a conversation in the gardens // “if the stars awaken” excerpt

a conversation in the gardens // “if the stars awaken” excerpt

In honor of the gorgeous, helpful progress my beta-readers are making, I thought it was high time for another excerpt from my upcoming novel, “If the Stars Awaken”.

Remember, this is an uncorrected draft. 😉 Enjoy!

Soft afternoon light danced across the cobblestones as the tree leaves parted and pushed together in the wind. 

Marinne studied their patterns as she strolled down the winding garden paths, rocking Leif in her arms. Their guard trailed behind, looking mildly out of place in the relaxed environment. She smiled as she thought of how she had asked for a rotation to give more of them breaks from council meetings or riot patrol. 

When she reached her favorite bench, softly shadowed and hidden by a large tree, Marinne sat down and picked up a nearby fallen leaf. She held it up to show Leif, and he zeroed in on it, eyes nearly crossing. Her laughter flit through the garden like a hummingbird and rested in her voice as she explained, “This, little one, is a leaf. It feeds and beautifies the whole tree, and together the leaves provide shade to all.”

“You are teaching him beautiful truth, m’lady,” the head gardener said, walking by with his ladder. 

Marinne flushed, embarrassed he had caught her. 

“I’m sorry, m’lady, I spoke out of turn,” the gardener said, hoisting up his ladder and continuing down the path.

“No, I thank you. I talk to my child a lot, and sometimes I don’t know if the words are of any use.” 

The gardener stopped and looked around, his turn to be startled. She glanced down at Leif. “He’s only just begun to be able to see beyond his own nose.”

The gardener set down his faded wood ladder and leaned on it. The color had faded from his hair and clothes as well, but his eyes were deep with years spent taming and cultivating life. “Ah, but he has a lot to know of this great and terrible world. And who better to teach him than his own mother. He may not know the meaning of your words, m’lady, but he already knows and loves your voice.”

“You are very kind. Thank you for your words,” Marinne smiled down at Leif and nestled his forehead against her shoulder.

Copyright 2023 Kate Willis

Title Reveal Time!

Title Reveal Time!

It is time





title reveal…


My fantasy novel you’ve previously known by its working title “Awake” is now “If the Stars Awaken”. And its projected release is this fall!

Here’s a sneak peek of what the story includes…

  • A really cute, wholesome marriage
  • The world’s best dog
  • A guard with scars
  • A driven apprentice
  • Unique fantasy elements in a medieval-ish world
  • Holding onto hope in God
  • End of the world stuff

And just for fun, here are a couple *rough draft* excerpts.

I’ll have more updates (and a beta-reading opportunity) for you soon, but for now, ahhhhh! 💖 Thanks for celebrating with me. 😉

Crunch Time

Crunch Time

Greetings from crazy author HQ. I haven’t updated you all on my WIP for the Easter anthology in quite a while because I’ve been frantically writing it. In fact, tomorrow I turn “Addie’s Mountain” over to beta-readers. Tonight I finish writing it…

I truly can’t believe this is happening. It’s been a while since my last project, and this one has had so many setbacks. To get to this point, well… I’m both excited and terrified out of my mind. 👀

*stares into the void* *flexes writing muscles*

As this week is proving too dynamic and busy for blogging, I thought I might pacify you all with a (very rough draftish) excerpt… 😉

Addie awoke to soft gray light playing with the curtain and a chill running through the room that made her want to burrow deeper into her blankets and never leave. She yawned and rolled over to face Claire but her sister was already awake, sitting close to the window with her blanket draped over her shoulders.

“What is it?” Addie asked. She sat up but her body shivered in protest. 

“It snowed,” Claire breathed, and she was over to the window in seconds.

Soft, glittering snow had covered the whole backyard, dormant orchard and dead garden, and even balanced on the fence that separated yard from pasture. Small flakes still floated down here and there like butterflies skipping from flower to flower. Penny ran by wagging her tail and twisting with joy as she tried to snap up the flakes. The sisters exchanged glances and made a snap decision, changing into snow clothes and charging out the backdoor before breakfast could even be mentioned.

Addie chased Claire around the big maple tree, throwing handfuls of snow and dodging Penny who was determined to get under foot. Claire’s cheeks grew rosy with the cold and laughter, and she stopped suddenly and shoved a handful of snow right into her.

Addie shrieked and the snow battle was on. They sank down on the porch together and stared out at the slushy yard that was beginning to melt. A movement near the barn caught Addie’s eye and she looked in time to see a tall boy turn away and duck into the building.

I’ll be back next week with more project details and a very fun bookhaul. For now, send help and Chai. 💖

(Also, J and I got a library card!)

A Little Bit of a #Fail // NaNoRebel Week Two

A Little Bit of a #Fail // NaNoRebel Week Two

The goal hasn’t been goaling, and I’ve had to extend a lot of grace (and the mini-deadline) for myself again. 😉 *sigh*

I only wrote another 800 words this week, but I got through a tough chapter (in more ways than one), so I’m hopeful this next week will be more productive. 😉

For now, I feel you all need a very first-draftish excerpt. For context, my main character Addie is visiting her grandfather and gets to see the small country town for the first time…

“Town” was a loose term for a dozen houses, the church, and a small country store, as Addie soon found out. Still it was all so cute like right out of a cheesy movie, that her sense of adventure was in full swing when Grandfather parked his rattling truck and they jumped out.

Old-fashioned windows cluttered with contemporary art and an unenthusiastic porch dog greeted them. Grandfather opened the door and a small bell announced their arrival. 

Short aisles of dry goods filled the front of the store while a bar and cafe nestled in the far end. A round table of older men called out to Grandfather, and he removed his hat and joined their card game.

Addie stood in the middle of the store taking in the lingering smells of breakfast and the tidy rows of products ranging from flour, sugar, mousetraps, and an entire machete. She gravitated to the circular rack of touristy items and selected a postcard claiming to be a picture of original settlers. 

When she carried it up to the counter, the woman at the register smacked her gum and took one look at her. “You’re Uri’s granddaughter? That one’s free for you, honey.”

Addie thanked the woman, then settled down at a free table in the corner, and slid the postcard into the copy of Heidi she’d brought from the farmhouse book room. It was one she’d been meaning to read for a while, especially since she still wondered what happened after the one traumatizing scene she’d seen as a child. 

Laughter from the card table brought a smile to her face, and she soon sunk into the simple yet comforting tale. A while later, someone brought a sandwich and a basket of crisp fries to her table and Grandfather gave her a thumbs-up from across the room. If this was a daily tradition, she wouldn’t mind accompanying him to “town” every time.

Fun fact: this store is inspired by two different country stores I went to when I lived in a small town. It’s been really fun work to bring it to life. 😉

Here’s to more words this week! 💙🙏 How are your goals going?

New Words, Old Friends

New Words, Old Friends

Editing Kiera was an interesting experience, diving back into a book I’d started six years ago, reliving my writing style and characters, getting a new dose of imposter syndrome…

But this past week, I’ve experienced the fun side of revisiting these characters–a brand new story!

I’ve had ideas brewing in my mind for so long but never quite enough for a whole sequel, so a hardcover exclusive short story was just the chance I needed.

I. Absolutely. Loved. It.

Getting to hang out with “old friends” and progressing the worldbuilding just slightly as time passes and “the dystopia thickens”? A very happy author moment. 😁

Operation Robin includes…

  • Lots of Jade antics ❤️
  • An unexpected visitor
  • Ian on his way to being his epic self in Crossroads 😎
  • Kiera and Brennan texting 🥰
  • A resolution of THAT storyline you all have been asking about 👀

My heart crew of beta-readers volunteered to read it on very short notice (have to get it in to the formatter ASAP), and I truly couldn’t have done it without them.

Just for fun, here’s an excerpt…

Jade popped around the kitchen corner and giggled.

“Are you ready?” Kiera widened her eyes and raised her eyebrows, sending Jade shrieking and giggling back into the kitchen.

“One… two…” Better count slowly. Jade only knew up to ten. “Three…”

Kiera cleared the table as she counted. “Six… seven…” She doled out her morning supplements and took the injection the doctors had prescribed.

“Ten! Ready or not, here I come!”

Giggles, definitely from one of the lower cabinets brought a grin to her face, but she pretended not to hear.

I can’t wait for you all to read this one. ❤️

(“Operation Robin” will be available as part of the limited edition hardcover. Pre-order now.)

The Best (Story) Dog Ever (Excerpt!)

The Best (Story) Dog Ever (Excerpt!)

Since it’s been a little while since I’ve shared a story excerpt, here’s on from my apocalyptic fantasy story featuring The Best (Story) Dog Ever…

(Thanks, Emma, for helping me choose!)

Arrow walked down the corridor to the Great Hall, the black dog following at his heels. The day had been long, and he still had dinner to eat and paint to remove from his face. Mace had a look in his eye that said there would be a long, worrisome meeting in the guard shack later.

He threw a glance at the dog. The animal had stuck with him all day, whether Arrow wanted him to or not, and he knew that somewhere in the days following their meeting the dog had decided to be his.

When he entered the Great Hall, the cook handed him water and ash to clean his face, then traded these for a bowl of stew. He swung his legs over a bench and leaned over his bowl, losing himself in the comforting food.

The dog nudged his foot, and he threw him a scrap of meat. Sooner or later, the animal would need a name.

There you go! Aren’t dogs just the best? I originally planned for this one to be important early on in the story and then exit (*cough* die *cough*) but he developed a personality and absolutely won my heart and just had to stay.

There are some really special scenes with him that I can’t wait to share with you all. ❤️

My real best dog ever, Jack Lewis. ❤️
Gold and Silver Stars (Excerpt from Imperfect)

Gold and Silver Stars (Excerpt from Imperfect)

Draft 2 of “Imperfect” is getting so close! I’m just four chapters away from finishing making the changes I marked up and finding some good solutions to problems I previously identified. *rubs hands together*

Just for fun, here’s a (rough) excerpt of one of my favorite scenes. 😉

• • •

I walked across the grass, tracing the outline of the museum with my eyes. As I neared the Giganticus Somethingus, Chrystal waved and called out to me. I waved back and merged into the group

    Half a dozen Perfects turned to look at me. 

    I smiled. “Hello, I’m Kylee. I know Joss and Chrystal from school.”

    “Pleased to meet you, Kylee,” one of the boys said, reaching out shake my hand.

    The others followed, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Introductions over. Art time. 

    My mouth fell open like a broken backpack the moment I stepped inside. The domed ceiling was painted with constellations, silver and gold and blue and white. I recognized a few just from their shapes, but a hunger grew in me to know more. First mental note of the night: ask Mom to help me find a book on stars.

    The tile underneath our feet was a smooth, almost black gray. If I walked lightly enough, my shoes slid along it and I could almost taste the silkiness on my tongue. I made a tight circle around the lobby and craned my neck to look at the stars. If there had been a ladder, I would have climbed and touched the lines of paint that represented things so far away.

• • •

What do you think? Tell me about the most beautiful piece of visual art you’ve ever seen. 😁

Excerpt Time!

Excerpt Time!

I just broke 42k words on my novel this week! I’m so excited to be so near to the end. It feels a little scary that there’s less than one-tenth of the first draft left to write, but if I forget something, there’s always second drafts, right? XD

Also, the message of the novel is one I could have never planned for this time we’re in right now. I plotted it over two years ago and began writing it last October, so I think its definitely a God thing that I’m currently writing scenes about trusting Him for protection and provision. 😉

Over on Goodreads, I’ve been playing an excerpt game with my followers, and I thought it might be fun to play here too. 😀

Comment with your choice, and I’ll reply! 😀 (If you’d like to see excerpts I posted on Goodreads, you can find them here.)

One of my younger sisters and one of my best friends have been reading through my story as I write it. It’s been so fun to see their feedback and excitement, and I’m really glad to have them along for the ride. ❤

In other writing news, I signed up Camp NaNoWriMo today. *pretends to breathe into paper bag* I’m looking forward to the creative “play time” after drafting this novel (yes, I hope to finish this month XD 😉 ) and the chance to try out some genres in short story format.


I’m a little excited. 😉

What are you writing or reading or dreaming up right now? Are you doing Camp NaNoWriMo? Has God ever spoken to you through your own story?

My Poor Characters

My Poor Characters

You guys, I’m getting a little concerned for my characters.

Their author just keeps piling things on them. O.o.

I just remembered that this is literally the beginning of the fourth quarter so the WORST is coming. O.o.

Who made me decide to write an end-of-the-world story? XD

Here is the best un-spoilery excerpt I could find. While things were still a little more happy in the story. XD

Marinne sat up slowly and smiled down at the sleeping baby beside her. The fire had burned low in the night, and the cold chill had broken her sleep more than a few times. She shivered and drew her coat tighter around her shoulders. The next season must be coming early. 

The dog stood at attention and barked joyfully as the guard and the apprentice entered the clearing, each holding a fish. They were deep in conversation as the guard laid the fish out on a rock and began to clean them. 

Marinne smiled to herself and tied the child on her, then drifted into the forest to collect more firewood. When she returned and set it beside the ashy fire, the guard looked up gratefully. 

They gathered around the campfire, the four of them and the dog, and shared the fried fish as the morning light grew. Marinne wiped her fingers on the clean grass beside her, then took another bite. It was barely cooked with no breading or seasoning, but each bite felt like a feast as it chipped away at her hunger. Leif woke up and smiled up at her, prompting the others to tease him for one.

I broke 36,000 words yesterday evening! While I’m conflicted about what’s going to happen next, I also am really excited to get further on this story.

What have you been writing lately?

A Stray Chapter for You

A Stray Chapter for You

Hello, and how is your month going, aaaaaand I’m literally blanking on a good introduction to this blog post. 😉 #honesttogoodnesstruth

Basically, I thought it would be fun to share another chapter of my new novella Sincerely, Jem.

(If you haven’t read chapter one yet, catch it here.)

Chapter Two: Between the Tree and the Wall

There were garlands everywhere. Swagged across doorways, trailing down window trim, looping around and around the stair railing. Tinsel and bows, twinkling lights and ribbon decorated the garlands, making each one unique yet still coordinated with the others. In the kitchen, there was even a garland hanging from the edge of the island, which Jessie got a good view of every time she braved the crowd in the dining room to get a mini cheesecake.

Ember had done a perfect job making them, Jessie decided. They were creamy white with a crust that was crunchy moments before it melted in her mouth. She took another cheesecake, her last one for a while, and leaned against the kitchen counter to eat it.

As she peeled back the baking wrapper and began to nibble at the heavenly cheesecake, she let herself study the people crowded into the dining room. People of all ages, types, shapes, sizes, levels of noisiness, and levels of nosiness were happy to be there and around each other. Owen had found some other young teenage boys his age to play a board game with, and others of her family were fitting in seamlessly. 

She sighed and threw away her empty wrapper, then drifted out to the quietly welcoming living room to see what was happening there.

Only a few people were in this room. Dad sat on the couch holding Baby Noel and talking to Mr. Donovan, their host. He was an older man straight from a storybook just like his house, and his sky-blue eyes twinkled as he spoke. Jessie recognized him from church choir where he stood between Dad and Owen in the tenor section. 

Ember and her guy, Ben, had found each other immediately, and now they shared the piano seat and some pretty cute smiles. Jessie giggled to herself and shook her head. 

She leaned in the doorway, not exactly welcome in one room and not exactly interested in being in the other.

The shimmering Christmas tree began a staring contest with her, and if she hadn’t been so bored, it would have beaten her sooner. She drifted toward it, finding the numerous ornaments fascinating. Here, a little horse, carved out of wood and handpainted with vibrant red reins and a little face. Next, a crystal star that shone in the light and danced as it hung from a branch. 

Jessie moved from one ornament to the next, never touching them but soaking in their stories with her eyes. She reached out to touch one of the tree branches and rubbed it between her fingers. The strong, wonderful smell of pine met her nose. Definitely real.

She’d bumped from one slightly gossipy conversation to another awkward one, and it had left her feeling exhausted and out of place. 

She was being unfair, she knew. Strangers weren’t usually comfortable diving right into esoteric or quirky conversations. Which reminded her… she still had last night’s weird dream to write about in her inspiration book. 

Glancing around the room like an introverted spy, she tiptoed past Dad and Mr. Donovan to the coat rack. She fished around in her coat pocket and pulled out the notebook. The library receipt she’d found fluttered to the ground, so she stooped to pick it up. The words were too faded to read, but at least it would make a nice bookmark. 

She slid it between the pages and returned to inspecting the Christmas tree. The space between it and the wall practically invited her to enter it, and she sank down on the carpet.

Her black shoes she’d changed into just peeked out from under the edge of her skirt, and she reached out to rub a scuffed spot on one toe. She had done well being a normal socializing person for the first three hours of the party, but conversationally tiptoeing around small talk and trying not to eat too many cheesecakes around strangers got tiring quickly. 

Jessie leaned her head against the wall and pulled the bobby pins out of her hair, letting it fall loose around her shoulders. Now for the dream. She flipped to the sheet labeled “Dreams” and scrawled out her frightening and surprisingly humorous nightmare of that morning. 

Apparently a rhinoceros had been wearing heels and began to tap dance all over the dress she’d ironed specifically for the party. Jessie giggled to herself, imagining the picture she would draw if she could, then shut her mouth quickly.

It would be awkward if someone found her laughing behind the Christmas tree. 

She looked up just in time to see the first guests trickling from the overcrowded dining room into this one to grab their coats and say goodbye. Time to make her reappearance. Another cheesecake was a good excuse. Standing up, she hid her inspiration book by the side of her skirt and slipped out into the room. 

Mr. Donovan was just turning away from shutting the door behind his guests, and his eyes lit in amusement when he saw her. “Enjoying the party, Jessica?”

Jessie flushed. “Mostly. I really like your Christmas tree.”

“Yes, it’s lovely, isn’t it?” He moved toward the tree, clasping his hands behind his back. “My wife takes great delight in decorating the tree for Christmas. She told me, none of this nonsense of perfectly matching ornaments, memories matter more to her. We even left that space between it and the wall so she can read behind it sometimes.”

Jessie looked at the tree in surprise and tried to picture Mrs. Donovan, always so elegant at the church piano, sitting in the same place she’d just been. So Judy wasn’t the only person who would understand her, after all! What a shame the most inspiring person she’d just discovered couldn’t have come to the party. 

She turned to Mr. Donovan. “You both did a lovely job. I’m sorry she couldn’t be here today, or I would tell her myself.”

Mr. Donovan chuckled. “You and me both, though I think she’s quite happy where she is right now. Visiting a sick grandchild. That’s another thing that is important to her.”

Jessie smiled. 

“But you’ll get your chance to see her again sometime, and maybe then you can tell her.”

Copyright 2019 Kate Willis

You can read more in the A Very Bookish Christmas anthology. 😉

(Also, my Christmas tree looks so pretty right now, I’m tempted to go sit behind it.)