Wednesday, October 03, 2012

CEDAR CREEK SEASONS - Eileen Key, Becky Melby, Rachael Phillips, Cynthia Ruchti - 3 Free Books

Today, we're meeting with the novella team that gave us the A Door County Christmas novella collection. Now they're bringing us a new novella collection. I will surely be wonderful.

First we're welcoming Eileen Key. How did your story for the collection come about?
Since I’m retired, I chose to write about a couple in their …ahem…later season in life! And since I’ve never been in snow, I selected the summer months and traveled to WI in June! (It was cold!)

What are you reading right now?
A Heart Made New by Kelly Irvin. Excellent Amish story!

What other books have you had published?
I’ve published two mysteries and 2 novellas. One more novella will follow this spring.

What is the hardest thing about writing a part of a novella collection?
Since we wrote about a real city, with real events, the research, keeping it all true to the city was a stretch.  And we wanted to spiral off some people and events in each other’s stories. No one wanted to overstep bounds on the historical/beautiful sights of Cedarburg either! Believe me, there are enough there to share.

How did collaborating with this team impact you?
They are such women of prayer and excellence. I loved getting to know them better and feel our friendships deepen. We had some “adventures” along the way, since I flew up there and we traveled together. 

How do you choose your characters’ names?
Claire because I think it’s a lovely name. Eli…the area is German and I liked it. Strong sounding.

What did you want the reader to take away from your story?
My story is about loss and forgiveness. The Lord has worked in my life in these areas and I wanted to show how He is able to do that when we focus on Him. Even as “seasoned” folks, we have lessons to learn.

Are you a member of American Christian Fiction Writers? If so, why?
Yes. ACFW is the premiere Christian writing group and I’m proud to be a member. It’s where I really learned to write and made life-long connections with other authors.

What is the best piece of advice you received as an author?
Don’t give up. I quit writing regularly for years … seems like every other Wednesday or so, but I kept on trying! Write, read, write, go to conferences and have a teachable spirit.

Where can my readers find you on the Internet?

Thanks so much Lena! I always look forward to a visit with you, my friend. 

My pleasure, Eileen. Now we're going to visit with Becky Melby.

How did your story for the collection come about?
After the fun and success of A Door County Christmas, Cynthia and I, both Wisconsinites, started brainstorming other possible locations for a novella collection. We’d both been to Cedarburg and fallen in love with the historic charm of this picturesque, tourist-welcoming town. We couldn’t wait to share the idea with Eileen and Rachael and were thrilled when they agreed to be part of another compilation. The idea for a book that would encompass all four seasons came as the four of us brainstormed together. 

What are you reading right now?
And the Shofar Blew by Francine Rivers and Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge.

What other books have you had published?
I co-authored nine Heartsong Presents titles with my long-time friend Cathy Wienke. This year, my first full length series is releasing. Tomorrow’s Sun and Yesterday’s Stardust, the first two books in the Lost Sanctuary series are already out. Today’s Shadows releases in December. Each contemporary story contains “faded letters and forgotten rooms” dating back to another era. These parallel historical stories go back to 1852, 1912, and the Roaring Twenties.

The sound interesting. What is the hardest thing about writing a part of a novella collection?
Not writing the same thing! The four of us think uncannily alike and it’s almost eerie how often we create characters with the same occupation, past, or hair and eye color. We worked closely together, exchanging chapters as they were finished, so these coincidences got resolved quickly.

How did collaborating with this team impact you?
I hadn’t even met Rachael and Eileen before we decided to work together on A Door County Christmas. Now I consider them sisters. We’ve shared so many laughs and a lot of prayer for each other’s families. I had to back out of the research trip to Cedarburg for Cedar Creek Seasons because my 93-year-old mom went home to be with the Lord that same week. It was so hard to not be part of that wonderful bonding experience, but so comforting to know these sweet friends were lifting my family up before the throne of God in the midst of their fun and information-gathering.

How do you choose your characters’ names?
I’m not really sure! I think the names came after the title, A Contest of Wills. The idea of a play on “Wills” came to mind and that’s how Willow and Wilson came to be.

What did you want the reader to take away from your story?
Wilson’s favorite Bible verse is Psalm 46:10Be still and know that I am God,” while Willow’s is Psalm 118:24 – “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Together, they both move toward a more balanced life. Willow encourages Wilson to enjoy life and be a bit more adventurous and, in turn, gets a peek at what a more serene, relaxed life can look like. I hope readers see that need for balance in this story.

Are you a member of American Christian Fiction Writers? If so, why?
Yes. I joined about eight years ago and I’ve met so many wonderfully encouraging people and learned so much about the craft and business of writing.

What is the best piece of advice you received as an author?
Find your voice and write your heart. It’s easy to get caught up in market trends and lose sight of the story God has put in your soul, the one that needs to be told.

Where can my readers find you on the Internet?
and Twitter: @BeckyMelby.
I’m also a contributor on www.novelPASTimes and

Thank you for this opportunity to share with your readers, Lena!

So glad to visit with you again. Next I will talk to Rachael Phillips.

How did your story for the collection come about?
We four authors each selected a season in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, as our setting. Spring was a natural for me, as I love Easter. Though no longer a choir director (I led church choirs for twenty years), I often view holidays through their eyes.  My heroine, twenty-something Chesca Appel, a choir director with a passion to worship God through her music, encounters many of the complications I did when I directed Easter cantatas—although her romantic interest, Seth, is tone-deaf. (Thank the Lord, my husband Steve, my personal romantic interest, possesses a great voice and musical ear!)    

What are you reading right now?
I just finished Yesterday’s Stardust, by my novella partner Becky Melby (what an flawless blend of contemporary and historical fiction), Sarah Sundin’s awesome WWII romance With Every Letter, and I giggled through Karen O’Connor’s 365 Senior Moments You’d Rather Forget. I often switch books the way other people change channels, depending on my mood.

What other books have you had published?
Frederick Douglass: Abolitionist and Reformer (Barbour 2000)
Billy Sunday: Evangelist on the Sawdust Trail (Barbour 2001)
Saint Augustine: Early Church Father (Barbour 2002)
Well with My Soul: Four Dramatic Stories of Great Hymn Writers (2003)
Ride with Me into Christmas in A Door County Christmas, with this same wonderful author team. (Barbour 2010)
Pirate of My Heart, in A Quaker Christmas (Barbour 2011, co-wrote with Lauralee Bliss, Ramona Cecil, and Claire Sanders)
Women of the Bible (Barbour 2011, co-wrote with Carol Smith and Ellyn Sanna)
The Greatest Show on Earth (Heartsong 2012)
The Return of Miss Blueberry (Heartsong November 2012)
Kissing Bridges (Heartsong 2013)
Recipe for Deception (DRG Publishing 2013)

What is the hardest thing about writing a part of a novella collection?
For me, condensing a full story into 20,000 words is always difficult. Probably a great writing exercise, as I belong to the Wordy Club. Another challenge: as a Christian romance writer, I don’t want my characters to rush into marriage without a solid foundation. I don’t want to add to the shallow, unstable marriages that already exist in books and in reality. So I must develop my heroine and hero and their relationship sufficiently in a short format. Never easy.

How did collaborating with this team impact you?
Some authors find it difficult to collaborate, but that’s not at all the case with this group.  With both Cedar Creek Seasons and A Door County Christmas, we’ve met in our setting—loved staying in those bed and breakfasts together!--brainstormed, compared notes, even distributed points of interest and businesses among our characters to visit so we wouldn’t double up in our stories. Great communication and critiques on-line, too. Cynthia, who headed up our group, kept us on track, bless her.

I especially appreciate God’s love evidenced among us, freeing us to write and critique in a positive, productive way. Joining together in prayer for each other, our book, and our readers makes all the difference in the world!  (When in need of creativity, what better person to consult than the Creator?)  

How do you choose your characters’ names?
I often consult “most popular name” lists and telephone directories, but sometimes my characters seem to choose their own.

In my heroine Chesca’s case, her full name is Francesca—a unique name a friend chose for her baby girl. Plus, I’m a fan of singer Francesca Battistelli. Plus, Chesca claims an actual Polish princess, Franciszka Urszula Radiziwill, as her ancestor and namesake, a musical aristocrat who, in the reader’s mind, probably reinforces Chesca’s somewhat elitist style as a choir director.

Seth, my hero, though a lover of the theater, is also an elementary teacher and football coach. I thought his simple, down-to-earth name worked for him.

Both characters sport German surnames (Appel and Amundsen, respectively), which fit well with Cedarburg’s history of German settlers.  

What did you want the reader to take away from your story?
Probably the lesson God is trying to teach me: When He tosses our careful plans into His shredder, He has only begun to show us what He can do. “Man plans—God laughs.” Hopefully, as we grow up, we learn to laugh with Him.   

Are you a member of American Christian Fiction Writers? If so, why?
Yes, I am. Whoa, I owe much of my career to ACFW. I met my agent there and received my first fiction contract at the 2009 conference.

What is the best piece of advice you received as an author?
Apply butt to chair and fingers to keyboard. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat . . . .

Where can my readers find you on the Internet?

Thank you, Rachael. Now, last but not least, Cynthia Ruchti.

How did your story for the collection come about?
The writer’s imagination never stops, no matter what she’s doing. I remember driving through Cedarburg, Wisconsin, on my way to a speaking engagement many years ago. One little glimpse at the downtown area planted the seed of an idea in my writer brain. Someday…

Imagine how thrilling it was to hear, years later, that Becky Melby—with whom I’d worked along with Eileen Key and Rachael Phillips on A Door County Christmas novella collection—also had a soft spot in her heart for Cedarburg! Before long, we were emailing Rachael and Eileen with the idea to collaborate again and set our collection of four lighthearted romances in this unique spot that not only boasts an active artists community, a recognized cultural center, a charming historic district to match its “storied” history, and the only remaining original covered bridge in the state.

What are you reading right now?
Right now, I’m guiltily reading too many books at once. This morning when I made the bed, I looked at my night stand and felt a little wash of shame. I counted 20 books that I’ve started for various reasons—assignments, endorsements, study, enjoyment—and have yet to finish. I latched onto a series of poetry books this summer and have used them as my nighttime reading. These are soul-stirring poems that both grip my heart but somehow help lull me to sleep. But I WILL systematically get through the partially started books so I can move on to my Mt. McKinley sized stack of never-been-started to-be-reads.

What other books have you had published?
In addition to a couple of compilation books in which I had entries published, my debut novel released in 2010—They Almost Always Come Home. It was a Carol Award finalist, a RT Book Reviewers Choice finalist, and a Retailers Choice finalist. I mentioned the novella collection with this same crew of authors—Becky, Rachael, and Eileen—A Door County Christmas, which is now sold out, but still available in digital form. In 2011, a devotional collection called His Grace is Sufficient…Decaf is Not released from Summerside/Guideposts. I have another full length novel releasing in April of 2013 and a nonfiction full-length in July of 2013, plus another full-length novel in the spring of 2014.

What is the hardest thing about writing a part of a novella collection?
This team of authors worked very hard to make our stories unique but also compatible. Characters would pop in for a cameo appearance in other stories. But we didn’t want to duplicate a plot, character traits, or other factors that would make the novellas duplications. It was a unique but wonderful challenge for each of us to take the same town through one of four different seasons. I was privileged to be given the autumn season, which is so beautiful in Wisconsin, and which encourages couples to snuggle up by the fire—instant romance!—and which allowed me to incorporate the Christmas season, too. Readers can consider the collection a great Christmas gift because of the full life-cycle of the year’s seasons and the Christmas ending.

How did collaborating with this team impact you?
Each of these authors is a dear friend. Writing any book entails hard work, but when you’re surrounded by encouraging people with a similar heart, the work turns to joy. We critiqued each other’s chapters as we wrote. That always makes me a better writer. It’s a commitment, to be sure, but one with great friendship and storytelling rewards.

How do you choose your characters’ names?
I never give a villain a friend’s name, because you know…

But I do like to name delightful characters after people I love, sometimes with a little twist. A niece and a nephew of mine have their names show up in “Maybe Us,” but the plot depends on tweaks of their names.

When searching for just the right name, I try to match the character’s personality and to avoid names that draw readers away from the story to wonder about the name…unless that works into the story itself.

What did you want the reader to take away from your story?
Beth wrestles with letting go as her grandfather nears the end of his life. Who of us hasn’t been there? She struggles to taste the sweetness in that precious, season-ending time. Early readers have talked about finding a new perspective about a love that lasts forever.

Are you a member of American Christian Fiction Writers? If so, why?
I’ve been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2002 and attended the first ever national conference in Kansas City. From my first contacts with ACFW, I knew I would find a rich education on the craft of writing fiction, the support of others eager to write stories that honor God, and connections with people in the publishing world who would help me move forward in my journey as a writer. I found all that and more. It’s a privilege to have served as president of ACFW for two years and to now serve as part of the leadership team.

What is the best piece of advice you received as an author?
You can claim research trips as a tax deduction!

Where can my readers find you on the Internet?
My website is which can also be reached through since I write stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark. I love to connect with readers at or

Thank you, Cynthia.

Readers, I hope you've enjoyed visiting with these ladies as much as I have. Here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.
Cedar Creek Seasons (Romancing America) - paperback
Cedar Creek Seasons (Romancing America) - Kindle

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Feedblitz, Facebook, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link.


monica said...

These Short and sweet stories sound wonderful

Monica, Ontario

Anonymous said...

I SO want to read this one. I never thought about claiming research trips on your taxes. Good tip.
Amy C

Ladette Kerr said...

Sounds great!!

Ladette, GA

Wendy Newcomb said...

I love these novellas! Thank you for hosting this giveaway.

Wendy in FL


Rachael Phillips said...

Thanks for dropping by, Monica, Amy, and Ladette! We had fun writing our Cedar Creek stories and hope you enjoy them. I'm an Indiana Hoosier--not a Wisconsinite--but I fell in love with Cedarburg when we did research there. If you visit sometime, you'll love this quaint, picturesque town, with artists painting its 19th century mill by Cedar Creek, as well as other scenes. I also HIGHLY recommend the candy apple shop. Mmmmmm.

Cynthia Ruchti said...

This is so much fun, to connect with readers and potential readers. Seeing a single location--Cedarburg, WI--through all four seasons of the year made this so enjoyable for us. Becky and I first visited the area at a time when the temps dropped to 30 below zero with the windchill factor! But we saw it in summer, too--which changes the dynamic even in relationships. Picnics and art fairs and... Cedarburg is such an active community that there's a festival or special event happening all the time, no matter the season. And romantic stories popping up everywhere!

Cynthia Ruchti said...

This is so much fun, to connect with readers and potential readers. Seeing a single location--Cedarburg, WI--through all four seasons of the year made this so enjoyable for us. Becky and I first visited the area at a time when the temps dropped to 30 below zero with the windchill factor! But we saw it in summer, too--which changes the dynamic even in relationships. Picnics and art fairs and... Cedarburg is such an active community that there's a festival or special event happening all the time, no matter the season. And romantic stories popping up everywhere!

Anonymous said...

would love to win. Angela from KY

Eileen Key said...

I'm constantly amazed at how y'all live in SNOW! I arrived in June at the Milwaukee airport wearing capris and sandals. Then we hustled to the FIREplace in our hotel room!! But I loved loved loved the destinations in Wisconsin I was able to visit and hope to return someday. Thanks for stopping by! Hope you winners enjoy our stories.

scottsgal said...

I enjoy novellas - adding this to my tbr list
thanks for the chance
cheryl in IL

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Novellas are fun, aren't they? Short enough to read in one sitting. The drama is introduced and resolved in a brief timespan. The reader gets to see four different perspectives on the same location. And they make great gifts for an avid reader or for a person who is new to the concept of uplifting fiction. Each of the other authors did a great job helping us "sense" that season, and I had the delicious privilege of weaving (or I should say knitting) autumn and Christmas together. We're amazed how many people enjoy Christmas novellas, and how many use them as gifts for teachers, etc. If you know (or are) an artist, a musician, a jeweler, a potter, a knitter, you'll find a special connection with this book.

Norma S said...

Hi Eileen, Becky, Rachel,and Cynthia,
Thank you Lena for putting this out there and giving me a chance to win "Cedar Creek Seasons" the book sounds like it would be great, with four books in you can't bet that.Them feeling like sisters that is special and with their stories unique but also compatible you just can not bet that. God bless you all and have a great week.
Norma from Ohio

Becky Melby said...

Monica summed it up beautifully with "short and sweet"! These stories contain heart-tugging moments, but you can count on four Happily-Ever-Afters set in every season of the year. Thank you to everyone who stopped by and left a comment, and thank you, Lena, for the opportunity to share Cedarburg in winter, summer, spring, and fall with your followers.

Rachael Phillips said...

Short, sweet, with plenty of funny moments to give our readers grins! Chocochicken Chili, St. Peter with a tatoo, a wench--er, wrench--thrown in at the wrong time, and a seven-foot brownie baker join forces to keep you smiling :-)

Linda Kish said...

I would love to win a copy of this book.


lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Cynthia Ruchti said...

We four authors are rooting for all of you to win! It's pure joy for us to create stories to warm the heart and refresh the soul.

Mary Preston said...

What an exciting novella team. I love what each writer brings.

Mary P


Angie Adair said...

These sound wonderful! Angie in Illinois

Sarah said...

Looks and sounds interesting, Enter me!!

Rachael Phillips said...

Thanks, everyone, for your kind comments and encouragement. We're blessed to meet you and hope to hear from you after you read our book.

Thanks, too, Lena, for introducing us to your friends!

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Each of us has other books we'd appreciate your checking out--at your local bookstore, online, at your library. So please do stop by our websites or Facebook pages to stay connected. Lena, you have an awesome group of friends and blog followers!

Marianne said...

Oh, Lena how delightful. i would love to win this novel (and you know that i always post reviews on the novels i read, right?) i love the 4 in one novels and would be honored to receive one. Thanks Eileen, Becky, Rachael, Cynthia and Lena for the chance

marianne from northern Alberta


misskallie2000 said...

Thanks for this great new book ladies. I enjoyed reading the last one and am looking forward to reading this new release.

Brenda from Georgia

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

Cynthia Ruchti said...

It's great to hear from someone who read A Door County Christmas! Thanks MissKallie.

Diana Gardner said...

Please enter me in the drawing. Thanks! Portsmouth, VA

Melody said...

What a lot of planning to get this book together. Think I need to read it!

rubynreba said...

I enjoy novellas. Sometimes it is so enjoyable to be able to read one in a sitting.
Beth from IA

Katie G. said...

I'd love to win! Please enter me. I'm from NC.

Sharon Richmond said...

Enter me this book looks absolutely wonderful!!
Sharon Richmond

Lourdes said...

I love Novellas would love to win.

Lourdes from Dix Hills, Long Island

Veronica Sternberg said...

This sounds like a great book. I love stories that relate to each other. I'm in MN.

Nancee said...

I've read about the Cedar Creek Seasons book in other reviews as well as this one, and I'd love to win a copy. Thanks for offering this giveaway!
Nancee in Michigan

Jo said...

I would love to read these and thank you for the opportunity!

Jo from Southern Arizona

Angie Adair said...

I would love to read this sounds awesome..Angie in Illinois

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Love hearing from all of these wonderful people! Thanks for your comments, everyone! If you don't win the freebie, but you download or purchase a paperback copy, please do keep in touch to let us know what you think. We'd love to hear which story touched your heart (or maybe all of them), which romance is most like yours, which season of the year you'd like to visit Cedarburg...

Jes said...

Enjoyed reading these interviews :). Sounds like a great collection of novellas! Thanks for the giveaway!

Jes (CA)
jswaks at gmail dot com

Kristie said...

I don't usually read novellas but this one sounds sweet. I liked the fact that Lena interviewed all the authors. It's interesting that you all think alike. Is that because you wrote together before or just a "God Thing?" I'm Kristie from Ohio. kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you.