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.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Enter to win!

To celebrate the Book Birthday of Victorian Christmas Brides, I'm offering a giveaway!

Faced with the daily extremes of gluttony and want in the Victorian Era, nine women seek to create the perfect Christmas celebrations. But will expectations and pride cause them to overlook imperfect men who offer true love?

Includes my story, Star of Wonder: 

This Yuletide, Bennet Hett, Viscount Harwood, offers Lady Celeste Sidwell matrimony and the Star of Wonder diamond necklace, as their fathers arranged. When the diamond disappears, will they find a greater treasure?

A Christmas sponge with a star (for Star of Wonder!), Meltaways bath candies, exfoliating Gingerbread Soap, a Re-Generation Moisturizing sheet masque, a bookmark, and a copy of the book!
Hurry! Giveaway ends soon!

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Take Control of Your Writing

When writing fiction, sometimes it seems the author has little to no control: before we're published, it can be a challenge to get noticed, or receive the contest scores we think we might deserve.

Once we're published, a whole new host of issues crops up. We may feel stuck or pressured to write a better book than the last one. We can receive bad reviews. Or our books might not be priced well or carried in major chain stores (or not make it to the shelves on release day). Also, the market can  change so rapidly, an author can struggle to keep up. 

Wherever you are in your writing journey, there can be a sense of helplessness about writing, but the truth is, we do have considerable control . The key is to focus on what you can control.

  • Finishing manuscripts. Some authors work on a single novel for years, striving to get it to the place where it's publishable. While polishing and editing are valuable and admirable, I suggest that we keep trying new things. Editors will sometimes contract books that aren't perfect, knowing they can help shape the story. With each new book, we hone our skills. Which takes me to the next point:
  • Growing and Learning! Attend conferences and workshops. Read books, articles, and blog posts on the craft.  Follow agents, editors, and writing groups on Social Media. Yes, the market does change, sometimes rapidly, so determine how to keep abreast of new preferences. Joining a national chapter can be an invaluable resource in these areas.
  • Choosing Your Why. You alone can answer this question. Why are you writing? What is it you need to say, and how is God calling you to use this gift? How do you see success differing in God's eyes, compared to the world's eyes? When you answer that question, you have a purpose for your goal of writing, and it can help you stay on track.
  • Stop Worrying About Everyone Else! By this, I don't mean to ignore other authors' work--not at all! But stop comparing yourself to others who are more or less successful than you are. You are on your own journey. They are on theirs. Focus on You, Your Writing, Your Why.
  • Reading! Read the genre you want to publish. Read outside of your genre. Reading molds our writing. Keep at it!
These won't guarantee success, of course, but they can help us take control of our journeys and feel as if we do indeed have power. 

And those things over which we have no or little control? One last thing:

  • Talk to your agent or a mentor (don't have a mentor? Try a writing conference and ask someone experienced to share some insight!). Rely on others for advice and support. 
But some things, alas, are totally out of the author's control. Learn from each situation as best you can, handle it with integrity, and let it go...into the Lord's hands.

What other suggestions would you add to the list?

Monday, August 6, 2018

Shaking Things Up!

This has been a season of "shake-ups" in my life, in several ways!

  • In my house, I'm working hard to purge all of the stuff that's accumulated over the years. We've been in our house for a full decade now, longer than anywhere we've lived in our marriage. When we moved in, we were in a rush: we moved in on a Thursday and the kids started school Monday, which meant we shoved a lot of things somewhere...anywhere...fast. Ten years later, some of those things haven't seen daylight! But I've also got extra incentive to clean:
  • We need new flooring! Long story I won't bore you with, but the inexpensive original flooring in most of our house is toast. We've decided to bite the bullet and replace it, which means everything will have to come up off the floor at some point. Which means I have a lot of stuff to get rid of before that day arrives!
  • "Streamlining" might be a theme with me. You may have noticed the blog has changed in appearance: new colors and a simpler look. It reflects a few things: a change in my writing as I'm trying new genres, and a shift in me, too. I don't have a new motto, but if I did, it might be to Choose Simplicity. Hopefully the blog is easier to read now and a little more updated.
  • I'll continue to tweak the blog, and I'm also revamping all of my social media branding, including my website! But first, I really need to...
  • Finish a contracted novella. Currently, it's my only contract! For a few years now, there has not been a day where I didn't have a contract to fill. That's all changed. It's been a good time to re-evaluate, think, and try new things.

How about you? What's new in your life? Do you have clutter to deal with in your house or your life? If so, I encourage you as we walk this path together!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Ten Tips for Aspiring Authors

A quick google search will turn up all sorts of tips for how to get published. Here are ten tips that were either shared with me or that I learned along the way.
  1. Join a writing group, like American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, or another group tailored to your particular genre. The resources are innumerable. Joining groups allowed me to learn the industry, improve my craft, attend national conferences, and perhaps most important, make friends!
  2. Join a Critique Group. Peer groups are priceless, and critique relationships are essential. I don't know a single author who doesn't have a peer critique partner (or several!) if not a group.
  3. Be Teachable. Learn from others with more experience, and study areas where you know you need to grow. There are several ways to do this: attending workshops on craft or aspects of the writing business; reading blog posts, articles, and books on writing; and allowing your work to receive constructive criticism. That leads to my next point...
  4. Enter Contests. When I started writing, I had no idea what strangers thought of my writing. The best way I knew to get unbiased feedback was to enter writing contests for unpublished romance writers. The first results I received were not great, I'll be honest with you. But I kept at it. Then in 2008, I was shocked to be a finalist in the Faith Hope & Love Touched by Love Contest. Just as valuable as that final? The feedback I received. I entered more contests, and sometimes the criticism was painful--but most of the time, I felt the judge was right and I learned from it. I also learned what I was doing right. That sort of info is gold.
  5. Develop a thicker skin. Some of the constructive criticism doesn't always feel "constructive." It can feel rotten. Most judges are experienced with judging all kinds of stories fairly, honestly, and as objectively as possible, but...sometimes the feedback feels personal. Or is delivered tersely or downright cruelly (I've heard stories!). As one fellow writer told me, we have to learn how to separate the meat from the bones. Take what you can from all feedback and discard the rest. It's your story.
  6. Keep Writing. This sounds like a no-brainer, but we need to write daily (or almost daily) for several reasons: we can't sell a book if we never finish one. Also, daily writing helps us improve our craft and get into a routine.
  7. Do your research on your targeted publisher(s). Unless you're planning to self-publish, consider who you're writing for, not just in terms of audience but also in terms of editors/publishers. Most traditional and indie publishers have guidelines for what they will and will not receive, in what format, at what word count, etc. Write to the guidelines. 
  8. Keep reading! Read the genre you're writing. Read books outside of your genre, too! Iron sharpens iron, and reading published authors improves our writing.
  9. Have a presence on social media. True, this has nothing to do with writing, but in our day and age, an online presence is mandatory. Agents and editors often wish to look up a prospective author to see how they interact with readers, whether or not they're professional in their conduct, etc. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, blogging, you name it--you don't have to do them all, but find a few that work for you and stick to those!
  10. Keep Going! Start and finish stories...plural intended! Most authors I know did not publish their first novel...at least not at first. Their second, third, or thirteenth novels are what sold them. Yes, thirteenth. Persistence is key. So is the ability to set the dream of one story aside and start on a new one. And a new one after that. Nothing is ever wasted, so don't mourn when something doesn't get published. You don't know what God has in store for it. Want proof? It happened to me, with The Reluctant Guardian.
What about you? What would you add to this list?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

ACFW New Releases for July, 2018

Contemporary Romance:

A Widow’s Hope by Vannetta Chapman — After tragedy claimed her husband’s life and her son’s ability to walk, Hannah King doesn’t want a new man. She has her family, a home and mounting debts. Scarred Amish bachelor Jacob Schrock offers Hannah the job she desperately needs. But while Hannah helps Jacob resolve his accounting issues, can she and her little boy also heal his wounded heart? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Firestorm by Laura V. Hilton — Bridget Behr can’t shake the guilt that it was her fault her family moved—and is too afraid to trust anyone, especially the flirtatious, overly-friendly Amish man who lives next door. Just as Bridget is finally settling into friendship, a new life, and maybe even love, a devastating forest fire ravages the county, destroying both land and the Behrs’ dreams. Now Bridget and her family must decide: will they leave behind the ashes and start anew in another Amish community? Or will they dare to fight for the future they’d hoped for in Mackinac County? (Contemporary Romance from Whitaker House)
General Contemporary:

Ride to the Altar by Linda W. Yezak — Cattle are dying on the Circle Bar, putting the Texas ranch in financial jeopardy. Newly engaged Patricia Talbert and Talon Carlson must root out the cause before they can concentrate on wedding plans—which involves Patricia’s traveling to New York to patch things up with her domineering mother. While she is away, Talon discovers that the attacks on the ranch are connected to the murder of his first fiancĂ©e over eight years ago. Before they can move forward together, each have to resolve the past. Will they be able to start their new life with a clean slate? (General Contemporary from Canopy Books of Texas)
General Historical:
My Heart Belongs in Galveston, Texas by Kathleen Y’Barbo — Dodging bullets takes a simple missing person case to a new level as Jonah Cahill, a Pinkerton agent, and Madeline Latour, an investigative reporter, form a tentative truce in Galveston, Texas, 1880. Are they on to a much bigger story when their best witness is suddenly kidnapped? (General Historical from Barbour Publishing)
Historical Mystery:

The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright — Two women, separated by a hundred years, must uncover the secrets within the borders of their own town before it’s too late and they lose their future–or their very souls. (Historical Mystery from Bethany House [Baker])
Historical Romance:

This Freedom Journey by Misty M. Beller — Adrien Lockman left France to finally live life on his own terms, but when he discovers a half-starved and half-frozen woman in the treacherous Canadian mountains, the truth soon becomes clear—the only way they’ll survive is together. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)
The Widow’s Plight by Mary Davis — After moving to a new town and joining a quilting circle, a single mother steps out of the shadows of abuse and into the sunshine. But will a secret clouding her past cost her the man she loves? (Historical Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)
River to Redemption by Ann H. Gabhart — Orphaned during an early 19th century cholera epidemic and helped by a slave to find a new home, Adria Starr must now stand up for his freedom—and maybe find her own in the process. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])
A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano — A young heiress is suddenly the poorest wealthy woman in all of England when her father dies without telling anyone where he put his money. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

Shifting Sands by Elizabeth Ludwig — A mysterious key hidden in the depths of an ancient lighthouse unlocks family secrets hidden for generations. (Cozy Mystery from Guideposts Publications)
Guarded Prognosis by Richard L. Mabry — At first Dr. Caden Taggart feared for his freedom, then for his ability to cope, and eventually he feared for his life. (Medical Mystery, Independently Published)
Romantic Suspense:
Darkwater Secrets by Robin Caroll — When Adelaide Fountaine, the general manager of a hotel in New Orleans, finds the body of a guest who was stabbed with a kitchen knife, her childhood friend Detective Beau Savoie is shocked to discover a connection between his friend–the woman he’s quietly loved for years—and the murdered guest. But Beau can’t press Adelaide too hard . . . because he’s keeping secrets of his own. Can Adelaide and Beau afford to hide from the truth with a killer on the loose? (Romantic Suspense from Gilead Publishing)
Camp Hope by Sara L. Foust — Facing dehydration, starvation, and a convoluted kidnapper, will Amy succeed in recovering her precious foster daughter or get lost in a vast wilderness forever? (Romantic Suspense from Mantle Rock Publishing)
Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey — Seven years ago, operative Luke Gallagher vanished to join an elite team of terrorist hunters. Private investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving or looking for Luke after he disappeared. But she also never imagined he left her or his life by choice. Now he’s back, asking her help to stop America’s newest terrorist threat—an attack that would shake the country to its core. Together they must navigate secrets, lies, and betrayal, all while on the brink of a biological disaster. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next mark? (Romantic Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])
Young Adult:
Launch by Jason C. Joyner — Teens with special abilities are invited to an exclusive conference where tech billionaire Simon Mazor is looking for those who can help him influence the world. (Young Adult from Little Lamb Books)

Monday, June 25, 2018

Three Little Matchmakers is a Finalist!

I'm thrilled to announce "Three Little Matchmakers," my novella from the Regency Brides Collection, is a finalist in the Romance Writers of America Faith Hope & Love's 2018 Reader's Choice Award!

I'm honored beyond words. Thank you, Readers!

Oh, and one more thing? The other finalists, stories by Becky Wade and Amanda Barratt, are wonderful. And Amanda's story is also from the Regency Brides Collection!!! Isn't that fabulous!

Congratulations to all of the finalists!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Selah Award Winner...My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho!

This is such a huge honor! I'm blown away. The other finalists are amazing books (check them out!). Thanks to everyone who prayed for me or helped me when I wrote it; thanks to Tamela Murray and the team at Barbour; thanks to my patient family who listened to me talk about my imaginary friends Ulysses, Madge, Tad, Ted and Rebecca...and thanks to everyone who's read the book. My heart is full.