Just One Thing, Writing

A Story About the Story

On October 15, my alarm woke me up at 6:00am. I spent some time reading my Bible and talking to God, then rolled out of bed to get ready for the day. I worked from 8:00am until 5:00pm, met a friend for dinner, recorded a video, and watched the newest episode of This is Us.

All of that is pretty standard for a Tuesday. Except for one more thing: My second book released into the world.

October 15 will forever be a milestone day. Not just because it’s the day I became multi-published, but because it’s a day I wasn’t sure would come.

See, All of This released in July of 2015. Before that happened, I’d already outlined a sequel for it. But then grad school happened and a lot of other life things happened and there were many days I just wanted to quit. Not because I didn’t believe in the story or because I didn’t love the characters, but because it was just so difficult.

I wanted to tell a story that was even stronger than the first one. Readers had expectations of what they hoped would happen in a sequel. You all knew my writing style from the first book. I wanted to write something that exceeded all of those expectations. For me, that was even more pressure than launching a first book into the world. Plus, there are a thousand details that take place behind the scenes in publishing. Most of which we as readers never even hear about.
But the story stayed in my heart. The characters kept talking, insisting they had things to say. And God kept reminding me that He wasn’t done with my writing.

Over several months, I assembled a team: an editor, a designer, early readers. I worked through all those other behind-the-scenes things like ISBNs and LCCNs and copyright. And I prayed.

On July 4th, my designer sent the book cover to me. This was exactly four years from when a designer sent my first book cover to me. Crazy timing.

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On September 21, I returned to my hometown to sign books at a festival. While at my local bookstore, the owner and I discussed a book release party. Then we looked at the calendar…annd scheduled a party for 3 weeks later. The cool thing about it was that the party would happen four days before the book actually released. That meant that people who came to the party could take home a copy early.

The only thing was, at that point, the book hadn’t gone to print yet. We were still working through some technical details. So when I got home from the event, I quickly finished up details and ordered a proof copy. You guys, I did a lot of praying that the proof copy would turn out okay and that all the books would arrive on time because maybe it’s just me, but I’m thinking a book release party without any books would be a flop. DSC_0590.jpg

The books arrived, and we celebrated with a release party on October 12…Exactly 4 years and 2 days since the last book release party (Because of the whole moving-two-states-away and starting grad school thing, my last book release party happened a couple months after the book actually came out. 0/10 do not recommend doing all those things at once).

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Y’all, the party was a blast. We had apple cider and little book cookies and giveaways and a signing. I got to see people whom I hadn’t seen in years—including two professors from college who walked me through the creation of the first book.

It was a whirlwind of a weekend, but oh, so fun.

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Then I returned back to North Carolina and the book officially released that Tuesday.

As I’m drafting this post, I’m sitting on a plane heading west for a cousin’s wedding. It’s another full circle moment for me, because Sadie’s story began with a girl getting off a plane in a new place.

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There’s a verse I held onto during the editing stage of Just One Thing, when I felt like it could all fall apart at any minute:

“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.” -Proverbs 16:9

I held that verse as a reminder that, yeah, I have so many expectations and plans for my life, but it’s God who makes each step of my life happen. He’s the One who decides if and when I release a book.

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Sometimes it happens right after you graduate college in a crazy series of events. And sometimes it happens after you sense God telling you to take a break for a bit. Either way, it’s all in His hands.

And now, over a month after Just One Thing released, I can’t help but smile. I get to share this story with you, and that’s just the best ever.

Anna

P.S. I haven’t been very active on the blog lately, but I’m over on Instagram and Facebook all the time. I love mini-blogging on those platforms and keeping you all up to date. If we’re not friends over there, find me and say hi! :)

Book party photos courtesy of Ruth Anne Crews.

Just One Thing, Writing

COVER REVEAL: Just One Thing

It’s finally here! The cover for Just One Thing! 

Can I admit something to you? This book almost didn’t exist. For starters, I didn’t originally plan on writing a sequel to All of This…but then, before AoT was even published, my dear friend Em and I took a trip to Seattle. I outlined Just One Thing on the flight home.

That was five years ago.

All of This released in July 2015. In August 2015, I moved away from home to go to graduate school in North Carolina. Turns out, a master’s degree kinda eats up your free time, so I paused the new book.

In May 2018, I graduated with my MA, began a full-time job, and dusted the cobwebs off of the story. I tweaked the plot, strengthened the characters, and poured stuff I’d learned during grad school into the manuscript.

I also made sure it could stand alone as its own story. So although it’s technically a sequel, you don’t have to know All of This in order to step into Sadie’s world through Just One Thing.

Today, in July 2019, we’re weeks away from the release of Just One Thing. In fact, as I write this, the manuscript is with my designer, getting the pretty chapter headings and everything all in place. It’s almost here.

But for now, I’d like to show you the cover, designed by the amazing Roseanna White. I’ll also share the synopsis.

Please feel free to share about the book – that will help out a lot!

Thank you for reading, friends!

P.S. The most popular question I’ve gotten from readers since All of This released is: “Does Sadie stay in Pecan Creek or go back to Seattle?”

This’ll answer that question ;)

And now, allow me to introduce you to Just One Thing…

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Sadie Franklin wants to move on, but first she must return to everything she wants to forget. 

Senior year in Seattle is the perfect chance for a former party girl to start over, right? All she has to do is build a relationship with her detached father, make decent grades, and avoid her ex-friends. Oh, and convince everyone she really has changed. Easy peasy.

The first chance she gets, she wants to hop on the next flight back to Pecan Creek, Georgia. Although the tea there is sweet enough to give her cavities, at least the people love her and believe she has a purpose bigger than her painful past. 

Sadie meets a new friend looking for her own fresh start, who shows Sadie the value of true friendship and reminds her there’s always more to a person’s story than what’s on display.

But figuring out the next step is messy, and it’s hard to change a reputation. An after-school job, constant arguments with her dad, and an undefined relationship with the wonderfully annoying Georgia guy who won her heart only add to the crazy.

When tragedy collides with Sadie’s carefully re-built life, she learns that trusting in a God she can’t see is more difficult than she ever imagined. 

Is starting over worth the cost?

All of This, God Talks, Writing

What’s Your Cover Copy?

I’m writing theIMG_5369 back cover copy for my newest book. Basically, that’s the little description you find on a book when you flip it over. It’s like a mini synopsis of the story, but it doesn’t give away all of the details…it gives readers just enough information to make them want them to read the whole thing.

It’s tricky because you have a little bit of space to work with. You have to decide which plot points and characters need to be mentioned, and which ones need to stay hidden. You have to show the voice/personality of the story, while also keeping it polished.

Here’s the back cover copy of All of This

Sadie Franklin is all about independence, but when one of her popular parties gets too crazy, her usually uninvolved dad sends her across the country to spend the summer with relatives.

Living in small-town Pecan Creek, Georgia, is culture shock for a girl from Seattle, and it doesn’t help that Sadie’s aunt and uncle are total church people. Sunday school? No, thanks.

Add a houseful of little cousins, an accidental friendship with the preacher’s daughter of all people, and the attention of a guy who might actually understand her murky past, and it’s enough to cue an identity crisis.

When life-altering news rocks Sadie’s world and reveals messy family secrets, she’s forced to face the God she’s avoided since her mom’s death eight years ago. Sadie is surrounded by people who say God loves her and has great plans for her life, but if God is really good, why does He let Sadie’s life unravel? Could there really be a purpose in all of this?

See how Sadie is the only character who’s actually named? There are several other people in the book, but it’s her show. Also, see how some things are mentioned but not completely explained? Like, who is the “guy who might actually understand her murky past?” If you’ve read the book, you’ll know. But if you dive into it for the first time, that’s something you figure out as you go.

The back cover copy also shows the theme of the book. Look at that question at the end of the last paragraph: “Could there really be a purpose in all of this?”

And finally, the back cover copy lets you know the character’s journey isn’t going to be easy. There will be conflict in the pages – with uncontrollable circumstances, with other people, and within the main character herself.

So that’s what I’m working on with this next book. No, it’s not getting shopped around for publication yet, but making the back cover copy is part of the process. Sadie will be the focus again, but I have to decide what parts of the story to share with people. I have to ask myself: What other characters do I mention? Which plot points do I include? How do I incorporate the theme?

To sum it up, the back cover copy is a quick glance at a much deeper story.

Fun fact: This post isn’t actually about writing. As I was thinking through the back cover copy for my project, it made me wonder: how would I honestly sum up my own life? If I were to write a back cover copy for The Life of Anna Schaeffer (still working on a title for my pretend memoir), what would I include? Who would I include? Which details of my life story would I mention? What gets to the heart of who I really am?

Naturally, I’d put my faith on there. But if I were being honest about the conflict in my life, how would that look on the copy? Would it say I don’t always pray like I should? Would it say I love Jesus, but sometimes I struggle to step out of my comfort zone?

What about my relationships with others? Would it say I’m a loyal friend, a daughter who honors her parents, a good sister?

What would be the theme of my story? The thread woven throughout the pages of my journey?

It’s a lot to think through, I know. But I think it’s good for us to evaluate our life like that – to take an honest look at what others see when they interact with us.

I pray the back cover copy of my life story points to Jesus. I pray it reads that no, I don’t have it all together, but Jesus holds me together. My hope is that others see grace as that theme woven throughout my story. And I pray that snapshot of my life and His grace makes others want to learn more about the theme.

What about you? What would be in the back cover copy of your life?

Travel, Writing

Where He Walked

This past winter, I had the life-changing opportunity to visit Israel. Just days after Christmas, I sat in a cave in the shepherds’ field outside of Bethlehem and sang “O Come All Ye Faithful.” I went on a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, and I stood in the empty tomb.

I’ve always said if I could go anywhere in the world, I’d go to the Holy Land. It’s not an exaggeration to say I’ll never be the same after that trip.

I was asked to write an article about it for Southeastern Magazine, the publication produced by my alma mater (I’m still getting used to saying that!). It was an honor to pen these words, but it was also overwhelming to try to express just what it felt like to walk where Jesus walked. I’m so thankful for all of it.

Here’s a link to the article:

Click here to read “Where He Walked” – it begins on page 29. 

 

All of This, Writing

Open Hands

Three years ago, I published All of This, a young adult novel. Before the book even came out – pretty much the day after I finished revising the story – I wrote a sequel. That was three years ago.

For three years, I’ve known what happens after that final sentence in All of This. For three years, I’ve had the answers to the biggest questions readers are left wondering about.

Three years ago, I began writing a story that challenged me more as a writer than any other manuscript I’d written. I delved deeper into the mind of my main character and wrote some storylines that freaked me out a little because I wondered if I’d be able to pull them off.

I’ve loved that new project for three years, and I had plans to have it in the hands of readers long before now.

But then I felt God nudging me to grad school, and I moved away from home for the first time.

I stepped onto campus as a full-time Masters student and quickly learned that’s a whole other level than earning a bachelor’s degree. I found a local church, began to serve there, and joined a small group. I picked up a couple part time jobs. I grew friendships. I wrote guests posts for my school’s women’s blog, I spoke about writing in a few classes, I traveled, and I did everyday life stuff like cooking and cleaning and learning to keep plants alive (still working on that last one).

But I never forgot about that writing project.

For a while, I tried to work on it here and there. After all, the story was told – it just needed some work to make it look like an actual book. But homework kept me up late into the night and classes got me up early each morning.

I was so frustrated. When I’m not writing, I don’t fully feel like myself. I really thought I was supposed to tell that story, and I prayed about it. But I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t make it happen.

Then a little while ago, I realized something: Maybe God was asking me to trust Him with my dreams. Maybe He wanted my full attention on studying ministry during my time in seminary. Maybe He wanted to grow me in other areas, allow me to live new experiences, teach me my identity isn’t found in my author title.

When I realized that, I did something difficult: I stepped away.

I still thought about the story I loved so much. Still jotted some notes down here and there. But I didn’t consistently spend time with the manuscript. And while that bothered me a lot, it also felt like relief.

See, I had to learn to live with open hands. I had to put the story – and my heart for writing – in my outstretched palms and hold it out to God. I had to say, “Even if I never get to share this story with readers. Even if my life takes me in a different direction. You know my heart and you designed me with this passion on purpose. So  I trust you.”

Even if…I trust You.

And that’s how I’m slowly learning to live. Not just with storytelling, but with all things.

I like to feel a sense of control. A lot. But there’s freedom in knowing it’s not up to you to hold it all together. And if your faith is in Christ, you have solid hope that He knows what He’s doing and He has His glory and your ultimate good in mind.

I had to learn to be okay with answering people’s questions with, “I honestly don’t know when the story will be finished. I’m focusing on school right now.”

Which felt weird to say because I wrote two manuscripts while I was a full-time college student – one of which became All of This. Letting go of the story also went against the writing advice we hear all the time: “Just keep writing. Write something every day. If if matters to you, you’ll make time for it.”

All of that can be really great advice. But when you’ve given your life to living God’s plan for you, the best advice is to trust. To give your dreams and plans and projects to Him and trust Him to use them however He wants.

Now that I’ve said all of that…I’ve graduated. I have my diploma in my apartment. I’m not spending my evenings with my nose in a commentary. I’m going to bed at a reasonable time (who even am I??).

And I’m writing again.

I’ve dusted off that sequel, and I’m diving into it as often as I can. I’ve learned some things over the past few years that I’m able to pour into the story to make it stronger. I have a renewed sense of purpose for it, more energy to rearrange scenes and fill in plot holes, and even more of a desire to get the story into the hands of readers.

I don’t know what’s next for this project. I don’t have any ideas about when it’ll be completely done or how it’ll be published or when you’ll read it.

But honestly? That doesn’t scare me as much now. Because I’ve recently been reminded of why I do what I do in the first place: To point to King Jesus in all things.

It’s all by His grace and for His glory.

Question: Have you ever set something aside for a season, even though you loved it? What did you learn from the experience?

IMG_5197The first printed copy of my latest manuscript – ready for some serious editing!

All of This, Writing

Happy 1st Birthday All of This!

On July 25, 2015, All of This was released to the world. I had some things I needed to get booknew-pages.pngorganized before I announced the release, but it popped up on all of the retail sites on the 25th (surprise!). Then, on July 31, my littlest sister and I made a video announcing the release.

Leading up to the debut, I posted quotes and story snippets…but I first mentioned the story back on June 13, 2013Three years ago.

It’s been a journey, friends. Three years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. And today? I’ve learned so much about writing and publishing and marketing, but I still have pretty much no idea what I’m doing. It’s an adventure that is challenging, wonderful, and wonderfully challenging. There have been days when I just wanted to quit, and days where I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything other than writing stories my whole life.

Every time I sign a copy of All of This, I include Romans 8:28, which says:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV, emphasis added)

Purpose. That’s the theme of all of this…and the theme of All of This.

Nothing is wasted. A thread of grace runs through our lives. God ties all of our loose ends together. He weaves the beautiful and the sorrowful, the easy and the difficult, into something that shows the world who He is. He is the author of life and breath and faith and love. I write to tell His story – the true story of a God who loves us so much He died to reunite us with Himself.

So here’s a quick look back at the journey All of This has taken…from the blog post in which I first told you all I was writing a novel, to now as I glance over at my bookshelf and see a copy of All of This – tangible proof that God’s dreams for our lives are worth it all.

Click on the links below to follow the journey! 

Image Gallery:

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Happy 1st birthday, All of This. And thank you to you, dear readers, for following my life story and my Sadie’s journey. Let’s all stay tuned for whatever comes next :)

For His glory,
Anna

New to All of This and want to learn more about the story, as well as how to get a copy? Click here!

All of This, Writing

All of This–Update and Quote!

So…I have news! The edits for All of This are FINISHED. That means there’s no more rewording, rewriting, revising, or re-whatevers. It’s all done. The next step doesn’t involve me as an author, as the book is with the design team. They’re currently making it look like an actual book.

This author is currently experiencing a case of the crazies because:

1) She’s now an actual author.

2) People are super close to reading her words.

3) There’s no turning back.

4) There’s a possibility I stress-drink coffee. Caffeine is wild stuff, y’all.

While all of this is happening to All of This,  I’m thinking through ways to market the story because the book people tell me this is necessary.

AND! I’m making little teaser quotes to share leading up to the book release. It’s fun because I’m pulling everything from serious quotes to random quotes to what-was-I-thinking-when-I-wrote-that quotes.

That’s what I’m doing, but what can you do? Word of mouth travels far (I grew up in Small-town, Southern USA, so I know this full well), so talking about the book release and sharing quotes on your social media accounts and in real life will help this book gain some traction. Also sharing my blog posts will help get it all out there because I’ll have links and bonus content on the blog.

There’s also prayer, which has been a huge part of this process from the first time I sat down at my laptop with a tiny “what-if?” idea. Praying for this project and the people it will potentially reach will mean more to me than I can even express.

I promise to do my best to keep you all updated! Before long, I’ll be able to share the back-cover stuff (which will really introduce you to my girl and her world), behind-the-scenes info, and other things currently chilling on my to-do list.

But for now, here’s a quote for you. Know that your support is a blessing, whether you’ve followed this journey for years, or you’re just now jumping in.

– Anna

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