{friday mixing bowl} neighbor’s table, harry potter, valentine’s cookies and more!


Hello, loves! Happy Friday! It was a full and busy week around these parts. Full and happy :)

– This week, I’m currently: –

working on…


…a full tank. I had forgotten how much the simple relocation to a coffee shop can work wonders for the work-at-home blahs. My husband took over bedtime duty this week so I could escape, fluffy hair and all, to my favorite coffee shop. I was a happy worker bee this week!

giving up…


Facebook for Lent. I deleted it off my phone, set up a block on my browser, and hopefully I can use that time for prayer and more constructive things. Can I tell you how many times I have scrolled all over my phone looking for it almost unconsciously? I seriously didn’t even know what I was looking for. And my browser plug-in tells me that I have tried to click there no less than 30 times already. It’s sad, but true and going to change :)



Does my own book count? Because I have read the book I’m revising twice this month! It’s in my critique partner’s hands now. ((Cue all the nail biting and all the hallelujahs.)) Almost ready to press send :)

PS: Shameless plug to pre-order said critique partner’s romantic comedy coming in two months! She has seriously ruined me for all other romantic comedy — she’s that good!

geeking out over…


credit: Sarah Harmeyer // Neighbor’s Table

Neighbor’s Table. SERIOUSLY, y’all. Ever since I saw the show Parenthood, I have craved a huge farm table in my backyard with twinkle lights and people I love gathered around it. I was listening to the latest Simple Show podcast from Tsh, who interviewed a girl who started a love mission for that very thing. Her dad builds farm tables with the specific purpose of gathering people — so many different stories and backgrounds and experiences around the table sharing a meal. THIS IS MY LOVE LANGUAGE, you guys. Right here. I am definitely going to see how I can get involved, but I’m so glad I found this!


Whaaaaaat? A new Harry Potter book!? For real? Well, technically it’s a screenplay and 30 pages long, but if it tells me what happens next, I’m all over that!



credit: Pioneer Woman Food & Friends

these chocolate sugar cookies from Pioneer Woman Food & Friends for Valentine’s Day! I love that they are cut-out cookies but you don’t have to roll out any dough. My daughter is going to freak when she finds out what we’re up to later tonight!

– link love –

LifeisRosier / Via etsy.com

– in case you missed it –


  • This week, I shared one of my favorite songs lately with the reminder of how much you’re loved. Powerful lyrics as always from Kim Walker-Smith and Jesus Culture in “Unstoppable Love”!
  • It’s my turn at The Writer’s Alley on Tuesday, and I’m hosting lovely pre-published author Teresa Tysinger!
  • I’m going to be announcing a special on Genesis entries next week, so keep your eyes peeled! (Not literally. That’s gross.)

What filled up your week? Any special plans for Valentine’s Day?

if you need a reminder of how much you’re loved…


It’s Monday. Whew! I know you probably have lots on your plate today, but if you clicked here because you needed a reminder of how much you’re loved, I’d love for you to listen to this song as you’re working or caring for others or driving or creating today.

You would come running
Tear down every wall
All the while shouting
“My Love, you’re worth it all”

I love this song’s picture of God as fierce and unrelenting and unconditional toward us. What a way to start the week than with the knowledge that human words and comprehension can’t touch the vastness of His love for us.

May your decisions, relationships, and the way you see
yourself be shaped in the confidence of that fact this week!

{friday mixing bowl} great british baking, #teamlogan, and more!


My goal for the near future is to make a more appropriate mixing bowl meme, but I’m knee-deep in edits right now (hoping to hit send this week!!!) so in the meantime, random is what you’re going to get! Gotta stay true to the theme and all.

– This week, I’m currently –



I’m a huge fan of foodie reality shows, but the British know how to do it right! They are so much more chill so the focus is more on the food instead of pitting contestants against each other. I like it!



Love me some Nicole Deese <3 Her latest, A Season to Love, just released this week, and I’m so excited to dig in. She is a brilliant storyteller! You can enter to win a signed copy + $50 Amazon gift card and other goodies on her website if you don’t believe me :)

Listening to…

I’m in full-on editing mode, so I’ve been listening to a combination of my editing playlist, a relaxing mix of City and Colour + Sleeping at Last, and this book’s playlist on Spotify. This Sleeping at Last song is on BOTH of those playlists!



over the fact that one of my favs has signed on to the Gilmore Girls revival! Yes, ladies and gents, I am #TeamLogan all the way. And as I’ve said all along, that’s because LOGAN ALWAYS COMES BACK! Take a cue, Rory’s other boyfriends, because this could make the show super interesting!


The winner of my newsletter giveaway, the lovely Jamie Lapeyrolerie! Yay! Thanks to all the new subscribers. Hopefully I will have fun book news to share sooner than later.

– link love –


credit: loveandoliveoil.com

– in case you missed it –

What are you into this week? Any big plans for the Superbowl?

Be sure to visit my author page on Facebook for updates throughout the week!

{friday mixing bowl} shawarma + link love + weekly update

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Happy Friday, y’all! How was your week? Mine went by FAST!

– This week, I’m currently: –

Dreaming of…

The wrap-style shawarma I had for the first time at Laffa Meditteranean Cafe in downtown Tulsa. Tender lamb and beef with bright pickled vegetables and a creamy lemon hummus sauce. Yes. This was my first shawarma experience, and definitely won’t be my last.

Working on…


Finishing my revise & resubmit for an older project. I’m at 72% and just have to delete a little, reorder, and rewrite the very end. I’ve loved spending time with these long lost characters <3 After I hit send? I’m finishing the last ~25K of my third manuscript in the second half of my NaNoWriMo project.

Listening to…

I’m a huge fan of Ben Rector (random trivia: went to high school and led worship with him, so I’m a tiny bit biased)! He got to perform on The TODAY Show this week.




I have a huge author crush on Emery Lord, who writes YA. Confession: I bought this book solely because of her Twitter account. She’s one of those people who, if you met in real life, you’d probably talk to her like she was your best friend. Since that’s not creepy :)


Why I waited so long to get on the Podcast train? My #1 lifehack of 2016 so far is to make cleaning time podcast time. I have been setting my children up with projects (or Cheerios, for the baby) and washing dishes or scrubbing countertops while I listen. And I actually LOOK FORWARD TO CLEANING. How did that even happen? Now, rarely do I get to listen to one all the way through without stopping, but these are the podcasts I always come back to for more! {Click on the image for podcast page}


Thoughts on creativity, small business, and producing the work you’re passionate about from Elise Blaha Cripe. She has amazing guests, too!


Thoughts about intentional living from Tsh Oxenreider. Love her insights and the people of different experiences she brings on the show.


A creative kick in the pants from Liz Gilbert that — disclaimer — sometimes includes with a few *choice* words 😉 I have so many thoughts and so much inspiration from her and her guests.

– link <3 – 

Photo: chef-in-training.com

  • THESE peanut butter sugar cookies from Chef in Training blog. Perfect for your Valentine…especially if that Valentine is yourself :)
  • It’s no secret that Carla Laureano is one of my favorite authors! Did you see that she’s giving away a free novella to her newsletter subscribers? If you need to escape to tropical Belize for a romantic adventure right about now, be sure to check it out!

– In case you missed it – 

So, tell me about your week? Hope you have a great weekend! 

the story of a found manilla folder


I was cleaning out a drawer this weekend when I found a manilla folder. It had this handout from brainstorming guru Michelle Lim and several copies of my resume.

It’s a perfect snapshot of 2013 and a tangible reminder of what God’s done since then. I had been working full-time from home for two years after my daughter was born but had just been laid off. So I was job interviewing, facing the logistics of working outside the home again. The ink was still wet on my first novel, written on Friday nights in a corner of a coffee shop, where I guarded my screen with an almost paranoid fear that people would see what I was doing and call me out: Fraudulent silly dreamer.

Then I was introduced at church to multi-published author Kathleen Y’Barbo, who I now call my writing fairy godmother. She invited me to her ACFW chapter meeting, where Michelle was giving a workshop. I took notes furiously — my first real foray into learning craft — with this roomful of strangers. People who were pursuing publication and talked about their work with no inhibitions. My kind of people.

After the workshop, I gathered up the nerve to talk to Michelle, ridiculously nervous, and her kindness immediately put me at ease. Immediately made me feel like a real writer. (She is seriously one of the most encouraging people I’ve ever met!)

The journey unfolded from there. I entered a contest, met my critique partners, queried my agent, and watched as one simple meeting and the encouragement of a few beautiful women formed the complex maze of my writing career. It was after this meeting that I started my own business with the support of my husband, not knowing how it was going to make ends meet at first but believing it would give me the freedom to do work I’m passionate about, the flexibility to be home with my children, and the space to grow my pursuit of publication.

If I zoomed out in this metaphor, I know I would see that I’m still chipping away at the beginning of the maze. But I’m grateful for every opportunity and redirecting wall that has come since that manilla folder — and every person who has been in the trenches with me!

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your story in the comments! You can also connect with me on my Facebook author page, where I share book recommendations, information about intentional living and the writing craft, and glimpses into life as a writer.

Happy New Year {News + Giveaway}!

Raise your hand if you didn’t really start 2016 until today, the first work/school day! ME!

I am so excited about this new beginning that I’m celebrating with a 20% off promotion of my 1624 Communications services + a giveaway for newsletter subscribers!

:: 1624 promo ::

If you have big professional goals for 2016, I can help! You can take 20% off my services during the month of January (here is more about what kind of work I do and here’s my original price sheet) to get you started. I also have virtual assisting slots open, so if that’s something you’ve been thinking about, now’s a great time!

:: on to the giveaway ::

Tomorrow on The Writer’s Alley, I’ll be posting some of my favorite apps and tools to help with New Year’s resolutions, but when I bought these, I picked up an extra with you in mind!

The giveaway includes Margaret Feinberg’s lovely coloring book for grown-ups, Live Loved, and the gorgeous Daily Notepad from Kristin Schmucker, which contains sections for Verse of the Day, Prayer Requests, Gratitude, a huge block for your To Do list, and another for various notes. The box will also include some other favs for the winner.

To enter, all you have to do is enter your email address below:

What are you most looking forward to in 2016? Leave a comment for an extra entry :)

{what I learned} from Star Wars: The Force Awakens

{originally posted on The Writer’s Alley}

I had a nice, outlined blog post for you about 2016 goals. But then I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the second time today, and my post has officially been hijacked by my nerddom.

There are major, major spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen it yet, 1) bookmark this post for a later time and 2) get thee to your nearest movie theater!

This was my first Star Wars movie to view with fresh eyes since I began my journey to publication, so naturally in was the first in which I paid attention to the writing. Here are the writing tips this movie affirmed…

And, I repeat, there are major, major spoilers ahead! 

1) First, it’s okay to include popular story elements as long as you do you and as long as you do it well. I read somewhere that there are really only a handful of plot lines in existence when you whittle them down to their bones. The Force Awakens “borrowed” a lot of similar themes and events from its predecessors in the series — maybe not exactly, but close — which I loved. In particular, the father vs. son theme stood out to me. Han Solo and Kilo Ren have the whole good vs. evil dynamic working for them just like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader did. Han’s death also mirrored the statement Darth Vader made in the murder of his mentor Obi Wan Kenobi in A New Hope. Another example? The Death Star vs. the Super Star Destroyer. Same spherical weapon station, different day.

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you haven’t been commissioned to pen the next installment in a beloved series, so I’m strictly speaking of story elements and structure and tropes. They can be similar in format to others you’ve read as long as you put your own original, compelling spin on it and spin it well. You have a great opportunity to draw readers in through your characters and what’s led them to this point. Many who are familiar with certain patterns and rhythms in fiction love the predictable nature — or at least seeing where the writers take it. But this also gives you the opportunity to tastefully weave the unexpected into your story to give it punch. The wow factor. Like a female-for-once protagonist with a lightsaber who kicks some serious booty.

2) I also realized that you have to put as much thought into your villain as your protagonists. I don’t write suspense or mystery, but I think this applies to any kind of antagonist. The best kind of villains in my book (the figurative one) are the ones who garner my sympathy even though, on paper, they might not deserve it. I loved the dimension they gave Kilo Ren and can’t wait to see what they do with him. His parentage, his betrayal, the devotion to Darth Vader, the fear that he doesn’t have what it takes to complete his training.

Since we don’t have the three-dimensional benefit of phenomenal acting, we have to convey our antagonists’ motivations, goals, and layers in dialogue and our heroes’ observations during their interactions. Doing this effectively creates a higher contrast between antagonist and protagonist, raises the stakes, and makes the plot all the more riveting, in my opinion.

3) It’s important to be willing, as writer, to obliterate the path to happily-ever-after in order to maintain authenticity. 

Were you surprised that, despite their happy ending at the conclusion of Return of the Jedi, Han and Leia were separated decades later? I’m not, to be honest. Unfortunately, the real-life statistics are staggering for marriages after the loss of a child. In grief, the amplified self-preservation instinct can be devastating for a relationship as people deal with a loss in their own way. I’m glad the writers chose to mirror reality for many, because even though it was shell-shocking and sad, it felt real and authentic.

At the end, we want our characters to find peaceful resolution. But it doesn’t always have to look like a fairy tale to be a happy ending.

4) Readers can fall in love with your characters from the start, and you don’t even have to completely destroy their mystery in the process.

Let’s begin with Rey. The story introduced her by showing her daily life with purpose. Though wordless, it spoke of hard work with little return on investment. Hunger. The desperation in scratching the day’s tally mark into the wall of her abandoned AT-AT walker dwelling. We later learn, through her conversations, that she’s waiting for her family to return after a long absence. We learn through her actions that she’s loyal and determined to get the droid BB-8 back where he belongs.

Similarly, Finn’s first sequence reveals his internal conflict with the life of a Stormtrooper, unwilling to kill and distraught over the death that’s happening all around him. Through his actions, we learn that he has a strong moral compass And even though he doesn’t have a plan most of the time, he will do whatever it takes to do what’s right.

See the commonalities there? Without giving away the crucial mysteries of these characters that keep the audience thirsty for more, strategic portraits of characters’ lives and actions are effective ways to reveal their goals, give a glimpse into why they tick, and help readers fall in love. 

The writers had a huge challenge ahead of them with this film, the successor to one of the most beloved franchises in history. But I think they did a great job of maintaining their brand and showing that with a lot of bravery, extraordinary things can happen to broken people.

Have you seen The Force Awakens? (I sure hope so if you’ve read this far.) What did you like and dislike about the movie?

grace for the finite and infinite wait

{originally posted on The Writer’s Alley}

When I was first working on my brand as a pre-published author, I wanted my tagline to have something to do with the wait-and-see moments of life. Do you know the ones I’m talking about?

When all the pieces of the puzzle are in place except for the last one,
and all you have to offer is a mess of edges that don’t line up.
When you’ve done everything right and given all you have to give,
but it’s in someone else’s hands now.
When the minutes and hours crawl toward
a seemingly elusive square on the calendar.

We’ve all been there. It’s hard, isn’t it? Really hard sometimes. While I went a different direction with my tagline to better represent the whole of my stories, the people who are in the thick of the waiting, they’re my people. The ones who are always on my heart.

In the publishing world, there are different kinds of waiting. There’s the long, open-ended silence after pressing Send that has no finite end. Even months later, you’re still keeping one eye trained on your inbox and regularly checking your junk folders just in case.

Or, there’s a giant date looming over your head. Pending contest results or a deadline or a big conference that could decide the future of your book. In some ways, knowing can be worse. I may or may not be that girl whose phone experiences multiple phantom buzzes on the day contest results are coming in. Who turns Mean Writer Bear when I believe a call was from a contest coordinator and not from my mom asking for a recipe.

But writing has taught me the beauty of the wait-and-see. That peace can be found even in a blank white holding cell before the decision is made.

When the answer was no, in those first seconds of shock and disconnect, I found myself craving just one moment of that blissful unawareness — the same naivete I’d been wishing away minutes before. And when the answer was yes, I couldn’t help but stop and revel in that contrast between before and after everything changed.

I know it’s hard, being where you are. But try not to take your waiting for granted, dearling. Prepare yourself as much as you can so you won’t be caught off guard, but don’t let exhaustion and resignation steal your joy.

I hope waiting helps you never forget where you’ve been. And that you always remember that waiting is part of your story, so nothing is stopping you from writing it.

When you find yourself in the blank white holding cell of waiting, put some paint on the walls and decorate!

even when it’s hard to find the words…


Paris. Beirut. Iraq. Syria.

What can you possibly say in the face of these attacks, the mass loss of life across the world in a small period of time? The blatant hatred and disregard for the beauty of humanity?

Jesus, come quickly.

When things like this happen, I can’t stop reading the stories that emerge. The stories that give faces to human lives snuffed out senselessly.

And what always wrecks me the most? Imagining these people minutes before their lives forever changed. Happy. Unsuspecting. Maybe fighting about trivial things. They had no idea. They were innocent.

I know it doesn’t begin to compare, but in a tiny way, it’s like watching my baby giggle and kick on the doctor’s table while we wait for the nurse to come back with his shots. He doesn’t know the pain his perfect fat thighs are about to feel because he’s never experienced it before. Because he’s a human being, he has to learn what pain is.

But the victims of these attacks and the bystanders shouldn’t have had to learn what it’s like to experience debiliating pain. Life without the people who were standing next to them. They shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of loss and trauma at the hands of hatred.

So, what do we say from across the world? What do we do?

There’s a common theme when someone loses a loved one. Sometimes the only words they can offer are: “Hug the ones you love. You never know how much time you have left.”

Sure we can help by providing even a sliver of financial relief to those who are suffering. We can go to them to help rebuild if we are able. We can pray before we crawl into our warm, safe beds. But I think the best thing we can do is to live, not in fear, but in gratitude for who we love and what we have. Not with no regrets or no uncertainties — those are inevitable — but with no hindrances.

I think sometimes it’s hard for us Americans to empathize with the third-world countries who face this kind of violence on a daily basis. But my husband and I got babysitters and went to a concert a few weeks ago. We enjoyed good music and uninterrupted conversation, basking in the fun and freeing hours away from our normal responsibilities. Our anticipation, our defenses that help us navigate our busy lives were lowered.

The people at the concert hall in Paris were no different than us. The people whose babies get caught in gunfire in Syria are no different than us. So we have no excuse.

We cannot give this faceless enemy our fear. We need to focus on mindfulness, bravery, compassion, and kindness.

We have to keep going to concerts, singing as loudly as we can.

We have to walk boldly, hand-in-hand with the ones we love. Vigilant but not looking over our shoulders so much that we miss what’s in front of us.

We have to love, not raising our hackles every time we pass someone who might be Muslim on the street.

Take this mountain weight
Take these ocean tears
Hold me through the trial
Come like hope again

Even when the fight seems lost
I’ll praise You
Even when it hurts like hell
I’ll praise You
Even when it makes no sense to sing
Louder then I’ll sing Your praise

I will only sing Your praise

{friday 5} #NaNoWriMo2015 update, milestones, and more

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It’s here! Friday is finally here! This week was a busy but good one. Let’s just say that my Cub was down for his morning nap by 7:30am this morning. Eeesh. But the kids are off to grandma’s for the day, and my husband left on a camping trip, so by day, I’ll be a writing machine, and by night, a Harry Potter movie marathoner. I like this arrangement.

On the writing front, I celebrated a huge milestone this week!

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See that? I hit 50K on my third manuscript last night! After the crazy rollercoaster that’s been the last year, I’ve really needed this month to get back into a strong writing routine. And this night owl has become a morning person, because most of the time, that’s the only way word count will happen.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 12.12.26 AM

Things are slow but steady on the NaNoWriMo front. I’ve missed a few days here and there but still have a reasonable word count goal for each day to stay on track. I’m hoping to gain major momentum with an epic writing spree today!

Speaking of writing sprees, if you missed it, I shared some of the places I write on The Writer’s Alley this week! I share a writing-related post there every other Tuesday. I link to those on my author Facebook page.

Oh! Oh! Oh! From now until November 17, the Love Inspired backlist is on sale for $1.99 a pop. I took the liberty of stocking up on all things Liz Johnson and Sarah Varland. These are sweet shorter reads, including lots of Christmasy titles. If you need to make like a bear and fill your Kindle cave for the winter, this is the fountain of honey!

Credit: The Rambling Epicure

Last but not least, if you’re looking to step up your editing game, my girl Bethany Kaczmarek wrote a comprehensive post on style guides. These are helpful to keep track of the details in your novel and maintain uniformity.

What’s new in your world this week? Any big plans for the weekend?

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