Debra Daugherty’s Path to Publication Story

Today Debra Daugherty is sharing her Path to Publication story! Without further ado, here’s Debra…

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If I had to pinpoint an age when my writing career began, I’d have to say at age ten. That’s when my stories and poems were first published in my school newspaper. Seeing my name in print made me want to become a writer. Over the years I continued to write children stories, mostly to entertain my nieces and nephews.

In April, 2012, I traveled to England with a tour group. We stopped at Grassmere for lunch before visiting Dove Cottage, the home of the poet William Wordsworth. While sipping tea with two of the ladies from my group, Ilana and Sara, I learned they were writers. I told them I dabbled in writing, and they encouraged me to join SCBWI and submit my stories.

I joined the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators in May, attended my first writer’s conference in June, and by the following year, December, 2013, my first picture book, CALAMITY CAT, was published as an e-book by MeeGenius. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt took over the company in August, 2015 and my PB is now under contract with them. Hopefully, it will be added to their Curious World website in 2017.) I also had two short stories published in Guardian Angel Kid’s e-zine. I know this sounds like a success story, but I have a file drawer filled with rejections to prove how hard I worked.

At the conference in June, 2012, I connected with writers in my area and joined their writers group. We meet once monthly and critique each other’s work. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without their help and support.

Online writing courses followed, as well as two more conferences. And I never stopped submitting my work. (I average three rejections a month, but rejections are good. I learn from them, and they show I am trying.)

I love pitching stories on twitter, and the February 3rd #Pit2Pub led to Clean Reads publisher, Stephanie Taylor, offering me a contract for THE DRAGON’S RING.

From the day I signed my contract, February 23rd, to the present, it’s been a whirlwind of a ride. Edits, line edits, proofs and Galleys passed quickly. The cover art by Amanda L. Matthews, AM Design Studio, turned out amazing. I couldn’t be happier or more pleased with my experience with Clean Reads and with my publisher and her wonderful staff.

My highs and lows are many. I wrote THE DRAGON’S RING years ago and didn’t save it on my word processor. I remember the tears when I realized all my work was lost. Starting over from scratch, I rewrote my story from memory, remembering to save it this time. I sent it out a couple of times, then tucked it away in a drawer. (It had a different title then, THE PRINCESS, THE UNICORN AND THE GOLDEN RING.)

After attending the SCBWI conference in 2012, I dug out this fairy tale, and took another look. My princess sat at the castle and waited for her knight to accomplish his mission. Too outdated. I revised the entire manuscript and turned the princess into a heroine, rescuing her knight each time he encountered trouble. Ilana, with whom I’ve kept in touch, generously offered to read and edit it, and her edits showed me what I needed to do to polish the story.

I submitted my story to a few agents/publishers, but kept busy with other work, too. Two publishers actually favored it during the #Pit2Pub, (Pitch to Publication), last February, but it was Stephanie Taylor from Clean Reads who saw my vision and gave me a chance. That’s a major high.

Now for the lows. Since January 6th of this year I’ve had medical problems and was seeing several doctors. February 3rd I had a sonogram scheduled; but it was cancelled, so I spent the day pitching my stories on twitter. (Everything happens for a reason. If I had gone for the sonogram, I might never have joined in the #Pit2Pub twitter party, and might still be searching for a publisher for THE DRAGON’S RING.)

I had the sonogram a week later, and then a biopsy. March 4th I learned I had endometrial cancer, Stage 1, and would have to have a total hysterectomy and removal of some lymph nodes.

My surgery was performed March 14th. All the time leading up to the surgery, I continued writing and working on my book. I sent the pre-edits in before my biopsy, and my line edits were returned before my surgery. After the surgery I had more editing to do, and was thankful for something to keep my mind occupied while I recuperated at home.

Time for some highs. My cancer doctor believes the cancer was removed, and he decided I didn’t need radiation or chemo. I must have check-ups every three months, but the prognosis is good. This means I can continue writing, and hopefully, publishing many more books.

My path to publication has taken many years, almost all of my lifetime, and I’ve overcome many hurdles and obstacles to be where I am today. One must love writing to keep at this craft, as it can be a desolate path at times, but when something wonderful happens, such as seeing your book in print, or in my case for sale online, the hard work, sleepless nights, revisions and editing seem worth it.

 

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Sir James Trueblood is determined to capture a unicorn so he can marry Princess Isadora. The knight begins his quest, not realizing the Princess is following him in disguise. On his journey Sir James encounters a witch and a dragon. With the dragon’s ring his mission is a success, but then he learns the unicorn will die if not set free. Now he has a dilemma; marry the Princess or free the unicorn.

 

 

Buy Links:

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01J73OAUG#nav-subnav

Kobo https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-dragon-s-ring

Smashwords  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/654404

 

Book trailer link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ODAHd23OzQ

 

Author Bio:  Debra Daugherty is from Central Illinois and is a member of SCBWI, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She enjoys living in the country with her two dogs, a Chihuahua named CeCe, and a rescued American Stratford Terrier named Honey. Besides writing children stories, Debra loves to spend time with her family, travel, and browse through antique shops. Publishing credits include CALAMITY CAT, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and THE DRAGON’S RING, Astraea Press/Clean Reads. She’s also had two short stories published in Guardian Angel Kids’e-zine.

 

Connect with Debra: 

Email: ddaugherty329@gmail.com

Twitter – @dmddeb

Website: http://ddaugherty329.wixsite.com/authordebradaugherty

www.writing-for-children.webnode.com

Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/DebraDaughertyauthor

Goodreads Author Page: www.goodreads.com/author/show/7579797.Debra_Daugherty

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/ddaugherty329

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Artemis Grey’s Path to Publication Post

All right everyone, this is the post I’ve waited for. The post that has me crying the happiest ugly cry ever imaginable as I type these words.

My critique partner, Artemis Grey, is here to tell her Path to Publication story!!!!

*wipes tears with sleeve*

I’m crying because I’ve believed in her for so long, and really am so very very happy this book has finally been published!

Artemis and I “met” forever ago (years!!) when she commented on a blog post I did for Pimp My Novel, and we’ve stayed in contact ever since. Public comments on blogs moved to private chats via Facebook and emails, and then one day we exchanged pages, and the rest is history.

She was vital to making me not look like a complete idiot with the horse and injury scenes in all three of my books, totally “gets” my characters and doesn’t hesitate to call me out when they or any part of my story lines aren’t flowing well, and taught me the epic phrase, “Awesomesauce”.

*wipes more tears on sodden sleeve*

And now, without further ado, here is Artemis Grey…

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IMG_7981 (1)First off, I want to thank Christi for hosting me on her Path to Publication today. Also, anyone who’s read and enjoyed Catskin, take a moment to also thank Christi, because I’m not being dramatic when I say that Catskin would not have been published without Christi. I literally would never have submitted to Clean Reads if not for Christi’s foot on my tuchus, shoving me onward toward publication.

My journey began in childhood, with the oral stories told to me by my grandmother on my Mom’s side of the family, and my Great Great Aunt, and Great Aunts on my Dad’s side of the family. Mom’s side brought tales of mountain hollows, witchy women, ghosts and superstition, both that of Appalachian folk and of the Cherokee. Dad’s side brought stories of Irish rabble-rousing, Scottish mayhem and Italian superstition. It was all fodder for my developing mind, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write my own versions of the stories I’d been told. Eventually, I began writing completely new stories.

The first novel I wrote, sank into the swamp. So I wrote a second novel. And that one sank into the swamp. So I wrote a third novel. That one burned down, fell over and then sank into the swamp. But the fourth novel turned out to actually be worth reading. Unfortunately, it was also a dystopian, and while everyone seemed to love it, no agents wanted to rep it. What I didn’t know at the time, was that the first book of the Hunger Games was due out in just a few months, and so behind the scenes, everyone in the industry already knew that a glut on dystopian YA was about to hit the country. Dystopians which had already been repped, sold to publishing houses, and were in the works to be released in the same wave as the Hunger Games. So I moved on to a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, there was also a fantasy, and several others.

But in the middle, amidst years of writing, working on other stories and partial novels, came one that Christi insisted right from the beginning would be The One.

That book was Catskin. I’d never written a contemporary YA before, and never had a male main character. Yet, Catskin popped out of me without me intending to write it in any particular way, or in any particular voice. Catskin went through some major revisions, complete rewrites in some places, and though I started submitting it to agents–and getting rejections with feedback–I continued working on it as per the feedback I was getting from prospective agents. I know this is not how you’re supposed to do things. It’s the opposite, of what you’re supposed to do. but at the time, I was so tantalizingly *close* to getting an offer of representation, that I just wanted to make Catskin as good as I could. Finally, the day came when Christi told me to stop futzing around with it and leave it alone. If it wasn’t “good enough” for an agent or publisher, she said, then it wasn’t meant to be wherever or with whomever I was sending it to. So I listened to Christi, and kept sending Catskin out, and kept getting “almost” rejections.

Then Christi told me to just eat my concern and submit to Clean Reads. So, I listened to her again. And she was right. I woke up on the second day of my September 2015 vacation, in a slot canyon in Utah, and unexpectedly heard a bing from my phone as it somehow got enough service to inform me that I’d received an email. An email that contained a contract and offer for publication. I reread that email about a dozen times in the first three minutes, absolutely, fanatically convinced that I was somehow missing something, a catch, or a sentence saying “but unfortunately”. There was none. It was real. I had been offered a contract.

Of course, I completely freaked out and emailed Christi in a panic along the lines of “HOLY FREAKING SH*# WHAT THE H*$% DO I DO???” Christi’s response went something like “CONGRATULATIONS! I’m not surprised. I knew you had this in the bag 🙂 Now, read your contract.”

There isn’t much more to tell. We went through edits, which–again, thanks to Christi–were pretty dang light, and I had the immense benefit of being able to help design my cover, and even use the artist of my own choosing. The astoundingly talented Erin Kelso was able to bring Ansel and Catskin to life, and I could not be happier with the end result! Now, to get book two finished and repeat the process all over again…

 

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Back cover copy:

Sometimes the only way to find yourself is to go missing…

Shy, eighteen-year-old albino, Ansel, thought that letting the runaway girl with the injured ankle sleep in his parents’ shed was a good idea. That was before she passed out in his shower, woke up in a panic and accidentally attacked him. Any average guy would have called the cops but average isn’t Ansel’s style.

When she refuses to tell him her real name, Ansel nicknames the girl Catskin, after one of his favorite fairytale characters, and begins the dubious task of earning her trust. It’s not an easy thing to do, but a few awkward conversations later, one thing is clear: Catskin doesn’t want to be the way she is, she just doesn’t think she can change. Ansel knows from his own experiences that seeing the world around you differently doesn’t mean that you’re wrong, something he intends to teach Catskin.

While the details of her past remain elusive, Catskin creates a new place for herself with Ansel and his family, and develops her own brand of normalcy. Then a terrible accident leaves her hovering near death, and Ansel is forced to contact her estranged parents. But there are secrets hidden in the life Catskin left behind. Dark secrets that chased her all the way to Healy, Alaska and Ansel’s actions unknowingly provoke a shocking confrontation between the wealthy world Catskin was born into, and the starkly average one she now shares with Ansel.

Refusing to give up the imperfect girl who fits perfectly inside his heart, Ansel prepares to go to war with Catskin’s father. But in the end, Catskin might be the only one who can save herself.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01D2MWR62

Amazon Australia: http://www.amazon.com.au/Catskin-Artemis-Grey-ebook/dp/B01D2MWR62

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Catskin-Artemis-Grey-ebook/dp/B01D2MWR62

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/catskin-artemis-grey/1123543424?ean=2940157746711

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/catskin-1

 

About the Author:

Artemis Grey was raised on fairytales and the folklore of Appalachia. She’s been devouring books and regurgitating her daydreams into written words since childhood. She can most often be found writing by a crackling fire or rambling barefooted through the woods and mountains, napping (yes, napping) on horseback, searching the depths of random wardrobes and wriggling into hollow tree trunks. In her downtime, she herds cats, which is just as entertaining as it sounds. She hopes to make her readers look at the world they’ve always seen, and see the world they’ve always envisioned.

Social Media Links:

Blog: https://greyvale.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/artemis.grey

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/Artemis-Grey-851681138247610

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GreyArtemis

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Artemis-Grey/e/B0089BO30U

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6154946.Artemis_Grey

Email: greyvaledesigns@gmail.com

 

Julie Fugate’s Path to Publication

Today I welcome fellow Clean Reads author, Julie Fugate, to the blog to share her Path to Publication story.

Without further ado, here’s Julie…

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IMG_0531Thank you Christi, fellow writer and CleanReads author, for having me on your blog.

I’ve loved to read since I was little, and it was definitely my strong suit in school, to the point, I would be chosen to leave class and read stories to younger kids. Stories came natural and writing had always been a hobby . . . something fun to do.

I’d been involved in a creative writing class in High School but I don’t think the teacher cared for my fantasy stories. With college looming, becoming a Writer didn’t seem practical when it came to paying the bills. Yet, I would continue to weave stories and create characters in my head.

Left with the choice to try and fail, or not try at all, I started doling out books to family and friends with mixed results. The stories played out like a movie in my head, but my problem was getting that story down on paper and across to a reader. I was also discovering what kind of writer I wanted to be. Young adult was a given since I enjoyed reading that genre. I wanted to write about characters with issues, problems, and hard circumstances, which included anti-heroes and underdogs. I also wanted to show a God who is alive and active in people’s lives, but with that said my characters (as well as readers) may not accept or even believe along those lines. As you probably already guessed my faith in God runs deep. Once I found myself sleeping, eating, dreaming . . . overwhelmed with these stories I knew I had no choice but to push myself.

In 2013, I joined the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writer) and began entering my contemporary books in a few contests. I quickly found contests were not my forte and again I seemed to be lacking (especially with grammar). I got involved with their general critique group and began learning about action beats, adverbs, white space, and showing vs. telling, etc. Every spare moment I wrote and re-wrote. The first conference I attended that same year I had some interest from a small publisher and agent. It bolstered my confidence, but knew in my heart I wasn’t ready.

Also in 2013, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, and picked the most fun story concept that had been rattling around in my head. Teen, Angels, Human-Angel Hybrids, and most of all I wanted to show an involved God. I succeeded and out of that Kings of Renown was born.

In 2014, I joined RWA (Romance Writers Association) so I could be part of YARWA, their young adult group. At every turn I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I again participated in NaNoWriMo and succeeded in writing the next installment of the Kings of Renown series.

I’m now involved in a permanent critique group I trust with writing and life. I’ve learned a lot since beginning this journey. I discovered I wasn’t writing Christian fiction but Inspirational fiction since I dealt with life’s harder themes yet still had religious elements. Not everyone will like what I write. I’ll always be learning and growing as a Writer and a Believer. Writing wasn’t about me, but a way to provide readers entertainment and hope through Christ if they face dark circumstances.

In 2015, I had prepped Query’s and a Proposal to start sending out. At that same time I participated in a YARWA online party, which is where I met Stephanie, the owner of CleanReads. She asked for a copy of my story and I was honored when she asked me to join her family of authors. A dream came true when BETRAYAL, Book One in the Kings of Renown series was published in November, 2015.

Love and prayers,

Julie Fugate

http://www.juliefugatebooks.com

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A seraphim angel joins the fallen and uses his abilities to enhance the human race. After re-pledging his allegiance to God, centuries later his mission collides with the lives of three human-angel hybrid teens.

High school outcast Tara Cox hates her career criminal dad. Despite her reluctance she’s as talented at deception and secrecy as him. When new friends, including the guy she has a crush on, shows her kindness, she dreams of a different life that doesn’t involve violence and solitude.

Sixteen year-old Inara Mason desires to break away from her controlling dad. She develops a supernatural bond with a real angel who shows her monstrous mermaids and offers the illusion of love.

Former juvenile delinquent Leo Price struggles with the stigma of being a killer and keeping his love for Inara secret. He takes comfort in his dedication to God and the support of his mentor, Inara’s father. As evil closes in, they will fight for their lives, love, and the future of their souls.

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1YkskdB

Barnes&Noble: http://bit.ly/1jb6xVS

iTunes: http://apple.co/1MrGlku

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1Sl0N8f

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/596156

OverDrive: https://www.overdrive.com/media/2553182/betrayal

Author Bio:  JULIE FUGATE writes young adult fiction where danger, suspense, romance and God collide. Her nicknames include Jay, Juju, Jules, Lizzie and Julio. A tomboy and girly-girl all wrapped into one. Growing up she would spend one hundred percent of her meager allowance on books. You could find her in the library, the porch swing, or in her room reading and listening to music. She fights off two German Shepherds and a snarky Maltese who try to take over her keyboard when she’s writing.

Social Media Links:

Website: juliefugatebooks.com

Instagram: jfugatewrites

Twitter: @jfugatewrites

GoodReads: Julie Fugate

Facebook: julie.e.fugate

 

Helen Pollard’s Path to Publication Story

I’m interrupting my blogging break today to introduce fellow Astraea Press author, Helen Pollard, and share her Path to Publication story.

Without further ado, here’s Helen…

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Helen bio picAs a child, my love of writing grew from my love of reading – especially Enid Blyton’s ‘Magic Faraway Tree’ stories, which I devoured every night long past my bedtime by the light of the street lamp outside my window. I loved the way she created whole new worlds, and I wanted to do that for myself.

In my teens, encouraged by one English teacher in particular, I experimented with moody, dystopian, apocalyptic … typical teenager stuff!

And then in complete contrast to that, in my early twenties I wrote my first full-length romance. This was an unexpected direction for me – I’d picked up a couple of romances to read (more by accident than design), quite enjoyed them despite my inner cynic, and in the arrogance of youth, decided I could do just as well myself, if not better.

Well, it probably wasn’t bad for a first attempt. Even though it was rejected by the publisher I sent it to, their reply was an individual one, complimenting my style and suggesting I submit something else.

Encouraged, I wrote another romance. It was rejected with a generic letter this time. I started a third. That was rejected too.

By this stage, I had two small kids, a house to run, no sleep and no time. I gave up.

Over the next few years, as I looked after my family and returned to work, I appeased my creative streak by experimenting with handicrafts.

In the meantime, my daughter was doing nothing but write, and clearly loving it. My fingers began to itch to hit the keyboard again. I’d had an opening scene for a humorous chick-lit novel in my mind for years, and the day I decided to type it up, it was like opening the floodgates. While I wrote, I also researched the craft itself and updated myself on the world of publishing – a lot had changed since I’d last tried!

Two years later – it was a long book and I’m an obsessive edit-and-polisher – I began sending it to agents, entering a soul-destroying cycle of post it off – wait weeks if not months for a rejection letter or indeed, get no response at all – re-polish it – send it somewhere else – repeat.

After two years of that, I decided the manuscript should take a long rest at the back of the drawer, although I still love the story and hope to find a home for it eventually.

With a small spark of determination still hanging on in there, I went back to writing straight romance, and Warm Hearts in Winter was born. It took me about six months to write (I still work full-time) and three months to polish it to within an inch of its life.

As I wrote, I researched romance publishers, and when I read about Astraea Press, my instinct told me to go for it. To my delight, they offered me a contract, and a few months later here I am, a published author.

It’s been a long haul – not just the writing, but the learning process too – but I’m so glad I rediscovered my love of words – and that someone else has shown faith in my work!

Helen Pollard coverCan two hearts thaw on the midwinter moors?

Forced by circumstance into the world of temping, when Abby Davis accepts an assignment in the wilds of Yorkshire as personal assistant to a widowed novelist, she assumes he is an ageing recluse.

Thirty-something Jack Blane is anything but. Still struggling to get his life and writing career back on track three years after his wife’s death, Jack isn’t ready for a breath of fresh air like Abby.

Snowed in at his winter retreat on the moors, as the weeks go by and their working relationship becomes friendship and maybe more, Abby must rethink her policy of never getting involved with someone at work … and Jack must decide whether he is willing to risk the pain of love a second time.

Buy Links:

Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00O2BOMWU

Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00O2BOMWU

Barnes & Noble: http://tinyurl.com/B-N-WarmHeartsInWinter

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/warm-hearts-in-winter

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/481257

About the Author:

Helen Pollard writes contemporary romance with old-fashioned heart. She firmly believes there will always be a place for romantic fiction, no matter how fast-paced and cynical the world becomes. Readers still want that feel-good factor – to escape from their own world for a while and see how a budding romance can blossom and overcome adversity to develop into love … and we all need a little love, right?

A Yorkshire lass, Helen is married, with two teenagers. They share space with a Jekyll and Hyde cat that alternates between being obsessively affectionate and viciously psychotic. Antiseptic cream is always close at hand.

When Helen’s not working or writing, it goes without saying that she loves to read. She also enjoys a good coffee in a quiet bookshop, and appreciates the company of family and close friends.

Find Helen at:

Facebook:  http://tinyurl.com/FacebookHelenPollardWrites

Website & Blog:  www.helenpollardwrites.wordpress.com

 

Author Lori Benton’s Path to Publication

Today’s guest host is Lori Benton, author of Burning Sky. Lori agreed to share her  path to publication story with readers, and it’s an amazing and inspiring one.

Contest Alert! Lori has generously agreed to give away a signed print copy of Burning Sky. Leave a comment to enter, and one winner will be randomly drawn from the comments. Contest limited to USA residents. Don’t forget to include an email address so you can be notified if you’re the winner.

Without further ado, here’s Lori…

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Authorphoto1Lori’s Writing Journey

A question I’m often asked is “When did you know you were a writer?” I was nine years old, and an avid reader, when my best friend announced she’d written a story. She let me read it. It was a moment of revelation: anyone, whenever they felt like it, could write a story about whatever they wanted. My perception of “author” broadened from the narrow notion of entitled and (somehow) permissioned grown-ups to include a little girl, crazy about Native American stories and wolves, living in a Maryland suburb. I promptly wrote and illustrated Yellow Feather and the Wild Mustang (thanks to a grandmother who saved that story, dated 1978, I still have it). I never lost interest in storytelling from that day, and frequently entertained notions of writing a novel. Though I wrote stories now and then, writing took a backseat to painting for a few years after high school and art college.

YellowFeather

In 1991, married and in my mid-twenties, I decided it was time to write that novel I’d been dreaming about since my teens. I’d never met a published author, read a writing craft book, or heard of writer’s conferences. I didn’t own a computer. I sat down with what I had, pen and paper, determined to write the kind of novel I liked to read. With that novel still in progress, in 1993 my husband and I moved to Oregon, where I met members of Oregon Christian Writers, and the world of Christian fiction opened to me. Except for one rather important door: publication. While Burning Sky is my debut novel, it was the seventh or eighth I’d written since that first begun in 1991. During the 1990s, as I’d finish each novel, I’d send a query or proposal for it around to publishers. I even tried writing a few articles. By 1999 I had a perfect record of rejection, and I was getting tired. But that tiredness didn’t stem only from having written for so many years without the kind of result I’d hoped for.

On March 26, 1999, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. I set aside the novel I was working on—a contemporary story set on the Oregon coast, featuring a character called Neil MacGregor—and focused on getting well, through rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. By the fall of that year I was declared in remission. Healed and thankful for it, I anticipated getting back to the story set aside months ago. I missed writing. It was time. Only it wasn’t. By the following year, 2000, my hair was growing back and I appeared to be a healthy 31-year-old woman. Actually I was a bewildered, frustrated writer about to give up on ever writing again—at least the kind of novels I’d written before the cancer treatment, and still wanted to write. I was experiencing chemo fog, a common side effect of treatment.

One of the themes in Burning Sky is redefining oneself after significant loss. Many of the characters in the story are on that journey, but Neil MacGregor, the Scottish botanist aided by Willa Obenchain, has a journey that in some respects mirrors my own. I mentioned I created Neil as the hero of a story different in genre and setting from the one he now inhabits. While the losses Neil suffered in that early manuscript are very close to what they are in Burning Sky—due to a debilitating head injury—the way in which I envisioned him responding to them was vastly different. That was before the chemo fog.

Here’s what chemo fog looked like for me: anything resembling concentration was beyond me; my memory for things like plot threads and character arcs was almost nonexistent; I couldn’t retain anything I read by way of research and had to keep reading the same material over and over. After a year or two of frustrated attempts, I reached the dispiriting conclusion that I was too damaged to write. A vital part of my identity was lost. For all I knew, forever.

But God was doing a work in me, a long-term work of submission and trust, of giving my heart’s desire to write (not to be published, simply to write) completely into His hands. I asked Him more than once to take away that desire. He didn’t. I continued to pray, and wait.

It would be April of 2004 before the fog lifted and I felt ready to attempt another novel. Along with working to regain the discipline of daily writing without pushing myself too hard, or letting it overwhelm me—still in a rather fragile mental state—I gave myself a crash course in Colonial, Revolutionary, and early Federal American history, having chosen this as the setting I wanted to write in. Three years later I completed that novel. I celebrated. Then I wondered… could I do it again—maybe a bit faster this time?

I looked around for a likely character, and there waiting for me was Neil MacGregor. He’d never been far from my heart, but my heart was well rooted in 18th century America now. Happily, Neil made the transition. As I began writing a new story for him to inhabit, I found I’d gained a different outlook on Neil’s losses and challenges. God hadn’t taken away his heart’s desire to be a botanist, even as He didn’t take away my passion to write when the ability was absent. But Neil is no longer the defeated, self-pitying character I originally allowed him to be. He is aware of the challenges that stand between him and his goals. At times he still struggles. Yet he possesses a faith that’s been refined through loss and a subsequent submission to God’s will. He’s not afraid to step out in his calling, and trust that God is going to supply his lack. It’s been a blessing to watch my own journey reflected in his.

While I was writing Burning Sky, I was submitting my work again, this time to literary agents. I signed with my agent in 2010. My first offer for a contract came in December, 2011, twenty years after I sat down with pen and paper to see if I could write a novel. I signed that contract on March 26, 2012, thirteen years to the day I heard that word cancer.

My brain still isn’t as sharp as it was pre-chemotherapy. Perhaps it never will be (I’m not getting any younger). But when I consider the fact that I’m writing at all, I know it’s not by my strength, but God’s (Philippians 4:13). I’m thankful each day for the strength, time, and mental acuity He’s lent me to get these stories out of my head and onto the screen. 

God’s timing and path are right for each of us on this writing journey—any journey in life. Looking back, that path for me was long, with detours I didn’t want to make at the time. But it was the right path. I wouldn’t change it now. 

Author Bio

Lori Benton was born and raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American and family history going back to the 1600s. Her novels transport readers to the 18th century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history, creating a melting pot of characters drawn from both sides of a turbulent and shifting frontier, brought together in the bonds of God’s transforming grace.

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Link to the first two chapters of Burning Sky: http://www.multnomahemails.com/wbmlt/pdf/BurningSky_2ChaptExcerpt.pdf

Social media links:

Website: http://loribenton.blogspot.com/

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLoriBenton#

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/lorilbenton/

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Lori has generously agreed to give away a signed print copy of Burning Sky. Leave a comment to enter, and one winner will be randomly drawn from the comments. Contest limited to USA residents. Don’t forget to include an email address so you can be notified if you’re the winner.