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
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!
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 clich├ęs. 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?