just write life · Recipes · summer · writing

Creative Summer Suppers

3 Creative Summer Suppers

These days supper might be my most creative moment. Four busy summer kids is a lot to handle, making the moments we gather around the table all the more special. Summer cooking is its own lesson in creativity and color, and there’s nothing I love better than the simplicity of yellow squash and green zucchini tossed with a sliced onion and sizzling in my cast iron skillet… Read more.

Sharing simple creative summer suppers over at Soulful Ink today. Join me there?

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just write life · writing

Still Waters Wins Selah Awards!

My writing career launched in 2014 through the connections I made at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. So last week, when I was double nominated as a Selah Award finalist for First Novel and a fiction finalist for the Director’s Choice Award, I felt like I’d come full circle.

Four years ago I sat in that crowd and wondered if I’d ever cross that stage to accept a plaque with with mine and my book’s name on it.

Last week I accepted three.

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My oldest daughter, Madelynne and my husband Joshua came with me. Joshua, to be a my support. Madelynne, to fangirl over fellow writer, Kristen Hogrefe, whose book The Revisionary was also a double winner for Speculative and YA.

Still Waters won the Selah Award for First Novel and to my everlasting surprise, I also won Selah Fiction Book of the Year.

Eva Marie Everson is the contest director, but she wears many hats, and one of those is as my editor. She’s a great secret keeper.

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Then, conference directors, Edie Melson and DiAnn Mills, talented and accomplished women who trusted me enough to name me a member of their prestigious faculty in 2017, announced the Director’s Choice Award for Fiction.

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And I received another decoration for a wall I didn’t know I needed.

I’m deeply honored and humbled to have my story recognized for its merit in the very place where I first believed I could write and sell a novel.

As Cora Anne learns, there’s nothing like coming home.

Photo credits: Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and friends.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. 

school · writing

How to really appreciate your kids’ teachers this week (and all year long).

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Y’all. It’s May-hem. May-member. May-day. May the force of common sense be with you.

And Pinterest crafting isn’t in my wheelhouse this month. (Or ever, honestly. So if you love some sanding and painting and cutesy font notecards this post is not for you, and please, sell me your services next year because I have the black thumb equivalent of gift giving.)

I love my kids’ teachers. LOVE them. One math teacher gave us her cell so we could text if my middle schooler is on the verge of fraction-induced tears. My son’s kindergarten teacher has a son with the same name as mine AND THE SAME BIRTHDAY 10 YEARS REMOVED so she basically treats him like he’s hers. These are good, good people teaching my kids how to navigate Google and divide negative numbers.

However.

I can’t be all thanks a latte because you helped me grow into one smart cookie since you’re such a sharp teacher.

(For the record, I do appreciate the puns.)

Between my four kids we have TWENTY TEACHERS.

We’re all barely surviving May as it is. Teacher Appreciation week should be moved to September because HALLELUJAH! SCHOOL IS BACK IN SESSION AND WE REALLY APPRECIATE IT.

Also, teachers really need supplies. And support. And extra snacks because some of us (hangs head in shame) can’t be trusted to read the snack schedule.

So if you want to appreciate your kids’ teacher without feeling like a crap mom when everyone else (i.e. half my Insta feed) is cranking out adorable-ness on their Cricket, the best things to do are simply done all year long.

I taught school for years. Middle school mind you.

And this is what I appreciated:

  • Boxes of expo markers
  • Extra supplies for a kid in need
  • Cases of Lysol wipes
  • New books for my classroom
  • Kids who came to school on time
  • Kids who were picked up from extracurricular activities on time
  • Kids who said “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am” and “please” and “thank you”
  • Ink cartridges
  • Tissues
  • Agenda signed
  • Homework done
  • When you have a problem and you come to the me before the principal
  • When your kid is dressed appropriately for school so I don’t have to measure their shorts with a ruler
  • When you see me in the grocery store and you say, “My kid really loves your class.”
  • When you see me at church and you say, “My kid really loves that book you made him read.”

According to my kids, what their teachers really want is:

  • Quiet
  • Good listeners
  • Mint chocolate candy
  • Pepper

Here’s what one third-grade teacher told me she wanted:

  • Parents to read her newsletter
  • But she’ll take a gift card

Here’s the thing. For years, teaching was my job. I didn’t need a reward for doing it because it’s the job I chose and the job I loved/hated and like parenting—my days were endlessly long but those years flew by.

I have a box full of teacher ornaments and magnets. They’re buried beneath a stack of letters from kids telling me my class was their favorite. I’ve long ago spent the Starbucks cards and broken the personalized tumbler (blame: toddlers) and lost half the pair of earrings.

But those parents who raised up respectful kids? Lovable kids? Those are the parents who showed appreciation everyday because they recognized teaching is hard and kids are harder and it’s a calling and a profession that commands respect—those are the parents and kids I remember.

And these days, in the grocery store, I go out of my way to speak to them.

P.S. That picture is from that time my students had a “stick it to ’em” day and stuck post-its all over our doors. BEST GIFT EVER.

P.P.S. In case you didn’t know (but your probably do) I quit teaching to write books and have this fourth baby.My debut, Still Waters, released last fall and is currently a finalist for three different awards. But thank you notes and reviews from readers (like thank you notes from students) are still the most appreciated.

writing

Dear Gus, Today You Are Six

Dear Gus,

Today you are six.

I’m not sure how this happened. I thought we talked about not getting bigger and you told me to talk to Jesus and I DID and you still became six.

And Lord willing, someday you’ll be sixteen and thirty-six and sixty.

But you’ll always be my baby I didn’t even know I wanted and definitely didn’t think I needed.

But, oh, how we needed you.

With your wide, infectious smile. With your chocolate donut smeared cheeks and squinted up eyes and hair that’s my very favorite on humid mornings when you’ve just tumbled out of bed. With your gusty throaty voice singing A Million Dreams along with Hugh Jackman and your soft pats on the head of our friend’s baby boy and your admonitions to me that Jesus lives in your heart and you need to be baptized but you are not going to talk to that pastor. Nope.

I love you so much, baby boy. I don’t think I can ever say it enough to make up for when I walked that dark path of fear and fury that my plans were not going my way and you were caught in the crossfire. How thankful I am for grace. For glory. For God’s perfect, indeterminable will that I can’t always know but I can trust.

Today you are six.

Let’s stay this way for just a little while. I’m not ready–I’ll never be ready–for what comes next.

Love, Mommy

 

writing

Spring Fever Promo :: Day 9 with Stacy Monso

Welcome to Day 9 of the Spring Fever Promo! Only one day left to enter to win!

Stacy Monson is the author of the Chain of Lakes series. Her stories show an

extraordinary God at work in ordinary life. Residing in the Twin Cities, she’s the wife of a juggling, unicycling physical education teacher, mom to two amazing kids and two wonderful in-law kids, and a very proud grandma.

Some notes from Stacy about her books….

SHATTERED IMAGE (Book 1): Just a small-town Iowa boy, Peter is living his dream of music, fame, and the celebrity life but secretly wonders why it’s not what he expected. Fired from the only job she knows how to do, smiling pretty for the camera, Kiera struggles to make sense of life outside the spotlight.

DANCE OF GRACE (Book 2): Vanessa has lost everything and is angry at everyone, including God. Especially God. Kurt leaps at the chance to live his dream but finds it may be easier to build a house of cards than a safe haven for troubled kids.

THE COLOR OF TRUTH (Book 3): Sam managed to pull his life together after some rocky teen years, only to have his new life blown to bits. Marti believes the lies she’s lived under her whole life; she’s never known anything different. A better life seems unattainable to both of them.

These true to life characters struggle with issues just like anyone else—identity, forgiveness, redemption, grief. Who am I? What am I supposed to be doing? Is there a way out of the chaos of my life? All of them learn lessons they never expected, truths that seemed impossible to believe, and discover forgiveness, joy, and love along the way.

My next book, Open Circle, will release later this spring, and I couldn’t be more excited! Here’s a bit about the story and a peek at the cover. I have a very special place in my heart for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s, and especially those working in the aging industry. This book is my simple way of recognizing those lovely, hard-working, underpaid people!

Mindy Lee “Minnie” Carlson’s dream job has dropped into her hands, but there’s a catch. She has four months to revive Open Circle, the town’s only Senior Adult Day Center, or the doors will close, leaving her beloved seniors stranded, and eliminating the only job she’s ever wanted.
Globe-trotting photographer Jackson Young documents the forgotten people of the world, focusing on the poor and elderly. After decades on the road, he’s stunned to learn his beloved Grandma Em is still alive in the small town he’d had to leave decades earlier.
Overjoyed, Jackson sweeps back into town to reconnect with her and discovers she’s been Minnie’s adopted grandma for the past twenty years. When Grandma Em has a stroke, his ideas about her care pit him against Minnie’s determination and expertise. For Grandma Em’s sake, and the future of Open Circle, they’ll need to do the impossible—find a way to work together.

If you’d like to know more about the books, be the first to know when books release, get yummy recipes, and discover new authors, sign up for Stacy’s newsletter at stacymonson.com. As thanks for joining the fun, you’ll receive a FREE ebook version of Shattered Image.

The Color of Truth is on sale right now for only $.99!! Get it HERE before the sale ends!

Here’s the link for today’s chance to win!
And today’s Word of the Day is: extraordinary

Come back tomorrow to meet our last featured author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter!

writing

Spring Fever Promo :: Day 8 with Regina Mudd Merrick

Wow – we’re at Day 8 of the 10 Day Spring Fever Promo already! It’s been great getting to focus on such fabulous authors – Barbara Ellen Brink, Brenda S. Anderson, Johnnie Alexander, Lindsey P. Brackett, Joy DeKok, Dawn Ford, and Kimberly Rose Johnson. If you missed any of those posts, click on their name and get caught up! (And remember, each author provided a secret Word of the Day to give you additional chances to win.)

Today we’re featuring Regina Rudd Merrick. Regina is a writer, church musician, wife, mother, and grateful follower of Jesus Christ. Having lived most of her life in Western Kentucky, she dreams of the sound of crashing waves and sandy beaches. Married to her husband of 30-plus years, she is the mother of two grown daughters, and the keeper of a 100-year-old house where she lives in the small town of Marion, KY.

Regina began reading romance and thinking of book ideas as early as her teenage years when she attempted a happily-ever-after sequel to Gone With the Wind. That love of fiction parlayed into a career as a school librarian and then a public librarian, where she served as a director for thirteen years. She began attending local writing workshops and continued to hone her craft by writing several short and novel-length fan-fiction pieces published online, where she met other authors with a similar love for story, a Christian worldview, and happily-ever-after.

Her first novel, Carolina Dream, is book one in the Southern Breeze Series. Carolina Mercy, book two in the series, will be released in July 2018 by Mantle Rock Publishing, LLC.

Learn more about Regina, and the Southern Breeze series on her website. Sign up for her newsletter HERE and receive a PDF document, “Special Features From Carolina Dream,” which includes the inspiration for the story as well as pictures of the places that inspired the location.

You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Here’s a bit about Carolina Dream:


Sarah Crawford wants more from life than to attend the wedding of her ex-fiancée. An unexpected inheritance in South Carolina comes at the perfect time, just as Sarah is willing to use any excuse to get out of town. When she meets potential business partner Jared Benton and discovers that a house is part of the inheritance, she is sure that God has been preparing her for this time through a recurring dream.


But will a dream about an antebellum mansion, many rooms to be explored, and a man with dark brown eyes give her the confidence to take a leap of faith, leaving friends, family, and her job behind?

Carolina Dream is available in paperback and Kindle.

Here’s the Spring Fever Promo contest and Regina’s secret Word of the Day is BEACH.

 

giveaways · writing

Spring Fever :: Day 7 with Kimberly Rose Johnson

Welcome to Day 7 of the Spring Fever Promo! I hope you’ve enjoyed the chance to meet a few Christian fiction authors you may not have known.

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Today I’d like you to meet Kimberly Rose Johnson who married her college sweetheart and lives in the Pacific Northwest. From a young child Kimberly has been an avid reader. That love of reading fostered a creative mind and led to her passion for writing. She especially loves romance and writes contemporary romance that warms the heart and feeds the soul. She holds a degree in Behavioral Science from Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington, and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She’s also a Faith Hope and Love Reader’s Choice Finalist.

Here’s what Kimberly’s has to say about her featured book, The Reluctant Groom:

The Reluctant Groom is a modern day marriage of convenience story that takes place in Seattle, Washington. Because I went to college in the Seattle area I felt like I had a pretty good feel for the area. I discovered I was wrong last spring when my husband and I went to visit our son who attends college in the same area.

It didn’t take long for me to realize the Seattle I remembered had changed in the past twenty-five years. For starters, it was louder and dirtier than I remembered. I noticed the smells, sounds, and energy of the city on this trip, and guess what? I needed to do some re-writing. I’m glad I held off on publishing this book since I needed to change a few things to make believable.

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The Reluctant Groom:
When everything goes wrong, can two friends discover true love?
When Ray O’Brien’s world is turned upside down, Katie Fairchild wants to help, but the personal cost is high. Neither desires a marriage of convenience, but when Katie blurts the first thing that comes to her mind Ray can’t dismiss her offer of marriage. It would solve all his problems except for one thing—they aren’t in love.
Can these two friends team up for the greater good and perhaps find love along the way, or are their expectations impossible?

You can grab The Reluctant Groom right now for only $1.99, but the price will rise to the regular price of $3.49 sometime in the next thirty days. Buy it HERE.

For news about Kimberly’s books, sign up for her newsletter on her website . And you can connect with Kimberly on the following:
Facebook
Bookbub
Pinterest

Here’s the link to the Spring Fever Promo contest and your chance to win a Kindle pre-loaded with all the books!

And don’t forget to add another chance to win in the Spring Fever Promotion by entering today’s secret Word of the Day: Seattle

Stop by tomorrow to meet Regina Rudd Merrick!

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