When Life Goes Skeewampus… and So Very Write

Forgive the pun in the title, but since I last posted, it’s been a very busy and interesting time. Both on a global scale and in my personal and writing lives.

First, my husband got an unexpected job offer that was a big boost to his career, so my family and I very quickly packed up and moved halfway across the country on the leading edge of all the shutdowns of early 2020. We were blessed to find a beautiful home for a reasonable price before the market shot everything sky-high.

I spent the next several months putting together the house and trying to recover from the shell-shock of 2020, aaaand then got slammed with vertigo during the first trimester of pregnancy. (As far as we’re aware, that’s just coincidental and was caused by some nerve damage in my ear.) Baby Augustus* was born this summer and decided to shock everyone with really low oxygen levels the day we were planning on going home, so he had a brief stint in NICU. He’s doing much better now.

Anyway, early this year I started querying agents and publishers and got an offer from Covenant Communications on my early Victorian romance, Of Jasmine and Roses. The current release date is late 2023, but there’s a possibility of that moving. Now I’m working on all of the business-y end of stuff, doing on my evaluation edits, drafting my next project, and researching for book 3 (which I’m SUPER excited about, but soooo much research needs done before I can tackle that.)

This last weekend I went to my first writers retreat and met a bunch of local writers and authors. My favorite part was probably geeking out about Elizabeth Gaskell and our Victorian-era, Cranford-inspired cozy mysteries that another author and I are both wanting to work on (independently). We’ve agreed we’re going to be buddies rather than rivals since that’s one of the cool things about our preferred genres–there’s no such thing as competition since readers want it all!

I’m not entirely sure how frequently I’ll post here anymore, so if you’d like more consistent updates, subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on either Instagram or Facebook.

*I will not use my children’s real names on public forums so they each have a fun internet nickname.

A Belated Hello to 2020

Hi all,

It’s been an extremely busy fall/winter since I last posted. Honestly, I burnt myself out and took a step back from any non-essentials, including the blog, for a few weeks. Things have gradually been picking up again but I’m being more careful to prioritize my personal needs on top of all my obligations.

Which just means that I’m telling myself it’s ok to write before I do any critiques for other people or that it’s ok to not write at all and I can go paint or watch a movie instead.

So far 2020 is looking pretty good.

Writing-wise, my beta readers have my WIP and I’m planning on querying here in the next few months. I’m multi-researching for two more historical romances and a for-fun cozy mystery. One of those is more-or-less plotted out. I just need that last little bit of research before I can really flesh out my hero and get back to drafting. The other two are in various states of active brainstorming. (Let’s be real: I’ve got like 20 more stories that are percolating in the back of my brain. I can’t resist a good shiny idea.)

In my personal life I’m kept on my toes keeping my children alive. A couple of them are true dare-devils who delight in standing/jumping off the arms of my couch and the other one apparently can subsist only on dew drops and seaweed despite my attempts to feed him a more balanced/filling diet. Occasionally I can distract them by letting them destroy (muddy-up) my nice, clean water-color palette.

I will attempt to post at least once a month, but no guarantees. (I’ll probably be keeping my son from somersaulting over his smaller siblings.)

In the mean time, I usually post a little more frequently on Instagram @jillewarner.

Blog Tour! All Hearts Come Home for Christmas

All Hearts Come Home blogbanners.png

These four ladies are some of my favorite Regency romance authors, so when I learned that all four of them would be writing stories for this anthology, I basically died, then went looking for the pre-order button. *Hint hint* You should buy it too. (Or enter the giveaway via the link at the end of this post. Whatever floats your boat or doesn’t break your bank.)

First, about the stories.

Christmas at Falstone Castle – Sarah M. Eden – The Dowager Duchess of Kielder eagerly anticipates spending Christmas with her son and his family. Though their relationship has been strained, the duchess is determined to heal the chasm. Even with the help of the widowed local vicar, her plan will take a Christmas miracle. But during this magical season, anything is possible . . . even two second chances for love.

The Heart of Christmas – Anita Stansfield – When a chance meeting brings together a gentle seamstress and a widowed banker, each lonely soul finds a first hint of hope. As their lives become entwined, it will take Christmas spirit to guide a broken family to love and healing.

’Tis the Season to Be Daring – Esther Hatch – Elizabeth Davenport has had quite enough of the London Season. Determined to evade a parade of unsuitable suitors, she seeks help from the one gentleman who has no regard for Society’s rules. All of Society knows Lord Hawthorne is not interested in marriage, yet he cannot deny Miss Davenport’s unique charm. And as the Christmas season works its magic, their charade begins to feel less like playacting and more like love.

The Christmas Dress – Joanna Barker – Seamstress Nell Addington is thrilled when her childhood friend Jacob Hammond commissions a dress for his sister. But when Nell realizes her feelings for Jacob run far deeper than friendship, an unexpected snowstorm—and some holiday cheer—may convince them both that love is worth fighting for.

Second, my thoughts:

Sarah Eden’s “Christmas at Falstone Castle” didn’t disappoint, but I highly recommend that you read the other books in her Lancaster series first, especially Loving Lieutenant Lancaster, to avoid minor spoilers. That being said, the Duke of Kielder is as ornery as ever and Mother Harriet is just so sweet and uncertain about her relationship with her son and his family.

Anita Stansfield’s ” The Heart of Christmas” has some absolutely beautiful descriptions and is a touching story about healing and hope. I’d actually call this one more women’s fiction than romance since the romance itself took a backseat to some of the other relationships. But this one definitely had me looking around for snow, treats, and Christmas decorations while I read.

Esther Hatch’s ” ‘Tis the Season to be Daring” had me rolling. Seriously hilarious. The banter between Elizabeth and Lord H was so engaging and I sped through this story. I was a bit bummed when I reached the end since I’d been having so much fun. Fortunately you can get a little bit more of them in her book, Roses of Feldstone.

Joanna Barker’s “The Christmas Dress” was another touching romance. I enjoyed the exchanges between Nell, Jacob, and Alice and wished that I could spend more time with their tiny family. I firmly believe that a certain minor character gets a well-deserved snowball or two to the face.

Third, about the authors:

About Sarah M Eden:

Sarah M. Eden is a USA Today Bestselling author of witty and charming historical romances, including Foreword Review’s 2013 “IndieFab Book of the Year” gold medal winner for Best Romance, Longing for Home, as well as 2014 Whitney Award winner for “Best Novel of the Year,” Longing for Home: Hope Springs. Combining her obsession with history and affinity for tender love stories, Sarah loves crafting witty characters and heartfelt romances set against rich historical backdrops. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in research and happily spends hours perusing the reference shelves of her local library. Sarah lives with her husband, kids, and mischievous dog in the shadow of a snow-capped mountain she has never attempted to ski.

About Anita Stansfield:

Anita Stansfield has been the reigning queen of LDS romantic fiction for nearly two decades, although her general market releases have been among her readers favorites. Her work has shattered the stereotypes of romance novels with her trademark ability to combine great storytelling with intense psychological depth as she focuses on the emotional struggles of the human experience. Her novels cover a huge spectrum, from the eighteenth century to the present, from heart warming to heart stopping. Hundreds of thousands of readers agree: Anita Stansfield’s characters and the lives they lead are not easy to forget.

Anita is now also writing under the pseudonym Elizabeth D. Michaels.

About Esther Hatch:

Esther Hatch grew up on a cherry orchard in rural Utah. After high school, she alternated living in Russia to teach children English and attending Brigham Young University in order to get a degree in archaeology. She began writing when one of her favorite authors invited her to join a critique group. The only catch was she had to be a writer. Not one to be left out of an opportunity to socialize and try something new; she started on her first novel that week.

About Joanna Barker:

​Joanna Barker was born and raised in northern California. She discovered her love for historical fiction after visiting England as an eleven-year-old, and subsequently read every Jane Austen book she could get her hands on. After graduating Brigham Young University with a degree in English, she worked as an acquisitions editor before devoting herself full-time to writing. She enjoys music, chocolate, and reading everything from romance to science fiction. She lives in Utah and is just a little crazy about her husband and two wild-but-loveable boys.

And finally, THE GIVEAWAY!

Click link below to enter: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Life and Writing Update: Apr 2019

Thought I’d pop in for a quick status update.

Since my last post, Minerva’s arrived so most of my time and energy has gone to keeping her alive. Edgar and Bartholomew think she’s cute and they get to watch a lot more tv, so they’re more or less happy.

I can’t remember if I mentioned everything I’ve had going on in the writing world for me so far this year and I’m too lazy to look it up, so here’s a (potentially redundant) summary:

January – judging a contest took most of my time, but I read my manuscript and some research books. I also entered a first chapter contest.

February – worked on a beta read and some more research. I also worked on a short story.

March – more beta reading and short story stuff; reverse outlining; research; started contributing to the Historical Hussies blog. Look for my posts on the 3rd Friday of each month.

April – submitted a story for an anthology, a second beta read and currently working on a third beta read and revising my Anglo-Indian governess romance (see screenshot. IT ME.)

I’ve also been busy with the normal stuff– ANWA communications, critique groups, etc.

Next month I’ve got another conference I’m looking forward to. Ideally I’ll have this revision completed by then, but the end of the month or even June are looking most likely. Once that’s done, I’ll send it to some beta readers and go from there. Again, in an ideal world I’m hoping to start querying this summer, but we’ll see what happens.

Anyway, I’ll be back soon with another business and craft of writing post. Anything you’d like me to discuss?

New Things

I’m keeping this post short since I have a sleeping baby in my arms and limited brainpower.

Bartholomew is here! He was born at the beginning of June and life hasn’t slowed down since then. My in-laws came into town for a visit, followed by a family friend from Denmark. And now my toddler (Edgar) is sick. So not much happening in the way of writing…

But since it’s Camp NaNo again this month and one of my goals for the year is to write a short story, I’ve started a new piece. This one is purely for fun and I’m not going to show it to anyone until I’ve completely finished it. I’m excited about trying short stories again since I had an awful time with them in my creative writing class in college. I guess I’ll see what I’ve learned about writing since then!

In the meantime, enjoy these birds from my public library!



Am I really ready for that feedback?

I think I’ve mentioned at least once or twice (or twenty or thirty times) that I took Brandon Sanderson’s creative writing class in 2016. At the end of the semester, he asked the 15 of us in the class to turn in 5,000 polished words that he would personally critique.

I was excited about getting that feedback. I felt like I’d learned a lot in his class and had really improved my writing. Now, I knew that I wasn’t going to amaze him since I’d already been getting feedback from him when he’d drop in on my critique group, but I wanted to impress him at least a little bit.

Well, the class ended that April and my wait began. I anticipated getting a response in December-ish since Brandon IS busy with big published author obligations. As Dec approached, I got antsier and antsier.


So I emailed his assistant in January. Brandon hadn’t forgotten me. He was still working on my critique between his other work, but don’t expect anything for a few more months. So I settled in for another long wait.

I took another look at everything I’d written in Brandon’s class and saw SO. MANY. FLAWS. I’ll be honest, while I had cleaned up the first 5,000 words of that WIP, I didn’t pay too much attention to it. I really did think that it was polished and I was trying to reach the high word count goal that Brandon set for the class. At this point, I knew that if *I* was seeing problems, Brandon definitely would.

So I got to work revising everything immediately following the section I sent him. And I was excited about my story in a way that I haven’t been in a long time.

Recently I got his feedback. And he said some stuff that surprised me and even more stuff that didn’t really surprise me. He pointed out flaws that I hadn’t really considered. And immediately I started brainstorming fixes.

When I shared his feedback with my family, they commented on how well I was taking it.

It’s because I was actually ready for it. I had distanced myself enough from what I sent him that I wasn’t looking for mild (or exhuberant) praise anymore. I really wanted to know what he thought wasn’t working.

How many times are we actually ready for constructive feedback versus hoping for a pat on the back and maybe one or two small things to fix?

I’m discovering that perhaps, at least for me, I’m not always ready like I think I am.

Camp NaNoWriMo – April 2017

Towards the end of last month, I had another “I’m a terrible writer because I can’t reach my goals and I’m never going to finish this book. I’m a horrible person” slump. I tend to set some pretty high goals for myself that I know if I just sit down and actually write, I can reach them​. Of course, I set those goals when I’m feeling pretty productive and optimistic and forget that Edgar is almost a toddler and Bartholomew is still on his way. Which, of course, means that in general, I do not have the ideal circumstances on a daily basis for reaching my theoretically doable goals.

Anyway, this particular round, I was reading some old entries from my 8th English journal. Pretty much any entry that was a free write was either about the novel I was writing then or about how I wanted to be a writer or editor. So then I had to ask myself whether or not I loved writing now as I did as an 8th grader.

And the answer is yes. But I am too caught up in trying to make it as a professional to enjoy it.

I told myself that for April, I had permission to write whatever I felt like writing. So that’s what I’ve done this month. I set a low word count goal for Camp NaNoWriMo and told myself to just write.

The first week or so I had to fight myself to write on any sort of consistency, but I counted my journal, brainstorming, actual story, etc. And then I found myself looking for a few minutes here and there to jot down ideas.

Tomorrow is the last day of Camp. I won’t reach my word count goal.* But I still won. I’m excited to write again.


*Update: April 30, 2017

I actually did reach my word count goal today so I spirit-won AND won-won! Needless to say, I’m even more stoked about my writing progress this past month. It’s nice to know that I am capable of achieving​ my goals despite real life responsibilities.

Current reads: Paper Magician trilogy and Dragon with a Chocolate Heart

Yesterday I got an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Stephanie Burgis‘s The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart in the mail. I won it in a giveaway to her North American readers since it doesn’t come out here in the US until May. (Her UK readers got it in Feb.) This book is about a young dragon who wants to show how tough she is, so she goes out to catch a human and instead is turned into a human herself when she drinks some enchanted hot chocolate. Since I love dragons and am a *huge* hot chocolate fan, this sounds right up my alley. I’m excited to read it.

I actually haven’t read anything by Stephanie yet, but a while ago I saw the UK covers for her MG* series, Kat Incorrigible, and thought they were adorable. I’m a huge fan of historical fantasy so that series has been on my to-read list ever since.

In the mean time, I just finished Charlie M. Holmberg‘s Paper Magician trilogy. I first learned about Charlie when I listened to her on Writing Excuses. This trilogy is a Victorian-era fantasy where magicians are bonded to a material (paper, in this case). The main character, Ceony, is an apprentice to a paper magician when his ex-wife breaks in and literally steals his heart. Ceony creates a paper heart for him and then chases down the ex-wife to get his real heart back. The rest of the series is about what happens after that.


I absolutely loved the first book! It’s clean and romantic and full of action. The other two books are also really good. The second book was a tad bit darker (but still clean) and the third  book had a lot more stuff happening that I wish Charlie had spent a little more time on. I definitely plan on getting the paper copies (I own the ebooks) as soon as I can. I’m also going to read other books by Charlie.


*MG = middle grade (typically readers are 8-12ish)

My other hobbies

I feel like lately I’ve only been talking about my writing aaaaannnndd….that’s probably true. So, I’ve been thinking about all of my different hobbies and which ones I can feasibly do at this point of my life.

I love rock climbcrw_3305ing, caving, and running, but it’s winter. And I live in the Midwest. A) It’s super cold. B) I have a little kid I’m NOT willing to take out into the cold. C) There really aren’t places that I can go rock climbing or caving in the Midwest. (Ok, there are like 2 places and both of those are over an hour away.)

My photography’s dropped off pretty heavily but I did manage to get some nice shots while I was in Switzerland. While I love looking at pretty landscapes, I get most excited doing action shoots. And Edgar* isn’t quite ready for those kind of adventures. Hopefully once it warms up we can take him camping before Bartholomew** shows up.


Which leaves me with my other artwork. I LOVE painting. It’s something that just makes me relax. I haven’t had much opportunity to actually do much painting in the most recent years since I’ve been living in tiny apartments and whatnot. But now I’ve got a house! Which means I’ve got plenty of room to put wet oil paintings and not have to worry about them getting in the way or other people touching/smearing them! The other day I asked Nathan to help me brainstorm some ideas since I really would like to take my painting to a new level. So we’ve got a series idea for the study that we’re pretty excited about. (I’m not going to share it until I’ve actually done anything for it though.)

might start drawing again too, but I’m waaaaay more picky about my drawing than my painting for whatever reason, so it stresses me out more.

*Edgar is the nickname that my brother-in-law came up with to refer to our oldest while I was pregnant with him. (My oldest, not my B.I.L. Those tricky dangling modifiers.)

**Bartholomew, or Barth Vader, is coming in June. We’ll find out Barth’s actual gender here in a few weeks!

On Waiting

I had the extremely good fortune of taking Brandon Sanderson’s writing class earlier this year. Every week during the semester, I attended a lecture (available here) followed by a critique session with other students in the workshop portion of the class. Each week, Brandon would rotate between the 3 critique groups and critique our submissions.

Our April final was to turn in a 35,000+ word rough drafts that we’d written that semester and a polished 5000 word submission. Our grades were based on completion of the rough 35,000 writing and participation. Separate from our grade, Brandon was going to critique our polished submission. Fortunately, I knew that this was going to take a long time since I’d seen a comment or two on his twitter feed the previous December about his finishing the last one from the previous class. Unfortunately, I’m the last one (alphabetically) in the class so I’m still waiting to hear back.

Last night while we were re-watching one of the lectures, my husband was asking when it would be appropriate to follow-up with Brandon but since Brandon’s on tour again, I know it still might be a while.

In the mean time, we’re getting an idea of what querying is going to be like.