Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Want Some Good News?

I’ve shared the quote above several times only because it still resonates profoundly with me. Many of you know that I’ve wanted to write fiction my entire life. I started churning out short stories at the ripe ol' age of six.

They were descriptive, too—right down to the color of the Laz-Y-Boy recliner and the buttons on the remote (important images for me back then J).

The dream has been in my heart for several decades, but I’ve only spent the last almost decade getting serious—thanks, in large part, to my husband who helped me believe in myself, in my God-given talents.

At the time, I was working on my PhD. Writing a work of fiction while writing a two-hundred page research project not only seemed unrealistic but also, again, less serious. One side of my brain is processing Foucault and Bakhtin while the other half is wading around in the minds of my characters, a stubborn and independent journalist and a life-worn but seasoned rancher.

It had been a few years since my grandmother passed away, and I felt nostalgic, missing her like crazy and sentimental toward all things small town, and ranch life, and antique.

I officially finished the manuscript in 2013, and I’ve spent the last three years making intense changes to it—not the story line, per se, but the quality of writing. I’ve learned a lot from those who have helped me, critiqued me, mentored me along the way.

I’ve shared before about the waiting game of publishing, and today, it’s no different. But I’ve taken the wise advice of a writing mentor this semester, who said, when you’re waiting, KEEP WRITING.

So a few months ago, I gave myself a daily writing goal and decided, for my own soul, I would endeavor to write every day.

Occasionally, it feels like a chore, but most days, it’s a breath of fresh air. My whole brain resets, and I come away revived.

I’m still very willing to wait, to learn, to receive all that God has for me on this journey.

And in the meantime, I have some good news to share with you:

I’m happy to tell you I’m less than 10K words away from finishing a second manuscript. I’m on track to finish on or before June 15, and I hope to spend the next few months on the first round of edits and revisions before sending it off to critiquing eyes.

I’m also over-the-moon overjoyed to share that my first book is a semi-finalist in the prestigious Genesis contest. We were hosting about thirty-five students and faculty at our house the evening I was notified, so I missed the call. And when I listened to the voicemail in the rush of letting the dogs out and getting ready for bed, I seriously froze—and almost fainted.

Y’all, I can’t even describe how honored and humbled I feel. It’s not even the end of the contest—like finalist or winner—but this alone feels priceless. All glory to Jesus, for sure.

Thanks for sticking with me on this journey. The time will pass anyway, so I’ll keep chasing after my dreams. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sharing the Load in Marriage

Summer is here, and that means.... YARD WORK! 

We have almost an acre of land at our house, most of which is in the backyard. Doing yard work is a task that can take over three hours if Howell does it alone.

So I help. If I mow while he weed-eats and edges, we usually finish at about the same time—in less than half the time it takes him to do it alone.

I really don’t mind. Mowing is relaxing to me—and riding on the mower is fun.

Rizzoli doesn't like the mower :) 
I was recently talking with a couple women about yard work and found that all of us liked to mow our yard, but one woman said her husband had been criticized for “making” his wife mow.

I told Howell that story later, and he said he’d been criticized for the same thing when people drive by and see me mowing.

My jaw dropped. I had no idea!

Maybe we’re not normal, but it works for us, and in my mind, it’s just one of the many shared responsibilities we have—like laundry and cleaning house.

I had a shower at my house the other day (btw, there’s nothing like hosting a shower to give you every re-arranging, hanging, and decorating itch you can imagine). After Howell helped me hang stuff on the walls and re-arrange rooms, he swept and vacuumed while I made sausage balls.

Could I have done both? Sure—but it saved me so much time that he was willing to do that for me.

I’m not saying all wives should mow or that husbands should all clean house, but I think couples should find what works for them—ways that they can share the load, be more efficient, and in the end, create more time together.

If I help with yard work every week, that’s an extra hour and a half that Howell and I get to spend together, taking a walk or watching a show.

That sounds like a no-brainer in my book!

Married friends, do you share the load in your house? What’re some household chores that you both do? 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Recommended Reading: With No Reservations by Laurie Tomlinson

One of my writing friends, Laurie Tomlinson, recently released her debut novel With No Reservations. To celebrate the book, I've asked Laurie a few questions for the blog:

1. What message do you hope your readers receive with With No Reservations?

I hope readers see that, even when they feel stuck, their circumstances can change when they least expect it in the most unpredictable ways. Also, that the life God intended for us is more than just bare-minimum existence.

2. Have you always wanted to be an author? What other career did you imagine having (if anything)?
Yes! I’ve always wanted to be an author but didn't imagine I would be until I was almost 30! In high school, I was a nerd who loved genetics and went to conferences about DNA and chromosomes. But I also secretly wanted to be an opera singer. With some direction from the real grown-ups, I went to school for literature instead and ended up being a full-time book publicist/office manager for seven years out of college.

3. If you could be any of your characters in With No Reservations, who would you be? Why?

Oh, man. That’s hard! I’d say Sloane because she has an awesome job, but I wouldn’t want to go through what she’s been through :) How about her older neighbor, Mrs. Melone? She is fabulous and wise and gets to play Bunco and do yoga all day!

4. What authors/books have inspired you?

Some of my must-read authors are Katie Ganshert, Carla Laureano, Becky Wade, Nicole Deese, and Kara Isaac. Kara is probably my biggest inspiration because she’s my critique partner and first reader on all of my books!

5. What's your writing process like? What motivates you and keeps you on schedule?

In this season of life, I have to plan carefully and steal writing moments when I can. When I’m in the thick of writing/editing my own stories, I typically take on fewer work projects and vice versa. Waking up before my children helps me be consistent and productive, even though I’m not a morning person at all. And exercising before I write helps with the inspiration, as does writing down the scene I’m going to work on next time so I can pick up again quickly.

6. How do you re-fuel? What do you do when you're not writing?

If I’m not writing, I enjoy cooking, baking, entertaining, and going on adventures with my family. I refuel through good books and music, time with the Lord, meaningful conversations, rest, and fresh air. Netflix may or may not be involved.

7. What advice do you have for novice writers?

Own that you are a real writer and treat it like you’d treat a regular job. If you show up for work, your diligence will pay off! But it’s also good to take breaks and refuel to stay healthy :)

8. Who is the hero or heroine in your own life?
Definitely my husband. He’s hard-working, handsome, and without his encouragement and the space he gives my dreams, I would still be a publicist on the other side of the industry who would love to write a book someday.


Isn't Laurie great? I promise you'll love her book too. If you'd like to see my review, click here.

With No Reservations by Laurie Tomlinson
With No ReservationsThere can be more than comfort in food… 
What could well-known and wealthy Graham Cooper Jr. have in common with a blogger like Sloane Bradley, a woman with secrets she's kept firmly out of the public eye? That is, besides a love of food. Sloane still can't believe Cooper's the chef at the restaurant she's been assigned to promote. But she's boiling to prove to him that her "little blog" can put his place on the map. She can also fall head over heels for the guy, who has secrets of his own, it turns out…except for one thing. She can't get past the post-traumatic stress disorder that keeps her walled up in her home studio.

Available on:

Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author and cheerleader for creatives. She believes that God’s love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. Her novella That’s When I Knew was featured in the Love at First Laugh collection, and her debut novel, With No Reservations, releases in May 2017 from Harlequin Heartwarming. You can connect with Laurie on her websiteFacebook page, and Instagram.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Investing in What's Important

One thing that the Lord has brought to my attention recently is that I do a good job at my work. Why am I good at my job? Well, I pay a lot of attention to it. I do the things that are necessary each day to keep up and then I go a step or two further to make it excellent. I “go the extra mile.” This has served me extremely well in my career. I’m someone who doesn’t have to be managed. This performance, and it is performance, is something I almost take for granted. At work, it is who I am. The tweak in my spirit about this is, “Why?” Why am I going the extra mile, and how can I apply it to my marriage?

First of all, why would someone apply themselves and go above and beyond? Because they like it is the only answer that makes any sense, to me at least. I really like what I do. I get to invest in people and help other people and deliver an important, often life-sustaining product. What a job. He has blessed me greatly. How has He blessed me even more? He’s blessed me with this incredible, beautiful, intelligent, understanding wife who also happens to be my best friend in the world. That is why I work hard at marriage. He reminded me of that and everything came into focus.

We, as husbands, often dive into our work or our hobbies or whatever excites us rather than investing in our marriages or our families. Think about baseball dad, who pushes his son or daughter hard to become the next Nolan Ryan or Serena Williams. How is his marriage? If he isn’t careful, he isn’t putting enough care into it.

Sometimes, I’m guilty of going into auto-pilot and getting done what needs to be done for the people who need it done. It’s very easy to put things in the “immediate, but not important” category ahead of the “not immediate, but important” category. I have to be intentional about doing what is most important, which is taking care of the two most important relationships in my life: Christ and Laura.

Relationships are like plants. I like growing things, so I think of things in those terms. You don’t have to nurture them every waking moment. They can survive days without water or sunshine, but they can’t survive weeks or months. It’s easy to forget to water them today and then put it off tomorrow because they will survive. They won’t survive long like that though, and pretty soon, they start to look brown at the edges and droop. If you pay attention to them every day though, pruning here and watering there, they start to thrive. They really become beautiful. When you really pay attention to your spouse, your relationship blossoms. When you love them in their love language, even small ways, it means the world to them. Little by little, you go deeper and love more.

What do you put before the important things? Are you investing your time and energy into your marriage relationship? 


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Present over Perfect: More Baby Steps

Okay, y’all, I know I mentioned Shauna’s book, Present over Perfect, in last week’s #MarriageMonday post, but I’ve finished the book and want to share a few more small victories I’ve had. :) 

I’ve given my hearty recommendation for this book in lots of other posts (here and here and here). This book is a game-changer if you’re any range on the Type A scale or if you’ve ever felt any of the following:

I want to stay home tonight, but I have to do/go/be/make/lead/clean up/set up for X event.
I am too tired to be tired.
If I don’t do it, then…..
If only I had time to do….

I could keep going, but, well, you get the idea. She calls it gluttony, the addiction we have to being on the go, always moving, always striving, always adding more, more, more to our plate.

Then we begrudge the life we’re living (though we’d never admit this) because we don’t have time, or we’re exhausted, or we have another dream in our heart, or _________ (fill in the blank).

As someone who is always the responsible person, always the go-to girl, I have identified with Shauna’s words in ways I can’t even describe. I feel like she is writing about me for much of her book—minus the musician husband, the two kids, and the being a famous author with a full speaking schedule, of course. :) 

But seriously. My whole adult life has been about working hard, striving for that next level of accomplishment, that next thing to get to.

I’m in my early 30s, and I somehow know that if I don’t get this right, if I don’t learn how to say no and slow down and find the balance—the real balance—between work and home, then I’ll be worn out for the next 30 or 40 years. I’ll resent my work and what I do, and I’ll have no one to blame but myself.

This book could not be more timely for me.

So, a few weeks ago, I told you about my first baby steps—turning off my email notifications. Between 8:00 and 5:00 Monday to Friday, I am glued to a computer and email and phone calls and decisions and fires to be put out, but when I go home, it all turns off.

I take my full lunch. I’ll admit there are still some days where meetings stack up, and I’m not getting a lunch break, but for the most part, I am taking a full hour every day to DISCONNECT and RECHARGE.

And I’m writing. I’m doing that thing that fuels my soul, the longing in my heart that isn’t satisfied until I go to that imaginative alter-reality and start clicking away on my keyboard.

Today I’m happy to share some more milestones. A couple weeks ago I said no to something that I felt obligated to say yes to, and I said yes to two things that were out of my “I must be responsible” character.

Y’all, it felt so good.

I am in control of me. And although I can’t necessarily control what walks through my office door or what pops up in an email or what comes through my phone, I do get to be in control of my time—how I choose to spend it.

I choose to spend the hours at work being present—doing the best job that I can do, being intentional with every person I come in contact with, asking the Lord for help—all. the. time.

And I choose when to say work ends—and now my home life begins. This is my time with Howell. This is my time for us, for our family, for our friends.

How about you, friends? How are you managing your time? What can you say no to today? Any advice for a recovering busy-aholic?