While growing up on a remote Oregon farm, I inherited a love of books and writing from both my parents. In between moving irrigation pipe, caring for livestock, hauling hay and various other agricultural activities, I found time to read voraciously, clearing out whole sections of libraries within weeks.

My first attempt at fiction happend at age nine, when I handed in an alarmingly violent pirate tale as a fourth-grade assignment. I also completed a gothic romance novel before graduating from high school, an effort which has mercifully, been lost in the mists of time.

During this period, I had the opportunity to visit my mother’s family in Germany several times. It was during one of these visits that I first came upon some of the historical anecdotes that eventually inspired the Desolate Empire series.

Writing took a back seat for many years as I went to college for a history degree, studied abroad, traveled all over Europe, received an MBA, got married and finally settled into a job at a big bank. At that point, I started writing again for fun, though completingย an entire book seemed like a distant dream.

Life then took some unexpected and tragic turns. Within a few years, I lost my job, my health, and my husband to an untimely heart attack. Writing was very far from my mind as I regrouped for several years.

But when I met my second husband, a truck driver, he encouraged me to write while he drove me all over the country. My first effort was a joint one: we wrote a non-fiction book about online dating and self-published it. It’s safe to say it was a flop, since we had no clue about launching or marketing such a beast. In spite of that, we have a second book in the pipeline and might even publish it someday.

Once I got the the creative juices flowing, I was ready to try my hand at fiction again. I’d heard of NaNoWriMo, but the idea seemed daunting. I first tried it in 2012, when I tried for inexplicable reasons to write a romance novel. The novel was a complete failure, but I learned that writing a bit every day generated some serious results. By the following year, I was ready to pursue a project that had been in my head and heart for decades and an early version of Rise of the Storm was born.

I still had a lot to learn, and after absorbing numerous books on craft, I reworked the entire concept, going from historical fiction to historical fantasy. I loved the idea of being able to compress timelines, skip over boring or confusing events and ultimately, have complete control over a world I had created.

Rise of the Storm, the first in a project five-part series, is based upon the early days of the Thirty Years War and the Protestant Reformation. It has loose underpinnings in real events and real people, but is mostly a product of my imagination.ย It is followed by Valley of the Shadow and Hammer of the Gods. Book four of the series- Winter of the Wolf- will by published by the end of 2016.

15 comments on “About
  1. calensariel says:

    Hey! I deleted the link to your story piece from my comments section so it wouldn’t be available for anyone. I LOVED it! It already sounds like a published book. I can’t even imagine it needing any editing (unless it’s scene-stuff only you want to change). It was very helpful to read this bit here about who the main characters are. Now that I have a general overview of the story, the scene makes greater sense to me. And yes, that picture seemed perfect for that scene. I was really touched by the way Landrus helped her to sit down then pointedly looked away. It seemed to speak to his character. That was a nice sentence.

    How many children does she have?

    I’m so impressed with all the work that’s gone into this. You have a real talent their, gf. How far out are you from publishing it? Going to go traditional or ebook?

    • Oh, thanks so much! It’s so good to get some feedback since I’ve been working away at this for a year all by myself. I’m at the point where I’ve lost all perspective, aside from the feeling that it’s never quite what I want it to be. I’m especially apprehensive around Gwynneth’s pov, because she’s the only one of my pov characters whose voice I don”t feel quite certain of. You have no idea how good some positive feedback feels at this point. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Gwynneth has three children- a girl of four and two younger boys. I’m hoping I can manage to grow them up before the end of the series.

      I hope to get this draft finished by the end of November and get it to beta readers by January. I haven’t decided yet if I should get a pro editor- I guess I’ll see what the beta reader feedback is and go from there. I’d love to publish by spring since I’m leaning toward ebook. I’d consider indie press, but I haven’t really done any research on that yet.

      You said your book is with beta readers right now? How are you going to publish it? I would love to read it!

      Thanks again for the lovely comments. You’ve made my day!

  2. calensariel says:

    I also forgot to mention that I think your choice of names is wonderful. Did you use a name generator or just pluck out of mid-air? What made you decide to write a series?

    You know, of the six readers I sent it to, there’s really only one that was capable of doing anything much more than going, “Oh! That was a good story!” Which is what I got from my friend Angel. Last night I skyped with my friend Kim from Australia. She’s had tons of poetry published here and there, and she has a book coming out, The Seahorse Bible, based on her graduate thesis for her Ph.D.in psychology. She minored in literature. So I knew her input would be my best shot.

    We spent over an hour on it last night. I’ve lots of changes to make. And I agreed with everything she said. I think, in fact, that I’ll write a post about it today. I’m really open to her suggestions. I don’t believe I’ve ever bonded with the main character of the story, and I know why after talking with her. So there’s not a lot of emotional investment there. It’s not like writing pieces out of my journals like Who Says God Has a Dog Anyway. I was up late last night trying to note everything we talked about. She’s sending her notes. I’m looking forward to the changes to see if it impacts my feeling about the story. It’s a Gothic mystery. If it doesn’t, I may just scrap the whole project.

    If it does, I’m thinking ebook. But we’ll see. I’m not in a hurry. Now with your stuff, I can hear your emotional investment in it when I read it. It kind of amazes me. This is a WHOLE world you made up. That seems totally awesome to me.That said, what is your favorite stuff to read?

  3. I’m glad you like the names! They’ve presented me with a bit of a dilemma. They should be Germanic, but to the average English-speaking reader, German names can be pretty bewildering. So, I picked Anglo-Saxon names for the fake Germans, while everyone else sticks closer to their real-life ethnic group. I started with a name generator, but used it mostly for secondary characters. It was a good way to get ideas, though. My mom will be translating it into German, so I’ll have to discuss with her the possibility of changing some of the names back to something German. Ugh.

    I decided on a series because the scope of the Thirty Years War was just too vast for one book. Most historical fiction writers never even attempt it- the only stand-alone books I’ve seen deal with the very first part, up to the Battle of White Mountain. After that, it doesn’t lend itself very well to fiction, which is why I decided to present it as fantasy, so I can simplify with impunity.:-) The idea has been kicking around in my head for nearly thirty years (see this post for the original inspiration:(http://christinaochs.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/major-players-frederick-and-elizabeth/), but I just couldn’t get a handle on it as historical fiction. Then I started reading the Game of Thrones series about 10 years ago and realized it was a fantasy version of the War of the Roses, and worked quite well! Of course it took many more years before I actually had the nerve to start it.

    I hear you on the beta readers! It’s hard to find someone who will do more than be a cheerleader. I’m guilty of that myself sometimes, when I read a piece of writing that I like so much I can’t find anything to change. One of my readers is a former English teacher and novelist and has given some good feedback before on a non-fiction book, so I hope she keeps the gloves off. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m glad you got some useful feedback from at least one person.

    The emotional investment is so hard. I think I wrote most of the first draft without really getting there, and I don’t know if you can force it to happen when it’s not there. The non-fiction pieces of yours that I’ve read are very powerful- if only it were easy to easily transfer that into fiction. I hope you can find a way to make it work somehow. It would be too bad to have to give up on it at this point. I’ve written several first drafts of novels over the years, but never have gotten so far into one, and I’m amazed at how much work it is. So now I’m seriously impressed when anyone finishes a book of any kind.

    I like to read everything! I’m not big on romance, but I love most of the classics- especially Russians and Germans-, some mainstream, mysteries if they have a historical setting, and sci-fi/fantasy. Right now, I’m reading almost exclusively in the latter because I’m trying to get a real feel for what’s out there and what people like to read. I’m always looking for good historical fantasy, but it’s a bit hard to find. The genre is overwhelmed by steampunk right now, which I don’t mind reading- I just don’t like it so much that it’s the only thing I want to read. How about you?

  4. calensariel says:

    I’ve been so stuck in WWII for the last few years. I’ve read lots of fiction built around it. I love Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth/Worth Without End” books, but his Century trilogy about the wars of the last century have been a disappointment to me. I loved “Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford and “Snow Falling on Cedars” by David Gutersun, both about the relocation of Japanese citizens in the Washington state area. I’ve read memoirs, especially Elie Weisel’s “Night” trilogy. I recently read “The Girls of Atomic City” which was about the building of the atomic bomb, how it all was arranged and carried out and no one knew what they were building. It was fascinating hearing the reactions some of them had the day after the first bomb was dropped when they finally realized. What a psychological time bomb it was.

    My favorite non-fiction works are Erik Larsen’s “Midnight in the Garden of Beasts” which is about the American ambassador to Germany when Hitler was coming into power, “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” by Eric Metaxas (I couldn’t get my mind around a pastor like Bonhoeffer being involved in Operation Valkyrie), and “Hitler: The Memoir of the Nazi Insider Who Turned Against the Fuhrer” by Ernst Hanfstaengl who was Hitler’s foreign press secretary. One of the worst ones I read was “The Last Jew of Treblinka: a Memoir” by Chil Rajchman. A horrid look at the camp of Treblinka.

    I also made a fiction stop in France to read “Sarah’s Key” by Tatiana de Rosnay which was about the round up of the Jews in Paris. And it was during all this that I discovered “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak (what a beautiful movie, too), and “The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas” by John Boyne that absolutely broke my heart once and for all. The movie did the book proud.

    You would think with all that running through my veins it would bleed out onto paper somehow, wouldn’t you? But there’s just something about it that’s too close to home for me, though I haven’t figured it out yet. Our daughter and her family lives in College Park, Maryland, about five miles from DC. We go out to see them at least once a year, and we’ve been to the Holocaust museum three times. I was a MESS the first time. There was one exhibit that was nothing but children’s shoes (of kids who’d been killed). I sobbed and sobbed. It was a weird trip for us that year as it was also the first time we’d visited Gettysburg. Standing out there on the battlefield at the national park was so ethereal for me. It was so quiet and reverent. The hair stood up on the back of my neck and I could just feel the restless and sad spirit of the place. I had to go back to my daughter’s and write a poem about it. So I’ve dabbled some in Civil War literature like “When General Grant Expelled the Jews” by Jonathan D. Sarna.

    I just finished reading “Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline which is about the way the Children’s Aid Society handled the abundance of kids they took in from 1853 to 1929. They put them on trains and traveled through the mid-west offering them for adoption or farm labor. Well over 200,000 children. It’s a heart-breakiing story as well. In fact, the book club I belong to is going to be reading it next month.

    But actually that’s not even my favorite stuff. I’m a devout Tolkien/fantasy fan (which is why I like your story so much), Gothic mysteries, and straight SciFi fan. And I adore the classics. Jane Austen’s “Persuassion” is my favorite classic. And I’ve always said “To Kill a Mockingbird” was my favorite book of all time, until I bumped into “The Book Thief.”

    Sorry, lol. I get so carried away talking about books. They are my one true obsession!

    • Haha. Oh, I can talk books for hours, or probably even days! I generally like but don’t love Ken Follett’s stuff, but I probably won’t read the third book of the Century Trilogy because I found them disappointing as well. I LOVE “Snow Falling on Cedars!” I read it years ago and should probably read it again. I grew up near the former internment camps at Tulelake, CA, and my grandfather actually did the electrical wiring while they were building them. ๐Ÿ™ It’s the one topic I can’t bring up with my family at all, or we end up in a screaming fight.

      You’ve really read a lot around WW2! I have also, although I mostly try to avoid it these days. The Holocaust is another family sore spot, although we are more in agreement as to the general badness of it. Both my maternal grandparents were adults in Germany during the Third Reich and my grandfather served in the German military in Russia. I’ve tried to visit Dachau and the Anne Frank House, and totally wussed out on both. So, I have this weird, emotional, difficult relationship with my German heritage, and I hope I can make it come out in the books. It might as well be good for something!

      I’ve been to Gettysburg, too! Isn’t it the most amazing place? We stayed on the battlefield until well after dark, and I really got the most amazing spine-shivers. I’m dying to go back, but we don’t get to PA much anymore.

      I really need to read The Book Thief- I’ve heard so many good things about it. One of the hardest things about getting in the truck was the lack of books- no access to a library and not much room to keep them. My saving grace became the Kindle- I think the first few years I had it I read nearly 200 books per year.

      It’s very hard for me to choose one favorite book, but if I had to, it would probably be War and Peace. I’ve read it every few years since I was eleven and get something new out of it every time. I’m totally obsessed with Tolkien (thought not quite hardcore enough to make it through all of The Silmarilion) and love CS Lewis, too. I’ve read some pretty good fantasy lately and reviewed them on the blog, and I’m always looking for more. I usually try to read nonfiction too- I always have two-five books going at the same time- and am in the middle of Schiller’s history of the 30 Years War, which is a joy to read after the other ponderous tomes I’ve endured on the subject.

      So yes, I can talk about books forever!

  5. calensariel says:

    That’s so interesting about your family history. I’ve always thought it would be enlightening to talk to just a nominal person who lived there during that time. I think that’s why I liked The Book Thief so much. Just out of curiosity, why did you decide to not visit those places? (I have a virtual leaf on the Anne Frank tree on line.) I would love to hear some more about your family and how it has affected them over the years. Do you still have a lot of family in Germany?

    Try as I might, I can’t get used to reading on a Kindle. His lordship has a Samsung Galaxy that I use now and then for quick stuff I need, but staring at the screen makes me weary. How long have you guys been driving now?

    I’ve never gotten through the Sil all the way either. And I HATE The Hobbit! LOL But I’ve read LOTR four or five times and I never get tired of it. I am always broken up over Boromir’s relationship with his father. I saw FOTR 53 times! By myself most of that time, I might add. Obsessed?

    So where do you guys hail from? I’m a transplant to Utah from Ohio. Dad moved us out here when I was 12 when they closed down the army depot in Marion. I still think of Ohio as home, even though I married and raised my family here. I miss the trees, though Maryland has ALMOST cured me of that! LOL If I could live anywhere, though, it would be on one of the coasts with a house overlooking the ocean. Funny, since I’m scared spitless of the water. How about you?

  6. Hey, I just sent you an email!

  7. Elsa Holland says:

    Hi Christina, I have nominated you for the One Lovely Blog award. I hope you accept. :-)There is a logo you can put on your blog if you like and suggestion to post a post about it if you want. This isn’t associated with any organisation that I know just something bloggers are doing to recognize blogs they like. Please let me know and I can get everything over to you ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for a Liebster Award! You can read all about it here: http://katemcolby.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/liebster-award-acceptance-and-nominations/

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