Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Story Structure & The Great Alone


By Debby Giusti


A writer writes, right?

She also reads.

The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah, was my local book club’s selection last month. The story hooked me from the get-go and wouldn't let up until I had plowed through 545 pages of what The Washington Post deemed “An epic story.”

Other reviews included terms such as “riveting,” “highly cinematic” and “packed with rapturous descriptions.” New York Times bestselling author Kate Moton called it a “novel of love, sacrifice and survival…”

Haunting is how I would describe the story, sad at times, chilling at others. There were moments when I wanted to close the book and shut out the people who had wormed their way into my heart, especially the young teen protagonist.

This isn’t a review, and I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who plans to read it. Instead, I wanted to share my appreciation for the hard work and attention to detail that went into crafting this story. Kristin Hannah is an amazingly talented writer, and her New York Times bestseller deserves the many accolades it has received since its publication by St. Martin’s Griffin in 2018. I also wanted to take a closer look at how Hannah drew me into her Alaskan saga.


Those who study the craft of writing are aware of the various elements that weave together to create a story. Hannah uses them masterfully. Her descriptive prose transported me back to 1974 when the story opens in Lenora—Leni—Albright’s POV. The thirteen-year-old is the only child of Ernt Allbright, a Vietnam Vet and former POW suffering from PTSD and his chain-smoking flower-child wife, Cora, who loves the memory of the husband she married but fears the explosive man who returned home after the war. When Ernt loses a job yet again, he moves his family north to Alaska where they lay claim to a dilapidated cabin and thirty acres of wilderness he inherited from an Army buddy killed in action.

Contemporary stories start in the protagonist’s ordinary world. An inciting incident follows with what Christopher Vogler, in The Hero’s Journey, identifies as a call to adventure. That call propels the lead characters into action. Within the first twenty-five pages, the Allbrights, having traveled from Seattle in their rickety Volkswagen bus, arrive at the Kenai Peninsula and the town of Kaneq, Alaska.

What they find is not the pristine homestead they had imagined, but a dirty hovel in the wild. The last of the family’s money has been spent on their trek north. Without the resources to return to the lower 48, they have no recourse but to remain in Alaska. James Scott Bell, in Writing From the Middle, would call this the first pillar in the story’s structure from which there is no turning back.


Film director and producer Alfred Hitchcock used ticking time bombs to increase his audiences’ apprehension. Employing that same technique, Hannah continually reminds the reader of the passing summer and the preparations that must be made if the family is to survive throughout the winter.

Friends and mentors as well as enemies are introduced. Hannah creates engaging secondary characters in the eclectic community of Kaneq, many of whom reach out to the newcomers. The setting plays an important role as a hostile antagonist in the dark of winter and a fickle flirt that brings a short-lived reprieve of sunshine in the few weeks of summer.

Early on, the lead characters’ goals, motivation and conflicts are introduced. Screenwriting consultant Michael Hauge says the external goal must be concrete and not an abstract desire, such as wanting to be loved. Taking the necessary steps to stay alive through the winter is an ongoing goal for the Allbright family. Leni's desire to study photography and capture the world around her with her camera becomes one of her goals.


Each of the main characters has an internal conflict—a wound from the past or a flaw that prevents them from living authentic lives. Often they wear a mask to hide their wounds, or flaws, from others and sometimes even from themselves.

Complications continue to mount for the family and our young protagonist. The reader hardly has time to catch a breath before another problem surfaces. The danger is unrelenting and comes from a number of sources. The father with his volatile mood swings puts even the reader on edge. The harsh environment is always a concern, and the family’s fragile situation is compounded by their isolation and the ever-changing weather.

Any writer who worries about piling too much on his character’s shoulders needs to read The Great Alone. Hannah never stops adding hardships and upping the family’s struggle. With each new dilemma, I was pulled deeper into the story.

Two-thirds of the way into the book, Hannah introduces a huge turning point—what James Scott Bell would call the second pillar—that changes the direction of the story. The characters are caught in this new unexpected twist from which there is no escape. The pace intensifies with a mix of bad choices that ratchets up the tension.


So as not to reveal too much, I’ll merely add that there is a romance and a heartbreaking black moment that made me believe the love interests would never come together again. As expected, Hannah provided an exciting climax and a poignant resolution. At the end of the story, the protagonist has changed and grown. She’s overcome the past and has survived.

I am always excited to read a book that pulls me totally into the story. Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone did exactly that.

Here's a quick review of the writing structure found in the stories we love to read—and write—including The Great Alone.

            _Starts in the protagonist’s ordinary world.
            _Inciting Incident
            _Lead characters’ GMC, including internal conflict
            _Call to adventure
            _Hero accepts the call and passes through the first pillar
            _Introduction of friends, mentors and enemies
            _Escalating tension
            _The second pillar of no return
            _Black Moment
            _Climax
            _Resolution

What stories have you read recently that grabbed you and wouldn’t let go.  As a writer, do you analyze the books you read? Is it easy to identify the various structural elements in someone else’s story? What additional structure points do you include in your own stories or find in the stories you read?

Let’s discuss story and the books we love. Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for my April release, Dangerous Amish Inheritance.

Happy writing! Happy reading!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti


Dangerous Amish Inheritance

By Debby Giusti

“Move off the mountain. No one wants you here.”

Can this Amish widow survive her dangerous stalker?
Someone wants Ruthie Eicher off Amish Mountain…enough to terrorize the widow and her boys. Now Ruthie must rely on her former sweetheart, Noah Schlabach—the secret father of her eldest son—as they figure out why. But Noah has turned his back on love and the Amish way of life. Can he shield Ruthie…without breaking her heart again?

Pre-order HERE!









Monday, February 17, 2020

Writing Fiction with a Spiritual Thread by Guest Author Jodie Wolfe


Jan here, pleased to host Jodie Wolfe as our guest today! Jodie and I met here on Seekerville where we quickly learned we have at least one thing in common: our love of SNOW! (Even in February!)

When I heard Jodie has a new book coming out, I thought you would all like to hear from her! So take it away, Jodie!

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Who'd have thought years ago when I started reading the Seekerville blog that one day I'd be featured on it? Can you tell I'm excited to be here today? I wanted to thank Jan Drexler for inviting me to share. I have to admit when it came to narrowing down a topic, I was a little overwhelmed. While I've had some publishing experience (3 Indie, 4 Traditional), I still wasn't sure what subject was best to approach.

I write Christian historical romance. Some would call it historical romance with a spiritual thread. You may ask, "What exactly is that?"

1. Weaving a Tapestry
Writing fiction with a spiritual thread is like weaving a beautiful tapestry. Each thread of color is needed to make an elaborate picture or story. The spiritual aspect of the novel is interwoven seamlessly like many other elements such as setting and plot. It's a necessary part that works in conjunction with others to create a fully functioning story.



Have you ever looked at the back of a tapestry, cross stitch, or embroidery project? It looks like a snarl of thread. Most times you can't tell from the back what is depicted on the front.

I set the spiritual tone of my new release, Taming Julia with this line:


"Dear Lord, please don't let that creature be my new wife."

My hero, Drew Montgomery, is a pastor who sent for a mail-order bride he had married by proxy. Let's just say he wasn't too impressed when he first met his new wife.

2. A Thread That Can't Be Removed

When writing an inspirational novel, the spiritual element has to be woven into the story line, making it impossible to remove and still have a working novel. It shouldn't be like a 25 pound bag of bird seed. Let me explain. Most times when we purchase a big bag of food for the birds, the bag is sewn shut. It appears to be a snarl of threads. But if you pull on the right string, the whole mess will completely unravel. All it takes is pulling on the correct thread. So too, if you removed your spiritual element, the whole novel would unravel because it's such an integral part of your story. That's how you want to write inspirational books.


Now it's your turn: What tips do you have to weave in your spiritual thread throughout your novel? Tell me in the comments below, and you'll be entered to win an ecopy of Taming Julia (US).

About the Book and Author:

Taming Julia by Jodie Wolfe 

In 1875, Kansas bachelor Drew Montgomery's sole desire is to serve God, but his congregation's ultimatum that he marry or leave, forces him to advertise for a wife by proxy.

Jules Walker strides into Drew's life wearing breeches and toting a gun and saddle--more cowboy than bride. After years on the trail, she's not exactly wife material, but she longs for home and family, and will do anything to ensure Drew never discovers what she really is.


 Buy Taming Julia here!


Jodie Wolfe creates novels where hope and quirky meet. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Romance Writers of America (RWA), and COMPEL Training. She's a contributor and co-founder of Stitches Thru Time blog. When not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband in Pennsylvania, reading, walking, and being a Grammie. Learn more at www.jodiewolfe.com.

Find Jodie on the Web!






Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/Jodie-Wolfe

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Weekend Edition


  



If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them here. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, and phone number to claim prizes.  Note our new email address and please send your emails to Seekerville2@gmail.com




Friday Feb. 7th: Winners of a copy of Mark Abel's debut novel, Ephesus: A Tale of Two Kingdoms are Glynis and Lee-AnnB!


Monday: Christy LaShea brought us an amazing, inspirational post about overcoming fear and obstacles. The winner of a copy of her debut book Hope Between Us from Winged Publications is Sandy Smith!

Tuesday: Angela Ruth Strong was our guest, inspiring us with her fight and her grace! The winner of an autographed copy of A Cuppa Trouble is msguish

Wednesday: Ruth Logan Herne talked of faith, hope, love and Valentine's Day! Jeanne Takenaka will soon be reading Ruthy's latest release, Finding Peace In Wishing Bridge.

Friday: Beth put a bookish spin on The 5 Love Languages!



Monday: Jodie Wolfe will be Jan's guest. Jodie will be celebrating her new release with us and delving into the necessity of including a spiritual thread in our stories. One commenter will win a copy of her new book, Taming Julia!

Wednesday:  USA TODAY Bestselling Author Debby Giusti will talk about writing and offer tips on how to improve our stories. Stop by to chat and comment to enter a drawing for Debby's April release, DANGEROUS AMISH INHERITANCE.
  
Friday: Winnie Griggs will be discussing some pointers to help with Productivity.







"Hannah's Choice," the first book in Jan's Journey to Pleasant Prairie series is on sale all month. Did you see Amazon's price?!?!? Only seventy-nine cents!!!


Order from Amazon now!


The Maggie Award of Excellence 2020
is open. Get your manuscripts ready for submission!

NEWS FLASH!!!
Love Inspired Editor EMILY RODMELL
will attend Georgia Romance Writers
Moonlight & Magnolias Conference 2020.
Plan to attend and pitch your story to Emily!


RELEASES APRIL 1ST! 

Dangerous Amish Inheritance
By Debby Giusti
“Move off the mountain. No one wants you here.”

Can this Amish widow survive her dangerous stalker?
Someone wants Ruthie Eicher off Amish Mountain…enough to terrorize the widow and her boys. Now Ruthie must rely on her former sweetheart, Noah Schlabach—the secret father of her eldest son—as they figure out why. But Noah has turned his back on love and the Amish way of life. Can he shield Ruthie…without breaking her heart again?

Order HERE!


THREE WEEKS UNTIL THE RELEASE OF RUTHY'S 
"FINDING PEACE IN WISHING BRIDGE" 
FOR KINDLE OR PAPERBACK, BOOK THREE OF HER BESTSELLING 
"WISHING BRIDGE" SERIES!






Going Viral: A User's Guide by David Gaughran


Two Words Christian Authors Should Stop Using by Joshua J. Masters at The Write Conversation


Writing Legal Fiction: 4 Research Tips by Christina Kaye at Helping Writers Become Authors

Tips For Overcoming "Less Than" Syndrome by Lisa Jordan at Learn How To Write A Novel

Letting Go Of Your Babies by Tamela Hancock Murray at Steve Laube




Friday, February 14, 2020

5 Bookish Love Languages


Happy Valentine’s Day, Seekervillagers! In honor of this lovey-dovey holiday, let’s discuss ways we can spread the book love and effectively convey our affections to all our bookish loved ones!

Affirm Bookishness

Use words of affirmation to convey your acceptance of and appreciation for the bookish aspect of your loved ones life.

“Your Bookstagram feed is a work of art!” – for all your favorite book-obsessed Instagram friends

“I love the way you’ve reorganized your bookshelves (again)!” – this one works in person or for shelfies!

“You are so beautiful when you’re reading!” – for your significant other (or things could get awkward and I’m an introvert, I know awkward)

“Your book touched my heart!” – for your favorite authors (they are hard on themselves and need the encouragement)

“This book is fabulous!” – for random bookish people reading your review on Goodreads, BookBub, or any retail site

“Your book blog rocks my socks off!” – for your favorite book bloggers (they work hard too, y’all)

“I love the variety of books you’re carrying lately!” – for your favorite bookseller

“Your new featured books display is lovely!” – for your local librarian

Enable Bookishness

Free up your loved one’s schedule by performing acts of service so they can get their bookish on!

Any and all household chores are excellent candidates for freeing up a little time for story.

Taxes, bill paying, errand-running, grocery shopping… all things that you can do for a loved one who would #ratherbereading because #somanybookssolittletime or #ratherbewriting because #thevoicesarecalling

Bring your favorite bookworm a warm cuppa or yummy snack while they are reading or writing (without dragging them out of the storyworld, just set it down and back away) if the book is especially good, include something more substantial like a meal

Protect their reading time from interruptions (children, phone calls, needy pets, endless cellphone notifications… it’s a lot, just do your best and your reader or writer will appreciate the effort)

Bookish Gifts

Gift special bookish somethings to enhance your loved one’s reader life or writer life and they will be reminded of your love each time they use it.

Book sleeves, bookshelves, bookmarks, bookish apparel, bookish d├ęcor, fingerless gloves, office supplies, bookish candles, mugs, blankets, ereaders (and accessories like covers or screen protectors, chargers, etc.), gift cards for guilt-free ebook splurging or book hauling!

Bookish Time

Spend quality time with your loved one while engaging in bookish activities (or just be present for the downtime).

Go to the bookstore or library or cozy coffee shop!

Travel to a favorite book setting (bonus points for excellent audiobooks during the drive).

Tag along for a reader/writer event (bonus points for carrying the book haul with a smile).

Ask your favorite bookworm to tell you all about their favorite books... then settle in because that conversation is going to take a while.

Embrace Bookish

Enhance your loved one’s bookish experience with physical touch (keep it PG, y’all!)

Whether paperback or hardcover, the weight and feel of a print book in the hands of a book lover is surpassed only by the weight and feel of a stack of books in the hands of a book lover.

Create a cozy reading environment with a comfy seat and blanket.

Cuddle up with your main squeeze and a good book!

Bonus Book Love

That’s right, I’m talking about loving your books… for a hardcore book lover, loving books is therapeutic!

Show your books a little love by dusting, reorganizing (even splurge for new shelves), rereading, apologizing for bent covers/dog eared pages/dropping into dirt or water, reclaiming from forgetful friends (or former friends depending on the condition of said book), taking your books on vacation or sending them with a friend (books deserve to get out every now and then too), telling everyone who will listen and maybe a few who won’t just how much you love your books!


This post was loads of fun to put together for y'all and in the interest of giving credit where credit is due, I must give a shoutout to the REAL deal, The Five Love Languages, just in case you haven’t heard of this fabulous series of books and its resource-filled website, it’s truly a game-changer!

Sincere thanks to my book sisters for brainstorming this post with me and providing feedback on the four different versions of graphics I created for it. That is love, my friends!


How do you spread the bookish love or how have your loved ones shown affection to your bookish side? Drop all your tips and date ideas in the comments!


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Almost Valentine's Day!

 Ladies & Gentlemen, we briefly interrupt this program to bring you an updated news bulletin from the Western New York town of "Wishing Bridge"!  On March 2nd, 2020, Jazz's story will BE RELEASED and of course there is great rejoicing in the town over this! While the town is too busy taking care of folks and being kind and good (for the most part!) to throw a parade, we the readers will have our own bit of fun! Because it's not everyday you get the joy and excitement of an all-new visit to Wishing Bridge... a town where hopes, prayers and wishes mingle to make dreams come true.   



 
Ah, romance...

Tis the season! 

Hearts and roses, teddy-grams and jammiegrams and chocolate-dipped berries and every jewelry store in the country will spend mega advertising dollars on TV, radio, magazine and newspaper to entice folks to part with hard-earned dollars.

It's Valentine's week, and even grade schools get on board with little paper Valentines and decorated shoe boxes and candy hearts.

Did you know that some of the candy hearts got misprinted this year???

SHOCKER!!!! But no fear, lads & lasses!!!!

There is always the option of red construction paper, lacy white paper doilies and glue.  Sometimes simple is best.

 And, of course, watching favorite romantic movies is a wonderful thing! The Princess Bride, Pride & Prejudice, Casablanca.... you must share your favorite with us, darlings.... the favorite romance movie.

But as an author of inspirational fiction, romance in life and in stories goes far deeper than the facade of television advertising, newspaper spreads and all the hoopla that pushes folks to spend, spend, spend...

Romance doesn't have to be pricey.

It doesn't have to meet an industry standard.

It doesn't have to be a big splash, even for a proposal. Aren't some of the most grand proposals the simplest?  Lucy Maude Montgomery's "Anne and Gilbert".

"Call the Midwife's" Tom and Barbara.

Jane Austen's beautiful "Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy".

And in each one of these and so many more, there is a beautiful thread of faith in the face of adversity, of strength amid chaos, of how hope survives grief and disaster.




That thread of faith is what sets the lovely from the ordinary.

The emotion beyond the sexual attraction. The devotion that goes so much deeper than hormones and lust and feeds outward from the soul, the beauty of sacrificial love, for love isn't about the glitz and the glamour as most of us know.

It's about the heart, and while hormones and the heart are not always a good mix, the beauty of a great romance isn't afraid to go deeper than sensuality, to the very essence of emotion, and that's something we witnessed first-hand this week with back-to-back guest appearances from two cancer warriors, Christy LaShea and Angela Ruth Strong.

That's what separates the men from the boys... the hero who stands by your side, teasing, laughing, crying, holding... Or just being there to change a messy diaper, fix the plumbing (or call someone to fix it!) and be the family leader.

There's a reason so many couples choose the 13th chapter of the first book of Corinthians for a wedding reading. Those simple words of the fourth verse ring through our ears: "Love is patient, love is kind..." Such a heartfelt message!

But the opening words of that very Scripture are equally provocative in their command, and a verse I hold dear as I write. For King and Country chose one of the most touching versions of this verse in their beautiful song "The Proof of Your Love". They took the quote from "The Message" version of the Bible:

 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 

If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. 

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. 

So...
.......... no matter what I say, 
                                 what I believe, 
                                             and what I do, 
I'm bankrupt without love. 
(1 Corinthians 13:1-7, The Message)

 
These are words I hold dear as I write a story, as I develop a romance, or the father's love for a child, a teacher's love for a student, a man's love for his family. When we thin the depth of sacrificial love as authors we lessen the impact of our message, but also undermine the challenge and opportunity we've been given.

This doesn't mean no romance.... Perish the thought!

But true romance isn't rooted in the fun and games and flirting although those are big components in story-building. The sunken roots of the best stories are in the depth of emotion, the sacrifices made, the challenge of faith and love. From those well-planted roots, the growing trees flourish. 

Take it from a pumpkin farmer (because who wouldn't believe a pumpkin farmer???)

The roots of the story aren't always as obvious, but they are crucial to hold the weight of the story. And that, dear authors, is in your hands.


There is one copy of Jazz's story that will come to one lucky person today... And I hope you love revisiting this sweet town! Leave a comment below and let's talk Faith... Hope... and Love. But the greatest of these is Love.


USA TODAY bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne is about to welcome her 53rd and 54th books to book shelves in March and April, so she's pretty stoked about romance, about love and crazy-stoked about faith! You can friend her on facebook, follow her on Twitter, visit her website ruthloganherne.com or email Ruthy at loganherne@gmail.com She loves to chat with readers and writers and she also loves God, family, faith, friends, fun and fiction.... and add chocolate and coffee to that list!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Guest Blogger Angela Ruth Strong

Erica here. I am so honored to have my friend, Angela Ruth Strong here on the blog. Please give her a warm welcome!



A Writer’s Retreat I’ll Never Forget 

By Angela Ruth Strong


This weekend my writing group rented a house and spent the weekend plotting our novels for the next year. Usually we go up into the mountains of Idaho but because of my breast cancer diagnosis, my nurturing friends decided to stay in town so we’d be close to a hospital should I need medical attention. 

This looks like they might have had TOO MUCH fun! :)


We had a great time, and I honestly believe their help in plotting A Mug of Mayhem will make it the best book yet in my CafFUNated Mysteries. I’m also thoroughly invested in their amazing manuscripts. 



Between plotting sessions, we decorated cakes to look like our book covers, dressed up in wigs to look like our characters, and we sang worship songs. It's one of my favorite weekends of the year, and this year did not disappoint. 

Such artistry!!!! I love it!


But leading up to this weekend, I was really bummed that my blood counts were too low for my weekly chemo treatments. That meant my chemo would be pushed out at least one week, and I couldn’t be sure it would end there.

My husband suggested that perhaps God allowed this to happen so my brain fog would clear for the weekend retreat and I could have to more to offer in our plotting sessions. I pouted at first, but then I chose to believe that with God as the author of life, He’d plot my story in just this way. 

Look at these cutie-patooties! :) 


Such an idea goes along with an article author Betsy St. Amant sent me about "grace denied" and "grace supplied."

Basically, God knows we grow through our struggles, so He allows the bad stuff to happen just like we do to the characters in our books. This could be considered grace denied. For example, God allowed me to get cancer.

But here’s the important part. Within the circle of grace denied, God supplies the grace to endure. In this situation, He gave me an intermission from chemo so that I could fully get the most out of my retreat. He gave me what I needed to overcome the same way authors do for our characters.

When I first found out that I had breast cancer, I was instantly surrounded by the support of other survivors. They all said the same thing: “Welcome to the best club you never wanted to be a part of.”

None of us wanted to go through this. We would have avoided it if we could. But in our moments of weakness, in our circle of grace denied, we truly have to learn to look for the grace God will supply. And because of that, we grow stronger and have more to offer others.

Hopefully you never join this club. But like the character in any book, we all have our own struggles and opportunities to grow. Wherever you're at today, whatever grace you’ve been denied, I encourage you to look for the grace supplied.

This is your story. Make it a good one.

Strong by name, strong through grace!


Angela Ruth Strong sold her first Christian romance novel in 2009 then quit writing romance when her husband left her. Ten years later, God has shown her the true meaning of love, and there's nothing else she'd rather write about. Her books have since earned TOP PICK in Romantic Times, been optioned for film, won the Cascade Award, and been Amazon best-sellers. She also writes non-fiction for SpiritLed Woman. To help aspiring authors, she started IDAhope Writers where she lives in Idaho, and she teaches as an expert online at WRITE THAT BOOK.



Just in time for Valentine's Day, Angela is giving away an autographed copy of A Cuppa Trouble! 

Here's a bit about the story:

Can a couple of baristas chase down a car thief without spilling a drop of their favorite drink?

Plans for a Valentine's Day grand opening of a small town coffee shop go awry when the first customer is killed. Evidence points toward the victim being mixed up in a car theft ring, but shop owners Tandy and Marissa have reason to believe he was framed. An assortment of suspects--from a pink-haired heir to Tandy's charming ex--all seem to know a little too much about grand theft auto.

Without approval from either their boyfriends or the gum-chewing FBI agent in charge, the shop owners go on stakeouts, plan stings, and pursue justice in a high-speed car chase. If they don't find the killer soon, it might be more than their love lives in trouble. 

If you'd like to be entered to win, please leave us a comment. We've all been touched by this terrible disease. Encourage Angela on her journey, give a shout out to someone you know who is walking the same path, or post a remembrance of someone you love who battled cancer. Tell us about Grace Supplied during a time of Grace Denied. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

Stay in Faith by Guest Christy LaShea



Christy LaShea

Happy, Happy Monday! Wow! I hope you all are well, wherever you are in this world. I am so excited to be here in Seekerville today. As a new writer, I stuck close to this blog. I had the honor of meeting several Seekers at ACFW conferences… this would have been sometime during 2007 to 2012. I was also a guest here in 2009. Search the archives and you’ll find me!
I’m telling my writer age here… I’ve been around a long time.  

Y’all, (can I say y’all? I am from the south, you know ;)) I’ve been trying to get published for about 20 years. If you count the stories I wrote in middle school, well, that’s longer than 20! I believe being a writer takes talent, imagination, and a whole lot of faith. That’s faith in yourself and, more important, in God. 
 I’ve got to be honest. I’ve struggled with fear for a long time, but only recently have I admitted the issue. I’m stubborn and red-headed. My salty stubbornness only got worse after I turned 40. Oh, I’m a nice person. If we meet, you may think sugar won’t melt in my mouth, but there are two sides to every story. For me, I’ve got several sides. I love the Lord and I pray a lot – usually while driving in the car or in the shower. I’m stubborn. I’m sweet. I’m scared. I started getting honest with myself about fear when in 2017 so many of my writer friends, even those that started after me were getting published and I wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I try to be cheerleaders for all of my friends. I am thrilled for them, but I had to look at myself and ask why I was parked in neutral. I’d push the gas, but doggone it…it was like the emergency brake was on, and stuck!
My problem, I finally figured out after nearly 20 years of contest wins and final spots, but no publication, was that I feared rejection. You see, I would pitch my heart out at conferences. I’d get requests! Then, I’d get home, look over my work in progress and I’d point out all of the things wrong with it. Or, I’d polish the first 3 chapters a million times and when I sent the full manuscript to the publisher, the rest of it was like an uncooked casserole! Who wants that let down?
Here’s an example of that half baked casserole… In 2009, my manuscript, The Bridge Between, won in the Contemporary Romance category of the ACFW Genesis Contest.  

Mindy Obenhaus and I at ACFW Conference Denver 2009 – Mindy’s a wonderful roommate and has a stunning fashion sense! And she’s got a great way with words! Love her stories!

Wow! I just knew my publishing career was set by that win. Plus, a New York publisher had requested it from the Genesis Contest. So I sent the full manuscript, and by 2010 I got a rejection letter. The editor said she wanted to like it, but…
Hey, y’all, if it’s not in God’s time, in His plan, then it’s not going to happen. 

Ane Mulligan and I were both Genesis Finalists in 2009. Awesome and funny writer!


Missy Tippens and I after the ACFW awards gala 2009.Missy has always been one of my sweetest cheerleaders, mentors, and she’s a wonderful writer!

After the 2010 rejection, life went on. My second child was born and my family rejoiced. Then, I changed positions at work. Soon I found myself in a spiral that involved high stress at work, little time for family or anything else, and a lot of confusion as the years plodded ahead. Despite all of the difficulty, I continued to think of new storylines even though my writing time was less and less. When I was able to write, creating the manuscripts helped me escape that stressful time in life. Eventually, unable to take the pressure of the job any longer, I transferred out of the department. The relief of stress on me was a true blessing. 
By 2018, I received more nods from contests as the manuscript finaled, but fear kept choking my creativity. I didn’t have the finances to self publish. I wanted to be a traditionally published author but I didn’t write cookie-cutter stories. My stories were a little gritty. Where did they fit in? I started considering maybe I shouldn’t write Christian fiction. I could write sweet but not have the spiritual arc… That voice inside my heart started talking: 
“I’m not good enough.”
“No one wants to read my stories.”
“I should just quit.”
I’d started praying more. Instead of praying for a publishing contract, I prayed for God to take the desire away from me. I’d be happier if I could focus on something else if I wasn’t meant to be a published author. 
 As I have struggled with fear, I’ve also struggled with knowing when God is speaking to me. God has never told me to do something or go somewhere. I’ve never heard his powerful voice from Heaven. Instead, He speaks to me by pressing something upon my conscience that I can’t release until the deed is done. Sometimes the feeling is so heavy it’s like someone is sitting on my shoulders. I will do anything to get this off of my shoulders and if I don’t, I feel really bad about it! 
In the spring of 2018, I had something bothering me about my health that I had been ignoring for quite some time. I had not seen a doctor in four years.  As a busy, working wife and mom of two, I made sure everyone else went to the doctor. That pressing feeling began to infiltrate my thoughts that this lump I felt in my left breast had been there for a long time. It wasn’t going away and it wasn’t getting smaller. Still, I ignored it a little while longer.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to write new stories, but a story I had worked on for a long time, the same one that won Genesis, would not leave my heart. I couldn’t put “The Bridge Between” in a drawer and move on. I kept shopping it, kept pitching it, kept tweaking… By March of 2018, I had an email from an editor which indicated interest in the story, but she requested changes. A revise and resubmit letter! I’d never gotten one of those! I agreed with the changes and knew the story needed something but I couldn’t understand what...
By May of 2018, that nudging, annoying, pressing feeling would not let go of me. I saw a new doctor and told her about the lump that had been bothering me. I’d never had a mammogram as women at 40 are instructed to do. My family didn’t have a history of breast cancer. Following a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound on the same day, the radiologist came in to the ultrasound room and somberly advised that the results were very serious and he would notify my doctor immediately. In July of 2018, at 43 years old, I began treatments for Stage 3 breast cancer. 
Earlier, I mentioned I was stubborn. Well, this is the time when my stubbornness jumped to a whole new level. A cancer diagnosis was not going to be the end for me. Irritated worse than the Tasmanian devil, I put on my big girl pants and I faced those cancer treatments. On the first infusion, I took my laptop thinking I could revise while I went through chemo. That didn’t work out too well, but what I learned was that God is at work everywhere! 
God has put some of the kindest nurses in those infusion centers. He has sent friends and family my way to pass on what they learned from their own journeys. He also showed me through this journey that I have friends everywhere. Friends across the country that I did not even know that were praying for me. Y’all, I received so many cards and letters, it was humbling.  People from my church brought food. Others were at the hospital waiting with my family to offer them comfort. I am truly blessed and forever grateful.

I had to take multiple forms of chemotherapy from July 2018 until June 2019. Radiation followed in the fall of 2019. My body went through many changes.  Some of those changes were painful – emotionally and physically. In the photo below, my daughter and I are in the pre-op room in July of 2018 on the day I receive my chemo port. This was the first of many trips to the hospital, but as you can see, we try to remain in good and goofy spirits.




No hair, don’t care! September 2018

Despite chemo treatments, continuing to work full time, and stay involved with my children’s activities, I finished the revisions for my story. Those past rejections seemed small after being slapped with a cancer diagnosis. God had given me another chance and I was determined that cancer was not going to take over my life. Life is precious, it can be short. If you want something, you have to go after it, each and every day. So, I did…

Christmas 2018, before my first mastectomy.
By the end of 2018, I had my first surgery, a left mastectomy. Prior to surgery, I sent the manuscript back to the requesting editor. She rejected it again with an invite to resubmit if I made additional changes. By this time, I felt I needed a different editor to look at it to help me figure out what was wrong. 
Here’s another nod from God… About that time, my good friend and fellow author Patty Smith Hall posted that she was looking to edit manuscripts on the side and needed some clients. I sent Patty some of my chapters, but I never ended up hiring her. Instead, Patty told me about a contest her publisher, Winged Publications, was holding. By August of 2019, my manuscript was a finalist. And by September 2019, Patty called me to tell me I’d placed 2nd in the contest, but Cynthia Hickey at Winged Publications wanted to publish my book! 
We made a round of revisions, we moved the black moment (I had it happening too early), and by November of 2019, two things happened. I had a right mastectomy and six days later, my first book, Hope Between Us, was released. Talk about multi-tasking… I never imagined I’d be recovering from surgery while celebrating a book release! That’s life! My crazy life! 
I praise Jesus that I am cancer free today. I give all the glory to God. He heard the prayers of my family and friends and He answered! 
He also ignored my prayer to take away my desire to write! 
As God had a plan for me and my crazy dreams, He also has a plan for you. If you’re afraid of something, pray about it. Keep your ears, your eyes, and your mind open to Him.
 Stay strong in your faith, because God’s plan is bigger than any of our fears.
Thank you for having me on Seekerville today! If you’d like to find out more about me, visit me at my website. While you're there, please sign up for my newsletter! I’d also love to give away an autographed copy of Hope Between Us. If you’d like to be entered in the drawing, let us know in a comment here. I’m headed to my day job now, but I’ll jump in to chat later this afternoon and evening.

Hope Between Us: A Christian Romance
Aimee McClain returns home to Point Peace, Georgia, hoping for a fresh start. She wants to find a new treatment for her seven-year-old son’s Aplastic Anemia. After the devastating loss of her parents and her husband Aimee can’t lose someone else she loves, but as a single mom with limited resources, she’s running out of time and her son’s life is at stake.
Ever since being behind the wheel the night his best friend died, Seth Garrett works hard to help people. He is a coach and a teacher, he helps his parents, he feels like his debt of sorry will never be paid. At first, Aimee is just another person who Seth can help, but soon he realizes her trouble is a lot more than fixing an old car. 

The Kevin Ridley Walk/Run, an event Seth started ten years earlier to honor his best friend, has garnered statewide attention and continues to raise money for underprivileged youth. When Aimee’s family asks Seth to help her organize a bone marrow drive and fundraiser for her son, he jumps at the chance to help the pretty widow and her adorable child. 
Aimee, fighting to make ends meet in the face of Luke’s illness and single parenthood, doesn’t like this interception with Seth. He may not remember her now, but Aimee knows in time the truth of Seth’s accident will come out. How can they continue a relationship, build a new life together, with this between them?
Author Bio:
Claims adjuster by day, writer all other times, Christy wrote her first book, a mystery, while in seventh grade. Currently, Christy writes heartwarming southern romance. Married to her high school sweetheart, Christy has a daughter, a son, and four fur-babies: Thomas: a nosey German Shepherd; Josie-Bobo: an adorable English Bulldog; and last but never least, Twitter and Ranger, two very loud Parakeets. Connect with Christy online: