Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Benefits of Being a Middle Distance Writer

Hi Seekervillians!

Kara Isaac
It’s so lovely to be back with you again. The last time I had the pleasure of visiting it was the week before the launch of my debut novel, Close To You, and I was in the middle of ALL THE FEELINGS that come with learning how to let your first book baby go into the big wide world.

Click to Buy
Six months later and my sophomore novel, Can’t Help Falling, has just released and, I have to tell you, there are just as many big feelings. Especially when you add in that I’m on the final stretch to the last big Isaac release of 2016 – another baby. A real one!

It has been a crazy fun and terrifying adventure to, after almost ten years pursuing publication, have two books release in the same year. And, while I was in them, I wasn’t exactly thankful for all those years of rejections and almost-but-not-quite near misses, I’ve realized over the last six months how grateful I am that my path to publication was neither short nor painless. 

And so today I thought I’d give you the upsides of being what I call being a middle distance writer.

You’ve learnt how to apply criticism
I know amazing talented writers who hit the jackpot with their first manuscript signing both an agent and a book deal. It’s the dream scenario, right? NYT Bestseller they must be destined to be!

The downside? Their fast track meant that they had to learn how to receive and apply criticism across an entire full-length novel under contract and it came from their editor. Usually on their sophomore novel because, let’s face it, their debut was pretty awesome to start with to get them the book deal. Can’t Help Falling, I had to do some major rewrites during developmental edits. The kind that meant all the photos came off the dining room wall and the starting point was replotting the entire thing using post-its. While they were daunting and tough, I was so grateful for the years of training my wonderful, but brutal, critique partners had put me through. While I wasn’t exactly thrilled about it, I knew that once I sucked it up and put on my big girl pants I could do it. They’d made me do it before!
Busy life....joyful life...about to get busier!

You’ve toughened up
I’m not going to pretend that one-star and negative reviews don’t hurt. They do. The first early review I saw for Can’t Help Falling sent me sideways for a couple of days. The sentence that had me  The plot relies too heavily on coincidence and then staggers along to an anticlimactic conclusion, lacking any of the magic, adventure, or tension of the classic novels it pays homage to.”

I can't share these....I CAN'T!!!!
Reaching for the nearest package of Double Stuf Oreos?

But what does being a middle-distance writer mean I had in my favor? Years of horrible contest scores and brutal comments sharp-penned judges. 

Of all the reviews I’ve seen for Close To You and Can’t Help Falling none of them have gotten to me like the judge I had in one of the first ever contests I entered who said that my entry had caused her to “lose the will to live” (and it may well have been a literal statement since it appeared halfway through the entry and after that point there wasn’t so much as a punctuation correction!)

Seven years later, I still remember sitting at my computer reading and re-reading that little comment bubble and ugly crying. Every time I opened my manuscript for the next six months I heard that comment in the back of my mind.  It almost caused me to give up on the dream. It was another year before I gathered up the courage to enter another contest. That was tough. A staggering plot and anticlimactic conclusion? That wasn’t anything that a few days, a pep talk, and a line of Oreos couldn’t deal with.

You have a “backlist”
I can see my toes!
Now, I’m no Mary Connealy who entered life as a contracted author with a hard drive filled with completed manuscripts. But I have three. Admittedly one will never be allowed to see the light of day, but the other two are both contest finalists and made it to editorial and publishing boards at multiple publishers before getting the big NO so there is hope for them!

The truth is that, at almost two years since I signed my publishing contract, my writing life has consisted of writing Can’t Help Falling, three rounds of edits on Close To You, four rounds of edits on Can’t Help Falling and then marketing and promoting both. And now, when I finally have some creative space to think about starting a new project? I’m four weeks away from entering the newborn haze of sleep deprivation land! Now, it may not work out, but at least my agent does have these two other projects up his sleeve to talk to publishers that I could polish up in short order if anyone was interested in seeing them again.

You have an amazing writing community behind you
For Close To You, I was incredibly honored to have a long list of some of my favorite CBA romance authors writing endorsements including Melissa Tagg, Becky Wade, Rachel Hauck, Susan May Warren, Katie Ganshert and Carla Laureano. It was about as much of an endorsement dream team as you could get.

The reason it was possible? I had known many of them for years. I had taken their classes, met them at ACFW conferences, promoted their books and shamelessly fangirled them. I was still absolutely terrified about asking them to consider reading an advance copy and putting their name to some kind words about it but at least I didn’t need to do the author version of a “cold call”.

On the flipside, I recently had the opportunity to assist an acquaintance who’d received a book contract for her debut novel. She hadn’t joined ACFW until after she received the contract, she hadn’t made many connections with writers in her genre and no significant connections with published authors. So when her publisher asked her for a list of potential endorsers she had none and was left stressed and scrambling.  

These I'm willing to share...sort of willing.
And that’s just endorsers.  I could write pages about all the other amazing writers that I have met in the last ten years who have become friends and, ultimately, the world’s biggest cheer squad when I received my book contract. Who have plastered their social media talking up my books, bought copies for friends and family, and been a sounding and sanity board when living the dream got tough in a way that non-writers never can be.

So yes, I never thought I’d say it, but I, Kara Isaac, am grateful that God’s timing is far more perfect than mine could ever be and he knew exactly what he was doing in the ten years it took me to see a book with my name on a shelf.

So let’s chat… I’m afraid I can’t share any of my Double Stuf Oreos because you can’t get them in New Zealand so I hoard my precious limited supplies but I do have some delicious New Zealand chocolate to share around J

For those of you who are writers – what are you grateful for in your writing journey so far, no matter how short or long it has been? And for readers, have you ever read a negative review that made you want to read a book more, not less?

There’s a paperback copy of Close To You or Can’t Help Falling (winner’s choice) as well as a block of some of my favorite New Zealand chocolate up for grabs. Leave a comment!

Author Bio
Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. When she's not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. Her sophomore romantic comedy, Can’t Help Falling, is a crazy book about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious teacup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England and was named an RT Reviews Top Pick for October. She loves to connect on her website, on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Author and Twitter @KaraIsaac


  1. Oh, Kara how totally awful that someone would say your writing would cause them to lose their will to live. I KNOW it can't have been that bad!
    I'm still looking forward to reading both your books, and know that they will be worth shouting from the rooftops worthy! Thank you for sharing your journey as a middle distance writer with Seekerville!

  2. First of all, congrats on the upcoming birth of your baby! What a precious time, the anticipation (and trepidation, lol) all the dreams you have for the little one and all the love waiting to be poured out. I remember those days myself :-)

    Secondly, as a reader, I generally don't read reviews for books I haven't read yet. I don't wish to spoil my own experience with the book. I want to form my own opinion, thoughts and views on it. Once I write my own, I may skim through them just to see what others thought. I have ran across some that made me think "did they just read the same book I did??" because it was so off the! So I would say if I were to read a negative review on a book, it would tend to make me want to read it even more just to see if I agreed with the reviewer.

    On the flip side, I have also read a book that I didn't like for whatever reason, and someone will give it a high 5 star rating and I'm thinking the same to myself "did I just read the same story??". Because there was no way (in my mind anyway) that it was a 5 star book.

    Good post Kara! I love learning more about an authors writing journey, all the ups and downs of it :-) Also, I see you are from Wellington NZ and I'm wondering where that is from Albany NZ? My mom lives there (since 2001), and one day I would like to visit! Especially where they filmed the Hobbit movies, lol!

    Talking about which, since I've read "Falling for You" would you please put my name in the hat for "Close to You"? You know, the Hobbit theme and all that...haha!

  3. Oh, if I could only ship you a whole case of Double Stuffed Oreos.....because I would!! :-)


    I am cheering you with my Oreos.

    But I definitely want chocolate now.

    Congratulations on your latest and wonderful release. The premise is absolutely so cool!!! How do you come up with these cool premises??


  5. Because they have an opinion doesn't mean it matters.

    Anyone who could be so rude obviously has troll tattooed on their forehead. I've met a few. I pray for them. I write their names in my prayer book and pray for them. God loves trolls too apparently.

  6. I love your story! As an aspiring author who recently quit work to focus on this full time, I appreciate how honest everyone has been regarding the accept/reject so I am ready for those rejections...but hopefully not too many!

    I've been writing for fun since about 2003 and only really considered it seriously within the last year. I'm a little over halfway on a first draft and have begun outlines for two more books in the series (though they are standalone).

    My family's always been encouraging but my former minister is really the one who kept pushing me toward writing as a career. He says I have a lot of stories to tell and I believe him-I can hardly get my ideas out fast enough!

    And congratulations on the baby!

  7. Good morning, Kara!

    Thanks for sharing your story. It really illustrates the need to start networking and participating in writing organizations before you're published. Quite frankly, I can't imagine trying to do this without the support and encouragement of other writers who have gone before me, like the ones here at mySeekerville. Congratulations on your new addition.

  8. MARIANNE, you're right! It was bad but it definitely wasn't THAT bad ;-) I hope you enjoy Close To You and/or Can't Help Falling if you ever have the opportunity to read them :)

    TRIXI - similar to you, people sometimes ask me if less-than-glowing reviews bother me. Generally, unless someone is being genuinely unkind they really don't. Like you, I've loved many a book that has left others underwhelmed and also been underwhelmed by other books that friends have raved about. Reading is such a subjective experience that there is never going to be one book that hits the sweet spot for everyone. And Albany is about an hour north of me by plane. I hope you get to visit someday!

    TINA - Well I wish I could claim the idea for Close To You but the truth is it came from a darling editor who asked me if I had ever thought of writing a book set in NZ around the Lord of the Rings movies. The answer was a resounding no :) I can take some credit for Can't Help Falling though. When Howard Books were considering CTY they asked if I had any ideas for a second book that was linked somehow. Since I knew that JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis had been friends who met at Oxford University I pitched the idea of a story with a Narnia theme set in Oxford. Thankfully they loved it :)

  9. What a great perspective you have. The trials and struggles we go through really are refining and can make us stronger. You gave specific examples that I'm sure other writers will be able to relate to or receive comfort from. Congratulations on your success! The covers of both of your books are so lovely that I would pick them up no matter what. Looking forward to reading them soon, they are moving to the top of my mountain of books to read! I'd love to be entered for a print copy since I just have e-books ;)

  10. As a reader I don't take reviews too seriously. I have loved books that others have given one star too and yes they have loved books that left me flat.

  11. Hi Kara, I enjoyed your post today. I always enjoy learning about authors. I am a book reviewer and I always try to give a book a positive review that is the reason I choose the books I am going to review very carefully. If I find an author I love, I'll read their books knowing I can give a positive review. I do try new authors as I love reading "first books" and I can honestly say I have usually liked every one I have read. I do not like giving less than a 3-star review. I know the author worked hard to get the book out and for me to use a few mean words isn't fair.

    Congratulations on your new book and on your precious baby you are expecting.

    May you be blessed today.

    I would love to be in your giveaway.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  12. TINA #2! Congratulations on taking the big step to pursue writing full time! I wish you many happy writing adventures and great success in your pursuit. And remember, every rejection is just a stepping stone :)

    RENEE: I not only can't imagine not doing this without the other writers in my life but I don't think I would even want to. They are the ones who keep me sane, accountable and talk me off all the crazy ledges when I'm convinced I'm the worst writer in the world. Even if I had never been published the friends that I have made would have made the whole journey worth it :)

    HEIDI: So lovely to see you here! I also adore my covers, so much that I have copies of them hanging on our family room wall with all the family photos. I hope you enjoy Close To You and Can't Help Falling when you have the chance to read them and I'm with you, print copies are the best :)

    MARY: Thank you for dropping by! It's all so subjective isn't it? As readers we bring our experience, backgrounds, and even just mood of the day with us to a story. The only reviews I tend to take seriously are those of people that I trust warning me of inappropriate content. Beyond that it all becomes about personal preferences :)

    Okay, everyone, it's late Thursday night in New Zealand so I'm going to turn in soon but I'm looking to spending more time with you all in the morning. I've put my husband on the early morning little people minding/school run so I can be back here as soon as possible :)

  13. Welcome, Kara!
    Congratulations on the upcoming birth and your latest book. I LOVE your covers!!!! Please enter me in the drawing.
    I'm grateful for all of the wonderful and supportive people of met during this ride.
    Thanks for visiting today!

  14. Trixi, Albany is near Auckland, which is towards the top of the North Island of New Zealand. Wellington is at the bottom of the North Island - about a eight-hour drive or one-hour flight. If you ever make it over, look me up - I live about an hour from Hobbiton :)

    Tina, I love this: "Because they have an opinion doesn't mean it matters." It only matters if we *let* it matter.

    Kara, I can't say you've inspired me to take up running, but I love the analogy. Congratulations on the release of Can't Help Falling, and on the impending arrival of Baby Isaac #3!

  15. Kara,

    Congratulations on the new baby. New Zealand chocolate and a new book by you, of course I want to have my name entered.

    Thanks for sharing today, and congratulations again.

  16. Oh my goodness, those comments were terrible!! I can't believe people would say that. :-( On the flipside, You're PUBLISHED!! Woohoo!!! Great post, Kara. It's so true about God's timing. There's no use stressing.
    Thanks for sharing your story, congrats on the baby and I hope that I get to read one of your books soon!

  17. Congrats on the baby. That chocolate looks awful yummy. I'd sure like to try it.

  18. KARA, what an encouraging post. The writing life is an education, a process, and different for each of us. A longer road to publication does toughen us up, doesn't it?
    I cannot believe that judge told you he/she had lost "the will to live." I've never received a criticism that, well, tactless. Judges should be trained in how to deliver the bad news as well as the good.
    My day job is in print journalism, so I get some toughening there too. When their name is on my check, they can tell me what to write. This is different, the stakes are higher, but so worth it.
    Enter me in the drawing. I love Oxford! Have loved it ever since I read Dorothy L. Sayers' "Gaudy Night," the classic mystery and love story of Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey.

  19. A call to write, and publish, is a call to prepare to write and publish. We need to work on these things now, pre-pub, and we'll be better equipped when IT happens.

  20. Hi Kara,
    I've read Can't Stop Falling and loved it (my review is the first one on Amazon if you need proof how much I loved it :)

    Blessings on the upcoming arrival of baby Isaac! I guess you found the right guy, not the one you mentioned in your book that had me dying laughing. You know, the one you cautioned about dating, "Don't ever date a guy who believes in a drug-free, silent birth". Such a great line, it still makes me laugh, love your wit and humor.

    Reviews are so subjective, I write them and I read them, but I guess the percentage of positive reviews overall is what influences me to read a new author. For example, I read Can't Help Falling because I'd seen so many positive reviews and endorsements on Close to You and I liked the Narnia/C.S. Lewis connection.

    I'd love to read Close to You, please add my name, thank you!

  21. Oh blast it. Reading your post reminds me that I forgot to buy your first book, Close to You.(I hate it when that happens, it means I've missed out on a good read) I must rectify that because I LOVE the premise. I wouldn't mind getting my name put in the chocolate box for your second book. I'm with you DON'T TOUCH THE DOUBLE-STUFFS. I think Seekerville peeps should get together and ship you a box of them. Like a new baby gift or something...

    Congrats on the coming real baby. Double congrats on having two books release in the same year. Phew, you've been busy. Thanks for sharing with Seekerville. I think it will help a bunch of villagers as they go through the journey to publication. I know it's already helped me.

  22. Hi Kara,
    Thanks for sharing your story so far with us. It's encouraging. A blessings to you and your new family member. I bet you can't wait.

    I'm thankful (this is the Thanksgiving month!) for the friends I've made, especially those at Seekerville and ACFW and for contest judges and critique partners, even when their help feels like a gut punch. It's all valuable. And I'm thankful for encouraging people like yourself.

  23. Congratulations on your new baby! (Both the one that will keep you up at night and the one that will keep readers up at night). I can't wait to read it - and it sounds even better with chocolate!

  24. Kara, welcome to Seekerville! (Reading Close to You now and loving it! You had me giggling on the first page!(Always a great sign-- I adore humor.) :-)

    Loved this post and thanks for sharing the encouragement and the ups and downs of your progress. Especially enjoyed the photos, too!

    Many blessings on your continued success and prayers for you and your new little!

  25. Congratulations! some wonderful things going on for you right now :)
    Chocolate and a good book? toss me in please..

  26. Welcome, Kara! And congrats on your new release (of the book kind, not the upcoming baby release.) ;)

    I agree about God's perfect timing. I got so discouraged along the way (12 years) while trying to get published. But once I did, I knew the timing was just what I needed. God knows better than I do!

  27. Deb H, I love the idea of an Oreo baby gift package! LOL

  28. Good morning, Kara! Congratulations on your soon-to-arrive blessing. You're a brave one to go for a new book release so close to a delivery.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm with you. I'm very grateful for the contests I've lost, the negative comments, and the tough love from my crit partners and editors.

    I've always wanted to visit New Zealand! I love the accent ya'll have. ;)

  29. Welcome, Kara! I am always super-impressed by young busy moms who also manage a successful writing career!

    Although I suppose that's not a whole lot different from trying to write with a pesky semi-retired husband under foot!

    And LITERALLY under foot this week after Project Guy had four toes surgically uncurled (bad case of hammertoes).

    But I digress.

    Really, what would we ever do without our supportive and understanding writer friends? The writing life wouldn't be nearly as fun--or even doable!--without my Seeker sisters and all the friends we've made in Seekerville!

  30. Kara, congratulations on your upcoming sweet baby and your released book babies!

    AMEN to God's timing being PERFECT! His plan and time schedule are always blessings....sometimes in disguise. Your attitude is great about the negative comments...(ouch!)....and so glad you didn't give up. That is encouragement to me.

    The writing friends I've met along the way are the BEST part of this journey to publication...*waving* to everyone in Seekerville!

    Speaking of Oreos, can you buy all the different flavors in New Zealand?

  31. Congratulations, Kara, on the new baby. :) Babies are always a blessing.

    I like hearing that your manuscripts are still salvageable. So many authors mention manuscripts hidden away that will never see the light of day. That is incredibly sad, I think.

    Do you ever plan to write a series?

    nina4sm at gmail dot com

  32. KARA, welcome back to Seekerville. The premise of your new book sounds fantastic! While you're in new baby fog, I hope your agent sells your completes.

    Once I got serious about publication, I gave myself ten years to sell, as if I was the one in charge of the timing. :-) I sold in nine thanks to the launch of Steeple Hill's Historical line. Truth is, I wasn't ready when I thought I was. Those nine years gave me time to develop rhino skin and improve my craft. When God opened the door, I was ready to walk through. I'm beyond grateful for the blessing of writing for Him.


  33. KARA, Double stuffed Oreos are a favorite of mine, too. I separate them and eat the plain side first, then the frosted side. I can't make myself bite into the entire cookie. Weird. Do you have a preference for eating them?


  34. MYRA, hope Project Guy isn't in terrible pain. Praying for him.


  35. Kara, I loved this post. your perspective is so key, and just what I needed to read today. (And can I just say? I saw you at ACFW, and you are a CUTE pregnant lady. ;) ).

    I'm grateful for many aspects of my writing journey! God placed me in a circle of writers early on this journey. This circle has been encouraging, helpful, patient and listening when I've wanted to give up. And gave me a good butt-kicking when I needed it. :) God has reminded me time and again that He has his hands on my journey and that His timing is always, always perfect.

    And, He's used this journey to draw me into much greater dependence on Him. This sometimes crazy-making, often humbling journey has caused me to look to Him in ways I never dreamed.

    And the writing...discovering I have stories inside me and that I'm not afraid (well, most of the time) to write them? That is pretty amazing to me.

    Please put me in your drawing. :)

  36. As a reader I sometimes read reviews before purchasing. Yes, I have seen some bad reviews that made me want to read the book to get my own opinion. I also cringe at some of the comments that people make: I mean there is another human being, with feelings, on the other side of those comments. It just breaks my heart at the unkindness of others. I am looking forward to reading your first book, in fact, it is next in my queue. Blessings to you:)

  37. I love this blog post, Kara! You've identified so many of the positives that come from years of work as we hone craft and find support and encouragement within the writing community. So uplifting!

    Yes, managing criticism is huge. And learning that everyone has to take criticism and that often that criticism can be very productive. After publication, we receive input from our editors. In my way of thinking, "the editor is always right." At least my wonderful editor has never steered me wrong. If she speaks, I listen!

    I'm of the mindset that if something comes too easily, it might not be appreciation. Most of us have slaved and struggled to capture an editor's eye, which makes "The Call" all the better, and the debut, and the future sales. I don't take anything for granted, and I won't let a little hiccup on this side of publication throw me for a loop. As the saying goes, I'm in for the long haul.

    Loved seeing your pictures! Waving to you from afar!!! So glad you could join us in Seekerville today!

  38. As a writer I have been so excited about the book I am working on for Nano this year. My first ever historical. I wanted it to be perfect written in the historical setting of the Cherokee early 1800's I have researched and researched but as I have started to write. I keep having to google things about what they would have done only Google doesn't have the answer nor does the curator at the Cherokee museum. I finally decided after all I am writing fiction and if neither of those places don't know then the average reader wouldn't either so I am just going to go with my own idea of what it would have been like. All of the negative and positives of a writers life are so much a part of being a writer.

    As a reader I had not read Kate Breslin's book so when she was attacked with all the one star reviews, I bought myself a copy of her book and read it. It was so not worthy of those bad reviews. Another time I got my advance copy for an author I am on her street team and I noticed on Goodreads a lot of negative reviews. As I read them I was shocked as I am an avid fan of this author. So as I began reading the book I was also reading through the eyes of the negative reviewers. So when I wrote my review I used that as a way of writing my review as to why those reviewers were wrong.I did it in a kind way and gave examples to back up what I found as I read the book. Thankfully by the time the book came out it had more positive reviews then negative reviews.

  39. Kara, I also meant to say congratulations as you look forward to your life with your precious little one.

  40. Hi Kara,
    I'm still baffled someone who write they'd lost the will to live after reading your work. That's just so...wrong...and mean...and REALLY? Who does that? GRRRR. Now I'm more determined than ever to read your books. :)

    Rejection stinks but I agree, contest judge comments have had me weeping and cheering and I know I've got a ton to learn so I try to keep those big girl pants on and not let the weeping overtake my common sense. And when all else fails, chocolate because it helps.

    Thank you for sharing your story. It helps folks like me to keep on, keepin' on. I'm determined to get off Unpubbed Island, but I trust God's timing. Even if I pout about it sometimes...most times...

    Tina, I'm still laughing about God loving trolls. So true.

  41. Congrats on the new book Kara. Thanks for the encouraging words. Sometimes I find it difficult to step back and remember that God's timing is always best.

  42. Oh my stars, I can't even imagine why contest judges write these things... and then I thought back to scan my memory and make sure it wasn't ME.... Kara, it's so important for reviewers and judges to remember that just because something isn't their cup of tea... doesn't make it bad.

    And honestly, if a story takes us on an emotional ride, we should be fist-pumping the air! Anything that stirs emotions should be applauded because we know that's not an easy task.

    GO YOU!!!! I love this post, Isaac!!!! YAY!!!!!

    And hand over the chocolate, cupcake... don't be holding out. Although I did notice two "World's Finest Chocolate" bars in my daughter's cupboard last week, and forgot to steal them!!!

    I wanted to save her from herself...

    And forgot.


    I'm so glad you're here today, and I love this message!!!

  43. And huge congrats on the baby!!!! I love great reviews and I've gotten lots of great kudos, but A BABY!!!!!

    A baby changes everything.... (Faith Hill's Christmas Song, love it...) A Baby Changes Everything


    I'm so excited for you!!!!

  44. I love this post, Kara!!!

    I can relate to this on soooo many levels. Except for the part of being published. :)

    The worst words from a contest judge I received was, "I hate this! I hate this! I hate this!"

    It was so rude, it was almost funny.
    It does build thick skin to take rejections and "constructive criticism".

    You're book sounds absolutely delightful.

  45. Congrats on your baby. Great post.

  46. Kara - congratulations on being a RT Top Pick. Obviously that judge didn't have a clue what she was talking about.

    I've received some of those types of comments and they hurt!

    Please enter me in the drawing. Congrats on your new baby. Enjoy that little one.

  47. I loved the excerpt from Can't Help Falling. Clicks the Buy link

    I'm still stuck on that judge's comment. My worst contest judge experience was the one who rewrote my opening humorously to show me what was wrong with it. I'm not sure why she thought parodying my writing would help, but I think she meant it to be helpful. I can't imagine your troll thinking she was helping with that comment.

  48. KARA, CONNIE, TERRI, I'm appalled a contest judge would give such unkind comments to an aspiring writer. We all know the courage it takes to put our work out there. The judges of the first contest I entered gave me a lot of suggestions, but they all wanted to help me improve my craft. None of the comments were cruel. I'm proud of you for not giving up.


  49. Hey Kara!! (waves all fangirl-like)
    Thanks for sharing your story into publication, it's encouraging!

    Don't need into the book drawing though, I already have your lovely books. :)

  50. Hi, Everyone! Good morning from Friday in New Zealand :)

    CINDY W: Thanks for dropping by! Like you, these days, I only leave reviews for books if I am able to honestly give them an overall positive review. Since most of the books I read these days are either authors I know and love or new ones who have been recommended to me by people that I trust it's not very often any more that I find myself underwhelmed. My only exception is where I feel like I've been mislead or the content was inappropriate. For instance, many years ago I read a book by a well known author. It was packaged and marketed as a "feel good" chick lit novel but the story line ended up being a very dark one about a man who was a psychopath and physically abused any woman he was in a relationship with. I've felt tricked into spending money that I never would have if I'd had any idea what the story really was and have never read anything by her since.

    JILL: Thanks for dropping by! I'm so glad you love my covers because I'm a big fan! My art director has done such an amazing job with them :)

    KAYBEE: Apparently I wasn't the only one to earn such scathing comments from that same judge! But, like you said, the upside is that it definitely toughened my up pretty early on in the aspiring author process (eventually!). And God makes all of our journeys different for a reason. He knows exactly what the perfect timing is for us and the experiences we need to have along the way to prepare us for what he has.

  51. TRACEY: I'm so glad you enjoyed Can't Help Falling and thanks so much for leaving an Amazon review. I really appreciate it :) LOL. Yes, there was no chance of me ever marrying THAT guy. Though, unfortunately, that line was partly inspired by a conversation about the husband of the friend of a friend who held similar views. That is true about the overall percentage of positive reviews - they tend to be a much better general indication than individual reviews. Especially once a book has been out a few months.

    DEB H: I hate it when that happens too ;-) I hope you enjoy Allie and Jackson's story when you have a chance to read it! A delivery of Double Stuf Oreos would be the best baby gift ever but unfortunately postage to New Zealand is not for the faint of heart (or those on a budget!) I had a wonderful friend who once rocked up to the Post Office with six packages to send me and almost keeled over when they told her the postage would be almost $100 USD. Strangely enough, she decided that maybe she didn't have to send all six :)

    BARBARA: Aren't friends made on this uncertain journey the best thing ever? As exciting as it has been to see my name on the cover of two books this year, they don't even come close to all the wonderful friends I've made during process who I share life with every day. Even if I never have another book published I know we will be friends for life :)

  52. TINA: It's the next morning and I'm still laughing over the trolls comment. I have, on occasion, muttered that exact sentiment to myself, too. "You might not love them but apparently Jesus does." LOL.

    CINDY R: Yes, it is definitely better with chocolate! But I hope you enjoy it either way if you have the opportunity to read it :)

    CYNTHIA H: I'm so glad you're enjoying Close To You. I hope you continue liking it as much the whole way through!! :)

    AMBER: Thank you! Funnily enough, Can't Help Falling was originally slated to release in April 2017 but late last year my publisher decided to bring it forward six months so that it released closer to Close To You. Suddenly losing six months off the original editing timeframes made for some challenging deadlines but now, on the other side, I am glad that the timing has worked out this way and I'm not going to be juggling final copyedits and a book release with a new baby :)

    MYRA: I hope Project Guy is doing as well as he can be under the circumstances!

  53. SHERIDA: Alas, our Oreo selection is very limited here to original, chocolate and strawberry. Hence why I have to import Double Stuf. I have a friend who is currently in the US who has also promised to try and source me some birthday cake and/or red velvet since I've heard good things about them but didn't manage to find any to bring back when I was over in August!

    SYLVIA: Out of the three complete manuscripts that I have there are two that are in good shape and one that would require A LOT of work to be salvaged but I still love the story concept so who knows what might happen one day :) At the moment, I'm enjoying writing stories that are connected but not strictly a series. For example, Jackson and Allie from Close To You reappear as secondary characters in Can't Help Falling. But I'd certainly be open to writing one in the future. Though my personal preference is that I tend to prefer series where the books can also be read standalone because, as a reader, I find it torturous having to wait years for a traditional series to be released to find out how everything ends! For example, I've read rave reviews of Terri Blackstock's "If I Run" series but have decided I'm not going to read it until close to the final one releases so I can read the whole thing through straight away :)

    JANET! Well I have two preferences. If we're talking about them on their own then my favourite way is to keep them in the freezer so the creme is nice and firm so when you bite them they almost snap. Unlike you, I am an eat all the layers at once girl! But my absolute favourite way to eat them is in a Oreo parfait which involves layering them with greek yoghurt and warm berry coulis. The warm coulis softens them up so they go all oozy and it is spectacularly delicious :)

    JEANNE: So lovely to see you here! I may make a cute pregnant woman in the second trimester but now I'm at the cumbersome enormous stage where people look at me like I must be lying or have my dates mixed up when I tell them I still have about four weeks to go. My husband calls me waddles and laughs at me whenever I come down the stairs because apparently he can see the bump coming around the corner long before the rest of me :)

  54. KIKFROG: I think that's why a lot of authors (me included!) chose not to read all of our reviews. Even those of us who like to think we have reasonably thick skin can find ourselves off kilter if someone writes something particularly hurtful or unkind. Especially when a reviewer wades into personal comments about the author rather than keeping their review to being about the book. I hope you enjoy Close To You when you read it :)

    WILANI: That is definitely the double edged sword these days of all the information we have at our finger tips! For example, I have never been to Oxford so things like Google Earth and You Tube were invaluable in helping me being able to set the story there but I'm still sure I have something wrong that someone who actually lives there would pick up on straight away. Sometimes I'll see reviews where the reviewer makes a comment like "I deducted points because the story is set in 1872 and in one scene the heroine used the word X and according to Y dictionary that word didn't come into popular usage until 1875" and I'm so glad I don't write historicals!

    SHAREE: I know! All these years later that's still what I think too. Why would anyone write something so unkind? Especially when it was probably obvious at that point that I was very much a beginning writer, not someone who had been on the contest circuit for years. Having said that, I'm sure her comments did make me a better judge when I started judging contests myself. Even on my lowest scoring entries I was always very conscious of the impact that my comments could have on the person who would be at the receiving end of them.

  55. Okay, everyone! I have to take the 2yo to a birthday party but I will be back a bit later in the day to chat some more. Thanks so much for being here :)

  56. Love this post, love your books, love doing this journey with you! Thanks for helping me accept criticism -- and for sparing me from a lot of it by cleaning up my characters' floating body parts <3

  57. Kara, good to see you here and hear more about your books! I have been very anxious to read your books so would love to be in the drawing! I am an avid reader.
    Blessings on you for a healthy birth and baby~~~

  58. Well done, Kara!

    Please enter me in your generous drawing.

    May God bless you, your family and all of Seekerville!

  59. KARA!!!

    Sooooo great to see you here, my friend, and SUPER CONGRATS on the three books AND the RT Reviews Top Pick for October -- WOW!!

    You asked: "For those of you who are writers – what are you grateful for in your writing journey so far, no matter how short or long it has been?

    I'm grateful for the sabbatical I took a few years ago to S-L-O-W D-O-W-N down and focus less on promos/contests/sales and more on God, family, and writing for the sheer joy of writing. That was an absolute turning point for me in the direction I believe God wanted me to take and a true balm to my central nervous system!! ;)

    You also asked: "And for readers, have you ever read a negative review that made you want to read a book more, not less?"

    LOL ... as a matter of fact, yes! Whenever I read a bad review of a Christian book that's trashing that book for too much passion, I tend to want to download it immediately! ;)


  60. KARA, I've eaten frozen cookies more than I care to admit. I freeze them thinking that will keep me out of them, but I've discovered frozen is just fine. Or a few seconds in the microwave is even better.

    Your coulis sounds great. But biting into the whole cookie frozen would probably require a trip to the dentist. :-)


  61. I have a question for all our commenters.

    Is anybody else losing their comments when they go to preview them? For the last few weeks, I've been posting comments, and if hit "preview" to edit it instead of "publish your comment," I get an error message that says "bad request, error 400," then the comment disappears and I have to type it again. Fortunately I save comments before I hit "publish," so that's saved me a number of times.

    Just curious.


    1. Yes, Julie!!!! Me too! I hate to post without previewing, so if it looks like I'm speaking an alien language, you'll know why.

  62. Kara, thanks for sharing with us today about your journey. I just can't believe a judge would say such a horrible thing. I think that judge should not be a judge.

    I have spent many years writing short stories but am now working on a novel. It is not going as well as I would like, but I am keeping at it.

    Please enter me in the drawing.

    Best wishes with your new little one!

  63. Jessica, I'm so glad you jumped straight to the good side of this... In the end, we're published!!!!!!!!!!!


    Which is the goal, right? Everything else is a side dish!

  64. Congratulations, Kara, on baby and books!

    I am stunned that a contest judge would make that comment. There was nothing helpful or critically constructive in that comment -- it was all about the judge (that s/he had lost the will to live).

    Hmm. I guess that means I'm grateful for, among many other things during this writing journey, the experience of entering contests and having other writers help me learn how to interpret judges' comments. Those comments are, after all, opinion. Opinion based on experience, perhaps, but also opinion based on personal likes and dislikes.

    A writer-friend tipped me off to this from Eleanor Roosevelt: "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent." I've had to repeat it like a litany many, many, many times :-)

    Wishes for continued success!

    Nancy c

  65. From Nancy C

    Julie Lessman said...
    Is anybody else losing their comments when they go to preview them? For the last few weeks, I've been posting comments, and if hit "preview" to edit it instead of "publish your comment," I get an error message that says "bad request, error 400," then the comment disappears and I have to type it again. Fortunately I save comments before I hit "publish," so that's saved me a number of times.

    Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Yes! I've even tried different browsers and received the same message and inablity to post a comment. So there's at the least a pair of us. I feel so much better, Julie, knowing Blogger isn't singling me out of the crowd :-)

    Nancy C

  66. Kara, congratulations on ALL of your babies, especially the one you're about to give birth to in 4 weeks. :-)

    I thought I'd be too late to this party, but it's probably just the right time in New Zealand.

    Writing is a journey, and we learn something new about our craft every day. A few of us might experience instant success, but for most of us it will take years before we see our names on a book cover.

    And maybe if we pray, your stores will import Double Stuf Oreos just for you!

  67. Kara, congratulations on ALL of your babies, especially the one you're about to give birth to in 4 weeks. :-)

    I thought I'd be too late to this party, but it's probably just the right time in New Zealand.

    Writing is a journey, and we learn something new about our craft every day. A few of us might experience instant success, but for most of us it will take years before we see our names on a book cover.

    And maybe if we pray, your stores will import Double Stuf Oreos just for you!

  68. Hi Kara Welcome to Seekerville. What a great post and love all your comments. It tickles me that its Friday where you are and I'm just finishing up Thursday. Such a small world these days and how fun to have writer friends from afar.

    You are so spot on about the advantages of developing a thick skin from critiquing and contests. It really helps to deal with an editor. I have a friend who made it big on her first novel with very little effort and she ended up giving up when it was so difficult to sell her next books.

    And like you, hind sight is great. You hate going through those rejections, but when you actually see how they worked for the best in the long run. smile. There is a master plan. smile

    Thanks again for sharing.

    Congrats too on the baby. How exciting and precious. Hugs


    Hey, we can start a club called Blogger's Blacklist, guys!! SO glad I'm not alone, and I couldn't be in better company, truly!


  70. Congratulations Kara! Happy addition to your family.

    Don’t worry about bad reviews. Reading can be a very personal thing and subjective. There was a book I read years ago that I had me balling. I mean it might have been my ugliest cry ever with a book, but others didn't have the same reaction. It just that it hit me a certain way. The funny thing is, I reread that book later, and not the same reaction.

    You are awesome! Your stories had me wanting to read them just from the covers, and when I read one, I knew I need more. Soon. Very soon!

    Thanks for dropping in Seekerville! (I already have both your books, so no need to enter me.) Thanks!

  71. LORAINE: It definitely doesn't feel that way often in the thick of it, does it? Especially when we are convinced that we truly are as ready as we'll ever be for that thing that is both so close yet so far at the same time!!

    RUTHIE :) It was a secular RWA contest so I'm guessing for a start the judge wasn't a big fan that my heroine was going to church in the opening scenes. Just like I just saw my first one-star rating for Can't Help Falling on GoodReads and it was from someone who's photo was of a topless man clad only in a very loose towel so I'm guessing my book was far too G-rated for her preferences ;-)

    Hi CONNIE: See, if she HAD to say it why the need to say it three times?! It's not like you wouldn't have gotten the sentiment if she'd restricted herself to just the once!

    EVELYN: I hope you enjoy it :) See, I don't see why any judge would think that rewriting a chunk of someone's work like that is even slightly helpful. I will occasionally give examples if we're talking about something like Deep Point of View but beyond technical craft related so much is subjective and simply about writer and reader styles and preference!

    MEGAN! *Waves back* So lovely to see you here :)

  72. JACKIE: Thanks for dropping by. I hope you enjoy Close To You and/or Can't Help Falling if you ever have the opportunity to read them :)

    JULIE: I'm the same! I read a review recently where the reviewer was APPALLED that the author described physical attraction between the hero and heroine and I couldn't hit the buy button fast enough!

    SANDY: All the best with your novel!! Perseverance is definitely the key :)

    CHILL N: I love that Eleanor Roosevelt quote! It is one I have also reminded myself of many times and not just when it comes to writing :)

  73. Hi Kara. I'm so sorry not to have shown up today until now.
    I took my mom to the doctor and it's a long drive.
    I like the idea of a middle distance writer.

    Except I was a pretty LONG distant writer, with so many rejections my house started to tilt where I'd piled them up.

    So we long distance writers can succeed too!!!!!!!!!


  74. You've had a great day! Lots of great questions and comments.
    I've read a few but then I saw you'd commented just recently so I thought I'd come back to the comments and thank you for being such a great guest.

    I'll go read more now!

  75. Super late stopping by this evening but still wanted to say thanks to Kara for sharing with us today - - and CONGRATS on your success AND the upcoming BABY!! :)
    I enjoyed hearing you speak at CFRR back in August and enjoyed your post today - - I know you're an inspiration to others!
    Blessings, Patti Jo :)

    p.s. One reason I was gone today is because I was VERY blessed to have lunch with DEBBY GIUSTI!! :) She is such an amazing, sweet friend! :) (I've often thought how fun if we could somehow have ALL the Seekers and Villagers together for lunch one day! *sigh* I can dream... ;) )

  76. Kara, thank you for your post. It's always encouraging to read about other writer's journeys. We all have a contest story, but yours. Well, that might be one of the worst I've ever heard, yet you persevered. I always appreciate hearing how the author continued writing. Congratulations and best wishes for your baby.

    I'm so thankful to all the writers who have taken time out of their busy schedules to send constructive advice.

  77. Kara, congrats on your sophomore release and welcome back to Seekerville. And for someone to say that they'd lost the will to live. Really? That's a bit overkill (pun intended), isn't it? They must not have much of a life if a novel does that to them.

    They'd really do well to stay away from all television dramas as well! :(

    Oh, and those Oreos and Whitman chocolates. Oh, just ... YUM!!!!

  78. I loved Close to You and am hoping for a copy of Can't Help Falling for Christmas if I can't get it before then. I enjoyed the wacky but relatable characters. I admire all authors, but have special admiration for authors who are also mothers of young children. Thank you all for writing all those books I love to read.

  79. Thank you, KARA! This such an encouraging, inspiring post. I appreciate you sharing your story. I'm so sorry that a judge would say something like that to you. I don't like bullies, no matter what their age or profession, and that's what that lady sounded like. Constructive criticism is one thing, but that just sounds mean-spirited. So glad you persevered - your books sound wonderful!

  80. BARBARA: Yes, if you ever wake up in the small hours of the morning that's pretty much prime time in New Zealand. I feel like I've just managed to get my head around all the different timezones and you are all about to throw me out again by rolling back daylight savings :)

    JUST COMMONLY: So lovely to see you here! It's so true isn't it? I read a book many years ago that I raved about at the time, bought all my friends copies etc. etc. then I re-read it recently and was like it's good, but it's not that great. But obviously it was just what I needed to read at that particular time in my life :)

    MARY: i'm envious of you long distance writers! I would love to have an entire hard drive of manuscripts to be able to hand over to my agent to send off to the ends of the earth while I'm in new baby haze, rather than just the two I do have :)

    PATTI JO: How lucky are you getting to have lunch with Debby! And I'm so glad you were able to come to CFRR - it was such a wonderful day. Fingers and toes crossed it's just the first of many!

    PAM: So lovely to see you here! I'm so glad you enjoyed Close To You and I hope you enjoy Can't Help Falling just as much - whenever you have the chance to read it!

    LAURA: Thanks so much for dropping by! Perseverance is definitely the key in this business and the good thing about judges like her is they help prepare you for real-life readers who say similar things except in public forums like Amazon and GoodReads :)

  81. Laura, I feel your pain! I've not had a judge make incredibly rude-and in your case-untrue comments about my work, because for the most part, I've not gotten up the nerve to submit anything. And, for the last several years, I've been writing nonfiction. However, I did sing in front of a vocal coach - supposedly professional and a Christian - and he told me that I shouldn't even be allowed to sing in the shower! What??

    Thanks for sharing your story and blessings for you and your new little one!

    Please enter my name in the drawing.

  82. Congratulations on the coming of a new Isaac! <3 :)
    Good post.
    Btw i kinda prefer the Fudge Stripes to Oreos. ;)

  83. Kara, Thanks for having the courage to share your heartfelt journey to publication. In the end you have survived and are ready for the next project. They say we fail our way to the top, but now you are on the other side of that mountain. God never gives you more than you can handle and with his guidance you are on your way. So stand tall and swallow hard and let those awful words roll over you shoulders and down to the ground and stomp once or twice. Smile and keep on writing.

    A new baby in your future. Congrats. How wonderful and with the holidays coming. The rest of this year should uplift you and go so fast. You will be very busy with your precious little one. Please let us know at Seekerville when your new baby arrives. Sending lots of good wishes your way and invisible Oreos.

  84. Kara, I wonder if all us writers are also keeping "chocolate" makers rich. Your chocolate picture has me craving some and I haven't had any breakfast yet. Let's hear it for chocolate. It makes every thing better. Happy Friday you all. I see a shopping trip in my future. There is no chocolate in my house. Sniff, but there will be later!!!!

  85. Sooooo late to the party, Kara.
    I've been traveling and away from Internet for nearly a week *gasp*

    Thanks for sharing your journey, and wawzah - books and babies! Great combo! Congratulations to you and your family!!!! WOOT!

    Oh nom nom nom. I'll definitely have some of that NZ chocolate. B'fast power. MMM!

    Being a reader first, one star reviews tend to make me find out more about the book, depending on how it's worded. Always have. If the writer of the negative comment makes points that I disagree with, I pick up the book or at the very least check out the "Look Inside" feature to discover more. Probably not the intended effect but I've found some good books that way!

    As an author, it's hard (for me anyway) to admit that WHAT? My book isn't for everypawdy?! Oh no!!! /claps hands to cheeks/

    Your point about God's timing is well-taken. Sometimes I want things to happen NOW but He continues to give me "pings" that I'm doing what I need to be doing and am where He wants me to be.

    Since I'm indie pubbed and write middle grade adventure, I sell few ebooks. But very nearly every time there's an event where I am selling books or have given some away, very nearly always a child comes up to me in subsequent days, arms open wide for a hug and they thank me for writing the books. Yep. Makes it all worthwhile!

    So keep on. And what a precious photo of your sticky note child. LOVE it!

    Write on!!

  86. So much of this post rang with me. :) I'm staring hard at my backlist of manuscripts making plans for when I finish writing the novels I'm currently contracted for as we're thinking of adding a number four to our clan around that time. I'm looking forward to reading your second book as I loved Close to You! Good luck with your writing and that baby! :)

  87. Wow, what a mean comment. But it's wonderful that you were able to pick yourself up, dust yourself up, and keep going- the Smelser way.

  88. Hey Kara,
    Just popping to say hi and wish you all the best with the upcoming arrival! So much fun to read your story. It took me about 10 years also to get published but as you said, God's timing was perfect. I wasn't ready before that.
    Your books are on my wish list! Probably with Christmas money!
    Sue M.

  89. Great post, Kara! I have absolutely read negative reviews that have actually made me desire to pick up the book in question more, not less. It truly depends on the reviewer and whether s/he is able to articulate the issue(s) s/he had with the book. Sometimes a well-written review can make it clear that while that reader didn't click with the book, it would be just my cup of tea. Also, at times, a poorly written review can make it easy to discount that person's opinion... if I can't respect that viewpoint because I can't understand it, that's a message all its own as well.

    Thanks for the thoughtful, thought-provoking post!

  90. EDWINA: I can't believe anyone would say something that horrible let alone someone who is supposed to be a Christian. I'm sorry :(

    SUZANNE: Thank you so much for your best wishes! And yes, I am sure that chocolate makers would not turn nearly the profit that they do without us writers to keep them well afloat :)

    KC FRANTZEN: How wonderful to be able to to connect with your young readers like that! And yes, one star reviews often have the same effect on me as well :)

    ANGELA: All the best with finishing up your contracted novels and potential new addition to your family!

    SUSAN: So lovely to see you here! I hope you enjoy them if you do happen to have the opportunity to read them :)

    FEDORA: Thanks for dropping by! It's so true. I once read a one-star review where the reviewer was apoplectic about the amount of LUST in a supposedly Christian novel but then later in the review she also referred to a character giving birth by caesarean section as "sexual content" so I knew we would have very different views as to what would qualify as inappropriate content!

  91. Kara! Thank you for sharing about the lessons and blessings you've experienced along way in your writing journey! Wonderful post! So happy for your book successes and growing family