I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Friday, December 4, 2020

"My Vocation is Love"

...so said St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897), French Catholic Discalced Carmelite nun who is also known as "The Little Flower."

Years ago when I learned about her, my life changed. Her existence on earth was short and small, in that she was not famous or revered. She was devoted to Jesus and lived out that love in a fellowship of fellow nuns that was not necessarily as harmonious or life-giving as it sounds. Living in a fellowship with other human beings isn't without conflict, of course.

She was often cold and hungry. She suffered terribly before dying.

But God used her writings and her love for Him and others to inspire, comfort, and bless millions around the world.

In these difficult days of Covid-19, which for me have included high anxiety and at times even anger, the Lord has been drawing me back to Thérèse. To her reminder that "the world's thy ship, not thy home." 

To the call for my vocation to love. Not to judge or be righteously upset at others' judgment, not to be vexed or resent others' vexations, but to love. 

I haven't been doing very well with that, I confess. This season of Covid has revealed ugliness in our society, in our hearts, in our world. People say things from behind the safety of a keyboard or a phone screen that they wouldn't say to another person's face. I'm not saying that sometimes lines shouldn't be drawn in the sand: the Lord shows us that it is sometimes necessary to cut off, cast away, tear down and rebuild.

But I've seen lines drawn that do nothing but drive others away from the Gospel, and I confess I've been saddened and angry.

These are strange days indeed, but God's call hasn't changed. To follow His commandments. To serve Him and others. To do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with Him. To love.

I'm thankful for the example of Thérèse, and for the Lord using her to give me the gentle nudge to seek Him and live in His love first and foremost.

Draw me, we will run...To ask to be drawn is to will intimate union with the object which holds the heart captive. If fire and iron were gifted with reason, and that the latter said to the fire: "Draw me," would not this prove that it desired to become identified with the fire even so far as to share its substance? Well, that is exactly my prayer. I beg of Jesus to draw me into the flames of His Love, to unite me so closely to Himself that He may live and act in me. I feel that the more the fire of love inflames my heart, the more I shall say: "Draw me," the more also will the souls who draw near to mine run swiftly in the fragrant odors of the Well-Beloved.

Story of A Soul, Chapter XI

Thursday, October 1, 2020

For Writers: Get to Know Your Characters

Today's post is for writers, rather than readers.

Lately, I've received a lot of questions about how I sketch out characters. Online, you can find a lot of character questionnaires to help get to know the imaginary friends who live in our heads. My version is below.

Before you start, though, I suggest you answer three essential questions about your main character(s): what does he or she want? Why do they want it? What is stopping them?

Right there, you've answered your character's primary GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. Each main character should start the story wanting something, for a particular reason that is rooted in the core of their being (perhaps related to their core wound), but has a problem getting it. And in a romance, the hero and heroine's goals often clash.

For example, in A Future For His Twins, the hero Tom and heroine Faith both want to rent the same historic property. Both have good reasons. Neither is a villain. But they can't both get what they want. Someone is going to win, and someone is going to lose...but when Tom's twins get involved, Tom and Faith's original goals evolve, with greater stakes.

Let me know if you give this a try!

Character Basics:

Full Name:
Birthday and age:
Parents’ names:
Siblings’ names, ages:
Eye, hair color, height:
Best physical feature:
Worst feature:
Clothing style:
Favorite place to be alone:
Favorite food:

Digging Deeper:

Goal at beginning of story:
Why do they want it (motivation):
What’s stopping it (conflict):
External Conflict with Hero/heroine:
Core wound:
Core need:
Lie they believe (I’m not worthy of/don’t believe in love because…):
Deepest, secret dream:
Biggest flaw:
Best part of personality:
Came to faith when/how:
Who most influenced character and when:

Friday, September 4, 2020

Love's Pure Light Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Love's Pure Light: A Christmas Novella Collection, we're giving away a prize basket to one lucky reader! The winner will receive a Willow Tree 6-piece Nativity, a $30 Amazon gift card, and a paperback copy of Love's Pure Light--a total value of $135!

To enter: click here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/3b7783451/?

This giveaway is not affiliated with Amazon, Facebook, or Instagram. We're sorry, but due to high shipping costs, this giveaway is only open to U.S. residents.

About Love's Pure Light:

Four stories follow a treasured family nativity set through four generations of the Shepherd family.

While Shepherds Watch Are Keeping by Susanne Dietze
Massachusetts, 1899
This Christmas, Pastor Seth Shepherd has little to offer his flock of congregants in their time of need until Jessalyn Grant, a mysterious newcomer, comes to his aid.

The Wise Guy and the Star by Shannon McNear
Charleston, South Carolina, to Kansas City, Missouri, 1919
While journeying by train, Stella Shepherd befriends war veteran Nat Wise. She helps him find renewed faith in God, but could he also be the answer to the wanderings of her own heart?

On Angel Wings by Janine Rosche
Kansas City, Missouri, 1945
Elodie Wise plans a fundraising ball with the help of her friend Benjamin Gabriel. But can she look past the swanky Hollywood headliner to see the man who truly loves her?

Making Room at the Inn by Deborah Raney
Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Present Day
Benjie Gabriel thinks the chef’s position she’s just taken at an award-winning bed and breakfast is temporary—just a stepping stone. The B&B’s owner, Trevor Keye, thinks the same. Will five months be long enough for them to figure out that what they’ve each been longing for, praying for, is right beneath their noses?

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

A Short Word of Encouragement

If you need encouragement today, I pray you remember that God is holding you in His hands--hands that are gentle yet mighty. Hands that reached out for you, hands that rescued you, hands that bear your name on the palms (Isaiah 49:16).
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God is here. With us. Now. And He's not going anywhere.

I'm taking a short break from social media as I work to meet a deadline (Kellan and Paige's story!), but my hope is to also take some time to be still and focus on God. The past few months have been difficult for all of us, heartbreaking in many ways. I have been discouraged, sad, and anxious at times, especially in the face of a lack of unity, but I know is that God is at work in our hearts and lives and in the world He created. I am encouraged even as I am discouraged. I am comforted even as I am sad. I am hopeful even as I have been anxious. I am grateful, and one of the things I am grateful for is you.

In my little break, I plan to take some time to truly seek Him and rest in His majesty. I pray you are well and stay safe. See you soon!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

99 Cent Sale!

Hurry! Limited time only on Kindle! Just eleven cents per story. Click here!

Includes my story In for a Penny

1894 – Philadelphia, PA
Banking heiress Penelope Beale is pushed by her status-conscious parents to marry a lofty English lord, but she’s drawn instead to a lowly art historian who shares her passion for service—Emmett Retford, the lord’s younger brother.

Friday, June 12, 2020

What are you Reading During Quarantine?

Any day of the week, I love escaping into a good bit of fiction. During these days of social distancing and isolation?

I'm like Cookie Monster, but with books.
Cookie Monster Avatar | Nonprofit Organizations | Flickr

Then again, maybe I'm like that with cookies, too. But I digress.

Here's what I'm reading right now:

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After enduring an unexpected test to her sleuthing skills in Edinburgh, American Heather Munro looks forward to attending a restful family wedding in County Cork, Ireland. But delight turns to dilemma when the bride’s ex-fiancé shows up pleading for a second chance…then dies under mysterious circumstances.

Heather’s travel itinerary didn’t include snooping through family secrets or being caught up in international politics, but she can’t stand by when a rush to judgment derails the upcoming nuptials and points the blame at an innocent man. An outsider in the stunning harbor town of Cobh, her determined search for answers is thwarted at every turn. But Heather has never been one to give up, and she’ll do all she can to get the wedding back on track and the murderer behind bars before he or she strikes again. Even at the risk of her own life.

Inspired by the famous Girl Detective, the members of the Olentangy Heights Girls' Detective Society, affectionately known as the Nosy Parkers, spent their formative years studying criminology, codes, and capers. Opportunities to practice their unique skills were thin in their little corner of post-war suburbia, so they eventually grew up to pursue more sensible careers. Yet mysteries seem to follow them wherever they go.


I, Holiday Brown, have it all. A platinum record. Multi-million dollar home in Manhattan that I share with my two best friends. Life is looking fantastic until my roommate’s brother decides to bunk in our guestroom while his house gets renovated.

W. Emmett Bell has always been the bane of my existence. He’s annoying, stubborn, a know it all, and just might be the most gorgeous man I’ve ever laid eyes on. But I refuse to fall for him. But when his sister’s threatened by a stalker, dynamics change. His unwavering faith isn’t quite as self-righteous as I’d always thought, and maybe he has a good side I’ve overlooked all these years.

Or maybe it’s all too much trouble.

The Trouble With Love is the first book in the Christian Chick Lit series: Faith & Fortune.


Asking for forgiveness is the hardest part…

She once trusted him with her heart…but will she ever trust him with the truth?

With only two weeks to renovate her family’s Colorado B and B, struggling single mom Addie Ricci can’t turn away help. Especially not when it’s her handsome high school sweetheart, Evan Hawke, who’s offering to pitch in. As they repair the B and B, Addie and Evan also begin rebuilding their relationship…until a secret from their past threatens to bring it all crashing down.

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Am I Wasting Quarantine?

This weekend I read an article on the Dayspring website ("Don't Waste Your Quarantine" by Ryan Perkins). It's excellent--read it here--and it's a strong reminder to be more of a Mary than a Martha in this time of isolation, to spend time with the Lord and draw closer to Him.
Bible Open To Psalm 118
Public Domain
I had a lot of ideas about how I would spend this time of isolation with my family. In fact, I wrote a blog post about my intentions. I would pray, write letters, clean out my office, indulge in self care, get creative with meals, do crafts, and so forth. And yes, spend more time with the Lord.

In other words, I'd decided not to waste my quarantine.

It's now been a full month since my kids came home, and almost that long since my state went into "Stay at home" mode. I have prayed, I have written a few letters, I have cooked weird meals using what I have in the cupboard, and I have written a book proposal which was turned in on time. A few times, I've sat in the sun to read and absorb Vitamin D. I've cleaned some things, but--

My home office and closet are still cluttered messes.

I haven't done all that much self-care. Or a single craft project (unless you count trying to make no-sew masks).

And most of all, I have not spent the amount of time with the Lord I've wanted to. Needed to.

The reason for this is as simple as it is complicated: life is messy. Quarantine has created a host of new activities, sources of stress, and distractions that have altered the way we function around here.

Maybe you can relate to one or more of these changes/challenges:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Adjustment/clutter due to four people working at home
  • Kids experiencing stress, grief, and struggle. Graduation and the celebrations surrounding it? Not happening. Job interviews, plans with friends, rites of passage, expectations, relationships? Truncated abruptly. Each of my kids handles these things differently. How do we help our kids right now? This is not a simple, one-paragraph answer. It takes a lot of prayer, time, hope, and support.
  • Increased planning, creativity, and energy when it comes to food shopping for our family as well as for extended family
  • Rationing certain foods
  • Loneliness
  • A cycle of discouragement, since I feel like there's a very big shoe about to drop. I'm not sure what that shoe looks like: is it my family getting sick? Is it someone I know dying? And then I sometimes go through guilt/self-condemnation for my fears: I should be trusting God more.

Can you relate to any of these? How are you coping?

I am not a model for coping like a champ, obviously, but one thing I tell my kids is this life we are living is not normal.

Some people react to grief--which is what we're all feeling, to some degree--by being active, busy, and in constant motion. Others require more rest and are exhausted by the need to heal.

We do not need to have all the answers right now. God is with us, before us, beside us, and around us. 

Another thing we're trying to do? Look for blessings. It's not easy to find these on the news feeds of our phones, but the world is still blossoming and God is still at work in many, many ways.

In closing, here are a few blessings in my life:
  • Our neighbor's newborn baby. We visited with him--keeping proper social distance--on the porch yesterday! Little hiccups, little toes, little fingers, big wide eyes. 
  • Zoom. It's not the same as being together in person but it's better than nothing! I'm proud of my parents for learning how to do it and getting together with a group of friends once a week!
  • Everyone sewing masks for strangers! Every act of kindness and love I hear of! Every word of encouragement I hear on the radio, TV, or in a song!
  • Time with my kids.
  • Birdsong, flowers blooming, blue sky. God's creation is beautiful.
  • The resources we have to engage with the Lord. Books! Internet! Other's words of encouragement!
Thanks for bearing with me, if you read this far. I'm praying for you in this odd, scary time.