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!

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 🙂

{friday mixing bowl} slow mornings, renewing of the mind, and unicorn cake!

Hi, friends! Is anybody else really glad it’s Friday? This is where I am this morning:

I know oatmeal is probably the most unphotogenic breakfast, but after a lifetime of hectic mornings, I’m grateful for a slow, lazy one. I’m going to post a monthly update and my goals for March next week, but one of my favorite things about February was my morning makeover. I’ve been waking up before my kids to get stuff done and have a slow breakfast with a giant glass of lemon water. It’s made all the difference in my day.  🙂

My schedule has been somewhat unpredictable, so I have been using block scheduling to get things done and setting aside chunks of time to do them. (Like naptime!) As always, the 15-minute drill has also been my lifesaver. It’s amazing how much you can get done in one episode of Mickey Mouse if you focus on one thing at a time. I’m currently working on an editing job, writing a proposal of new book ideas for my editor, preparing for my book launches, and training for a 5K. Life is full and happy 🙂

This week I got to meet singer-songwriter-podcaster Christy Nockels, whose music and gentle spirit have been instrumental since I was a tween, pretty sure. But her Glorious in the Mundane podcast has been especially encouraging to listen to as I clean my house 🙂

<link love>

    Source: ThePaperSpoon4U on Etsy

<in case you missed it>

  • The novella collection I’m part of releases next week, so things around here have been a giant pre-release party! Here’s the book page with the playlist, the story behind the story, and all the behind-the-scenes info about That’s When I Knew!
  • On The Writer’s Alley this week, I shared what I learned from writing my novella, celebrated the writing community, and shared a sneak peek!
  • The lovelies of Coffee Cups & Camisoles posted our interview today!
What have you been up to this week? Are you as excited about the weekend as I am??

february 2017 goals

It’s the first Monday of February, so now is when the fun begins, right? I’ve been going through my Powersheets really slowly and deliberately to refine what I want to prioritize. So each month, I want to create a doable list with those bigger aims in mind.

I just returned from Christy Wright’s Business Boutique seminar in California AND had the chance to join an IF: Local gathering this weekend, so there’s a lot to unpack and many wheels to get in motion this month. Here’s what’s on tap for February:

Writing:

  • Write book proposal for next project(s)
  • Outline and begin writing next novel
  • Work through one craft book: KM Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel
  • Finalize pre-release marketing plan for spring
  • Create Goodreads author page
  • BLOG. Like I said, I have lots to process and share!

Work:

  • Set a regular work schedule and keep laptop in my office during the day
  • 5 pages a week of new web content
  • Set up accounting programs for business (including the Wave app, which looks amazing!)
  • Make a style guide and blogging/social media image template
  • Build a content database + content calendar template
  • TAXES

Personal:

  • Establish a better sleep schedule and morning routine: I’d like to be in bed reading by 1030 with my alarm set using the new(er) Bedtime app on my iPhone!
  • Read two books for fun
  • Start 5K training app on my phone and run outside on warmer mornings
  • Meal planning every Sunday night and prep on Tuesdays
  • Set up meeting for CityChurch college women’s book club
  • Creative nonfiction once a week

There you have it! It looks like a lot, but a lot of it will be ongoing and some of it will take no time at all. Here’s to better habits, changes in mindset, hard work, and healthy balance. <3

What do you have planned for February?

2017 planner favorites

My 2017 planner runs from July-June, so I’m good on that front. But if you’re still on the lookout, I come bearing ideas — not because I am being compensated in any way or form, but simply because I’m a huge planner nerd!

There are so many good ones that I could post about them all month, but here’s what has caught my eye this season:

source: TheDayDesigner.com

The holy grail of planners = the giant boutique planners like Erin Condren or the Emily Ley Simplified Planner or the Whitney English Day Designer,  which run around $60. If you can make that investment in a planner, they are beautiful with brilliant, functional design to help you make each and every day a work of efficient art. This model doesn’t work for my schedule or needs, but they are definitely helpful for busy people with many moving cogs in their lives!

source: BlueSky.com

For the last few years, I’ve been using the 10×8 horizontal weekly planner from Blue Sky, which runs anywhere from $9.99-$19.99. I love the way I can see a big picture of my entire week and plan work, writing sprints, and family things/meals accordingly. (Here’s a post with how I use it.) While most of their options in this format are July-June versions like mine, they have this one for January! If you’re more on a Target budget, I would highly recommend checking out their Blue Sky collection in person. They have partnered with some really talented designers, and I can guarantee you’ll find a gorgeous one that works for you, whether you are a daily, weekly, monthly, vertical, or horizontal planner <3

I’m super proud of my friend Karen who created the Dreams by Design planner for people with big dreams and busy lives! It’s a beautifully-designed printable planner that’s super easy to email to a printer or office supply store to be printed and bound. If you click on the link above, you can see a little about Karen’s heart in creating the planner and its neat features!

source: CultivateWhatMatters.com

Since I already have a planner for this year, I just got this six-month system from Lara Casey’s Cultivate What Matters shop ($40) for Christmas to help me organize huge goals for 2017. (Looks like they just sold out until next year. Boo!) Less of a planner and more of an inventory, this notebook is filled with Powersheets — worksheets with questions designed to help you identify your goals/strengths, what’s held you back in the past, and actionable steps to fulfill them. So if that sounds like something that would be beneficial to you in 2017, I would recommend the printable Dreams by Design planner above as it has that + a planner feature.

Last but not least, if a planner feels too confining for your tastes, you should really get into bullet journaling for the price of your favorite notebook. You can literally customize it any way you’d like. I got into bullet journaling this past year (remember the novella truck?) and absolutely love it during busier seasons. The Lazy Genius Collective has a guide to help make sense of it and show that it doesn’t have to be high maintenance at all. But you know that if it was super time-intensive, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole 🙂 You can search Instagram for more gorgeous spreads!

Are you a planner or a pantser in your own life? What system looks most appealing to you?

glimpses + gilmore girls

I know it’s technically Christmastime now, but I’m still holding on to every ounce of autumn and enjoying each glimpse that captures its coziness.

img_8125

img_8108

img_8119

{ Reading under the covers is much more convenient than in my day, when we read until our flashlights fell on our faces. Although covert iPhone photos are not as convenient these days, judging by the stone-like quality of my hand. Rest assured that my skincare routine hasn’t fallen by the wayside. }

img_8039img_8098

 

 

 

 

 

 

I so enjoyed spending time with my little family over the long holiday weekend. Hope you all are still full in every possible way after a delicious and wonderful Thanksgiving!

img_8110

Raise your hand if you’ve been personally victimized by Amy Sherman-Palladino. I came, I saw, and I conquered the Gilmore Girls revival. Let’s just say that Mrs. Kim’s perma-scowl encapsulates my sentiments perfectly.

img_8124

Now that Thanksgiving is over, phase 30930 of editing cave action has begun. I turned in final edits on my May release last week and am reworking my novella now. Looking forward to starting a new project in 2017, celebrating my first book release, and more exciting things I can’t share quite yet!

Speaking of May, book title, backmatter, and cover sneak peeks are coming to newsletter subscribers soon. Head over here to be the first to find out! 

How was your Thanksgiving?

october update

img_7347

Welcome, October! This is our front door in progress. We still need to get the big pumpkins at the pumpkin patch, and if I’m super ambitious/have a craft night with my friend Cait, I want to make a wreath!

First order of business, the winner of the Can’t Help FALLing Giveaway is Meghan Gorecki! But if you didn’t win, the Kindle edition of Close to You just went on sale TODAY for $1.99. Get it while it’s hot. I promise you’ll gobble it up just in time for October 11 when you can get Can’t Help Falling! 

img_7291
When we last spoke, I was in the thick of the final revision read-through for my upcoming release! With the help of gracious family members and a friend who took the kids Friday night so I could press send, it. is. finished. Fly away, little rewrites! And please don’t return too banged up in the next iteration when the real editing begins 🙂

img_7333
This is the wild-haired, crazy-eyed look of someone who has finished her deadline…and begun another! For my next trick, I shall write a novella this month. I have a fun spread set up in my bullet journal to track my progress (yes, that says track, not truck!):

fullsizerender

This is my big goal for the month, to be accomplished with early mornings, a little caffeine, and lots of grace. During my normal work hours, I have some fun client projects to finish, and in the second half of the month, I am working on my next proposal for Heartwarming plus any edits they may send my way.

I have an official title and cover coming soon along with news about said novella project, so be sure you’re subscribed to my newsletter for all the juicy tidbits!

{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.

14441048_887082964758230_1616815705518869093_n

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 🙂

chf-giveaway

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! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

june update + july goals

Table talk (1)

Now that’s July is halfway finished (WHAT?), here’s how I did on my June goals:

  • Read/outline the craft book Story Trumps Structure by Steven James. Does it count that I started it? Barely.
  • Study a few comp titles for my new project. Yes.
  • Develop a tentative outline for the new project. Done!
  • Complete any final edits on Book 3 + proposal. Done!
  • Journal/art journal 2-3 times a week. Nope.
  • Sweat at least once a day. (And hydrate accordingly.) I actually did a lot better on this than I thought I would! I completed the Betty Rocker 30-Day Challenge, often working out twice a day, and only missed five days of sweat 🙂 I think I’ll count it though, since it’s 100 degrees here and impossible not to sweat!
  • Revamp Sunday night meal planning and prep process. It happened one week. Moving that goal to this month.
  • Declutter my closet, armoire, and kitchen. I decluttered my closet, and it feels amazing!
  • Create a loose content calendar based on topics for the blog. Yes.
  • Make a landing page for services I offer bloggers and podcasters. I started it, but it’s still in draft mode.
  • Possibly a promo for bloggers/podcasters? I did a conference promo instead! This one will have to wait until after edits are sent in.
  • Take regular walk breaks during long stretches of work. Oh goodness. Moving that to this month!
  • Redesign my invoice template. Yes!

Not too shabby, especially since my plans for a quiet summer were foiled by a new book contract. (Seriously. All the praise hands for this divine interruption!) Here’s what I’d like to accomplish for the rest of July:

Here’s what I’d like to accomplish for the rest of July:

Writing Goals:

  • Work through the craft book Story Trumps Structure by Steven James.
  • Complete 75% of edits for my debut novel due 8/15.
  • Write 5-10K on my novella.

Personal Goals:

  • Create morning and evening routines (including #morningmiles!)
  • Revamp Sunday night meal planning and prep process.
  • Weed out my armoire + organize groups of my cleaning supplies into transportable caddies.
  • Institute a regular cleaning schedule (and stick to it).
  • Celebrate the selah.
  • Guard what comes out of my mouth.

Work Goals:

  • Finish landing page for services I offer bloggers and podcasters
  • Take regular walk breaks during long stretches of work
  • Invite some amazing people I have in mind to join this blog for Table Talk and refine that format 🙂

That’s it — for starters. There are still ~3 weeks to accomplish a LOT!

What are you working toward this month?

 

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. 

FullSizeRender-11

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. 

IMG_5772

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!

IMG_5775-2

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

 

{table talk} the importance of showing up to work

Table talk

Table Talk

If I could invite someone over to have dinner with you and me this week, it would be author and speaker Jenny Kutz, with whom I have a lot of mutual friends. One of those friends commented on a video clip of her speaking at a conference, which thanks to the magical Facebook algorithm, appeared in my feed.

And y’all? It. wrecked. me. 

We can measure success by how many books someone has written or how many people someone has ministered to. But really, in the eyes of God, He does not see success that way. In the eyes of God, He sees success as “Are you doing what I’ve asked you?”

Wow.

You should click here and watch the rest of the clip, which is less than five minutes long. So good!

Let me be real with you for a minute. With all of the advice from industry experts to grow our lists and feed the Amazon review machine and offer all of these incentives and follow all of these formulas to get the message out, I have been almost crushed by the urgency to find the right way for me, paired with this irrational fear of being left behind. [I believe the hipsters and people many years younger than me call it FOMO. 🙂 ]

It’s a big responsibility to be given all these words and wonder if I’m being a good steward of them. If the right people are even hearing them. But Jenny’s words echoed this little question God has been magnifying EVERYWHERE to me lately, something I shared briefly in a recent post:

Are you taking care of the tribe you have right now?

>>

Jenny goes on to talk about Esther, who had an entire book of the Bible named after her to tell her story, and Joanna, who had two lines of story. Both women were deemed pleasing in the eyes of the Lord, but did one take precedent over the other, perhaps Esther with her mass acclaim and impact on an entire nation?

Just because Esther had a whole book and Joanna had two Scriptures, there was no difference in the eyes of the Father of both of those women. So we can take this in our lives: “God, I don’t want to measure my success by how many people I have a reach to. I want to measure my success by what true success is in your heart, and that’s faithfulness.”

Whether we pastor a church, or helm a blog/podcast that reaches thousands, or sit behind a desk, or be a homeschooling mom, or write novels that only see the inside of a hard drive for a few years, or be a complete and total boss in a classroom/corporate setting, the most important thing is being obedient to our calling.

Lists and platform are important, but not more important than being a good steward of the words God gives us and not waiting to be obedient until the timing and numbers seem right. We’re talking about the same Shepherd who would leave 99 sheep to find the one that was missing.

>>

Thank you to Jenny Kutz for the reminder that our calling is important and just as pleasing to God whether we go viral or impact just one. Whether we’re sharing truth, rescuing women from sex trafficking, taking good care of clients, or if He’s entrusted us with the hard work of shaping a few members of the next generation, the most important thing God values is obedience and faithfulness.

If we get emails talking about how our work has changed lives or if we show up every day to a thankless job with results that seem hard to measure, we are just as pleasing to God because we showed up.

june 2016 goals

FullSizeRender

I can’t believe 2016 is almost halfway finished! It’s been a year so far, y’all. A good one.

Here are some of the goals I have to make life happier + easier during June.

Writing Goals:

  • Read/outline the craft book Story Trumps Structure by Steven James.
  • Study a few comp titles for my new project.
  • Develop a tentative outline for the new project and/or Book 4 if inspiration strikes.
  • Complete any final edits on Book 3 + proposal.

Personal Goals:

  • Journal/art journal 2-3 times a week.
  • Sweat at least once a day. (And hydrate accordingly.)
  • Revamp Sunday night meal planning and prep process.
  • Declutter my closet, armoire, and kitchen.

Work Goals:

  • Create a loose content calendar based on topics for the blog.
  • Make a landing page for services I offer bloggers and podcasters.
  • Possibly a promo for bloggers/podcasters?
  • Take regular walk breaks during long stretches of work.
  • Redesign my invoice template.

That’s the gist of it!  I know it won’t go 100% according to plan, but I personally do best and accomplish things when I lay out my intentions.

What are your goals for this summer? How are you making them happen?

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.

13100937_506129322931052_3274876642868955213_n

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 😉

I wrote THE END {vol. 3}

IMG_3940

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} the holy grail for bloggers, happiness for mama hearts, red bubbles, yellow puppies, and more

NEW STOCK(2)

Happy Easter! What a special Friday and week <3 I have been working on edits, deadlines for clients, and getting my husband back from a 2-week work trip, but through the busyness, there’s this extra layer of hope. Love it!

<< currently >>

loving…

IMG_4356

…SPRING! My foodie heart is so happy that the seasons are changing. Soon my Instagram followers will be inundated with gratuitous farmer’s market pictures #sorrynotsorry. But in the meantime, I am starting to re-introduce spring greens and lots of bright flavors in my kitchen. And it smells and tastes phenomenal!

reading…

51lMpwJ5gQL._SX332_BO1204203200_

this one! If you’re a mama or have a young mama you love, this book is incredibly encouraging. My pen got such a workout underlining everything I took to heart, which was about 1/2 the book 🙂 Do yourself a favor and get a headstart on Mother’s Day!

happy…

IMG_4342

…because I finally got to spend a morning with Christen! We talked writing for a glorious, kidless stretch at my favorite coffee shop and then got lunch with my kids. So, so good for my heart to see this lovely!

digging…

IMG_4365

…the Random Olive Instagram feed! I am drooling over this girl’s brush lettering skills and amazing tutorials! I even bought the water brush she uses so I can experiment since the brush I was using to practice this week…notsomuch. We shall see if, in time and with lots of practice, my letters will be half as cute as hers!

working on…

IMG_4381

…edits! If you saw my Facebook post this week on my author page, I was totally talking about myself and the many red Microsoft Word bubbles in my latest manuscript. This is the very end of the email I got back with my edits from my critique partner. Do you see those Xs she used to try to defuse her cute and snarky little warning? But seriously, I’m grateful to have a wonderful critique group and welcome the beating and red pen slashes because we couldn’t make magic without each other!

celebrating…

IMG_4347

…this yellow pup! Did you see it was National Puppy Day or something this week? I’m convinced social media makes up these arbitrary “holidays” but that doesn’t stop me from celebrating! Sampson is my late night co-worker, foot warmer, and gentle giant/playground for my kids. He turns 6 next week (on the same day our son turns 1)! Want to take a nap with him? You can borrow him, as long as you give him back!

<< link love >>

bunny-cupcakes-02

image via The Pioneer Woman Food & Friends

  • Love love love these adorable bunny cupcakes! Perfect for your Easter activity if you are Pinteresty and talented like that!
  • Okay, y’all. This is the holy grail of free stock photos! I’m only sharing it here because I love you. If you blog, like to create memes, or whatever, these are all licensed under Creative Commons, which makes things easy!
  • Excellent encouragement here to look after your “other half” — the part of you that often gets buried underneath the busy and the necessity. And this applies to everyone with a heartbeat! I wish everyone would take this advice.
  • Bookmarking this post from Janet Grant because of the sheer terror in my life every time I’m asked what my book is about. It’s so terrifying and awkward, y’all — and I do it FOR A LIVING for other people’s books!
  • I just discovered The Nectar Collective, a resource for all things online marketing, blogging, and small business. If any of those things interest you, I highly recommend subscribing to her newsletter because her free online library has allll the great info!

<< coming up >>

  • I joined Jeff Goins’ 7-day challenge for better blogging practices — and got stuck on the first day, the blogging manifesto. I’m still trying to articulate that but hope to have it ready to roll in the next week!
  • On Tuesday, I’m up at The Writer’s Alley, and I will be sharing an awesome Instagram “hack” for writers and bloggers!

Hope everyone has a great Holy Weekend — in which you get a good nap!

 

 

{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…

IMG_4262

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?

last-minute tips for your #ACFWGenesis entry

Last Genesis

There’s still one week left to enter your unpublished, completed manuscript in the ACFW Genesis contest. A one-page synopsis plus the first 15 pages.

It. will. change. your. life. 

I’ve had the chance to edit some really great entries this year, so I know great things are going to happen in and through this contest. If you’re on the fence, I encourage you to make one of the bravest decisions of your writing career.

But before you do, here are my last-minute tips:

  • You need a high-resolution author photo, so call in a favor to that friend/brother/neighbor/cousin’s uncle with the DSLR camera and bake them a warm plate of cookies to capture a professional, high-quality photo for you!
  • Make sure you begin your story in the middle of the action. 15 pages of backstory will not cut it <3
  • Edit all instances of passive voice and make sure your story is in Deep POV. Kristen Kieffer of She’s Novel has a great post to help.
  • Do not press send without another set of eyes on your work.
  • After you’ve edited it within an inch of its life, do a final spelling and grammar check for rogue typos and extra spaces.
  • Don’t be afraid to end your entry a page or so early if it means you are leaving your judges at the edge of their seats, compelled to find out what happens next!
  • Make sure you have accepted all track changes, deleted all comments, and your manuscript is clean of all editorial notes. {Don’t ask me how I know this… *hides face from Pam Meyers in shame*}
  • Please don’t wait until the very last minute to upload your entry. You don’t know how many people have missed the deadline because their author photo wouldn’t upload properly. {Or hyperventilated trying to adjust it at the last minute.}

For rules and more info about the contest, click here.

Good luck! I believe in you!

a quiz: what does one do after pressing send?

Yesterday I pressed send on a project I’ve been working on for a little while. So, what glamorous thing does an aspiring author do to commemorate such an occasion?

a) Steal a celebratory burger date with your spouse before he/she leaves on a business trip

b) Eat fundraiser chocolate

c) Scrub some dishes that have been waiting in your sink too long because of said project

d) Change a diaper

e) Wonder what to do with your life once the kids are in bed and you’d usually be working on it

f) Give yourself one night and then get back to work because you love it too much to stay away

g) All of the above, internally partying like the boss that you are for pressing send

IMG_3940

The correct answer is G. This little slice of the web is all about celebration — the big things and little things.

I love the juxtaposition of pressing send or getting the call or writing the end in the middle of messy, glorious real life. It’s pretty much my favorite.

What are you celebrating right now? What’s the most glamorous thing you’ve done after a major writing milestone?

Party on, my friends!

 

the story of a found manilla folder

IMG_3597

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{originally posted on The Writer’s Alley}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

grace for the finite and infinite wait

{originally posted on The Writer’s Alley}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

friday 5: fun news + FREE #NaNoWriMo printable


Untitled design

Happy Friday! It’s an October Friday, so even better. I have a few things to share today, so here goes.

LS Sealwhite(1) finalist (1)1. This week, I found out one of my new manuscripts was the runner-up in the RWA Lone Star Contest’s Inspirational Category! I entered this manuscript to get feedback and direction moving forward with it, so it was a huge surprise and affirmation to what I learned at conference that this story is one that needs to be told 🙂 More on that later, though.

NaNoWriMo

2. I made the decision to enter National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November. This means that novelists have the month of November to write 50,000 words on their WIP. I’ll be dividing that between two projects and spending the rest of this month preparing so it doesn’t end up like past attempts — falling on my face and then skidding some. I’ll share my plans here next week.

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 8.50.00 AM

3. You know how I love being intentional and planning things? I made a planner printable for NaNoWriMo, and you can download it for FREE by clicking here. It’s 15 pages with two days on each page. The layout’s designed to encourage you to jot down non-writing responsibilities so you can have an overview of things that might get in the way (no excuses!), intentionally plan out times of the day to write, and then jot down notes for the next day so you can jump right into it more easily.

Kara book

4. My writing sister Kara Isaac got to see a real, live copy of her first published book baby this week! So the sisters and I have kind of been partying all week and remembering our favorite parts of the story. I can’t wait until the rest of you can read this stellar romantic comedy in April 2016! If I ever had a book recommendation, it’s this one. Kara has these clever turns of phrase and gets her characters into predicaments that will make you laugh out loud.  She’s a fantastic storyteller! You can pre-order it here: Amazon + Barnes&Noble.

Homegirl read all the books at @antoinettebakingco after finishing her blueberry crumb bar. #allieG

A photo posted by laurie (@laurietomlinson) on

5. Yesterday my kids and I met some friends at our favorite bakery in town. After eating her blueberry crumb bar, I caught my girl surrounded by books in the window. She just turned four, so she can’t read quite yet. But she really loves looking at the pictures and telling the stories out loud. If this picture doesn’t make me feel like I’m doing something right as a #wordnerd mama, nothing will! 🙂

Flyer

BONUS: Last but not least, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of me as I expand my consulting business to serve individuals. So many shared and showed the love last week! I truly have the best friends, family, and hopefully new clients! <3

Hope you find time this weekend to watch some good football (or read a book while everyone else does), warm a mug with your favorite hot chocolate, and feel the hug of soft flannel or fleece.

my writing bucket list

IMG_1774

You can learn a lot about someone by looking at her bucket list. I found a handwritten one for writing I started in 2012 when I first got my booty into gear about writing for publication.

I know it’s not news to you how much I love a good to-do list, but bucket lists have always especially fascinated me. That makes that person come alive? Where do his or her priorities lie? What unique places does this individual mind go to in terms of this topic?

For the sake of accountability and fun (and because I’m turning 30!!!) I’ve added a tab to my website with my own writing bucket list in progress. And here it is — short, sweet, sometimes a little weird.

Finish a novel [x 2]

Sign with a literary agent

Write for The Writer’s Alley

Sign a book contract

Win a Genesis Award [x 2]

Publish an article in Relevant Magazine

Start a sustainable freelance business

Take a selfie with my own book at Barnes & Noble

Indie publish my NA series

Finish a NaNoWriMo month (50,000 words in one month)

Writing Retreat at Glen Eyrie Castle in Colorado Springs

Attend Mt. Hermon Writing Conference

Celebrate book contracts with my critique partners

Write a nonfiction eBook to give away

Research trip to Ireland 🙂

Teach a class at a conference

Research trip to Texas Hill Country

Does anything on this list surprise you? What are some of the things on your bucket list?

What are you doing to make it happen?

when mamas create

 

{Originally posted on The Writer’s Alley}

Have you listened to the podcast Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert? The bestselling author who’s had Julia Roberts star in the movie version of her book (Eat, Pray, Love)? She’s on a mission to help artists get past their fears so they can do their thing once and for all.

I’ve only listened to the first episode, but was inspired by what was there. Obviously I can’t quite endorse it yet because I’ve only heard the first one, not to mention we have very different views on life and faith. But in the episode, Ms. Gilbert interviewed a woman who had the nagging desire to write. She became an English teacher instead and later had two children, shelving the dream and refining her craft in the meantime. Now that her kids are in school, she can’t ignore that niggling desire anymore. And she’s out of excuses, but she just can’t seem to get started. 

In Ms. Gilbert’s advice to her were some very important points that resonated with me in my current relationship with work and art and writing:

Mothers need to be given permission to do the things that ignite their souls. 

And fear shows up as perfectionism, insecurity, guilt, procrastination, and anything else that keeps them from doing those things.

I’m going to say this up front: The number one person who needs to give a mother permission to create is herself. The mom on the podcast is one example of so many who are riddled with guilt that their desires and attentions are pointed on anything but their children. They second guess any compromise involving their kids and often err on the side of sacrifice.

But children notice things. When Mama creates, they will either see her guarding her time, protecting her art, working hard, and investing in becoming the best version of herself. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, they will see a martyr-mother and become conditioned to letting duties delegate dreams to the back seat — both hers and their own.

Yikes. The reality of that possibility makes me cringe.

The truth is, children of a certain age can learn to be self-sufficient during that pocket of time designated for your writing. They can learn to be creators themselves, if not in words or art, then in opportunities. Even if they’re not natural creatives, per se, they’ll live in a climate that encourages them to nurture their own dreams, give them feet, and pursue them unrelentingly.

Ms. Gilbert compared the guest caller to a plane on a runway. She’s spent plenty of time refining her craft, starting a blog, and building momentum, but she’s reached the point where it’s either run out of gas from excess taxiing, crash and burn into the neighboring field, or take off.

This is my commission, not just for moms, but for anyone with that chance within them that’s begging to be taken. It’s time to stop letting fear (and its various disguises) sabotage the passion God has given us. It’s time to take off, to do and create, find the healthiest balance, and discover the best version of ourselves so we can give more freely and love more deeply

the most important ingredient in your writing recipe

{originally posted on The Writer’s Alley}

Hermione Granger is my spirit animal.

Just a little tidbit you may not know about me.

Like our favorite wild-haired brainiac, I’m a reformed know-it-all, hopefully a little more bearable to live with than the girl whose hand was raised so high, her fanny had lift-off from the plastic, grade school chair-desk. But I still devour information about topics that interest me. Google has especially enabled this tendency. 

Now that you know this important piece of trivia about me, let me tell you what happened after pressing send on my second manuscript. I bought a ton of craft books. I studied the industry — both my little subsection of it and on the whole. I tried a variety of writing tactics recommended by plotters, pantsers, speed-writers, and the like. But despite abiding by my tried and true M.O., I began to flounder between book ideas. The DELETE key became my BFF.

Why were my first and second books so much easier to get on the page? After months, I finally had an epiphany this weekend.

 

Yes, it’s important to study what’s selling in the industry, to follow your agent’s recommendations if you have one, and to sharpen your craft until it reaches an almost deadly fine point. But there was one important thing I’d forgotten:

You have to write what you want to read. 

I learned that you can read all the books and blogs until you’ve fine-tuned a rubric with the most popular and sellable aspects in your genre, but if you don’t start with what makes your story one you’d like to read, 1) it likely won’t be unique enough to thrive in the industry, 2) it might not have the pulse that breathes life into the muscles and bones of the plot anyway.

 

So. What kinds of ideas spark your stories? Inspiration from real-life? Music? Movies? Themes or scriptures? That indignant feeling when you would have ended a novel differently? 

 

Tell us in the comments!

bravery, that judge, & other thoughts on the Genesis Contest

Genesis

Originally posted on The Writer’s Alley

Are you on the fence about entering the first 15 pages of your finished manuscript in the Genesis contest? Let me give you a little perspective that may help you make your decision.

I’m going to preface this post by admitting up front that my experience with the contest is beautiful and life-changing, but very unique. Yet I think that no matter what outcome you achieve, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

  • You get invaluable feedback on your finished manuscript. This is the chance for you to see what experienced writers have to say about your work. And the semifinal-round judges are published authors in your field who know what it takes to get the attention of an editor. Confession: before I entered for the first time in 2013, the only people who had seen it were my mom, husband, and a select group of friends. Having unbiased input from someone who isn’t your adoring critique partner can show you ways to add dimension to your work and accentuate your writing strengths.
  • Granted, there always seems to be That Judge who doesn’t really get what you’re going for and gives you a score that’s way different than the others. Still, that perspective is helpful to see — and it helps you practice taking criticism for your passion-poured work, which you’ll get even when you’re published. You have to develop thick skin and discern what’s truth about your work and what simply doesn’t resonate with one person’s experience. So take it gracefully, even if it seems out of left field, and get a second opinion if you need to. 🙂
  • It helps you bond with others in the same stage of the publication process. Your fellow Genesis entrants know the roller coaster toil to The End that you battled and won; they’ve been elbow-deep in the same trenches you’ve wrestled through. When the first list of semifinalists came out, I friended some of them on Facebook, and that led to some of my most treasured friendships and writing partnerships to this day.
  • If you final in the Genesis, you instantly get your work in front of agents and editors. The final round judges are all editors and agents. Even though I already had an agent last year, I had two inquire about my representation to the Contest Coordinator. Plus, if you attend conference, people see your semifinalist or finalist ribbons and take notice. The agents and editors with which you have appointments may sit up in their chairs a little because they know that you entered the Genesis contest and are serious about your work. It’s hands-down a fantastic and attention-grabbing attribute in a query, one-sheet, or writing resume.
  • Because even if you don’t place in the top 10, the bravery it takes to enter will launch infinite more acts of bravery in your writing. I maintain that pressing send on my Genesis contest entry was the bravest thing I’ve done to date in my writing journey. It’s the moment I can exactly pinpoint my mental shift from thinking of myself as a wannabe writer to believing in myself as a pre-published author. That alone is better than any plaque or scoresheet anyone can ever give you.

What doubts are holding you back? Still think your writing isn’t ready? Reluctant to invest the contest fee? (The Genesis is fair and comparable to other contest fees, even contests of a far lesser caliber.) 

Good luck to everyone, and know that I’m ridiculously proud of you!

my survival plan for 2015

I wasn’t going to do a Word of the Year.

Even though I did one in 2014, putting 365 days in a neatly wrapped box seems limiting. Daunting, even. Life is full of so many different, constantly changing, unexpected, beautiful experiences. And to be honest, I mostly don’t like the feeling that the #oneword idea is just a social media gimmick 🙂

But as I thought about what 2015 would look like for me, the word SURVIVE kept coming to mind. Adjusting to life as a work-at-home mama of two littles. A perpetual planner and administrator with a huge dream and no idea of what my daily schedule will look like.

Well, SURVIVE, I see your uneasy intimidation and raise you a swift kick in the jewels.

IMG_8129

Yep. I’m not just going to survive in 2015; I’m going to thrive.

2015 won’t be represented by one word for me, but an entire lifestyle. I want to enjoy mothering a baby — this little boy for whom we’ve waited and prayed for so long — even more than I did the last time. I want to be intentional about my faith and life and work and writing in ways that maximize their potential to make me come alive and enable me to give best to those around me.

What does this look like? I’m not sure exactly. But here are a few ideas when it comes to work and writing:

  • Read at least one book a month with a goal of 15 in 2015. I think my total was, like, 5 in 2014, and that’s not okay. Books are just part of who I am. My brain needs the exercise. My fingertips need to feel the grain of pages.
  • Write in short increments every weekday with the end goal of finishing Jake and Adriana’s story. First draft and edits. I normally write about 1.5 books a year, and I’m confident I could do that even with the changes 2015 will bring. But I’d be content with one book. One ridiculously good one 🙂
  • Work a month ahead of time. It should come as no surprise to you that I’ve separated my regular work and writing-business tasks into things that can be done in advance + things that require daily or weekly maintenance. I’d like to get the majority of the next month’s work- and writing-related blog posts finished one weekend at the end of every month and then complete weekly tasks at the beginning of each week. This system is more sustainable and conducive to protecting creativity. Days will be freer for writing, spending time with my family, other creative endeavors, and more life-giving things!
  • Anticipate how I can spend my time most effectively to make sure everything gets accomplished, but realize that things aren’t in my own control but God’s. Or at least they should be. It’s absolutely best that way.
  • Don’t overthink things. My SisterChucks (writing sisters) and I have a motto and promise to each other not to overthink things. So I want to work on diverting unproductive thoughts before they can consume, sabotage, and steal my joy.
  • Enjoy. Above all enjoy it. To thrive in the John 10:10 “rich and satisfying life” God intended when He gave me freedom — even in moments the thief intends to “steal, kill, and destroy”.

Do you have any 2015 goals or big events coming up this year? Tell me what you hope your year will look like.

my first ACFW conference experience

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

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

Spoiler alert: It didn’t take years.

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

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

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

ACFWBusinessCards

 

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

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

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

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

Or who will become your fabulous new critique group. 🙂

Conference CPs

Laurie Kara

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

conference prep promo

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

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

Image-1

Here are the details:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

a peek inside my planner + time management tips

IMG_9931

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

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

Last year, I found the perfect planner to support my love of lists and intentional living: the Blue Sky 10 x 8″ Weekly/Monthly Planner, especially when teamed with designer Dabney Lee.  If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you got a front-row seat to my #plannernerd panic when June came to an end and they still hadn’t released their new July-June planners. It wasn’t pretty. But what IS pretty is my the planner I finally ordered.
IMG_5919IMG_5918

Here’s a peek inside and some organizational tips. Because we’re friends like that.

IMG_5908

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

IMG_5907

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

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

IMG_5913

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

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

IMG_5916

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

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

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

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

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

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

the post I’ve started and deleted twice

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

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

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

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

Getting laid off from my job.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

july goals

july

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{blog hop} my writing process

CarlaStewart

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

So, here goes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{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.

IMG_4386

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:

IMG_4389IMG_4391

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 convergence of perfect conditions

Image-1

Greetings from the past! I’m writing this post on Thursday night, at the tail end of the convergence of several perfect conditions.

First, this couldn’t have happened without a husband who supports my introversion and writing enough to suggest eating dinner out to remove two things from my to-do list, then takes over bedtime duty and sends me off to my happy place for the night.

photo 2

I’m thankful for my happy place period. My favorite coffee shop is currently empty of loud college kids who are on spring break. The chai is delicious. The music is spot-on. Everyone here is contributing to a quiet, creative energy. 

photo 3

For every new book project, I like to find the perfect writing and editing music that helps me get into a really good groove. I know I’m late to the game, but I just discovered City and Colour. There is a brand new playlist on my Spotify app waiting for continuous play. Just in time. Here’s to knocking these book two edits out of the park with its help!

LaurieJaime

Grateful for writing sisters like my SisterChucks (Anne, Halee, and Jaime). Jaime and I stayed up past our bedtimes, keeping each other company across many, many states with giggles, snippets of what we were working on, and arguing over which of each other’s scenes were more swoon-worthy. Just read the synopsis for her latest project. Divine!

I’m savoring the last half-hour before closing time, so euphoric that this post has essentially become an Oscars-style speech. An acceptance of something beautiful.

So thankful to God for little glimpses and convergences to breathe energy into us and restore our souls, something that’s especially essential for anyone who creates things.

What’s your happy place? Where do you create and exist the best?

writing the end, sickies, and sandcastles: february goals

februarygoals

I reached my January goal of finishing my latest manuscript’s first draft! Hooray! My goal was to make it to 72K with the knowledge that I still needed a few scenes to fill in some gaps, and I usually add about 10K of “muscle” in later drafts anyway. I made it to 74K!

TheEnd

So for the first few days of February, I’ve been taking it easy. Allowing myself to unwind so I can approach editing with fresh eyes. After I finish this post, I’m going to spend the rest of naptime diving into edits.

My top priority today has been taking care of this little sickie (pictured here with her tenderhearted giant guard dog).

sickiebrooke

And helping me make this all happen is this treat:

chai

Major props to Whole Foods for carrying my favorite brand of chai in the world! Everything’s better in this magical, magical land. I found out it was going to snow (again) and ran to the store on my way home from the gym. Normally, I’m armed with a meal plan and grocery list, so this was a new experience for me. But never fear, I came out with three cases of LaCroix, some thai soup, chicken, naan, and this chai. Weirdest snow grocery haul ever!

Okay, focus, Laurie. Didn’t this post have a point?

My goals in January were to finish the remaining 25K of my draft and translate the remaining 30K of my book that was still in first person. Done!

In February, I’ll be focusing on:

  • Completing the second draft to send to critique partners.
  • Writing my proposal for this book–well, to be more specific, my synopsis. (Ugh.)
  • Being more consistent with blogging.

What are your goals for this month? Don’t mind me. I’ll just be building sandcastles 🙂

shannonhale

lessons from an {I-now-am-found} blue notebook

bluenotebook As a writer, I always keep a notebook close. (And chocolate chip cookies closer.) Just in case, like this morning, I awaken with a fleshed-out YA fantasy story that has manifested itself into a very vivid dream and I have seconds before it disappears into the black hole of forgotten thoughts. (Does this happen to anyone besides mothers of small children?) But imagine my anguish when my blue notebook went missing, taking with it various important sermon notes, lists (huge list maker –> this girl), and the plotted outline of my second manuscript, which at that point, only had about 30,000 words written. Here’s what I learned when I found it months and months later: 1) Sometimes it’s not the end of the world when plans don’t turn out the way you envisioned. I love this story way more now than the direction I’m reading in the blue notebook. In fact, I’m a firm believer that in life, when things deviate from plan, God ALWAYS has better. 2) This is what I get for cleaning and organizing my desk. Never. again. (Just kidding…mostly!)

The weekend is almost here, y’all! Any big plans? I’m visiting my friend Halee for a weekend of writing and fun. Hope you have a great one!

{what I’ve learned} from the great pumpkin craze

In case you didn’t notice, autumn has had some time to make itself at home, and winter is knocking on the door and seeping through the cracks. If you have Twitter or Facebook or Instagram accounts, you’ve probably seen an abundance of Starbucks red cups and pumpkin spice lattes because, you know, it didn’t happen unless there’s photographic evidence 🙂

Pumpkin is a HUGE trend in the food/beverage industry right now because the actual plant is in season, and it’s best paired with warm, delicious spices that can undo the iciest chill and incite the cozy fire feeling even if you’re miles from home.

But just because everyone is getting on board with pumpkin doesn’t mean it always works.

Case in point:

No. Just no.

If you have a good thing going for you, don’t change just because the industry dictates it unless you’re certain (and have credible evidence) that you can execute it properly with an organic and appealing slant. Because if you can’t, you could end up just as artificial and canned as these puppies taste.

Granted, some may like these and the other seasonal flavors of M&Ms. But they do candy-coated chocolate so well–why mess with a good thing?

The moral of the story:

Before you upend your brand and product to cater to what’s hot in the industry, do some research and weigh your options against credible counsel.

Because you’d hate to be the person who messed up chocolate.

{what I’ve learned} about working with critique partners

Before a writer seeks publication, it’s absolutely necessary to have a fresh, unbiased set of eyes on his or her work. When I finished my first manuscript, I sent it to some people I trusted for honest feedback. Even though I’d read and re-read it, I probably wouldn’t recognize that version of it anymore. And it’s so much better because of it.

Even though I’m fairly new to the pursuit of publication, I feel like I’ve struck gold with my critique partners. So here’s what I’ve learned so far about finding (and keeping) people who will enrich your work–the right ways and the wrong ways 🙂

Finding a critique partner.

There’s a reason they’re called critique partners. That’s because they’re usually fellow writers who are at about the same place on the journey as you are and on the same level technically. Joining a local or national writing chapter is a goldmine for potential critique partners.

For instance, the ACFW has a critique loop where writers critique two excerpts for others and then submit their own work for feedback. Many great connections have been formed through this loop. And I found mine in the trenches of waiting for contest results, both directly and by word of mouth.

Choosing the right one

The “right” critique partner doesn’t necessarily have to be a writer in your chosen genre, but he or she does have to be very familiar with it. And, of course, he or she should like reading your style in the first place. That’s kind of a given. 🙂

That said, there’s a difference between a critique partner and a cheerleader. It’s an amazing feeling to scroll through the annotations in your manuscript and see a bunch of fluffy rainbows and butterflies. But critique partners also need to give honest feedback where necessary. They’re not doing anyone any favors by pulling their punches.

Ideal critique partners will also complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, one of mine, Anne Love, is a genius at brainstorming. I can agonize over a scene for days, and she unlocks the mystery with strategic questions. She can hack into characters’ minds and help make their motivations known and their problems relatable and sympathetic. So your strength may be brainstorming or plotting or, like me, line editing and finding problems with consistency/flow. But it’s best to identify your weaknesses–the weaknesses that copious re-reading make you blind to–and find someone who will both call you out on it and help you improve.

Even if you don’t connect with a particular writer on these levels, that writer might be able to set you up with someone who will work for you.

How to keep the right critique partner

  • Most importantly: make sure it’s an equal, mutually beneficial partnership. Don’t send a full manuscript and skimp on returning the favor.
  • Ask and declare expectations up front. Are there any questions you have that they can keep in mind while reading? Do you just need a line edit done? For example, if you’re under deadline and just want a simple read-through for general notes, it will stress you out hardcore to receive a Word document that’s been ripped to highlighted tatters. (But what are you doing waiting until deadline to get the detail stuff taken care of anyway!?)
  • Give thoughtful and constructive feedback, making detailed suggestions throughout the manuscript. You have to find the balance between simply shooting back an email that says “It was great! I liked it!” (Liked what?) and becoming too assertive with comments and changes. Confession: as a longtime editor and recovering know-it-all, sometimes I have to dial it way, way down and remind myself that I’m not the author and it doesn’t really matter how *I* would write it.
  • Don’t take feedback personally, but do take it into careful consideration. Sometimes your work just doesn’t resonate with a person and will resonate with someone else. But sometimes that person’s opinion really does have a lot of merit. That said, make sure you read notes when you’re in a good position to detach yourself a little and see your critique partner’s point of view. Don’t be afraid to try out any suggested changes and see if they work for you. If you fall in love with your story even more, then awesome! If you’re not feeling it, ask someone else to weigh in and remember that you’re the author and know this story best. But don’t be a know-it-all above a little gentle criticism. That is no bueno in this industry 🙂
  • Ultimately, respect that this person is sacrificing writing time to help you improve your work and don’t take it for granted. Be gracious!

I’m still learning how to become a great critique partner and have definitely committed some of these errors before. But I hope you’re like me and find that your critique partners don’t really resemble critique partners at all. They resemble true (and honest) friends!

CPs

november goals

Wow. I can’t believe October is already over! My favorite month has been a whirlwind in every aspect of life. Here’s a little writing update and the airing of my November goals.

At the end of September, I sent off my requested materials to agents and editors I met at conference. I’m still in the thick of the waiting game and don’t have any expectations as to when–or if–I’ll hear back either way. But it doesn’t really feel like waiting when I’m having so much fun!

I’m taking a little break from my first manuscript before one final(ish) round of edits. Unless someone or something expedites that process, I think approaching it with a fresh eye will be the best thing in this situation.

In the meantime, manuscript two is ready for some much-needed TLC. While I’d love to do the traditional NaNoWriMo, I’m excited about finishing this project and will try to fast draft the remaining 40K-ish words as much as I can during November. My friend Carol says she’s sending her internal editor on a month-long trip to Bermuda for November, but mine apparently has attachment issues. I’ll report back on how this little experiment goes 🙂 Anyway, I’ve decided to change the first chapter to third person and see how I like it. First person has always been my thing, but I think my handsome hero’s POV would add a lot to this story.

In a surprising turn of events, I now have a third work-in-progress, a prequel to Take Heart. It came to me when I was reading my critique partner Anne Love’s manuscript and one of her minor characters really jumped off the page. So now, at the wise recommendation of my dear Kathleen, one of my side characters has her first three chapters written, the makings of a plot scribbled into a rough one-page summary. I kind of love it! But I’m going to be a good girl and finish at least the first draft of book two before I dig in to this. For now, this will be a work-in-waiting.

That’s all for November on the writing front! It’s going to be a busy one, but I’ll be back with plenty of updates.

What’s on your horizon for November? Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

what hart of dixie taught me about romance writing

Alternately titled: “Some semblance of productivity I took away from [binge watching] Hart of Dixie” or “What I’ve been doing instead of blogging”

At conference, when I talked about what I write and what I love in fiction, a few people asked me if I liked the CW show Hart of Dixie. But I’d never seen it. So over the past few weeks after finishing my rewrites for Take Heart, I tried the pilot episode and wanted more, watching it while I worked and during naptime. Though it’s different than what I write, medical drama + quirky humor + small-town dynamics = pretty much a winning combination in my book.

I don’t watch very many shows anymore since the fall premieres coincided with conference and I’ve been busy writing and editing in my free time. But now that I’m learning more about the craft of writing fiction, I can’t help but pick apart the shows I watch, the books I read, and the movies I see for character motivations, plot points, foils, and all of that fun stuff. Sure, it makes it a little more predictable sometimes, but to me, it’s fascinating.

While it would be really stretching it to say I’m “on the clock” while watching TV, there’s still a lot to be learned from fiction that sells well. Here’s what I took away from Hart of Dixie:

If you have multiple love interests in your story, you have to play it just right.

According to the logic I’ve applied in real life, if you can’t decide between two people, then neither of them are right for you. I’m never, ever for stringing along two characters until the main character make his or her decision. But like reality, love is complicated in fiction. Characters can’t help who they’re attracted to, when they’re going to have a *moment* with someone, and how much their backstory will intertwine with their present–especially with mad-scientist authors pulling their strings. And they certainly can’t help it if two people are fighting for their affection. (Ohhhh the tension that love triangles create!)

So, as the author, you’d better pick the right one for your character and set it up accordingly! If you choose the wrong one or even write in a scene with too much power between two characters and end up picking the other suitor, you risk losing your readers’ emotional investment and sympathy if it doesn’t work out their way.

Moral of the story: Don’t overcommit your character to one love interest too soon. And commit him or her to the right one. The one that will make readers swoon and close the book with a smile and immediately email you asking for a sequel. Not that I’ve ever done that before or anything…

Sex might sell, but it doesn’t sell me.

Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it. There’s a lot of sex on TV and in the media in general. Unless you cut cable, never watch movies, carefully select what books you read, and never pay attention to advertisements of any kind, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And if you do shield yourself from it, then I have so much respect for you. I should be more like you, but I’m not. I thought I’d been desensitized from it all, not paying attention when the ritualistic clothes-shedding dance begins on the screen. But I’m not.

Writing inspirational novels has shown me that romance in fiction can be executed so much more powerfully without the element of sex. Authors have to dig deep to create energy and attraction between the characters, drawing on techniques to paint a believable picture and earn readers’ investment in the story. And when the characters finally give in to the tension and share that first kiss, it’s so much more electrifying (assuming it’s done right) since it has a foundation.

Moral of the story: TV romance doesn’t do it as much for me as inspirational fiction does. I don’t buy in to the friendship + attraction = “in the moment” flings + confusion —-> a lasting relationship equation, not because it can’t happen that way in real life, but because I think it’s better when love comes first. And fiction definitely, definitely doesn’t need sex to make a story sizzling 🙂

Call me a hopeless romantic or a close-minded conservative, but why settle for a hero/heroine relationship built on rice and beans when you can have a steak and lobster dinner?

Call it romantic comedy or contemporary romance or dramedy or whatever…

but Hart of Dixie shows that fresh, quirky, funny romance is definitely in demand.

I hope the inspirational market continues to dish up its own pure and powerful brand.

an extended (but never really complete) thank you

How do you possibly say “thank you” after a Genesis award? An extended speech, that’s how!

On Sunday night, I gave the glory to God for making me and everyone in that room about writing. That storytelling is just who we are!

I thanked Jef and Allie and our families because I couldn’t have done it without them. They took care of Allie and often picked up the slack for me, extending grace when I needed it the most. And Jef…wow. I don’t think there are words enough to express how grateful I am to have you as a teammate!

My critique partners Jaime Wright, Anne Love, and Kara Isaac for all of their input (and, as they know, for talking me off the ledge sometimes).

Kathleen Y’Barbo for convincing me to enter Genesis and for correcting me when I called myself an aspiring writer. “You’re a pre-published author,” she told me.

I thanked everyone in the ACFW for welcoming me with open arms. And that was very literal. They friended me on Facebook, answered my (many) questions (looking at you, Amy Leigh Simpson), became my critique partners, and even let me stand with them and exchange business cards with me in the Dallas airport before we ever even arrived in Indy.

If I hadn’t been having an out-of-body experience, I would have thanked the Genesis judges, who sacrificed their time and energy to provide meaningful feedback for us and make our writing stronger. I’m so going to pay this forward if I ever get the opportunity!

2013-09-13 at 07-39-09 - Version 2

I should have thanked my brilliant and beautiful co-finalists Lindsay Harrell and Sally Bradley for becoming my friends and sisters in the complex category that is contemporary fiction. We are so going to be celebrating debut novels together sometime soon.

Even my Tulsa coffee shops deserve huge thanks for fueling my late-night writing marathons and allowing me to close them down at least once a week so I can get my work done!

My best friends JT, Sarah Beals, Lindsey Reddick, and Amanda Morad for being beta readers, idea nurturers, and the first ones I ever allowed to read my story. And Meseidy Rivera for taking my headshot days before the competition closed and figuratively holding my hand as I hit Send sitting at her dining room table.

There are so many people I could thank. Someone I’m sure I’ll remember right after I click Publish. I’m still in awe that they called my name. Thrilled and so, so honored by each and every bit of the love and encouragement that’s come my way.

If I can do anything to give back, it’s to emphasize over and over again that whether you win Genesis or not, there’s so much beauty and fulfillment in squashing the lies and going after your dreams. In doing what God made you to do. All it takes is surrender, a little bravery, and lots of hard work that, most of the time, doesn’t even feel like work. 

—–

I’d planned on recapping the ACFW conference in this post, but it’s already getting long. So I’ll share more of what my first manuscript is about instead since we were under wraps before conference! Here’s the bit I used to pitch Take Heart:

Being jobless and single can seem like the end of the world. But sometimes it’s just the beginning.

Spencer Brooks has always dreamed of how her storybook ending will unfold. Rewarding career. Picket fence. Husband who makes Prince Charming seem like a waste of perfectly good paper and ink.

But when life after college doesn’t turn out as planned, Spencer returns to the small Oklahoma town she promised she’d never call home again to draft a better blueprint for her future. So far, her best attempts have landed her back under her parents’ roof with an inbox empty of job leads, and her only relationship is with the mop and broom of the local coffee shop.

As Spencer attempts to stay out of her flawless cousin’s shadow and dodge her newly engaged ex-boyfriend, she must learn to surrender control and discover God’s plan for her life. Even if it looks nothing like her own.

Can Spencer learn to trust that only God can lead her to the life—and love—she’s always dreamed about?

—–

You guys are the best!

 

{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!

what unpublished authors can learn from J.K. Rowling

I’ll make it no secret that I’m a huge fan of the Harry Potter series. So, of course, I was shocked when news leaked that Potter author J.K. Rowling had secretly released a who-dun-it mystery novel under a male pseudonym.

The book industry exploded. Every publishing authority had something to say about it on Twitter. Bloggers were quick to offer their two cents on the matter. J.K. Rowling had done a disservice to unpublished authors, some believed.

Not this unpublished author.

Of all of the words floating around on the internet, there were a few that immediately resonated with me. On her Robert Galbraith website, J.K. Rowling explains:

“As for the pseudonym, I was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre, to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback. It was a fantastic experience and I only wish it could have gone on a little longer.”

The metaphorical concept of seasons is important to me. To be honest, I can lose perspective quickly if I don’t find little things to be grateful for in the midst of difficult or less-than-glamorous times in my life.

While I wouldn’t call this stage of my writing career less-than-glamorous or unenjoyable by any means, it can be easy for pre-published authors to focus so much on the future that they miss the fun and adventure that this stage of the game affords. There’s something about the self-discovery of carving a new path that you just can’t get back once you’re accountable to agents and editors and public expectation.

Granted, if Karen Kingsbury decided to jump on the Amish zombie romance ship, we’d probably still buy it. {Yes, that’s a thing. But no, that’s not the point.}

Whether I’m squeezing my story into a synopsis-sized hole (Sorry, lovely critique partners!), composing my elevator pitch that will hook, line, and blow everyone out of the water, or playing the waiting game with an editor or agent, I’m going to try to remember the shiny new feeling of honing the writing craft, learning the ropes of the industry, and you’d better believe it, going all fangirl on the big-time authors I’m going to meet at conference a month from now.

Because I believe someday my writing will give something unique back to readers, and I will own my rewarding responsibilities and enjoy that season, too. But I definitely don’t want to be the one saying “I wish it could have gone on a little longer.”

Unpublished authors, what have you enjoyed most about this *season*? Authors with a few books under your belt, what do you miss most?

{august goals}

**Thanks for all of the love on my New Adult blog post! The ACFW loop blew up with a lively email conversation on the topic a few days later, so it’s been fun and encouraging to see such a positive response to this genre.**

 

august

I can’t believe August will be here tomorrow. The eighth month of the year. And if the rest of this year is any indication, I’m pretty sure it’s going to fly!

Maybe it’s because it’s my birthday month and my last chance to make this age all it can be, but I’m setting some pretty big goals for myself in August.

I can do anything for a month, right?

My writing-related goals for August are:

  • Develop my pitch for my first manuscript
  • Polish my one-sheet copy
  • Complete NaNoWriMo to finish the bulk of my second manuscript

Yes, you read that correctly. If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is usually in November. But the goal is to write 50,000 words in a month, which works out to 1600-1700 words a day. I’d love to have something to show for this new idea at conference–I’m that excited about it!

I’ll update you when I figure out how I’m going to make this happen 🙂

Have you set any goals for August? Is anyone crazy enough to join me?

the genesis, taking ownership, and other updates

Since so much has changed since my last blog post, I think it’s high time for an update. Here’s what’s been going on since then.

Genesis update

When we last spoke, I had just taken a huge leap by entering the ACFW Genesis Competition. Shortly after, I found out I had made the semifinal round, and today, they announced my name on the final list, top three in each category. I’m thrilled and so honored to be among such talented semifinalists and finalists. Everyone has so much to be proud of!

The future of this website

Perhaps the reason I haven’t posted recently is because I’ve lacked a clear direction for this website. But that’s all changed, and now I hope to be on more of a regular schedule in the future.

Let me explain. I recently lost my full-time job, which has turned out to be a huge blessing that can only be attributed to God’s wonderful and mysterious ways. So while I’m working on building my freelance writing, editing, and publicity career (click here if you want to learn more about that), the blog aspect of this website will be primarily focused on my journey as an author.

I know. Fan me. I said author.

But between the timing of losing my job and making it further than I ever thought possible in the Genesis competition, I’m ready to silence all of those voices that tell me writing novels will forever just be a hobby and childhood dream for me.

The industry is too competitive.
I don’t have the time or talent it takes to make it.
The book industry is on its way out.

I’m ready to go beyond the ole college try and take ownership of the passion and message God has given me. In the last few weeks, my specialty/niche has become clearer to me: contemporary fiction based on real life and real redemption. I’ll be posting more about what this looks like and my journey as I navigate these new and very exciting waters.

So, what’s next?

While I took a break from my first manuscript during the Genesis judging and began work on a second manuscript in a very different style than I’m used to — which was an adventure in and of itself — I’m excited to get back to work on my first manuscript and to be reunited with my lovely characters I’ve missed so much! (“We were on a break!”)

We are slated to receive our judges’ scores and comments from both rounds today, so I’ll be refining my submission for the last round of judges, clicking send, and then awaiting the final results at the ACFW conference in September. In the meantime, I will be working my hardest to prepare for conference and praying God’s will over all of this.

Because without Him and His glory, what else is there really?

laryngitis of the writing variety

I was talking with my writer friend Kathleen yesterday about things that can derail one’s writing. There are small, insignificant distractions like mouths to feed and children to shepherd. No big deal.

Then there are uncooperative characters, half-filled screens, and frozen fingers. They usually occur during large blocks of time you’ve designated for writing, days before looming deadlines, in the middle of important scenes, or any other time you think you know what’s going on with your story. They’re like the mutant version of writer’s block because you know where you’re going. You have a direction. And then your characters become toddlers in the middle of the store on the last errand of the day: thrashing, protesting, planking, deadweights.

Not that we have any experience with this or anything.

If you’re not a writer, you’re probably going to look at me like I’m waving my hand over a crystal ball, trying to examine your aura or something, but fellow writers will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Emma Thompson as Prof. Trelawney in Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban

Sometimes when your characters are staring you down, challenging you to a duel of sorts, it may be indicative of a more serious problem. You may be suffering from laryngitis of the writer variety, the kind that has nothing to do with the vocal cords (That condition might actually be welcome to a writer, as a matter of fact) and everything to do with the invisible force that propels words from a writer’s brain or muse, if I want to sound even creepier to my non-writer friends, through his or her fingertips.

I’m here to tell you that when a writer loses touch with his or her voice, it’s not permanent. And it’s not the end of the world.

Laryngitis happens to the best of writers and affects fiction and nonfiction writers alike. Everyone copes with it differently. Sometimes a small break is all that’s needed (if you do this, make sure you set a firm date for when you’re going to come back to your project). A change in scenery, particularly people-watching, can serve as a distraction and get those subconscious wheels back in motion. Or some quality brainstorming, talking to other writers or friends can release the floodgate.

But the number one thing that helps me in this situation, whether I’m writing press releases or working on a manuscript, is reading. I pack a book or two in my writing bag at all times or take a break while working to read a few good quality journalists when I need an intervention — not to steal ideas or imitate them, but to simply be reminded of what complete, well-constructed sentences look like in succession on the page.

Once my muse has had a little exercise, usually my voice whirrs back to life and my characters begin cooperating again. And then we have a little moment and all is right in the world.

How do you deal with laryngitis/writer’s block?