5 More Things I Wish I Knew When I Started

Dear younger me
I cannot decide
Do I give some speech about how to get the most out of your life
Or do I go deep
And try to change
The choices that you’ll make cuz they’re choices that made me
Even though I love this crazy life
Sometimes I wish it was a smoother ride       ~MercyMe

Two weeks ago, I wrote the post 5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started. I felt it was only appropriate to include the second verse of the song Dear Younger Me (which, by the way, is such a great song. Plus, since this is my blog, I get to make cool choices like that). Anyway, this post is a continuation, a second round of things I’d tell my younger self if I could.

*Don’t isolate because it’s hard to create in a vacuum. Many writers are introverts, spending lots of time in their head creating characters, settings, and plots. Get out and live a little. (Yes, it’s hard. As an introvert, I want to stay in my creative cocoon. But I see my writing improve when I expand my boundaries.)

*Writing is as much about platform and marketing as it is about actually writing. This is the one transition that happened when I wasn’t looking. I started writing in the 90’s, and then I took a break to have children. When I started writing again, suddenly there was plenty of buzz about platform and social media and marketing. But this is the new normal. I can’t tuck myself away at a country cottage, like Salinger or Dickinson. That doesn’t work anymore.

* Be content with where you are. It took many frustrating years before I became happy with where I was. It was during a Bible study where someone said, “You’re where God wants you to be. Don’t envy someone else’s life. They’ve got something that you can’t handle. Just like you have things in your life they can’t handle.” Knowing that piece of advice and knowing I’d always write, regardless of the outcome, helped me cope.

* Suck it up and pay your dues. There are very few people whose first manuscript is a best seller. I’ve written plenty of stories, poems, and three books in the in the past (the first book will never, ever, see the light of day). And that’s okay. I made lots of mistakes in those early books and learned a lot.

*Contests are excellent measuring sticks. Always choose the ones that give feedback, especially if you’re shelling out $20 or $25 dollars for an entry fee. I should’ve entered many more of those than I did.

Plus 1: Take care of yourself. This is something I’m still working on because balance is difficult, at least for me. Every job requires it, as well as sleep, healthy eating, and time to just unwind. The writing profession is no different.

What about you? Is there any piece of advice you’d give your younger self? Please leave it in the comments!

The Inspiration Behind Disowned: A guest blog post by Sarah Addison-Fox

Today, I’m pleased to welcome author Sarah Addison-Fox to Jilligan’s Island. Sarah has recently released her book, Disowned, and I thought everyone would like to know the inspiration behind it.

Read on to find out!

What Inspired the Story?

Yikes! Answering this question is really hard! Because I’m a ‘Panster’ and I really create what I write on the fly, Disowned really just sort of happened. I kid you not. I had an opening scene, two names, and a question I wanted to answer….


What would happen if a slave girl tossed away was shown a different life?


As soon as I asked this question, Celeste’s journey began with her introduction to a family willing to hide her even though harboring a slave would bring them trouble.

I wanted to show the differences between the two countries both with very different religious structures, one country that values human life, and another which traps slaves in an inescapable system.

So, I guess if I had to pin my inspiration down to one thing, it would be wanting to write about Celeste’s struggle for freedom, emotionally, spiritually and physically. For me Celeste represents so many girls who have been tossed aside, stepped on or mistreated. Celeste’s story is only beginning in Disowned, like so many she is searching for her place, and desperately trying to find value and purpose to her life.

Over the course of the Allegiance series, there will many trials as Celeste battles to find the freedom found only in God’s love.

Want to know more about disowned?
Two countries, two choices, one life. When Kyraenean slave Celeste risks her life to reach the free nation of Etraea, a country filled with technology and wealth, she unknowingly sets off a chain of events that will change her life forever.
After escaping her new owner, Celeste awakens in the home of an Etraean soldier, sworn to protect the fragile peace. For Corporal Mick Haynes, life is simple. Follow the rules, do your job and work your way up the ranks. Getting shot and finding a wanted slave at his family’s farm wasn’t part of the plan.
When a Kyraenean bounty hunter locates Celeste, Mick’s loyalty will be stretched to the limit.
With war on the horizon, Celeste faces two impossible choices. Both securing her freedom, but both at a cost she could never have imagined. Will Etraea provide the freedom she’s longed for or shackle her to an entirely new master?
Sarah Addison-Fox is a New Zealand-born home-schooling mother of two who
loves action-packed, clean, fantasy with strong heroines. She has an astonishing
amount of nail polish, has all her creative writing credentials shoved in a drawer
somewhere, and has a husband who, after 27 years, can still make her blush.
When she’s not working on both her YA fantasy series’ she can be found
fangirling on Goodreads or sending GIFs on Twitter.

Sarah Addison’s Official Website: http://www.sarahaddisonfox.com/

Social Media Links:
Instagram: sarahaddisonfox/
Twitter: @Saddisonfox
To Read more about Disowned, check out the Full blog Tour schedule!

Jan 2nd: Book Review – Unicorn Quester – https://unicornquester.com/blog/
Jan 3rd: Post Written by Host Blogger – SKG Fun – http://www.southkakalakigirl.com/the-blog/
Jan 4th: Guest Post from Author, Sarah Addison Fox – Teens n Tiaras – https://teensntiaras.weebly.com/blog
Jan 5th: Book Review – Ashley Bogner – http://www.ashleybogner.com/
Jan 6th: Author Interview – Karyssa – http://gottahavecoffee.blogspot.com/
Jan 7th: Post Written by Host Blogger – Anna –http://www.cupofthoughts.blog/
Jan 8th: Book Review Abigail – http://novelsdragonsandwardrobedoors.blogspot.com/
Jan 9th: Post Written by Host Blogger – Abi- https://theleft-handedtypist.blogspot.com
Jan 10th: Giveaway – Annie – http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.com
Jan 11th: Giveaway – Jaye – http://www.jayelknight.blogspot.com
Jan 12th: Book Review – Angel – www.purelyunorthodox.com
Jan 13th: Post Written by Host Blogger –  Anna – https://jumbledthoughtsofawriter.wordpress.com
Jan 14th: Book Review – Hannah – www.thedifferentgirl.com
Jan 15th: Interview – Kate –  https://onceuponanordinary.wordpress.com/  –
Jan 16th: Guest Post from Author – New Authors -https://newauthors.wordpress.com/
Jan 17th: Book Review – Audrey- http://audreycaylin.com/
Jan 18th: Book Review – Kellyn – https://reveriesreviews.wordpress.com/
Jan 19th: Guest Post from Author – Liv – http://livkfisher.blogspot.com/
Jan 20th: Author Interview – Medomfo –  https://writingsfromagodgirl.wordpress.com/
Jan 21st: Book Review – Victoria – https://rufflesandgrace.com/
Jan 22nd: Post Written by Host Blogger – Jebraun – https://jebraunclifford.com
Jan 23rd: Review – Chloe – https://purelybyfaithreviews.wordpress.com/
Jan 24th: Review – Kiara -kiarasbookends.wordpress.com
Jan 25th: Author Guest Post – J.M. Hackman – www.jmhackman.com
Jan 26th: Book Review – Lelia – http://www.leilatualla.com/leilasbookshelf
Jan 27th: Author Interview – Riley – rileyalinewrites.wordpress.com
Jan 28th: Review – Sarah – www.smylinggirl.blogspot.com
Jan 29th: Review – Shay –  www.elvenpadawan.com
Review – Jessi – https://theartfulauthor.wordpress.com/
Jan 30th: Guest Post from Author – Lands Uncharted- www.landsuncharted.com
Jan 31st: Spotlight Post – Raechel – https://godspeculiartreasurerae.wordpress.com/

5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Writing

Dear younger me
Where do I start
If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far
Then you could be
One step ahead
Of all the painful memories still running thru my head
I wonder how much different things would be         ~MercyMe

I’ve been writing for a long time, about fifteen years. And like the song Dear Younger Me, there are some things I wish I could tell my younger self, so I’d be better prepared.

  1. Don’t stop writing—ever. That condescending editor? I should’ve brushed off the criticism. The days when I didn’t have to write? I should’ve put my butt in the chair and written anyway. When things got hard and the criticism stung, I shouldn’t have slowed down, but instead pushed harder.
  2. Develop a thick skin. This one I’m still working on. I know words are only words. But whether it’s a bit of untrue gossip or a scathing review, these are the things downloaded unto the hard drive of my memory.
  3. It’s a hard industry to break into. Much, much harder than I thought. In fact, I’ve heard the professional advice: if you can do anything else, do it. And I would… except the characters and plots keep coming. I don’t only write because I like to, but because I can’t not write.
  4. Feedback is essential… Whether it’s beta readers or a critique group, listen to the advice. (If they’re all saying the same thing, it’d be wise to take notes and then edit.)
  5. …But it’s also just someone else’ opinion. These opinions are not commandments from God. They’re just someone else’s viewpoint. You’re the one who gets to decide how the story unfolds.

I’ve got five more tips that I wished I knew when I started. I’ll share those in my next personal post. Next week, Sarah Addison-Fox will be stopping by to share more about her new book Disowned! See you then!


Interview with T.J. Akers, Author of The Final Paladin

Welcome to Jilligan’s Island! Today we’re interviewing T.J. Akers, who stopped by on his blog tour  to talk about  The Final Paladin, which releases on November 14th. At the end of this interview, I’ll include the book blurb and some interesting information about T.J., as well as the Facebook party link. You’ll want to get your hands on this story. I started reading it last night and was immediately intrigued!

Hi, T.J.!  We’re so excited to find out more about your new release, The Final Paladin. So, let’s jump right into the questions! Why do you write fiction?

TJ: I love creating stories, always have. My son was eight and an avid reader, and he should be, because I read to him every day until he turned seven. Then I read with him. He was losing interest in reading, and it concerned me. He complained about not having anything fun to read, so I got active in helping him find things. I introduced him to audio books and started pointing him to the good stuff. Then for his eighth birthday, I wrote him a novel. Of course, I also got him some cool presents, too. That was when I rediscovered writing, story creation, and everything else that goes with it. So I write because I love it. I also write so my readers will have fun, and in doing so, learn to love reading. If a reader did not have fun reading any fiction I wrote, I’ve failed.

JI: The Final Paladin starts in late 19th century, New York City. Why did you pick that time and place?

TJ: I’m a serious history geek, and as much as I enjoy science fiction and fantasy, I love history even more. Anyone that loves a good story understands the biggest and juiciest stories happened in real life. So why not incorporate the things I love the most in my stories? My favorite period of U.S. History takes place from the Civil War to the early twentieth century. Five Points, New York, is one of the most intriguing places to me in that time.

JI: Your book also incorporates urban fantasy and medieval lore. Do you love those things, too?

TJ: The short answer is yes, but there’s more to it. I went back to college in my 40s and discovered early British Literature. Thanks to a couple of very fine instructors, I discovered resources that went into greater detail about that period, the myths, and the tension of a quickly growing Catholic church and the existing pagan beliefs. Those tensions show up in the early literature (stories) of that time. I’ve read modern authors that use the same trope, but they’re inappropriate for younger readers. After reading Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin and Jim Butcher’s Dresden series, I thought it was a shame that younger readers couldn’t have something fun along those same lines of urban fantasy.

JI: So you use the Paladin legend for your story. Why not King Arthur, or Templars, or Teutonic Knights?

TJ: I only use the legend as the basis, I don’t really use the original chivalric code because no one wrote it down in Charlemagne’s time. Historically, Charlemagne has the most evidence of the foundation of the concept of Chivalry and the Knightly Ideal. Again, the closest this got to being written is a story called The Song of Roland. Historically, chivalry is a French word from the 11th century, and it originally meant horsemanship. The church promoted chivalry as code because armed thugs rode around the country, killing people. The Catholic Church promoted the concept to try to bring peace and preserve human life. Chivalry, as we understand it, is technically a Christian ideal. So rather than use Templars, Teutons, or Arthur, I went back to the earliest of the European knights, Paladins.

JI: All that said, why even make it a part of The Final Paladin?

TJ: Originally, I wanted to start the series in ninth century Europe in Charlemagne’s empire with my character Godfrey, a Saxon whose village was swallowed up by Charlemagne’s conquests. I did my research, but I also wanted to enter the story in a contest offered by the American Christian Fiction Writers. Most of the judges are women and not speculative fiction fans. So in order to do better in the contest, I chose a female character and events that happened later in history.

JI: You wrote The Final Paladin to win a contest where the judges were predominantly female and probably non-speculative readers?

TJ: That’s essentially correct.

JI: Did your strategy pay off?

TJ: Yes and no, but what’s really cool is I got my fair share of male judges, and they scored my entry high. My manuscript made it to the final three, so it worked to a point.

JI: You didn’t win?

TJ: No.

JI: Well, we’re glad L2L2 picked it up! The story begins in Five Points, New York. But it doesn’t stay in New York City, does it?

TJ: That would be boring at this point, so the story goes to a place called Fairy, or the land of Fairies, elves, trolls, pixies, the White Stag, and everything else. I go back to all the legends and myths of western and central Europe, or at least the ones I could fit in.

JI: Is it a fairy tale retelling?

TJ: No, not exactly. I just mixed my mythologies: history and fairies. I also borrowed from the book of Revelation. There’s mention of a character named Apollyon, or in Hebrew, Abaddon, The Angel of Death. So I mixed in some Bible, knightly legends, and fairies and got a modern-day story in the tradition of Gawain and the Green Knight, or Beowulf.

JI: Is your novel written for adults?

TJ: I like to write for Young Adults and Middle Graders, but I’ve written for New Adults, too. I like those groups because you can still reclaim them as readers. I really write for speculative audiences. The one quality I love about speculative fiction readers is they’re reading for the story. You can make the protagonist eight, twenty, or ninety, and if the story is interesting, the reader won’t usually care.

JI: Are you planning on a whole series?

TJ: Yes. Michele Harper, my publisher wouldn’t have published me if I weren’t. I have in mind at least ten in the series, and that doesn’t even include the three or four prequels about Godfrey and how we even got to the 1870s with things in the state they are. All of that is going to depend on the novel’s popularity.

JI: Wow, that’s a big series!

TJ: Yeah, I have an overactive imagination.

JI: That’s a good thing for a writer to have. Do you write anything other than speculative fiction?

TJ: I have a contemporary YA novel that’s completed and edited. I nearly managed to get it published by Zondervan back in 2014. I also have ideas for historical fiction, too. There are four completed novel manuscripts on my computer: two are science fiction fantasy, a thriller, and a contemporary comedy. All that could easily be turned into a series. I have no shortage of stories tell.

JI: Is L2L2 interested in those?

TJ: Sure, but I have to run them by my publisher. They have to be good stories or she won’t publish them. I’m excited because my science fiction projects have male protagonists, and no one really publishes for boys anymore.

JI: Anything you want to add?

TJ: I’ve learned a lot since I started writing in 2004. Now I can go back to all the projects I’ve kept very shiny.

JI: Thanks so much, T.J., for joining us on the island!

Here’s a little more about The Final Paladin:

Life for Peg Bowman is rough in the infamous slums of Five Points, New York, but her brother’s murder changes everything.

Thrust into incredible worlds beyond any story she’s ever heard, Peg meets Sir Godfrey, an eleven-hundred-year-old knight from Charlemagne’s court, trainer of Paladins. He reveals to Peg her family’s ancient obligation to protect the Key of Apollyon, a relic of immense power. She is the last descendant of the Paladins and his only hope for keeping it safe.

When Godfrey confides her brother was murdered because of the Key, Peg rejects her calling and demands revenge, a luxury she can ill afford as otherworldly creatures seek her death to claim the Key’s power for themselves.

Can Godfrey and his faithful retinue—Chim the Hobgoblin, Rebecca the Jewish Maven and healer, and Jack the sometimes human and sometimes seven-foot Black Dog—keep her safe and convince her that her calling is worth pursuing? Or will she succumb to the Key’s lure and wield it for revenge?

And here’s a little more about T.J. :

T.J. Akers desires to be a multimillionaire when he grows up and give his wealth to his favorite causes: churches, schools, and animal shelters. Since the millions have been slow in coming, he’s settled for working as a computer technician for a state university and volunteering at his church and local animal shelter. Whenever possible, he indulges his love of writing stories to entertain people, especially younger readers.

Akers holds a Masters of English from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and can often be found roaming the university’s library, especially the children’s and young adult sections. Librarians have always been his heroes.

He lives with his beloved wife of thirty years, his dog, and two cats. The dog is an excellent writing companion, but the cats have proven to be rather critical. Learn more at www.tjakers.com

You can find him at the following social media sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tj.akers.35

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TJAkers1

Google+: https://plus.google.com/101156763458205540263

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/16679486-tj-akers

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/akers0778/boards/

Don’t forget to stop by the Facebook Party on November 16!


Six Crucial Steps for the Beginning Writer

At the doctor’s office recently, I met another writer. We shared the what-do-you-write pleasantries before she shook her head. “I’ve been doing this for three years. How long did your first novel take?”

I grinned. “You don’t want to know.” (It took five years. That doesn’t count the eight years previously spent on writing short pieces while raising children, or the five years before that penning novels in another genre.)

God willing, I have years left to share more stories. But the conversation reminded me of my frustrations when I started out. I eventually completed all six of the following steps, even though it took a long time. I’m a slow learner.

  1. Settle in for the long haul. This isn’t an easy profession. You have to love it, and you can’t expect instant success. The “overnight success authors” spent days, months, and sometimes years pounding away on their computer keyboards. Expect the same of yourself.
  2. Locate a tribe. Local writers’ groups exist everywhere. Find one you can join. If one doesn’t exist in your area, and you don’t want to drive, look for a group on-line. It will keep your sanity. There’s nothing quite like chatting with other authors who are facing the same struggles you are.
  3. Learn the craft. Invest time (and money, if possible) in this venture you’ve undertaken. Libraries have books on writing and sometimes hold author events or workshops. Bookstores do this, as well. Set up a Conference Fund to attend a writer’s workshop or conference, where you can take classes, learn from established writers, and meet publishers, agents, and editors.
  4. Remember you’re not a special snowflake. This isn’t a derogatory statement. Everyone has a story to tell and a unique voice. But that doesn’t mean you get a pass at everything else. You’ll have to pay your dues. You’ll have to keep your day job (at least for a while). You’ll have to learn to balance writing, family, your day job, personal health, spiritual health, and any messes that pop up. I’m still learning how to deal with the balance issue.
  5. Allow others to see your work. I know—it’s hard. But everyone starts somewhere. If the group you’re critiquing with seems a bit too harsh, take another objective look. Are you sensitive because this story is your baby? Learn to take critiques with a thick skin, grace, and open ears. If you have to explain a part of your manuscript, it’s not working. Keep your mouth closed and take notes. (Keeping my mouth closed has been an especially difficult lesson for me. Just sayin.’)
  6. If you don’t have a religion, you should find one. This is an optional rule, but I’ve found it necessary to often ask God for help. Since I’m still learning, I’ve found the prayer please help to be especially necessary and humbling. If you desire to do it all yourself, go ahead. But I prefer to have Someone bigger lead my writing career and support group.

Tuck these steps in your pocket, and you’ll be well-equipped for the fantastic writing journey awaiting you!

Interview with Kristen Stieffel

Today on Jilligan’s Island, we (that’s the royal “we”) are interviewing author Kristen Stieffel. We’re talking writing and books, but most specifically her novel, Alara’s Call which releases this Tuesday (the 19th). It’s a fantastic read.

JI: Welcome, Kristen! I really enjoyed Alara’s Call. Where did you get the idea for it?

KS: Years ago—longer than I care to admit—I had a sort of vision of soldiers and flags, and I started writing to figure out why they were there and what they were doing. The soldiers and flags are still in the story, but no longer in the same scene.

JI: What’s the theme of this story? Why did you choose it?

KS: The theme of this book is from 1 Peter 4:10—“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (NIV). That plays out in multiple ways, but primarily in Alara receiving the gift of prophecy and pursuing it despite opposition.

JI: I loved reading about Alara’s struggle as she learns to use her gift. What did you edit out of this book?

KS: A looooong interlude in the first third of the book that I convinced myself was necessary to the character development and to establish the romantic subplot. Jeff Gerke was my book doctor, and he was brutally honest about how much it slowed the story down and told me to take it out. So I did. But … bwa ha ha … I have plans to repurpose it. So we’ll see how that goes.

JI: Good for you for saving that scene! So, what’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned while writing this story?

KS: That the heroine’s fatal flaws—pride and performance anxiety—are my own. Who knew?

JI: It’s amazing how those issues show up in our writing. What was the hardest scene to write?

KS: The fight scene in which those soldiers capture Alara. Sorry, that’s kind of a spoiler, but it’s early in the book, so maybe not too much of one? In the version of the book Jeff read, this scene was like half a page. I skimmed over it. He said “that’s not acceptable” and told me to rewrite it, blow by blow. I did. It took a whole day and several pots of tea, but I did it.

JI: That scene was intense!  Speaking of the fight scene, how did you get in touch with your “inner villain” to write the antagonist ?

KS: I’m a firm believer that the best villains think they’re the good guys. Given the culture I’d created for the villains, I put myself in the place of the lead villain and tried to make him a “good soldier,” at least as his culture would define those terms.

JI: You did a great job with the villain — I hated him! Have you always liked to write? When did you start writing?

KS: I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. My mother tells me my cousin and I used to make up stories together when we were 3-4 years old.

JI: Aw, that’s cute. 🙂 What are you reading now?

KS: Oh, man. I don’t want to name names. But I picked up a historical romance because it was on a Kindle promo and I tell you—the characters are charming, but the book is so loaded with typos it’s hard to read. It pains me, because there’s nothing wrong with this book that a copyeditor couldn’t fix. But the author clearly didn’t take the time and expense to hire one, at least not one who knew what she was doing. So this lovely story is marred by all these easily fixable mistakes. It’s a shame.

JI: I bet your inner editor was going nuts! Aside from “keep writing,” what’s your best advice for aspiring writers?

KS: Focus on the big-picture things first. Character. Plot. Structure. If you write a great story with engaging characters, a copyeditor can fix your grammar. But if the story’s lacking, it won’t matter how elegant your sentences are. Needless to say, I learned this lesson the hard way.

JI: You did a great job with the characters in Alara’s Call — they pulled me right in. What does your writing space look like?

KS: Here’s a picture, since you caught me before I dismantled the computer to put it away for Hurricane Irma.

JI: Much neater than my writing area! Do you do any other creative activities other than writing?

KS: I’m a knitter. My ex used to give me grief about this because we live in Florida, but seriously, most of our sweaters are worn indoors because the air conditioning is so cold!

JI: Too funny! Does writing energize you or exhaust you?

KS: It energizes me! Once I get going, I can go—and have gone—all night long. My counselor recently gave me “permission” to work until three in the morning if that’s when I’m at my best. So I often do!

JI: Wow — I’m usually asleep after midnight. So, what’s your favorite part of writing?

KS: Reading something I forgot I wrote and saying “That’s really good!”

JI: Lol –that’s always a nice surprise when that happens. If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?

KS: Focus on the big-picture things first. Character. Plot. Structure.

JI: Thanks so much for stopping by Jilligan’s Island, Kristen!


Want more information on Alara’s Call: The Prophet’s Chronicle, One?

Tales are often told of heroes who fulfill ancient prophecies. Alara’s Call is the tale of a woman who gives new ones.

Alara sees visions of other’s futures, but never her own. A young clergywoman with a fiery passion for her Telshan faith, she has been assigned to a mission abroad but longs to lead a congregation in her homeland. Her father, the prime minister, jeopardizes her dream and her safety when he coerces her into what he calls a diplomatic mission.
But it’s a ruse.
The trip is meant to end with her marriage to the crown prince of a foreign nation, where members of Alara’s faith are persecuted and women oppressed. All for a trade agreement her father is desperate to enact.
But her mentor intervenes and takes Alara to Dorrel, the suitor she left behind. They believe they are safe, but foreign soldiers are under orders to bring Alara to the king’s
palace…by any means necessary.

 So who is Kristen Stieffel?

Kristen Stieffel is a freelance editor and writer who specializes in speculative fiction.
Although she edits projects in varied genres for both the general market and the Christian submarket, she is a novelist at heart. Member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and Christian Editor Connection, mentor with Word Weavers International, and on the planning committee for Realm Makers, Kristen stays busy doing what she loves most. She is also the associate editor of Havok, a flash-fiction magazine focused on science fiction and fantasy. Visit www.KristenStieffel.com to learn more about this many-faceted author.

Still can’t wait? (Sorry, you’ll have to — just a few more days.)

Alara’s Call (ISBN: 978-1-943788-19-4) will be available on September 19 at http://www.love2readlove2writepublishing.com/books/alaras-call/
Stop by the Facebook Launch Party on September 21, 2017, for fun, laughter, and some cool prizes! (https://www.facebook.com/events/1045774898890338/)

A Late Bloomer

I’ve been away from my blog for too long. So, I felt perhaps this post might be a good way to say hello, and to tell you what I’ve been doing lately.

I went for a walk today. The warm sun, the cool breeze, puffy clouds in the sky which brought rain later on—it was the perfect fall morning. We don’t see too many of them like that here in central Pennsylvania.

On my way back home, I cut through a wooded area. It’s been cleaned up, so there’s no underbrush, just spongy moss, some early fallen leaves, and wild chicory underfoot. A flash of white caught my eye. It was a daisy, petal perfect with a sunny yellow center. It was alone among the toadstools that show up every fall. I couldn’t resist picking it, then looking for its brothers or sisters. Finally, I saw a handful clustered around a big tree. These few daisies were late bloomers. Like me.

Usually, the term “late bloomer” refers to puberty, but I’m referring to my “blooming” in another area — the publishing arena. I began writing in 1995, right after I married my husband. The following years produced three Christian romance novels (unpublished), two children, and one jewelry design business. After my last child was born, I began to write more widely—poems, essays, and a YA portal fantasy. When I tally up my writing time, it took seventeen years to become a published novelist. I don’t regret any part of my journey because God put me where I needed to be, when I needed to be there.

So if you’re struggling and wondering if you should give it all up, ask yourself a few important questions:

  • How much do you enjoy your writing? Could you stop at any time and be happy? Because if you could, you probably should. This profession is difficult, and you have to love it.
  • Are you writing to become rich and famous? If that’s your goal, you need to rethink your career path. Most writers don’t get paid much. J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan are the exception, rather than the rule.
  • How long are you willing to work at your craft? If you feel you should be published a year or two after starting, you’ll be disappointed. You can never stop learning, and it takes time to learn the rules. Most of us have “paid our dues,” a period of time which may last for years. There’s no room for entitlement in this career.

Those questions didn’t scare you off? You’re still here? Great! I pray God blesses your journey. Early, mid-, or late bloomers, we all have a story to tell. I can’t wait to read yours.

Cover Reveal for Alara’s Call by Kristen Stieffel

Cover reveals are so much fun! I love seeing the beautiful book covers and learning about the books that are soon to be published. Alara’s Call by Kristen Stieffel is no different.  But before I drop the gorgeousness all over this post, let me share the back cover blurb with you.


Tales are often told of heroes who fulfill ancient prophecies. Alara’s Call is the tale of a woman who gives new ones.

Alara sees visions of other’s futures, but never her own.

A young clergywoman with a fiery passion for her Telshan faith, she has been assigned to a mission abroad but longs to lead a congregation in her homeland. Her father, the prime minister, jeopardizes her dream and her safety when he coerces her into what he calls a diplomatic mission.

But it’s a ruse.

The trip is meant to end with her marriage to the crown prince of a foreign nation, where members of Alara’s faith are persecuted and women oppressed. All for a trade agreement her father is desperate to enact.

But her mentor intervenes and takes Alara to Dorrel, the suitor she left behind. They believe they are safe, but foreign soldiers are under orders to bring Alara to the king’s palace…by any means necessary.


Doesn’t that sound fantastic?

Kristen Stieffel is a freelance editor and writer who specializes in speculative fiction. Although she edits projects in varied genres for both the general market and the Christian submarket, she is a novelist at heart. A member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and Christian Editor Connection, mentor with Word Weavers International, and on the planning committee for Realm Makers, Kristen stays busy doing what she loves most. She is also the associate editor of Havok, a flash fiction magazine focused on science fiction and fantasy. Visit www.KristenStieffel.com to learn more about this many-faceted author.

So now that you know about the author, are you ready for the beautiful cover?
It’s so pretty….
Okay, let me just put this right here.



I can’t wait to read this book and learn more about it! So mark your calendars because the Facebook party will be Thursday, September 21, 2017.

Interview with Kat Heckenbach … and a giveaway!

Hi! Welcome to the Island! My friend  Kat Heckenbach stopped by, so I did what I usually do when I get around a fellow author — we talked books! But specifically we talked about her newest book, Relent. Don’t forget to comment below to enter into the giveaway. She’s giving away an e-file of Relent to a lucky reader!


Hi, Kat! Thanks for joining me today. Tell our readers a little more about yourself. Have you always liked to write? When did you start writing?

I didn’t start writing until I was in my thirties. I’d grown up thinking of myself as only an artist. I loved to draw, and figured that was my area of talent and creativity and never gave writing a try. But, eventually, I started feeling like something was missing and talked to my husband about it. He said, “I told you if you want to write a book I’ll be supportive.” My reply: “I never said that.” Him: “Yes, you did.” Wow. I took a few days to ponder his words, and then sat down one Wednesday morning (weird how I remember specifically the day of the week, but not the date) in 2008 and started writing chapter one of what eventually became my first published novel, YA fantasy Finding Angel.

Your husband is so supportive! What keeps you writing when inspiration vanishes?

Stubbornness. Seriously. It’s totally an “I started this, I’m gonna finish it” thing. Also, every time I feel like I’m ready to give up, I end up getting an email from someone who loved my books, or a new review, or something else that tells me I belong doing this.

My family and I call these little gifts “God-things,” and they really can keep you going. What does your writing space look like?

I bought this awesome roll-top desk from a friend. It’s the perfect size for my laptop and all my stuff. It has all these cubbies and drawers. And I have it surrounded by artwork. Unfortunately, it has to be located in my dining room, which is also our homeschool room, which is open to the main part of the house, so it’s not very private.

My writing area is in the same spot — dining room. At least it gives us an excuse to eat while working, right? Do you do any other creative activities other than writing?

Yes, yes, and yes. I’m a visual artist as well. I draw (mostly charcoal and regular pencil) and paint (mostly acrylic on canvas). I also make Harry Potter-style wands out of real wood, and I’ve made a few walking sticks/staffs as well. Honestly, I am drawn to all things artsy and creative. I spent years scrapbooking, and I have made my own curtains and cornices, and recovered chair seats, and helped my dad (a contractor) design our bathroom remodel. I’ve also made my own props for costumes, like a paper mache Audrey 2 from Little Shop of Horrors.

I’ve seen your art  — it’s beautiful! How do you select the names of your characters?

I love picking character names, but I don’t have a set method. Some are strictly by “feel”—the name just seems right for the character. Maybe it’s what comes out of my fingers typing on the keyboard when the character is first introduced. The main character in my YA fantasy series (Toch Island Chronicles) is named Angel because my daughter, who was around five at the time, had started naming all her stuffed animals AngelSomething (Angelheart, for example) so Angel was literally the first thing that popped into my head. Oddly, her name becomes relevant later in the story and it would not have worked had I named her something else.

Other names I choose because they have a particular meaning. Also in Toch Island Chronicles, I named a character Dr. Damian because his magic talent is Taming wild animals, and the name Damian comes from a Greek word that means “to tame.” The villain in the story is called Dawric, because a jackdaw is a thieving bird and ric- is the root of Richard, which means “power”—so the villain, who is out to steal magic, is “thief of power.”

I have named characters after people I know, usually small side characters and usually last name only. In my newest book, Relent, I gave a cop the last name Carter because a friend with that last name helped me with all the police procedure stuff.

I bet your friend loved being included in Relent like that! So, what slows you down? What’s your writing Kryptonite?

If I have to be honest, it’s distractions like TV and Facebook. I tend to also be someone who wants all the “little stuff” out of the way so I can really concentrate when I sit down to write…and let’s face it, that’s just procrastination.

Yeah, I’m the same way with social media. Just terrible. If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?

One of the biggest hurdles I’ve had to overcome is not comparing my beginning to someone else’s ending. What I mean is, there are things I’ve just been a natural at – art, math, grammar – and when something didn’t come easy to me, I told myself, “Oh, that’s just not for me.” When I got older, and particularly when I became a parent, a lot of things were really, really hard at first. I looked at parents with older kids and saw how easily something was going with them, and didn’t think that maybe in the beginning it was just as hard as it was for me.

Writing can be the same way. We look at that finished product, someone else’s book, and compare that with our mess of a first draft, and we can get really discouraged. Or, some other author just got a great publishing deal or hit the NYT best seller list, and it registers in our brains as though they were an overnight success. But that author may have just sold their fifth or tenth manuscript after having all the others rejected. Or they may have been submitting and editing and improving for ten or twenty years. It just took me far too long to realize I need to remember that those accomplishments come at the end of a lot of hard work.

That’s an important thing to remember, especially when the writing process gets hard. Where did you get the idea for this book?

Relent started with a short story years ago, a story written for a specific call-out for an anthology. Which I never actually submitted to. I found my story deviating from what they wanted, so I let it take off in another direction. I eventually submitted it to some other markets, and it got published by an online magazine called Absent Willow Review, and won their Editor’s Choice Award for the month it was published.

I loved the characters so much, and at the encouragement of my husband, I decided to make a novel using them. I had to change so, so much, though. Other than physical descriptions and some personality stuff, and their names of course, pretty much everything is different. And I love these new and improved characters even more!

It’s great you were able to stay “in touch” with those beloved characters. What’s the theme of the book? Why did you choose it?

The book is called Relent because it’s about letting go. Not hanging on to your anger or digging your heels in stubbornly just because you think things should be a certain way. Finding out that when you do finally let go, you may discover the thing you were trying so hard for will actually come much easier.

I’m not sure I chose it, though, outside the fact that I tend to be stubborn myself – which can be helpful in a perseverance kind of way, but can be very unhelpful when you’re doing something for the wrong reasons.

I think most stubborn people (myself included) are always learning about letting go. What was the hardest scene to write?

Honestly, all the scenes building the romance between Simone and Reese. The love-hate frenemy stuff between Simone and Wraith came so much more naturally. I write dark. Tapping into anger and angst is easier for me.

You mentioned Simone, your main character. Is she your favorite? Why or why not?

Simone is someone who has always felt like an outsider. When she finds out the truth about herself, it helps her to understand why she’s always felt that way, but it doesn’t give her the tools to deal with it. She has a hard time seeing the good in herself, and it amazes her when someone else sees her as more than physically beautiful.

As for her being my favorite character…I have to admit she’s not. Wraith, her best friend and worst enemy, the demon who tells her the truth about herself, is my favorite. He’s gorgeous for one, when he’s in his human form. But what I love about him is how self-contradictory he is. He’s a demon, so he’s of course bad, but there’s this part of him that won’t let him cross a certain line with Simone. I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I won’t go any further there. I will say that I’ve gotten enough feedback from readers to know I’m not alone in my love for Wraith.

Ooh, that’s a teaser of an answer! We’ve learned a lot about you and Relent. But if you’re comfortable doing so, can you give us one fun or interesting fact about yourself others might not know?

This is a fact that only those who have read the acknowledgements in my second Toch Island Chronicles book, Seeking Unseen, would know. One of the two main characters in Seeking Unseen, Melinda, writes a poem, which I include in the book. The poem is completely plagiarized, in a sense. When I was around nineteen or twenty, I was out dancing at a club. At one point, the friend I was there with handed me a napkin with a poem written on it. She said some guy told her to give it to me. I never saw him, have no idea who he was. But I saved that poem, and decided to use it in my book. I’d love to give him credit, of course, but I have no way of doing so. Unless he someday reads my book and recognizes his own words!

Wow! Very cool. Thanks, Kat, for stopping by.

Don’t forget to check Kat out on social media and comment below. She’s giving away a copy of Relent to once lucky commenter!


Kat Heckenbach spent her childhood with pencil and sketchbook in hand, knowing she wanted to be an artist when she grew up—so naturally she graduated from college with a degree in biology, went on to teach math, and now homeschools her two children while writing. Her fiction ranges from light-hearted fantasy to dark and disturbing, with multiple stories published online and in print. Her YA fantasy series Toch Island Chronicles is available in print and ebook. Enter her world at www.katheckenbach.com.

Social Media Links:

Website: www.katheckenbach.com

Blog: www.katheckenbach.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3190288.Kat_Heckenbach

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KatHeckenbach

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

Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/JumpingRails

Comment below & Enter the giveaway at:



Guest post by Deanna Fugett … and a Scavenger Hunt

Hi! Today, on the Island we’re celebrating with my friend and fellow author, Deanna Fugett. Her YA dystopian debut novel, Ending Fear, releases on the 18th, and this is the fourth stop on her blog tour. I read the book, enjoyed it,  and then promptly endorsed it — it’s that good!

At the end of this blog post, I’ll have all the bookish information you need to grab a copy of your own. I’ll also list the other stops on her blog tour so you can learn more about Ending Fear. And lastly, you’ll have a chance to participate in a virtual scavenger hunt! Find one word per blog stop, which when put together, will make a sentence. One lucky participant who collects all 14 words will receive their own signed copy, as well as the Ending Fear coloring book. (Or an e-book for international participants).

After reading Ending Fear, I sent Deanna an email with a question. Why did you write it? She was nice enough to give me (and now you) an insight into the process.

Why I Wrote Ending Fear

Well, that’s a loaded question. Hmm…quite a few reasons actually. My first reason: I wanted to write a book since I was in 6th grade. Probably before that. I had a love for writing since I got published in a local newspaper at six years of age, so that probably sparked the flame of storytelling within me.

My 6th grade teacher Mrs. Olson had our whole class promise her that we would write a book someday. She never said we had to publish it, but I decided I would take it even further by pursuing publishing. Wasn’t going through all the hard work of writing an entire manuscript just to have it sit in a drawer and never seen by anyone.

A few years back I’d finally come to a place in my life where I felt comfortable with starting the writing process. My fingers had been itching for years, but I wanted to make sure my life was in order before I began this monumental task of novel crafting.

I had been inspired by watching the Hunger Games movie and reading the book. Something about it spoke to me. I didn’t even know what dystopian was at the time, but I knew I wanted to write a book in that realm of thinking. I had never heard of the word dystopian. You can imagine how difficult it was for me to figure out what genre I had actually written once I had finished my rough draft. I hadn’t paid much attention to genres before. I literally judged a book by its cover.

Every time I’d visit a library or a bookstore, if a cover or a back cover blurb sparked my interest, that’s what I’d borrow/buy. Didn’t matter the genre. I didn’t care about that at all. I guess, in a way, it helped me develop a more well-rounded view of writing.

Since I had been well read in multiple genres, I could easily incorporate all the good things from each one into my story, creating a unique perspective. It’s funny because I’ve experienced a tad bit of confusion over this just recently. I was asked by someone to turn in some romantic bits from my story, and they were all “wow, that’s some good romance there, but where’s all the sci-fi techy stuff?” And then when I show my sci-fi techy stuff to someone else they’re all “but where’s the romance?”

See, I have both in my books. But not always in the same parts. So it’s funny. And that’s why I love dystopian so much. You can incorporate the cutesy romance stuff along with the futuristic world building of Sci-Fi. It’s fun.

My main reason for writing Ending Fear was simply the fact that I wanted to write a Hunger Games type book but add more hope. I saw a lack of hope with that series. A lack of morals. A lack of… something more. Inner spiritual struggles, perhaps.

I wanted to create a futuristic world, add dynamic characters and excellent, fun dialogue and manage to infuse God in there somehow. Make it from a Christian worldview, but not make it preachy. I hope I succeeded with that. My betas and critique partners seem to think so. I’m hoping the rest of the world does, too.

Ending Fear came from a place of healing in my own life too. And although I don’t share the same struggles as my main character Fear, I still was able to find healing through writing the words down on the page. Connecting to her character and feeling her feelings.

I wrote this story for me.

I needed this story. I hope there’s people out there that do, too. People who can connect to it.

I wrote this story for you.

For the people who will be touched by the story. I hope it finds you, wherever you are. Helps you to feel something and maybe even come out the other side with something you may not have had before reading it. Maybe hope, peace, bravery? Whatever it is, I pray the story is powerful in your life, and I hope God uses it for His glory.

Thanks, Deanna, for giving us a peek into how Ending Fear came to be.  Below, is some more information on Ending Fear, as well as her blog tour dates — you won’t want to miss them. And don’t forget to participate in the scavenger hunt — the link is at the very bottom of he post!

Ending Fear: Book One of the Gliding Lands

Deanna Fugett

Release Date: July 18, 2017

Paperback: $15.99, eBook: $4.99 (Pre-order Price of $2.99)

Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing, LLC

Genre: YA Dystopian, 400 pages, ISBN: 978-1-943788-16-3


From The Back Cover:

Fourteen-year-old Fear learns she was a parachute baby, dumped over the edge of the Gliding Lands as an infant. Fascinated by the floating cities in the sky before, now she’s desperate for answers.

But a slave isn’t likely to get those answers.

When her abusive Downer family throws her from their hovel, Fear takes refuge with a family who shows her love for the first time. Surely they can’t be trusted. Years of abuse and molestation has taught her that. Then her brother discovers where she’s hiding and tries to kidnap her. Fear will never let him touch her again. Her new family conceals her at The Fallen, a ranch that hides parachute babies from the Uppers who discarded them. Just as she’s beginning to embrace yet another home, Fear’s new little sister, Happy, is kidnapped and taken to the Uppers’ temple harem. Fear must go against her namesake, find a working hoverpod, and journey to the dreaded Gliding Lands before the little girl’s innocence is ripped from her forever.

Can she save Happy in time?

And will she find answers to the burning question of why anyone would throw her away?


Deanna Fugett’s heart belongs to writing. Author of edgy YA Dystopian fiction with an underlying message of hope, this stay-at-home mom of four focuses on writing as much as humanly possible. She was published at the young age of six in a local newspaper and is excited to be published again. It only took twenty-six years. She enjoys the thrill of writing fiction that deals with intense topics and prays it will impact people for the better. Visit www.DeannaFugett.com to learn more about her.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.deannafugett.com/ 

Blog: http://quillsandinkblotts.blogspot.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dutchessofdork3

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/37187086-deanna-fugett

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/DutchessOfDork3/

Purchase Link (L2L2 website): http://www.love2readlove2writepublishing.com/books/ending-fear/

Facebook Launch Party : Thursday, July 20, 2017, 7-9 PM MST https://www.facebook.com/events/722598937920317/

And don’t forget to check out the other blog stops!