Welcome, Chelle! Thank you so much for visiting my blog and letting me interview you! First, let's address the cupcakes: Velvet Cowgirl Cupcakes to be exact (sounds sinful doesn't it?). When did you decide you wanted to start your own baking company?
Thank you so much for having me!! I’ve always loved to bake since I was a little girl. I would sit on a stool and watch my mom make her delicious chocolate chip cookies. I’ve tried to recreate that special memory with my boys because that is something they’ll always remember when they smell fresh baked cookies. My family and friends have pushed me for years to open a restaurant or bakery. But when my health took a turn for the worse, we decided maybe an internet and delivery business would be the best option so they can help.
How have things been going?
We were ready to go live before Thanksgiving but the shopping cart crashed and we’re in the process of redesigning. I’ve been lucky to start slow and build up the local business just by word of mouth and brochures handed out with samples. I’ve had a lot of local orders swamping me because of holiday parties and friends/family that love my fudge and candy. So hopefully the website can be up and running at the beginning of the New Year. I’d like to eventually add jewelry, candles, home deco, and handmade soaps.
What's your most popular flavor/product?
The cake truffles because they are so moist and decadent. It’s basically bite-size cake dipped in Ghirardelli chocolate. I think the red velvet seems to be the favored product so far.
Where can we get these delicious goodies?
The website is velvetcowgirl.com but the online product catalog is down until we get everything put back in. We switched shopping carts so hopefully it’ll be in working order after Christmas.
Yum, now that I'm daydreaming about sweet treats and I have nothing that will compare in my house (those little packaged cakes just don't look as good now!), let's focus on another subject that's near and dear to your heart. Rheumatoid Arthritis. Tell us a little about this illness.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an auto-immune disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks body tissue around the joints and organs. In a normal system, the immune system destroys infection in the body. But in someone with RA, the system misfires and attacks itself. It’s an incurable, chronic illness meaning the symptoms can last for years and progressively destroy the joints and cause damage to the organs. It isn’t the same as Osteoarthritis or the arthritis you can get with age or sports damage, it can occur even in young children, sometimes referred to as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.
When were you diagnosed and how did you react?
My OB/GYN finally pushed me to go see a specialist because he figured out my health problems had to be an auto-immune disease. In November 2009, my Rheumatologist walked into the exam room and was drop-dead gorgeous, I was immediately thinking of a storyline. LOL. He sent me for specialized testing. I had to go back two weeks later because a knot on my foot was so swollen I couldn’t get shoes on. I went by myself because I really didn’t think much would happen. He walked in and sat down on his stool and wheeled it right next to me. My stomach dropped. He said he was glad I came in because my tests came back positive for RA. Even though I had researched the symptoms I wasn’t prepared to hear the words and started crying. After he comforted me, we talked about treatment options. The hard part was the long drive home by myself and saying the words to my husband.
What is the first thing you advise someone who's just been diagnosed to do?
Get ready to fight back. Start a notebook and keep track of your symptoms, treatments, and medications. Research the disease, the symptoms, and treatment options. Most importantly though? Stay positive. It took me years before a doctor finally figured out what was wrong with me. I am also on my third Rheumatologist. Dr. Gorgeous had too big of an ego and didn’t want me to take an active role in my treatment. I almost ended up in the hospital because of it. And last but not least…join a support group. They will be your lifeline and venting outlet.
How have you found RA to affect your everyday life?
Some days are the normal chaotic adventures of our daily life. Other days…I have issues. J But I have learned my limits, and push them when I can. I wake up hurting and stiff so I make sure I set my alarm earlier so I can stretch or extra time if I’m moving slow. I do everything I can to keep from taking pain meds because I don’t want to become dependent on them. I know if I have a busy day ahead…I make sure I have some downtime to recover.
How do you cope today? Your family is so supportive and understanding, how has that helped you?
If I have to be on my feet alot, my husband or mother helps with the chores or meals. My family has been really supportive and willingly taken up the slack. I hate it and sometimes I get upset with myself and this disease, I refuse to let it affect them as much as possible. I belong to a support group where I vent the nasty side of being in chronic pain, but my family knows me. They can tell when it’s a bad day and they make me slow down.
And yet, even with RA and your own business and raising… three kids? You still write remarkable stories! How do you find the time and inspiration?
You’re a doll! Thank you! I’m having issues right now with finding time for the writing. The hard part is making time for myself. Writing is my passion. It’s my escape. And I have to scrape out more time to find that get-away time to let down and relax. I find my inspiration sometimes when driving down the road and listening to music. I can be walking around the mall and hear bits of conversation and my mind wanders…what if?
I know you focus mainly on category romance. Is this your goal as a writer, and what you enjoy most writing? Or have you found a different genre, area you like writing more?
I think the main reason I began targeting contemporary category is some of the stories seemed to hit home with me. Things we face everyday. I would love to write a historical I have outlined because it includes a bit of my Native American family history.
What's your current project about?
I’m revising a request I had for a four book series from an editor with Silhouette Desires. I also have a request for a partial from Harlequin Superromance and a previous rejection from them to be revised and resubbed. And…two novellas I’m writing for two different e-publishers. So I’ve got a few on my plate right now.
Harlequin is your dream publisher, but would you be just as excited if you were e-published?
Definitely!! I hadn’t really thought about e-pubs until recently because I’ve had decent luck with requests from Harlequin. But my dream has always been to be published and e-readers are making books so much more available from e-publishers.
How do you feel about the e-publishing industry? Be honest now!
I feel like it’s an awesome opportunity for authors. The larger print houses seem to be overloaded with submissions and are really hard to break into. Not that it’s any easier to be pubbed through an e-publisher. But I worry about the experience of the editors. Some of these newer, smaller e-pubs that are popping up can be kind of scary when you hear about the problems with e-pubs not paying royalties and hanging on to the author’s rights on books when they close shop. I’ve got two stories promised out to e-pubs, but I feel really confident about them.
What's your favorite genre to read? Have you found those same quality stories in the e-industry?
I read a pretty eclectic mix but mostly contemporary category. I think the e-pub standards can be just as high as the larger print houses. I was a little irritated recently when I was reading a print book and the heroine was getting out of the shower and dressed one moment and within two paragraphs she was sitting on the floor…undressed. Print or e-pub, that could’ve been easily caught with all of the edits they go through.
Before you go, tell us all about your exciting plans for the future, whether it's writing or with your company, I'm curious to know!
Hopefully you’ll be able to consider me pubbed within the next year, whether it’s print or e-pub! After the new year we will fine tune the website and start adding other types of non-food products to the store. I’d absolutely love to open a restaurant or shop one of these days, and God willing my health will improve even more with a new med I’m about to start.
Thanks for letting me pick your brain as a reader, a writer, and as a mother, a survivor and a business entrepreneur. You're an amazing woman, Chelle! Let us know where we can learn more about you!
Thank you again for inviting me to share my chaotic, but wonderful life. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and holiday season. May your new year be filled with blessings. You can find me on Facebook at facebook.com/chellesandell or my blog, chellesandell.blogspot.com.