Friday, April 24, 2015

Karen Campbell Prough: Why I Chose Not To Give Up

Everyone's Story welcomes debut author Karen Campbell Prough. I've had the pleasure of getting to know Karen and collaborating on our Christmas Treasures anthology through our agent Linda S. Glaz of the Hartline Literary Agency. Through the months I've watched and cheered as Karen became a debut author. With more novels to come, this is an exciting time for Karen--understatement! I hope you can share an encouraging word with Karen, and do check out her excerpt and special Giveaway offer for 2 winners. 

Both Karen and I look forward to hearing from you!

***I'll love for you to take a moment and take this month's short poll on the right-hand sidebar. Thanks so much.

Karen is offering 1 copy of THE GIRL CALLED ELLA DESSA  to 2 randomly chosen commenters. The winner will be announced here on Friday, May 1st between 5-6 PM EST. To be entered in the Giveaway, please leave your contact information within your comment

Enjoy an excerpt of Karen's novel:

THE GIRL CALLED ELLA DESSA by Karen Campbell Prough

Thursday, September 15, 1836

“Mama, talk to me. I can’t do this by myself.”

Ella Dessa Huskey’s mama sat upright on the bed. “It’s too soon. I need help.” The lantern’s dull glow caused indistinct shadows to shift over the log wall and drift across the woman’s thin face and tangled straw-colored hair.

“I don’t understand what to do.” Ella knew nothing of birthing babies. Her twelve years of life hadn’t included that experience. She felt a surge of panic, which caused her stomach to roll. “Tell me what to do.”

Mama collapsed back on the flat pillow. Sweat poured down her face. She panted, her blue eyes staring upward. “Ella Dessa, remember,” her voice sounded weak but understandable, “I might go to screaming before it’s here.”

“What do I do?”

“Keep clean sheets under me so your pa can’t see the soiled bed. There’s more in my trunk.” She groaned, twisted sideways, and shifted her narrow hips. “I can’t catch my breath. I’m too tired. Ohh … another one’s coming.”

Her mama grimaced. Ella clamped her teeth on her bottom lip and scrunched her face.

Just as the contraction peaked and faded, the cabin door opened. The morning’s meager light slipped into the grim interior. Her pa ducked his head, stepped in with an armful of dried wood, and snatched the door shut with his right hand.

With one swift movement, Ella leaned across the bed and let her disheveled hair hide the side of her face. She placed her lips against Mama’s ear. “I’m skeered. He should go for Granny Hanks. Let me ride there myself.”

“No— hush.” Mama’s sunken eyes went shut. “It’s too late.”


“Jacob?” The callous tone in Pa’s voice brought Mama’s exhausted blue eyes wide open. Her quivering hands wiped at the sweat on her forehead.

“Is Ella Dessa a help or is she a hinderin’ you? If so, I’ll kick her outside.”

Ella twisted sideways on the lumpy mattress and stared at her pa. Her initial panic doubled, and she clutched Mama’s clammy arm. I won’t go, unless I’m told to ride for Granny. She hoped her touch relayed those feelings to her mama. Words couldn’t be spoken with Pa glowering at her.

“She’s a help. Leave her be.”

“Mama,” she whispered. “I want to be here. But I fear I might not know what to do.”

Unable to answer, Mama shook her head. Her colorless lips twisted with agony. She panted through the next contraction, and her body sagged to the bed. “Don’t let it frighten you. Just stand by to tie the cord. Ella Dessa, you’re brave. Remember that always.” Her barely audible words drifted away. Her eyes closed.

Out of the corner of her eye, Ella saw her pa squatting near the fireplace. His large-knuckled hands stacked the split wood. The fire had died to gray coals, and the cabin chilled. She had a hazy grasp on the birth process, and the immediacy engulfed and terrified her.

With her thumb, she rubbed the sweat from Mama’s eyelids. “How’s the pain?”

“Let me rest.”

“Pa?” She clenched her jaw and turned toward him. “She’s too weak.”

He dropped a piece of wood. His curse sliced through the room.

The irregular flicker of the lantern threw a jumpy, distorted reflection over the sagging bed, and the cabin’s one window cast a dull hint of daylight into the room.

“Oh, Lord, give me strength.” Mama’s voice rose in a whispered prayer. “Let it be a son.” She clutched at the bedclothes and moaned through colorless lips. With the mounting contraction, she struggled to lift her head and upper body off the sunken cornhusk mattress.

Ella wedged a rolled blanket behind her back. “Better?”

Mama grasped her knees, pulled them toward the sides of her chest, and strained. A deep groan erupted from her throat. “Awww. No— awww!”

Firewood clattered to the clay floor and rolled. Ella whirled toward the sound. “Let me go for Granny.”

“It ain’t needed.” Pa pivoted on broken-down boot heels, and his savage kick sent a stick of wood spinning at her. “Yell for me when it’s here.” He crammed a worn-out hat over his unwashed hair and shoved long arms into his coat. “I’ll be at the corncrib.”

“Pa, no. I ain’t never done this. You ain’t gone for Granny. You can’t leave me to do this.” She ran and grabbed at his worn shirtsleeve. “Stay.” Her fingers clung with determination, even though she knew the danger of touching him.

As if they were nasty, he plucked her fingers from his sleeve. His cold inflection spoke of his disdain. “Take yer hands away— gurl. This be jest another untimely birthin’. She’s goin’ to kill it, ag’in. I got more important things on my mind, like a bear-damaged corncrib to repair.” He reached for the door latch and disappeared into the frosty dawn.

His frail wife writhed in pain. But he didn’t look back.

Fury and alarm choked Ella. She knew her mama wouldn’t kill her babies. Her pa just didn’t care. Crisp air rushed in at the wide-open door, and her hands shook as she closed it.

Mama struggled for another hour, growing weaker with each contraction. And Ella cried tears of relief when the blue-tinged baby, resembling a skinned rabbit, arrived. The infant slipped from its mother’s tortured body, onto stained sheets between skinny bent legs. A short span of eerie silence filled the cabin. The shrill screams of tormented birthing ceased.

She stared in disbelief at the infant until it gave a pitiful wail. “It’s here, Mama. It’s … here.” She stammered on the simple words expressing her astonishment. “It’s a real baby. This ain’t nothin’ like the pigs and cows droppin’ young. Mama, did you hear me?”

“It’s alive?” The woman sank back on the feather pillow, not bothering to examine the baby. Matted hair framed her head. The muslin gown, soaked with perspiration, clung to her emaciated form. Her once-beautiful face lacked color. She shook with chills. “If it’s a girl child, I want it named Aileen, after my mam. Aileen … such a soothing sound.” Her blue-veined eyelids closed.

“It is a boy. He’s awful little.” Ella spoke in hushed tones and marveled at the miniature human and the miracle of birth she’d witnessed.

The baby’s concave chest heaved. Delicate arms waved in the air, as his bluish-tinged legs and feet curled and drew tight to his body. He made pitiful raspy noises with every breath he tried to draw into his lungs.

With her eyes still shut, Mama smiled. “Ah, a boy. Let your pa name him.”

“Pa’s at the corncrib.” She shoved sweaty strands of hair out of her eyes. “He walked out.” She lifted a square of material and tried to wipe the quivering damp infant.

“Just as well.” Mama’s voice lost strength.

“The fire went out. He ain’t helped with that neither.” Bitterness welled inside her. She pressed her lips together to prevent another string of heated words.

“Don’t fret. The kettle of water will still have warmth.”

“He should’ve stayed!”

“Stop talking of him … like that. He’s done enough by you.”

“I don’t understand. Done what by me?”

“Hush. This be a woman’s trial. God’s punishment. Clear your brother’s throat and mouth with your finger. Has the cord stopped beating? Tie it like I showed. Keep him warm. I need to rest, I’m … so tired.” Sighing, she closed her light blue eyes. “Jacob Huskey can now stop bothering with me. I done paid the price for his name, accepted my duty. I bore him a live one. A son.”

“I’m not sure ‘bout it, Mama. I don’t know if I can cut it.” Her fingers trembled. She wrinkled her nose while she concentrated on tying two narrow pieces of cloth about the slippery cord. It reminded her of spilled hog guts at butchering time, and she shuddered.

“You can do it.”

“It’s makin’ me gag.” Soft moans of disgust escaped her lips as she used a knife to slice at the shiny, supple cord. “It’s done!” She felt as if she had run a lengthy race. “He’s his own sep’rate self.”

“I knew you’d do it. You’re a … brave child.” Mama’s bloodless lips formed the low words with short puffs of air. “Ella Dessa, stay that way. Keep faith in God … alone. Without His touch, we can’t stay strong. Don’t let no man beat you down.”

“I won’t.” She lifted the pot of lukewarm water out of the fireplace and set it on the clay floor. She used a dipper and poured water into a shallow pan. “I’ll clean the baby.”

She washed the baby’s body and bundled a scrap of blanket close around his trembling form. She felt older than her years as she cuddled her brother and rubbed her nose over the softness of his head. Ella drew in a deep breath. His sweet scent reminded her of baby rabbits plucked from a summer nest of dried grass.

She tucked him into the bend of her mama’s blue-veined arm. It took a moment or two of patting and jiggling Mama’s shoulder to get her to open her eyes.

“He’s right here by you. See?” Ella touched the baby’s diminutive hand and caressed each perfect curled finger. “Look at him. He ain’t cryin’, now.”

The baby’s convulsing limbs relaxed. His face took on a waxen appearance.

“I’ll look later. Ella Dessa, remember … I love you.”

“I love you, too.” She leaned to kiss the baby’s cool cheek. “This be home, little brother.”

“Ella? I feel …” Her mama grew silent.

Disjointed Trails by Karen Campbell Prough

My path to a published book has been a lengthy and disjointed trail. But it started when I was about eight. A wooden bookcase in my grandparents’ Michigan farmhouse teemed with books written by James Oliver Curwood and other old authors. Their descriptive words fueled my first dreams of becoming a writer. But my mother planted the seeds.

Those seeds took hold, sprouted, and grew my wild imagination. She let me cut up her outdated catalogs and create paper doll families, who soon lived crazy adventures! We made furniture out of cardboard, and I learned to entertain my two younger brothers with tales of mystery and intrigue. Poor boys, we didn’t have a television in those days, so they had only my storytelling.

I grew up, got married, and most of my writing was stored in a box. But after our first child was born, I entered a short story contest and won a full-course meal for two at a fancy restaurant. During the following years, a few of my fiction and nonfiction stories showed up in magazines. And then one of my books gained some the interest of a publishing house … until their review board met. That book now resides in a dusty box under my bed.

Writing is fun. You can get lost in another life or imagined world. You might urge your characters to avoid danger and find the right person to marry. But life sometimes takes its toll on a writer. Discouragement hovers, whispering the lines from all the rejection letters you compile. Family members go on with an authentic life, and they leave you sitting on the porch of a haunted mansion, which is piled high with moldy, rejected manuscripts.

A few years ago, I wrote a story about a lonely child living in the mountains during 1836. My imagination took over, and I felt compelled to tell Ella Dessa’s story. I wrote and wrote, and my children moved out to follow their own path in life.

Interest in my writing peaked at three different writer’s conferences. One agent said she wanted to represent me, but proceeded to chop the story to bits. And then Joyce Hart, at Hartline Agency, took interest in my book and asked for my manuscript. But after a year, they said the market wasn’t good enough—but they loved the story! A southern publishing house wanted it, but finally said no—they went with a nonfiction book instead. A large publishing house looked at my book three times, but said it was too long and not their style.

But their words helped me search for help. Eva Everson took on the job of editing and soon told me she was in love with the characters. But when the editing was done, the book remained too long. Months later, I divided the large book into three manuscripts and fleshed them out.

I attended the Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference and from that conference, I signed with an agent. Thrilled, I began more edits on book one, but the contract with the agent was soon canceled. She had to retire because of health issues. Despair took over, but so did stubbornness! I attended the BRCWC once more. While there, I got enough courage to sit down with an agent from Hartline Literary Agency. Through that agent, I made a connection with Linda Glaz at Hartline Literary Agency. It was a full circle. I was back to the same agency, which had loved my book years before. Linda decided to make me one of her writers! And tucked under my arm was three books—not just one.

Ella Dessa could be your neighbor, a child who suffers from rejection and sorrow. But blossoming within my character were the words her mother whispered more than once. They were strong, comforting words, telling Ella not to accept humiliation from anyone—that she was strong. Ella’s battered and beaten mother read words from the Bible and pointed to them. She told the girl there would be someone who loved her and she shouldn’t accept less.

THE GIRL CALLED ELLA DESSA is the first book of a long journey. I could have given up. Many times, I almost did, but the need to write pulled me to continue. It stood in my mind as a story, which needed telling.

Karen's Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Visit debut author Karen C. Prough @KCampbellPrough & read about her road to publication (Tweet This)

Karen C. Prough @KCampbellPrough shares tough struggles of debut novel THE GIRL CALLED ELLA DESSA (Tweet This)

#BookGiveaway of Karen C. Prough’s @KCampbellPrough debut novel THE GIRL CALLED ELLA DESSA (Tweet This)

Author's Bio:
Karen Campbell Prough writes historical fiction and a broad range of short stories. Seven of her short stories have been published in a variety of magazines. She has won awards at the 2014 BRMCWC and the 2015 FCWC. Her first book, The Girl Called Ella Dessa, came out April 2015. 

Karen knows her life-long desire to write comes from God. The love of books and the heartfelt urge to be a storyteller has been with her since childhood.

Places to connect with Karen:


  1. I enjoyed the book excerpt & getting to know you today~
    dkstevensneAToutlookDo TcOM

    1. I loved Karen's opening as well, Deanna.

      Thanks for visiting.

    2. Deanna, thank you for reading the excerpt. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  2. this looks like such a nice story. poetryinleaves(at)gmail(dot)com.

    1. Rose, welcome to Everyone's Story. You're in the Giveaway drawing!

      Hope to see you again.

    2. Rose, I'm happy you stopped by Elaine's "Everyone's Story". Thanks.

  3. Karen, thanks for sharing your story - it really encouraged me this morning, after yet another rejection yesterday. I'd like to read Ella's story, too. And would it be possible to re-use Karen's great quote on the pretty background, Elaine? I'd like to use it on my blog, if this is kosher. Bless you both.

    Gail Kittleson gkittleson at myomnitel dot com

    1. And that's what I'm doing today--deep in edits--because I believe in my story and have come so close but "no cigars" and want to make it work! Keep moving on, Gail.

      I will email you directly regarding the use of the quote.

    2. Gail, thank you for stopping by and reading my long answers. :) I'm glad it helped you after you received another rejection. Some people save rejections...I do when there is any nice things about it. Some rejections can really hurt, others can actually encourage you to work on some changes. But just don't get caught up in changing your work every time someone remarks how you should have written it. That's because, the next publisher or agent might love it. I drove myself crazy trying to satisfly others, until I got stubborn and wrote was inside my heart and my head. I listened to reasonable advise and did changes where needed. One person refused to even look at my second book because I had an animal dying in it. She wouldn't open it up. I thanked her, stood up and walked over to a table where a writer was waiting for another appointment to arrive. I was brave enough to ask her to read the first page of book one. She did....then kept reading. She started wiping her eyes and looked up at me. "Do you have an agent?" she asked. I said, no. She said, "You need to get one." That same person Ann Tatlock, has done an endorsement for my book. It got left off the first printing of the book, (another disappointment) but they tell me it is now on the back cover. So, I guess what I want to tell you is...don't give up. The right person is waiting for you, and it may almost take bravery and detective work to find them. :) But there's a "match" waiting for you to hand over your manuscript. If God gave you the desire to write...he must know that there is someone who is needs to read your unique words. I know it can be discouraging. Write stuff that makes YOU cry. Write stuff that makes YOU laugh. Write stuff that makes YOU feel deep emotions. Then ... you've found the key, because we are all human. God bless.

    3. Beautifully said, Karen!

  4. I enjoyed the snippet of your story and want to read more. Congratulations on finally gettting this done and having an agent!

    1. Welcome, Jean, to Everyone's Story. I hope Karen's personal story and her novel excerpt have offered a smile of encouragement for you. Blessings.

      Hope to see you again.

    2. Jean, thank you for saying you want to read more! Many years of writing and editing have gone into my stories. It must be wonderful when people can receive a contract immediantly in their journey to publication, but that wasn't the case with my writing. Perhaps, I just didn't understand God's timing. Because forever to just that. It takes forever to get that agent! :) Or contract. But in God's eyes its probably just a second or two and it's ends up being perfect timing.

  5. Karen, I love how your fictional story -- one that reminds us not to give up -- mirrors your personal story. The book sounds great. Congratulations!

    1. Nice connection, Kathy! I always, always enjoy seeing you here.

    2. Thank you, Kathy Harris! It's easy to give up.....sometimes. If you are isn't easy! Ha. I tend to be stubborn. One person told another person, "You just don't understand Karen. When she decides to do something, she doesn't stop." So, maybe good advise is to growl...grit you teeth...and hang on! And hang on forever unless God whispers, "Let it go".

  6. Karen, I can so relate to the long journey to publication! My novel,
    which is coming out next year was first written 11 years ago.
    I believe the Lord put it on my heart to be a writer when I was
    only four years old. And I've been truly working toward publication
    for many years! So glad you did not give up! I'm very happy for
    you. And thanks, Elaine, for sharing another inspiring story.

    1. Kathy, so glad you visited. I can never get enough of writing-inspiration, let alone life-inspiration, stories and I'm happy to know my viewers enjoy them as much as I do.

      Looking forward to your next visit :)

    2. Thanks, Kathy for leaving a comment. I didn't know your novel coming out was written that many years ago. I know now that if that first book had been published many years two and three wouldn't have been written. They would have stayed buried within the paragraphs of book one....hidden and never read.

  7. Oh, Kathleen, that is a long time, but God must know when we are ready, our books are ready, and those who will read are ready! :) It's just hard to wait!

  8. Karen, what a pleasure it is to meet you today. I love the perseverance you showed on your journey to getting published. Congratulations on getting published. Your baby is now in your hands. I have heard it's not an easy journey with tears and joy along the way but you did it. While I do have favorites among the established authors I love meeting new authors who are debuting their first book. I enjoy following new authors on their new writing journey and seeing how God moves you to write new books and speaks through you. I would love to have a chance to read your debut book. Best of luck in your continued writing journey.

    1. What sweet words you've left for Karen, Deanne.

      Nice to see you again!

    2. Deanne, thank you for leaving a comment. God knew when my book should be presented to the public......what year.......what publishing house, etc. In a little over two weeks, I will have the edits on book two! Editor said she was happy to read another one of my books!

  9. Karen, heartfelt thanks and appreciation to you for being such a great guest on Everyone's Story this past week. Your blog feature has truly uplifted and motivated me and from the sounds of it, many others! I pray that you will be blessed with many more contracts and devoted readers.

    Thanks too for your BookGiveaway of THE GIRL CALLED ELLA DESSA to not one but two lucky winners who are…

    Deanna and Deanne. Congratulations and happy reading, you two. Both Karen and I will be in touch with you via direct email.

    Blessings to all.

  10. AnonymousMay 01, 2015

    I am really looking forward to reading this book. I am the mother of 12 children, birthed them all. I enjoy stories about birthing and overcoming hardships. Thank you so much.

    1. Wow. God bless you, Deanne. I'm glad you're excited about winning Karen's book!


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