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:

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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:

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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! 

Click Here to Order


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.

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

 

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…

Blacey

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?

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?

{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?

{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?

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.