Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why I'm Excited to Pay Taxes

I recently received a 1099 from my literary agency. I practically skipped back to the house! For years tax time has been something I dread, and not for the usual reasons.

My husband and I pay to have our taxes done. We sit down and get all our paperwork laid out. Find the receipts. We answer the questions. And I get sad because I don't contribute financially to our household. Yes, I contribute in countless other ways, but on tax day, I feel like a failure.

Three years ago I asked the professional about deducting my writing expenses. She didn't recommend it. With no income from my writing, it would increase our chances of being audited. I was okay with that.

Two years ago, I didn't even ask. I still earned nothing, and I sat there with a sadness in my heart that I'd been working so hard for years with no money to show for it.

Last year, I earned a small amount for a short story. Finally, I could deduct my business expenses!


The man helping us raised his eyebrows at my tiny check. He barely looked at my tidy list of expenses, shook his head and said, "Writing is your hobby, right? I mean, you have a full time job."

I clenched my jaw, my chest burning. "No, writing is my job. I write full time."

And I could see it--the pity or wow-you-must-not-be-very-good flash in his eyes before he dismissed me. "If you don't make more income than your expenses, the IRS will consider it a hobby."

I cried all the way home.

I wasn't crying because he was rude (well, partly so), but because I'd poured years and years of work into something that held no value to anyone but me. In fact, it cost our family for me to spend all that time trying to get published.

Not everyone incurs the same costs, but every writer pays something.

Here is what I paid:

- Time. I could have gotten a full-time job and earned a second income, which would have helped our family tremendously.

- Money. I've paid thousands of dollars in equipment, membership dues, office supplies, conference costs, postage, website hosting and other expenses.

- Hobbies. I gave up most of my free time to pursue this dream. I have busy kids, I manage our household, and I write full time. For me to have time-consuming hobbies, I would have to write less, make my kids give up extracurricular activities they enjoy, or let our house slide.

So this year, ripping open that tax form was validating beyond words. I don't have to sit through another tax session feeling inferior. I don't have to hear the word "hobby" again. Because finally, finally I get to pay taxes for doing what I love!

What have you given up for a dream? 

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Year Philosophy: Do! Craft! Share! Guest Johnnie Alexander

Today we have a special guest blogger, Johnnie Alexander, author of Where Treasure Hides, and she's sharing a lovely message I'm taking to heart. Join me in welcoming Johnnie!


New Year Philosophy: Do! Craft! Share!

In the weeks approaching January 1st, everyone seemed to be talking about resolutions, goals, and choosing “one word.” Blog posts, loop emails, Facebook updates, and conversations abounded with shoulds and shouldn’ts, advice and encouragement, plans and intentions.

So, like many of you, I made my resolution (more water, more motion), set my goal (5000 words a week till I type “The End” on my manuscript), and chose my word (a symbol actually, an acorn, which signifies potential, possibility, hope, and stability).

But this year, thanks to an answer to prayer, I’m also choosing to embrace a philosophy.

The date is Wednesday, December 17th. My faded green sweatshirt is zipped against the morning’s chill as I watch water gush from the hose into a watering tank. The alpacas are behind me, comfortably grazing from a large mound of hay, and assorted chickens scratch in the dirt and squawk at each other.

It’s a great time for praying, and I’m thinking ahead to this blog post. What can I say that’s new to those who may be weary of resolutions, goals, and seeking that one word for the year?
An hour later, snug in the kitchen and eating my cereal, I read a Joy to the (Writer’s) World! by literary agent Karen Ball. These words grip my heart:

“Too often, we writers get so tangled in all the “must dos” that we lose sight of what’s really important:
  • Doing the task God has given us
  • Crafting words steeped in His truth and spirit
  • Sharing the message He’s given us with a weary, terrified world . . .”

Wise words.

And an answered prayer.

After all, Karen’s advice is timeless, and it isn’t only for writers.

It’s for teachers and salespeople, hardworking moms and dads, those who work with their hands, and those who sit behind a desk.

Whatever our calling, our profession, our career, our ministry, we can do the task we have been given, craft whatever we do so that the One who gives us our gifts and talents is glorified, and share with those who need what we have to offer.

This year, I encourage you to keep your resolutions, achieve your goals, and focus on that significant one-word.

But I also encourage you to join me in embracing this simple philosophy:

Do! Craft! Share!

{A special thanks to Karen Ball for touching my heart with her words and for her gracious permission to use them in this post.}

Johnnie, I couldn't agree more! It's easy to get caught up in a crazy I-should-be-doing-this phase. I have a card on my bulletin board that says, "I Write For God." It reminds me not to worry about sales and social media and the perfect book. Thanks so much for being my guest today, Johnnie!


Where Treasure Hides ~

Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life. Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow. As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?

Where Treasure Hides is currently available as an ebook. The print edition releases August 2015.

Interested in purchasing Where Treasure Hides? Go to Amazon (linked).


About Johnnie ~

Johnnie Alexander is the author of Where Treasure Hides which won the ACFW Genesis Contest (2011 Historical Fiction). The first of her three contemporary romances, tentatively titled Into a Spacious Place, releases from Revell in January 2016.

She also has won the Best Novel and Best Writer awards at the Florida Christian Writers Conference and is a 2012 Bronze Medalist in the My Book Therapy Frasier Contest.

A graduate of Rollins College (Orlando) with a Master of Liberal Studies degree, Johnnie lives in the Memphis area with a small herd of alpacas, her dogs Rugby and Skye, and assorted other animals. Visit Johnnie’s Blog, Facebook  and Twitter.


Do you get caught up worrying about things you should do?

Have a terrific day!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Pardon My Mess

All January I've been working on a new website. I'm starting the transfer process this week, and most of my current website will be disabled. My blog will still be functioning on Wednesday when I have a terrific guest lined up, so be sure to stop by then!

It feels good to "clean" my cyber home. I cleaned out our hall closet, my bedroom closet and my entire office recently too.

Do you get hit by the organizing bug this time of year?

Thank you! Hope you're having a wonderful January so far!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dreaming of a White Christmas: Guest Marion Ueckermann

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



For eight months, hubby and I had been planning a trip to Budapest and Finland to visit my son, Kyle, and his wife, Tiia. I’d finally have a white Christmas and experience the flipside of the location of my novelette, Helsinki Sunrise, which takes place during a Finnish summer. We’d have snowball fights, build snowmen, and experience Christmas the Finnish way. How different this would all be to the mid-summer South African Christmases. You can therefore imagine my disappointment when Kyle sent this photograph two days before our departure.

What? No snow? I quickly changed the tune I’d been singing from I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas to Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow. “Don’t panic,” I told myself, “first stop is Budapest—there’s still a week before we get to Finland.”

After six fun-filled days in Budapest, we flew to Helsinki, arriving at midnight. Little snow could be seen. Only a tiny patch here and there. Sigh…

As Finland was having a ‘warm’ winter with temperatures only just below freezing and not way below freezing, Tiia decided we’d go directly to Lapland, home of Santa Claus, and spend a few days there before heading back south to her parents for Christmas and New Year.

We had barely reached the outskirts of Helsinki when snowflakes began to fall. It snowed the entire ten hour journey to Lapland. By the time we reached our cottage in the middle of nowhere, we had SNOW! Thick, glorious snow!

Lapland was fabulous. We were introduced to Glögi—a warm, spiced, fruity drink. One word—yummy! We took walks in the snow and managed to make a snowman, even though the snow wasn’t snowman-making snow. But we knew little then about the different textures of snow. There were times, though, when I doubted the white shapes on the ground would become a snowman—they looked more like some anemic form of African art. With the help of a pot of water, it all came together, and we had a snowman which we named Olaf. Yes, I know, not very original, but my grandson had to relate.

We had hoped to see the Northern Lights while in Lapland, but weren’t that fortunate. We did see another Christmas skies phenomenon, although this one hadn’t taken to the heavens yet. When a friend saw this photograph on my Facebook banner, she said, “…you look like a little girl who can't believe she’s meeting Santa.” To be honest, I actually felt like that, and at fifty-four, it was still a great feeling.

With my Santa list delivered direct to the man in red, and the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and touch of Christmas filling our senses, we couldn’t wait to experience a Finnish Christmas with Tiia’s family in Lehtimäki, about halfway between Santa’s hometown, Rovaneimi, in the north and Helsinki in the south.

When December dawns in South Africa, our fake Christmas tree is dusted, clipped together and decorated; Christmas stockings are hung; and the front door’s adorned with the beautiful wreath we’d bought over a decade ago in Ireland. However, except for the abundance of outdoor Christmas lights hanging on houses, trees, bushes…anywhere…everywhere…sparkling against the snow, it didn’t look anything like Christmas indoors when we arrived in Lehtimäki and it was already December 21.

Two days later, while out walking in the snow and on the frozen lake with Tiia’s family, her dad pointed out a small tree growing close to the river near their house. Excited, he said something unintelligible to us.

“Our Christmas tree for this year,” Tiia translated. “We’ll cut it down later.”

Noel and I couldn’t wait. Neither could Kyle. He was so anxious for us to experience the new culture he’d married into.

Noel and Kyle were given the honor of cutting the tree. It stood outside overnight and was placed on its stand in the lounge the next day—Christmas Eve. Then the decorating began and we all added a little. Despite the fact it seemed such a small tree when rooted in the snow, I was surprised when the top touched the roof.

Christmas dinner was big, like at home, except where we always cook turkey and gammon, in Finland we had the biggest leg of cooked ham I’d ever seen. But, families are big in Finland. There must have been at least twenty-four with children for Christmas dinner (and that didn’t include all the family).

After dinner we sat in the lounge beside the tree and sang songs while Kyle played the saxophone. Tiia’s father then gave a short sermon in Finnish, translated by his daughters for the non-Finnish speakers (and that included some other sons-in-law, too). One of the teens read the Christmas story from the Bible—a Finnish tradition. After all the gifts were opened, a lot of which were home-made (a tradition we really liked), each person had to tell what they’d received and from whom.

We will definitely implement a lot of new things to Christmas 2015.

Our first white Christmas was one that will stay in our memories forever. But as much as we had so many awesome experiences in Finland and Budapest, two of my favorites were:

  • opening the box of author order only print copies of my first novelette, Helsinki Sunrise, that I had delivered to Finland so I could give a copy to each of Tiia’s siblings and her parents for Christmas gifts (after all, it’s my son and their daughter/sister on the cover); 

  • and being greeted at the airport by these two little faces when we returned to South Africa.

What are some of your favorite Christmas memories?


Marion, I loved reading of your experience in Finland! I'm used to snow at Christmas, but when we don't get it, it's always a bit sad. I'm sure the traditions and special time you spent with Kyle and Tiia's family will stay in your heart forever. Congratulations on your new release and thank you for being my guest!!


Helsinki Sunrise ~

He needed the island to himself. So did she.

Three weeks alone at a friend’s summer cottage on a Finnish lake to fast and pray. That was Adam Carter's plan. But sometimes plans go awry.

On an impromptu trip to her family's secluded summer cottage, the last thing Eveliina Mikkola expected to find was a missionary from the other side of the world—in her sauna.

Determined to stay, Eveliina will do whatever it takes—from shortcrust pastry to shorts—to send the man of God packing. This island’s too small for them both.

Adam Carter, however, is not about to leave.

Will he be able to resist her temptations?

Can she withstand his prayers?


Helsinki Sunrise is available to purchase from Pelican Book Group,, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Watch the Helsinki Sunrise book trailer on YouTube.
Watch the Passport to Romance book trailer on YouTube.

About Marion ~

Marion Ueckermann’s passion for writing was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then she has published devotional articles and stories in Winners, The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter (Tyndale House Publishers), Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven, and her debut novelette, Helsinki Sunrise (White Rose Publishing, a Pelican Book Group imprint, Passport to Romance series). Her second Passport to Romance, Oslo Overtures, will be published in 2015.

Marion blogs for International Christian Fiction Writers and Beauty for Ashes. She belongs to Christian Writers of South Africa and American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in Pretoria East, South Africa in an empty nest with her husband and their crazy black Scottie, Wally.

Connect with Marion Ueckermann: Website / Amazon / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest

Permission to use images obtained.

 I always love reading about how other people celebrate holidays. Let's go back to Marion's question--

What are some of your favorite memories?

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Weekend Resolutions Die

For years I made resolutions each January. I had big goals, and I had plenty of them! One I made over and over was to get healthier. I would make a detailed outline of exactly how I would lose weight, fit better in my jeans and glow with health.

In 2000, I followed Marilu Henner's plan for a solid three months. Talk about difficult! It was so restrictive--it exhausted me. I never did get that clear skin and unstoppable energy she raved about. In fact, I'd say it was the worst I'd felt in years.

I've counted calories, tried various workouts and enjoyed the burst of hope each time I started a new plan. But eventually, the health kick motivation faded, and I returned to my old habits. Often it faded in one week.

Yes, this weekend, the second in January, is the weekend resolutions will die. Mine did many times.

I stopped making grandiose resolutions seven years ago. I was tired. Tired of getting my hopes up only to fail. And I looked at myself in the mirror and realized I was in pretty good shape anyhow. I've always stayed active even without a master plan. I'm not at the weight I want to be, but I'm not setting  myself up to fail anymore.

In December a few friends and I started drinking lots of water. Some of us drink a gallon a day. I aim for 3 liters, which is 3/4 of a gallon. I figure ONE good habit is doable. Believe it or not, I feel better drinking all that water, and it pushed me to exercise more often.

It's fine to improve my life as long as I don't fall into the trap of perfection. Flat abs are nice but not necessary for happiness. We need to enjoy each day as much as possible, whatever our weight!

Did you make a resolution this year? Do you see yourself continuing after this weekend?

Stay warm out there!!

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Writer's Life: Patricia Johns

Welcome to another edition of Writer's Life, my interview series with authors of inspirational romance. Today, I'm hosting the lovely and super-talented Patricia Johns!! Patricia and I are Facebook buddies, and I'm thrilled to be her Love Inspired buddy now too! Her new book, The Rancher's City Girl, released January 1! Congratulations, Patricia!

Let's get to it!

1. What about writing makes your heart sing?

I love spinning tales! I'm the kind of person who can make a story out of a trip to the grocery store, so storytelling has always been a part of my makeup. But sitting down and writing a story from scratch, that's pure bliss!

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

Right now, my biggest hurdle is keeping myself to a daily schedule. I promised my family that I would write during my business hours, and then be there for them during evenings and weekends. I've been very good about it, and my family loves it, but it's not easy. It's hard to be disciplined in NOT writing during down time.

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

I read. It's a treat to sit down with a murder mystery or a historical novel about the Tudors.

4. What are you working on now?

Right now, I'm plotting a historical series that I'd like to pitch to my editor next. It's taking a lot of research and thought, but I think this one is going to be my best so far!


The schedule is always a problem, isn't it, Patricia? I made the same promise to my family. It's difficult to keep sometimes...unless I'm writing the first fifty pages of a new book--those are really challenging for me. Then I'm glad to have the no-nights-or-weekends rule! Haha! Murder mysteries? Perfect! I started reading Agatha Christie novels last year, and I am hooked. They're a fun escape from my daily romance fix. Speaking of fixes...ooh-la-la, love your cover!


The Rancher's City Girl ~

When Cory Stone discovers the father he never met is gravely ill, he brings the ornery man to his Montana ranch, along with his round-the-clock nurse. Once again Cory finds himself falling for the wrong woman—a city slicker, like the ex-fiancée who broke his heart. But in Eloise LeBlanc, Cory also finds a kindred spirit. The caring beauty knows firsthand about love and loss. Neither of them is looking for a new romance, and Cory certainly isn't searching for love. But can the independent city girl heal the heart of a broken cowboy?


About Patricia ~

Patricia Johns began her writing career with a degree in English Literature and a tiny apartment in a bad part of town. She took her starving artist days seriously and quit her sensible full time job in favor of part time gigs, much to her parents' horror. It paid off, however, with her first published novel. That was more than ten years ago, and in the meantime, she has written several novels in other genres, but has always longed to write Harlequin romance. Her dream came true with her first release in July, 2013. This is her second Love Inspired release, with a third scheduled to come out in May 2015.

You can find her on Facebook, where she's always thrilled to meet up with other book lovers. You can also find her on her blog, where she posts about her life and the romances she concocts:


Thank you so much for being my guest today, Patricia!

Since it's the first week of January and we're talking about the woes of the daily schedule, please share your best tip for time management!

Have a great day!

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Monday, January 5, 2015

One Word for 2015

This is the first time in years I've gotten through the holidays and felt energized and excited. We had almost a week of downtime at home, and it made a huge difference in my attitude. I'm more than ready to tackle my to-do list this January! But first, I'm sharing my one word for the year.

This is my fourth year of praying for one word. In mid-December I began praying for God to lead me to a word to focus on in 2015. Within a short time one started flashing to me, but I didn't fully trust it, so I prayed off and on for another week. That word wouldn't go away!

My previous words were Peace, Trust, and Dream. I was a little scared of the word "victory." What if I got my hopes up too much and relied on victories that God never intended? Or what if it made me feel entitled? Self-absorbed? Arrogant?

Don't get me wrong, I didn't want to hear "struggle" as my word! We all have enough of that, don't we?. :) But hearing a good word can be just as daunting.

I always search for a Bible passage to memorize and cling to throughout the year. The one I found gave me reassurance.

1 Corinthians 15:57 "But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Once I read it, my worries disappeared. All of our victories are through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What a wonderful truth. Everything we do and have are through Jesus. These simple words took a load off my shoulders. One of my goals in 2015 is to continue the practice of reading two chapters of the Bible each morning before prayer. It centers me, reassures me, keeps my anxieties at a lower level. If I go too many days in a row without this time with the Lord, I get nervous and twitchy. It's not good.

If you're starting the new year on empty with a list of goals a mile long, I urge you to rest a few hours, or an entire day, if possible. I needed a few days away from the daily grind. It refreshed me in the best possible way.

Have you ever tried focusing on one word for the year? 

If you'd like to try it, spend time in prayer and try not to be in a hurry. It usually takes me more than a week until I'm certain of my word. 

Happy 2015!!

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