Leap Day as Writing Inspiration

For this unique event, here are some unique suggestions for using leap day as writing inspiration.

Speculative fiction

Such an unusual day seems ready-made for inspiring speculative fiction. In the thirteen-book series, The Notebook of Doom by Troy Cummings, Alexander Bopp’s leap year birthday proves pivotal to the plot as he and his elementary school friends battle monsters in their hometown. The first book starts with Alexander moving to Stermont right around his birthday. The importance of his birthday isn’t revealed until the last book. Mr.Cummings uses this plot point cleverly and brings a cohesion to his series that I don’t always find in middle-grade books. The Notebook of Doom is a lot of fun for second and third-grade readers.

The rarity of leap year should signal something rare for the characters and plots of speculative fiction. Perhaps a character discovers her special power on February 29th and is at her most powerful on that day. A particular magical phenomenon only occurs on February 29 or during the leap year, and various parties try to take control of it.

To give a story an Indian-Jones flavor, two groups, one good and one evil, are attempting to discover some powerful object that is only accessible on February 29th. Once they find it, they must use it during the leap year. After the year is finished, the object becomes dormant.

Mystery

I’ve encountered two stories in which leap day was a crucial clue. In one short story, of which I can’t recall the title, an old diary is proved to be a fraud because the person who supposedly kept it had an entry for February 29th, 1900. Leap day occurs at the turn of the century every 400 years. 1600 and 2000 had leap days, but not 1700, 1800, and 1900,

In a radio episode of “The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” from the 1940’s, a Scottish nobleman waits for his inheritance, which will happen on his twenty-first birthday. Because he was born on leap day, he is 84 years old but has only had twenty actual birthdays. A key plot point, again, is the fact that 1900 did not have February 29th. The nobleman must wait until 1904 to celebrate his twenty-first birthday.

Here’s another approach: greedy relatives contest the will of a wealthy woman because she instructs her lawyers not to make its contents known until the next leap day. Why the condition? A relative plays detective to uncover the answer.

Or a small town had a notorious murder committed on February 29th. Legend has it that the ghost returns every four years. The town’s tiny police force is strained to the limit dealing with an invasion of ghost hunters. When one ghost hunter turns up dead, the cops have to figure out if there’s a connection between the old murder and the new one.

Other Genres

In a romance, a couple meets on leap day. Events and their own flaws tear them apart, but on the next February 29th, they have a chance to reunite. Another idea is for a couple who met on leap day to hold a special celebration every four years, and the story charts the development of their relationship on those days.

For a family drama, a tragedy on leap day still haunts the survivors years later. On another leap day, a character somehow brings peace to the family so they can move on with their lives. Perhaps the family had a misconception about the tragedy.

For more ideas on how to February can inspire your writing, check out this post.

How can leap day as writing inspiration ignite your writing?

Writing Tip — New Author, JPC Allen

As I wrap of this month of beginnings, I am interviewing myself as a new author. I talk to myself all the time when I work on dialogue, so I decided to apply this schizophrenic talent to a blog post.

What do I consider my first story?

When I was in second grade, I wrote a mystery based on Scooby Doo. It was the front and back of a sheet of notebook paper. I liked a boy in my class and made him the Shaggy character. He was so mad that he threatened to tell the teacher. In my very first story, I learned the dangers of using real people as characters and censorship.

What do I think is the main difference between a writer and an author?

God made me a writer. I’ll be a writer if I never publish anything else. It’s a way of looking at the world, to see stories in a myriad of details, people, events, and settings. An author is someone who has crossed over to the business side of writing. An author reaches more people with her writing, but now the writing is not about art alone. It is also a business. Those are two distinct worlds.

Why did I decide to become an author?

I’ve been pursuing publishing since I was in college. It just seemed like a natural goal because, at that time, I thought everything I wrote was utterly brilliant. I got serious about publishing and writing over the last five years and know God is moving me to become an author. He wants me to share the stories he filters through me. He hasn’t let me me in on why.

What was the most difficult thing to learn about being a new author? 

How extremely difficult marketing is. I have no business background whatsoever. The last time I had to sell something was in college when I worked at the the Dairy Queen. When I worked as a librarian, I only had to persuade people to take advantage of their own tax dollars.

What was the biggest surprise?

The support of the writing community. Almost every single author and writer I’ve met has been kind and encouraging. Another surprise was how much I like working with an editor. My stories improve when other eyes review them, and I love the collaboration.

What advice would I give to writers who are considering becoming author?

Research what it means to be published. Are you interested in marketing? How can you learn about it? How much money and time can you invest in it? How do you find and work with an agent? How do you work with an editor? There is so much about the business side of writing for an author to learn as well as the art side.

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, M. Liz Boyle

Today my new author is M. Liz Boyle, whom I also met online. Last year, Liz published her first novel, a YA adventure. Welcome, Liz!

What do you consider your first story?

When I was about 7 or 8, I made up a cartoon about a ladybug and a worm named Sarah and Crawler, but the plot was pretty bland! Growing up, I worked on several stories after my Sarah and Crawler days, usually about horse-crazy teenage girls. The bonafide, full-fledged story that I consider my first is a Christian YA novel entitled Avalanche. The plot is much more developed than my earlier stories!

What do you think is the main difference between a writer and an author?

A writer’s work is more for personal use than for sharing, and an author intends to share his/her work with the public. When I hear the word writer, I picture someone lounging in the grass using a pen and paper. I think authors start that way. When they become published authors who write to share ideas with others, hopefully they can keep writing for the love of it, while managing to get their work into readers’ hands. 

It would be miserable to become an author and lose the love of writing.

Why did you decide to become an author?

When I first had the idea to write Avalanche, I saw a great opportunity to share an adventure and an example of strong morals with a teenage audience. I love how stories leave us with memorable lessons that we can apply in our own lives, and I’d love to have a positive impact on readers looking for clean adventures. 

What was the most difficult thing to learn about being a new author? 

I’ve had a hard time with patience, whether it’s trying to be patient while waiting to hear back from editors, reviewers, etc., or waiting for a chance to write down my ideas in the midst of my busy schedule. Sometimes I have a brilliant brainstorm and want to develop it right away, so I get really frustrated if it’s a busy day or week and I need to wait to work on it. 

What was the biggest surprise?

I have been pleasantly surprised by the kindness and generosity of so many authors. Before becoming an author, I had the misconception that in general, authors would have an ‘every man for himself’ mindset. I’ve found quite the opposite to be true! Fellow authors are happy and quick to offer advice and support. It’s a great group of people. 

That’s been my experience too. What advice would you give to writers who are considering becoming author?

I would advise aspiring authors to read books and articles about publishing and find some credible AuthorTubers on YouTube to learn as much as possible, to network with other authors in a similar genre, and to brace yourself for rejection. It can be discouraging, but keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep your eyes on the prize. Listen to constructive criticism, and ignore outright negativity. Also, and I know this sounds cliche, but identify your audience so you can best share your work with them. 

*****

AVALANCHE COVER 3When fifteen-year-old Marlee Stanley joins her two sisters and the sons of their family friends on a secretive hike in the middle of the night, she is thrilled and nervous. Battling her conscience, she prays that the hike will go flawlessly and that they will return to the safety of their campsite before their parents wake. The start of the hike is beautiful and wonderfully memorable.

In a white flash so fast that Marlee can barely comprehend what has happened, an avalanche crashes into their path. Buried in packed snow, Marlee is forced to remember survival tips learned from her dad and her own research.

This group of friends, ages eleven through seventeen, is about to endure bigger challenges than many adults have experienced. Digging out of the packed snow is only the first of many challenges. Injuries, cold, hunger, fatigue, aggressive wildlife and tensions in the group make this a much bigger adventure than they ever imagined. As the kids strive to exhibit Christian values throughout the trials, they learn numerous life lessons. But they are nearly out of food, and their energy is waning quickly. How will they ever reach help?

BUY LINKS: Amazon

*****

Liz is an author, the wife of a professional tree climber and the mom of three energetic and laundry-producing children. She received her Associate’s of Arts at the University of Sioux Falls, where she received the LAR Writing Award for her essay entitled, “My Real Life Mufasa.” Liz once spent a summer in Colorado teaching rock climbing, which she believes was a fantastic way to make money and memories. She resides with her family in Wisconsin, where they enjoy hiking and rock climbing. Liz and her husband have also backpacked in Colorado and the Grand Canyon, which have provided inspiration for her writing. She likes making adventurous stories to encourage others to find adventures and expand their comfort zones (though admittedly, she still needs lots of practice expanding her own comfort zone). She has thoroughly enjoyed working on her first novel, Avalanche.

Follow her on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Jenny Knipfer

Author Jenny Knipfer is visiting for the first time. I met her through Instagram and did a guest blog for her in November. I’m happy to return the favor. Welcome, Jenny!

What do you think is the main difference between a writer and an author?

When you do the work of writing, you’re a writer. When you write for others to read, you’re an author.

Why did you decide to become an author?

Years ago I started blogging when blogging wasn’t the huge world it is today. I kept up a blog entitled “Crochet Life” about my craft inspiration, projects, and the day-to-day joys of life. I had another blog called “Scrapbook of a Closet Poet.” There I shared my poems and original songs. On those platforms I was an author but not the author of a novel, which I had always dreamt of being.

My life got busy during those ten years, and I decided to delete my blogs to focus on spending quality time with my sons before they graduated from high school. I kept writing daily in my journals.

Fast forward a few years–My health took a dive, and I had to retire from work in 2018 due to continued disability from MS. The day after my last day at work I sat at home wondering what would fill my time up. A light bulb went off in my head, and I thought of the novel I had started eighteen years prior. I decided to finish it, and well, here I am with two published novels and two more in the works to be released this year.

What was the most difficult thing to learn about being a new author?

Criticism is always hard to handle. I had to objectively examine my work and be willing to rethink and rewrite until I had a solid story.

It’s so hard to be objective with stories we care so much about. What was the biggest surprise?

On the down-side: marketing an independently published novel challenges me. On the up-side: meeting wonderful writer and readers with whom I have shared great conversations and been blessed with opportunities to learn from their experience.

I agree with both of those. What advice would you give to writers who are considering becoming authors?

Define your point of view. I had trouble with it in the beginning. It is the bone structure on which your story is built.

Find some beta readers and honestly consider their comments.

Do the hard work to make your manuscript or article the best it can be.

Be ready to work hard to promote and market your work.

Listen to your writing voice and believe in your craft.

Thank you so much for taking the time for an interview. And best wished on your 2020 release!

*****

A tale of greif, guilt, and redemtion (1)Ruby Moon embodies a tale of grief, guilt, and romance set on the shores of Lake Superior in Ontario during the mid 1890’s. Jenay, a young woman of mixed French and Ojibwe descent, must survive the trauma of causing a horrific accident. Her maturity accelerates as the challenges of grief, and romance enter the scene.Amidst this drama, Jenay is caught in a web spun by Renault, a rich, charming man who once threatened ruination of her father’s shipping company but now seeks something even more valuable–Jenay. Renault, her past enemy, suddenly becomes her friend then something more . . . Will she leave the man she loves for this new found affection?Jenay must find where her strength lies in order to face the challenges life brings her or be washed away like driftwood on the tumultuous shores of Lake Superior. Life’s richest dramas are played out under the banner of two ruby colored moons and become the hidden gems which forge her into a mature strong woman. Jenay realizes God is by her side, using even the harsh events of life to create something precious in her.

BUY LINKS: Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub

*****

Jenny lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Ken and their pet Yorkie, Ruby. She is also a mom and loves being a grandma. She enjoys many creative pursuits, but she finds writing the most fulfilling.

Jenny’s education background stems from psychology, music, and cultural missions. She spent many years as a librarian in a local public library but recently switched to using her skills as a floral designer in a retail flower shop. She is now retired from work due to disability.

She authored and performed a self-published musical CD entitled, Scrapbook of a Closet Poet. Jenny finds joy in the journey as an author and holds membership in the: Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, Historical Novel Society, Christian Indie Publishing Association, and Wisconsin Writers Association. Her favorite place to relax is by the shores of Lake Superior, where her novel series, By the Light of the Moon, is set.

Ruby Moon and Blue Moon, Jenny’s first two books in the series, earned five star reviews from Readers’ Favorite– “Ruby Moon is entertaining, fast-paced, and features characters that are real. Over all Blue Moon continues a well-written and highly engaging saga of family ties, betrayals, and heartaches.”

Follow Jenny on her website, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. Or listen to her podcast.

 

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Anne Clare

Following my theme of beginnings, I’ve asked a few new authors I’ve met online to relate their experiences. First up is Anne Clare. She recently published as an independent author a WWII novel that is both equal parts romance and suspense. So glad you could stop by, Anne!

What do you consider your first story?

My first “real” stories that I recall were written scrap paper from Dad’s office, sometimes with thin sheets of cardboard for covers. I didn’t write them myself, being small and not having mastered the art of spelling (still working on that, actually.) My cousin was a few years older, and she and I hid out in her room to create! I dictated stories that she recorded in her nice, big-kid handwriting—wild adventures of magical horses, talking dogs, and princesses. I did the illustrations, and then we’d share them with our parents. I still get a chuckle out of reading through the few that my mom saved.

What do you think is the main difference between a writer and an author?

This is an interesting question, and one I hadn’t really thought about before. I’ll confess, in trying to come up with an answer I popped onto the internet to see if there was a set differentiation that others used. I found about half a dozen!

The first word that came to my mind when considering the difference between “writer” and “author” was intent. In other words, what’s the end goal of the writing?

I wrote for years—just for myself—in journals, in notebooks, on sticky notes and scraps of paper. I wrote to release feelings, to recall events, to record amusing ideas that might turn into something later. However, I had no real intent for these bits and pieces of writing. They had no focus, and no reason for one as I didn’t intend to share them with anyone in any formal way.

That changed when I got about half-way through my novel, on the day I thought, “This…this might be something I’d want to publish.” When my writing became something intended for other eyes—whether as a blog post, short fiction, or novel—I shifted from calling myself a writer to calling myself an author.

Why did you decide to become an author?

It wasn’t so much a choice as something I fell into. While I’d authored some pieces to share in the classroom or for church functions, I had no plans to pursue authorship. I certainly hadn’t considered becoming a blogger or historical fiction author.

Then, I had a vivid dream, set in London at the end of the Second World War.

As our house was going through major repairs and the kids and I were more or less trapped at home for several months, I started writing a story that incorporated the scene from the dream. As I said above, about halfway through the first draft I began to think that maybe this story wouldn’t just be for me. I dove into research on history and writing craft, and after lots of drafting, editing, and starting a blog, I moved on to eventual publication!

What was the most difficult thing to learn about being a new author?

There’s so much more to taking on the mantle of “author” than coming up with stories. There’s the actual writing process, then the editing process, then deciding whether to publish independently or through a traditional publisher. Once I decided to go indie, there was formatting, cover design and source citing to figure out, not to mention figuring out just how I was going to deal with the book’s income (if any) on my tax forms…

Still, the greatest struggle for me wasn’t dealing with all of the details—I’m an elementary school teaching mom. Juggling lots of complicated details is part of life. No, the real struggle was embracing the fact that I was embarking on a completely new journey, one that was going to have unexpected twists and turns. I had to learn to slow down, to get organized, and (hardest of all) to ask for help when I didn’t know what to do next.

What was the biggest surprise?

I was shocked to find out that using the “tab” key to indent paragraphs would mess up all of my book’s formatting. Learning how to format paragraphs properly and getting all those tabs out of my manuscript took a surprisingly long time!

What advice would you give to writers who are considering becoming authors?

Don’t go it alone. Whether you’re still in your writing process, getting ready to publish, or trying to figure out the mysteries of marketing, there are authors out there with treasure troves of information and experience, and many of them are willing to share! I could not have published my novel last year without the help and support of other authors who aided me with beta readings, edits, formatting and cover design, marketing help… so many things!

Of course, we don’t all have a ready supply of author friends on hand—that’s where the internet can become an invaluable resource. There are strong writing communities online—it’s just a matter of finding one that fits your needs and tapping in to it!

If you’ll allow me one more piece of advice, it’s to be kind to yourself. Writing and publishing are challenging, involved processes, and we’re all at different stages of life. You can read advice on what the process “should” look like all day, but in the end, whether it’s fast or slow, easy or rocky, it’s your journey.

I wish you all the best on it!

Being kind to yourself. That’s something we all need to remember. Thanks so much for your great advice.

*****

Whom Shall I fear mini ad 41943

All that Sergeant James Milburn wants is to heal. Sent to finish his convalescence in a lonely village in the north of England, the friends he’s lost haunt his dreams. If he can only be declared fit for active service again, perhaps he can rejoin his surviving mates in the fight across Sicily and either protect them or die alongside them.

All that Evie Worther wants is purpose. War has reduced her family to an elderly matriarch and Charles, her controlling cousin, both determined to keep her safely tucked away in their family home. If she can somehow balance her sense of obligation to family with her desperate need to be of use, perhaps she can discover how she fits into her tumultuous world.

All that Charles Heatherington wants is his due. Since his brother’s death, he is positioned to be the family’s heir with only one step left to make his future secure. If only he can keep the family matriarch happy, he can finally start living the easy life he is certain he deserves.

However, when James’s, Evie’s and Charles’s paths collide, a dark secret of the past is forced into the light, and everything that they have hoped and striven for is thrown into doubt. Weaving in historical detail from World War II in Britain, Italy and Egypt, WHOM SHALL I FEAR? follows their individual struggles with guilt and faith, love and family, and forces them to ask if the greatest threat they face is really from the enemy abroad.

BUY AT AMAZON.

*****

Anne Clare is a native of Minnesota’s cornfields and dairy country. She graduated with a BS in Education in 2005 and set out to teach in the gorgeous green Pacific Northwest, where she and her husband still live. She also serves as a church musician, singing in and occasionally directing choirs, playing piano, organ, and coronet (the last only occasionally, when she forgets how bad she is at it.) After the birth of her second child, she became a stay-at-home mom, and after the birth of the third she became reconciled to the fact that her house would never be clean again, which allowed her to find time to pursue her passion for history and writing while the little people napped. Although she’s back to teaching part-time, she continues to write historical fiction and to blog about WWII history, writing, and other odds and ends at thenaptimeauthor.wordpress.com.

You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @anneclarewriter.

 

Writing Tip — Writing in Time: Winter Solstice as Writing Inspiration

summer-solstice-1474745_1280With all the frantic activity associated with Christmas in the U.S., we Americans tend to overlook all other significant dates and holidays in December. Yet the winter solstice is the reason we celebrate Christmas in this month. Both the history and nature of the winter solstice makes for a rich vein of writing inspiration.

Many ancient cultures, according to The Christmas Encyclopedia by William D. Crump, figured out which day in the northern hemisphere had the shortest amount of daylight, all without the help of computers.

Babylonians, Syrians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and pre-Christian Celtic and Germanic tribes celebrated this time of year. Egyptians commemorated the birth of Ra, the sun god. Babylonians and Syrians saw the solstice as a symbol of returning fertility to the land. During the Celtic and Germanic holiday of Yule, noisy celebrations warded off evil spirits that roamed in the darkness.

In a brilliant move of counter-programming, the Catholic Church decided to celebrate Jesus’ birth in December and compete against pagan holidays. We still use some of the pagan traditions and have given them new meanings based on Christianity, like lighting candles and decorating with evergreens.

The juxtaposition of the most hours of darkness and the happiest holiday on the Christian calendar makes a great symbol for the journey of a character. As December grows darker, the character experiences more and more adversity, hitting bottom on the day of the solstice. Then on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, hope is restored.

For speculative fiction, a villain reaches her most powerful state during the winter solstice. The hero, whose powers are at their weakest, must come up with a way to stop the villain from taking advantage of the solstice.

How can you use the winter solstice as writing inspiration?

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Ronnell Kay Gibson

GIBSONTo wrap up the month, I have author Ronnell Kay Gibson visiting for the first time. Although she has published many devotionals and short stories, “Those Who Stay” is her first story to appear in an anthology. Glad to have you here, Ronnell!

What inspired you to write “Those Who Stayed”, a drama set during a hostage crisis in a store?

“Those Who Stayed” was based on a dream I about just that, a gunman who walked into my local Christian bookstore and posed the same ultimatum, deny Jesus and you can live, but those who stay will be shot. In the dream, I was the 17-year-old boy frozen in place watching the events unfold. All the other details and characters were created as I wrote the story.

 Why did you choose a teenage boy as your main character?

I write a lot of young adult fiction and as I was writing, it just felt the most natural.

 Did you find any special challenges when you wrote your story?

The biggest challenge was trying to keep it real and not preachy. What would a person do if this were a real situation? Would a mother really let her young son stay behind? Most moms wouldn’t, so why does this one? I didn’t want to have trite or pat answers.

 What excited you the most about this story?

Each of the character’s unique voices came easily, and that almost never happens when I’m writing.

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

One of my favorite Christmas stories is the children’s book, Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect. Just a sweet story about compassion and selfless giving.

My favorite Christmas tradition is our “Tree Trimming Night.” A night where our family gets together to put up and decorate our tree. Afterward we have pizza and everyone gets to open one present (wrapped in wrapping paper with Christmas trees on it, of course). As my kids have gotten older, we haven’t always been able to have our special night, but this year I’m hoping to bribe my daughter and her friends to come help.

I love trimming our tree, too, with my kids. Thanks for stopping by!

*****

From Christmas fiction off the beaten path:

“Those Who Stayed” by Ronnell Kay Gibson. Years ago, a gunman and a store full of hostages learned some important lessons about faith and pain and what really matters in life — and the echoes from that day continue to the present. 

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, 24Symbols, Kobo

*****

Ronnell surrounds herself with words and teenagers. She specializes in young adult contemporary with a sprinkling of the mysterious. She also writes youth and adult devotions and is one of the editors for HAVOK Publishing. Self-proclaimed coffee snob and Marvel movie addict, Ronnell has also titled herself a macaroon padawan and a cupcake Jedi. High on her bucket list is to attend San Diego Comic Con. Ronnell lives in central Wisconsin, with her husband, two teenagers, and two Pomeranian puppies. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and on her website, ronnellkeygibson.com.

 

 

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Sandra Merville Hart

SandraMervilleHart_Headshot2Sandra Merville Hart has visited me before but as an author of historical fiction novels. But her short story, “Not This Year'”, is a real change of pace for her. Welcome back, Sandy!

You write historical fiction, stories usually set during the Civil War. What inspired you to write “Not This Year”, a story set in the 1980’s?

That’s a great question, Jennifer.

I’ve always loved reading stories and novels set during Christmas. It’s been a dream of mine to either write a Christmas novel or be part of a Christmas collection, so I jumped at the opportunity to write a story for Mt. Zion Ridge Press’s “Christmas Fiction Off the Beaten Path”.

“Not This Year” is inspired by a person who is very dear to my heart. I couldn’t talk to him to check every detail, but it’s based on a true story. I selected the 1980s setting because that is the timeframe of the events.

Did you find any special challenges to writing a story set in more contemporary times?

Since I write fiction set in the 1800s, I often use language of that time period to lend authenticity. I noticed myself using words a couple of times that would have been considered “old-fashioned” even in the eighties when the story was set. Of course, I changed them.

Though my first love is writing historical novels, this contemporary setting was a refreshing change.

Why did you write from the point of view of Ed, the father of the family?

This story was inspired by the character of a hard-working husband and father doing his best to support his family in difficult circumstances so it had to be Ed’s story. Telling it from another perspective might have lessened its impact.

What excited you the most about this story while you were writing it?

This story flowed out of me. It was easy to write. Because I write Civil War novels, research before I ever begin writing can take months. And then there’s constant research and fact-checking while writing.

This story was a nice change of pace for that reason.

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

 I love so many traditions at Christmas that it’s difficult to choose!

However, since we are talking about a Christmas book today, I have to admit that I look forward to reading Christmas novels and collections every year. I read old favorites and find new treasures. Reading holiday stories begins for me in November—if I can wait that long. 😊

I also love watching all the Christmas movies and listening to Christmas songs. All of these put me in the holiday mood.

Great to have you stop by again, Sandy! 

*****

From Christmas fiction off the beaten path:

“Not This Year” by Sandra Merville Hart. Anticipating tough financial times, the decision not to buy or exchanged presents leads to some painful and surprising revelations for a hardworking man and his family.

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, 24Symbols, Kobo

*****

About Sandra Merville Hart

Award-winning and Amazon bestselling author Sandra Merville Hart loves to uncover little-known yet fascinating facts about our American history to include in her stories. A Musket in My Hands, a Civil War romance where two sisters join the Confederate army with the men they love, is 2019 Serious Writer Medal Fiction Winner and a 2019 Selah Award Finalist. A Rebel in My House, set during the historic Battle of Gettysburg, won the 2018 Silver Illumination Award and second place in 2018 Faith, Hope and Love Readers’ Choice Award. Her debut Civil War Romance, A Stranger on My Land, was IRCA Finalist 2015. Her novella, Surprised by Love in “From the Lake to the River” is set during the 1913 flood in Troy, Ohio. Trail’s End, in “Smitten Novella Collection: The Cowboys” is set in the wild cattle town of Abilene, Kansas. Not This Year, her story in the “Christmas Fiction Off the Beaten Path,” released in the fall of 2019.

Find her on her blog, https://sandramervillehart.wordpress.com/.

 

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Patricia Meredith

image0Please welcome Patricia Meredith! She is a brand-new author, and  her short story, “Mary, Did You Know?”, in Christmas fiction off the beaten path is her first published piece. So glad you could join us today!

What inspired you to write “Mary, Did You Know?”, a story about Mary’s first year as a mother.

 As a young mother with a baby it often comforted me during those difficult moments to think that even Mary, mother of Jesus, must have experienced the same. The same poopy diapers, the same cries in the middle of chores, the same moments when her infant child taught her something about God’s love. One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Mary, Did You Know” for that very reason, and I realized I could consider those similarities through the lens of that song. The rest was all God. Every time I read my short story I cry, because I swear most of it wasn’t written by me, just through me.

 Did you find any special challenges about writing a story set in Biblical times?

 I made the decision to purposely avoid details that made the setting concretely in Bible times, even down to the speech. I wanted to focus on the similarities between modern mothers and Mary, not the differences, and I felt stressing the Biblical time period would pull readers out of the story. By removing any details about how they dressed, ate, or slept I was able to turn attention simply to the fact that they did those things that make us human, helping the reader to feel contemporary to Mary, rather than distanced by time.

What excited you the most about this story?

 Finding those similarities. I had actually jotted down a few of the scenes in a journal while I still had an infant in arms. They were reminders of moments that are difficult one second, yet fondly remembered the next, during that first pregnancy, and then the first year or two of having a child. I came across those scenes and the rest of the story fell into place.

What did you learn about yourself as a writer as you worked on your story?

That my best writing happens when I trust God with the words, and don’t try to force it. This story is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and I hope readers can feel that.

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

My favorite Christmas story (and tradition in a way) is A Christmas Carol. I love hearing and seeing new renditions of the story every year, and I think it’s so important how timeless a tale it really is. Second chances, redemption, these are themes that never grow old.

You’re right. Those themes never do grow old. Thanks so much stopping by!

Christmas fiction off the beaten path: Amazon,Barnes and Noble,24Symbols, Kobo

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Patricia Meredith is the author of historical fiction mysteries. She currently lives just outside Spokane, Washington on a farm with peacocks, ducks, guinea fowl, chickens, and sheep. When she’s not writing, she’s playing board games with her husband, creating imaginary worlds with her two kids, or out in the garden reading a good book with a cup of tea.

Patricia Meredith currently has two novels seeking publication. The first is The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Taker. Set in 1901 Spokane, Washington, the designer of the Great Northern Railroad depot clock tower is thrilled when his talent for creating unique clock chimes is recognized by a local patroness, until she is found beheaded in the workshop of his new colleague. Her second book, A Woman’s Intuitions, weaves The Leavenworth Case with Anna Katharine Green’s true history as she writes one of the first detective mystery novels, setting the stage for future writers like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie.

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