Sophomore Novel Slump

Today I’m hosting Historical Novelist Jessica Dotta. Since she’s nearing the release of her sophomore novel, it’s fitting that she’s here to talk about the difficulties of writing that second book. So, let’s have a big round of applause for Jessica Dotta!
Born in the wrong century‚ except for the fact that she
really likes epidurals and washing machines‚ Jessica Dotta writes British Historicals
with the humor like an Austen, yet the drama of a Bronte.
She resides lives in the greater Nashville area‚where she
imagines her small Southern town into the foggy streets of 19th century London.
She oversees her daughter to school, which they pretend is an English boarding
school, and then she goes home to write or work on PR. Jessica has tried to
cast her dachshund as their butler‚ but the dog insists it’s a Time Lord and
their home a Tardis. Miss Marple, her cat, says its no mystery to her as to why
the dog won’t cooperate. When asked about it, Jessica sighs and says that you
can’t win them all, and at least her dog has picked something British to

It’s about a month away from the launch of Mark of Distinction—a book that will be
called my sophomore novel. Okay, I have to confess, I had to Google the term
when I was invited to blog about it on Novel Rocket. Here, all this time, I
thought, I’d graduated.
I did some reading and here’s what I found.

Some call it the Sophomore Slump. (Ouch.)
 Some of have posted
articles on that sophomore novels t have unexpectedly been surprisingly good. (How
delightful, apparently people utterly doubt our abilities as writers.) 
The popular and successful ones have their own shelf on
GoodReads. (Woot! How do I get there?)
But my very favorite was this article
entitled: Why a Sophomore Novels Is So Different
from the First
. Here’s a quote:
their first books come out, a lot of writers are left with a type of
post-traumatic stress syndrome. It reminds me of one of my grandfather’s bird
dogs who got lost during a hunt and spent the night outdoors in an electrical
storm. The dog made it home the next day, but, for the rest of his life, he
remained what my grandfather sagely described as “not right.  Recently published authors often have the
same wild-eyed look of that bird dog, as if they’ve been through such a
prolonged series of flashes and booms that they simply can’t begin to
articulate the experience.
That quote made me laugh. By golly, she’s right! Launching a
potential publishing career is hard. And I even knew it was coming. For nearly
a decade before publication I worked alongside a number of authors as editor,
critique partner and publicist. Yet despite that and countless hours of working
with media as a book publicist, I barely made it through the first storm. And
there was still a book to be re-edited and a book to be written.
The article goes on to talk about how during this season a
writer can lose their zeal. The ideal is gone but the reality remains, possibly
affecting the writing. Here at least I’m thankful, for originally I wrote Born of Persuasion and Mark of Distinction as one book. (Only later
did I discover 400K word novels are not welcome.) It worked out nicely for me,
because my sophomore novel has always existed alongside the first book. They
were twins, so to speak.
I did however walk through the Sophomore Novel Experience
with the last book of the trilogy—in the midst of whirlwind or launching a
book, editing a book, writing a book and working full time as a single mom, I
realized I only had months to accomplish what first took me a decade to do
I now understand why it took me so long to break through the
publishing wall—and I’m so grateful.
In the book Outliers:
The Story of Success,
Malcolm Gladwell studies what made high-achievers
thus. He discovered there are factors already in place behind successful
people. One of those was called the ten-thousand-hour rule. Simply explained,
the hours invested into an interest or hobby needs to be approximately
ten-thousand-hours. He cites the Beatles as an example. They hit the scene with
mega success in 1964, but it wasn’t as overnight as it seemed. Lennon and
McCartney started playing together since 1957, and in 1960 they’d played in
Hamburg, Germany. 
Here’s a quote from the book: “It was a huge nonstop show, hour after hour, with a lot of people
lurching in and the other lot lurching out. And the bands would play all the
time to catch the passing traffic. . . . And what was so special about Hamburg?
It wasn’t that it paid well. It didn’t . . . It was the sheer amount of time
they band was forced to play
They had to
learn an enormous amount of numbers—cover versions of everything you can think
of, not just rock and roll, a bit of jazz too. They weren’t disciplined onstage
at all before that. But when they came back, they sounded like no one else. It
was the making of them.”
When I read that section of the book, I felt relieved
because I knew I’d invested ten-thousand hours into the craft and marketing. I
clung to that knowledge every time fear arose that I couldn’t complete the
series. I remembered the Beatles and the ten-thousand-hour rule. I would remind
myself of how diverse their ability was simply because of the experience they
garnered, and how because of it, they wrote music is identifiable their sound
(or in our case, because we know our voice.) Eventually, much like I imagine
the Beatles hitting the stage, I remembered who I was as a writer and blocked
out the fears, reviewers and critics, and the predictions of what my editors
would say . . . and just sat down and wrote.

It wasn’t too long before I found myself on familiar ground
. . .

The Joy of Our Adoption

Posted by Marcia Lee Laycock

I am very pleased to host historical novelist Christine Lindsay today for our Sunday devotional. Be Blessed.

Christian Author, Christine Lindsay

God had done an
awesome thing. After twenty years of praying, I was going to be reunited with my
first-born child that I had relinquished to adoption when she was three days
Sarah was a
beautiful, well-adjusted, and happy young woman studying to be a nurse and
planning her wedding to a wonderful guy. This was exactly what I had wanted for
Sarah all those years ago when I was an unmarried mother and couldn’t provide
for her. The door to future get-togethers for Sarah and I was sort of open. By
all standards our adoption reunion had been a success.

So why was I so angry with God?

In adoption reunion books my trauma was explained as the cold and clinical
stage of negotiating the birthmother role. I wanted to throw the book
across the room.

This reunion was
not what I had envisioned as I had prayed. Sarah and I were total strangers,
and it was clear it would take a long time to build the relationship I yearned
for. But that wasn’t what hurt the most.
Sarah’s parents did
not want to meet me. They were hurting so badly that they stayed at home while
Sarah I were reunited.

Twenty years earlier I had chosen this Christian couple from a portfolio, a
couple who would raise Sarah to love the Lord Jesus. They had done exactly what
I had prayed for. But each day that I had prayed for Sarah, I had prayed for
her parents too. They were her mom and dad—how could I not love them? And, I
thought, since we all love the same Lord, surely they will want to meet me and
have a friendship with me when Sarah becomes an adult.  

But their hurt over
the reunion, hurt me in return.
Sarah blessed me
when she told me that she had never felt rejected like many adoptive kids feel.
She knew that I had relinquished her out of sacrificial love.
But now it was me, as her birthmother, that was
feeling rejected. My
self-pity disgusted me.
Months after the
reunion, I was alone one afternoon. My house was quiet, my husband at work, our
three kids at school. I went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. As I reached
for the kettle the dam burst and I cried, and I felt the Lord’s voice, I
have never forgotten you
I set the kettle
down. Each year around Sarah’s birthday when I was missing her, I had felt the Lord’s
comfort in amazing ways. The verse that I’d claimed as my life’s motto came to

Isaiah 49:15, 16a “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may
forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my
hands . . .”

I lifted my face to receive
my Father’s love.

For years I’d prayed to
be brought visibly back into the triad of Sarah’s adoption, but God had done even
better. He had brought me back full circle to His love. I was His child.
Nothing could ever separate me from Him.

Christine Lindsay writes historical
inspirational novels with strong love stories. Her debut novel SHADOWED IN SILK
is set in British Colonial India during a turbulent era. Christine and her
birthdaughter Sarah enjoy a warm and close friendship 12 years after their
adoption reunion, and Sarah was happy to be the model on the front cover of
Shadowed in Silk, and in the book trailer.

was the Gold winner of the 2009
ACFW Genesis for Historical Fiction. The Pacific coast of Canada, about 200 miles north
of Seattle, is Christine’s home where she lives with her husband and grown up

Visit Christine’s website

What I Learned about Blogging from Katniss Everdeen

by Edie Melson

Visiting Katniss Everdeen country.
This past fall I
was in Katniss Everdeen country.
I had the
opportunity to spend the weekend with my BCGE crit partners on a writing
retreat. (Waving to Charity Tinnin, AmandaStevens, Jess Keller Koschnitzky, and Erynn Newman.) We were tucked away in the foothills
of the Blue Ridge Mountains where part of the Hunger Games was filmed.
The weather was
brisk and beautiful as we took pictures of the mill village that served as the
set of her home in District 12. While I clicked happily away, I got to thinking
about Katniss and how she’d played the game.
I realized I
could learn a lot by applying some of her principles. Today I want to share
what I learned about blogging from Katniss Everdeen.
  • Use
    What You Know:
    We each
    have a knowledge base to work from. Instead of re-inventing yourself, start
    with what you know and work outward from there.
Things I learned about blogging from Katniss Everdeen.
  • Focus
    on Your Strengths:
    we all have things we do well. Don’t discount something just because you can do
    it. Let those strengths become your foundation.
  • Never
    Stop Learning:
    grandmother had a saying, when you’re green you’re growing, and when you’re
    ripe you rot. And she was right. Once we stop growing we die, especially in this
    industry. Things change day to day and sometimes minute to minute.
  • Look for
    Allies in Unexpected Places:
    don’t know anyone who wasn’t thrilled when Katniss befriended little Rue. It
    was an alliance that didn’t appear to benefit Katniss at all, but that
    friendship saved her life. Don’t discount a blog ally just because they aren’t
    at your level. As I mentioned earlier, things change quickly in social media.
Play the game, but not by their rules.
  • Be
    Willing to Put Others Ahead of Yourself:
    This is the truth I’ve build my career on. People don’t follow me
    because I’m all that. They follow me because I’ll point you to the experts.
  • Play
    the Game, but NOT by Their Rules:
    There are certain things we need to do to get noticed in the blog
    world and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one of them. But there are lots
    of things we can choose not to participate in and directions we can go to set
    ourselves out from the crowd.
  • Do What Your
    Heart Tells You, No Matter What:
    Follow your gut when it comes to every part of social media. Passion can be seen,
    especially in the world of blogging and writing about something that touches
    your heart will gain you more than a million well executed posts that lack that

I believe that
when we apply these truths, the odds truly will be ever in our favor!
What insights have gained while blogging? Share them below and we’ll add to the list!
Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance
writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches
thousands each month. She’s the co-director of
the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media
Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media
Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Why Do You Write That Stuff?

by Thomas Smith

Why do we do it?

Why do seemingly rational, well-balanced folks insist on writing about ghosts, the undead, killers, zombies, haunted places, and things that thrive in the dark? Why do we plumb the depths of the dark side of the literary spectrum? Why, you may ask, would someone write horror novels and stories when there are so many other kinds of things to write? 

Maybe the first line from this Associated Press story will help set the answer in context:

“A Louisiana man is accused of decapitating and dismembering his disabled 7-year-old son and leaving the boy’s head near the street so the child’s mother would see it – a killing that brought seasoned police officers to tears, authorities said Monday.”

The story went on to explain that the father was tired of taking care of a son who had cerebral palsy, a heart condition, a feeding tube, and was confined to a wheelchair. Police Chief Scott Silverii said the father’s only explanation for placing the child’s head where his mother would have to see it when she came home was, “…just that he wanted her to feel stupid when she saw the head.”

Dear God in heaven, what drives a man to dismember his own son? His own defenseless flesh-and-blood son?


Not badness. Not sickness. Evil.

Now I don’t pretend to speak for any other writer, but I have a feeling many would agree with me when I say even though we write about the struggle between good and evil, we can only examine the battle and the aftermath.


Ask yourself this: How do you fathom an act of pure evil? How do you “understand” the dismemberment of an innocent child? The serial killing of dozens of strangers? The kidnapping of and the keeping a child/woman as a sexual slave for 18 years à la Jaycee Lee Dugard. How do you fathom absolutely depraved acts committed against children and adults for the sheer enjoyment of it?

You can’t.

Oh sure, society can excuse it, assigning absolution because they feel someone came from a broken home. Because they were abused. Because they were underprivileged. Because they were not afforded the same breaks as some other people. Because they were “legally” ill (as opposed to those who may have a legitimate mental illness). Then they shake their heads, say “tsk, tsk, that’s so sad,” and go on with their lives as if nothing happened.

The fact is no decent person will ever be able to fully fathom the actual participation in such acts. But we can understand something about the nature of evil. we can understand that it is both stimulus and response. It is a force. It is something we can choose to either shun or embrace. It is both the catalyst of an act and the act itself.

Sociologist Fred Katz defines evil as
“…behavior that deliberately deprives innocent people of their humanity, from
small scale assaults on their dignity to outright murder.” But that is just the
tip of the iceberg, because evil, if we are honest, is more than just a

James E. Holmes embraced evil before he walked into a movie theater on a Friday night (July 20, 2012), started shooting, and left 12 people dead and 58 people wounded in Aurora, Colorado.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold embraced it before they murdered 12 students, one teacher, and wounded 24 additional students at Columbine High School (April 20, 1999).

Adam Lanza embraced it before he killed twenty children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School (December 14, 2012).

And they are only the tip of a bloody iceberg.

So why do horror writers write horror? Why not look the other way and write something else?

We do it so we won’t mistake evil for badness. So we will know the difference when we see it. And we do it so we can show the face of the beast to others. The stories are simply a canvas for a greater truth. A picture of us writ large.

We do it so acts like those above and the ones that will surely follow will revolt us and be more than a horrible news segment soon to be replaced in our memory by Miley Cyrus’ latest butt-shaking shenanigans or the next celebrity break up.

My novel, Something Stirs (yep, I stole the title as a tribute to my mentor and friend, Charlie Grant. His wife Kat said it was OK) was one of the first haunted house novels for the Christian market (though I write on “both sides of the publishing fence”).And one of the things I heard most often at book signings, via email, and in blog comments was, “I can’t read that. I don’t want that kind of thing in my head.”

When the book was released, my editor approached a group about the possibility of having me as one of the authors involved in a large scale signing event. And while I will not reveal name of the person who nixed the idea, their reasoning was that they saw no benefit in “that kind of thing.” They felt it had no redeeming value. So allow me will respond to them and to the ones who don’t want “that kind of thing in their head.”

In short, look at it from my point of view. I don’t mind haunted houses, vampires, werewolves, mad scientists, reanimated corpses, things created from DNA experiments gone wrong, gods who were old when the earth was new, or any other creatures (human or otherwise) that haunt the night. I create them. I direct them. I decide their ultimate fate, as do my colleagues with their creations. And I know before I type the first word that ultimately the evil will be destroyed or contained and hope will prevail. It may get ugly, and it might not be readily apparent, but I know who the good guys are. Even when they surprise me.

I also know that the images we horror writers create can combine to show a larger picture of the power of hope at work in the lives of folks like you and me. The creatures are just window dressing and metaphors. A vehicle for the message. Just like the Amish characters, the romantic couples, and the star crossed lovers separated by war and circumstance. Those stories, through their trials and tribulations, ultimately speak to the power of love and fidelity in the face of all obstacles.

I don’t really like many of those stories. But I get it. And I appreciate that there are many readers for whom those stories are a way to reinforce something very noble in their lives.

My stories are of a much darker nature. But the darkness exists, not to glorify evil, but to celebrate the light. To celebrate goodness. Perseverence. The power of God in our lives. So what exactly is it that has no value in these tales? Is it the notion that there is no life so broken that God cannot touch it and heal it? Is it maybe the power of Christ to intervene on our behalf? Maybe it is the notion that in the midst of darkness there is something noble in the heart of every one of us?

What is it you don’t want in your head? Don’t you want a sense of hope in your head? You don’t want the triumph of good over evil in your head? You don’t want the fact that God loves us in your head? You don’t want the knowledge that no matter what evil the powers of darkness bring to bear against us that we have an advocate with the father, who is Jesus Christ the righteous, and that he will ultimately triumph over the worst Satan has to offer?


You see, as I’ve said before, the story is simply a canvas on which the truth is revealed. Even in many secular horror and dark fantasy stories, the upshot of the tale is the fact that there is something good and noble in each of us. There is beauty in the world. And there is something greater than all of us (God) that wants nothing more than to lead us away from the darkness and into the light.

You don’t believe me? Check out Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series. Or Stephen King’s The Stand.

That being said, this is what I don’t want in my head.

I don’t want the knowledge that Aurora Colorado will never be the same. I don’t want the knowledge that Columbine will never be the same. I don’t want the knowledge that Newtown will never be the same. Because the stuff I write, even the stuff based in fact, will never go beyond the page. It is a series of literary manipulations designed for no other purpose than to move the reader from hopelessness to hope. From darkness to light. From hate to love.

A good horror story is a roller coaster for cowards. And a metaphor for something greater than all of us.

But evil?

That’s real.

And sometimes it needs to be pointed out.

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