Odyssey of a Novice Writer

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time… ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?

Wednesday Whine: The Brick Wall

images (7)Perhaps it is the winter blues…

This has been a particularly brutal winter in terms of temperatures. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven to work and watched the temperature gauge dip below zero. Nice to know my car’s thermometer can convey temperatures in the negative range. Who knew? Brrrr!

I’m sorry to say that even as I write this post, snow is coming down. Again. This is overkill. Seriously. I don’t live in Minnesota. I don’t live in Boston. I don’t live in Nome, Alaska. So… what gives? It makes me grumpy. How grumpy? Even my dachshunds have taken to watching the weather channel. As soon as the ugly word SNOW pops up on the screen, they run and hide behind the sofa in hopes of escaping Mom’s wintry meltdown.

credit: Dachshund Friendship Club

credit: Dachshund Friendship Club

What does this photo have to do with frightened dachshunds? Not a darned thing… but it makes me smile. I could do with a smile. What about you? But I digress…

Perhaps it is the nasty flu that took me down almost two weeks ago…

After missing three days of work, and alternating periods of sleep with watching episodes of The Walking Dead, I managed to drag my poor body out the door and back to work – but a week and a half later, I’m still tired and still dragging.

Credit: The Walking Dead

Credit: The Walking Dead

As an aside, I will tell you that there is something singularly comforting about watching a show such as The Walking Dead when you’re sick. It’s strangely heartening to see television stars walking around in various stages of physical decay; at least you look better than them, even if your mirror has a tendency to crack when you appear in front of it.

Perhaps it is just that I’ve hit a dry spell and need a break…

Various story ideas have been floating around my head and I haven’t had the urge to do much more than make a quick note in my composition book with the promise that I’ll go back to them later.

Last night I went to bed at 7:30 p.m., and didn’t get up until 6:30 a.m. That’s a lot of sleep for me. I think it’s a lot of sleep even for Rip Van Winkle. But I think I must have needed it. I actually feel pretty rested this morning. And energized! At least enough so that I’m updating my blog.

By and large, though, I think I’ve hit a brick wall.

Credit: ic3academy

Credit: ic3academy

I cannot concentrate on writing, and I certainly haven’t been able to concentrate on blogging. I watch the post notifications of bloggers I follow pile up in my email. It just makes me more tired.

I’m hoping this malaise will soon pass.

So, now that I’ve whined sufficiently, I’d like to mention a couple of positive things:

frontcoverMy pal and one of my favorite writers, Noelle Granger, is releasing her second book in the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series on March 2nd. Rhe Brewster is an engaging character who always manages to get herself involved in all sorts of dangerous adventures – much to the alarm and unhappiness of her husband. Noelle charmed readers with her first book in the series, and I’ve no doubt the second one will be just as special. The new book, Death in a Dacron Sail, is sure to be a winner. On March 2nd, you are going to want to look for it on Amazon. You will also want to check Noelle’s blog out (here) for more news on Rhe Brewster.

To whet your appetite, I’m providing a link to an interview that Noelle recently gave to Chapel Hill Magazine (here) in which she discusses her new book.

I am also pleased to tell you that I will be reviewing Death in a Dacron Sail so I hope you’ll check my blog out in the next week or two for my review.

I recently discovered Victor Dolore’s blog, Behind The White Coat. A female doctor, Victo Dolore writes the most interesting blog posts about the practice of medicine. The posts are brief, fascinating, and always engaging. She has been ‘freshly pressed’ – and you’ll quickly understand why. Besides writing great posts, she shares her photography on the site, and those photographs are  something special. As an added plus, I recently discovered she maintains a second blog devoted to writing Victorian era literature (here). Do take a moment to check out Behind The White Coat. I guarantee you will find yourself following her blog with great enthusiasm.

I mentioned feeling lately like I’ve hit a brick wall. One thing that cheers me when I’m feeling lethargic is humor. Heather B Costa is always good at making me laugh – just when I need a smile, she steps up to the plate. Her recent post on men and automobiles made me grin, and I’m linking to it here. I told Heather how much the post made me laugh – and asked her if she’d be willing to write a guest post for me on the benefits of humor. She agreed, and at some point in the near future, Heather will be filling in for me with a post on that topic.dc8d3567089df70fdbff7eb984685cff

Well, that’s it for this week, folks. A lot of whining and a few recommendations to cheer and entertain you during the rest of this long, cold winter.

Now, I think I’ll fix myself a hearty cup of coffee, gaze outside my window at the falling snow, and offer up a few prayers that winter will soon be behind me… as well as the brick wall. Cheers!

Book Review: Annie Spruce, The Dog That Didn’t Die by Cassandra Rankin

Withhold not Thy tender mercies from me, O Lord:
let Thy loving kindness and Thy truth continually preserve me.
~ Psalm 40:11

Tender mercies. That’s the first thought that occurred to me when I finished Cassandra Rankin’s book, Annie Spruce, The Dog That Didn’t Die.

annie-spruce-the-dog-that-didn039t-die

God’s presence in our lives often takes form in the tender mercies we experience as we go about the ordinary business of living. We seem to expect God to show up only in the big things: illnesses miraculously cured, seas that part, manna dropping from heaven. Yet, we experience God’s grace most often in the small things. The person whose encouragement picks us up just when we need it, the warmth of a loved one’s caress, and the bright, happy eyes of our children – God hides in these gentle places, waiting for us to find him out.

Cassandra Rankin has a keen ability to recognize God’s presence in these tender areas of life. To illustrate His goodness and faithfulness, she uses the compelling story of a dog too courageous and strong-hearted to die. She and her family first met the sweet character they came to call Annie Spruce when they discovered her tied to a post, shot in the head and left to die in the Alaskan woods. They rescued Annie, got her medical care, and brought her home to live with them.

Eloquently, simply, Rankin shares the lessons that Annie taught the family about loyalty, trust, determination and love. In the telling of Annie’s story, she reminds us that God was the orchestrator of the events that occurred – just as He is in every story. Our job is to pay attention, to look for Him in the quiet places – and to be mindful that His ways are not ours, that He hears and answers prayers in His own time and in His own way.

I liked this book very much. I found it encouraging and uplifting. If you’re looking for a story to warm your heart, to remind you of God’s faithfulness, I recommend that you pick up a copy of Annie Spruce, The Dog That Didn’t Die.

Annie Spruce, The Dog That Didn’t Die by Cassandra Rankin can be found at:
Amazon USA (e-book)
www.cassandrarankin.net (paper print)

Cassandra Rankin

Cassandra Rankin

Biography: Cassandra Rankin hails from Michigan but since 1997, she proudly calls Alaska home. She and her husband raise their four children on a crazy little farm which boasts an ever-changing clump of animals.

For the past decade Cassandra has blogged at her family blog, and more recently at This Crazy Little Farm. She is a founding member of the North Road Writers Group, and in 2014 she won first place for inspirational writing in the 83rd annual worldwide writing contest for Writer’s Digest magazine.

‘Annie Spruce’ is Cassandra’s first book-length project. She delved into the world of indie publishing when she and her family opened a small publishing house called Cedar Barn Books. She is currently at work on her second book-length project.

* * * * *

Once I finished reading Cassandra Rankin’s novel, I knew I wanted to get to know her better. She was kind enough to answer some questions for me as part of this review.

Kate:  Cassy, I absolutely loved your book! Can you share with us what inspired you to write Annie’s story?

Cassandra:  When I sat back and thought about the whole of it… this dog, the crazy way she came to us, the friendships because of her… I realized I had to write it all down, even if just for my kids.

After writing it, I realized that not only was it a good story for our family, but it was just a good story period. When listening to the ugly, the messy and the sad on the radio one day, it dawned on me that when God gives you a good story, it’s your job to share it. So the story of Annie went from being a stack of paper sitting on my desk to a full-fledged publishing project that kept me driven to bring it to a work that was perfect enough to share with the world.

Kate:  Your faith is one of the dominant themes in the book. I like the way you weave God’s love for all His creatures throughout the story. I especially like the part of the book in which your daughter prayed for a puppy and the surprising way in which her prayers were answered. Do you find yourself surprised by the unexpected – or as you put it in your book, ‘messy’ – ways in which God answers prayers?

Cassandra:  Always!  It seems like in life, the biggest lessons usually come after the biggest messes, yes?  This one was very surprising: a bloody dog, a gunshot, a homeless man.  It wasn’t until after a while, after it all happened, that I realized exactly how much of a mess the whole thing looked like, and then what came out of it was just beautiful beyond measure.

Life IS messy, but the thing I appreciate about God is He’s right there with us. Messes don’t scare Him.

Kate:  Do you think one needs eyes of faith to recognize God’s tender mercies in our lives?

Cassandra: That’s a hard one, Kate. If there’s not at least an itty-bitty bit of faith there, would we even see it as a mercy? Or would we view it as fate or coincidence or as ‘just in the stars’?

Having ‘eyes of faith’ may look a little different to each of us, but, yes, in my opinion, I do think that if we’re going to recognize a tender mercy as being of God, there has to be a little faith present. It may be a doubting faith, a seeking faith, it could be a wavering faith, or maybe just a hopeful faith… but the awesome thing is, no matter what that faith looks like, He’ll see it and meet us right where we are.

Kate:  Love of family is another theme in Annie Spruce. Annie becomes a part of the family and, later, Annie’s former owner, the homeless Mr. Ken, also finds a place in the family. In the book, you indicate that the Holy Spirit was leading you to speak to Mr. Ken and how you had to work up your nerve to approach him. I think, perhaps, that God was telling you that as much as Mr. Ken needed all of you, your family also needed him.

Cassandra:  It could be. That’s definitely possible. We live far away from our families and there’s a lot we miss because of that. While our friends here in Alaska can’t exactly replace the families we were born into, our world wouldn’t be near as warm without them. And Mr. Ken falls right into that warmth. It’s funny now that I was so nervous about speaking to him. Sometimes my own doubt gets in the way. There was no need for me to have been a scaredy-cat, not even for a second.

Kate:  Can you tell us a little about your writing journey – the authors you admire, people who may have encouraged or influenced you, and when you first knew you wanted to be a writer.

Cassandra:  My knees knock at calling myself a writer! It’s a little awkward and blushful… people go to college for those things…

I’m inspired by writers who take a group of words… and they go and string ‘em all together… and when they string, they thread loops in such a way that I stop. And I have to go back and read again because it’s just so beautiful.

Harper Lee. Ann Voskamp. Wally Lamp. Sue Monk Kidd.

I’m inspired when a writer talks TO me. I never want to be a writer that talks AT.

With my words on the page, I want to make you wish you could grab my hand and walk this planet with me. Because that’s what I want to do when I read someone else’s writing. If they’re talking to me, and with me, that is. That makes me want to walk with them awhile.

I think when we write, we ask our readers if we can take up space in their hearts for a time. I want to be a good tenant. I want to be responsible with that space. I want to use it wisely and coat the walls with love. I want to leave that space better than I found it. I want to honor the reader.

And always, always, I want to honor God.

Kate:  That’s lovely, Cassy. I like the idea of the writer taking up residence for a time in a reader’s heart – and the responsibility of being a good tenant. I like it very much.

So, tell us, are you working on anything new that you can share?

Cassandra:  I’m scared to say it out loud, but yes. I’m working on something you might call a blog-to-book. It’s titled This Crazy Little Farm. I really have a heart for sharing what I’ve learned on our little farm and in this little life, and I can’t help but hope that I’ve got a few words that’ll encourage others.

Kate:  Words that will encourage and remind us of God’s tender mercies, the little moments of grace we sometimes fail to recognize. You did that very well in Annie Spruce, Cassy.

Before we finish, Cassy, is there one thing above all others that you’d like readers to take away from the story of Annie Spruce, The Dog That Didn’t Die?

Cassandra:  I want readers to put the book down and realize that even in a world as messy and ugly as ours can sometimes be, there is goodness. Light. Love. I want my little story to remind them of that.

Kate:  Cassy, thank you. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you better, and I love the message of Annie Spruce. Good luck in your future endeavors!

Cassandra Rankin blogs at This Crazy Little Farm.  She can also be found on Goodreads and Facebook as Cassandra Rankin.

The Voices of Alone

Kate Loveton:

This piece of writing really ticked all my boxes when it comes to emotions. This young author has a lot of talent. I think you’ll agree.

Originally posted on Target Verified:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Valentine’s day makes people believe that they either must be happily in a relationship or happily single. But what if you are neither? Or what if you are happy, but you still feel….sometimes…the slightest bit….alone? Did you ever feel like no one else ever feels the same way? If so, these are for you <3.


She sits on the back of a pick-up truck, kicking her feet back and forth to the lilt of Eric Church’s guitar on the radio. Her hair is tied back in a braid, but wisps escape and attack her cheeks. She glances down, watches her feet move, back and forth, back and forth. It’s a perfect day–Kentucky sky, music, and a boy that makes all her friends wince with jealousy. She moves her hands along the edge of the truck’s hatch. It makes her palms warm, but inside she is shivering. “She took her heart…

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Decision Time at Hyde Park

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“Eleanor, let him be” commanded the older woman, “and begin to accept that he’s an invalid now!”

Ignoring the gloomy advice offered by Franklin’s mother, Eleanor concentrated instead on the man propped up in the bed and staring silently out an open window. Polio had withered his legs but not his ambition, and his mother’s words challenged him. The firm set of his jaw and the determined thrust of his chin gave evidence of an unquenchable spirit.

“So, Eleanor,” he said, turning from the window and appraising her readiness, “are you prepared to be my legs?”

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Note – written in response to Lillie McFerrin Writes ‘Five Sentence Fiction’ challenge. The word prompt: open.

Book Spotlight: When the Real Thing Comes Along by Faith Simone

Okay, ladies, Saturday is Valentine’s Day – and have I got a treat for you! I’d give you chocolate, but it would make you fat! Instead, I’m going to share with you something better – Faith Simone’s book, When the Real Thing Comes Along, a contemporary romance described as inspirational, Christian fiction with an edge.

Faith, a fellow blogger, is releasing her debut novel today, Friday, February 13th. I hope you’ll check it out. To sweeten the pot, Faith is offering a giveaway, and you’ll find a link to it at the end of this post.

When the Real Thing Comes Along

TEASER

She loved and lost… Will faith give her the courage she needs to love again?

At first glance, Jacelynn appears to have it all together: a great relationship with her boyfriend, Jason, a man truly after God’s own heart; a decent career; and the love of family and friends. But when an unwelcome reminder from her past shows up, Jacelynn’s previously uncomplicated world is turned upside down. Will she jeopardize what she has with Jason in an attempt to rewrite the mistakes of her past?

They say you never forget your first love, no matter how hard you try. So far, Jacelynn has done a pretty good job of forgetting Taylor, the boy who had her heart first. When Taylor returns several years later, requesting a second chance, what’s a girl to do? Especially when she already has a new man?

The hidden issues of Jacelynn’s heart come to light and she’s forced to take a hard look in the mirror while making choices that will change her future forever. Will she be able to reconcile who she was then, with who she is in Christ now?

Living and loving in faith isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it. That’s what happens…

When the Real Thing Comes Along

*    *    *    *    *

You can purchase When the Real Thing Comes Along at:
Amazon
Smashwords

Faith Simone

Faith Simone

Biography:  Faith Simone is a poet, playwright and novelist. She is also an active blogger, sharing her personal thoughts, book reviews and tips for writers on her website FaithSimone.com. Faith is passionate about using her gift of writing as a tool to help promote humanity, understanding and compassion.

Faith can be found at the following social links:
Website: FaithSimone.com
Twitter: @Faithsimone2011
Facebook: Author Faith Simone
Goodreads: Faith Simone

Faith is one of my favorite bloggers. She has a warm heart and delights in featuring the work of other writers on her blog. In fact, that’s how I met Faith – she’d offered to feature one of my pieces on her blog. Her kind generosity resonated with me, and I was delighted when she informed me she was releasing her debut novel. I jumped at the chance to spotlight the book on its release date.

I persuaded Faith to answer a few questions on this special day so you could get to know her.

Kate: Faith, I’m very excited about today’s release of your debut novel, When the Real Thing Comes Along. You’ve described the novel as a faith-based book about a love triangle. Would you like to share with us how you came to write this particular story?

Faith: Sure, Kate. The idea came about when I was in my early twenties. I had a major crush on a guy who simply saw me as a friend. He had a girlfriend at the time. So I started writing When the Real Thing Comes Along as a form of therapy. In my creative world, I figured I could manipulate things to play out the way I wanted them to. It wasn’t long before I discovered that my characters had minds of their own – I was simply along for the ride! Ironically, the overarching theme of the book is learning to let go and accept the things about life that you can’t control.

Kate: Besides entertaining readers, I get the sense that you also wish to inspire them and, perhaps, help them deepen their faith. Is that so? Is faith an important part of your life?

Faith: Yes, inspiring readers is exactly why I write! There have been many times when reading a book helped me make it through difficult times, offering an alternative perspective or a needed respite. Faith is a vital part of life for me. If I can help someone else deepen theirs, I would be honored.

Kate: Tell us a little about your writing journey. When the Real Thing Comes Along is your first novel, right? When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Are any other books on the backburner?

Faith: When the Real Thing Comes Along is indeed my first novel. I don’t have a discarded first draft of another novel sitting in the attic like a lot of writers. It’s been said that it’s a good idea to not let that first novel ever see the light of day. There were times during the editing process that I wished I had taken that advice! But I’m extremely pleased with the finished product.

I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was about 10 years old, but I didn’t think it was possible to make a living doing it, so I pursued other ventures. I so regret that! I wish I could tell my younger self to just go for it.

As far as other books, I’m thinking of writing a spin-off featuring a couple from When the Real Thing Comes Along. I’ll wait to see what kind of feedback I get first. Another project I’ll start soon is one examining mother-daughter relationships. I find the dynamic between mothers and daughters absolutely fascinating!

Kate: I know you’re a reader. Are there any novelists you particularly admire and whose work has influenced your writing?

Faith: Redeeming Love and Atonement Child by Francine Rivers, and Boaz Brown by Michelle Stimpson are some of my all time favorite Christian fiction books. Whether you’re a fan of faith-based fiction or new to the genre, I highly recommend those books!

Novelists I admire in other genres are Jennifer Weiner, Toni Morrison, Eric Jerome Dickey, Karen Kingsbury, Christina C. Jones, Jodi Picoult, and Terry McMillan, just to name a few.

Kate: You’ve mentioned several authors who are also favorites of mine. Tell me, Faith, if there was one thing you’d like to say to the readers about your book or what you’d like them to take away from it, what would it be?

Faith: When the Real Thing Comes Along is a book about imperfect people who make mistakes and who have regrets. It’s a realistic look at forgiveness and grace. If you’ve ever loved and lost, you’ll identify with the struggle to move on and thrive again. I’d like for readers to walk away understanding that being a person of faith doesn’t mean being perfect. I’d also like for them to have a better understanding of how deeply God loves his beautiful, flawed children!

Kate: Nicely put!  Faith, good luck with the debut of your novel. And thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for us.

*    *    *    *    *

Amazon gift card

Faith is giving away three (3) Amazon Gift Cards! Click on the rafflecopter link below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

“It’s All a Process”

Kate Loveton:

I came across this gentleman’s blog a few weeks ago and would encourage all of you to visit.  He has many humorous and interesting posts written from the vantage point of a retiree.  Trust me – you’ll enjoy his wit and candor.

This offering is more sobering. It’s a realistic look at the bewildering, frustrating and frightening journey we sometimes take with loved ones during their final years. I was moved by the honesty of the writing, and I think you will be too.

Kate

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Originally posted on Snakes in the Grass:

Beach

A wonderful benefit of blogging under the WordPress umbrella is that you get to read the efforts of some very talented writers.  When a case of writer’s block comes my way, lately an unfortunate weekly occurrence, I am heartened when I can read something by someone else that inspires me.  Or it makes me a terrible, plagiarizing copycat — I’m not sure which.

Today I am impressed by a very moving post from one such talented blogger.  She offers a continuing narrative from an earlier effort of hers about the lingering feelings still resonating since the death of her mother.  Her words strike a chord for me because I too find myself having unresolved sentiments about my own.  My sisters would probably say those sentiments are actually  issues.  “Issues” is one of those over-used words bandied about by people when they want to make snap psychological judgments.  I should know– I’ve used it myself in the same vein for years.  But phooey on them, I…

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Bedtime

He placed a gentle kiss on top of her silvery head, then roughly wiped at his tears with the heel of his hand.

“So, old girl, the doc says our journey’s over and it’s time for us to part.” His voice, thin with age, broke and he looked up at the doctor, his eyes seeking a reprieve.

The doctor replied softly, “Sir, it’s time for her to go,” and the old man’s face crumpled.

Taking a deep breath, he dropped one last kiss against the soft, gray fur, and it was done.

__________________
Author’s Note: This story is written in response to Lillie McFerrin Writes’ Five Sentence Fiction challenge. The prompt for this week’s story is ‘bedtime.’

Joseph’s story.

Kate Loveton:

My friend, Keith Channing at keithkreates, has told a familiar story from a new angle. He looks at the Christmas story through the eyes of Joseph. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did.

Originally posted on Keith Kreates:

Disclaimer - This is a work of fiction, loosely built around a fusing of Biblical and other accounts from various branches of Christian tradition. I have neither the intention nor the desire to disrespect any elements of anyone's faith, and if you feel that you may be offended or upset by divergence from what you hold to be true, please do not read on.


Mary, the child whom I am betrothed to marry, came to my workshop in the heat of the day and said to me, “My cousin Elizabeth came to see me yesterday, Joseph.”

“What did she want?” I asked.

“She wanted nothing. She came with some wonderful news. She and Zechariah are expecting a baby.”

“Well, good for them. At their age, too. I didn’t know the old man had it in him still; and I thought she was barren.”

“As did we all, Joseph. I know…

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A Place for Everything

The suitcase lay open on the bed. Studying its dimensions, Malcolm frowned.

He’d never been good at packing. That had been Monica’s specialty. A place for everything, everything in its place, she would say, diamond ring flashing as she’d strategically arrange each item.

Just like their lives – an orchestration of planned days, accounted hours, predictable conversation. A still life in boredom.

He began to carefully fit each of the pieces inside the case. A place for everything, everything in its place.

He paused, momentarily diverted by the twinkling of a diamond.

Then he shut the suitcase.

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Word Count: 97
Author’s Note: Written in response to the weekly 100 Word Challenge for Grown-ups at Julia’s Place. This week’s prompt – “the suitcase lay open…”

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Once…

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There used to be parties here, wonderful parties.

Beneath bright chandeliers, beautiful girls and handsome men once danced with gay abandon, their peals of laughter floating out into the cool, velvety darkness.

That was before the Great Conflict.

Now the air is alive with the snarling of newly wild dogs, the squealing of crazed cats, the cacophony of feral misery.

But only for a time; soon there will be no one to hear.

__________________
Author’s Note: This piece is written in response to the Five Sentence Fiction challenge hosted by Lillie McFerrin Writes. The word prompt is ‘abandon.’

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