East Coast Adventures

The National Cathedral

We’ve just returned from two weeks on the East Coast and all I can say is – wow!  In two weeks, we visited or drove through a total of nine states, spending most of our time in Vermont, Washington D.C, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

We’ve faced 94-degree weather and thundershowers, long lines, heavy traffic, a chirping GPS, really good pizza, really cranky innkeepers (not ours, thankfully!), clam chowder, pomp, circumstance, and big giant robots.

And no, I’m not kidding about the big giant robots.

My favorite part?  Visiting the National Cathedral (above).  I took 174 photos there – and about 1,000 for the entire trip.

I think I’ll be sorting through photos for a while.

Also discovered this –

They know ice cream in North Carolina.

It’s the lovechild of the bowl and the waffle cone – the waffle bowl.  I love the idea.  Tricky to eat, but sometimes that’s the way conceptual art works.

The best news?  Simply Sara is done.  I know I said she was done before, at least I think I did.  But now she’s really done, going to print done, completed acknowledgements and final edits done.  I’m a little delighted.  And VERY excited thinking ahead to the next book – I’ll keep you posted on that!

So the big giant robots?  Well…I don’t have pictures.  They confiscated my camera at the BMW factory in Spartanburg, SC.  But they were big, and giant, and they threw sparks when they welded, and I won’t ever, ever forget them.

I did get this photo in the museum though –

A BMW airplane engine.

Thanks again for all of your entries for the Simpy Sara Baking Contest!  They were tons of fun to look through, and I absolutely love Rhonda’s winning recipe – I can’t wait for you to see how it works in the book!

That’s it for now – I think my sweet hubby’s woken up from his nap :-)

Plain Jayne and Booksigning to Come

It’s finally out!  After months of writing, editing, planning and paperwork, Plain Jayne has finally begun to hit the shelves.

I say “begun,” because different stores stock at different times.  It first showed up New Year’s Day at Wal-Mart; Borders says they’ll stock Friday (which is funny because most bookstores stock Tuesdays, but whatever.  I’m just the writer.)

It’s been fun hearing from people who have read the book.  So far, everyone’s enjoyed it, and anyone who hasn’t isn’t talking :-)  But Publishers Weekly,  Booklist, and At Home with Christian Fiction have had kind things to say.

If you’re anywhere near the Portland area, mark your calendar for February 14th!  I’ll be at the Cedar Hills Crossing Powell’s at 2pm, signing books and chatting with readers.  Come join the party!

Simply Sara news and Delicious Scones

Well, not only is there the release of Plain Jayne to look forward to on New Year’s Day, but also the fact that the first chapter of Simply Sara will be included in the back. So for the low, low price of $13.99, you get a novel AND a bonus chapter!

When my editor and I discussed the idea of the putting the chapter in a few months ago, I kind of panicked. The thought of having the chapter done and ready in any time frame was too much to think of after working so hard to bring Jayne to completion.

But when it came up again a few weeks ago, I bravely promised to have it churned out in a few days. When I started working on it, though, I realized I had a problem – the first chapter of a book isn’t the sort of thing you want to rush through!

Not only do you have to set up the premise of the entire book, but you want to make it fun and interesting and preferably well-written. After an additional couple days (I have a gracious editor), I was very pleased with the results.

I have to admit that a part of me sees clever writing as an un-renewable resource. Whenever I start a new project, I fear that this is the one where I realize I’ve used all the good words, the best jokes, the vivid characters, and there’s nothing left…

…until I come up with a really good idea, followed by another idea, and oh, wasn’t that a funny line? And I’m back to normal. The best part is, writers like Anne Lamott feel the same way (I found her Bird By Bird to be very reassuring). We’re all a little odd, a little fearful. I suppose that’s what happens when your job is to write down the voices in your head.

In other, less philosophical news, I made really yummy scones yesterday. We’re surrounded by blackberry bushes in our neck of the Pacific Northwest woods, so this is the time of the year when you see people wandering around filling various containers with free berries.

My husband and I went blackberry picking last weekend. Danny’s the best person to pick with because he’s even taller than I am, has very long arms, and doesn’t like blackberries, so he’s not eating and picking at the same time. We gathered about 10 cups of berries.

After two batches of cobbler, I decided to get a little creative.   I used this recipe and altered it for my purposes. I omitted about 1/4 c. sugar and the raisins (blech!) and added the zest of 2 1/2 lemons (basically, the amount of lemons I had on hand), 1 c. blackberries. When they cooled, I gave them a thin coat of lemony icing, using fresh lemon juice and powdered sugar (no particular amounts here, just start with the sugar and add lemon juice until it’s where you want it).

I worried about the dough because you’re not supposed to over-handle it, but it was so loosey-goosey I kind of had to manhandle it into submission, and getting the blackberries in took some work. I worried I’d made them too tough, but they came out perfectly. One note – I froze my blackberries so they’d keep their shape when I worked with them. Realize you’ll have to bake scones longer if you insert frozen berries into them (I didn’t, and had to keep putting them back in the oven).

If you live in a part of the country that’s lousy with raspberries, they would certainly work well too. Blueberries would be fine, but blackberries and raspberries are a bit juicier for this sort of thing.

If you try the recipe, let me know what you think!

Beautiful Cover and Places to Click

Hey all! For those aspiring writers out there, I just posted about agents and publishing on my blog, which you can read here. Also, the cover to Plain Jayne is now posted on the Harvest House website – you can see it here. Taking a little bit of credit, I’ll tell you that the flowers on the bottom were my idea :-)

Hopefully we’ll get it posted here soon…you really should see it, it looks great! I’m so excited for everyone to get a chance to read this book. I like to think that books are like babies (note: I don’t have babies yet, but I have many friends who do), and it seems like there’s a point where you just want to show everyone your beautiful baby. I pretty much feel that way about the book – and will even more so once it’s entirely edited!

Something New

I started the follow-up to Plain Jayne yesterday! Simply Sara will release in the winter of 2011. I’ve only been done with Plain Jayne for a short while, but if I’m not writing, I really don’t know what to do with myself!

While I’m excited to have started the next book, a part of me is still exhausted from finishing Plain Jayne. Writing a book is hard work! I think too often people envision writing as a kind of thoughtful communion with the inner storyteller, a time when the writer gets to sit outside with his/her laptop and let the story unfold itself as spring breezes play at the ends of his/her hair. That’s all complete rubbish. First, laptop screens are invariably tricky to view outside. Second, spring breezes in this part of the world are often paired with outright downpour, and Third, very few stories unfold without a fight. They take immense amounts of thought, planning, and all-out work. If writers only wrote when they felt like it, we wouldn’t do it with the kind of regularity our editors might prefer. You know, to finish things on time.

The upside is that the beginning of a book is my favorite part. I’m already excited about some of the characters, and the fact that much of the book takes place in a bookstore. I love bookstores!

Exciting news – I’ll be teaching a class at the February Oregon Christian Writers’ Conference! If you’re a writer, or exploring the idea of being a writer, and live within reasonable driving distance of Salem, Oregon, it’s certainly worth the trip! I got to attend the Spring Conference here in Eugene a few weeks ago, and had a wonderful time. As registration approaches for the February conference, I’ll be sure to post a link. The class I’m teaching is about creating an ensemble cast for novels. I already have a Word document full of notes. The other happy thing is that Plain Jayne will have been released by then, so I will be bringing books to sell and sign.

If you’re a contented reader but not a writer, no worries, I’ll have other book events around that time.

Until then, happy reading!

A Finished Draft and a New Title

Happy news – I finished the draft for Plain Jayne!   The draft wrapped last Tuesday, after a marathon writing day that involved almost 3,000 words written in a single day.  Crazy!

Next, I’ll be editing the manuscript.  I had a friend ask me why I was editing – isn’t that my editor’s job?  The answer is that a draft is just that.  I like to go through myself and get the book the way I want it before passing it on.  Even before I finished, there were several things I knew I needed to tweak before handing it in – it’s just part of the process.   My mom also checks for grammatical and continuity errors, so that a fresh pair of eyes (with an English degree) can point out things I would have missed.

In other news, we have an official title for the next book – Simply Sara!  

Looking forward to doing the research for Simply Sara. After researching Plain Jayne, I made the decision as a writer that I wanted to learn something new for every book.  For Plain Jayne, that meant learning to ride a motorcycle.  For Simply Sara, I want to learn to sew.  I tried last spring, with mixed results.  Mixed, largely because I tend to get ambitious when it comes to textiles.  When I knit, I can rip things out when they don’t work.  Sewing – it’s a bit more complicated.

So – for the rest of the month, I have a LOT of editing to do!  So far I’m on Chapter 4 of 38.  I thought I might try to get out of the house to edit today, but it’s Monday, and Monday means laundry.  Speaking of, I need to do a load of darks before getting back to the draft.  Will update more later!

What People Ask

Being a writer is an odd job, especially here in Eugene.  When people hear what I do, I get a lot of funny reactions.  “So is that what you, like, do?”

And I’m one of lucky ones, because the answer is yes.  Most writers need a day job to stay fed.  I am blessed to have a patron of the arts, which means I get to write full-time.  My hat goes off to anyone pulling double duty, because writing fiction can be very mentally taxing!

A lot of people ask if Plain Jayne is my first book; it’s not, but it is my first book to be released.  I wrote a novel about artists and musicians and hippies in Eugene.  While it’s not published, it did open doors for me to do Plain Jayne and its follow-up novel (of indeterminate title) for Harvest House.

Here are some other things people ask –

Hello, Gentle Readers…

Welcome to the “Hillary” section of AmishReader.com!  You’re very sweet to be here, because you can’t buy any of my books right now.  In fact, my first release isn’t all written yet…I have 2559 worlds left.  Not a lot, but enough, especially since the end of the book is kinda the crucial part, I’m trying not to screw it up.   I’m kind of working on it right now – I tend to multi-task while writing.

I can tell you a bit about it, though.  Jayne Tate is the fearless main character, a motorcycle-riding reporter who’s running as fast as she can from her past.  She has a good life in Portland, Oregon – a job at the paper, great friends, and a nice boyfriend.  What she wants most is a chance to go to Florida for the story of the year, but her boss gives the job to a coworker.  Jayne goes a little nutters, and uses her vacation time to go to an Amish community outside of Albany.  Sure she’ll find a story there, she interviews the owner of an Amish carpentry shop, Levi Burkholder.  Levi helps Jayne find a family to stay with while working on the story. 

A little more about Hillary…

Personal info: I live in Eugene, Oregon with my husband, Danny.

Author of: Plain Jayne (Winter 2010)

Favorite Scriptures or quotes: Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

“God created man because he loves stories.” – Elie Wiesel