Thursday, March 20, 2014

I didn't start writing until my youngest was in high school. Sure, I'd always written fun newsy letters and gotten As in creative writing classes, but it wasn't until 2002 that I decided I had an itch that needed scratching. If I was ever going to learn this writing gig, the time was NOW.

From the beginning, my husband (the recipient of many of those letters back in the day) was very encouraging. I'll go a step farther and say that whatever harebrained ideas I've come up with over the years, he always believed in me, from selling Tupperware to taking a correspondence course in interior design to my most recent passion: writing fiction.

He's just as thrilled to see a new novel go "live" on Amazon as I am, and often tells me—and others—how proud he is of me.

My granddaughters are so young they neither know that having an author for a grandmother is not common, nor can they remember life any other way. But here's one of my favorite photos of my youngest granddaughter last summer when my box of Raspberries and Vinegar arrived.

My kids are both married. My son, who's the daddy of the sweetie in the above photo, thinks it's cool he grew up drinking my book titles, Raspberries and Vinegar and Wild Mint Tea.

My daughter-in-law says, "I think it's inspiring to have a role model who's always loved books and took the leap to write and get published after her kids were grown and
out of the house." I didn't even pay her to say that.

And my daughter? Her name is Hanna Sandvig, and she's a very creative person in her own right. I've often wished she would write a book, as she has a natural rhythm and voice for storytelling. She started a YA novel a few years back, but she couldn't get past drawing the characters.

Yep, she's an artist and illustrator, and we all know there are only so many passions one can have in life. Digital art is hers, after her family, of course. I'm glad we saw an artistic bent in her when she was little and bought her all the crayons, chalk, watercolors, and paints she wanted, as well as art and sculpture classes when opportunities arose. She taught herself digital art in high school art classes and has developed, as an adult, a very unique style that I love.

About a year ago I decided to self-publish a novel that had made the rounds of the bigger houses to no avail. I decided I believed in this story and the series it kicked off, that it contained timely topics—local food and environmentalism—and that God was moving me forward in a slightly different direction.

After congratulating me, the first thing Hanna said was, "And I get to do the cover, right?" Of course, right! Very shortly after that, I was offered—and accepted—a contract for that novel from Choose NOW Publishing. My new publisher asked if I had any ideas for the cover, and I mentioned that my daughter had been sketching ideas.

To make a long story short, we sent the sketch in, my publisher liked what she saw and contracted my daughter, and we've all been delighted with the results ever since! The second book in the series, Wild Mint Tea, just released, and I love this cover even more than the first one…if that's even possible.

I can't begin to describe the honor it is to share these books with Hanna. We'd both had a couple of smaller successes before—me with a novella in Rainbow's End (Barbour, 2012) and her with several pieces of wedding cake art in the pages of Sandra Bricker's Always the Baker, Finally the Bride (Abingdon, 2013). But to share my first solo novel with her first cover art? It busts the buttons of my pride.

Wild Mint Tea is dedicated to my daughter, Hanna. Not only is she one of my top cheerleaders and my favorite artist, she's a mom who gardens and cooks from scratch and cares about the quality of her daughters' food.

It's a passion she and I share with my daughter-in-law. In fact, quality food from scratch is a huge driver for our entire family. It's a way of life that has become the foundation of the Farm Fresh Romance series, which is a unique farm lit series that follows the adventures, romantic and otherwise, of three college graduates who move onto a reclaimed farm where they plan to take the rural area by storm with their sustainable lifestyle and focus on local foods.

Wild Mint Tea released March first, and it's the second book in the series.

She’s rooted deep. He flies free.

Local-foods chef Claire Halford envisions turning Green Acres Farm into an event destination. Weddings prove trickier than she imagined when the first one comes with a ruggedly handsome brother-of-the-bride, who has everything but a fixed address. Oh, and faith in God.

Noel Kenzie loves the freedom his reforestation company affords him. Why worry about deep stuff like God and commitment when he’s in his prime? Except there’s a woman who might make it worth giving up his wings…and digging in some roots. If he dares.

PS. What do my other granddaughters think of Grandma being an author? The two-year-old doesn't have an opinion, but she's the most avid book lover of the bunch and will easily spend half an hour "reading" to herself. Her current favorite is Curious George.

The eldest was 3 1/2 when Raspberries and Vinegar released last summer. She held the book up proudly and said to her mom, "Look, Mommy, it's your picture! Your lovely picture that you maded!" To her, that's the most important part of the family affair, and I think that's just as it should be.

Don't forget to stop by tomorrow, when you can enter to win a free e-copy of Valerie's latest release, Wild Mint Tea!


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