Friday, January 31, 2014

Bellflower and Beauty & the Beast

After publishing Bleeding Heart last summer, one reviewer surprised me with her interest in Zachary Taylor, a secondary character who works as a cook in a lumber town. When others seemed to like his character, too (although I believe Myghal is the general favorite), I decided to feature him in a short story I wanted to write for the Five Glass Slippers contest hosted by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Actually, the inspiration was sort of a combination of the two - the writing contest paved the way for giving Zachary his own little story. And I had a blast weaving elements of the Cinderella fairy tale through a short but sweet Western romance. So much so, that it later hit me: I could do this again with other fairy tales!

At some point this winter, the thought of having several more companion short stories came to life for me, and my proofreader can attest to my eagerness to explore these options. While I'm not sure yet if I'll pursue more, I did follow through on writing a Beauty & the Beast retelling... It was after I had proofread Forget Me Not a few weeks ago, with a couple of secondary characters fresh on my mind, that I started to write Bellflower. The 6,000-word short story came together in three days (not counting the proofreading and finalizing after that, of course)! 

Anyway, since Bellflower is out now in readers' hands, I thought I'd share some of the connections between Bellflower and the fairy tale it loosely follows. Please note that there are SPOILERS to follow!

Bellflower and Beauty & the Beast
  • The heroine's name. I wrote Bellflower long after I finished the first draft of Forget Me Not, so that wasn't actually planned... But it worked out perfectly to have a character named Annabelle be the heroine of this Beauty & the Beast retelling.
  • Annabelle's beauty. Like Belle, Annabelle is attractive. Unlike Belle, Annabelle is very aware of her looks, using them to her advantage.
  • Annabelle's love of books. Both Belle and Annabelle read to escape from their reality. Instead of living a "provincial life" that lacks adventure, though, Annabelle lives a harsh life that lacks the sweetness and innocence of heroines she reads about, such as Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey. Annabelle also considers sticking her nose in a book to hide from stares, whereas Belle does the same while mainly unaware/uncaring of the stares.
  • Jacob's shadowy entrance. You may have picked up by now that most of my familiarity with Beauty & the Beast comes from the Disney version. ;) So, like the Beast in the Disney version, Jacob makes his entrance by stepping out from the shadows and into the light. Although Jacob is hardly as...different....and intimidating as the Beast, Annabelle is still impressed by him and his obvious authority.
  • Rufus's introduction in town. Rufus O'Daniel first shows up in the story in the middle of looking at his reflection in a store window, fixing his hair and preening. Gaston does the same thing in the "Little Town" song (albeit with a pot instead of a window). If you're interested in watching the sequence, here's a YouTube link: Belle (Little Town) - Beauty and the Beast (1991) Rufus also shares Gaston's interest in beautiful women...
  • The walk to Annabelle's new room. Jacob's in a "beastly" business, but he's determined to treat Annabelle well. Like the Beast, he leads the way through dark parts of his building to a decent room. The setting is very different, but there's a similar atmosphere in the scene.
  • Jacob's dinner request. Jacob asks Annabelle to join him for dinner, and then gets frustrated when she refuses. Unlike the Beast in the Disney movie, he doesn't exactly throw a temper tantrum. ;) But he is very determined to get what he wants, or at least figure out why Annabelle would refuse him. Annabelle responds by slamming the door in his face and cutting off the conversation.
  • Jacob's "girls." Three soiled doves are mentioned by name in the story - an echo of the three blondes who act like "Gaston groupies" in the movie.
  • Annabelle's confinement. Annabelle and Jacob have a different agreement than Belle and the Beast - but the result is similar. Annabelle is supposed to stay in her room and follow Jacob's instructions.
  • Jacob's books. Jacob doesn't have a library the size of the Beast's, but he does have enough books of his own to share with Annabelle.
  • Joe. While Joe isn't under a spell or directly affected by Jacob's second business, he knows about Jacob's "beastly" side and still offers his friendship, like Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth, and Lumiere (although I doubt Joe would appreciate being compared to Mrs. Potts, LOL).
  • The yellow dress. Annabelle wears one, too, though it's not as gorgeous and decent as Belle's, unfortunately.
  • While this isn't a direct connection to Beauty & the Beast, according to A Handful of Flowers by Catherine Lee, the bellflower symbolizes "gratitude." Annabelle shows signs of feeling such when Jacob tries to protect her from Rufus (perhaps Gaston is a type of wolf?). [Jacob] couldn't tell whether the emotion suddenly glinting within her gaze was amusement or gratitude.
  • Annabelle's imaginings. While Belle attended a real ball with the Beast (albeit it was just the two of them), Annabelle only pretends she's entering a ball as she descends the stairs. 
  • References to royalty. The bellflower's pointed petals are compared to a crown, and Rufus thinks Annabelle has a royal air about her while wearing her purple dress. Of course, in the fairy tale, the Beast is the one who was once royal. But "the Beast" encompasses both Annabelle and Jacob in this story...and Belle becomes royal in the end by marrying the Beast, in any event.
  • Rufus's determination to have Annabelle. Rufus thinks Annabelle should be his and doesn't appreciate Jacob's interference, like Gaston with Belle and the Beast. While Jacob isn't badly injured like the Beast, he and Rufus do get into a bit of a fight.
  • The agreement's end. Time runs out for Jacob like it runs out for the Beast, but both had fallen in love and received love in return, so that time is no longer an issue.
  • Annabelle's tear and her song. Annabelle cries in Jacob's arms, like Belle does with the Beast when he "dies." And the song Annabelle sings is simply referred to as an "old" one, like a "Tale as Old as Time."

Obviously, with the different setting and characters, and the fact that this short story is a companion to its own series, Bellflower doesn't follow the story of Beauty & the Beast exactly. But I hope you enjoyed discovering some of the similarities between the two, and I hope the differences/twists stood out all the more to you - like the ambiguity of who is actually a "beast," the hopeful but not necessarily happily-ever-after ending, and the fact that the only thing that dies is the distance between Jacob and Annabelle.

One of the main reasons I wanted to offer this to newsletter subscribers instead of putting it up on Amazon or some other site right away is that the story is very much dependent on the rest of the series - meaning that it doesn't stand very well apart from the rest of the story. Annabelle and Jacob's story continues in Forget Me Not, so this is not "The End" for them (thankfully!). There's also some very critical foreshadowing in Bellflower to events in Bleeding Heart involving Rufus and Joe. I didn't really see that coming, until suddenly Rufus said what he did after the fight, and it hit me how events might have been set off and how consequences can be so incredibly far-reaching.

While reading Bellflower isn't necessary in order to understand and enjoy Forget Me Not and Bleeding Heart, writing the short story tied some important elements together for me and helped me care about Jacob and Annabelle even more. The ending of Forget Me Not is even more tender because of it, in my mind.

Well, I've rambled on long enough! Don't forget that you can still request your free copy of Bellflower (in either .mobi or .epub format) by signing up for my newsletter (link below header) and sending me an e-mail. And if you'd like to see some visual connections between Bellflower and Beauty & the Beast, be sure to check out the Pinterest board!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Which Comes First?

Nope, I'm not addressing the age-old question about the chicken or the egg. ;) One of my newsletter subscribers asked me whether she should read Bellflower or Forget Me Not first - and since it was such a good question (and others might be wondering the same thing), I thought I'd address it here!

There are two paths before you... Both have their benefits and their disadvantages. Choose wisely. ;)

Reading Bellflower first: Bellflower is indeed the prequel to Forget Me Not, so if you're a stickler for reading books in chronological order (not that I gave you much choice with Bleeding Heart and Forget Me Not, but that's beside the point!), then start with Bellflower. However, please note that learning about these two secondary characters from Forget Me Not (who star in Bellflower) will reveal a plot twist in Forget Me Not. You might have already picked up on it if you've read Bleeding Heart, though, and I think/hope it's enjoyable to put all the puzzle pieces together no matter which piece you start with.

Reading Forget Me Not first: I wrote Forget Me Not before Bellflower, so I only discovered some of the back story, myself, after the fact. One of the benefits of reading Forget Me Not first is that you're already familiar with the main characters, and the story of how they met (as told in Bellflower) will hopefully be even more meaningful to you because of that.

I do believe that Bellflower will be most enjoyed by fans of the series - those who care about the characters and are used to my writing style and story material. Hence the reason I'm offering it to newsletter subscribers first. :) But it is my fervent hope that no matter what order you read the series in, the act of peeling back the layers of the characters' stories will touch your heart and bless you in some way.

Stay tuned for a post on the connections between Bellflower and Beauty & the Beast!

P.S. If you missed my first author newsletter, you can find it HERE! However, I do ask that you please subscribe to the newsletter (see link below header) before requesting a copy of Bellflower. Thank you!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Bellflower Cover Reveal & FREE Offer!

The fact that Bellflower even has a cover is a beautiful miracle in and of itself! I figured that if I was just going to start out by offering the short story for free to newsletter subscribers, I didn't really have to have a cover. And the fact that I didn't have one a week ago seemed enough to confirm to me that it wasn't going to go up on a bookseller site in time for Forget Me Not's blog tour.

Well, Lena Goldfinch (my cover designer/formatter/mentor/friend) generously took the time to put together a cover - and not just any old cover, but a gorgeous, perfectly suited one!! I found a stock photo of a bellflower on burlap that I really liked, and I figured that if Lena could very kindly add the title and my author name, that would do just fine. Well, Lena took the bellflower from that stock photo and added it to the background from Forget Me Not's cover, adjusting the tones and including a line about Bellflower being the prequel to Forget Me Not. And isn't is just wonderful??

Bellflower is set in Virginia City, Nevada (five years before the start of Forget Me Not), so the background fits well. Plus, the darker tones of the cover, the title font, and the flower (of course) are just right for this Beauty and the Beast retelling. I really couldn't be more pleased!

Would you like a chance to read this short story for FREE?

Despite the fact that I now have a cover, I still want to offer this short story to my newsletter subscribers first and see how that goes. So all you have to do to get an e-copy is sign up for my newsletter (HERE or via the link under the blog header) and then follow the instructions that will be in the first edition, which I'm sending out on Wednesday! I'm only planning on sending out my newsletter four times a year (once per season), so each edition will be special, with extras and exciting information. In addition to the short-story offer in this winter one, there will also be links, news, and a really fun interview. Can't wait to share it with you!

What are your thoughts on the cover? Do you enjoy short stories?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

For Joe

If you haven't read Forget Me Not or Bleeding Heart yet, please note that this post involves major spoilers.




A friend texted me the other evening about her reading progress for Forget Me Not, mentioning that she was intrigued by the way Joe was included in the story. I replied, in part, "Oh, Joe... He has his issues, but I really do love his character. :)"

Let me tell you why.

Joe entered Forget Me Not as a sort of foil for David. He was outgoing, charming, and very sure of himself. But he acted immaturely, selfishly, and pushed too hard, so that in the end he was left behind, thinking he wasn't good enough.

This brokenhearted boy was the obvious choice for the hero of the sequel. The man left standing alone when the love triangle came apart needed his own story - so I added a couple more hurting souls and ran with the "bleeding heart" theme.

At the beginning of Bleeding Heart, Joe's change was obvious. We found him back at Lake Tahoe, the scene of his former hope and his eventual devastation: not so jovial, not so optimistic, and resolved not to be foolish twice in love.

He fought so hard to hold back his heart... Sally stirred his feelings once again, but he wasn't about to be taken in by pleading eyes and another determined girl. Yet her pain slowly, softly spoke to his own. Watching her fall apart wounded him, and though she was very different from the girl he had once dreamed of calling his wife, he felt he had to do right by her - to give her the new start he needed, too.

Despite his "noble" act, though, he couldn't risk giving his heart completely. It was never meant to be Sally's, to his way of thinking. And still the belief that he wasn't good enough, perhaps even for Sally, invaded his actions. He stopped trying. Sometimes he vented his frustrations; sometimes he hid away. And all the while, his broken heart was continually rubbed raw.

When he saw Sally in Myghal's arms, though - thinking for one moment that she might be dead - fear washed over him. He could have lost his chance to love - truly love - this girl he had committed to share his life with. He had been instrumental in giving Sally a new start; now she, inadvertently, had given one back to him.

So he took it to heart. He still struggled, not wanting Myghal to be there to distract from this opportunity. But he tried. He held his wife. He forgave her. And he didn't ask for any answers, only wanting her to know he loved her just the same.

Still, he couldn't say the words. Couldn't tell her he loved her with his voice. So he told her in another way: he gave his life for her.

He didn't know it was going to come to that. He didn't leave the house planning to die on her behalf. But when he stepped out the door, he did plan to stand up for her, to fight for her, and to protect their unity.

Joe's journey was both short and incredibly long. He died young, but he made the big step from selfishly trying to take love to sacrificially giving it.

And I love him for it.

On the surface, I know his story arc must appear very tragic. After all, he was spurned by Elizabeth, then caught up in another person's broken heart, wandering all over the west until he came back home and settled into a brief and generally unhappy marriage before he was unexpectedly killed by a bullet.

Despite all of that, though, I believe his story is a hopeful one. He grew up on a ranch with his family, had friends and adventures, met a girl who showed him that truth and love are beautiful things, traveled with a loyal companion to work among the grand redwoods, married a girl who taught him that the brokenhearted aren't alone, and finally learned what true love really means. And because of his faith, though it had been bruised and at times neglected, he went Home when he left the world. I honestly believe you couldn't ask for a more hopeful ending than that.

When Joe died, Sally, Seth, and Myghal put up a little cross with only his name and the years of his life carved on it. But if I could give him a headstone, I'd give him one with words like this (which I once found on a headstone in the Silver Terrace Cemetery in Virginia City):

He left us when his manly heart
with earnest hope was beating high;
Too soon it seemed for us to part, 
Too soon, alas: for him to die.
O tell us to what land unknown
the soul of him we love has flown.

As Myghal quoted to Sally, "For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come" (Hebrews 13:14). In a time when sudden deaths (in our eyes, not in God's) are announced all too frequently, I take comfort in Joe's story, in the depth of his short life and the hope beyond his death in that "land unknown."

So this is for you, Joe. Thank you for the smiles, the honesty in your struggles, and the sacrifices you made. Thank you for helping me to gain perspective. You're loved, dear friend. Farewell.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"The Heart's Spring" Bubbles Forth

I've been showered with such sweet blessings recently! Kind e-mails from dear blogging friends. Sweet and understanding comments and messages regarding the "Humility and Forget Me Not" post on my personal blog. The discovery that my generous and wonderful friend Lena Goldfinch is willing to put together a cover for Bellflower in time for the Forget Me Not blog tour. And...
  • Forget Me Not's progress on Amazon, reaching #5 for "Hot New Releases in Christian Westerns" and #94 for the Top 100 "Best Sellers in Christian Westerns" at one point last night. (Not to mention the beautiful reviews bloggers have been adding!)
  • Finding Morning Glory on Melanie's blog (Christian Bookshelf Reviews) as her "Waiting On" Wednesday selection this week. (Guess that means I should get busy on that project, LOL!)
  • Taking a chance and e-mailing USA Today's "Happy Ever After" blog team about being included in an upcoming "new releases" post - and not only getting a reply back the same day, but also seeing Forget Me Not at the very top of the post as the only cover featured. (Kudos to Lena for designing such a gorgeous one!) You can find the post HERE.

I'm humbled by the outpouring of love and support. Thank you all for caring about me and this series! I'm very much looking forward to sharing Bellflower with you soon and writing Morning Glory for you to hopefully read one day in the not-too-distant future...

Blessings to you, dear readers!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Little Surprise...

Yes, the blog tour is still about two weeks away, but Forget Me Not is now available for Kindle!! A paperback version should be coming within the next month or so, Lord willing, but in the meantime you can pick up a copy for your Kindle or free Kindle app for $3.79. If you're on the blog tour team, you're more than welcome to post your review on Amazon at any time - I won't complain. ;) And I'd love any help in spreading the word!

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed right now with series plans...the guest posts I have to write, the newsletter I have to finish putting together, the short story I need to edit and figure out what to do with, the third book I should be starting soon, etc. It's all fun stuff, but with the publicity projects (for others) I need to focus on and the job hunt I probably should continue, I guess I'm just having a hard time figuring out what to prioritize. I'm feeling oddly melancholy... Maybe I just need more sleep, LOL.

You should be hearing from me again soon with more Forget Me Not and Bellflower news. But for now, I'm going to go watch Sherlock with my fam... (It's finally here!!!)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bellflower is Blossoming

I am thrilled to report that Bellflower - the short story companion to Forget Me Not, better known as the prequel to the prequel - is blossoming quite nicely! It was a tremendous blessing to see the story come together in just three days. As a "pantser," I was just so eager to find out what would happen and how everything would fit. ;)

I finished the story on Saturday and sent it right off to my proofreader (the fabulous Rachelle Rea). I got edits back last night and hope to incorporate them ASAP and somehow share this story in conjunction with Forget Me Not's release.

That's where I've reached a bit of an impasse. My head is swimming with ideas and advice on how to distribute the story...and I'm really at a loss as to which direction I want to go! The story is a little different. It's short, for one thing (6,000 words). It takes place in a brothel but is still sweet and clean fiction. I'm worried about not making the most of the story, but on the other hand, I'm worried about it backfiring. I feel like the story will be most enjoyed by people who have read Forget Me Not and possibly Bleeding Heart - readers who want to know more about the characters and will also appreciate the connections to Beauty and the Beast. I'm concerned that if I offer it individually - which often means people will pick it up first to get a taste of my writing - it won't stand properly on its own.

So, I'm currently weighing my options. If you wouldn't mind praying for wisdom and the right path to be made clear, I'd sure appreciate it!

I do plan on sharing the story in some way very soon, so I hope you'll enjoy it. =) In the meantime, you can add the book on Goodreads, check out a visual and musical sneak peek on the Pinterest board, and read this brief snippet...


Annabelle Greer stepped off the train into the welcoming sunlight armed with the one lesson she’d learned from her mother before she passed away: if a woman had beauty, she would never have to be lonely.

Well, beauty and books. But her mother wouldn’t have understood the addition. Reading was something Annabelle’s father had taught her to appreciate—the only good and proper gift he’d given her.

Tempted to pull her copy of Northanger Abbey out of her valise and hold it in front of her face to block out the stares, she instead lifted her head high and refused to meet anyone’s gaze as she walked up the hill. It was the same in every town. Everyone seemed to know who she was, how she made her living.


If you have any thoughts on short-story distribution, I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A New Chapter

Forget Me Not has been handed out to some reviewers, and preliminary plans for the blog tour in early February are underway. (I even bought a couple of items for the tour-wide giveaway, which I'm excited to share!) While there are a few things to finish up for FMN - like reading all of the manuscript aloud, making sure the formatting is correct before uploading to Kindle, completing all the blog tour preparations, etc. - it's about time to start a new chapter in the series.

If you've checked out the tabs above, you might have noticed that there's one for "Short Stories." I wrote a companion short story for the Five Glass Slippers contest (hosted by author Anne Elisabeth Stengl and her Rooglewood Press), and it inspired me to write more. So, in addition to getting started on Morning Glory, I'm hoping to write Bellflower next. It will be the mini prequel to the prequel. Yes, I know - the way I'm publishing this series is a bit convoluted! If I'm able to meet my goal of publishing the whole series by the end of 2014, we can all finally read the story from beginning to end, LOL.

I hope to be able to share more about my Bellflower and Morning Glory progress soon, in addition to Forget Me Not release news! But speaking of chapters and "belles," here's a musical sneak peek of Chapter 3 of Forget Me Not:

The song is "Black Bear" by Andrew Belle. You can find all the YouTube videos for the "soundtrack" on the Pinterest board, and you can find the song order on the soundtrack page.

Does the song intrigue you? Feel free to share your thoughts on the lyrics/genre and how the song might relate to the story! And feel free to let me know if there's anything you'd especially like to see on the blog: character interviews, setting stories, theme discussions, changes from first draft to final. I'd love to hear what interests you!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Forget Me Not Sneak Peek & Progress Update

Happy Monday, and welcome once again to new readers and followers! I received edits back for Forget Me Not from my proofreader, Rachelle Rea, last week, and I've started incorporating them (just barely, but I plan to dive in more fully this week!). This round of editing should be much shorter than the previous round because, while I do plan on adding/rewriting a bit, I don't think I'll be rewriting huge chunks like last time. My goal is to have an e-ARC ready to send to reviewers sometime next week - so if you are a blogger who would like to be part of the blog tour and review the book, please feel free to e-mail me at I should be sending out formal invites soon, as well. After that, it should just be one more read-through (aloud, to catch errors otherwise "unheard") before I can start the publishing process for the e-book format and send the manuscript to my formatter (Lena Goldfinch) so she can prepare the paperback version. We're getting there!

Forget Me Not is even shorter than Bleeding Heart... The first draft was in the low 60Ks, but after rewrites and edits, it's dropped to the low 40Ks, and I don't think it will grow much in this next stage of editing. So, you can consider it either a very short novel or a novella - take your pick! My hope is that either way you'll find it to be a tight, focused story that doesn't require a huge time commitment to read, but still leaves an emotional impact and some thought to ruminate on after you close the book.

Want a glimpse into the story? Here's a snippet from Chapter 1:


Clear Creek Canyon, Colorado 
Summer 1885 

Forgotten. The word echoed on the wind through the ponderosa pines, brushing across David’s shoulders and thoughts in cold sweeps. He tugged his hat lower over his forehead and sank into his coat, letting Liberty lead the way home. His quarter horse weaved between the trees, her white and black splotches ducking in and out of dusk's shadows. David stroked the horse’s neck, more for his own sake than hers. Her warmth and the creak of the shifting saddle took away some of the sting of the wind’s whispers.

Forgotten. The word seemed more potent at this time of day, when the moon and stars desperately absorbed the light of the sun before the rays completely disappeared from the sky.

Forgotten. The word came on bursts of air like the pulsing smoke of a departing train. The feeling of being left behind was never assuaged. It didn’t matter that he had forgotten once. They had forgotten him first and forever after.

Forgotten. If only it all was. But memories tugged at his collar and slipped cold deep beneath his skin.

Dear God, help me. The familiar prayer had barely risen in his chest before another plea caught his ear. He pulled on the reins and turned the horse’s head, glancing to his left. Into the canyon. A scream rose again, and he thought of the freezing water that came off the mountain and formed Clear Creek, winding its rocky way below.


You can read the book's blurb and find the "soundtrack" on the Forget Me Not site (link at the top of the page). I look forward to sharing this story of my heart with you very soon!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Cover for Morning Glory Revealed!

Welcome to the new series blog, dear readers! I am so excited to finally launch this site and to have a place where you can follow the news for "The Heart's Spring" series. In addition to posting about releases, sales, blog tours, and the like, I hope to share some insights into the stories, offer you sneak peeks, and basically make this a fun place to visit for fans of Sally, Elizabeth, Felicity, and all of the other characters from the series (yes, Myghal, too!). Do please make yourself at home! Feel free to ask me questions in the comments, and be sure to check out the page links above for more information about each of the books. And for seasonal, packaged news about my releases, my editing & publicity business, and more, please consider signing up for my newsletter! I do hope to give newsletter readers a few special sneak peeks and extras in 2014.

You most likely found your way here from one of the Morning Glory cover reveal posts, so I'm sure you've seen the full cover. But here it is again!

The cover was designed by Lena Goldfinch of Stone Lily Book Designs. Don't miss the story behind the cover and the themed giveaway happening on my personal blog, Seasons of Humility! (The giveaway runs through January 9th.)

You might be wondering what the story is all about...but the truth is, even I don't know that yet! I have some general ideas (you can see some of my visual brainstorming on Pinterest), but I haven't actually started writing yet. First things first, I need to incorporate the edits from my proofreader for Forget Me Not and then send the e-ARCs for that book out to reviewers. And I also plan to do a bit of research reading for Morning Glory before I fully dive in. Rest assured, though, that I'm very excited about this project, and I cannot wait to continue Myghal's story and introduce some new characters!

I'm so blessed by my readers, and I'm so glad to have you join me on this publishing journey!