Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Writer's Life: Jennifer Shirk

Welcome to another edition of Writer's Life! Every Wednesday will feature a romance writer of inspirational or sweet romance novels. I'm excited to share some of my favorite authors and hope you'll find new books for your to-be-read pile!

Today I'm blessed to host Jennifer Shirk. Jennifer writes Fun, Feel-Good Romantic Fiction. I adore her writing voice. Funny, heart-warming, and super romantic--her books will leave you smiling for days. Her latest release, Fiancé by Fate, released last week from Entangled Publishing's Bliss line! 

Let's get to it!

1.  What about writing makes your heart sing?

The very end—when it's all polished up and I feel I'm completely sick of the book and think it's complete and utter garbage. Then… I re-read it and I actually laugh or smile at what I wrote and think, "I wrote this? It's good!" LOL  And I get a rush of pleasure/accomplishment. I wish I could bottle that feeling.

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

Literally, edits. I'm on my THIRD round with my editor! Ugh.
However, if you're talking big picture, I'd say a big hurdle I'm facing is the definition of sweet romance and how I exactly fit into it. I used to think sweet romance automatically meant clean romance but that isn't the case anymore. So, sometimes readers are looking for more from me than I'm comfortable giving. Therefore, sweet romance readers think I'm too "G" rated and perhaps Christian readers feel I'm too "PG". I feel in limbo and I'm not sure where I fit anymore.

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

Read! And read diversely.
And just putting my feet up and relaxing so my mind can drift helps too. J

4.  What are you working on now?

The second book in the series to Fiancé by Fate.  Right now it's tentatively titled: Wedding Date for Hire and will feature Sabrina's friend, Maddie. Then I hope to write a Christmas novella and maybe start a YA novel. Whew!


I wish I could bottle that feeling, too, Jennifer! It's wonderful, that feeling of accomplishment. I've noticed sweet romances are getting quite a bit more spicy. In fact, all romances in the last seven or eight years are heating up. It's a challenge to stay true to yourself and please readers, that's for sure. I love your books! And I'm always a sucker for a series, so it's good to hear you're giving Maddie her story. 


Their fake relationship is a twist of fate.

Sabrina Cassidy believes in fate. So when her fiance breaks off their engagement, she's convinced they'll get back together eventually. But fate was not on her side when it brought Jack Brenner into her life--and work. Frustrating, gorgeous, and cocky, Jack has an offer that Sabrina can't refuse. Not if it means getting the life she's always imagined.

Despite being one of the town's most eligible bachelors, Jack has a reputation that's working against him. He has to convince his father--and his company's board--that he's ready to settle down if he wants a promotion. 

But convincing Sabrina to be his fake girlfriend turns out to be the easiest part. What he didn't count on was their intense attraction and how easily their lie would escalate. Sabrina's still hung up on her ex, and Jack will never settle down.

But fate has other ideas...


About Jennifer ~

Jennifer Shirk has a bachelor degree in pharmacy-which has in NO WAY at all helped her with her writing career. But she likes to point it out, since it shows romantic-at-hearts come in all shapes, sizes, and mind-numbing educations.
She writes sweet romantic comedies and won third place in the RWA 2006 NYC's Kathryn Hayes Love and Laughter Contest with her book, The Role of a Lifetime. Recently, her novel SUNNY DAYS FOR SAM won the 2013 Golden Quill Published Authors Contest for Best Traditional Romance.

She's also a board member for Straight Ahead Ministries, an organization involved in helping spread the gospel and aiding medical and pharmacy students in Russia. She resides in a beach resort in NJ, and when she's not involved in all the above, she's taking care of her most treasured possessions: her husband, daughter, guinea pig (Rocco), puppy (Sox) and four hermit crabs.


Guess what?? Jennifer is giving away a copy of  Fiancé by Fate!! Enter BELOW!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

What do you think? Are romance novels, even sweet ones, getting too spicy? 

Have a terrific day!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hooray for My Niece!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a reception for my niece's senior art show. She's graduating from college with a degree in art education next weekend. I remember how she fell in love with making ceramics in her high school art classes. It was no surprise she continued building her skills in ceramics. Her exhibit this weekend featured nature-based sculptures.

Intricate buds and flowers ordained each piece, many sculpted like hollowed out logs. Delicate but substantial, dark faded to light--they represented the balance of fragility and toughness found in nature. I was very impressed.

I'm kicking myself for not bringing my camera. I'd love for you to see the black, white, and gray creations for yourself! She's also an incredible cake decorator. Amazing!!

Congratulations to my sweet niece! Praying for God's blessings as she enters a new phase of life.

What did you do this weekend? 

Have a fabulous Monday!

Friday, April 25, 2014

That Kind of Day

It's been a busy, busy week. I sat down to write my blog post--I really wanted to take a nap, make dinner, or read instead--and spent a solid forty-five minutes writing about winter and bugs. There were even links!! And when I tried to get fancy by finding a picture of a tree damaged by the emerald ash borer, guess what? The picture deleted my entire post!!

Did I cry?

No. I'm a big girl.

But I wanted to. :(

So you do not get to read about how the polar vortex may have wiped out large populations of the emerald ash borer in the upper Midwest ( has a great article on the topic). You will miss out on the fact that mosquitoes are likely to be around this summer and as annoying as ever.

You're sad about this. I can tell.

But, dinner must be made, so this post is what you get. BTW, we're having enchiladas. Mmm...

Anything frustrating you this week? Please share!

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Writer's Life: Katie Ganshert

Welcome to "Writer's Life," my new interview series! Every Wednesday will feature a romance writer of inspirational or sweet romance novels. I'm excited to share some of my favorite authors and hope you'll find new books for your to-be-read pile!

We're kicking things off with Katie Ganshert! Katie is an inspiration to me. She's beautiful inside and out, an amazing writer, a Christy Award finalist, a Carol Award winner, and a tireless advocate for international adoption. Her new inspirational romance novel, A Broken Kind of Beautiful, is already gaining terrific reviews!

Let's get to it!

1. What about writing makes your heart sing?

Oh, lots of things! When I get into that euphoric “zone” where the words are flowing and the story is coming together and God reveals something extra special about a character or a scene or the theme that adds an extra layer of depth to the story. I also love the spark of a new idea. And of course, writing “the end” is always a magical, heart-singing moment.

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

Oh, man—that’s hard to pin down. I feel like it changes daily. J I think obscurity is always a hurdle authors will face, at least those authors who haven’t yet reached the “best seller” status. I also feel like, on this side of heaven, I will always struggle with comparison—which is a particularly strong temptation among writerly circles. Another hurdle is myself. Insecurity, doubt, discontent….those sorts of things that most of us deal with on a daily basis (or is that just me?).

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

The biggest thing that fills my creative well is spending time in worship—whether that’s digging into the Word, or getting on my knees in prayer, or listening to worship music. That usually does the trick. I also love going on walks, reading a great book, and spending time away from the computer with my family.

4. What are you working on now?

Right now I just finished my fourth novel, which isn’t currently titled (releasing February, 2015). I turned it into my editor and will be receiving edits soon-ish. I’ve been busy with marketing and publicity type stuff for the release of A Broken Kind of Beautiful. Releases are super fun, but they are always a bit of a whirlwind. As soon as things calm down, I hope to do a lot of reading and playing around with a young adult trilogy I’m working on.  


Katie, there's nothing quite like finishing a story, is there? You are definitely not alone on the doubt, insecurity hurdle--what writer doesn't struggle with all those feelings? I know I do! Your spring is busy, busy, but I hope you'll be able to dive back into the YA trilogy soon!



Sometimes everything you ever learned about yourself is wrong.
Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four year old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she’s learned a sacred truth—appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows—so when it starts to unravel, she’ll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother’s bridal wear line—an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white.

If only her tenuous future didn’t rest in the hands of Davis Knight, her mysterious new photographer. Not only did he walk away from the kind of success Ivy longs for to work maintenance at a local church, he treats her differently than any man ever has. Somehow, Davis sees through the façade she works so hard to maintain. He, along with a cast of other characters, challenges everything Ivy has come to believe about beauty and worth. Is it possible that God sees her—a woman stained and broken by the world—yet wants her still?


Christy Award finalist and Carol Award winner, Katie Ganshert, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in education, and worked as a fifth grade teacher for several years before staying home to write full-time. She was born and raised in the Midwest, where she lives with her husband, their young son, and their goofy black lab, Bubba. When she’s not busy writing or playing or reading or snuggling, she is obsessing over the paperwork and the waiting that comes with adoption. You can learn more about Katie and her books by visiting her website or author Facebook page.


Do you have any questions for Katie? 

(Thank you, Katie, for being my guest today!!)

Have a lovely day!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Have a Blessed Easter

One of my favorite songs right now is "I Am" by Crowder. Since today is Good Friday, I thought I'd share it with you. Here's the acoustic version.

God's love never changes, and He is always here for us even when we feel alone. May you be blessed this Easter weekend!!

Any new music speaking to you lately?

(I've been unearthing some oldies from Janet Jackson and Rascal Flatts lately. Good times!)

Have a wonderful Easter!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Introducing a New Interview Series!

If there's one thing I love, it's romance novels. And coffee. And chocolate. And... Well, I love a lot of things, but romance is up there! I've been blessed to meet many of my favorite authors, and I'd like for you to get to know them too. What better way to do that than by starting a new interview series??

Starting next week, each Wednesday I'll be featuring the "Writer's Life" series. Expect an exciting line up of inspirational romance authors (historical, contemporary, and suspense), and authors of sweet romance, with an occasional wild card thrown in. 

Because I like to keep things simple, the questions will be the same. Many of the authors have graciously offered to give away a copy of their latest book! Yay!!

I hope you'll find some new-to-you authors to add to your favorites list. I know I've found many a book from online recommendations. :)

We're kicking things off on April 23, 2014 with the fabulous Katie Ganshert! Hope you'll join us!!

What have you read recently? Would you recommend it?

Have a terrific day!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring, Sports, and Sweat

Gorgeous weather in April? Yes, the weekend was marvelous, windy but warm. Birds sang, daffodils waved, and bunnies darted about in our backyard.

Since summer and *gasp* shorts are right around the corner, I added jogging to my exercise routine. I say routine lightly because it's more random than an actual schedule. It depends on the weather, the day, who needs to be where when, and if I'm exhausted or not. I power-walked and jogged twice this week. Not great, but something. :)

Last week kicked off both my kids' spring sports seasons. My daughter runs track, and the first meet was Tuesday night. At home games, I usually volunteer, and I was on stopwatch duty. Let me tell you, timing to place is a lot harder than timing a lane. It stressed me out!

I had to time the fourth place runner, which means trying to figure out the fourth person who crosses the finish line. The 100-mile dash? Horrifying! All the runners cross the line together. But the other volunteer parents made the event fun, and I got through the three hour meet with only one mistake and my lower back in knots.

My son's first baseball game was Saturday. The team we played had a big opening day ceremony for their program. They had the Toledo Mudhens mascot, Muddy, come out to throw the first pitch, someone sang the national anthem, and they introduced all of the players on each team for all four fields. We had a terrific time!

If you're a sports mom, you know the mom-jitters a new season brings. I always enjoy week two a bit more than week one, and by the last game of the season, I'm more than ready for a break. Being gone up to four nights a week and every other weekend gets hectic. Sometimes I hope for thunderstorms so we can have a normal night at home. That's terrible but it's true!

How was your weekend? Does it feel like spring where you live? Our temperatures are going to drop to the high forties, low fifties the rest of the week, so I'll be back in my sweaters. 

Have a terrific day!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Disturbing Headlines

Way to wake up to head-scratching news, right?

Two headlines bothered me today. The first was from the Washington Post, "Social Security, Treasury Target Tax-Payers for Their Parents' Decades-Old Debts," by Marc Fisher. The article describes how the United States Treasury is confiscating tax refunds to pay for alleged overpayment of social security benefits to the recipient's parents from decades before. Apparently, this has been going on for about three-years, ever since a tiny provision in the farm bill overturned the ten-year statute of limitations on old debts to the government.

According to the article, the government has no proof of these overpayments, hasn't followed its own protocol for contacting the parties involved, and there seems to be little recourse for someone who is targeted. Read the post (linked above) for a more complete overview.

Are we now a nation who holds children responsible for their parents (supposed) debts? I find this disturbing.

The other headline that sent shivers over my skin? Again, from the Washington Post, "The Heartbleed Situation Just Got a Lot Worse,"  by Brian Fung.

A massive breach of our private data? Hooray.

Let's see, I have about fifty accounts with passwords. Yesterday, I read advice urging people to change ALL their passwords and to not use the same one twice. Um, sure. I'll just create fifty unique, strong passwords. Not to mention, some of my accounts are linked, meaning if I change one password, some features automatically get disabled.

The Heartbleed situation is making my heart bleed. Ugh.

What headlines grabbed you this week?

Have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Signs I Need to Get Out More

When I'm working hard on a manuscript, I tend to spend too much time alone, wa-a-ay too much time alone. How do I know? There are signs.

1. My thoughts go in only three directions. Food, schedule, manuscript. Nothing else comes to mind. I couldn't have a conversation about something other than dinner, my kids, or writing, to save my life.

2. I spend less time on my appearance. Yeah, we all know vanity can be a bad thing, but when I'm wearing sweat pants, running a brush through my hair, and calling it good, guess what? It's not good. It's bad.

3. Driving three minutes to the grocery store seems like too much work. Seriously, when I'm not willing to make a lousy three minute drive, I know I've been cooped up too long!

4. Eavesdropping reveals I'm out of touch. When I haven't heard of the movie the ladies in front of me are discussing? Yikes.

I'm sure I could add twenty more things to this list!

How do you know you need to get out more? 

Have a wonderful day!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rainy Days are Good Days

Last Thursday around 11am ~

Raindrops splash against the pavement, compose a drum solo against the roof of my car. I'm in the high school parking lot, waiting for my daughter to finish track practice. I've called my mom, texted a friend, and sketched out my plan for the day. Stan Getz plays mellow jazz on my stereo.

Although a dozen to-do's clamor for top billing in my head, I tune them out. There's something lovely about a wet, early spring day, and the way brown and gray branches contrast with the drippy white of the sky.

I imagine steaming mugs of coffee or tea, cozy blankets, cracks of laughter with  my sister. A fluffy cat on my lap, the latest Karen Witemeyer novel in my hand.

But I'm in a parking lot, and I don't mind. I'll spend a focused hour later to catch up on my revisions. My son will go laser-tagging with a bunch of buddies, and I'll drive my daughter to the mall. We've been cooped up all spring break, and we're eager to escape.

For now, I relax into the music, watch the rain, and breathe.

Do rainy days speak to your soul? 

Have an amazing Monday!

Friday, April 4, 2014

What's New with Jill: April Vlog

It's the April 2014 webisode of What's New with Jill!

(Spoiler Alert: not a whole lot! Ha!)

I'd love to hear what's new with you, so please leave a comment to fill me in!


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

To Diagram or Not to Diagram

Nothing halts my typing fingers faster than the words "sentence diagram." Sure, I diagrammed sentences ages ago when I was in school, but as an adult? Never.

Combing through my manuscript for the seventh time unearthed poor grammar choices, so when I came across the term "sentence diagram" in a magazine article, I figured I'd Google it.

Guess what showed up in a search? "Famous Novels' First Sentences Mapped: Infographic" created by Pop Chart Lab, shared by Colin Lecher via I loved reading the first lines of several famous novels in diagram form. Some are short, others long, but all made me smile.

Then I checked out the Basics of Reed-Kellogg diagrams via the University of Texas at Austin's website. Clear instructions. Straightforward. I decided I could handle diagramming a few sentences on my own.

But then I got lazy and wrote this blog post instead. Maybe I'll diagram a sentence or two of my novel, but I probably won't!

Do you shy away from exercises like diagramming sentences? Or do you jump right on the challenge?

Happy Wednesday!