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Aug 11, 2020

So, we were supposed to be going over the final story mashups and retellings with Sandy Barela, but then something happened today that changed all that.

For the past four weeks, I've been putting my bestselling series, Past Forward, free.  This serial novel comprises six volumes and over half a million words. Well, since I put Volume 1 free again for five days, I decided to ask readers from my Facebook reader group to give me a line or two about what they liked about it. One gal said this:

Willow was in a 20+ year quarantine. She not only survived, she thrived and gives us a lot to think about.

How One Simple Comment Inspired This Episode

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How One Simple Comment Inspired This Episode

Let's talk serial novels.

First, what is a serial novel?  Well, if you've ever read Dickens or Sherlock Holmes, you've probably read what was originally a "serial novel"--a novel told in increments and released at regular (or it should be) intervals. Past Forward was originally released that way.  Each week, readers would get a free episode of about 3 or 4 chapters.

Past Forward CollectionOnce the entire series was written, those episodes were compiled into "volumes" that were each the length of a regular novel. Finally, those volumes were compiled into two collections of three volumes each (And Collection 1 is just 1.99 through 8/12/2020).  Eventually, those broke off into other serials like HearthLand and the current serial in progress, The Vintage Wren.  Note: we'll be continuing Cassie this fall!  Sorry for the delay but it's been a year, okay?

Back to Willow.  She resonates with people, you know?  

I think this is because:

  • She’s content
  • She’s intentional about her life
  • They made a point of infusing beauty into everything
  • They didn’t “worship at the feet” of the all-mighty time-saving god. (I really did put in a note that said, "be nice, Chautona" right there.

There are a couple of quotes from the book that people often repeat, and they show why people are drawn to and inspired by Willow.

Regarding time:

After dinner, he watched as she washed the dishes with hot water from the tap but lit an oil lamp when the room darkened. The soap she used to wash the dishes was a grey mixture she poured from a jar on the back of the sink, which he learned they’d made themselves.

“Do you make all of your soap?”

“Yes. Mother has recipes for every kind of soap. Dishwashing, laundry, skin, hair…”

“Will you continue to make it or will you buy soap now?”

She eyed him curiously, as she hung the kitchen towel on the rack and untied her apron. The apron surprised him. He hadn’t seen anyone wear an apron for years. Her answer surprised him more.

“Why would I buy something so easy to make? What would I do with my soap making time?”

Regarding rest:

She notices her rug is old and worn and she needs to make a new one, but can’t figure out how her mother had planned big projects like that. She needs to read her mother’s journals to figure it out, but she feels like she doesn’t have time (maybe that soapmaking time, huh?) but there’s a natural resistance to that. It goes like this:

Her mother’s voice echoed through her thoughts, tugging a weak smile from her lips. Every day needs its Sabbath. She’d heard those words every time she tried to fill her evenings with anything that could be construed as work. Evenings were for anything but needs—a time to relax and rejuvenate before the next day.

People often tell me that they would like to be Willow.

After talking with hundreds of readers over the past eight or so years, I realized that it isn’t always the hobby farm life that people want. They want that intentionality—that lack of rushed living. Inspired by her diligence, they want to feel like they’ve done what Thoreau talked about. He said in his book Walden,

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

And I think that idea is what actually resonates so well with people. 

In a similar way to Willow and Past Forward , other books have inspired me like this.

Lindsay Harrel's book The Joy of Falling inspired me to honor my husband now while he's alive. Show that appreciation today.  You can see more about that in Episode 10.

And Heather Woodhaven's book, Secret Life of Book Club taught me much about myself. You can learn more about that in Episode 11.

Finally, I thought of it last minute, but in Episode 2, I gush about Pepper Basham's book, Jane by the Book . But that book (as well as her others) taught me a lot about romance. (Actually, now that I think of it, so did T.I. Lowe's book Driftwood Dreams. You can listen to that gush in Episode 15 )  And review HERE.)  These romances really got me thinking about a book I was writing and helped me do two things.

  1. They inspired me to examine my own life (Heather Woodhaven's was a part of that, too) and see just how honest I am about my opinions on romance and
  2. They helped me see where my character got her issues.

I promised a few links and I have another one for you as well.

  • Past Forward Volume 1 (Free through 8/14/2020)
  • Past Forward Collection 1 (includes Volumes 1-3 and just 1.99 through 8/12/2020)
  • Free Kindle Books and Tips is featuring Past Forward Volume 1 today.  I get their daily emails and have found books I don't think I ever would have seen before if I hadn't gotten those emails.  Not all the books are "my kind of book" but Michael does have a "no erotica" and "no too sexualized" cover policy which makes it nice.
  • is a great place to find Christian podcasts that will help you keep the faith!

inspired by willow

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