Published – Year One

My debut novel, Winter Seedlings, went live on Amazon one year ago today. Today is my 1st Author Birthday!

I look back at the past year and I am overwhelmed with what looks like amazing accomplishments. I published two novels and two novellas (one as only e-book format).

The amount of hours spent on getting those books to publication well exceeds what I would have worked at a “regular” job, not to mention that I invested my own money at every turn. Did I make enough money to warrant all that? Hell no.

Want to be an indie author? You better have another source of income.

But let’s not dwell on the negatives. It’s a celebration! My title of Author is now officially one year old! Winter Seedlings is also one year old! (And if you haven’t read it yet, you can get it at a discounted price until Friday because it’s a celebration!)

I reflect back on how far I have come (or not), and think it might be useful to make a list of what I have learned and the changes which have occurred. I’m curious to see how this list grows and changes next year.

  1. I no longer believe that writing a good book will = having a lot of sales.
  2. Diversity in books is a great movement, but not necessarily a financially profitable one for authors (<— not saying it isn’t worth it for other reasons.)
  3. Stories set in Appalachia very much appeal to readers in Appalachia, not so much everywhere else.
  4. It’s important to have a high quality book cover that reflects the tone of the story, but you’ll be lucky to earn back the money you spent to pay for it.
  5. Being honest and vulnerable when telling a story may mean the story becomes something other than mainstream. Do it anyway. Accessing painful truths is what takes one’s writing from tinkering to art.
  6. Straight people can read and enjoy, with empathy, stories about LGBTQIA characters. Even in Appalachia.
  7. When someone takes the time to tell you they loved your words, whether on a blog post, a poem, or a published work; value them endlessly. Don’t be creepy; but seriously, do not take them for granted.
  8. Know why you write. Type your reason. Print it out. Tape it to the wall so you see it every single day. Without keeping focus on *your* reason, you risk being swept up in other people’s reasons. You’ll start to compare yourself with Stephen King when you don’t even like horror. Stop.
  9. Edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, seriously edit. Edit in every single room of the house, on every different device you own, even hang upside down to try to see it differently and then edit the damn thing one more time.
  10. This journey is not about what you get out of it. This journey is about what you give the world. If it’s not saying something new, pushing a little harder than is usually pushed, or offering a better understanding of something often misunderstood… why do it at all?

And with that, I’m going to end this blog post and get back to writing my *next* novel. Look for it in early 2016. Until then, consider buying my other books:

Books by Julie Roberts Towe

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I’m Writing a Prequel to Winter Seedlings

I am writing, right now (relatively speaking), a prequel to my Winter Seedlings book series.

The main reason I am doing this is because I want to offer a permanently free novella (e-book only) to introduce the Winter Seedlings characters and get new readers familiar with my writing.

My second reason for writing a prequel is to give Allie her own voice. If you are familiar with Winter Seedlings, you know Allie is the best friend and love interest of my main character. She makes a lot of mistakes and they are not little mistakes. Allie makes huge, irreversible mistakes. But most readers have pointed out that even though these things happen, they understand why Allie does what she does. So, I don’t know that Allie *needs* her own book.

But then, yes, she does. In Winter Seedlings, Jute tells the reader what Allie is like. The reader witnesses Allie doing exactly what Jute predicts she will do. But does Jute know all there is to know about Allie? No, she doesn’t.

So, my readers are pretty excited to read from Allie’s POV and I am excited to write it. Actually, I already have. In a single week I cranked out over 20,000 words (it’s a novella, remember). I have only the finishing touches to filling in some scenes and a ton of editing before it’s ready to publish.

The tricky thing, though, which I realize as I edit, is how to satisfy my readers who are wanting “more Winter Seedlings” and avoid spoilers for new readers. Much of what is revealed about Allie in Winter Seedlings happens over time in the book and it wouldn’t be the same if the reader is already aware of the specifics of her life. But those specifics exist and I can’t pretend they don’t.

Jute thinks Allie is desperate for men’s approval. We see Allie play out this role again and again. But maybe there is a twist which will not negate Jute’s POV. Maybe Jute is right about what Allie wants, but wrong about her reasons for wanting it.

Keeping this balance is a real challenge. But I love challenges and I love these characters. So, look for this novella to be out before the end of summer. If you want to know more about Jute and Allie before then, you can always read Winter Seedlings in the meantime.

Books by Julie Roberts Towe

Winter Seedlings Book Series

The final novel in the Winter Seedlings book series has been released. Winter Suns debuted as #60 on Amazon in the category of Women’s Fiction: Christian. It is not a Christian book, but has a lot of Christian keywords in the text and description because the Main Character was abused by a man who used the Bible to justify his actions. His beliefs would have placed him in a Christian cult more than anything similar to how Christianity is normally practiced. But thanks to Amazon, and those who purchased the book on pre-order, I am technically a bestseller. I do not, however, feel accomplished. That will not happen until I start to get some feedback and hear what people think of it.

Winter Suns is a story of the next generation after Winter Seedlings, with the common theme of childhood sexual abuse. There are certainly many characters dealing with it in many different ways. Book one ends on a sort of bittersweet note. So, I wanted to make sure Winter Suns came through with a little more hope at the end. I think if it’s ever made into a movie, The Beatle’s “Here Comes the Sun” should play as the credits roll.

About John (from Winter Seedlings/Winter Suns)

Winter Suns, the second book in the Winter Seedlings series, is written from two rotating points of view. One of those belongs to John. I’m going to tell you about him and make every effort not to include spoilers for either book.

John is a teenager living in an abuse shelter which is really a huge Victorian farm house in Nashville, Tennessee. His mother runs it through an organization she has formed with her sister. He has lived in the abuse shelter since he was six years old. The farm on which it sits was purchased by his father who lives in a ten bedroom house built on the hill. Though John’s father had been homeless and unemployed when he met John’s mother, he is now wealthy and famous, as sometimes happens in Nashville.

There are two men John refers to as “Dad”. One is really his father, the other man is his father’s partner who has been in his father’s life since John was born. John’s mother and his two fathers have built a sheltered world where they can exist as the unique family they have become.

In an effort to keep John from being teased or bullied about having such a unique family, his parents send him to a private school. But nothing can protect John from kids pretending to be his friends just to get close to his dad. John learns to value honesty and true friendship. He weeds out the people who only see him as his father’s son, which leaves him with very few friends.

At the start of Winter Suns, John is almost sixteen years old. After a decade of living in a house with constant new arrivals of abused women and their children, John has come to despise the sound of crying. He understands why his mom does what she does. He is even, deep down, proud of her. But, the constant sounds of misery has made him nearly immune to it. Not only is he tired of the crying, he also resents the women for taking so much of his mother’s time and attention.

With his father gone on tour and his mother constantly providing therapy, heading group meetings, and preparing meals for the women, John feels ignored. His father’s partner works unusual shifts as a police officer and sometimes sleeps in the day, so going to the big house isn’t always an option.

John does get enjoyment out of working with Ellis, an old man who leases the land for hay, horses, and to grow pumpkins. John views the farm work as a means to get away from all the women, as well as a way to build up his muscles. He’s not very happy about ending up with more of his mother’s genes than his father’s.

John has lived his entire life around the richest kids in Nashville as well as those in most need. He can clearly see that he wants no part of either lifestyle. He really wants, more than anything, for his family to spend more time together, laugh together, and go places together.

He doesn’t know it at the beginning of Winter Suns, but his family hasn’t only been protecting him, they have also been protecting his mother. In their efforts to protect her, they have kept secrets from John. When John discovers these secrets, he feels even more alienated.

The day a backwoods girl from Kentucky shows up at their door and knows more about his mother’s past than he does, John’s life gets turned upside down. At first he sees her as just another abused girl, another woman to take his mother’s attention. But his expertise at tuning out other people’s pain doesn’t seem to work with her. He actually feels sorry for her, and maybe something more. His reaction to her scares him; his fear makes his resentment greater.

This girl says she wants nothing, but maybe he is right to think his life will never be the same.

Get the books here: http://www.amazon.com/Julie-Roberts-Towe/e/B00O6U2N1E/

Writing about Childhood Sexual Abuse

1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
[Click here for more child sexual abuse statistics.]

There are many ways to process this information. Just the idea of childhood sexual abuse brings images to mind which are unsettling. We probably think of stories we have heard on the news, or a friend who confidentially divulged their darkest secret to us, or perhaps our own painful memories. What comes to mind is the act of abuse and we find it hard to divert our eyes, like seeing an accident on the road. We look at it in awe of its terribleness. We may even feel compelled to act to prevent the abuse, report it, or beat the shit out of the perpetrator. Almost all the feels we feel about childhood sexual abuse are centered around the horrific images we hold in our mind of the act itself.

News stories about child abuse are often written with the voyeur in mind. A voyeur being an enthusiastic observer of sordid and sensational subjects. The big questions in the minds of many are, “How bad was it?”, “How low can a human being get?”, “What was it like to be in that situation as the perpetrator and/or the victim?” Some of us like to push the limits of our empathetic responses as if being able to process that much pain will somehow make us stronger. Some of us want to peer into the ugliness to figure out where it is rooted so we can avoid it in our own lives. Some of us just get a rush from it like going straight down toward the ground on a roller coaster.

No, I’m not policing society’s motivations to consume information about sexual abuse. I am simply stating that for many reasons, we eagerly consume it. And there is plenty of water in the well.

But for the children who have experienced sexual abuse, the train wreck is just not a good analogy. With a train wreck, people rush forward to save the passengers, clear the track, haul off the train, bury the bodies. News articles go away and lives go on. With childhood sexual abuse, the tracks take decades to clear. Sometimes the bodies are never buried.

What we believe about our world and expect from society is learned. The rules are created by us and are illusions. The truths you think of as absolute are often not. A child who suffers will often not view that suffering as abnormal. It is not unreasonable that, with no other points of reference, abused children will believe whatever they are told about the world and themselves. By the time they have enough world experience to inform them otherwise, they typically find themselves in a mess of trouble and are seen as the source of it. This is why the train wreck analogy doesn’t work for child abuse. It isn’t about a black eye or ripped skin. This is the loose tie rod causing the car in front of you to shake, the car that annoys you as you attempt to get around it, perhaps screaming at the driver to get that fixed. The long term effects are neither sordid nor sensational. They aren’t a tsunami of pain, but a repetitive crashing of unceasing waves.

Those children will grow to experience a higher rate of depression, substance abuse, low self-esteem, self-mutilation, sexual promiscuity, and suicide. They likely distrust their own ability to view the world and society correctly, to predict social outcomes, or judge the character of others. They often distrust others’ perceptions as well and have little faith in authority.

When the people you trust most hurt you in such a traumatic way, every single thing you ever thought was true becomes a potential lie. Your strings are cut loose from the order of the universe and you just float around in chaos trying to figure out if it’s safe to land and how to reconnect, if at all.

Breaking free from the grasp of a hand on your wrist is a piece of cake compared to trying to find a place that feels like home ought to feel once you’re free.

I don’t want to write about the easy part.

I write about trying to find that home. My first set of novels, a two book series titled Winter Seedlings, is about these journeys. They explore life beyond the actual events which caused the trauma. My characters want to heal, they want to love, they want a place that feels like home should feel. My stories aren’t perpetrator-centered, or sexual-abuse-centered. They are centered on the heart’s persistent desire for love despite all obstacles. I hope the stories shed a light on the part of childhood sexual abuse which never makes it to the headlines.

Books

Winter Suns Cover Reveal

The release of Winter Suns, the sequel to Winter Seedlings, will happen very soon, I promise. (I have been making this promise for a month, I know.)

While you wait, let me throw out a few sneak peeks and hints:

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Allie

December 25, 1990

I know I’m running because I feel my legs moving. A dim light before me grows larger as I near it. I don’t know what I am running away from, but I hear my heart pounding loudly. The sound of my heart seems to be coming from the tunnel itself. I can hear nothing else. How long have I been running?

The light from the tunnel grows brighter and other sounds emerge. Cries of a screaming baby. The echo bounces off the walls, multiplies. I can’t hear my heart anymore. I can only hear the sound of crying. As I move into brighter light, all sound begins to fade. The light becomes so bright that I can’t see. Then I hear nothing at all.

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The Girl

December 25, 2006

It was with thoughts of eventually sleeping under a large dense pine that I felt my foot step too low. It landed down an embankment, pulling all of me with it. I slid, clinging to my hat, trying to dig in my heels where there was nothing in which to dig. I then fell briefly through the air before landing face down on hard flat rock. I hadn’t fallen far, but I was disoriented. I slowly started to push myself up from the rock when bright light filled the space around me. Blinded for a moment, I thought that it was God. But I registered the sound of a motor just before the sound of squealing tires. I realized I was in the middle of a road.

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John

December 23, 2006

I would have liked to have a normal life, just for a while if not forever. Many times I wished for my parents to actually live together, not just on the same farm but actually in the same house like when I was six. But when they bought this place, everyone decided that I needed to stay mostly with Mom because my Dad Tracy was out of town a lot on tour with his band and Dawson worked at night. So, I didn’t get to stay in the all-guy house with the swimming pool, mini theater, and ten bedrooms. I stayed mostly with mom in the all-girl Victorian house with the endless supply of crying. Secretly, there were times I thought the house was kind of awesome because it was a hundred years old with lots of hidden nooks. It would have been much better if it had been a home for just our family and not the 24/7 abuse shelter Mom had turned it into.

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Jute

“…… life can take many twists and turns and still come out okay in the end. I guess what I’m telling you is that life isn’t planned out ahead of time. Tomorrow isn’t set in stone. There is no fate waiting on you to be ready for things. Life just dances about, whirling, twisting, jutting, and throwing its arms around. Sometimes it even falls on its face. But none of it is planned or synchronized between us all like a movie on a screen. That means you’ll have to step up and try to take a little control over what moves your life makes. You can’t just sit back and watch it dance. I believe in the power of our choices. I don’t believe in fate.”

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Winter Suns

Cover designed by the talented and magical Anna Wand.wintersunsfinal

Winter Seedlings / Winter Suns

Without giving away too much of what happens in Winter Seedlings (though a few spoilers are unavoidable), here is the description of the sequel and final book in the series:

Winter Suns

A nameless teenage girl in Eastern Kentucky has been isolated since birth. She experiences her abuse as unquestionably the will of God. She follows the house rules in hopes of banishing her demons and finding redemption. But when she breaks a rule to search for the Bible in order to teach herself to read it, she discovers something more powerful than her faith. A letter written sixteen years ago by a woman named Allie reveals both disturbing and electrifying secrets. The girl feels called to action. She perceives it is the will of God that she find a way to get the letter to Jute, even if none of the maps in the Bible show the way to Nashville, Tennessee.

Meanwhile, in Nashville, Jute has finally decided to clear out the attic to make room for Dawson’s daughter. It has been over a decade since Jute even looked at Allie’s things. She asks her son, John, to take everything to the barn. To him, it’s just a lot of junk. Jute never told him about Allie because it was too painful to tell. But, when John discovers an old photograph tucked inside one of the notebooks, he is instantly drawn into solving the mystery of what happened to the girl. What he discovers is even more devastating than the secrets his mother is hiding. He wants to forget he ever found the photograph, but he can’t.

Winter Suns contains a wide array of characters usually under-represented in fiction. Every letter in LGBTQ is represented here as well as one (or more….?) characters on the autism spectrum. Don’t think this is a sensationalizing story written to be shockingly different. It’s very ordinary and yet unforgettable. I hope to have it published by the first week of January 2015, if all the stars align.