Category Archives: Ashlee’s Everyday

Stories and More Stories

So many writerly things happening lately. After being on a bit of a (if unasked-for) hiatus for a year, these past several months my imagination has felt the need to make up for lost time. After about a month of simply trying to get the skeletons of all my ideas down on paper, I finally had to take a step back and decide which one to pursue first. As you may remember from a previous post, I chose to focus on a chapter book for children (ages 7-12) and I am happy to announce today that my revisions for this story are finished at last.

You know what that means! I will be asking 2 or 3 beta readers to look over the story and offer feedback, criticism, and advice. Never having written anything in this age category before, I’ll admit I’m a little nervous of the results. But it was a story I felt I had to tell, so though it may need even more revisions, I am ready to share it with at least a few others at this point, and with everyone a short way down the road.

I wished to put off writing a full-length novel for the time being, simply because I have so many other things going on in my life that I know I don’t have the time to devote to it. Despite this, a story idea for a trilogy (YA fantasy of course!) has been stubbornly clamoring at the back of my mind for a long time now and I had to give in finally and at least write the outline for the first book . . . which led to writing the outline for the second and third books . . . which led to writing character sketches and fleshing out some scenes that I had in my mind . . . which . . . well, you get the point. This trilogy is daunting to me, and will probably not be written in full until some time in the future, but it is most certainly not an idea that is fading. The opposite, in fact. When characters start talking to you in the middle of every-day tasks on a daily basis, and when scenes play out so vividly in your head that you rush to the nearest scrap of paper to get them down, you know there’s no escaping the story.

In the meantime, to fill my time between outlining trilogies and revising a children’s book, I have also been working on some fantasy short stories which I would love to publish as a collection one day. So many of these ideas are so exciting to me, yet aren’t full enough for a novel. Answer? Put it in a short story! I’m so thrilled about some of these stories, I can’t wait to get all my ideas explored and written.

With my newly-written and revised children’s chapter book has also come my desire to add a few illustrations within the book itself. I won’t decide on this for certain until I’ve spoken with my agent and some others who have had experience to see if this is a feasible option. But it has led me lately to scouring book store aisles and Pinterest boards for samples of artwork that I admire.

 

Illustrations have such an impact on our feelings for a story. I’d love to know what some of your own favorite illustrations or artists are!

Also, what have you been up to this end-of-summer?

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AMA’s and Other News

AMA POSTS

Kate ForsythSome of you may already be members of the Fairy-Tale Forum, a Facebook page that fellow author Shonna Slayton and I started a few months ago. If you are, you will know that we have frequent AMA (Ask Me Anything) posts from invited guests. We have had talented artists, authors, crafters, bloggers, podcasters, and more visiting our page, and it is always SUCH a blast.

If you’re not a member of our page, please come visit! Check out the past AMA guest Thirteenth Princessposts, along with all the other intriguing and even fascinating things our other members post on a daily basis.

I’m excited to say that I recently booked Diane Zahler for an AMA on June 26th, and we will have author Kate Forsyth visiting sometime in July. You won’t want to miss your opportunity to ask these wonderful authors anything you like about their work, life, or fairy-tales in general! See this past AMA post from when Gail Carson Levin was our guest.

OTHER NEWS

I recently had a historical flash fiction story published in Splickety Magazine, featuring one of my favorite historical figures, Eleanor of Aquitaine. You can purchase the paper or digital version of the magazine here. This issue features some pretty great authors, such as Gillian Bronte Adams and Julie Berry.Splickety June

Short stories have abounded recently, it seems. Other than the above flash fiction story, I have written two other stories as well (titled, at least for now: The Demon in the Hills and The Fox Prince). Throughout the past months I have written down several ideas for other short stories as well, and hope to publish all of them together in a book sometime in the future.

Edits on my middle-grade novel are . . . slow. But still happening when I get a spare half-hour here and there. Once edits are done and the manuscript is sent to my beta readers, I will want to find a good illustrator to come up with a few small images for this story. I just don’t think it would be complete without that!

SUMMER

This summer has been flying by already, writing, working, spending time traveling and seeing friends, enjoying every moment I spend with my 10-year-old son.

How has your summer been treating you? What books are you reading? What plans do you have?

 

 

Books from the Emerald Isle

Two weeks ago, my mother and sister visited Ireland. Before they left, they asked what type of souvenirs I’d like them to bring back for me. I didn’t have to think about it long before I decided exactly what I wanted. I’m sure you may even be able to guess . . .

I asked for them to bring me books. Used books from a little Irish book store tucked away somewhere. On further thought I asked my mom to stop alongside a beautiful country road in Ireland and pick wild flowers, and to press them into the pages of the book she got for me. Not an expensive gift. Not a difficult gift to get. But I was ecstatic at the mere thought of it.

I’m sure most of you read the rambling and rather passionate thoughts in my last blog post about why I love paperbacks (and hardbacks, of course!) so very much. As my mom and sister handed me my gifts, it hit me once again just why I love physical books as I do.

From a library sale in Carlow, Ireland, to secondhand bookstores in Newry, Cahir and Dublin, my dear little Irish books are full of worn pages, penciled-in notes, unglued binding, age spots, wildflowers, a yellowed bus pass that someone must once have used for a bookmark, and, in short, more history and food for imagination than you could get into an infinite number of eBooks.

Are you ready for some serious book-love pictures?! Meet my new-old books:

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book1

I wonder who W.H. Fowler was? Did he enjoy reading this book? How long did it sit on his shelf?

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Irish wildflowers picked from an obliging field.

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book9

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Where did this bus ticket take the person who bought it? Who was he going to see? Perhaps he (or she, of course!) was reading this book as he rode the bus…

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Whose fingers blackened the edges of these pages with their thumbing? This book must have been well-loved, to have such worn edges.

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All my books have history. Some of that history I’ll never know about – I can only imagine where the many books I own have been, what shelf they have rested on, whose eyes have smiled or cried or even drowsed while reading them.

These books from Ireland are no different, really. They sat on a shelf somewhere, or maybe amid a stack of other books, perhaps in a household, perhaps in a bookstore or library. They passed from hand to hand, home to home, heart to heart, just as many books do.

It’s a connection between myself and someone far away. It’s a cord woven between me and a stranger whom I’ll never meet. What a mysterious, lovely thing. My fingers touch where their fingers have touched. I’ll read the very words that someone far away once read. Perhaps I’ll even be touched by those words in the same manner as the one who read them before me.

What history, real or imagined, do your own hand-me-down books have?

Paper and Ink: 3 Reasons I’m Not an eBook Girl

A few weeks ago I was in line at Nebraska Furniture Mart, preparing to purchase a book.

The man behind me in line laughed and said, “You don’t see people doing that much anymore.”

I said, “What? You mean buying a book at a furniture store? I know –  kinda strange, huh?”

“No,” he said. “I mean buying a book . . . at all. People just don’t do it.”

I just smiled. “Well, I certainly do.”

“So you don’t read eBooks?”

“Not much. I’m rather stubbornly rebelling against the eBook world. I’ll always stick to my paperbacks first and foremost.”

The man just grinned at me and shook his head . . . then kept smiling and shaking his head until I had checked out and walked away. That’s what he did. I’m not exaggerating.

Now, maybe people who live in Nebraska just don’t read as much as people from my State of Missouri, but I doubt it. It could be that this man just has a skewed idea of the bookish world and readers in general . . . I sure hope so!

Whatever the case, it made me ask myself – why do I cling so desperately to my paper-and-ink books? After all, it’s not nearly as convenient to tote around books like Middlemarch or Mansfield Park than it is to simply click it on my tablet and start reading. And let’s not even talk about the difference between having 3,000 books uploaded to your e-reader . . . versus owning 3,000 paper and hardback books that are slowly pushing you out of your own home . . . ahem, not that I have that problem.

Why do I put up with it? What is the superhuman pull of paper and ink and, let’s face it, possibly even spine glue and dust jackets? Because really for me, it is a superhuman pull.

MEMORIES . . .

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Nothing has such an insistent tug as childhood memories. At least, not for me. The stories I experienced, the places I journeyed to through them, the places I sat while reading them, the walks home from the library with arms-to-chin piles of books, the feel of my childish hands on a book’s hard spine . . . those memories will be with me for most of my life, I imagine. And they’re incredibly strong, deeply happy memories. Maybe the coming generation will have those memories with their Kindles, too . . . but somehow I just can’t imagine the dearness of those memories ever being quite the same.

SENSES . . .

Ok, this is a big one for me.

A few days ago I finished a chapter of the book I’m currently reading and my husband looked at me and said, “Why do you look at your book like that every time you stop reading?”

“Umm . . . what do you mean? All I did was shut it and put it down.”

“Nope. Every time you get done reading you close your book and give it a strange look. Every single time. It’s kinda weird.”

“I do?” And then I believe I blushed. This is a man I’ve been married to for 12 years. I can’t remember ever blushing in front of him for, well, anything. But this felt . . . strangely personal. Because the moment he pointed it out, I realized it was true, although I’d never given it a moment’s thought before then.

Apparently I get a little doe-eyed with my books. So what? I bet lots of people do. Right . . .?

That beautiful sound paper makes when I flip pages all at once, or the sound when I let a single page slide through my fingers. The fresh scent of new paper, the sharp smell of ink, even the nose-tickling mustiness of an old, dusty book from my Grandma’s shelf. The very sight of a book or, better yet, a whole shelf of books, their motley, mismatched spines like a beacon to something deep within me. The feel of a book’s squared edges against my palm, its heaviness in my hands as I take it from a shelf.

You know, when I first read The Chronicles of Narnia, the whole box set of them that I owned had a distinct scent to the pages. Who knows what caused it – I imagine something as simple as the combination of ink and paper the publisher used. But whatever it was – to this day when I smell the pages of another book with that same scent, I am instantly transported straight back to my childhood bedroom, with Narnia swirling all around me. I even sometimes feel the ghostly twinge of the crick I got in my neck from burying myself in those books for such long periods of time.

“O, there is lovely to feel a book, a good book, firm in the hand, for its fatness holds rich promise, and you are hot inside to think of good hours to come.” – Richard Llewellyn

SLOWING DOWN . . .

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Those first two reasons are good enough, for me, that a third one wouldn’t even be necessary. But I’ve noticed that, as I get older, I’ve dug my heels in and become quite old-fashionedly stubborn about my books. After some thought, I believe it has to do with my need for control in a world that moves too quickly and demands too much.

A book in my hand represents a slowing down of life, a focusing of my attention to what is in front of me. By picking up a book I feel as if I’m pulling myself out of the tumult of the e-world (or even, sometimes, the world in general) and giving it an emphatic “no.”

STORIES ARE STORIES

Yet in the end, a book’s truest pleasure comes from the words that are written – not the object from which you read them. Stories – good stories – will always be important in their own right, whether told by mouth, written on papyrus, scrawled with crayons on construction paper (those are the ones my son writes for me!), printed with ink on paper, or published on an electronic device.

There is no right or wrong here. Stories are stories and I will always, always love a well-told one.

It’s just that I’ll enjoy it much more if it’s on paper 🙂

 

Tell me, do you have strong feelings about the particular form a book takes?

 

Tidings of New Stories

2 + 2 = 4

For those of you who follow my Facebook page, you’ll have seen that I’ve finished revisions (at last!) on book 1 of my new fantasy series, and have passed it on to my first round of beta readers. This is the first time I’ve used betas, so I’m naturally a bit nervous. It’s one thing to finish a book and hand it to your husband or sister or mom, knowing they will gush with praise. It’s quite another to hand it to someone and say, “Please tear it apart.”

*Gulp*

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I originally planned for this book to be one of two. The first draft of the sequel has been written already, in fact, although it is awaiting much work! However, something has happened along the way. Rather inevitably, I suppose …

The characters … have come alive.

One or two of them are asking for their own stories. A couple others are wishing for more of their stories to be told. It’s all I can do to keep up with the ideas that are being flung at me, and in the process … two additional book outlines have taken shape. So it looks like this book duo has now become, officially, a series. A family of four books … two of which are only ideas thus far, yes, but rather strong and insistent ideas.

*Another gulp*

A bit scary. Quite challenging for someone who has never even considered writing a series. But what a delicious challenge! I think I’m willing to tackle it 🙂

BETA READERS

As I’ve said, the first round of my beta readers have copies of the book already. However, I will be announcing, at a future date, my need for a second round of 2-4 readers. Those who follow my newsletter will be the first to hear about this opportunity, and if the need is filled by them, I may not be announcing it again on my blog.

NEW FAIRY TALE

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Before I launch into revisions for book 2 of the fantasy series, I am working on a novella of a fairy tale retelling that I plan on indie-publishing sometime soon (eek!). As it was written a couple of years ago, I’ve got a lot of work to do on it yet. I began revisions on it today, and I must say they are going swimmingly so far! I basically read through it and marked down all the “homework” I’ll need to do. Several hefty changes, but I’m excited to get started on them.

My wonderful newsletter followers will also be the first to hear about beta reading opportunities for this book, plus fun things like participation in the cover reveal, etc., when the time comes. (Ooh, helping design another cover … I’m definitely looking forward to that part!)

READING

On a rather random note, I just finished the amazing His Dark Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers, and am in a bit of withdrawal. None of the books I pick up seem to be appealing to me, but I’m ready to dive into something. Any great suggestions?!

WANTED: Newsletter Signer-Uppers!

Yep, I finally got a newsletter. See the button for signup, over in my sidebar? Yeah, that’s it!

For those of you wondering: What’s the difference between signing up for a newsletter and following a blog? Well, there are several things that set newsletters apart.

My newsletters won’t be as … ahem, random … as my blog posts. Neither will they be as frequent. You can expect them something like once every other month. They will be focused on specifics, a few of which are:

1.) Book news. Release dates, exclusive content like as-yet-unseen chapters or excerpts, and any other important announcements regarding my books and stories.

2.) Opportunities. Newsletter followers will get first dibs on things like beta reading and reviewing opportunities.

3.) Condensed blog info. If you don’t fancy getting an email every single time I publish a blog post, my newsletter will give you a rundown of the most popular posts I’ve published recently (with links), and you can pick and choose (or not!) which ones you’d like to read. No clutter in your inbox … always a good thing!

4.) Fun Stuff. Even if you don’t follow my blog, my newsletter will keep you up to date on things like giveaways and promos. Also any other fun tidbits from elsewhere on my various social media that you may have missed.

Click here to sign up for my newsletter, or click on the lovely green sidebar button!

Reminiscences …

I was looking through some old family photos today, and got the idea that it would be fun to share a few of them with you. When I first meet a friend, I like to get to know them by asking questions about how they grew up. A person’s past is like a treasure trove of clues for how they came to be who they are … Many times, great fuel for a writer’s imagination! So today I’ll show you a few of the pictures that characterize “how I came to be.” Just promise you won’t giggle too much 🙂

Reading, of course, was one of my biggest pastimes. I pretty much read everywhere …

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…out of dresser drawers…

ash, age 5

…buried in my parents’ closet…

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…giggling between a sister and friend…

I’ve always had a bit of a flare for the dramatic …

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That’s me on the left, dancing in The Nutcracker ballet.

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Thinking deeply about … um … a change of fashion, perhaps?

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Bounding into the water on our first visit to the ocean. My dad was quick with the camera on that one!

… and a little bit of quirkiness, too 🙂

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My darling cats were a huge part of my growing up, of course. Well, they and my horse and goats and dogs and the neighbor’s llamas that shared our pasture …

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My sister and I showcasing our brand new kittens!

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Our sweet Penny. The house I grew up in is in the background.

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My horse, Prince.

And just so we’re PERFECTLY clear … my sister and I were NEVER those girls who dressed up their animals …. ahem … never…….

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Umm … yeah.

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Pumpkin looks sooo happy!!

Right. Moving on …

My life wouldn’t have been the same – nor would I have been – without my little sister, who is still my best friend today.

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Being home-schooled was also something that helped shape my personality … not to mention allowed me to continue to pursue my love for writing and reading.

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My tiny home-school graduate class … I’m the one hiding behind the hat on the far left.

And last, but not least, something many of you may well be unaware of … I am, in fact, an angel 😀

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So many memories, and as I sift through them I see a glimmer here and there of some of the things that, though I didn’t recognize them at the time, led me down the path to becoming who and what I am today. Doesn’t it make you wonder you’re doing today that will affect who you grow into tomorrow …?

 

Light and Peace

Well, I suppose it’s not too late (yet!) to wish you a Merry Christmas! My plan was to write a Christmas post full of depth and meaning … But the truth of it is that I haven’t had a spare moment to sit down and write a post of any kind in a shamefully long time! I have been up to my eyeballs in revisions, which are taking soo much longer than I anticipated *sigh*. But mostly, I am just attempting to find joy in this Christmas season with friends and family.

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Jacob Marley tells Scrooge he will be visited by 3 spirits.

Caroling with my son’s school, leading my poor family on a merciless quest for the “perfect” Christmas tree, taking my son to his first play (A Christmas Carol, of course!), and lots of hot chocolate, story-reading, game-playing and snuggling have been uppermost on our family agenda of late!

So since I have not had the time to conjure some inspiring words about Christmas myself, I’ll borrow some instead! Hope your Christmas is blessed and bright, friends!

 

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“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” (Dr. Seuss)

“Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won’t make it ‘white’.” (Bing Crosby)

“How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!” (Benjamin Franklin)

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” (Charles Dickens)

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.” (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

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“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ” (Norman Vincent Peale)

“We consider Christmas as the encounter, the great encounter, the historical encounter, the decisive encounter, between God and mankind. He who has faith knows this truly; let him rejoice.” (Pope Paul VI)

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” (Roy L. Smith)

“Christmas is the day that holds all time together.” (Alexander Smith)

“Christmas in Bethlehem. The ancient dream: a cold, clear night made brilliant by a glorious star, the smell of incense, shepherds and wise men falling to their knees in adoration of the sweet baby, the incarnation of perfect love.” (Lucinda Franks)

“Christmas is joy, religious joy, an inner joy of light and peace.” (Pope Francis)

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and moves upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” (Sigrid Undset)

“And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!'”  (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

 

First Drafts and Dragons

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Well, my friends, I am feeling a strange mixture of utter relief and tension right now. It’s the feeling that comes when a first draft is finished (relief), and edits loom large (tension) ….

Yes, you heard me. Mere minutes ago I typed the last sentence of my book. It is the second of a series I am working on (I finished the first draft of the first book earlier this year). It’s a thrilling feeling, to say the least! Especially as this is a bigger undertaking than I’ve ever tackled before. From a girl who has written only standalones, a series is a daunting task. As of now I have written the first two books, and have many plans and ideas for the third book, although it may be a while before I begin officially working on it.

What, you ask, are these books about? Well, I’m always a bit reluctant to say much about my WIPs while they are still in first-draft form – even to my own family! But I will give you a few clues.

Firstly, there are dragons. And anyone who knows me knows how much I adore dragons. I’ve longed to put them in a book for many years, but dragon1hadn’t found the right story for them until now. And I’m so excited about them, although to be honest, a little nervous about how I’ve pulled it off …!

Secondly, and probably obviously, these books are of the Christian fantasy genre, just as The Word Changers was. There is an element of allegory, an element of mystery, a great deal of adventure and intrigue and danger, and a bit of romance.

Thirdly, these books are told from multiple points of view. There are two protagonists – one is a male and one is a female. The story is told alternately from their viewpoints, something else I’ve wanted to do for a long time but didn’t quite have the courage for. The male viewpoint was a difficult one, and when I’m editing I’m sure I will have to sharpen his voice and think many manly thoughts in order to get it just right …! Perhaps some of the men in my life will be willing to read the book and offer their wisdom! 😉 😉

I am giving myself a week or two off before I begin edits. And by “off,” I mean that I will probably just tackle another writing project while I wait.  A short story, perhaps … or maybe a brand new book. I’ve got ideas for both of those things rattling around in my brain right now, so we’ll see.

So thanks to those who prayed for me and encouraged me as I struggled through the ending of this book (you know who you are!), and to those of you who I pray get to read these labors sometime in the distant future. I truly couldn’t do it without you, or without God, the true Author of all our stories.

Have a blessed weekend!

Book Sightings and Library Love

A couple of weeks ago I went to my local library and saw, for the first time ever, my own book on the library shelf! And not just one copy … two! I was pretty excited, as you can well imagine!

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At my local library!

When I visited my alumni college (later that same day, as it happens), an old friend I was speaking with there informed me that he had seen my book for sale in the college bookstore … on display, on the front counter! I’m only a little ashamed to say that I squealed and immediately drug my husband and son to the bookstore to see it. Wouldn’t you have?!

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In my alumni college bookstore!

Having my book for sale in a book store is exciting, but I’ve got to say that seeing my book on the shelf of a library, with the potential to go through the hands of dozens, possibly hundreds of readers … now that’s really a dream come true. Libraries have always meant so much to me, the scent of papers and ink, the whisper of pages being turned, the hum of silence, the solid walls of books all around. Paradise, really. What a privilege for my book to now have a home in one of my favorite places on the planet!

Many of you have read The Word Changers already, and a lot of you who haven’t have said you’d like to one day. If you haven’t had the chance yet, have you considered submitting a request to your own local library to purchase a copy? I’ve done that many times in the past for books that I’ve considered reading, but was on the fence about forking my own money out to buy. And 9 times out of 10, my library goes on to purchase the requested copy.

Most of the time you only need the requested book’s title, author, and year published (my library usually won’t purchase something that has a publish date of more than a year ago). But if you decide to put in a request for The Word Changers, and your library requires more information, click here 🙂

I can’t tell you the pleasure and honor I’d feel knowing my book was on the shelves of libraries across the United States, or even in other countries! What a thrill!

And just for fun, here are some great library quotes:

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HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!!