fear is not the boss of you

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I’ve been thinking about fear a lot over the last few years as I’ve dealt with it in my personal life and made it a major theme in my second book. It’s one of those things that, if you don’t keep it in check, it can consume you. It can manifest itself in unhealthy ways and become an enslaving force in your life. It can trap you and keep you from living your full potential in freedom.

And I’ve wrestled with it at different times. I’ve wrestled HARD.

As my writing friends are preparing for ACFW Conference — an integral part of our year as writers, a major stepping stone in our careers — there’s been a lot of talk about fear. Well, it turns out I have a lot to say on the subject.

It’s a pretty cool thing to be sitting in church with no idea what you’re about to hear until the pastor starts speaking about a topic that’s been on your heart. That’s what happened to me yesterday, helping me flesh out some of my thoughts. So here goes.

Fear may come from the sinful nature in us, but it still comes from us. 

In Romans 7, Paul talks about sin’s control over our lives. “So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.”

I think people give the devil way more credit than he deserves. Fear is a product of the lies we’ve chosen to believe. The programming we’ve conditioned our minds to compute. The influences around which we’ve surrounded ourselves.

Sometimes even the comfort that comes with the familiarity of fear.

But if fears come from our own nature, we can actively fight it. 

Romans 8 offers hope for our sinful condition. “So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.”

Fear doesn’t hold a candle to the power of Christ in us. Not even a flicker. But it’s our choice, an active decision to reprogram our reactions to the things that normally trigger fear. The thoughts we choose to give our energy and attention. We can decide what to believe as truth in our lives, what chances to take to move toward all the possibilities of bold, unapologetic freedom.

We can surround ourselves with positive influences and media that fills us with truth instead of negativity. We can divert unhealthy ideas instead of dwelling on them. We can focus on freedom one decision at a time and not abandon our efforts completely if we fall short a few times.

If you’re headed to the ACFW Conference, don’t let fear be the boss of you. 

Something is bound to go differently than you’ve expected. It’s inevitable. But know that there is nothing that can happen that will be an ultimate deal-breaker. No worst case scenario that’s as bad as you think it will be. Nothing that can ruin your entire trip unless you let it.

You’re surrounded by people who get you and want you to succeed. Remember that, if God has given you this passion and message to share, no fear can derail that unless you let it.

I’m going to leave you this song, one of my favorites lately, and encourage you to be brave, whether you’re going to ACFW Conference or facing something else.


You make me brave

You make me brave
You called me beyond the shore
Into the waves

You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now 
The promises You’ve made

 

 

 

 

my first ACFW conference experience

Last year, I was a brand new ACFW member. I was still new at even considering myself a pre-published author, and if it weren’t for finaling in a contest and the encouragement of a few persistent friends, I probably would have talked myself out of going.

But when I looked at the ACFW, I saw this big fellowship of people with an unreal camaraderie. And even if it took years, I wanted to be part of it.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t take years.

I dressed like I was going to a job interview and wheeled my suitcase to the terminal at the Tulsa airport, kissed my husband goodbye, and embarked on what I felt was a grand adventure. Because it kind of was.

And I had my first (in-person) experience with the ACFW earlier than planned. My connecting flight at the DFW airport was soon after landing, so I hurried to my gate. There I found a group of women talking and laughing. I didn’t know a soul. But I recognized one, author Betsy St. Amant.

So I inched closer. Casually. Gathered up the nerve to ask if they were going to ACFW. They immediately opened their circle to me and asked me what I write. Can I tell you that it was weird answering that question for the first of many times that week as someone who normally shrugged it off? But it got much easier, I promise. Then we exchanged business cards and went around introducing ourselves.

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I don’t remember everyone who was at the airport gate that day. But I remember that, when I said I was flying standby, Lena Nelson Dooley offered to pray for me with the whole group. Wow. Me, a person she had just met minutes before.

When we touched down in Dallas and dispersed to get our luggage, I realized that in my frenzy to get all of my materials ready, I had no way to get to the hotel from the airport. Rookie mistake. But sweet multi-published author Elizabeth Ludwig had pity on me and took me into their taxi. Another WOW moment of unhesitating kindness.

I think that’s the whole point of this post. The members of ACFW are your people. Individuals with whom you can unleash your full writerly self without fear of condemnation or strange looks like the “Muggles” give us when we talk about our characters as if they’re living, breathing people. The Muggles just don’t understand :)

At conference, I encourage you to introduce yourself to people — even that multi-published author you’ve been fangirling. Respect people’s personal space. Be courteous, professional, friendly, and especially gracious. But take that step closer and introduce yourself. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and exchange business cards. Learn somebody’s story. Not everyone will become your new best friend, but you never know what connections you’ll form.

Or who will become your fabulous new critique group. :)

Conference CPs

Laurie Kara

PS: If you’re new to the ACFW Conference, Mary Vee put up a fabulous, informative post today on The Writer’s Alley. It will help you prepare with peace and confidence!

2014 pre-conference mix and mingle

It’s that time again!

Last year, I loved doing this pre-conference mix and mingle. It definitely helped me learn new faces and get to know people my first year at conference :) Assuming all technology goes according to plan, there should be a little link-up at the bottom of this post with links to different people going to conference and their own get-to-know-you questions.

Here’s what to do:

- Copy/paste and fill out your own answers (you don’t have to answer all of them!) in a post on your own website and paste the URL to that post (not your home page) using this handy link-up tool. Just click on the blue button below that says “Add your link”. If you don’t have a website, feel free to answer the questions in the comments below!

- Make sure to link back to this post after you fill out your answers so any of your readers who are conference attendees can participate, too! The more, the merrier.

- Click through the links below to get to know other conference attendees before St. Louis!

Here are the questions and my answers!

Name: Laurie Tomlinson

Location: Tulsa, OK

What you write/tagline/trademark: Contemporary Romance / “Stories of grace in the beautiful mess”

Place in the book world: Pre-published author represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary. Currently working on my third manuscript while the first two are out on submission!

On a scale of hugger to 10-foot-pole, please rate your personal space: All the hugs.

The unique talking point that will get you going for hours: Books, good food, and college football!

Loved ones at home you’ll be missing: My husband, three-year-old daughter, and yellow Lab!

Conference goals we can pray for? That my books will find their perfect publishing home and definitely for peace during pitches!

Anything we can celebrate with you? I’m a finalist in the Romance category of the Genesis contest.

One or two ways we can help you build your platform? Yes! You can like my author page on Facebook and sign up for my brand new email list by clicking here! (I will NOT share your email with anyone and will only send an email with the very most important news.)

Link-up

That’s it!

Be sure to check out who’s going to conference as (hopefully) the links start showing up!

If not, now you know a little more about me :)

conference prep promo

Hi, everyone! Conference season is upon us, and it’s time to finalize your promotional materials!

To give back to the writing community that has blessed me so much, I’m running a Conference Prep Promo from now until September 22.

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Here are the details:

{$40} One-sheet consultation: I will help you refine your one-sheet, including back cover summary, author bio, formatting, and minor graphic design assistance.

{$25} Short Summary / Tagline / Hook: For $25, I will help you develop your 1-2 sentence hook, short book summary, or elevator pitch. 

{Price negotiable} Synopsis / Proposal: If you’d like a critique of your synopsis, proposal, or more in-depth help with your project, please email me at laurie {at} laurietomlinson {dot} com for pricing or use the contact form below!

{10% discount}: I will offer a 10% discount for each paying client you refer to this promo, so be sure to have your friends tell me who sent ‘em! :)

I’d love to let my seven years of experience in book publicity help you present your manuscript in the best possible way so it can grab the attention it deserves from editors and agents. If you have any questions at all, feel free to check out my business page or contact me directly. I look forward to hearing about your project!

 

 

 

a peek inside my planner + time management tips

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In a former life, I was an office manager in charge of organizing around 120-140 new projects a month and dividing responsibilities among multiple employees in the most efficient manner. So, I guess you could say I like organizing. Just a little.

I’m not exactly Type A for most things. In fact, I bet my husband is somewhere laughing right about now. But bright color coding and lists are my jive. As a reformed overachiever, I still typically balance a lot of things on my plate and want to be sure my priorities are in the right place and goals get accomplished.

Last year, I found the perfect planner to support my love of lists and intentional living: the Blue Sky 10 x 8″ Weekly/Monthly Planner, especially when teamed with designer Dabney Lee.  If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you got a front-row seat to my #plannernerd panic when June came to an end and they still hadn’t released their new July-June planners. It wasn’t pretty. But what IS pretty is my the planner I finally ordered.
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Here’s a peek inside and some organizational tips. Because we’re friends like that.

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Each month, I write out the bigger commitments and events I know about ahead of time as I go. Things I probably should remember but never would be able to keep track of on my own with Mom Brain.

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There’s also a really cool feature next to each monthly calendar: lists for To Do, To Call, and To Buy. I typically use the To Do for monthly goals, ranging from personal to professional to writing goals. Do I want to write 25K words this month? Up my running mileage? Read a craft book? Go on a date night every week with my husband? Grow out my fingernails? What fun things can I do with my daughter this month? Since I have a secret aversion to talking on the phone, To Call is for blog posts I want to write. To Buy changes every month, but I’d imagine it would also make a good place for monthly budgeting goals or tracking expenses!

Now (*rubs hands together*) for my favorite part of this planner. The weekly spread!

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Every week, I look at my monthly calendar and write down any events. Then I make a list of weekly goals on the far right Notes column. This includes meals I want to cook, work projects that are due, scenes I want to write in my manuscript, what days I’m going to blog, and various and sundry things like house projects. Then I spread them out across the week in the daily list section. I also look at the workout class schedule at my gym and write down any classes I’d like to take.

My weeks rarely go according to plan because that’s just life. But mapping out my week helps me make sense of the craziness, accomplish more, and not let anything super important slip through the cracks.

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Each day in the planner is like a to-do list. I LOVE the vertical format. I try to make a list of things I’d like to accomplish based on what commitments I have. This helps me budget my tasks wisely. For example, if I know I have a meeting one night, I can plan a crockpot meal so I don’t have to scramble. If I have two work projects due on the same day, I can budget my word count goals so I can still get my writing done with just less volume that day. If I want to cook at home more since the amount we’ve eaten out lately is atrocious, I can write down the meals I’d like us to have that week, make one grocery list, and plan accordingly based on what our week looks like.

I’m pretty good about sticking to my planner, but I could be better about prioritizing some things. {*cough* following my gym schedule!} My approach is to be ambitious when planning my goals but to give myself plenty of grace and wiggle room. And having a safe place to put ideas is also a really good thing!

As far as planning/time management goes, I’m a firm believer in this:

  1. You can accomplish anything that’s really important to you! Most of the time, when people say “I don’t have time,” realistically they should be saying “I’m not willing to make time.”
  2. No one person can do everything. And that’s okay. It’s important to be flexible and budget in lots of wiggle room, or else you might go crazy. Just ask College Laurie about this.
  3. People are more important than getting everything done. Sometimes throwing the schedule aside and investing in someone else is the absolute best thing you can do.
  4. There is a motivating satisfaction in crossing something off of your [preferably color-coded :) ] to-do list.

Do you use a planner to manage your time? And more importantly, will anyone besides me fess up to adding things you’ve already finished on your to-do list just so you can cross them off? 

Psst: Be on the lookout for one of these in a giveaway next week! Don’t think for a second I could keep this goodness to myself!

{friday favs} link love

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So I’m posting this on a late Friday afternoon, first blog post in ages, but I have so many links open on my browser that I want to share! Here’s some link love if you happen to see this post :)

Okay, I have maybe an hour until naptime is over, so I am going to clean my neglected kitchen. Like you do. I’ll be back next week to update you on August goals, link you to my debut as an official AlleyCat, and I’m also going to be doing a giveaway! Lots to be excited about around here :)

Have a great weekend!

the post I’ve started and deleted twice

I’ve been really nostalgic lately. Introspective, even. I blame it all on that new app Timehop that shows bits of your social media from that exact date in past years. Last night, this was my Timehop:

One year + one day ago, I started Book 2. The Laurie who wrote that Twitter update never would have guessed she was capable of writing a whole novel in 8 months. And the Genesis… I’m still stunned and have no idea what to say about it except that I’m grateful. Always floored when I think about it and grateful.

This week also marks one year since I queried my lovely agent. It was a freak thing, really. I read one of her blog posts and saw in her bio that she has a heart for the 20s and 30s audience. Then minutes later, an author friend I trust who knew I was beginning to research agents asked me if I’d ever thought of querying Rachel. Something clicked in my mind, and I just knew. I would’ve been fine if it worked out a different way, but Rachel became my “dream agent”, and I really believe great things will come from us as a team :) It all started a year ago this week when I pressed send (with my eyes closed).

There’s another anniversary I can pinpoint as ridiculously significant. Something I never imagined would start this whole wonderful journey.

Getting laid off from my job.

My whole nostalgia kick essentially began on May 15, the one-year anniversary of being laid off. I was working full-time from home for the book publicity firm I’d been with for six years, all of my post-grad life. Miserable, if we’re honest. I’d known it was coming for awhile, that something needed to change. But for some reason, I held on to the safety of it with white knuckles.

On May 15, 2013, I entered the world of self-employment. All the uncertain and scary things. My wonderful, believing husband gave me permission to stay home with my daughter even though it was a risk to our family’s financial well-being. He stepped out in faith with me that, somehow, I could build a freelance business from scratch with enough work to meet our family’s needs and have the extra time to pursue a career as a writer.

And God. Wow, God. He’s been so faithful through this process. I’ve seen firsthand that He will always come through no matter what, even if it’s not what you thought it would look like.

{I’ve started writing this post 2-3 times since May and deleted it. But I’m posting this today in all of its disjointed, raw glory because I believe someone needs to read this.}

While God has been the definition of faithful, I’ve been the definition of a Simon Peter, walking out on the water and sometimes sinking in my belief that I can really do this. While I’ve only been writing novels and pursuing publication for a short time compared to some, being an author has been my dream since I was learning cursive in elementary school. And I’ve had my confidence shattered twice. Ugly. Messy. In splintered, seemingly irreparable fragments.

So when people ask about my writing journey, I tell them God’s opened a lot of doors for me. It’s cliche and I almost cringe when the words come out of my mouth, but then I always add that He’s had to dropkick me through those doors sometimes. I think He knows, based on my unique set of…intricacies…that it’s sometimes necessary :) Over the last year, He’s taken my dream from the stuff of fragile confidence into the courage to say yes to risks and opportunities I’ve walked away from before. Into a strong, realistic vision that can withstand the weathering my writing needs to get better. And while the road to The Best It Can Be may take forever, I know I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

In this place, I still have a lot to learn. But this is what I can tell you:

Whether your dream is to be a published author or something else, I want to encourage you to take heart. Stop skirting around those seeds of doubt in your mind, name them, and obliterate them. Don’t let them waste another minute of your time.

And don’t let worrying about how much time you’ve wasted waste anymore time, either.

Learn from your mistakes, surround yourself with positive influences that will help you grow, and go for it. Don’t be reckless, but be brave and work harder than you ever have before. Go for it the right way. You’re a unique soul, so you can’t really compare your journey to anyone else’s. The only thing you can do is own your dream and go after it.

And if it doesn’t work out this time?
If you’re wandering in the wilderness called Not Now?
Don’t give up.

Because if this is really your dream, you’re not capable of giving up anyway. :)

july goals

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It’s July! Okay, it’s almost mid-July.

This month has been crazy so far. Like the kind of busy that makes an introvert want to crawl under the covers and pull the sheets over her head for a little bit. Except, that’s not exactly plausible with a curious toddler in the house. (Homegirl will be ridiculous at hide-and-seek someday.) And it’s not exactly practical when the heat index is hovering around 110 in Oklahoma.

I have been without a planner for 10 long, busy, directionless days since my last one ran out. But according to the Amazon delivery tracker I’ve been watching, it will be here today! It’s time to put a plan of attack in place for July and to update this blog on my writing plans + hopes + dreams for the month.

When we last spoke (I think), I was finishing book two and taking a little break before beginning book three. That little break has turned into a loooong break, but I’m ready. I’d like to squeeze in an hour of focused writing each remaining day this month with the hope of getting in over 20K on this project.  I also want to plan which scene I’ll be working on the next day to help reduce the amount of writing time I spend twiddling my thumbs and wondering which scene will pack the most punch at that moment in time. Ain’t nobody got time for that. :)

Now, let me introduce you to my latest book babes, Blake and Lacey:

BlaceyI loved writing them as minor characters in Take Heart, so they got their own story. These are their actor doppelgängers.  Pretty close, anyway :)  The small-town football hero with strong family roots + the outcast cheerleader with a warped perception of love and beauty. Their sensational personalities and completely different life experiences make for a really fun dynamic between the two of them. Can’t wait to share their story with you someday. And, on that note, it’s time to get crack-a-lacking!

What are you working on this month? How are you making it happen amidst the busyness of summer?

{guest post} my writing process ~ Amanda G. Stevens

So, when I did the blog hop last week, one of the first writing friends I was most curious about was Amanda G. Stevens, who is releasing a series with David C. Cook that I can’t wait to get my hands on! Now, Amanda has a website that doesn’t include a blog, but I figured why should we let that stop the fun?? So I’m inviting her here today to share her answers to the writing process blog hop. Take it away, Amanda!

AmandaStevensLaurie kindly invited me to participate in this blog hop without realizing I don’t have a blog (just a website!). Then she kindly invited me to guest post on her blog so I could still be part of the fun. Thanks, Laurie! Here goes.

What am I currently working on? I’m writing an adult dystopian series (called Haven Seekers) in which the government has seized control of the church and re-translated the Bible, and a specialized police force called the Constabulary enforces these regulations. My main character is a stubborn guy named Marcus who wants to protect his Christian “family.” At the moment, the first book is out for edits with my publisher, David C Cook; the second book is with my agent; and the fourth book is fighting me every step of the first draft process. (But all my books fight me in the first draft process.)

How does my work differ from others in its genre? I theorize that for a speculative author, I write backward. Most speculative fiction emphasizes the premise/storyworld as the selling point, but characters always come into my head first and mold everything else including the storyworld. I never set out to write speculative at all, actually, but my characters wanted to fight in some sort of resistance. I’m intimidated by historical (convinced someone who’s done more research would read it and see all my errors), so I created a world of my own.

Why do I write what I do? Because I love my characters and want others to love them, too. Everything I do as an author is really for them. Along the way, I want to be honest—about the darkness of the world we live in and about the only true Light, Jesus Christ. And I want to create the most excellent art I can for His glory.

How does your writing process work? I hate to draft and love to edit. Because this is a series, I’ve needed a basic idea of where I’m going in future books in order to set things up properly, but I don’t outline the whole book. It’s more a knowledge of where the characters should be by the end, and then the book is one surprise after another as they show me how they get there. This applies to physical obstacles in the plot as well as emotional steps in the character arc. Wherever I am in drafting, I like to know what’s going to happen for the next couple chapters, but that’s about as far as I can ever plan anything. Editing is the place I sharpen the setups and conflicts as well as the prose. Oh, and I rarely have a clue what my themes are until I’ve revised and edited a few times. Sometimes, not even then. It’s not uncommon for a reader to point out the themes of my own book to me.

Thanks again to Laurie for hosting me. I’ll be followed next Monday by Emilie and Varina. Be sure to check out their posts on their own writing process. (And unlike me, they each have a blog, so you can find them at the links below!)

Emilie Hendryx is a small town girl who moved to the big city of Los Angeles then, after 6 years there, took the step of faith to move to Washington, D.C. to help plant a church. She is a writer, photographer/owner at E.A. Creative Photography, and a musician.  A member American Christian Fiction Writers, she loves to read and write Christian fiction (romantic suspense to be specific). She’s also active on her blog Thinking Thoughts, which features author interviews, book reviews, writing tips, and some personal posts thrown in. She believes in doing all things for God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31) and her passion for Christ fuels everything she does. In her free time, you can find her curled up with a book and a cup of coffee.

An avid reader and blogger, Varina Denman enjoys writing fiction about Christian women and the unique struggles they face. She seems to have a knack for describing small town life, and is currently working on a three book Texas series which will soon be published by David C. Cook. The first book in the series, Jaded, won the 2013 ACFW Genesis contest for romance.

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented with Books & Such Literary Agency. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online and Putting On The New as well as articles for her own blog, thoughtsonplot@wordpress.com. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

{blog hop} my writing process

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I was invited to participate in a blog hop by the lovely and inimitable Carla Stewart, one of my favorite members of my local ACFW chapter and author of nostalgic novels like Chasing LilacsStardust, and The Hatmaker’s Heart. It’s authors talking about their writing process and tagging other authors to do the same!

So, here goes.

1) What am I currently working on? My first book is out being shopped to publishers, my second book is on my agent’s desk, and my third is becoming a living, breathing thing in my mind and on the page! It’s a prequel of sorts to my first book (some of the same characters) but could also stand alone. So far, I have about 15,000 words. It’s a contemporary romance exploring the struggles of the “new adult” age group.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? My first and third books feature main characters that are in their early 20s, navigating the uncertainties of the real world for the first time where it seems most contemporary romances have more established characters in their late 20s/early 30s.

3) Why do I write what I do? To put it simply, because I want to tell stories of redemption and goodness prevailing even when the characters are broken and imperfect and their paths are heading as far away from fairy tale proportions as they possibly can. I want my stories to be realistic and relatable, told with integrity to real life, no matter how hard it is.

4) How does your writing process work? Since I’m fairly new to the game, I’m still learning the answer to this question. Usually, I write the “black moment” in the story first (around the 75% mark til the end). Then the beginning and then the middle, which is hardest for me. My stories typically start with a theme and then the characters. Usually I write by the seat of my pants, but this go-around, I’m trying my hand at plotting. We’ll see how it goes!

I’m grateful to be followed up by this group of talented author beauties! Check out their websites next Monday for their answers to these questions!

Halee Matthews started writing the moment she figured out how to hold a pencil, though her spelling has improved a bit since then. She has been a staff writer for several newspapers and magazines, and ventured into the freelance editing world in 2009. When she’s not typing wildly on her MacBook, savoring a cup of coffee, or taking her purple chucks out into the real world, you can find her hanging out at her blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

As a child, Amanda G. Stevens disparaged Mary Poppins and Stuart Little because they could never happen. Now, she writes speculative fiction. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in English and has taught literature and composition to home-school students. She lives in Michigan and loves books, film, music, and white cheddar popcorn. Amanda’s first novel, Seek and Hide, will be available September 15, 2014 from David C Cook.

A Starbucks drinker, avid reader, semi-professional fangirl, and chocolate aficionado, Jessica Keller spends way too much time on Tumblr and Twitter. She writes both Young Adult Fiction and Romance. As a child Jessica possessed the dangerous combination of too much energy coupled with an over-active imagination. This pairing led to more than seven broken bones and countless scars. Oddly enough, she’s worked as a zookeeper, a librarian, camp counselor, horse wrangler, housekeeper, and finance clerk, but now loves her full-time work in law enforcement. She lives in the Chicagoland suburbs with her amazing husband, beautiful daughter, and two annoyingly outgoing cats that happen to be named after superheroes.

You can find her at www.JessicaKellerBooks.com, on Twitter @AuthorKeller, on Tumblr, or on her Facebook Author Page.

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