Wednesday, July 30, 2014

An Open Book…Mostly


For the most part I’m an open book. But there is a part of my life you won’t find my talking about often. And it’s the part that means the most to me.

My marriage. My family & home life.

Every now and again I’ll open up. Share a picture or two. Let others in. But otherwise, I like to keep these people and goings on close to my heart. I believe there’s something to be said for keeping some moments, some pictures, some jokes, and some events just between my spouse and me (or a family thing). This is why I’m not a fan of splashing photo after photo of our dates and outings on every social site. I’m too busy living them to bother with the steps it takes to post them.

I think in some ways the world has gone mad with overexposure. What do I mean? We’ve forgotten how to have a conversation without scrolling through apps on an iPhone or we can’t have our photo taken without wondering how it will look on Facebook. Sometimes I wonder if we’re losing the ability to discern how self-focused we’ve become?

As my bio indicates and has for years now, I love my husband and children with great intensity. I’m constantly finding ways to love them more, better, on a deeper level. I’m constantly wanting to grow in this.

That’s why it was such an honor to be featured in a book I highly respect.

With the help of some well-respected marriage experts (like Gary Thomas who wrote one of my favorite books on marriage, Sacred Marriage), Tyler Ward published a free ebook (Marriage Hacks: 25 Practical Ways to Make Love Last) filled with invaluable marital advice. I was grateful to be asked to share my two cents (pg. 98). Crazy that? Crazy wonderful.

Because my marriage has taught me a tremendous amount about the kind of person I am and the kind of person I desire to become.

Hope you’ve enjoyed tiny glimpse into the relationship I seldom publicly present. And I also hope you’ll check out the free ebook. I love my marriage, but I also know it requires a lot of work and attention. This book is loaded with great insights for those craving a meaningful marriage. 
Download the free book here.

What’s the best marriage advice you’ve ever received?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Little Free Library in Your Neighborhood


I enjoy making predictions. Ever heard of Little Free Libraries? Right here, right now I predict they’re about to crop up in neighborhoods all across the country. You’re going to see them on road trips, on the way to book club, and even during a quick trip to town.

My friend, Kate Rich recently joined in with her neighborhood to establish a Little Free Library. Kate and her neighbors were excited to spread the Little Free Library’s mission to help promote literacy while building a sense of community.

Here’s what Kate had to share about her experience so far…

“The Little Free Library has been a big hit in our neighborhood! It's been so nice to connect and visit with our neighbors while talking about books. We've gotten a lot of great feedback from adults and kids. They always start off by saying how cute it is and it is such a neat idea. Most people walk away finding a book that they are excited to read!”

 

Fun fact: We also recently saw a Little Free Library near a lake where we vacationed in northern New England last week.

What do you think of this what-I’m-sure-will-become-a-major-trend? I think it’s brilliant!

Please contact me if you’d like me to send you a copy of either of my books to include in your Little Free Library and I’ll do my best to share The Disappearing Key & The Flower Girls love.

To learn more:


*picture of Kate showcasing her neighborhood library

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Writing the Know of Motherhood by Julie Kieras


I’m thrilled to have Julie Kieras here today addressing whether she believes there’s a Golden Rule of Writing. I met Julie through a local book club and instantly enjoyed discussing characters and the stories with her. She’s intelligent, driven, kind, and passionate. Exactly what I look for in a friend. ;-)

I had the honor of visiting her blog not long ago. I’m grateful our paths have crossed and today I’m excited you’ll get a chance to get to know Julie better.

~*~
 
There was a time when reading "how to write" books was my passion. My shelves are stocked with the wisdom of Ralph Fletcher, Anne Lamott, Natalie Goldberg, and even Snoopy! (Oh yes, that spotted doggy has a lot to say about the art and craft of writing!).

I always felt there was some "other" great secret to be found about how to write well...if I could just read one more book.

Maybe it's the Type A in me that liked hearing maybe, just maybe, there was a Golden Rule of Writing and if I followed it, fame and fortune (or at least a published book of some sort) might follow.

So here I am seventeen years out of college as a Creative Writing major, with no books to my name (but a few articles!). It's funny how now as a stay-at-home-mom, Im busier than ever, but finding myself writing more than when I had what, in retrospect, was gobs of time on my hands.

As a family life blogger, I've written over 1,500 posts on my main site. Looking back on these recent years, I see how all this writing has taught me the truth behind the advice of my favorite mentor authors.

One. Writers write. In the past I READ about writing more than I actually wrote. I waited for lightning strikes of inspiration that seemed to come far and few. Now, I'm writing daily. Maybe not always the literary canon kind of writing I'm passionate about (poetry and creative nonfiction), but I'm constantly exercising my writing skills. The result is my confidence and body of work has grown. Something that wasn't happening while I just daydreamed about becoming a published author.

Two. Write what you know. This advice used to puzzle me. I went to school to become a writer. I studied writing. I became a teacher who taught writing. What did I know? Writing. I knew writing really really well. But that didn't leave me much to write about.

When I started my parenting and family life blog, my early posts were very hesitant. Brief. I labored over them. What did I know about parenting and raising kids. (Okay, truthfully, four years in, what do I STILL know?! Ha!).

As a new mom, I went through six months of struggles with breast feeding. And my writing reflected that, with a mini-series helping breast feeding moms feel supported. Suddenly, knowing a LOT about breast feeding gave me a passionate voice on that topic.

Fast forward a year, and I was constantly entertaining a busy toddler...and writing a series of "toddler exploration" posts.

As I flip through my posts, I realized the truth behind "write what you know." Four years ago what did I know about breastfeeding? Virtually nada! About toddler play? Definitely nothing about the rhythm and beauty of keeping up with an active boy!

But now? Now my life informs my work.

I'm writing what I know about parenting and motherhood as I experience it. Sure, other people write about similar topics, but nobody with my voice and my personal experiences.

My writing changes as our family changes and grows. I reflected aloud to my husband recently about how I probably won't write my annual breastfeeding series this year. I've said most of what I have to say on that topic, and were just not experiencing that phase anymore.

However we have launched into the world of homeschooling, travel with kids, and miniature homesteading and I'm excited to write about these new experiences as they come.

When we as writers simply write what we know, we will never fall short of ideas, our writing voice will ring strong and true, and we will connect with the heart of our readers.

Of course, some things never change....after all, look at me here... I'm writing about writing, aren't I?

 

Julie is a mom of two energetic boys and wife to her brainy and green-thumbed husband. She writes for her parenting and family life blog Happy Strong Home, and her pieces can also be found on the Melissa & Doug blog and Ergobaby blog. She dreams of one day publishing a lyrical childrens book illustrated by one of her favorite artists, or a book of poems on motherhood.
 
 
*Just a note that I won't be posting next Wednesday. See you in a few weeks.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hearts Full of Dew

 
 
 
 
 
“I prefer by far the warmth and softness to
 
 mere brilliancy and coldness. Some people
 
remind me of sharp dazzling diamonds.
 
Valuable but lifeless and loveless. Others, of
 
 the simplest field flowers, with hearts full of
 
dew and with all the tints of celestial beauty
 
reflected in their modest petals.”
 
~  Ana├»s Nin
 
*Reminder to let me know if you'd like me to visit with or Skype with your book club. Also, if you've read my latest, THE FLOWER GIRLS, I'd love for you to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. (Thanks to those who have already done so!) Finally, keep posting those beautiful photos of the cover with the latest blooms and/or THE FLOWER GIRLS on your vacation.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

#MyWritingProcess Blog Tour


When Leesa Freeman, then Anne Mateer invited me to participate in the #MyWritingProcess blog tour I jumped at the chance. I love promoting fellow authors. After answering my questions, I’ll introduce you to three quality writers. And just a heads up, I probably broke about twelve rules completing this process, such as linking to posts that have already gone live. I apologize. I can get a little wild & crazy like that.

The questions…

1.      What am I working on? 

 I’m hard at work drafting a new book club novel. This particular work has quite an emotional punch and comes with a major twist, which makes this one of the hardest books I’ve worked on to date. The characters in this crew are some of my favorites so far.

Setting is crucial in this story. Sorry to be so evasive, but the development process is a vulnerable one and I tend not to offer too many details as many of them come as delightful discoveries to me as I write.

 I can share that it’s women’s fiction, the characters are waking me up at night, and I go back to the impetus of this work whenever the plot or characters start getting all elusive on me. The impetus has been a faithful compass.

2.      How does my work differ from others of its genre? 
I’ve learned from some incredibly talented women’s fiction writers. This said, one of my favorite aspects of writing novels is crafting something unique and fresh. I gravitate toward writing stories with characters living with some sort of brain anomaly, or something that makes them perceive the world quite differently.

My novels also take place in New England, where I grew up so I find myself often reconnecting with my roots. And I like exploring issues related to pregnancy and parenting as evidenced in the two books I recently released, THE FLOWER GIRLS and THE DISAPPEARING KEY.

Finally, I’m told all of my novels have the tendency to leave readers craving to discuss them—the story, the characters, etc. which is exactly what I hope for as I sit to write.

  3. Why do I write what I do? 

            Because my characters won’t let me write non-fiction. And I figured out a few years ago I have a freakishly abnormal sense of empathy toward any and every one. At some point I realized maybe there’s a way to channel that empathy. And that’s how I turned into a novelist.

  4. How does my writing process work?

 I’m still trying to discern if it does work. Triage. That’s what it is. I write when I can. I edit when I can. I do the can-can if my words turn into a novel and people make sense out of it.

 Seriously, I work hard. I take myself seriously and despite the accolades or public rejection, I continue to believe in my core that there’s something worthwhile for me to pursue as a novelist. A story to chase.

 Off I run now.

~*~

And now to linky link and let you know who I asked to answer these questions…

Bree Combs
(I met Bree years ago serving in unique capacities for our church moms group. Sweet soul and burgeoning writer!)

Bree is married with three children and earned a degree in elementary education from Campbellsville 
University. She’s a stay-at-home mom, involved with teaching, speaking, & writing at her church. She takes her faith seriously, but tries not to take herself too seriously, because it only leads to more wrinkles!

 She'll be answering these questions next Wednesday here.

 

Anne Mateer
(My editor extraordinaire and seriously wise friend.)

While Anne has been writing for what feels like her whole life, she began seriously studying the craft in 2000. Since then she’s completed five novels, had several pieces published in local periodicals, attended six writing conferences and managed to final in ACFW’s Genesis contest in 2006, 2008, and 2009. Anne currently has three historical novels published: Wings of a Dream, At Every Turn, and A Home for My Heart. Playing by Heart will release in the fall of 2014. But writing is only a piece of her life. - See more here.
Anne already answered these questions here.

 
Leesa Freeman

(Leesa and I have recently connected, both pursuing our writing dreams. I’m grateful our paths have crossed.)

A native Texan, Leesa Freeman enjoys escaping the chill of New England, if only in her imagination, often setting her novels in the places she loved growing up. She lives in Connecticut where she is also an artist, a self-proclaimed music snob, and recovering Dr. Pepper addict. Visit her website

 Leesa also already answered these questions here.

 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

New Ebook Price for THE FLOWER GIRLS & Tagg Is It Today


 
The Flower Girls has a new price ($4.99 for ebook) & I’m thrilled to be visiting Melissa Tagg’s place today sharing which twin in The Flower Girls I identify most with & more!
Hope you’ll click on over!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Not Losing Face

I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about my cover for THE FLOWER GIRLS. First, I have to thank my cover designer, Sarah Thompson. She was phenomenal to work with, quickly catching on to my vision regarding what I wanted the cover to convey. Second, I’m grateful I had a keen understanding of my audience, the theme of THE FLOWER GIRLS, and a strong grasp on the characters. Knowing each of these helped me to pinpoint what type of look I wanted.

I thought long and hard about certain elements before I even began looking for a stock photo to purchase.
I’ve read a few articles suggesting that publishing houses encourage their designers to steer clear of portraying faces on covers because the consensus is that readers like to envision characters without a preconceived image. I get this. But I knew more than anything, despite those articles, I didn’t want to lose face.

Why?
My book is about a woman with face blindness.
Sure I could have gone for the been there/done that back of a woman’s head, but I wanted Daisy to “speak” to women who love reading books about sisters and book club readers, with her expression—to invite them to read her story. And her twin, Poppy’s story.
I knew it the second I saw the photo (after scanning hundreds), bought it quickly, then trusted my cover designer extraordinaire with my vision.
Not only does Daisy’s expression suggest there’s a story to be told, I found the fat Gerber daisy covering her left eye to be quite symbolic. She’s a flower girl, a floral photographer who struggles intensely to distinguish one face from the next. I loved both the feminine appeal of this photo combined with the mystifying nature of it. Also, her hair is red which falls wonderfully in line with her Irish heritage.
Last week, during my virtual launch party someone asked which actress I could envision playing Daisy. Even though my characters come fully alive to me, I tend not to attach them to Hollywood actors without a prompt. I went with my gut and avoided putting too much thought into my answer. Within seconds I settled on Kate Winslet.
A few days later I looked Kate up on Pinterest. Go figure. I really do see Daisy in Kate. Do you?


Do you have any questions about the process of creating a cover? Had you given any thought to the significance of the flower covering Daisy’s eye on the cover before I mentioned it?
 
 *As a side, I thoroughly enjoy hunting for pictures I feel will capture the heart of a book. If you’re an independent author and this is a struggle for you, please feel free to reach out. I’d love to help!
**Also, don't forget to have fun trying out your photography skills when your book arrives (via kindle or paperback). Capture some shots with your favorite budding flowers & post online or send them my way.