Saturday, May 20, 2017

Books That ... Influenced My Writing

After brainstorming blog post ideas with my brother on Wednesday, I came up with an entirely new blog series to begin :) I don't share nearly enough book recommendations here, so this is going to be fun!

All writers are readers. This writer did some early morning contemplation because she wants to give credit to all those amazing books that inspired her and shaped her writing.

That's when I realized ... every book I have ever read has shaped my writing. It's all the books together that make me. But I can't share every book I've ever read (although my Goodreads is a great start).

So I tried to narrow it down for you today to ten "items" (because there's a lot of series here ...). They are listed in the order that I read them and the bold bits are new elements of writing I learned by reading them.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

They're such a classic, how can the books my Dad read aloud when we were kids not make the list? I remember loving the stories because they were clever, imaginative, thought-provoking, and an analogy to something more. I could tell that even as a kid and I appreciated that they weren't "just kid books."

A Series of Unfortunate Events
 by Lemony Snicket

They're just really great, okay? It was the first time I'd been introduced into really snarky, ridiculous, and highly clever storytelling that somehow made sense for 13 books. The fact that Lemony Snicket himself has a story in the books just makes it that much cooler. I really loved that they included a bookworm, inventor, word definitions, and lots of secrets around words. Words were a theme ;)

Canadian West by Janette Oke

This series is my absolute favorite by her. (Don't confuse it with Return to the Canadian West.) It was one of my first series to read that covered a sweet romance past the marriage. It's like grown up Little House on the Prairie because it follows Wynn + Elizabeth for years and managed to keep it interesting.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I love this book so much. I'm always raving about An Old-Fashioned Girl, but you really can't beat Little Women. All of the relationships in this book are fantastic and accurate, and there are so many words of wisdom for the reader as the March girls learn life lessons. Such a meaningful and insightful story.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

This historical fiction definitely stuck with me. It's the only historical fiction I've read in the time of the Puritans. The entire is story is fiction, really, but set in a historic era when being thought a witch was actually thing. This is my inspiration for well done historical fiction ;)

The Elements of Style by William Strunk + E. B. White

I read this one for school a few years ago. It's so good! Extremely concise and covers all those sticky grammatical issues. Also, yes. E. B. White as in Charlotte's Web. I didn't realize that until recently! He came behind his admired professor William Strunk and compiled Strunk's teachings in a book.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
by Dave King + Renni Browne

This is the first book on the writing craft that I voluntarily bought. It addresses often badly done technique and presents the remedy and practice samples. This is a great book when you know your story lacks something in dialogue or description (pick your area) but you don't know what.

Out from Egypt Series by Connilyn Cossette

I've only read the first two books in this series. While the storytelling is excellent (but often tells more than I want it to), her Biblical historical fiction is unparalleled. The texture of manna, why Moses doesn't like speaking (it's more than he doesn't want to), the construction of the Tabernacle, Miriam's role in the new nation ... all used with historic and Hebrew terms. Such flawless foreign detail.

Out of Time Series by Nadine Brandes

I love this series so much! If I ever wrote anything dystopian, I would want it to have the creativity and purpose that Nadine's does. Everything about her world and characters stands out to me more than most books. The theme of shalom and Parvin's struggle to define God ... I can relate to a lot of it (unusual for futuristic America) and it's because Nadine got personal and is awesome. ^.^

The Merchant's Daughter 
by Melanie Dickerson

This one is on the list, because she writes excellent medieval historical fiction retellings. Since that's basically what Andora's Folly is, you can understand why I was taking notes! In this book especially, I was surprised with the quality of her Beauty and the Beast retelling because I couldn't see things coming. The terms for the local government and household items were ones I was familiar with but just finally understood.


There you have it! Have you read any of these? What books have shaped your writing? 

If you have any interest, the introductory post Books That ... I Will Love Forever is over on Teen Authors Journal.

Before you go, check out last week's beta reader sign up and a giveaway that includes Martin Hospitality!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Happy Mother's Day // A Letter to Gemma

Before anything else, Gemma Ebworthy from Martin Hospitality is a mother. With everyone else celebrating Mother's Day by sharing their favorite mothers in literature, I thought I would share something more personal from my own stories. Consider this a little preview into book 2 :)

Farris is only a little baby bean in Martin Hospitality. But I'm enjoying exploring his character in the sequel at the moment. Here's a letter from his teenage self to his mom, Gemma:

Happy Mother's Day! You're a really amazing mother, and I mean that. I know you've gotten so much more than you bargained for on the motherhood front, but you've done splendid.
I'm so glad that God stirred your heart so that I am here today, appreciating the fact that you're my mom. You've been putting us first ever since.
I love that you still read us books aloud, kiss us all goodnight, and think of every possible dangerous situation so that we stay safe.
I'm sorry for all the times I was a horrible, obstinate child. However, without my many arguments with you when I was little, I may never have discovered my love for debate and public speaking. So it wasn't all for nothing!
Thank you for shielding me so I could be a child, and for learning to let me go so that I can be an adult. I appreciate your honesty about our past and your confidence in who I am despite all of that.
I know we haven't always seen eye to eye on things, but I love you. You're strong and beautiful and I hope to find someone just like you.
And thanks for the big brown eyes. I hear they're my best feature. 
Love from your son,


I think he turns out pretty well, don't you? :) My own mom and Gemma have several things in common. I hope you all had a lovely Sunday with your mothers! 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Vlog + Updates + Beta Reader Sign Ups

It's time for another Very Awesome Vlog Challenge video and some updates on what's new!

There were some really thought-provoking questions for this April-June vlog. What makes this one different?? I share my latest book purchases and disclose some facts about myself in the course of the video (which happens to be 3x longer than usual). Definitely join the vlog challenge HERE while there's still time! You're entered to win a $10 Amazon gift card when you join the link up ;D So why I'm begging for competition, I don't know.

Now for the part where I ramble even more. There are few things that have happened of late that I thought you should know about. As always, if you really want to be in the loop, you'll have to subscribe for my newsletter in the sidebar. :)

First, I failed Camp NaNo. You probably don't know that yet unless you already read my newsletter. April was long and painful and the words really fought back. I wrote a blog post on Teen Authors Journal all about titled I Failed NaNoWriMo (and I'm glad). I'd really appreciate it if you'd give it a read and some feedback :) The project that I did not reach my goal on was drafting Martin Crossroads, the sequel to Martin Hospitality. The good news is I have recovered from my untimely burnout and am finally churning out words again!

I wanted you all to know that a paperback of Martin Hospitality will be part of a large giveaway over at Reading Is My Superpower. The giveaway runs May 15-21. You enter by genre (as many as you please): YA/Speculative, Contemporary, Historical, and Mystery/Suspense. All the books are Christian Fiction and Martin Hospitality is part of the Contemporary genre giveaway.

The next piece of news is on Andora's Folly. I get it back from my alpha readers today, so I need betas! Once again, I am not putting a limit on how many. I'm just filtering people out by these requirements:
  • I recognize your name. Just explain who you are and how I should know you on the form :)
  • You can read 30,000 words in two weeks (May 27-June 10)
  • You will offer advice and provide honest (but kind) feedback
  • You will write me a honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads
Click HERE to view the form if the embedded version doesn't appear below. I can't wait to see who all signs up! This form is open through Friday, May 26. If you can't beta read, take heart. The publication date is July 29!

You can learn more about my stories on My Writings page. :)


Phew!! That needed to happen ;) Any questions or comments?

Have a great Mother's Day :) Be looking for a special Tuesday post from Gemma's point of view!!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Arbiter by Jamie Foley // Blog Tour

Welcome to May, folks! I am so please to be giving you my weekend post a day early. My very first author friend of has re-launched the second book Arbiter in her Sentinel Trilogy. It's got a stunning cover and amazing new content.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Jamie personally, being the recipient of her generosity and self-publication knowledge, as well as helping her with her books! I read the entire trilogy in its first edition and greatly enjoyed it. Editing these updated versions for Jamie has been incredible because her books are incredible! She and I could not possibly write more different content, but I get completely sucked into her books and the fascinating world she's created for her colorful characters.

Not only that, but they are fantasy set in the end times. Yeah, super cool! (I've tried that and just so you know, it's really hard to write!) All the allegory to some very tricky and fantastical parts of the Bible makes these books all the more awesome for Christians to read. Yet they are completely non-preachy because the Biblical elements (see what I did there?) just happen to be a part of the story line! As if the highly entertaining twisty plot and vivid characters weren't enough for you ;) I recommend them for teens 14+

You can read my slightly more coherent reviews of the prequel Viper, the first book Sentineland the second book Arbiter by clicking on their titles.

Now that you know you'll love them, you can buy them and enter a giveaway!

Viper: Prequel to The Sentinel Trilogy

Viper: Prequel to The Sentinel Trilogy

$9.99eBook: $2.99
Sorvashti is a captive. Jet is a soldier. Both harness the primal power of aether. More info →

Sentinel: The Sentinel Trilogy Book 1

Sentinel: The Sentinel Trilogy Book 1

$14.99eBook: $4.99
Series: The Sentinel Trilogy, Book 1
Genres: DystopianFantasyYoung Adult

When a meteor storm knocks out the power grid, the supernaturally gifted become pawns in humanity's struggle for survival. More info →

Arbiter: The Sentinel Trilogy Book 2

Arbiter: The Sentinel Trilogy Book 2

$14.99eBook: $4.99

Archangels return to Alani, creating a new generation of Serrans... for a price. More info →
Here is the temporary cover to the third book Sage which will hopefully be re-released later this year!

Click HERE to enter this awesome giveaway!

YA fantasy author Jamie Foley loves strategy games, home-grown berries, and Texas winters. She’s terrified of plot holes and red wasps.

Her husband is her manly cowboy astronaut muse. They live between Austin, TX and their family cattle ranch, where their hyperactive spawnling and wolfpack can run free.


Have you read any of Jamie's books? Seen them around the blogosphere? I know we'd both love to hear what you think of them!

I am currently on a trip to Fort Worth doing a book signing for all the fam and friends up there. Next week's post will be a VAVC vlog and some explanation for my random disappearance in the middle of NaNo, hehe ... ;)

Have an awesome week!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

5 Tips for Writing a Biography // Guest Post by Ivy Rose

Introducing the wonderful Ivy Rose! If you haven't read her books or visited her website, you must do so! Hopefully this awesome post on biography will peak your curiosity about the books she has written. ;) They're really great!
The first thing that came to my mind when I considered writing a novel based on the lives of my ancestors was: “there is absolutely no way I can do this.” I mean...honestly! Writing a book is overwhelming enough without the added concern of making everything historically accurate. The perfectionist in me had an anxiety attack at the mere idea.

I think we all know that many writers struggle with perfectionism. Some have it worse than others. *raises hand* The nice thing about this universal problem is the hundreds of blog posts available on how to combat it. (THIS is one of my favorite posts.) Writer’s perfectionism must die for many reasons, but especially for anyone who wants to write a biography/memoir.

But aside from the problem of perfectionism, how on earth does one even go about writing a biography/memoir?!? While far from an expert, I do have some firsthand experience (reality check: firsthand nightmare) writing a family biography. I made a lot of mistakes. A LOT. To save you the hassle of making the same mistakes I did, let me share a few tips from what I learned.


Decide what “feel” the book will have. Is it going to be a traditional biography with very little dialogue, a lot of “telling,” and distancing the reader from the characters? (Something like the YWAM Heroes of the Faith books) Or is it going to be more like a based-on-real-life historical fiction? (Think the Little House books.) It’s important to figure this out before you start writing because it will impact what kind of research you do.


Keep all flat paper files in one place. (memoirs, notes, letters, pictures, etc.) The system will vary from person to person, but come up with one that you can function within. Some examples are a small filing case; a box with the different things organized into files; a binder broken into segments. Whatever works best with your brain.


Write character detail sheets. No, I’m not talking about the ordinary detail sheets for normal novels that help you remember the character’s eye color, hair color, pet peeves, favorite outfit, etc. I’m talking about a sheet of real, historical information for each character. Things like date/place of birth, date/place of marriage, date/place of death, final resting place/cemetery (this is sometimes challenging to find, but it can be super helpful), parents’ names, siblings’ names, children’s names, etc.


Visit locations. If at all possible, try to find places where you can stand in the same places your ancestors did. Try to find out where the old homesteads were. Find grounds of the general store, the church, the cemetery. Not only is this beneficial for descriptions, but it’s a mental game. It’s more about taking the time to feed your creativity and fueling imagination than about getting a description “right.”


Enjoy the process!! Is it going to be stressful? Yep. More so than with another entirely-fictional novel? Definitely. But remember, just because the process is different doesn’t make it bad.

Circling back to perfectionism. Above everything else, remember this: No matter how much research you do, you will never be 100% accurate.

Just accept it. You can’t be perfect. We live in a fallen world. No matter how much time we spend researching trying to get everything all together, perfection is unattainable.

So why waste time and energy trying? Loosen up. Enjoy the story you’re telling. Enjoy the freedom to fill in spaces where there are holes in your research. *glares at myself*


What are your experiences researching family history?

Have you ever considered writing a novel about your ancestors?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Self-Publishing Checklist

Today I give you the last little add on for the self-publication series! It's been really fun to write out everything I've done and what's been helpful. I hope you've enjoyed the different installments. :)

I'm giving you my self-publishing checklist created specifically because you guys asked for it! Instead of sharing it in post form where you have to revisit all the time, I've typed it all up in a tidy PDF. Click HERE to download it! You'll have it on your computer and be able to print it off.

Also, because it's nearing the end of the month and Ivy Rose will be here on Saturday to talk about writing biography, I'm sharing the #typewriterprompt for the month.


There you have it! Short and sweet. What did you think of the self-publication series? Does the checklist look helpful? What would you like to see me do next? Be sure to come back Saturday for Ivy's post :)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Self-Publication Part 4 // Answers to Questions

Welcome to the part 4 of my self-publication series! It's been awesome hashing this out with you all and I'm so glad you've all been finding it helpful so far. Congrats for sticking with me this long!! :P Today I bring to you the answers to any questions I received that I haven't answered thus far.

1. How easy was it to go through the self-publishing process? ~ Bethany R.

It was doable for me, but it required lots of research and decision making. You have to be willing to spend lots of time and some money and possibly part of your sanity throughout the process. Knowing what to do wasn't as hard as picking the best iteration, finding people to help me, and trying to plan out the timeline for it all. You're given all of that with traditional publishing :)

2. Are there any major hindrances for young authors with self-publishing? ~ Phoebe K.

Well, to get a nice quality, you have to be willing to pay for services such as editing, formatting, and cover design. If you're looking at publishing for just your family and friends, you might be able to do some things yourself, but the quality won't be as good unless you're very talented. :) Other than that, not really! Self-publishing is pretty straightforward, especially when using something like CreateSpace where they lay out the steps for you.

3. How can you protect yourself from thievery when you self-publish? And are there any ways to protect myself from evil scum-bags who want to steal my work?? ~ H

This is a great question! I don't have any personal experience with Wattpad or Scribophile where you're sharing your unfinished work with the world, nor with anyone trying to steal my work. Printed books, even when self-published, have copyrights which make it illegal to replicate without permission or credit to the author. Going through a traditional publisher doesn't make your work any "safer." I stick copyrights on my blog, YouTube videos, and the like so there is a stamp somewhere saying "this is mine." It won't necessarily stop theft from happening, but it does make recovery simpler if it does happen. I do think theft rather unlikely as long as you're working through major platforms still like Wattpad, Scribophile, Blogger, YouTube, and CreateSpace who are accustomed to watching out for such issues and handling the problem. I am sure they all have policies in place to help avoid it if they can (like YouTube taking down pirated videos). Hopefully that helps :)

4. Where did you get your physical copies made of your book? And how was the process for that? Did you publish through Amazon as well as use something else to get the physical copies? ~ Emily M.

I got all my physical copies printed through CreateSpace. Once you actually publish something through them, it goes on Amazon and you can order print copies. You put in the quantity and the shipping and billing information. Ta-da! They print the books on demand and ship them to you. You have to pay the "production cost" which for Martin Hospitality is $5.50 a book and then some shipping. Selling them for $15 still, I get a really good profit off of them! I know you can get copies printed and shipped to you from Lulu as well without "publishing" which people often do for their drafts so they can have physical copies and fiddle around with fonts and cover and the like.

5. Do you have any ideas for other genres, or are you planning on sticking to contemporary? ~ Emily D.

Hehe. I have a lot of ideas in different genres. Christian Contemporary isn't really something I thought I'd want to write in the first place, but here I am!! I'd say most of my ideas are still real world Christian Fiction, but set in different 20th century decades. :) That's what most of my novels will end up being I think. ;) I tried drafting this Christian Dystopian allegory thing for NaNo in November and ... yeah, I don't think that's my genre. I'm hoping to get my medieval Pandora's Box retelling novella published soon, so that will be another new genre. :P And for July NaNo I've already begun planning a Fantasy bookish time travel thingy that I intend to release in serial form if it all works out. So yes!! I have lots of ideas. :D Check out my Pinterest to find all my storyboards {the ones in swirly brackets}.

6. What sparked the very first seeds of Gemma's story? ~ Emily D.

A crazy dream :P It's not my only story to be sparked by a dream, either. The dream was a combination of a Beverly Lewis novel, my aunt's move to Kansas, and my mom's work in our local Pregnancy Center.

7. How expensive is it to run a giveaway for your first release? ~ Olivia

To run a giveaway through Rafflecopter, it's free and customizable. So the only cost is the price of the product you're giving away and the shipping fees. For me, I have to pay about $6 for each of my books with the shipping it takes to get it to me. I spent $.50 per box I assemble to ship them in and about $3.50 US mainland shipping. So it's approximately $10 for me to giveaway one book. Shipping to Canada had a base cost of $15.50 and it was similar for England and Australia. So then it costs me about $22 per. An e-book copy doesn't cost me anything to e-mail to someone, but it's still money not earned :P Any other little things I've given away so far I got on Etsy with a gift card or at TJ Maxx for a few dollars. 

8. Do you have any tips or (even better) a checklist of things you should do when self-publishing? ~ Emily M.

Terrific question! I have given a plethora of well-hidden tips in the last few posts. Because you requested it, I have a self-publishing checklist in the works! I'll share a downloadable version of that with you on Tuesday along with my #typewriterprompt of the month :) Then on Saturday I will have the awesome Ivy Rose over here!


Any specific questions for me that I still haven't answered? Ask them in the comments!