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 historical 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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

You've Got This!

My husband and I are on Day 26 of an exercise/eating program, and we've had pretty good results.
One of the things that makes it work?

In my opinion, it's our mutual encouragement.

Even though the fitness instructor on the screen spouts words of motivation and inspiration ("Pain is temporary but quitting lasts forever!" and "I'm proud of you!"), it's the words my husband and I share that make the biggest difference.

"You've got this."

"You're doing great."

"Nice work."

It really helps having a buddy, a partner in the room who won't let you cheat, who tells you you're all right, who keeps you going. We do that for each other, and we've both acknowledged how much it helps.

We all need encouragement. Babies learning to walk or feed themselves. Toddlers practicing ABCs and holding pencils. Kids learning to ride bikes or...in my house...drive a car. Tender words, enthusiasm, joy, celebration. While we are pretty good about encouraging our kids, we forget we all need it.

Adults don't often get it, though. Not from bosses, and sometimes not from family, friends, or even spouses. And if you think writers have big egos because of the positive reviews we sometimes receive, think again. It's those bad ones that stick in our minds!

Remember Barnabas from Acts, whose name means "Son of Encouragement"? What a gift he must have been to the early Church and those around him. Few people are naturally so encouraging, but I suppose that means the rest of us have to work on it a little bit.

And as we all know, you can never guess what pain someone else is living through. Just because we can't see it, suffering lingers in every human heart.

So today, I'm going to encourage someone. The cashier at the store, a writing buddy, and my family.

When I achieve something that's been a struggle, I'm going to congratulate myself, too--for sticking with it, even if the results aren't what I'd hoped.

And whatever you're going through, remember God is with you in it. He's strong and you can rely on that strength. You're a precious person. You've got this.

Monday, September 21, 2015

ACFW '15 in Pictures

I had so much fun at the American Christian Fiction Writers' Conference in Dallas, TX, Sept. 17-20. I made new friends, caught up with old ones, talked to my agent, pitched to editors, worked on craft in workshops, and brainstormed new ideas. (One thing I did little of: sleep!)

Here are some of my highlights:

My name badge had a new tag this year: AUTHOR!

I worked hard to earn that tag!
I roomed with Anita Mae Draper. She and I have novellas in the upcoming Austen in Austin collection!

Debra E. Marvin put our heads together to come up with an Edwardian gown for Thursday night's genre dinner. I bought the fabric and she came up with THIS:

Deb is a master! I felt like a princess!
For the first time, I could add something to the goodie table as a published author. I put out Bachelor postcards as well as Austen in Austin ones.
Can't wait for this book to come out in January!

Friday six of the Inkwell Inkies caught up for coffee, and a group of us met for dinner.
L-R: Anita Mae Draper, DeAnna Dodson (aka Julianna Deering), me, Jen AlLee, Lisa Richardson, and Debra Marvin
We took up two tables at dinner! I sat with Cynthia Hickey, Gina Welborn, Jen AlLee, and Lisa Richardson
I met some great people. Who knew Mary deMuth and I would have such excellent taste in clothes?
Or me and my Bachelor collection co-contributor, Erica Vetch, for that matter?

Black and white stripes with red accents!
Kathleen Y'Barbo and I were not dressed alike, alas, but it was nevertheless fabulous to meet my Bachelor collection co-contributor.

Other Bachelor authors were there, too. Cindy Hickey and Gina Welborn are so much fun.

Love these gals!
Vanetta Chapman is a doll. Such a sweet lady. Meeting her was a highlight!

She signed my book! Squee!
At the Gala, we celebrated the best of Christian fiction. This was a time to dress up, eat a sumptuous feast of filet and salmon, and enjoy one another's company.

L-R: Lisa Richardson, Patty Smith Hall, Anita Mae Draper, Cynthia Hickey, Bonnie Calhoun, Gina Welborn, me and Debra Marvin, 

Here I am with my agent, Tamela Hancock Murray.

So much fun! Now I get the privilege of going through my notes, implementing what I learned, and getting down to the business of writing. I'm working on something fun I can't wait to tell you about!

But first...I think I need a nap. I bet other conference attendees feel the same way.

I'm back from ACFW!

Arrived home late last night. Oh, what a fun conference! I can't wait to tell you all about it. For now, I've got some photos up on Inkwell Inspirations, but I'll share lots more here tomorrow...after a little nap.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Prepping for ACFW: What to Pack

Wednesday I'm hopping on a plane (well, a few planes) and heading to Dallas for the American Christian Fiction Writer's Conference!

I've been packing/listing what to pack for a week now. If this is your first time going, you may be wondering how much to take. Here's what I've learned from experience; I hope it's helpful.

What to take in your tote bag/big purse?

You'll no doubt carry a bag around with you . When considering what to take, start Early.
  • Order business cards and any other printed promotional items early. Remember your business cards advertise your industry, which is YOU. Your card should include your name, tagline, and website information. Mine also includes a photo of me, my twitter handle, and my agent's contact info. If you do not have an agent, be sure to include your email address.
  • All of us need one-sheets. I use Vistaprint to print my one-sheets of my proposals for my editor pitches, but you can print something up on your computer easy-peasy.
  • Do you have a book to promote? You can leave small giveaways to share with others in the Goody Room or, at ACFW, on the Goody Table--and in your bag.
  • Bring something to keep business cards in--yours and the ones you receive. I put the ones I receive in a zipper pocket of my portfolio. Later, if a card is super important (ie has an editor's contact info on it), I take photos of it with my phone.
  • Prepare a one-sheet cheat-sheet for pitches, but memorize your elevator pitch. Also think about your why your story might be a good fit for a publishing company, your target audience, and any other pertinent details about your story.
  •  Charge the battery in your camera. You'll want to take pictures of friends and your favorite authors!
  • Snacks. Otherwise you'll stand in a huge line at the hotel Starbucks. Even when meals are included, they may not be to your taste/dietary restrictions. It's always safest to have a protein bar at the ready.
  • Sanitizer, lotion, etc that is unscented--this is a rule at ACFW.
  • $1 bills to tip with. There are a lot of people to tip: maids, airport shuttle drivers, cabbies, etc.
  • Something to take notes with--your laptop or a notepad. If you forget a pen, don't worry. There will be one or two (thousand) in the goody room. ;)

What to wear? 

  • Business casual clothes. To some, this means denim; to others, it means suit. You want to be comfortable, clean and neat. I take jeans for "off-campus" trips, but at the conference, I tend to wear pants, blouse, blazer or sweater, and flats. Sigh--no Uggs. I've also heard an agent say she follows the "no toes" rule: shoes should have covered toes.
  • I turn into a Garanimal. I pick clothes in the same color family so if something happens to one pair of pants, the world doesn't end. Hopefully, I also pack less clothes this way.
  • Flat shoes (as I mentioned earlier). Heels are great for the gala, but unless you're the type of person who is fine wearing heels all day long, bring along some nice, comfy flats.
  • A shawl. I learned the hard way  that the conference rooms can be cold. My 3/4 sleeve sweaters weren't warm enough and I ended up buying a black shawl in the gift shop when I already had one at home. A shawl is nice because you can shove it into your bag, and if you can use it as a pillow on the plane.)
  • Don't overpack. You will get free books. At RWA, I packed a bunch in my suitcase, but I still had to ship a box of books home. Remember the hotels charge a fee to do this. It's still worth it.
Also, remember your Bible, medications, cell phone charger, water bottle, makeup, and anything else you need to be cozy. Something to help you sleep can be useful, too.

Try to get some rest, too. At conference, there's always something going on. You have to say no to something. That's ok. Enjoy what you experience!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Chivalrous by Dina L. Sleiman

I was so excited to receive this in the mail!
Order here
Chivalrous is the second in Dina L. Sleiman's Valiant Hearts Series, medieval-set stories of adventure, faith, and romance written for the Christian Young Adult Market. I thoroughly enjoyed Dauntless, the first in the series, and was excited to dive back into that world with Chivalrous.

I'm not finished yet, but I can tell you:

  • I'm delighted there are books like this for Christian teens, including my daughter, who enjoy historical settings, a good plot, and a faith element.
  • You don't have to have read Dauntless to read Chivalrous, but if you have, you'll be happy to see characters return. (Yay, Allen!)
  • The heroines in this series are spunky, brave, and role-model worthy.
  • The book's dedication brought a tear to my eye.
  • Chivalrous is an Amazon #1 New Release.

Here's the back cover scoop:

Strong and adventurous Gwendolyn Barnes longs to be a knight like her chivalrous brothers. However, that is not an option for her, not even in the Arthurian-inspired Eden where she dwells. Her parents view her only as a marriage pawn, and her domineering father is determined to see her wed to a brutish man who will break her spirit. 

When handsome, good-hearted Allen of Ellsworth arrives in Edendale searching for his place in the world, Gwendolyn spies in him the sort of fellow she could imagine marrying. Yet fate seems determined to keep them apart. Tournaments, intrigue, and battles--along with twists and turns aplenty--await these two as they struggle to find love, identity, and their true destinies.