What is an author to do with her backlist, those books published before the newest ones? The ones she wrote more than a year ago that were good at the time but no longer among her best works. The ones some reviewers harshly label, “not her best”?
This question never occurred to me in my pre-author days. Occasionally, I’d run across a book or two that I didn’t think was as good as a particular author’s other books, but I never thought much about why. Maybe they weren’t having a good year. Or perhaps that book’s themes or characters didn’t appeal to me for whatever reason.
Never once did I think to check the publishing date.
My Publishing Journey
How did I get to where I am today? Easy. God tricked me. ~Carrie Daws
I’ve been asked many times how I got into publishing. My answer is always the same: God tricked me.
Now, some of you might prefer I use different words.
- God gently guided me into publishing.
- The Holy Spirit led me to write and then to publish.
- Our eternally beneficent Creator God directed my footsteps to Ambassador International where they kindly ushered me into the Publishing world.
God does guide, the Holy Spirit leads, God is beneficent, and the team at Ambassador is kind. But trust me, if I had known what the first ten years would look like, I’m not sure I would have willingly proceeded down this path.
Let’s start at the very beginning.
Well, maybe not the very beginning. Looking back, I see the tiny seeds of writing in middle school, not that I did anything with it back then. Born to Depression Era parents, being able to predictably support myself was heavily emphasized, and that didn’t include a career in the arts.
Fast forward about twenty years when I really started getting serious about God and His precepts, I started a small group at my church where we read nonfiction books together. This is where I took my first steps on this road, where the heavenly trickery began. After all, I loved to read, I wanted to learn more about God, and I was surrounded by ladies who did too. Meeting with other ladies just meant that I was forced to figure out how to balance growing spiritually into my life with three children under the age of six and a husband that was deployed to the field as much as he was home.
Then we got orders to another base. Step number two in God’s plan: One of the ladies suggested we take our little group online. After all, we all had email, right?
My path became more set.
Still clueless, I agreed. How hard could it be to take what we’d been doing online? Yeah, I was naive. But I took the steps to figure out my first website, which was monumental considering that at the time I did little more online than email.
And the ladies loved it. Other ladies started signing up to receive my little posts. Even one sweet lady from India who didn’t have easy access to Christian materials other than through email.
Because of this, I thought, perhaps, I should learn more about writing. Not that I was ever bad at it. In high school, I took the higher-level classes and rarely put in much effort (which explains why I still struggle to tell you what things like participles and determiners are, but that’s another discussion), but I always walked away with As and Bs.
Back to My Author’s Backlist
I enrolled in a two-year apprenticeship course that guided me through lessons on different kinds of writing with a published author as my guide. He read my assignments and offered suggestions for improvement. It was a lot of work but also encouraging and helpful.
Until I got to the lessons on fiction. That’s when my mentor suggested I write a book. My mind countered that I was a devotion writer. I kept things short and sweet. Easy for ladies to digest in tiny bits of time. And fiction writing was tough, detailed, and required lots of research. But the idea wouldn’t release me and I began writing what you know as Crossing Values, finally published at the beginning of 2011.
It’s not the book I would write today.
As I write this, I’m re-reading through the Crossing series because I’m preparing to write follow-on stories based on the three babies introduced within those first four books. I need to remember details like how big the town is, what streets I named, and exactly what color of hair and eyes I gave everyone.
But as I read through my backlist I’m also cringing. Thankfully, I’ve grown as I’ve written. My editor assures me that I’m getting better, and I can see big, positive changes in my writing today over what I published in 2011. That’s a good thing.
But what do I do with Crossing? Readers still find it and like it. The books still contain truth that readers need to hear. But I hesitate to push it out there for the masses to read.
Then again, I’m basing a new series upon its foundations. And many readers will want to read everything about Crossing they can find. But will they continue on to the newer books after reading my first one, the one that feels so much less than what I would write today? Am I being too hard on that first book because I can see growth in areas that only kind of matter to many readers? Oh, the conundrum.
Every artist was first an amateur. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I suppose my musings here are nothing more than to help all of us remember that artists tend to get better over time, just like people in every other field. As spouses and parents, machinists and gardeners, lawyers and accountants, we all, hopefully, know more today than we did last year and the year before that.
But that doesn’t make what we accomplished before today substandard or worthless. My backlist hasn’t lost value as I’ve grown as a writer. Less doesn’t necessarily equate to valueless. It’s just . . . less.
Crossing Values. Yes, my first book, and you now better understand my complex thoughts about it. While it’s not up to my current standards, it is a sweet story of healing and hope.
She avoids relationships, but this family challenges her view of God.
For years, Amber traipsed around the Northwest avoiding the skeletons in her closet. Job-hopping every few weeks, she refuses to let anyone get close to her, protecting herself from the pain that relationships bring. As winter plants itself firmly across the Rockies, though, she decides to take a chance on a job at a logging company with a family different from any she’s ever known.
But is this family genuine?
Watching the family interact creates more questions than answers for Amber. The adults love to spend time with each other and dote on the little ones. Even more mysterious, the parents treat the married spouses like their own children and carefully keep watch on employees and friends.
Feeling like she’s entered the happily-ever-after written at the end of fairytales, Amber watches for cracks in the façade. Surely as the days pass, the play-acting will cease and the real family will emerge.
Or could she be wrong? Could this family hold the key to what she’s seeking?
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