It happened back in… I think November. Maybe December. That time is kind of fuzzy for me. But I opened a new tab on my browser, typed in YouTube, and clicked on one of my subscriptions. Chantel Reads All Day. She’s a BookTuber who talks about all kinds of books, mostly clean reads, and always fascinating.
But Chantel also has a website. Over at Hey Reader, she has a goal to encourage people to “read their shelves.” After all, many of us have heaping gobs of unread books in our TBR (to be read) stacks, so anyone encouraging me to actually READ those books? Yes, please!
Well, this year, Chantel issued a reading challenge with prompts. One for each month. Things like “Quiet” for January and “Love in the title” for February. For May, she has “Read a new-to-you author.” So, I’m reading Heidi Chiavaroli’s The Orchard House. (Stay tuned for a giveaway on that below—and here are the books I’ve chosen for the challenge).
However, when she came out with the blog post and video (separate links) about this year’s challenge, I got an idea… What if I wrote a short story every month connected to that month’s prompt? Then that idea mushroomed. What if twelve people joined a book club and some unknown person hijacked it? That person created riddles and puzzles for the members to figure out. If they did it right, they’d all read the right book that month. If they didn’t, someone would die?
And I could make the answer to the riddles be the prompts from the challenge!
So I did. Yep… I did.
On the first and third Thursdays of the month (give or take… life does interrupt but I’ve been almost spot on every day so far) a new installment comes out.
It works like this. Readers read the story and can guess who is doing this and why all they like, but they need to guess the right book from the riddle/puzzle or someone dies. Because the book that gets the most suggestions/votes is the one the club reads. Basically, I’m at the mercy of the story readers!
So, hop on over to my blog and catch up. You’ve got about a third of a full-length novel for you right now. Lots of reading and maybe, just maybe, you’ll keep me from having to kill off someone!
And consider giving Chantel’s Read Your Bookshelf Challenge a go! You might just finish a few of those books you’ve been hoarding saving for a rainy day.
I mentioned a giveaway? Instead of giving away one of my books, I’m offering a copy (paperback or Kindle) of The Orchard House because… why not? Happy reading!
Have you ever encountered the metaphorical door closing in your face? What about the opposite? Instead of a door closing in your face, another opens to reveal opportunities you hadn’t expected to encounter.
The second happened to me last year and I’m still reeling a little from the change in direction.
It wasn’t a conscious decision on my part. I wasn’t actively praying for direction. I had everything planned out and was well on the way to knowing what I wanted to do with my writing for the rest of the year.
In fact, I’d already gotten a good start…
At the time, Kindle Vella was a very new thing. Readers hadn’t heard of it (at least not many) but it was being advertised among authors as the KV team tried to build a platform to present to readers. Many authors, myself included, were excited about this new opportunity. Stories published one episode at a time, earnings based on having those episodes (chapters) unlocked… a whole new experience for some of us, and possibly a whole new way of reaching new readers.
Fortunately for me, I already had an old, as yet unpublished story that just needed to be tweaked a little. So I set to work doing that.
I think I’d gotten about 9 chapters in by the time I took the coffee grounds out to throw over the fence late one night. It was almost Mother’s Day weekend and before I came back inside, I stood on the driveway for a little while looking up at the stars.
I’m not good at picking out the constellations, but I thought I’d located one or two. And I stood there watching for satellites and the lights of planes, all the while thinking about what I was looking at.
One word came to mind: Cassiopeia.
I came back inside and went about cleaning up the kitchen, but the name Cassie got stuck in my head. And then an idea formed, followed by a sentence.
The idea wouldn’t go away. So a night or two later when I was caught waiting on a kid with only my phone at hand I went ahead and set up my writing app and typed in those words.
My name is Cassie Brand, and I am here to tell you that running is the pits. Literally.
Well, actually, figuratively is more accurate, but it’s the worst possible pastime and that’s saying something.
That first sentence led to the next and the next, and the book practically wrote itself it happened so fast. Almost before I could catch my breath, the second book was sitting complete beside the first. And another idea had come to mind. So I started working on it.
I certainly hadn’t intended to write these books, they just happened.
But now I had a decision to make: Kindle Vella or romantic comedies.
Throughout all of this, I never once felt the Lord saying no to either option. I could have continued with the KV story and no harm would have been done. But at the same time it felt more like this other door had been opened to show me what was possible if I decided to change course.
So I did. After all, I already had two completed books in this new series, with more on the way. It seemed silly to even think of discarding them.
The first book in the series, Confusing Cassie, was published on January 4th. Then we hit a bit of a brick wall with the cover for the second one and ended up doing some rebranding—new cover designs and a new series title. At the moment poor Cassie is stuck with her original cover, but she’ll get a facelift soon. I’m hoping to hit publish on Accepting Andi sometime in early May. Loving Lissa will follow in September and Meeting Maggie in January.
Who would have thought that my writing career would change course simply because I took coffee grounds out to throw them over a fence that hasn’t been there for over twenty-two years and stopped to gaze at the stars on my way back to the house?
I’m a mess, but God can help.
I sit down at my desk that is perfectly positioned so that I can watch the tree outside my window bloom. It flowers before leaves form, so spring is it’s time to shine. Pressing the power button on my computer, I wait for it to load as I sip my second cup of coffee. With nothing left to do for the morning, I sit back and mentally prepare to write.
That’s when I notice that a book is out of place on my shelf.
That is when my scattered brain revs its engine and moves me about the room with rapid speed.
I go fix the book, turn back to my desk, and notice that my desk is on a funny angle. I fix it – three times. Then I see that by changing the angle I have cast my succulent pot in darkness and need to move it. As I make sure it has sufficient sun, I noticed May has begun but my calendar still says April. 😳 No wonder I lost track of time. I’m in the wrong month. I go to work fixing the issue.
By this point, two hours have past and its lunch time. After lunch, I take a twenty-minute power nap so that I don’t lose steam for the rest of the day because my afternoons are crazy with mom jobs.
There are things in my life that distract me easily and many times I struggle to bring things back around. Plans are made, schedules written and written again, and yet I never feel like I will ever catch up. But then I read a review or a reader reaches out and I am reminded why I write.
See, I believe each word a Christian author writes is inspired by something God has done in their life or scripture they have read. I also believe that what is brought to the forefront of our minds by the Holy Spirit is to be used to minister to some reader’s brokenness or doubt. Nothing I write is just for the pure enjoyment of the reader, or at least I try not to do that. The words on the page need to hold meaning of some sort that point people to a walk with Christ.
So, as I struggle each day to keep my mind on the task at hand, I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 10 verses three through five. It instructs believers to hold every though captive and submit it to the will of God. My thoughts and quirks that are related to my psychological struggles are always going to be there, but I know that if I submit them to Him that I can accomplish that which my publisher needs me to fulfill.
Now, you’re probably wondering why I’ve said all of this.
It’s to encourage you. Not just as a reader but maybe more so as a believer. When you read a lot of books, like many of us do, certain ideas tend to creep into our minds. We don’t even realize it happened until we’re caught in something that could be very damaging (as my last three articles have indicated). It is vital to our faith to spend time in the Word more-so than in the books we enjoy reading. By keeping our focus on Christ, it will be simpler to keep our thoughts on His precepts and not become discontent with life. Seek His ways and see yourself through the eyes of the Father so that you don’t fall under the pressure that others place on you.
“I am precisely who God created me to be and I need to learn to be content with those flaws while learning how to navigate my responsibilities in this fast-paced publishing world.”
Stacy T. Simmons
With the advent of May, fresh spring breezes remind me of how my maternal grandmother dried some of their laundry on the lines when I was a girl. It would snap on the line and my sister and I would “help” when we were little by pulling on the dry clothes. Sunshine and warmth made us giggle as a result, I’m not quite sure what my grandparents and parents thought of our actions. We’d travel by car or airplane from Florida to spend some of the holidays or parts of the summer with them. They lived away from downtown Tupelo, Mississippi, so their only neighbors were the birds, squirrels, racoons she fed table scraps from dinner at night.
In A Promise for Faith, I mentioned my maternal Grandmother Emma in the wedding scene, my memories with she and my Greece-born Grandfather Papou, were of delicious dinners with our extended family, laughter, stories, and always, a tablecloth below all the dishes.
Collections to me are attached to my heart, in the photo below are my Grandmother Inez’s and Great Aunt Pearl’s homemade aprons. I’ll don one of them when cooking Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving dinner. The other linens have been found in antique stores, several are from my sister-one she’d purchased for me while on her honeymoon in Italy.
It’s a connection to my past that’s tangible. Like Jesus’ love for us as He sent His Son from Heaven to Earth, the greatest gift we’ve all received.
No matter what comprises your collection, I hope you get to enjoy it frequently, that it makes you smile, and lights up your heart. Have a delightful month and enjoy the pretty weather. I’m headed out to capture some sunshine and maybe read a few pages from a manuscript I’m currently writing. Blessings, all!
Have you ever asked an author what they’re afraid of?
There are memes everywhere about this very thing.
We’re afraid of writing.
We’re afraid of NOT writing.
We’re afraid readers will hate our books.
We’re afraid no one will READ our books.
We’re afraid EVERYONE will read our books.
(I’m using the collective “we” here as in myself. If this is you, then you’re now part of my “we”. I’m sure that makes sense. Anyway. Let’s get out of the parentheses and back to the point.)
Here’s the big one that I’ve begun to notice. It came up in a group the other day, and I was rather surprised at how many people popped in and said, “Hey! This is me! How did you know?”
Are you ready?
We’re afraid of success.
Hold on. Don’t run off and tell Francine Rivers that I said she’s afraid of success. Maybe she is, but we’re not pointing fingers here.
You might be wondering how someone can be afraid of success.
It’s like this.
We spend days, weeks, months, sometimes years working on a story. We want it to do well, don’t get me wrong. We hope the world loves it. And you’re thinking, “Well, that’s not a fear of success! That’s a fear of failure.” And you’d be right.
But what happens once the book is out there?
You have to do it ALL. OVER. AGAIN!
And if you’re anything like me, you want to improve with each book. Which means you have to work harder, learn more, and push yourself to be better than before.
Success can mean any number of things. No doubt it differs from person to person.
Maybe successful to you is getting a book contract with a traditional publisher. If it is, that’s great!
Maybe it means finishing that manuscript that’s been hiding out on your computer for five years. If it is, then I beg you to drag it out and get to work. The world needs your story.
Until now, I’d never really considered what I considered success for myself. There are a lot of answers I could give. I have hopes and dreams for my writing journey. I’m sure every author does.
Right now, in this moment, success for me is doing my absolute best to level up my craft so that I never look back on the gift God allowed me to have and know that I could have tried harder.
It isn’t about writing as well as a certain author. Or selling as many books as another author. Those thoughts knock me out at the knees all the time, but they are not MY measures of success. Do I want those things? Yes. Total transparency here. Hopefully you won’t come running at me with pitchforks and torches. To me, those are different things. Those are my goals, things I hope to achieve someday, but they are not the end all, be all of my writing success.
Authors. What complicated creatures we are. From Shore to Shore is a work that takes fear into consideration. Each character has a deep fear that they must address before they can move on.
My question to you is, what one thing could you do today to help you be successful tomorrow? What do you consider success for yourself?