Rachel Magee’s Path to Publication

Today I’m excited to have Rachel Magee here, sharing her Path to Publication story. Without further ado, here’s Rachel…

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Rachel Magee author photoIt’s hard to say when I started writing because I don’t remember not writing. As early as elementary school I was scribbling stories on notebooks in my free time. I wrote my first novel length book when I was twelve and entered it in a contest for young writers. I would make my friends plot out stories with me and spent hours curled up with my favorite pen and trusty spiral notebook.

But never during any of that time did I ever consider being a published author. To me, published authors were superheroes, the rare elite who were predestined to be famous and possessed special super writing powers. I was just me. My stories weren’t special. I wrote them because I couldn’t not write them, because my happy place was in front of a computer making characters come alive.

Then, one day my husband was transferring files to my new computer and asked if I ever thought about trying to get them published. I told him my superhero theory, to which he responded with a simple sentence that changed the way I thought about my writing.

“Every published author started out unpublished.”

Huh. So I decided to give it a shot. That week, when I was at the public library with my kids, I checked out three books on how to write and publish a novel. There were so many words I didn’t know it made my head spin. Critique partner, beta readers, query letters, synopsis writing. I had a lot to learn!

About a year after that, I sent out my first query letter. Daily, I checked my email in eager anticipation of my future as a published author. It should come as no surprise to anyone in the writing community that the answer to that first query was no. Along with the responses to a whole lot of queries after that. But because my kids were watching me go through this journey, I wasn’t willing to give up. I wanted to be the example of working hard to achieve your goals not the example of throwing in the towel when it got hard. Although between us, it was much tougher than I had imagined.

One day, my critique partner told me about a publisher she’d heard of who would be a perfect fit for me. Then she called every day after that to see if I had submitted to them. I finally did it just so she would talk about something else. And guess what? That publisher offered me my first contract!

I can’t describe the day I got the final galley of Happily Ever Afters. The book was so beautiful with the fancy cover, the real copyright page, and my name in big letters on the front. As it turned out, published authors weren’t superheroes. They were people like you and me who had stories in our heads and the persistence to see our dreams to fruition. And maybe we have a dash of super powers, too. After all, every book holds a little bit of magic.

Happy writing, friends.

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Lainey Stratton does not fall in love with strangers she meets on vacation. It simply doesn’t make logical sense. So when Lainey meets Carter Thompson on the first day of her Caribbean vacation, she knows it could never amount to anything more than a crush.  At the end of the vacation she will return to Dallas and he will return to DC, and that will be the end of it. Well, unless he wants to join her at a friend’s destination wedding, which would be considered vacation too, right?

But when an unexpected tragedy sends Lainey’s logical world spiraling out of control, she realizes her vacation crush might be the only one who can help her pick up the pieces of her shattered life.  That is, as long as she can get out of the way of her own happiness.  And as long as Carter’s past doesn’t catch up with him before she gets a chance.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble   

Ibook

About the Author:

Rachel wrote her first novel when she was twelve and entered it into a contest for young author/illustrators. Unfortunately, the judges weren’t impressed with her stick figures. So she dropped the dream of becoming a world famous illustrator and stuck to spinning stories. When she’s not busy working on her latest book, she loves to travel with her family and friends. By far, her favorite destination is the beach, which tends to work its way into most of her stories.

Between vacations, you can find her at home in The Woodlands, TX with her wonderful husband, their two adventurous kids and a couple of spirited pets, all of whom share Rachel’s love of the ocean. Well, except the cat and dog. They’re both afraid of water. Find out more about what Rachel has been up to at rachelmageebooks.com.

Connect with Rachel:

Website: rachelmageebooks.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/rachelmageeauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rachell_magee

Google +: https://plus.google.com/u/2/100755997821645118769

 

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Laurie Germaine: Path to Publication

Today I’m excited to host fellow Clean Reads author, Laurie Germaine! She’s agreed to share her Path to Publication story. Without further ado, here’s Laurie…

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It was during those bliss-filled days in elementary school when I declared I wanted to become a published author by the time I turned forty. I don’t feel my path to publication got underway, however, until after I graduated from college, when I could give writing the focused time and attention it deserved. Of course, then I got married, had children, and got my butt whipped by postpartum depression. Despite my long-time faith in God, I sank into a cycle of negative thinking and vicious self-talk, and though I wrote as often as I could, those chains of bondage paralyzed me from ever moving my stories beyond my laptop.

Several times over the ensuing years, I would try not to write, but fail miserably—kind of like trying not to breathe and then realizing you need that life-giving gulp of air. What could I do but persist at the craft, shuffling my way down the path, my chains dragging behind me. At last, I wrote “The End” to one of my WIPs, an inspirational romance that had taken years of time, energy, and tears to write—or rather, to perfect. I set about querying some agents and publishers, but soon encountered a new problem: I was exhausted. I had grown weary of my story and its characters, and in my attempt to gain perfection with words, I had lost my joy for using them.

So, I did something I never thought I’d have the courage to do and set aside the manuscript I’d agonized over for so long. It was time to write a story just for me. Something that would renew my delight for crafting a good tale. Something fun and uplifting, that would make me giggle and, yes, give me warm fuzzies.

At the time, the holidays were approaching, and I yearned to read a Christmas story that wasn’t written for a six-year-old. I wanted the fantasy fun of Santa and his elves, but I also craved the depth of a 300-page novel. And romance. It had to have romance. When I couldn’t find anything that met those specifications, I decided to write what I wanted to read.

Long ago, my mom had given me a 1000-piece puzzle depicting Dept 56’s North Pole Series, and my imagination had been enamored with it ever since. Using the picture as a visual jumping-off point, I began brainstorming my Christmas story in February of 2013, when an ACFW online course helped me nail down and flesh out the characters. It went through four drafts over the next two and a half years, at which point I was willing to subject it to critique partners via ACFW. By the spring of ’16, with draft #5 in hand, I geared up to blaze a querying trail through the summer, determined to pitch Tinsel in a Tangle to at least 30-35 agents and publishers before taking a break and switching tactics.

I had some initial interest in the story, followed by plenty of rejections, and then there came a one-two punch in October of ’16 with Stephanie from Clean Reads offering me a contract—wahoo!—and another publishing house asking to see my full manuscript. If they accepted it, this publishing house would put my novel in brick and mortar bookstores, as well as online, so I took the extra time to see where that might go.

In the end, like the few other bites I’d gotten, the publishing house passed on Tinsel because its Christmas theme created a limited sales window in any calendar year. By then, I realized such were the breaks for an unknown, wannabe author with a slim-to-none platform trying to pitch a Christmas novel. This has made me all the more grateful to Clean Reads for giving me the opportunity to share my quirky, beloved characters beyond my circle of friends and family. And kudos to Amanda from AM Designs for an amazing cover. She captured the fun, flirty, light-hearted tone of the book perfectly, and I smile every time I see it.

So. Eighteen years. That’s how long it’s been since I graduated college and made writing one of the top priorities in my life. A longer journey than others—longer than I’d like—but God had some work to do in me. And while I haven’t fully routed the negative self-talk, I do treat myself far kinder than I used to.

But you know what’s my big take-away from this path to publication? God’s attention to detail. A few years ago, I had accepted the fact it was unlikely I’d make my published-before-forty goal, but God never forgot the desire of my heart. Just a few weeks before I turned the big 4-0, I signed the contract with Clean Reads. And on Tinsel’s release day, I’ll still be two months’ shy of forty-one. 😉

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Book Summary:

In the arctic town of Flitterndorf, generations of elves have worked alongside generations of Kringles to make gifts for believing children worldwide. Never have they endured a tall, blundering elf like Tinsel, however.

Despite her setbacks, Tinsel’s determined to prove her worth by nabbing an internship at the Workshop. But when her latest mishap destroys gift reserves and puts Christmas in jeopardy, she lands a punishment mucking reindeer stalls for Santa’s hotshot grandson, Niklas. If she wants a second chance at that internship, she must collaborate with the twinkle-eyed flirt to redeem herself in everyone’s eyes—and do it without messing up. For one more calamity will not only bring about the holiday’s demise, she’ll be immortalized as the elf who shattered children’s faith in Santa Claus. 

So not the way she wants to go down in history.

Buy Links:

Amazon           Barnes and Noble         iTunes

Author Bio:

As a New England native who once dreamed of raising her family in Europe, Laurie is a walking testimony to God’s sense of humor, since she now lives (quite happily) in Montana with her husband, two daughters, and their lovable Alaskan Malamute.

Though she’s been crafting stories from a young age, she found renewed joy once she combined her year-round love for Christmas with an unused BA in German, and the seed was sown for her debut novel, Tinsel in a Tangle. Prompted by God, she is donating all proceeds she receives from the sale of this book to helping girls rescued from sex trafficking. When she’s not immersed in her latest WIP or honing important life skills as a stay-home mom, you can find her knitting anything from clothes to toys, or creating dioramas for her 16-inch poseable dolls.

Social Media:

Website:          lauriegermaine.com

Blog:                scatteredwhimsy.com

Facebook:        facebook.com/lauriegermaineauthor

Twitter:           twitter.com/LaurieGermaine

Pinterest:         pinterest.com/lauriegermaine

 

Dana Romanin’s Path to Publication

Today Dana Romanin has stopped by the blog to share her Path to Publication story. Without further ado, here’s Dana…

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SONY DSCYou’ll read in my bio that when I was little I would sit under a grove of forsythia bushes and pretend that I was Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I did sit under the bush with ants crawling on my leg and dream of being a writer. But, dear reader, that’s all I did—dream.

I rarely wrote. I spent most of the time dreaming about what it would be like to be a writer.

When I actually tried to write under that forsythia bush, I was rudely ripped from my pretend Anne world with the cruel reality of how difficult writing can be.

But I still dreamed of writing.

I wrote stories, rewrote the endings of books, and continued stories long after I finished reading them—in my mind.

This went on throughout my high school years and soon it was time for me to head to college. I got into Virginia Tech.  Since I only seemed capable of writing in my mind I thought it best to get a degree in business. I decided to major in marketing management and minor in psychology. Little did I know at the time how much those majors would actually help me in my writing career.

After college, I was an analyst for a consulting firm in Washington D.C. I remember one day when one of my managers complimented me on my writing skills. To me, that was one of the best compliments I could have gotten. Even if it was about testing a new billing system for a major telephone company. I yawned just writing that last sentence.

I got married and jumped at the chance to work from home as a sales engineer. I sold fixtures to manufacturing plants to test circuit boards. Huh. What happened? I dozed off there for a second.

But I still dreamed of writing.

Writing a book seemed impossible. I’d start a book. Then stop in exasperation. It was just too doggone hard.

After having my first child, I quit my sales engineer job because it involved a lot of travel and did I mention it was boring? Anyway, I settled in to be a stay-at-home mom.

But I still dreamed of writing.

I started taking an at home course on writing children’s books. But I stopped. It was too time-consuming.

And then I got involved with helping out with my church’s youth group. And, dear reader, teens are in a world of hurt.

Fast forward about ten years, three kids, way too many pets, a bazillion youth group meetings, and I finally found my “why.”

Why I wanted to write. And that made all the difference.

You see before I was writing for myself. But about six years ago, I discovered that I wanted to write for teens. To make them happy. To make them smile. To give them hope.

Once I discovered my “why” nothing would stop me. I attended conferences. I read every book I could on writing. I got involved in a critique group. Entered contests. Started a website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Wattpad. Basically, I went social media crazy. But most importantly, I focused on developing my writing skills.

I no longer dreamed about writing. I actually wrote.

It took about six years of writing, critiquing, social media frenzy, and going to conferences until I finally caught my break. I entered one of my books, Abby’s Letters, in the ACFW Genesis Contest and it semi-finaled. Soon after, I got my agent, Cyle Young, and my contract at Clean Reads publishing for Abby’s Letters.

My story isn’t over, of course. I still have a lot of writing to do. But now that I know my “why ” I’m not going to stop—not while there are young adults out there in this world who could use a laugh or even a good cry.

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Abby’s Letters Back Cover Copy:

For years, Jane’s mom told her horror stories about her time spent in foster care. Now she’s determined to keep her little sister from suffering the same fate.

Seventeen-year-old Jane Sanders has had to take care of her alcoholic mother and little sister, Abby, since her dad died seven years ago. And now Mom had to go and die too. Authorities determine it was a homeless transient who died in the fire of the old manufacturing plant, but Jane knows the truth.

There is no way she’s going to let Abby go into foster care which leaves her with one option—fake her mom’s life. As far as Abby knows, their mom is in rehab. And Jane wants to keep it that way. She’d be eighteen in a few months then she could become legal guardian to her sister. With the help of her best friend, Clark, it should be easy, right?

Juggling nosy neighbors, a concerned school counselor, and an oblivious new boyfriend turns out to be harder than Jane thought. But the real problem begins when Abby starts writing letters to Mom. Through Abby’s letters, Jane sees a different side to their mom—a side she could have loved. And loving Mom is something she didn’t plan on. Because loving somebody makes it harder to ignore their death.

Buy Links:

Amazon

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Endorsements:

“Heart-wrenching, beautiful, and complex, Abby’s Letters is an exquisitely written treatise on mother-daughter relationships, forgiveness, and love. Romanin skillfully tells this fragile family’s story with tenderness and grace, highlighting the interplay of a young woman’s painful past, uncertain future, and unflinching sisterly devotion. Each moment in this novel is a treasure shaped by masterful prose and lyrical storytelling. Do not miss this book. This is a story that should be read by anyone who is a mother or who loves one.”

–Megan Whitson Lee, author of Suburban Dangers and the award-winning novel, Captives.

“Dana Romanin’s debut novel is a poignant tale of love and lives lost, and one girl’s attempt to keep what’s left of her family together, despite all the odds. A wonderful and thought-provoking read.”

–Diana Sharples, young adult author of Running Lean.

“Dana Romanin debuts on the YA scene with a heartfelt story of holding on, letting go, and growing up. I was immediately invested in the characters and was hooked from the beginning until the very end. Romanin has a fresh, authentic voice that delivers for YA readers of any age.”
–Nicole Quigley, award-winning author of Like Moonlight at Low Tide

 

Author Bio:

Dana Romanin has dreamed of being a writer since she was a little girl pretending to be Anne Shirley (from Anne of Green Gables). She used to write under a forsythia bush, but now she writes in a messy office that she shares with her sewing obsessed daughter.

Dana’s short story, The Silence of Sand, was chosen for adaptation into a short film performed by the Blue Man Group. Dana has also published short fiction for teens in Encounter—The Magazine and had a short story published in a Family Fiction anthology, The Story 2014. Her first novel, Abby’s Letters, releases in June 2017.

She lives in a small town near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia with her wonderful husband, three beautiful kids, and a lot of persnickety pets.

You can find her blog and awkward videos on her website http://www.DanaRomanin.com. She can also be found on Twitter (@DanaRomanin) and her Facebook fan page (DanaRomaninAuthor).

Path to Publication: Jennifer Froelich

Today’s Path to Publication post is by fellow Clean Reads author, Jennifer Froelich. Without further ado, here’s Jennifer…

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First TypewriterMy mom bought me a blue typewriter for my tenth birthday, not too long after I had hand-written a story about a group of kids who solved a mystery involving a rich old lady, a spooky manor, and a priceless diamond. With my new typewriter, I went on to write another story about a little girl who found a magical rainbow bridge outside her bedroom window, which she crossed to a secret island in the sky.

You might think I knew then that I wanted to be a novelist. I didn’t. I wanted to be a nurse, then a doctor, then, briefly, an NFL cheerleader. As I grew, my career goals constantly changed. I wanted to teach, I wanted to be an interior designer, then an architect. When I joined choir in high school I was good enough to imagine a career on the stage, but not good enough for those aspirations to last. After that, my love of sewing inspired an interest in fashion design, and I dreamed of an exclusive boutique with rich clients who wore my one-of-a-kind designs.

But when I graduated from high school, none of those fantastic ideas stuck. Instead, I decided I would be practical and chose a major that would lead to good money: accounting. It took me a couple of years to admit (out loud) that balancing spreadsheets was not for me. The idea of writing novels was starting to break free from my subconscious at that point, but I was still too practical to pursue it head on. Instead, I changed my major to journalism, reasoning that I could find solid work by writing, even if I wasn’t writing fiction.

I’m happy with the degree I earned. Because of my degree in journalism, I have been able to take on editorial jobs to augment my creative writing through the years. I also learned a lot of valuable research and interview skills, along with the rules of newsworthiness, which are great to consider, even when writing a novel.

After graduating from college, I immediately became a mother, which prompted me to take on those freelance writing jobs while I raised my kids. For years, I subcontracted for a Writer’s Digest book doctor: editing, proofreading, critiquing and ghostwriting for other aspiring writers. Seeing what worked (and what didn’t) for those writers was a great learning experience for me while I worked on my own fiction.

My debut novel, Dream of Me, is about two strangers who meet in shared dreams, which motivates them to try and find each other in the real world. The concept came to me after I had an odd dream myself and wondered if the person I dreamed about was somewhere else in the world, sharing that same dream. When I finished writing it, I shared it with my book doctor client and he loved it, so I started sending query letters to literary agents. I gave up somewhere after 100. Some of the agents were encouraging (great concept, keep trying, etc.) others just sent a form rejection letter without so much as a private address. (A letter beginning with “Dear author” is never something you want to pull out of your mailbox). So I put Dream of Me in a box and began to write another book.

I can’t remember why I decided to set my second novel in Mexico. But when I started researching the Copper Canyon and the legends of the Aztec people, I knew that’s where my story should take place. Eventually, I wrote Sacrifices, a story about two former lovers who are reunited as FBI and Mexican Federal agents, working together to find a serial killer who believes he is a reincarnated Aztec god. Ultimately, I changed my title to A Place Between Breaths, based on a marksmanship term that echoed themes in the story.

Right about that time, I was approached by a small publishing house looking for new titles. I was excited about the prospect, but wary of their inexperience. I decided to show them Dream of Me and see what they thought. They offered me a contract. Unfortunately, my wariness ended up being justified. I spent several months rewriting and editing my manuscript, only to have the owners close shop just as I was finished. I was devastated, but after crying and moping for a while, I thought: The book is done and edited. Why don’t I just self-publish it? So that’s what I did. I remember getting my first review, in which the reader wrote: “I was completely mesmerized by this book!” That’s still one of my favorite memories – reading a perfect stranger’s words, praising mine. I had readers! My book had fans!

After that, I tried to find an agent for A Place Between Breaths, but found that the publishing world had only gotten more difficult to navigate. Most respected agents had full client lists, and those who were seeking new talent were not interested in my suspense novel. After a few almost-but-not-quite-perfect connections, I decided to self-publish again. I had learned a lot from my experience with Dream of Me and the process went much more smoothly. Once again, I was getting great reviews and building a small, but loyal readership.

Marketing books while trying to write another one has always been the most difficult thing about this business, and that was no exception as I continued to try and sell Dream of Me and A Place Between Breaths while writing my third novel, Stealing Liberty. It didn’t help that this novel, in multiple ways, was going to be more challenging than the other two.

In the first place, I was breaking the rule of sticking with one genre: Stealing Liberty was going to be a young adult novel. It was also a dystopian story, which had already peaked in popularity with The Hunger Games and the Divergent series. Stealing Liberty needed to be a series as well, so what were the chances readers would care about three books, let alone one, if dystopian fiction was already on the way out? Add to that the fact that Stealing Liberty would feature a Christian character (which never, ever happens in popular mainstream fiction) and once again, I faced the possibility of writing a book that no one was interested in publishing.

But I had to write it. I loved the story, I thought it was important and relevant, and ultimately decided that even if I was faced with only self-publication again, it was something I had to see through. As I feared, when I finished writing it and began to query literary agents, I received multiple rejections.

Then one day, I got a call from Cyle Young at Hartline Literary. He was interested in the story, but wanted to make sure I was as serious about the work in front of me as I had been about writing the novel in the first place. We went through several rounds of edits together, focused entirely on the first three chapters (some of which I am almost convinced were designed to see how thick-skinned I was.) Keeping my cool and working hard paid off, though, and Hartline offered me a contract. After I signed, Cyle and his intern, Tessa Hall, worked with me to create a solid book proposal, which they sent out to every young adult publisher in the business.

Then came another round of rejections. Again, I learned how fluid the publishing world can be. Contracts are often offered because a story hits some specific niche that is hot right at that moment, be it pirates or princesses, androids, or shepherds (I made that last one up – the last book I read about shepherds was Far from the Madding Crowd – not exactly recent.) But regardless, the writing has to be impeccable and the subject, plot and characters exactly what those publishers are looking for at exactly the right time. As it turned out, I was right to be concerned about how my Christian character would be received. She was the only sticking point for every major publisher we approached – even the “Christian” ones, curiously, who are more and more pushing away from any mention of Jesus in favor of a simple clean-reading model.

But then Cyle received an offer from a small press called Clean Reads. The publisher said her intake reader called Stealing Liberty one of the best she had read. And since they were not scared away by my Christian character, we negotiated a publishing contract.

Stealing Liberty was released in June and the response has been fantastic. Readers love it, it’s getting great reviews, and I am in the process of writing the sequel. Along the way I’ve learned these truths about the publishing industry: First, writing is paramount. It has to be good in every way, just to get your foot in the door. Second, everything takes more work than you imagine it will: writing, editing, marketing, social media management – all of it. Third, there are millions of books out there to read – too many for any one person to read in one lifetime, which means yours – as amazing as it may be – will get buried under a pile of distraction. There’s no magic way to gain readers. You do it day by day, word by word, reader by reader.

But the payoff? Having readers respond so positively to your characters and story. Readersfavorite.com recently gave Stealing Liberty a five-star review. The reviewer wrote: “When I finished the novel, I wanted to give it a round of applause…”

That’s why I do what I do.

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When Reed Paine is sent to a secret detention school for teens whose parents are branded enemies of the state, he doesn’t expect to find friendship – especially after coming face to face with Riley Paca, a girl who has every reason to hate him.

But when Reed, Riley and a few others start reading the old books they find in tunnels under the school, they begin to question what they are taught about the last days of America and the gov-ernment that has risen in its place.

Then the government decides to sell the Liberty Bell and Reed and his friends risk everything to steal it – to take back their history and the liberty that has been stolen from them.

Buy Links:

Amazon        Barnes and Noble

About the Author

Jennifer Froelich’s new novel, STEALING LIBERTY, is now available from Clean Reads books. Readers praised her debut novel, Dream of Me, as well-orchestrated with outstanding imagery. Her second novel, A Place Between Breaths, was called a roller-coaster ride with enough twists and turns to keep everyone interested and awarded an Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest’s 23rd Annual Self Published Book competition. Jennifer worked for many years as a freelance editor and ghost writer before publishing her own work. She lives in Idaho with her husband, two children and a cat named Katniss.

Connect with Jennifer

Website

Twitter

Facebook

 

Brett Armstrong’s Path to Publication story

Today I welcome fellow Clean Reads author, Brett Armstrong, to share his Path to Publication story. Without further ado, here’s Brett…

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Path to Publication

My journey to being published really started when I was nine years old.  That was when, after years of reading books in the library, particularly history books, I decided to write a story of my own.  The result was an original story set in the last years of the Aztec Empire.  A slave from a rival people group was supposed to have been sacrificed, but escapes and blends into Aztec society, determined to get revenge.  Which he eventually did and overthrew the Aztec Emperor.  It was all handwritten and led me to write two “sequels” which followed the characters all the way to Hernan Cortes’ arrival and subsequent devastation of the Aztecs.  I say it was my first step to publishing, because after I finished part III in Aztec, I got a special folder, bound the handwritten pages in it, drew some cover art and even made up my own press name and put it on the back.  To nine year old me, I had written my first book and was pretty proud.

Over the next decade I kept writing stories as they came to me.  Some set in space, some horror stories, a western, whatever caught my imagination.  My English teachers and high school creative writing teacher were very positive about my writing and encouraged me to pursue it in college.  During my senior year, however, I was pretty much convinced there was no way I could be a writer professionally, and thought I should pursue a career in biomechanical engineering (I also did well in anatomy, art, and math). I found out West Virginia University, my college of choice, was going to have a program in biomechanical engineering through a newspaper article on it.  I went to Morgantown intent on following that path only to discover the biomechanical engineering program wasn’t a degree program yet and wouldn’t be for years.  It was only a modified mechanical engineering program with a certificate saying I had worked on biomedical topics while at WVU.  Seeing I was at a loss, a friend talked me into moving into computer engineering.  So for three years I prepared to be a computer engineer, even though I realized pretty quickly it wasn’t going to be my life’s passion. I don’t think I really contemplated that full on though until I had a blank space in my schedule for my first semester junior year and decided to take a creative writing class for fun.  Which it was. A lot of fun actually.  So much fun I took the next level course a semester later.

While in the second creative writing course I had a couple breakthrough moments writing-wise. The first came when I wrote a short story titled Destitutio Quod Remissio and had it critiqued by the class.  My professor called it “beautiful” and my classmates said it was “cinematic”, “epic”, and most importantly enthusiastically volunteered to help me turn the story into a novel.  That was the first and only time in any creative writing course I’ve been privy to that kind of sentiment.  Later in the semester I remember walking to my car after class, which was a fair distance, and just stopping in midstride.  My thoughts from the moment I’d left the classroom to that point had been fixated on writing.  I knew that with the semester ending soon, my writing would be as well and the thought was painful.  It caught me by surprise, though in retrospect it seems like I had always been building to it, but I realized I did not want to give up writing.  Writing felt different, far different from any other task I’d ever undertaken. Even subjects I enjoyed: history, math, and art, never made me feel the way delving deep into the fictional realm of story could. I often tell people, standing there I understood the statement attributed to 1924 Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell, “God made me fast.  When I run, I feel His pleasure.”  I haven’t been able to shake the feeling since.

My then fiancée graciously indulged and encouraged my newfound determination to pursue writing.  She read my first adult novel (still unpublished and a work-in-progress) and has supported me every step of my journey, even when the proverbial stack of rejection e-mails began piling up.  I read up on agents, publishers, query letters, and just about any and every of the myriad of topics related to getting a book into print to refine my pitches and queries.  Meanwhile, I graduated from WVU with my computer engineering and computer science degrees, and had a minor in creative writing along with the first thirty pages of the novelization of Destitutio Quod Remissio in hand. Within a year I had the completed manuscript and submitted it in the 2014 CrossBooks Writing Contest.  While I waited on the outcome of that contest I really started thinking about what life as a writer should look like for me and I decided that rather than going into writing full time, I wanted to be able to give back.  If God blessed me with the privilege to write for others I wanted to also be able to give from what I’d received.  So I decided I would keep working full-time at my new job as programmer analyst for the WV Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology and write in my free time.  In that way I could donate my book royalties to charity and mission work.

In April 2014, Destitutio Quod Remissio was announced as the winner of the CrossBooks Writing Contest.  I literally jumped up and down when I got the phone call. It was a national contest from an imprint of B&H Publishing Group/LifeWay (the publisher for Southern Baptist churches) and meant Destitutio Quod Remissio would be in print, receive a marketing and publicity campaign, and next year I’d get to be a judge on the next contest’s panel.  By October 31st, Destitutio Quod Remissio was on Amazon.  In spite of everything I’d read up that point on getting a book published, I had neglected to read up on what to do after you had a book in hand as an author.  Which for the record, I do not recommend.  I knew nothing of marketing, blog tours, street teams, book signings and festivals, any of that side of publishing. I was leaning pretty heavily on the publisher to market the book for me.  That was a mistake and a rather large one.  I did have a few helpful things happen, though even those I didn’t actively pursue, like getting a book signing at a local LifeWay store and having an article about me in my state’s biggest newspaper.  I’m still trying to find my way to where I should have been three years ago. Or a more positive way of looking at it is that I’m learning and making progress.

My road to being a published author also hit a major road bump when I found out just shy of a year after winning the contest that LifeWay had decided to close CrossBooks permanently.  In May my publisher was gone and had handed my book over to Thomas Nelson’s self-publishing imprint West Bow Press. Thankfully I didn’t have to pay to have it re-published through them, but all of the marketing from CrossBooks I had been depending on was gone.  DQR was back in print by my birthday in August, though a lot of my pride that came with it had been leveled. Which was a good thing.  Because instead of fixate on what I had done, I focused on other things.  A major portion of my focus went to my wife and our infant son.  He was born just after I found out about CrossBooks, so I really appreciated being distracted by waiting for a first smile, giggle, and figuring out this thing called tummy-time.

I also kept writing, which I think is really imperative.  I might be jaded, but I feel like a lot of the aspects of publishing (marketing, brand-building, etc.) are useful and necessary for an author to make it in the publishing world of today, but they also take a lot of a writer’s attention away from writing itself.  From the time CrossBooks disappeared to August 2015, I did a lot of writing. Over 100,000 words worth actually.  And most of it late at night and during nap times. It was during that period of defeat that I finished the bulk of a new novel which I called Day Moon. I had the idea for it about the same time I was finishing up school at WVU and working on Destitutio Quod Remissio, but had held off on writing Day Moon until late 2014.  That was when I decided to start writing it for my creative writing master’s thesis work.  I graduated in March 2015 with close to 40,000 words written and from March to August I wrote three quarters of the book and started on its sequel.  The whole thing was a huge shift for me, because I had quickly come to fancy myself a historical fiction writer and while history has its hand on the book, Day Moon pretty clearly is sci-fi and dystopian.

Breaking my genre bias has really took me back to my roots storytelling-wise. Day Moon was a strong reminder that telling a good story in the setting and style it needs to be told is the important thing, regardless of what genre it falls in.  Right now I’m at varying stages of completion on an epic fantasy, a speculative history, a historical, and a horror novel. My brief bout of being unpublished again helped me get some priorities straight, correct a bad direction I was going as a writer, and treat me to some humble pie, which really tastes better than one would think.

Round two in seeking publication I researched one-on-one meetings with agents and editors and some less conventional methods of proposing a book. I’m wretched at writing query letters.  Whatever development I’ve had in that regard is negligible and probably all in my head.  What I can do is speak about things I’m passionate about. When I can strip away a lot of the peripheral issues and just talk about writing or a particular story, I do much better.  So I decided to go to the West Virginia Writers Conference and the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in 2016 (the latter happened during my birthday that year so it seemed all the more appropriate). I also started looking into Twitter pitch parties, found four or so that seemed to work well for me and started writing pitches for Day Moon and my two other nearly finished novels.

Even if you never get the courage or opportunity to try face-to-face pitches or Twitter pitch parties, I would encourage every writer to go through the work of preparing for each.  It really helps you hone in on what the most basic elements of your story are and express them in a concise and poignant format. I never had to do that for Destitutio Quod Remissio and I regret that now, because I can see I’ve been much more effective at telling people about Day Moon in casual conversation, querying for reviews, interviews, etc. Before submitting a manuscript to an editor or agent, go through the work of making each kind of pitch and then see how big a difference it makes on the more conventional forms of queries.

I had some likes on most of my pitches for each book at all of the Twitter parties I participated in and submitted my manuscripts to a couple of publishers that were reputable (which is something to watch for in Twitter parties and in general, because not all of publishers are trustworthy; research is crucial).  While attending the conferences I got some really positive reactions to Day Moon’s premise from an agent and a couple editors but no firm commitments.  A couple weeks after the ACFW conference, I found an e-mail from Stephanie Taylor at CleanReads saying she wanted to publish Day MoonI had been interested in CleanReads for some time because I thought their covers were fantastic and knew they had a large selection of young adult books.  CleanReads just seemed like it would be a good fit for Day Moon. After looking into what other authors were saying about CleanReads on AbsoluteWrite and anywhere else I could find information, I decided to accept the offer.

It’s been almost two months since Day Moon was released and it still feels surreal sometimes.  It’s easy to get caught up in promoting, marketing, what is said in reviews, and comparing how my books are doing to books from other authors.  That can all be maddening to deal with, but at the same time, there are incredible moments.  I got to speak at the library I grew up attending as an author and just talk about writing in very pure terms. A man who taught creative writing for decades told me it was “brilliant”.  On another occasion, a woman let me know that after reading Destitutio Quod Remissio she had bought a copy for a loved one because he was going through hard passages in life and she thought the story might help him.

I don’t necessarily feel intrinsically special to be an author, but I do feel privileged to be a part of something special.  Fiction stories have a marvelous potential to get down deep inside someone and make a difference in how he or she faces reality.  To have started out as a nine year old boy with a homemade book and to now be able to really share stories with the world is truly a blessing. The road hasn’t been and still isn’t always smooth, but it is one I’m thankful to be traveling.

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In A.D. 2039, a prodigious seventeen year old, Elliott, is assigned to work on a global software initiative his deceased grandfather helped found.  Project Alexandria is intended to provide the entire world secure and equal access to all accumulated human knowledge.  All forms of print are destroyed in good faith, to ensure everyone has equal footing, and Elliott knows he must soon part with his final treasure:  a book of Shakespeare’s complete works gifted him by his grandfather.  Before it is destroyed, Elliott notices something is amiss with the book, or rather Project Alexandria.  The two do not match, including an extra sonnet titled “Day Moon”.

When Elliott investigates, he uncovers far more than he bargained for.  There are sinister forces backing Project Alexandria who have no intention of using it for its public purpose.  Elliott soon finds himself on the run from federal authorities and facing betrayals and deceit from those closest to him.  Following clues left by his grandfather, with agents close at hand, Elliott desperately hopes to find a way to stop Project Alexandria.  All of history past and yet to be depend on it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Brett Armstrong, author of the award-winning novel, Destitutio Quod Remissio, started writing stories at age nine, penning a tale of revenge and ambition set in the last days of the Aztec Empire.  Twenty years later, he is still telling stories though admittedly his philosophy has deepened with his Christian faith and a master’s degree in creative writing.  His goal with every work is to be like a brush in the Master artist’s hand and his hope is the finished composition always reflects the design God had in mind.  He feels writing should be engaging, immersive, entertaining, and always purposeful.  Continually busy at work with one or more new novels to come, he also enjoys drawing, gardening, and playing with his beautiful wife and son.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/brettarmstrongwv

Twitter:        https://www.twitter.com/BArmstrongWV

Pinterest:      http://www.pinterest.com/ChristianKid044

Website:       www.BrettArmstrong.net

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8281587.Brett_Armstrong

 

BOOK TRAILER:

 

BUY LINKS:

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J.N. Tomczak’s Path to Publication Story

Today J.N. Tomczak stopped by to share her Path to Publication story. Without further ado, here’s J.N….

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I wish to first thank Christi for having me as a guest on her blog and the opportunity to share my path to publication.

As it so happens, my journey had a bit of a “late to the party” kind of start.  But hey, better late than never, I always say, because I never in a million galaxies would have thought I’d pursue a career in writing.  My initial idea for EDENHART’S RIVALRY, the first installment in my High Fantasy/Adventure series, KINGDOM OF THE FAERIES, didn’t come until after I discovered my love for reading.  From the point I could learn to read up to seventh grade, I was reading in the wrong genre the WHOLE time!  I literally picked the easiest and most boring books in the school’s library, just so I could pass a stupid AR test.  I was a seventh grader, reading on a fourth grader’s reading level.  Compute that for a moment.  You can assume my comprehension skills were TERRIBLE—and they were!

But all of that changed the moment I picked up what would literally become my favorite book and what sparked my imagination.  I own the book, naturally, and it’s called THE LONG PATROL by Brian Jacques, one of many in the beloved REDWALL series.  For such a thick book, I read it in a day, and I was left breathless.  It astounded me that words on a page could make me feel so many emotions.  It made me laugh, it made me angry, it made me fearful and anxious, and it also made me cry.  And that’s when I wanted to write something that could connect with readers the same way this book connected with me.  And so four weeks later and three filled notebooks, my path to publication began.

Being only thirteen at the time, I was still immature and ignorant as to HOW to publish a novel.  And remember I said my reading comprehension skills were terrible?  Well, that included grammar.  The first draft was cringe-worthy and riddled with noob mistakes.  But that’s OK on a first draft.  They’re always crap, and if they’re not, well, aren’t you just a special, little snowflake I envy so much.  So I dedicated a few years learning about publication and how to query an agent.  I sent out only a handful.  The best rejection letter I received asked if I had any other projects to send them for consideration, since the one I sent wasn’t what they were looking for at the time.  Of course, I didn’t have any other finished manuscripts, so I had to move on.

So I spent all my time learning more about my craft instead of acquiring scholarships by the time I was in my senior year of High School.  My family didn’t have big expectations for me.  Whatever I wanted to do, they were there to back me up, and they knew this was my passion.  I kept notebooks filled with all my acquired knowledge, and I used that to polish up EDENHART’S RIVALRY, until I finally deemed it publishable.

And that’s when a fellow church goer and author friend of mine told me about her publishing company called Clean Reads and that they were currently seeking submissions from all genres.  I had this good vibe, and I decided to go for it.  It took a few months, but I was so relieved and thankful when the founder of Clean Reads and its chief editor, Stephanie, contracted me.  Besides my wedding day, it was one of the happiest moments in my life.

Overall, if you truly want to be a writer, you must first be a reader.  Learn from the best.  Study the craft enough, and I promise you, it WILL pay off.  It took me almost eleven years, but it was so worth it.  But you have to be patient and dedicated.  And this is with anything.  Not just writing.  If you truly want to be good at something, you have to take it seriously.  Is it possible to write a book in a day?  Absolutely!  But writing the story is the easy part.  What follows next really tests your strengths and weaknesses.  Remember: quality takes time and effort.  Publishing a book takes guts!

Currently, I’m waiting for the green light on EDENHART’S RIVALRY’S sequel.  But while I’m waiting, I’m working on an entirely new project at the moment—a reimagining of Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland, and I aim to have the first draft completed by the end of next month.  Wish me luck!

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A dark power is rising, and a kingdom is in dire need of a leader when the King of the Faeries falls in battle. Or so, that’s what they’re led to believe, but his only heir and daughter, Aurora, suspects murder.
But when she and her loyal friend Percy, the Captain of the Elite Guard, discover an ancient prophecy foretold by the enigmatic Faerie Sorcerers, Aurora finds herself an unwilling pawn in a dark plot that will threaten everything she holds dear.
Her courage and magic will be her greatest weapons if she hopes to succeed where all others have failed. But will she? Aurora must ask herself this very question: just how far is she willing to go to save her kingdom, and at what costs?

 

Author Bio:

Julianne grew up on a small farm in central Arkansas and now lives in Tucson, Arizona with her husband. When not writing, Julianne loves playing video games, listening to music, hiking, and binge-watching Falling Skies while eating non-nutritional food.

Author Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14918148.J_N_Tomczak

Website: http://jntomczak.weebly.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JNTomczak

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jntomczak/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/juliannetomczak/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/J.N.Tomczak/

J.J. Nite’s Path to Publication Story

Today J.J. Nite stopped by to share her Path to Publication story. Without further ado, here’s J.J.

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Author Photo2I first want to thank Christi for inviting me to be here today. It’s so exciting to tell people about my book babies!

According to my mother, I’ve been telling stories since I could talk. My father would come home and ask what we did that day and I would go on and on telling him about all the places Mom and I had been that day. We’d never left the house.

Eventually I put those storytelling skills to good use. I loved to write in middle and high school. During college and then when I started my career as a middle school teacher, writing fell by the wayside. Even though I had all of these great stories in my head, there didn’t seem to be time to write them down.

Fast forward to 2008. I had an almost 1 year old, a 2 year old, and a 3 year old. I was quite certain I was going to go crazy if I didn’t do something for me. Just for me! My life revolved around my family and while I loved them all, there comes a time when you need to put yourself first. Even if it’s only for 10 minutes a day.

That first day, I wrote one page and was so excited about it that I almost burst. After finishing that first novel, I researched how to get an agent and eagerly sent my queries out. Silence. That’s what I received. Nothing but crickets. Discouragement is a hard thing to get past, but I persevered and wrote my second book.

It wasn’t until my daughter started taking dance lessons in the fall of 2012, that my dream to see something I had created published would become true. Meeting Stephanie Tayler, owner of Clean Reads, was truly a God thing. Her daughter was taking the same dance class as mine and we began talking.

That, as they say, was the beginning of a wonderful journey. I have now published five novels with Clean Reads and I’m looking forward to many more.

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Seventeen year old Eden Malakim, Edie, thought her life couldn’t get any more complicated than it already was. She and her mother have moved so many times Edie has lost count. So when her mother insists they move again, Edie hopes it will be the last one.

Little does Edie know, this move will bring her face to face with not only a family she’s never met, but a future she didn’t know was possible. The stories of angels and demons from her childhood turn out to be all too real and Edie discovers she’s the answer to a prophecy as old as time.

Suddenly thrown into a world Edie didn’t know existed anywhere but in stories, she realizes everything is not always what it seems. Trying to determine what is real and where she fits in, becomes the least of her worries when someone begins attacking her. Will Edie discover her true purpose before it’s too late or will something more sinister win the day?

About the Author:

J.J. Nite lives in North Alabama with her husband, 3 kids, 2 dogs, and 4 goldfish. She writes young adult sweet romance for Clean Reads and loves reading as much as possible. J.J.’s also found that if she doesn’t write something every day, her mood is that of a bear waking from hibernation. Don’t worry though, the children have learned to let Mommy write a little before approaching.

 

Social Media:

Twitter: @jjnite

Instagram: @jjniteauthor

SnapChat: JJNite

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jjnite1

 

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