Monday, November 7, 2016

On this Election Eve

For the most part, I prefer to stay silent on political issues. It is not an area in which I have been trained or I have been called to speak. So while I sometimes have thoughts on what is going on, I do not feel it is something I should be vocal about in a public forum for the most part. And even now, I do not believe it is my place to say whom you should vote for. After all, I might be wrong in what I would advise you, and that is not a responsibility that I want to shoulder.

But on this election eve, I do have two requests of my fellow American citizens:

1. Vote. That's it. Just vote. You may or may not like your choices this year, but the fact remains that we do have choices. That is a wonderful privilege and a huge responsibility. Don't neglect it.

2. Don't vote out of fear, anger or hate. Every vote cast from fear, anger or hate is really a vote cast for Satan, no matter the candidate it is cast for. For it is Satan who rules with fear, encourages dissension, and flames anger into uncontrollable rage. So as you make your selections for state and federal officials, I ask that you choose based on love--love for God, love for others, love for country (in that order)--and on the conviction that your choices are the best people for those offices, no matter their odds of winning or losing.

Finally, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I know that the internet has been overloaded with political noise this year. I know how easy it is to glaze over and skip another "political post." So thank you for listening to my heart. I hope it provides a little hope and clarity for anyone who, like me, has wrestled long and hard with this year's election.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Beast: The Story Behind the Story

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off; my heart was free.
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
--"And Can It Be?"

Thus beats the heart of my novel, Beast, as the story follows the transformation of a feral child into a princess.

It is a journey both difficult and painful, yet beautifully breath-taking at time too. At least it was for me as the author. Yet as wonderful as the story between the covers is, more amazing to me is the story which God has been writing behind the scenes.

No, my story behind the story doesn’t include showy displays of supernatural power. Nor does it contain death-defying experiences. Rather, the path taken may seem mundane and even obvious, with every event and incident able to be explained away. Yet God’s fingerprints are unmistakable. As Christian theologian Alfred Edersheim once wrote:

“It is in the supernatural direction of things natural that we ought most to recognize the direct interposition of the Lord. . . God marvellously uses natural means for supernatural ends.”

And it is this supernatural timing which has marked this book’s journey to publication. Indeed, if I had been left in charge, Beast would have never existed.

For in my mind, this story was too dark to write. Too violent, taking my imagination where I did not want to go. Moreover, no publisher in the Christian market would want to story like that, so why waste the months it would take to write it?

But God is far more stubborn than I am, and in the end, I sat down in January 2008 and wrote the first chapter of Beast. Nothing else I was working on at the time was going anywhere anyway. And looking back now, I think I secretly hoped that if I wrote the first chapter, the story would get out of my system and I would be able to move on to more marketable stories.

Instead, when I read the first chapter to two critique partners, I received a reaction which I had never received before and have never received since:

Dead silence, followed by an in-breathed, “Wow.

At that point I knew I would have to finish the story, wherever it led.

However, I’m terribly insecure, especially when it comes to my writing. So on a last-minute whim, I submitted the first 15 pages of Beast to a competition for unpublished novelists called the Genesis. My hope was to receive some positive feedback.

In typical God-fashion, I received an overabundance of encouragement: Beast won my category in the Genesis.

I was thrilled. Not only because I won, but because the winners of the Genesis, especially at that time, often landed an agent within a year, with a publishing contract right behind. After eight years of work, doors were opening wide to me!

Or so I thought.

Instead, they slammed shut in my face. I submitted Beast to agent after agent, editor after editor. I even had an author give me a direct recommendation into his editor. But whereas before I had received requests to see proposals and full manuscripts, I couldn’t even get past the “Here’s my idea, would you like to see more?” letter. I had entered a drought.

Making things tougher, a new publisher called Marcher Lord formed during this time. What made Marcher Lord special is that they handled only Christian science-fiction and fantasy. A perfect match for my kind of story. Yet each time I considered submitting to them, God blockaded my way.

So months, then years passed. I wrote other stories and tried to sell them as well, with no more success than with Beast. I questioned God—frequently. Should I self-publish? Should I be doing something else entirely? Again the answers came back, “No.”

Many friends during this time commented on my patience. What they didn’t realize is that if I'd had my way, I would have walked away. But God simply gave me no choice in the matter but to keep walking the road He had placed me on. Many days, writing was an act of obedience and nothing more.

Then in early 2014 Marcher Lord sold and was renamed Enclave Publishing. The man who bough Marcher Lord was one of the judges who awarded Beast the Genesis win almost six years before. God finally seemed to say “Yes.” So with bated breath I submitted my novel for review.

And nothing happened. Months passed without a word.

Figuring my submission had been lost in the transition, I decided I would attempt to talk to the new owner of Enclave at a writing conference we would both be attending. I was already scheduled to sit through one of his classes.

To my surprise, the room cleared quickly after class, and soon I was face with the publisher. Prepping myself for a long pitch of Beast, I told him that six years ago he judged a Genesis my manuscript won. Before I could say more, he said, “What did happen to that story?” and then invited me to send in the full manuscript.

I did so. Two more months went by. Then the week of Thanksgiving, I received an e-mail for Enclave.

Beast had been rejected.

I was crushed, and I walked into 2015 more confused and uncertain than ever. For even though I had written other novels since Beast, I still considered it some of my best writing. And if after fifteen years of labor my best writing was still not good enough to be published, would it ever be? Why should I keep writing? Why did God insist on dragging me down a road that went nowhere?

Those first few months of 2015 I struggled deeply. I toyed with switching genres as well as dabbled with the idea of self-publishing again. I even took the time to format and print a rough cut of Beast for a couple of my early readers. If one of them had asked, even teasingly, when they could get another copy, I would have pursued self-publication and this story would probably have turned out much differently. But not one of them asked, God effectively slamming the door shut again.

Then the first weekend in May, I opened up my e-mail. To my surprise, I had received another e-mail from Enclave.

The publisher was apologizing for the long delay in response, for my manuscript had been misfiled, but he wanted to give me an update on my submission: My opening chapters were liked by the beta readers, so the full manuscript was under review!

Never in a hundred years could I have imagined that reversal! God truly can do whatever He wants, no matter how impossible or implausible.

So I went back to waiting. June, July, and August passed. By September I began to get nervous, for I should have heard back long before then. Finally in October 2015, I sent an e-mail asking for a status update, even as I steeled myself for a rejection. For every time I have had this kind of long delay, it always resulted from a lost rejection.

Therefore, with trepidation, I opened the e-mail I received shortly thereafter. But instead of the rejection, the publisher admitted he thought my manuscript had been set aside in error. Soon after he found it on his desk, waiting for his review, and by November I was doing what I thought was impossible a year earlier:

I was signing my first contract for Beast with Enclave.

Moreover, in this delay, God proved His impeccable timing: Normally it takes 12-18 months from contract to publication. But a spot had suddenly opened up, allowing my novel to be fast-tracked for a release under a year’s time.

This route is not one I could have imagined, nor is it one I would have designed for myself. But God is a master of details, and as I stated at the beginning, God marvelously uses natural means for supernatural ends:

For it is only natural I would enter a writing competition. It is only natural I would seek feedback on a new manuscript. Only God could have provided words so perfect that an early draft of an unfinished novel could win a prestigious competition.

It is only natural that the finals of a writing competition would be judged by industry professionals. It is only natural that the judges would like the winning entry enough to publish it. But only God would orchestrate for my entry to be judged by a man who would not own a publishing company until six years later.

It is only natural that I would submit to a company that publishes exclusively Christian science fiction and fantasy. It is only natural that I would talk to the publisher at a writing conference. Only God could cause a publisher to contract the identical manuscript that they had rejected only a year earlier.

Indeed, only God could have used the first fifteen pages of an unfinished manuscript to land a contract seven years later.

Now I don’t know where this story finds you today.

Maybe, like me when I began writing Beast, you’re facing a choice and you’re afraid to go the direction God is leading. Let me encourage you to take the leap of faith and risk. God is greater than whatever you are facing.

Or maybe you’re enjoying a recent success and see doors opening to you, just as I did with my competition win. Praise God for His goodness—all the while holding everything loosely. The God who opens doors also has the right to close them.

Or maybe you feel stuck in a barren wasteland, obedient but fruitless. Persevere! The road is hard, but God is faithful. He has not forgotten you, but has some purpose even for this wilderness.

Perhaps today some of you face impossible circumstances, leaving you at a loss of what to do next, like I felt after that rejection from Enclave. Have hope and wait on God, trusting His timing. While what you face may be impossible from man’s perspective, nothing is impossible with God. He can do whatever He wants whenever He wants however He wants wherever He wants with whomever He wants.

Finally, maybe you, like me, are celebrating today how God has acted on your behalf. Let me encourage you to share your story, proclaiming what God has done.

For to Him belongs all glory, dominion, honor, and power, forever and ever!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Influences on Beast

Story has been part of my DNA from my earliest days. So perhaps it is no surprise that the work of other storytellers and writers have influenced me, both as a person and as a writer.

While I cannot begin to enumerate every story or author who has influenced me over the years, here are a few which have impacted the development of Beast. . .

Classic Children’s Picture Books  
I listened to a lot of picture books as a child, including the works of Dr. Seuss, Robert McCloskey, and Tomie dePaola. These stories encouraged my imagination and a love of reading. 

Dad’s Stories
Along with picture books, I listened to many stories which my dad made up. Through him and the storybooks read to me, I learned the cadence and pacing of story. But more than that, Dad’s stories are also the original source of my desire to write: One of my grand ambitions at age six was to grow up and write Dad’s stories down.

The Five Little Peppers, Miracle on Maple Hill, Blue Willow
These stories represent the multitude of novels that captured my heart as child. But a common thread through them all is a tale of someone lost being found or those displaced finding a home. So each of these contributed to the strong emotional touchstone which would form the heartbeat of Beast.

The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
As perhaps my favorite novel of all time, this classic rags-to-riches story provides the base for the aforementioned emotional touchstone. But more than that, it taught me the value of letting characters hurt in order to make the end even sweeter, for the end of A Little Princess just isn’t as poignant if her father didn’t really die.  

 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
A Sunday school teacher read this novel to my first-grade class. It was my first taste of traditional Christian fantasy, the same basic genre to which Beast belongs.

The Fairy Tales by Grimm, Anderson, MacDonald, and Disney
I grew up on the classic fairy tales, and more significantly, their retellings by Disney. All of these contributed to the fairytale style of Beast, from the romanticized medieval setting to the happily-ever-after.
Arena by Karen Hancock
This novel introduced me to modern Christian science fiction and fantasy.

Firebird Trilogy by Kathy Tyers
Arena may have introduced me to modern Christian science fiction and fantasy, but it was Lady Firebird who made me fall in love with the genre. Through Firebird, I saw the possibilities of the genre, and I was taught how to balance story with spiritual threads. I would not be writing science fiction or fantasy today without the influence of this trilogy.
 
The End for Which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards
This essay deepened and broadened my understanding of God’s glory, which has impacted every area of my life, including how and about what I write.

Snow White
There is an old animated version of Snow White wherein Snow White hides from the huntsman in a tree and he mistakenly thinks a wild boar in the bushes is her. This scene provided direct inspiration for one of Beast’s escapes from the villain.

What the Deaf Man Heard
While I love this movie for a variety of reasons, it earned a place here because the opening scene, where the boy plays deaf, as it provided inspiration for Beast’s border crossing with Tracker.  

The Holy Bible
Without God’s Word, Beast would not be.

 It was from the truth of Scripture that Beast’s journey was conceived, and it was the truth of Scripture that gave purpose and meaning to the story. Many of the best and most powerful moments in Beast are rooted directly in some truth found in Scripture. Indeed, without the foundation of the Bible, Beast would be nothing more than a few pretty words strung together. 

Now It’s Your Turn!
I’m sure that I’m not the only one impacted by the books I’ve read or the movies I’ve seen. So which books and movies have impacted you—and why?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

October 2016 New Releases


October 2016 New Christian Fiction Releases
(Look who's listed under Speculative!)
 More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Biblical Fiction:
Providence: Hannah's Journey by Barbara M. Britton -- When the prophet of Israel refuses to heal her, Hannah flees Jerusalem and is captured by an enemy with a curse all his own. (Biblical from Harbourlight [Pelican])
Shadow of the Storm by Connilyn Cossette -- In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart's calling to become an apprentice midwife. When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira's people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she's denied herself and embrace who she truly is? (Biblical from Bethany House [Baker])


Christmas Novella:
Christmas Lights by Chautona Havig, Vikki Kestell, Cathe Swanson, and April Hayman  -- From historical romance to contemporary cozy mysteries and Christmas wonder, these four "light" reads will warm your heart and ignite your Christmas spirit! (Christmas Novella, Mixed Genres, Independently Published)  

Contemporary Romance:
Image result for risking love andersonRisking Love by Brenda S. Anderson -- Can cautious bank employee Lissa Morgan risk falling in love with a former thrill-seeker, a widowed single dad, when she may have to foreclose on his house? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Mom for Christmas by Lorraine Beatty -- Noah's dream of a happy family and Beth's dream of a continuing ballet career are both dashed, but when they come together they discover that the Lord might have a new dream for both of them. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Sleigh Bells Ring by Sandra D. Bricker, Barbara J. Scott, Lynette Sowell, and Lenora Worth -- Santa Claus is coming to town, and so are the Tucker sisters. The girls have inherited their father's run-down horse farm for Christmas. It needs some serious TLC in order to make it sell-ready. Joanna knows that by recruiting her sisters and one handsome ranch hand they can fix up the place and even celebrate one last Christmas while they're at it. However, to Isabella, returning to their home in Kentucky bluegrass country for Christmas seems like an impossible hurdle. Can her Chicago boyfriend make life merry and bright again? One thing's for sure: nothing is peace on earth for Sophia as a new beau brings up old wounds. And when the fate of the horse farm is put in jeopardy because Amy accidentally fraternizes with the enemy, tensions rise. But it's not like the land developer stole Christmas . . . just her heart. Can the Tucker sisters have themselves a merry little Christmas? (Contemporary Romance from Gilead Publishing)

Do You Hear What I Hear? by Margaret Brownley -- Stranded at the old Star Inn until the road back to his cabin reopens, lumber mill owner Rick Talbot suddenly comes face to face with the past. The only woman he's ever loved is standing in front of the inn's blazing fire trying to get warm. Both Rick and Sally regret what happened between them years ago, but his family lumberyard clashes with her tree-hugging ways and neither is willing to try again. It will take the storm of the century, one stage-struck young boy, a certain meddling "angel"--and even a cranky cat--to convince them that in matters of the heart, sometimes the second time around is best. (Contemporary Romance from St. Martin Press)

More Than a Tiara by Valerie Comer -- Marisa Hiller abandoned her modeling career to nurse a broken heart in Montana, far from the photographer who ruined everything. Her family farm is now part of a CSA program teaching gardening and cooking to single moms, but when the coordinator begs her to represent the program in the Miss Snowflake Pageant, Marisa balks. God has forgiven Jase Mackie but hasn't answered his prayer to bring Marisa back into his life… until Jase finds himself out West as the official photographer for a beauty pageant, face to face with the woman he's never forgotten. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)


Room at the Inn for Christmas by Mary Connealy -- Ambitious hotel executive Amanda Star's has got her sights set on the CEO job at the multi-national Halston hotel chain. But then she inherits the Star Inn, a place her father had always wanted her to run alongside him. With no time to be away from her job, she rushes home to put the inn up for sale. Once there, she's struggles against keen regret, sweet memories, and the longing to return, which grows stronger when she is reunited with an old classmate: Anthony Carter, a handyman with a guarded heart. (Contemporary Romance from St. Martin Press)


Can't Help Falling by Kara Isaac -- A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England. (Contemporary Romance from Howard [Simon & Schuster])


A Christmas Homecoming by Kimberly Rose Johnson -- Interior design assistant Bailey Calderwood suspects the mysterious admirer sending her cards and flowers is none other than the son of her unpleasable, bed-ridden boss. When Stephen Belafonte's mom demands he fire Bailey, can he find a way to heal the rift in his family as well his own heart, or will he be forced to let Bailey go? (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnson -- When Caden Holt's boss asks her to show off their own beautiful Prince Edward Island to impress a visiting travel writer and save the Red Door Inn, the reclusive executive chef is forced to face a world much bigger than her kitchen--and a man who makes her wish she was beautiful. (Contemporary Romance from Revell [A Division of Baker Publishing Group])

 Trust My Heart by Carol J. Post -- Grant McAllister, a jaded big-city lawyer and small-town reporter Jami Carlisle have no hope for finding true love--except for a zany old matchmaker who won't give up. In the unspoiled beauty of the Smoky Mountains, there's healing and forgiveness to be found. And for Grant, this unplanned detour may be just what's needed to finally guide him home. (Contemporary Romance from Waterfall Press)

Insight by Deborah Raney -- She's having a baby. It's a blessing that brings comfort to newly widowed Olivia Cline. Yet with no insurance, no job and precious little money, how will Olivia care for herself and her child? The answer is a handsome and brooding artist seeking an assistant. Reed Vincent has recently regained his eyesight thanks to a donor. And through his eyes, Olivia begins to see all the possibilities before her. Before them. Until, in a flash of insight, she knows why his signature is so hauntingly familiar. (Contemporary Romance from Raney Day Press)

 Silver Bells by Deborah Raney -- As Elvis croons from the radio and Christmas descends upon a small Kansas town, two people find the miracle of love. (Contemporary Romance from Raney Day Press)

 A Family Under the Christmas Tree by Terri Reed -- In this heartwarming tale set during the Christmas season, a single father and a fashion photographer are brought together by a young boy and a mischievous Bernese mountain dog--but first they must learn to set aside their differences if they are willing to let their relationship bloom. (Contemporary Romance from Howard [Simon & Schuster])
Third Strand of the Cord by Catherine Richmond -- Caroline will do anything to keep her ex-husband from putting her son with Down syndrome in an institution--even enroll the boy in a class taught by a know-it-all karate instructor. Lee Marivaux is an expert at reading people. He knows his feisty new student will thrive with firm guidance - and he's right. He pegs the boy's mother as a clueless socialite who loafs at the country club - and he's never been so wrong. When Caroline's abusive ex shows up, demanding custody, Lee and Caroline must join forces to keep the boy safe. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Buying Love by Toni Shiloh -- Impatient for marriage, Nina Warrenton places an ad in the newspaper for a husband--attaching a monetary reward. But when she begins to fall for the small-town chef who answers her add, she realizes how much she wants him to love her and not her money. Dwight Williams needs fast cash to save the family restaurant, but can he let it go to prove his love for Nina? (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit)


Moonlight Over Manahttan by Carrie Turansky -- Professional organizer Sarah Montgomery is hired to organize her elderly neighbor's cluttered apartment by Justin Latimer, her neighbor's grandson. Sarah believes free-spirited Justin is a lazy, unemployed poet who is taking advantage of his grandmother's generosity. Though attracted to him, she guards her heart against her growing feelings. As Sarah and Justin work together to help his grandmother and enjoy Christmas events in NYC, romantic sparks fly. When Sarah discovers who Justin really is, she must decide if she will continue to hide behind her protective wall or open her heart and embrace love. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Love Bears All Things by Beth Wiseman -- Charlotte Dolinsky needs time to recover after breaking up with her boyfriend, Ryan. But when a surprise visitor shows up on her doorstep in Texas, she's forced to put aside her own worries to help her Amish friends in Lancaster County. Daniel Byler struggles each day in his Amish community to heal from his fiancée's betrayal. When he discovers that a member of his family is in danger of being shunned, his pain turns to fear. His only way to help is by partnering with Charlotte, a woman he barely knows who has already deceived them all before. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

 General Contemporary (includes Women's Fiction):


Paint The Storm by Dawn V. Cahill -- When Meg is challenged to love her lesbian daughter as Christ would, she struggles to live out God's command, and when her daughter goes missing, she finds herself joined with the unlikeliest of allies in her search for Linzee, and finally learns of God's unconditional grace for sinners. (Contemporary Women's Fiction from Spring Mountain Publishing)

 Restoration Road by Elise Phillips -- Mallory Andrews's short trip back to Texas for her mother's funeral quickly becomes a move home to help her grieving father with his contracting business. When her old crush, Tres, hires them for a restoration project Mallory falls in love with the crumbling old house. And when feelings bloom between her and Tres, she finds herself on the road to a brand new, unexpected life filled with faith, sweet tea, and fresh paint. (General Contemporary from Desert Breeze Publishing)

Above All Things by Deborah Raney -- Expecting their first baby, Judd and Evette McGlin are thrilled to become parents. But the couple faces the ultimate test when Judd learns he already has a child: a six-year-old mixed-race girl born amid secrets and lies. Now, Evette must decide if she can accept the child. She thought she was open-minded--until hidden prejudices threaten the future of an innocent little girl, Evette's marriage and the very notion of who she thinks she is. (Contemporary Women's Fiction from Raney Day Press)
Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti -- Alexis set out to restore a fieldstone farmhouse in need of repair. She didn't expect to restore a life in the process. (General Contemporary from Worthy Inspired)

 Strings of Faith by Terry Stafford -- Darcy is a classically trained violinist who dreams of playing bluegrass and winning The National Oldtime Fiddle Contest in Weiser, Idaho. When tragedy strikes, Darcy lays her gift aside for her family and faces unimaginable pain and loss, leading to dissension with her husband, disappointing judgment from her church, and anger with God Himself. Can her gift of music survive when her life is turned upside down? (General Contemporary, Independently Published)

 Historical:

The Lost Generation by Erica Marie Hogan -- On August 5th 1914, the world changed forever. For John and Beth Young, it meant the happiness they finally achieved was snatched out from under them. For Emma Cote, it meant that her husband Jared would do his duty, despite her feelings. For Christy Simmons it meant an uncertain future with the boy she loved. The lives of six people, spread across the British Empire to America were changed forever. (Historical from Elk Lake Publishing Inc.)

Aboard Providence by Keely Brooke Keith -- When an accident forces Jonah Ashton to serve as a ship's physician, he boards the Providence with the plan to escort a group of families to their new settlement in South America and then return to Pennsylvania to finish medical school before rumors of Southern rebellion erupt into all-out war. What he doesn't count on is getting lost at sea... and Marian Foster. When the settlers finally reach land, Jonah makes a startling discovery that changes everything, but will it change his heart? (Historical from Crossriver Media Group)

Historical Romance:

The Rails to Love Romance Collection by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, Amanda Cabot, Lisa Carter, Ramona K. Cecil, Lynn A. Coleman, Susanne Dietze, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Connie Stevens, and Liz Tolsma -- Journey the Transcontinental Railroad along with nine unlikely couples who encounter all the dangers and disappointments of traveling the rails in the late 1800s. From sight-seeing excursions to transports toward new lives, from orphan trains to circus trains, can romances develop into blazing love in a world of cold, hard steel? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Cowboy Christmas Homecoming by Mary Connealy, Ruth Logan Herne, Julie Lessman, and Anna Schmidt -- For widow June Harper, another cold front is about to hit. Most call him Hugh. She'd call him Scrooge, except as the man ensures her needs are met, June can't help but wonder how to meet the needs of his heart. Netty Lewis can take care of herself, has for a while now. And even if Roy, her hired help for the holidays, does take care of her, that doesn't mean he cares for her or that he'll stay past Christmas. Pastor Colton McCabe is not sure he'll make it through the holidays with his new housekeeper. Grace can't seem to do anything right but love. Perhaps being a homekeeper will earn her a permanent residence in his heart. Connie Lancaster is determined to return to St. Louis, and no cowboy can change her mind. But if Isaac can change her heart, maybe Connie will see the homecoming she's been longing for isn't to a place but a person. (Historical Romance from Gilead Publishing)

Image result for captive heart griep
The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep -- Stranded in a strange land, Eleanor Morgan faces starvation or marriage . . . but who wants to marry a murderer? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Rightful Heir by Angel Moore -- Cowboy Jared Ivy must work with stranger Mary Lou Ellison until a judge comes to town and determines which one of them is the rightful heir to his family's Texas newspaper. Intrepid reporter Mary Lou won't lose the Pine Haven Record--the legacy he left her--without a fight. But when she and Jared stop sparring long enough to investigate a story together, they become a force to be reckoned with. Will they let their battle over the Record get in the way of something even more newsworthy: true love? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
             

Christmas at Stoney Creek by Martha Rogers -- When newspaper reporter Tom Whiteman befriends a homeless man named Joe, Tom decides to bring him home to Stoney Creek, Texas for Christmas. As Tom and his childhood friend Faith Delmont set out to learn the truth about the mysterious old man with the kind, sad eyes, they discover that God's love can turn tragedy and loss to triumph, and that true love comes to those who wait. (Historical Romance from Realms [Charisma Media])

Mystery:

Another Day, Another Dali by Sandra Orchard -- In order to regain her grandmother's favor FBI Special Agent Serena Jones agrees to investigate a missing Salvador Dali painting. But when the evidence points to members of the owner's own household, it becomes clear that Serena won't be winning any popularity contests. Then Serena stumbles upon links to her grandfather's unsolved murder. (Mystery from Revell [A Division of Baker Publishing Group])

Romantic Suspense:
Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon -- After a disastrous Middle East mission ends his six-year Army Ranger career, Finn McGregor needs some downtime in the woods. But when someone threatens his neighbor, publishing executive Dana Lewis, Finn and Dana must work together to discover who wants her to leave her lakeside cabin before it costs both their lives. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [A Division of Baker Publishing Group])

Identity Unknown by Terri Reed -- When a John Doe washes up on the shores of Calico Bay, no one knows who he is—including him. But one thing's instantly clear to deputy sheriff Audrey Martin: the man's marked for murder. And she's the only one who can protect him from the assassins who lurk at every turn. The arrival of a team of men claiming he's Canadian Border Services officer Nathanial Longhorn only further complicates the matter. As his memories slowly start drifting back, Nathanial and Audrey work to uncover who wants him dead and why. If they don't, this Christmas might be their last. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Speculative:

A Time to Rise by Nadine Brandes -- What more can you sacrifice than your life? Parvin Blackwater is dead. At least that's what the Council and the world thinks. But her sacrifice tore down part of the Wall long enough to stir up hope and rebellion in the people. Parvin and Solomon must uncover the mysterious clues that Jude left behind in order to destroy the projected Wall once and for all. Meanwhile, the Council schemes to new levels of technology in its attempts to keep the people contained. Can a one-handed Radical and a scarred ex-Enforcer really bring shalom to the world? (Speculative Young Adult from Enclave Publishing)

Unblemished by Sara Ella -- Eliyana can't bear to look at her own reflection. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world exists where her blemish could become her strength? (Speculative Young Adult from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Beast by Chawna Schroeder -- For as long as Beast can remember, she has lived among her master's dogs. With them she sleeps. With them she eats. With them she fights and struggles to survive. But through hunger and cold she dreams of one day becoming her master's favorite, earning bones with meat and a place beside the fire. When her pack scatters after a surprise raid, Beast must defend herself against slavers, hunting down the loners. They are so strong, and she is only a beast . . . or is she? (Speculative Allegory from Enclave Publishing)

Accelerant by Ronie Kendig -- He'll destroy the world. But he must save it first. As the only able-bodied heir to the Fire Throne, Haegan, Prince of Seultrie must return to the Nine Kingdoms and fight for his people. But there are insidious forces at work. When reality itself falls into question, Haegan struggles to know where to fight, who to trust. Caught between duty to his country and duty to the world, Haegan must see clearly enough to choose the right path to save his devastated world. (Speculative High Fantasy from Enclave Publishing)

 Thriller/Suspense:

Death in the Mind's Eye by Rick Acker -- It knows what you're thinking. It knows when you're lying. Does it know how to kill? San Francisco attorney Mike Webster and Dr. Johanna Anderson, a brilliant and beautiful psychologist, must clear Jo's name of a malpractice case before the controversial, technologically-assisted Mind's Eye therapy is seized by a shadowy finance firm and used as a weapon. (Thriller/Suspense from Waterfall Press)

The Warrior's Seal by Ronie Kendig -- A Special Forces team is thrust into a war with the past to save the president after an artifact unleashes a deadly toxin.  Special Forces operative Cole "Tox" Russell and his team are tasked in a search-and-rescue--the U.S. president has been kidnapped during a goodwill tour. The mission nosedives when an ancient biblical artifact and a deadly toxin wipe out villages. Tox must stop the terrorists and the toxin to save the president. This is a free e-novella prequel! (Thriller/Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])
Deadly Infiltration by W. Richard Lawrence -- Infiltrators inside the American government are betraying undercover agents while helping sneak weapons of mass destruction across our borders. To keep their work hidden, they are willing to murder anyone who gets in their way. Sara, a brilliant computer expert working for the FBI, finds herself caught in the middle. Sara's young faith in God is gravely tested when she is framed for the murder of an FBI agent, forcing her to go into hiding. Meanwhile, Sara's fiancé Derry lives up to a promise he made to her, and gives up his future to save her and hopefully the country. (Thriller/Suspense from Boarding House Publishing)
Western Historical:

Refining Fire by Carol Cox -- Meet the Arizona Territory Brides. Four strong, independent women--each determined to stand on her own two feet, and not one of them looking for romance. But sometimes love shows up when you least expect it... (Western, Pioneer/Prairie, Independently Published)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

5 Words to Describe Beast

What five words would I pick out to describe Beast?

Find the answer to that thought-provoking question and others at today's fun interview at Embers Reviews!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

My Timeline to Publication

Even for the fastest of writers, creating a novel takes time. Getting that novel published takes even longer—far longer than many people realize. So here’s snapshot of Beast’s meandering journey to publication:

1990: When I was six years old, I had three grand ambitions. The first has been lost to the sands of time. The second was to work for Disney. The third was to write down the bedtime stories my dad made up for my siblings and me.

Mid-1990’s : Due to some criticism received and fear of the places my imagination was going, I gave up writing stories except for required assignments for school.


January 2000: As I looked toward college, I felt restless. Nothing I considered doing post-college felt right.


After listening to all my grumbling, my parents finally sat me down and asked me, “If you could do anything—if money or education were not an issue—what would you do?”

My answer was simple and immediate and complete surprise to me:

“Write.”

December 2000: After writing for a year, I felt uncertainty dogging my heels. Did I really have what it took to be a writer? Was this what God really wanted me to do—or was this what I wanted to do?


That December the writing guild I had joined did a competition of sorts. Writers would bring Christmas stories to read to small groups, and each group would vote for one story to be read in front of the entire guild. So I laid out my Gideon’s fleece before God: “If You want me to do this, let my story be chosen.”  

But when I saw two of the guild’s most published writers in my group, my stomach sank. That my story would be chosen over theirs seemed impossible.
 
Impossible or not, God honored my fleece. My story was chosen. 

2001-2007 Having made the whole-hearted commitment to writing, I jumped in with both feet, learning everything I could. During the next several years, I wrote two novellas and three novels, worked on 3 two-year correspondence courses, and attended eight writing conferences.

October 2007: A new publisher is started. Called Marcher Lord, this publisher would specialize in Christian science fiction and fantasy only. 

January 2008: I had been batting around a new idea for several months. But I didn’t want to write it. It seemed too dark. It seemed to take my imagination in a direction I didn’t want to go. It definitely seemed like a manuscript that no one in the Christian publishing market would want. But the idea refused to go away. 

So I wrote the first chapter and read it to two critique partners. The reaction I received was unlike any I had ever received before and unlike any I have received since:
 
Dead silence followed by an in-breathed, “Wow.”
 
Now I had to write the story.

Spring 2008: Each year the American Christian Fiction Writers holds the Genesis, a competition for unpublished novelists. In 2008, the Genesis was considered a great place for feedback, and those who won the competition would often gain an agent within a year, with a book contract soon following. 


I entered two manuscripts in 2008. The first was a completed novel that I had been polishing for a year. I entered it with the hopes that I might actually final in the Genesis.

The second manuscript was Beast, under its original title of Metamorphosis. At this time the manuscript was still incomplete, but I entered it at the last minute on a whim, hoping that I would receive some good feedback on the story.
 
Summer 2008: I made the finals of the Genesis—with Metamorphosis?!

September 2008: Judged by a leading agent and editor in the industry, Metamorphosis won the speculative (science-fiction & fantasy category) of the Genesis! I was on cloud nine. I was about to breakthrough…

2008-2014: After I completed Metamorphosis, I started the process of submitting to agents and editors, confident that success just lay around the corner.

Months passed. I received rejection after rejection. I might have won the Genesis, but as I feared, no one wanted my story.


January 2014: Marcher Lord was bought by the agent who had judged Metamorphosis in the Genesis competition. Marcher Lord was renamed Enclave Publishing.

Seeing that the owner like my story enough to award it a Genesis, I submitted Metamorphosis through their open submission form for their consideration.

September 2014: After nine months of silence, I decided that my submission to Enclave had been lost in the transition. So I decided on a more direct approach.

Both the owner and I would be attending the ACFW writing conference. I sat through a class he taught and then approached him after class. “Six years ago you judged a Genesis that my manuscript won.”

“Whatever did happen to that story?” he asked.

Once I recovered the shock that he remembered the story without me naming a title or describing a plot, I explained no one seemed interested in the story.

He immediately invited me to submit the whole manuscript to Enclave, promising to respond a couple of months after receipt.

Thanksgiving 2014: I received an e-mail from Enclave. Metamorphosis had been rejected.

May 2015: It had been a busy weekend full of activity. My parents were in the middle of a move. My older sister was visiting. But late one night I decided I had better briefly check my e-mail, if only to clear all the accumulated junk.


An e-mail from Enclave awaited me. The owner apologized for the delay of response, but my manuscript had been misfiled. However, he was pleased to inform me that the beta readers loved the opening chapters of Metamorphosis. Now, for the first time in over six year, I had a full manuscript under review! God's wonders never cease to amaze me.

October 2015: On average a publisher to responds to a manuscript within three months. So when I didn’t hear anything from Enclave for five, it was with trepidation I composed an e-mail asking for a status update. The last time it had taken this long for a publisher to respond, the rejection letter had been lost in transmission.

I heard back from the publisher less than a day later—with another apology. He thought my story had been laid aside in error by the readers, but he would check up on it immediately.

Twenty-four hours later I received a second e-mail. The manuscript was on his desk. The story received positive reviews from the readers, and it now waited for his review. He would get right on it.

November 2015:Almost exactly year after receiving a rejection from Enclave for Metamorphosis, I signed a contract for the identical manuscript, now under the new title of Beast!

Moreover, as proof of God's impeccable timing, a slot had just opened up in the publishing schedule. Beast was fast-tracked for publication in July 2016.

January 2016: Beast undergoes professional editing, making the original story even better.


April 2016: The beautiful cover of Beast goes public.

Enclave is bought by a new Christian fiction publisher, Gilead, opening new possibilities for my book.

June 2016: I proof the galleys of Beast, which is the final typeset form for the book before publication. My story now looks like a real book!


July 2016: Due to the purchase of Enclave by Gilead, the original release date of Beast is shoved back. Nonetheless, the celebration of publication begins! 

October 14, 2016:
By the grace of God,
Beast officially releases!