Guest Post: THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY by Jen McConnel

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Lou is in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. Fresh out of college, she’s unemployed and unsure of herself. But when she gets the chance to escape to Scotland with her best friend, it could be the answer to her quest for self-discovery. The trip is not at all what she expected, especially when her tour guide turns out to be the dreamy historian Brian, and together they embark on a hunt for information about Isobel Key, a woman accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century.
They set out to learn the truth of the condemned witch, but Lou isn’t prepared for the knowledge that awaits her. She must face her own demons if she has any hope of righting the wrongs of the past.
Flashing between seventeenth century Scotland and a contemporary romance, THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY is a mystery that will please readers of all ages.

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Guest Post:

My First NaNoWriMo

I’m not sure where I first heard about NaNoWriMo, but in 2009, I sat down at my computer on the first of November and decided to see what would happen. My best friend had been visiting for Halloween (her first time seeing me in my new North Carolina home), and we’d taken her to the airport that morning. I don’t know what made me turn on the computer that cold, wet afternoon, but I sat down and opened a blank word document, and the words that spilled onto the page spoke of a woman being burned for witchcraft.

Hmmm, I thought. That’s interesting. Wonder where that came from?

I made myself write every day that month, even when I thought I had nothing to say. Although by that time in my life, I’d written two other “novels” (both shy of 50k words, and both messes which may never see the light of day), I’d never developed a consistent writing routine. NaNo forced me to show up every day, to put words on the page no matter what. I was determined to “win”, and so I learned to write around illness, company, my job, time with my husband, and a million other little things that make up this thing called life.

There are a lot of things to love about the wild literary abandon of NaNoWriMo; participating forces you to turn off the critics in your mind and just give yourself over to the writing, and it’s a great way to find your writing community. But probably the most important thing I learned from my first NaNoWriMo is the importance of creating (and maintaining) a writing routine. Sometimes, the demands of life press in and make it nearly impossible to find the time to craft, but here’s a secret; you’ll never find the time. You have to make it. Because of NaNoWriMo, I learned to make time for what matters to me. Every now and again, I forget and I slip out of my routine, making excuses. It happens, but I try to drag myself back on track quickly, and I have, with a few lapses, managed to keep writing daily for the past four years. Even when I write something that doesn’t seem like it has a point, I try to put words on the page every day.

I didn’t plot out my first NaNo project; I hadn’t even brainstormed before the month began. But something about the story that filled my mind demanded to be told, and I finished the first draft at the end of the month. I was thrilled that I’d clocked over the finish line and completed a manuscript that was just slightly over 50,000 words, but I didn’t have the slightest idea of what to do with it.

So I put it in a drawer and didn’t think about it. Over time, I revisited the novel, and eventually, the seed of my first NaNoWriMo experience became THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY.

Have any of you ever done NaNoWriMo? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

About Jen McConnel

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Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. When she isn’t crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches college writing composition and yoga. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time. Her debut NA novel, THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY, is coming December 2013 from Bloomsbury Spark . Visit to learn more.

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