Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My Publication Story

In 1986 my husband and I became foster parents while living in Waco, Texas. We not only had our three year old son, but a five year old foster daughter. Later a four month old baby boy with a heart monitor temporarily joined our family, and I was pulling out my hair. My husband suggested I find something "adult" to do one evening a week while he kept the children. Since I'd always liked writing stories, I took a creative writing course at Baylor University.

I enjoyed that class so much I started pumping out short stories, dozens and dozens of them. I had always loved science and thought it would be easy for me to write science fiction. My excitement outpaced my ability, and I started submitting my stories to magazines in 1987. My first rejection was handwritten on a sticky note. It basically said, "Not for us; try again" so I did. Over the next five years I collected over 600 rejections before I sold my first story, a clean fantasy to an anthology compiled by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
My first rejection in 1987
We gave up being foster parents after two years, but I continued to write, even while homeschooling our son and later his younger brother. I found success with magazines, writing nonfiction articles on spec and short stories for children. As Catherine Jones, I published in Highlights for Children, Cricket, Cobblestone, Jack and Jill, Hopscotch, Boy's Quest, and dozens of other less-well-known magazines. I sold two easy readers and had a nonfiction book for older children published about the Navajo Code Talkers, which brought me "fifteen minutes of fame," since I did go on television and radio. I also learned public speaking the hard way, and developed a multi-media presentation which I gave to thousands of people over several years. Even after almost 20 years I still get requests for that presentation.

Then cancer struck in 2005, and it took nuclear-bomb strength chemo to put it in remission. My brain was so scrambled I couldn't get back in the groove of writing for magazines. I did publish my first novel in 2012, a MG fantasy allegory of the cancer journey called Leandra's Enchanted Flute, and the editor wanted to know if there was a sequel, so I wrote Return to Finian Jahndra, which Cool Well Press published in February 2013, one month before they went out of business. I got my rights back for both books, but I was crushed.
Return to Finian Jahndra 1st and only printing from Cool Well Press
I didn't want those stories to die, so after discovering the online group Clean Indie Reads, I was motivated to self-publish the two books. Since our homeschool was Quinlan Creek Academy, I used the name Quinlan Creek Press. I had no idea how to market the books, but at least they were available.

After almost 25 years and 22 rejections, I finally sold a YA historical fiction near and dear to my heart to Pauline Books & Media in 2014: the story of "Good King Wenceslas" from the point of view of his servant, which was released in January 2016. I also sold another easy reader the same year. Persistence is so important in this crazy publishing business!

Meanwhile, my father had been diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2011, and to distract myself while I helped my mother care for him during his last eleven months, I gave myself a writing exercise. In 1988 I'd tried to write a fantasy novel, which didn't "work" even after three complete rewrites. So I threw away everything but the opening scene and asked the characters to tell me their story, not for publication but as an outlet for my grief. Chapter after chapter literally poured out. It was like watching a movie and trying to write it down as fast as I could.

By the time I reached chapter 80, I realized this was more than one book, and ended book one at chapter 43. I paid a content editor and a proofreader and was sending out queries to agents and publishers when suddenly and unexpectedly my cancer came back in early June 2015, with such excruciating pain my husband and I thought the doctor would tell us it was stage 4 and nothing to be done but pain control. So I found a pre-made cover, asked the designer to change a few things, and self-published Mercy's Prince (book one, which could stand alone) as my "good-bye" to family and friends.
Thankfully a different chemo put the Beast back in remission, but again chemo brain made it difficult to concentrate. Eighteen months later it's still a problem, but I've managed to publish books 2 and 3, have finished book 4, and am working on book 5 (the last in this YA Christian fantasy series).

Even though I never intended to self-publish, I can now say I am a hybrid author. I still struggle with marketing, but I give thanks to God daily for His mercy. My goal is simply to write stories my grandchildren can read after I'm gone. I used to think I wanted to be a best-selling children's author and win a Newbery Medal, but now I just write for the love of writing, and if someone reads and likes my books, that's just icing on this God-blessed cancer survivor cake.
My three greatest blessings--my grandchildren

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: A fun and heart-warming story of friendship, with riddles!

The Book Dragon has read A. J. Cattapan's 7 Riddles to Nowhere and gives this wonderful story of friendship, solving riddles, and overcoming challenges 5 claws!
My review: "This is a fast-paced, kid-friendly, wonderful story about friendship and overcoming challenges. The riddles were especially fun and made even this grownup want to tour the Chicago churches mentioned in the book. Highly recommended for ages 10 and up!"
Note: For more information about this author's books as well as others writing clean fiction for Catholic Teens, visit this brand new site, Catholic Teen Books.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: A fun mystery set in the Texas Hill Country

The Book Dragon has finished Stephanie P. McKean's Bridge to Nowhere and gives it 4.5 claws rounded up to 5!
My review: "4.5 stars for a fun story set in a fictional Texas Hill Country town which rings so true, I kept wanting to find it on my map! Miz Mike is such a loveable MC with a heart of gold and a penchant for attracting trouble. I really connected with her and want to read more of her stories now. With an eclectic cast of colorful town residents including villains and heroes, there is never a dull moment! Just one place where the tension lagged and the emotions didn't quite ring true, but it did not detract from the overall enjoyment of this story. Recommended!"

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Fall in Love with Fantasy Books this Valentine's Day!

This Valentine's Day, the talented authors at Fellowship of Fantasy have banded together to provide a great selection of free and discount Fantasy and Speculative Fiction stories. Browse the titles, select as many as your heart desires, and discover your next favorite author!

All Fellowship of Fantasy titles are author rated with a guaranteed content level no higher than PG-13, so you shouldn't encounter graphic sex, gratuitous violence, or excessive language.

As pricing can be subject to the whims of the vendors, please verify that the deals are, in fact, still active before purchasing. Thank you!

FREE titles:
The Buick Eight—Frank B. Luke-Amazon
Cora and the Nurse Dragon—H. L. Burke-Amazon
Lands of Ash—H. L. Burke-Amazon
Prince of Alasia—Annie Douglass Lima-Amazon
Awakening—Julie C. Gilbert-Amazon
Leandra's Enchanted Flute—Katy Huth Jones-Amazon
Mercy's Prince—Katy Huth Jones-Amazon
Woe for a Faerie—B. Brumley-AmazoniTunesBarnes and Noble
Chasing Lady Midnight—C. L. Ragsdale-Amazon
Jin In Time Part One —Karin De Havin-AmazoniTunesBarnes and Noble
Nyssa Glass and the Caper Crisis—H. L. Burke-Amazon

99 cent titles:

Rebirth—Frank B. Luke-Amazon
Seven Deadly Tales—Frank B. Luke-Amazon
The Hidden Level—AJ Bakke-Amazon
To Save Two Worlds—AJ Bakke-Amazon
The Regency Shifter Series—KM Carroll-AmazoniTunesBarnes and Noble
Academy of Secrets—Michael Carney-Author Website
Sunbolt—Intisar Khanani-AmazonBarnes and NobleKobo
Wyndano's Cloak—A. R. Silverberry AmazonBarnes and Noble
The Stream—A. R. Silverberry -AmazonBarnes and Noble
Rainbird—Rabia Gale-AmazonBarnes and NobleKobo
Reality Break—Jennifer Kibble-Amazon
Battle for the Throne—EJ Willis-Amazon
Nyssa Glass's Clockwork Christmas—H. L. Burke-Amazon
The True Bride and the Shoemaker—L. Palmer-Author WebsiteAmazon
Cry of the Sea—D. G. Driver-Amazon
Foxtails—Erica Laurie-Amazon
Eun Na and the Phantom—Erica Laurie-Amazon
Perma-free titles found here: Fellowship of Fantasy

Monday, February 6, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Exciting continuation in this fantasy series

The Book Dragon has to file a couple of ragged claws after reading this nail-biter, The Maladorn Scroll, book 3 in Tamie Dearen's Alora series, and gives it 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5!

My review: "4.5 stars for this exciting continuation of the Alora series with characters I've grown to love. The stakes are high and the situation becomes critical and even deadly for some of the good guys, with betrayal and heroism in equal measure. It's difficult to write a review without spoilers, but I did want to see more in a climactic scene where some of the action was missing and felt like a "fade out" with the camera. Other than that, the story was very satisfying with both nail-biting scenes and sweet moments that made me sigh. I recommend starting with book 1 and reading all three!"

Monday, January 9, 2017

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Fantastic Steampunk Finale

Book Dragon is sad to see the wonderful Nyssa Glass steampunk series end but gives the claw-biting finale 5 claws!
My five star review: "After having read all the previous Nyssa Glass stories, I couldn't imagine how the author could end the series with a bang, but this installment has more nail-biting suspense, twists and turns in the plot, simmering romance, as well as coming full-circle back to Dalhart Mansion. Wow! I recommend reading the entire series in order. The characters, setting, and situation are unforgettable and will stay in your mind and heart forever."

Monday, December 5, 2016

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2016

This year I've had fun with my "Book Dragon" reviews. I wasn't feeling well most of the year, and then my mother unexpectedly died in September, but even so I managed to read and review 60 books this year (I read all or parts of a few other books I just couldn't review for various reasons). Most of the books I read came from the talented authors of Clean Indie Reads, and it was difficult to pick just 10 that I particularly liked and want to recommend, but here they are, beginning with #10:

#10: Out of Time by Loretta Livingstone
My review: "4.5 stars for this compelling time-travel story. Marion from 2006 is sent by a magical tree to the year 1191 to save an important historical figure's life. The peril this causes, both to Marion and Sir Giles, makes this book difficult to put down. Both major and minor characters of both times are well-drawn, and the ending is thought-provoking and resonates with this reader's heartstrings. The occasional head-hopping was a bit distracting, but the pace moved steadily, neither too slow nor too fast. Recommended for anyone who is intrigued by time travel and/or 12th century England."

#9: Audette of Brookraven by Shari L. Tapscott
My review: "I think this may be my favorite of the Eldentimber series! The plot was totally and delightfully unexpected with so much mystery and suspense. I guessed the wrong "bad guy" at first, and meeting the new magical beasts was, well, magical! It was also wonderful to see Grace again, as well as glimpses and mentions of other favorites in the series. I highly recommend this book and the entire series to anyone who loves medieval fantasy romance with dragons and other magical creatures!"

#8: Finding Faith by Melanie D. Snitker
My review: "I didn't mean to read this book before #3 in the series, but I "took a peek" and couldn't put it down, since it was about Serenity and Gideon, two of my favorites from #1. I cheered Serenity's courage in choosing to move to a new place in order to find a better education for her autistic son. I fell in love with the new male protagonist, Austin, who has his own past tragedies and hasn't let them break him. This reader burned through the pages hoping these two wonderful people would be able to overcome the obstacles to their happiness. I recommend this for fans of inspirational clean romance."

#7: When Sparks Fly by Ines B. Yao
My review: "After reading this intensely engaging story, I can definitely say the title is perfect! The cover is so beautiful and was my initial draw, but Regina, the MC stole my heart immediately. I alternately ached for and rejoiced with her during the ups and downs of best friends, romance, unpredictable bosses, and The Enemy! All the major and minor characters were so well drawn, they became real people to this reader, and the settings were so interesting and flavorful, I felt like I'd visited The Philippines. I love the inclusion of words from the local dialects, interesting foods (that you can smell and almost taste) and the glossary at the back. This is a must-read for fans of sweet romance with a bite (and no, there are no vampires, just an unexpected wild cat)."

#6: 8 Notes to a Nobody by Cynthia T. Toney
My review: "This is a stellar debut novel with a captivating voice by a talented writer. The main character, Wendy, is realistic and sympathetically portrayed, so much so that the book drew me in and transported me back in time to the end of eighth grade with all those up-and-down emotions, from joy to angst. The author holds nothing back in dealing with the serious problems affecting today's youth: anorexia, depression, divorce, alcoholism, and suicide, yet all are portrayed in a sensitive, caring manner, and the main character grows in wonderful and sometimes unexpected ways. Highly recommended for ages 13 and up!"

#5: Cry of the Sea by D. G. Driver
My review: "This fantasy was so well-written and grounded in the real world, the fantasy element was absolutely believable! The author uses all five senses to bring the reader into the world of these fabulous characters. June is so REAL I kept wondering if the author had based her on a living person! She's a realistic teen--mature in many ways but still self-conscious and endearingly awkward. This reader connected strongly with her and will be reading the next in the series! The most intriguing part of this story was how realistic the mermaids were portrayed. You won't find Ariel in this story! Recommended for anyone who loves YA fantasy and clean reads, though there are a few mild curse words."

#4: Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors by H. L. Burke
My review: "I had NO idea what to expect with this book, but *wham* the story gripped my throat at the beginning and didn't let go until the final page. I love the title character, her mentor, and the computer she befriends in the deliciously creepy mansion. Lots of twists and turns in the plot, and riveting suspense. Highly imaginative and fun to read. I wanted to buy some goggles like Nyssa's, and she had some cool tools! I look forward to the next in this new series!" (Note: I actually recommend every book in this fun series!)

#3: The Gladiator and the Guard by Annie Douglass Lima
My review: "I loved Ms. Lima's first book, The Collar and the Cavvarach, and looked forward to reading this one. I was not disappointed! The stakes are even higher, the emotions run the gamut, the nail-biting scenes made my heart beat faster, and I became even more invested in WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! If you like adventure stories with well-drawn characters and many layers of deeper insights into the human experience, you must read this book!"

#2: Darcy by Any Other Name by Laura Hile
My review: "The cover alone made me want to read this book, but the idea of Darcy and Collins switching bodies was so intriguing, I devoured this book. It's so well-written and SO much fun to read this deliciously twisty plot. Hile has stayed true to Ms. Austen's P&P characters but managed to make some of them larger-than-life! I plan to read this one again and recommend it to anyone who loves Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice, or well-researched historical fantasy!"

#1: Cora and the Nurse Dragon by H. L. Burke
My review: "This is one of the best novels I've ever read! The story was compelling and full of suspense, the characters were well-rounded and believable, the setting was unique-historical with fantasy elements, and the dragons, well, the dragons were fantastically rendered! The writing was superb, sucked me in from the first page and didn't let go until the sigh-worthy ending. I whole-heartedly recommend this to dragon lovers of any age, but young readers especially will enjoy the story and feel like they've made several new friends, both human and dragon."