I’m superstitious. Not crazy, black-cat superstitious, but hedge-my-bet, listen to the cosmos kind. For instance, when I play tennis and I win a service point, I won’t serve with another ball. I use the lucky one—at least until it isn’t lucky anymore. The point is, I believe in signs, fate, and all that stuff.
This brings me to my new book. I’m excited about it because I am actually working in earnest after a fairly unproductive year. The idea exists, the characters are coming into focus, my rear end is getting used to sitting in a chair for longer than an episode of Law and Order. Yet doubt lingers. Is the story substantial enough? Are the characters interesting enough? Are the turns I’m planning twisty enough.
I needed a sign that I was on the right track, and I got one.
During the pandemic the world has been hunkered down in a bear-cave. Sleep. Eat. Hibernate. Drink from the bottomless well of mesmerizing streaming television. I was right there baking bread and searching for the lost episodes of The Big Bang Theory as I fiddled with this new idea. Then something wonderful happened.
Two days after I penned the first word of this new project, I received an invitation from ATF, Los Angeles to a Zoom meeting. ATF is the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Agency, and this was not a random invitation. I’m a graduate of the ATF Citizen’s Academy. I often join citizen’s law enforcement opportunities for research and adventure, but I graduated well over a year ago. This invitation was a surprise, and it was also a sign that my new book was on the right track.
The inciting incident of this story is fiery explosion. It detonates any number of dramas. For my detective, Finn O’Brien, the situation is personal not professional. He won’t be investigating, the ATF will. That email, that Zoom meeting and the things I learned during the hour gave me confidence in my story. The stars have aligned; Fate has given me the stamp of approval.
Hard work is needed to write a book, but sometimes a little sign is what it takes to go all in.
*(Check out The Bailey Devlin chic lit series where I pour out my superstitious little heart).
Linda O. Johnston enjoys writing, romance, puzzles, and dogs.
A former lawyer, Linda is now a full-time writer and has published 52 books so far, including mysteries and romantic novels. More than twenty-five of them are romances for Harlequin, including Harlequin Romantic Suspense and Harlequin Nocturne. Her latest release is Colton First Responder for Harlequin Romantic Suspense.
She has also written several mystery series including. The Kendra Ballantyne Pet-Sitter Mysteries, which was a spin-off of the Pet Rescue Mysteries and The Superstition Mysteries. Pets, especially dogs, frequently show up in Linda’s novels
She is currently writing a lot of books for Harlequin. Three new Harlequin Romantic Suspense books will soon be released. The first up is Her Undercover Refuge in July 2021.
Ryner held the sharpened spade two hand widths above the marker and, with a grunt, drove it into the thick, dense soil. The first shovelful was always the hardest, but his stocky frame gave him the power needed to break through the crusted surface. He flung the damp dirt aside and, without pausing, set the spade in place again.
The scout had located the precise spot for Ryner to dig. But the hole must be deep enough, and that would take time—something he had very little of. The cavity must provide a secure haven for the sacred pillar. That meant at least four velens down. He must hurry.
Already he could feel the gust from the advancing horde flowing over his face and arms. They were at most a half medido from where he stood. So many crowded into the vast column and so tightly packed were they that, like the outflow from an impending storm, they pushed the air itself before them, bringing with it the pungent scent of crushed chitin.
Sweat beaded on his forehead and ran down his face. It stung his eyes, making him blink and squint. He could see nothing on the skyline yet, but he must not stop.
He knelt and levered more dirt from the hole. Then more. The thick clods left his hands stained and grimy. Was it deep enough? There was a blackness low on the eastern horizon now. Faintly, the buzz and clap from that darkness joined the twitter of the field sparrows hunting in the fallow meadow. The fear he had kept tamped down began to slow his movements.
He unwrapped the pillar from its royal blue cloth and stared at the intricate, filigreed lettering, the language of the Ancients. Exposed to the air, the pillar vibrated slightly in his hands. No longer than a hunting knife, it was as thick as his arm. Quickly he rewrapped it and thrust it into the hole, then tossed in clods of earth, chunk upon chunk, to bury it. The invisible thread connecting him to its power broke with the last handful of sod. His muscles relaxed and his shoulders straightened. If that depth was enough to sever his tie, it was more than adequate to ensure the horde would never sense it.
He stomped the dirt with his boots and covered the small, fresh mound with dried grasses. He placed a cairn of rocks on the spot. Blayne would know the sign; it would take him several moon cycles, but he would find it.
The buzzing had grown deafening, the sky dark at midday, and the swarm was there. He was lifted and twirled. The pain engulfed him, roaring through him until every nerve fiber was afire. But the pillar was safe.
We all have created a box for our writing, whether we know it or not. It’s our map, so to speak. And detours can either help or hinder our writing journey. So how big is your writing box? And how do you adjust when potential opportunities or detours appear?
We all have a game plan when we first start writing. We sort of need to in order to reach our goals. But is your writing anything like you originally planned out when you first started?
I get asked a lot by friends who know I’m writing a book “When will your book be published?” “Have you finished that book yet?” Well, I can understand their questions, since I’ve been working on my book for over eight years now. (I’ll be honest, I’m not focused on it full time, since I’ve had other commitments, including jobs & volunteer positions for my kids schools).
I still plan to publish, but after some amazing side journeys, I now wonder if my book(s) are not the entire piece of my writing journey?
My experience has been awesome, overall. Sure, there have been high points (winning a contest, learning, making friends) and low points (getting hard feedback from a contest, not figuring out a scene, everything taking too long), All of it has helped me learn so much about myself. From putting my work out there, to learning from so many fantastic workshops I feel like I’ve gained a second degree, to making great friends and joining some amazing writing groups.
But I’m finding as I complete this latest round of edits and share my MS with a few additional people, I’m curious to see what will come next. And I’m willing to step out of my original writing box to see where it can go. Which is very different than having the focused expectation of how the next step will happen.
See, In the beginning, my book was the main goal. Now I’m not so sure.
We all have to start somewhere. But, if we are too rigid with our plans, we may miss opportunities that help us with the bigger picture. For me, I needed to explore other areas of writing to help me figure out what I could and couldn’t do. Some of these side journeys have helped me continue on this writing journey.
I wrote magazine articles, which took time away from my book, but I found the deadlines, working with an editor, and seeing my writing in print, helped to keep me motivated, and help me be a stronger writer.
Blog posts and being a part of this blog has helped me gain confidence in putting my work “out there” and learn that the sky won’t cave in, I do have something to share, and how to respond to comments (and experience the thrill of connecting with a reader). Some of my first blog posts covered topics of hard-learned lessons (Let Me Tell You Something, Face Your Fear) and sharing what I was doing and testing out theories (What is Alt Text and How To Use It), which lent to the next step…
When I made connections between my day job (Marketing) and this author thing and realized I had expertise to share. I felt a nudging to teach (at writing conferences, and in blog posts, and a training course in the works) and establish my Marketing for Authors newsletter. Now I find I love teaching and helping other authors figure out their brand and creating additional content and how this all ties together.
With all that, I really don’t know if my book is the end all goal now. Or it may still be and all of this will support it in ways I can’t explain yet.
Am I going to finish it and publish it? Yes. Do I have more stories in the works? Yes. But by allowing my writing box to get bigger, I’m seeing infinitely more ways to connect and be a part of this publishing world.
What do I want my brand to be?
Our Author Brand is our Author Name and pieces of who we are (and who we decide to share with the world). How we explore and expand as our writing grows and expands. It takes time to develop what our voice is going to be about. And it should continue to evolve.
I have found that by being flexible with my writing box I see a bigger picture. And I’ve learned to trust my instincts and take some side journeys.
I know I’ve talked about this in snippets in my classes, but here’s a deeper dive into how this came about and became an aha moment for me. And why I believe my branding brainstorm I teach in my classes can help you figure out your brand and new and different ways, which can in turn help you to connect with your readers.
I love journaling. Whether it’s a prayer journal, or a travel journal, or what I’ve now started as my Word of the Year Journal, capturing thoughts and writing them out help me process things.
When I started writing my novel, I wanted to have an element of a journal in my story. I didn’t know how I would do it, but wanted my heroine to have a diary that turned into prayer journal. Something which helped show her journey throughout the story.
I wasn’t even completed with my first round of edits when I had a nudge to create a website page about starting a prayer journal. And I argued with myself for taking away precious time to work on my book, etc… But in the end I decided doing so would be good practice for putting something “out there” on my website. So I created the page 7 Steps to Creating a Prayer Journal.
And by flushing this page out, it helped me see more clearly how to implement what I wanted to do. This little detour actually has helped me write my book. And I think it is something I can tie into when my book is published.
Side note: Something else that has come out of all this is the desire to design a line of journals as well. Who would’ve thought that something I love and hold dear, would become a large part of my story and brand?
If I hadn’t take then the time to flush it out and do it, I would’ve limited the potential of offering more than just my story.
So am I the only one to experience this?
Do you have a side journey that has helped your writing career?
I’d love to hear about it.
I read ‘A Night to Remember’ a million times, imaging myself on the ship of dreams wearing an elegant gown and long white gloves, dancing in first class with a handsome gentleman. Then reality would set in and I realized I’d more likely be in steerage since my family came over from Ireland.
The place dreams are made of…
When I was a little girl, I lived with my Irish grandmother for a while and I remember sitting at the big, wooden table with her as she added flour, milk, and herbs to leftover mashed spuds for potato cakes, or wound her blue rosary beads around her gnarled fingers while she spun tales about life in Ireland. Grand times they were, and a lovely thread woven through the quilt of my childhood.
Books were my companions back then and I’d read anywhere, anytime. I read tons of romances, but I’d often end up in the history section of the library looking for more stories about the Titanic. Imagining sneaking into first class and pretending I belonged there. Something I found hard to do growing up since we moved a lot and I was always the ‘new kid’ (I went to fifteen schools before college). I yearned to be among the popular kids at the beach, but somewhere in my heart, I knew the way to better myself was reading and the rest would come later.
Reading was my world.
That became the basis of my heroine, Ava O’Reilly, in THE RUNAWAY GIRL, a girl who wants to better herself by reading books but it’s forbidden to the servants in the grand house in Ireland where she’s in service.
Then when she’s wrongly accused of stealing a diamond bracelet, she escapes.
To the Titanic.
And every tale I’d heard at my grandmother’s knee, every book I’d read, every film about the ship of dreams I’d watched over and over again became the fodder for telling my own story about the Titanic.
Based on my girlhood and love of books.
And the sea.
And yes, romance, too.
And how an Irish girl makes a daring choice on that fateful night when the Titanic hits an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. that changes her life forever…
And mine, too.
Spotify has a wonderful platform for AUTHORS and their novels!
Two women hold the keys to his heart. Only one will survive that fateful night…
When Ava O’Reilly is wrongly accused of stealing from her employer, she has no option but to flee Ireland. The law is after her, and she has only one chance at escape – the Titanic.
Aboard the ship of dreams, she runs straight into the arms of Captain ‘Buck’ Blackthorn, a dashing gentleman gambler who promises to be her protector. He is intrigued by her Irish beauty and manages to disguise her as the maid of his good friend, the lovely Countess of Marbury. Little does he realise, that the Countess is also in love with him.
As the fateful night approaches, tragedy strikes further when Ava is separated from Buck, and must make a daring choice that will change her life forever…
A sweeping historical romance set aboard the Titanic, from the author of Her Lost Love (Christmas Once Again).
Praise for Jina Bacarr:
‘A delightful holiday romance that has all the charm of a classic Christmas movie. Christmas Once Again is perfect for anyone who loves a holiday romance brimming with mistletoe, hope, and what ifs.’ Andie Newton, author of The Girl I Left Behind
‘A breathtaking holiday romance that is sure to stay with you long after reading’
‘A mesmerizing holiday romance that is sure to sweep you off your feet and take you away to another place, another time.’
‘A fabulous book you won’t want to miss’
THE RUNAWAY GIRL e-book, print and audio book:
The autumnal equinox is a celestial event that brings together harvest and celebration, symbolizes magick and transformation, and welcomes a balance of light and darkness. It’s a time when those who honor the changing seasons rest and reflect.
Or reap what they’ve sown.More info →
What Happens When A Texas Sweetheart Is Born With A Silver Spoon? She Stirs Up Trouble In Hope Valley!More info →