were at the hospital was a struggle. I've always prided myself on taking care of all of my children without any help while trying to do good and help others. BUT this time it was not in God's plan to do it alone. Boy is he always right! I couldn't be more grateful to all the people who immediately took over with out me asking.

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  10. First, thanks for coming to visit, Shelley!

    I'm a fast writer, but a very slow editor and I can't imagine the pressure to meet a deadline. OH, but I'd like to try!

    Your words are so true, especially for one like me who thinks organizing their way through each day will ensure success! ha!

    When I'm torn between the need to write and the inevitable things that come along to challenge my time, I need to remember to pray just at that moment for guidance and peace.

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  11. Cheryl,

    Thank you for highlighting Autumn's Promise on your blog! I'll go visit your blog in just a few minutes... : )

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  12. Demelun,

    Boy, have I been where you are, though not for quite a while, thank goodness. I've been with my agent for eleven years.

    Things might have changed since then, but when I was querying, the response time really varied. For an editor, I heard it's okay to contact them after four months. I know! That seems like forever! (at least it did to me). I always sent out multiple queries at a time, then, at least you I wasn't only waiting on one literary agent. Best of luck to you!

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  13. Tonya,

    You already are an inspiration to me. You do so much for so many people! I'm glad you were able to 'let go' for a bit and let God and your friends and family take care of the rest.

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  14. Debra,

    We sound a lot alike! I've compensated for life by getting my pages/work/edits/etc. done first thing in the morning. At least then, when life keeps me busy, I know I haven't fallen behind.

    Good luck with those edits! I hate those!

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