Some of you may remember the story of how my novel Throwaway began, with a dream about a couple - a prostitute and a police officer, sitting in a dinner talking. I knew they were in love but couldn't be together. It was just a conversation, but it stayed with me after I woke up. I spent weeks obsessing about this pair, wondering who they were and how they had ended up in that diner.
Despite all of the pondering, I felt stuck. The words just wouldn't come. It wasn't until I went home to the Ozarks for a family reunion that I'd find the inspiration I would need for their story to unfold. As part of the reunion, we visited Honeybranch Cave and the Garden of Dreams. Someone in our family knew the owners, and we'd been granted a rare tour of the cave and grounds.
I was absolutely captivated by the place, its history, and the possibilities it held. So much so that I went home and the entire book just tumbled out, taking only six weeks to complete the first draft. The cave and the lore surrounding it became a central part of that couple's story. Sure, I sprinkled in a few details of my own, but beneath the fiction was a living part of history. Beneath the fiction was a real place that inspired my soul.
I haven't thought much about Honeybranch Cave or the surrounding Garden of Dream for a while. Sitting there, dormant while my life bustled on. That is, until a reader emailed me to ask if it was a real place. I told her the story and we talked a while longer. Afterwards, on a lark, I looked it up on Zillow. I wanted to see if I could find pictures of it. The conversation had left me longing to see this place again.
As it turns out, the property is for sale. The cave, the surrounding 193 acres, the homes, the gardens... Oh, to have a cool million in my bank account right now. I can't help it, but a part of me has become obsessed. What would it be like to own the place that inspired the book that changed my world? What would it be like to, on some level, create for myself the world Jessie did for herself?
As I scroll through the images on the listing, there are details I find I got wrong. (I didn't tour the house on my visit!) But there are also pictures that are exactly as I remembered or envisioned them. There are pictures that I could almost see Jessie or Gabe in. Suddenly, their world is real to me again.
It's funny to think that whoever owns this place has no idea how dear it is to me. I'm not even a blip on their radar. Someday, someone new will buy it and they may never know about the fictional lives that sprang from their new home. Whoever it is, I hope they love it. I hope it inspires them to do whatever it is they were made to do.
Because it inspired me.
PS... Whenever I'm daydreaming about a bigger house (which is often these days), Zillow is the first place I go to check out what's available. If you're house hunting, or just house dreaming, they're a good first stop! :0)
In February, I did something I’d promised myself I’d never do again… I rejoined Corporate America. I left that world after Blake’s accident so I could walk with him down his road to recovery. It was an unexpected dream come true when I got a book deal shortly after. It didn’t take long for Booktrope to become a significant portion of my world—in addition to my books, my husband got a job with them, I worked as a freelance marketer for them, and I even accepted a position leading several of their imprints. For five years, my world has consisted of my children, my farm, my charities, my books, and helping others bring their books to the world. During this time, I’ve experienced some of my highest highs and my lowest lows, but in all, if I could have hand-carved my world, it would have looked a lot like those past five years.
So it surprised even me when I came to the conclusion that it was time to close that chapter of my life. For lots of reasons, and after a lot of prayer and thought, I came to realize that it was time to shift gears. So when I saw a job posting for a position at a good company that looked right up my alley, I applied. The interviews and subsequent job offer all happened so quickly that my head is still spinning. Just like that, I was back in a world I thought I’d never see again.
It was culture shock—I’d been working well over full-time from home, but it was still a major adjustment to switch to a full-time schedule and commute. The entire family is struggling to find our footing as roles shift and schedules change. In so many ways, my new gig is a dream job. It’s cool beyond belief. But it’s still away from my kiddos and animals, and it’s a whole new, and sometimes unsettling, world.
At first, I cried every day as I drove into work. Again—and I can’t stress this enough—it wasn’t because my job was bad, I was just mourning the loss of what I’d had. But with time, I’ve gotten my bearings at the new place and responsibilities with Vox Dei have ebbed and I find that in many ways, I have more time for my children now. Or rather, they have my undivided attention when it’s on them. It’s not entirely “work is work and home is home” because of the nature of the job, but the new job isn’t quite as all-consuming as Vox Dei had become. And the increase in pay means I have more expendable income to do things with and for my kiddos that I just wasn’t able to do before. It’s taken a month, but I’ve reduced my poor-me sessions down to Monday mornings and I’ve even made a few new friends along the way.
The question I’ve gotten most as I’ve told people about the job is whether I’ll keep writing. The answer is a definite yes. In fact, I hope to write more. Once I made the decision to no longer rely on books for an income, I wrote the entire rest of Finding Broken Arrow in one week. That’s right, a flippin’ week! It was like an enormous weight had been lifted and the words just poured out of my fingers. Even better—I enjoyed the process. I loved it. In keeping with my new “I’m just going to do this because I love it” philosophy, I am publishing this one indie. I hired an editor and proofreader, but I did design my own cover, which have to admit, I'm pretty proud of!
And just as I stressed earlier that my daily sob-sessions of the past month are no reflection on my current employer, my decision to leave Booktrope is no reflection on them. I’ve met some of the most amazing people during my time there, and I’ll be forever grateful to them for the past five years. We simply came to a fork in the road and chose different paths. I wish them all the best. (And yes, my existing books are still proudly under the Booktrope banner!)
There is so much I’m excited about right now, so many grand adventures I’m on the cusp of. Thank you for being part of the past five years with me. I look forward to seeing what the next five years hold!
I'm not much of a joiner these days, I meant to join the Ozarks Romance Authors group (ORA). It took a fellow Booktroper inviting me to the local conference for me to finally take the plunge. My marketing manager was so proud. "Go make friends," she admonished, much the same as I would have encouraged my kids when they were little. I've gotta admit, it was justified. I've been a bit of a hermit lately. Ellen Harger (the fellow Booktroper) and I took a selfie to prove I'd made a friend. The picture turned out pretty blurry, though, so I'm not so sure it'll make it off the phone. Kate will just have to take my word for it.
Photo evidence or no, it was a great weekend and I was happy to meet so many talented authors right here in my neck of the woods. Working for an online company based out of Seattle, it's sometimes easy to get so wrapped up in the interwebs that I don't get to see people face-to-face. It was a nice treat, even for an introvert like me.
And the best news? I'm totally psyched to get my behind in gear on the next book. Cross your fingers for me - this one's long overdue.
It's been way too long since I've checked in. I feel like my books and my readers are long lost friends I haven't seen in a while because this entire year has gone by in such a blur.
You might recall that at the beginning of the year, I accepted the role of Managing Director for Booktrope's Christian imprint, Vox Dei. I love it so much, helping others bring their books into the world. In fact, this past summer I accepted the role of Managing Director for two more of Booktrope's imprints, UPrush and UPdrift. The simplest way to explain those is this: Books parents want to read and the books they want their children to read. They are our parenting and children's/middle grade imprints. That's brought with it a whole new set of challenges, but I love it. I know it's a blessing to have a job that you enjoy as much as I do mine - although sometimes I have to remind myself of that when I start to feel overwhelmed!
Life on the farm has had its usual ebb and flow - things get crazy, then they settle down, only to get crazy again in the blink of an eye. We've added a puppy to our canine numbers. Ralph was dumped on our dirt road, and he's quickly become a part of the family we can't imagine life without. Big sister Holly loves him a lot. Except when she has to share toys - even his - she thinks they all belong to her.
My boys are growing like weeds. Even in all of the chaos, I'm trying really hard to take time each day to simply drink in being their mom. As Dylan gets serious about deciding what to do in life after high school, I'm realizing how quickly they'll all be gone.
A part of me feels guilty for not wrapping up poor Vance's stories yet. But I think my brain needed the break. The stories won't let me not tell them; they just needed to simmer a bit longer.
Oh, and I'm working on a charity event that will be in St. Louis in November. Stay tuned for updates on that, and the organization it's for. They're amazing, and I'm super excited to be some small part of their story.
I hope this summer has been a good one for all of you. Here's to a lovely fall, as well!
My book and Vox Dei blogs went quiet for a week or so while I took time to be a friend instead of a writer/Managing Director. Part of that entailed a fairly impromptu road trip, and then the subsequent catching-up that inevitably follows time off.
I was so blessed to have a chance to say goodbye for now to a dear friend who's moving, and to check in on her to see for myself that she came through brain surgery remarkably well. (Yes, brain surgery. How terrifying.) But on top of that blessing, I have a whole new appreciation for Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, only my Oz looked a bit more like Ohio and my tornado was a freak storm called life. After a whirlwind trip with my oldest, which included stops in St. Louis to drop off and pick up my youngest two, I find myself with a even more enamored with my beloved Missouri Ozarks. Here are the top five things I missed while I was gone.
While we were on our trip, someone jokingly referred to Missouri as "Misery." I've heard the joke before - as a teenager, I probably made it because I was so eager for adventure. But I've come to realize over the years that I was blessed to have roots in such a wildly, ruggedly beautiful place. These hills really are my home and I'm so very thankful for them.
Hello my wonderful friends! If you detect a bit of cheer in my voice, that's because today is the first day of spring. The past few weeks have been insanely busy, even more so than usual, but I don't mind so much because my favorite season is upon me: gardening season!
Things are going well at Vox Dei, though it's sucking up the bulk of my time at the moment. Some days, it feels like I barely get through my emails, let alone tackle my ever-growing to-do list. I don't mind, though, because I know there are few people out there who truly, deeply love what they do and I'm blessed to be one of them.
I'm transitioning over my book reviewing duties at Word Menagerie for a couple of reasons, one being time. The other is that as the managing director of a publishing imprint, I really shouldn't be reviewing books still. (If you follow that blog, be sure to stop by tomorrow for an announcement!) Hopefully, once I've stopped reviewing books I'll have more time to dedicate to writing my own. I'm woefully behind my self-imposed schedule for Vance's stories and I have a whole slew of others I want to get to. Sometimes I really do wish I could just hook the computer up to my brain and think the books into existence. But I imagine I'd lose something in no longer having the brain-to-finger-to-keyboard relationship. Usually my fingers come up with things my brain never expected.
The exciting news around our house this week is that we got a new(er) vehicle. Reggie the Jeep gave us a couple of good years, but he's ready to take it a little easier now, so he's passing the baton to Oscar the Blazer. The next step in our quest to live on cash instead of credit, he's in a lot better shape than Reggie was when we bought him, so we're hoping for a good run with him. (Although Reggie was pretty impressive given his age and how danged cheap he was...) Maybe someday we'll have the cash saved for a brand-spanking-new car but I doubt it. Besides, used vehicles have character.
In my post yesterday, I mentioned that there were a lot of good things going on right now and promised to announce it this week.
And it is a pretty big one, in my world anyway. So here goes...
Booktrope (my publisher) has named me Managing Director of their fledgling Christian imprint, Vox Dei. (Rhymes with "fox day" - it's Latin for God's voice.) It's one of several new imprints and/or changes to existing imprints. You can read their announcement here.
I feel like that simple sentence doesn't fully carry the weight of how over-the-moon excited I am. In every single way, this is the job I was born for. Beyond that, I'm honored that the Booktrope founders have trusted me with this undertaking. I have nothing but respect for them and believe in what they're trying to build. Over the years, Booktrope has grown to be more than a publisher. They're family and I truly love so many of the people there. (Actually, since my husband now works there and we both kind of live and breathe the place, my kids feel like they're part of the Booktrope world too. Our children know way more about publishing books than the average person, but I digress.)
Our tagline at Vox Dei is "Christian books for a messy world." As an author, I struggled to find a niche in the secular market because my books were a paradox of light and dark. They didn't fit neatly into any specific niche, so "the big five" were hesitant to take them on. God led me to Booktrope, the perfect home for my books and for me. I hope to create that same perfect niche for Christian writers in Vox Dei. Please swing by the website to check it out - and if you are a Christian writer struggling to find that perfect fit, or you know a good indie author, please tell them to submit to Vox Dei. We're actively seeking good writers, especially in Christian fiction!
Be sure to find and follow us on Facebook (VoxDeiPublishing) and Twitter (@voxdeipub).
If you're wondering what that means for my books and writing schedule, I still have big plans for 2015 releases. While I might direct a title or two over to Vox Dei from my upcoming releases, my other publication plans haven't changed. In fact, I am bubbling with excitement about sharing Vance's novel soon.
Rolling hills that had been vibrant green just weeks ago were now muted in tone, as if they were taking a deep breath before bursting into the song of fall.