Friday, September 12, 2014

New blog posts, including book reviews, can now be found on my website ! I'd love for you to visit!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Is It Me Or Him?

Photo Credit 

I'm a book-lover. Always have been and can't imagine that changing. Diaries were my outlet when I was younger. If someone got on my nerves, I wrote about him (or her). If my sisters' friends were mean to me ('cause you know I never did anything to get on their nerves), I wrote about it. When I started homeschooling, I wrote about it. When my grandpa died, when I couldn't find my cat's kittens, when I got to be Mary in the church Christmas program...I wrote about it.
I didn't think I could ever be an author. Not really. Books were long, and I didn't have much patience. In fact, I still don't have a ton.
Yet, here I am, possibly close to achieving that dream.
And I catch myself thinking, "Is this me or Him?"
 
 Have I missed a turn on the path the Lord wants me to take, or is He orchestrating all of this? Have I sought Him enough as I've been writing? Is He pleased?
 
Then I remember I couldn't do a bit of this without Him.
He cultivated my desires. He blessed me with an abundance of Christian books. He's held my hand as I've struggled. He knew what I would have to go through in order to create the plots for my stories. He guided me to Seekerville. He convicted my heart about the crux of the stories.
 
He is doing the work. We are simply the vessels He's using.
 
 That's humbling and inspiring, all at once.
I'm praying He'll use you to do what He wants done.
May we always allow it to be Him, not us.
 
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" Philippians 1:6


Monday, September 8, 2014

Tried and True by Mary Connealy

http://www.amazon.com/Tried-True-Wild-at-Heart/dp/0764211781
 
 
Kylie Wilde is the youngest sister--and the most civilized. Her older sisters might be happy dressing in trousers and posing as men, but Kylie has grown her hair long and wears skirts every chance she gets. It's a risk--they are homesteading using the special exemptions they earned serving in the Civil War as "boys"--but Kylie plans to make the most of the years before she can sell her property and return to the luxuries of life back East.
Local land agent Aaron Masterson is fascinated with Kylie from the moment her long hair falls from her cap. But now that he knows her secret, can he in good conscience defraud the U.S. government? And when someone tries to force Kylie off her land, does he have any hope of convincing her that marrying him and settling on the frontier is the better option for her future?
 
In a sin-plagued world, there's something comforting about letting your mind slip into one of Mary Connealy's novels. Her newest, Tried and True, captivated me from the very beginning.
The story starts with the heroine dangling from a roof in the first scene, and the action continues from that point. This novel also did an awesome job of whetting the reader's appetite for future books in the series.
 
First Lines:
"Kylie Wilde's right hand tightened on the hammer as she stared at her roof. A shingle flapped in the endless summer wind. A storm was blowing in over the Rocky Mountains, blast it. She was going to have to go up there and nail that board down or sleep under a downpour."
 
 
 I started reading this book while I was battling a stomach bug--so you know it had to be a strong story to keep my interest when all I wanted to do was shut my eyes and rest. Mary Connealy has a gift for telling stories. She incorporates humor and historical facts in a way that never bores. I'm not the kind of person who enjoys talking or reading about wars, but she handled those details in a way I could handle. Did you know some women disguised themselves as men and fought in the Civil War? I never imagined that until this story.
Kylie Wilde is the kind of heroine I can relate to. She's a bit confused on what her place is in the world, and she doesn't believe she's nearly as good at certain tasks as her sisters. She's into feminine things (tea parties, for example) but doesn't mind helping build a chicken coop.
Aaron Masterson is one hundred percent man. He isn't fooled by Kylie's disguise and quickly decides she's the prettiest woman he's ever seen. A great aspect of Connealy's novels is that her heroes act like real men. I caught myself feeling a tad more interested in the secondary characters (who will have their own books later), but Aaron certainly fit with Kylie.
 
One thing bothered me, but I can't mention it without spoiling the story. I will say that I believe this story is more suitable for adult readers, although it is clean.
The spiritual thread in this one didn't connect with me precisely. However, I did love the ending, the way God's saving grace is portrayed.
 
Tried and True is another fun one from this author. You can get it here.
 
*I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.*

Friday, September 5, 2014

Characters Have To Eat Too!

http://www.tasteofsouthern.com/home-made-beef-stew-recipe/
Picture and recipe courtesy of Taste Of Southern

Yummy food tends to sneak into my stories. This might have something to do with my former desire to be a chef (My sister and I were Food Network addicts.)
Though I edited out a bit of the food (due to the potential risk of readers putting down my book in order to eat), I allowed the characters a hearty meal of beef stew.
I didn't know how much I loved beef stew until I tried this recipe. Sure, I'd had canned stew, but come on, homemade is always better. There is something satisfying about chopping potatoes, carrots, and onions. Searing chunks of meat in a cast iron Dutch oven. Having your family eat the entire pan, leaving you with only one measly bowl. (Okay, that was more annoying than satisfying.)
So, in honor of Katherine McGraw (my hero's Southern mama), I must devote this post to one of the most awesome meals a person can taste.
All you'll need is:
2 - lbs of Stew Beef (Coated mine in flour)
4 - Cups of warm water  (I used beef broth instead of water.)
4 - teaspoons of Beef Bouillon Granules
1 - medium Onion, sliced
3 - medium Carrots, sliced
6 - Red Potatoes, quartered and diced
2 - Tablespoons of Butter
1/3 - cup Tomato Paste (I used less. Not really a tomato-y person.)
1 - teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 - teaspoon Salt
1 - teaspoon Sugar
1/2 - teaspoon Black Pepper
1/2 - teaspoon Paprika
The rest of the recipe is here, complete with pictures of the process. I fiddled around with the recipe a little, but I'm sure it'll be delicious no matter what. Because it is indeed delicious.
Got any yummy recipes for me?
Although right now, I really, really want some stew.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Bride In Store By Melissa Jagears

 
 
From The Back Cover:
 
Impatient to meet her intended groom and help him grow his general store, mail-order bride Eliza Cantrell sets out on her travels a week early. But her plan goes sadly awry when her train is held up by robbers who steal her dowry, and Axel, her groom-to-be, isn't even in town when she finally arrives.
Axel's business partner, William Stanton, has no head for business and would much rather be a doctor. When his friend's mail-order bride arrives in town with no money and no groom in sight, he feels responsible and lets her help around the store--where she quickly proves she's much more adept at business than he ever will be.
The sparks that fly between Will and Eliza as they work together in close quarters are hard to ignore, but Eliza is meant for Axel and a future with the store, while Will is biding his time until he can afford medical school. When Axel finally returns, their troubles are far from over, and soon Will and Eliza must decide what they're willing to sacrifice to chase their dreams--or if God has a new dream for them both.
 
 
First Lines:
"The thwack of the train door jolted Eliza Cantrell upright. Acrid coal smoke whooshed through the muggy passenger car."
 
 
I love a story that keeps me guessing, and A Bride In Store succeeds. This is book # 2 in the Unexpected Brides series, the first being A Bride For Keeps. You don't have to read the stories in order, but I recommend that you do--just because.
 
Melissa Jagears is a newer author whose work I'm loving. A Bride In Store felt real to me, as if the characters' actions and decisions all made sense. She doesn't flood her writing with clichés. The Biblical (spiritual) aspect feels completely authentic.
Eliza is a strong, smart woman who wants to run a store more than she wants marriage. Will is pretty awful at running a store and wants the chance to go to medical school. Obviously, these two have opposing goals, and I truly didn't know how the story would resolve.
The theme of sacrifice is one that we all need to dwell on. The Gospel centers on the Lord's ultimate Sacrifice, the truest Love any of us can ever experience.
The writing is crisp and strong, perfect for bringing the reader into the setting. If you've ever wondered about old-timey stores or if you have a business mind or if you just love a good book, try this one. It's a fun story with bits of suspense, plenty of romance, and a fair dose grace.
 
Another great one from this author! 
 


Monday, August 25, 2014

A Pinprick of Doubt

When will satisfaction come? How much more does the Lord have to supply us with before we’ll be content?

A publishing contract? A bestselling novel? A thousand emails a day from pleased readers? A loaded bank account? A two-story home with a wraparound porch and a huge tree shading the front yard? A wedding ring and a walk down the church aisle?
I’ve got to tell you, I wouldn’t complain if God saw fit to give me those things.
Except…maybe I would.
Oh, come on, how could anybody complain about any of that, right? Well, let’s see. Maybe the contract comes from someone other than my “dream” publisher. Maybe the bestselling novel comes along with some nasty reviews on Amazon. Maybe the thousand reader emails overwhelm my inbox and my mind. Maybe the home with the porch isn’t in my preferred location. Maybe the wedding ring ignites fear of an unstable marriage. Maybe the loaded bank account…actually, no, I can’t see that one being a bad thing. ;)

Get what I mean? We humans have a knack for finding every excuse to not be satisfied.

The children of Israel were rescued from bondage in Egypt. They witnessed miracles like the parting of the Red Sea and water flowing from a rock. Yet, they still complained. When I heard those stories in Sunday school, I used to think, “Good grief, what was wrong with those people? All they had to do was listen to God.”

Now I realize I am them. “Lord, I’m tired of manna. Can’t you make something else miraculously fall from heaven? Maybe some Three Musketeers? Or some hibachi fried rice? Or hey, a new car would be nice!”

Surely the Lord is watching me, shaking His head. He doesn’t lose His patience—He’s more than familiar with my knack for wanting more. But He’s disappointed.

He wants me to know He’s enough.

You might’ve heard that I’ve had a pretty successful summer. I’ve done well in some contests, signed with an amazing agent, been supported by newsletter subscribers…

The doubt still comes though, like a pinprick. You’re still not published, you know. You might never be. No one wants to read your books. You’re just a twenty-something girl—you don’t have a thing to offer the world.

I’d be a liar if I said I don’t let thoughts like that bug me. Sometimes, I straight up wonder if I do have anything to offer the world.

Then the Lord answers, “No. You don’t.”

Well, great. Good to know.

You don’t, you stubborn girl. But I do. And I want to use you.”

How does God tell me this, you ask?

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (II Corinthians 12:9)

“If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (II Timothy 2:21)

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (I Corinthians 15:10)
 
I ought to be content. Satisfied. And I’m learning to be.

We can chase success, do everything possible to make ourselves feel accomplished. We can secure the highest-paying jobs, buy the most luxurious cars, and build gigantic homes with twenty-foot ceilings and wide balconies. We can do all these things and still want more.

Or we can acknowledge the blessings God has given us in this present moment and thank Him. We can pray for the wisdom to be content, knowing He will give us what we need in His timing. We can ask the Holy Spirit to brush away the doubts and help us live a pleasing life.

When doubts come, He is enough. When success seems like an imaginary creature, He is enough.

He will always be enough. If you have Him, you have everything.

Are you relying on Him for your contentment? Or are you searching for the next “accomplishment” to make you happy?

Complaining is super easy. Let’s try to ease up on that.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Never-Ending List

This past week I've had no time to write. Or blog. Or read.
I tend to become a tad grumpy when I can't write. Or blog. Or read.
Forgive me?
Next week should be less busy, meaning I'll have time to catch up on writing duties. Yay! Melissa Jagears's new novel A Bride In Store is next on my reading list, and there'll be a review as soon as I finish it.
Oh, and fun news--I'm a finalist in the RWA Lone Star Writing Contest. Yay again!
Do you get a little grumpy when you don't write/read/sleep? ;)
Is your to-do list never-ending?

Monday, August 18, 2014

$50 Amazon Giveaway


a Rafflecopter giveaway

I promised another Amazon giveaway. Here it is!
Y'all have blessed me so much with your support.
So, what would you buy with a $50 Amazon gift card?
(My answer would be books...that doesn't surprise you, right?)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Image via Bing
Miracle in a Dry Season is a beautifully unique novel brimming with Biblical truth and plenty of conflict. Set in West Virginia in 1954, this story starts by introducing us to Casewell, a righteous man with certain ideas about what his future wife will be like. He’s a believer in strict right and wrong and steers clear of controversy. When he meets Perla Long, a pretty woman new to town, and her daughter, his ideas are challenged.
First Lines:
"Caeswell's stomach grumbled. He hoped no one in the surrounding pews could hear it. He'd thought to eat some warmed-over biscuits this morning, but the barn cat had slipped into the house and found the bread wrapped in a dish-cloth on the back of the stove. Even though most of a biscuit remained, Casewell knew better than to eat after a cat."
 
Sarah Loudin Thomas's writing style is different from anything else I've read. She captures the feel of farm life in the 1950s perfectly. I became so caught up in the drought plot line that I considered it a blessing when my town got rain--talk about having trouble separating fiction from reality.
The beginning of the book drags the tiniest bit...but the storytelling is so rich, so authentic (not that I lived in 1954 West Virginia). Casewell isn't the typical hero--there aren't long descriptions of his appearance. Perla isn't your average heroine. But they meld together in a sweet way that'll keep you smiling. 
I loved that the book explores the relationship between Casewell and his father as well. Everything about this novel feels so...real.
The only unreal part for me was Perla's "gift". I didn't really get it, but that might just be me.
Ms. Thomas's next novel will be on my wish-list when it's released. You should give this story a try, for sure. You can buy it here.
There's a free novella you can read as well.   
 
From The Back Cover:
It's 1954 and Perla Long's arrival in the sleepy town of Wise, West Virginia, was supposed to go unnoticed. She just wants a quiet, safe place for her and her daughter, Sadie, where the mistakes of her past can stay hidden. But then drought comes to Wise, and Perla is pulled into the turmoil of a town desperately in need of a miracle.
Casewell Phillips has resigned himself to life as bachelor...until he meets Perla. She's everything he's sought in a woman, but he can't get past the sense that she's hiding something. As the drought worsens, Perla's unique gift divides the town in two, bringing gratitude and condemnation, and placing the pair in the middle of a storm of anger and forgiveness, fear and faith.
 
*I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Grace Part Two

Grief is a crippling emotion.
 
This world is full of sadness--deaths, tragedy, and thousands of other signs of the times. As I type this, my heart is overflowing so much that I have no choice--I must write.
 
According to the world, powering through despair means you are strong. But that's not true. You and I are not strong. We are weak; our hearts are malleable; and our emotions are traitorous.
The strong One is the Lord. Our strength radiates from Him.
 
 
 
 
Often I go to bed at night and pray until I fall asleep. This isn't because I'm some super-Christian. No, this is because I know how unworthy I am to be saved, to have a place in Heaven, to escape Hell. I lie awake and pray for the ones who don't know the Lord. The ones who are strangers to His peace, who haven't trusted in His cleansing blood to wash away their sins. I fear for them. I fear the deception the world feeds people. The world says "RIP" means a person truly will rest in peace once they leave this earth.
But if that person doesn't know Jesus, he (or she) won't rest in peace.
 
 
I was eighteen years old when Something gripped my heart. I'd grown up in church, remembered praying in my childhood bathroom for the Lord to come into my heart. I'd gone to church camp and cried tears at a wooden altar. I'd prayed.
 
But there was something wrong. I realized that during a week-long revival at my church. During that week, I struggled to sleep at night. Searched my mom's Bible for the note that said when I'd trust Jesus as a little girl. I wanted proof.
 That Friday night, the preacher preached about a train coming. He told the story of two boys who ran away from a place situated near railroad tracks. They walked along the tracks in the moonlight, but soon they grew tired. They agreed to rest their heads on the tracks. Surely they would hear a train approaching. They would have time to move to safety.
They didn't. A train came, and they didn't wake.
They'd grown accustomed to the train's whistle and rumble while they lived near the tracks.
 
 After the preacher preached, a man stood up to give His testimony. He told us how he'd believed he was saved as a young boy, but the Lord showed Him that revival week that He wasn't.
 
After that, while people sang a hymn, I abandoned my seat to find my mom. My heart was wild in my chest. Something was wrong. Very wrong. Was I on my way to Hell? Why was I so scared?
I blurted the truth to Mama out in the church hallway. "I don't know if I'm saved or not."
She took me to the back end of the hallway, a dark space for us to pray. She prayed out loud, and I talked to God in my heart. I don't remember what I said. What I do remember is my fear and the realization that I needed to turn to the Lord. I was a sinner--me. I needed forgiveness. I would spend eternity in tormenting flame if I didn't go to Jesus.
 
I figure the Lord saved me before Mom took me down the hallway, before we knelt on the carpet to pray. He was watching when I stepped out of my seat to find Mama, and He rejoiced.
 
I'm still not worthy of Him.
But His grace is never-ending. 
 
 I want the entire world to know Him. I want my friends and family to have a personal relationship with Him. To experience the Hope He offers. The love He demonstrated on the Cross.
 
This world is full of grief.
Still, the Lord Jesus Christ is the safe place. The refuge. The shelter.
He suffered--literally suffered--for me and you. Because He wants to save you. Because He wants to cocoon you in His grace and deliver you from this present evil world. Because He wants to give you a home in heaven.
 
Why would you turn Him away?
He's all that matters in this world, and He's concerned about you.
Do you know Him? Or do you simply know of Him?
 
He's waiting...
Will you go to Him?


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Because You're Awesome

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Facebook page has passed 200 likes! To show my extreme joy, here's a giveaway!
Go ahead...enter.

(Contest opens at midnight.)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Infertility and My Heroine

 
A character without real-life issues isn't believable. My favorite characters deal with problems I can relate to. I don't read solely to learn a lesson, but the best books do inspire me to live a life more pleasing to the Lord.
A few examples of these types of books include Courting Cate, A Broken Kind of Beautiful, Listen, My Stubborn Heart, etc.
 
The heroine in one of my novels was diagnosed with severe endometriosis as a teenager. Complications led to surgery, and now at twenty-six, she has no hope of holding her own child.
She is a strong-willed character for several reasons, but her infertility drives the story.
 One of the fun parts of writing is "becoming" your characters. Delving into their circumstances, their personalities, imagining their emotions. For this heroine, I had to mull over some questions. How far would I go to gain the family I've always yearned for? Would I rearrange my life? Sacrifice the heart of the man I love? What if I had the chance to adopt a family member, my own niece or nephew?
Could I give up that opportunity to save my relationship with the guy I've always dreamed of marrying? Could I surrender my plans to the Lord, even if I hadn't felt His presence in a long while?
 
As these answers melded, my heroine became real. She became a woman I could imagine knowing, one I could imagine lounging on the couch with watching our favorite Food Network competition show and talking about the hero.
 
What makes a character believable to you? Do you like a character with a good dose of flaws?
Know anyone diagnosed with endometriosis? 
 
And on another note, which would you prefer for a snack--peanut butter fudge or spicy buffalo chicken dip?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Call

July 31, 2014 will be a date I always remember--the date I received "The Call."

My search for a literary agent began in May 2014. I'd read articles on Seekerville, searched agency blogs, and asked a writer friend of mine about potential agents.  
All I knew was I wanted someone who loved my story and cared about more than the business side of things (I didn't want to simply be someone's ticket to a paycheck). Researching agencies became my favorite pastime. I checked my email inbox approximately 10,000 times a day, waiting for that message.  

Fast forward to July.
 Picture me sitting in my car in the bank drive-thru, Southern gospel music humming from the radio, the air conditioning cooling my cheeks. My phone dings as I'm waiting for my deposit receipt. A message for me.
My eyes catch a few words as the message blinks on the screen. I gasp.
Nope. This could not possibly be happening. No way.

My fingers tap until I can read every word. Heart thumping, I start laughing.
Laughing by myself in the bank drive-thru.
Mary Keeley wants to read my work.
Seriously? An agent from Books and Such is interested in me?
Thank You, Lord.

I collected my deposit receipt and zoomed out of the parking lot. Didn't waste a second spreading the news to my family. A little while later, Ms. Mary requested a phone call. That threw me off a little bit. I'm not a phone conversation person, especially if the call has the power to change my future. My nerves tend to trip my tongue and paralyze my brain.
Supportive friends and family were praying for me, though. The Holy Spirit calmed me enough to ward off a heart attack. Ms. Mary was wonderful.
And the call ended after I accepted representation.

I'd fretted over choosing the right agent. Stayed awake late at night praying for both patience and peace. Wisdom. Understanding. Guidance.
God answered my prayers in a way I never ever would've imagined.

Me after officially signing with Mary Keeley.

 He has shown me so much grace. So many blessings. I'm undeserving.


http://www.booksandsuch.com/our-agents/meet-mary/
My agent, Ms. Mary Keeley. (Wow, that's fun to type.)
How has the Lord surprised you with blessings? Has there been a time when His goodness has drawn tears from your eyes (possibly in a bank drive-thru)?
How did you receive "The Call"? Pretty awesome, huh?
"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21


Monday, August 4, 2014

Almost A Giveaway and What I'm Reading

 
Hi y'all!
Fun weekend? I about sweat to death watching a softball tournament Saturday. Church was wonderful yesterday. A guest played piano somewhat like this guy, and I was reminded that I ought to have paid more attention when I took piano lessons.
 
My newsletter has become a big topic for me. Partly because seeing y'all's support is so sweet. Plus, I'm planning a surprise giveaway when we reach a certain number of subscribers--only about 17 more to go!
 
 
 
Now let me share what I'm reading.

Image via Bing Images


After reading a couple chapters, I decided I'll purchase Sarah Loudin Thomas's next novel whenever it releases. Her style is unique, perfectly country, and even breaks a few rules. I must give her credit for using names I'd never seen before too--Casewell and Perla.
Looking forward to reading the rest of this one.
And yet I'm also not because I don't want the story to end...

Want to try this one? Go ahead here!

 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Grace

 
Last night, as I relaxed in my cozy bed, a pillow covering my ear to block extra noise, I couldn't stop telling the Lord thank You.
If you've joined my newsletter, you know why. (And that happy news will be shared here soon...)
 
He is why I write what I write. Grace. His grace. With every story I try to showcase the grace He has shown me. My characters are not a bit perfect--some of them are downright ornery. Their circumstances sometimes defeat them, making them believe God isn't truly involved in their everyday lives...
But He is. I've seen Him working more and more lately. Especially after those nights I squirmed in bed, unable to get comfortable, my heart too burdened to allow peaceful sleep. He was there with me. I doubted Him, but He didn't abandon me. Instead, He used amazing blessings to show me, "Hey, I'm here, and I'm watching out for you."
 
Do you ever doubt Him? Do you ever roll onto your back in bed, stare at the popcorn ceiling, and ask Him to increase your faith?
 
He doesn't always use blessings--at least He hasn't always for me. Disasters--whether huge or small--are sometimes necessary for us to realize how much we need Him. Tragedy might pierce our hearts, but pain can shepherd us closer to Him.
I much prefer the blessings though.
 
Grace : God giving us what we don't deserve.
Salvation.
Sturdy homes. Air conditioning (especially if you live in the South). A bookcase full of your favorite novels. A church family...
 
He offers us grace. Have you accepted it?
 
My hope is that I'll always remember His goodness.
And I'll whisper many more thank you prayers.
 
 
Next week I'll fill you in on a recent example of His grace in my life.
In the meantime, how has He revealed His goodness to you recently?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

An Announcement

 
Y'all, I received amazing news yesterday.
I am the overall winner in the RWA Touched By Love Award Contest!
Truly I did not expect to win, but I'm thanking the Lord for His blessings.
He gives me far more than I deserve.
 
Praying your week is going great as well!


The Sky We Walk Upon by Lissa Marie Niederer

http://www.amazon.com/The-Sky-We-Walk-Upon/dp/1490831754
(Image via Bing)
 
The Sky We Walk Upon is a contemporary novel written by Lissa Marie Niederer. The story follows Hannah Mackenzie, a girl in her senior year of college, whose life has been somewhat ordinary until she goes on a winter vacation with a friend (a boy) and his family.
 I didn't know what to expect with this novel. I suppose it is classified as New Adult. The writing was episodic which I'm not used to, but I loved the author's description. The giant icy pond. The toilet paper rolling like a ceremonial carpet outside the outhouse. The snow. I appreciated how Ms. Niederer made the setting breathe as if it were another character in the story.

While there is no foul language, this is not your typical Christian novel. The heroine herself does not come to know the Lord until late in the book which is absolutely fine, but the spiritual aspect lacked a bit for me until about three-fourths of the way through the book. After that, the lesson of trusting God always is presented beautifully.

Let me warn you, this book will hook you once you are into it. At one point, I could not believe the direction the story had gone--I had to know what would happen next. Until the last page, I wasn't sure if the ending would satisfy me or not.
Oh goodness, I better not say anymore for fear that I'll spoil something.

Every once in a while I do like to read something different than the typical Christian fiction, so I'm happy I was able to read this one. There were a few things not to my taste, but the Biblical message was poignant. God is in control even when our scariest fears come to life. He is there. And He wants to carry us.
That, my friends, is a beautiful truth.



From the Back Cover:

Hannah Mackenzie has never given her faith, or lack thereof, a second thought. Between her mother's emotional estrangement and a seemingly uninterested man of her dreams, Hannah is too preoccupied with her worldly relationships to think about a God who may or may not exist. But when she begins to reach beyond her comfort zone, finding the hope of love in the most unexpected place, something begins to take root in Hannah's heart-something that requires her to trust in a truth that is beyond what she can touch and see. Will the ice and storms of a brutal winter prove too much for Hannah to handle? Will her fledgling faith be strong enough to carry her through the trials to come?
 
*I received this book free from the author in exchange for my honest review.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Why Don't You Give Up?

 
Writing is hard.
Yet easy.
And frustrating.
But wonderful.
 
If you read enough blogs, follow enough Tweeters (I'm not sure what Twitter-users are called, as you can tell), or scroll through some Facebook statuses, there is a high possibility that you'll 1) become jealous or 2) believe you'll never be a published writer.
I've read agent blogs that tell me how amazingly awesome my story has to be in order to be chosen--plus the market has to be right, plus I must have a platform, etc. All these things make perfect sense. Publishing is a business. A somewhat discouraging business.
 
So why don't we quit? Devote ourselves to real jobs? Put away our laptops and remove the craft books from our desks.
Why don't we give up?
 
I'll answer with a picture.
 
 
 
This is me (and my sister with her bright blue eyes) at a ballgame when I was a teenager. I like baseball. It's pretty much the only sport I can stand to watch.
But I'm reading. Reading in a stadium full of people watching a ballgame.
 
Books, writing, reading--those things are a part of me. That sounds cliché, but hey, clichés become cliché for a reason. They're true.
 
Over the past couple of weeks, I've had some nights where I would lay in bed praying, pleading with God to show me direction. If He didn't want me to write, I asked Him to stop me. To take away the desire.
This happened twice. The days after the prayers, I received two affirmations that I shouldn't give up, one that almost drove me to tears in the bank drive-thru. 
 
The Lord didn't have to bless me with hope, but He cares, folks. He cares in a way that we can't comprehend. He listens. He understands. He's guiding me when I write. He's holding my hand when rejection comes. He's whispering in my ear, "No worries. I've got this."
And He's the only reason I won't give up. I couldn't write a word or come up with a single plot without Him. Each trial reminds me that He's the One who deserves glory. He's the one blessing me. Nothing can happen without His permission. This is His world. If He wants me or you published, He will make that happen if we walk with Him and put in the effort.
 
Writing is hard. You send your heart out to people who sometimes have to scrape it.
But if He's the One guiding you to write, then write.
He has a purpose.
Maybe you don't understand now, but He has a purpose for you. 
 


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Match of Wits by Jen Turano


 
First Line:
 
"Sometimes, no matter how independent and self-assured a young lady believes herself to be, certain situations demand a good dose of screaming."
 
My thoughts:
 
The title of this novel fits the characters perfectly. A Match of Wits is full of wit and hilarity. You can tell that from just the first sentence, can't you?
Every once and awhile, I'll review a book that is a tad...boring. This, however, is not one of those books. Jen Turano's writing voice is one of my absolute favorites. In fact, I'm going to browse Amazon for a couple of her other novels that I haven't yet had the pleasure to read.
This novel has romance, humor, a layer of suspense, and a pig named Matilda. Honestly, what more could you want?
Agatha Watson has appeared in Turano's previous novels, and she is a heroine to love and giggle over. She's excellent at finding trouble which makes her a joy to follow. Zayne Beckett is the perfect guy for Agatha. He matches her wit (hence the title). I can't give too much away, but as Zayne uncovers the art of romance, I guarantee you will laugh. He is such a guy.
 
Another reason I love this book is because it breaks the rules. Don't use too many adverbs? Well, Turano uses them...and they fit her style perfectly! She's a skilled writer, one that I've grown to respect.
I cannot wait to see what she releases next!
 
From the Back Cover:
 
After his departure from New York two years ago to meet up with his almost-fiancée, Zayne Beckett is the last person Agatha Watson wanted to stumble upon in her travels as a reporter with the New York Tribune. Quite pathetically bedraggled, he clearly needs to be taken in hand and sent back East to his family. Although she no longer has feelings for him, Agatha realizes--by hook or by crook--she'll have to be the one to get the obstinate man home.
 
Zayne has no desire to be taken anywhere and is prepared to drag his heels all the way home. . . until he finds himself slipping back into the familiar banter of his former friendship with Agatha. Once they arrive in New York, Zayne realizes Agatha's determined nose for news has earned her a few enemies, and he hopes to repay her help with some help of his own. When she rebuffs his attempts to prove himself a knight in shining armor, the lengths to which they'll go to win this battle of wills lead to some memorable antics.
 
Everyone else may think them a match, but nothing could be further from the truth--until Agatha finds herself in real trouble. Have these two stubborn, too-smart-for-their-own-good people been meant for each other all along?

*I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, July 14, 2014

I'm Reading...

http://www.amazon.com/Match-Wits-A-Jen-Turano/dp/0764211277/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1405394590&sr=8-1&keywords=a+match+of+wits
Image via Bing
 A Match of Wits by Jen Turano is one of those novels with enough humorous situations and witty dialogue to keep you cheerful even while you wonder who is determined to murder the heroine.
This is my second full novel by this author, and I'm loving it. Y'all probably know I'm a huge fan of sarcasm (when done well), and Turano's books don't lack in it by any means.
Writers tend to want to avoid adverbs, right? But Turano uses them in the most delightful way possible. I love her verbose writing style.
And I'm not a fan of pigs, but Matilda is awesome.



What I Want To Read:

http://www.amazon.com/Butterfly-Violin-Hidden-Masterpiece-Novel/dp/1401690599
Image via Bing
This is not the type of novel I normally read, but I've heard a ton of positive things about Kristy Cambron's novel. Plus, isn't the cover beautiful? So unique. I definitely need to add this book to my Wishlist.


http://www.amazon.com/Miracle-Season-Sarah-Loudin-Thomas/dp/0764212257
Image via Bing
Sarah Loudin Thomas's novella is free on Amazon, so you should head over there now and grab it for your Kindle. Miracle In A Dry Season is her full length novel I'm highly anticipating after reading the excerpt released at the end of her novella. Her descriptions and settings are so authentic that you will truly feel as if you're living the story--perhaps that's cliché, but it's true.
 
Well, that's what I'm reading and what I want to read, folks.
Any other book recommendations?
As if my bookshelves need any more occupants.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

So You Didn't Final


Imagine that moment when your hope is crushed. After you've checked your email approximately 1,752 times and finally realized that, no, you didn't final in that writing contest. 
What do you do now? 

Step One: Don't open the judges' comments until you're in a better place emotionally. As a woman, my emotions tend to roll over me like ocean waves. If I'm not meticulously careful, I'll let the things loose--not a good thing, my friends, not a good thing. 
Give yourself some time. Eat some buffalo dip (or whatever your favorite snack food happens to be). Watch the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice (if you have a few hours to spare). How can you possibly be mad after watching Mr. Darcy on screen?
When you're ready, open the comments. Remember that this is your story, but the judges could one day be your readers. They aren't critiquing to make you feel atrocious. 
No, they're trying to help.

Step Two: Revise. Fun, huh? Now you have new ideas to make your story better! Start typing and backspacing. It might sting (I changed the beginning of one of my novels more than a few times. It does sting.) Ultimately, however, revising means progress. You've worked out for a little while, exerted your muscles. You might be sore, but doesn't that achy feeling make you proud? Like you've accomplished something?

Step Three: Enter another contest. I recommend you check out Seekerville's monthly contest updates. Find one with an agent or editor judge that you want to see your work. Since contests do cost money, I don't recommend chasing after every one you see. Research. Then stick your entry out there to be reviewed.



The first time I received a call about a contest final, I was giddy. Was it possible that someone else liked my work??
Why yes, indeed it was. And that's amazing.
I do caution you not to rely on contests for validation though. You won't final in every one (well, you might...). Depend on God to reveal your next step. If He wants you to write, you will be able to write. Simple as that.

The journey to publication is incredibly similar to your walk with the Lord. Lean on Him. Be willing to learn. Wait on His timing.



Monday, July 7, 2014

Newsletter


I'm a fan of author newsletters, mostly because I can be a tad forgetful and (*gasp*) not remember a writer I'm interested in has released a new book.
Y'all, I'm not published...yet. But I do believe in preparation. 

So, I created a newsletter! (This deserves applause because that took some serious time to figure out.)

Go ahead, friends. Subscribe here.
Who knows? There might be big news coming soon...Lord willing. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert

Image via Google

This is the kind of book that has plenty of quotable moments. Moments that made me tear up. The theme of A Broken Kind of Beautiful is, in fact, beautiful. Redemption, grace, forgiveness, inward beauty...
 
"...the hard is what makes us who we are. The hard is usually what God uses to draw us closer. If I have to choose between what's easy or what will bring me closer to Him, I pray my choice will be Him." - A Broken Kind of Beautiful
 
First Line:
"The girl with the haunted eyes reentered his life on the other side of a lowering casket, humidity and the shrill song of cicadas tangling together in the South Carolina heat."
 
 
Ivy Clark isn't your typical Christian fiction heroine. She doesn't know the Lord, and she isn't interested in hearing about Him. Her own father wanted nothing to do with her, so why would God? She's a model, but that life is rapidly sucking the life right out of her until she believes she's nothing more than a beautiful shell. Sure, men are attracted to her and she's known fame. But what does that matter when she's miserable?
 Watching Ivy discover the power of redemption--the fact that the Lord loved each and every one of us enough to pay the price to save us--was a pleasure. Everything about this book is realistic. Ivy doesn't hear about Jesus once and decide to follow Him right away. No, she's too broken, too calloused, to accept that the Creator of the universe wants her, of all people. Through friends such as Davis Knight, she realizes the truth. That God most definitely wants her. He wants to redeem her and make her His. To wash away her sins and make her whole again.
Is there a greater message to be shared in a novel? I think not.
 
I could go on about Davis and Sara and Marilyn, but I truly recommend you buy this book and discover these characters yourself. The author's writing style is lyrical, sticking you in the Southern summer setting so fully that you'll feel the itch of mosquitoes and gritty sand sliding over your fingers. 
 
A Broken Kind of Beautiful was my first taste of Katie Ganshert's novels, and I'm looking forward to reading her other two.
 
 
From the Back Cover:
 
Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four-year-old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she's learned a sacred truth--appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows--so when it starts to unravel, she'll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother's bridal wear line--an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white.
If only her tenuous future didn't rest in the hands of Davis Knight, her mysterious photographer. Not only did he walk away from the kind of success Ivy longs for to work maintenance at a local church, he treats her differently than any man ever has. Somehow, Davis sees through the façade she works so hard to maintain. In fact, it seems that everyone Ivy comes across in Greenbrier challenges what she has come to believe about beauty and worth. Is it possible that God sees her--a woman stained and broken by the world--yet wants her still?


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer

Image via Google
First lines
"Passengers jockeyed for position along the steamboat Louisiana's railings, waving and calling merry farewells to the crowd lining the levee. Darius Thornton stalked determinedly across the deck in the opposite direction."
My thoughts
Nicole Renard is a proper young lady who simply wants to please her father and protect her family's legacy. Darius Thornton, a man haunted by a tragic past, is one of the most unique heroes I've encountered this year. He was definitely my favorite character.
One of my favorite authors, Karen Witemeyer delivers with Full Steam Ahead. While I have to admit, the first few chapters didn't hook me right away, Darius's presence tugged me into the story. One or two scenes reminded me of the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice (the pond scene, anyone?).
  Some sections lost my attention, only because of the technical jargon used. Steamships and boilers aren't my forte.
At times, Nicole's slightly feminist attitude did annoy me, but I appreciated her devotion to her family. The banter between her and Darius was one of my favorite aspects of the novel.
I would give this one a four out of five stars. Not my favorite, but certainly an entertaining read with a captivating hero.
 The suspense is just enough to keep you wondering, and the romance is sweet. The spiritual theme was beautiful as well we can't redeem ourselves. Only the Lord can. And He did, once and for all, on the cross.
Give this one a try by buying it here.

From the Back Cover
Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston, Texas to find her father deathly ill. Though she loves him, Nicole's father has always focused on what she's not. Not male. Not married. Not able to run Renard Shipping.
Vowing to find a suitable husband to give her father the heir he desires before it's too late, Nicole sets out with the Renard family's greatest treasure as her dowry: the highly coveted Lafitte Dagger. But her father's rivals come after the dagger, forcing a change in Nicole's plans.
After a boiler explosion aboard the Louisiana nearly took his life, Darius Thornton has been a man obsessed. He will do anything to stop even one more steamship disaster. Even if it means letting a female secretary into his secluded world.
Nicole is determined not to let her odd employer scare her off with his explosive experiments, yet when respect and mutual attraction grow between them, a new fear arises. How can she acquire an heir for her father when her heart belongs to another? And when her father's rivals discover her hiding place, will she have to choose between that love and her family's legacy?

*I received this book free from the author. This review is my honest opinion of the story.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ten Things About Me

Aren't blogs more fun to read if you feel like you "know" the writer?
Here is a list that I came up with on the spot carefully created.
Because why shouldn't I announce how weird I am? 


1.      My writing journey started around the age of thirteen when I tasted my first sip of heartbreak. Fed up with the situation, I headed for the family computer and wrote my own happy ending. (Don’t think I was boy-crazy. I didn’t have a “real” boyfriend until I was eighteen.)

2.      Socks are my thing. I hate being barefoot on tile or wood floors but don’t mind running barefoot outside. It’s also possible that I’m known for wearing socks with flip-flops…but not in public!

3.      I’ve traveled as far north as Niagara Falls and can honestly say there is no better place than the South. Besides heaven.

4.      Once, while under a tornado warning, my family and I fled to our church. I lugged a laundry basket full of books because I didn’t want to lose them if the tornado leveled our house.

5.      I played a season of softball and took piano lessons as a kid. I can’t hit a ball to save my life or play anything resembling a song on any musical instrument.

6.      Taking walks (with short bursts of running) is my idea of athleticism. In fact, a group of friends and I walked a big circle from our road to town and back home. We started too late. When pitch black overtook the evening, we called my parents to pick us up. Country roads are spooky in the dark.

7.      I bake brownies when no one else is around so I can eat the leftover batter in peace.

8.       Sometimes I stink at sharing (see #7).

9.      I’m (im)patiently waiting for the day I can share my books with the world--or at least America.

10.  I’m not a girly girl or a tomboy (see #5). So that makes me the awkward one who reads a lot.
 
Random, huh?
And I didn't even mention the heart-shaped scar on my face from a four-wheeler wreck or my experience with crabs at the Outer Banks or the time I bawled while climbing a winding staircase in a lighthouse. Although I suppose that constitutes mentioning them...
 
Oh well. Laughing at yourself can be pretty fun.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Writer's World Blog Tour


 Hey y'all!  Natalie Monk invited me to participate in a blog tour which means I'm going to share some info on my writing. I have never shared details publicly. But, since Natalie shared, I might as well be brave along with her.
 
Natalie is a sweet writing friend of mine who happens to be super talented!
 
 
 
First question:
 
What are you working on?
 
My second full-length novel since I decided to seriously pursue publication. I've plotted the major points in the story and completed a few chapters. And I have to add that I'm lovin' this story.  
Unfortunately, in order to comply with contest rules, I can't give out much information.
That doesn't mean I can't share a quote though. 
 
"God dipped your gray heart into His blood and made you pure. You're pure because He is pure. That's how amazing God is."
 
 
Second question. How does your work differ from others in its genre?
 
First, let me tell you what I write.
 
 

 Inspirational contemporary romance set in the South (the most awesome place on earth).
For this question, I have to use a quote my pastor says frequently--"Things that are different are not the same." Pretty profound, huh?  
My writing is unique because I am me.

To be more specific, I will say that my characters tend to be a little...sarcastic. To the point where I reread a section and think, "Where did that come from?" I've made myself laugh a few times which is always fun. Also, I try to create vivid characters with realistic responses to tough situations.
In my novels, you'll find imperfect heroines and heroes being molded by the Lord into the people He wants them to be.
Humor, sarcasm, and God's grace. Three of my favorite things. 
 


 
Why do you write what you do?
There is nothing else I would rather write, and these are the stories the Lord has whispered to me.
As much as I love historicals, my voice belongs in the contemporary genre.
I write inspirational fiction because I can't imagine writing a story without including the Gospel. The Lord wrote a Book to reach me, and I pray that my writing glorifies Him and His Word.
Why do I write romance? Because those are the stories I'm drawn to. A book or a movie with a romantic thread is simply better. One of my favorite Bible stories is Ruth and Boaz. I'm not ashamed of writing romance. God Himself ordained marriage.
 Ultimately, all of my stories feature characters searching for God's Will in their lives.
 
"God doesn't promise you won't go through storms, but He does promise to be with you while the rain's pounding the roof."

How does your writing process work?
I sit down at a keyboard and type.
Seriously.
My second book had no plot until I reclined on my bed with my laptop and started "interviewing" my heroine. I discovered her favorite food, her family background, why she'd chosen her career, why she hasn't married yet, etc.
Soon, I had a story. One I love and can't wait to share with everyone. I typed and typed until I had the turning points framed out. I pondered over the first sentence, then completed the first two chapters.

For my first novel, I worked through a few drafts before I shared it with my critique partners. That one was more trial-and-error. Then I revised again. Printed the entire thing out. Edited. Now a friend (see Natalie's photo above) is beta-reading for me. Soon, I'll return the favor and delve into her novel, Heart of Valor.

***

That is me, y'all.
Thanks for asking me to participate, Natalie!

Here are the links to two other blogs participating in the tour:
Heather Manning
 Sara Ella


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Stuck Together by Mary Connealy

Image via Google
It's official--my favorite kind of book is one that makes me laugh.
Mary Connealy's novels undoubtedly meet that goal.
Her talent places her at the top of my Buy-All-These-Authors'-Books list. Her sarcastic wit is unbeatable. You will never be bored reading one of her historicals ( I've read more than one historical rich in detail but lacking in intrigue. Not Connealy's though!).
 
In Stuck Together, we get to hang out in the minds of Vince Yates and Tina Cahill, two people who are secondary characters in the previous novels in this series. Vince was the hero I most wanted to read about, so I couldn't wait to delve into Stuck Together. Tina fits him perfectly. I LOVED her spunk. I'm sure she and I would be friends (if she weren't fictional and I were alive in the 1860s).
 
Also, I enjoyed learning how mental diseases were viewed in the past. My grandma suffers from dementia, and although she still recognizes me, I saw her in Vince's mother. Connealy deals with tough issues in a comedic yet respectful way.
 
Are you familiar with Mary Connealy's novels? If not, you need to remedy that. Click here to buy Stuck Together.
 


Backcover Blurb
 
Now that she's settled in town, Tina Cahill is determined to get Broken Wheel's saloon closed for good. To that end, she pickets outside the place every afternoon. Unfortunately, so far no one has paid any attention.
Vince Yates earned the nickname "Invincible Vince" because of his reputation for letting absolutely nothing stop him. But Vince is about to face his biggest challenge yet: his past has just caught up with him. His father, mother, and the sister he didn't know he had show up in Broken Wheel without warning. His father is still a schemer. His mother is showing signs of dementia. And his surprise sister quickly falls for one of Vince's best friends. Vince suddenly has a lot of people depending on him, and Tina doesn't approve of how he's handling any of them.
With nearly every other man in town married off, Vince finds himself stuck with strong-willed Tina over and over again. Of course, Tina is the prettiest woman he's ever seen, so if he could just get her to give up her crazy causes, he might go ahead and propose. But he's got one more surprise coming his way. Tina's picketing at the saloon has revealed a dark secret that could put everyone Vince loves in danger.
 
*I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.