{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.


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 🙂


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

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.


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 😉

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


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!

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…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!



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!



…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!



…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…


…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!



…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!

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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!



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.



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!

{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.


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:


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


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!


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?

{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!