Happy Tax Day everyone! Hopefully your paperwork is in the mail and you can now enjoy all the free tax day promos. While we’re at it, I wanted to share a few freebies and updates with you too.

  • First of all I have some good news. I’ve been asked to be a regular contributor to the blog The Write Conversation and couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity. Author friend Charity Tinnin and I will be sharing the Indie Tuesday slot and if your interested in writing at all, we’d love if you stopped by and talked with us on Tuesdays.

The Write Conversation : Indie Tuesday—Are You Ready to Self-Publish?: by Jessica Keller @AuthorKeller Frantic heart palpitations. Occasional bouts of hyperventilation. Random sweating coupled with a coffee…

 

  • I’ve started a newsletter list and would love if you would join. It’s the best way to keep up on my latest releases and upcoming books. My newsletter subscribers will see cover reveals first, hear about sales and giveaways before anyone else, receive free book content not available to others, and prizes for subscribers only. What won’t you get by signing up? Easy. You’ll never be spammed and will never receive more than two newsletters a month (and more often just one). Scouts honor. You can subscribe to the newsletter right one my website.

 

  • Right now I’m running a giveaway on Goodreads. There are three signed copies of Saving Yesterday up for grabs, so if you’re a Goodreads member make sure to sign up. If you don’t want to wait until the end of the month to see if you win the Goodreads giveaway then the great news is the kindle ebook of Saving Yesterday is on sale right now for only $2.99. That’s less than a cup of coffee folks and it last a lot longer. :)

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Saving Yesterday by Jessica  Keller

Saving Yesterday

by Jessica Keller

Giveaway ends April 30, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

  • Last but not least I wanted to share a song with you that’s offered a lot of encouragement to me as I’ve faced some hard things lately. I hope you enjoy it. Have a wonderful week dear friends!

 

Indie Extravaganza: New Book Releases You Should Check Out – PLUS Gift Card Giveaway!

Looking for some great NEW indie reads?
All of these books are New Releases in the last few months. Skip to the genre you love, sample a new indie author… and enter the giveaway at the bottom! (Also check out the FREE books associated with these New Releases at the bottom.)
And THANK YOU for supporting indie authors!
(click on covers to learn more)p.s. is it me, or are these indie covers amazing?


Young Adult Science Fiction

 
 


Science Fiction/Dystopian
  
  
 
 

Young Adult Fantasy
    

  


Fantasy
 

Young Adult Contemporary Romance
  

Contemporary/Historical Romance
  
  

Young Adult Suspense

Middle Grade
 

Steampunk/Alternate History

Thriller/Suspense
  

FREE Books
Connected with New Releases Above
  
 
 

Giveaway includes Gift Cards, Original Art, paperbacks, ebooks, and a mug!

Is everyone wearing their party hats and dancing shoes? We have some celebrating to do!

One – Does everyone know I launched a website at the beginning of the year? If not, please go check it out and let me know what you think.

Two – My Young Adult book Saving Yesterday, Book One in the TimeShifters series released TODAY.

SavingYesterday_CVR_MED

*tosses confetti in the air*

Back Cover Copy:

Her blood holds secrets she never knew existed.

Despite the fact that she acts as a parent to her alcoholic father, Gabby Creed feels pretty normal. But her life is turned upside-down on her seventeenth birthday when a bracelet appears on her wrist and sucks her back through time.

Turns out she’s not even a little bit normal. She’s a Shifter—a protector of humans and of history itself. And she’s not alone. The other Shifters believe Gabby is special, even more special than the mysterious Michael Pace. Oh, and the Shades—seriously creepy creatures who feed off of human despair—are determined to capture her.

It’s all a lot to absorb. So Gabby’s grateful to have Michael as her Trainer—or she would be if she could get her rebellious heart under control. Then again, if the rumors about her blood are true, saving yesterday will be the least of her worries.

Click to Purchase the Kindle edition

Click to Purchase the Print edition

Some people have asked me, “What’s this I hear about you hybrid/indie publishing?” So I’m going to take a second right now to focus on what is this thing called indie publishing, and why I’m choosing to go down that path for some of my books.

When an author signs a contract with a traditional publisher (any of the big publishes that give advances and royalties and produce your book without cost to you), the first book you publish with them often dictates a “brand” that you must now write in.

My first trade published book was Home for Good which is a contemporary western romance. Did I want to forever write only contemporary western romances? NO. I have all kinds of ideas, but not many more western romances. Nail biting ensued. Would I be forced to write more westerns when that wasn’t really a passion of mine?

My publisher was awesome and said I didn’t need to stick with western, but I would be continuing to write sweet contemporary romances. This is cool because I have plenty of stories in that vein.

But I also have young adult fiction I want to write, adult fiction that doesn’t fit neatly into the “sweet contemporary” category, and historicals. What could I do with those? Just shove them away forever? That didn’t seem wise.

Here’s the thing—I may be a writer, but I’ve always been a reader first. And as a reader, I don’t just like one certain type of books. I’ll read YA, historical, classics, and contemporaries. I’ll read in the fantasy genre and I love a good science fiction book. When I talked to others, I found most of them read the same way too (all types of genres).

See, I believe that the average reader is very smart. When they pick up a book from an author that they’ve read before that isn’t in the same genre I 1) trust that they’ll know what genre they’re picking up and know what to expect from the story, and 2) won’t have a melt-down because it’s not the same exact type of book as before.

So while I’ll continue to publish sweet contemporary romances with my publisher, I’ll also be jumping into the pool known as ‘indie publishing’ to publish some of my YA and historical books and ones that don’t quite fit well in the other parts of the publishing market yet.

Like anything, Indie publishing has its good aspects and the parts that aren’t as good. I weighed my choice to join the indie world with a lot of thought, sound counsel, and prayer.

The Good

  1. I have so many story ideas—and now I can get them into your hands faster than I could if I published those stories the traditional route (in traditional publishing it takes a year or more to put out a book).
  2. I can write more than one genre!
  3. I get to be part of the cover art process, something many traditionally published authors don’t have much of a say about.
  4. I *may* be able to make a living publishing this way, whereas, making a living just publishing the traditional route is very, very difficult and very few authors reach the level of pay/fame to make that possible.

The Bad

  1. My indie published books will not be available at your local bookstore
  2. More than likely, they will not be in our neighborhood library (unless you put in a request for them to stock it – which I’d be all for!)
  3. Some of the things I plan to publish independently will not (initially) be available in paperback/hardcover. For example, my upcoming Christmas novella will (initially) only be available as an E-Book. But after I have written more King’s Cove novellas (which I have in the works) then I will bundle them and they will be available in book form together.

The Good and Bad

To publish a book independently, it costs the author money up front. NOT in the old “vanity press” style, but an author pays out of pocket for the rights to the cover art (and to hire a graphic designer), for someone to edit their work, for formatting, and for any advertising they do.

Okay, parting with money before you know if you’ll get a return is never fun, but every entrepreneur and inventor has to do just that no matter what type of business you’re running. I think this is a good model for authors.

Since it costs them money, most writers make sure they are putting out the best quality book they can because you want to make back your investment (and then some). Yes, there will always be some many who shortcut that system, but readers are smart, very smart.

Readers know poor quality when they see it (amateur-looking cover, poor editing/formatting, and/or terrible writing) and stop reading, return, or never buy those books. Those books and writers get passed up. See, a reader votes for an author’s career to succeed every time they click that purchase button. No click. No career. It’s that simple.

YOU, the reader, holds all the power when it comes to the future of indie publishing—not me, the writer.

What does this mean?

It means the same thing as always: I’m a writer.

Some like to label themselves by saying “I’m a published author” or “I’m a trade author” or “I’m a hybrid author” or “I’m an indie author.” But let’s be serious. We’re all just authors—people who love words and storytelling.

I make money the same way Stephen King and J.K. Rowling both do. Different amounts don’t change the job title just like the President of the United States and the President of the student council are both called the same thing, even though their spears of influence are vastly different.

How the book comes out, doesn’t change the fact of what we are: Writers. Story-weavers. Authors.

Thank you, every single person reading this, for being a part of my journey so far as a writer.

“Since it is so likely that (children/teens) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.” –C.S. Lewis

Beware: Spoilers for Allegiant, The Fault in Our Stars, and possibly Lord of the Flies and the Harry Potter series (but if you haven’t read or at least know the ending to those last two…please come out from under that rock pronto).

Like many others, I was excited to get my hands on Allegiant, the final book in the wildly popular Divergent series. I loved book one, tentatively liked book two, and looked forward to the last installment.

allegiant

All to my utter and complete disappointment.

Allegiant and subsequently its author, Veronica Roth (who, for the rest of this will be known as VRoth) failed readers on so many levels, but more than anything it/she failed a generation of teen readers who are looking for a new brand of hope.

See, when an author writes a book they can’t just willy-nilly send it out into the world. They must keep in mind that their words have the power to shape and affect people. An author, especially someone with a huge readership, has a responsibility to their readers. They must offer hope within the pages of their book or it’s a pointless waste of time for the author and more so, the reader.

Author William Faulkner said in his acceptance speech for his Nobel Prize, “The writer’s duty is to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.”

Does there have to be an “and they lived happily ever after” ending? Absolutely not. Suzanne Collins’s (author of The Hunger Games series) editor put it best when she said that young adult books don’t need a happy ending, but in the end, there must be “a window left open”—a way where we can see that the characters we’ve grown to love can move on from tragedy.

There must be hope.

Teens today are growing up in a far different world than the one I grew up in (and I’m not that old). I’m of the Harry Potter generation. The books of my youth were stories of teens that could rise up and save the world. My generation was the one told that if we go to college and work hard then we’ll get good jobs and we can accomplish anything. I’m the generation just in front of today’s teens—and the teens of today have watched as the bottom dropped out of my generation’s lives. Where going to college hasn’t landed many of my friends a job, instead it has left them drowning in debt. Where many parents are divorced and a significant amount of people I know have watched their family home seized by forecloser.

Teens today have grown up watching this all unravel. For all of the aware part of their lives, our country has been at war. Think about that. They don’t know of an America not at war. Polls show that their vision of success is very different than my teen generation (which is only ten years ago). Today’s teen sees success not as owning a home, graduating college, having a family, or starting a business, instead the number one measure of success in recent polls showed them wanting to be debt free “at some point in life.” That’s it.

Contemporary teens aren’t looking for books about teens saving the world. They only ask for the small hope of saving their small corner of it. So popular books for this generation are ones that in the end show that in the midst of a messed up world, you can find your own peace/hope, even if it’s just between you and one other person.

Fiction has always been meant to combat the reality of life. VRoth failed us here. She didn’t show us what could be possible. Instead she smacked us in the face with what is. And we don’t need that. Because we’ve all dealt with more than enough loss and hardship and heartbreak. We don’t need books that repeat what we live every single day, we need books that show us that in the midst of a heartbreak world, we can find our own little pod of happiness/joy. That just because the world we live in is going to pot, doesn’t mean we have to lose hope.

Whatever her purpose, VRoth showed teens with Allegiant one horrible thing: their life, their struggles, their fight for right…none of it matters in the end. Which leaves teens asking: what’s the point? If nothing I’m working for matters…why try? I know that’s not the message she meant to send, but when an author is careless with their responsibility to readers, this is the kind of thing that can happen.

I’ll admit I spent a good amount of time reading Amazon reviews for Allegiant in order to see if I was the only one left disillusioned. I wasn’t. Sadly, I’m in the majority with the one star reviews.

Most of the five star reviews I read were people who applauded VRoth on her bravery in “giving a realistic ending.” To this I say: there is a whole genre dedicated to realism. If you want stories that make you feel like someone has stabbed your heart on the last page with no chance for recovery, then feel free to read that genre. But for the ninety-five percent of people that read for enjoyment and escapism, sorry, we want some glimmer of a happy ending. If the Divergent series was meant to belong in the realism genre then it was marketed terribly because right now, all we have are broken promises to readers.

Also, even within realism, hope is usually the end game.fault

Take the book The Fault in Our Stars which falls in the realism genre, the teens in the story who fall in love both have terminal cancer. In the end of the book (I said there were spoilers…) Augustus dies. Why weren’t readers rioting over that? Because a promise wasn’t broken—when they picked up the book they knew they were going to read a story about dying teens so a teen dying at the end of the book was something they were braced for, if not expecting.

Even still, The Fault in Our Stars ends with hope. Hazel realizes that although Augustus has died, her love for him doesn’t have to. Death doesn’t have to change the definition of relationships. My grandfather, who is deceased, is still my grandfather because I’m living and can claim him as such. The last line of the book is in present tense whereas the rest of the book was in past tense. Meaning life goes on. This is a hopeful message.

VRoth killed her main character which is just hard to do well, especially in young adult fiction. Unless the author brings the character back after death (like Harry Potter), a theme/point is better demonstrated through killing a beloved secondary character like Augustus in The Fault in Our Stars or Piggy in Lord of the Flies (how’s that for old school). Otherwise, just save it for realism or adult fiction. Period.

All of this spurs me on to write the young adult stories that keep running around in my head—the ones full of turmoil and struggles and hurt, but all of which are covered in and end with “an open window” one that blatantly leads my readers to hope.

Jess

Image

*TAP* *TAP* *TAP*

Is anyone still here? Yes, that’s a jab at myself for being woefully absent from this blog in 2013.

But there’s another aspect of an echo that can be a good thing. When an echo occurs, your voice is carried somewhere that you can’t reach. It’s repeated again and again when the speaker only said something once. You all have been that sort of an echo for me, and for that, I’ll be forever grateful.

You see, less than two years ago I was a girl with a big dream of publishing a novel. I started this blog and you all believed in me and cheered me on. This little blog now has 90 subscribers! I’ve heard stories from so many of you telling me that you’ve passed my book on, or told others to buy it. You guys are amazing. Seriously. Thank you, again and again. I’ll never be able to say that enough.

I have some great news to share with you—some of which explains my recent lack of updating:

  1. I think you all know, but my first child was born in January. Know what? Babies are a lot of work. She’s amazing. Growing and learning every single day. And now she’s crawling, trying to pull herself up on things, and getting into everything in the house.
  2. I signed a three book contract with Love Inspired over the summer! It was a huge boost to me as an author because it confirms that I can do this—write and hopefully make a career out of doing what I love. The best part of it all was that this contract was offered without the books being written (that’s called a blind contract) which is exciting and scary at the same time. They believe in me, now I have to deliver good books into their hands by my deadlines.
  3. I’m gearing up to launch an indie writing career as well! That means that I have some books I’m really passionate about that I’m going to be able to get into your hands much quicker than I first thought I would be able to. I’m beyond excited about this step in my writing journey. I’ll be releasing a Christmas novella before the end of the year and in the beginning of next year I’ll be launching both my TimeShifters series (young adult fiction) and my Spies of Chicago series (a story that follows both a historical and contemporary romance that weave together). Launching any indie book is a lot of work, launching three—with two of them being series—is insane. But I’ve never been normal, so I’ve diving in head first. I’m going to do a post soon about being both a traditional and indie author, so I’ll explain more then.

All this, and I also promise to be here more often. No, I probably won’t ever go back to five days a week like the starting days of the blog. But I have plans to update you more faithfully. I’m looking forward to spending some time together again.

Jess

I’m guessing some people out there have an abundance of boiled eggs (probably in a multitude of pretty colors!) left over from Easter. Either you’re planning to eat plain eggs for the next week, or you’re searching for some recipes to use them up. Egg salad is great, but can I suggest something A-MAZING? I submit my red skinned potato salad as a possible contender. I promise it won’t disappoint. We had this at Easter…and there is hardly any left!

Red Skinned Potato Salad

Potato Salad

-1 pound bacon
-3 pounds red potatoes
-6 eggs
-Green onion
-2 stalks of celery
-2 cups mayo
-Salt and pepper

Directions:

1) Scrub potatoes until clean (don’t you hate that part?? Wish I could get someone to give me clean potatoes).

Potato

2) Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the potatoes and cook 12-15 minutes. Drain and allow potatoes to cool. Chop cooled potatoes (leave skin on…hense the name of the recipe).

3) Cover eggs with cool water and bring water to a boil. Remove the pot from heat, cover with lid, and let eggs stand in water for 15 minutes. Remove from water, peel, and chop the eggs.

eggs

4) Cook bacon – drain, cool, and crumble.

bacon

5) Chop celery.

6) Put potatoes, eggs, bacon, mayo, celery, and chopped green onions in a large bowl. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Sprinkle more green onions over the top. Place the salad in the fridge for at least 3 hours before serving.

doubters welcome

You know, I think Thomas gets a bad rap in the church. The poor guy doesn’t even get called just Thomas anymore—what do we call him? Doubting Thomas.

Harsh much?

And the truth of the matter is that Thomas isn’t the biggest doubter in the Bible. Not really. The man who doubted the most is someone we usually speak about in the context of having strong faith. I’m talking about John the Baptist.

Stick with me here.

I’m convinced that John the Baptist got to see/experience God on earth in a way that no other human being has, nor properly ever will.

When you ask? During the baptism of Christ.

Here he is, a man who has spent his entire life telling people about Jesus and preparing them for Christ to come to the world. When people asked if they could follow John, he told them to go follow Jesus. Then one day as John’s going about his business, Jesus comes and asks John to baptize him.

During the baptism John is HOLDING Jesus, he HEARS the voice of the Father, and SEES the Spirit in the form of a dove come down from heaven.
It could be argued that—if anyone in history—John was the one man who had absolutely no reason to ever doubt God. Not after that. Not after the Trinity all at once.

Later, John’s captured by the king and imprisoned. The king promises his new stepdaughter anything she desires and she asks for John’s head on a platter. Word gets back to John that he’s on death row and fear blasts through his veins.

When his friends come to visit he sends word through them to Jesus – the message he sent?

“Are you really the Christ?”

Translation: I don’t really want to die unless I’m 100% certain of this Jesus-thing. I’m scared. I’m suffering. I doubt that you’re even real. I know you’ve shown yourself to me before but I don’t care about that, I need something right now.

Here is a man who touched, heard, and saw God, and in his darkest moment faltered. Jesus sends back word that he truly is God and John goes to his death. But take heart, I’m not to the best part of the story yet!

Soon after John’s death Jesus is talking to a large gathering of people and he is asked about John. Here’s Christ’s opportunity to say anything. He doesn’t voice disappointment. He doesn’t make an example out of John. He doesn’t say he’s angry. He doesn’t admonish him for doubting. No.

Jesus makes one statement about John:

He was the greatest man ever born of woman.

See, God’s not angry or put off when we doubt. He doesn’t shake His head or turn His back. When we question Him He doesn’t shake His fist.
Instead, He reassures us that He’s God, and He’s trustworthy—even in our darkest moments and even when our situations don’t go how we would want them.

He opens His arms. Letting us all know that doubters are welcome in the Kingdom of God.

Image courtesy of Nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

________________________________________

Jess

The other day I was trying to get ready to make it to an appointment on time. Easy, right? Well, it used to be, but this is no small feat now with a two month old in the house.

I got my daughter settled in her bouncer and she was happy to sit there and watch me as I straightened the kitchen. The clock started ticking and I needed to get ready—no matter, I brought all my stuff downstairs and could use the bathroom on the main level and still be near to her.

-happy in he bouncer-

-happy in her bouncer-

The problem was that every time I stepped into the bathroom, she let out a blood-curdling cry. I’d walk back over to where she was (literally 2 paces from the open bathroom door) and the second she saw me she’d smile again.

So back into the bathroom. Once again, the second I was out of eyesight the screaming and gnashing of gums began. I ducked back out, and just like the first time, the instant she saw me she stopped crying.

By time three I started getting frustrated. I’d call out, “Hey baby girl, I’m right here. It’s okay. I didn’t go away. Mom’s right here.” That did nothing to calm her. I tried singing and talking and anything to be able to finish getting ready. But none of that was enough. The only thing that worked was when I stepped out of the bathroom so she could see me. Then I started grumbling…We weren’t going to be on time…I still needed to check her and get her ready and make sure the diaper bag was stocked.

I was JUST around the corner, couldn’t she handle a couple seconds without me in her line of vision?

Then it hit me: My daughter had just given me a picture of myself and God.

At times when I feel alone and when I have doubts and when I feel like God’s far away, I’ve cried out to Him. “Where are you in all this?” “Do you even care?” “Why aren’t you here—why can’t I feel your presence?” “You left me!” “I feel like I’m going through this alone.”

The second it feels like He “stepped out of my line of vision” I despair, but He’s right there and He’s saying, “It’s okay, Jess. I’m right here. I’ve got this. I’ve never left you.” The only exception is that He doesn’t step away, nor does His patience grow thin when I’m crying out.

Needless to say after that thought I rushed to my daughter and picked her up and stopped worrying about getting to my destination on time. ;)

____________________________

Jess

You know how people always ask you if you could have a meal/coffee/day with one person dead or alive, who would it be? Well, I wouldn’t pick a movie star. I wouldn’t pick a famous author. I wouldn’t pick a great theologian.

I’d pick Fred Rogers.

“In the end, all that matters is love.” -Mr Rogers

This video: His answer to how to solve the violence problem with teens/children from 1993 still rings true today.

Today would have been Mr. Rogers 85th birthday. He’s a personal hero of mine and his gracious and accepting spirit is sorely needed and missed in this world.

“There’s only one person in the whole world like you, and I like you so much.” -Mr. Rogers

This article popped up the other day, it lays out all the reasons why Fred Rogers was/is the Greatest American. I’m going to share a few of the clips from the article, but I urge you to take a minute and read that link. It just might restore your faith in the human spirit and serve to encourage you today.

“You always make it a special day for me. You know how, don’t you? By just your being you. Whether you’re in kindergarten, or third grade, or no grade at all, or ANY grade at all, I like you just the way you are.” -Mr. Rogers

This video: Pull out your tissues, Mr. Rogers ALWAYS made everyone feel special.

Raising a cup of coffee today in honor of a man who made every single person he came in contact with feel loved, special, and valued. Might we all use every interaction during our lives to do the same.

“There are many ways of saying who you are and how you feel. Ways that can be so helpful. Ways that don’t hurt yourself or anybody else. You know, that’s how you can tell when you’re grown up inside: you’re sure that what you’re planning and doing are things that can be a real help to you and your neighbor. I’m proud of you, know that. I hope you do.” -Mr. Rogers

__________________________________

Jess

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