A Sneak Peek and A Promise for More

 

IMG_0837.JPG
A view of Chincoteague Island from the Assateague Lighthouse

Over the past year or two, I have fallen in love with a particular family. I’ve cried with them through their pain and heartache. I’ve celebrated with them in their times of joy. I’ve cheered for their accomplishments. And from what I’ve heard, others are falling in love with them, too. No, I’m not speaking about the Pearsons of This is Us fame, though I truly love them as well. I’m talking about the Middleton and Kelly families, and if you’ve read my award-winning novel, Island of Miracles, then you know exactly to whom I’m referring.

 

A couple nights ago, Ken and I shared a toast over dinner. He raised a bottle of beer to my glass of whiskey (which, in case you missed it, is the new healthy drink of our age). We toasted to the completion of the first draft of the next installment in the story of Kate, Aaron, Zach, and Kayla. While it’s far from being a fete accompli, as there are still revisions, additions, corrections, etc. to be done, this is the first time that I finished a first draft and felt like I could send it off to the publisher as is. And I think it’s because I have gotten to know the characters and their stories so intimately that it feels natural to hammer it out in print. The words simply flow fro my fingers onto the blank pages, effortlessly filling the spaces in no time at all.

And since I’m so excited about this first draft, I’d like to spread some of the excitement around by giving you a sneak peek into one of the chapters of Island of Promise. Read, comment, share, and let me know if you, too, feel my excitement. I can’t wait for this summer to be able to take you all back to Chincoteague Island, to the place where miracles happened for Kate and Aaron and where promises are made and broken and made again for Zach and Kayla. So, sit back, relax, and take a short trip to the island. I hope it leaves you wanting to come back for more.

As soon as they got home, Kayla instructed the boys to do their homework, and she went right to work in the kitchen. She stirred the pot pie filling and started putting together the dough. She lost herself in the task, making her signature dish without a recipe and without having to think about the ingredients or the steps. Kayla was on autopilot, and she loved it. She reveled in the feeling of the smooth pie crust as she kneaded it beneath her palms. She stirred the thick filling again, tasted it, added more seasoning, and then tasted it again. It was perfect, and she allowed herself to take pride in her work.

This was what she missed, what kept her grounded. She loved Second Helpings and didn’t want to have to give it up, but she didn’t love the hectic pace at which she had to cook the meals. By providing dinner for sometimes as many as five or six families each night, she had lost the passion for cooking. She had forgotten how it felt to let the seasonings slowly run through her fingers as she dropped them into the pan, to knead dough until it was smooth and shiny, to place a beautifully prepared dish on the table and watch everyone enjoy their meal. She thought that she could have all of that and share it with others, but now she saw that all she was doing was hurrying through the process in order to have everything ready for pick-up. She was cooking her beloved recipes but without the love.

Using her palm, Kayla slowly rolled the dough into two perfect balls, setting one aside, and flattening the other onto the counter. She was in a trance, unable to see anything beyond the pate brisee as she rolled it out to the perfect size for the round baking dish.

“Did you not get enough to eat at your mother’s?” Zach asked, his voice soft and low.

Kayla’s trance was broken. She slowly looked up at him, feeling as if she was awaking from a dream. A dream where she was doing her favorite thing, with Zach lazily watching her as he leaned against the doorjamb, a look of pure love and admiration on his face. She blushed, realizing that she was not dreaming, and that that was exactly how Zach was looking at her.

“I’m sorry,” she said, hoping the catch in her voice didn’t give away the rapidity of her pulse. “I didn’t know you were there.”

“I could tell. You looked… peaceful.” He pushed away from his stance against the wall and walked toward the island where she rolled the dough. He spread his hands apart and placed them on the hard surface, surveying her work.

“I was remembering how much I love to cook, especially when there’s a special reason.”

He cocked his head to the side. “And the special reason?”

“It’s for Justine and Hank. Anne organized a meal calendar. She asked if I would donate a gift card or have a pizza delivered.” Kayla shook her head and smiled. “She should have known better than that.”

“She should have. You’d never send someone a pizza.”

Kayla looked up and saw the humor in his expression. He was teasing her, and it sure felt better than him feeling sorry for her. So often these days, she felt like everyone was looking at her with pity or trepidation. She much preferred being teased.

“How’s Nick settling in?” she asked as she rolled the dough over the thick, marble rolling pin and lifted it to the baking dish. She gently set it down over the dish and unwrapped the dough so that it fit perfectly inside the hollow of the dish.

Zach watched her with appreciation, and it made Kayla feel good. She was in her element, and she knew it.

“So far, so good. He’s checking the listings in the paper, circling potential jobs, and coming up with his plan of attack.”

Kayla turned to stir the filling and watched Zach, from the corner of her eye, break a small piece of dough off from the second ball and pop it in his mouth.

“I saw that,” she said without turning around.

“Man, I forgot that all moms have eyes in the back of their heads.”

“We do,” she said as she returned to the island. She pressed the dough onto the counter, sprinkled flour over it, and began to roll it out. “So, what brings you over, other than to steal a piece of pie crust. You can’t be hungry after Mom’s Sunday spread.”

“You’d be surprised,” he said, moving behind her to enjoy a giant inhalation of the pie filling.

“Don’t touch that,” Kayla commanded as Zach picked up the spoon.

“How did you—”

“Eyes in the back of my head,” she reminded him. “You didn’t answer me.” She finished rolling out the top of the pot pie before returning to the stove and turning off the flame under the filling.

Zach watched as she poured the filling into the pie shell and proceeded to cover the top with the dough, using the same maneuver she had used to lay the bottom crust in the dish.

“I wanted to make sure you don’t need anything before tomorrow.”

“You asked me at mom’s if I was ready.” She crimped the edges of the crust and poked three holes in the top of the pie.

“That’s not the same,” he said, opening the oven for her.

After placing the pie in the oven, Kayla noted the time and began cleaning up her cooking tools.

“I suppose it’s not,” she said, turning toward him and resting her back against the kitchen sink. “I’m good. The boys need to pack for Dad’s, but otherwise, there’s not really anything to do.”

“And you’re still holding off on telling them what’s going on?”

“Until I have a diagnosis, there’s really nothing to tell.”

“So, the boys have to pack. What about you?” Kayla felt a chill run down her back as he looked at her with such intensity that she felt naked.

“I’m good,” she faltered. “There’s not much for me to do.”

“How about that dinner?” He gestured toward the oven. “Can I take it to Justine and Hank for you?”

Kayla looked at the oven and thought for a moment before shaking her head. “I want to take it and let them know that I’m thinking of them. But…” She hesitated and lowered her voice. “Maybe you could go with me? Under the circumstances, I’m not sure I want to go alone. Todd is very close to Henry and wants to go with me. I’m afraid it might be difficult. I don’t even want to imagine what they’re going through.” She shuddered and glanced toward the den where the boys did their homework.

“Of course, we’ll all go together. What about EJ?”

“Well, he’s going to fight us, but I don’t think I can leave him home alone. I know he’s old enough to stay by himself, but until we know what happened to Henry…”

“I understand. I’ll talk to him. He’s Todd’s big brother and can take some responsibility for looking out for his little brother. Don’t you think?”

Kayla knew exactly where he was going with that and agreed wholeheartedly. If EJ thought he was helping his mom and being given the responsibility to look out for Todd, he’d take the task very seriously.

“Perfect,” she said. “The pot pie will be ready in about forty-five minutes. Should we meet at the truck, or would you prefer we take my car?”

“The truck is fine. I’ll talk to EJ and then go let Nick know what’s up.”

Kayla watched him go and let out a breath. As much as she hated to admit it, having Zach in her life felt a lot better than not having him around at all. But she knew better than to put her trust in him. He was still holding something back, and she needed assurance that they could count on him to be there when it matters. With her impending diagnosis and Henry’s disappearance, she realized all the more that you never know what the future will hold or if there will be a future at all.

Are you looking for a new way to meditate on the Stations of the Cross this Lent? If so, check out the newly revised edition of Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms. You can download the ebook version today!

What I was writing about this time last year:  Not a Thing Could Come Between Them

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines,  and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)

Breaking The Rules

For anybody not involved in the world of publishing, you might be surprised to know just how many rules there are when it comes to writing and publishing books.

There are rules about the length of a book:

  • Historical novels must contain around 100,000 words.
  • Fantasy novels must contain more words than the Bible.
  • A cozy mystery can be short, but a regular mystery must be long.

There are rules about plotlines:

  • Particular publishers don’t allow time machines to be used for time travel. Obviously standing stones are permitted.
  • Mysteries should not contain the supernatural – those are two different genres. Hmmm. Wouldn’t the X Files qualify as mystery and supernatural?
  • Romance novels absolutely, positively, without question, must have a HEA – or for those not in the business, a “Happily ever after.” Never mind that Casablanca and Gone With the Wind are classified as romance….

There are rules about what writers are allowed to write:

  • Romance writers can write in any subgenre—mystery, suspense, paranormal, historical, etc., but general fiction writers in any of those categories aren’t supposed to have a lot of romance.
  • Authors should not bounce between genres. I guess nobody ever told that to mega-bestselling author, James Patterson.
  • Children’s writers should write for children only, and adult writers should write for adults only. Again, James is breaking the rules.

There are even rules about the specifics of writing.

  • Fiction writing can contain phrases or even single words as whole sentences. Wow. Interesting. Got it? And fiction writers can begin sentences with conjunctions. And end them with adverbs, usually. Or with prepositions.
  • The POV (point of view) must be held by only one person at a time. You’re either reading the book from the POV of the antagonist, the protagonist, or the narrator. And switching between more than three POVs is a death knell. Sorry, Maeve Binchey – all those awards you’ve won should be taken away.
  • And never, ever, switch back and forth between POVs. Did you get that, Nora Roberts?

And the rules go on and on and on. In fact, there are so many rules that it’s nearly impossible for an author to keep track of them all. Some authors live by and insist on following all rules. Others bend the rules, and others, like the ones mentioned above, just throw the rules out the window. Which is fine with me. Just fine. Because I hate rules. I hate rules as much as I hate labels

When I sit down to write, I just write. My characters dictate the action, and the actions dictate the genre. I don’t want to follow rules. I just want to tell a story, and if that story doesn’t quite fit in with whatever the rules are, who cares? As long as the story is good, isn’t that all that matters?

Unfortunately, it’s not. Every time I publish a book, I must choose a specific genre, and for romance, a subgenre. In order to belong to many writing associations, a writer must declare that she write books only tailored to a particular audience. I recently spoke with a blogger who was shocked that men actually read my books. “Aren’t you a romance writer?” he asked. Ugh! Why the label? Why can’t I just be a writer? Why can’t I just write fiction? I get that readers have propensities toward certain types of books, but more and more I’m hearing from people who simply like to read good books, regardless of the genre.

So, I’m just going to say it. I’m going to admit something that will cause many of my colleagues to cringe. I am a writer. Period. I write the way I want to write. My stories unfold in the way they are meant to unfold. I don’t set out to write romance, or mystery, or suspense. I set out to entertain. I’ve spoken with other writers who balk at this notion. “You can’t bounce around like James Patterson unless you are James Patterson,” I’ve been told. To which I ask, why not? I’m often told that readers simply won’t continue to read my books if I don’t stick to one genre and follow all the rules. I beg to differ. Perhaps I’m wrong about that. Perhaps I am driving the nails in my own coffin, but I don’t think so. My readers seem happy with my books, no matter what genre I am forced into, so I don’t plan on changing my attitude or my style. I just wish it was easier to get my books out there without having to tow the line.

If you are a writer, I’d like to hear your thoughts. How do you feel about genres and labels?

If you are a reader, I’d love to know what you think as well. What draws you toward a particular book or author?

As for me, I must be going. I have work to do on my next novel. I’m not sure yet what the final genre will be or what rules I might break, and I really don’t care. I think I’m in pretty good company on that. James, Nora, don’t you agree?

douglasmacarthur1-2x.jpg

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Finding Joy in the Most Unlikely Places.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is on pre-sale and will be released on December 1, 2017.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017)

The Voices in My Head

They’re back. The voices in my head that won’t leave me alone. They won’t let me sleep at night, won’t stop nagging me all day, won’t be quiet when I try to pray or concentrate on anything other than them. They are demanding, ruthless in their quest to break free, to be born into this world, to exist somewhere outside of my mind. And there are dozens of them. Men, women, children, young, old, of various ethnicities and backgrounds. They all want to be given a voice, a home, a story.

No, I’m not suffering from any kind of mental illness. At least, I don’t think I am. Unless this is how it begins. There were others, after all–Salinger, Poe, Kerouac, Hemingway, Plath, Joyce, and even Dickens. Some are even said to have gone mad while writing. But I’m pretty sure I’m still sane (though Ken and our girls may disagree at times).

The voices in my head are the characters that seem to multiply on, at least, a weekly basis. There are so many that I can’t decide which ones belong in which stories, which ones are main or supporting characters, and which ones are simply intruders with no business being in my mind or my stories. Those voices quickly die among the herd. But there are others waiting to take their place.

It’s a shame, actually, to have so many people and stories in my mind because, right now, I haven’t got the time to bring all of these characters to life and tell their tales. But the time is coming. Our youngest daughter, Morgan, is a junior in high school. I imagine that in less than two years, I will have a much quieter, slower life, and that is when the fun will begin. That is when the multitude can be unleashed, when story after story can be written. And truth be told, it’s a little daunting. All my life, I’ve told stories, imagined worlds and people, contrived conversations, created events, and now I’m really just beginning to give them life. And I never want it to end.

Cover-001Which is good because the stories go on and on and on. So many stories. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and unable to write the first word because I don’t know which one to choose. Which voice is the loudest? Which is the most demanding? Which will be the most well-loved? And it seems I’m not alone. According to the Washington Post, James Patterson has “a three-inch-thick folder labeled ‘Ideas,’ one sheet listing 21 separate projects boiled down to their titles.” I have online folders, Apple notes, and a white board that boast a combined 16 stories at various stages of creation, including two that will be released in the coming months, the first being another children’s book. I’m not quite the next James Patterson, but I’d love to give it a try!

 

So, here’s to all of you who read my books and my blog. No matter how many voices are in my head or how many stories are on my docket, they would be worthless without you. With that in mind, I will raise a glass to you, my readers, the next time I open a bottle of wine. In fact, I’d love to have you join me in raising a glass. You’re all invited to my next book launch! It is being planned for the first weekend of December. Be on the lookout for more details. And who knows, yours might just become one of those voices in my head.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: “Without any doubting or quiddit”.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)

My Legacy

030This morning I attended the Baccalaureate Mass for our school’s Class of 2015.  Our Pastor asked each student to think ahead 60 years and imagine looking back on their lives.  “What will your legacy be?” he asked them.  He implored them to do more with their lives than just make money.  He told them that their legacy is important and that they should make it matter.  Each one of us will leave behind a legacy, something that we pass down to future generations, whether we are the President of the United States, a businessman, a teacher, a doctor, or a parent.  Each one of us will do or say something that will not be forgotten, good or bad.

If we are lucky, we will be remembered for more than one thing.  I hope to be remembered by the whole world as a writer, but I want to remembered by those who knew me best as a faithful wife, mother, friend, and Christian.  It doesn’t matter to me if I ever become rich, but I hope that the words I write will someday inspire a generation.  I don’t care if I’m ever recognized for the volunteer work I do, but I hope I’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.  It won’t mean a thing if I don’t have countless friends, but I hope that the ones I do have know they can always depend on me.  I don’t worry about how far I will climb, but I pray that my children will always look up to me.

A few years ago my oldest daughter told me that she believed I had wasted my education (I have a Masters of Library and Information Science) by deciding to stay home and spend more time with my children.  Now, of course, I’m a published author with another book on the way, and she sees how hard I worked to get here in spite of concentrating on my family and not my career.  Yesterday she told me that she never appreciated me enough and thanked me for being the mother I am.  I’d say that’s a pretty good legacy to leave behind even if I never do anything else for the next 60 years.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Sex in Literature

Sarah Publishing
Over the last couple of weeks, I have heard and been a part of many conversations about sex in literature.  These conversations have taken place at conferences, in public, and within chats among friends.  I find it interesting to hear how others view this topic, what they find appropriate or inappropriate, or whether or not they enjoy reading this type of work or are simply made uncomfortable by it.  I still stick to the belief I have held for all of my adult life, and as this is my blog, I’m going to share that with you now.

While many would argue that sex has been a part of literature for as long as there has been the written word, I would disagree to an extent.  Has it been “present” in literature since the beginning? Sure it has.  But has it been the graphic and explicit portrayal we are seeing so often today?  I would argue it has not.  While The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss (1972) was the first work of fiction to portray physical intimacy, romance fiction has “flowered” quite a bit itself.  Ever since Woodiwiss introduced the world to the sexual exploits of Heather and Brandon, romances have tried to capture the fervor caused by this first of its kind publication.  It wasn’t until the recent release of Fifty Shades of Grey that such a book has so completely captivated readers (and now movie goers alike).

But I have to ask this question: outside of a class on Romance Genre Literature (yes, those classes do exist), where else is sexually explicit work considered literature?  Did Jane Eyre have wild, explicitly detailed sex with Mr. Rochester?  Elizabeth with Mr. Darcy?  Rebecca with Maxim?  Even Hermione with Ron, for Pete’s sake?  And how much more satisfied were you as a reader when you finished reading those works of literature?  I firmly believe that there is something to be said for the imagination!  I know, most children and young adults these days don’t even know what it is to “imagine” something.  The world is already painted for them, and most will never pick up the brush needed to add in their own details.  So what do writers do today?  They hold the readers’ hands.  They paint every facet of the picture with their own take on what the hero or heroine would do and how they would do it (every minuscule detail).  They lead the reader through the author’s own personal fantasy without allowing the reader to decide on her own what is happening.  The reader is no longer a reader, she is a voyeur, a virtual peeping Tom.

On the red carpet this past Sunday, Melanie Griffith said she never wants to see daughter, Dakota, as Anastasia, toy and later wife of Christian Grey (I will not call her his “love interest”).  I don’t blame her.  Would all of the women who read the book feel differently about it if they had to picture their own daughter being graphically defiled by Mr. Grey?  My bet is, they most certainly would. Do we really want to create a whole genre that we wouldn’t want our own daughters to read?  I can firmly say, I would not.

Is there romance in my books?  Yes, there is.  However, I will continue to rely more on my ability to tell a story than on the need to use sex as a plot device.  If I ever get to the point where my characters find time to have a wild and explicit romp in the hay while hiding from a mad man and trying to stop a killer from taking other innocent lives by running from one clue or murder scene to another without the chance to shower or even brush their teeth (I’m already gasping for breath), will someone please put me out of my misery?  I once had a publisher tell me that my writing and plot were wonderful, but they weren’t interested unless I added in some steamy sex.  No, thank you.  The storyline just doesn’t work that way, and neither do I.  Oh did I mention that I was later signed by a publisher and that the same book that was once turned down is now selling very well nationwide?  I guess some people are still okay with using their imaginations.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com