CRITIQUE IN WRITING: Can you handle the truth?

In life, there are many different types of people…different types of personalities. And, as a leader in various organizations and ministries, I’ve discovered the need for this variety. Especially on your core team.

You need those that I call “The Cheerleaders”. These are your optimists, the glass-is-half-full kind of people. They will walk into a meeting and say “the speaker was great! The music was fabulous! I loved           , and           , and           ! The group seemed engaged! But it was difficult to notice ’cause I was having such a good time!”

But you also need “The Realists”. These are the glass-is-twice-as-big-as-it-needs-to-be folks. “It was good. The speaker did well, but the group started to lose touch near the end, maybe we could limit the speaker’s time by 5-10 minutes next time. The room was a little chilly, so perhaps we bump it up a few degrees too.”

These people are NOT downers (glass-half-empty people). They are VITAL! If we only had Cheerleaders, you would never know what needs to be tweaked for a more optimal experience. You need the folks that have an eye for balance, an eye for feedback and critique. They will help improve the meeting for the group. That is the only way sometimes. Because as the planner, or writer, you can be too close to the work.

Now, there is that third category, “The Downers”, who will find something negative (not constructive) to say about anything and everything. The difference? They don’t offer helpful solutions. There is a general tone of disapproval and an attitude of wanting to tear down the efforts made. These comments/reviews are terribly helpful. You can still learn from them. And I encourage you, in your writing or in your events, to find any nuggets of truth in there, though probably not as extreme as delivered (in most cases), and put the rest out of mind.

Where does critique come from?

As a writer, and in other art forms and most any leadership role, your work is constantly critiqued. But let’s focus on writing. From the time you put pen to paper or keystroke to word processor, your art is subject to someone else’s opinion. Provided that you do, indeed, share it.

The first place it is likely to be seen/shared, is with a critique partner. This is a person (online or in person) you have found who is at your craft level or ahead of you that can look at your work with an outsider’s eye and give you feedback. They are not as close to the work as you are and they can help you find some of those holes that may accidentally find their way into your manuscript. What I mean is that, we writers do a lot in our heads, right? Sometimes we think there is more on the page than is actually there. A crit partner can help us spot where we left something unsaid that we explained “in our head”.

Likewise, a critique group is another wonderful place to get feedback from a variety of writing levels. I would advise you join a group (whether online or in person) that has a least one published author in it. Or else you may be the blind leading the blind. These groups can help you gauge what different types of readers will get from your work: what questions they may have and their reactions–what is funny, what jokes don’t go over, what is intense, etc.

Beta readers, in my opinion, are a must. These are a small group (I would suggest only 3-5 people) that read your entire manuscript to give you content feedback. If you select friends, make sure they are friends who are not “Cheerleaders”, but are more of the “Realist” bent. Definitely a friend that will be honest with you. Or select people that aren’t connected to you at all. As a writer of clean Historical Romance, it is important that I chose my primary beta readers wisely: one has a History degree, one has a literature degree, and one is a freelance editor. They give me mainly feedback on content–plot holes, character development, storylines, etc. Not so much grammar (although they do mark those too)…that is not their primary function.

Then your manuscript needs to have an editor. This is a person who is a professional. In a publishing house, your manuscript will go through three (3) editors: content, line (think primarily grammar), and proofing. Keep in mind, the editor is not out to “get you”, shame you, or hurt you. Their purpose is to make your manuscript, your story shine. To make it as strong as it can be. If you go in with that attitude, you will have a much better experience. Even when an editor really kicked my butt (that manuscript needed it), I thanked her, rolled up my sleeves, and went to work. That book is one of my top selling and highest reviewed works. She was right. Totally right. Everything that she said.

Finally, once your work is out there, you will face reviewers. Now, they will come from all three categories: cheerleaders, realists, and downers. Don’t let any of them get to your head…or your heart. Don’t let the cheerleaders inflate your ego, or the downers break your heart. It is one person’s opinion. If you do read your reviews (and some authors choose to just not), do so to learn from them and make your next book even better.

Bottom line, we need critique. But it is important that we approach it with the right perspective. It is a tool. An opportunity…for growth. For improving our craft.

You can either take advantage of it. Or fight it.

 

GIVEAWAY & INTERVIEW: Author Jordan Elizabeth

Hello, readers! Welcome to another edition of the blog! I have a fabulous YA author for you to meet today – author Jordan Elizabeth. She is a Clean Reads author who I met through our fabulous Clean Reads Author Facebook page where we can connect, cross promote, share advice, and generally support and encourage one another. One of the many wonderful things about Clean Reads Publishing! Love it! At any rate, let me stop blabbering and get to Jordan.

Thanks for being on the blog, Jordan! First, can you tell us a little about your novel?

In Kistishi Island, Serena is an outcast. She is plagued by imaginary friends, and everyone tells her she needs to grow up. She runs away to join her mother on an archeological dig on the fictional Kistishi Island. There, Serena learns her imaginary friends are actually goddesses.

What an interesting concept….turning fictional friends into reality. What was the inspiration for Kitishi Island?

Long ago, I read an article about a man who was sad that his imaginary friends abandoned him. That stuck with me, and then when I was vacationing in Niagara Falls, I came up with the idea to do a story about a girl with imaginary friends who runs away to a tourist destination.

I, too, find that new places inspire me. But I also find that something as simple as a historical object can as well. It is true that inspiration can come from anywhere…

Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be when you were a child?

Always! I wanted to be a writer and a teacher. I’m currently both, so that makes me ecstatic.

Neat. I love when I hear of young dreams coming true!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

As a toddler, I would sit in my stroller making up stories based on picture books my mother bought me. I would do that the entire time she and my grandmother went shopping.

Now, as I always say, there are parts of the process we love (or we wouldn’t be doing this), but there are parts we don’t necessarily like. What part of the writing process do you dread?

Not having enough time! I have a one-year-old son and he keeps me busy. I try to squeeze in a chapter a night depending on what else is going on.

Truth! There is never enough time!

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

Write what you love. Don’t write a story just because you think it’s what others want to read.

I agree whole-heartedly. You always hear “write what you know”…and I agree with that to a certain extent, but I do agree with you that it is just as important (if not more so) to write what you love.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading a nonfiction piece – The Lost Village of Delta by Mary J. Centro. My current manuscript is a young adult novella based on the flooding of Delta, NY to create a reservoir.

I like to set the mood for my writing sessions. I find I need to about 80% of the time to transition from the craiziness of life 🙂

What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

I need complete silence. The slightest thing distracts me.

Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?

I like to write best at night. I have to be alone at my desk or I’m too distracted. My cat doesn’t count. She offers moral support.

That’s sweet 🙂 Though I’m more of a dog person…

How long does it take you to write a book?

It used to take me 3-4 months to write a book. Lately, it’s been about one book a year. I understand it’s because of growing up and having new responsibilities. I love my life.

I am in the same boat. With the marketing and promoting, plus the other life stuff, there’s just not as much time to dedicate to writing only.

Can you tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb?

The story involves a romance between the main character and the king’s advisor. It’s a sweet romance that will have you saying “aww.”

I can get on board with that! Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

My WIP is tentatively titled Delta. The story will span a few years, from when the state decides to flood the village of Delta to when they do. It is seen through the eyes of a young girl.

Interesting. Thanks again for joining me today and for sharing about your book and your process. And I will now turn it over to the readers and let them do what they do: read about the book!

Kitishi Island

Serena Cole can kick serious butt thanks to young women only she can see. School bullies aren’t a problem, but Serena’s mental health might be. To shield Serena from a dark secret, her family tries to convince her that her friends are imaginary.

Fleeing her distrustful aunt, Serena joins her mother on an archeological dig at Kistishi Island. There, Serena discovers an ancient scroll and realizes her invisible friends are goddesses native to the island, and they are in danger of enslavement for their abilities. Only Serena can save her friends if she can discover the past her family has hidden her entire life – the reason why only she can see the goddesses.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Aunt Nikki’s scream tore her from her fears. The creature had her aunt’s arm twisted behind her, while its other hand pinned her leg down. As its mouth descended toward Aunt Nikki’s shoulder, Serena slammed the tome across the creature’s face and heard something snap. For a moment, she thought it was dead, but the creature moved its head back into position, its red eyes boring into hers.

When it hissed and snapped at her, she swung the tome again, slapping it harder. Talons brushed her back. Her pleather pants dug into her hips by the belt loops as her feet lifted off the ground.

Serena twisted around, but the creature lifting her a few feet off the ground only shrilled in triumph. Its feet caught around her legs, turning her so it could get a better grip. She fought harder, thrashing her body more violently. One of the shirt’s straps tore and she sagged, her body spinning in its grasp. Serena’s heart thudded against her chest. She stabbed the edge of the tome into the creature’s arm; the cut welled with green slime. It released her, beating its wings, and she fell to land in a roll.

She darted between the tents as the wounded creature shrieked its pain. As she sped around another tent, a second creature slammed into her. It scrabbled for the tome, snaring the velvet. She turned on her heels, felt the velvet tear. The ground rose up, sand spinning under her boots. She slid, and in the next second, her feet touched nothing.

The creature held her under the arms, talons scraping her skin as it attempted to jerk the tome away. She spat at it, kicked. She lashed her heel across its face.

A third gargoyle grabbed her around the waist, ascending into the sky. As the world spun, Stanomar screamed, “Serena!”

Something grabbed the creature from behind. It shouted, twisting in the air to throw off the hindrance. The talons dug into her hips, one tearing a hole in her pants. She craned her head and spotted Stanomar’s face over the creature’s shoulder. He was flushed red, his lips parted in a growl.

They rose higher. Serena sensed the land dipping away. The wind tore at her, brushing over her skin faster as the creature increased the flapping of its wings. She dared to look down, screaming as she saw desert pass beneath them. Even when she craned her head, she couldn’t see the ruins anymore…no – not ruins at all, but underground pyramids of a labyrinthine society.

Stanomar wrapped his hands around its thick throat to force it into submission, but the creature tried to knock him off with its spiked tail.

“Be careful!” Serena craned her head to see him. Beyond, another black streak appeared in the sky, drawing nearer. “There’s another coming!”

Buy Link

Amazon

More About the Author

Jordan Elizabeth is the author of thirteen young adult fantasy novels. She writes down her nightmares in order to live her dreams. When she’s not creating art or searching for lost history in the woods, she’s updating her blog. Jordan roams Central New York, but she loves to travel.

You can contact Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com. Signed copies are available on her website.

Connect with Jordan and her books

JordanElizabethBooks.com

https://www.facebook.com/JordanElizabethAuthor

GIVEAWAY

Jordan is offering to one (1) winner, randomly chosen by Rafflecopter, an ebook copy of her novel Rogue Crystal. Please follow the directions below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

GIVEAWAY & INTERVIEW: Author Marie Sontag

Hello, readers! I am only so eager to introduce you to this week’s author. The history buff in me is just thrilled. Author Marie Sontag writes middle grade and YA Historical Fiction. I met her through the ACFW Historical Fiction genre Facebook page. Once again, just another perk of being a member of the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). I highly recommend joining this or another writing group. Those of you who have been following the blog for a while may remember that the ACFW holds a large conference every year, they have online classes each month for continuing education, they have accountability sites for pages edited and daily word counts, online critique groups, and so much more!

But, I know you are probably wanting to learn more about Marie Sontag. Well, let us wait no longer…

Welcome to the blog, Marie. Thanks for joining us! First, can you tell us a little about your novels.

As a former social studies teacher, I love bringing the past to life. My Ancient Elements series for middle grade readers takes them on an adventure with twelve-year-old Sam (Samsuluna), a supposed orphan in ancient Mesopotamia. In book one Sam’s mother dies, so he wants to join a caravan traveling from Babylon to Tyre in order to find his uncle and escape the clutches of his imprisoned father. He ends up getting adopted by a Babylonian healer, but still wants to find his uncle. Before he can get to Tyre, he must solve the mystery of the stolen jewels. Book two takes place in Egypt where King Hammurabi sends his adoptive father to study medicine. Sam and his friends try to uncover the secret of an alabaster jar in a hidden tomb. In book three, now at the age of fifteen, Sam must escape Mycenaean pirates, an evil king in Crete, and confront his vengeful father when Sam, his uncle, and his father meet up in Tyre (Phoenicia). Will he solve these mysteries? At what cost?

Rising Hope, a young adult historical novel, is book one of the Warsaw Rising Trilogy. Book one tells the story of six teens who, through loss, find hope as they fight against the Germans when their Boy Scout and Girl Guides troops join forces with the Polish Underground Army during the 1944 Warsaw Rising.

Wow! You have my Historical Fiction heart thumping pretty hard! I am loving it! And I have to ask, especially since this is a subject you teach…would you share some of the more historically significant events behind your stories?

In the Ancient Elements series, Sam’s adventures come into conflict with the laws of Hammurabi, king of Babylonia. Sam lied about being an orphan and gets adopted by a famous asu (healer), named Balashi. Sam later learns that Hammurabi’s laws, one of the first codes to be set in stone, demand that a man who steals the son of another must be put to death. Fearing officials will discover he’s not truly an orphan, Sam runs away from his adoptive father in order to protect the asu’s life.

In book two, Sam and his adoptive family move to Egypt after Hammurabi sends Balashi there to learn from this medically advanced society. In the process, Sam finds himself in the middle of a plot to overthrow the Pharaoh when Sam and his adoptive sister stumble onto the mystery of a hidden tomb.

In book three, Amata falls in love with a Phoenician merchant who wants to help Egyptians overthrow their wicked rulers and reinstall a just Pharaoh. Amata and her friends try to prevent the Hyksos (Canaanite warriors from the Edomite, Amorite, Jebusite, Hittite and Moabite clans) from taking over lower Egypt.

Before the fighting in Egypt begins, Sam sails for Phoenicia to find his uncle. On the way, he is captured by Mycenaean pirates, then rescued by princess Ariadné from Crete. Ariadné helps Sam escape from her father, King Minos, by trailing a thread that leads Sam through the maze of their palace at Knossos to a safe exit. From Crete he sails to Cyprus, and finally to Tyre in Phoenicia.

While Sam and Amata face their perilous adventures, Sam’s father is released from prison and joins a caravan from Babylon to Tyre. He plans to get revenge on his brother, Zim, and his son, Sam, because he blames them for all his troubles. On the caravan route, he fights desert bandits and learns a little about the Canaanite religious temples and gods, especially their gods Baal and Dagon, and the Phoenician goddess, Astarte.

In Rising Hope, the main fictional character and his sister are paired with historical Polish Scouts. The Scouts join forces with the Polish Underground Army in hopes of overthrowing the Germans before the Soviets “liberate” them. These teens attempt this suicidal mission, known as the sixty-three days of the Warsaw Rising, because, as a Christian nation, they don’t want the Allies to give their country to the Communists when the Germans are finally defeated. In the end, the Soviets are allowed to take over the Polish nation, but the Polish people retain a hope that one day they will regain their freedom. Book two and three trace this path of hope through the eyes of the series’ main character and his friends, including historical figures. As spies, they fight against Communism during the Cold War until, in 1989, their hope is finally realized. Once again, Poland becomes a sovereign nation—forty-four years after their Warsaw Rising.

That makes me all the more intrigued. You have packed these books with history!! Fascinating! Please, tell us…what was the inspiration for these novels?

I was inspired to write the first book of the Ancient Elements series, The Bronze Dagger, when I walked into an antiquities store and saw a bronze dagger hanging in a display case. I wanted to buy the dagger because it was found in ancient Mesopotamia and dated back to around 1800 BC. At the time, my students were studying ancient Mesopotamia, and King Hammurabi who ruled Babylonia around 1790 BC. I thought how inspired my students would be if they could touch and hold the dagger! Since I couldn’t afford to buy it at the time, I asked myself, “If that dagger could talk, what would it say? Who made it? Why did they make it? Then I decided to write a historical fiction book for my students from the possible answers I got to these questions. I had so much fun writing book one that it evolved into a series of three books.

Rising Hope was born out of a trip my husband and I took to Warsaw, Poland in 2008. In 1996, we had a sixteen-year-old Polish student live with us for a year. Now, twelve years later, we had an opportunity to visit him in Warsaw, and to meet his family and fiancée. When he took us on a tour of the Warsaw Museum, I learned about the Polish Scouts’ involvement in trying to overthrow the Germans in Poland before the Soviets came in and took over their country. I had never heard of this event and wanted the students I taught back in the United States to learn what teens their age had attempted to accomplish, in spite of the hardships, because they loved freedom and refused to give up without a fight.

Inspiration does come from anywhere. You mentioned you were a teacher. Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be when you were a child?

When I was little, I always had a hard time falling asleep, so I’d make up stories to occupy my mind. As I grew older, I wanted to be a teacher because I loved learning new things, and always grasped them better when I could explain them to someone else. I still loved making up stories, so I began to write them in journals. When I was a Girl Scout, I worked on a creative writing badge and submitted a story to a children’s magazine. It wasn’t accepted, but it whetted my appetite for writing. As an adult, I continued to write and submit while teaching middle school and enjoyed both endeavors. In 2012, I had to retire early from teaching due to a physical disability. That’s when I began the adventure of writing full time!

I totally understand the teaching piece. I was a non-traditional (zoo/museum) educator for twenty years in the field of Biology and Chemistry. A little bit more of a leap to Historical Fiction/Romance.

Now, as much as we love writing and getting those wonderful ideas onto paper, we know it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. There are things we don’t love as much. What part of the writing process do you dread?

I dread the marketing phase of the writing process. It’s necessary, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it!

You and me both! Whew! Is that a learning process!

I am forever the learner…I try never to miss an opportunity. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

My first tip for becoming a better writer is to read books on writing, such as books on character development, deep point of view, the “Moral Premise”, and plot charting (my favorite is called the “W Plot”), and to do this only when you are writing so you can put what you learn into practice. My second tip is to get involved with other writers who will provide honest and helpful feedback.

Great tips! Thanks! I do try to alternate between reading fiction and non-fiction (a writing craft book). I think we also learn intuitively from other writers. And…well, many writers were first avid readers I think.

What are you currently reading?

Currently I’m reading Hamilton and Peggy! by L.M. Elliott.

Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

My current work in progress, tentatively titled Yosemite Discovered, will serve as book two of a proposed historical fiction series about two orphans who travel west with their guardian just before the California gold rush. Book one is written for middle-grade readers as they follow the thirteen-year-old fictional main character, Daniel Whitcomb, and his ten-year-old stepsister, Hannah, on their wagon train adventures from Illinois to California with their guardian, Jim Savage a historical figure. While book one is written for middle-grade readers (coming out after book two is completed), the second book, Yosemite Discovered, is written for young adults. Book two follows the now sixteen-year-old Daniel Whitcomb to the goldfields with Jim Savage where Daniel helps his guardian run trading posts as they attempt to repel Indians attacks and placate greedy miners, all-the-while trying to keep peace between the two. When an inevitable Indian war breaks out, Daniel follows Jim into the previously undiscovered Yosemite Valley to rout out marauding Ahwahneechee. Book three will follow the series’ characters into the country’s unfolding drama that culminates in the Civil War.

Marie, this has been just deliciously fascinating for me. I LOVE history and these details have been amazing…more so than you can know. I have been so thrilled to have you on the blog and to have you share about your books and your process.

But I want my readers to get a chance to check out the books even more and get to those excerpts and the details of the GIVEAWAY (below). Please, readers, enjoy!

ANCIENT ELEMENTS SERIES

Ancient Elements Book Trailer – https://youtu.be/QoXmqA1mXa8

The Bronze Dagger

Samsaluna, a physically handicapped boy on the verge of adolescence, leaves his broken and abusive home in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains in an attempt to find his uncle in the city of Susa, near ancient Babylon. Befriending a young baker’s son and an asu’s daughter, Sam soon finds himself on a journey to the lively city of Babylon. By becoming a healer’s apprentice, Sam not only learns a valued and respected skill—increasing his prospects and status—but also endears himself to the great asu, earning himself a second chance at being part of a family. But when Sam’s past won’t stay behind him and his well-intentioned lies come to light, he risks losing it all. Brokenhearted that he has brought about his own downfall and has been abandoned by his new friends, Sam is forced to come to terms with his deceptions. His newfound understanding of justice, according to the code set forth by the great ruler Hammurabi, and the unyielding compassion shown to him by the asu must come into play before Sam can defeat the demons of his past, right his wrongs, and establish himself as the worthy apprentice and son he always hoped to be. Surrounded by the changing times in ancient Mesopotamia, Sam learns to cope with the past and thrive in the present in this coming-of-age middle grade story.

Enjoy an Excerpt

An Excerpt from The Bronze Dagger, Book One of The Ancient Elements Series

Sam’s brother dove into the cheetah with a dagger, and then stepped back. The wounded cat now turned on Yasmah. In the flickering firelight, Sam only saw the back of the cheetah’s head and Yasmah’s occasional lunges with the knife. Locked in a macabre dance, they tumbled for a few moments. Then it ended. The cheetah lay dead, blood trickling from its neck.

Sam hurried over to Yasmah. Blood oozed from a gash in his brother’s side. The red blotches on Yasmah’s tattered tunic showed where the cat’s claws had ripped into the flesh of his brother’s arms and chest. Yasmah’s breathing came hard and fast. . .

Yasmah gripped Sam’s arm. “Listen, little brother. I went to Ninkas’ house to steal back our daggers, but I could only find one.” His teeth clenched as he raised the dagger, still stained with the cheetah’s blood. “May it bring you luck. Take it and find Uncle Zim. He’s all you have now.”

The Alabaster Jar

 

Sam held up the lamp and studied the room’s walls. Hieroglyphs of prayers, painted pictures of the gods, and elaborate stone torch sconces adorned the area. There has to be more to this tomb. But what? Why were men sneaking in and out of it?

The Silver Coin

The Mycenaean captain laughed and addressed his prisoners. “By the time people realize you’re missing, you’ll all be slaves of Greek merchants or landowners. And I’ll be that much richer!” Sam swallowed hard. Now I’ll never find Uncle Zim. And who will want to buy a crippled slave? Numbness overtook him as he saw his hopes, like the sail of the Phoenician ship, go up in flames.

Rising Hope

Rising Hope tells the story of six teens that, through loss, find hope as they fight against the Germans when their Scout troops join forces with the Underground Army during the 1944 Warsaw Rising.

Looking back, eighteen-year-old Tadzio realized that it all began when his father walked out on him September 8, 1939. That same day, his Scoutmaster challenged Tadzio and his friends to give their all for Poland. At first, thirteen-year-old Tadzio said no. Now, five years later, the Germans still occupied Poland. But at least Tadzio rose to the challenge. And he still had hope. This is how it began.

Rising Hope Book Trailer – https://youtu.be/_AwZhJ9pGBY

Enjoy an Excerpt

An Excerpt from Rising Hope, Book One of the Warsaw Rising Series

The three Scouts scurried to their assigned spots to begin their psychological warfare mission against the occupying Germans. After about ten minutes of painting the words Avenge Wawer on the sides of Warsaw’s buildings, Benyameen stopped. “We could cover a lot more territory if we found a shorter way to write Avenge Wawer.”

Tadzio looked at Benyameen. “You’re right. Now that we’ve graffitied several buildings on this street, maybe we could just use the first two letters of each word. Just PW—Pomścimy Wawer. Avenge Wawer.”

Krzysh nodded. “Good idea.” Krzysh began to paint the letter P on the side of a building.

Suddenly Benyameen jumped in front of Krzysh. “I have an idea.” Benyameen connected a W to Krzysh’s P by making the downward stroke of the P form the W’s middle, upward stroke.

Tadzio walked over and examined the graffiti. “It kind of looks like an anchor.”

The Scouts all took a step back and studied the symbol. Krzysh smiled. “You’re right. Kotwica—anchor. “From now on, let’s just paint an anchor with a loop on top. It’ll go a lot faster and people will still get the message.”

The Scouts worked with renewed energy. “PW,” Krzysh said as he painted the new sign. “You know, it could also stand for Polska Walcząca—The Fighting Polish.”

Tadzio thought about their new symbol for Avenge Wawer and how it could also mean The Fighting Polish. He wished he were fighting with more than just words and a paintbrush. In spite of the cold, heat rose inside his chest. First, the picture of over one hundred innocent Wawer boys and men lined up for a mass German execution came to mind. Then, the image of his mother behind prison bars flashed before him. Finally, he imagined himself pressing the cold barrel of a gun against a German’s head. Yet, no matter how hard he willed, he couldn’t imagine himself pulling the trigger. Lost in thought, Tadzio didn’t notice the German officer rounding the corner to his right until it was too late.”

Buy Links

Books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com

Bulk purchases can be made at discounted prices from Sunbury Press

More About the Author

Marie Sontag loves to bring history to life through historical fiction. With a BA in social science and an MA and Ph.D. in education, she says teaching middle school for over 15 years has kept her young. Her middle grade series, Ancient Elements, takes place in Ancient Mesopotamia: The Bronze Dagger, The Alabaster Jar, and The Silver Coin. When on author visits, Dr. Sontag is always accompanied by her authenticated 3,500-year-old bronze dagger and alabaster jar, as well as her 2,300-year-old Phoenician coin.

Her YA historical fiction book, Rising Hope, uses both fictional and historical characters to place readers alongside some of the Polish Boy Scouts and Girl Guides that helped the Polish Underground fight the Germans during WWII. Born in Milwaukee, WI and having lived FOREVER in San Jose, CA, Dr. Sontag currently makes her home North Richland Hills, TX where her favorite pastime is playing trains with her grandson.

Connect with Marie and her books

Author Website – www.mariesontag.com

Author Blog – http://www.mariesontag.com/blog/

Email  – mariesontag@mariesontag.com

Twitter – @profsontag

Facebook – www.facebook.com/AuthorMarieSontag

Pinterest  – https://www.pinterest.co.uk/maries3612/

GIVEAWAY

Marie Sontag will be giving away one copy of The Bronze Dagger and one copy of Rising Hope. Please follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter below to enter. And please note there are two prizes, so use the arrows to move to the next prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

GIVEAWAY & GUEST POST: Author Lucie Ulrich

Just Do It!

by Lucie Ulrich

Okay, so I totally stole that line from Nike, but it fits my life. I never set out to be a writer. I wasn’t born with a passion for books, so writing one never entered my mind—until I hit my forties. Before that, I had other goals in mind.

Goal 1: Work for an airline (like my father) and see the world. Thought I started at a security checkpoint (pre-TSA), I eventually was hired by Continental Airlines. I didn’t see all of the world, but I saw enough to feel accomplished and satisfied. Goal met.

Goal 2: Be the best stay-at-home mom I could be. Staying at home was something my husband and I agreed to long before we had children. It came with ups and downs and a good number of struggles, but we made it work. This is not a statement against working mothers by any stretch. It was the right (and best) decision for me. Goal met.

Goal 3: Home school my children. Now, this plan came out of nowhere. You have to understand that back in the mid 80’s, home schooling was a new concept, and one that was not always well-received. I had no plans to go that route. My husband and I had visited a private school which we felt would work for our daughter. My neighbor decided to homeschool her kids, which I thought was crazy. Guess that’s what I got for thinking. Lol! Honestly, I got into the shower one day with the potential school on my mind and came out knowing I needed to give home schooling a try.

My poor daughter was my guinea pig. In the end, she went from a home school setting, to a public school, to a private school, back to home school, and finished her final two years at a private school. My son was home schooled from kindergarten through the eighth grade. I knew enough to know I wasn’t prepared, or willing to teach his high school years. I did prepare both kids to the best of my ability, and had a great time doing it. Goal met.

Goal 4: Write a novel and have it published. This one came about slowly. As a member of my church’s drama team, I was happy acting in skits and plays. A few years in, the writing bug bit. Long story short, I took over as writer and director, which brought me to a similar positing at the private school my son attended—all the while, novels were being birthed in me. From the time I penned my first (not-so-great) book until the time I had one published, eleven years passed. My plan was to be published by the time I was 50. Yeah, didn’t happen until I was fifty-eight, but it DID happen. Goal met.

All of my goals came with ups, downs, frustrations, joy, laughter, tears, and lots of hard work—but they did come. I’d love to hear about your goals—the ones reached and those still in the working or even dreaming stage. Two dreamers will be chosen to receive an e-copy of any of my books—winner’s choice.

Interview

Thank you, Lucie for that great post. I absolutely believe in setting goals – goals in life, goals for the year, for the week…you name it. I feel more accomplished when I have goals.

Now, lets talk about your new release! Congrats, by the way 🙂 First, can you tell us a little about your novella?

Mountain View Lodge brings back a secondary character who took on a life of her own in The Starlight Inn. Tillie Spencer started as a somewhat nosy, little old lady, but turned into a mysterious, little old lady who quickly became one of my favorite characters. Tillie travels from hotel, to inn, to lodge, imparting her advice—whether welcomed or not. In MVL, she finds herself in North Carolina during the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day—Autumn’s least favorite holiday. But Valentine’s Day isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning.

Intriguing. I love reading more about a character that is so endearing.

What was the inspiration for Mountain View Lodge?

I love the mountains, and I love North Carolina, so it seemed the perfect setting. Originally, I wanted to write a holiday series, so Valentine’s Day was the logical next holiday after Christmas. In the end, however, I opted for the travel aspect over the holiday one. I’m not a huge Valentine’s Day fan, myself, so I incorporated that into Autumn’s character.

You are speaking my language! Mountains, North Carolina, someone who’s not as keen on holidays…

Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

I’m currently working on two new books. The third Tillie Spencer novella (not yet named) takes place at a small hotel on the East Coast of Florida. Will single-father Drew and new hotel manager Abby find romance? They will if Tillie has anything to say about it. And Tillie always has something to say!

The other book is a full-length novel I’ve titled Memories in the Sand. Yes, it’s another beach story. Lol! Widow, Finley Long cherishes her memories with her late husband, knowing she needs to move on. Zach Palmer is trying to figure out how to move forward with his life. His wife wants a divorce, but an accident puts her in a coma before anything is done about it. While his interest in Finley grows, he questions whether or not God has other plans for he and his wife.

Best of luck with your books. They sound interesting! Thank you so much, Lucie, for sharing a bit more about your book. I am eager to give my readers a better view of your novella. So, without further ado, here it is:

Mountain View Lodge: A Tillie Spencer Novella

Enjoy an Excerpt

Coll remained silent. He stared after the lady until she disappeared into the crowd of partygoers. The sound of Autumn’s chuckling drew him back to the reason he was here. He focused on his companion. “How long have you known that lady?”

“I met her yesterday.”

“She’s . . . interesting.”

“Interesting is one of Tillie’s many characteristics.” Autumn eyed his attire. “You look very nice, though I still prefer the kilt.” She sighed deeply. “There’s just something about a guy in a plaid skirt and knee socks.”

“In that case, allow me to escort you to a room filled with guys in skirts and socks. You can ogle to your heart’s content.” She laughed, and he liked the way it sounded—like a spring breeze, light and airy.

“I’m not going to lie, after that amazing wedding, I just knew I had to get a glimpse of what the reception would be like. Thanks for keeping me from looking like a curiosity seeker.”

“Thank you for not making me go alone.”

Minutes later, Coll found himself seated between Autumn and Chloe, the young girl who’d played the flute. Along with everyone in the room, he applauded when the bridal party was introduced and waited out the hoots and cheers when the newlyweds entered. A portion of his heart fractured when the newly-married couple stepped onto the dance floor for their first dance. Why had he agreed to attend the reception? This wasn’t where he wanted to be. It was one thing to be paid to play during the ceremony, quite another to sit through all the toasts and accolades. Sweat beaded on his forehead, and his palms went clammy.

Autumn touched his arm. “You okay? You look a little pale.”

He focused on Autumn, making sure he seemed at ease. He’d asked her to join him and would make the best of it. “I’m fine. Guess the last couple of days have caught up with me.” She looked doubtful but didn’t say anything more about it.

When couples were invited to join the bride and groom on the dance floor, Autumn stood and held out her hand. “Come on.”

Having no desire to dance, Coll hesitated, but could hardly refuse her offer. He rubbed his palms on his slacks. “I’m not much of a dancer.”

“Neither am I.”

Her smile brightened his mood. He pushed his chair back and stood. Taking her small hand in his, Coll walked in the direction of the dance floor.

“Not that way.” Autumn led him toward the exit.

“Where are we going?”

“Anywhere but here.”

Buy Link

Kindle Select: http://amazon.com/dp/B07BMRDQVD

More About the Author

Lucie Ulrich is an award-winning author of inspirational fiction. Her books are filled with faith, family, forgiveness, and a little humor to round things out.

A former drama teacher and performing arts director, Lucie now enjoys going on photo shoots with her husband and taking long (or short) road trips. She continues to find inspiration as she and her husband explore the four corners of the United States.

Connect with Lucie and her books

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LucieUlrich

Website: http://lucieulrich.com/

THE GIVEAWAY!!!

As Lucie mentioned above, she is offering a GIVEAWAY! Two lucky winners will be chosen to receive either an e-copy of Mountain View Lodge or their choice of another of her books (e-copy only). Please follow the directions on the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

BALANCE IN WRITING: Your Schedule

Life is Crazy. I am a momma of three young children (ages 8, 7, and 4). Two of them have special needs. Then I have the house to take care of, the groceries, the laundry, the cooking…you know the regimen.

On top of that, I coordinate a ministry that I am passionate about. It requires me to maintain a separate blog, facilitate communication between leadership members, write a monthly newsletter, and update power points. I am also increasing my speaking engagements.

I am thrilled about the opportunities that are opening up for me. But it takes planning and preparation time.

I also need to market for 8 books and I am working on writing 3 and researching 1 right now. Maintaining my newsletter, street team, social media, constantly educating myself on the craft of writing….

Basically, I have a lot on my plate. To keep all this going, it takes organization and planning. A LOT of organization and planning. And I know I’m not the only one. There are others of you who have even more on your plate. Some of you have all that and a full time or part time job!

So, what are some tricks to manage it?

First, you need goals. If you have spent any time reading my blog, you know how I feel about goals. They give you something to work toward and help you know when and what you have achieved each week/month.

So, sit down and set some goals.

Writing goals:

  • What will you write this year?
  • How long will it take you to write that?
  • Pencil in those writing sessions each day/week
  • Set your deadlines for rough draft and self-edits

Marketing goals:

  • What do you want to accomplish with your writing?
  • How will you accomplish that?
  • What is your target audience?
  • Where is your audience?
  • How will you reach them?

Appointments:

  • Make sure to mark appointments in your calendar
  • Include exercise and things like devotion/quiet times in your calendar (if it’s not in my calendar, I will not make the time for it)
  • Make time for date nights, time with your kiddos

Time for YOU:

  • Just know as you plan your week/month that you will need leeway to have time with friends
  • And plan time for you/rest each day; even if it’s 30 minutes to read or just relax with a TV show

Make your TO DO list for the week:

  • write everything down that needs to be done in the week
  • dream big
  • include writing goals for the week (whether number of scenes, chapters, or word count)
  • include these other areas mentioned above
  • include “due dates” for the items on the list

Distribute TO DOs among the days of the week:

  • look at your schedule each day and make an even distribution of items, taking into account what you have going on each day
  • make sure you have REST time each day

Prioritize list for each day:

  • pick the three most important tasks to be done each day
  • if those get done, you have accomplished much; doing more is icing on the cake

Set TIMERS:

  • I set an alarm at noon, if I haven’t already started writing/editing, that is my cue to drop what I’m doing and start then
  • I also use timers to manage tasks – I’ll do housework for 15 minutes, I’ll do social media for 15 minutes (can you tell 15 minutes is my “special increment”?)

Build a really good planner:

  • Intentional Moms has a great planner that works with these principles and you can download the planner so you can print it out, add your own sheets, add on different packets (you can take the printed out stuff to FedEx Office and have them spiral bind it for about $5
  • Susan May Warren’s “My Story Matters” planner has great guidelines for setting goals for writing and marketing
  • Plum Paper has great options for building your own planner and adding sections and whatnot