A Second Chance

As those of you know who follow me on social media, I took some pretty hard hits the end of last year. I fell. My phone flew out of my hands and into the parking lot where a car, with perfect timing, promptly ran over it. My phone was shattered.
On the way home I decided what new phone I was going to get; the upgrade of the phone I already had.
I liked my phone.

Arriving home, I went straight for my laptop and punched in the site to order a new phone.

But nothing happened… the screen was blank.
The first wave of panic hit me.
I called for my husband. He could fix it. He can fix anything!

But not this time. My hard-drive had died.

I lost my book.

As I stood looking over my husband’s shoulder, I realized I hadn’t backed up my book. It was lost… or big chunks of it were. I did have some. I don’t always write at home, so I will email finished portions back to myself.

I had won an award for this book last February. But the publishing agent still had some issues with it and wanted some major changes. No surprise. Most books are written and rewritten many times before they are ready to publish. It had taken me nearly a year. I needed to cut out some of my favorite parts and change some of the POV. Anyone who has had to do this knows that it can be hard. I felt like I was killing off a close friend. I would go days without writing as I inwardly rebelled against what needed to be done. Finally, I was almost ready to send it to my editor, Deb, for a final review before taking it back to the publishing agent.
I was so excited!

How could I do this all again?

Was is the operative word there.

It only took a few days to hit another roadblock. I had started trying to piece it back together but soon quit when I saw a big chunk missing from my first chapter. Yes, I had over half of the final rewrite, but it’s the parts I don’t have that have brought me to a full stop.
Soon doubt started running through my head.
How could I do this all again? I was so happy with how my book had turned out. Surprise! The publishing agent had been right after all. But I would never be able to rewrite it again, the way it was.
I had been defeated.

So I quit.

All my old fears were back whispering in my ears.
“You’re not a good writer and your book would never sell. Who are you trying to kid? Remember all those rejection letters you keep getting? It will never publish anyway”
I’ve been beating myself up for weeks for not backing up my book. How could I be so stupid and lazy about something that was this important?
Maybe God was trying to tell me it was trash and I needed to give up while I was ahead.
So I quit.

This morning, as I was going through my email, I came across an article from a blog I follow. The article was called:
Redemption in Your Writing Career by Lymm Blackburn

This article really hit me right where I needed it. It’s about second chances.
The story was relayed about the very public failer of Andy Teasdall at the ACC Championship game. Lynn Blackburn told how the Clemson head coach, Dabo Swinney, gave him a second chance at the Orange Bowl and Teasdall’s pulled off an amazing play that saved the game. But the amazing play would have never worked if it weren’t for the major mess up the game before! You really need to read it for yourself. I put the link above.

Another chance

I failed. I didn’t back up my book. It was inevitable that one day my hard-drive would die and I would lose what was on it. It had happened to me before… with this book even! This book started out years ago as a NaNoWriMo project and I lost my second draft from that. Although that one REALLY needed to be lost… lol.
I was happy with, what I thought, was my final edit.
But maybe this next one will be even better. Maybe, like Teasdall at the Orange Bowl, I just need a second (or third or fourth) chance.

This whole ramble is here to officially announce that I’m back.
I know I need to rewrite over half my book and I know it won’t be the same.

But it will be completed.

It probably won’t be finished before the writing conference in February where the publishing agent I was planning to pitch it to will be present.

But it will be completed.

There’s even a very good possibility that this book will never be picked up by a publisher or be found on the shelf of a bookstore.

But it will be completed.


Tuesday Talks – Interview with Maddie Morrow

All January we will be speaking with the authors of one book: Five Poisoned Apples: A Collection of Snow White Stories. I love fairy-tails and this collection of Snow White stories is wonderful.
Maddie Morrow is one of the authors in this new collection.  Thanks for joining us Maddie. Tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

I grew up on a farm in Nebraska. My dad grew crops and raised cattle, so we were always doing something. Stories were a huge part of my life, even then. I have two younger sisters, and we would create characters with my dad and act them out while we were out in the pasture fixing fence, or whatever the job might be. We were cowboys, indians, outlaws. My dad tells great stories so whenever we would have a long trip to take (usually to go check cows) we would beg him to tell us a story. Our favorites were always about cowboys hunting Big Foot in the mountains.

Mom got in on the fun too. When I was little, she always read to us and would bring books on car trips and we would all take turns reading until our voices wore out.

My mom stayed at home and home schooled all three of us, which was great. I loved that and the flexibility it gave me to explore all the crazy topics I was interested in. I did all kinds of stuff. Tumbling, ice skating lessons, music composition class, guitar lessons, 4-H horse shows. We lived in a very small town, so it was always exciting to find those things nearby.

My family and I are all Christians, so growing up my parents tried to keep a supply of good books around that still catered to our tastes and interests. We found out pretty quick that it is hard to find clean fantasy books (at the time. It’s getting better now). That’s one of the reasons I started writing. I took the advice to “Write the book you want to read” pretty literally.

After graduating high school I went to a two year college, then got a job at an eye doctor as a certified para optometric, which is the person who helps people pick out their glasses, takes measurements, does repairs etc.

In 2016 I married my high school crush. He works on his family’s farm/ranch, and we live 15 minutes away from where I grew up. A year later we welcomed our son to the family, I quit my job, and we’ve been trying to figure out this parenting thing ever since.

What’s your favorite genre to read and write. Who’s your favorite author?

This is so hard to narrow down. I think I would have to say my favorite genre to read and write is probably speculative fiction, that way I can keep fantasy, dystopia, and all those other weird and fun stories. But historical comes in a close second for reading, and I’m frequently tempted to write contemporary. My favorite author is Louis L’amour. I read tons of other authors and love them dearly, but I grew up with his westerns, and there are very few that I don’t completely adore

What age did you realize you loved books? When did you start writing?

Judging by the condition my old baby books are in, I’d say I realized I loved books very early. I was always reading something. Writing wasn’t far behind. I remember taping paper into cardboard squares to make my own books, and I wrote sequels to a lot of my favorite kid books. I started thinking I wanted to be a writer when I was probably 12, and actually started learning about how to write and started looking into the business side of it more in depth when I got into high school.

Tell us about this book.

My contribution to the Five Poisoned Apples collection is called Red as Blood. It’s a Snow White retelling, and follows my character, Zaig, as he is hired to assassinate the princess and then starts wrestling with guilt from his past. He decides to take matters into his own hands to save the princess and things start going horribly wrong. He has to hurry and figure out what is happening before everyone he cares about ends up dead. 

What did you learn about yourself through writing it?

I actually learned the most through the editing process, I think. This was my first real attempt at writing since before I got married and there was a huge amount of fear that my writing wasn’t any good, and that I’d still be in the same place I was as a teenager, making mistakes and not knowing how to fix them. When Red a Blood was a winner I was so shocked and excited that people liked it. Working with the team of editors at Rooglewood Press has been great. I’ve loved being able to figure out what my weaknesses are (conveying character emotion) and then actually being able to move forward and overcome those problems. I feel much more confident now with my other projects that I will be able to keep going and do the necessary work of fixing up my messy first drafts.

Do you normally use an outline for the books you write, or do you just start with a few ideas?

I do outline, but it is very sparse. I’m definitely a hybrid plotter/pantser. I don’t start any outline work on a story until I’ve worked out several solid ideas in my mind. Then I just jot down a list of things I know need to happen and go from there.

Is there a special place you like to write?

Anywhere I can. I do a lot of writing at my kitchen table, or else on my phone while I’m playing with my little boy.

What was something that surprised you in the way this book unfolded?

There was nothing that surprised me initially when I wrote it, but I was very surprised in how the editors perceived a few things. They were so in love with a romance thread they had picked up on, that I never intended to be a romance. So that was fun to explore. And the setting came as a surprise to me. The story I submitted took place in a bland, typical fantasy world. When the publisher suggested implementing a more Victorian gas lamp type setting I loved the idea.

What advice would you give a new author?               

Know your work isn’t perfect. Some of the edits and revisions were grueling and heart wrenching, and if I had insisted that the story was fine the way it was, I would have missed out on so many awesome developments that happened. You don’t have to compromise the heart of your story, but always be flexible and honestly look at every suggestion.

What project are you working on now?

I have a YA western dystopia I’m querying at the moment, so while I’m waiting to hear back on that I’ve been writing a story under the working title of Bad Boy. It is a non-magical fantasy involving a criminal who is insulted by the king’s royal advisor, so kidnaps the man’s daughter as payback. I finished the first draft early December so my next step will be to start editing and revisions.

Where can we find your books?

Five Poisoned Apples is available on Amazon. 

And you can check out my blog maddie-morrow.blogspot.com to stay up to date on what is happening with my writing. You’ll find a newsletter signup there that will earn you a free Steampunk Beauty and the Beast novella.

Tuesday Talks -Interview with Jenelle Hovde

I’m so excited to have Jenelle Hovde with us today! All January we will be speaking with the authors of one book: Five Poisoned Apples: A Collection of Snow White Stories. How many of you are like me and love fairy-tails? I absolutely love books with a different slant on my favorite childhood stories.
Jenelle Hovde is one of the authors in this new collection. Jenelle is a pastor’s wife and a homeschooling mama of three little ones. She is also the owner of a very lovable and very large Great Dane who insists on being a lapdog. She currently lives in the midwest with her family where the wind blows cold but the people are warm.
Welcome Jenelle, Tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

Hi Kristena! First of all, thank you for having me over! I’m a Canadian who happens to live in the United States. I grew up on the prairies and love the wide, open spaces best. I’m also a farm girl at heart. I married a Marine seventeen years ago and am very blessed.  Currently, my husband pastors a small country church and I home-school three little ones. I write in my spare time, which is tough to carve out. I love to sketch portraits as well whenever I can.

What’s your favorite genre to read and write. Who’s your favorite author?

I’m a huge fan of inspirational historical romance, historical, and young adult fantasy. Very different genres, I know! I often cycle through authors just to get a little variety in my reading diet. My favorite historical romance author is Laura Frantz. Her writing is pure poetry and the romance just perfection. I adore Mesu Andrew’s Biblical historical novels. She is an amazing researcher and her novels always teach me something new. As for young adult fantasy, I’ve been following Morgan L. Busse and Nadine Brandes. They both write clean, fast paced fantasy that I would not hesitate to hand out to teens.

What age did you realize you loved books? When did you start writing?

I’ve always loved books. At a young age, I started illustrating a few leather-bound tomes of my parents. They actually kept them! I wrote my first novel at the age of seven.  It was about a little boy finding a puppy and sneaking it home before his mother found out. As an audiologist, I wrote for the hearing aid industry. Believe me, it’s far more fun to write novels.

Tell us about this book.

Raven’s Heir is a young adult historical fantasy for ages 12 and up. It’s a Snow White retelling and could be considered a young adult historical fantasy with Christian elements. A young princess flees her evil stepmother and finds refuge with a band of rebels and spies, including one man she thought she would never see again. Tag line: Taking her in could risk the lives of his rebel band — but how can Damien leave the young woman at the huntsman’s mercy?

 And yes, there is romance :). Kara Chaloner isn’t the passive Snow White that we usually encounter (Disney), but she is sweet and brave.

What did you learn about yourself through writing it?

I really love history. I love the research and nitty gritty details. At some point, I have to let go and just write. Even fantasy novels need a good dose of reality. Having a few excellent historical books on medieval England proved invaluable to me during the revision process. I fell in love with Sherrilyn Kenyon’s The Writer’s Guide To Everyday Life in the Middle Ages. Bottom line: invest in some good academic historical books to layer your fiction world with greater authenticity.

Do you normally use an outline for the books you write, or do you just start with a few ideas?

I am by nature a “panster”. I love letting new ideas surprise me and naturally flow within a writing session. However, nothing beats an outline and an organized approach to writing. Most of the time I write in my head and then finally sit down to type. It’s not pretty or fun, but it works for me. I write every single day. Laptops are beautiful things. You can take them anywhere.

Is there a special place you like to write?

 Since I have little children, I do tend to write in the living room. I have a comfy leather chair, a portable desk, and a MacBook Air (gold, no less!). I’ve started rising at five in the morning to write. It’s quiet and after a few cups of coffee, I’m ready to go. I think about the current WIP through out the day and make revisions until at last, in the late evening, I can rework the scenes or add new ones.

What was something that surprised you in the way this book unfolded?

I set out to write a novella about a young girl reclaiming her throne, yet in the end, the spiritual themes fascinated me more than the romance. The reviews has been stellar regarding the romance, however readers have been touched by Kara’s journey from darkness to hope. I find that really encouraging. We all stumble in our faith journey and wonder if God is really there. Kara learns that even when she feels abandoned, she is not alone.

What advice would you give a new author?               

I think every author needs to find a critique partner, a dedicated team of honest beta readers, and a fabulous editor. Most people view writing as a solitary effort. In many ways it is, yet a writer needs to receive feedback. We all have our blind spots, and good feedback helps the author rework the piece until it really shines. That said, a writer also needs to know what feedback to keep and what to jettison. Writing is subjective. What one person loves, may not resonate with another. Be you. Writing is a marvelous place to explore who you really are.

What project are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a longer historical novel set in England. It’s a bit of a gothic with mistaken identities. I have historical novels out in the proposal stage.

Where can we find your books?

You can find Five Poisoned Apples on Amazon.
Feel free to drop me a line. I love to hear from readers. I’m at https://jenellehovdeauthor.wordpress.com

Tuesday Talks – Interview with Della Strickland

Today we have the pleasure of talking with Della Strickland. Della has written a number of books, including both adult and children’ genre. Welcome Della, tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.

Picture this: a rural, sunshiny area created with a small town surrounded by communities of side-by-side small farms, strung together by shady, dirt roads dissecting forests and open fields. In rural South Carolina, this was my life where everyone basically knew everyone. You couldn’t get away with anything, because your parents knew all your friends’ parents. It was a place of hard work, safety, and numerous adventures with brothers, sisters, cousins (who were like more brothers and sisters), and friends.

It was work and school during the week, long Sundays with fried chicken, homemade biscuits, and long, cool glasses of iced tea, front porch swings with chatter, love, and sometimes fights. But it was all good, and those memories are always alive and fresh, coloring my world with the gladness of those times. Notwithstanding, my life today is filled with much the same: husband, children, a grandchild, some of those same friends and family. Trying to create some of those times with my family is always fresh fun, sharing their heritage; giving my children a deeper and wider foundation of who they are.

What’s your favorite genre to read and write? Who’s your favorite author?

My very favorite genre is romance, short or long, contemporary and historical. I also like detective novels, murder mysteries involving lawyers and the law. I have a long list of favorite authors, too many to list, going way back when, as I’ve loved books all my life.

What age did you realize you loved books? When did you start writing?

I began to love books before I actually started to school. My older sisters thought it would be a hoot to teach me to read before I started school. I’ve loved books ever since, and began to cut my reading teeth on all sorts of library books all through school and beyond; even today.

Oddly enough, when I was in high school, one of my English teachers, a young woman, held in the clutch of hold-over-hippy days, told me I should pursue writing, as she thought I was good at it. I brushed it off. I only wrote seriously for fun, if you can imagine that. But later in life, married with two children, I began journaling, which led to the idea of becoming a published author.

Tell us about this book. What did you learn about yourself through writing it?

In To Love Thine Enemy, a story of fatherhood, abuse and betrayal, and a war of words to redemption and abiding love, my characters begin to discover a deeper meaning to life, expectancy, and a love that builds a bridge of hope to eternal things…salvation, joy, and the blessings of God. Once antagonists, based upon others’ hatred and lies, J. P. and LaBelle forge ahead, and deeper into their hearts, as they begin to understand the way ahead, their future, will begin when they resist hate and finally surrender to love.

I learned, through my characters taking me through their stories, that at some point in our lives we all are searching for someone to lovingly confirm us; that is, to let us know their love is unconditional, no matter our flaws and failures. This builds a bridge of trust where two lives can forge ahead and truly live and grow in the freedom that love has always longed to afford us.

Do you normally use an outline for the books you write, or do you just start with a few ideas?

I usually start with something burning in my heart, and then I get alone and start imagining. Usually, the characters appear first. No outline, just mostly a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of thing. For best results, I go old-school, ink and notebook, as I can get into the characters and their stories better without electronics.

Is there a special place you like to write?

I like to write at my computer spot, or a nice, secluded, and cozy spot where I can be alone and not distracted.

What was something that surprised you in the way this book unfolded? What character do you like best?

After I finished writing To Love Thine Enemy, something wasn’t right. I couldn’t figure it out. The story seemed lacking in something deeper. So I began to explore my characters again. Then I discovered the soldier’s voice. When I put that voice in the right perspective, the whole book unfolded, and perspectives I had been searching for came clearly into view. I can’t explain it, lest I give the story away, but when you read To Love Thine Enemy, you will understand. Can’t say I liked one character better than the others, to be honest.

What advice would you give a new author?              

Believe in your work, and just do it: write, publish and promote! Write, no matter what you put down on paper. Write from the heart, and let it spill out into words. Then come back and read it. Write what you love, and love what you write. You will find your voice as a writer, and author. Don’t be afraid to let your voice be heard, and promote yourself and your work.

What project are you working on now and how do we find your books?

I’m still working on the Snowflakes Series. I’m working on book #5, A Witness to Love, Carolina Snowflakes with 4 more to follow.

Where can we find your books?

You can find them all at Amazon But I hope to publish them on other venues in the near future. Also, @ Author Della M Strickland on Facebook.

Thanks For Your Patience

I want to take a moment to thank all my readers for their patience the last few weeks.  I have had a few issues with my site that hit at a very inconvenient time; when I was going out of town.

Unfortunately, this issue has led to the loss of many on my subscriber list. If you have been wiped off, I want to send my deepest apologies and ask that you resubscribe.

I ask all my loyal readers to check and make sure you are still subscribed. If you find that you need to re-enroll, please do so.  I am so sorry for the need to do this but I am very happy you are here and willing to put up with me through this issue. Please work with me and let me know what needs to be resolved and changed. If there is a problem, go to the communication tab and send me a note.

Thank you all again. Without all my wonderful readers, this site would have no purpose.  You are the reason I’m here!