My Beauty from Ashes Story

Beauty from Ashes

by Carol Underhill

Originally written in April 2019.

I’m a storyteller.

I tell stories through writing fiction.

I have been writing stories

since I was in second grade.

This is my true

“Beauty for Ashes” story:

My parents built a new house.

It meant I had to change schools.

I was still in the same district,

but I had to start second grade in Morley.

That year my older sisters both

shuttled back to Stanwood

for fourth and sixth grades.

I was at Morley by myself.

I don’t remember much about the first day

Until I was getting ready to go home.

I couldn’t remember what bus to ride.

I stood in the hallway, crying.

I got on the right bus

But I couldn’t adjust to my new school.

After several more episodes of tears

During the first few weeks of school

I was nicknamed “Crybaby.”

I struggled so much

that I saw a counselor.

There were two boys

who were in the counseling group

with me.

The counselor played word games with us.

One day she told us to go home

and write a story.

We had a bunny rabbit

that we were raising in the house,

just a tiny thing.

It had died.

I wrote about the bunny.

My counselor liked my story.

She had me read it to the kindergarten class.

My aunt asked me to write

a copy of it for her.

I was hooked on writing.

I was 7 years old.

An author was born.

Eventually

I adjusted to school.

I was still sensitive, though.

All anyone had to do

was say curse words to me

and I would cry.

In sixth grade,

I spent time in the health room

Lying down.

But I wrote stories about a squirrel

and his woodland friends.

They were plagiarized

From a book I read

But they were fun to write.

I went to a Christian camp.

I met a counselor there

Who believed I could write.

She became my champion.

She sent my story

To a publisher.

The publisher sent back a nice reply

They said that I was talented

But not what they were looking for.

That has become

The story of my life.

I write a book.

I find a publisher or agent.

I submit sample chapters.

They ask to see the whole story

Then the response comes back:

“It’s not what we are looking for.”

I have received so many

Of those letters

That I have lost count.

I have kept a few.

One, in particular, is special to me.

In 1994, I wrote a story.

I had two toddlers.

I would stay up late after they were in bed

And write on my word processor.

I would get up before they woke up

And write my story.

I burned the candle at both ends.

When the story was done,

I sent it to a publisher

Who had recently published

Some contemporary Christian romances

Which is what my story was.

I sent some sample chapters.

They asked to see the whole book.

I sent it to them.

They sent me a letter.

A rejection letter.

No matter how many times

I receive those types of letters

They still hurt

But this editor made some personal comments

In the letter.

She told me the reasons why it was rejected

And gave helpful feedback.

She wrote:

“Please be encouraged that I thought

your manuscript had enough flair

To at least recommend it

to the review board.

80% don’t make it that far.”

Instead of getting discouraged,

I wrote another story.

This time a historical Christian novel.

I did the research.

I used the same word processor.

I wrote the first few chapters

And mailed them to a publisher

From the Writer’s Market book.

They asked to see the whole story.

I typed up the rest.

I burned up my word processor

And had to borrow another one to finish it.

I sent the book to the publisher.

It was rejected.

I set my writing aside.

Life got busy.

My children grew older and were active in school.

I worked part time at different jobs.

I was busy in the church.

We changed churches a few times.

I had another baby.

In 2002, I started to write.

And write

And write.

I researched everything I could get my hands on

And wrote another historical novel

And a young adult contemporary novel

Infusing my faith in God

Into the story lines.


By all accounts, I was living a normal life.

I worked full time in an office.

I was raising my kids, helping in their schools.

I was involved in children’s ministry at church.

But inside, I was falling apart.

It happened so slowly that I didn’t even realize

I was breaking down mentally.

Suddenly in May 2003

My life and actions spiraled out of control.

I told my husband, “I can’t find my center.”

He was confused

By what was taking place.

My kids were confused.

Even I was confused.

I was admitted to

A psychiatric hospital for evaluation,

I couldn’t remember my own name.

I received great care there.

Within a couple of days,

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

It all made sense.

The ups and downs of my emotions.

Long months of depression

Followed by bursts of manic moods.

Uncontrolled temper.

The inner chaos.

My life had fallen apart.

 apart

I couldn’t find my center.

I lost my faith

But only for a moment.

From the ashes,

God started doing something new

In my life.

I was put on medication

Which my husband made sure I took

Even though it was expensive.

I saw a counselor

To find new ways to cope with life.

I saw a psychiatrist

Every two to three months

To keep my medications in check.

My family made sure

I got to my appointments.

I had a good support system.

I wrote a contemporary young adult novel

In a month.

In my mind,

I had a different story

About a different main character

For every letter of the alphabet.

They were only an idea

But I may have bragged a little

In an online author’s group.

I looked for a publisher

For the new book.

I sent it a few places.

I even paid to have it on a website

For publishers to look at.

It was rejected every time.

It went through so many rewrites

That I don’t remember

How the original started.

I finished book 1

Of the Courage series.

My friend was going on a trip

She wanted something to read on the plane

She took my story with her.

She loved it.

She wanted copies for family and friends.

I found a local printer

Who could make spiral bound copies.

They looked all right.

Nothing fancy.

My family and friends bought them.

The print was so small in the original

That one friend had to wear

Two pair of reading glasses

In order to read the words.

A cousin told me

That she liked it so much,

But she kept falling asleep while reading it

Because she was so tired.

She would wake up and read a little more

Then fall asleep again.

I don’t how many times

I heard people say:

“I couldn’t put it down.”

With so much encouragement,

I continued writing in the series

Books 2 and 3, then 4, then 5.

After many attempts,

I couldn’t get an agent

Or a publisher

To take notice.

In 2010, tragedy struck

My husband was electrocuted

at work

And was in a coma.

When it became clear

That he was not going to pull through

It was time to let him go.

It was hard to go on

Without him.

I clung to my kids

And got up each morning

For them.

I spent a lot of money

To mask the grief.

I missed my medication one night

And almost went back to the psychiatric hospital

But my support system

Pulled me through.

In 2011, I went to a friend’s cabin.

It was like a mini retreat

In the woods

Beside a creek.

I came home and wrote book 6.

Encouraged by family and friends

I decided to self-publish

the Courage series

In a paperback book binding.

I met with a designer

And a printer.

They produced a beautiful book.

That I could be proud of.

A book club read book 1.

I met them at a library.

I didn’t know what to say

But they were happy

Because I brought book 2

With me.

I was asked to speak

At a ladies’ meeting

At a church.

I was an author

But I was not a public speaker.

I read from the paper

And it was over in ten minutes.

I was embarrassed

But they were happy

Because I brought book 3

With me.

I spoke again

At a library

About my writing journey.

I did a much better job

Speaking in front of the group

More confident in who I was.

I had some book signings.

I wrote really dumb stuff

And signed my name

In the front of the books.

I sold 100 copies of book 1

Then less of each following book

Until I sold out of books

1, 3 and 4.

My readers are still asking me

When I am going to write

book 7.

The truth?

I don’t know when.

I wrote book 6 in 2011

And did not write anything new

Until December 2018.

Seven dry years.

The lost years.

Focusing on my kids.

Helping them reach independence.

Struggling with bipolar disorder

And all the problems that go with it.

God placed in my path

A Christian counselor.

Someone I could trust.

She continues to help me figure out

how to live each day

With the challenges

I have.

For seven years

After my husband passed away

I could not write a book.

But I also couldn’t concentrate

On reading, either.

In 2018, I read a book about joy

By a woman

who had overcome many obstacles.

After reading her book

It was like a dam burst inside of me.

Suddenly,

I read all the time.

All kinds of books

Mostly on my kindle

But I didn’t write anything new.

In October 2018,

I went back to my friend’s cabin

It was a mini retreat for me.

Mostly I stayed at the cabin

Watching Nicholas Sparks’ movies

And drinking coffee

On the porch

Overlooking the river.

When I came home

An idea came to my mind

For a new contemporary series.

I wrote the first story.

Then I wrote a sequel to that story.

I also rewrote an old story

Updated it

And sent it to a publisher’s contest.

I rewrote another old story

Updated it

And sent it to a different contest.

Neither panned out,

But I continued to write.

Over the years,

My writing style has changed.

I have read the guidelines

And studied the way published authors write.

I know what the publishers are looking for

In inspirational fiction.

I try and write to fit that model

But my creativity doesn’t want

To be confined.

I am a storyteller.

I like to tell the whole story

About my characters

And how they relate to each other

How they overcome obstacles

How they find faith in God

And in love.

Sure, there’s romance

You gotta have a little romance

But it’s clean romance

It doesn’t make me blush

To read it back to myself.

I had my Courage series

Edited by some very smart people

Who sacrificed their time

To help me.

I had a new cover designed

For book 1

Because the old one

Was too contemporary

For that time in history.

I’ve re-published newer versions

Of books 1, 2 and 3

On Amazon.

I’ve sold a few.

I still haven’t written book 7.

Someday

I hope to write that book

And more

In the Courage series.

In March 2019,

I started reading “Billionaire” romances

On Kindle.

It made me think of

That first story

That I wrote in 1994.

The main character in that story

Was a billionaire.

I decided to rewrite the book

Instead of editing the first version

I sat down at the computer

And started writing it from scratch.

It is an inspirational story

So I thought of a Bible verse

That would go well with the story:

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore if anyone

Be in Christ,

They are a new creation;

Old things are passed away;

Behold, all things are become new.”

That verse is very significant

To the story.

I decided to reread the original version

Of the story.

I had not read it for over 20 years.

I was surprised

To discover

That I had used the same verse

In the same context

In the original story.

I had also written:

“There were so many broken dreams,

so much sadness,

Both in her life and in his,

And yet she felt the hope she had in Christ

That ‘old things are passed away;

Behold, all things are become new.’

God could build beauty from ashes.

He had sent Jesus,

His own Son

To die on the cross

To be punished for the sin of the world.

Through Christ,

She had received God’s forgiveness

For her past sins,

And was clothed with righteousness.

God had a plan for her life,

But He willed her to be patient

As He healed her heart.

She knew that she could trust God

With her future.”

I wrote those words

Over 25 years ago

As part of a work of fiction

But I believe those words

Are true in my life today.

I don’t know what the future holds.

But God has been working

On healing my heart.

I believe God

Watched me crying as a little girl

Afraid of a new school

Not knowing what bus to ride home

And He said to Jesus,

“Someday her tears

Will reach people

For salvation.

I will send someone to show her

How to write.

She will one day use the talent

I’ve given her to glorify us.”

I have faced some difficult challenges

And I have had many failures

But God has been in all

And worked through it all

To make me into

Who I am today.

My life, that was such chaos

In 2003

Has settled into order

With the help of medication,

A psychiatrist’s care,

And a counselor with a caring heart.

My family and friends are supportive

Through the ups and downs;

The ups and downs of bipolar.

The pendulum swings high into mania

sometimes

And I write for 4 or 5 hours at a time

And do little else.

The pendulum swings low into depression

And I feel like I am in a pit

Of negative thoughts

And low self-esteem

And cannot write.

But I turn to what I know to be true

That God accepts me as I am.

That God forgives me.

That God loves me

And I am able to rise again.

Some days the pendulum doesn’t swing.

My life has balance.

I find my center

In Christ.

All of my stories:

The ones that are finished,

The ones that are still in outline form,

The ones I have self-published

In paperback

And spiral bound

The ones that have been rejected

By authors and agents

But have become well-loved

By readers:

My stories are my

“Beauty from Ashes.”

Isaiah 61:3 reads:

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion

to give unto them beauty for ashes,

the oil of joy for mourning,

the garment of praise

for the spirit of heaviness…” 

That is my story

Of how God has used my writing

To turn the ashes of my life

Into beauty.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

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Wrapping up the month of November

Monday, November 28

The pain I’ve been dealing with is coming from the sciatic nerve. I’m going through physical therapy now and hope to be back to normal activities soon.

Tuesday, November 29

This morning started out with a sluggish weight and depression setting in. I’m not used to being home with nothing to do all day except think. I’m actually going this morning to talk to my mental health counselor and get a handle on my mood before it sinks into a full depressive episode.

I’m waiting to hear from both my doctor and my boss to see what the next few weeks will bring. I worked 4 days total in November, so this is going on a second month of sitting at home in pain and thinking too much.

Tuesday, November 29, later in the day:

My counselor was able to help me get back on track with a few statements we’ve talked about before. A) acknowledge that I am thinking negatively about myself; B) believe what is true about myself and God; and C) change the default. A) yes, I am in pain and am missing time from work; B) it isn’t easy, but God has never let me down and will help me through this challenge; and C) to try to stop the negative thoughts from taking root. Changing the way I think takes time and practice. I’ve done pretty well over the past few months but I needed some reminders. Thankfully I didn’t slide back into that pit of depression. God is awesome and His Word is true and powerful.

Wednesday, November 30

One of the steps to gaining back my mood balance is to “Change the Default.” That is something my counselor came up one day when something she was printing went to the default printer, and not to the one in her office. She told me that is like what I go through. Every time I struggle, I default my thoughts to blaming myself, self-judging, worrying about what people think about me. She said I needed to change the default thinking.

As I began to grasp that understanding, this is something I wrote down. A prayer of sorts, to read to myself when I need to remember that I am okay just the way I am.

I wrote this several years ago but it’s always good to refresh my way of thinking. 

Christmas Novella Spotlight:

My guest today is Katy Eeten, author of Christian romance. She is here today to tell us about two of her Christmas novellas.

Before we talk about your books, Katy, tell us a little bit about yourself:

I live in southeast Wisconsin with my husband and our two sons, ages 14 and 11, where I work full time in the business world crunching numbers and analyzing data. I love to write, read, bake, take walks, play board games, and spend time with my family. My publications include two contemporary Christian romance novels and three Christmas novellas, two of which I’m sharing about today.

What are your Christmas novellas about?

Christmas in Meadow Creek is about a fourth-grade teacher named Sarah who moves to the small Wisconsin town of Meadow Creek, where she meets firefighter Lincoln. They hit it off right away, but when they discover that Sarah’s troublemaking student is none other than Lincoln’s beloved nephew, their newfound relationship is put to the test. Can they navigate through the complexities of family dynamics to find a love that will last?

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Meadow-Anaiah-Romance-Novella/dp/1947327305/

In Wrong Turn Christmas, April’s family is facing insurmountable debt from her dad’s cancer treatments. While seeking legal assistance to help her parents, she ends up at the wrong house. Even after he realizes her mistake, Jake can’t get April off his mind. But with the financial situation she’s facing, he believes he has nothing of real value to offer her. Or does he? One wrong turn might just end up turning a Christmas crisis into a Christmas miracle.

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Wrong-Turn-Christmas-Anaiah-Romance-ebook/dp/B09L4J3PDZ/

Reading Christmas novellas is a fun way to get into the spirit of the holiday. It’s fun to write them, too.

Here are some questions that readers want to know the answers to:

As an author, what book do you wish you would have written?

I’m a big fan of the Hunger Games series. I think the story is really engaging and well written. I wish I had the ability to write action-packed scenes like that, and make the adventure come to life in people’s minds!

How did you come up with the names of your hero and/or heroine?

For Christmas in Meadow Creek, Lincoln is the name of my firstborn son. For Wrong Turn Christmas, I just pulled the names out of thin air. I try to change up the first initial of my main characters when I’m writing so I don’t accidentally mix up who’s who. Sometimes they mean something, but often they are just random names I like or that I think sound good together.

What does your family think of your writing?

My family is super supportive. My husband is not much of a reader, and romance is not his genre of choice. Yet I’m humbled to say that he has read every one of my published books! My mom and siblings also read my work and spread the word to their friends. Even my kids understand that writing and editing can take up a lot of time, but I try not to let it consume me. I am blessed to have such a great family!

If you didn’t write books, what would you do for a living?

It’s not practical, but I think it would be so cool to work for a game show. I love watching game shows and think it would be so fun to create the Wheel of Fortune puzzles or Pyramid clues, or to come up with new rules and fun twists on the traditional games.

Thank you for being my guest today. What plans do you have next for you as an author?

I have a completed manuscript that’s written from the viewpoints of six former college friends. It has primarily romantic elements, but entails other plotlines as well, so it doesn’t fit into the traditional “romance” genre. That makes it challenging to find the right publisher, but I’m hopeful I will. It’s a beautiful story that weaves together multiple relationships and showcases the way their faith and friendships impact all that they do.

Where can readers find you online?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KatyEeten/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/KatyEeten

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/KatyEeten/

Website: https://katyeeten.wordpress.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Katy-Eeten/e/B0796L1CVK

Christmas Novella Spotlight: Northern Hearts

Today I welcome Laurie Wood back to my blog. Laurie is author of the romantic suspense series, Heroes of the Tundra, set in Canada’s northern wilderness.

As we begin our interview today, Laurie, there is snow on the ground here in Michigan. A perfect setting for talking about your Christmas novella.

Let’s start by telling us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a military spouse and the proud mom of two special needs adults. I’m the author of the Heroes of the Tundra series with Anaiah Press, and my fourth book in the series, NORTHERN REDEMPTION, will come out in 2023. When I’m not writing, I’m usually spinning my yarn, knitting, or hanging out with my two dogs.

What is your novella, Northern Hearts, about?

NORTHERN HEARTS is my Christmas book in the series. The heroine inherits a hotel/restaurant in a small town in Canada’s northern wilderness. She and the chef have 30 days to work together to decide who stays, or who goes, or can they work together to continue her aunt’s legacy? It’s set in the real-life town of Churchill, Manitoba, which is the Polar Bear Capitol of the world. And yes, there’s a polar bear in the story!

My publisher, Anaiah Press, rebranded the series this year and designed new covers to feature my handsome heroes for each book. I’m excited to share the new cover for NORTHERN HEARTS below:

That’s a great cover. Very intriguing and what a handsome hero!

Let’s talk about your writing. Do you have a day job? If so, how do you find time in your day to write?

I’m lucky to be “retired” so that my primary focus is my writing. However, I’ve struggled with several significant health issues these past two years and am still getting a handle on them. I carve out writing time first thing in the morning when I’m fresh after breakfast. I’m not one of those people who can get up at 5 a.m. and be productive! I need my two cups of coffee and a good meal in me before the creative Muse hits.

Who was your favorite character to create?

This heroine, Kali McIntyre, was so much fun to create! I made her a rich girl but gave her enough spunk and nerve that she wasn’t spoiled or a stereotype. She has her own dreams and makes her own decisions, even if they’re not welcomed by everyone else in the story. She learns from her mistakes. And she wasn’t looking for love, which I think a lot of twenty-something’s worry about too much, so when she found it, it was that much sweeter.

Are you a plotter or a panster?

I’ve learned over the past five years to become a plotter. I come up with my characters first, and then figure out what their basic story is going to be, in broad strokes. Plotting out a simple outline and hitting the main turning points gives me a guideline to write towards on those days when my health problems are holding me back.

Also, even my publisher (who knows me) likes to get a synopsis of the book before offering a contract, so learning how to write a good synopsis is a wonderful skill to have in your toolbox. That means plotting your story out from beginning to end.

With NORTHERN HEARTS, I knew they had 30 days to figure out what they were going to do in regard to keeping or splitting the business between them, and I had 30 days to get them to fall in love. It was a fun problem to solve and I enjoyed writing it even though it didn’t have the danger elements my usual books entail.

Please share with us your favourite excerpt from NORTHERN HEARTS:

“He stopped himself from knocking on the closed office door, and entered, letting the door bang on the wall. Just enough to get Kali’s attention. Tripod settled into his corduroy dog bed under his desk.

Kali, however, was chattering away on the phone, her right hand bouncing up and down on the desk blotter, her entire body vibrating with excitement. When she hung up, she leaned back in the swivel chair and crowed out loud.

“Woot! I just made an order for one hundred pounds of veal and pork for Friday, November 30th!”

“Veal and pork? From where? And why?” Jake walked to the coffeemaker by the window and put in a dark roast pod, slamming down the lid. “Those are two of the most expensive meats you can buy, especially this time of year.”

Visions of their red balance sheet for December’s year end danced in front of his eyes.

“I know,” Kali smiled up at the ceiling, swiveling her chair side to side. “We’re going to make old-fashioned French tourtières – I have a fantastic Québécoise recipe – and if it’s too expensive, we’ll just cut the boar sausages from the menu. And the elk meatloaf.” She tapped her pen on her teeth. “I think we’ll add some Beef Wellington, too. Or, what do you think about using salmon instead?”

“You’re actually asking me for input?” He knew he sounded beyond irritated, but he’d never see her so wound up. Okay, she looked pretty this morning, like a cross between a princess and a New York power executive, with her dazzling blue eyes, blonde hair, and the new icy-blue fleece top she’d bought from Ruby’s. For the life of him, he’d never seen such a small woman with so much kinetic energy.

“I want to add avocados to the salade du l’hiver, as well.” She scribbled on a piece of paper.

“Avocados? We can’t afford avocados…Listen, first we need to talk about the Nativity sets.”

Her head bent over her work, she said, “What about them?”

He muttered a prayer under his breath and took a swig of scalding coffee. He noted the can of diet pop beside her computer. Huh. She’d given in to her caffeine addiction and coughed up the twenty-six dollars for a case of pop.

“Those Nativity sets are a Great Northern Lodge Christmas tradition. We have to put them out.”

“Why?” She kept writing, head down.

“Because, that’s what Cora did every year for the past forty-odd years, and people expect to see them. They were special to her. Little kids love coming to see them and touch them – some of them, anyway – and the staff is upset.

“The staff is upset? Whatever for?” Now, her head was up, those dazzling blue eyes staring at him.

“I believe you used some fighting words, such as old-fashioned, and tacky, and too religious.” He took another sip of hot coffee. Those eyes were killers. He wondered if she knew how attractive she was, or if someone with all her resources had known it since she was ten.”

©Laurie Wood 2019

You can buy NORTHERN HEARTS herehttps://amzn.to/33CFJeE

Thank you for being my guest today, Laurie. What’s next for you as an author?

This is Book 2 of my Heroes of the Tundra series. NORTHERN PROTECTOR, Book 3, came out last year.

Readers can keep their eyes out for NORTHERN REDEMPTION, Book 4, which will be out some time in 2023. It’s the story of Rory Gallagher, the brother of heroine Joy Gallagher from NORTHERN PROTECTOR. He owns a helicopter touring company in Churchill, Manitoba, and ends up trying to survive a crash with Lise Dumont, a Conservation Officer. They crash, get kidnapped, learn to do wilderness surgery, and have all kinds of fun!

I have a couple of other projects under way, and we’ll see where they land.

Where can readers find you online?

Readers can find me online here:

Website:  https://www.lauriewoodauthor.com 

Sign up for my monthly newsletter there!

   Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lauriewoodreadersgroup

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/LaurieJeanWood

Meet Author Laura Thomas

It’s Wednesday, November 9 and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. With Christmas only a few weeks away, it’s a great time to pick up a Christmas-themed book to read.

Today I’m interviewing author Laura Thomas about her newly released novella, The Christmas Cabin.

Laura, thank you for joining me today. Let’s start with you telling us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a published Christian author, and I write heartwarming encouragement for your soul—especially in my romantic suspense, teen fiction, marriage, and children’s books. I’m a certified hope*writers writing coach, and a chocoholic mom and lala, married to my high school sweetheart. Originally from the UK, we live in Kelowna, British Columbia, as audacious empty-nesters.

What is your book about?

The Christmas Cabin is a Christmas novella. It’s a stand-alone spin-off from my Christian romantic suspense “Flight to Freedom” series, published by Anaiah Press.

“When Carla James flies home for the holidays at her family’s cozy Canadian cabin, she has no idea what—or who—awaits. But after five years serving at her beloved Mexican orphanage, it’s time to work through forgiveness, face her fears, and reclaim Christmas. Up-and-coming chef, Rhys Templeton, still regrets leaving a heartbroken Carla in the past and is desperate to confess his truth and make amends. But her own shocking revelation has the potential to either send him spiraling back to his destructive lifestyle or into Carla’s arms.

However, someone else is privy to Carla’s chilling secret and they’re out there watching. Waiting. Wanting. Time is running out like melting snowflakes. And now, if Carla ever wants to see another Christmas, she needs all the grace and grit she can muster to trust the one who deserted her and the One who promised never to leave.”

What was the inspiration behind The Christmas Cabin?

When I wrote The Orphan Beach, the last book in the Flight to Freedom series, I knew there were opportunities for the story to continue—and quite honestly, I missed spending time with the characters! I’ve always wanted to write a Christmas novella, especially one set in my home province of British Columbia—after all, there is nothing quite like a Canadian white Christmas. In the last book, we briefly met Carla James as she worked at the Mexican orphanage. It just so happened that she was Canadian, and the perfect character to grow into a protagonist for The Christmas Cabin, so I flew her home for the holidays. Snow shoeing is one of my favorite winter activities, and my imagination often runs wild with suspenseful possibilities when my husband and I are out on the secluded mountain trails. Maybe not so much fun for him, but fantastic fodder for my storylines!

Were there any surprises that came up as you wrote your story?

Yes. Without giving anything away, I was surprised by something Rhys told Carla. Didn’t see that coming! Yet it added a whole other layer to the complexity of his situation and works wonderfully well. I also had no idea the solution to a specific problem would involve certain characters form a previous book. This is a stand-alone novella, but I think readers of my Flight to Freedom series will especially enjoy the ending!

The next question is one I always like to know the answers to. How did you come up with the names of your hero and/or heroine?

Carla was a secondary character in the previous book, and I chose to add the surname “James” after one of my sons. And then Rhys is named after one of my Welsh nephews—he absolutely loves Christmas and I decided it would be perfect to use his name for this book!

Let’s talk about your writing process.

Are you a night owl or morning person?

How I wish I were one or the other… but I am neither! I’ve never been able to burn the midnight oil as I enjoy my sleep too much, and I really do try to be a morning person, as much as I loathe the alarm. Weekdays, it wakes me at 6:30AM, which feels late when my “morning lark” husband has already been up all cheery and full of life for an hour, at least! Resuscitation by way of a cappuccino, time reading, and a shower help me on my way—although my best creative writing happens in the afternoon. We all have our quirks, right?

Are you a plotter or a panster?

I’m a plotter—but I always leave plenty of wriggle room. So, before I begin writing my manuscript, I like to have a question or theme in mind, and a decent plotline with broad strokes on where I see each chapter heading. I need the ending to be secured and I like to do a pretty deep dive with my main characters. However, I am always open to hearing from my characters as we go, and the storyline will definitely take some unexpected twists and turns… that’s when writing is so much fun!

If you didn’t write books, what would you do for a living?

This is such a good question—I have been stewing over it for a couple of days. I cannot imagine not writing. I started later in life and it’s become such a vital part of who I am. I’ve always adored books and I love story. Perhaps in another life, I would have gone the dancing or acting route to tell stories in other forms… but I am truly grateful to be doing what I was made to do: writing, coaching other writers, and reading a plethora of books!

Your novella, The Christmas Cabin, sounds like a wonderful read! Romance, suspense and Christmas, a great combination.

What’s next for you as an author?

Other than several on-going writing projects, I currently have my literary agent working to place my latest Christian romantic suspense novel, Captured in Frame. It’s a brand-new series set in the English countryside, so I’m going back to my roots!

Where can readers find you online?

My books, blog, writing coaching, monthly newsletter, and all my social media links can be found on my website:

www.laurathomasauthor.com