I’m an ACFW Genesis Contest Semi-Finalist!

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Soooooo…last night I was just reading Harry Potter to my baby (’cause I’m weird like that!) and having a chill evening when I see a phone call from California. I almost didn’t pick it up, because I’ve had garbage calls from there before (“Congratulations, you’ve won a cruise to the Bahamas.” “The warranty on your car is about to expire.” etc). But, on a whim, I picked up the phone, and I’m glad I did.

“I’m calling from ACFW  to let you know you a Semi-Finalist in the Contemporary category for the Genesis Contest.”

I was floored.

This was the third I had put that particular manuscript in the contest. Maybe this year will be different, I had thought. And, alas, it was!

ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) is a worldwide organization with more than 2600 members, so this is a big deal! My story ended up in the top 7 out of 153 entrants for my category. Whoa! If you can’t tell, I’m definitely freaking out over here! So excited!

Anyhooooooo, this is about the best news I’ve heard in a while, so I figured I’d share. Don’t give up on your dreams! I started writing as soon as I could pick up a pen, and I wanted to be a writer since I was a child (I may have pictured myself on Opera Book Club as an amazing child author superstar).

I’ve been working hard at the craft for a lot of years, and things seem to be picking up in the last year or so. I thank God, because He’s the One who makes things happen.

Check out the other semi-finalists here!

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An Important Visualization


Today I would like to you in a guided visualization, one that I hope will help broaden your understanding and increase your empathy.

I would like you to remember a younger you, living in your hometown. If you lived several places, pick the place that felt most like home, where your family and friends lived. If that is where you live now, just picture that.

I want you to picture your favorite places there: your favorite restaurant, your favorite park, your home, your place of worship, your local supermarket, your school. I want you picture your family and friends. I want you to picture your time with them: the laughs you had together, the vacations you took, meals together, how you spent summers or your free time, even the fights you had and the tough times. Picture it in detail…the sound of their voices, their laughter, the way they held themselves, what they wore. Use as many senses as possible.

Once you have a vivid picture in your mind, think about how you felt back then. How much like home it feels. Perhaps you even still dream of these people and places. They are an essential part of you. You cannot remove these things from you. They feel like home, no matter if they were challenging times or not.

Now I want you to imagine that things went a bit different. I’d like you to imagine that that place that you call your hometown was going through a rough time, that there were no jobs available or the jobs there couldn’t pay the bills. Imagine that your family had to make tough choices…sell the family car(s), get rid of cable/internet/phones, live somewhere less expensive (and most likely more dangerous), never go to your favorite restaurant again, never go on vacations, never participate in your favorite hobbies due to lack of funds and transportation, leave school to work at an early age to support the family, not be able to go to your place of worship because you had to work extra overtime to put food on the table, having to decide whether to cut off water or electric or both in order to feed your family. Really think about it, what it would feel like to live, not just paycheck to paycheck, but going to bed hungry and worrying that you wouldn’t make enough to save your family. If you really want to go the extra mile, picture a huge increase in violence in the area, maybe even war, due to the extreme poverty.

Now imagine that you’ve heard of a place, where a lot of other people from your hometown were moving. A place where people lived comfortably, where they had food to eat and safe places to live, where you could send your future children to school, where you could make enough money to send back to your family so that they would have food on the table and a safe place to live. Think about how strong your desire would be to move to this place, how desperate you might feel to go there.

Imagine this place was hard to visit, not to mention move to. Imagine the system was corrupt and all the official were corrupt, that your family and friends have tried to pay the little money they had, only to be rejected a visit and not returned their “filing fees.” Think about how it would be to decide to hitch a ride with someone who knew a way to get you in. You might make that choice even if you had to scrounge all the money you could to get there, in risk of your own life, just on the offchance that you could save your family from poverty. Imagine you make it, while others around you have died in the desert that separates your hometown and that place. Imagine how scared you would still feel that you could get caught at any time but how glad you would be to be able to send money to your family. You wouldn’t be able to go home and visit your family but you could speak with them on the phone and send them money so they would be safe.

Let’s say you didn’t want to take that chance and somehow, through a modern miracle, you were able to legally get a pass to live in that better place. This way you are able to travel when you can save enough money and go back and visit your family. They are living, still poor, but safe and fed.

Either way, imagine you have been living this way for years. Imagine you have established a life in the better place. Imagine you have family and friends there, a home, a favorite restaurant/grocery store, maybe even a hobby or two. Picture it well, with all your senses. You miss your hometown but you also have a life in this new place.

Imagine that things haven’t been as easy as you expected in the new place. There is a lot of hatred towards people from your hometown and people give you looks when you walk down the street, hold their purses closer/lock their car doors as you walk past them, keep an eye on you as you shop. You’re used to it but it seems to be getting worse because a new leader has come on the scene, and he has called people from your hometown rapists, murderers, criminals, “bad people”, and has promised to build a giant wall to keep out the people from your hometown. Imagine this new leader has promised to deport people back to their hometowns, even ones that have passes, even ones that have never lived there. Imagine he has said that he will deport your son or daughter who was born in the new place. This new leader has encouraged anger and violence against your hometown and other towns outside of the region. Imagine that more than half the people you thought were friends and family and community voted for this man to be the leader of the new place. Now you don’t know who to trust anymore. It no longer feels safe here and it starts to feel less like home, but you have a family here, a life. There is nothing you can do. You are only a regular, working class person, trying to survive and keep your family safe and fed.

Imagine how this feels. Really feel it. REALLY feel it.

Because this is how immigrants are feeling right this second.

And this is how I, the wife of an immigrant and the mother of the child of an immigrant, am feeling right as I finish this blog post.

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Win a Free Copy of “A bit of Christmas”


Christmas is coming around the corner. It’s time to stock up. Why not buy a lovely set of Christmas short stories in the book “A bit of Christmas”? Only $10 for a signed copy. Even better, hop over to my Facebook Author page and win a chance at a free copy by commenting on my contest post.

“A bit of Christmas” was released last year, and my story, “Just Another Navidad” appears along with five other enjoyable short stories. If you’re not on Facebook, just comment below if you’d like a copy and we’ll figure something out. 🙂

I’m happy to mail the book to anyone who’d like a copy. It’s always good to start shopping early and beat the crowds!

Allison K. Garciaabitofxmas

Random Thoughts/Amazing Discoveries


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This has been a week for random realizations, thoughts, and “amazing discoveries” which if you know me or have seen me blog about my “amazing discoveries” before know that they are so amazing because it’s freakin’ amazing that I never realized them before! 🙂

  1. I am following a slightly non-specific recipe for baba ganouj. It says to bake eggplants in an oven with the skin on but doesn’t say for how long or what temperature, so I pick a neutral temp (375) and just leave them in there. Right after I check on them and think, they’re looking done. I close the oven door again and *POP* Apparently if you leave eggplant in the oven too long, they explode. Very very messily…Ever try to get baked on eggplant off an oven wall? I have! It doesn’t work great!
  2. My husband was watching “I Love Lucy” and suddenly there’s a scene with Ricky at the club where he’s talking to a bandmate or something. And, guess what…all that stuff isn’t random silly sounds as I thought as a child. He’s speaking Spanish! hahahah. I suppose this is the first time I’ve seen the show since being bilingual. As a kid it just sounded like blabber, like he was just stringing silly sounds together. But, hey, what do you know? Those silly sounds are the sounds of the foreign language known as Spanish. Amazing discovery: Ricky Ricardo speaks Spanish!
  3. I’m going for a walk with my son and on the side of the road in our neighborhood is a dead bird, just looking like it died of natural causes. I pause and think about how a baby squirrel fell out of tree in our yard and died the day before. I have a moment where I consider an epidemic whose first signs are small animals dying but then I think…there are a lot of squirrels and birds in the world…why don’t I see more of them dead? Like where do they go? What happens to all their tiny bodies? I mean, seriously, people…where are all the dead animals? There are thousands of birds and tiny rodents and other creatures in neighborhoods everywhere. What happens to them when they die? Do other animals eat them right away? Because I never seem to see dead animals. Do they hide somewhere before they die? This idea is totally freaking me out, so if someone is a scientist in this realm…please fill me in. Like, where are all the dead animals? Because right now I’m also considering a Truman Show scenario where someone didn’t do his job on the set cleaning up a dead bird…

*Mike drop*

Purple Pesto Pasta



I’ve made pesto twice this summer and I really enjoy experimenting with it. You can take the basic pesto ingredients (olive oil, basil, garlic, parmesan cheese) and mix in whatever extra you think might be yummy. I’ve added in almonds, spinach, and most recently beets! This is a great, super quick meal for when you run out of spaghetti sauce and want something easy. 

Well, I had some beets I cooked the other day and I thought…hmmmm…I wonder if I could add this to pasta and get a good flavor. Answer: yes!


It is healthier and baby and I loved it! (Hubby was a bit thrown by the purple color). Anyway, I am posting the recipe below. Enjoy!

Also if you make any pesto experiments, comment below! I’d love to try out some new stuff!


PURPLE PESTO PASTA

1 package of pasta of your choosing

2 cooked beets

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic

2 tbsp parmesan cheese

Handful of fresh basil

A few sprigs of fresh parsley

1 tbsp fresh oregano

Salt and pepper, to taste

While pasta is cooking, gather ingredients together and blend in a food processor until a thick paste.

Drain pasta and mix in pesto while still hot. Enjoy!

A Scandalous Matter: Interview with Local Author, Margaret Locke


Independent, spirited Amara Mattersley may live under scandal’s shadow, but at least the nineteenth-century Regency society judging her is familiar. That’s all about to change when she finds herself in twenty-first-century Charlottesville, Virginia—and locking horns with one very befuddling, very male, UVA professor. 

Computer science professor Matthew Goodson has no time for love—no time for anything, actually, but his quest for tenure and his obsession with the screen. The last thing he expects is to get side-swiped by this adorably odd British miss. Yet something in her calls to him, pulls at him, in a way unknown—and uncomfortable. 

Can the past and the present blend together into a mutual future? Or will old wounds and new complications sabotage any chance at a twenty-first century happily ever after? 

 

Margaret (teehee), I’m so glad to chat with you today about your next book in your Magic of Love series, A Scandalous Matter. Tell us what it’s about!

Thanks so much for having me, Allison! I’m delighted to be here. J

Here’s a short summary of A Scandalous Matter:

 Scandal-scarred Amara Mattersley has had enough of men and the woes they cause. She wants only independence – and an education on par with that of her brothers. To find both, she time travels to present-day Virginia, determined to stay free from emotional attachments. Until she finds herself entangled with very attractive, but also very befuddling, computer science professor Matthew Goodson. Can past and present blend into a Happily Ever After future?

 

So I’ve read the first book in your series, A Man of Character, and I love love loved it! How does this new book compare and differ from your first? And can someone who’s never read the first two start with this one?

A Man of Character features the same setting as A Scandalous Matter—present-day Charlottesville, Virginia. Both books also have intelligent heroines encountering likewise brilliant computer science professors. Go figure. But A Man of Character’s main peeps are both from this century, as opposed to Amara and Matthew’s story, which has the time travel element, and therefore marked cultural differences and experiences, tossed in.

And yes—any of my books can be read independently from the others, though if one wants to avoid potential small spoilers, I suppose starting from the beginning makes the most sense. But no one has to, so dive in where it most interests you!

 

I heard you’re getting famous and winning some awards! 🙂 How does it feel?

I like the way you exaggerate!

I am extremely privileged to have finaled thrice in the 2016 Virginia Romance Writers HOLT Medallion competition (Best First Book for A Man of Character, and Best Paranormal Romance plus Best Book by a Virginia Author for A Matter of Time).

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I didn’t win, but finaling means I was in the Top 5, and that’s pretty darn amazing. Me? Little old ME? Who’d never written a book before?

It’s super exciting, but also feels quite surreal. Most of this new venture has felt surreal at times, actually. It’s a wild ride, often high, occasionally low, but I love it!

 

As a budding author, I always love to know how you got started with writing and how you got published?

I’d said since I was a teen that I was going to write romances when I grew up, but I went on to follow different dreams. Though the recent discovery of romance plot ideas I’d scribbled down in my 20s shows the interest never fully left.

In the fall of 2011, when my daughter entered kindergarten, I needed to figure out what I wanted/needed to do, since both kids were now in school full-time. I’d been a doctoral student in medieval history at one point, but had spent ten years as an at-home mom. Did I want to enter the work force? Did I have any marketable skills remaining after such a long hiatus? One night over dinner, my husband asked me what I truly wanted most. My immediate answer was, “to write.” His answer? “Go for it.” (See why I married him?)

As for publishing, that was a long and winding road. I originally embarked on the traditional route of seeking an agent and getting published by a company. I queried a zillion people and some small presses. I had nibbles and one big bite from a small press, but by that point, I’d read a lot about self-publishing and met other authors having lots of success with that route (including Katy Regnery, who’s now a USA Today and NYT Bestselling Author, but she took the time then to give me advice!). I decided indie publishing suited my and my family’s needs and temperament best – but it’s definitely not an easy road. Not that any path to publishing is, but being an indie author means I’m in charge of it all—and I’m battling to prove my worth against the still-lingering notion that indie authors aren’t as good as traditionally pubbed authors (as with anything, you’ve got good and bad on both sides of the fence, right?). Lots to learn, lots of mistakes to make, but in my heart I know it was the best choice for me.

Margaret – hanging out with famous author, Eloisa James (left) and with fan, Annie (right)

I am a sucker for romantic comedy movies but have never gotten into reading romances. The reason I loved your first book is I felt like I was reading something that might have starred Meg Ryan (before her weird Joker-looking plastic surgery). What inspired you to start this series?

It’s true that A Man of Character is not fully a traditional romance, mostly because the whole premise–What if a woman discovered the men she was dating were actually fictional characters she’d written long ago?—wasn’t quite typical from the start. Most romance doesn’t feature a heroine who dates more than one guy, or a female friendship that is nearly as dominant as the love story. That’s why I call it a romantic comedy (code word these days for chick lit, as that phrase has fallen out of favor.) Chick lit tends to feature women in their 20s and 30s dealing with life and career and friendships – and yes, often romance, but that isn’t the sole focus of a chick lit book.

I didn’t set OUT to write chick lit, though – it just happened. Once the idea popped into my head, I couldn’t let go of it. The rest, they say, is history.

 

What’s next? Is this the last book of the series?

 You’d think I’d have that all figured out, wouldn’t you? A Scandalous Matter is definitely NOT the last book in my Magic of Love series—I have at least two more planned, perhaps more, since readers (and characters) keep asking for further stories. Hooray!

But my fourth book, The Demon Duke, will launch a new, purely Regency series, Put Up Your Dukes. The Demon Duke features Grace Mattersley (sister to A Matter of Time’s hero Deveric Mattersley) and Damon Blackbourne, Duke of Malford. It will debut in early 2017.

As you might gather from the series’ name, the heroes will be dukes (like A Matter of Time’s James Bradley). Some of the heroines will hail from A Matter of Time’s Mattersley family, and some won’t.

Not only will I have a ducal series, but I’ll also write stories for the other Mattersley siblings in my Matters of Love series. With this many books to write, I better get busy. Or busier, as the case may be.

If you could time travel to any era, where would you go and what crazy things do you think you’d get into?

I have to pick just ONE? Because I want to see ancient Greece and ancient Rome, Charlemagne’s era, Germany in the Ottonian and Salian periods, medieval England, renaissance Italy, Regency England, the American West, America in the 1950s (okay, that’s just for the shot to meet Elvis, mostly)…

And I think I’d rather stay on the sidelines and observe, like Scrooge. Don’t want to risk that whole butterfly effect, you know? Though I’m dying to know who built Stonehenge and why, what WAS it like in Egypt thousands of years ago, what would it sound like to hear kids in Caesar’s time speaking fluent Latin, what was it like to be alive during the middle ages, etc, etc…

 

If your novel was a movie, who’d play the main peeps?

Whew, an easier question! In my mind, A Scandalous Matter’s Amara Mattersley and Matthew Goodson are physically modeled after Jennifer Lawrence and Matthew Goode. (A Matter of Time’s Eliza James and Deveric Mattersley are a plumper Reese Witherspoon and Hugh Jackman to me, not that you asked – and I have Pinterest boards showing those inspirations, as well as those for the characters in A Man of Character (http://www.pinterest.com/Margaret_Locke).

 

If your life was made into a German telenovela (soap opera), what would it be called?

Can I just call it Eichhörchen (squirrel)? Because that’s such a fun word to say. But probably, Die Frau, die zuviel spricht (The Woman Who Talks Too Much). Which might also be my native American name.

 

Please tell me a humorously cool story about yourself that somehow relates to your book (like fitting in somewhere you don’t belong etc).

Humorously cool story? About ME? Well, I’ve never time travelled (sadly), but I DID just get back from a trip with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop to New York City—and this Iowa girl now living in relatively rural Virginia definitely felt like a fish out of water. So many people, so much noise, so many gigantic buildings. How does anybody live there, with the high prices and mass chaos? Not quite the same as skipping centuries, but I could easily see myself gawking about as much as a Regency transplant might. Luckily, Central Park provided me the same refuge UVA’s Lawn provides for Amara in A Scandalous Matter.

 

Finally, I know you love 80s music. Please change the chorus/lyrics from a popular 80s song and make it about your book! 🙂

I do love 80s music, but man, this is a lot of pressure!

Let’s go with Prince, to honor his late greatness, and because When Doves Cry gets a shout-out in A Scandalous Matter:

When Time Flies… (apologies to Prince)

Click, if you will, the picture
Of you and I engaged in a kiss.
The brim of your bonnet covers me.
Can you, Amara,
Can you picture this?

Dream, if you can, a stone circle–
An ocean of violets in bloom.
Manuscripts bring love stories
That tell the heat,
The heat between me and you…

 

That was amazing! You are the best, Margaret! Thanks for indulging my random, fun interview! 🙂
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A lover of romance novels since the age of ten (shh, don’t tell mom!), Margaret Locke declared as a teen that she’d write romances when she grew up. Once an adult, however, she figured she ought to be doing grown-up things (such as earning that master’s degree in medieval history), not penning steamy
Turning forty cured her of that silly notion. Margaret is now happily ensconced back in the clutches of her first love, this time as an author as well as a reader. 

Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fabulous kids, and two fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window); she’s come to terms with the fact that she’s not an outdoors person. 

Margaret loves to interact with fellow readers and authors! You may find her here:

Website/Blog: http://margaretlocke.com