I had a reader email in asking me some questions about my writing life, and I thought I would answer them here on my blog.
So here we go:
What drew you to write YA fiction? In particular, science fiction?
I’ve always loved the young adult genre of books. YA conquers big topics in a digestible way for readers of all ages.
In regards to science fiction, specifically, my answer is two-fold:
First, I have a tendency to think deeply and regularly about God and the big questions in life. When I'm in that space, the world is vast.
Secondly, I had a vivid dream that actually turned into chapter 22 in The Mod Code (book #1 in the series). That dream set the stage for the “science-fictiony” side of the book.
What kind of language do you use and how do you handle sensitive subjects?
Do you mean inappropriate kinds of language? If so, then the answer is, I’m a pretty conservative parent—especially when it comes to what books my children read. I usually think about what words I would want my son or daughter reading when they turn thirteen, and I make sure my books would be on my own “mom allowed” list.
How did you market your books when you first started out?
A bit of social media. A few failed attempts at contests/book competitions. Book club talks. Mainly, I knew I just needed to keep writing books so my available offerings would expand, and then, my readership could expand with it
I see your ratings are very good. How do you manage that outside of being an excellent writer? How did you get your books noticed?
In general, I don’t think anyone will get good ratings with a bad book.
My most important advice in this entire blog post would be this: KEEP WRITING. And, in addition, you must keep IMPROVING your writing. It’s imperative to learn what makes a good book a good book. I learned this through a ton of reading about how to do that, and then implementing that advice into my own writing. Because ultimately, word isn’t going to spread about a book if people don’t feel it’s worthwhile enough to share with other people.
Hope this helps, Marilyn!
Have a great day everybody. : )
The Bookbub sale is officially over. You can go here to visit The Mod Code Series official site.
This novel is a MOD CODE PREQUEL! This is the story of Sage and Beckett's three years on the farm together BEFORE Sage is kidnapped.
This story is told in alternating perspectives: Letters from Beckett, written to Sage, and Sage's Journal/Diary Entries.
It's juicy!!! Get ready!!
Here's the jacket cover description:
Sage has trust issues.
She's never been in love, and she's not going to start now, especially not with her new farm neighbor—no matter how good-looking he is, no matter how much his parents want to help her family.
Beckett is hurting in a way he'd never show anyone.
He doesn't plan on falling for Sage.
He knows it would be easier if he didn't care about her at all—because of his secret, because of the truth about who sent him to her small Kansas town.
But when Sage's family farm is threatened with financial ruin, Beckett can't stand back and watch. As Vasterias forces mount against them, Beckett is desperate to tell Sage the truth—before Vasterias gets to her first.
Sold in DIGITAL format starting June 30, 2017 on AMAZON, ITUNES, BARNES & NOBLE, & KOBO.
On a bench.
Reading Oliver Twist.
That is all.
Bookfest Friday wrapped up a year ago this coming May. I can’t believe it’s been eleven months since we concluded our year-long reading of two books a week! It was intense and wonderful. I was just talking to my husband a few nights ago about how much I grew during that season of deep reading, especially with all the non-fiction work I processed through. It reminds me of how Joseph Campbell spent his early twenties reading for NINE HOURS a day, broken up into chunks of time.
No wonder he was so brilliant.
He talks about the process in his book, The Hero's Journey:
So during the years of the Depression I had arranged a schedule for myself. When you don’t have a job or anyone to tell you what to do, you’ve got to fix one for yourself. I divided the day into four four-hour periods, of which I would be reading in three of the four-hour periods, and free one of them.
By getting up at eight o’clock in the morning, by nine I could sit down to read. That meant I used the first hour to prepare my own breakfast and take care of the house and put things together in whatever shack I happened to be living in at the time. Then three hours of that first four-hour period went to reading.
Then came an hour break for lunch and another three-hour unit. And then comes the optional next section. It should normally be three hours of reading and then an hour out for dinner and then three hours free and an hour getting to bed so I’m in bed by twelve.
On the other hand, if I were invited out for cocktails or something like that, then I would put the work hour in the evening and the play hour in the afternoon.
It worked very well. I would get nine hours of sheer reading done a day. And this went on for five years straight.
Wow. Think of all the learning that takes place with a reading schedule like that. That sounds brilliant.
As for you and me, even though Bookfest Friday is long over for us, I hope you're still reading diligently and enjoying the process.
My pace slowed by about half, averaging right around a book a week, but I continue to dive in, and I'm loving it.
Here are some of my reads over the past eleven months, both fiction and non-fiction.
I’ve rated them 1-5, with 5 an “awesome!” and a 1 a “I wish I had passed.”
Here they are:
The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon (5+) F
Contagious Optimism by David Mezzapelle (1) NF
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (5) F
Siren by Kiera Cass (1) F
1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer (2) NF
Collard by Nicole Williams (1-) F
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma (5+) NF
God Space by Doug Pollock (2) NF
The Passenger by Alexandra Bracken (3) F
Let Food be Thy Medicine by Don Colbert (4) NF
The Summer of Great-Grandmother by Madeleine L’Engle (5+) NF
The Life You Were Born to Live by Dan Millman (1, but I LOVE his book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior) NF
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany (4) F
Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom (5+) NF
The Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan (5+) F
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist (5+) NF
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (3) F
Love Wins by Rob Bell (5+) NF
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (4) F
Sex God by Rob Bell (5) NF
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown (5) NF
Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas (4) F
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (4) NF
Everything, Everything by (3) Nicola Yoon
Flawed by Cecelia Ahern (4) F
A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers (5) F
An Echo in the Darkness by Francine Rivers (5) F
As Sure as the Dawn by Francine Rivers (4) F
I Dare You by William Danforth (5) NF
A Better Way to Live By Og Mandino (5+) NF
The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino (5) F
The Greatest Secret in the World by Og Mandino (5) NF
The Choice by Og Mandino (5+) F
The Greatest Miracle in the World by Og Mandino (5) F
The Return of the Ragpicker by Og Mandino (5) F
It has been a lovely eleven months. My nightstand holds about a dozen more books which I'm halfway through, and my desk shelf ... oh my ... it's covered it a stack of titles I'm salivating over! But I'll tell you about all those reads later.
In the meantime, be on your toes, everyone! Tomorrow is April Fool’s Day! My husband always tries to get me. It started with my mother-in-law. She's so tricksie. Now it's a family thing, and I kinda like it.
Hope you all have a fantastic weekend! ;)
My mom and sister were/are amazing at all things crafts and home-making. When my sister was in high-school, she was hired to sew a wedding dress for a young lady, complete with thousands of ornate pearls on the bodice and skirt. I’m not kidding about this. She also sewed a long, black wool coat and matching wool dress for herself, along with plenty of other outfits and paraphernalia. My mom quilted, and sewed, and painted, and sketched, and decorated, and baked bread and cookies. These were the women in my life. My live-in Martha Stewarts—without all the negative connotations attached.
Me? I played basketball. And ran around climbing trees. I wore my hair in a ponytail. I liked to be loud. I liked to write.
My mom was an amazing lady. My sister is an amazing woman. And luckily, I wasn’t judged for my lack of interest (or capabilities) in crafts/baking by anyone in my family, especially not my female counterparts. However, it was inevitable—I wouldn’t leave this situation unscathed.
Somehow, I found myself looking around and wondering if my skill sets were enough. Am I enough? Can I contribute? Are my interests and gifts valid?
Unfortunately, human nature didn’t help me with this. As humans, we live in a perpetual state of comparison. It’s engrained in us because, once upon a time, it helped with survival. We had to think and categorize fast, in order to stay alive.
We still think and categorize in our modern society. Only now, all this does is bring awareness to the ways we’re different from each other. And then, we start pondering whether our differences are good, or bad, or neutral.
It took me a while, and I’m still learning, but I know now … it’s a neutral thing.
So why is this so hard for me to wrestle with? I know, face value, that some people are soft-spoken, some people are loud. Some people dress in jeans, some people wear trousers. Some eat breakfast. Some people skip breakfast. Some people work in an office. Some don’t.
We’re humans, we’re all different. I know this, right???
Some women love to cook. Some women love home décor and decorating. Some women love designing invitations. Heck, I even have a friend who loves folding fresh, warm laundry. (True story.) It’s because we’re made in a million different, beautiful ways. It’s a gorgeous thing—loving and being exactly who we we’re meant to be.
I just had to stop feeling guilty about not being all the things I wasn’t. I had to drop the shame associated with my healthy (and yet variety-lacking) dinners. I had to drop the shame associated with that stain I could not FOR THE LIFE OF ME get out of my son’s neon yellow sport shirt. (Okay, I only tried once, but still.) I had to drop the shame associated my non-handmade birthday invitations.
Other people love and thrive on things I don’t love and thrive on. My sister loves crafts. I start twitching the week before Valentine’s Day, because I know the yearly “Valentine’s box decoration time” for my elementary kids is coming up. But guess what? I have a friend who LIVES for this Valentine’s box decoration thing.
And it’s all okay. It’s not just okay. It’s beautiful.
Because it’s impossible to be all the “other” things, and be who we’re meant to be. And if we try, we short-change ourselves. Essentially, we short-change the world.
Because the world needs us just the way we are. With the gifts and skill-sets we were created with, not the ones that we struggle to acquire in order to deem ourselves “good-enough.”
So step up to the plate today. Valentine’s Day is a day of love. Love yourself—long enough and deep enough to appreciate all you have to offer and all that you are in the world.
I’m wishing you a VERY HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!
Yes, friends, The Golden Order book #2 in The Mod Code Series is available TODAY.
Find copies available on all platforms here.
Releasing to booksellers Feb. 14, 2017!
I have been working hard for you my reader friends and followers!!!
Get ready. Because I'm really trying to blow your socks of with THE MOD CODE BOOK #2.
I really am.
And I hope your socks literally blow off when you read it.
It's hard, balancing WRITING LIKE A MAD WOMAN and being a good mom and wife and friend. Sometimes, I have to FORCE myself to take a day for other things that are important to me. But I do it, especially because I have made a promise to myself to do my various roles well: Being a loving, present mother is very important to me. Providing healthful food for my family is important to me. Loving my husband fully and spending time with him is important to me. Staying in contact with dear friends is important to me.
There was a season, a few years ago, when I wrote ALL THE TIME. It wasn't healthy. My family started to expect me NOT to engage. It was rare when I DID engage. (Picture me, on a Saturday night, sitting at my computer pounding away, while my children played in their rooms and my husband watched football, or while the three of them played a board game or watched a movie together. And then there was me ... typing ... typing ...typing.)
Sometimes, this intense focus is okay:
Deadlines. I get it. (This a reality for most people within their careers at some point.)
I love my work. I get it.
I'm passionate about my message. I get it.
But finally, (praise the Lord), I realized this: I'm writing as part of a life-long career. If this can't work within the context of my own value system, it's not worth it to me. I'll be empty at the end if I can't include what fills me up with LOVE.
So. Now, I type my heart out while the kids are at school, and occasionally at night (like I mentioned above, sometimes there are deadlines). But normally, I engage with my family, and my friends, and my neighbors, after my "work day."
And, when an event arises, and I know it's important to my kids, I show up.
In fact, I did this very thing a few weeks ago. This is me and my daughter on a field trip with her 2nd grade class to War Eagle Cavern near Beaver Lake, Arkansas. (We toured giant caves).
The picture is dark (we're in the cave), but you can spot some glistening water on the cave ceiling behind us!
I was so happy to be there. I knew my daughter would want me there. Did I have a lot of work I could have been doing? Of course! Was it important to me to be present for this? For her?
And so, I was THERE.
And... we had FUN!
So. That's my soliloquy on finding balance with my values.
But. I digressed from book announcements. How did I digress without even noticing???
We now need to talk about ALL THE WONDERFUL MOD CODE BOOK GOODNESS COMING YOUR WAY SOON!!!
So, here it is:
You guys. I'm grateful for you.
I'm grateful for the oppportunity to write for you.
I'm honored you're enjoying my stories.
Thanks for being so awesome.
Love to you all!