I’m considering doing an every-other-month book club via my website and Facebook author page. Is this something you would be interested in?
I’ve always wanted to be part of a book club, but I’ve never had the joy of having local readers with similar tastes. I thought it would be great to get together with others who like reading Christian Historical Romance (like you!) and have our own online book club. I’m still trying to sort the idea out, but before I put too much effort into it, I wanted to have your feedback.
My current thought is to vote on a Christian Historical Romance novel, pick a day where we come together via Zoom (or just posts online) to discuss the book, play a game or two, and participate in a giveaway. I’d send discussion questions ahead of time because if you are like me, you need time to think and process. It would be an event you sign up for ahead of time and wouldn’t necessarily have to participate every time.
If I did it, I think the schedule would be January, March, May, July, September, and early November (to avoid holiday hassles).
The first one would be pretty short notice for this July, but the book options I’m thinking are:
Welcome to a new feature I’m doing this year during the last week of each month. The topics of Notes from the Author’s Desk will vary. Sometimes it will be fascinating research I’ve discovered, exciting writing updates I want to share, or just something reading related. I’ve left this open as a sort of whatever fits the needs post.
If you have questions you’d like answered, send me an email and it could become one of the topics for a Notes from the Author’s Desk. I look forward to sharing a bit of my writing world with you!
What’s in the Writing Works for 2020?
The New Year has brought a new challenge which I never thought I’d face, the writing of a Civil War novel with the potential for a series. This is not a time period I have ever really desired to write in–not because it isn’t filled with potential story ideas, but because I understand both sides of the War and felt I could never do it justice.
Kentucky has the unique history of being a border state and ending more Confederate in their leanings after the War than at the beginning of the War. It was a state who could see both sides of the argument, had their own polarized opinions, and struggled to remain politically neutral. As a (nearly) life-long Kentuckian, I’ve grown up with this unique viewpoint as the grounding for my understanding of the Civil War. Neither the North or South were villains.
To communicate this in a story, to give an honest view of the people during the Civil War which is today, still such a delicate topic, has intimidated me beyond belief. Pre-Civil War, great! Post-Civil War, you got it! But to write during that period? No thanks, never will it be on my agenda.
Pro Life Tip: Never tell God you’re never going to do something. It’s an almost guarantee He will call you to it. So here I am, researching my bottom off to gain a clear understanding of the war and all of its many facets. The Civil War is so incredibly large in scope that it is impossible to become an expert on every area, so I started wide and narrowed down to what actually ended up being my own state’s involvement with the War.
The Research and Project Focus
It wasn’t my intention, but it’s where God led me. He also led me to examine war correspondents–who were the self-proclaimed “Bohemian Brigade”; the little talked or written about laundresses of the armies; the Confederate capture of Columbus, KY; the Battle of Belmont, MO (just across the river from Columbus); and the Battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson.
So far I have over 60,000 words typed up in research notes. That’s the length of a small novel. That doesn’t even count the 20,000 or so words typed up for character descriptions, brainstorming, my “sloppy synopsis”, and other tools I use to help develop my story before getting to the actual draft. And all of this is since Christmas break–just over a month.
No wonder I haven’t read much in the fiction world. I HAVE read about sixteen non-fiction research books (in part and in whole) and countless online resources, with plans for a couple of research trips in the works.
It’s still too early to share much about the story, but watch for posts on the last Tuesday of the month to learn what’s going on with the project and my writing world.
What I CAN tell you is this story involves a Kentucky woman with Successionist leanings whose brother has enlisted in the Union Army. Circumstances come about to bring her to be a laundress in her brother’s company. Throw in a war correspondent, a suspicious Union officer, and conflicted loyalties and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
I’m still hammering out details and examining plausibility for many things, but I’m excited for where God is leading this story so far. So come back each month to check out research, Civil War stories, sneak peeks at my progress, or any other news that may arise this year.
A Question (or two) for You
What part of Civil War history interests you? What do you wish you knew more about? Anything you wish you saw more of in Civil War fiction?
Do you set reading goals? or participate in reading challenges?
Last year was the first I’d ever tried, and it didn’t quite go like I anticipated. Not only did I not read all the books I’d listed here last year on my beginning of the year goal page, I read less than I wanted to in general.
When I reevaluated my reading year, I discovered I read a ton more non-fiction than I first supposed, few of which I logged into Goodreads. I also read several full-length novels for critque partners…all of which are books not yet published and so can’t be entered into Goodreads. (But let me tell y’all, there are some AMAZING stories coming out in 2020.)
So this year, instead of claiming what and how many books I’m going to read at the beginning of the year, I’m just going to give myself freedom to have an ambiguous list with a mixture of fiction, non-fiction, and not-yet-published. 🙂
I AM going to start of my 2020 TBR pile with these books on top:
1865 – Marietta Hughes never wanted to be a spy, but the family legacy of espionage is thrust upon her as the War Between the States rolls on. Unknown to her, the Knights of the Golden Circle – a Confederate secret society bent on destroying the Union her brother died for – has been meeting in a hidden lair beneath her home. Faced with the secrets of her late husband and his brother, whom she thought she could trust with anything, Marietta’s world tilts out of control. Can she right it by protecting a Union agent infiltrating the KGC?
Slade Osborne, an undercover Pinkerton agent, is determined to do whatever is necessary to end the conflict between the North and the South. When he infiltrates this secret cell, it isn’t just their inner workings that baffle him – it’s the beautiful woman who seems to be a puppet for the new leader and yet…so much more.
Do they dare trust each other in this circle of intrigue? Will their shared faith sustain them? And can Mari and Slade stymie the enemy long enough to see their beloved country reunited?
A feisty army laundress must disarm a grieving Confederate captain’s pride to win his heart. A minister’s daughter abandoned during war must rely on faith to survive. A wounded widower feels God has forsaken him. Will her devout care bring medicine to his soul or rub salt in his wounds? Ellen White is assigned to attend a debilitated artillery captain after the Battle of Second Manassas. She offers God’s strength, but Gideon Sharpe would rather rely on his own. He would prove himself devoted to his motherless infant daughters, the sort of father he never had.Ellen longs for the security of a home and to feel cherished. Can a jaded and broken man be God’s plan to fulfill her fondest hopes?
Can Love Form Amidst Tensions of War?
During the clash between Union and Confederacy, quiet Tennessean Pearl MacFarlane is compelled to nurse both Rebel and Yankee wounded who seek refuge at her family’s farm. She is determined to remain unmoved by the Yankee cause—until she faces the silent struggle of Union soldier Joshua Wheeler, a recent amputee. The MacFarlane family fits no stereotype Joshua believed in; still he is desperate to regain his footing—as a soldier, as a man, as a Christian—in the aftermath of his debilitating injury. He will use his time behind enemy lines to gather useful intelligence for the Union—if the courageous Rebel woman will stay out of the line of danger.
So be on the lookout for these reviews to come up soon!
If you noticed the Civil War theme to the books, it’s because I’m researching and writing my own Civil War novel. Remember how I said I read a lot of non-fiction? This year is no different. I’ve already read three research books for the Civil War with sixteen more on my desk as I type. I can’t wait to share more with you.
What are your reading goals and challenges this year? Are there any books I should put on my reading radar?
So I had intended to post my review of Yours Truly, Thomas this week, but God woke me up at 2:30 in the morning and wouldn’t let me go until I wrote this…and I think it will apply to everyone out there on some level.
So in case you are feeling rejected, unworthy, and unwanted, you’re not alone.
Yesterday I received a rejection on my manuscript…again. The simple answer is I only need one “Yes” to move me from “aspiring” author to “published” author, but the reality is the “No” still hurts.
And it hurts no matter what form it comes in, whether it be a rejection in a relationship, career, or long awaited goal…because deep down, we all want to be accepted and loved by our peers. I know God wants to be King of our Heart and that we should not value other’s opinion of ourselves (or our writing) above HIS opinion. But the human condition, such as it is, struggles and still hungers for the approval of others.
Maybe this is just the revelation of my sinful heart. In fact, I know it is. But the first step in changing is accepting you have a problem, and so I stand here before you saying I have a People Problem. I’m a people pleaser.
Yet, I’ve always felt like the square peg trying to fit into the round hole. Oh, everyone likes me well enough, but I never seem to quite fit in. When everyone was reading Harry Potter (I did try people) and romance novels, I was reading stories like The Three Musketeers, Treasure Island, War of the Worlds. When romance authors today do polls of their favorite romance movies or novels, I’m woefully ill-equipped. I’ve not seen most of them, and the ones I did see were snarky and sarcastic (Ten Things I Hate About You). The only classic romance novels I read were Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and a few required reading at school. While I enjoyed them well enough, it’s the adventure stories that draw me.
I love the action of battles between good and evil. The romance of the hero rescuing the girl, or even the girl rescuing the guy. I like complex stories that engage the mind. Movies like Now You See Me and The Tourist.
Kiss scenes gross me out. I seriously cannot watch them…and I’m a married woman, for heaven’s sake! My husband is the romantic one, and while I love it, I don’t seem to have the same knack for it as him. And I feel awful, because it doesn’t mean I love him any less, I just am not good at creating surprises for him that are romantic.
I feel so woefully out of place in this world, and yet, I’m supposed to market myself? Get people interested in what I have to say? There is a quote I wish I could use from a dear friend’s manuscript here, but since it’s yet unpublished I can’t. Suffice it to say, she taught me, it’s not the words I have to say, but the words Christ has to say through me.
May the stories that well up from within me come from His precious place. Because I am not enough, and I think that is the point.
We are not enough…without Him.
We are not good enough, because only He is.
My words will fail and be forgotten, but His words have stood the test of time, crossed barriers they should have never crossed, and been spread across the world and cultures despite strong suppression in many places.
I’m still hurting. I still have no idea where I fit in this marketing world. I still feel like my crazy story ideas are square pegs trying to fit into round holes. But I’m choosing to rest in His words.
Specifically, in Psalm 139.
So if you are like me, and you struggle to find your worth, whether it be in the midst of a relationship or career rejection, or just in the midst of living everyday life, this Psalm is for you. It was written with YOU in mind. And even if you have read it a million times, slow down, read it out loud word for word, and really soak it in.
Any emphasis below is my own, but I encourage you to pray over it. To write His words on your heart.
Because no matter what the world says about you, Jesus wants you. Wants you so bad that he choose to suffer to rescue you. His story is the greatest romance story ever written, and you are His CHOSEN bride.
We take a break from our usual book reviews and author interviews for THREE big announcements… with a Rafflecopter Giveaway to celebrate at the end. CASSANDRA IS THE WINNER – PLEASE CHECK YOUR EMAIL.
Crystal signed with an agent!
Yep, that’s right! I am so blessed to have signed with Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency to represent me and my work. Writing has been and is a sacrifice for my family, so the picture below is me signing my contract surrounded by the wonderful support of my household. Never let anyone tell you writing is a solitary journey. There may be solitary aspects, but it certainly takes a village of support.
Tamela Hancock Murray is a bestselling author of over thirty novels, novellas, and nonfiction books, and won an RWA Inspirational Readers Choice Award (follow this link for a complete list of her books). Although her current writing for publication is limited to the Agency blog, because of her experience, Tamela brings the perspective of a working writer to her role as a literary agent. She represents many top authors and continues to develop new talent.
Crystal is teaching at the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference
If you or an interested teen are near Elizabethtown, Kentucky June 20-22, 2019, I invite you to register for the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference. I am so blessed to be teaching the first ever Teen Seminar on Saturday. Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference was where God first called me to pursue publishing, so it is always a conference I recommend. You never know what God has in store for you. If you go, let me know so I can be sure to connect with you.
That number may not seem very big to many, but to me it is amazing! I pray that you are exposed to lots of great Christian Historical Fiction books to add to your TBR piles and new authors you may have never seen otherwise.
Let’s celebrate with a giveaway!
It’s been a while since I’ve done a Rafflecopter giveaway, but these announcements are too big to just let slide by!
Entries are open until midnight (EST) on April 30th. Print prizes limited to United States, if an international winner, a $10 Amazon Gift card will be substituted. Open to all participants 18 and older where allowed. Rafflecopter will randomly pick the winner.
One winner will receive a print copy of Traces of Mercy by Michael Landon, Jr., a journal, and a spattering of bookmarks from various authors.
At the war’s end, a young woman suffers an accident that leaves her unconscious and alone. Waking with amnesia, she takes the name Mercy and wants more than anything to find out the truth of her past. But then a handsome stranger arrives, who may hold the key to everything she has forgotten. What he knows could devastate her future, and even end her life.
Thank you for celebrating with me! In the comments, tell me one thing you are celebrating this week.
Are you interested in an author’s writing journey? Do you want to interact and be a part of that journey on a regular basis?
I have created a Facebook group called Crystal’s Creative Cohorts so that I can be more interactive with you on a regular basis. While blogging and my newsletters are great, they are often one-sided and I really want to interact and get to know you.
So what will Crystal’s Creative Cohorts do? Give input on current works in progress–like character names, descriptions, quirks, story ideas–, be the first ones offered a chance to be beta readers and members of my eventual street team, get a glimpse into the real life of an author and sneak peeks at my writing, and have access to exclusive contests. Because who doesn’t like a good contest?
In fact, my first giveaway will happen when the group reaches 50 members. Want a sneak peek at the prize? I thought so…
So what are you waiting for? Come join the party and become a Creative Cohort.