Welcome to a very special First Line Friday! Each Friday I pick a book and share the first line with you. In return, I hope you’ll share with me a first line from whatever book you have at hand!
What makes this week so special? Well, I had mentioned in a post last month that one of my manuscripts was a finalist in the the Historical Romance category in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s First Impressions Contest, along with manuscripts by Dawne Beckel & Savanna Kaiser. (If anyone knows of a better link to Dawne, please let me know! You can bet I’ll be following along with their careers and looking forward to their first published novels.)
So . . . I just found out that my manuscript has WON ! Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh! (Be grateful you weren’t here after I concluded my conversation with the person who called to inform me. My children have lost a bit of hearing, poor dears.)
I wish I knew how to convey in writing how stunned and honored I am. A bit ironic that I have no words, I suppose, but it’s true. I’m a bit speechless. Mostly, though, I am grateful. So incredibly grateful for the encouragement and the honor. I’m also deeply grateful for those who have sacrificed their time and efforts helping me to improve my craft. (I would list them here, but that could take all day to read and well, you know who you are. I couldn’t do what I do without you!)
As my way of paying forward the kindnesses shown to me, I’ll be celebrating this win with a very special giveaway open only to my Kathleen’s Readers’ Club members, so if you haven’t already joined, now is the time to do so! For those who are already members, keep an eye on your inbox this week for an extra special email.
The list of previous winners of the First Impressions Contest in this genre includes:
I’ll be keeping my eye out for books published by these ladies.
Now, on to the business of the day.
In keeping with the theme of new authors, I thought I’d share the first line from the prologue of Beneath the Heavens, Lindsey Barlow‘s debut novel which just released in October of this year.
New Hampshire 1891
Esther looked down at the letter for what must have been the hundredth time.
This book was randomly stumbled upon while I was googling one day and is now on my TBR. I started reading the prologue and found myself all the way in and starting the first chapter before I knew what had happened.
A heart guarded, a secret revealed, a love discovered – When the beautiful and coddled Abigail Silvers is sent from her parents’ lush Texas ranch to the untamed wilds of Tall Pine, Colorado, her mother is hoping that Abigail will learn independence and self-reliance. What Abigail finds among the Colorado mountain people is a community built on hard work, faith, and family––she also finds the handsome Pastor Will who, much to her dismay, seems only to have eyes for Esther, the community’s midwife hiding from a dark past. Fiercely protective of her young son Michael, Esther’s determined not to let anyone close enough to hurt them––even if that means sacrificing true love. But when the Texas Ranger Joseph Silver, Abigail’s brother, shows up, Esther’s past is unearthed and her heart is exposed. Abigail and Joseph’s brash Texas manners rattle the people of Tall Pine, but ultimately the brother and sister may be an answer to prayer the townspeople didn’t know they needed.
Now it’s your turn to grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!
Every year American Christian Fiction Writers holds the First Impressions contest for unpublished writers. For the first time, this year I decided to enter one of my manuscripts and I am over the moon to announce that I am one of three finalists in the historical romance category!
I wish I could do a vlog so you could see just how excited I am, but I have a cold with a sore throat and you all don’t deserve the torture that is my voice right now.
Suffice to say, this: I got the call yesterday afternoon as I was leaving my children’s dentist’s office (walking to our van) and the second I hung up the phone I was doing such a big happy dance my kids busted up laughing and said I was bouncing our van. This, despite having been on the verge of falling asleep in the lobby minutes before. Nothing like awesome news to brighten an otherwise miserable day and bring energy to the virus weary.
I also want to add a big congratulations to all my fellow finalists, especially those in the Historical Romance category:
This was my first time attending the Asheville Christian Writers Conference. My first time attending any conference which was so far away I couldn’t drive to and from home each day. In fact, living in California, I had to fly myself to North Carolina just to attend this conference. I had to pay for the rental car which I drove over 100 miles each way from the airport to the hotel room which I also had to pay for. This was no small trip where my pocketbook was concerned and I was gone several days in a row, leaving my hardworking, crazy-busy husband to take care of our three boys alone. So was it worth it?
Well, let me tell you about it.
One of the best things about attending a writers conference is the people you meet. I met so many wonderful people at this conference that it would take far too long to list them all. So I will limit myself to sharing just three of the many special connections I made.
Edie Melson taught the very first Early Bird Class for this conference on the “Hows and Whys of Social Media” and from that moment I knew I was in the right place. Not only did I learn a lot just in the short time she spoke, but her warmth and generosity came through in her words and the way she presented herself. Over the next few days I had several opportunities to speak with Edie both one-on-one and in groups. I can tell she is a woman who knows her stuff and has a passion for helping others. I am blessed to have gotten to know her.
Ruth Steel is someone I met in the halls. We made eye contact, smiled, and after exchanging names and shaking hands, I opened with the typical writers’ conference question, “So, what do you write?” (Original, I know.) When she replied that she was working on a historical fiction novel for the Young Adult audience, I immediately knew we were going to be friends. We enjoyed many conversations over the next few days and exchanged contact information so that we can keep in touch and continue to cheer each other on in our writing endeavors.
Melanie and I met in the shuttle at check-in on the very first day. There was something about her smile and her readiness to chat with anyone that told me I was going to like this lady. Turns out I was right. I think there was something about our personalities that we just clicked. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there was a particular something she let slip in one of our earliest conversations that made me instantly decide she was my new best friend.
You see, when she found out that I write historical Christian romance, she responded, “Oh! I have a friend who writes that. In fact, her book just came out.” I was like, “Really? Would you mind giving her my contact info? I’m always wanting to get to know other people in my genre.” And she says,”Sure.” And then she says this: “I forget the title of her book, hold on….Her name is Sondra umm…” and she trails off as she starts looking in her bag for something and I’m like, “Kraak? Sondra Kraak?” And she says, “Yes.”!!!
Made me want more!
Made me a fan!
Can’t wait to read this!
I’m not gonna lie. I had a serious fangirl moment, but I tried to play it cool. (Not too sure I succeeded. Don’t call me out Melanie!) I could not believe I had the chance to maybe get to know Sondra. I loved her debut novel so much that I pre-ordered her second one which I also loved! I know. I’m using a lot of exclamation marks. I can’t help it. Sondra Kraak!!! Okay, I think my cool cover may be completely blown now. Deep breath. Exhale.
Seriously though, Melanie is a wonderful friend and writer in her own right and I am truly blessed to have had the chance to meet her and learn part of her story. I’m looking forward to staying in touch.
The Classes & Keynote Speeches
To be honest, I have never missed so many of the classes at a conference as I did at this one! I am so relieved that I have all the handouts and audio recordings of the lessons to review later. (I missed so much because I was so busy attending appointments to speak with all the wise and wonderful faculty who had attended the conference.)
That said, the classes I did get to attend were pure gold. Again, that first class Edie Melson taught comes to mind. She reminded us to view social media as a place where we get to connect with other writers and readers who share our passion for the written word and not just a place to talk about me, my book, and I. She also gave great suggestions on how to make sure we are making the best use of these opportunities, advised us on avoiding common mistakes, and shared great tips for making the best use of our time.
I have to tell you, if you have not heard Vonda Skelton speak, you are missing out! Her keynote speech had me almost bent double in my seat and wiping tears of laughter from my eyes. This lady knows how to tell a story. Have you ever met someone who’s a bit petite, but when she speaks her spark and spirit fill the room? That’s Vonda. Of course, not only did I laugh until my face hurt, but I gleaned a lot of wisdom and encouragement from her words. Her first book was rejected 63 times before it was accepted. Stop and imagine that for a moment. That is hard. She is one tough cookie. Sending your manuscript out time and time again in the face of so much rejection takes a special kind of determination, but she didn’t give up. Today Vonda is a highly successful writer and speaker, well respected and well loved.
Becoming a professional writer is a different experience than entering many other careers. There are many paths to choose from and many steps to take before you reach success, and success can look very different for each writer. Being a professional writer involves so much more than waking up one day and writing down a few words, or even completing a story/article/whatever kind of writing someone does. While that is a start, it is only the start.
Part of the path I have chosen involves making connections with others in my industry, submitting my work for others to judge, and approaching literary agents to discover whether they believe in my novel enough to help me find the right publisher for it. Attending this conference provided the opportunity for me to accomplish all of that.
Does this mean I’m done and can check those things off my list? Of course not. The thing about this career is there will always be another book to put out there, another risk to take, another connection to make. It’s terrifying, I won’t lie. But it can also be very life affirming.
As you know if you’ve been following my blog, I was blessed to tie for Second Place in the Badge of Honor Contest at this conference. The encouragement in that award alone is priceless, but even before I learned of this accomplishment, I was being lifted and encouraged by so many other people whom I spoke with during the conference. Whether the words came from faculty or fellow attendees, those words of support and encouragement were like water in the desert for this writer.
So, was it worth it? In a word: Absolutely!
Do you enjoy conferences? Has anyone come into your life at just the right time to offer encouragement? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!