Avalanche Review and Guest Post by M. Liz Boyle

Hello my reader friends! Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Liz Boyle! She is such a sweetie and I am honored to be featuring her first novel today, Avalanche! The author life is difficult to be sure, and Liz is going to tell us about her journey – the ups and the downs. But first, let me tell you more about this adventurous story!

When fifteen-year-old Marlee Stanley joins her two sisters and the sons of their family friends on a secretive hike in the middle of the night, she is thrilled and nervous. Battling her conscience, she prays that the hike will go flawlessly and that they will return to the safety of their campsite before their parents wake. The start of the hike is beautiful and wonderfully memorable. In a white flash so fast that Marlee can barely comprehend what has happened, an avalanche crashes into their path. Buried in packed snow, Marlee is forced to remember survival tips learned from her dad and her own research. This group of friends, ages eleven through seventeen, is about to endure bigger challenges than many adults have experienced. Digging out of the packed snow is only the first of many challenges. Injuries, cold, hunger, fatigue, aggressive wildlife and tensions in the group make this a much bigger adventure than they ever imagined. As the kids strive to exhibit Christian values throughout the trials, they learn numerous life lessons. But they are nearly out of food, and their energy is waning quickly. How will they ever reach help?

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Boyle takes readers on quite the adventure in her debut novel Avalanche. I was shivering, gasping, crying, and absolutely captivated while these young characters braved their tragic circumstances. Boyle did such a wonderful job in her research, bringing out details that I would never in a million years think of. First example – swimming (or at least making the motion) when having the misfortune of being in the midst of an avalanche. The way Marlee lets her saliva drop on her face to tell which way gravity was working, this giving her a direction to dig in. How to eat and drink the little supply they had to make it last, and not hurt each individual. So many things made this story so real, but also a learning experience!

One thing that Boyle does in this novel is remind us not to underestimate the young people in our lives. These kids had to survive, in the wild, in the cold. They had to scare off bears, they had to deal with injuries, they had no communication, and several other difficulties. They were far from perfect, but they were inspiring. Their values didn’t go down the toilet because they were in an awful situation. For the most part, they worked together. I know that if their journey inspired me, it will certainly inspire others.

Boyle has brought YA fans an uplifting, adventurous novel. I hope there is more to come in the future. I’ll be first in line to read them! I received a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a favorable review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Hello, and many thanks to Jessica for the opportunity to share my journey of becoming a published author. 

It all started about 3 ½ years ago while I was feeding lunch to my children, then ages 3 and 1.  I was halfway between the kitchen counter and table with plates in hand, when the following thought popped into my mind: They should write a book about some teenagers who get caught in an avalanche. I thought it was a great idea and looked forward to when they would write this interesting book. In the next few minutes, I wondered if they could possibly be I

After handing the plates to my kiddos, I scribbled down a few thoughts on paper and eagerly awaited naptime. That afternoon, after asking God to give me the imagination and time to work on the book if He wanted me to attempt such a project, I typed 8 pages. 

That night while washing dishes, I brainstormed the subsequent chapters and told my husband that I thought I might be writing a book. The pattern of praying, brainstorming during mundane tasks, and typing during naptime continued all summer, and by fall, I had a completed manuscript of a Christian YA novel. At the time, I thought the hard work was probably behind me. (Here’s when you chuckle, because I had much to learn). 

That fall, I submitted to many, many traditional publishers, and optimistically hoped for the best from each. Every rejection discouraged me, but I knew my story had potential so I kept praying for God to guide the process. Finally, I received the much-anticipated email that my manuscript had been chosen for publication! I was ecstatic. Again, I thought the hard work was behind me. Alas. 

About 6 months after the congratulatory email, I received word that my publisher would be going out of business and the publishing contract was cancelled. Talk about a major bummer. At that point, my husband and I were expecting our third child, and I knew that pregnancy and new-baby days were not an ideal time to pursue publishers. 

I chose to wait on publishing my book. It was tempting to throw in the towel, but I continued to believe that my novel had potential. When Baby #3 was about 1 ½, my husband and I agreed that it was time to give my book another chance. I was excited to get the momentum going again with my book, but we had a new challenge. By then, our “big kids” no longer napped, so I would encourage them to have a quiet time while the baby napped, and when all the kids were in bed for the night, I would be able to squeeze in some time as well. 

After having set aside my manuscript for about 2 years, I was able to see many areas in the story that needed improvements. After my initial editing, I posted a request on a Facebook page for Christian homeschooling moms to find a handful of teenagers whom I do not know personally to be beta readers. Their feedback was tremendously helpful! They were very honest and suggested numerous changes that helped the characters become more real and relatable. 

Whether to return to fishing for traditional publishers or to self-publish was a big decision for me. Ultimately, I chose to self-publish. At the point when I committed to self-publishing, I finally realized that the hard work was definitely ahead of me. It’s been a massive amount of work, but so far I am glad to have self-published. 

After the beta readers finished, I asked one of my former college professors to do a formal edit, and then I was on to formatting the manuscript for publication and designing the cover. Our local librarian suggested I use Pressbooks for the formatting, and it was extremely helpful to me since I’m not very techie. 

I’ve learned so much along this journey of preparing a book for publication! Many of the lessons I’ve learned are technical details, such as words that are in italics on a Google Doc probably won’t still be italicized when I copy and paste them into the formatting program. Those details take time to work through, and I think it’s important to strive for excellence, so I poured lots of time and effort into my project. I’ve taken notes to help myself so that hopefully next time the process will go quicker. 

I’ve also learned a more important lesson, though. A few weeks ago, when I could finally see that I was oh-so-close to being a published author, an unexpected thought popped into my mind: If I was as concerned about my own real-life character as I am with the characters in my novel, I would be a better person. This isn’t a confession to spill all my personal character flaws that I need to overcome, but at that moment, I realized that while it was good to do my very best with my novel, I also needed to maintain balance in life so that I didn’t let writing become a higher priority than God or my family. It was a good reminder to be more patient with my family and to enjoy each moment with them rather than just racing through bedtime routines so I could finish my book sooner. 

I’m thrilled that Avalanche is a published novel, and I’m slowly working on a sequel. I am enjoying hearing from readers, and it’s fulfilling to recall that day when this whole novel was a little seed. Now, as a published author striving to keep my priorities in their rightful places, I’m wondering what other thoughts might pop into my mind.    

M. Liz Boyle

Liz is an author, the wife of a professional tree climber and the mom of three energetic and laundry-producing children. She received her Associate’s of Arts at the University of Sioux Falls, where she received the LAR Writing Award for her essay entitled, “My Real Life Mufasa.” Liz once spent a summer in Colorado teaching rock climbing, which she believes was a fantastic way to make money and memories. She resides with her family in Wisconsin, where they enjoy hiking and rock climbing. Liz and her husband have also backpacked in Colorado and the Grand Canyon, which have provided inspiration for her writing. She likes making adventurous stories to encourage others to find adventures and expand their comfort zones (though admittedly, she still needs lots of practice expanding her own comfort zone). She has thoroughly enjoyed working on her first novel, Avalanche.

Have you ever been mountain climbing before, or would you ever go? Tell us about your adventures in the comments!

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