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

july

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

CarlaStewart

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.

{one of many ways} writing is a bit like dating

writingdating

A lot of times, the pursuit of publication bears a striking resemblance to the dating scene. It’s almost uncanny. I could write an entire post on this, which sounds kind of weird, but just hear me out.

In this strange parallel universe, my friend Brett and I compared my current state to that part where an old flame asks to meet for coffee and you drive up to the place, nervous. Maybe you sit in your car for a few minutes and try to talk yourself out of it.

You see, yesterday I opened my third manuscript for the first time since last year. As it loaded, all I could do was stare at the whitespace between the lines on the first page.

How is this going to go?
What if he isn’t as good-looking as I remember him being?
When I see him, will the feelings come rushing back?

So after a pep talk from my aforementioned girl, Brett, I tentatively started reading. And the conversation flowed well. My characters were just as likable as I’d built them up to be. The glimmer of hope for their future gave me an idea of how their story was going to go. And the consensus of our little date (praise the Lord)?

This could be the start of something really good.

I’d love to hear a little about what you’re working on right now! This third manuscript tells the story of Blake and Lacey from my first book (affectionally deemed “Blacey” by my critique partners), is actually set before that story, and deals with themes of true beauty, the uncertainties of life after graduation, and being chosen.

So, tell me about your latest project!
Have you ever felt a bit hesitant to revisit one of your works?

thoughts on hitting send

Yep. You read that correctly. Book 2 is now out of my hands and into my agent’s inbox.

So, what are my thoughts?

Finally! It seems like everything that could possibly happen to keep this book from getting finished happened. But even though it’s a few months behind the timeframe I’d originally hoped to finish edits, it’s done!

Grateful. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it definitely takes a village to write and finish a book. My husband — bless him — has had to deal with book brain and lots of takeout. My baby girl has been such a bright spot in every day. My whole family (but especially mom and mother-in-law) have all pitched in to watch Allie so I can work and write. My critique partners and beta readers have kept me (mostly) sane and helped me whip my story into shape. And I love my friends and family for still loving me despite neglect and the aforementioned book brain :)

Damage Control. I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job keeping things in order during this book. But I will for sure catch up on sleep!

Freedom. What will I do with all my free time? Read books again? Watch movies? Take up a new hobby? I have been compiling a list.

Next book. Yep. You heard that right. I’m already thinking about book 3. If you know anything about my first book, Take Heart, this is the story of Blake and Lacey (who my friends and critique partners lovingly refer to as Blacey). I wrote the first three chapters this past fall and love it already!

But first… I am whisking the husband off on a trip. The first time the two of us have gone on vacation together since baby girl was born. And coincidentally, we’re going back to the city we fell in love with on that last vacation, San Francisco! I’m SO excited to see the ocean, explore the places we didn’t see last time, revisit our favorite restaurants, and read books on the airplane again.

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What are you up to this weekend? Any Bay Area recommendations?

 

 

 

 

{foodie friday} a writing update + a quick weeknight recipe

I am almost finished with edits on book 2. Maybe this weekend? It’s taking longer than planned because 1) work has ramped up lately (thank the Lord) and 2) according to my latest tally, I have added 11,000 words since my first draft! Hooray!

And I’m encouraged because my critique partner didn’t show me huge chunks to delete this time :)

Can I just tell you how amazing my critique partners are? There have been a lot of blog posts circulating about the importance of a writing community. I love and appreciate the people on my team. Can’t thank God enough for working things the way He did. I need to write about it. I need to write about a lot of things! With these edits under my belt, you can expect to see a lot more of me around here. I have lots to share.

Before I go, I’m going to share a delicious dinner recipe for you to make this week. After all, it is…

foodie friday

 

Last night, I made RealSimple’s Roasted Tomatoes with Feta and Shrimp for the second time.

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It was relatively easy and quick to make with bright lemon, sweet roasted tomatoes, tangy feta cheese, and juicy shrimp. I subbed basil for the parsley, and it was just as divine as the first time I made it. The ingredients were fresh, which I think was key! Okay, so maybe I ran to the grocery store last-minute to whip up something for dinner. But it must have been delicious or my toddler wouldn’t have done this:

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My recommendations: on the last step, don’t leave it in the oven quite as long so the shrimp don’t get overcooked. Remove it from the heat with the shrimp get pink and curl into a C shape. Oh, and you’re going to want to make sure you have lots of crusty bread for serving. You will want to sop up the scrumptious juices on the bottom of your baking dish. Trust me.

As always, enjoy with someone you love!

Are you a seafood fan? Did you try any new recipes this week?

{foodie friday} an anniversary dinner to remember

This week has been a whirlwind for me, a convergence of several big projects due at once. Thus is the life of the self-employed, huh? It keeps me on my toes, and I could not love and appreciate that more!

But today, I’m going to post about food. Write what you know about, right? I’d like to institute Foodie Fridays on the blog because 1) food is pretty much the universal symbol for love, 2) I can never, ever run out of content, and 3) there is some kind of foodie element to all of my books.

Plus, I am still dreaming of our anniversary dinner from last weekend.

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To celebrate six years, my husband and I ventured to downtown Tulsa to investigate a new-to-us restaurant that was a surprise for me. TAVOLO. One, it was Italian, and two, I love trying new places. So my husband did very well in making his Italian foodie wife feel known and loved.

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We started with the chef’s choice bruschetta, which changes seasonally. It was a crunchy, buttery crostini with a house-made local goat cheese spread, a delicious peach jam, and basil chiffonade. Easily made the top 10 things I’ve ever eaten list.

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Since it was our anniversary, we decided to go big. Because we definitely weren’t going home. JT got the filet, which was perfectly cooked and tender. It was served with delectable caramelized onions, a roasted fingerling potato hash, pancetta, and broccolini.

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Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I tasted my own dish, which I ordered without any hesitation. I mean, I jump when I see the combination of sweet corn, basil, and crab. Especially in a pasta. It was just as delicious as I imagined, but the real clincher was the broth. The chef who walked by explained she simmers parmesan rinds in a pot with the usual aromatic suspects, resulting in this silky creation. Spot-on!

So, Tavolo, we will definitely be back for our special occasions. Thanks for making our anniversary delicious and memorable!

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What is the best meal you’ve had recently? What restaurant can we not miss when we visit your city?

{throwback thursday} 6 years ago…

It’s no secret that I’m in the business of love stories. I have been my whole life. So with my sixth anniversary just two days away, I thought it would be fitting to write the ultimate Throwback Thursday post and offer a glimpse of our wedding day.

My whole life, I imagined what the person I married would be like. I never could have fathomed that I’d meet a man while working for my university at a summer camp, that we’d be reacquainted when I moved after graduation, or fall hard and fast for each other.

And that, on one of the only days it didn’t rain in April 14 months later, I’d marry him. It was a perfect 75-degree day, surrounded by our family and best friends. Truly magical.

wedding preview

wedding anticipation

wedding church

wedding DONE

reception cake

reception

Our wedding may have been the stuff of fairy tales, but I’m most grateful that God has demonstrated Himself in our marriage time and again. That He created someone with the unique qualities to lift me up, be strong where I am weak, and serve alongside me as my teammate in the pursuit of dreams.

That when we give our desires to God, they are no match for His goodness.

Happy anniversary, JT!! 

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