Friday, August 9, 2013

Just Wishing Won’t Get Us Published with Guest Helen Gray

Hello from the Missouri Ozarks, and thanks for having me here today. 

Like those of you who hang out here, I grew up with a book in my hand most of the time. My writing odyssey began in the early 1980’s when I started to write stories rather than just read them.
No computer No internet.

Just a three-ring binder of notebook paper, a typewriter and carbon paper. I wore out two typewriters.

The life of a minister’s wife is not always the most private. You get “critiqued” a lot. Writing began as my private haven, my craft. My ministry was working alongside my pastor husband, with my personal roles being primarily in the area of music—choir directing, accompanying, singing, playing the trumpet, ventriloquism, whatever was needed.



I joined RWA and attended a national conference in Minneapolis. I began to experience near misses and collect rejections.  I completed ten manuscripts.

At one time I had four manuscripts with a publisher. Then they cancelled that line. 

Life got busier, the kids got older and more involved, and the churches got bigger and more time consuming. Uncertainty and futility won. I boxed up the manuscripts and put them in storage.

Years later I retired. Then I started over. But this time, since I like to read mysteries and had trouble finding them without smut and vulgarity, I began writing them. I wrote three 90K books. And then shelved them because I couldn’t find a home for them.

A few months later I dug out the old romance manuscripts and went through them. Ugh! HUMBLING! I don’t know how I got as many nibbles as I did. I completely rewrote some of them—new settings and storylines, but utilizing the characters and backstories I had previously created. A couple of the oldies got trashed. A couple more are still sitting on the shelf.

As time passed, the writing became an adjunct to my ministry. The manuscripts and rejections accumulated. Then Judy, a friend at church, took a special interest in my writing. She asked to read one of my manuscripts. Then another. And another. Everything I had. She became my first reader, proofreader, and encourager. She read everything I wrote. And believed in me!

Questioning whether I would ever be published, a scripture verse came to my mind—and lodged. “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 18:19

Could I do that?  I lacked courage, but I couldn’t chase that scripture out of my brain. So one day I asked Judy if she would claim that promise with me. She not only gave me an emphatic YES, but assured me that her mother, a prayer warrior, would join us. From that point on the three of us were united in petitioning God for my books to find a publisher. And more ladies of the church asked to read what I was writing.

For the first two years all I did was enter contests, garnering feedback and using it to improve the manuscripts. I placed second in a couple of contests. My critiques got better—much better. Then I began to submit. Things seemed brighter, more promising. I had a request for a complete from Heartsong Presents. It was under consideration when the line was cancelled. Major blow!

 



At that point, in spite of my prayer pact, I questioned whether it really was time to quit. How many times could I get this far, be knocked down, and get back up? But, gripped in the passion of writing, and with another project already underway, I couldn’t abandon it. So I kept writing. And waited for another opportunity.

Then Harlequin bought the Heartsong Presents line, and I queried Kathy Davis.

Now let me back up here. In my early years of scribbling, my mother read all my books. Then, after a time when I had been grilling her about her experiences growing up in the Great Depression, she typed up some notes for me. Back then most historical books were set before the turn of the century, so those notes went in a file. Five years ago I lost my mother. Several months later I pulled out those notes. I decided the time had come to use them.

I wrote a historical set it in the Great Depression, fictionalizing the small town of my girlhood and characterizing a heroine with the help of my mother’s notes. After a long wait, during which I wrote the two books that follow it, the sale of the series seemed almost prophetic in timing. The message saying the series had been given a YES arrived on Hubby’s birthday. The contract arrived on the anniversary of Mom’s death. Tentatively titled Ozark Courtship, the first book is supposed to release in March of 2014. The sequels are to follow in June and September.




Funny fact. (At least I think it’s funny.) The third book is about the coming of electricity to the rural areas. That’s what I was writing when the ice storm put us without power for eight days. Chapter 8 and about half of 9 were hand written by the light of an oil lamp. Now that was an IN-DEPTH research experience.

 

At this point my prayer is simply that God will help me write stories that honor Him. And if they should touch hearts, I say, “Thank you, God, for using me in this small way.”

I don’t know how long you’ve been writing, but if it’s been any length of time, I’m sure you’ve experienced your share of rejections and disappointments. But no matter how weary and discouraged you may become, it won’t EVER happen if you quit. And it CAN be done. I’m living proof that it can.

Just wishing won’t get you to publication. It takes HARD WORK and PERSEVERANCE. And be CONSISTENT. Work on your project regularly, even if it’s only a little. It adds up!

God’s timing may not be what you want. But stick with it. 

Have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. Set reachable goals and be consistent about working toward them. 

Be alert for opportunities. Read and keep up with the publishing world. Attend conferences and establish relationships with other writers. Never stop learning. Soak up all the tips you can find. Read craft books. Enter contests. Get critiques.

Write, write, write. Submit, submit, submit. Then write and submit some more. Keep reaching for the dream.

Find yourself a Judy, someone who will not only believe in you, but will covenant with you in prayer. Remember Matthew 18:19.  

The coffee pot’s ready. So have a cup and talk to us.

Do you have critique partners? Support groups? A prayer partner?


More about Helen:

Helen Gray lives in a small in the Missouri Ozarks. She began writing years ago when her children were small and she worked full-time. Some writing skills were taught in her high school business education classes.  She is a member of ACFW and has spent over twenty years developing her fiction writing through entering, judging, and finaling in contests, attending writers’ conferences, and networking with other writers through online groups and blogs. You can connect with her on Facebook.

The working title of Helen Gray's debut release from Heartsong Presents is Ozark Courtship.  It's scheduled to release in March, 2014.


Today Seekerville is giving away a package of Heartsong Presents releases to one commenter, in honor of Helen's first sale and her commitment to making our coffee each day even though she doesn't even drink it. Now that's perseverance.


Harlequin Heartsong Presents is…

The Waltons or Christy or Love Comes Softly series, for their solid stories and characters, with sweet romance and a level of Christian faith at the core.

Did You Know?


There are 4 new Heartsong Presents books available each month.Two historical and two contemporary romances.

 
If you are interested in writing for the Harlequin Presents line you can find more information here,

135 comments:

Helen Gray said...

How-deee!!!

I'm just so glad to be here.

And for the reason!!!

The line forms to the right for the coffee pot.

Kav said...

Helen, you are such a trooper. I stayed up late just so I could tend the coffee for you but you beat me to it! Ah well, I'll leave some cinnamon buns next to the coffee pot in case anyone gets the munchies.

You are such an inspiration, Helen. I'm so thrilled that you will be published -- and so quickly!!!!! So what has the experience been like? How did you find tackling the edits? And the whole production part of publishing?

Wow -- I don't think I've ever been this early at Seekerville before!

Melissa Jagears said...

So happy for you Helen!

Helen Gray said...

Kav,

I'm just getting started on the pre-publishing work. I've done an Art Fact Sheet, and I've cut the manuscript from 73,500 words to 50,000, but I haven't received my edits yet.

I'm working ahead on gathering info for the AFS for the second book.

Thanks for the cinnamon buns. Everyone will enjoy them.

Helen

Helen Gray said...

Thanks, Melissa.

Let me know if you're ever going to be in Springfield for a meeting with the new ACFW group.

Marianne Barkman said...

How thrilling, Helen! Can I say I knew you before....? Don't you need someone to get the masses enthused? How fun! So happy for you, and looking forward to reading them!

Helen Gray said...

Yes, I need someone to get the masses enthused.

Enthuse away!!!

Vince said...

Hi Helen:

I was just up to the Ozarks for three days. Beautiful country. Have you seen the I-max Ozark movie in Branson? If not, I think it would really be great background info for your books.

Do you have a dummy for your ventriloquism ministry? Have you used ventriloquism in any of your stories? It would seem to be highly useful as a unique POV. The dummy could talk to the heroine when she is alone. The dummy could also ask the hero things that the heroine is not ready to ask the hero herself.

You are a great inspiration to me. I need to do what you said and keep at it everyday. I look foreword to reading your books.

Vince

Tina Radcliffe said...

She makes her own coffee when she guest blogs in Seekerville...AND she doesn't even LIKE coffee.

Helen you are amazing.

Helen Gray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Helen Gray said...

Tina,

I get plenty of caffeine without the coffee. I drink iced tea with meals, and Wa-a-a-y too much Coke.

Helen Gray said...

Vince,

We have seen a lot of the shows in Branson, but I've not been to the I-Max. We go there to visit our son, and our daughter is just beginning a new job down there.

I do have a dummy, and I used to use him quite a bit. When my kids were in school, the principal asked me several times to do assembly programs. I did a lot of church things, and a few programs for community groups. Now I spend that time writing. :)

I DID write a book with a ventriloquist heroine, and I set it in Branson. I used a dummy dialogue to open it and establish the setting.

Cindy W. said...

Good morning Helen! Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post today. It softly placed a boot on my derriere and stoked the fire a little more. I needed this post today. I will print it out and keep it in my keeper book...right up front for inspiration!

A BIG congratulations on your sale as well!

I would love to be entered into the giveaway.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W., another Pastor's wife

countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Helen, thanks for putting the coffee on every morning. Thanks for sharing your story.

Most importantly, thanks for reminding me that writing is about the journey.

I have always been afraid of ventriloquist's dummies (don't like the word. Is there another?) Maybe knowing you are the power behind the doll would make the difference.

Peace, Julie

Narelle Atkins said...

Helen, thanks for sharing your inspiring story :) I've been blessed to have amazing online critique partners who have become good friends, even though we live on opposite sides of the globe. Congrats on your sale and I'll be looking out for your book in March.

Jackie said...

Helen,

Thanks so much for sharing your story today. I needed that. You've inspired me. And made me cry.

What a great story about the ice storm and your writing. God is so amazing!

Sally said...

Great post filled with perseverance! In all things we need to be reminded it is in God's time, not ours. Would love to be entered in the giveaway!
tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net

Jenny Blake said...

glad you had the support you did and that you kept going. I do like heartsong presents books and it will be interesting reading about the depression era. I know some of it from Australia as mum went through it and its why she hated pumpkin. it was a veg that seemed to be readily available and cheap they may have even grown it but her mother made a lot of things with it and she got to the point she hated pumpkin.

Debra E. Marvin said...

I love your 'journey to publication' Helen! At least all those people who gave up along the way make it easier for those of us who don't. HA HA!

I certainly remember your days without electric. Have you reconsidered any plot lines now out of concern?

Congratulations on well-deserved success~ You are a treasure!

Rose said...

Helen!!!!!!

Spot on advice.

I'm so happy to be in the same publisher's stable as you and can't wait until your book is released.

Have a fun day on Seekerville!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

HELEN!!!! I LOVE YOU AND I LOVE THIS POST!!!!!

Your words are truth....

and so beautifully told!

I love envisioning you writing in the lamplight, and the Holy Spirit moment when you pulled out those old pages and dusted them off.

So proud of you and happy for you! I can't wait to hold a Helen Gray novel in MY HANDS!!!!

Happy dancing in upstate and putting this on facebook right now...

Like NOW... so everyone can come by and see just how marvelous you are!

God bless you, my friend!!!!

And the coffee is GREAT!

kaybee said...

Well good morning,
Thank you, Helen. This is what I need and probably a lot of pre-pubbed writers need as we go into the weekend. It's been 20 years or more for me too, a lot of stops and restarts.
Put me in the drawing. I send reviews to the Christianity section of about.com, I've had two published, and I also write about books on Facebook and my own Web site. If I win I'll review it!
FMI (for my information), what is an AFS? Wow, you guys really do work even harder after you're published.
Kathy Bailey

Helen Gray said...

Cindy W,

You're welcome, dear. Only another pastor's wife could truly understand my journey.

Hang in there. Enjoy your writing.

Helen

Helen Gray said...

Julie HS,

The journey can be tiring, but through it we learn so much. I tell my family it's what I do to keep the "gray" matter stirring.

A vent dummy is also called a doll. They have been a powerful tool for many.

Helen

Helen Gray said...

Narelle,

You're most welcome. And don't you have some HP books coming out also? What are your release dates?

March seems like a long time to wait, but there's so much to do and learn between now and then.

Helen Gray said...

Jackie,

Glad my story touched you.

Isn't it something what God can teach us through bad things?

Helen Gray said...

Sally,

There will be times of weariness and discouragement, but God can teach and mold us if we persevere.

Cara Lynn James said...

Congratulations, Helen! Your story is inspiring! I'm so glad you persevered.

I love stories set in the 1930s and 1940s because that's when my mother was young. She told me lots of fascinating stories, too.

Missy Tippens said...

Helen, isn't God's timing just perfect?! What a sweet story about the contract coming on the anniversary of your mother's death. She'll always be a part of these books.

I'm so SO excited for you and can't wait to read the books!!! :)

Thanks for a fantastic, encouraging post.

Helen Gray said...

Jenny,

My mother said in her notes she learned to eat grapefruit, macaroni, and carrots during the depression, foods she wouldn't eat before that.

Yes, the support I've had has been great.

Helen Gray said...

Debra,

I've read some pretty interesting statistics on how many people who talk about writing a book ever actually do it.

Don't you dare give up. If I can do it, you certainly can.

Karen Kirst said...

Helen, your story is such an inspiration. Many people would've simply given up. I'm thrilled that God fulfilled your dream at last. :) And with a series, no less! The timing of your husband's birthday and the anniversary of your mom's passing is so special. After six months without a job, my husband got the call about his new job on his birthday. I like to think God did that on purpose to make sure we knew it was His doing. Btw, my dad was born and raised in Nixa, MO near Springfield. And I have a dear friend living in Neosho. We made many trips up there.

Helen Gray said...

Rose!!

Happy to be aboard.

NOTE:
Rose and I met at conference in St. Louis a few weeks after Barbour announced cancellation of the HP line. Our friendship is an example of one of the benefits of attending conferences.

Helen Gray said...

Ruthie!!!

Thanks for your constant love, support, and encouragement.

Even though we were exhausted from feeding wood to the fireplace every 2-3 hours 24/7, we both snickered about my writing by that lamp.

March seems a long time to wait for the book to release, but I know how quickly it will pass.

Helen Gray said...

Kathy Bailey,

Good morning to you, too.

My first book is not due to release until March, so the drawing is for other book in the series. But I'll offer one in March when I get mine. :)

AFS is Art Fact Sheet.

Jeanne T said...

Helen, I love your story! It's fun to hear how God works in each author's life to bring them to publication. In His time. Your story is just beautiful.

I've learned the value of having a friend who totally believes in what you're doing who will also pray for you. She's read about every draft of everything I've written, poor girl. :) And, she's also given me amazing feedback to make my story better. I love that you have a "Judy," Helen!

Thanks for the coffee, Helen! I've been burning the late night oil and early morning oil to finish my rough draft by the end of this month. Coffee is always welcome. I think I'll use my super-size mug today. :)

Helen Gray said...

Cara Lynn,

My second writing life has been so much different and easier than the first. The only Christian line I submitted to back then was a TN one called Promise. And technology makes it a whole new venture.

When Mom wrote those notes for me, publishing guidelines defined historical stories as those set before 1900. So they had to wait their time--and for me to learn the craft. I enjoyed the project enough that I think I might like to do another set in that era.

Helen

Helen Gray said...

Missy,

Yes, God knows what He's doing--even if when we question the timing.

I appreciate the encouragement you and the other Seekers have provided over the years.

Christina said...

At a time when I'm feeling especially discouraged with my writing, your post has lifted me up. Thank you, Helen. I'll pray that God continues to bless you in your writing journey.

Helen Gray said...

Karen,

Yes, it did seem that the timing of my contract was an affirmation.

I know the Nixa area well. I have kids in Springfield and Branson.

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Helen! Welcome to post side of Seekerville! As always, thanks for making coffee.

Mega thanks for sharing your journey to publication! So happy for your well-earned HEA--the three books releasing next year. I can't wait to read Ozark Courtship! You live what you preach: Work hard, persevere, write and submit. And lift your efforts to God with a prayer partner. Wonderful advice!

I brought my favorite Apple Fritters to go with your coffee. And tea for you.

Janet

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, Helen! Thank you so much for sharing your journey! Passion, Performance, Purpose and Perseverance! I am absolutely looking forward to reading these Missouri Ozark books!

Helen Gray said...

Jeanne,

It's great to have a friend who believes in you, but it's a new depth when they join you in prayer. "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Matthew 18:20

I'm glad you recognize what a treasure you have in your friend.

Melanie Dickerson said...

What a wonderful testimony, Helen! Perseverance and hard work paid off!

I was co-leading a ladies class at my church when I was trying to get published, and at times I asked them to pray for me because I was really discouraged--like you say, I was getting close but things would fall through, and it was so heart-breaking. They prayed for me, and now they are so proud of me. But one or two of them like to remind me how I used to cry over my struggle, and they remind me how far I've come. So just remember, crying may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning! And those who saw you cry will remind you of your little faith, so no blubbering! (Isn't that the point of this story? I always have trouble with themes.)

kaybee said...

Okay,what IS an Art Fact Sheet?
I can relate to publishers formerly thinking "historical" was before 1900. But it isn't any more, especially as members of the Greatest Generation pass on. What freaks me out is to see the Sixties classed as "historical." My (adult) daughter collects American Girl dolls, and the one from the hippie era confounds me. MY past is now history! My critique partner is writing a story based in the Vietnam era. What freaks me out even more than that is when I see artifacts from my children's era (THE 1980s) in antique and collectible shops. Time does march on.
I can relate to Helen writing by oil lamp. We live in the Northeast and have MANY power failures. I keep a legal pad and pen handy. I still write most of a first draft in longhand, so it's not a stretch for me.
Not at all relevant, but I just reread Terri Blackstock's "Restoration" series, the one where she imagines a world where ALL technology stops for a couple of years. This time I was more focused on the characters' journey instead of the technology or lack of it. I think it's the most powerful thing she's ever done.
Helen, writing is my gift to myself as Ruthy so elegantly puts it, and I can relate to your using it as a respite from the pastorate. My husband pastored a couple of churches back when it was more of a fishbowl existence so I know. Way to go!
Kathy Bailey

Helen Gray said...

Christina:

I'm glad my story gave you a lift. May you be encouraged as you persevere.

Jan Drexler said...

Helen!!!

We've been waiting for this day! Helen's publication story!!! I'm so happy for you :)

And you're right about conferences - the best place to be refreshed, recommitted, and to make friends. I'm so glad I was able to meet you last year at ACFW :)

I won't be going to Indy - too many other things going on this year - but hopefully we'll get together in St. Louis, right?

Enjoy your Seekerville day! I'm adding blueberry buckle to the breakfast buffet, so help yourself!

Helen Gray said...

Janet,

Thanks for the tea. A jolt of caffeine is needed about now.

I suppose there's a touch of irony in my first sale being historical--after always writing contemporaries prior to this series. But I really had a good time with it. Looking forward to your feedback on it.

Mary Connealy said...

HELEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I love your story!!!!!!!
I'm so thrilled for you. You've worked so long and hard and now You're an OVERNIGHT SUCCESS!!!!!!!!!!!!
YAY HELEN

Helen Gray said...

Glynna,

Thank you so much for your book that arrived yesterday. Looking forward to reading it.

These books utilize my memories of my grandparents' little farm and the surrounding area. Knowing the setting so well made it easier to construct the stories.

Helen Gray said...

Melanie,

I don't know about your group of church ladies, but mine has grown with the passing of time. More of them are now asking to read my manuscripts. :)

When I get my author copies, Judy gets the first one.

Thank you for being among the supporters here in Seekerville. I've loved meeting you at conferences.

Courtney Faith said...

This is a wonderful testimony. Thank you for telling us about your experiences. I'm happy for you:)

Cindy Regnier said...

Thanks, Helen. If I had been asked to write this blog post it might have come out much the same. At least the discouragement and rejection part. I haven't got to my happy ending yet but whatever the plan, I know I am on the path of obedience. The outcome is not nearly as important as that. Don't know what I would do without your coffee every morning. Gets me up and going. Can't wait to read Ozark Courtship!

Helen Gray said...

Kathy Bailey,

An Art Fact Sheet is a form that asks for pictures and information for the art team to use in planning and designing the book cover.

During this past winter, my sister-in-law gave me a pile of books she wanted to dispose of before selling their home and moving into an assisted living center. Terri Blackstock's Restoration series was among them. So I ended up reading them during the time I was writing my Ozark series. Eerie.

Helen Gray said...

Jan!!

Meeting you at conference, and singing in the choir with you, was such a pleasure. Will MISS, MISS, MISS in Indy. But, yes, count on hooking in St. Louis next year.

I enjoyed reading your book last week. When can we expect another Jan Drexler release?

Susan Anne Mason said...

Helen,

What a wonderful, inspirational story! Thank you for sharing it. I can so relate to your struggles, even though it's been just over 10 years for me.

I've had a nibble on a trilogy and am patiently waiting to hear back. (Prayers appreciated by one and all!!) I think if the answer is no, this time it will be even harder - to get so close to your dream and then see it die, again. But reading your story gives me a lot of hope.

Do you think your other stories will ever be published, or have you resigned yourself to letting them go?

I have to wish my lovely daughter a happy birthday! Twenty years ago I was in the hospital for a LONG labour, but she was so worth it!

Cheers everyone! Have a wonderful day!

Sue

Helen Gray said...

Mary!!

Some of us just take longer to develop, mature, ripen, get rotten?

March is still a long wait, so guess what I'm doing? Yep. Starting another project.

Will I see you in Indy?

Playground Monitor said...

Thanks for sharing your journey to publication with us. I've been so tempted to give up these last few years and I'm glad I didn't. I still have a long way to go but my foot's in the door and I won't let them nudge it out!

Any cinnamon buns left?

Marilyn

Helen Gray said...

Courtney Faith,

Thank you for coming by. May God bless your writing.

Helen Gray said...

Cindy,

Keep on keeping on with the writing. If you don't have a prayer partner, try to find one.

Helen Gray said...

Susan Ann Mason,

The closer we get before being rejected, the harder it is. But that's when you get tough. Revise your ms to fit another line or publisher--and submit it.

I have another series under consideration. But this business moves slowly. We'll see what happens.

Blessings and prayers to you.

Helen Gray said...

Marilyn,

We have to have a bit of bulldog in us to pursue this dream. But there's so much satisfaction in achieving it. Hang in there.

Connie Queen said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE your story, Helen.

Perseverance wins!

And yes, it is funny you wrote the scenes about getting electricity by candle light.

Please put me in for the HeartSong books.

Helen Gray said...

Connie,

Perseverance cannot be overrated.

God surely has a sense of humor, doesn't He?

Now I'm back to waiting--for March. :)

Janet Dean said...

Helen, I love that you used your mother's notes to create your Great Depression stories. Know she's so thrilled and proud that the stories will be in print.

I hope you have more historicals in you. Just love them!

Janet

Helen Gray said...

Janet,

Since I have more completed contemporaries on hand, the new project I've started is another historical series.

I have no "Mom" notes for this one, but I do have memories of visiting my aunt, uncle, and cousins in the part of the state I'm setting this series in.

Mary Hicks said...

Hi, Helen, thanks for sharing your 'publishing' journey.
It's sooo encouraging to those still 'hanging in there'.
I'm so happy for your success, and I'll pray that you sell, as they say in the art world, to the wall!!!

One of my friends who makes the BEST coffee, doesn't drink it either... :-)

Connie Queen said...

Helen,

How long does it take you to complete a ms? Are you a fast writer or just consistent?

Helen Gray said...

Mary,

Glad you found my story encouraging. Hang in, girl!

My dad kept the coffee pot going all the time, drank it all day. My mom drank a cup with breakfast. Neither of them drank tea. I learned to make and drink it after marrying a guy from a tea drinking family.

Helen Gray said...

Connie,

I'm a tortoise, slow but consistent.

The fastest books I ever wrote were the last two. When I sent Book One to Kathy Davis, I told her I envisioned it as the first of a 3 book series. When she got back to me, she told me to write proposals (3 chapters & synopsis) for the other two. That was in September. I sent her the proposals in October and November. Then I finished Book Two in January, and Book Three in April.

I must have burned out my brain, because I'm moving really, really slow on the new one I've started.

Tina Radcliffe said...

The tortoise wins the prize!!!

Bringing in fresh croissants and tea for a mid morning inspiration.

Connie Queen said...

Helen, two complete books in 7 months??? Even if the ms is 50k, that's awesome.

I'm going to say years of developing your talents has paid of off.

Helen Gray said...

Tina,

Thanks for replenishing the snack table. Everyone appreciates it.

I've decided there is no shame in being a tortoise.

Helen Gray said...

Connie,

I think the reason I was able to write those books faster was because of it being a series. I already knew the setting and characters. It felt like I was writing one extended book.

Vince said...

Hi Helen:

When do we get to see your ‘doll’? Facebook or profile picture? Do you think that book will be published? You could take the doll to book signings, like KC takes May to hers. The doll could be interviewed on blog appearances. The memorability factor would be very high. The marketing possibilities seem endless. What a human interest story this would make for TV chat shows. I'll be watching!

Vince

Helen Gray said...

Vince,

I used a picture of my doll on my FB profile for awhile. You can find it there.

Helen Gray said...

Vince,

Check your FB messages.

Sherida Stewart said...

Helen! Thank you for the inspiring story of your writing journey---and the coffee!

I wish I would have written down (or remembered better) my mother's Depression stories of life in rural areas of Kansas, Missouri and Texas where her father was an airfield caretaker for the mail planes. The pilots enjoyed stopping at Granddad's airfields because they loved my grandmother's cooking.

Congratulations on ALL your upcoming books! I'm looking forward to reading your Depression era stories!

Helen Gray said...

All right, everybody, I have to run down to the beauty shop. Be back in an hour or so.

(Some of us need regular maintenance.)

Helen Gray said...

Wow! As I pulled out of the driveway it came a deluge. Had to practically crawl down the highway.

Sherida,
I'm so thankful that Mom put some of that in writing for me. It's only 5 typed pages, but it's the most memorable thing I have of her.

I know some people probably don't care for depression era stories--find them depressing. But there was a lot of sharing and "togetherness" during that period.



Debby Giusti said...

Helen, I'm so thrilled about your three-book contract and can't wait until your debut hits the shelves! Whoo-hoo!

God's timing is always perfect...even if I sometimes wish He'd work a bit more quickly. :)

Good for you! You did it! Your hard work and dedication and determination paid off...big time! I'm so happy for you!!!

Hugs and love and mega-congrats!!!

Helen Gray said...

Debby,

I feel vindicated that I am a writer. But I don't feel like an author yet. I guess that won't hit until the first book releases.

Yes, I often wish He would work more quickly.

Thanks for the love and hugs.

Clari Dees said...

From one Missouri girl to another...

CONGRATULATIONS!

So very happy and excited for you!

☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺

(Hope you're not drowning in all the rain! It's stayed south of I-70 and missed us.)

Walt Mussell said...

That is an inspirational story of things happening in God's time. May you have continued blessings.

Helen Gray said...

Clari,

Thanks, fellow Ozarkian. :)

A couple of nights ago the gravel from our driveway went down the hill. Got to order another load next week.

Helen Gray said...

Walt,

You got it right. The timing I wished for along the way simply wasn't right.

CatMom said...

HOORAY for HELEN!!! You are such an inspiration, sweet lady. I loved reading about your journey to being published--wow, talk about perseverance!

The photo of you with the wishing well and flowers is lovely--appropriate for this post title! I am already in the Heartsong book club, so I'm looking forward to reading your books when they're released. CONGRATULATIONS, and thanks for the COFFEE!!
Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

p.s. On an unrelated note...my daughter Amy and her husband recently traveled out west (by car) to visit some elderly relatives. They went through 15 states, and when she got home Amy said her favorite state was MISSOURI!! (and she loves the Ozarks!). Just wanted to share that with you. ;) PJ

Pam Hillman said...

Loved reading about your journey to publication, Helen, and I love that pic of you by the wishing well! Adorable!

Helen Gray said...

Patti Jo,

Glad you liked it.

The wishing well (which is an old washing machine) was a last minute inspiration when I was thinking about a title.

Wow! Top choice of 15. Score one for good old Missouri. I've always thought my home state was pretty. Glad I'm not alone.

Helen Gray said...

Pam,

That is high praise, coming from the "picture" lady. Thanks.

DebH said...

wow Helen
thanks for sharing your journey to getting published. it's encouraging to know that if one persevere's with the call God has given them, the reward will come. it's hard to remember that when the timing isn't necessarily what we want.

i look forward to seeing your cover and release tours when the time comes.

Mary Connealy said...

Okay, the picture Helen.
I look at it and I think:
Helen Grey and Well, in Gray.

Your picture is a poem.

Also very nice. :)

Melanie Pike said...

I love that you make the coffee while not even drinking it, Helen! I don't drink it at all and I don't make it either, even at church (we have lots of folks there who love it and are willing to make it).

Congratulations again on selling to Heartsong Presents! And what do you mean by "Just Wishing Won't Get Us Published"??? That's how I've operated for 40+ years now--since I discovered a love of writing in the 7th grade. ;-) I know, I know...anything worth having requires hard work (or something along those lines).

I don't have a critique partner and would probably need to have one in order to keep me disciplined. Maybe one of these days I'll stumble across one! :D

You've cut your ms from 73,500 words down to 50K? Wow, I can't imagine doing a cut like that. Was it heartbreaking at all?

I could go on and on, but won't (I tend to ramble). Would love to have my name thrown in for the books though. And will definitely be looking forward to your first book coming out next year!

Blessings,
Melanie

Piper Huguley said...

Helen,

You personify my word for the year--persist. Thank you for sharing the story of your journey and inspiring so many. I look forward to reading your books!

Piper

Helen Gray said...

DebH,

Some people appear to write with ease--the words just flow out of them. Not so with me. It's WORK.

I have to think out every scene, "live" them one by one, and grind out the details.

So, yes, I work. But it's work I CHOOSE to do. And I LOVE that feeling of euphoria when I finish a manuscript.

Helen Gray said...

Mary,

I just hope you weren't thinking of my name as two words. :)

Oh, WELL, the sentiment is appreciated.

Helen Gray said...

Melanie,

I don't make the coffee at church. Only at Seekerville.

I had written that book to fit the length of Love Inspired Historical, and it was tough to cut it that much. But when an editor loves a book and indicates she wants it, you do what you gotta. :)

Helen Gray said...

Piper,

Thank you for your encouraging words.

Will you be in Indy next month?

Tina Radcliffe said...

BTW Heartsong Presents Editor, Kathy Davis WILL be in Indy as well as Emily Rodmell and Tina James.

Helen Gray said...

Yes, Tina!!!

I'm looking forward to meeting her.

Piper Huguley said...

Helen,

You're welcome. Unfortunately, I will not be in Indy, but I will follow all of the events on Seekerville! Enjoy!

Mary Curry said...

Ack, Helen, I read this early this morning and have been trying to get back ever since to comment.

Congratulations!!!!!

I'm so excited for you.

I totally understand this journey as much of it mirrors my own. Your success is an inspiration to me to persevere.

Thank you for sharing - your story and the daily coffee. I can't wait to read your books.

Helen Gray said...

Mary Curry,

Thanks for getting back.

I will be excited for you when your time comes.

I can't wait to get my hands on the final product.

Elaine Manders said...

Hi Helen

Sorry I'm so late. Had to go with the grandkids to buy school clothes. I'm another one of those who's had an on again, off again writing life, so your story really hits home.

I think it's great that your church ladies read and prayed for you. There's a readers' group at my church and I never thought to ask them to pray for me or read a ms, but I do have some encouraging cps (waving to Piper and Natalie).

Wishing you great success with this series and many more.

Vince said...

TINA:

Do you know yet if the ACFW awards ceremony will be live streamed? That is a show I do not want to miss. You can get enough emotional proxy examples to last you all year in your writing. I loved it last year.

I have my Yankee cap on for Ruth who was at Ground Zero in NYC today. I don’t know if I could do that. I have not been able to go to the OKC memorial yet. My wife is not ready yet either.

Terri said...

Helen - you are such an inspiration. Thanks Goldie sharing your writing journey. It is such an encouragement and just what I needed.

Terri said...

Autocorrect strikes again! I did not type Goldie.

Helen Gray said...

Elaine,

Glad you made it.

At this point the only critiques I'm getting are the ones I've won here on Seekerville. (Mary critiqued chapter one of Book 1. Tina did Book 2. And GQ edited chapter one of Book 3.)

The ladies at church proofread and give me prayer support. It's nice to know they approve of my work. :)

Helen Gray said...

Terri,

Thanks for your kind words.

Goldie sounds like a dog. Sure you don't have one? :)

Mary Curry said...

Vince, I haven't been able to do it yet. From my back window, I can see the new buildings going up, but I haven't been able to walk around the memorial site. All these years later and the memories of the site are still too vivid.

Lyndee H said...

Congrats, Mary! Looking forward to reading your series!

Christina Rich said...

I am so late to this party, but I'm glad I did not miss it. Helen, I'm tempted to ask you what month your birthday is. So much of our story sounds the same, especially these lines, and we debut the same month!!! How cool is that?

At this point my prayer is simply that God will help me write stories that honor Him. And if they should touch hearts, I say, “Thank you, God, for using me in this small way.”

Congratulations on your three book sale!!!!

Helen Gray said...

Lyndee,

Thank you--if it's me you're talking to.

Helen Gray said...

Christina,

My birthday is in October. I always celebrate with Seekerville.

Hope I get to chat with you at conference. I'd love to compare notes. :)

Dianna Shuford said...

Helen- that is an awesome testimony to your perserverance and God's faithfulness & timing. Thanks so much for sharing and encouraging other writers.

Your book sounds fabulous! Would love to read it. If I don't win it, I guess I'll have to buy it.

Helen Gray said...

Dianna,

Glad you found my story worthwhile.

I'm scheduled to post again the week my book releases. I should have a copy to offer then.

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, HELEN, I am SO sorry I'm late to the party, but OH ... what a party it's been and what a heartwarming and inspiring blog, my friend -- I am BEYOND thrilled for you!! Cannot WAIT to read a series set in the Ozarks, my 2nd home for many years. :)

God bless you and I sure hope somebody else made the coffee today ... ;)

Hugs,
Julie

Lyndee H said...

Oh my goodness, HELEN! Yes, of course I was talking to you! But I'd just read Mary's comment and typed the wrong name. I'm so sorry. It's been a long day...long week...long...you get the picture! I am truly thrilled for you and I am looking forward to reading your series.

Helen Gray said...

Hi Julie,

But you made it. That's wonderful, and thank for coming.

Familiarity made writing this series a lot of fun. I named my heroine in book after my maternal grandmother.

Cynthia Herron said...

Helen, so sorry I'm late to the party!

So excited for you! What a wonderful testimony of your amazing journey!

Congratulations! :)

Cynthia Herron said...

Helen, so sorry I'm late to the party!

So excited for you! What a wonderful testimony of your amazing journey!

Congratulations! :)

Cynthia Herron said...

Helen, so sorry I'm late to the party!

So excited for you! What a wonderful testimony of your amazing journey!

Congratulations! :)

Helen Gray said...

Lyndee,

I read all that between the lines. :)

Helen Gray said...

Cindy,

Glad you found us.

Looking forward to road tripping with you to conference again.

Helen Gray said...

Thank you, thank you, EVERYBODY, for stopping by and helping me have a great time today.

Got to get the coffee pot washed for weekend use.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Helen, Was kayaking down a huge river today so am late to the party also. Your story is so inspiring. I'm so thankful that you are now published and your series sounds really exciting.

Have a blessed debut and coming out. I know it is hard work but sounds like you can handle it.

Love the fact you stood on scripture for your dream. That pleases the Lord. smile

Thanks for blessing us on Seekerville today.

Christina Rich said...

Doors are opening a bit for me to go. I just need to find a way there and get definitely approval from hubs. Y'all might pray for me. ;)

Helen Gray said...

Sandra,

You are so much more of an outdoor type than me.

Thank you for your support.

Christina Rich said...

Doors are opening a bit for me to go. I just need to find a way there and get definitely approval from hubs. Y'all might pray for me. ;)

Mary Preston said...

Well done Helen. Your perseverance was rewarded. It was just not your time before.

Sally Bayless said...

Hi Helen,

I'm so thrilled for you!! I can't wait to read your books! And what a great post--you really are an inspiration!!

The Rolla girl,

Sally Bayless

Chill N said...

HELEN! Apologies for my tardiness ... I have been looking forward to your post since it was announced in last week's WE. What a wonderful, encouraging post you shared. It's so nice to get to "know" you better. You will remind us when the book releases, right? ;-)

Best,
Nancy C

Jeanette Hill said...

Thank you for the encouraging words. It often helps to see that you are not alone.
I am playwright and wrote for several decades hiding my work thinking it wasn't good enough. Several years ago I started producing and directing my plays and this year took a giant leap of faith by submitting my work to three (!!!) different festivals hoping for feedback from at least one. I was speechless when I was accepted by all three!! What a blessing!
You are correct! NEVER give up on your dreams!

Barbara Thompson said...

Helen, I enjoyed your post. I'm a reader not a writer. I'm so happy you hung in there. I've read many Heartsong Presents books and they're great. Thank you for sharing with us. Please enter me in the giveaway.
Barbara Thompson
barbmaci61(at)yahoo(dot)com

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Helen, was so inspired by your story. Love your persistence and hearing about your success. I'm so happy for you.