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Just Keep Writing

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Supposedly it’s spring in Chicago right now but you wouldn’t know that by the snow flurries happening outside my window. But that’s part of the charm of living here – the weather keeps us on our toes. Days go by without the sun and then one day it’ll be green out and the flowers will be there, waiting for us.

My writing career has a lot in common with Chicago weather – bright spots speckled between a lot of clouds. A lot of waiting. A lot of hoping and praying. A lot of telling myself to keep my head down, ignore the snow storms and just keep writing.

just keep writing

And spring arrives, as it always does. For me that means I have book news to share with you. The fruits of months and months of head down, just keep writing.

Small-Town Girl will be the fourth book in the Goose Harbor series, it releases August 2016 and is available for pre-order right now. I can’t share the cover for Small-Town Girl yet (but I’ve seen it and let me tell you … it’s GORGEOUS!). Here’s the blurb:

_________________________________________________________

Her Small-Town Guy 

Goose Harbor, Michigan, is the perfect place for Kendall Mayes to start over and open her date-planning business. When she encounters handsome loner Brice Daniels, who is struggling to keep the shipping business he runs going, she sees an opportunity. A weekly sunset cruise catering to couples and tourists will keep their dealings strictly business. Kendall has had enough of failed romances, and Brice is too burned by love to give it another chance. But despite their reservations, they soon let down their walls. Yet when Kendall’s silent business partner is revealed to be Brice’s longtime enemy, staying together might be next to impossible.

__________________________________________________________

At the end of last year I was invited to join a group of five other authors to work on a continuity series together. Love Inspired, my publisher, planned the series and the six books will release in back-to-back months from October 2016 through March 2017. It’s called the Lone Star Cowboy League: Boys Ranch series and builds off of Love Inspired’s original Lone Star Cowboy League series. My book is the second in the series, set to release November 2016 and I couldn’t be more excited to put this one into your hands! The book is called The Ranger’s Texas Proposal. It’s about a Texas Ranger named Heath who pulled at my heartstrings from the moment I got him onto the page.

And today I found out the title for my fifth Goose Harbor book – Apple Orchard Bride. It will release January 2017. I have a feeling the cover for this one is going to be so pretty. I mean – an apple orchard and a wedding!

For those keeping track, that’s three books releasing in a six month period which is craziness in the publishing industry. I’m beyond blessed and excited. These books are my flowers after a long, dark winter and the breakneck release schedule is a reminder that “no matter what, just keep writing” is the best writing career advice I was ever given.

Fall Updates

Ocotber Quotes

October is my favorite month (I realize it’s NOT October yet, but we’re close … so close). My family makes a point of rambling through as many pumpkin farms as we can. We go apple picking. Spend evenings out on our deck. The earth smells different. Good different. I love every aspect of fall. Fall teaches us that letting go can be beautiful. I know that’s something I need to focus on more this season. Letting go of striving. Of over scheduling. Of believing I’m actually going to make that Pinterest masterpiece…

My last update was in spring, so while I’m bundled in a hoodie, typing from the comfort of my deck tonight I figured I’d give a brief update on my writing life.

1

In my spring update I announced that I was moving all my young adult books and all my future YA writing projects would be published under the name Jess Evander. This turned out to be a good move. I’m loving the freedom of creating an Evander brand that’s different from my books published under Keller. I’ve never made it a secret that writing young adult fiction has always been my number one aim and it’s the genre I’m most passionate about (and the one I read!). I’m happy to report that going forward, much more of my writing time will be dedicated to writing YA books.

2The TimeShifters series has enjoyed some online buzz this year. Saving Yesterday, book one in the series was a semi-finalist for the 2015 Clive Staples Award. That award is fan nominated and fan judged so THANK YOU!! *tosses cupcakes and confetti*

USA Today’s Happily Ever After blog reviewed both books in my TimeShifters series (how did I not share that on here before now?!?)! Here are two quick highlights from the reviews, but you can read the full text here and here.

Saving Yesterday:  “is a blood-pumping YA adventure featuring one heck of a twist on the usual coming-of-age story and a strong tug toward forbidden romance. Evander’s tight style of writing ups the ante on the ever-increasing pace of this novel while never sacrificing the emotional payout of a scene.” -Serena Chase

Capturing Today: “is a bona fide white-knuckle read that should not be missed! Highly recommended for anyone who loves YA romance.” -Serena Chase

3The third book in the Goose Harbor series, The Single Dad Next Door, released in July and enjoyed a four star review from Romantic Times. I’ve been receiving emails, snail mail, and social media private messages asking if there will be more books in the Goose Harbor series and I’m happy to report that three more books are written and planned for release over the next 12 -18 months.

Spring: Welcoming New Things

The green growth of the tulips that line my backyard have begun to push through the thawing earth, birds have returned, and bugs have somehow found their way into my house.

bee

Behold the glories of spring.

Spring always brings changes with it, most of them wonderful (not you bugs!). In the half year long frozen tundra that is the Midwest, we’ll finally be able to venture back outside. Play with our children on swing sets. Visit the zoo. Start exercising again and some of us may possibly get our skin to a deeper tint than my ever Casper white (there’s no hope for me).

For me, this spring also ushers in a professional change to my book publishing journey.

When I first started writing I was told again and again that I could only write one genre if I wanted to be successful. This always left me feeling a bit off kilter because I have passions for different genres (and I read many different genres). I’m a diehard sweet romance fan—for me, romance has to be in every book I read or write or else I really don’t enjoy the story. But more often than not, my nightstand is full of young adult fiction (often in the speculative fiction realm = fantasy, sci-fi, and fairytales). Add also that I love researching history and adore well done historical romance.

Boy, do I have fractured tastes. They just go everywhere. And I decided I wasn’t going to kill any of them because I had stories to tell that touched all the genres I love.

So I wrote them. My books published with Love Inspired are sweet, inspirational romance. My TimeShifters series is young adult speculative fiction. And my Spies of Chicago series is sweet romance that has entwined contemporary and historical storylines.

I’ve been blessed to find amazing readers who read across the board. But some have also reached out to me because they’re confused. Teens have connected with me on Twitter saying that they’re interested in reading Saving Yesterday, but they saw I write “religious fiction” and are worried that my young adult books might just be preaching (which they are not, they are straight, normal, young adult fiction). Some of my faithful readers of my inspirational romances read Saving Yesterday and said they were sad to find that God’s not mentioned.

These interactions have showed me that maybe those people who told me to write one genre were right—in a sense (I can be a bit stubborn). While I still will be writing both sweet romance and young adult fiction, I need to have a clear way to show they are different brands (for lack of a better word). My young adult fictions don’t fit under the label of “Christian book” and I don’t want them to. That was never my intention.

Where does this all lead? I’m glad you asked!

SavingYesterday_CVR

Enter…my alter ego: Jess Evander (where’s my cape??). I’m moving my young adult fiction to all be published under the name Jess Evander, this includes my TimeShifters series. So if you love young adult fiction, look for me under that name (it’s already live on Amazon) but if you’re interested solely in my inspirational fiction, then I’m Jessica Keller to you. And if you’re like me and read across the board, then I’ll answer to both for you! And releases for both will always be in my newsletter.

I’m still in the process of fully switching everything over to Jess Evander, but hope to have everything functioning by April 1st. Jess Evander has her own (very stripped down) website, Facebook profile (search “Jess Evander”), Twitter. They’re landing places for people who don’t know me as Jessica Keller, but I’ll only be blogging from this site.

Thank you for being a part of this ever evolving adventure with me!

So, You Want to be a Writer?

I get a lot of emails and messages asking the same sort of questions:
How do I write a book?
I’ve written a book…what do I do next?
How do I get published?
Can you help me get published?


Before I chime in, let’s ask the experts:

There are TONS of blogs and help online-you just have to be willing to dig and search for them.


 UntitledMy Advice (for what it’s worth)
The best way to become a better writer is to writer more. I know that sounds too simplistic, but writing isn’t magical. It’s like anything else worth achieving. If you want to be published it’s going to take dedication of time/energy, sacrifice, and a lot of hard work. Many people believe writing novels is an easy task (just sit down and dream at the keyboard, right?) but even during the best times, its draining and lonely and takes countless hours at a computer.

10 Things I would say to anyone dreaming of publishing a book

  1. Read. A lot. Both fiction and non-fiction. And read as many books on the craft of writing as you can.
  2. Find people who will give you honest feedback, emphasis on honest. You’re not looking for people who will tell you everything you write is amazing because that won’t help you improve. Find people who A) are well-read in the genre you’re writing in and/or, B) are writers who are a step or two ahead of you on the publishing journey who can give you feedback. Join critique groups (that are easily found online on sites like meetup.com or through writer’s organizations).
  3. Join a professional writer’s organization and attend classes or conferences if you can. Nothing compares to being completely surrounded by other writers and brainstorming together. Google writer’s organizations and find one that fits the type of author you want to be (I’d list links, but there are so many. Google what you’re interested in: Christian fiction writers, Science Fiction authors, groups for indie writers, ext.).
  4. If you start submitting to Publishing Houses or Literary Agents, check them first through a site like Preditors & Editors. Signing a contract with the wrong place/person can be a million times more heartbreaking than never being published at all.
  5. Be professional. I can’t stress that enough. If you want to be a published author then your social interactions are now part of your career resume. So don’t rant or pick on people. Don’t post photos or links that might give someone a bad impression of you. And don’t use your social media statuses to go on-and-on about your political opinions or anything that might make future readers/publishers/agents cringe. You are now always on a job interview. Always. Remember that. Also, when drafting correspondence to editors, published authors, and agents write as a professional. Don’t shoot off an email like you’re sending it to your BFF. Study how each type of letter should be worded, for example, here’s how a proper query letter should read.
  6. Be brave. Enter writing contests. Send your shorter works to magazines or local newspapers. Volunteer for your school newspaper or offer to write articles for your church newsletter. Use every chance to build your writing resume. I had 100+ magazine and newspaper articles and contest wins under my belt before I ever pitched a manuscript to an editor. When I did, they took me seriously because I had already done the hard work of establishing myself as a trusted freelance writer.
  7. Cultivate creativity. What inspires you? If it’s nature, then carve out time every week to spend walking local nature trails so you can pour that into your writing. Watch movies that make you think. Listen to different types of music. Make time for creative play to spark your imagination. Creativity is your most important muscle from here on out. Don’t neglect it.
  8. Don’t rush things. It’s far better to take a few more months polishing your first manuscript and getting feedback on it before putting your baby into the hands of publishers/agents/readers for consideration, then handing it over before it’s ready. You often have only one shot – make it your best.
  9. Rejection hurts. But if this is the industry you want to be a part of, then it’s something you must learn to be comfortable with. Even after the book is published you’ll still face rejection (from critics, that one star review on Amazon, or that reader who keeps sending you hate-tweets). In the beginning, allow yourself to go through all of the emotions and eat ice-cream for a day – but only a day. The next day brush yourself off and move on. Rejection can be something that ruins you or challenges you to do better. If you always choose the second then you’ll do well in the publishing industry.
  10. Get a comfortable chair (or invest in a treadmill desk). Seriously. Your butt needs to spend A LOT of time there. Many say the hardest thing you’ll encounter as a writer is your chair and they’re right. It takes a lot of dedication to put in the hours and often means missing out on time with family and friends or other favorite activities.
  11. Yes. I cheated and added one more (I never claimed to be good at math), but this is the most important part of the equation: Dream Big. Seriously. You can do this.
TWEETABLES

State of the Union

I’ve been receiving a lot of email and messages from beloved readers lately and many have similar questions so I thought it would be good to answer some here so everyone can be in the loop.

old typewritter

Question 1: When does the next TimeShifters novel come out?

Great question. Saving Yesterday (TimeShifters Book 1) released February 2014. In the indie world most authors release books in a series very quickly (many will release 3-4 books in a matter of 60-90 days).

So why isn’t Capturing Today, the second book in the series, out yet? Simply, it’s not ready. But there’s a not so simple answer too. Last year I had a very ambitious writing schedule that I was trying to keep while juggling my full time day job and my family. That writing schedule included books I needed to write for my publisher as well. Right now, my publisher’s books come first because I’ve signed contracts and a contract is a promise. I will always make good on my promises.

But know what? I made a promise to the readers of Saving Yesterday too. When I published that book, it was a promise that you’d have the complete series in your hands someday soon. And I mean to keep that promise.

Beyond contract deadlines, my day job, and time with family, a lot of really, really difficult things happened in my life last year. Suffice to say, between a handful of things that occurred, last year was the hardest year I’ve experienced in my entire life.

I was happy when the clock struck midnight and we got to usher in 2015. 2014 and all the bad that came with it is in my rearview mirror now. Sure, I’m still affected by the things from that year, but I have a new fresh year full of hope and potential holding out its hand—telling me now’s the time to live.

Capturing Today will release this year. More than likely it’ll be within the first six months of this year (and if some things fall into place like I’m trying to have them—much sooner than that even).

Question 2: I see your write indie books now, does that mean you won’t write for Love Inspired anymore?

I do write indie books now and am having a ball releasing them, but don’t worry, I’m still writing for Love Inspired. They are a great publishing house that puts my books onto the shelves of every big box store in the country. My editor is wonderful, kind-hearted, patience, and I learn so much from her as we go through the process of polishing each book. And I love the characters and stories I get to share.

There are many, many more books planned in the Goose Harbor series and so many characters to share about. The second book in the series, The Fireman’s Secret (Goose Harbor), releases next month!!! And the third book, The Single Dad Next Door (Love Inspired LP\Goose Harbor), releases in July. Goose Harbor isn’t going anywhere. In fact, I’m writing the next story now.:)

Question 3: What’s next for you?

Like I mentioned earlier, there are two more Goose Harbor books releasing this year and at least one more TimeShifter book (if all goes well, the third will release before the end of the year as well). I am also working on a fairytale novella collection, a novella for each of the royal siblings in a fantastical world. If you’re interested in taking a peek at the inspiration board for the series you can see them over on my Pinterest. And last but certainly not least, I’m working on a super-secret collaboration with a bunch of Young Adult authors. Stay tuned.

If you want to keep up to date with my releases the best way to do that is to sign up for my newsletter. I only send them out when there is big news or a release, so you don’t need to worry about spam. My newsletter subscribers see my covers before anyone else and get first crack at review copies of my books and sometimes have giveaways that are only open to them.

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting (on this blog) some book reviews, I’m working on some posts about the writing process (because I get asked about publishing a lot in emails as well), and keeping you up to date. Make sure to keep checking in for giveaways as well, some friends and I are planning some good ones this year. And…recipes. I always post recipes because we love eating around here.

What’s New?

Happy New Year!

I may be a little late with that wish, but these last ten days have really flown. Along with the greeting I want to update you all and let you know of some exciting changes to the website. As you might have noticed, it looks a little different around here. Like it? I hope so.

1Have you ever wondered what the setting looked like in one of my books or wished you could see the character in the flesh? Now you can! If you click on over to my Books page you’ll find links to Pinterest Boards for every single book. Also, my Goose Harbor series now has its own tab and that has links to a virtual visit to Goose Harbor, the characters, and recipes from the books.

2I now have a Giveaway page. What does that mean? Many of my author friends run giveaways and contests – so many that I figured why not combine all the ones I come across onto one page for all of you? The giveaway section of my website does not update in the blog so you will have to periodically stop by the physical page to see what I’ve found. Many of the giveaways only run for a week or less so make sure to check in often so you don’t miss something amazing (like a Kindle Fire giveaway!). If you click over there now you’ll see I’ve already started adding to the page. Happy winning!

3At the end of last year I stepped down from my position contributing the The Write Conversation. It was a difficult choice to make because I loved writing for that blog but realized I needed to focus on you, dear friends. So here I am. I will be spending more time writing books and updating this website this year, far more than last year. And that’s a promise.

What’s next? Next week I’ll be posting my own state of the union…er…writing career post and look for a list of my most anticipated reads for 2015.

Double Author Giveaway

Double Author Giveaway

I have great news! Author Belle Calhoune (who happens to be a bestselling author on Amazon!) and I decided to team up and host simultaneous giveaways featuring our latest releases. When Belle and I got to talking we realized that our heroines had something in unique in common. Both of our leading ladies try to keep huge secrets from their heroes and both of their secrets have to do with a way their physically different (Belle’s heroine is wheelchair bound and my heroine has third degree burns on her back, legs, and arms that she hides with long sleeves and pants year-round). Also, our heroes are a soldier and a fireman…does life get better? I think not.

First, let’s talk books and then below you’ll find links to both of the giveaways.

Heart of a SoldierHeart of a Soldier (Love Inspired)

A Soldier’s Unexpected Homecoming

Returning soldier Dylan Hart heads to Texas to finally meet pen pal Holly Lynch. When he arrives, he’s shocked to discover the plucky beauty he fell in love with has kept a very big secret. Scarred emotionally by his past, Dylan is deeply hurt that Holly didn’t trust him with such a vital truth about herself. When he’s hired as a cowboy on her family’s vast ranch, he’s committed to staying in town. And as he slowly reconnects with the woman whose letters once saved him, he’ll have to take a look inside his heart to discover what matters most.

 

 

The Fireman’s Secret (Goose Harbor)The Fireman's Secret

Rekindling Her Life

After the fire that injured her and burned down Goose Harbor’s only church fourteen years ago, Shelby Beck is planning to rebuild—the structure and her life. But her wounds have always caused her to keep men at a distance. When Joel Palermo returns to town as a fireman and is assigned to help Shelby raise funds for the new construction, she’s surprised at how easy it is to get close to her brother’s old friend. Could he be the man she’ll finally trust enough to let in? Or will the bond they’ve built go up in flames, when Joel’s own scars are revealed?

 

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Giveaway
Giveaway #1 – Winter Reading Giveaway – $80.00 value

  • Cashmere blanket
  • Mug with famous first lines of books
  • Heart of a Soldier
  • The Fireman’s Secret (signed copy)
  • Amazon Gift Card
  • Assorted chocolates, tea, and coffee

Enter Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giveaway - belle

Giveaway #2 – Vera Bradley Tote!

  • Heart of a Soldier
  • The Fireman’s Secret
  • Chocolates
  • Vera Bradley Tote

Enter this giveaway on Belle’s Facebook Page (make sure to LIKE the page while you’re there!). Suggest a name for her next heroine and you’ll be entered!

Both giveaways close on Jan. 27!

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