A Refreshing Author Weekend

Have you ever run yourself so ragged that you just couldn’t even put two and two together?

 

That’s where I was about a week ago. This season of my life has been challenging. My oldest daughter graduated from high school in May and I’ve been doing ALL THE THINGS, like shopping trips for college, helping her apply for student aid, gearing her up to pack, scheduling last visits (like doctor and dentist). And…trying to keep my author business going.

It’s been a lot.

From left to right: Kari Trumbo, Elana Johnson, Cathe Swanson, Mandi Blake, Laura Ashwood, and Chautona Havig

I’m about to break the fourth wall here, but we are in a “pivot” season as far as being an author goes. Marketing books is vastly different from what it was pre-covid and even during covid. While I know there are still cases, the world’s way of thinking is different and authors are having to adjust to the way people are now consuming entertainment. Figuring out what works now, is challenging.

So, all that to say, I needed a reset!

I met with 5 other authors over the last few days in northern Minnesota. We talked, we had devotions. We worked through stuck plot points. We fellowshipped… It was fantastic.

AND, it was exactly what I needed to keep going. You see, even professionals get tired. We need someone to refill our cup too. I didn’t know who to ask, I wasn’t even sure exactly what I needed, but God knew.

The only thing I’m bummed about? Jessie Gussman was supposed to be able to come but had to cancel. Having her there would’ve been fantastic. I will meet her in person some day.

Other than myself, at least two of these authors have been on the blog before and all of them are fabulous.

The setting for the retreat was a very rural, rustic cabin out in the woods. We saw deer and one of the authors even had close encounter with a coyote. Luckily, they are afraid of people it turned tail and ran the moment it saw her.

 

Beyond the refreshment I got (and hopefully gave) to these great women, was the scenery. We took a day trip to Lake Superior, and everyone loved experiencing the ‘big water’, some for the first time. There is something incredibly relaxing about huge bodies of water. The waves, the sound, the scent, and the blue of the water

meeting the sky just creates this amazing internal worship. I can’t explain it any other way.

What do you do when you need a refresh?

In the past, I’ve been able to grab a good book or talk to friends and recharge my batteries, but I think I let myself get too low. I needed to get away from the ordinary for a short time (Thurs.-Sun. morning). While I can’t do a retreat every time I get in this situation, I now know that I can look forward to this every year and I’m excited for 2023.

 

Journey of 100 Books

I firmly believe every journey begins with a step. Just one step.

My writing journey started with a nudge from my husband.

One cold, winter day twelve years ago, I’d just finished reading a book that was horrible. I turned to my husband, Captain Cavedweller, and said, “I can’t believe a publisher put this into print. I can do better than this.”

“So do it,” he said, throwing down the gauntlet of challenge, then returned to watching the football game I’d interrupted.

On a February day, much like this one, I worked up my courage, sat down at my computer,  and decided to give writing a romance novel a try. For months, the idea for a story had been simmering in my thoughts, but I hadn’t known what to do with it. Now I did. I had a challenge thanks to CC and a purpose – to take the story in my head and write a book. The contemporary sweet western romance was about a 30-something couple on the brink of walking away from their marriage. I titled the book Heart of Clay.

Although I had no idea what I was doing, the words poured out and in less than three weeks, I’d written a full-length novel. I spent the next several months rewriting, editing, and enduring a few anxiety-driven panic attacks. Finally, I decided it was ready to submit to an agent. Visions of royalty checks, fame and fortune danced in my head as I eagerly sent out one letter after another, attempting to convince someone my book was the next bestseller just waiting to happen.

A few months later, I’d received my 67th rejection letter, most of them stating they weren’t interested in a romance with a cowboy. (Isn’t it always a good time for a cowboy romance?) In spite of the multitude of rejections, many of them arrived with personal notes that were encouraging.

Frustrated yet determined, I reached out to a good friend who happened to be friends with the author Jane Kirkpatrick. She introduced the two of us and Jane kindly allowed me to pick her brain for ideas. To this day, I consider Jane a dear friend and mentor. But in that first conversation we had, she suggested I give digital self-publishing a try.

I was clueless. Self-publishing? What was that? So, I dove into researching the possibilities and what it would entail. It took me less than a week to decide this was what I wanted to do.  I loved the thought of having complete control over all aspects of my books. It seemed like an ideal option for someone like me who prefers to pilot my own boat. Rather than immediately upload my wanna-be bestseller to all the digital book outlets available, I followed the advice I’d found on self-publishing websites that recommended indie authors build their bookshelves wide and deep, meaning authors should ideally have a variety of books (the width) and a number of books in a series (the depth).

I jumped into writing two more full-length sweet romances and a short story, all connected to Heart of Clay, creating a series of three books with a prequel. I titled the series The Women of Tenacity. I liked that word, tenacity, because my dad had mentioned more than once that I had a tendency to be tenacious.

In June 2011, I released all four stories online. Nervous, excited, and uncertain, I had no idea what to expect. Within a few hours, some awesome, wonderful person purchased a Kindle version of the second book in the series – my very first book sale. That month, I sold a whopping 12 books.

Despite my lackluster sales, I was hooked on writing sweet romances and the self-publishing process. So I used every spare minute to write.

That November, I released The Cowboy’s Christmas Plan, the first Christmas book I’d written and also the first book in the popular Grass Valley Cowboys series.

Throughout 2012, I continued working full-time at my day job, working part-time with a home products direct-sales company, and writing in my spare time. In November of that year, I published my first historical romance. I had no clue what it would involve to write a historical book, but I’ve always loved history and thought it might be interesting to try.

I hadn’t planned on writing a holiday story, but it ended up being titled The Christmas Bargain, about a banker who accepts a bride in lieu of payment on a loan during the holiday season. The story is set in Hardman, Oregon, which is now a ghost town, but at one time was a bustling stop on a stage route. I had such a good time writing that first book, there are now nine books in the series with plans for more.

It was while I was writing The Christmas Bargain I discovered how much I enjoy doing the research for historical stories. I love digging up little tidbits of history that I can incorporate into my books to add depth to the stories and the characters, while offering a glimpse into everyday life during a specific era.

By the start of 2013, I gave up the part-time direct-sales job, determined to spend more time writing. That spring, I released the first book in my Pendleton Petticoats series about a bride from Chicago who comes to be a farmer’s wife.

Aundy, has been one of my readers’ favorites.

The summer of 2013 was a pivotal point in my writing career. I was working between 50-60 hours a week at a job that was becoming increasing stressful and challenging. Every spare second I had went to my writing.

On a hot summer morning, not long after I arrived at work, Captain Cavedweller called me at my office and encouraged me to give my notice and begin writing full time. “You can do this,” he said. In spite of my fears, I took a leap of faith, buoyed by CC’s belief in me.

It was a huge leap—to leave behind the security of a steady job and paycheck, to walk away from benefits and paid vacation days—but I’m so glad I took it and I’m so grateful for my husband’s support that made it possible.

So I gave my notice and left my job on August 9, 2013, to begin the career of my dreams.

Every day, I feel so blessed to be able to do something I love so much. Writing has always been something I loved, and now it’s my career, my hobby, my joy – my bliss!

When I sat down to write Heart of Clay twelve years ago, I never, not even once, imagined that I’d be celebrating the release of my 100th book.  But here I am!

The Snowman’s Sweetheart, my 100th book, released January 27.

It’s been an amazing, incredible journey to get here that started with one step, one little nudge in the form of challenge from Captain Cavedweller.  I’m thankful for every single step on this marvelous adventure. And I am deeply, profoundly grateful for each and every person who has touched my life during the journey. Thank you for reading my books, for offering encouragement and support, for extending friendship and wisdom, and leaving my heart so full and my life so blessed.

Thank you!

 

 

I have a special giveaway of a $100 Amazon Gift Card.

Just hop over to this form to enter for a chance to win. 

 

And before you go, I’d love to hear about a special step in your life’s journey.