Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Michelle L. Levigne

michelle-levigne-LR-2Michelle L. Levigne has returned to talk about her steampunk story in Christmas fiction off the beaten path. Welcome back, Michelle!

What inspired you to write “Crystal Christmas”, a steampunk story set in Cleveland, 1878?

Spend enough time with characters and they feel like friends. I want their story to keep going.  “Crystal Christmas” is the next step in the storyline. I want readers know that several relationships hinted at in the Guardians novel, “Music in the Night,” have progressed. Not going to say any more, because that would give away too much of the story!

You’ve written many novels. What are the challenges when writing a short story as compared to a novel?

Short stories have fewer plot threads and characters. They are usually harder for me to write because I have to weed out so many sub-plots and secondary characters and history and settings that are begging (sometimes nagging) to be told. Perhaps a better way of saying it is they are demanding their moment on the stage.

Think of short stories versus novels as half-hour TV episodes versus feature films. You still have to cram the storyline requirements of “send your hero up a tree, throw rocks at him, get him out of the tree” into that limited number of minutes. Yet thousands of episodes are written every year that do just that. Same for short stories – without the benefit of all the character development that is done over the course of a season, like in TV shows

What excited you the most about this story?

Playing with my “dolls” again, and moving their story forward. And yes, I confess, this is a blatant attempt to get people interested in Guardians …

Tell us more about the series, The Guardians of the Timestream.

Guardians deals with a millennia-long contest between two groups of people, descendants of time travelers who went from our distant future into the distant past. One group went to stop certain historical events, and the other group followed them to protect the time stream. Set in Post-Civil War USA, the story starts with Ess Fremont, who escapes her stultifying boarding school to find her missing brother. Disguised as a boy, she has many adventures along the way. In the course of the four books she meets allies of her missing grandparents, learns her heritage, and reunites her family, while striking serious blows to the enemy’s cause. In the 4thbook, readers meet Carmen and Brogan, the main characters in “Crystal Christmas,” and learn about their underground community. If you see similarities to “Phantom of the Opera,” you wouldn’t be wrong!

Prequel: Odessa Fremont

#1: The Blue Lotus Society

#2: Sanctuary

#3: Music in the Night

Note: I’m playing with plans (someday, don’t ask when) to continue the storyline started with Guardians of the Time Stream, but focus on the underground community. The tentative title for the series is called Hidden Mountain.

Since we’re in a holiday mood, what’s your favorite Christmas tradition? Or what’s your favorite Christmas story?

Operation Christmas Child, which is part of Samaritan’s Purse. I really love putting together the boxes for kids in other countries – trying to fit as much into a shoe box-sized plastic box as possible. Hygiene supplies, school supplies, toys, socks and hats and gloves, whatever I can find.

My kids and I put together boxes with the other kids at church. It’s a wonderful tradition! Thanks again for stopping by.


Carmen and Brogan are still learning the possibilities and uses of crystal, the key to their ancestors’ time machines. As Christmas approaches, a brutal winter descends on Cleveland. Brogan is trying to help Mr. Wallace create the perfect Christmas gift for Ess Fremont – an engagement ring of crystal. Carmen helps, because her talent includes “singing” the crystal into pliability. She can’t help wishing for a ring of her own from Brogan. They have other concerns that take precedence, however. Illness brought on an airship threatens the city and reaches the underground community. They wait anxiously for the arrival of the Fremont family on the airship Golden Nile, and try to give the children a joyful Christmas.

Everything comes together at a snowy Christmas Eve service.

BUY LINKS: Amazon,Barnes and Noble,24Symbols, Kobo


On the road to publication, Michelle fell into fandom in college (she is a recovering Trekker, and adores “Warehouse 13,” “Stargate SG-1,” “The Dresden Files,” and “The Librarians.”), and has 40+ stories in various SF and fantasy universes. She has a BA in theater/English from Northwestern College and a MA focused on film and writing from Regent University. She has published 80+ books and novellas with multiple small presses, in science fiction and fantasy, YA, and sub-genres of romance. Her official launch into publishing came with winning first place in the Writers of the Future contest in 1990. She has been a finalist in the EPIC Awards competition multiple times, winning with Lorien in 2006 and The Meruk Episodes, I-V, in 2010. Her most recent claim to fame is being named a finalist in the SF category of the 2018 Realm Award competition, in conjunction with the Realm Makers conference. Her training includes the Institute for Children’s Literature; proofreading at an advertising agency; and working at a community newspaper. She is a tea snob and freelance edits for a living (MichelleLevigne@gmail.com for info/rates), but only enough to give her time to write.





Facebook Party!

BannerIf my posts about the Christian fiction anthology Christmas fiction off the beaten path have piqued your interest, join me and the five other authors for two days of fun and giveaways, beginning on Nov. 15. I’ll be chatting about the inspiration for my YA mystery, “A Rose from the Ashes” from 8-8:30 p.m. EST on Nov. 15.

To participate, you have to join the group for the party. Just click here. I’d love to have you party with us!

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Laurie Lucking

Laurie Lucking HeadshotI am so happy to have all five authors from Christmas fiction off the beaten path guest blogging this month.

First up, Laurie Lucking returns for another visit. Welcome back!

What inspired you to write “Return to Callidora”, a YA fantasy?

Several years ago, I heard about a publisher looking for Christian holiday romances. For some reason (probably due to my love of fairy tales!), I immediately pictured a lonely princess in a snow-covered tower, awaiting her Christmas delivery from a servant trekking through the cold. I enjoyed imagining why she might’ve been kept in that tower, what her relationship with the servant would be like, and how her life would change when a knight finally came to rescue her. That publishing opportunity never came to fruition, but by then I had fallen in love with this story and characters. I was so thrilled when it found the perfect home in Christmas Fiction Off the Beaten Path!

 You wrote the story from two points of view. Why?

I did! I delved into the points of view of both Eveline, the princess in the tower, and Ryker, her servant friend. Originally, I planned to only write from Eveline’s perspective, but Ryker’s role is so critical and they spend so much of the story apart that adding his point of view allowed a lot more of the action to happen on-screen. I was a little intimidated since it was my first time writing from a male viewpoint, but I ended up loving it! Ryker has some of my favorite lines in the whole story.

You’ve written a novel. What are the challenges when writing a short story as compared to a novel?

I’d say the biggest difference between writing a novel versus a short story is the level of complexity. For a short story, the plot has to be something that can be resolved in a handful of scenes or chapters, and there’s no time for side plots. It also really helps to keep the number of characters to a minimum. As an example, my novel, Common, introduces at least twenty-five characters (that’s how many I could list off the top of my head!), while “Return to Callidora” only has seven, if you count the dragon 🙂 It all comes down to that word count—you have to cut out anything that isn’t essential to the primary plot in a short story, which can be tough! But it’s also really satisfying to complete a story in a matter of days or weeks instead of months or years.

I would definitely count the dragon as a character! Next question: What excited you the most about this story?

 The relationship between Eveline and Ryker! I’ll be the first to admit I’m a hopeless romantic 🙂 I had so much fun with the dynamic of this gangly but clever servant boy whose affection for the beautiful princess is apparent to everyone except Eveline as she dreams of her knight in shining armor. I hope readers have as much fun rooting for these two as I did!

 Since we’re in a holiday mood, what’s your favorite Christmas tradition? 

I love loading our family into the car, putting on some Christmas music, and driving around to look at all the beautiful lights! It’s a nice chance to step away from all the presents and preparations and just be together, enjoying the magic of the holiday. I’m also quite a fan of Christmas cookies 🙂

Thank you so much for hosting me!!


“Return to Callidora” from Christmas fiction off the beaten path

Princess Eveline waits for a knight to rescue her from her secluded tower. In the meantime, yearly Christmas deliveries from her friend Ryker provide brief reprieves from her solitude. When Sir Batair slays the dragon, Eveline is charmed by the handsome knight but feels unexpectedly conflicted as he leads her away from the safety of her tower.

Ryker has been secretly in love with Eveline for years, but he knows a gawky servant and musician is a far cry from the noble knight of her dreams. Fearing Sir Batair may be less than honorable, Ryker follows to ensure the princess’s safety. But instead of Eveline’s home in Callidora, their journey draws them ever closer to the very danger the royal family sought to avoid.


An avid reader practically since birth, Laurie Lucking discovered her passion for writing after leaving her career as an attorney to become a stay-at-home mom. When she gets a break from playing board games and finding lost toys, she writes young adult fantasy with a strong thread of fairy tale romance. Her debut novel, Common, won the Christian Editor Connection’s Excellence in Editing Award, placed third in the Christian Women Reader’s Club Literary Lighthouse Awards, and is a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards. She has short stories published in Mythical Doorways, Encircled, and the upcoming Christmas Fiction off the Beaten Path. Laurie is the Secretary of her local ACFW chapter and a co-founder of Lands Uncharted, a blog for fans of clean young adult speculative fiction. A Midwestern girl through and through, she currently lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children. Find out more by visiting www.laurielucking.com.

Or on these sites: her blog, Amazon, Reader’s Group, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Pinterest.


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