Monday, December 22, 2014

Cover Art for Small-Town Bachelor!

My dog just took a drink from my coffee mug. Yuck. Now I have to rinse it out and get a new cup!

Anyway, I'm sitting in my living room on a gorgeous, sunny winter day. It's almost Christmas. I have a to-do list six miles long, but we're on break, and I'm relaxing for an hour.

This year has been full of ups and downs, and lately there have been some shiny bright spots I'm thrilled to share!!

1. My second book has an official title: Unexpected Family! It will be released September 2015 through Harlequin Love Inspired!

2. My first book, Small-Town Bachelor has a cover AND is officially up for preorder on most retail sites!


3. The short story and recipe collection, A Recipe for Romance, by twenty-two Love Inspired authors is available now and climbed the Amazon charts the first week it was on sale!



Only $2.99 on Kindle! And all royalties go to children's charities!
For some reason Blogger isn't allowing me to add links today. I'll try to get them up later. In the meantime, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!! And I'll see you back here after the new year!


Do you have pets? Do they try to drink your coffee??

Please sign up for my newsletter! The sign-up form (just your name and an email address) is at the top right of the blog under my profile! You can unsubscribe at any time!

Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!!


Friday, December 19, 2014

My Week of Delusional Thinking

I had big plans for this week. I love when I get in delusional mode! I get all this energy.

On Sunday, I really believed that all week I would overhaul my website and finish shopping and start baking. Easy-peasy!



Well, everything that could go wrong with my website did, causing me to spend hours trying to fix the bugs. (I learned a lot about webhosts, Wordpress, plug-in problems and a slew of other website glitches! There will be a blog post about it in the future.) I'm now estimating a month before it's finished. But I'm excited because all the wrong turns led me to make a firm decision about what I wanted. 

And the shopping? I spent hours at the indoor mall, then a strip mall, a few superstores, and an outdoor mall. It took about three times as long as I allotted, but I am done! 

The baking didn't happen as planned either, but we do have a batch of peanut blossoms, and I'm pretty happy about that. 

To offset the craziness, I went to a cute restaurant for snacks and cocktails with friends last night. There's something therapeutic about chatting with people in similar life patterns. We all have children the same ages, and we're all working moms. Plus it gave me an excuse to wear my sparkly shirt and wear lipstick. I had a great time!

Seven years ago I lived in a strange state and often drove to the supermarket disoriented. I would think, am I really here? That Christmas season was difficult. I went through the motions, and I have good memories of the holiday, but I also remember not really feeling much.

This year I'm feeling everything, and it's good!

I'm all over the place--frustrated to tears because I had to download Wordpress four times, my theme refusing to work. Or standing in front of a display for thirty minutes trying to pick the best color of a gift, worrying it won't be loved, only to return it two hours later. And then taking a break to hum Christmas carols as I rolled cookie dough into balls and unwrapped Hershey kisses at the speed of light.

Yes, I might be delusional, but I'm excited, and that's the best feeling! 

Today I'll cram in way more than I can chew, and at the end of the day I'll laugh because none of my efforts came close to what I hoped. That's how life is. And to me, that's part of faith. Embracing the fact I'm not perfect--not even close--and laughing because God wouldn't love me more if I was! 

If you're beating yourself up about the Christmas rush, take a deep breath and smile. Just smile. It feels good, doesn't it?

What do you get delusional about this time of year?

Have a wonderful weekend!!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How to Stay Sane During the Holiday Season: Guest Alexis A. Goring

I'm excited to be hosting special guests for the next several Wednesdays! Please join me in welcoming Alexis A. Goring!

***

The holiday season is upon us and Christmas Day is less than two weeks away.

It’s known to be the “most wonderful time of the year”, but if you’re anything like most Americans during this time of year—especially Americans who are hosting their entire family in their house for Christmas dinner—you are stressed. You’re running around from store to store, hoping to be done with Christmas shopping only to find out you need more: More gifts, more food, more greeting cards, more money and more time! Your life around this time of year may look more like a tailspin than  It’s A Wonderful Life (classic Christmas movie) and maybe, just maybe you’re hoping to be through with it all so that life can be a little less hectic and you can breathe again.

I am here today to gently encourage you with this Bible-based wisdom which is, “Be still and know that God is God” (Psalm 46:10). Based on Scripture, this timeless truth which is also a song by Christian contemporary artist Steven Curtis Chapman, can give you quiet and lasting relief from the hectic holiday season.

What does it mean to “be still and know”? I believe to every person, it may mean something different but to me, it means that in the middle of the crazy, God’s love, majesty and promises to protect, keep and deliver us are still good and true. Ultimately, it means that spending time with God every day is important for me because He is my Rock and to spend time in prayer and study of His Word (The Holy Bible) is priceless because it is in those devotional moments that I find my peace in the midst of the crazy. It’s where my soul is soothed and my mind is calmed as God gives me a peace that as the Bible says, “passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Try it and see what I mean—people will be completely amazed at how you can keep it all together and be so calm this holiday season, especially if you’re married with kids and hosting your entire family for dinner on Christmas Day.

If you take my advice to “be still” and “know” that God is God every day this holiday season, I’d like to know how it turns out for you! I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to survive this hectic time of year if you start your day with God in sincere devotional time with Him. Perhaps you can revisit Jill’s blog after New Year’s Day and leave a few comments on my guest post here to let me know how it went! I’d love to hear your stories of how God kept you sane, happy and blessed this holiday season all because you took time to “be still” and “know” that He is God.

May God bless you, keep you and protect you today, tomorrow and forever.

***

I needed this message today, Alexis! Monday morning was hectic with a capital H, but when I took ten minutes to pray, the day got a lot better! I love the Bible references you used. My "one word" this year was PEACE, and I find I'm needing it more than ever as the holidays approach. Thank you so much for being my guest today!

***


About Alexis ~

Alexis A. Goring is a college graduate with a degree in print journalism from Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Maryland. Writing is her passion. She hopes that her stories will touch hearts, bring smiles to faces, and inspire minds to seek God whose love for humanity is unfailing.
Alexis loves connecting with her readers! Follow Alexis on Twitter @pennedbyalex, “Like” her Author page on Facebook, visit her official website, http://www.alexisagoring.com/ and read her blog, “God is Love.”

***

“Be Still” as performed by Steven Curtis Chapman, 



*Lyrics to “Be Still” song, http://www.metrolyrics.com/be-still-know-lyrics-steven-curtis-chapman.html.


***

How do YOU stay sane during the holiday season?

Have a terrific day!!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Jody Hedlund's Lighthouse Research

I'm bursting at the seams to share this post today! First of all, I adore lighthouses! Secondly, I'm a huge fan of Jody Hedlund's inspirational historical romances. And thirdly, Jody shared EXCLUSIVE pictures AND is giving away a copy of her new book, Love Unexpected!! I loved this book. My review is below!

Let's get to it!!

1. Jody, you took a research trip to Presque Isle Lighthouse this summer. Did anything surprise you about lighthouses and their keepers?

During that particular research trip, I visited 3 lighthouses including the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse (which is the one that I used in the book). I learned a LOT about lighthouses from visiting them, and a few things did take me by surprise, especially regarding the physical aspects of lighthouses: the steepness and narrowness of the spiral stairway, the small space of the lantern room, the simplicity of the tower, and the stunning view from the top.

When I began to learn more about the keepers, I think the thing that surprised me most was how isolated they were. They had to work long, hard hours and could go days, even weeks without having contact with other people.

A few pictures of the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse:




2. What was your favorite thing about the trip?

I love nature and hiking. And so because lighthouses tend to be in remote places, I've always enjoyed hiking out to the lighthouse, walking along the beaches, and taking lots of pictures. My mom has come along with me on all of my lighthouse trips, and I've had lots of fun being able to do this with her and creating some special memories.


A memorial to the real Patrick Garrity.
Jody's daughter with a statue of Patrick Garrity!

Jody's adorable daughter hugging the lantern inside the lantern room!

The narrow staircase of the lighthouse!




3. Where will your next lighthouse books take place?

My second lighthouse book, Hearts Made Whole, is set at Windmill Point which is in Grosse Point, Michigan. At the time of the story, Windmill Point Lighthouse was in a remote marshy area on Lake St. Clair, a rural area that was about six miles north of Detroit (which at that time wasn't the sprawling metropolis that it is today). The original Windmill Point Lighthouse is no longer there and has instead been replaced by a smaller memorial version in the midst of park. And of course, the area now is very urban and developed.

My third lighthouse book takes place at the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse in the far northern part of Michigan on Lake Superior. I had the privilege of staying in the assistant keeper's cottage there at the lighthouse for a week this past summer. It was divine, but also gave me a taste for the cooler weather of the north!


The shores of Lake Huron! *swoon*


***

When I read Love Unexpected, I enjoyed the historical details as much as the story. They really fascinated me, and I could picture the scenes so vividly! Your research trips sound amazing, especially the Eagle Harbor one. A week on Lake Michigan? Yes! I'm excited to read the rest of the series. Thanks so much for being my guest today!

***



1859
Presque Isle, Michigan
What Is the Secret That Could Shipwreck Both of Their Lives?

All Emma Chambers ever wanted was a home, but when her steamboat sinks just outside Presque Isle, she’s left destitute and with no place to stay.
An unlikely solution arises when the lighthouse keeper arrives in town. He’s just lost his wife and is having a difficult time caring for his child. So a traveling preacher gets the idea that the keeper and Emma might be the answer to each other’s dilemma. After a hasty marriage, she finds herself heading to the lighthouse with this handsome but quiet stranger. Nothing in her aimless life, though, has prepared her for parenting a rambunctious toddler, as well as managing a household.
Emma soon suspects Patrick may be hiding something from her, and then she hears a disturbing rumor about the circumstances surrounding his late wife’s death. It seems as if her wish for a home and family of her own could end up leading her once more into turbulent waters.


***



About Jody ~

Jody Hedlund is an award-winning and bestselling author of inspirational historical romances for both adults and teens.
As a busy mama-writer, she has the wonderful privilege of teaching her crew of 5 children at home. In between grading math papers and giving spelling tests, she occasionally does a load of laundry and washes dishes. When she’s not busy being a mama, you can find her in front of her laptop working on another of her page-turning stories.
She loves reading almost as much as she loves writing, especially when it also involves chocolate and coffee.
***

Jody has graciously offered to give away one copy of Love Unexpected to one of my readers! Just enter your email address in a comment below for a chance to win!

Contest is open to U.S. residents 18 and older. Winner will be randomly selected from the comments on Monday, December 15 and  notified via email the following week.

Have you ever toured a lighthouse? If you could, would you stay in a lighthouse keeper's home for a week?

Have a wonderful weekend!! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Keep It Sincerely Simple: Guest Davalynn Spencer

I'm excited to be hosting special guests for the next several Wednesdays! Please join me in welcoming Davalynn Spencer!

***

Do you ever wish you could banish the blitz of Christmas? The gotta-have-it, get-it-here marketing onslaught is enough to make a Scrooge of nearly anyone. What happened to the Christmas KISS?

Keep It Sincerely Simple 


Families today have come so far from more humble times when Christmas giving might have meant an orange and peppermint candy in a youngster’s stocking, a special dinner with roasted game, or songs led by a brave soul with a fiddle and the Christmas story read by candle light.

Sometimes I think I’d like to pool all our money earmarked for presents and spend it on a mountain hide-away in the luxury of simplicity. Another option could be giving it all to a local charity—as I was privileged to witness one year at our church. A family with four grown children brought in bulging envelopes stuffed with money they’d saved and gave it to the church’s water-well project. Their faces reflected a wealth of return from their giving.

Over the last several years, our eight-member family (not counting kiddos) has put a price limit on gifts and exchanged names. Rather than buying gifts for everyone, we each buy one. It has become quite a tradition, and as the official name exchanger, I receive phone calls and texts from family members starting in November asking whose name they have! Guess you know what I’m busy doing while stuffing turkey and baking pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving dinner.

When I recall my best Christmas memories, they never involve the gifts I received, though I garnered just as many as most children. The treasures I hold in my heart include the year my mother nailed our tree to the floor because she couldn’t get it to stand up straight. Or the year our Jack Russell terrier “anointed” the tree before we brought it inside. The smell of clove-studded oranges and the way cloud-like divinity candy melted on my tongue. My husband reading the second chapter of Luke to our children, and the year I gave a secret gift to a needy family.

As an author who loves Christmas stories, I took literary license and dispensed with all but the essentials of the season in my upcoming Christmas novella.

My heroine faces the holiday with no money to buy presents for the very important people in her life. No malls, internet, or last minute shopping in 1885 on a snowbound ranch in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. But oh, how I loved the feel of a home-made Christmas that wrapped around me while I wrote the story.

Options for Christmas giving are endless, and more meaningful, I believe, if we can avoid modern commercialism. After all, God nestled His gift in a feed trough, not a palace garden or courtyard.

This year as you give, open your heart to hear from the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Maybe He has a surprise in store, a lovely Christmas kiss He’d like you to help Him deliver.

***
What a beautiful post, Davalynn! I grew up reading the Little House books and The Bobbsey Twins. Both series featured homespun Christmases, and they had a big effect on my attitude. Simpler Christmases are special! Thank you so much for sharing the joy of Christmas with us today!

***




About Davalyn ~

Davalynn Spencer writes cowboy romance, a skill she’s honed since marrying a professional rodeo bullfighter and raising another. Her most recent title is “The Snowbound Bride,” one of twelve historical novellas in Barbour’s collection, The 12 Brides of Christmas. She is represented by Linda S. Glaz of Hartline Literary Agency and makes her home on Colorado’s Front Range with her handsome cowboy and their Queensland heeler named Blue. Connect with Davalynn on her website, Facebook page, Goodreads, and Twitter.

***


The Snowbound Bride ~

On the run from a heartless uncle, Arabella Taube hides in Nate Horne’s buckboard just as a blizzard sweeps into Colorado. Can she find her way out of the storm—physically and emotionally—or will the handsome mountain horseman steal her heart?

Purchase The Snowbound Bride from Amazon, Christianbooks, or Barnes & Noble!

***
Do you keep Christmas simple? What is your favorite tradition?

Have a wonderful day!!




Friday, December 5, 2014

Writer's Life: Candice Sue Patterson

Welcome to another edition of Writer's Life, my interview series with authors of inspirational romance. Today I have the pleasure of hosting Candice Sue Patterson! Candice and I met online through ACFW, and I'm so happy to have her here! She has two beautiful Christmas novellas published through White Rose Press (Pelican Book Group), and she's graciously giving away a copy of her Christmas novella, Silver White Winters. Enter the contest below!



Let's get to it!

1. What about writing makes your heart sing?

Writing is therapeutic for me. I’m an emotional person, I feel deeply, and writing is an outlet for all that craziness. I love creating three-dimensional characters who face real issues and learn lasting lessons. One thing about writing that surprises me the most is that I learn something through the story, whether it’s realizing that I’m struggling with the same hurdle as the characters or discovering something about myself I never knew before. God truly speaks to me through my writing.

2.  What is the biggest hurdle you’re facing right now as a writer?

Knowing what direction to take next. Do I continue to stay at home and write full-time, or work a part-time job now that our youngest is reaching school age? Things like that. I’m also seeking an agent right now, which takes patience. Something I’m not great at.  

3. What do you do to fill your creative well?

I read! Inspirational romance is my favorite genre, but I also read historical fiction and non-fiction, biographies, and non-fiction on subjects I’ve always wanted to learn about. This sparks ideas for new stories and causes me to reflect on my own life.

4. What are you working on now?

I’m currently seeking a publisher for a novel I’ve been writing over the last two years set in coastal Maine. In the meantime, I’m working on the first draft of the next novel in the series.


***
Thank you so much for being my guest today, Candice! I completely understand about not knowing which direction to take. I reviewed all my options several times over the years. I hope you find your path soon! And I love that you grow with your stories. I do too. I'm often surprised by the spiritual applications that pop up!

***


About Candace ~

Candice Sue Patterson studied at the Institute of Children’s Literature and is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons in a restored farmhouse overtaken by books. When she’s not tending to her chickens, splitting wood, or decorating cakes, she’s working on a new story. Candice writes contemporary romance with threads of nostalgia. Her debut novella Bright Copper Kettles is available now. Connect with Candice on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

***

Click on the book above to purchase through Pelican Book Group! Other merchants linked below.

Silver White Winters ~

She thought she had it all. Until she discovered the treasures in the snow. 

          Country music singer/songwriter Raelynn Rivers is a has-been. According to the latest gossip magazines, that is. Her last number-one hit was six years ago, and her songwriting ability has vanished. Her foundering career is all she has left, and she’s determined to once again hold the title of “Country Music Queen.” But Raelynn’s dreams are derailed when a coal mine collapses in her home town of Eve Hollow, West Virginia, trapping her daddy and brother inside.

            The man in charge of the mine rescue is Lane Ryan, her childhood best friend and the former fiancĂ© she abandoned twelve years ago for her career. In the snow-covered mountains of Appalachia, Raelynn reconnects with family and rediscovers her musical abilities—and her faith. And no one has inspired her more than Lane. She’s finally ready for a relationship, but the secret Lane carries around is as big as Coal Mountain.

            Will Raelynn sacrifice her title, or say goodbye to Lane forever? 


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Have you read any Christmas books or watched any movies yet?

Have a wonderful day!! 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Two Fun Announcements!

So much has happened since I last posted! I'll catch you up...

We spent Thanksgiving with family, and I ate too much, as usual. Then we decorated our house for Christmas, watched the Michigan Wolverines lose (*sob*) and did some online Christmas shopping. Hooray!

And guess what? I sold another book to Harlequin Love Inspired! It's working title is A Family for Macy, and it will be released in September 2015!! I couldn't be happier!

The good stuff doesn't stop there. On Monday, A Recipe for Romance, released! Twenty-two Love Inspired authors contributed short stories and recipes for this collection, and the best part? All the royalties go to children's charities (Big Brothers Big Sisters of America)! I am SO honored to be part of this wonderful project!

Special thanks goes to Lacy Williams and Dana Corbit for putting so much time and effort into the book. Thanks, ladies!!


Interested in purchasing A Recipe for Romance? Click on the links below!


My story, A Saturday of Surprises, features Chicken Enchilada Soup and a splash of romance with an unlikely couple. I hope you'll consider purchasing the book!

It's a busy, busy time of year. Please take a minute to fix yourself a warm beverage and just relax. I'll even send a plate of virtual chocolate chip cookies. :)

How do you relax this time of year?

Have a wonderful day!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tomorrow Is Thanksgiving: Guest Elizabeth Maddrey

I'm excited to be hosting special guests for the next several Wednesdays! Please join me in welcoming Elizabeth Perry Maddrey!



***

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment, because if you’re like me, that totally snuck up on you. Every year, I have these great plans about how I’m going to plan my menu at the start of the month and I’m going to shop early so I’m not stuck deciding between a thirty-four pound turkey or two six-pound turkeys to feed the twelve people that generally make up our family Thanksgiving dinner. Every year…I fail. Miserably.

And so, it’s good that Jill asked me to write this ahead of time, because chances are, right now? I’m standing in the grocery store along with nineteen million men (it’s always men. I guess most of the women had their act together and just had to send their hubby out for one or two items.) trying to pick through the emaciated sweet potatoes that no one wanted, hoping to find one or two that are actually worth eating. You’ll know it’s me because I have the two screaming children in the cart, both incredibly unhappy about being at the grocery store when they should be at home eating dinner. And I’d have happily left them there, except my own husband is stuck in the insane traffic that plagues the DC area on any kind of day ending in ‘y’, but especially on holiday weekends.

This has become my Thanksgiving tradition. I’m not sure it’s a good one to have, but I’ll admit that, to me at least, it still kind of beats the one my mom tried so hard to instill when we were kids (everyone got kernels of corn at their dinner seat, then we had to say one thankful thing for each kernel. Nice idea. Crazy cheesy to the two sarcastic teens that she birthed.)

But even with the craziness that has come to define my shopping (and it usually trickles into the cooking and serving portion of the meal, if we’re honest), I have to say I love Thanksgiving. I love that there’s a whole day set aside to encourage us to be thankful – and the older I get, I begin to understand Mom and her corn kernels a bit better. Because in addition to reminding myself to be thankful (something that’s so easy to forget to do when you’re wrapped up in the day-to-day of life), I love hearing other people talk about the things they’re thankful for. Inevitably, that reminds me of even more that I appreciate. And so on, and so forth.

And then, let’s be honest, there’s pie. I’m very thankful that someone invented pie.

So tomorrow, I’ll be sitting down with my husband and our kids, my parents, my sister and her husband, my husband’s parents, and his two sisters. And we’ll have lots of (hopefully) delicious food that I’ve made and, more likely than not, we’ll spend a few minutes talking about the last year and the specific things we’re thankful for. For me, that will include gratitude for my second year as a published author with two more full-length novels and a novella already released and my third novel for the year coming out next week. I still have to stop and pinch myself when I think about the fact that I have seven—almost eight—books out there in the world for other people to read. (And I’m even more grateful that people do read them and, beyond that, enjoy them!)

I hope you have a wonderful day tomorrow, full of turkey and pie and family and, above all, thankfulness. And if, like me, you’re facing down a trip to the store today…I hope you find everything you need so you don’t have to try and substitute parsnips for potatoes.

***

About Elizabeth Maddrey ~

Elizabeth Maddrey began writing stories as soon as she could form the letters properly and has never looked back. Though her practical nature and love of math and organization steered her into computer science for college and graduate school, she has always had one or more stories in progress to occupy her free time. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth is a voracious consumer of books and has mastered the art of reading while undertaking just about any other activity. She loves to write about Christians who struggle through their lives, dealing with sin and receiving God’s grace.

Elizabeth lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with her husband and their two incredibly active little boys. She invites you to interact with her at her website www.ElizabethMaddrey.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+





Releasing December 2, 2014 – Love Defined, Book 3 in the Remnants Series

Dreams Change. Plans Fail.

July and Gareth have reached the end of their infertility treatment options.  With conflicting feelings on adoption, they struggle to discover common ground in their marriage.

Meanwhile, July's twin sister, June, and her husband, Toby, are navigating the uncertainties of adoption and the challenges of new parenthood.

How much stretching can their relationships endure before they snap?

***

Elizabeth, I can completely relate to the last minute store runs. I'm lucky to stay on top of the kids' homework. Forget the turkeys and potatoes! And I'm giggling at the corn kernel concept. It's such a "mom" thing to do. I hope you enjoy today and avoid those stores!! Thank you so much for sharing with us.

***

Okay, what's your most embarrassing moment when it comes to cooking?

When I was a newlywed, I knew nothing about cooking. I once made a stew with Kielbasa sausage and A1 sauce. Yeah, we ordered pizza that night!

Have a wonderful and very blessed Thanksgiving!! 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Deepening Internal Conflicts in Romance Novels

Yesterday I sent a partial to a trusted friend for some feedback. I mainly wanted to know: Is the story strong enough? Do you like the characters? Is there enough tension?



Naturally, fifteen minutes after I sent it, I realized my hero's internal conflict keeping him from falling in love wasn't fleshed out enough in the opening chapters. He had a good reason to avoid relationships, but I hadn't really shown how that affected him emotionally.

This got me to thinking. My favorite romance novels stick right to my heart. It's as if I'm taking the journey with them.

A good reason not to fall in love isn't enough. We need to show how the good reason emotionally affects the character.

Example of a good reason:

John's girlfriend died in a car accident two years ago. He loved her and was devastated when she died. He hasn't been willing to take a chance on dating since.

John's beloved girlfriend dying IS a great reason for him to avoid romance. However, it's not really enough. How did her death affect him? Why, specifically, is he scared to try again?

Possible emotional reactions:

- John is afraid of his heart breaking again if a new girlfriend dies. (Afraid of getting hurt)

- John feels betrayed by God that his love was taken from him so young. (Can't trust that God is for him)

- John doesn't believe he could ever love anyone like he loved his dead girlfriend. (He's unrealistically forgotten all the girlfriend's faults, putting her on a virtual pedestal. No one can live up to the memory of her.)

- John feels responsible for her dying, even though he wasn't involved in the accident. (False sense of control--he should have driven that night, etc...)

- John had his life planned out with girlfriend. (Doesn't believe a future with someone else could ever be as good as the one he lost.)

It's important to not only give our characters reasons to avoid love, but to show the emotional impact as well. If you took three real people and gave them the same reason for avoiding love, each would have a different emotional reaction. Our characters do too!

Is there a fictional character that stays in your mind? Do you know why? 

Be sure to sign up for my newsletter HERE! All my book news, the latest happenings and some fun pictures will come to your inbox several times a year. You can unsubscribe at any time.


Have a terrific weekend!!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Extending Grace and Offering Hope: Guest Jessica R. Patch

Today, I'm so happy to welcome one of my best friends--and gifted writer--Jessica R. Patch! She's not only taking over my blog, but she's also generously giving away her Christmas novella to anyone who signs up for her newsletter. Take it from me, this is a heartwarming story, so I hope you sign up!

***

Thanks so much for having me today, Jill!

We all struggle. We all fall short and miss the mark for sure. In my Christmas novella, Hope Under Mistletoe, my hero Knox Everhart thinks the heroine is perfect. She’s a widowed pastor’s wife, a single mom, and she’s still trying to meet the needs of the church congregants. To top that off, her father drinks too much and she’s constantly dragging him out of Knox’s bar. Here’s a small excerpt:

***
 “My dad left when I was just a kid, Eden. Some days I can’t even remember his face. No brothers and sisters. Just Nathan—and he…he had you,” he murmured. “The people in that bar, they became my family. And I liked the feeling.”
Eden’s heart exploded into a million jagged fragments.
Family. No judgment, just unconditional love. That’s what Knox craved. Didn’t everyone? She clutched his black-and-gray scarf. “That’s what the people in the church are for me.”
His sight trailed over her head, then he met her gaze. “Even the gossips? It’s no secret Betsy Davis knows everything and tells everything in the name of truth.”
“But do you know that Betsy Davis gives thousands of her hard-earned dollars to help missionaries and orphans? Did you know her husband Leonard gives free legal aid to single moms who can’t get the child support they deserve?”
“Your point?”
“Knox, none of us are without sin. We’re not perfect. We’re progress. Betsy struggles with her tongue. But she loves the Lord. So we get irked,” she snickered, “and we pray and confront her in love, and we extend mercy and grace. That’s family.”
“I think you’re perfect.”
She’d have laughed in his face if he wasn’t so serious. “I am far from perfect. My struggles aren’t on public display. They’re here.” She touched her heart. “And here.” She pointed to her head.

***
Like Eden, many of us struggle more on the inside than the outside. We wear big smiles, we fix our hair, match our scarf with our shoes and purse. We can easily look put together, can’t we? And on the inside, we’re miserable. Hurting. Suffering.

I think sometimes Christians are labeled hypocrites when really we’re just imperfect people working our way through this thing called a saved life. We slip up. We say things we shouldn’t. We sin in our anger. But then we repent, and move forward again. Oh, there are a few hypocrites—who know they’re acting opposite of how they should, they don’t repent, don’t care but never have trouble pointing the finger at someone else. Those few have a way of spoiling the good things about being about Christian for others.

At the end of the day, what Eden says rings true: “We pray, we confront in love, and we extend mercy and grace.”

“Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.” James 2:13 MSG

Whatever you’re going through, these words of Christ still hold weight: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

I’d love for you to subscribe to my Patched In Newsletter.  And to say thank you, you’ll receive this exclusive Christmas novella!




A rowdy bar owner. A widowed pastor’s wife. And Christmas Hope that brings them together.
After widower Eden Snow’s church almost burns to the ground, she’s compelled to find a temporary place to hold services and Christmas cantata practices.
Has-been hockey player, Knox Everhart, has a reputation for being fast on the ice and with women. Except Eden. She’s always been a fascinating mystery to him, which is why he agrees to let her use the back room of his bar—with one rule: No converting his customers.
But when Eden brings the church to the bar, it offers something the bottle can’t. Hope. And he finds himself falling in love with a woman and a Savior he feels unworthy to pursue.

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Jessica and I at ACFW a few years ago. This is one of my favorite pictures!
Jessica R. Patch writes inspirational contemporary romance and romantic suspense. A passion to draw women into intimacy with God keeps her motivated, along with ice-cold Perrier and adventurous trips in the name of research. When she’s not hunched over her laptop or teaching the new & growing believer's class at her church, you can find her sneaking off to movies with her husband, embarrassing her daughter in unique ways, dominating her son at board games, and collecting recipes to wonderful dishes she'll probably never cook. She is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Management.

Connect with Jessica on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and her website


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Thank you SO much for being my guest today, Jessica!!

When do you put up your Christmas decorations?

Have a lovely day!

Friday, November 14, 2014

My Ideal Holiday Schedule

Holiday schedules? Already?

Yes! Thanksgiving (for my American friends) is less than two weeks away. And Christmas? Rolls around about four weeks later.

Did this cause panic to rise within you? It did me!



I started thinking about the upcoming festive season, and instead of excitement, I felt a bit of dread. Who wants to dread the holidays? NOT ME!! I realized if I had a solid plan, I'd anticipate everything more.

First, I needed firm dates for all the parties. After talking to both sets of parents, I had a better idea of when we could celebrate Christmas with them all.

My husband and I then had our annual argument--oops! I mean discussion-- about where and when we were celebrating all of these Christmas parties. This year was pretty easy, and knowing the parties were on the schedule took a lot of stress off my shoulders.

I moved on to Thanksgiving and planned the dishes I was making, even purchasing several ingredients on sale while grocery shopping last week. I jotted down a shopping list for the rest.

Once Thanksgiving is over, I plan on putting up our Christmas decorations and making a list of everyone we buy presents for to brainstorm possible presents. This will be done before December 1. After that, I systematically tackle gift shopping, sending cards, and planning food for all the parties.

I don't like shopping, so if my husband and I can buy every gift before December 14, I'll be thrilled!

One thing I refuse to do is focus so much on the preparations that I miss the things I absolutely adore about December. Our zoo has an amazing Christmas light show open every night. I'm hitting that! There are several original Hallmark Christmas movies I'm dying to see. I want to enjoy a hot cup of coffee at the bookstore and browse all the fabulous books. My preschool class will be dressing up for our Sunday School church service, and I'm bursting to see them sing.

So my ideal schedule involves pre-planning, buying gifts ahead of time, and enjoying the things that make the season wonderful.

What does your ideal holiday schedule look like? Take half an hour to brainstorm it and you might be surprised what you learn!

If you haven't signed up for my newsletter, you can do that HERE. I'll be sending out a Christmas newsletter soon! All you need to do is provide your name and email address, and you can unsubscribe at any time!

Have a fantastic day!!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Top 10 Things to Do After Thanksgiving Besides Shopping: Guest Krista Phillips

I'm excited to be hosting special guests for the next several Wednesdays! Please join me in welcoming Krista Phillips!

TOP TEN things to do the day after Thanksgiving BESIDES shopping...



Want some ideas for things to do on Black Friday... that DON'T involve braving the crowds and shopping? Because you KNOW that's not what you want to be doing....

10.) Eat. More. Turkey. Sandwiches.

9.) Read a good book.. or two... or three. (One about, uh, sandwiches, would be a GREAT option!)

8.) Go golfing. Mini-golf is fine. Even golfing on the WII. Or I'm sure they make some golf app for your phone.

7.) Sleep. Turkey does have that effect on people.

6.) Go to the gym. WORK off those calories you just ate! It'll probably take you ALL DAY LONG, but you can do it.

5.) Put up Christmas decorations. Spend hours on a ladder only to find that one bad bulb made your whole string of lights not work. Spend a few more hours trying to find which bulb is bad. This is fun. I promise.

4.) Board games. Lots and lots and lots of board games.

3.) Go to work. I know you'll be the only one there, but think of how much stuff you can get caught up on with no one there bother you.

2.) Go visit Grandma. I know you just visited her yesterday, but hey. She loves seeing her grandkids. Why not two days in a row?

And the number one thing to do the day after Thanksgiving besides shopping is......

Go take coffee (or Hot chocolate…) to your friends who are standing in line to get that deal that really isn't all that great.

Just whatever you do... DON'T GO SHOPPING.

(and, I, uh, definitely don't say this to help make the lines shorter and encourage more people not to shop so I can shop with better ease... nope... not at ALL...*ahem*)

So... what is YOUR after Thanksgiving tradition? Do you have one?

Me? Well, I think you already know. You'll find me shopping! (I'm not a fan of the whole Thanksgiving day thing though... but 4am on Black Friday? I'm THERE! It's a tradition!!)

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About Krista ~

Krista Phillips is the author of Sandwich, with a Side of Romance and A Side of Faith. She enjoys life with her husband and their four beautiful daughters in Tennessee. She is an advocate for congenital heart defect and organ donation awareness and blogs at www.kristaphillips.com.
Connect with Krista on Facebook and Twitter.

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A Side of Faith

He is everything she never wanted...

Rachel Carter is on top of the world. A new job in a new town, friends, and a house to call her own. Men? Eh, someday. And when the time comes, she’ll go for a nice safe geek or something. She will NOT be repeating the mistakes of her youth. 

But then Cameron Foster comes knocking on her door, reminding her of the man she vows never to think of again.

God wouldn’t send her a man who reminds her of everything she is trying to put behind her...would He?

Interested in purchasing A Side of Faith? The following sites are linked! 

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Thank you so much for being my guest today, Krista! I'm definitely planning on reading and getting hot chocolate!

It's giveaway time!! Leave your email address in the comments of this post for your chance to win a copy of BOTH Krista's books, Sandwich with a Side of Romance and her novella, A Side of Faith.

 Contest is open to U.S. residents 18 and older. Winner will be randomly selected from the comments on Saturday, November 15 and  notified via email the following week.

Back to Krista's question:

So... what is YOUR after Thanksgiving tradition? Do you have one?

Have a terrific day!!