Today we’re having raspberry tea with Valerie Comer at the Valley Co-op Farm Shop, sitting outside on the deck with a view of their organic fields of ready-to-pick veggies. As we talk about her book, Raspberries and Vinegar-A Farm Fresh Romance, we’re snacking on Raspberry Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake, (Valerie has linked her recipe in the comments) which is perfect for our tea today to celebrate her newest book. Another time I’ll serve her Raspberry Vinegar punch. Valerie includes a recipe for this refreshing summer drink at the end of the book.
Here is some information about the series and the first book.
A FARM FRESH ROMANCE. This unique farm lit series 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.
Raspberries and Vinegar: A Farm Fresh Romance (1) by Valerie Comer
Sweet and tart Josephine Shaw is on a mission to rid the world of junk food and chemicals by promoting local foods and sustainability.
Josephine Shaw: complex, yet singleminded. A tiny woman with big ideas and, some would say, a mouth to match. But what does she really know about sustainable living as it relates to the real world? After all, she and her two friends are new to farming.
Zachary Nemesek is back only until his dad recovers enough to work his own land again. When Zach discovers three helpless females have taken up residence at the old farm next door, he expects trouble. But a mouse invasion proves Jo has everything under control. Is there anything she can’t handle? And surely there’s something sweet beneath all that tart.
Breaking ground with the Farm Fresh Romance series, RASPBERRIES AND VINEGAR finds Josephine Shaw and her friends renovating a dilapidated farm with their sights set on more than just their own property. Transforming the town with their sustainable lifestyle and focus on local foods is met with more resistance than they expected, especially by temporary neighbor, Zachary Nemesek. Jo needs to learn that a little sweet makes the tart more tasty.
MY THOUGHTS: This is the first “farm lit” book I’ve read. Reading it brought back fond memories of spending time at my aunt and uncle’s farm in Kansas. Raspberries and Vinegar was fun to read as I dreamed of all the fresh produce we enjoyed when we belonged to Turkey Hill CSA in Colorado.
With believable characters, good pacing and a faith thread running throughout, Valerie has written an “opposites attract” romance, showing that every person and every issue is composed of multiple shades of positives and negatives. As in real life, there are sad moments in this story and joyful celebrations. If we let God direct us, our dreams can become something much more that we imagined.
The last line in this book is perfect, but please don’t peek ahead!
I’m looking forward to two more books in Valerie’s Farm Fresh series.
SHERIDA: Welcome, Valerie! This coffee cake is delicious. As is your book! How did you get the glimmer of the idea for Raspberries and Vinegar?
VALERIE: It came to me in a dream. Seriously! I pretty much never remember my dreams, but this was a noteworthy exception. My first few manuscripts were speculative fiction and I’d decided to make the jump to contemporary romance as fantasy was (and still is) such a hard sell in Christian circles.
But so many contemporary novels focused on city girls, and I live on a farm with no interest in urban life. I’d spent a few days mulling what angle I could offer that meshed my chosen genre with things I actually cared about and knew about as I prepared for my first writers’ conference and a pitch session with an editor. What could I present?
That morning as I was coming awake, I remembered sitting across from Tina James of Love Inspired, Harlequin’s inspirational imprint. I pitched her this three-book idea and she loved it! She bought it on the spot. Then I realized it was just a dream, but my eyes popped open wide when I realized I remembered the idea I’d pitched.
To make a long story short, I did, in fact, pitch the idea to Tina at the next ACFW conference. Instead of buying it (or even loving it) she told me Love Inspired readers don’t want issue-driven fiction—and what else could you call a story that pits an opinionated local-food advocate against a junk-food addict?
I’d already gotten a solid start on developing the story and still loved it, so I finished the novel and began sending it out. After a few close calls and a lot of waiting, it found a home, along with the other two books in the series, with a new small publishing house, Choose NOW Publishing.
SHERIDA: I love that you had a God-inspired dream, leading you to a perfect story! What do you do to keep the sparkle while you are writing?
VALERIE: It takes a long time to finish a novel, but I think you already know that. (Sherida: Yes, I do!) I set myself daily and weekly goals while I’m in writing mode (which I need to get back into soon, writing the third book in the Farm Fresh Romance series!) Little rewards include checking Facebook and chatting with writing friends on Yahoo Messenger. They’re quite likely to ask if I’ve achieved my goals for the day and if not, WHY NOT??
For added sparkle, a few minutes with my granddaughters, one of whom lives next door, reminds me why I write stories about foodie issues. I’m compelled to do what I can to make these little girls’ lives the best I can. This includes both helping to provide local, organic, seasonal food for them, and raising awareness to the public of the changes needed for a sustainable future for everyone’s grandchildren.
Oh, and a mocha helps with the sparkle, but I don’t need the calories or the caffeine so limit myself to one a day. I can savor those sips for a long time!
SHERIDA: We have two precious little grandchildren, so I completely understand your motivation of providing a good future for all little ones. Beyond family, friends and your writing career, what jewel of a moment has God placed in your path during your life’s journey that you would share with us?
VALERIE: My husband was raised on the West Coast of BC, Canada, but we currently live many hours’ drive inland so don’t get to visit all that often. On our first visit to Vancouver Island, we camped a couple of nights near Tofino along the Pacific Ocean. After parking the truck, we headed for the beach. I made a beeline for the sand and the waves, only to look around for Jim. He was already clambering over the rocks, searching out tidal pools for interesting flora and fauna.
We discovered that “going to the ocean” held different meanings for each of us and now make sure there’s time for both. Though he’s right: the tidal pools are much more fascinating than just plain sand!
That camping trip was an interlude when time stood still.
SHERIDA: Camping always brings us a sense of being surrounding by God’s majesty. The cover of Raspberries and Vinegar is charming. Please tell us the story behind the cover design of your book.
VALERIE: My daughter, Hanna Sandvig, is working toward a career in freelance illustration. She’s created the headers for both my blogs and has completed numerous commissions for other people, as well.
Once my novel had made the rounds of all the big Christian publishing houses and come home with some very nice rejections, I started toying around with self publishing it. Hanna asked to read the story then began sketching a cover. She just couldn’t help herself!
A few weeks later when I entered discussion with Choose NOW Publishing, I showed the initial sketch Hanna had done, and the publisher agreed to hire her to create the cover. This is a dream come true for both of us, and my daughter blogged about the process here.
It’s especially fun because we’ve both been published in book form before, but not as the feature. My novella “Topaz Treasure” is one of four novellas in Rainbow’s End. Hanna’s artwork of wedding cakes appeared in the pages of Sandra D. Bricker’s novel Always the Baker, Finally the Bride. It’s really cool for both of us to have our first solo novel—together.
I think she’s very talented!
SHERIDA: I agree! I’m looking forward to reading the next two books in your series with the stories of Sierra and Claire. Thank you for sharing your Raspberry Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake with us today.
ABOUT VALERIE COMER
Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric church. She only hopes her characters enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.
Valerie writes Farm Lit with the voice of experience laced with humor. Raspberries and Vinegar, first in her series A Farm Fresh Romance, released August 1, 2013. Visit her at http://valeriecomer.com.
You can buy Raspberries and Vinegar through www.Amazon.com or through Choose NOW Publishing at www.choosenowpublishing.com.
Connect with Valerie at her website: www.valeriecomer.com. You will find Valerie’s recipe for Raspberry Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake at her website if you click on “Kitchen” then “What’s Cooking” or look in the comment section for a link to this yummy (and easy) recipe. (Thanks, Valerie!) I didn’t have 1 cup of milk, so I used 1 cup of plain yogurt which worked just fine, but made the batter a bit thicker.
SHERIDA: It’s a delight to host Valerie today. I’m very hungry for farm fresh food, so I’m off to find the nearest farmers’ market!