A new year is a great time to look back. To take stock. To see where you've been and if the roads you chose took you to an expected destination or kept you wandering around in confusion for a while. So that's what I'm doing tonight - looking back at the writing roads I went down.
Some good things happened in my writing life last year. Some very good things and one of those was seeing Angel Sister released and in readers' hands. Since the publishers were interested in getting my Shaker books out there to readers to build the interest in those, Angel Sister had simmered on a back burner at the publishing house for a couple of years. I understood why and agreed that it was best, but at the same time I wanted the story to be in book form. That's how writers are. We always want to see every one of our stories between attractive covers and on store shelves enticing readers to take them home. For sure, Revell came up with a great cover for Angel Sister. I love having Lorena on the cover and the look on her face is perfect too.
So I was thrilled when my copy arrived hot off the press early in 2011, and I could start talking about this story. This book is extra special to me because of how the background is based on my mom's stories about growing up during the Great Depression. Readers and reviewers started talking about it too. RT Book Review Magazine made it a Top Pick for February and eventually picked it as one of ten nominees for Inspirational Book of the Year. The book got a mention in two national magazines and the reviews were almost all positive. The Night Owl Book Review in April by Books4Betty may very well be the best review I've ever gotten for any book. Here's a bit excerpted from it I am going to shamelessly share with you even as I blush a little from the high praise.
"Angel Sister, the beautifully molded and eloquently crafted novel by author Ann H. Gabhart is worthy of more than five-stars. If I could give this a “priceless” or “epic” or “must read” I would, and I will.
After the first couple of pages, I was hooked completely and drawn into this powerful novel about a family; not just a family, but a family from the Depression Era. The dry, and hot, backdrop of a Kentucky summer is wonderfully and majestically written. I felt like I needed to fan myself because of the heat permeating from the pages. The summer days, long and so full of hot moisture is a surprising character in this novel. From morning until late in the evening, Gabhart does an amazing job with using the Kentucky landscape as her canvas. She beautifully painted in each aspect. I could see, smell, and feel every summery stroke.""
And she goes on from there. You can see the whole review at Night Owls Reviews if you're interested. It's a very good review. So good it almost makes my head spin or maybe wonder if it was really MY book she read. And it puts the pressure on. A bad review you can shrug off with an oh well. But a great review like this has you thinking well, okay maybe I did get the right words down that time, but can I ever do it as well again? Only a writer like me could find something to worry about in a positive review like that. (Sigh)
But having Angel Sister in reserve and then out in February let more good things happen. It meant I could publish two books in one year. I know a lot of writers manage even more books a year, but I'm a slow writer. Two in one year for me is amazingly good. So it was extra nice to have July roll around and see The Blessed release. I never planned to write more than three books set in my Shaker village of Harmony Hill. But then Lacey popped up in my imagination. I planned for her to be a minor character in my Shaker book, The Seeker. But she came so alive in my imagination and had such a great story that I decided to tell all her story and The Blessed was the result. I really liked Lacey and being able to write with her voice filling the pages. The Blessed got some good reviews too. Here's an excerpt from Single Titles posted by Donna in August. " With the Shaker way of life as backdrop, personal tragedies are overcome, forgiveness is given and a love story develops in spite of the restrictions and taboos of the Shaker beliefs. Beautifully written, history comes to life and a completely different lifestyle is exposed by the gifted pen of Ann H. Gabhart. Informative and inspiring, THE BLESSED, should not be missed." Single Titles
Okay, I won't keep wallowing in praise. Although it is good to know I managed to tell a story that others are enjoying. Very good. Some of the best encouraging words are in e-mails that readers send to let me know they enjoyed one of my books.
So that was my publishing year. I managed to write another Shaker book and sign a contract for a follow-up to Angel Sister. That's where that great review above is making me choke a little. But each book is different with a different story to tell. Also I discovered with my Hollyhill books that a reviewer liking one of the books doesn't guarantee he or she will like others in the series. I have to not worry about the reviewers. All I have to worry about while I'm writing is telling my characters' stories. If I do it right, then maybe you will want to share those characters' story too. If I don't do it right, I'm sure somebody will tell me.
Tonight I looked back at my writing trail in 2011. Sunday I plan to look ahead to 2012. I hope you are looking back with fondness and ahead with hope this January. Thanks so much for reading. And for the comments you leave. What trails did you follow last year?