I was listening to a Neil Gammon book the other day and I thought, I wish we had more writers like him. Then I remembered Shawn Smucker. His book fit that category very well. Super natural, stretch the imagination, adventures. (It isn’t an actual genre, but it should be.) The Day the Angels fell was one of my favorite books from last year and the sequel to it, The Edge of Over There, is even better. I read my copy of it in one day while on vacation. I just couldn’t put it down, I had to know what happened.
Shawn draws you into his stories because of how he can use the English language. His phrasing, his word pictures create a world that we know doesn’t and cannot exist, but in our hearts and imaginations we want it to be true. By the end of the book, we know it can be true.
Abra is once again in pursuit of the Tree of Life. At 16 she heads to New Orleans because a woman who looks like a person from Abra’s past tells her that is where she will find the tree. Will she find the tree in time to destroy it, before it is used for evil?
Abra and the other characters that you meet will become your friends, ones that as you close the back cover you will wish lived in your house and you never had to say good bye to them. I loved Abra in the first book and found her more interesting and intriguing in this one. She is complex, fascinating, and strong. Not perfect, but she knows what she is called to do and follows that calling. She is the type of character I was looking for when I was a teen. One that didn’t need to be rescued, but was able to work alongside others to reach her goal. I am not ready to say good bye to her quite yet.
Breathtakingly fresh, Shawn Smucker is going to be an author that will be on the top of everyone’s must read list. I can’t get enough of them and am eagerly awaiting the next one.
Hard to believe it is 4th of July week. With the holiday on Wednesday it is a strange work week, but I plan on enjoying the holiday. Probably mostly reading.
King’s War – Jill Williamson – One battle is over, but the war has just begun. The Kinsman remnant escaped the Five Realms and have found a home, but peace is much harder to find. The aftermath of the Battle of Sarikar should have been a time to mourn those lost in the slaughter. The enemies of Armania are many, however, and when one steps back to regroup, another surges forward in attack. While the remnant must take responsibility for the evil they brought to Er’Rets, it would seem that something just as dark already existed in this new world. The growing struggle between Armania and Barthel Rogedoth is but a pale reflection of a far more dangerous battle for the souls of humanity.
The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond – Jaime Jo Wright – For over a century, the town of Gossamer Grove has thrived on its charm and Midwestern values, but Annalise Forsythe knows painful secrets, including her own, hover just beneath the pleasant facade. Yet her strange and sudden inheritance of a run-down trailer home–full of pictures, vintage obituaries, and old revival posters–leaves her wholly unprepared for how truly dark and deadly those secrets may be. A century earlier, Gossamer Grove is stirred into chaos by the arrival of controversial and charismatic twin revivalists. The chaos takes a murderous turn when Libby Sheffield, while working at her father’s newspaper, receives an obituary for a reputable church deacon hours before his death. As she works with the deacon’s son to solve the crime, it becomes clear that a reckoning has come to town–but it isn’t until another obituary arrives at the paper that they realize the true depths of the danger they’ve waded into.
River to Redemption – Ann H. Gabhart – Orphaned in the cholera epidemic of 1833, Adria Starr was cared for by a slave named Louis, a man who passed up the opportunity to escape his bondage and instead tended to the sick and buried the dead. A man who, twelve years later, is being sold by his owners despite his heroic actions. Now nineteen, Adria has never forgotten what Louis did for her. She’s determined to find a way to buy Louis’s freedom. But in 1840s Kentucky, she’ll need all of the courage and strength she possesses–and more.
Minding the Light – Suzanne Woods Fisher – #2 Nantucket Legacy – Six long years ago, Captain Reynolds Macy sailed away from his bride, looking forward to the day when he would return to Nantucket Island with a ship’s hold full of whale oil. But when that momentous day finally arrives, Ren soon discovers that everything has changed in his absence. Everything. Unlike most islanders, bold and spirited Daphne Coffin doesn’t defer to Ren as an authoritative whalemaster, but sees through his aloofness to the aching heart beneath. She encourages him to return to his Quaker roots and “mind the Light,” finding solace in God and community. As Ren becomes the man she believes him to be–honorable, wise, faithful–she finds herself falling in love with him. But how can she, when her heart is spoken for?
Last but not least the 4th page of my summer reading list. It has been fun to check out all the first lines of all the books. Some made me want to jump right in and see what happened next and others quietly invited me in. So which ones are you reading?
An Extra Mile – Sharon Garlough Brown – contemporary – #4 Sensible Shoes series – In the three weeks since her mother’s death, Becca Crane had learned one thing about grief: there was no predicting what might trigger a deluge of emotions.
The Edge of Over There – Shawn Smucker –fantasy – (releases in July) – (prologue) – Abra could almost feel the rain, even though it was only a dream.
The House on Foster Hill – Jaime Jo Wright – suspense – Death had a way of creeping up on a soul, and Ivy Thorpe was determined that when it visited her, she would not be surprised.
Hurricane Season – Lauren K. Denton – contemporary – She usually stayed in bed until at least six, but this morning she was restless, like animals get when the barometric pressure drops before a storm.
The Man He Never Was – James L. Rubart – contemporary – Toren Daniels rolled over in bed and the light pierce his closed eyelids, which meant five a.m. had come and gone.
Until We Find Home – Cathy Gohlke –WWII – Lightning crackled, splitting the night sky over Paris, illuminating the letters painted on the bookstore window across the street: La Maison des Amis des Livres.
Loving Luther – Allison Pittman – historical – My father always told me if I never took a sip of wine, I’d never shed a single tear.
Blind Spot – Dani Pettrey – #3 Chesapeake Valor – romantic suspense – Luke crouched behind an orange shipping container, dreading to think what it held.
Steal Away Home – Billy Coffey – contemporary – We cross the river when I see in the rearview that the cabbie has something to say to me.
The View from Rainshadow Bay – Colleen Coble – #1 A Lavender Tides Novel – romantic suspense – The wind blew her long black hair across her face and obscured her vision as she ran through the lavender fields, the sweet aroma mixing with her perspiration.
I am so excited to have Bethany Turner guest blog today. She is going to talk about her experience writing. What a story to tell.
I meet Bethany and her sister at the Fiction Readers Summitt and the first thing I noticed was her sense of humor. The second? Her honesty. What you see is what you get and it is wonderful. I am so honored to count her as a friend, one who will always be honest and that usually means laughter will follow shortly after. Thank you for that Bethany.
Thank you Bethany,
You guys, I just have to say…I’m pretty sure Chris Jager could ask me to pressure wash her house for her during a hurricane, and I’d do it. I’d at least give it serious thought and make some calls to see if my insurance covers that sort of thing. So, obviously, when she asked me to write a blog post, it was a no-brainer. You mean I don’t even have to wear my galoshes? I’m in!
She asked me to write a little bit about my experience as a debut author. Let me tell you, that’s something I love talking about, because when I am forced to look back over the past several months—even the past several years, really—I see God in all of it. It’s overwhelming, really. But first, a disclaimer. I am a debut author, but technically I’m not a debut author. Make sense? (Of course it doesn’t.) A few years ago—five? six?—I self-published a story which in many ways was a 300,000ish word creativity brain dump during the most stressful time in my life. I didn’t have an editor or even a proofreader, and certainly not a cover designer or a formatter. Those books are still out there and not hard to find, but I don’t promote them (and I believe I’ve sold approximately eleven copies, if you don’t include copies purchased by my family). They aren’t Christian Fiction (but they’re not horrible), and they aren’t where my passion is. However, they unearthed this love for writing—a need to write—that I hadn’t known was in me. I’m not sure it was in me before…but it certainly was after.
And that’s where my “debut author” story begins. I had ambitiously (and naively) sought publication for those first books before I self-published. In fact, I was rejected by agents and publishers 74 times. Yep. Finally, I self-published, absolutely convinced literary megastardom was just around the corner. Obviously, it wasn’t. So when I wrote The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, and I started to believe the story actually had some potential, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to self-publish. With self-publishing, I knew I couldn’t do it justice. (By the way, I am in no way putting down self-publishing. I’m just putting down self-publishing the way I did it. I was clueless, uneducated, and impatient.)
Long story short, I submitted my proposal to a manuscript submission service called Writer’s Edge, they accepted it for their list, and thirteen days later, I was contacted by Revell. I didn’t have an agent, manuscript submission services “don’t work”, rom-com isn’t exactly the most successful genre in Christian Fiction, and I broke all sorts of unwritten rules of Christian Romance. I’d never taken a writing class, never been to a conference, and *GASP* I’d never even read a Christian Romance. Not a single one. (I have since then. Don’t worry.) I did everything wrong. Every. Single. Thing.
Suddenly I was being offered a contract for this little book I had written. That was back in 2015, and The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck wasn’t scheduled for release until October 2017. It was a one-book deal, so I had no obligation to write anything else. I had more than a year of…nothing. And let me tell you, a year is an awfully long time to let your brain run away with itself. I was still clueless, uneducated, and impatient, but I figured I could do something about at least one of those things. (Not the impatience, certainly. Still struggling with that one…)
I began learning everything I could about Christian Fiction. I read Christian Romance, I joined writer groups and reader pages, I reached out to complete strangers and introduced myself, and
begged them to pour their wisdom into me, I went to conferences, I got an agent. I educated myself, and before too long, I wasn’t completely clueless. And here’s the thing: I learned a lot about myself during that time, but I learned even more about this incredible community of people who love Christian Fiction—those who write it and those who read it. It honestly seems too good to be true, sometimes, to be a part of this community.
I came up with crazy ideas for promotional videos, and authors who had never heard of me agreed to play along. Authors like Becky Wade, Liz Johnson, Kristin Billerbeck, Katie Ganshert, and so many others. Authors who had been around and paid their dues, and who had already written bestsellers and won awards. Readers who had never heard of me (of course!) joined my street team and became so much more than book promoters. They became friends. The generosity of this community never ceases to amaze me, and I never take it for granted.
Then the book came out, and the response was, well…mixed. Some people really love it, and I am so grateful for that. But some people have had some major problems with it. And that’s fine. I get it.
Well, okay…I don’t really get it. But I’m not all that surprised. Because I’ve educated myself. Because I now know that I broke some unspoken rules. Because some people aren’t ready for my type of storytelling. I also understand that some people just don’t like the way I write, or don’t like the characters and the story, or it’s just not their cup of tea. That’s okay, too. But the biggest pushback hasn’t come from those readers. The biggest pushback has come from readers who contacted readers who did like it, and who had the audacity to question the moral integrity and spiritual maturity of those who gave the book a good review. (Yes, that actually happened. Don’t get me started.) Thankfully, the people who hate my book that much seem to be a mercifully small group, but when you write a book which represents your heart, and which is the result of so much prayer and communion with the Lord, it still hurts.
The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck was recently awarded the 2018 Selah Award for Contemporary Romance. It has been named a finalist in a couple of other contests. Some readers have said amazing things in their reviews, and all of that has been so amazing. Absolutely overwhelming. I’m blessed beyond measure. I’ve gotten to visit with readers who got a much-needed laugh from the book, and with readers who felt convicted about setting boundaries in their relationship, after reading about how Ben and Sarah navigated the waters in their relationship. And I’ve heard from readers who picked it up though they’ve never read Christian Fiction before, including agnostics. A seed has been planted with those readers…even though they picked it up for the very reason other readers have hated it. I wish I could say that’s why I wrote this book. For moments like that. But truthfully I never could have imagined that those moments would ever occur.
I wrote this book because I had a story to tell, and I’m writing more books because I have more stories to tell. Revell will publish the next one in the summer of 2019. It’s the story of Cadie and Will, and I am chomping at the bit to tell you more about it, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I’m
going to keep educating myself, try to be a little less clueless, and maybe even work on being more patient.
But I’m probably going to keep breaking the rules.
(Chris here, Can’t wait to read the next one Bethany. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. Happy Reading)