July 9, 2014
June 23, 2014
First off, SUPER BIG NEWS, more on that in a minute. I have completed three full length novels and am currently pondering what to do for a 4th. I might resume work on a story I began for NaNoWriMo a few years ago – one with a couple quirky characters who won’t leave me alone. I LOVE quirky folk, especially older ones. This story includes an earthy Gram who rescues spiders by hand and makes tea from things she finds growing in the forest, a kind-hearted cop, a sweet little boy, a young woman who keeps a terrible secret out of love and desperation, and an unfortunate accident that threatens to expose her. We'll see where that story leads...
2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I write "Faith-Inspiring Love Stories," but is not what you would call category romance. It fits more into a genre called "Romantic Women’s Fiction." Inspirational authors whose work most resembles mine in genre might be Deborah Raney, Susan Meissner, Jamie Langston Turner, and perhaps Charles Martin, although I blush to tack my name onto this bunch of literary greats. My work is neither purely romance nor straight women’s fiction but is usually a strong blend of both—equal parts love story AND heart-tugging relational drama woven around a journey of faith. I really enjoy stories with a solid thread of all three. Life is such a twisted blend of the things that move us, right? Novels ought to be just as twisted. J
3. Why do you write what you do?
See #2. J Actually, I am intrigued by what fears, loves, wounds, doubts, and longings drive people, and the courage, faith, and self-sacrifice it takes to overcome obstacles. I like to pose writer’s cue of "What If?" and then hold my breath along with the reader to find out. For example: What if you had a terrible secret you needed to take to your grave, but a brain injury causes your closest confidante to lose her ability to keep quiet? What happens when bad boy tries to reform a good girl? What if a widower’s broken heart is healed and he falls in love only to find she might not have long to live? What if the one thing you fear is the one thing you are forced to trust?
4. How does your writing process work?
By the sheer grace of God! It somehow gets done in spite of me. In my writing cave, there is much plotting and planning and coaxing the Muse, but there’s also far too much staring and re-tweaking the same lines. There are equal parts inspiration, revising, moping, asking for feedback, more revising, more moping, and then usually as a last resort: gut-wrenching prayer involving laying the whole mess at God’s feet and asking him to guide it, make it his story, make it harmonize with his song, bring it to life by his heartbeat.
SUPER BIG NEWS . . .
Also: Sign up for book release news & updates at www.ashberrylane.com
Author Jennifer Anne Messing of Portland, Oregon—who was originally from Manila, Philippines—is an award-winning author and poet, online columnist, speaker, and a wife and mother of three children who has a bachelor’s degree in Christian Education and a diploma in Journalism and Short-Story Writing. A past president of the Oregon Christian Writers, Jennifer Anne has over 200 articles, short stories and poems published in 60 magazines. Her latest book, Morning's Promise: Poetic Moments in His Presence (Ellechor Publishing, 2012), was honored as a TOP FINALIST in the “Poetry: Inspirational” category of the 2013 International Book Awards, sponsored by USA Best Books. Her next book, a collection of short fiction entitled, Everlasting Love: Romantic Vignettes for a Woman's Heart will release from Mockingbird Lane Press (print and ebook) in the summer of 2014.
June 21, 2014
April 28, 2014
February 25, 2014
Hallmark’s When Calls the Heart: A Diamond In The Coal Dust & Special Interview w/Producer BRIAN BIRD
Photo Credit: Copyright 2013
Crown Media United States, LLC
I’ve been calling it “Love Comes Softly meets Little House.” Though I usually lean more toward Jane Austen than pioneer era romance, I gladly confess that I absolutely adore this series. And I’m not alone. WCTH’s audience has grown quickly and continues to grow each week, and for good reason. It is very well-written, well-cast, and well-acted. Each week, WCTH delivers heart-tugging drama and a superbly developed, chaste love story without being shallow or melodramatic. It's subtle yet powerful—the perfect blend. There is so much to love about this series! The best part: it’s an engaging drama adults can thoroughly enjoy and feel good about watching with their kids. The worst part: waiting an entire week until Saturday. Oh, the hours . . . And when it’s finally here, if only time would stop . . .
Photo Credit: Copyright 2013 Crown Media United States, LLC
“When Calls the Heart tells the captivating story of Elizabeth Thatcher (Erin Krakow), a young teacher accustomed to her high society life, who receives her first classroom assignment in Coal Valley, a small coalmining town where life is simple, but often fraught with challenges. Lori Loughlin (Full House) plays Abigail Stanton, a wife and mother whose husband, the foreman of the mine, along with a dozen other miners, has just been killed in an explosion. The newly widowed women find their faith is tested when they must go to work in the mines to keep a roof over their heads. Elizabeth charms most everyone in Coal Valley, except Constable Jack Thornton (Daniel Lissing) who believes Thatcher’s wealthy father has doomed the lawman’s career by insisting he be assigned in town to protect the shipping magnate’s daughter. Living in a 19th century coal town, Elizabeth will have to learn the ways of the frontier if she wishes to thrive in the rural west on her own. The series is inspired by Janette Oke’s bestselling book series about the Canadian West, and reunites Oke with Executive Producer and Director, Michael Landon, Jr.”
Constable Jack Thornton, newly assigned to Coal Valley, is rattled by Elizabeth Thatcher’s presence, especially after he realizes the lovely young heiress is the reason he’s been assigned to this dead-end post. But as a Royal Canadian Mountie, he will fulfill his duty to serve and protect, and he takes his job seriously. Elizabeth continues to rattle Jack in more ways than he would like to admit, while Elizabeth finds the Constable stubborn, over-protective, and irritatingly attractive. Working together in various situations, they mix about as well as oil and water. Yet in spite of their differences, you can't miss the crackling chemistry between them.
Photo Credit: Copyright 2013 Crown Media United States, LLC
As the story progresses, Jack accidentally insults Elizabeth while trying to protect her from hurt and fumbles to apologize, revealing his deeper feelings (the one scene in all of DVR history that ranks the highest number of rewinds and replays. Just a guess.). Elizabeth also struggles with the confusing direction her feelings have taken and is forced to decide what she believes to be true about love, faith, and trust. Of course we know there is more in store for Jack, Elizabeth, and the others, but we fans are fully prepared to hang in there and see them through.
Photo Credit: Copyright 2013
Crown Media United States, LLC
"I do miss my family, but I feel so blessed to be working on this show. And I can’t wait for the audience to see it. I don’t believe there will be anything like ‘When Calls the Heart’ anywhere else on TV. Yes, this is a family show, but I think we are creating something very radical. In between shots yesterday, I was asking one of our crew if they could think of another show on TV right now a whole family could watch together, and he just scratched his head. I couldn’t come up with an example either. Think about that. There used to be a time when all the networks had ‘family hour’ in prime time every night. Now it seems Hallmark Channel is the only one brave enough to put a show on like this. I pray all the hard work, ours and theirs, will be rewarded with a large audience. This is a real opportunity for people across America to make a loud statement that they are tired of all the vampires, zombies, meth dealers and dead bodies on TV. That they are ready for themes like redemption, courage, sacrifice, forgiveness and hope to rule the airwaves once again."
And now . . . meet “When Calls the Heart” Producer and Creator Brian Bird!
BB: We know just as much as the fans do about this decision. The truth is it's up to the fans to make their voices heard with Hallmark and with spreading the word with their own friends about this show. That's the way hits are usually born anyway... word of mouth. There are a million choices about what to watch and a lot of cultural noise out to try to break through. One of the best ways to break through all the distractions is if our fans are very noisy themselves about the show. We have made the best show we know how. Now it's up to the culture and the network to decide if they want more.
BB: We have plenty of good ideas in the story bank and are ready to begin developing scripts. In season 1 our initial order was for 6 episodes, so that's what we developed ahead of time. And then when we were shooting Episode 3, Hallmark let us know that they wanted the rest of the season's worth, so we jumped into developing those scripts.
BB: Of course we will have a cliffhanger. In fact, a few of them. It wouldn't be a good season finale without them, right?
BB: You're way ahead of us, and it could begin by the end of the season... hint-hint, but there's no spoilers we'll be giving long-term.
BB: When Michael and I started out with the first novel in Janette's series, we soon came to realize that as wonderful as the story of Elizabeth Thatcher in Pine Springs was, that world probably wouldn't sustain potentially 100 episodes of a TV series. That's why we decided to add another town and another branch of the family to the storytelling. And Janette Oke felt it was a brilliant way to expand the creative palette. In this way, it became a multi-generational world we could work with.
CE What an unexpected bonus! Where does the writing team look for ideas?BB: Janette has been very involved with our creative process. She has read every script and given us notes and ideas along the way. In fact, Janette loved the new world of the series so much she decided to create a series of When Calls the Heart-branded novels following Elizabeth and Mountie Jack in Coal Valley. The first of those novels is now out and is called "Where Courage Calls." A second one is in the works.
BB: I have been a writer-producer on half-a-dozen network TV series in my career, and the process is always the same in the writers' room. We bring our own life experiences to the table, along with true stories we find out of history (which is very important to a period drama). For instance, in episode 7, we decided to do a dyslexia story because one of our writers went through that experience with her own son, and it seemed like a really fascinating idea to see how we could do that story in a 1910 setting before there was much science about dyslexia.
BB: When I was a writer-producer Touched By An Angel for five seasons, we believed that "water cooler" conversations were started all over America about the some of the great lines the Angels spoke to their "assignments" in the episodes. The angels would quote biblical themes with the people they were helping such as the idea that God loves us and has plans for our welfare. I think we have the opportunity to do something similar with When Calls the Heart, but the goal is just to stir up cravings with the great virtues of western civilization. The fact that some of those themes come from the bible can't be disputed. For instance, in Episode 4, when Reverend Anderson tells Mr. Gowen he's quitting the employ of the company, he says "Where God guides, God provides." I believe those kinds of moments in the show create a stir in viewers' hearts without being preachy, and I must have seen 15 Tweets where people quoted that very line back at us. I think those kinds of moments are faith-lifting. But it's also just good entertainment because its organic to the characters and the world we have created.
BB: The chaste romance of Janette Oke's books is one we are committed to, but to be honest, it's the trickiest part of the story-telling. It's actually very challenging to get right. So much of the human experience of courtship involves the thrill of the chase, and we know for the viewers getting Jack and Elizabeth together is becoming an obsession. However, we have to be careful because once that happens, we also believe we let some steam out of the premise of the show a.k.a. "The Moonlighting effect." We don't want it to go too fast, because once they are together we know some in the audience will be deflated. Suffice to say, we have a plan, but it will never be as fast as some want, and it to keep it family and faith-friendly, it can't ever go too far until Jack and Elizabeth one day exchange wedding rings. Tricky stuff given today's cultural norms. Keeping track of it all and pacing it correctly has been a bit of trial and error and I have some very reliable writers who have written lots of romance-dramas helping me get it right.
Fans love the musical score. Has WCTH considered making it available for purchase/Rhapsody download?
BB: Right now, the score is not available for download, but the music for the episodes has been created by two very talented composers, Emmy-Award-winning Lee Holdridge and Gemini-award-winning John Sereda. We are discussing the possibility of a soundtrack album for Season 1 if the show looks like it will continue.
BB: The Hallmark Channel is in business to put family programming on the the air, but it also has to be able to make money doing it. It's a very simple equation: more viewers mean better advertising rates; fewer viewers mean lower advertising rates. And Hallmark is not in the business of losing money. We believe strongly from the evidence we see on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and other social media that the audience is loving the show. But people have a thousand channels and 10,000 choices of programming available every day. It's very challenging to break through all the noise and distraction of all those choices to get the word out to our potential fans that this show is worthy of their time. Without a giant (and expensive) marketing campaign, we are dependent on our loyal fans to help us spread the word about the show. Hallmark also needs to hear loud and clearly that they desperately want When Calls the Heart to continue. Even more so, regardless of whether the show goes one season or 10, family programming in America is nearing extinction. All the networks used to compete with each other to program family shows every night. That is no longer the case. In fact, I can't think of more than a few examples of family programming on all of television. We are doing something revolutionary, radical. HBO has a branding: "It's not TV, it's HBO." Well, while the rest of the networks are all following HBO over the cliff into dark and depraved and cynical programming, we are standing our ground with something very unique. It's not HBO, it's Hallmark. And if this kind of programming becomes extinct altogether, we only have ourselves to blame.
CE: Brian, what was your dream, your goal, your vision when you first decided to create a series from the original novel? What is at the “heart” of When Calls the Heart?BB: The series will be released on a series of DVDs, the first one available in Christian bookstores on February 25 and later in all the big-box stores, throughout North America. Each DVD will contain 2 episodes and a series of extras. The first DVD contains episode 1 and 2, along with bonus features of deleted scenes and a very cool three-way conversation between Michael Landon, Janette Oke and me about the series. If, Lord-willing, the show goes into multiple seasons, it will probably be also released in full season collections.
BB: It's Michael’s and my hope that When Calls the Heart can be a show woven through-and-through with the Great Virtues of Western Civilization. Themes such as integrity, honesty, courage, forgiveness, redemption, sacrifice and the golden rule. At the same time we don't want to hit people over the head with the Bible. We believe mankind is wired for these kinds of stories and our feeling is that the most effective way to do this show is to weave these themes into the tapestry because that is the kind of town Coal Valley is. I was talking on the set with one of our crew members about the great cultural loss of families spending time together, eating meals together, even watching TVs together, and he asked me about what families in Coal Valley might have meals together. My answer was "all of them." Michael and I want for people to fall in love with the old-fashioned values (and faith) of Coal Valley because it's exactly the kind of medicine our culture needs right now. The great virtues are an endangered species on TV right now. We want to be preservationists.
BB: I probably can't go into all the details about our journey on When Calls the Heart until the series is finished, but trust me, there's a book I could write about the experience that some might even view as a thriller. But suffice to say, this project has been one of perseverance and an attitude of never-give-up, never-say-die and failure is not an option. We are grateful to God and Hallmark for the blessing of getting this show on the air.
Friends: Be sure to watch When Calls the Heart **LIVE** (which helps bring us a Season Two!!) on the Hallmark Channel, Saturdays at 9/8c. You can Tweet live with the cast while you watch using @LoriLoughlin @ErinKrakow @DLissing and #WhenCallstheHeart. And don't forget to SPREAD THE WORD!
- iTunes Store ($2.99 per episode or full Season $19.99)
ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF. . . .
I've written three novels and published a romantic Christmas novella (more about those on my website.) I've been writing stuff - legit literary term - all my life, but decided in 2007 to get serious about being published.
I love action movies and Jane Austen. (she’s dead, I know. I found that out when I tried to get her to endorse my novel)
They let me play Bass guitar and sing in a worship band.
I can produce 4 dozen homemade cinnamon rolls in a flash for a crowd of drooling young adults. Or publishing house editors.
I used to have a Harley. Now we have twenty-something kids. Decent trade, really. The window-rattling grumble isn't quite the same, but we are still enjoying the ride.
I am a proud new Grammie. Don't even think about taking candy from my baby.
My ringtone is the theme from "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly"(whoo-00-oo-00-oo, waa waa waa)
I've lived in Oregon all my life, spent time in Eugene (O! Go DUCKS!), Springfield, Reedsport, and Smith River. Which is not really a town, but a river, about 70 miles long, a tributary of the Umpqua River in southwest Oregon.
Although it's not a town, it is a community with a strong sense of pioneer history. It's cool to say you've lived there, especially if you lived there during the days when you had to take a boat to school. No joke! The old farmhouse my grandfather and my mother grew up in still stands, nestled into a narrow, pasture carpeted valley, complete with a swimmin' hole and its own 'crick'. It may turn up in one of my novels.
There's a rumor that my ancestors had a connection with the Mafia back in Sicily. I used to fantasize as a kid about a big black limo with tinted windows pulling up and whisking me away from school. Ahhh. So THAT'S why I'm having so much trouble conjugating my dangling participles now.
NOT RANDOM: I am challenged by the truth and amazed by the grace of God. And it's either in spite of or because of that grace that I hold a PhD in Learning Stuff the Hard Way.
Like There's No Tomorrow
Like There's No Tomorrow is a sweet, faith inspiring love story about two quirky old Scottish sisters bent on reuniting, and their young co-correspondents who fall in love even though her family secret could break his heart—again.
Why had God brought her into his life—if he had to let her go?
In the lowlands of Scotland, widower Ian MacLean is plagued by a mischievous grannie, bitter regrets, mislaid faith and worst of all—an ache for something he’ll never have. As soon as his grannie’s sister, Grace, moves home to keep her sensibly occupied, Ian will be free to move on and leave behind a deep hatred that has him bound.
Emily Chapman is a youth counselor at a group foster home in central Oregon. Her estranged dad holds a dark secret that casts a shadow over her life, driving her to avoid love and marriage. Emily is determined to protect what little family she has left, including the foster kids she loves, and most of all, her frail old aunt Grace.
A tug of war over Aunt Grace begins when Ian travels to the States and meets his “old” pen-pal, Emily, who stirs up something in his heart long buried. But just when Ian and Emily’s hope of a life together in Scotland is within reach, Emily’s fear becomes a reality that crushes their plans for a future. Ian must relive a painful nightmare. Can his heart withstand a second blow? While Ian examines the strength of his healed heart and renewed faith, Emily must decide if she has the courage to face her worst fears and truly leave those she loves in God’s hands.
Like There's No Tomorrow will be released in print & eBook in September, 2014 by Ashberry Lane Publishing and will be available at most major booksellers. Visit www.ashberrylane.com and sign up for their book release newsletter, and visit www.camilleeide.com to sign up for author news, updates, and giveaways.