That’s When I Knew pre-order + FREEBIES

I’m so excited to announce that my novella, That’s When I Knew, originally published in the Love at First Laugh collection last year, got a pretty new makeover and will be released individually on October 1!

It’s available on Amazon for a special pre-order price of 99 cents, and to show my appreciation for my amazing readers, I’m offering a pre-order freebie pack of downloadable goodies! This includes inspirational lock screens for your phone, a devotional based on the book, recipes, and a daily planning page that would make Chelsea proud.

Here’s how to get yours:

1) Pre-order the novella on Amazon for only 99 cents: https://amzn.to/2QLzzOb

2) Copy your order number in your Amazon confirmation email and head here: http://www.laurietomlinson.com/freebies/

That’s it! I’m so excited to share Nick and Chelsea’s story with you. Thanks for reading! <3 To learn more about the story and access story extras, click here.

the long game: now available for pre-order!

Exciting news, friends: My novella, “The Long Game” is now available for pre-order with the Once Upon a Laugh collection on Amazon Kindle!

Even better? The whole collection (8 inspirational romantic comedies) is on sale for 99 cents for a limited time. I am so excited to introduce you to Ryan and Annie and the rest of the stories in this set.

When the arts budget gets cut to make room for a new football coach, small-town choir teacher Annie Jacobs has one long-shot chance to save the spring musical: kicking a field goal on national television. But she swore off sports—and the spotlight—forever when her last attempt resulted in social annihilation. And the new football coach is the golden boy she pined for in high school, who was there to witness it all.

Hometown hero Ryan Collins has returned to Lake Greencliff to restore the football program to its former glory, the opportunity for redemption after his first coaching tenure ended in disappointment. When he finds out his second chance came at a cost, he agrees to help prepare Annie for the contest. But he doesn’t count on falling for the fascinating woman who fell off the map after high school, or how much she helps him in return.

When the past threatens to repeat itself, crippling old fears resurface. With their jobs and their students’ futures in the balance, can the show–and their budding romance–go on?

For more information, including story inspiration and extras, visit The Long Game’s story page! You can pre-order all 8 novellas for 99 cents by clicking here:

Pre-order Now!

Fall Favorites Giveaway

To celebrate fall and my extreme gratitude for those who have helped spread the word about With No Reservations’ e-book sale, let’s do a giveaway!

One winner chosen in the Rafflecopter below will win a fall-themed bundle including:

  • Signed paperback for a friend
  • Bath & Body Works LEAVES Candle
  • Pumpkin Campfire mug generously provided by the super talented AstroBarn Design. (You’re going to want to follow her on Instagram pronto!)
  • Cozy fall blanket scarf generously provided by my favorite clothing boutique, Sashy Pants (Visit their website or find them on Facebook or Instagram to see their cute offerings!)

Ways to spread the word:

  • [bctt tweet=”The fall foodie romance With No Reservations by @LaurieTomlinson is on sale for $1.99! bit.ly/wnrsale/ #bibliophile #whattoread” username=”LaurieTomlinson”]
  • Copy and share: The fall foodie romance With No Reservations by @LaurieTomlinson is on #eBook sale for $1.99! bit.ly/wnrsale/
  • Copy the image above and paste on social media
  • Take a photo of your paperback or e-book and share about the sale
  • Tell how you shared in the Rafflecopter widget below

I can’t thank you all enough! Here’s how to enter:

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recent inspirational nonfiction reads

This summer,  I made a goal to read at least one nonfiction book a month, and it has been a treat! I picked up a few books on sale that turned out to be gems, so sparkling and truth-filled that I bought the paperback versions immediately. Here’s what I read this summer:

Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker

From the publisher: Starting with that guarantee from the most faithful friend who ever lived—Jesus—this book is a step-by-step guide to friendships you can trust. It answers the questions that lurk under the surface of every friendship—What are we afraid of? What can’t we change? What can we change? And where do we start?—with personal stories and practical tips to help you make the friends, and be the friend, that lasts.

Ever since I found that first Lisa-Jo Baker article, I’ve called her my Internet BFF, the older sister who has gone before with all the wisdom that helps us feel not alone. She tackles today’s friendship, celebrating community among women and showing us how to be the friend our friends need.

Get it here: http://amzn.to/2viXaOq

Wild & Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan

From the publisher: Wild and Free is an anthem and an invitation in equal parts to find freedom from the cultural captivity that holds us back, and freedom to step into the wild and holy call of God in our lives. With fresh biblical insight tracing all the way back to Eve and a treasury of practical application, Jess and Hayley reveal how women today can walk in the true liberty we already have in Jesus.

I loved this book and highlighted a truth bomb on every page. These women really know their Scripture and urged me to dig deeper to explore the way culture has shaped women and the way God intended us to be. Perfect for women who have ever felt like they are too much and not enough at the same time.

Get it here: http://amzn.to/2uZf460

Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

From the publisher: In Chasing Slow, Erin turns away from fast and fame and frenzy. Follow along as she blazes the trail toward a new-fashioned lifestyle—one that will refresh your perspective, renew your priorities and shift your focus to the journey that matters most. 

Since I loved Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect, I didn’t know what I was going to take away from this book. But it’s much more of a memoir-style — and her voice. Wow. The writing style is filled with gorgeous metaphors and clever turns of phrase. She illustrates what she learned about grace and surrender in a beautiful, artful way.

Get it here: http://amzn.to/2w6o7lR

Coming this fall: I’ve gotten to take a sneak peek at these books coming out in the fall. From reconcilation and peace to reclaiming holiness over cheapened grace, I promise you won’t want to miss them!

Shalom Sistas by Osheta Moore

In Shalom Sistas, Osheta Moore shares what she learned when she challenged herself to study peace in the Bible for forty days. Taking readers through the twelve points of the Shalom Sistas’ Manifesto, Moore experiments with practices of everyday peacemaking and invites readers to do the same. From dropping “love bombs” on a family vacation, to talking to the coach who called her son the n-word, to spreading shalom with a Swiffer, Moore offers bold steps for crossing lines between black and white, suburban and urban, rich and poor. What if a bunch of Jesus-following women catch a vision of a vibrant, whole, flourishing world? What happens when Shalom Sistas unite?

More here: http://amzn.to/2uZioOz

Dance Stand Run by Jess Connolly

Dance, Stand, Run is an invitation to the daughters of God to step into the movements of abundant life: dancing in grace, standing firm in holiness, and running on mission. Through story and study, Jess casts a fresh vision for how to live into your identity as a holy daughter of God, how to break free of cheap grace and empty rule-keeping, and finally, how to live out your holy influence with confidence before a watching world. Spoiler alert: it’s a beautiful thing.

For anyone longing to take their place in what God is doing in the world, Dance, Stand, Run will rally your strength, refresh your purpose, and energize your faith in a God who calls us to be like Him.

Check it out here: http://amzn.to/2ujSvqY

What have you enjoyed reading this summer?

scenes from a first book signing

Before kids, I was a full-time book publicist for several years. And boy did I hear the local author event horror stories. Fortunately, my first book signing last Saturday was far from that. It was a magical bucket list experience, thanks to my amazing community of family and friends.

The staff at Barnes & Noble had a table and sign situated close to the entrance. The better for awkward eye contact with unsuspecting shoppers 🙂

I lured them in with freshly baked treats — or at least freshly picked up from The Fresh Market. And my people showed up <3

I’m seriously still smiling from how fun it was that day. My husband was out of the country, so my sister-in-law Bethany stayed with me all day as new and old friends came by.

After the event, I reunited with my favorite littles for a special date night downtown with pizza and the most magical strawberry cupcakes.

And thus concluded my first book signing! Thank you so much to everyone who came, whether we got to take a picture or not, and to the fabulous staff at Barnes & Noble for taking the chance on a debut author! It was an amazing first experience 🙂

a thank you giveaway

We are well into June now, but I’m still smiling from a whirlwind release month. Thank you so much to everyone who has stepped into Cooper and Sloane’s world and helped spread the word about their story — AND Nick and Chelsea’s, for that matter!

I wish I could bake everyone Sloane’s toffee chocolate chip cookies for their love and support, but I do have a few things to give away.

In honor of Sloane’s spreadsheet-loving ways and the fact that Chelsea from That’s When I Knew runs a planner business, our grand prize is a set of undated, six-month Cultivate What Matters Powersheets, a signed paperback of With No Reservations, and an electronic copy of the Love at First Laugh novella collection featuring That’s When I Knew. You can keep it for yourself or pay it forward to a friend.

If you’ve followed me on social media for any length of time, you know how much I love my Powersheets. They’re not a planner but a set of worksheets that help you identify your goals at the beginning, sort through what’s working and not working for you in your efforts, and include a section for each month to prioritize and create action steps so you can make progress. I have used them to motivate myself to go to the gym more, reach writing goals, form new habits, and be more intentional about my YESes and NOs.

They promote progress not perfection, designed to be messy and meaningful. Right now, they’re sold out until next year, but I snagged a teal set because I’d love to help one of my friends reach his/her goals in the second half of 2017. Three other winners will get copies of my sisters’ novels, Then There Was You by Kara Isaac, the Of Rags and Riches historical romance collection featuring my sisters Anne Love and Jaime Jo Wright, and Sarah Varland’s latest romantic suspense, Perilous Homecoming.

(ETA: Giveaway closed and winners have been notified!)

To enter, comment telling us what dream or habit you would use the Powersheets for. (Or if you just want some books!)

For additional entries, you can leave separate comments telling me if you have:

Thank you so much, y’all! I’m convinced I have the best friends and readers <3 While I can’t bake cookies for everyone, you can find Sloane’s cookie recipe and more by downloading this free PDF! Bon appetit!

With No Reservations Kindle Fire Giveaway!

My debut novel, With No Reservations,
releases NEXT MONTH!

It’s a clean contemporary romance I originally wrote three years ago that features a reclusive food blogger and a high-profile chef whose pasts hold them hostage in the present, a restaurant opening, a dash of OCD, a Ferris wheel, a farmers market, an unlikely romance, and a lot of food. For character profiles, the story behind the story, and more bonuses, click here! You can pre-order by clicking the button below, but seriously. Don’t read on an empty stomach 🙂

Get Your Copy Here

Enter the With No Reservations Kindle Fire Giveaway!

With No Reservations Kindle Fire Giveaway

To celebrate and spread the word, I’ve giving away a Kindle Fire, signed paperback, and my favorite Daily Grace Co Daily Notepad! Enter here:

 

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monday morning announcements

I’m so excited for today because I can finally let you in on a big secret!

Shortly before I signed my contract with Harlequin Heartwarming, I was approached by some author friends about writing for an inspirational romantic comedy novella collection to be released on Amazon. Of course I was all over that — especially when I saw the stellar lineup of authors.

I learned a lot while writing this novella. And rewriting the whole thing. I learned that there’s a huge learning curve when creating a story in about 1/4 or 1/3 of the word count. I learned (again) that things in storyworld rarely go as planned. I learned (again) the importance of letting go and writing alongside my Creator.  And I learned that I can release a story even if it isn’t perfect.

If you’re signed up to my newsletter, you know a bit of this, but the novella is called That’s When I Knew, part of the Love at First Laugh novella collection with seven other fantastic authors.

About That’s When I Knew

On most days, Chelsea Scott feels like her rapidly growing planner and stationery business should belong to someone else. Maybe if it did, it wouldn’t be hovering near the red due to one costly decision. But the collaboration that will save her company awaits her pitch at the trade show she’s keynoting. When her transportation falls through at the last minute, she accepts help from Nick Pearson, who’s unexpectedly come back into her life.

The last time Nick saw Chelsea, he told her he loved her, and she ran. Twelve years later, their lives are different, more complex than the summers they spent playing baseball and eating ice cream cones at their dock with their toes in the lake. But as they spend time together on the road, their feelings for each other become clear: all those years couldn’t take away how good they can be together.

When Chelsea’s past decisions resurface at the convention, her newly rekindled relationship with Nick – and her business – are in jeopardy. Will their love be enough to keep them together or will another summer end with them apart?

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, you can pre-order the eBooks of That’s When I Knew and this entire boxed set (8 novellas total) for only $0.99! 

Get Your Copy


It’s long been a bucket list dream to add a Books tab to my site, and that day is finally here with my May release and more books to be added in the near future. (Seriously. Pinch me.) You can find out more information about the novella, including character profiles, a Spotify playlist, and more on the That’s When I Knew book page!

Thanks for sharing in my excitement, loves! To keep up with more bookish news, you can sign up for my occasional newsletter or follow my author page on Facebook.

{giveaway} One More Song to Sing by Lindsay Harrel

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We are celebrating my award-winning author friend Lindsay Harrel and her debut novel this month! My copy of One More Song to Sing is on its way, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

About the book:  More than two decades ago, Olivia Lovett left her old life behind in the red dirt of Oklahoma and forged a career in Nashville as a country music star. Now her voice is failing, forcing her to find a new dream just as the secrets of her past come knocking at the door. Long-time friend Andrew Grant agrees to partner in a new business venture–but would he stick around if he knew her whole story?

After the tragic loss of her father, twenty-one-year-old Ellie Evans headed to Nashville seeking more than just fame. For two years, she’s waitressed, strummed, and sung her way to what may finally be her big break when Olivia offers to sign her to the budding record label. More than anything, Ellie just wants to be seen: by her future fans, by Nick Perry–a fellow musician with a killer smile and kind eyes–and above all else, by the mother who abandoned her. If the spotlight never shines on her, will Ellie ever feel whole?

One More Song to Sing is a romantic drama about the power of forgiveness, second chances, and a God who never fails to see us.

Giveaway: To win an electronic copy of One More Song to Sing via Amazon, leave a comment below telling us your favorite song — or some of them if it’s too hard to pick!

Winning comment will be chosen via random.org next Friday, December 9.

{book review} The Promise of Rayne by Nicole Deese

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Today I want to tell you about a gorgeous book I just finished that comes out TODAY! There I was, trying to finish writing my novella, when this story came and knocked my socks off. “Unputdownable” is the proper adjective I would use.

About the book:

Rayne Shelby has spent her entire life trying to earn the approval of her high-powered family, with the hope of one day managing her late grandfather’s prestigious Idaho lodge. But when she makes a mistake that puts her future in jeopardy, she faces an impossible choice: defy her family or deny her dream. The only way to fix the mess she’s created is to enlist the help of her neighbor, Levi, the apprentice of her family’s greatest enemy. And if Rayne gets caught crossing the divided property lines, the consequences will be irreparable.

Levi Harding has never forgotten the August night he shared with Rayne when they were teens—or the way she later rejected him. Despite his warring instincts, he can’t ignore her plea for help or the spark that’s ignited between them. But now, as wildfires bear down on their town and family secrets are revealed, their newfound alliance might just go up in smoke.

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My review:

Jiminy. Nicole Deese has truly become one of my must-read authors, and just when I think her stories can’t be any more artfully written, the layers of story and complexity (and chemistry!!) of her characters so masterfully executed, the next story releases.

I loved The Promise of Rayne, couldn’t put it down (like I said), and credit the author for her ability to make readers empathize with these characters in such a rare way. More books, please!

Buy it here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | IndieBound

{giveaway} Can’t Help FALLing celebration

There are so many fall reads I can’t wait to get my hands on! I will share those after I turn my own book in, but I wanted to share the love about one I’ve ALREADY read:

It’s no secret how much I loved Kara Isaac’s debut novel, Close to You, but the follow-up story coming October 11 is special and enchanting in its own way. Goodness, I loved Can’t Help Falling so much with its mixture of characters dealing with hard pasts, sizzling romantic chemistry, Kara’s signature humor, redemption, and of course, all the nods to Narnia.

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Ahem, it was also a 4.5-star TOP PICK by RT Book Reviews, which is a HUGE deal in the book world. So I promise I’m not just biased as her critique partner 🙂

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To celebrate, I’m giving away a copy of Kara Isaac’s first book, Close to You, in which a disgraced scholar running from her past and an entrepreneur chasing his future find themselves thrown together—and fall in love—on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand. I’ll also throw in a $15 Amazon gift card you can use for all of your anticipated fall reads. Simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before October 1.

Good luck, and seriously, if you haven’t discovered Kara Isaac, be sure to add these books to brighten up your fall and winter reading list! 

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my august #TBR pile

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I have a confession.

This, the latest offering in the Harry Potter fandom, was supposed to be first on my August TBR (To-Be-Read) list. But when it released to my Kindle at 11pm on July 30, I started reading it until I fell asleep. Then, when my son woke up crying in the middle of the night, I kept reading.

And kept reading.

Until it was finished at  7:24 am. I have never been very good about living in a world where there’s a new Harry Potter story and I don’t know what happens.

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I am on such a huge reading kick, my biggest year since I became a mother by far. My year total is up to 17 books, and I think I read 8 in 2015! Here’s what’s on deck for this month:

Here’s what’s on deck for this month:

  • Savor by Shauna Niequist: This author and speaker is close to my heart and even has recipes mixed in with this daily devotional. She gets it that powerful things happen around the table! So while I won’t finish this month, I hope to integrate short bits into my routine for some daily heart nourishment.
  • The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischoff: So I don’t read very much historical fiction, but I pre-ordered it on the recommendation of several trusted friends. And wow. I’m about 30% into this circus setting, and it’s gorgeous. Poetry on a page. I can’t wait until the gym and bedtime so I can keep reading! PS: Isn’t it super meta that I’m reading it on a Kindle Paperwhite I won from her?
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord: She is a favorite general market YA author who doesn’t pull punches. I think this quicker read will be an excellent way to help say goodbye to the summer.
  • Story Trumps Structure by Steven James: I’m not sure if I’ll be able to give this craft book the attention it deserves with everything going on this month, but I’d love to study a few of the chapters before I write my novella!
  • Love Does by Bob Goff: I picked this one up from my Little Free Library adventure and can’t wait to dive in again after giving my copy to my sister-in-law before I finished a few years ago.

This may be an ambitious undertaking with a busy month of editing and work ahead, but I’m looking forward to alternating between this great mix of titles!

What’s on your Kindle or bedside table this month?

Note: The links above are affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission from Amazon if you choose to purchase them! 

I found a #littlefreelibrary in the wild!

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Please tell me you’ve heard of Little Free Library (#littlefreelibrary), boxes filled with bookish goodness that you read and return on the honor system? I had forgotten about them until I saw one out in the wild!

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I think I assumed they were only in bigger cities (I changed that from cooler cities because I LOVE mine), but lo and behold, there are apparently 40,000 around the world and several in Tulsa.

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This is what I chose, Love Does by Bob Goff, a book from a sensational man that I didn’t get the chance to finish because I gave my copy to my sister-in-law. I have shared 2339230 of his articles on my Facebook author page and can’t wait to dive in!

With this fun turn of events, I am going to read it and return it to the Little Free Library where I found it with a few additions from my personal library to introduce fellow Tulsa book nerds to some of my favorite authors! My children and I now have a new end-of-summer mission to visit as many as we can.

Check out this map of Little Free Libraries. Are there any near you?

If you see one in the wild, please tag me or hashtag #LFLinthewild so I can geek out with you! 

{book review} Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Y’all, I’m enchanted.

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I finally read Like Never Before, the second book in the Walker Family series by Melissa Tagg, and am now a good way into the first book in the series on my Kindle because 1) I’m invested in this fictional family and 2) reading out of order is how I roll sometimes. {I accidentally read the Ashley Stockingdale series by Kristin Billerbeck — one of my all-time favorites — out of order on my honeymoon.}

After seeing the author post about this book on her social media, my curiosity marched my booty all the way to Barnes & Noble, where I proceeded to impulse-buy it. Friends, it did not disappoint.

What you need to know:

  • The story features a political speechwriter/widower dad hero + a quirky, charming reporter heroine. Excellent chemistry there.
  • A small-town newspaper that’s “hemorrhaging money” is what brings them together: He’s the new owner who inherited the dying paper (and the seemingly obvious interested buyer) and she’s the editor who is desperate to save it for the small town that’s welcomed her into their arms.
  • You know I’m a sucker for this, but the hero and heroine both have a lot of baggage in their past to work through to get to each other. The spiritual arc is very strong and important!
  • It’s an inspirational contemporary romance, but there’s an angle for history buffs, too!
  • The fictional town – Maple Valley, Iowa – is super charming in a Stars Hollow kind of way.
  • You will want to become an honorary member of the Walker Family.
  • Melissa Tagg not only has a gift for writing descriptions, but her prose sparkles with clever turns of phrase.

I can’t wait to see what else happens with the rest of the Walker clan and am eagerly awaiting the next in this series, starring a couple I’ve taken the liberty of amalgamating BecKit!

If your interest in Like Never Before is piqued, I’m giving away a copy here.

Have you read anything good lately?

hello from the editing cave + a giveaway

I have nothing new to report this week except that I turned in three work projects and have decided to scrap everything I’ve written on my novella and write it in third person. It’s just the right thing to do. But that will have to wait for a later time.

Related: If you need me, I’ll be in my editing cave until August 15. 

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In other news, my Alley post this week was an oldie but goodie about how to pitch your work without being pushy, and if you haven’t participated in our pre-conference blog link-up, we’d love to have you!

Okay. On to the real reason you’re here 🙂

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Since I will be a little scarce around here, I’m going to do some giveaways to share the love, starting with a copy of Melissa Tagg’s awesome novel, Like Never Before, and this sunset watercolor daily notepad from Kristin Schmucker, which is my favorite thing since chocolate buttercream.

Newsletter subscribers will have an automatic entry, but you can also take pity on your cold, lonely friend and throw me a cherry creme truffle, iced chai, or other surprise in my editing cave by commenting on this post! Best of luck to you!

Little tip: there will be more giveaways happening on my author Facebook page, so make sure you keep an eye out there! And so the FTC doesn’t come find me in my editing cave, all prizes are sponsored solely by moi! 

the ultimate book news (!!!!)

Last week, I got an important phone call.

This weekend, I went to a restaurant and signed an important piece of paper.

Today, I mailed an important envelope. 

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I’m thrilled to announce my debut book contract with Harlequin Heartwarming!

They are a clean romance line in the general market under the Harlequin umbrella, and the book they purchased is my second manuscript, tentatively titled Just Breathe. 

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To say that I’m excited is an understatement!

This is a moment years in the making,
happened in the most unexpected way,
and the perfect answer to prayer!

I can’t end this post without saying thank you to my agent, Rachel Kent; the editor who showed so much excitement for my book and offered great revision notes, Dana Grimaldi; and my acquiring editor, Victoria Curran!

This book might still be a work-in-progress without the support of my husband and children, lots of babysitting help from our families, love from my wonderful writing sisters, lots of advice from my mentor Kathleen Y’Barbo Turner + veteran authors Kristin Billerbeck and Carla Laureano, and the prayers and encouragement of so many friends!

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God is faithful.

And I’m ready to get to work!

If you’d like {occasional} updates on the book, such as release date, cover reveals, and things like that, you can sign up for my newsletter and follow along on my author Facebook page

 

when your sister publishes a book {giveaway}

Book Recommendations (1)

I’m forgoing the Friday Mixing Bowl today because it’s my writing sister Kara’s birthday, and you know I’m big on the celebrations around here! My sisters have given me a lot to celebrate lately. You saw the craziness that ensued when Jaime released her book.

From the vantage point of proud sister, you see the beginning of the project, the first ideas poking through the soil (whether they’re developed or rejected). You watch how hard your sister works on the manuscript, brainstorm scenes, offer feedback, and cheer as she braves pressing send.

Then she gets THE CALL (or the email), and you almost fall out of your chair sitting in an Italian restaurant on vacation with your family. She works hard, rewrites, and gives valuable intel on the publishing world.

Before you know it, launch day has arrived, and she sends her baby out into the big world again. It’s like watching a niece you’ve known her whole life graduate from high school and join society.

Seeing a physical copy of her book for the first time is surreal (after you may or may not have waited by the mailbox in the pouring rain).

Exhibit A:


If you happen to see not one, but TWO sisters’ books in the wild at once, your brain kind of explodes with the feels. You have permission to do a little rearranging so their covers face out. Dee Henderson will be okay.

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I couldn’t be prouder of Kara, even though she’s ruined me for romantic comedy forever because hers is so good.

To celebrate Day 1 of her birthday (one of the perks of our long distance sisterhood is having two birthdays because of the time zones), I’m going to give away a copy of her book to one lucky US resident who comments on this post!

Be sure to tell Kara happy birthday, and if you want to get yourself a present in her honor, go ahead and buy her book here 😉

summer book recommendations

Book Recommendations

My proverbial nightstand is ridiculously stacked. After a few years of minimal reading, I’ve been bitten by the bug with no regrets! There are SO many good books that have come out lately that this just scratches the surface.

Now that I’m out of my editing cave, I will be sharing more recommendations with my fellow book nerds. 🙂 Since it’s what I write, I read a lot of inspirational titles and want to spread awareness that there are some top-notch reads in that industry. I primarily go with contemporary romance, a little YA, and a touch of fantasy, but most of everything is fair game here — inspirational and general market — so don’t be surprised if you find a few curveballs.

As a busy working wife-mama-writer, you know I don’t have time to read anything except that which captivates me until the very end! So, if you need something good this summer, look no further than this variety of titles:

My Sister’s Book!!!

I know it LOOKS like I’m biased, but trust me on this one. If you follow me on social media, you’ve heard me talk about how proud I am of Kara and Close to You! Her stunning romantic comedy debut fuses moments of laugh-out-loud humor with poignant plotlines set in the unique New Zealand backdrop of the Lord of the Rings movie set. I would recommend this book not only to those who love all things Middle Earth, but to anyone who loves a heartwarming love story and characters so fun and real that you can’t help but root for them!

Something Thrilling

When I saw Laura McNeill had a new book, I was immediately intrigued — especially when I saw her background in journalism. Her work is different than her publisher’s usual (Thomas Nelson), and Sister Dear is no exception. A woman’s just been released from prison after being wrongfully accused, hoping to reconnect with her family and the daughter she barely knows after years of lost time. A murder mystery, broken family, twisted small town dynamic, and characters harboring chilling secrets make for a page-turning psychological read. The author deftly maneuvers multiple points of view that will keep readers on their toes for sure!

For Curiosity’s Sake

When the latest contemporary romance from Melissa Tagg, Like Never Before, released, you’d better believe I packed up my little cub for a trip to the bookstore! Why was I so eager to get my hands on it? Because the author has been raving about her hero in this inspirational contemporary romance on social media, so you’d better believe I was curious. With a premise that includes single dad, reporter heroine, and failing small-town newspaper, how can you go wrong?

Something Sherlockian

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan: If you love Sherlock Holmes — or just adventure and clever writing in a historical setting —  you’ll love the Herringford and Watts Mysteries. The story takes place in 1910, where our heroines Jem and Merinda are sleuthing in the streets of Toronto instead of behaving and preparing for marriage like most girls their age. Readers will love being a third wheel to their adventures — and want Merinda to be a “bad influence” on them, too — as they become embroiled in solving murders with these strong female characters. McMillan lends a strong voice laced with humor and intrigue in this unique, incredibly intelligent addition to the inspirational fiction market.

 

Something Anticipated

If you know anything about my reading tastes, you know I’m a huge fan of Becky Wade! Her One and Only is filled with romance, a touch of suspense, and satisfying closure for a beloved fictional family. I love the interesting way the author spun the dynamic between bodyguard/protective agent Dru and the NFL superstar she’s protecting, Gray, and the unique voice this story had in the scope of one of my favorite series.

(If you’re new to Becky Wade, start with My Stubborn Heart or the first in the Porter Family Series, Undeniably Yours.)

Short and Sweet

The books in the Love Inspired line are about 60-75% the length of the average inspirational romance novel, making them perfect for a beach/pool day, flight, or rainy weekend! But Jill Lynn’s Her Texas Family is definitely heavy on good, clean romance. Set in a small Texas town, it tells the story of Lucy, who immediately clashes with the widower doctor who hires her, Graham — but makes an instant connection with his daughter. Lucy’s fun-loving nature brings much-needed joy to their lives, but meddling forces that try to keep them apart make for intriguing conflict in this well-written novel.

Do any of these sound intriguing to you? What are you reading right now?

{friday mixing bowl} a mixing bowl of loveliness

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In the middle of wiping stuffy allergy noses, there was a lot of lovely this week with a pinch of fancy.

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It was our anniversary! So hard to believe this was eight whole years ago. Isn’t that church gorgeous??

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We got all fancied up and went out to a nice dinner. Our photobombers weren’t too sure what was going on, but they got to have a fun pizza party with their Aunt Bethany! (Thanks, Bethany!)

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I went bold and brave with a pink lipstick, which is so not like me. But I kind of like the extra touch of fancy! And I love that my husband makes me feel just as beautiful when I change back into my topknot and yoga pants at the end of the night 🙂

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We went to my favorite place, where I was on the hunt for an early copy of my critique partner’s awesome new romantic comedy, Close to You. (Pre-order it now because it comes out on Tuesday!) We didn’t find an early copy of it, but I did find cover inspiration for the manuscript I’m currently editing — LOOK at that typesetting! <3 Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this… #sorrynotsorry

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The rest of the week was business as usual. The most gratifying kind of hustle.

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…while others didn’t exactly pull their own weight.

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Real life: this is what my sink looked like after a few home-cooked meals (opposed to the 23938293 nights of takeout) and enjoying gorgeous spring evening walks with my family instead of doing dishes. Totally. Worth. It. Plus, it gave me a good excuse to listen to my podcasts while I washed!

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This week reminded me how important it is to treasure quality time — not multitasking, but being totally present. Like dating my husband, picking out fresh strawberries from the farmers market with my girl, and having a raspberry blowing competition with my little cub.

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But what week can go wrong when it starts off like THIS?

<< link love >>

  • One of my favorite new podcasts is The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. This week, she hosted Shelley Giglio in what was the last straw in a common theme for this week: confirmation that I’m supposed to act on a dream God put on my heart 10+ years ago in college! (More on that later.) My favorite part was when Shelley talked about how her focus is on encouraging people to believe they can do the work God has called them to do. Their talk was fun and real and inspiring!
  • Jenny Bravo of Blots & Plots totally did it again with this comprehensive guide to social media! If you’ve ever wondered what role each social media platform should play and which content should go where, then get there now!
  • God has chosen YOU — not someone else.” Ohhhhh, Bob Goff. The man is smart. “God can use anyone, for sure. If you can shred on a Fender or won Best Personality, you’re not disqualified—it just doesn’t make you more qualified. You see, God usually chooses ordinary people like us to get things done.

<< in case you missed it >>

Happy weekend, y’all! Tomorrow I head to OKC for a mini-conference headlined by Allen Arnold. What are your plans?

I wrote THE END {vol. 3}

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I just wrote THE END on my first draft/first edit of book 3!

And around here, we celebrate every little thing that gives us a somewhat viable excuse to throw a party. This is my first story to finish with two kids! Most of it was written with an infant and a preschooler between my day job, sleep regressions, preschooler valet services, trips to the coffee shop, and a few Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups for good luck. Here’s the scoop:

How can someone write a first draft and do a first edit in the same round?

Well, like all good things, it’s complicated.

This book was my second manuscript but was shelved at about 25% complete in 2013…until Mary Weber’s class at the 2015 ACFW Conference revived my love for these characters and the message behind this story.  So I wrote 30K during the first half of NaNoWriMo 2015 before I had to shelf it to complete a revision request on Book 2. My agent gently reminded me that an editor had requested to see the full after this manuscript placed second in the RWA Lone Star Contest, so I have been reading for flow, writing 15K of new scenes here and there, and editing/making editorial notes as I go.

Why did I shelf it?

This story is best suited for the audience between Young Adult and traditional contemporary romance. Like my first manuscript, I call it Inspirational New Adult because the coming-of-age threads are just as important as the romance, yet the term “New Adult” carries a very edgy stigma (four words: 50 Shades of Grey) though my story is obviously clean enough for the inspirational market.

Based on the advice of my agent and the general consensus of publishing professionals in 2013, there were no proven sales patterns for CBA publishers to take a risk on a story geared toward that audience, so I decided to pursue a different story that became Just Breathe.  It was absolutely the right advice and best move to make!

But while I had two manuscripts on submission, I decided I really, really wanted to finish Book 3 before moving forward with my next contemporary romance project. (You can blame Mary Weber and you can blame my characters for being ridiculously irresistible so I couldn’t stay away.)

aren't they pretty?

here’s who I would pick to play them. aren’t they pretty?

I have SO much respect for the brave lovelies learning how to navigate the adult world and going through so many transitions.  So here we are! Hopefully two years later, the inspirational market is ready for a story like this 🙂

Like you, I will probably read this next bit later and want to punch myself in the face…

But I was stuck at the corner of Here and Where-To-Go-From-Here last week when a plot thread fell into my lap while I was driving my daughter to school. And it wasn’t just a normal plot thread, it was a ribbon to tie my ending up in a neat bow AND strengthen two other storylines. Yes! It also explained my random urge to listen to classical music all week, and you’d better believe I think it was very much related 🙂

So note to self and note to you, dear reader: When you’re stuck with no clue what to do in your story, sometimes it can come to you when you least expect it — when your stereo is blaring children’s worship songs + two kids are exercising their lungs in the back seat + BEFORE you’ve had any caffeine. It could happen to you!

What’s next?

I am going to do one more read-through to fix some editorial notes I gave myself and then ship it off to critiquers! After I press send, I am going to take a nap. And read 393990394 books. And then get started on my next contemporary romance, which I’m super excited about!

What can we celebrate for you? Please allow me to cut you a thick slice of chocolate cake with extra sprinkles.

{friday mixing bowl} almost to THE END, two references to cake, and more

{friday}

Hi, y’all! This week’s Friday Mixing Bowl is coming to you on Saturday 🙂 I’m getting back into the swing of things after a whirlwind (and AMAZING) trip to Seattle, solo parenting for two weeks while husband is away on work, finishing a book, and finalizing my client line-up!

<< I’m currently >>

working on…

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the last stages my third manuscript, an inspirational New Adult story. Technically the first draft is finished, but it was too short! This is a “sequel-turned-prequel” to my first book, but I decided to strategically shelf it several months ago to start a new series with my second book instead. So I’m currently reading through it, filling in some holes with new scenes, and editing as I go. My lovely critique partner is shredding it up in 100-page increments, so I will get to those edits next.

listening to…

This Spotify playlist, a compilation of some of my favorite powerful worship songs right now. There is a lot going on in my headspace right now, and these songs keep me happy and sane. It’s very female-centric, which I don’t mind one bit 🙂

reading…

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I read an amazing book while I was in Seattle, Sway by Amy Matayo. It’s an inspirational new adult novel like the one I’m currently writing, basically the unicorn genre of the CBA and one that’s very close to my heart. This was my favorite of hers yet! OR if you’re looking for more of a straight-up contemporary romance, The Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson is beautiful and poignant. Check them out!

still stuck on…

credit: theartofsimple.net

this article on The Art of Simple website. “Those of us who choose to walk a path with intention through life can be a little prone to overthinking. (Wait. Is that just me?) We know we want to live lives connected to our communities, our neighbors, our friends, but sometimes we get so bogged down in good intention that we collapse under the weight of our own standards and do nothing at all.” The author learned that making a difference can really be as simple as putting a chocolate cake on someone’s porch. The idea of community and its ramifications has been heavy on my heart lately, so this article was timely and inspiring.

<< link love >>

source: iambaker.net

  • I did it again, y’all. I talked about cake twice in one blog post. But my tiny little baby is turning ONE in less than two weeks, so I have been researching frostings. Keep these recipes in your back pocket the next time you need to whip together an impressive cake, okay?
  • Ten TED Talks from Authors. I haven’t listened yet, but my dishwashing time is about to get a lot more interesting!
  • I’m very proud of my friend, Teresa, who wrote about  the importance of being teachable and doing whatever it takes to make your work better — even if that means starting over.

<< in case you missed it >>

Join us on The Writer's Alley!

  • I hosted author Liz Johnson on The Writer’s Alley on Tuesday, where she talked about why launching her career with Love Inspired Suspense prepared her for the release of her contemporary romance, The Red Door Inn. This is a subject I’ve always been curious about, so I was grateful she obliged me!! 🙂
  • Author Hillary Manton Lodge invited me to be a part of her author roundtable discussion about good writing/story music. So much fun to be featured with talented published author friends!
  • I also shared contest tips last week. Hope those come in handy during this busy contest season, whether you entered the Genesis or not!

Hope y’all are having a great weekend!

What are you up to?

{book review} a season to love by nicole deese

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After pledging to read 15 books in 2015 and reading no more than 6, I have learned I have to steal reading time to get it to happen — and I’ve already tied that in the first 2 months of 2016.

Yet I found myself devouring the inspirational contemporary romance, A Season to Love by Nicole Deese, walking on the treadmill until my feet were about to fall off + using a napping baby in my backseat as an excuse to hide and read. I don’t say that lightly! Disclosure: I received an electronic copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Here’s what it’s about (according to Amazon):

At this point in her life, bravery is not a trait Willa Hart would readily claim. She believes her seven-year-old daughter, Savannah, who never knew her father and successfully tackled chemotherapy, is truly the courageous one. Yet after Willa has a fateful encounter with handsome young doctor Patrick McCade, her outlook—and her view of herself—begins to change.

Patrick, a thrill-seeking world traveler and temporary resident of Lenox, Oregon, sets out to show Willa the value of adventure, even within her tiny town. But just when their friendship shows signs of turning into something more, Patrick’s life as a traveling doctor calls him back. Will his last days in town signal the end of their journey, or will Patrick and Willa find the courage to transform a single season into a lifetime?

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This book tackles some hard themes: grief, struggle with control, staying true to the passions God has called you to when things are pulling you in multiple directions. And that’s what I love about it! The author is a friend of mine, and I’ve loved watching her identity and talent grow with each book she’s published. Her prose is beautiful, her ability to capture emotion powerful, and her characters authentic with real struggles and real redemption.

About the author (according to Laurie):

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Aside from her amazing author skills, Nicole is wife to a handsome giant, wonderful mother to two boys, purveyor of swoon-worthy Pinterest boards, and recent Idaho transplant whose home has a stellar view. She is generous, has shown so much grace through the trials in her life, and shares my love for Ben Rector music and La Croix sparkling water. I’m so glad we sat next to each other at an awards banquet 🙂

{summer favs giveaway}

{edited} The winner is Stephanie J! I also drew a surprise second prize winner, Rachel Brown Dodson. 

I can’t thank everyone who entered enough for showing support to this author and me! I love love love doing giveaways, so keep checking back 🙂 

Can you believe it’s almost the end of July? Me neither. But to celebrate, I’m hosting a giveaway!

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Enter below to win a prize bundle that includes:

I’ve been posting regularly on The Writer’s Alley, but I’m excited to get this website up and running again! You can check out the Rafflecopter to see how you can win, share the love about one of my favorite authors, and support my journey as an author at the same time.

Thanks for entering, and good luck!

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{giveaway} end of October favorites

It’s almost time for my favorite month to come to a close, so I’m ending it with style.

What would you think about a GIVEAWAY? 

Good. I’m glad we can agree.

There are two things that inspired this: 1) Because I just love this social media community and always feel the more the merrier! And 2) because this week is the arrival of something I have long been anticipating, the release of Lizzy & Jane, the follow-up to Katherine Reay’s first book, Dear Mr. Knightley.

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Just in case you haven’t heard of Katherine Reay, let me fill you in. Her first book recently won TWO Carol Awards in the same night to add to its proverbial mantle of acclaim. It’s intelligent, raw, compelling, and—get this—written in epistolary form! I love that format. So different, especially in the inspirational romance market. Plus, in case you couldn’t tell by the titles, there are plenty of nods to Jane Austen in these books 🙂

If you haven’t read Dear Mr. Knightley, rest assured. I’m giving away:

  • A good old-fashioned paperback copy of Dear Mr. Knightley
  • UPDATE: The super sweet Katherine Reay has added a copy of Lizzy & Jane to the loot! Woo hoo!
  • A $25 giftcard to Barnes & Noble or Amazon
  • An assortment of my favorite things that will probably be decided based on who wins, but will likely include a copy of the CD I’ve been listening to nonstop plus the impulsive favorites that land in my Target cart

There are plenty of ways you can win in the Rafflecopter below, a variety of ways you can help me out a lot on my journey to publication! For example, I recently created an email list to be used only for the most special of announcements. (If the direct link doesn’t work in the Rafflecopter, click here to sign up!) Apparently those are pretty important to have 🙂

May the odds be ever in your favor!

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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?

{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.

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

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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?

{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?

surprised by motherhood {part 2} + giveaway!

In part 1 posted yesterday, I talked about the big breakthrough in my motherhood journey. How two years ago, God reached down and reminded me in a desperate moment that He would always be strong for me.

The next morning I discovered Lisa-Jo Baker.

At that point, she still went by The Gypsy Mama. I can’t remember which post I read first, but through the blurry haze of my first refreshing ugly cry on her behalf, I added her blog to my Google Reader (RIP) because she showed me that the messy equation of soaking soiled onesies, eating cold dinners, and feverishly typing work with one hand added up to something beautiful. Something I could be proud of. A purpose that requires a lot of bravery and comes with so many more honors than “just a mom” could ever do justice.

Two years later, when I found out Lisa-Jo was coming out with a book, I pre-ordered it immediately. Barnes and Noble sent it a few days before its April 1 release date, and I gobbled it up in a day. Surprised by Motherhood isn’t a story of an unexpected pregnancy like some may believe by the title. It reveals the hope and beauty of a role that gloriously can’t be predicted and requires always staying on your toes.

The book tells Lisa-Jo Baker’s story from a child growing up in South Africa to a motherless girl of 18 who swore she’d never have children to a fulfilling international career to the redemption she found in changing her mind about kids. She’s honestly one of the best writers I’ve ever come across, sometimes reading like a Toni Morrison novel but mostly like she’s translating sheet music directly from the deepest truths of the mama-heart in ways the mind couldn’t otherwise comprehend.

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She reminds readers that, whether working mom, stay-at-home mom, work-from-home mom, blue mom, green mom, women have the tremendous capacity to love children intentionally and still have goals and dreams. That women whose dreams have always only been to have children are just as brilliant and brave.

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I love her story for the same reason I loved literary realism in undergrad — her descriptions bring magic to my parallel life in an encouraging, inspiring way. Because buried in the dishes piling in the sink, staring at the grocery store tile with a fistful of 3T cotton, and brushing out tangles are the milk-drunk smiles, whispered “I love you, Mom”s, and creative expressions of a huge, individual personality packaged in a tiny body you helped to create.

IMG_3888It’s above all, a story of hope and encouragement. A glimpse of wholeness and holiness in the imperfection. I’d give it away to all of my friends if I could, but for now, I’m giving away one copy. It was snatched out of my mailbox less than a week ago, gently read by appreciative eyes, and you can find out if it’s yours on Friday! Here’s how:

 

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a story he doesn’t want you to hear

Copy of Why I'd Love (3)

If the mind is a battlefield, mine was host to a full-fledged war this weekend. Cannons, trebuchets — everything in the arsenal. After weeks of going back and forth, I finally decided to submit my second book to the same contest I entered last year.

And that’s when things started going wrong…

“It’s almost like the devil doesn’t want this story to get out there,” I told my critique partners, even though I don’t believe the devil has that kind of power or authority.

But I’m not about to let him win. Today, I’m going to share the message of my second book with no character specifics. Rather, I’m going to share how I learned it in my own life.

Many of you know that I was diagnosed with an autoimmune-type illness when I was sixteen years old, the effects of which forced me to make a decision:

Am I going to sit here and mourn that this changes the way I live? Let it debilitate me and limit me? Or am I going to find a way to cope with this and let it make me stronger?

I became focused on the idea of a “new normal”, which helped my attitude a lot. I mean, I could have something much worse. And even though there’s no cure, my symptoms can go into periods of remission with just the right roulette of treatment. So I settled into my new normal, bracing for each rise and fall of the roller coaster until, after 12 years, something changed.

My book ideas are often inspired by Bible verses and songs. This one was inspired by a question.

When was the last time you asked for healing?

More people than you think are suffering from chronic symptoms. Disease, depression, injury, temptation, addiction, guilt, grief. It’s hard on people’s faith. It’s hard going through the fire, and it’s hard deciding to emerge stronger. But when you’ve adjusted to a new normal for many years, it’s also easy to focus so much on coping that you forget the possibility of healing.

Here’s the deal. This is obviously a multi-fold issue. I don’t know why good people suffer. I don’t know why some people don’t experience healing until heaven. What I have seen firsthand is that God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), that trials produce perseverance (James 1:2), and that the way you react to your problems can impact others in powerful ways.

The message in my second book focuses on not losing sight of the hope that circumstances can always change by the infinite power of God. That sometimes healing doesn’t happen in some miraculous moment. Sometimes it’s a daily decision, something that takes hard work.

Hopefully my characters will remind people that God created us to have a rich and satisfying life (John 10:10), not just to barely cope. And that full life is worth fighting for.

Hopefully my own life will say the same.

fangirl tuesday!

If you know me, it’s no secret that I’m a totally unashamed {read: maybe a little obnoxious} Fangirl. When I like or appreciate something, or if someone’s work resonates with me, I will shout it from the mountaintops — not because I’m trying to be a brown-noser, but because I genuinely believe people should know about them and love them, too 🙂 Maybe it’s just naturally ingrained from my PR background?

Anyway, just in time for Valentine’s Day, I’m suggesting three “gifts” to get for yourself. Or I guess they would be good for the moms, sisters, daughters, in-laws, significant others, and friends in your world. But I’m all about the occasional self-pampering!

BeckyWadepromo

Today, the electronic version of my lovely friend Becky Wade’s book, My Stubborn Heart, is FREE on Nook and Kindle! We’ve been over this before: I love Becky Wade’s work. This is the book I accidentally purchased twice during a long absence from reading {when I was working full-time from home with an infant + writing my first book} because the premise excited me so much. And what a way to return to the world of reading! Since this book is such a great deal, while you’re there, you might as well order her other books, Undeniably Yours and Meant to be Mine {releasing this spring}. Just do it. You’ll thank me later 🙂

I just got back from the bookstore where I purchased Kitchen Confidence, the long-awaited first cookbook from TV cook and former Food Network Star fan favorite, Kelsey Nixon. This is the perfect title that encapsulates Kelsey’s approach to cooking: breaking down the basics so you can build on the essentials in your own kitchen. And goodness do I wish she’d been on the scene when I was a new cook. My very first recipe I made as a newlywed was the Barefoot Contessa’s spring vegetable risotto, which would have turned out okay had I not dumped a huge container of pepper in it at the very end. So sad. I so needed a friend to show me the ropes in the kitchen. But now that I’m a more experienced foodie, I’ve still been a longtime fan of her TV show and real-ingredient recipes that turn out delicious every time. Plus, she seems so fun and lovable that I wish she were my next-door neighbor! Here’s the Amazon link.

Also releasing today on DVD/Blu-ray is the best romantic comedy I’ve seen in ages, AustenlandNormally I’m an adamant read-the-book-before-the-movie kind of girl, but when I found out about this movie, I made an exception. And I’m so glad I did! I’ve long believed there’s been a drought in the chick-flick scene. But this one had all of the good, clean elements that give you that warm, dreamy feeling when it ends. Don’t tell my lit professors, but I’m not a huge fan of Jane Austen. Her only book I got into was Northanger Abbey, which she wrote as a gothic parody, so that says something in itself. But this movie was amazing whether you’re an Austen fan or not!

IMG_3148Bonus splurge: Pens are always, always a good thing! My top recommendation is the Paper Mate Flair felt-tip pen, but I bought these Paper Mate InkJoy regular ballpoints to get me over the cabin fever of our recent round of sickies. What can I say? If we’re being honest, I was totally lured in by the commercials on Hulu 🙂 Even though this happens maybe once a year, my husband doesn’t understand how someone with so many pens can want more. But they do the trick every. single. time!

Bouquet of roses or bouquet of pens? Are you a spa/pedicure kind of person or do you prefer to get lost in a book? 

What are you gifting yourself this year for Valentine’s Day — or just because?

a reminder about love and truth from Stasi Eldredge

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While my insanely curious nature leads me to devour fiction, I prefer to savor a good nonfiction work. Right now, I’m slowly going through Stasi Eldredge’s newest book, Becoming Myself: Embracing God’s Dream of You. This book is speaking to me in a way that really lines up with my heart, if that makes sense.

Somehow I don’t think Stasi would mind if I shared some quotes from this morning’s reading. They’re good.

“We all have something that brings us to our knees. It isn’t something we would ever choose for ourselves or wish on anyone else, but we all have an area or ten in our lives that drives us to need God. We can’t free ourselves. We are weak, aware that something inside is broken and starving. It is a wonderful grace when we finally give up and fall down before the One who is strong…We were created to desperately need Jesus” (38).

The nature within us bends us in the direction of sin to satisfy this starvation. It’s a natural inclination. Then the world around us grabs us by the arms and enables us to give in. But have you noticed that, when we give in, the fix is only temporary? It’s only a matter of time before we’re back for more, covered with a relief that eventually washes away and makes us feel worse about ourselves.

Stasi encourages us to listen for the voice of God, for the whisper or shout of love and truth that fills us ’til we’re overflowing. To replace the pain and failures of the past and the lies about ourselves we’ve been conditioned to believe. She lists these verses as reminders of exactly what God thinks about us:

Romans 8:38-39 – You are deeply and completely loved.
I John 2:12 You are totally and completely forgiven.
II Cor. 5:21 When God sees you, he sees the righteousness of Jesus.
John 3:16 You mean the whole world to Him.
Song of Songs 4:1 He thinks you’re beautiful. Right now.
Romans 8:29 He is committed to your restoration.
Hebrews 13:5 You are not now, nor have you ever been alone.

Okay, so I could just type up the entire book–I love it and want you to love it that much. But I will leave you with this last thought.

“Though our pasts have shaped us, we are not our past. Though our failures and sin have had an effect on who we are, we are not defined by our failures or our sin. Though thought patterns and addictions have overwhelmed us, we are not overcome by them and we will never be overcome by them. Jesus has won our victory. Jesus is our victory” (43).

(Okay, two. But they’re related.)

“The holy work of God deep in our hearts as we have suffered and struggled and wept and longed to overcome is stunning beyond measure. You may not see the goodness yet, but you will. It comes when we see our lives through God’s eyes” (43).

I’m going to make it a goal to reflect on the truths in the Scriptures above and reflect on them often.

Even though there are real, raw, painful things in this world, even rooted deeply in our lives, it does wonders to remember that we are loved, covered, and victorious.

{book review} what writers can learn from Becky Wade

Welcome to my first book review! Well, my first since my college newspaper days when I injected these big literary words in some farfetched attempt to sound intellectual. All I can do when I look back on that period of my life is shake my head. Just no.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Becky Wade and her latest release, Undeniably Yours.

“Oh, you’re looking for a fun summer read? BECKY WADE!”

“Please allow me to interrupt your conversation to tell you that I loved that book, too!”

Yes, I’ve been that girl.

So, what can we learn from Becky Wade? Is it her engaging voice, page-turning action, and lovable characters? Yes, but that’s not what this is about.

This is about writing a stellar debut novel with glowing reviews. And then following it up with another that blows your debut out of the water. 

In my research and talking to other authors, today’s editors really like new writers to have at least two completed manuscripts because some authors will show so much promise and then turn out to be “one-hit wonders.” If you didn’t catch my drift earlier, Becky Wade is not a one-hit wonder.

I loved her debut, My Stubborn Heart. In fact, I accidentally bought it twice during a long reading hiatus because it jumped out to me on the bookstore shelf on two separate occasions. But when I won a copy of Undeniably Yours, I read it in an entire sitting–I couldn’t stand the suspense.

The book tells the story of Meg Cole, who inherits an oil empire after her father’s unexpected death, and the manager of her father’s racehorse farm, Bo Porter. Because it makes sense on paper, Meg wants to shut down Bo’s operations and extinguish his dreams. But she doesn’t count on him being smolderingly dreamy (hunky cowboy, anyone?) and he doesn’t count on developing a fierce protective instinct for her.

I’ll spare you the back flap copy rendition of the plot and just tell you that it’s the deeply layered characters that will keep you turning the pages, the perfectly-timed development of their romance that doesn’t seem predictable, and conflict and even suspense around every corner.

So, the moral of the story (I’m learning) is to follow your debut novel with an electrifying second. If you’re writing a series, don’t exhaust your bag of tricks with the first. Continue learning the craft, playing to your strengths and working hard on your weaknesses. Ask yourself how you can up the ante in your follow-up manuscripts and deliver unforgettable characters and page-turning conflict.

Because someday, it will be important that you reward the readership you built during your first book release so they’ll keep coming back for more!