Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Joanne Bischof {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Joanne...

A Carol Award and three-time Christy Award-finalist, Joanne Bischof writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. She was honored to receive the SDCWG Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon Writer’s conference. That same year, her historical novella, This Quiet Sky, broke precedent as the first self-released title to final for the Christy Awards. To Get to You, her 2015 release, was the second. Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from Romantic Times Book Reviews and she’s pretty sure it’s Charlie’s fault. She is represented by Sandra Bishop of Transatlantic Literary Agency.

Connect with Joanne...

Instagram: @masonjarbooks

Get to know Joanne...

Emilie here: I am so honored to have Joanne on the blog today! I've got her book sitting on my nightstand and it's coming up in my review line up soon (and I cannot wait!). She has been such an encouragement to me and I am so glad I get to "share her" with you all! You'll see tons of pictures of her new release The Lady and the Lionheart on my Instagram too because this book is soooo photogenic!

You and Writing 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and writing...

When people find out that I homeschool three children, they often ask how I have time to write. The easy answer is that I really don’t! But with a little bit of creative scheduling, the help of some wonderful loved ones, and a love of late-night writing sessions, I’ve been blessed to be able to do both. I write stories to speak into the broken places of this world and to dig out the beauty that is our hope in Christ. The way he changes us, encourages us, and walks with us…each and every step of the way.

Emilie here: Ah yes! Late night writing - I'm a fan as well. And amen, friend. What a fantastic reason to write!

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book...

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
There’s a reason that Charlie Lionheart shows up on page two of the novel. It was all I could do to even wait *that* long. ;) Once readers meet him, they’ll know why it was best not to wait there. He’s the heart and soul of The Lady and the Lionheart in a way that guides every page along, touches every life within the novel, including the readers. He is hands down my favorite character not just in this book, but to date. He’s both charming and mysterious, but running deeper through that are Christ-like qualities that truly propel both the story and his life. It’s a heroism that gives hope to Ella, the heroine in the surface-level story (a romance within the Victorian-era circus), and underneath that lives an allegory depicting the love that Christ has for his bride, the church.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
I think the take-away really lies within the epigraph: “Permanent may be the scars that we bear, but there is a love that makes all things new.” (tweet this) We all have scars in some form or another. Some may be physical and others may be internal. Both Ella and Charlie bear scars in a different way and it’s been incredible to receive notes and letters from readers who have shared with me their own life scars and how by watching the way Charlie guides Ella toward hope and peace, they felt the same unfolding of freedom. As an author, there is no greater gift than that.

What's the most random thing you had to Google for the story?
Probably when the electric tattoo needle was invented! It was invented at the exact time of this book and plays a key role in the story beginning with the words of Carpe Diem tattooed onto the side of Charlie’s hand. This was an enormous taboo during the Victorian-era so a lot of research and study went into the history and culture of tattooing then. I found it absolutely fascinating.

Emilie here: *Considers her next tattoo* hehe!

What made you choose the setting for the book?
What made this experience extra fun was that the setting chose itself. I knew very little about the circus, had never been to the circus, and was rather turned off by the entire notion of going there. But what kept circling my mind as this idea took root, were the vintage, black and white photographs I’d seen over time of the historic circus. There was something so evocative about them. And in a way, heartrending. It made me want to dig in my heels, and turn around and face this notion that had never quite sat well with me. The people that lived these lives…the animals that called this place home…it was their stories that I suddenly wanted to tell, and what fell away were the walls I had built up against the circus, and suddenly, I was stepping inside with my whole heart, eager to discover the tales to be told. Now, it holds a very, very special place in my heart.

Emilie here: Have I mentioned recently how much I LOVE the idea of the circus? Because I do lol! And I'm not even sure why...

What does your writing process look like?
My writing process is really laid back and organic. I come at it with very little planning and organization. A few visual inspirations, a favorite playlist trickling from the speakers, a heart-full of characters and the story they have to tell…and I dive right in. Sometimes this way of writing gets me into a little bit of a trouble, but for the most part, I let the story evolve as freely as it wants to. I think that’s why I’m most drawn to writing character-driven fiction. It sort of feels like people-watching at its most fun. I can see the characters in my mind and I never plan out their personalities. I simply try to pay close attention to who they are and what shapes them as the story progresses and find that it works wonderfully for me. It also means that I hold a HIGH level of respect for authors who do plan and plot more extensively than I do. Some of my favorite fiction is written this way and I think that’s one thing that makes reading so special—all the unique experiences and methods that are out there to be enjoyed.

Emilie here: Love your process! I feel like I do something similar and always feel like maybe I should plan more...but that takes the fun out of it for me! 
Thank you so much for this lovely interview and I am so excited to offer my readers a chance to win a copy of your lovely book. Enter below friends and help spread the news about this fantastic book! 

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Why I Failed NaNoWriMo And Why It's Okay | NaNo Day 29

Things change. I feel like that has been the mantra of my life as of late. Things I'd planned on, hopes I'd had, ideas that seemed to be part of the future were close to my grasp...and then a shift, a turn, a change. I'd like to say that I'm good with such changes--that I embrace them with fervor and turn my smiling face to the next, new thing--but I'm not. I may not be horrible with them either, but I wouldn't classify myself as a "go with the flow" person all of the time. I'm more of a "the flow has changed? let's make a new plan" type.

That's why, when I looked at the reality of accomplishing NaNoWriMo a few days ago and saw that it would mean writing 6,667 words a day (on top of my 3,500 words I have to write for my freelance work and running my Etsy shop) I knew it wasn't possible.

This breaks my heart. I had so looked forward to my NaNo novel and really getting a jumpstart on it. I challenged myself to make a grand comeback this year as my 9th year. After a hiatus last year I thought, This is the year! But that wasn't to be.

You see, I have this thing with expectations. I'm terrible about them. I start to formulate the future, planning for things that should never be counted on due to the volatile nature of life, and then, when they crumble, I'm left feeling like a failure. It's not hard to do when you are trying so hard to be perfect...yet another flaw of mine.

Why I Failed NaNoWriMo And Why It's Okay | NaNo Day 29 by Emilie HendryxBut, in life as in NaNo, I can't be perfect. I can't live the perfect life, I can't write the perfect story, I can only follow the Perfect One. Despite all of the changes, disappointments, surprises, and confusion recently, there is one constant in my life. Christ. He beckons me to Himself telling me that it's alright to let go. To unclench my fisted hands and give up the notion that I can maneuver the rocky trails of my life on my own. Whether that be with relationships or writing, I can only plan on One thing: His faithfulness.

I've failed National Novel Writing Month, but I haven't failed Him. I'm 30,000 words into a Sci-fi novel I'm really enjoying. I'm home with my family for the holiday season. I'm on the path that He has set before me. Sometimes I feel like I'm walking blind, but that's the time to cling more tightly to Him and to trust. So maybe this whole failure thing isn't that bad...

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? How did you do? Will you finish by tomorrow?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Intermission by Serena Chase | New Novel News

by Serena Chase

Published: November 15, 2016
Publisher: Candent Gate LLC
Purchase: Intermission

Sixteen-year-old Faith Prescott eagerly awaits the day she will exchange her small Iowa hometown for the bright lights of Broadway, but her success-driven parents want her to pursue a more practical career, labeling “artsy” people—including their daughter—as foolish dreamers worthy of little more than disdain.

When Faith meets nineteen-year-old Noah Spencer she discovers someone who understands her musical theatre dreams . . . because he shares them.

Faith’s mother despises everything about Noah—his age, his upbringing . . . even his religious beliefs—and she grasps at every opportunity to belittle his plans to study theatre and pursue a stage career. When those criticisms shift further toward hostility, resulting in unjust suspicions and baseless accusations, an increasingly fearful stage is set for Faith at home, where severe restrictions and harsh penalties are put in place to remove Noah Spencer from her life.

But Faith has never connected with anyone like she has with Noah, and no matter how tight a stranglehold her mother enforces to keep them apart, Faith will not give him up. Behind the curtain, Faith’s love for Noah continues to grow . . . as does her determination to hold on to her dreams—and him—no matter how high the cost.

Intermission is a heart-wrenching contemporary YA romance set against a backdrop of musical theatre and family drama. With coming-of-age themes that honestly explore gray areas of moral dilemmas, this novel traces the path of one talented teen as she crosses painful thresholds of first love, faith, and betrayal to take the necessary steps toward adulthood, independence, and the dreams that set her heart on fire.

Get to know Serena...

If your main characters were animals, what would they be?

Faith would be a doe. (A deer. A female deer.) *wink*

Noah would be... hmm... a golden retriever, maybe? He’s loyal and gentle, as well as cute, adorable, and snuggle-worthy, but he also knows what he wants and goes after it.

Name one song/artist you're embarrassed you like.
It takes a lot to embarrass me, music-wise... but it’s a little embarrassing that I still know all the words to Theme from The Greatest American Hero (Believe it or Not), a TV show from my childhood in the 80s.

Which of your characters do you secretly have a crush on?
All of them! A different one for every book. Of course, I love the main guy of every book best—Noah, Julien, and Cazien, thus far—but I have my “secret” character crushes, too.

In Intermission, I adore Faith’s brother, Ryan. For The Ryn and The Remedy it was a tie between Rowlen de Whittier and his brother, Kinley—and of course Cazien de Pollis, though he appears rarely in those two books. In The Seahorse Legacy... Rowlen again. Love him. But in The Sunken Realm, Gerrias de Gladiel melted me pretty much every time he opened his mouth. I’m looking forward to giving each of those Eyes of E’veria characters (Rowlen, Kinley, and Gerrias) their own stories someday.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Kara Isaac {Writer Wednesday}

 A little bit about Kara...

Kara Isaac is an award-winning writer who lives in Wellington, New Zealand, where her career highlights include working in tourism as Private Secretary for the Prime Minister. She loves great books almost as much as she loves her husband and two Hobbit-sized children.

Connect with Kara...

Purchase: Can't Help Falling 

Get to know Kara...

Your Writing

Let's talk about your book...

Why did you write Can't Help Falling?
The high level concept for Can’t Help Falling came in a Skype conversation with my editor-to-be before I received my book contract. Howard Books wanted to acquire my debut novel, Close To You, but also wanted a second book that was somehow thematically linked. Close To You has a J.R.R. Tolkien and Lord of the Rings theme running through it. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were part of the literary group known as The Inklings at Oxford University and so I pitched the idea of the second book with a C.S. Lewis / Chronicle of Narnia theme because I’ve been a huge Narnia fan since I was very young. Thankfully she loved it! When I signed my contract in February 2015 all it said about the second book was that it would be set in Oxford and have a C.S. Lewis connection – everything else was left up to me 😀

What was a challenge you faced while writing it?
Can’t Help Falling was easily the toughest of my five manuscripts that I’ve written. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer meaning I don’t have a detailed plot laid out before I start writing. Usually, I let characters bounce around in my head for a few months before I try to put any words on the page but with only eight months from signing the contract to turning the manuscript in I had to start writing straight away. Writing a manuscript under contract for the first time, while also doing four rounds of edits on Close To You and juggling a day job and two preschoolers was a huge challenge. I can’t say I conquered it! What I turned in at the end of October 2015 was far from where it needed to be and big rewrites were required over Christmas to pull it all together. If it wasn’t for God, my incredible husband, my critique partners and my amazing editor I couldn’t have done it.

Were your characters easy to pin down or did you discover them along the way as you wrote the book?
Peter and Emelia were both really difficult characters to pin down. It wasn’t until the developmental edits that I felt like I was coming to grips with what made them tick. Unlike Jackson and Allie in Close To You, they are both quite private and reserved characters and so writing them in a way that was both true to who they are but still created tension in scenes was an adventure!

What's the most random thing you had to Google for the story?
LOL. So many things! Since I have never been to Oxford and didn’t know anything about rowing before I started writing this book Google and YouTube became two close compatriots. I Googled everything from the menu at a pub they eat at, through to pictures of venues they visit, to train schedules, to the types of rowing sculls an elite athlete might use. Probably the most random was I spent a lot of time on a website that specialized in athletic rowing gear working out what a character would wear in a particular scene only for that scene to get cut during rewrites 😀

What was one thing (or character) that surprised you while writing this book?
Emelia’s cousin, Lacey, surprised me. Because of her history of being let down by people, Emelia doesn’t easily let people in and the story needed someone who knew the secret she is hiding, is on her side, but also unafraid to challenge her and could act as a foil to Emelia’s more serious nature. I was grappling with who that character could be and my husband was like “just give her a cousin or something!” Once I put Lacey on the page she just took on a life of her own!


Let's talk a little bit about your writing process...

How long did you write before you got published?
It was just over ten years from the first time I opened a laptop with the crazy idea that I might try to write a book to Close To You being published.

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”?
Enter contests and learn how to really process and apply criticism. The first time I entered a writing contest my scores were abysmal. I was in an airport and I stood in the departure lounge bawling! (Lesson #1: never ever open a contest scoresheet in public if you don’t know what will be on it!) As tough as some of those judges’ comments were over the years (I had one who once told me my entry had caused her to lose the will to live!) it means that once your books are out there you are better equipped to deal with the negative reviews that inevitably come.

How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
I honestly lost count (and some I never even saw because they went to my agent). I can tell you that I have been rejected by every medium-large Christian publisher – most of them more than once!

Are you a Panster or Plotter?
A Pantser but I am horribly desperate to be a Plotter or at least a Plantser! Being stuck at 50,000 words with no idea what your characters’ motivations are or where your plot is going is torture!

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
My least favorite is the first draft. It’s horrible and messy. I’m basically throwing words at the page hoping some of them stick and that eventually I’ll work out what on earth this story is really about. I have a lot of favorites: seeing the short list of possible covers for the first time, line edits when my editor is in the manuscript with me line by line, and getting to work with all the amazing people at Howard Books.

What did you learn along the path to publishing that you’d care to share as encouragement?

As much as having a publishing contract has been a dream come true, even more valuable has been all the friendships I’ve made along the way. Some of my best friends are people that I never ever would have met if it wasn’t for our shared writing dreams bringing us together. Even if I had never received a book contract it still would have been worth it and when I did receive it the joy was magnified so many more fold because of all the amazing people celebrating with me 😀

How do you balance your writing life with “real” life? Any tips or tricks to share?
My husband is an extrovert so we worked out early in the process that it worked well if I “scheduled” in his calendar times when I was going to be on a deadline and holed up in my writer’s cave. That way he knew he should make his own plans. He’s happy because he’s seen a lot of “guy movies” over the last couple of years that he probably wouldn’t have other seen!!


What will you do for Thanksgiving?
Alas, we don’t have Thanksgiving in New Zealand (unless I can charm some American friends into inviting me to theirs!) I am expecting a baby in late November so I will either be whale-sized and very over it, in hospital, or wandering around in a newborn haze 😀

What is your favorite food of the Thanksgiving dinner?
I have heard that there exists a dish that involves sweet potatoes and marshmallows. In New Zealand sweet potatoes are something you only use in savory dishes so it’s on my Bucket List to try it one day!

What are three things you’re thankful for?
My family, that I live in a country with great medical care, and being able to see my books in the hands of readers.

What are you currently reading?
Made Well by Jenny Simmons, Keep Holding On by Melissa Tagg and The Sea Keeper's Daughters by Lisa Wingate.

Emilie here: Kara is just the sweetest! I got to meet her at the ACFW Conference (pictured above) and our talk was lovely. I am so excited to have her here and for the fact that she's offering a copy of this STUNNING book. I mean...just look at it in appreciation 😍 Enter below!

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Friday, November 11, 2016

4 Ways to Find Inspiration | NaNoWriMo Day 11

NaNo Update: I'm behind. Like...I don't want to think just how behind I am. But, I am hoping (maybe foolishly?) that I'll be able to cover some considerable ground this weekend. So far, it's looking positive! But the problem is that, when I do get time to write, I don't always feel inspired. Am I right? Do you feel that way too?

I compiled a list of four things I do when I'm lacking inspiration...

4 Ways to Find Inspiration

Look at inspiring things
Don't underestimate the power of your imagination. I'm a very visual person and for me, looking at a photo can spark a sense of wonder and amazement. When I'm feeling a lack of inspiration I'll often go to a website like and just browse through the images there. Often times I'll see something that makes me think, "Oooo, what if?"

From Unsplash

Get up, get out, and think
For me, as a full-time writer and photographer, I spend a lot of time at--you guessed it--my desk! That's great, I love my work space, but what it lacks is nature (though I am thinking of getting  plant...). I love being outdoors and when I'm lacking inspiration the answer for me is usually to get up, get out, and think. Taking a walk around the neighborhood or driving to a park to walk is exactly what I need to stimulate my thoughts. There are times where I just need quiet time to be away from work, but there are other times where I really need to wrestle through things that are happening in my novel. For me, a walk is the perfect time to do that.

Pro Tip: Take a notebook with you. I'd say take your phone, but sometimes that can be more distracting. Having a notebook is low-tech but handy when inspiration strikes! 

Talk with friends
Never underestimate the power of a great conversation and writer-friends. I'm serious! There have been so many times when I've wanted to give up. I've thought to myself...I am not a writer and I can't do this. It's exactly at that time that I go begging to my friends to tell me what to do. And you know what? They encourage me, remind me why I write, and, in some cases, lovingly berate me about finishing that dang novel so that they can read it. It is the best medicine for a nervous writer who thinks they've lost their inspiration.

In line with this: remember why you write. To be a true writer mean's you aren't in it for the notoriety or the fame, you're not writing to make the best sellers list (although, if that happens you wouldn't mind), and you're not pouring out blood, sweat, and tears over fictional people just because it's fun (though it is at some points). Reminding yourself why you write will often inspire you to write. And friends are perfect for helping with this.

Just Write
Ok, this may sound like a cop-out. We're talking about inspiration and I'm telling you to write un-inspired? Not fair. Well...maybe.

The thing is, there will be times when you are uninspired, but what do you do? You write! There will be times when you're tired? What do you do? You write! There will be times when you feel discouraged and nothing seems to make it better. What do you do? You write!

To be a writer means that you will face days, sometimes weeks, without inspiration but you push through. That doesn't mean what you write during this time is necessarily good...but I think there are times when we will surprise ourselves. Out of a seemingly dry well, something beautiful will come to life. Our words may not be the ones we wanted in that moment, but they will be the ones we needed to get out. And maybe they needed to get out of the way so that better ones could come.

Take courage, dear friend! When you are down and feel like there is no way you could possibly keep writing - you CAN! I believe in you and your story. If you had the desire to write it when you started, then there was a reason for that and you need to finish it! By all means, take a break, but don't wait too long. Just write.


To be a creative means you see the world differently. That also mean's you are inspired differently as well. These are just some of the ways that I find inspiration, but they may not work the same way for you. I'd suggest trying them and combinations of them to see what works.

Let me know below how YOU are inspired!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Keep Holding On by Melissa Tagg | Re:View

Like a hot cup of coffee and a walk down a familiar, tree-lined lane, the Walker family holds a warm place in my heart, as does Melissa Tagg's vibrant storytelling and evocative writing in Keep Holding On.


It is with a deep, satisfied sigh that I write my review of Keep Holding On. Not only has the Walker family burrowed deep into my heart, but Kit and Beck's story leaves me truly content, happy, and with "all the feels".

This book starts off with one of my favorite first (few) lines. "He'd tell his family tonight. After the wedding. Before he turned himself in to the police." I fantastic is that? I was not only drawn in immediately, but the pull to find out why this was the case was overwhelming in the best way. And the rest of the book only got better in my opinion.

Beck...oh Beck...I love his character! Melissa created such a fantastic combination of swirling emotions and complexities surrounding him and his story. From the fact that he hasn't been back to Maple Valley for years to his long-time friendship with Kit. Which leads me to the lady herself. As I've found in many of Melissa's characters, I identify with this woman. Oh many times her thoughts were my thoughts, and I found myself thinking, "I would be friends with her...if she wasn't fictional."

I won't say much more because you must experience this book for yourself. Within the pages of Keep Holding On is a journey that will delight, thrill, and entertain. But it will do more than that. It will give you hope for the simpler things in life. It will remind you that trusting God, and all that is involved in that, is a real thing not for the faint of heart, but not without its own rewards. It will bring you joy. It will make you laugh. It might even make you cry. But above all, it will encourage and challenge you in the best way.

I highly recommend this to any reader, especially those who love sweet romance, enjoy small towns (or think they might), and who want to be deeply touched and entertained by fantastic writing from a novelist who brings her characters to life off of the page. You too, can be apart of the Walker family.

My Rating: 5*
Purchase: Keep Holding On (book 3)
Purchase: From the Start (book 1) & Like Never Before (book 2)

Book Description
(from Amazon)
Beckett Walker hasn't stepped foot in Maple Valley in years. There's no getting past the painful memories, and there's every chance he'll be arrested as soon as he shows his face. Which is exactly what happens when he finally returns. Suddenly his dream of adventure as a military lawyer comes skidding to a halt.

Horticulturist Kit Danby has spent too much time missing home and her childhood best friend--Beckett Walker. Now she might have a shot at reclaiming both. After years of living abroad, she returns to run her family's apple orchard. She has one season to turn a profit and impress the father she barely knows. But she can't do it alone.

It should be simple: Beckett needs community service hours. Kit needs a helping hand. But there's more at stake than either of them planned. With a tangled past and futures that look nothing alike, they'll have to find a way to weather the storms of the present . . . or risk losing everything.
I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Serena Chase {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Serena...

Serena Chase is the author of the critically-acclaimed Eyes of E’veria series and a regular contributor to USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog. A lifelong performer who sometimes speaks in show tunes, Serena lives in Iowa with her husband Dave, teen daughters Delaney and Ellerie, and a 100-pound white Goldendoodle named Albus, who is the biggest star of her Instagram account. Connect with Serena Chase by visiting her website and signing up for her newsletter, “like” her official Facebook page to stay up-to-date on new release news, and enjoy her sometimes poignant, but more often chuckle-inducing random observations of life on Twitter.

Connect with Serena...

Amazon Author Page:
Purchase: Intermission

Get to know Serena...

Emilie here: I'm so excited to introduce you to the lovely Serena! I first met her during a post session at the ACFW conference (um...2 years ago? 3?). I sat in front of her and, during a break, happened to turn around and start talking with her. She's completely lovely and I'm so excited to have her on the blog today! Be on the look out for her new novel, Intermission which comes out November 15!!! (Pssst! you can pre-order now: Intermission)

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself...

As a young adult, I had hoped to someday make my living as a songwriter and performer, which is why I moved to Nashville and majored in Music Business at Belmont University. When I met a guy from my hometown while home over Christmas break my junior year, however, things changed, as they often do when “twoo wuv” enters the scene. Now, I sometimes joke that I still write songs, except they’re really, really long songs and you have to hum the music in your head.

I’ve been back in Iowa for *gulp* twenty-two years, this December. My husband Dave and I have two daughters, Delaney, who is in her second year of college, and Ellerie, who is a sophomore in high school. The canine member of our family is Albus, who was, as you may have guessed, named after the Headmaster of Hogwarts. We’re strange like that.

Up until now, readers have known me as an author of epic fantasy and re-imagined fairy tales. My first four books were part of one series, Eyes of E’veria. Now, with Intermission, I’m diving into contemporary YA romance—which is one of my favorite genres to read.

Your Writing

Let's talk about your book...

Why did you write it?

This book began as a short story assignment when I was in the Apprentice Course through the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild, many moons ago. My mentor for the course (still my mentor today—but now also a very good friend!) told me she thought it had potential to become a novel. So, when I needed to take a break from writing (or rewriting) my fantasy novels, I would pull it out and develop it just a little bit more. Once I published Eyes of E’veria, book 4: The Sunken Realm, I decided it was time to focus hard on this story and to get it ready to meet the world.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?

Sometimes life gives you hard questions with no easy answers. Don’t be afraid to wrestle with those questions, to wade through the gray areas, no matter how murky. You’ll be stronger for experiencing the pain of an honest struggle, and you may even discover something beautiful about yourself, someone else, or God along the way. Not only do Faith and Noah have to do this within the story, but I had to do it, too, to get that authenticity on the page.

What was a challenge you faced while writing Intermission?
I had to trawl through some pretty deeply implanted, deeply faulted mindsets to get Faith where she needed to go within her relationship with her mother. And it took repeated stern admonitions from my mentor and my critique partners to dig in and pull out the guts of a few particular scenes to reanimate them into something that could live as authentic and “true.” It wasn’t until the final, pre-copyedited draft that I was able to exhale a breath that I think I’ve been holding for most of my life.

What did you learn while writing it?
Changing a book from third-person point-of-view to first person is more difficult than it sounds. But when you then decide to change it from past tense to present-tense, you may just lose your sanity. I did all of that over the past two years. Talk about tedious work! All those verbs! The pronouns! The horror! That being said, however, it was so worth it. The book is so much stronger in first-person, present tense. So much!

Is there a funny story associated with writing the book?
Not funny, necessarily, but a fun “taken from real life” vignette. In the book, Faith is sixteen when she is cast as Liesl von Trapp in a community theatre production of The Sound of Music. I, too, played Liesl when I was, literally, “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” (just like the song she sings) in my high school’s production! But although I considered the boy who played Rolf to be a good friend, we were never romantically inclined toward one another like Faith and Noah in Intermission. In fact, we’re shirt-tail relations now, since his brother married my first cousin! There’s small-town Iowa for you!

Did you get to do any fun research for the book?

I made a lot of treks to the little waterfall near where I grew up, soaking in the atmosphere for the setting of scenes that happen “there” for my characters. Several years ago, my sister-in-law joined me for a hike to the waterfall, where she snapped a pic of me sitting atop it, as I so often did when I was in high school and then we hiked through a nearby nature preserve in our area and I took a lot of pictures to help me with setting descriptions, including these beautiful orange fungi I found at the base of a tree.

Since this book has gone through extensive revisions over the years (I completed the first few drafts while revising The Ryn and The Remedy), it’s hard to believe these pictures were taken in 2010... several re-writes into Intermission, already... but that’s what the “date taken” stamp is telling me, so... yikes!
Were your characters easy to pin down or did you discover them along the way as you wrote the book?
I really enjoyed how Gretchen Prescott, Faith’s older sister, developed over the course of re-vising the novel (again) this past year. I did not see that evolution coming, but I’m so glad it happened because it made for a richer story. And although I felt that I was writing a “true” character in Faith’s narcissistic mother, I worried that some readers would find her a little over-the-top. It is encouraging (and yet saddening) that I’ve heard from several early readers who’ve said things like, “You nailed it. I lived that.” or “You wrote what I had to deal with from my mother/father/sibling/etc.” I hate that people have to suffer as Faith does in the story, and worse—but I do want to write about the human experience in a way that is not only believable and identifiable from a distance, but true-to-life for those who’ve experienced similar situations themselves.

What made you choose the setting for the book?
I’ve lived in Iowa all but the four college-years of my life, when I lived in Nashville, Tennessee. When I’m writing contemporary fiction, I want to really feel like I *know* the setting, which I do, because I’m living in it!

What's the most random thing you had to Google for the story?
Let’s just say, “It was gynecological-based question.” and leave it at that!

What’s your favorite snack while writing?
I’ve been into crunchy things lately. Crunchy things that are a little salty, a little sweet. What that thing is on any given day really depends on what catches my eye at Costco and whether or not my husband has already devoured it when I search through the Sacred Snack Chamber in the kitchen!


Let’s talk about your writing life...

How long did you write before you got published?
The Ryn (Eyes of E’veria, book 1) and The Remedy (Eyes of E’veria, book 2) were originally meant to be a single novel. They published a month apart, seven years after I began writing them.

What’s your encouragement for younger writers aside from “keep writing”?
Being a part of a tight-knit critique group, or having a critique partner or mentor who believes in your writing, and in you, is crucial, I think. I was a mess in my writing life and my personal life while writing The Sunken Realm (and for a good many months after it finally published, to be honest.) If it hadn’t been for the encouragement, the willingness to brainstorm, and the love my mentor and my critique partners showered on me, I’m not sure what that book would have become. What I would have become, honestly.

It’s not easy, this author business. Being an artist, having to pull your heart through your brain, and vice-versa, on its way out your fingers and onto the page, day after day, can suck you dry. Having a team of like-minded creative people who are willing to provide (and receive!) support when needed is an amazing blessing that I hope I never take for granted. My mentor has been with me about ten years, but it took years to find a critique group (actually, they found me... when I was in a rather desperate place, mentally and creatively.) So don’t give up looking for the *right* group. My mentor, my critique group... I love those four women. Fiercely.

Are you a Panster or Plotter?
I’m a Pantster with a plan, if that makes sense. I know where I’m going, roughly, and I know a few stops I’ll make along the way, but the “how” of reaching those stops is a pretty organic process with a lot of surprises along the way!

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
I loathe—and I mean loathe!—writing the first draft of anything until I hit my stride... usually around the 10,000 word mark. The first draft I write provides the bones of the story and, because I’m an emotionally-driven mostly-pantser writer, a lot of fat on those bones that has to be trimmed in later drafts. But I love-love-love the re-writing phase, the process of trimming the fat and adding muscle to the bones of the story that were built in that loathsome first draft. I’ve often said, “I’m a horrible writer, but I’m a great re-writer!” Ha!

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share?
When writing fantasy, which is what I’m working on now (my NaNoWriMo project!) I listen to instrumental movie soundtracks... and I have a ginormous writing playlist on Spotify called, “Write, You Fool!” that I use a lot. But I’m also in the midst of crafting a specific playlist for my work-in-progress, as-of-yet-untitled novel, which is set in the world of the Eyes of E’veria series. To listen to that still-growing playlist, “Rowlen’s E’veria” click here.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
I know it’s expensive, but pay the money to send your manuscript through a developmental/substantive edit with someone who knows what they’re doing. The results of that edit may send you into the fetal position for a few days, but once you stop sobbing, wipe your eyes, put on your big-author-panties, and GET. AFTER. IT. I’ve gained priceless insights into my stories and have been guided toward solving the issues of into what’s missing or messed up within my stories through the developmental editing process. Trust me. It is so worth it!

How do you balance your writing life with “real” life? Any tips or tricks to share?
At this point, I’m more of an example of “what not to do” when trying to balance the writer-life with the “real” life. But I’m working on it. When I am out of my zone long enough to remember I need to cultivate friendships and plan meals and clean my house and stuff. It’s very easy to become isolated and blind to the things around you, as well as the needs of your own heart.


What will you do for Thanksgiving?
We have a rather unusual Thanksgiving tradition at our house. It shocks a lot of people, to be honest! Some (including some extended family members) are aghast at our beloved tradition. But... we’ve managed to pull it off for nearly ten years now, and... it works for us! Here’s what we do:

Practically nothing.

It’s just the four of us. If we want, we stay in our pajamas all day. We cook nothing that requires a lot of effort. Sometimes we’ll have a Schwan’s frozen turkey and gravy thing, sometimes we eat frozen pizza, or simply snack on junk food all day. Those who wake up in time watch the Macy’s parade, and once everyone has rolled out of bed and munched on some sort of breakfast-y pastry, like freshly baked (from a cardboard tube) orange rolls, we start our movie marathon, which almost always ends with Elf but usually has either The Princess Bride or Galaxy Quest or both in there at some point) and we nap, as necessary. It’s awesome, with zero pressure, zero drama (except what’s on the screen!) and we are so, so grateful for that day. We look forward to it!

What is your favorite food of the Thanksgiving dinner?
This year... I imagine it will be a bag of something yummy and crunchy from CostCo that involves coconut in some fashion. (see the previous question!)

What are three things you’re thankful for?
  1. This post will hit your blog on November 9th, which means NO MORE POLITICAL ADS in my mail, car radio, computer... etc. That’s something to be thankful for!
  2. My family, including my dog, Albus, who is such a beautiful example of unconditional love and loyalty.
  3. New mercies, every morning, without fail.
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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Voting Without Fear

I'm not political.

I mean, really, I'm not. Sure, there are issues that I feel strongly about and I'll have a discussio with anyone about why I feel strongly about them. BUT, there is something that I value above politics. Those who know me will guess this answer, but it's simple: Jesus.

I know, that seems to trivialize eveything but I see it more like simplifying everything. The reliaty is, no matter who is elected tomorrow, there will be those angry, afraid, excited, terrifed, disgrunteled, elated, celebratory, or depressed about it becuase, for some, their hopes and dreams rest on who sits in the oval office.

If you are a Jesus-follower, that's simply not true for you. In fact, it may rub you the wrong way to think about this, but whoever is elected is someone we must honor. (1 Peter 2:13-17)

Okay, who cringed out there? It's all right to admit that may be tough, but it's not alright to simply move past those verses with reasons like "but she______" or "but he_______". It doesn't matter. It's clear from the Bible that God is the One who allows our rulers to be instituted. No matter how terrible we may think either of them are, they are still there for a reason.

And this brings me to the really really hard part. The part I was convicted about on Sunday when one ofour pastor's spoke about this very passage. He asked us to stop the name calling.

>>> cringes<<<

I'm guilty of this. I'm sure I'm not the only one. And maybe it's not name calling in the sense that you're teasing a kid on the playground, but it is talk that isn't honoring. Saying Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump are "the devil" is just childish and honestly we could all use a little conscience-tugging. Becuase, as of tomorrow, we'll all be charged (by God) to honor the one who becomes our presdient.

Now don't get "honor" and "agree" mixed up. They are not the same thing. We don't have to agree with what they stand for, but we are requried to submit to their authoriy as long as it doesn't make us do something against what God, first and foremost as our true leader, asks of us. Our rulers and government are in place "to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good". They are there to, in essence, legislate morality, to an extent (also something the pastor spoke on).  

If you're like me, at first you may try to refute these ideas. Like the thought that Peter couldn't have mean't us honoring someone like >insert name of your least favorite candidate< But, at the time he wrote this, the Nero was Emperior.
"[Nero] is best known for his debaucheries, political murders, [and] persecution of Christians..." (source)
Not the type of person you'd want to honor. And yet, those were Peter's words. "Honor the emperor."(2 Peter 2:17b) 

This whole concept is hard, but ultimately it's better becuase we can trust in the fact that God truly is in control. I'm not afraid of what happens tomorrow and I'm not afraid of what happens ten years from now becuase God it my comfrot, my ultimate ruler, and my strength. He is the one who establishes nations and tears them down. He is the one who allows poor (and good) rulers to reign. And He is the one who has a purpose far greather than I could ever understand.

That is a God I want to trust in.

So, for this election season feel fre to debate and discuss, but don't forget Who is in charge and the fact that tomorrow you will need to honor the new presiedent, regardless or not of if you voted for them.
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

1 Peter 2:13-17 

Monday, November 7, 2016

NaNoWriMo Day 7 | Week 1 Report

Sometimes life falls together in a perfect storm. That has been my end of October/beginning of November. And when I say storm, I do mean storm. The deails aren't important at this juncutre (and a little to fresh to write about anyway) but I did want to give a NaNoWriMo update.

NaNoWriMo Day 7

Yes. You heard that right. I'm still forging ahead with NaNo. Not doing it last year was one of the hardest things (ironically...possibly harder than attempting it) and this year, despite the upheaval of life, I'm excited to be working on one of my new projects!

You may not have realized, but I did start a YouTube channel recently. That is, I joined the "BookTube" community. Much like #Bookstagram for Instagram, I talk about books and writing on my channel. I'm very new to it, but it is a lot of fun. I thought I'd share my second video here where I talk a little bit about NaNoWriMo.

All of that to say...well, I'm stuck at 1724 words as of today. *Cringes* I know. It's awful and SUCH a small wordcount for me right now. But I still have hope. Balancing my wordcoutns for work and for NaNo is not easy but I shall persist >>says this mostly to herself because she needs the encouragement<<.

What about you? Anyone else doing NaNo? How's it going? How do you stay motivated?

I'd invite you to subscribe to my channel and check out my "Bookstagram" if you haven't already. I love meeting new friends over on my "CreateExploreRead" page!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Accelerant by Ronie Kendig | RE:View

A fiery tale of romance, deception, and duty. Ronie Kendig's second fantasy book, Accelerant, is as hot as they come!


I seriously loved Accelerant. Don't get me wrong, I loved Embers too, but I felt even more involved in this second book--the stakes were higher, the plot complex, and the subplots the perfect accent to an already thrilling story.

To me, this book was a combination of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Hunger Games, and Ronie Kendig's classic, fast-paced and vibrant writing. From the moment I jumped into Accelerant, I felt the characters come alive on the page. It had been a while since I read Embers, but I remembered where'd I'd left off and was excited to see where this book was going to go. The fantasy world that Ronie creates is completely immersive, drawing you in until you forget that you aren't a character in the story. Wait...I'm not best friends with Thiel? Oops...

**I suppose there could be slight spoilers to anyone who has not read book 2 (they are in the description as well) BUT I will not spoil Accelerant - I promise!**

I love the unique reality that Haegan is marked as the Fierian (the spoiler for book 1). The tagline says it all: "He'll destroy the world. But first he has to save it." The reality that Haegan - a kind, sweet man - is named as the "destroyer" and yet savior of the Kingdom is so deliciously complex. Feel all the tension! Multiple times I found myself lamenting with him over that fact, and yet wondering what else is going to happen. Is the prophecy correct? What does being the Fierian really mean? How will Haegan deal with that?

Ronie has done such a brilliant job with intertwining stories in Accelerant as well. I absolutely loved the story line involving Aselan, Kaelyria, and the Eilidan people. That juxtaposed with Tili and Thiel and wondering about what is going on with Sir Gwogh has me DYING to know what is going to happen in book 3. Is it out yet? (*wink*)

I cannot recommend this book enough. The story line will pull you in, turning pages late into the night, just to find out what happens. If you're a fan of fantasy (or really just good fiction) I think this will be a breath of fresh air for you. Ronie's style is so unique and her plot lines complex and thrilling. Do yourself a favor and get these amazing books!

My rating: 5*
Purchase: Accelerant (book 2)
Purchase: Embers (book 1)

Book Description
(from Amazon)

He'll destroy the world. But first he has to save it.

The Nine Kingdoms bleed. Leaderless, ravaged, the land awaits deliverance from Poired Dyrth's devastating campaign. But what if one blight can only be cleansed by another?

The promised Fierian is known by many names. Judge. Destroyer. Scourge. And now one other: Haegan, Prince of Seultrie. Once a cripple, now a gifted Accelerant, Haegan can no longer run from the truth. But neither can he be reconciled to it. He knows only one thing for certain: as the only able-bodied heir to the Fire Throne, he must return to the Nine 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, whom 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 the world.

I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.