Since it’s Thanksgiving week, I’m taking a break from normal blogging (and focusing on getting A Portrait of Loyalty, the last book in the Codebreakers series, revised and turned back in). But first I wanted to wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving!
This year has had its challenges (they all do, right?), but I have so many things to be thankful for. For a God whose grace and mercy go so far beyond anything I could comprehend. For a family that is full of love and sarcasm (which I adore, LOL). For the continued opportunity to write and publish.
I also just want to say how grateful I am for those of you who read my books and my blog. It’s been about a year since I began sending out my blogs in my newsletters each week–it was totally an experiment at the time to see if it would work, and I’ve been blown away by you guys.
Sometimes we writers feel like we’re just typing words into a vacuum. That they don’t really matter, that we’re isolated and alone. But every week I now get replies to the words. Replies that let me know I’m still writing for a purpose beyond my “have to.” So thanks. Thanks for inviting me into your inbox. Thanks for actually taking the time to read what I’ve written. Thanks–SO MUCH–for taking the time to reply. Every time you do, you light up my day. Seriously.
On Friday, I’ll be posting a coupon code to my store AND to WhiteFire’s store for Black Friday / Cyber Monday, so if you’ve got books on your shopping list, be sure to check out those coupons! And have a Thanksgiving full of, above all, the awareness of who God is and His incredible love for us!
As 2018 draws to a close, I thought it would be fun to look back on the year, month by month, and remember my journey. It’s been quite a busy one!
|The fantabulous Rachel Dixon|
The year began with the release of A Song Unheard in the first few days of January. A book release always brings its own excitement…and extra work. Given all the deadlines I was under, this added load led my brilliant husband to say, “Maybe you should seriously consider hiring a virtual assistant.” He’s suggested this before, and I always waved it off. I can handle it, man! But I’d reached the point where I really couldn’t. So a bit later in January, I hired the amazing Rachel Dixon as my VA, and it has been awesome. Not only is she great at picking up my slack, doing extras I never would have gotten to, and keeping me on schedule (seriously, I long knew I needed an extra brain…), it’s always proven a chance to become friends with a great young woman with whom I click.
At the end of January, we went to our first whole-family professional sporting event–Penguins hockey in Pittsburgh. We all had a blast, and I was enthralled by the collective atmosphere at the event. In February I also read and reviewed the wildly successful and critically acclaimed The Alice Network. Which I loved…but it also got me thinking about the sacred in historical fiction. Namely, how we as historical writers have to choose what beliefs of our historical figures we honor. And how sad it makes me that authors can choose to dismiss what would have been so important to people 100 years ago.
In March, I got to re-release my first historical romance–previously Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland–under WhiteFire. Summerside granted me my rights back with the stipulation that I change the title and cover, which I did with a big, “Aw, shucks. The cover designer has to design a new cover?? What a shame.” 😉 I had so much fun re-imagining the face of Lark’s story!
In April, we got the news that another small press, Ashberry Lane, had announced they were closing their doors. I knew the owners of AL and had mentored Christina a bit as she got everything started, so I was sad to hear this–I knew she’d put together an amazing line-up of books and authors! My husband immediately suggested we contact her to see if she’d be interested in selling Ashberry Lane to WhiteFire. And within days, we had a verbal agreement! It took us several months to get everything completed, but we now have a three-pronged publishing company, with Ashberry Lane as our romance imprint. So exciting!
|Me and Stephanie at the house|
In May, it was time for one of the highlights of my year–my annual writing retreat with my best friend/critique partner, Stephanie Morrill. We met this year in Arnold, Maryland (close to the closest airport to me, though not really close to me…though Arnold is where we lived when our daughter was born, so it was fun to revisit the arera!). We rented a house through AirBnB, which worked out great, and we both finished the manuscripts we were working on! For me, that was The Number of Love. And I still had a day left after I finished, which was just enough time to get an idea hammered out for my second Guideposts book, All the Inn’s a Stage. Also in May, I had the joy of attending the Gaithersburg Book Festival! It was raining and dreary, but several thousand people still turned out, and I had so much fun on a panel with authors Carrie Turansky and Cathy Gohlke. I got to meet some readers I’ve known online for years, as well as some fans who came just to see me, which made my day. 💗
|Me, Cathy, and Carrie at the Gaithersburg Book Festival (weeeee bit muddy!)|
In June, my daughter danced in her last ballet with Appalachian Ballet Theatre, where she’d been taking lessons since she was 5. Insert me weeping. The directors at ABT decided to close the studio after they received word that their landlady was selling the building. The mother of this team was ready to retire anyway, and the daughter was having baby #2. So it made sense for them…but still, we were heartbroken to lose our ballet home! Over the summer, the search was on for a new ballet class. It was made a bit trickier as Xoe was ready to transition to pointe, but we found a studio she likes. Frostburg Dance Academy doesn’t focus solely on ballet, but their technique in it is great, and I’m confident that Xoe is getting wonderful instruction. Going on pointe has made her double-down in her love of dancing, and she’d been practicing at home a ton. Lovely to see!
|Xoe with her class–she’s the one looking at the camera, far left|
Over the summer, I decided it was time to stop being lazy and finding excuses not to exercise. I in fact decided to find reasons to exercise. So I began listening to audio books and working out 30 minutes each day–all my sanity can spare, with the work always awaiting me. In the last six months I’ve listened to some amazing books! I asked for recommendations at the start of this new adventure and compiled a list of the results here on the blog. (Yes, I count my exercising success in terms of books listened to, not time shaved off my mile or something weird like that, LOL.)
In August, I began working on a series of book covers for Lauraine Snelling. This was not only fun as a designer, but it was exciting as a fan-girl. I grew up on Lauraine Snelling books. I read her Golden Filly Series for teens and adored it, but I also read her Red River books as a teen. I’ve got probably a dozen or more of her books on my shelf, so when her agent contacted me about doing these, I was a wee bit giddy. It was a 5-book series we were doing, so took quite a while, but what fun I had getting to know Lauraine and her agency team through the process! (My daughter is also in 3 of these covers…her hair in 2 [#2 and #5] and her entire profile/head/scarf/hair in #4, LOL.)
As an editor, I had the Joy of representing WhiteFire Publishing at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. It was a great time! The whole family went, and while I was teaching classes and taking appointments, David took the kids to Legoland and the aquarium. We’d planned on going into the city to see the Liberty Bell etc., but we were battling colds, and opted to just come home. We did, however, squeeze in a trip to the National Zoo in August, which was fun! And as we launched into our homeschool year, I was surprised to realize my daughter’s work was all independent this year! She’s doing a fabulous job with that, and I’ve been rather delighted to discover that the year I decided to redo with my son (one he’s done before, but long enough ago that he didn’t remember it all) is so much shorter each day than what we’d been doing! LOL. That extra time in my morning has been invaluable!
In September, I celebrated TWO book releases…in style at the beach! 😉 My first book in the Secrets of Wayfarers Inn series released from Guidepost, directly to consumers. Greater Than Gold is book 4 in the series. And the final book in the Shadows Over England series released while we were on vacation in the Outer Banks of NC, An Hour Unspent. We were vacationing this year with family friends, and we had lots of fun. Moreover, it was a much-needed time of refreshing for me. I’d been laboring under some intense deadlines and was running on empty. I came home from vacation rejuvenated, relaxed, and bursting with ideas again…which was great, because I’d just turned in my second Guidepost book and needed to get started on the second book in my next series for Bethany House!
Though October is usually one of my busiest months, this year was different. Thanks to a year of torrential rain here in WV, things like my family farm’s fall festival were cancelled. (And also thanks to that rain, it was a year of SNAKES!! Ack! We spotted two venomous copperheads in our yard this year, in addition to the black snake that snuck into my office! YIKES!) So we enjoyed a more relaxed fall. You may have noticed a few changes on the blog round about then, though. That’s when I decided to start sending out a weekly newsletter with my blog posts, focusing on my Thoughtful post. I’ve been touched by the encouragement and feedback I’ve received from readers as a result! Also in October, I got to reveal the cover of The Number of Love…which may possibly be my favorite cover ever!
November was, as always, a month to focus on gratitude. And one of the things I’ve been grateful for is the launch of our young reader imprint with WhiteFire, which we’ve called WhiteSpark. It went live in November with two books–a young adult by the prolific Melody Carlson, and a middle grade by debut author Bonnie Swinehart. I was tickled to be able to introduce my daughter to the world as an illustrator with Bonnie’s book! She did small pictures at each chapter head and a few larger ones throughout the book as well. And what a great job she did! Pure Mama-pride going on over here…
In December, we got to go on an adventure to New York City. =) We decided that our kids could each choose a 13-year-old adventure around said birthday–something out of the ordinary, something we wouldn’t usually do. Xoë (the older) decided she wanted to see a professional ballet–specifically, The Nutcracker. We’d toyed with the idea of taking her to Europe for it, but ultimately we decided on NYC. One of the things she really wanted was to dress up in a long gown, so even though this particular ballet crowd wasn’t all that fancy, we went all out–and had a wonderful time!
2018 is ending with me finishing up that second book for my Codebreaker Series, which is due on January 2. I cut it a bit closer than I’d like, and the book is longer than I wanted it to be, but it’s finished–phew!
Overall, 2018 has been a year of hard work. There have been so many unexpected blessings and opportunities, unforeseen growth with our publishing company, and lots of awesome reading and experiences. It’s been a great year. One with many (literal) headaches as I spend too many hours in front of my computer, but when I look back at the growth, the many books written and read, edited and designed, I know they’ve been hours well spent.
When you look back over 2018, what stands out to you the most?
This week, in celebration of Thanksgiving in America, I’m going to be taking the week off from the blog. My kids and I have the week off from homeschooling, so we’re going to seize the chance to watch some movies, do some reading (and writing, for me) and otherwise relax. I hope everyone has a wonderful, blessed week!
And be sure to come back here next Monday to see what Cyber Monday deals are running in my shop!
It’s once again that time of year when we set aside time to focus on giving thanks. Thanks to our God for all He has provided. Thanks for all He is. Thanks for all He’s made us.
It’s that time of year when I often pause to remember the start of the American tradition and stand in continual awe at the Pilgrims that first celebrated Thanksgiving on this continent. Who celebrated and gave thanks despite the fact that every single one of them had suffered the cruel death of a loved one in the year that had just passed. That families had been patched together, binding widows to widowers, orphans to parents who had lost children. That the community had chosen to hold steady, to move forward together. To give thanks. Despite the fact that they had so many reasons to mourn. So much grief burdening them. So many obstacles ahead.
When I’m making a list of things to be thankful for, I know what tops mine: my family, my friends, the chance to write, the Church, His Spirit.
But this year, as I’ve spent these last few months contemplating how I can #BeBetter, how I can stop viewing those who have different opinions or beliefs as my opposition or enemy, I feel like I’m being challenged to something new.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18, Paul instructs us (emphasis my own):
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Everything. That isn’t always easy. But God also calls us to offer our praise even when it’s hard. Even when it’s a sacrifice. Sometimes, thanksgiving is the same. Sometimes, He asks us to take a step back from the emotion that holds us captive–the pain, the anger, the grief…the happiness, the Joy, the victory–and see things through His eyes. To see that even when we feel loss, He is still at work. Even when death steals from us, He gives us life. Even when we’re prisoners, He offers freedom of the soul. Even when we cannot see the reason, He holds it all in His hands.
But not only that. The things we consider victory and Joy cause pain and fear for others. God cares about that, too, doesn’t He? He loves those who are confused about their identity…He loves those who fear bigotry so much that they extend the definition into things I don’t feel it should include. He loves those who think my faith is dangerous. Does He want us laughing in Joy when we score a “win”…or praying for those who are hurt by it?
This year, I’m going to be spending my Thanksgiving deliberately thanking God for the things and people that cause me stress. I’m going to thank Him for the people who don’t believe as I do–because they have opinions that challenge me, and it’s through challenging each other that we achieve intellectual honesty. I’m going to thank Him for what I’ve lost, because sometimes it takes stripping me of the things I cling to for me to really see Who matters. I’m going to thank Him for every single thing I hope changes in the year to come, because the fact that it’s here in my life means I need to learn from it.
We are all dealt hard blows. We all suffer. We all fear. It’s what we do with it that makes a difference. And if our “doing” is to praise God, to thank Him for the loss, for the pain, for the hurt, for the difficulty… Well then, we’re not going to be seeking revenge. We’re not going to be wallowing in those emotions–we’re going to be wallowing in Him.
And that, my friends, can change the world. One person at a time.
Next week I will be celebrating Thanksgiving and taking the week off from blogging, but be sure to swing by here on Monday, November 26th to see what Cyber Monday sales I’ll be offering!
As you may know, my next novel, An Hour Unspent, releases in just THREE weeks! I can not wait for you all to meet Barclay and Evelina. In fact, I am so excited about this story, that I wanted to give you a sneak peek. So, MY gift to YOU today is the PDF for the first chapter of An Hour Unspent!!! Yay! And in case you were wondering, YES! It is, in fact, my 29th birthday…again…
Keep your eyes on alert for my next newsletter. I have an exciting contest and giveaways coming to your inbox on September 4th (release day). There will be giveaways for my US AND International Readers.
Wishing you a safe and fun Fourth, full of picnics and fireworks and reflections on the bravery that the Patriots embodied to make the United States a reality and not just a dream.
My family will enjoy a picnic and then watch the fireworks from my sister’s porch. Though I think our favorite celebration was the year we hilariously went to Niagara Falls for the Fourth. Because nothing says American Independence like going to Canada! LOL
Do you have any special plans for the holiday?