Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Read More from Harlequin

You should be reading more books published by Harlequin.


As I mentioned in my post a few months ago (this one - I Write For Harlequin - you should definitely read it!), the term “Harlequin” has a tendency to raise some eyebrows. Some people assume that if the book has the Harlequin logo on the cover, it’s one of *those* books. 

Many of the women (and men) I know who enjoy a nice Christian romance wouldn’t think of picking up a Harlequin. If that describes you, or if it’s just been a long time since you gave one a shot, let me clear up a few things.

1. They aren’t all like *that* - Yes, some of the lines are, but if you look for the Love Inspired (LI) logo, you won’t find anything in there to make you blush.

2. They are inexpensive - Have you gone shopping for books lately? Paperbacks aren’t cheap. But you can pick up a Love Inspired book at Wal-mart for less than $5. 

3. They are short - If you aren’t a fast reader or don’t think reading is your “thing,” these paperbacks aren’t intimidating. If you do prefer a nice long read, I’m with you, but I don’t always have time for that kind of reading. Sometimes, I need a story that can draw me in but that I can finish in just a few hours so I don’t get so busy reading I forget to deal with real life. (This has more to do with my poor self-control than anything else - you may not have this problem). 

4. They are small - I know I already said they are short, but they are also a smaller size. They’ll fit in your purse, backpack, diaper bag, or that little pocket on the side of your door…ready for your next wait in car line or piano lessons. They are also light enough for you to hold in one hand while you feed a baby, or stir a pot of chili. Yes, I know that in a perfect world you would spend each second that you are feeing your baby staring into their eyes and babbling at them. In the real world, sometimes that fifteen minutes is the only time you get to sit down. I’ve had three kids. I know. I read a lot of books during nursing sessions. They helped me stay sane!

5. They are shareable - You can let your tween read them. Really. While some of the Harlequin lines are, shall we say, spicy? The Love Inspired lines focus on the emotional attraction - not the physical. Yes, there will be kissing (yeah for kissing!), but the physical demonstrations of affection are not the focus of these books. 

6. There’s plenty of variety - I write for Love Inspired Suspense (LIS). My line has the hero and heroine in danger from the first page, and they stay that way (while falling in love) until the end. There’s also Love Inspired Historical (LIH) for all of you (myself included) who occasionally think you would have made an awesome pioneer. And if you love a sweet romance that doesn’t involve bullets and bloodshed, the Love Inspired line is for you. Contemporary characters dealing with real life issues and finding love along the way.

7. There are a LOT to choose from - LIS and LI release 6 new books every single month. That’s 72 books a year. LIH releases 4 a month - 48 a year.

8. They are really good - Ok, I’m biased. I’ll admit it. But it takes skill to develop an interesting story and relatable characters, keep them alive (in LIS) and have them fall in love in 60,000 words. It can be done and it means that the when you pick up one of these books, you won’t find yourself skimming through a bunch of fluff. I’m not anti-fluff, but when time is limited, I’ll pass on the fluff, thank you very much.

9. They stand alone - I personally love a good series, but I have a bad habit of getting sucked in and needing to read EVERY.SINGLE.BOOK in the series. NOW. So it’s nice to read books that don’t trigger that reaction in me.

10. They have some awesome series to choose from - I know I just said they stand alone, and they do. But there are two different types of series with LI. One is similar to what I’m working on now. The secondary characters from the first book get a starring role in the next. You can read any of the books without having read the previous books, but if you fall in love with certain characters (Heidi and Blake, cough, cough) it’s fun to check in with them again later. 
The other type of series is a Continuity Series. They are similar to the other series, with secondary characters becoming the main characters. But in a continuity series, each book is written by a different author. So awesome!

Okay - have I convinced you yet? 

If not, here’s one more bonus reason. Right now - November 10th -November 17th - 10,000 Harlequin titles are on sale. You can purchase the ebook version for $1.99. This is a HUGE deal!  

You have very little to lose and lots of great reads to gain.

Sadly, my book, Covert Justice, is NOT on sale. *Sob* 

But you can find a bunch of books from my friend and mentor, Lynette Eason. Her Family Reunion’s series would be a fun place to start. Each one is $1.99 this week only! 

And there are literally 1000s of others to choose from. So many awesome authors that I can't begin to list them all!

I’d love to hear about your experience with Harlequin. Are you a regular reader? Has it been years since you picked one up? Do you have a favorite LIS, LIH, or LI author? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Strengthen Your Writing Muscles with NaNoWriMo

I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year.

There are a million reasons not to, but I’m doing it anyway.

Are you familiar with NaNoWriMo? NaNo, as it’s often abbreviated, stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a new, 50,000 word novel in thirty days. 

That’s 1,667 words every day for thirty days.

I’ve done it before. I’ve “won” NaNo twice. (I’ve written about it here and here).

But that was years ago. This year? Well, it’s not really a good year.

Here are a few of my reasons for NOT doing NaNo. Maybe you can relate?
  • It’s November. No one should attempt anything crazy in November or December. Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away and we will be hosting my husband’s side of the family for the big day. Not only that, but there are only eight Fridays until Christmas (go ahead and start hyperventilation now).

I'm guest posting today over at The Write Conversation. Come on over to read this rest of the story!

    Thursday, October 1, 2015

    On Your Left

    A few weeks ago, my family and I rode the Virginia Creeper Trail. Built on an old railroad bed, the Virginia Creeper Trail offers a unique biking experience.

    17 miles.



    It’s an amazing ride. The scenery is stunning and the trail is open to cyclists of all experience levels. As you head down the mountain, you see professionals wearing their padded bike shorts, wild little boys on their 20” bikes peddling as fast as their legs can go, infants snoozing in their bike seats, and parents cruising along with their toddler behind them on a tagalong.

    For the most part, the cyclists are respectful of the trail and their fellow cyclists. There’s a real sense of camaraderie. After all, we’re all on the same trail, headed in the same direction. We all want to achieve the same thing—to get to the bottom safely and have a great time doing it.

    With such a variety of skill levels, it would be boring if you had to start down the trail and ride in single file. Fortunately, that’s not how it works. There may be a bit of bunching up at the top, but before long everyone finds their own rhythm. The faster riders start calling out the standard warning, “On your left!” as they pass the riders taking the trail at a more leisurely pace.

    Monday, September 14, 2015

    Already There

    Despite the fact that he has never been left and has absolutely no reason to expect me to forget him, one of my children needs constant reassurance that I’m not going to leave him alone.

    This summer, I arrived early to pick him up from Vacation Bible School. I took a seat at the side of the room and waited for the session to end. When it did, I moved in his direction. I knew exactly where he was, but the people milling about blocked his view and he couldn’t see me.

    I saw him a few seconds before he realized I was there. I wrapped my arms around him just as his face crumpled. I caught him the instant before he let out a wail. He held onto me, his body trembling.

    “Where were you?” His tearful voice accused me.
    “Baby, I was already here. You couldn’t see me, but I’ve been watching you. I knew exactly where you were the whole time.”
    “But I couldn’t see you.”
    “Just because you couldn’t see me, doesn’t mean I wasn’t already here.”

    Maybe it was because I was standing in a church (I’m kidding), but the Holy Spirit didn’t even let me get the sentence out before He pointed out the obvious.


    The Bible is filled with verses exhorting me NOT TO FEAR. Over and over again, He tells me that He will be with me. That He will never leave me. That no matter who betrays me, no matter who bails on me, no matter who breaks me heart, He will be there.

    Not only that, but the Bible tells me that BEFORE I walk into that doctor’s office, or pick up the phone, or open the mail . . . No matter what is on the other side of that door, there is one thing I can know for sure I will find.

    Already there.

    No matter what my day holds, He is never surprised.

    I am.
    I get caught flat-footed all the time.
    I get the wind knocked out of me at least once a week.
    I get overwhelmed just thinking about my calendar.
    And even though He’s told me 1000 times that He will never leave me or forsake me, when I don’t see Him right away, I panic.

    As I held my little boy close, and whispered assurances to him—again—I had a glimpse into my Father’s heart.
    I wasn’t angry with my son for his fear. All I wanted was for him to trust me. To be so sure of me, that he wouldn’t doubt for a second that I had kept my word and was waiting for him.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot ever since.

    Separation from God was never part of His plan and my guess is that He knows we will fight this fear until the day He returns and call us Home. I think that’s why He didn’t say, “Don’t be scared,” once and leave it at that. I don’t think He’s surprised when He’s standing right beside me, even as I’m wailing for Him to show up, and He has to tap me on the shoulder to get my attention.

    Today...know this...
    Whatever you’re afraid of?
    He’s already there.

    Whatever is keeping you up at night?
    He’s already there.

    Whatever has your heart racing, your palms sweating, your tears streaming, your stomach churning?

    If you’re in a pit and you’ve been wondering when He was going to show up, the answer is that He was there BEFORE you got there. He’s with you now and He’s been there the whole time.
    Go ahead.
    Look around.
    And even if you can't see Him, reach for His hand . . . He is already there.

    Deuteronomy 31:8 - It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (ESV)

    Thursday, September 3, 2015

    Perfection and Vulnerability, A Tough Combination for Writers

    There are a few things I know about myself. I don’t like them, but I know they are true.

    I’m a perfectionist and I don’t like feeling vulnerable.

    But I kept hearing about this author and researcher, Dr. BrenĂ© Brown, who has a couple of insanely popular TED talks where she discusses her research. 

    Guess what she researches?

    Vulnerability, shame, and she throws in some really nice stuff about perfectionism in there as well.

    The TED talks left me wanting to delve deeper into the ideas she presented so I requested her books at my local library. Daring Greatly came in first, so it’s the first one I read, followed by The Gifts of Imperfection.

    I'm over at The Write Conversation today. Come on by to read the rest of this post. 

    Thursday, August 6, 2015

    Thursday Review - The One Thing

    I’m a task-oriented person. It’s how I’m wired.

    You’d think with that kind of wiring, I’d be churning out books by the dozens.

    Not so much.

    In fact, I’ve been struggling to figure out how to get this whole writing thing squeezed into my day.

    I’m a wife, a mom of three, and a published author. And that is how I want my priorities to stay…husband, kids, then books.

    Not the other way around.

    But…this book business? The storytelling and swooning. It’s not just for kicks and giggles. It’s certainly not for the money.

    When life crowds out the creating, my calling goes unfulfilled and my spirit shrivels under the tyranny of the urgent. I do the laundry and cook. I read and clean (not much, but still…) and pay bills.

    But when I don’t write, I’m not right.

    I’m not fully living as the person God intends for me to be.

    But how am I supposed to rightly order my world and priorities (God, family, then fiction) and still get it all done?

    I don’t have a perfect answer, but I’m a lot closer to it than I was a few months ago.

    I'm guest blogging over at The Write Conversation today. Pop over there to read the rest of the story. 

    Thursday, July 30, 2015

    He loves me?

    One of my greatest frustrations as a parent is wondering if Emma knows she is loved. Does she? Is she secure, certain, confident that her parents love her? 

    After years of therapy, Emma can articulate most words, but that doesn’t mean we have conversations. She gets her point across, but abstract feelings and emotions? No. We are left to wonder.

    While her brothers are experts at communicating their feelings about everything from the fairness of life to the tastiness of the food on their plates, Emma often resorts to wordless whines or grunts of frustration when she isn’t getting her way. The other day she stood at the bottom of the stairs for several minutes trying to formulate a word. When she yelled out, “Mad!” I had to force myself not to throw a party. I was thrilled that she’d been able to express what she was feeling. 

    (Not that it changed anything — she was NOT taking those crayons up the stairs. The artist-in-residence lost those privileges a LONG time ago).

    But back to my point. We tell her we love her. We show her love. We quite literally pour our lives into hers and make every effort to give her a joyful life. 

    But the reality is that there are things about Emma’s life that are challenging. For her and for us.

    One of our biggest challenges is food.

    Emma is allergic to just about everything. It’s easier to list the foods she CAN have than it is to list the foods she can’t. On top of that, she has eosinophilic esophagitis. Basically that means certain foods irritate and damage the lining of her esophagus. The solution? Don’t eat those foods.

    Because of this, Emma’s dietary landscape is quite small. 
    But she knows there is more out there. And she wants it!

    She’s her mother’s daughter and if she can get her hands on an Oreo, she’s going to eat it. She’s well acquainted with cake, and she knows that the pizza she eats and the pizza everyone else eats are NOT the same. If you leave her alone in a room with access to Goldfish or brownies, you can expect to find them missing when you return. 

    I often wonder if she thinks we dislike her because we don’t allow her to have those things. Does she think we are unloving or uncaring?

    When I see her grab a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I take it out of her hand right before she eats a bite, does she think I’m MEAN?

    After all, those foods are yummy. Her brothers can eat them. Why can’t she? And bless her heart, she does not understand how bad those things are for her. It’s so hard to communicate why they aren’t bad for everyone else, but they are for her. 

    So when I have a chance to give her something that she enjoys, I try to take it. 

    I had that chance this morning. When I dropped her brothers off for camp, I turned to her with a big smile and said, “Emma, let’s go to McDonalds. I’ll get you a hash brown. (And mommy will get a ginormous iced coffee).”

    Her response? “Chick-fil-A.”
    My response? “Baby, McDonald’s is closer. (And while I LOVE me some Chick-fil-A, I prefer McDonald’s iced coffee).”
    She said okay and I pointed the van toward McDonald’s. But I felt like a mean mommy. We got a quarter of a mile down the road and her little voice piped up from the back of the van….”Chick-fil-A.”

    I turned the van around. 

    I drove a mile in the opposite direction all the while thinking that we were going to spend more money, I was going to get a so-so iced coffee, and she probably wouldn’t even eat the stupid hash rounds.

    When we pulled into the drive-thru, Emma sang out, “Yeah! The right place!”

    In that moment, the extra time, money, and not-so-awesome coffee no longer mattered. I’d made her happy and I was as thrilled as she was. It made my morning to be able to give her something she wanted. To bring her some joy. To say “yes” to her. And even though it meant jumping through a few extra hoops, her happiness filled me with delight.

    As we pulled from the parking lot, I felt that nudge in my spirit.
    “You know that’s how I feel about you.”

    And I had to ask myself…do I?

    When God takes something that I had in my hand? When He refuses to give me something, even as He lavishes it on someone else? When no matter how much I pray for something, He keeps saying, “NO?”
    Do I believe that He loves me?

    Do I?

    I know I don’t act like I do. I get mad. I even tell Him I’m mad. Or sometimes I just pout and trust that He’s clued in to my frustration. 

    Does that hurt Him? Does He look at me, the One who loved me enough to send His only Son to die for me, and does He wonder what it would take to convince me? He’s already given me everything.

    Well, except for those things that He knows are bad for me.

    They aren’t necessarily bad things. And they aren’t even bad for everyone. But they are bad for me. Maybe they would lead me to sin. Maybe they would ruin my life in a way I can’t fathom. Maybe they would cause me to chase after things other than to chase after Him. Maybe they would, quite literally, kill me. 

    So to those things, He says no.
    Not because He’s mean.
    But because He loves me.

    I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes and a barely sipped on iced coffee, listening to Emma play in her room, and I’m amazed at the lengths my Father goes to to remind me of His love.

    I’m not sure what’s going on in your world. I’m not sure why He’s told you “no” or why He’s not giving you something you want—maybe even something you really believe you need.
    I am sure of this. He loves you. He loves me. 

    Someday, I believe I will be able to talk to Emma about this stuff. I don’t know what she will be like in heaven, but I have a peace that there will come a time when she will understand. That some of the things we’ve missed out on here will be ours there.

    I wonder… does He feel that way about us? Does He look forward to the day when once and for all we will be eternally certain of His love for us?

    And I wonder how different life here would be if we lived each day like the beloved children we are?

    For those of you who are new here and may not already know, our daughter Emma was born with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, a syndrome some people say is caused by a “misspelling” of a specific chromosome. We say God is an excellent speller and He makes no mistakes. We believe that Emma is EXACTLY who God intended and created her to be. 
    Grace and peace,