every last minute

Book Excerpt from Every Last Minute

The Time Wrecker Trilogy centers around a fictional but incredibly controversial concept: timeline rectification. This alternative type of parole allows criminals to return to the day of their original crime and choose a different path. Throughout the series, I included news articles, blog posts, and opinion pieces that give different perspectives on the controversy. Should timeline rectification be legal? Even if it is legal, is it moral? 

As I get Book 2 of the Time Wrecker Trilogy ready for publication, I'm sharing a few samples from Book 1, Every Last Minute, here on the blog. (You can read the first two samples here and here.) The third sample piece is below. Enjoy!

Book Excerpt from Every Last Minute, Book 1 of the Time Wrecker Trilogy: 3 Reasons I Wish I Could Have a Time Wreck And 4 Reasons I Know I Can't || from the ellensmithwrites.com blog October 3, 2018

3 Reasons I Wish I Could Have a Time Wreck
and 4 Reasons I Know I Can’t

By Brian Kendall

 

Long ago, before timeline rectifications, before the Internet, before reality television or answering machines or any of the other modern-day annoyances that have come to plague my life, there was a young man. He was sixteen years old and his name was Johnathan.

Johnathan was five-foot-eleven, played basketball at his high school, and was dating a girl named Becky. Like most high school boys, he aspired to many things: becoming an astronaut, visiting his uncle’s ranch in Wyoming, passing his geometry class.

Johnathan did none of these things, because on one warm spring evening, he was riding his bicycle home from Becky’s house. He was out later than he was supposed to be and was pedaling home as fast as he could; trying, I expect, to make curfew. He was not wearing a helmet, as children often didn’t back in the seventies. He was not watching the road, and thus he did not see the car coming around a sharp bend up ahead. The driver of the car also did not see him.

Johnathan was killed immediately on impact.

I was the driver of that car.

In the nearly forty years since that horrible night, I have heard many young people talk about this concept of “justice.” Of late, the most heavily debated iteration of criminal justice is timeline rectification, and, if you’ll permit me, I’d like to give you the perspective of one old man who wishes more than anything that he could be a time wrecker. These are the top three reasons I would gladly take a timeline rectification:

 

1.       Johnathan’s death was easily avoidable.

Those of you who have grieved are doubtlessly familiar with the “if only” game. I’ll share the highlights of mine:

·       If only I had waited five minutes to go to the store. Alternatively: if only I had gone five minutes earlier.

·       If only he had reflectors on his bicycle, I might have seen him.

·       If only I had taken that turn more slowly.

·       If only he had been wearing a helmet.

That a person should die due to factors as small and easily rectified as these adds an additional level of horror and injustice to that night.

2.      His passing cast a pall on all who knew him . . . and many who didn’t.

I have never claimed to grieve at the same level as those who knew Johnathan: his parents, his friends, his schoolmates. I can only imagine the burden of grief they carry and the hole that his loss has left in their lives. Despite never having laid eyes on this young man until the accident, after his death I became somewhat obsessed with trying to honor the life that I had, wholly unwittingly, brought to an end. I read his obituary, the memorial in his school’s yearbook, and every article the newspaper printed about the accident. It was his death and my role in the accident that caused me to descend into alcoholism, which additionally cost me my wife, my house, and my job. I went from being a full-time father to an every-other-weekend parent—that is, when I was sober enough to pick up the kids. After a hell of a fight and two years of sobriety, I have now regained a job, an apartment, and a strained relationship with one of my children.

3.      Johnathan deserved to live.

And don’t we all? Whether Johnathan had continued to play basketball or date Becky, whether he ever became an astronaut or passed that geometry class, he deserved to live.

 

However, timeline rectification is a tricky business. The government does not simply turn back time for every sad old man who wishes he’d lived differently. There are four reasons that I will never be able to take back that night.

 

1.       Legally, the accident was not a crime.

Certainly, I have felt the weight of my role as a killer each day of my life. Legally, however, no charges were ever filed, and none were ever sought. This was an accident. According to the rules and statutes of the justice system, there can be no rectification for events that were not criminal.

2.       There was a fatality.

Timeline rectifications are not performed for incidents that resulted in a pregnancy or a death. I understand, in principle, why the Department of Timeline Rectification would make such a stipulation. In my heart, I think those of us who have seen crimes result in loss of life wish for the opportunity to turn back time even more earnestly.

3.      The accident occurred before 2000.

The technology for timeline rectification has existed since 1999, when the Supreme Court ruling was made. Presumably, Dr. Bennington had invented it before that, earlier in the nineties. However, partly due to the ruling and partly due to preventing some type of time paradox, we cannot change events that occurred before timeline rectification was first enacted under law.

4.      The accident involved a minor.

One of the facts I ruminate on the most is that Johnathan was killed in the prime of his life. Sixteen years old, with years of school and career and love stretched out before him. As much as I wish I could give that back to him, the law prohibits rectifying crimes that involve a minor, either as the perpetrator or the victim.

 

Often, people who are perhaps well-meaning or perhaps not will claim that there is a good and worthy reason behind every tragedy. Some will press me to believe that Johnathan was an angel meant to be called home early or that his death must surely have inspired some new law, some spiritual awakening, some good act that made this tragedy understandable. There is none. From one man who wishes he could change his past, to those who could change theirs: seize the opportunity you have. Nothing is worth a lifetime of regret.


Interested in reading more from Every Last Minute? The book is available now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books-A-Million. Ready to decide whether you would be a time wrecker? Take the quiz here to find out!

Life Lately...Plus a Book Excerpt from Every Last Minute

Sometimes you find the exact words you're looking for hidden in the pages of a book.

And sometimes, in a bizarre turn of events, that book is one you wrote yourself. 

Today marks twelve weeks since my foot surgery. I have some mixed feelings about that milestone, especially since I still have a long way to go. I'm working hard in physical therapy and I am so grateful for the progress I've seen so far. However, I've had a few setbacks the past few months. Healing is a slow process. Just to give you an idea of how I've been handling that, I'll tell you: when I called my doctor's office a few days ago, instead of saying "I'm a patient of..." I accidentally said, "I'm impatient..." 

Freudian slip, anyone?

Throughout this long recovery, I've been holding out for a moment when I'll feel "normal" again--or even a time when I'll hit a new normal. I thought maybe it would be when I ditched the crutches, or when I was finally able to drive again, or when I had more energy and less pain. And then I remembered:

"This is forever--this one broken, beautiful life. We're only guaranteed one chance to do it right." Book quote from EVERY LAST MINUTE by Ellen Smith

Even though I don't feel "normal" yet, my broken, beautiful life is happening now. That includes my writing life. Projects for my freelance clients always come first, but I've still managed to squeak out some energy for editing the Time Wrecker Trilogy. It's so easy for me to get frustrated by the ways my current life compares to my old writing routine, but you know what? I'm going to refocus on how much I love this story, and how determined I am to get it right. Every step forward is worth celebrating because it brings me a little closer to my goal.

It was so funny to me that the words I needed to hear were tucked away in the first book of the Time Wrecker Trilogy, Every Last Minute. They're spoken by Renee Rasmussen, the "voice" behind one of the editorials included in the novel. The full text is below. I hope you enjoy this little excerpt!

Book Excerpt from EVERY LAST MINUTE by Ellen Smith: "You Get One Life."

 

You Get One Life

By Renee Rasmussen

 

One life.

One time.

One chance to get things right.

There are so many times that I’ve waited and wished and prayed for a second chance, only to be denied. Have you read all the articles out there about timeline rectification? I have. Have you looked up an inmate in the system to see if they’re nearing eligibility for parole . . . meaning they might have a shot at getting into the rectification program? I have. Have you written personal letters begging an inmate to consider a rectification? I’ve written over 200—averaging one a week for four years.

I had a perfectly ordinary life until I was thirty-two years old. Not perfect, mind you. Perfectly ordinary. I had a roommate who was friendly and a cat with terrible cat-food breath and a job I liked well enough but wasn’t a career.

And then, one day, in the middle of my very ordinary existence, I was knocked unconscious. I woke up in a hospital bed, attached to more monitors than I’d ever seen in my life. My apartment had been broken into by two teens who were high on drugs and looking for anything they could steal and sell on the black market. I didn’t know them, and neither did my roommate. Our door was locked. Our blinds were shut. We just had the bad luck to be in the first-floor apartment when these two men got the idea to break in.

They were arrested quickly, did us the favor of admitting their guilt, and are currently serving their sentences. This is where the story gets interesting: at the end of the trial, my lawyer turned to me and said, “Give it a few years. If they qualify for the rehabilitation program, you’ll probably get a time wreck. This isn’t forever.”

This isn’t forever. I clung to those words as I tried to rebuild my life. My roommate was too traumatized to consider another apartment in the city. She ended up moving back to her home state to be with family. She took the cat too. I hope they’re doing well, but to be honest, the whole experience was so hard that we can’t talk without it all bubbling back up.

I don’t have my old job anymore. When it reached the point that I’d been in the hospital longer than I’d ever worked there, they let me go—and legally, they had no obligation to keep me for as long as they did. Finding a new job and getting insurance with what are now “preexisting conditions” was a nightmare. I’d like to go back to counseling, but I can’t afford it. I think a vacation could be restful, but I have to save up all my days off in case I need another surgery.

For years, the only thing that kept me going was the chance that someday, I might get a timeline rectification. Believing that all my struggles were temporary helped me handle every challenge.

At last, the time came when the criminals could qualify for the rehabilitation program. They both signed up.

They both dropped out.

I felt like I was going crazy when I found out they’d left the rehabilitation program. What happened? Why did they change their minds? Could they try again? Finally (after I wrote many, many letters), one of them wrote back. He had been willing to put forth the effort to rehabilitate, but his partner in crime wasn’t. Prison was working for him. He was powerful there, respected. He didn’t want to change. The other criminal—the one who had written to me—was very sorry, but unless they were both willing to rehabilitate, a time wreck would be impossible. He was working toward his own parole, apologized again for his actions, and wished me well.

This is forever. It took me one letter to realize it, but much, much longer to believe it. For over a year, I devoted myself to the cause of convincing these two men to change their minds.

But after a while, I began to realize that I simply couldn’t change people who weren’t willing to change. The only person I could rehabilitate was myself. And so—slowly, painfully—I began the long, hard process of accepting my reality.

This is the problem with time wrecking: it lets victims focus on changing the past instead of shaping the future. At some point, we all must decide whether we’re going to keep looking back or start moving forward. My journey has been full of stops and starts and many, many backward glances, but I am finally moving forward. At last, I’m starting to heal.

This is forever—this one broken, beautiful life. We’re only guaranteed one chance to do it right.

Let’s make it count.

Sample Chapter from Every Last Minute: In Defense of Timeline Rectification

The Time Wrecker Trilogy centers around a fictional but incredibly controversial concept: timeline rectification. This alternative type of parole allows criminals to return to the day of their original crime and choose a different path. Throughout the series, I included news articles, blog posts, and opinion pieces that give different perspectives on the controversy. Should timeline rectification be legal? Even if it is legal, is it moral? 

As I get Book 2 of the Time Wrecker Trilogy ready for publication this fall, I'm sharing a few samples from Book 1, Every Last Minute, here on the blog. The first sample piece is below. Enjoy!

Book Excerpt from Every Last Minute on the ellensmithwrites.com blog

 

Krushin' It Together

A personal blog by Klara Krusher

 

In Defense of Timeline Rectifications

Published March 31, 2011

 

So I try to stay out of politics on this blog. I do. If you’ve been following my blog for the last couple of years, you know I like to keep things upbeat. But in light of the protest in DC this week and the bloggers coming out of the woodwork to rage against Deirdre Collins’s new reality show—which, come on, isn’t reality TV pretty rage-worthy anyway?—I feel like I need to speak up.

Look, I don’t like the idea of timeline rectifications any more than you do. I want to say that they’re a terrible idea, that there’s no problem so big that it justifies mucking around with time. I want to post the numbers to some hotlines and give the websites for some charities and tell you that no matter how bleak life seems, there’s always help available.

But you know what? That’s not true. The kinds of crimes that qualify for a timeline rectification leave more lasting damage than you can fix with three sessions of talk therapy or a couple months in the slammer. They cause big problems that require big solutions.

 I feel like I’m going to lose some readers for this. Maybe a lot of readers. But I feel like there needs to be a point where we stop talking ourselves in circles and start doing something to help.

I’ve been really frustrated with the tone of the online conversation surrounding timeline rectification. We’re all about raising awareness these days. We throw data and statistics at each other to support our points of view. We get angry and drop friends and lose followers as we passionately stand up for what we believe.

But what are we doing?

Because, honestly, if you’re so against crime victims agreeing to time wrecks, are you doing anything to help them in this life map? If their insurance runs out—or if they don’t have any—would you pay for their physical therapy? Their mental healthcare? Give them a job? What if they need help even after you think they should have “moved on”? What if they aren’t back on their feet before you’re bored of playing the white knight in their story? 

And what about the offenders? How many people with a criminal record do you know, really? Are you supporting rehabilitation programs? Would you rent to someone who had just been released from prison? Would you hire an ex-con, or is finding them a job someone else’s problem?

Because if not, guess what?

You’re the reason why people think timeline rectifications are their best option. You’re the reason why people think they have more to lose and nothing to gain by staying. You’re the reason people think there’s no help for them in this life map.

Because sometimes, it’s true.


Interested in reading more from Every Last Minute? The book is available now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books-A-Million. Ready to decide whether you would be a time wrecker? Take the quiz here to find out!

Counting Down Every Last Minute

"How much of your book is inspired by real life?"

When it comes to the Time Wrecker Trilogy, I'm relieved to say: not much. Thank goodness, right? Even after drafting all three books, I'm still not sure what I'd do if I was offered the chance to travel back in time.

However, there are a few things I have in common with my main characters. For example: like Mara Sterling, I've lived with chronic pain. In fact, several months before the release of Every Last Minute, I had a much-anticipated surgery on my right ankle. After a lot of rest and a lot of physical therapy, I was able to walk and move more comfortably than I had in a long time. On my book release date, I walked in to the party pain-free, and it felt amazing.

After that, I felt confident setting some big publication goals for Books 2 and 3 in the trilogy. Since both books were already drafted, I planned to release Book 2 in the spring of 2018 and Book 3 in the fall. Yep, two books published in one year! I knew it would be a big push to make it happen, but it was totally worth doing. After all, as a reader I don't like to wait too long between books in a series. Is it any surprise I'd have the same preference as a writer?

Unfortunately, my pain-free days didn't last. Over the winter, chronic pain slowly crept back in to my life. After a lot of thought, I decided to push back the release date of the second book in the series to prepare for my next surgery, which will require a longer recovery time.

As hard as it was to make that decision, it was definitely the right thing to do. Like many things in life, chronic pain has a way of throwing a left hook at my neatly-laid plans. The good news is, I can always reassess, refocus, and revise my goals. 

So here's the new plan: I am working towards a tentative release date of October 18, 2018 for Book 2 in the Time Wreckers Trilogy. I've also set a tentative release date for Book 3: October 18, 2019. (If you've already read Every Last Minute: Book 1 of the Time Wreckers Trilogy, you know why October 18 is a significant date!) I love the symmetry of releasing each book one year apart. I won't make my original goal of releasing both Book 2 and Book 3 in 2018, but that's okay. I'm still going to meet my goal of telling all the stages of Will and Mara's story. I promise it will be worth the wait.

Thanks for sticking with me through this unexpected turn of events! To celebrate the six months since Every Last Minute released, I am offering the Kindle ebook for free (today only, so if you don't have a copy for your ereader yet, be sure to grab it now!) 

Every Last Minute by Ellen Smith || available FREE on Kindle for April 11, 2018 only

Regardless of any other circumstances, writing and sharing these stories with you has been a dream come true. I'm grateful to be an author on any publication schedule and I'm looking forward to everything 2018 and 2019 will bring! Stay tuned! 

Who Doesn't Love a Giveaway?

It's Valentine's Day, which means two things for me: a day-long sugar high (yessss!) and a chance to celebrate love in all its forms. I love love, whether it's the romantic hearts-and-flowers kind or appreciating good friends, good times, and good books! 

It's probably not surprising my most recent story is a romance, is it?

Even though the Time Wrecker Trilogy doesn't fit neatly into one genre, I've always felt that it was first and foremost a love story. Yes, there's time travel, and some political intrigue, and definitely some ethical questions--but above all, this is a story about Mara and Will Sterling. This is about how they fell in love, how they overcame their past, and how far they'll go to protect each other. 

So, in honor of Valentine's Day, I'm celebrating one of my favorite (fictional!) couples by giving away the first part of their story.

Time for a giveaway! || from the Ellen Smith Writes blog From February 14 - 28, enter to win a copy of Every Last Minute (Book 1 of the Time Wrecker Trilogy) on Kindle!

From now until the end of the month, you can enter to win one of five Kindle copies of Every Last Minute (Book 1 of the Time Wrecker Trilogy). See the details here:

Happy reading!


Want to share the love? Help me spread the word about the giveaway on Twitter!

How Two Country Songs Inspired a Science Fiction Trilogy

How Two Country Music Songs Inspired a Science Fiction Trilogy || www.ellensmithwrites.com     All about the two songs (and twelve years!) that went into writing Every Last Minute

Today is the official release day for Every Last Minute, the first book in my Time Wrecker Trilogy. I am so excited to share this story with you--especially since it's taken twelve years to write!

Yep. Twelve. Years.

Back in 2005 (when I was first dating the man that is now my husband!), there was a country music song I really looked forward to hearing on the radio: Bless the Broken Road by Rascal Flatts.

So twelve years ago, I would be singing along whenever this song came on. I'm a romantic at heart and I had just met the man of my dreams, so I liked the idea that all the bad things in my past had really just been working together to bring me to this wonderful, happy place in my life. But at the same time, I've always had a relentlessly practical nature. Even while the song was still playing, these little what-if questions would pop into my mind.

What if a couple's love story really did hinge on the terrible, even traumatic events in their pasts?

Or what if it didn't? What if the couple would have met anyway through Fate, or Destiny, or Ridiculously Good Luck, and they really didn't have to go through that "broken road" to get to each other?

How would they even know, either way? The past can't be changed, so why not assume it all worked out for the best?

But...what if the past COULD be changed?

Over the next five years, these what-ifs became the seeds of a story. Very slowly, the idea started to take shape. I wanted to write about a husband and wife that had been brought together by traumatic circumstances. If they had the chance to go back and change the past, would they take it?

Then, in 2010, another country music artist released a song with a similar theme: This by Darius Rucker.

Listening to this song brought the idea to the forefront of my mind. I couldn't stand just thinking about this story anymore: I had to try and write it down.

My first attempt at writing it took over a year. I revised and edited it several times, but in the end, I knew my story just wasn't ready. I put it aside and wrote and published another book instead. Then in 2015, with encouragement from a good friend, I finally picked up the story again and started rewriting it from the beginning. This time, the characters took shape, the plot came together, and my original story grew from one book to three.

As you can see, it took twelve years of stops and starts before that first glimmer of an idea finally became Every Last Minute--Book 1 of the Time Wrecker Trilogy. I guess you could describe the writing process as a long and broken road.

But, well...it led me here to this:

Every Last Minute officially releases today! I'm excited for you to finally meet Will and Mara Sterling: a husband and wife with an improbable love facing an impossible choice.

Would You Be a #TimeWrecker? Or Do You Think #YSOLO?

I love writing quizzes. Big surprise, right? I'm a freelance education writer, so my contracted work usually involves creating chapter tests and assessment questions. However, I'd never thought about using quizzes in my fiction-writing life until I read Angela J. Ford's blog post last March. She created an awesome quiz for her Four Worlds book series: Where Does Your Allegiance Lie? (According to the results, I'm a Blended One!) 

One of the main conflicts in my upcoming Time Wrecker trilogy is whether or not time travel should remain legal. Sure, it sounds like a great idea for rehabilitated criminals to "go back in time and undo the crime." But...there are also some very valid concerns. What if these so-called "timeline rectifications" cause more harm than good?

In Every Last Minute, the first book of the Time Wrecker trilogy, the characters fall into two camps. Those that support timeline rectification call themselves "Time Wreckers." Or, if they'd like to see the policy abolished, they adopt the hashtag "YSOLO," an acronym for You Should Only Live Once. 

A story conflict like that is perfect for a quiz! I had so much fun writing it because there are a lot of elements that shape the characters' opinions one way or the other. Now you can find out whether you would be a #TimeWrecker of if you think #YSOLO! 

If you take the quiz, I'd love to know your result! You can also share your answer on Facebook and Twitter--you never know who else might be a TimeWrecker, or who thinks YSOLO!

 

#TimeTravelStories Review: A Sound of Thunder

Ray Bradbury is the man. 

Every time I pick up one of his books or short stories, I know I'm in for a treat. I'm immediately transported to the world of his imagining, hanging on to every word like my life depends on it. As a reader, isn't that what I'm always looking for in a book? As a writer, isn't that what I'm trying to do? Bradbury does it every time. Like I said, he's the man. 

By far, my favorite short story of his is A Sound of Thunder. Big surprise: it's about time travel!

#TimeTravelStories Review: A Sound of Thunder || from the Ellen Smith Writes blog www.ellensmithwrites.com

The first time I read it, I was in a middle school language arts class. I was supposed to be reading a different short story for a class discussion, actually, but as I flipped through the pages, my eye caught some of the first lines of the story. 

TIME SAFARI, INC.
SAFARIS TO ANY YEAR IN THE PAST.
YOU NAME THE ANIMAL.
WE TAKE YOU THERE.
YOU SHOOT IT.
— from A Sound of Thunder, Ray Bradbury

That was the sign hanging on the wall in front of Eckels--the hunter who was after the ultimate game. Imagine going back in time to shoot a Tyrannosaurus Rex! I couldn't stop reading until I finished the story. At this point, everyone else in class had finished the story we were supposed to be reading. I was completely lost for the entire class discussion.

No regrets. I'd discovered one of my favorite stories--and one of my favorite writers, too.

Ever since, I've read A Sound of Thunder at least once a year, though I try not to pick it up unless I've actually got time to spare. Without spoiling the ending, I love Bradbury's concept of time travel--that even the barest change to the past could have disastrous consequences.

I thought a lot about Bradbury as I was writing my own time travel stories. In the Time Wrecker trilogy, changes to the past do affect the future--but not as drastically as Bradbury imagined. I imagine that timeline rectification is actually legal in the United States and has been for a decade. In that time, thousands of criminals have gone through a rehabilitation program and been given a parole-alternative: with their victims' consent, the criminals can go back in time and undo their crime. Even though the morality of timeline rectification (aka "time wrecking") is hotly debated, everyone can agree that the ripple effects from all these time wrecks can't be that bad. Otherwise, ten years of legal timeline rectification would have sent the world straight to the apocalypse--right?

But it still doesn't make it easy for my main characters to decide whether or not to approve a timeline rectification. Will and Mara Sterling already survived a campus shooting once. If they give the gunman a chance to put things right, isn't it possible he could go back and make things even worse?

If you love time travel stories as much as I do--or speculative fiction in general--I bet you'd love Ray Bradbury's work. I don't claim to have anything close to Bradbury's prowess with words, but his work definitely shaped me as a reader and a writer. I've been reading and re-reading A Sound of Thunder for over fifteen years now, and this story still carries me back to Time Safari, Inc. every time. 


Do you like time travel stories? So do I! I'm preparing to release EVERY LAST MINUTE, the first novel in my time travel trilogy, this fall! Drop your name and e-mail in the blue bar at the top of the page to receive news and updates!

Cover Reveal: EVERY LAST MINUTE

People like to say that writing is a solitary profession. It's one person, putting down word after word until paragraphs become chapters, and chapters become a final draft. But there is so much about creating a book that isn't solitary at all. For example, I have amazing critique partners and beta readers, who talk me through troublesome plot points, give me incredible feedback, and celebrate with me when a draft is done. When you're writing, it is invaluable to talk with people who believe in your story and want to help you tell it the best way you can. 

In order to get a book ready to publish, even more people join in. These are the professionals that work behind the scenes, helping authors take their final drafts and polish them to perfection. One of those professionals is Monica Haynes of The Thatchery. She is the cover designer that has created all of my book covers, including my newest book, EVERY LAST MINUTE. Talking with Monica about cover design and seeing the beautiful covers she creates is one of the most exciting times in the publishing process!

I first met The Thatchery when I was getting ready to publish RELUCTANT CASSANDRA. I was entirely new to the world of publishing. Making that initial call felt like I was crossing the threshold from "writer" to "author." I was so nervous! Like many first-time authors, I had a deep-seated fear that no one would 'get' my book. Monica quickly put my fears to rest. Her cover design was so perfect, it felt like she'd brought Arden McCrae and the town of Eagle Valley to life. Ever since, I've kept a printed-out version of the cover pinned to my bulletin board. It was confirmation that this story wasn't just a figment of my imagination anymore. Now RELUCTANT CASSANDRA was a real book, and other people could visit this world I created, too. 

This beautiful book cover opened so many doors when I started marketing RELUCTANT CASSANDRA. Selling does not come naturally to me. I even dreaded selling Girl Scout cookies when I was a kid, and those are possibly the most marketable things on this planet! So when I was speaking with booksellers or potential readers, I quickly noticed that I could let the cover do the hard work for me. If I started out just talking about the book, my own nerves would stop me from saying very much. But if I whipped out a bookmark or pulled up an image of the book cover on Amazon, I'd hear people say, "That looks amazing!" or "This looks exactly like something I would read! What's it about? Tell me more!"

Naturally, Monica is also behind the bookmarks and my Facebook banner. She designed the cover for my Channillo short story series, GHOSTS OF EAGLE VALLEY, too. Last year, she also created my website. It's safe to say I love everything Monica designs, and I'm a big fan of her work! (You can see more of her portfolio here.)

So when I finished self-editing EVERY LAST MINUTE, the first book in my Time Wrecker trilogy, I was eager to e-mail The Thatchery and see what Monica could dream up for the book cover. Despite the fact that this story has been running through my head for over six years, I had no ideas whatsoever about what the cover should look like. This story is science fiction, but it's also a romance. It explores the implications of time travel, but it also follows the marriage of two imperfect people that are perfect for each other. 

Monica's design took my breath away. I am beyond excited to share the cover for EVERY LAST MINUTE, designed by Monica Haynes of The Thatchery:

EVERY LAST MINUTE by Ellen Smith || Book cover designed by The Thatchery www.ellensmithwrites.com

More about EVERY LAST MINUTE:

Will and Mara Sterling are already living their dream. After surviving a tragic shooting, they both went on to finish college, fall in love, and start a new life together as husband and wife. That’s not to say things have been easy: Will suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and Mara has debilitating chronic pain from her gunshot wound. Despite it all, they feel lucky to be alive and even luckier to be in love.

Then a new initiative from the Justice Department offers Will and Mara the chance of a lifetime. The shooter has been rehabilitated and his crime qualifies for a timeline rectification. With Will and Mara’s consent, they can all travel through time back to the original scene of the crime, giving the gunman a chance to put things right.

It sounds like a dream come true, but both Will and Mara have their doubts. Timeline rectification—called “time wrecking” by its critics—have been the center of a politically charged debate since its inception. Will and Mara aren’t entirely sure where they fall on this issue and the clock is ticking for them to decide. Is it moral to change time for the rest of the world, just to undo one crime? Is it moral to deny the gunman a chance to correct his past crimes? And what if this one ripple means that they never meet...or fall in love?

Set in 2011, EVERY LAST MINUTE is the first book in the TIME WRECKER TRILOGY.

There's more work to be done before this book will be ready to hit the shelves. I'll be collaborating with a professional editor, formatting the inside of the book, and making super-important publishing decisions (White pages or cream? Should I add book club discussion questions to the end, or just post them here on my website?) But seeing the gorgeous cover for EVERY LAST MINUTE reminds me that this story isn't just my work-in-progress anymore. Now it's a book--and there are lots of people helping me polish it up before I send it out to all of you.

I can't wait.

Thanks to The Thatchery for creating a beautiful book cover for EVERY LAST MINUTE! To see more of Monica's work, check out her website or find her on Instagram.

#TimeTravelStories Review: Tapestry

It's no secret that I love stories about time travel--in fact, I just finished writing one! Time travel is a premise with endless possibilities. Whether the story's message is ultimately dark, funny, thought-provoking, or anywhere in between, I always enjoy the ride back to the past (or into the future!)

One of my favorite time travel stories is actually an episode from Star Trek: The Next Generation. "Tapestry" appears in the sixth season and features two of the best characters on the show: Captain Jean Luc Picard, fearless leader of the starship Enterprise, and Q, an irreverent practical jokester with god-like powers. 

"Tapestry" Star Trek Next Generation S6E15 || TV episode review on www.ellensmithwrites.com

In the episode, Picard is shot and (presumably) killed. He is then confronted by Q, and they have what is possibly the funniest exchange in the history of Star Trek:

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Q, what is going on?
Q: I told you. You’re dead. This is the afterlife. And I’m God.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: You are not God!
Q: Blasphemy! You’re lucky I don’t cast you out or smite you or something.

from "Tapestry" (Episode 6:15 of Star Trek: The Next Generation)

According to Q, Picard was attacked during a diplomatic mission and died from damages to his artificial heart--his original, human heart would have withstood the shot. Picard admits to Q that he received the artificial heart as a young man. It seems the commanding and imperious Captain Picard was actually hot headed and impetuous in his youth: when he was a young cadet, Picard got into a bar brawl and was nearly killed. Receiving the artificial heart saved his life back then, but he has always regretted his decision to get involved in the fight at all.

Q gives Picard the chance to go back in time and relive the moment he's always regretted. When he goes back, Picard does choose to live more cautiously and he avoids the tragic fight. However, he discovers that choosing not to be a risk-taker early on greatly impacts the rest of his life. Rather than becoming the Captain of the Enterprise, Picard's career plateaus as a Junior Science Officer, doing routine tasks and staying out of harm's way.

Faced with this unintended consequence, Picard tells Q that he would rather die as the Captain than live this safe but less meaningful alternate life. Q sends him back in time to the bar brawl again, where Picard is stabbed through the heart--just as he was originally. Picard returns to the present day and awakens in the sick bay of the Enterprise, where he discovers that his life has followed its original path. It's up to the viewer to decide whether it was all a dream or one of Q's infamous mind-games on the captain.

One of the coolest moments in the episode is when Picard recounts the events to his friend and first officer, Will Riker. Picard says:

There were many things in my youth that I’m not proud of... they were loose threads... untidy parts of myself that I wanted to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads... I unraveled the tapestry of my life.
— Captain Jean-Luc Picard

from "Tapestry" (Episode 6:15 of Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Whoa. 

I love the idea that the loose threads in our past are actually integral to the tapestry of our lives. But at the same time...I'm a writer, so I can't help but wonder "what if?"

  • What if it wasn't Picard's own failing that he regretted?
  • What if the one thing he would change about his past was a crime that somebody else committed?
  • What if that criminal offered to go back in time and take back what he did?

What can I say? The storyline in Tapestry puts my imagination into overdrive. This episode's take on time travel and past regrets is thought-provoking, compelling, and pretty darn funny, too. It's one of my all-time favorites--if you haven't seen it, you're missing out! You can get the full sixth season here (please note: link is an affiliate.)


Do you like time travel stories? So do I! I'm preparing to release EVERY LAST MINUTE, the first novel in my time travel trilogy, this fall! Drop your name and e-mail in the blue bar at the top of the page to receive news and updates!