The Beauty of Serendipity in Writing & Publishing

Author Carol BodensteinerOne of my favourite words is serendipity. Not only do I love the way it rolls off my tongue, but I also love what it means. Carol Bodensteiner, author of Go Away Home is on the blog today talking about serendipity. She is a wonderful author. I’m sure you will enjoy what she has to say. Over to you, Carol.

Serendipity – the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way

I like control. I’m most comfortable when I know what’s going to happen, when and how. But my writing and publishing journey has shown time and again what fun there is when things happen by chance. Serendipity is a beautiful thing. Those chance occurrences that surprise and delight and bring joy to our lives and smiles to our faces. I’ve been lucky to have several serendipitous moments mark my journey in writing and publishing my WWI-era novel Go Away Home.

Three examples.

Fiction turns out to be reality. Over the years, I vacillated: set my novel in the county seat near where I grew up or create a fictional town? Over years of writing, I went back and forth on this decision with some regularity. Fortunately, the ‘search and replace’ function of Word makes such dilly-dallying reasonably simple.

Meanwhile, my story developed to include a prominent banker who lived in a large house equipped with electricity, a grand piano in the library, and a sumptuous buffet in the dining room.

About a month before I sent the final manuscript to the editor, I said, enough! Though the story is fictional, the location is now firmly set in a real town – Maquoketa, the county seat of Jackson County, Iowa. Having made that decision, my obsession for getting the historical details right took on new focus. I had a responsibility to those who know the town to get it right. I headed east for a drive through Maquoketa.

When I pulled up in from of the house of my dreams, I learned the it is now the Squiers Manor Bed & Breakfast. The folks at the B&B readily took me for a tour and here’s what I found: The original owner was a prominent banker; the house was the first in town to have electricity and running water, and there is a grand piano in the library.

What a delight to find that what I’d been writing mirrored the actual history and much of the layout of the building.

The right resources at the right time. As I considered my need for a cover designer, serendipity delivered a cover reveal post for Lies Told in Silence by M.K. Tod right here on A Writer of History.  I loved the cover and knew the designer of that cover was the one for me. What luck to find Jenny Q, a talented woman who specializes not only in designing historical fiction covers but who is also a terrific editor.

She designed a cover that perfectly communicated the mood of the novel. Then she took on the manuscript, smoothing out choppy and disjointed places, suggesting more appropriate word choices, questioning and clarifying when my meaning grew hazy. She also did more. While I had not hired her for a developmental edit, she pointed out several places where the story would benefit from slowing down and building more emotional depth into my main character. I spent my career in the service business so appreciated the value Jenny brought to my book.

Publishing. I indie published Go Away Home in July 2014. At the end of the year, an email popped into my inbox from an acquisition editor at Lake Union Publishing, an imprint of Amazon Publishing. They’d read the story, loved it and wanted to talk about whether I was interested in partnering with them. I felt like the average girl sitting at the soda fountain counter noticed by a big-name producer and cast in a major motion picture.

I haven’t made out a Santa wish list in decades. Even if I had made one last year, signing with a publisher would NOT have been on it. That would have been too unbelievable. Yet here I am.

Go Away Home re-launches with Lake Union Publishing on July 7.

I talked with a friend about how what I need always sees to appear right in front of me at the moment I need it. Ever practical, she said those things were always out there and it was only when I started to focus on the need that they became visible.

Her response seemed a bit of a buzz kill. Yes I did research that created the kind of house that a rich family like my banker would have occupied in the early 1900s. Yes, I made contacts and follow blogs written by smart authors who use and share quality resources. Yes, I worked hard to write a good story and then to get a lot of honest reviews.

So, yes, I was controlling everything I could. But then those little extras appear. Luck. Magic. Serendipity.

Go Away Home by Carol BodensteinerGo Away Home – Iowa farm girl Liddie Treadway has big dreams: to move to town, work as a seamstress, live on her own. But it’s 1913. Can a girl choose both love and independence? You can find my review of Go Away Home here.

Go Away Home is available on Amazon in paperbackand ebook formats.

Growing Up Country is available on Amazon in paperbackebook, and audio book formats.

Carol Bodensteiner is a writer who finds inspiration in the places, people, culture and history of the Midwest. After a successful career in public relations consulting, she turned to creative writing. She blogs about writing, her prairie, gardening, and whatever in life interests her at the moment. She published her memoir Growing Up Country in 2008. Her debut WWI-era novel Go Away Home first published independently was acquired by Lake Union Publishing and launches July 7, 2015.

You can find Carol on her website, Twitter @CABodensteiner, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

FOR MORE ON INSIDE HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.

Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

A Year of Reading

45 books in 2014!

Shocking admission: I’ve never tracked my books before, so when 2014 began, I was encouraged by others setting ambitious reading goals and decided that the least I could do was write down the titles, authors and impressions of each book tackled.

Some were superb, others I did not finish (life’s too short to read truly unappealing books). Several were enjoyable although not particularly distinctive. Most were historical fiction; a few were non-fiction. I read several in my capacity as book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and others for book club discussions.

Since I don’t like the five star rating system used by sites like Goodreads, I’ve taken a different approach. GR = good read, several caveats; ER = excellent, few caveats; OR = outstanding; DNF = did not finish; NMT = not my type; LR = light, enjoyable read.

Here’s the first six months. I’ll post the second list on Thursday. For those I’ve reviewed, a link is included.

Books read in 2014


Jan The Aviator’s Wife Melanie Benjamin ER Book club; great story about Anne Morrow Lindberg
The Book Thief Markus Zusak DNF Death as the narrator left me cold
The Secret Rooms Catherine Bailey ER HNS review; non-fiction page-turner set in early 20th century England
The Book of Salt Monique Truong GR Book club; Gertrude Stein’s Vietnamese cook
Reading Like a Writer Francine Prose GR Non-fiction; some excellent chapters, others I skimmed
Feb The Golden Dice Elisabeth Storrs ER Part of a series on ancient Rome
The Proposal Margaret Evans Porter LR 19th century romance with twists and turns
Becoming Josephine Heather Webb GR Stronger after Josephine meets Napoleon
Mar The Mountain of Light Indu Sundarasan ER Fascinating look at India
Churchill’s First War Con Coughlin GR HNS review; non-fiction about Churchill’s time in
To Serve a King Donna Russo Morin LR The story of Genevieve, a spy for Henry VIII
Go Away Home Carol Bodensteiner LR Coming of age in early 20th century Iowa
Lionheart Sharon Kay Penman ER Superb account of Richard I
A Discovery of Strangers Rudy Wiebe ER Book club; based on Franklin’s failed arctic voyage
Apr The Expected One Kathleen McGowan NMT Rated ** on Goodreads
Empress of the Night Eva Stachniak DNF About Catherine the Great
May Girl Reading Katie Ward NMT Book club; more like a set of short stories
The Storms of War Katie Williams GR HNS article on WWI novels; multiple threads make it read like a TV series
Starshine John Wilcox GR HNS article on WWI novels; story meanders too much
The Care and Management of Lies Jacqueline Winspear ER HNS article on WWI novels; wonderful read
Jun The Russian Tapestry Banafsheh Serov GR HNS article on WWI novels; on the Russian front
A Star for Mrs. Blake April Smith GR HNS article on WWI novels; American gold star mothers
City of Jasmine Deanna Raybourn LR delightful mystery set in post-WWI Damascus

Quite the range – and so many to recommend.

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available in paperback from Amazon and in e-book formats from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

GO AWAY HOME – wonderful debut novel by Carol Bodensteiner

GO AWAY HOMECarol Bodensteiner has just released her debut novel with the intriguing title GO AWAY HOME. I had the honour of reading it several months ago and totally enjoyed the characters and situation she has created.

From the very first chapter of Go Away Home, Carol Bodensteiner draws us into the central conflicts of her debut novel: old ways versus new, farm versus city, youth versus maturity, man versus woman. Raised on an Iowa farm by her tradition bound parents, Liddie Treadway hopes for a different life, one of adventure, independence, and a career in fashion. Despite two heart-breaking family events that interfere with Liddie’s dreams, in the fall of 1913 she is hired by a well-known dress maker and moves to the city.

Go Away Home is full of interesting, well-drawn characters who add complexity as well as unexpected twists and turns: Mrs. Tinker the dress maker who acts as Liddie’s city mother; Thomas Littman, the man who teaches Liddie photography; Minnie Holter, Liddie’s first city friend; Margretta, Liddie’s mother. Historical facts are offered sparingly and yet with enough detail for readers to gain a clear picture of early twentieth century American life. The story flows with excellent dialogue and compelling descriptions, and each chapter ends with a hook that drives the plot forward.

The advice Liddie receives as her life unfolds seems equally valid for today’s world: “Every choice we make becomes part of who we are. That’s why you must take care.” “The goal is not a career. The goal ought to be a good life. Experiences may be wonderful, but only if they help you to be a better person.” Will Liddie make the right choices? Will her experiences make her a better person?

Congratulations, Carol!! Go Away Home is a very engaging coming-of-age story, set at a time of incredible change and turmoil.

Available on Kindle and Amazon paperback.