Seekerville: The Journey Continues | category: writing life


Seekerville: The Journey Continues

A Story is Born

A Story is Born

How well do you remember two years ago? Somewhere in the middle of March 2020 was one of those moments that change history...for better or for worse.

Now that we've had some time to digest what has happened over the past two years (and it hasn't always been pretty!) it's time to look back with some clear hindsight and realize how these months have changed our writing.

I know I'm not alone in this: The pandemic-that-shall-not-be-named* wasn't the only life-changing event that happened in 2020. Many of us had earth shaking happenings in our personal lives, too. Things that weren't related to the PTSNBN* threw us out of our groove, shut down our creativity, and either stopped us in our tracks or caused us to change directions.

A Story is Born

For me it provided the excuse to take a complete change in direction. I needed something new. Something to jump-start my creativity and get me excited about writing again.

But where should I start? 

The first thing was to decide on a genre. I love historical romance, but I had been down that road. I needed something new.

I looked at my Goodreads list - what books had I been reading? Which ones had I enjoyed the most? I realized that I love cozy mysteries - not exclusively - but I love reading them. 

A Story is Born

So the next step? I decided to try writing one. And a story was born.

The first question - the genre - was already decided. 

The setting? Easy. I looked out my office window and knew the Black Hills was perfect.

A Story is Born

The characters? It didn't take long for me to have my cast. In a mystery you need a sleuth, a sidekick, a lawman/woman, an interesting antagonist, and the all important bad guy. I also added in a mentor and a couple pets who are too smart for their own good.

Emma Blackwood (the sleuth) is an unemployed hotel manager who comes to the Black Hills to work in her aunt's upscale bed and breakfast, the Sweetbrier Inn.

A Story is Born

Emma is smart, capable, and just a little bit OCD.

Becky Graves, her sidekick, is a fabulous baker and is related to just about everyone who lives in the small town of Paragon. Part Lakota and part Irish, she claims her ethnic background is a blend of the best the world has to offer.

I gave Emma a fun antagonist, too. Wil Scott is Rose's business partner and the chef at the Sweetbrier Inn. He and Emma get along like a couple of siblings who can't put their rivalries aside, but Emma says his cooking is to die for. Her favorite breakfast is Wil's Crème Brulée French Toast.

The lawman in the story is County Deputy Sheriff Cal Cooper. He also happens to be Becky's cousin (didn't I tell you everyone in Paragon is related?) Cal is a no-nonsense guy who reluctantly lets Emma work the case with him.

Emma's mentor is her Aunt Rose. Rose has a mysterious past that keeps Emma guessing. Her warm personality sets the tone for the inn. From the early morning breakfasts to the daily afternoon teas, the inn is Rose's baby. 

The pets are Rose's corgi, Thatcher, and Emma's young black cat named Tim. Don't worry - they get along with each other just fine.

A Story is Born

The setting of the Sweetbrier Inn is perfect for a cozy mystery because the cast of characters keeps changing for each book in the series. I have one set of guests for the first book and a completely different set for the second. New characters = new suspects.

A Story is Born

Wait - did I forget to mention the bad guy? Sorry. No spoilers here. He/she/they will remain a mystery until the end of the book!

A Story is Born

With the changes in my writing, I was basically giving my career a makeover. I've developed a new brand, a new logo, and am working on a new website. 

Another big change is that these new books will be indie published, so I created my own publishing company - Swift Wings Press - with its own completely unnecessary but fun logo.

A Story is Born

The last thing - after selecting an editor (thank you Beth Jamison!) cover artist (thank you Hannah Linder!) formatting, etc. etc. (all the details of indie publishing) - was to select titles.

I always have a hard time coming up with titles. Then I remembered some of my favorite mysteries, and I was on my way.

"The Sign of the Calico Quartz" is the first book in the Sweetbrier Inn Series. I've set the publication date for May 25, 2022. 

The next book is "The Case of the Artist's Mistake," which will be coming out late summer 2022.

The third book is still in the works, but be assured Emma, Becky, Cal, and the rest of the gang will catch the bad guy in that one, too.

A Story is Born

How did the past two years affect your writing? Did it feel like you ran into a brick wall or did you feel like you had new ideas and energy?

And if you're still struggling to make some sense of what you're supposed to be doing with your writing through all of this, let us know so we can pray you through the slump. One thing I do know - you are not alone!!!

Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations

 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations

As queen bees of the JustRead hive (aka owners of JustRead Publicity Tours) and avid readers, we’ve learned a thing or two about sweet reads and sticky situations. We want to help you avoid common book cover blunders and ensure your readers aren’t confused or even deterred by a sticky situation. 

Generally, authors will either have DIY, outsourced, or a publisher-directed cover design process. While this article is written primarily with independently publishing (or hybrid) authors in mind, the concepts are important for all authors to consider. Whether you are creating your own cover or conveying your vision to others, the goal is for the heart of your story (or nonfiction content) to shine through the cover.

 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations
Visual Vibes

Research book covers that are selling or trending in your book’s genre and subgenre, making note of images, design styles, fonts, and colors. Once you’ve identified design elements that work well for your genre, focus on reflecting the heart of your story within your author branding and genre trends. 

Stock Images

Even the pros utilize stock illustrations and images but check to see if your selections are already being used on another book cover. Layering multiple images is one way to create a more unique cover but make sure proportions and blending are natural.


We love fonts but readability is key. Two different typefaces on a cover (sometimes three) are acceptable as long as the placement is mindful. Whimsical and script fonts are especially tricky but they pack a visual punch when used in moderation and/or paired with a simple clean font. 

 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations
Good Sticky

Stick to your budget and timeline. Don’t wait too long to finalize your cover or make last-minute changes, delays could end up costing you more. Compromise is common during the cover design process but be willing to stick to it and keep the lines of communication open rather than settling for a cover that doesn’t fit.

Encouragement for DIYers

You can successfully create your own book cover with thorough research, more research, and the popper tools! Creating an appealing cover on Canva, Picmonkey, or other free or low-cost design platforms is possible. Many of these tools even provide book cover templates and it’s a great way to get the ball rolling for cover mock-ups and even final cover designs. Be sure to ask a few trusted and experienced confidantes for their opinion on your work but don’t stress over trying to please everyone.

Cover Design Pros

If your budget allows, we definitely recommend working with a cover designer. Choose a professional who has created covers you love. We love so many covers including those designed by Roseanna White, Teresa Tysinger, Hillary Lodge, Sarah Monzon, Emilie Hendryx, and more! Please feel free to give a shoutout to your favorite cover designers in the comments. Keep an eye out for a more in-depth post on working with a cover designer in the future.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” 

It’s a nice sentiment but the truth is that the cover is the first glimpse a reader has of the content within. Book covers set the stage just as words pull back the curtains on the wonderful experience we share through stories, devotionals, and nonfiction accounts. Readers are going to judge book covers so let’s embrace that and maximize their impact positively. 

Can you name some genre-specific design features? Does a certain cover style grab your attention? Carrie, Beth, and Rachel would love to chat about your favorite cover trends in the comments! 

 Avoiding Sticky Book Cover Situations
JustRead Publicity Tours, LLC is a full-service publicity tour company for published works in the Christian genre or books considered within the wholesome or clean reads genres. 

Check out their About page to meet the queen bees or jump right into the Authors & Publishers or Readers sections to learn more about JustRead campaigns.

Journeys of Faith: The Road to Finding God with guest Jennifer L. Wright

 Journeys of Faith: The Road to Finding God with guest Jennifer L. Wright

Please welcome guest Jennifer L. Wright as she shares a bit of her writing and faith journey with us.

I have always wanted to be a writer.

Even from a young age, I had a love of books, and I wrote my first “novel” in the seventh grade. For the longest time, I believed my future lay in journalism, but it took only a few short months of working local news to realize it wasn’t a good fit for me. After my son was born and I became a full-time stay-at-home mom, I decided it was time to take my passion in another direction: I was going to write a book.

So I did. Then I wrote another one. And another one.

But none of these novels went anywhere. I couldn’t get a publishing deal. I couldn’t get an agent. I couldn’t even to find someone outside my family to read my writing.

I knew—just knew—writing was what God had called me to do. It was the only thing I’d ever felt drawn to, passionate about, inescapably bound to pursue. But if this was God’s plan for me, then why was every door slamming in my face?

One particularly depressing day, I found myself at my kitchen table, Bible open in front of me, tears streaming down my face. I’d received another pass from an agent I’d been so sure was the one. Another false start. Another dashed hope.

It had now been six years since I’d begun my writing journey. Six years of constant disappointment, heartache, and rejection. The secular marketplace was looking for particular types of books—and they were not the books I was trying to write. I wanted to believe I wasn’t wrong, that I hadn’t misinterpreted God’s calling for me, but my spirit was crushed beneath the weight of my own failure. Surely God’s plan wouldn’t involve this much pain, right? I was at a crossroads; I could no longer continue down this path, and yet neither carrying on nor quitting seemed to be the right answer.

 Journeys of Faith: The Road to Finding God with guest Jennifer L. Wright
So that morning, as tears wet the thin pages of my Bible, I cried out to God in my grief: “Lord, I can’t do this anymore. I was so sure this is what You wanted me to do, but maybe I was wrong. I am broken. I am lost. I am confused. What am I supposed to do?”

And then a voice answered me from inside my head, so loud, clear, and concise—so different from the muddled indecision clouding my brain—that I froze.


If you’ve never had a moment with God like this, I don’t expect you to understand. But I knew I was hearing His voice. He had met me in my pit. He had heard. And He had responded in a way I had never experienced before.


And so I did. I kept writing. I kept querying. I kept waiting.

Three more years went by . . . and still I was waiting. During that time, I had more rejections, more heartaches, more disappointments. But I remained steadfast, buoyed by the memory of that long-ago encounter. I knew I had heard God’s voice; doubt wasn’t the issue. Instead, my grief manifested itself as something else: impatience.

Sometimes, even with the assurance of God’s promises, we can grow impatient and irritated by what we see is a lack of action on His part. You said You were going to do this, Lord. So . . . when?

Or in the words of David, “How long?”

In Psalm 13, David writes: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (verses 1-2).

In just two verses, David asks “How long?” four times. The man had been anointed by Samuel, destined for kingship . . . and yet fifteen to twenty years had passed. In his waiting, he was pursued and persecuted, chased into the wilderness and hidden in a cave, fearing for his life. It was such a stark contrast: his eyes were on the palace, but his body remained in a pasture.

 Journeys of Faith: The Road to Finding God with guest Jennifer L. Wright
It’s no wonder he began to get a little impatient.

But it was precisely in this waiting where David became equipped to become king. His courage was tested. His character was refined. His faith was strengthened. Faced with what could have very easily been perceived as at best inaction and at worst faithlessness on the part of his God, David chose to lean in to what he knew to be true instead: “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5-6).

David couldn’t see an end to his waiting. He couldn’t see how this seemingly unwinnable situation would play out. And he certainly couldn’t see how he would ever move from a cave to a throne.

What he could see, however, was God.

Our waiting can often bring forth a type of “spiritual amnesia” where our present circumstances overshadow the ways in which God has been faithful, not only to His people, but to us personally in the past. During those years between that fateful morning prayer and when I finally signed with agent, I was tempted many times to discredit what I knew to be God’s voice. Leaning in to what I knew to be true about who He is and reminders of His past goodness were the only remedies for a present that didn’t feel quite so good.

God loves me . . . and He has told me to wait.

God has a plan for me . . . and He has told me to wait.

God has delivered me in the past . . . and He has told me to wait.

God is faithful, merciful, all-knowing, and all-powerful . . . and He has told me to wait.

My debut novel, If It Rains, will be released July 6 from Tyndale House Publishers—a full ten years after my writing journey began and four years after that fateful morning in which God told me to wait. I will not sugarcoat the experience—it was brutal. And yet, holding my first published novel in my hands, I can so clearly see how God used the experience to ready my heart. Ten years ago, I wasn’t ready for the plans and purposes He had for me. He used this time not only to grow me as a writer but to strengthen my faith and mature my spirit for this moment. 

Because this experience wasn’t just about finding a publisher. It was about finding Him.

What about you? Is there something you’ve been waiting for? You may not experience God’s voice the way I did that morning, but you can rest assured that He is just as much there with you as He was with me. Don’t let your impatience or frustration in your waiting distract you from the answer you’ve already received: Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who sees every tear, hears every cry, knows every longing. As we struggle through our waits, never knowing when or how or if the deepest desires will be fulfilled, we can still find peace in the arms of the Savior. By focusing our eyes on the God who holds our past, present, and future in His hands, we can boldly proclaim the words of David, who, while still in his waiting, penned this verse: 

“I am still confident in this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Psalm 27:13-14


One commenter will win a print copy of Jennifer's debut, If It Rains! (US only)



 Journeys of Faith: The Road to Finding God with guest Jennifer L. Wright

Jennifer L. Wright has been writing since middle school, eventually earning a master’s degree in journalism at Indiana University. However, it took only a few short months of covering the local news for her to realize that writing fiction is much better for the soul and definitely way more fun. 

A born and bred Hoosier, she was plucked from the Heartland after being swept off her feet by an Air Force pilot and has spent the past decade traveling the world and, every few years, attempting to make old curtains fit in the windows of a new home. She currently resides in New Mexico with her husband, two children, and one rambunctious dachshund.

Visit her website.


If It Rains by Jennifer L. Wright (Tyndale, July 2021)

 Journeys of Faith: The Road to Finding God with guest Jennifer L. Wright
A story of resilience and redemption set against one of America’s defining moments—the Dust Bowl.

It’s 1935 in Oklahoma, and lives are determined by the dust. Fourteen-year-old Kathryn Baile, a spitfire born with a severe clubfoot, is coming of age in desperate times. Once her beloved older sister marries, Kathryn’s only comfort comes in the well-worn pages of her favorite book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Then Kathryn’s father decides to relocate to Indianapolis, and only the promise of a surgery to finally make her “normal” convinces Kathryn to leave Oklahoma behind. But disaster strikes along the way, and Kathryn must rely on her grit and the ragged companions she meets on the road if she is to complete her journey.

Back in Boise City, Melissa Baile Mayfield is the newest member of the wealthiest family in all of Cimarron County. In spite of her poor, rural upbringing, Melissa has just married the town’s most eligible bachelor and is determined to be everything her husband—and her new social class—expects her to be. But as the drought tightens its grip, Henry’s true colors are revealed. Melissa covers her bruises with expensive new makeup and struggles to reconcile her affluent life with that of her starving neighbors. Haunted by the injustice and broken by Henry’s refusal to help, Melissa secretly defies her husband, risking her life to follow God’s leading.

Two sisters, struggling against unspeakable hardship, discover that even in their darkest times, they are still united in spirit, and God is still with them, drawing them home. Learn more... 

Persistence in Writing and Learning to Accept Critiques with guest Janice Cantore

Persistence in Writing and Learning to Accept Critiques with guest Janice Cantore

Please welcome guest Janice Cantore as she shares how persistence in writing goes hand in hand with learning to accept critiques.

I’m often asked how long it took for me to get my first book published. It was a long time—seven years—and there were many rejections before I saw my first novel on a bookstore shelf. Two lessons I learned from the process: (1) keep writing and (2) learn to accept critiques.

#1 Keep writing. 

Persistence in Writing and Learning to Accept Critiques with guest Janice Cantore
Sometimes a painful rejection can make you feel as though you should be doing something else, that writing is not your gift. When I was in the police academy, the first few weeks were tough; they were meant to weed out people who did not have the mindset or skill set that would make them good police officers. At first, people were quitting left and right. Those of us who eventually stuck it out had a running joke: When things were hard and a classmate complained, someone would say, “I think Truck Masters is hiring,” meaning they could always quit and try something else.

I’ve talked to enough Christian writers who feel called to writing, whether it be devotional, fiction, nonfiction, or for the secular market, to know that rejections sometimes hit them in their faith. I don’t mean their faith in God; I mean they begin to wonder if writing is their gift after all, or if maybe they should be doing something else. If that’s the case, keep writing, no matter the rejections. I’m not saying ignore the rejections. Hopefully, you’ve received feedback to help you improve. What I am saying is you can’t edit a blank page. If this is your calling, you’re not going to be happy not writing. Quitting because someone said no will simply make you miserable.

No one ever told me that getting published was going to be easy. All I knew was that I had to write. I just kept at it. And I’ve never met a writer who said that since they believed it was their calling, every page came out perfect the first time. Great writers work at their craft.

#2 Learn to accept critiques. 

Persistence in Writing and Learning to Accept Critiques with guest Janice Cantore
Number two goes hand in hand with number one. If you’re going to persist and keep writing, be honest with yourself about why the rejections come. I’ve heard stories at writers’ conferences about writers who won’t accept criticism. They are in love with what they have put on the page, and they refuse to listen to editors or agents who give helpful critiques. A person who can’t look at his or her writing honestly and make changes is not likely to ever be published. Just yesterday I deleted a page and a half from my work in progress because honestly, after reading and rereading it, as much as I loved what I had written, it was misplaced and completely slowed the story down.

My first book was rejected multiple times before a paid reader pointed out a major flaw in the first chapter. I’m glad I didn’t quit and that I accepted the criticism and fixed the flaw. I had a book contract a month later.

Don’t take rejection personally. Try to look at any criticism objectively. I sometimes think the writing process is a mess. I use so much ink and so many pages of paper before I get to the point where I think the book is ready. Then I send it to the editor, and it comes back all marked up with changes that have been made and notes about more changes that need to be made. Sometimes at first pass I don’t agree with the editor about what needs to be edited. And then after a few more passes, I realize that she’s right, and the changes make the book stronger. Most critiques are made to help you improve, not to destroy you.

In the police academy there were many reasons people quit. Some could not meet the physical standards. Some realized that wearing a uniform would make them a target. Others maybe realized that carrying a gun might mean they’d have to take a life one day. I just remember being glad I stuck it out, that when I completed the academy and was sworn in, I truly felt I’d accomplished something special. In reality, the work had only just begun, but that is another story.

It was the same with writing. When that first contract came, I was so gratified that I had stuck with it. It was such an exciting rush to see my words in print. And truly, the work had only just begun.

If writing is what you must do, keep at it. Read about writing, go to conferences, learn your craft. Absorb good critiques and forget bad ones. Keep writing, keep editing, don’t give up easily, and never give up if it is your dream.

One commenter will win a print copy of Janice's new release, Breach of Honor! (US only)


Persistence in Writing and Learning to Accept Critiques with guest Janice Cantore
Janice Cantore is a retired Long Beach police officer who now writes suspense novels to keep readers engrossed and leave them inspired. Her twenty-two years of experience on the force lend authenticity to her stories. She has penned twelve romantic suspense novels: the Cold Case Justice series, the Pacific Coast Justice series, the Line of Duty series, and Critical Pursuit and Visible Threat. Her latest novel, Breach of Honor, releases in July.

Website | Facebook | Romantic Suspense A-Team Facebook Group


Breach of Honor by Janice Cantore (Tyndale, July 2021)

Persistence in Writing and Learning to Accept Critiques with guest Janice Cantore
As a police officer in Table Rock, Oregon, Leah Radcliff puts her life on the line to help others every day. But at home, Leah’s battling her own personal nightmare: Brad, her abusive husband, a fellow officer, celebrated hero, and beloved son of a powerful prominent family. Brad’s violent outbursts and suspicious activities have left Leah physically and emotionally scarred, until one desperate action to put a stop to his abuse results in deadly consequences.

Though public opinion seems ready to convict Leah, Officer Clint Tanner is one of the few to believe she acted in self-defense. As he works with Leah’s attorney to produce the evidence they need, new truths about Brad’s dark side come to light—and reveal a deep-rooted problem in Table Rock. There are some who have breached their sworn duty to serve and protect . . . and they’ll do anything to keep their secret safe. Learn more...

Organization: What Works for Me

Organization: What Works for Me

written by Beth Erin

One of the many great things about community is learning from one another and we’re excited to bring you even more practical Seekerville posts to learn from. Carrie is spearheading a new addition to the monthly rotation featuring nuts and bolts type articles from various industry professionals sharing what works for them in hopes that y’all will find precious little nuggets that work for you too! While she officially starts those posts in March, I thought I would kick things off by sharing some organizational tips and tools that work for me.

Regardless of who you are or what you do, life is a multifaceted gig. We all allocate time for faith, finances, loved ones, home, health, and the list goes on and on and on. Some confidently refer to this balance as donning many hats, some say it feels like a juggling act, others may reference the more hazardous act of spinning plates, and then there’s one of my personal favorites, herding cats. Let’s face it, even if we manage to get our ducks in a row, those little quackers are going to waddle, swim, and fly away at times.

As I finally dive into writing this post less than 12 hours before it’s scheduled to go live, allow me to assure you that I do not have all the answers. What I do have is a commitment to flexibility, streamlining, and giving myself grace plus a few tools that help me manage life in a manner that is a little bit less stressful. So grab your hats, plates, cats, and ducks as we dive into the act of ordering our chaos!

Organization: What Works for Me
In addition to working from home (plus blogging, reading, etc.), I homeschool our four children (ages 8-15) while my husband works odd hours outside the home (in many ways creating a second family time zone). The kids and I especially tend to lose track of time while focused on a project or engrossed in a good book so daily reminders for snacks, meals, bedtime, etc. broadcast from our Google displays, speakers, and smartphone apps. We share and collaborate everything from chores and lessons to photos to shopping lists with our online calendar and cloud drive storage, keeping everyone in the loop with easy access to the same information.

Side note: While we primarily use Microsoft & Google products, Apple, Amazon, etc. have similar products with similar features. If you want to go old school, you might use a traditional kitchen timer or alarm clock, a wall calendar, and a message board to keep your daily routine rolling. Secondly, I try not to obsess over the whole “big brother is listening to/watching everything we do” factor. The way I figure, that factor came into play way before smartphones entered the picture so we might as well get all the help we can out of our nosey technology.

Professionally, we at JustRead Publicity Tours use a variety of tools to manage the four to six campaigns we organize 47 weeks out of the year. For those who aren't familiar with us, JustRead has three owners (Carrie in Georgia, Rachel in Washington, and I am in Illinois) and an entire hive of wonderful volunteer book bees! Google is again a large part of the organizational equation but for the three of us, managing multiple projects and business matters as a team calls for the addition of a task management program.

Organization: What Works for Me

While there are several options available (, Wrike, SmartSheet, etc.), we’re currently loving Asana for its versatility, functionality, and rainbows (because we all need more rainbows). Even though we chose to go with the upgraded features of a paid plan, the free version worked well for us during our transition from the last program we used. Other tools such as Trello are also good options for managing multiple projects and even collaborating with others.

Enough about me, let’s get back to you!

Most importantly, I want to encourage you to find an approach to organizing that makes sense for you. The most sophisticated program can’t compete with consistent old school methods if utilizing technology isn’t your thing. If sticky notes on the refrigerator work for you, do that! A bit of organization should make your life LESS stressful, never more stressful.

Organization: What Works for Me
Be flexible. Allow yourself a little extra time for random occurrences of Murphy’s Law when setting due dates. Be brave. Try something new or tweak what you’re already doing. Successful or not, trial periods are always learning experiences.

K.I.S.S. your chaos. “Keep It Simple, Silly!” The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If you’re like me and have a hard time switching gears between different roles, don’t try to do all the things at once. Focus on one project for an hour or even a day at a time.

Give yourself grace. Some of us may have superpowers but most of us don’t. Our chaos gets a little out of control and we roll with the punches. Don’t allow pride or shame to keep you from asking for an extension or assistance when you need to.

Share your favorite organizational tools or methods in the comments for a chance to win a book from my stash of Christian fiction.

Beth Erin is a happy wife, a busy homeschooling mama of four, an owner of JustRead Publicity Tours, and a Christian fiction enthusiast. You'll occasionally find her on Faithfully Bookish and on social media but mostly she's striving to balance all things work and home. Beth is passionate about promoting authors and their entertaining, encouraging, and redemptive stories. If none of the above was helpful in a practical way, she hopes that it at least made you smile.

5 Reasons Why the Third MacDonald Novel was Worth Waiting For

Let's give a hearty Seekerville welcome to guest Carla Laureano! She is sharing five reasons why the third novel of The MacDonald Family Trilogy was worth waiting for plus a giveaway opportunity for commenters!

Five Reasons Why the Third MacDonald Novel Was Worth Waiting For by Carla Laureano

Publishing isn’t a smooth process on the best of days but rarely does a book go through as many changes and delays as Under Scottish Stars, the final book in my MacDonald Family Trilogy. It was initially scheduled to be released in June 2016, but the original publisher was in the process of closing down its fiction line. At the same time, I signed a contract with Tyndale House, who saw the opportunity to bring the entire series over and release the book themselves.

That came with an entirely new set of challenges, from repackaging and re-releasing the first two books in the series to redesigning covers and interiors, a multiyear process. But at long last, Under Scottish Stars has made it into readers’ hands, a full four years after its initial intended release. Which begs the question: was it worth the wait?

You might guess that I’m biased, so of course I’m going to say yes. But I can say that this is my favorite of the three MacDonald Family books, and there are five reasons it may be a contender for readers’ favorite as well.

1. Malcolm Blake gives James MacDonald a run for his money in the hero department.

James MacDonald from Five Days in Skye seems to be a perennial hero favorite among my readers, and really, I can’t blame them. James is handsome, charming, rich, can cook like nobody’s business, and he’s a celebrity. But for those who like their book boyfriends a little more down-to-earth (but no less sexy), Malcolm fits the bill. His roots are humbler and his wardrobe far less flashy, but he’s intelligent, caring, and secretly a little nerdy. Oh, and did I mention he’s a boxer? Case closed.

5 Reasons Why the Third MacDonald Novel was Worth Waiting For

2. Serena MacDonald Stewart is a heroine we can all relate to.

We can’t all be high-powered businesswomen like Andrea from Five Days in Skye or globetrotting photojournalists like Grace in London Tides, but we can probably all relate to Serena: single mum and unintentional collector of many bad dates. She’s just trying to get over the trauma of a not-so-great marriage that ended in tragedy, raise well-adjusted kids, and do right by the family business. If that means her own wants and desires, including her passion for art, fall by the wayside, so be it. (Sound like anyone you know?)

3. We finally get closure on what happens to the other characters in the series.

When I write a series, I’ve been asked why I don’t write epilogues to the earlier books, and that’s because the stories of the first couples always carry through to the last book. Wonder what happened to James and Andrea after they said “I do” in book two? Wonder if Grace and Ian were ever able to overcome their bicontinental lifestyle and rocky beginnings? Under Scottish Stars addresses all that and more along the way, with a really sweet epilogue that makes me feel satisfied that I’ve delivered everyone their happily-ever-afters. (Because come on, we all know there will be a happily ever after, we just don’t know how we’re going to get there . . . it’s the best part about romance novels.)

5 Reasons Why the Third MacDonald Novel was Worth Waiting For

4. This book is an ode to the difficult, humbling, and worthwhile job of motherhood, especially single motherhood.

I don’t often read single-parent romances, and when I do, the kids are usually an afterthought. I wanted to do something completely different with Under Scottish Stars and give a realistic look into what it’s like to parent young children . . . and what it would be like to consider bringing a new man into their lives, with all of the worry and responsibility that entails. Single non-parents need not worry—there’s plenty of toe-tingling romance present . . . because motherhood doesn’t mean an end to romance. There is nothing more attractive than seeing your partner become a good father.

5. Even after five years, I still get weekly (sometimes angry) messages asking about this book’s release.

Not joking. Since London Tides, I’ve answered weekly messages about the expected release of this book and have been accused of everything from holding it back to be cruel to holding it back to make more money. (I still haven’t figured out how that last one works.) But honestly . . . if the love of the first two books has endured long enough to still generate that much anticipation and angst, you can’t not read it. Right?

All kidding aside, I’m thrilled to finally get the third MacDonald book into the hands of readers, and I hope they love it as much as I do. It’s a little bit nerve-wracking to release a book that is as highly anticipated as this book has been, because once it’s released to the world, it no longer belongs to me. If nothing else, the release of this book five years after it was written shows the full breadth of perseverance and determination that’s required by publishing. I’m just happy to have both industry partners and readers who were willing to go along for the ride.

Let us know if you're one of the many fans eagerly anticipating the final book of The MacDonald Family Trilogy! One fortunate commenter will win a copy of Under Scottish Stars! (US only)

5 Reasons Why the Third MacDonald Novel was Worth Waiting For
Carla Laureano is the two-time RITA Award–winning author of Five Days in Skye, London Tides, and the Saturday Night Supper Club series. She is also the author of the Celtic fantasy series The Song of Seare (as C. E. Laureano).

A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons.

Visit her website and connect with Carla on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

How Writing is Like Raising Kittens

On June 6th, life threw another little kink into my plans.

Three kinks, to be exact.
Day 1. They would not be still.

I’d spent the night at my mother’s house on Friday night (she’s been sick), then did a bit of cleaning on Saturday morning. My husband called about noon to ask what my mom’s kittens looked. Someone found a kitten on our driveway and he thought one of the kittens from my mom’s had somehow gotten in my car and jumped out on our driveway. But the kitten wasn’t gray, and all of mom’s were accounted for. So, I didn’t think anything else about it.

Two hours later, I headed home. It was really, really hot and I had my windows down, something I rarely do, but I’d been cleaning so was already hot and sweaty. As I turned down my long driveway, I heard meowing. Kittens? Really?

I stopped and got out to find three little balls of fur huddled under an old metal sideboard leaning against the fence. Well, one of them (I called him Wildman, but was overruled by the granddaughter later) wasn’t huddled. He (or she… still not sure), was barreling toward the driveway at full-speed, determined to find food for them all. There were two calicos and an orange tabby, and they were cute as could be, but SO hungry.

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the mama, a calico, roaming around our hay barn, but it was obvious something had happened to her. The kittens had been taken care of up until that point, but they weren’t going to survive much longer without milk. I took them home and turns out there were FOUR in all. The neighbor had taken one calico home with him, and the next day another neighbor came and got a second one, leaving me with two to raise.
Mimi & Cha-Cha

I estimated them to be 3-4 weeks old, but now I’ve downgraded that to more like 2-3 weeks from when I found them.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

I could write this from what I’ve learned during the last three weeks or what the kittens have learned and how it relates to our writing journey… or I could do it from both perspectives. Let’s see how that goes. I mean, it’s always good to hear both sides, yes?
Cha-Cha (It's possible Cha-Cha is a boy.... hmmm)

1) Clawing Our Way Up. When I found these kittens, they were starving for milk. They were loud and clawing their way up me, trying to suckle my chin. I didn’t have any pet-ag bottles, so used a dropper to get a bit of milk and rice water (I was desperate) in their stomachs. It didn’t help much. They were still screaming. I was a basket case and my husband was worse. He said they were not staying in the house. I searched the internet and found a recipe to make kitten formula and made two trips to town to get (human) baby bottles and the ingredients for a diy kitten formula. Since it was the weekend (isn’t it always?), I didn’t think I’d find any pet stores or veterinarians open that might have bottles small enough for their little mouths. For 48 hours, I donned the same milk-covered clothes and fed all three kittens with a baby bottle, then cleaned them up (use your imagination) and repeated the process every 3-4 hours.

Now, isn’t that the way we were when we first started on this writing journey? We were desperate to learn the craft. We sometimes clawed our way up the ladder of learning one rung at a time, trying to find what worked for us, what would help us grow and learn and satisfy us, right?
The Best-Ever Kitten Sitter (and Namer)

And along comes someone or something that helped us along that journey, giving us a bottle, yes? For me, the Seekers played a big part in that. ACFW has, too. Early on, before ACFW, RWA was a part of my learning curve. Contest, editors, and agents’ feedback all helped me to grow as a writer.

2) Figuring out the BOTTLE. Oh Lord, this was a challenge for my two kittens. I ended up with a calico and an orange tabby. After naming and discarding names for about a week, my four-year-old granddaughter finally dubbed them Mimi and Cha-Cha. Those names seem to have stuck. For now. Mimi, the Calico, is a dainty little eater. She still isn’t much interested in the kitten kibble (wet or dry), but can suck a bottle down in two minutes flat! Cha-Cha, on the other hand, FIGHTS the bottle like a wildcat, mostly because he (I really think Cha-Cha is a boy), isn’t getting it fast enough. If he’d just quit fighting and suck like Mimi, he’d have better luck. OTOH, he already knows where the dry kibble is and eats it at will. She isn’t the least bit interested in the dry kibble.
2nd Best Kitten Sitter

Who can relate? Oh, there’s so much to talk about here!! :) Mimi would be the plotter, I think. She’d carefully figure out the easiest path from A-Z and methodically set out to accomplish her goal. In her case, it’s lay back in my arms and slurp down a bottle. For Cha-Cha, it’s like… pounce on the bottle, scratch and claw Pammy to death and see what sticks. Find the dry kibble and chomp, chomp, chomp with his face buried in it. But for the record, they’re both growing. They both weigh about the same. Neither system is any better than the other. Be ye plotter or panster… you’ll get there in the end.

3) Litter box. I’m not sure how to relate the litter box to writing. Maybe I should just leave this one blank and let you draw your own conclusions. Ha! Maybe there’s a lot of stinky stuff that goes with writing, but if you get the right kind of litter, it’s not so bad, really. :) 

Mimi and Cha-Cha have done amazingly well with the litter box. As someone who’s never had an indoor cat, I’m quite proud of myself for THEIR accomplishment.
Cha-Cha in a Milk Coma

4) Growing too big for their britches. As Mimi and Cha-Cha have grown, they’ve also become more aggressive. I have plenty of scratch marks where they’ve fought for the bottle. I use a towel to wrap them up while feeding, and can only feed one at a time. Occasionally, I’ve managed both, but it’s easier to just do one. (Hmmm, some of you have written more than one manuscript at once, yes?) My granddaughter SO wanted to give them their bottle, but she realized right quick that they were way too aggressive. Instead, she entertains one while I feed the other one. If they just realized that I have the bottle right there. It’s full of warm milk, and it’s not going anywhere.

Of all the things I’ve said here… very loosely comparing raising these kittens to a writing journey, this point might be the most far-fetched, but possibly the deepest, most serious thing to ponder this weekend. We.Depend.On.Each.Other. We all learn from others. We glean from those who’ve gone before. And, if we’re a little further along the path, we can hold out a hand to those coming up behind us. So, when I feel myself belittling any group, individual, publisher or agency because I don’t think they’re doing anything for “me”, I need to sit back and realize that somewhere along the way, they have helped me. Who am I to turn up my nose and walk away like a disdainful cat?
Meeting Dakota

I just got a visual of myself wrestling with my WIP. Can I get an amen on that, too???

5) Sassy. On the heels of all this wrestling and fighting with the bottle, they’re getting bolder and more sassy. They’re climbing and playing and becoming more confident. They’re tumbling off of couches and exploring outside. Broadening their horizons. There are pitfalls, of course. The big, bad dog is outside. We don’t know how she’s going to react to them long-term. So far, so good, but what about when my back is turned? The kittens don’t know to be wary, but I do…

Yep, we have to venture out. We have to write our masterpieces and send them out into the world. We have to be bold. Be brave. Realize that it’s a big world out there and we’re more than up to the task of conquering it. And when we take a tumble, we have to get right back up and have another go at it.