Friday, May 31, 2013

14 Blog or Website Essentials for Writers

Over the last five years, I've picked up a slew of information about websites and spent a summer studying essentials of website design. While I've personally designed several websites using point-and-click type software, a code master I am not! But I believe writers CAN maintain a professional web home-base by including fourteen essentials.

Why are the following fourteen details important?

Often I'll see writers commenting on blogs, and I'll click through their profile to check out their blog/website, leave a comment, or e-mail them. I add them to my social networks too.

That's why I'm surprised when I see very basic "musts" (in my humble opinion, at least) overlooked. You'd be shocked at how many writers don't include an e-mail address anywhere on their site. Agents and editors DO occasionally contact authors from websites. I contact writers from their websites. No e-mail? Missed opportunity. With the countless free e-mail services out there, I don't understand why a writer would omit this.

What about failing to engage readers? I've wanted to respond to blogs where comments were either turned off or only allowed by team members. Again, this doesn't make sense to me. If you want readers to connect with you, you have to provide them ways to do this.

Another problem? No spelled out reason for me to be on the site. If you're a writer and you're trying to build a platform, you need to be bold and tell everyone you're a writer and what you write. Don't make them guess!

Here are my fourteen blog/website essentials for writers:

1. A header with your author name and what you write (ex: Pen Name: Author of Historical Fiction)

2. If you blog regularly, a way to subscribe to your RSS feed AND a way to subscribe via e-mail (Thanks, Edie Melson, for reminding me of this in the comments--so true!!)

3.  An e-mail address for readers to contact you

4. A short biography including your name (readers want to connect with an author and they can't connect with a nameless entity)

5. Links to your social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Goodreads, YouTube, etc...)

6. If you blog regularly, allow people to comment.

8. An author photo (should reflect who you are in an appropriate, flattering manner)

7. Visual appeal--include bright photographs to draw the reader's eye in

8. Content relevant to your product (should make people want to buy your books or, if you're not published, come back to your site until you are published)

9. Easy to read fonts, preferably with dark text against a pale background

10. Relevant color scheme (ex: avoid pastels if you write thrillers)

11. Easy, clear navigation between pages

12. A call to action on your home page (ex: "Subscribe to My Newsletter" linked to a sign-up form, or "Purchase Title Here" with the cover, back-cover copy, and links to purchase your latest book)

13. Personable content geared toward readers. Writers need to engage with our audience and we won't do that if we're talking at them, coming across as superior, or boring them with stiff, formal writing.

14. Search engine priority. You want your website/blog to show up on the first page of results in search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing. Ways to accomplish this? Blog regularly, update your website often with new photos and content, pay for web-hosting and purchase your author domain name, etc...)

I could go on and on. If you  have ANY questions about starting a blog, creating a better blog, do-it-yourself websites, web-hosting, social media links, and so forth, please ask. I don't have all the answers, but I've learned a lot over the years and I'm happy to share my opinion.

What do you consider essential for a writers' blog/website?

Have a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cheap Date: The Garden Center

On Sunday my hubby and I went to the fun store in our area--The Andersons--to buy flowers and vegetables. I love days when the sun is shining, we aren't on a deadline, and it's just the two of us. We went in with a plan and a coupon (I love coupons!!). We meandered. Judged the geraniums gorgeous. Ruled the impatiens perfect for our big pots.

After a quick lunch at the Tony Packo's cafĂ© inside, we headed back outdoors and purchased all of our vegetable plants and flowers. Imagine my delight when I saw a mama duck with a dozen fuzzy ducklings waddling next to us. Who knew a duck family lived in the garden center? :)

 Next up we went to Home Depot for their holiday deals on mulch and potting soil. Yes, I had another coupon! Whoop!

It took my husband and I three hours to select and purchase all of our gardening supplies. Best three hours of my week. That's my kind of date. So far, the bunnies haven't eaten my veggie plants, but I'm keeping an eye on them. :)

Do you have an off-the-wall perfect date activity? Please share!

Enjoy your Wednesday!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Writers Fascinate Me

Two weeks ago, I strolled through Barnes & Noble. You'd think this would be a fun outing for me--browsing a bookstore--but I'll be honest, I've struggled with bookstores for three years. Let's just say when I was a kid I spent all of my allowance on books and candy. And let's also just say during this phase of my life, I've been reduced to tears, fervently wiping my eyes in the fiction section too many times. Bookstores symbolize what I want but don't yet have.

Anyway, a pretty cover on a center display table caught my eye. I peered closer. Eloisa James! Paris in Love. I vaguely remembered following her Facebook posts the year she moved to Paris. So I opened it, shifting to let a busy mother whiz by, and scanned a few pages. My adrenaline built like a pop can shaken by a mischievous ten-year-old.

Slapping the book back on the table, I marched all the way through the store back to my car. It's not enough she's a best-selling author--whom I adore!!--now she's flitting around Paris for a year too? Like I said, I knew she moved to Paris--I didn't realize she'd used the experience to write a memoir of sorts.

All the way home I chastised myself for the ridiculous envy permeating my cells. And, not surprisingly, the adrenaline died down, leaving me drained and sad.

Three days later I stood in my local library--thankfully, the library is still my happy place!--and saw the exact book that had set me off. Paris in Love by Eloisa James. This time, I fingered the spine, knowing it wasn't a coincidence. God was telling me something.

The book follows a different format--several essays break up the majority of short Facebook-ish posts. Not everyone will go for the style, but I found it engaging. Ms. James shared intimate details about her children, their struggles fitting into their new schools, her addiction to sweets, the museums, restaurants, and daily life. No longer did I envy--instead, I grew wistful, fascinated.

What would it be like to spend a year touring museums, immersed in a new culture, trying new foods, working on writing projects, and examining life?

Honestly, I have no desire to live in Paris for a year. I'm too much of a home-body. Traveling excites me, but in small doses. This book, like other articles or memoirs about writers, helped me see a bigger world. It helped me see myself bigger in the world.

Are you fascinated with certain people? Athletes? Actresses? Authors? Please share!

Have a lovely weekend! Since Monday is Memorial Day, I'll be back on Wednesday. See you then!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Conditioning. Not Just For Athletes.

My son plays baseball, and this year he's pitching. After the first game he pitched, his shoulder was sore. Naturally, I went online for remedies.

Whenever I go online for a "quick solution" to a problem, I get caught up in tangents. One interesting article might feature a link slightly off-topic that I have to read. Before I knew it, four hours had gone by. Yes, I had options to treat his sore arm, but even better, I found ways to prevent it from happening again. Yay!

What I learned did not surprise me. Baseball players need to condition regularly--almost every day--if they want to improve their skills and avoid injuries. Conditioning doesn't guarantee a pain-free season, but it reduces the odds of soreness, and it improves the player's overall performance.

My son and I came up with a workout plan for days he doesn't have games or practices. It's easy to follow, his arm hasn't hurt since that first game, and his pitching continues to improve.

This is what we do on off days:

1. Walk and jog for thirty minutes. We have a great route that allows us to walk 1.25 miles and jog 0.75 miles.
2. Five minutes of "form" exercises to improve balance and overall accuracy.
3. Play catch for twenty minutes.
4. Once or twice a week, my husband or I will have him pitch twenty to thirty pitches to us.

Why am I willing to give up an hour of my day three-four times a week?

Easy! My son and I now have a regular exercise routine that has a larger purpose.

1. In the past when I said, "hey, let's go exercise," I did not get an enthusiastic, "okay!" in return. But my son actually comes to me now with, "Mom, we need to run and play catch." I don't have to nag about watching too much television or playing video games. He's motivated because he wants to be the best and knows it will improve his performance.

2. I spend hours every day sitting and typing on my computer. I need to get out and exercise! Our jog/walk relieves stress, keeps me in shape, and gives me much-needed fresh air. Tossing the ball forces me to develop muscles I'm sure I've never used. Plus, my eye-hand coordination has improved.

3. Making this a non-negotiable part of our day has helped me organize my time.

4. I've always loved being with my kids, and working out with my tween son is a way we can stay connected. As he grows older, I'll continue to look for ways to spend time with him.

5. It's helped me overcome my childhood fear of getting hit by a ball. Two years ago, I could NOT play catch. I was scared of the ball, didn't understand the mitt concept, and cowered when a ball came my way. But I decided I had to get over that--my husband can't be the only one in our house to play catch with our son. My hubby and son taught me how to throw, how to catch, and toned down their laughter at my pitiful attempts. Just this week I got clipped in the knee by a ball, but I shook it off. I've had several nasty bruises due to failed catching attempts. I do not let that stop me.

My son will continue to train and condition off-season. When you get to a higher level in sports, you can no longer afford to take months off between seasons. He understands that winter means hopping on the treadmill and tossing the ball in our basement. The workouts will be less intense, but they will be regular.

I also condition myself for writing.

Every weekday I do writing related tasks. I either write, revise, plot, or study a book on the writing craft. I do this because I know it will improve my performance.

When you get to a higher level in writing, you can no longer afford to take months off between books. A handful of times a year I'll take a week or two off. Christmas, our summer vacation, when I'm feeling burned out--we all need true vacations. But even if I took a longer period off of writing or revising, I would be reading books in my genre, studying craft books, jotting down and exploring story ideas.

Just like my son conditions for a higher purpose, I keep everything writing-related a top priority in my life so I don't fall into a slump or lose the hard-earned writing muscles I've honed. I want to be my best, and that means consistency, dedication, and focus.

What motivates you? Do you condition for anything in your life?

Have a fabulous Wednesday!!

Monday, May 20, 2013

So Let's Just Say...

So let's just say I'm texting a friend when my dog runs into our glass patio door. Sophie saw a robin and apparently forgot that little problem called glass. I might have muttered, "Dummy," and kept texting on my way to our garage.

We have a refrigerator out there where I keep sodas, beer, bottled waters, and Gatorades. I needed a pop.

I'm texting. Walking. Into the garage. Shut the door.


So let's just say I got locked out of the house. In ugly white socks. No shoes. But I had my cell phone. (Bonus!!)

Ten minutes later, I cracked open my pop, cranked out another text, and entered my house.

You all have imaginations. Let's just say YOU got locked out of your house with no shoes on but with your cell phone in hand. What would you do?

Have a fabulous Monday!!

Friday, May 17, 2013

My Book Review Policy

I love books, just love them! Goodreads helps me keep track of the books I've read, but I'm not just a reader. As a writer, I had to create my own policy for any public reviews I post.

Over the years, I've talked to other authors about publicly reviewing books. Some don't post reviews at all. Some will rate a book but not review it. Others rate and review every book they read, whether they liked the book or not. And some are like me--they rate and review books they love, but don't review books they find so-so or worse.

I pick up a book with the expectation I will like it. I don't read books that don't interest me. If the book was written by a close friend, I may offer to be an influencer for the book, and because it's written by a someone I like, I look forward to reading it.

Posting reviews on sites like Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and can be intimidating to me. I may be bubbly, but I'm always honest. I will not post a review for a book I didn't love. The vast majority of my ratings are four and five stars.

Questions I wrestle with:

1. Will an author be offended if I give her book a four-star rather than a five-star rating?

If I give a book a four-star rating--I loved the book! A small element distracted me from the story--one I try to tactfully address in the review--and prevented me from going full-blown five-stars. A four star review from me is a GREAT REVIEW! If anything major pulled me out of the book, I would give it a three-star or less, and I probably wouldn't post a public review.

2. Do I mark books as read in Goodreads that I personally didn't like even though the writing was stellar?

Since I'm a writer as well as a reader, I do not include books I didn't like on my Goodreads list. One or two of my earliest reviews included two-star ratings of NY Times Bestsellers I was sorely disappointed with, but I no longer even mark those in Goodreads. I try to review every book I read and enjoy, but sometimes, I lack the time and only mark a book as read.

3. What about posting my review on online book retailer sites?

Occasionally I copy my Goodreads review of a book to Amazon and other retailers. But I usually only do this for books I've agreed to influence. Like all of you, I'm busy.

4. What do I owe authors?

If I've offered to influence a book, I owe the author a thorough reading of the book, reviews on various sites if I enjoyed it, and I always help spread the word about it.

Occasionally, I get requests from authors to review their books. I've also won books from blog contests and later been asked by the author to post a review. I do not feel I owe these authors anything.

I find it off-putting to be asked by a casual acquaintance via a Twitter direct message or something similar if "I will do her a favor and review her book." It takes me several hours to read a novel, something I usually have to do in stolen pockets of time. I then analyze what I liked about the story and take more time writing and posting reviews.

Reviews are an investment of my time, and I am selective about what I agree to. If the author is a friend, someone I've met in person, someone I've reached out to because I liked her other books, or someone who writes in my genre, I usually jump at the chance to help her out. But if the author is someone I've only interacted with a few times on Twitter, who writes in a genre I typically don't read, or is self-published and I'm not familiar with her, I will always give a gentle no.

If I have won a book through a blog contest, I will be offended if the author then requests a review for the book. Authors who give away books should not expect anything in return from the winner. Period.

I am an unusual reader. I may own a book for three years before I decide to read it. The library stack of books on my coffee table may appeal to me more than the latest and greatest in my mailbox. Reading is truly a pleasure for me, and I refuse to put rules on it. I have rules for every other aspect of my life. I read what I want, when I want!

5. How can authors be more effective about asking for reviews?

If you're an author trying to get reviews for an upcoming book, don't just throw Twitter direct messages or Facebook posts out to random people. Put a little time and thought into it. Do some research. Check the blogs you're considering to see what genre books are typically featured. If you think your book could be a match, go ahead and send an e-mail to the person along the lines of:

"I enjoy your blog and notice you occasionally host authors and review books. My book, Title Here, is a contemporary romance through Blank Publishing and will be released on Future Date. Would you be interested in reviewing my book? If not, would you consider hosting me around my release date? Please do not feel obligated. My e-mail address is Thank you, Author."

Book reviews are a tricky business. When we publicly post our opinion about a book--even when we loved the book--we risk hurting a fellow author's feelings. I created a policy a few years ago that works for me, and at the end of the day, I stand by my decision.

Do you post public reviews online? Do you have a policy? I'd love to hear it!

Have a terrific weekend!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Things I Miss from My Early Twenties

I know this is shocking, but I'm not in my twenties anymore. *gasp!!* We won't get into actual ages or anything, but if rings in a tree trunk tell the age of the tree, let's just say the lines in my forehead tell the age of me. :)

*cough* Thirty-one. *cough*  Okay. I lied. I'm older than that. And I'm crying about it!!

Age has gifted me with many things--focused ambition, perseverance, a desire to do God's will rather than my own--but it's also taken away some things.

Here are some things I miss from my early twenties.

1. Free time.

I married young, but even with a full-time job, full time classes at the university, and a relentless schedule, I managed to catch a movie here or there, shop just because, and read a book all the way through in one sitting. When I graduated college and only worked a full time job? The whole free time thing really opened up!

2. Free time.

I exercised regularly. Ate what I wanted when I wanted it. Fit a run in at any pocket of time available. My time was my own, and I loved it!

3. Free time.

I've been a stay-at-home mom for years, and I'm letting you in on a little secret--I don't have much free time. It's a choice, yes, one I'm thankful for and blessed with, but I spend every weekday, all day, writing or working on writing-related tasks. Evenings? Sports, homework, meals, any "emergency" that requires a run to the store or a load of laundry. Enough said.

4. Free time.

Back in the good old days, Saturdays meant sleeping in. Sleeping in is one of my favorite things to do. Saturday morning free time is something I really, really miss.

5. Free time.

Visiting our parents didn't require White House levels of planning. We hopped in a car, drove up north on a Friday night, and headed back home on Sunday afternoon. We could because we had free time.

My early twenties were far from perfect. I have some pockets of sadness left over from those days, as we all do. But the one thing I do miss--having time just for me.

This July and August, I will have free time again, and I'm anticipating every second of it!! Yay!!

What is lacking in your life right now? Is it a phase or permanent? Do you need help making peace with it?

Have an amazing Wednesday!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Secret of Beth Vogt's Red Boots

I'm thrilled to have Beth Vogt as my guest today! Beth's new book, Catch a Falling Star just released, and I loved it! My review and information about the book are at the end of this post!

I first met Beth last year at the ACFW Conference. We'd connected online before the conference, and I was excited to meet her. Beth comes across very kind, intelligent, with a touch of sass, so I knew I was going to like her--and, of course, I did!! Beth had the coolest red cowboy boots--which I made many comments about since I'm quirky that way--and I asked her to share the story about her boots here today!

Thanks, Beth!!

These ARE Beth's boots!! Aren't they fab?? Beth shares awesome quotes on her blog and on Pinterest!

Seeing Red
by Beth Vogt

I am the happy owner of a pair of fun, red cowboy boots. But here’s the odd thing: I didn’t wear red until I was in my twenties.

What’s with that?

I can sum up the answer in four words: I am a twin.

Growing up, somehow the color red was allocated to my twin sister Brenda, while I got the color pink. The whole “who got what colors” went further than that: Brenda wore vibrant hues while I wore the pastels. I stayed on my side of the color wheel and Brenda stayed on hers.

I had no intention of ever wearing red because, well, red was my sister’s color. But a good friend insisted I try on a classic red dress one day while we were shopping. Surprise! I loved the dress and I looked good in red.

Here’s the crazy thing: I felt guilty about wearing red because I wasn’t supposed to wear it.

Life is full of explicit do’s and don’ts. Things like:

*  Don’t cross the street without looking both ways.
*  Do say “please” and “thank you.”

But what about the unspoken do’s and don’ts? Things like:
*  Don’t try and be funny – you’re the smart one in the family.
*  Do ignore the elephant in the room – it’s been there for generations.

In real life, it isn’t about the color red – be it a dress or a pair of cowboy boots. It’s about embracing the freedom that is ours. About growing up.

My red cowboy boots? They’re fun – but they also symbolize stepping past the pastels and letting go of who I was supposed to be to become who I want to be.


Catch a Falling Star

What does a girl do when life doesn’t go according to her plan? At thirty-six, Kendall Haynes has seen some of her dreams come true. She’s a family physician helping kids with severe allergies and asthma achieve more fulfilling lives—a childhood struggle she knows all too well. But are Kendall’s dreams of having it all—a career, a husband, children—nothing more than a childhood fantasy? God says He knows the plans He has for her—why can’t Kendall figure them out and be content with her life?

Griffin Walker prefers flying solo—both as an Air Force pilot and in his personal life. But a wrong choice and health problems pulled him out of the cockpit. His attempts to get out of “flying a desk” are complicated by his parents’ death—making Griffin the reluctant guardian of his sixteen-year-old brother, Ian. How did his life get so off course? Can he get his life back on track…or has there been a divine plan all along?

Catch a Falling Star reminds readers that romance isn’t just for twenty-somethings and that sometimes letting go of your “wish I may, wish I might” dreams is the only way to embrace everything God has waiting for you.

My Review (5 Stars!!!)
I laughed out loud four times by the time I reached page five! To say I fell in love with the heroine Kendall would be an understatement.
Beth Vogt writes complicated characters with sparkling wit and an attention to detail. I really enjoyed the story and found the twists of the second half mesmerizing. The romance developed slowly, but I was rooting for Kendall all the way!
With strong characters, heart-clenching twists, and a powerful spiritual base, Catch a Falling Star is a book you won't want to miss!
**I received an advanced reader copy of this book with no obligation to review it. All opinions are my own.**


Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice), though she said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four, though she said she’d never have kids. She’s discovered that God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” Her contemporary romance novel, Wish You Were Here, debuted in May 2012 (Howard Books), and Catch a Falling Star releases May 2013. An established magazine writer and former editor of Connections, the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth is also the Skills Coach for My Book Therapy, the writing community founded by best-selling author Susan May Warren.


Interested in purchasing Catch a Falling Star? Head to Beth's Book's Page for links to online retailers!

What childhood habits/traditions did you bring over to adulthood?

Have a terrific Monday!!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Did Your Project Stall?

It happens to most of us at some point. The book (quilt/scrapbook/you-fill-in-the-blank) we were so excited about stalls. It doesn't happen gradually--it feels as if it does, but it doesn't. No, one day you're working on it, and the're not.

You might love the project. You can imagine the end product. You know it will be wonderful.


You have no desire to work on it. You may even dread it.

Why does this happen?

1. We hit a point in the project where we're uncertain what to do next.

2. We look at the unfinished project through disdainful eyes, only seeing the flaws, forgetting it's the finishing touches that bring it together.

3. The busy-ness of life crowds out the time we reserved to work on it.

4. We get discouraged.

5. We wonder if continuing the project is worth it, and we fail to continue working on it.

6. Someone else completes a similar project with huge success and we compare our project to theirs. Insecurity ensues.

7. It hits us how much work is left. We become overwhelmed.

8. We wait for the mood to strike, but that's like waiting until we "feel" like exercising--it never happens!

What can we do about it?

1. We can take ten minutes to jot down possible next steps.

2. We train ourselves to ignore the flaws and press forward.

3. Do not allow anything to crowd out our project time.

4. When discouraged, give ourselves a pep talk.

5. The project IS worth it.  Finishing a project is its own reward.

6. Never compare!

7. Stop looking at the big picture and focus on what we can do today.

8. There is no muse. Commit. Persevere. Just. Do. It.

What project lurks unfinished in your life? What can you do to get it back on track?

 Have a wonderful weekend!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

$4128.63 in Chicken Thighs?

A baseball mom I'm friends with gave me a great idea last week. We were talking about groceries--I kid you not, this topic excites me!--and she shared how her family does it. They do one big shopping trip a month at a warehouse club like Costco or Sam's, and they fill in each week with a smaller trip for vegetables and such. Fabulous!!

Ever since we moved, I've struggled to get a handle on our grocery bill. I know I can do a better job, but I don't have the time to drive twenty minutes one-way for a cheaper store. Her tip made the bells go off in my head. I decided to give it a try.

I've had a Sam's Club membership for a few years, but it expired two months ago, so I knew I was going to have to pony up for the renewal fee. Also, the staples I buy from Sam's (garbage bags, laundry detergent, toothpaste, etc...) had all depleted. I was going to have to spend over one hundred dollars just on cleaning/beauty items.

I did not let this deter me. A one-time stock-up trip would help us in the long run.

My plan:

- Stock up on all my cleaning/paper product essentials. It makes my life easier and it saves money!
- Inventory my current meat supply. I had plenty of beef, raw chicken tenders, cod, a ham, and a turkey, so I decided to fill in with bacon, chicken thighs, and hot dogs.
- Check the prices of baking supplies. I found the 10 pound bags of sugar and flour were bargains at Sam's, and the canola oil was priced well too.
- Since I had enough pasta and dry goods for the month, I decided to wait until next month to restock.
- Purchase block cheese, the big container of hummus, dairy products, and crackers.

The trip went great. I made notes to myself on the items I knew I could get cheaper elsewhere, and I filled the cart with the rest. By the time I hauled my cart to the check-out line, I was more than ready to get my stuff home.

A nice young man (that sounds like something my grandma would say, "nice young man") rang out my large order. I wrote the check and handed it to him. Then he accidentally pressed "cash" instead of "check." A manager was called.

The manager informed him he needed to retype the entire order.

I cringed, but I felt bad for him and told him it wasn't a big deal and not to worry about it.

As he re-did the order, the manager looked on. He finished up and what do you know? My bill now rang up at over $4000.00!!

Yes, this is my actual bill!!

Trust me--I did not fit that much stuff in my cart!!

The manager found the culprit. Chicken thighs. It's always the chicken thighs. They had come up as $4128.63!

A few minutes later, the bill was correct, and I had the pleasure of unloading my haul. I felt good. I'd avoided a four thousand dollar bill and stocked my pantry!

How do you keep grocery costs down? Have you ever had a surprise in the checkout lane?

Have a terrific day!!

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Icky Too-Productive Syndrome

It might not technically be a syndrome, but I go through periods where I'm too productive. Sounds, weird, I know, but it's true.

I get so wrapped up in meeting goals that my mind is pinging off in sixty directions. I love cooking, but I'll forget to savor the joy of making a good meal. The thought of reading an entire novel in one sitting seems ludicrous. Putter around, listening to music? Who has time for that? And let's not go into the ungroomed eyebrow situation I became aware of in an unfortunate glance in the passenger mirror of my car.


Sometimes I'm too busy. And it's all my fault.

Sure, my kids are in sports. My nights truly are NOT my own. But I could reduce my word goals. I could schedule half an hour a day for nothing. Nothing? Hmm...

Truth is, I feel icky when I'm too busy and too productive. I might be meeting goals, but I have no time or energy for simple things.

Last week I spent thirty minutes every morning just straightening up and doing basic cleaning. It renewed my love for my home. Twice I brought the novel I'm reading to baseball and I read before the game started. Reminded me I can find time for things I love. Yesterday I spent fifteen minutes planning meals and forty-five more reading a magazine. Ahhh....

If you are in that icky too-productive cycle, hop off for a few minutes each day. Get renewed!

What little things do you do to relax?

Have a wonderful day!!

Friday, May 3, 2013

My Author Crush: Becky Wade!!

Last September I picked up a book I'd been hearing about, My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade. Well, I got sucked in--I'm talking Dyson vacuum suction levels--and couldn't put it down! To say I loved it would be a massive understatement. When I finished, I clasped it to my chest, and thought I want to meet this author.

Little did I know, God was listening!

A few weeks later, I perched on my chair in the first-timer's orientation at the 2012 ACFW conference in Dallas. Yeah, I chatted with the fabulous Jon and Tom Hopkins (twins!) a bit, oogled Cara Putman's adorable outfit, and then I drifted off to my own thoughts.

How cool would it be if Becky Wade--the Becky Wade--was here? But what are the odds that I would run into her even if she did show up? I mean, there are like 700 people here. Still...

Cara divided us into groups by genre. I kind of wanted to sprint out of the room, but I figured that would be immature, so I gamely headed to the "contemporary romance" section where one person stood.

And that's when I heard it.
My name.
Southern accent.
It was--Becky Wade!! In the flesh!!

What happened next? I hugged her. Practically jumped up and down. Okay, I did jump up and down. I hugged her again. Maybe once more. I'm sure she felt molested. But I was riding high! I couldn't control myself!!

The best part? She was cool! She didn't give me the weird look or the am-I-dealing-with-a-stalker?  step backward. We chatted. I gushed. And I said a thank you prayer to God for making one of my dreams come true.

Since we've met, Becky has become a huge influence in my life--she answered God's call to a prayer I hadn't been brave enough to utter. I hope I can be half as generous to others as she's been to me.

Becky's second inspirational romance, Undeniably Yours, released this week. I was blessed to receive an advanced reader copy, and her amazing talent did it again. What a superb book! I hope you buy it and like it as much as I did!


 Undeniably Yours

When Meg Cole’s father dies unexpectedly, she becomes the majority shareholder of his oil company and the single inheritor of his fortune. Though Meg is soft-spoken and tenderhearted -- more interested in art than in oil -- she’s forced to return home to Texas and to Whispering Creek Ranch to take up the reins of her father’s empire.

The last thing she has the patience or the sanity to deal with? Her father’s thoroughbred racehorse farm. She gives its manager, Bo Porter, six months to close the place down.
Bo’s determined to resent the woman who’s decided to rob him of his dream. But instead of anger, Meg evokes within him a profound desire to protect. The more time he spends with her, the more he longs to overcome every obstacle that separates them -- her wealth, his unworthiness, her family’s outrage -- and earn the right to love her.
But just when Meg begins to realize that Bo might be the one thing on the ranch worth keeping, their fragile bond is viciously broken by a force from Meg’s past. Can their love, and their belief that God can work through every circumstance, survive?


My Review--5 Stars!!!

Becky Wade delivers another compelling inspirational contemporary romance. She writes such rich, memorable, relatable characters. Meg, the heroine, was sympathetic, funny, and with believable thoughts to contrast her play-by-the rules actions. I could spend a day shopping with Meg, no problem!

The hero, Bo, made me swoon multiple times. I love a rugged cowboy with a protective streak and oozing with integrity. He was fabulous, and he provided Meg with the calm security her money had never been able to give her.

Meg’s spiritual journey tugged at my heart. Even strong Christians underestimate God’s plans for our lives. I really related to the fears, prayers, and decisions the characters had to make.

Fantastic book! I hope we’ll be reading future books based on other characters—I would love to see Jake get his happily-ever-after!

**I received an advanced reader copy of this book with no obligation to review it. All opinions are my own.**

My Favorite Lines (This book is full of them! I have many, many more!) 

"She wanted to drop-kick her Cole Oil job..."

"She didn't personally care for the 'I can kill deer!' decorating style..."

(Meg imagining a horse, Silver Leaf, thinking,) "I have benevolence on you, small human."

About Becky Wade

Becky's a California native who attended Baylor University, met a Texas boy, and settled in Dallas. She published historical romances for the ABA, then put her career on hold for several years to care for her three children. When God called her back to writing, Becky knew He meant for her to turn her attention to Christian fiction. She loves the kind of books she's writing now! Her CBA debut, My Stubborn Heart, has been named a finalist for Romance Writers of America's RITA Award. Her new contemporary romance, Undeniably Yours, is available now.

Undeniably Yours is available for purchase now! Head to Becky Wade's Books for links!

It's the first Friday of the month, so my latest 2 Minute Resolution Webisode is up on YouTube! Click here for My Hall Closet: 2 Minute Resolution!!

Thank you SO much for stopping by! What author do YOU have a crush on?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Enrich Your Faith by Chatting with God

I remember as a child swinging on the swingset in our backyard just singing my heart out.  I would belt out, "I Am Jesus' Little Lamb" over and over, as my legs kicked higher and higher.

I felt like I was flying. I felt like I was loved. I couldn't have been more than six or seven years old.

At that time in life, my prayers usually revolved around praying for my family's safety. I really worried about losing my mom, dad, sister, or--just as bad--one of our beloved pets.

I knew God was with me all the time.

As I grew older, that faith didn't waver, but my prayers changed. Friend troubles brought me to my knees many times, and God came through for me, sometimes immediately, giving me peace in my heart and with my friends. My prayers still tended to be when I needed something or at ritual times, like meals and church, but I still knew God was with me all the time.

It wasn't until about seven or eight years ago that a new concept was introduced to me--chatting with God.

What? Chat with God? Wasn't that a little too...informal? Disrespectful, even?

But the book I'd been reading made a good case for daily conversations with our Lord, and I decided to try it. Even if it made me uneasy.

I brewed some tea, headed to my comfy chair, closed the door, and sat there, paralyzed. How does one go about chatting with the Lord? The Almighty? Maker of heaven and earth?

If I was going to have a chance, I was going to have to throw my intimidation to the side and Just. Do. It.

I did. I told God everything on my mind. How my breakfast probably wasn't very healthy. How I worried that living in a new state would negatively affect our children. I told Him about the writing piece I was working on--and I joked with Him--joked!! Then, it just flowed. I felt comfortable. I felt myself. I felt more than myself--I felt accepted. Loved.

Sitting in my bedroom, sipping tea, and mentally sharing my life--all of it--with God brought me to a peaceful place I hadn't known in years. It was like sitting with the worlds' best friend (probably because I was, duh!) Nothing I said was too intimate. I wasn't judged. In fact, I felt precious, better, special.

Every weekday I had "chat-time" with God, until we moved again. I kept up with it for a while, but you know how life is. My comfy chair didn't make the move. The time I always reserved? Was spent carpooling. My soul missed our daily chats, until I found a new routine--a routine that included chatting with God.

Over the years, I find I spend time all day bringing my life to Him. I ask questions, I consult Him, I listen, and yes, I hear answers. For a long time I questioned that--could I really trust that the Holy Spirit was syncing with my spirit to give me answers? Yes. When in doubt, I pray, and I believe I'm always divinely guided.

Chatting with God continues to bring me peace even in difficult circumstances. When you truly believe that everything works for the good of those who love Him, it's easier to get through the dry spells and the tough times.

God wants us to talk to Him. He flat out tells us in Matthew 7:7 (NIV), "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

Psalm 34:4 (NIV) "I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears."

The Bible is filled with references urging us to ask God, seek Him, pray to God.

Never be intimidated to chat with Him. May your faith be enriched! Blessings to you!

Do you have a close relationship with the Lord, one where you're comfortable chatting with Him?

Have a wonderful Wednesday!