Book News!

The Broken Trail will be out on October 1st! Right now you can pre-order the digital version for a ridiculously low price. Click here for the linky-thing: The Broken Trail

If this is the first you’re hearing about it, there’s lots more places to go to get extra content, book teasers, my deepest thoughts etc  My Twitter handle is @CricketMacD. Although I warn you in advance that’s my personal Twitter so it’s filled with all my fandom stuff as well as a healthy dose of politics and the occasional gripe about how hard writing is because we all know…

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I’ve got a whole Pinterest board dedicated to the book and even a board started for the sequel so check it out there as well.

And today I even started a Tumblr blog, cause you know – I’ve got so much spare time (this is a joke I have no free time).

I like social media, although I’m not in love with how you can lose hours to it. Anyone else find they look up from a ‘quick few minutes’ and find it’s six hours later?

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Anyhoots, these are the neat places you can go to check out more content, updates on versions (Print copy links coming soon), and read more incredibly witty things by me!

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A Pitch for Forgiveness

In the business world as well as the creative industries there’s something called the ‘elevator pitch’. It’s a way to summarize your project for a prospective customer/agent/publisher/producer. The idea is to make the pitch concise enough to fit the length of a ride in an elevator from one floor to the next. It’s something that writers have to develop in order to promote their work and it’s something I am terrible at.

I don’t generally do concise. In my day-job world I’ve had to learn to curb my verbose tendencies. My six paragraph, heavily-researched emails have long since turned into bullet points and brief phrases. But in my writing life? Not so much. Pitches are important though so when I was on the spot to offer one a few weeks ago (and I’m not sure how well I did) I knew it was time to sit down and really think about what The Broken Trail is about and how to communicate that in just a few words.

It’s a contemporary, Christian romance, but what else is it? I’ve never written a book with genre predominantly on my mind. Every book I’ve ever written (it’s up to three now) I’ve started with a character and a seed of a plot. First book was Kennedy and her recovery from a trauma. Second book was Elsa and her secret identity. Neither of these books has seen the light of day. The Broken Trail started the same way though – Katherine popped into my head almost fully-formed. “What if a highly-intelligent, privileged, but wounded woman went to teach in the rural North Woods of Maine?” That was the seed that started it all.

Now that the seed is a fully-formed flower I have to find a way to describe it that makes someone want to read it. To describe a morning glory one might say it’s an Impomea, a typically annual climber with trumpet-shaped flowers, but would that do justice to this?

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Nope. My first few tries at an elevator pitch were just as inadequate.

The book is a love story, sure, but it’s also a story of transformation. Katherine has to change in order to find love with Mac, She has to forgive an old hurt in order for it to heal. It’s a painful lesson many of us have to endure over and over again until we finally accept it. There are people out there who will hurt us and never apologize, never be held accountable for their sin against us. It’s human to refuse to forgive them, but that impulse leads to bitterness and in the end poisons our lives.

If I was into tattoos at all I’d put “Forgive and Be Free” somewhere on my person as a reminder of how good it feels to let go of anger, resentment, and bitterness. It wasn’t until I was well into my twenties that I finally got it, that God had forgiven me for every evil thought and deed so who was I to keep my forgiveness from anyone else? Letting go of the wounds from what was at times, a difficult past, was like gaining wings. The happiness that followed was a bonus I never expected. If you’d asked people who knew me then they would probably say it was about the time I stopped wearing all black. And they’d be right. Color came back into my life when I learned to let go and forgive.

These days I am still the same angry creature of my youth, but it’s brief. I flash, flare, and flame out. I can’t keep a hold of a grudge, or remember a slight, or stay worked up about a hurt I’ve suffered.  It’s not because I’m so perfect, my family can tell you that. I’m quick-tempered, occasionally exacting, and frequently anxious. I am a sinner who has been redeemed, not sin-less, a work in progress.  But I can forgive because Jesus lives in me and He has absolutely no time for that nonsense. Who am I to hold a grudge when the maker of heaven and earth has seen fit to forgive me?

As Forgiveness is a main theme in The Broken Trail, so is Love in all its forms: eros, agape, phileo, storge. There’s something important to know about love.

 

Love Keeps

That list you have in your head that you pretend isn’t there? Time to cross it off and throw it away.  This doesn’t mean that you loan money to your gambling cousin again or you restore ties to your ex-boyfriend who hurt you so badly, it means that you let go of that hurt and forgive them as you have been forgiven. And, like Katherine (or Elsa), you let it go.Elsa Peaces Out

Now, after all this discussion you might be wondering if I ever did come up with an elevator pitch for my book?  Finally, I settled on this: Katherine Grant is a woman with everything but peace. In a tiny town in the mountains of Maine she tries to find it in her budding love for the town’s police captain, but she learns that she has to deal with the brokenness of her soul before she can truly offer her heart to anyone.

Sound off in the comments and let me know what you think!

 

 

 

 

 

Follow me. I have cookies.

Hey folks!

A little news. I have an author page up at Amazon! Right now it only has the short-story anthology I was published in, but coming soon will be The Broken Trail! You can follow me there to get a link to preorder the moment it’s ready! How cool is that? Oh, and sequel info will be there as well so FOLLOW ME! I should have some epic pic here, but all I could find was

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This is true. I have the best recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  Follow me and be rewarded!

https://www.amazon.com/author/christamacdonald

Just because I’m nice, I’ll even post the recipe here:

 

  • One stick of butter (not margarine, ladies please. Margarine is oil)
  • 1/2 cup of packed DARK brown sugar – yes it matters that it’s dark
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract (good stuff, regular stuff, just make it the real stuff)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 & 1/4 cup of AP flour
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp of salt (if you’re using salted butter you can reduce to 1/8th or a pinch)
  • 1 bag of Ghiradelli Chocolate chips (This is the ‘secret’ of this recipe. These chips are so dang tasty and at the portion I put them in… guaranteed success)
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  • Optional – nuts of any sort. My family does not care for them so I leave them out.

Directions:

Beat butter and sugars together in stand mixer until light and fluffy. If no stand mixer available hand the husband or the kids a bowl and spoon and have them do it. 😉

Add vanilla and egg and beat again until smooth.

Add all remaining ingredients – yes I said all. (I don’t bother with the sifting thing. I put in the flour first, then the salt and baking soda and finally the chips. Only then do I mix and it seems as though the chips aid in making it all fully combined, but not over-mixed. It creates a soft and crisp cookie. I may be wrong, but I think this step is crucial)  Mix until just combined.

On a cookie sheet lined with parchment (or wax) paper scoop out cookies in even portions. Best done with a small disher, but two spoons will do. Bake at 355 degrees on a rack in the middle portion of the oven for 12 minutes.

CHECK THEM AT TEN. I’m not kidding. Depending on how small you dished them out, they may be close to done. Always take cookies out when they are slightly underdone and set them on a trivet on the counter. They’ll need a few minutes to finish cooking. Then slide them onto a cooling rack.

These are simply sublime when warm, but just as good when cool.

Since my husband told me he loved me after just two weeks of dating I know he didn’t marry me just for these cookies.  But sometimes, I suspect these have at least confirmed for him that he was right all along in his choice of a wife.

 

Elsa Peaces Out

 

A Love Like That

The love story of Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe told through the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery is one of my all-time favorites. Gilbert’s steadfast affection and then sacrificial love for Anne is a beautiful thing in both it’s simplicity and faith. Sure he has his weak moments, but overall the reader understands that he wants what’s best for Anne even if it’s not him and that’s downright swoon-worthy.

My daughter, E, was assigned Anne of Green Gables as a 7th grade homeschool project and she was not thrilled. She likes distopians, SF, and fantasy. A book based in an earlier time-period that doesn’t involve steampunk was not likely to spark her interest and it didn’t.  I was disappointed because of the similarities between my unique, imaginative, and willful daughter and Anne. I thought for sure she’d see herself in the main character, but I should have known better.  My daughter is not keen on having her flaws reflected back at her from media of any sort. Once she realized that Tinker Bell exhibited her exact same temper and tendency to over-react she quit her.  Like, that day.  She was O.V.E.R. the Disney Fairies.  Completely.

Today E came into my office to ask me for help on the paper she is writing on Anne.  She wanted me to help her with theme. It’s one of her areas of struggle. We started talking about what Anne was like, what she wanted most, and how her imagination and temper keep her from getting it. We talked about the different ways Marilla and Mathew love Anne and how that love affects both her and them. But E was adamantly against discussing Gilbert in any way other than her appreciation of Anne’s ability to hold a grudge.  My girl is not into romance.  This is a good thing since she’s 12. But I was surprised with her flair for the dramatic that she also rejects any sentimentality and Romance with the big R.

What’s Romance with the big R? That feeling of mystique, glamour, and excitement that can be found in a Gothic novel, or your Aunt Betty’s description of that high school dance she went to in ’57.  Everything’s covered in fairy dust or the filmy mist of nostalgia. It’s a kind of sentimentality that’s not sensible, but sure is fun.

Marilla warns Anne about this in what is one of my favorite quotes from the Anne of Green gables movie and it’s sequel (I only consider one and two as actual Anne movies. I saw the third. The less said about that one the better.) “You have tricked something into that imagination of yours that you call romance. Have you forgotten how he gave up Avonlea school for you so that you could stay here with me. He picked you up everyday in his carriage so that you could study your courses together. Don’t toss it away Anne for some ridiculous ideal that doesn’t exist.”

And in the book, Anne of the Island, Anne’s friend Phil is even harder on her when the quote is hers “You don’t know love when you see it. You’ve tricked something out with your imagination that you think love, and you expect the real thing to look like that. There, that’s the first sensible thing I’ve ever said in my life. I wonder how I managed it?” (Side note- I love Phil. One of the best supporting characters ever written.)

One of the dangers of reading romantic fiction is getting caught up in the idea that love is like fiction with it’s adventure, sweeping declarations, amazing highs, and deepest lows. It makes you think “I want a love like that.” But real love, the best kind, is far quieter. Whether it sneaks up on you over time or hits you over the head on your second date – it’s a slower pace, a steadier march from infatuation to commitment to the kind of steadfast beauty an old couple exudes when they look at each other and you can see that bond they have.

Love stories as roller-coaster rides make for great fiction, but they rip you apart emotionally and rarely end well.  The highs are never worth the lows. Dramatic tension in a novel is absolutely necessary. Probably best not to aim for it in love.

My own path to love early-on was one big roller-coaster. It was the Behemoth.

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I became addicted to the drama. I tricked myself into believing that real love meant suffering because when it was good, it was so good, it fed my soul in a way nothing else ever had. But it never lasted. Every high was chased by a devastating low. One day I’d finally had enough and I stepped off the coaster. After spending some time learning a few hard truths about myself I prayed for God to take over. If He wanted me to marry, He was going to have to find the guy Himself. Well, He did. God sent me my own version of Gilbert. My husband is one of the most steadfast, loving, and patient human beings on the planet. I didn’t make it easy on him since I had some stuff I was still working through, but he showed me in everything he did, large and small, that his faithfulness wasn’t for the moment, it was for eternity.

In the amusement ride analogy the four months it took me to realize this was love was a ride on ‘Soarin. A few months later he proposed and we’ve been married 17 years as of a week from today. The roller coaster is long gone and I don’t miss it a bit.  🙂

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Don’t skip this if you have a fear of heights or inner-ear issues (like me, got ’em both) that keep you off other rides. This is like hang-gliding without the plummeting to your death part and the scenery is gorgeous.

So my lovely readers I suggest aiming for a love like that, one that’s constant. All that drama looks good in a BBC mini-series or a novel, but in real life, it just gives you heartburn.

 

 

 

A Little News

Actually, it’s big news.  The Broken Trail is going to be published! This November it’s hitting the shelves published by Mountain Brook Ink.

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How’d this come about?  Research.  I was reading up on small presses and Christian publishers and came across Mountain Brook Ink.  I knew almost immediately that this was a publisher I wanted to work with.  The plan had always been to get representation from a literary agent first, but I took a chance and submitted a query and here we are!

I am beyond excited (and yes, nervous – that’s how I roll) about this process.  The next step is the big edit where I will probably cry a lot as I kill off my darlings with the delete key, but I’m looking forward to it. No really.  This is all pretty darn exciting, but I deliberated over every last word and to have someone come along and sort out my angsty choices with what’s best for the work itself?  Awesome.

 

Honestly, it feels a bit unreal. I don’t think it’s going to sink in until I actually have the book in my hands. Squee……

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This will be me.

Work on the sequel is underway and there’s a third book planned as well. It’s been a trip plotting out where these characters are heading next.  The Broken Trail was the product of my third time doing NaNoWriMo and the first time I used an outline.  Since then I’ve discovered plot graphs, charts, and beat sheets, all of which have converted this one-time pantser (writing on the fly, no plan in mind) into a plotter, although still a light one.  I can’t force myself into the kind of in-depth outlining some authors do, but I now see the point of starting out with a roadmap.  It helps you avoid the plot bunnies.

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So that’s all the news for now.  You can click here to check out my author page at Mountain Brook.  And if that wasn’t enough goodness, I’ve also started a Facebook group to give updates on all things book and you can join that here.  But Wait!  There’s More…  Sign up here to join my awesome mailing list for all sorts of goodies coming later.  I’m hoping to be able to share bonus content and backstory stuff I cut from previous versions.

And thank you.  Whether you’ve liked a post on Twitter or Facebook, or beta-read and even CP’d for me, your support means more than I can say.

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The Business of Publishing

Once again I have gotten lost down the rabbit hole with my manuscript, editing the bejabbers out of it. I’m much happier with it now and finally I can say I’m done. It’s ready for a real editor who can polish it up.  I hope to be putting up a summary soon for all those interested.

It’s a great feeling when you can finally say that it’s done. That feeling lasted all of…a day, I think? Now comes the hard part. The full court press towards publishing. I’ve been doing this great workshop for a few months now and we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty stuff. We’ve finished up the query and are working on Twitter pitches.

What are they? From time to time industry folks will have a publishing contest using Twitter. I absolutely love these since I learn a ton even if I’m just an observer and not actually doing the contest. In order to participate in some of them you have to pitch your novel in 140 characters. It’s…I cannot lie…excruciating. Especially with a novel like mine which is the Seinfeld equivalent of contemporary fiction, a book about nothing.

But wait! No, I didn’t really write a book that was actually about nothing, it’s a boy meets girl story and you’d be surprised how hard they are to promote.  There’s conflict a plenty, but it’s relationship-based and that doesn’t translate as well as a girl running for her life from terrorists while trying to defuse a bomb that will blow up the world if she fails.

Stakes matter – a lot, and mine aren’t as easy to relate. The world will not end if my main characters cannot get past the damage that their losses have dealt them and learn to love.  If they screw up and fall apart they both will be in a world of hurt, but I’m not sure it would be fatal.  This makes it hard to put a real ‘wow’ factor in a pitch.

My other struggle is that I’m not a natural at concise communication.  I like clever turns of phrase and I like detail.  This comes up at the day job as well. I can write an email to a client that would make angels weep, but getting something detailed and yet brief enough for my CEO to read… that’s another matter. (Really, if your email is longer than a paragraph it better have bullet points or he/she isn’t reading it.  Truth.)

In the end publishing is a business.  An agent or editor has to know at a glance if a work is something they can sell which is why queries and these pitches are so very important.  And I want to produce the kind of pitch that makes someone shift in their seat with impatient excitement to get their hands on my MS.

What is it you do to make your novel drool-worthy for agents and publishers?  Is there a trick to sounding awesome in a 140 characters?