January 15, 2019

teaser tuesday: first & goal

Blogger's Note: For Teaser Tuesday (and thanks to a real-life run-in last night) I'm sharing a scene from "First & Goal", the first book in the Queen of the League series. I actually wrote this scene based on a couple of similar experiences I had years ago with my own broomies. Enjoy!


I did it. I won my seventh consecutive game, which is a new league record. Imagine, only a few weeks ago, I was convinced I’d finish the season without a single victory. Brook gave me the perfect team name because right now, I’m practically living a freaking fairy tale.

With Brook at a post-season coach’s meeting, I watch the Monday night game at home. I’m glad Meg and Jackson joined my brothers and me for the game. As Queen Harper, I need as many subjects as possible to witness my victory.

I’m so pleased about the new direction my fantasy team and life are simultaneously taking that I’ve almost forgotten about the mouse currently wreaking havoc on our house.

We have three types of traps, two types of poison, and even a few of those fancy sound-emitting devices. Despite turning our place into a mouse war zone, our attempts at catching the infidel have been unsuccessful. We’re fairly confident we’ve managed to seal any of the entrances to our house with steel wool wedged into every crack. The only way the mouse is getting out of this house is through us. Unfortunately, the mouse is determined to stay.

I’ve tried to keep my cool around my brothers, but I have to admit this whole mouse business is getting to me. Saturday morning, I stumbled upstairs to start the coffee only to catch the mouse racing across the kitchen counter and escape down its secret hatch, better known as our stove.

I tried pounding on the oven with a Tupperware container, but the mouse was long gone. Heart still racing, I reached for the coffee grounds, only to find a fresh set of mouse droppings in our cupboard. I’ve opted to go out for my coffee ever since.

I’m not sleeping well at night either. I swear I can hear the damn thing scurrying along the kitchen floor. Every time I close my eyes and start to drift to sleep, my mind is flooded with visions of the mouse climbing up my bed skirt and running along my bed. It’s hard to sleep once you get that picture in your head.

Fortunately, I have a great distraction tonight. Gabriel Natz, one of my wide receivers, is playing. Even though he and the rest of my team have secured my victory, he keeps adding point after point on the board. Eyes focused on the screen, I watch the quarterback chuck the ball down field and into the waiting arms of Natz, who runs it into the end zone.

“Yes! Touchdown.” I jump out of my seat to high-five Scott and Christopher, then Meg and Jackson. Because I can’t seem to contain myself, I pick up my nephew and toss him up in the air and catch him while he squeals in delight. “Six points, Jackson. That’s six more points for Auntie Harper.”

“Touchdown, Hah-paw! Touchdown!” he shouts.

“Oh-my-God!” Meg screams while I’m in the midst of my victory dance.

Jackson claps his hands together excitedly. “Oooh mow-sie.”

I freeze. “Did you say mouse?”

He nods. I turn my head and out of the corner of my eye a little gray blob races behind the couch. A scream forms on my lips as everyone springs into position. Almost like we’d planned the attack in advance, I plop my nephew on the recliner and pick up an empty cup from the coffee table. I position it on the floor on the other side of the couch.

Scott grabs one of his golf clubs—why is that in the living room instead of the closet?—and jumps onto the ottoman on the other side of the couch. Christopher pulls out a baseball bat, and Meg runs to the kitchen.

Clubs and bats in position, my brothers are ready to strike if that mouse comes anywhere near us. I may not be a fan of cruelty to animals. But in this instance, I’m okay with them channeling Little Bunny Foo Foo and bopping that mouse on its head.

Hopefully they’ll only stun the little guy so we can scoop him into the cup and safely deposit him a mile away from our house. Oh God. I have the cup. That means I’ll be the one scooping him up. I’ll be in charge of taking him somewhere far, far away. My stomach lurches.

The squeaking grows louder as the mouse comes to my end of the couch. It runs into the cup. I instinctively flip the cup up and jump to my feet. My eyes connect with his for one beat. His nose wiggles and my shoulders relax. He’s kind of cute. I nearly say that, but then he moves. I’m going to lose him. A shoebox lid slams down on the cup.

I turn to face Meg, who has reappeared at my side. Her hands, which are holding onto the lid, are shaking almost as much as mine. Her voice comes out in a near whisper. “Got it?”

I nod and release a shallow breath. “Ohmygod, ohmygod. Ican’tbelievethatworked. Ohmygod.” The squeaking returns, louder and shriller than before. My grip on the cup grows weaker. “Boys. Shoes. NOW.”

They move into action at my bellow. Scott grabs my arms to hold me steady while Christopher slips a pair of ballet flats on my feet. Fueled by adrenaline alone, I take over for Meg and clamp the lid over the cup.

Jackson bounces up and down on the chair cheering me on, while Scott races ahead of me and flings the doors open. Christopher follows along a few paces behind, and I run. My lungs burn from the cold air and the scream I’m trying to contain. My hands grow wearier as the mouse fights to jump out. But I hold on tight, arms extended as far away from my body as I can keep them without losing control.

I can’t stop. I need to get as far away as I can. That’s what the articles online said. I need to keep this mouse from finding its way back into our house.

At last, when I’m not sure my legs can carry me any farther, we reach the small park at the edge of our development. Pulling my arm back I lift the lid and fling the mouse. It flies away into the dark.

My breath comes out in white puffs. I did it. Christopher catches up to me, almost as out of breath as I am. “That. Was. Awesome.”

I’m inclined to agree, but a wave of guilt rushes over me. “I hope I didn’t hurt him. With the throw.”

“Who cares?” He grabs onto my arms and stares into my face. “You did it, BK. I wouldn’t have been able to do it. You’re such a badass.”

I try to nod, but my knees give out. He tightens his hold so I don’t fall to the ground. “Are you okay?”

I try to speak, but all that comes out is another cloud. The crisp air bites my nose. I hadn’t noticed the cold until now. The adrenaline and fear are suddenly gone, though my heart keeps racing. It’s all I can do to put one foot in front of the other as my brother leads me back to the house, tears streaming down my face. I’m still not sure where that sudden burst of courage came from, but Christopher was right. I am a badass.


About "First & Goal"
When Harper Duquaine’s no-nonsense approach to work unintentionally ruffles the wrong feathers at her new job, she joins her co-workers’ fantasy football league to prove she can hang with the guys. Only problem: she doesn’t know a sleeper from a keeper (or any of the other lingo thrown her way).

Embroiled in a world of lineups, stats, and trades, Harper’s quest to make nice topples when her competitive streak emerges. And her promise to herself that she’ll be a strong, independent woman and leave the drama and heartache behind is seriously tested when she catches the attention of her two biggest competitors: J.J., a local celebrity determined to win a fantasy championship, and Brook, the mild-mannered coach who seems too good to be true. Both threaten her resolve to remain single… and, more importantly, her chances at winning the prize pool.

With a slew of conflicting advice in her real and fantasy worlds, Harper must figure out how to play the game and come out a winner.


Find it on


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

January 14, 2019

check out my shelf on the chick lit shop


This month I was invited to guest curate a shelf in the Chick Lit Shop’s Online Bookstore. I was encouraged to share books, movies, TV shows and other items that I love and/or inspire me as a writer. I wanted to give you a little more insight into my selections. Hope you enjoy!

Books


  • Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling - Mindy Kaling is one of my favorite writers, in book and TV form. Her second memoir, this one is particularly motivating as you learn more about how she's broken barriers to build her career.
  • The Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes - I'll admit, I've only ever watched one episode of Grey's Anatomy, but I truly admire the career Shonda Rimes has built for herself. In this book, she explains how for one year she said yes to opportunities she might've previously said no to out of fear or other considerations. Totally inspiring. 
  • Write Naked by Jennifer Probst - I read this book at a low moment in my writing, and it gave me all kinds of motivation to keep going. 
  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara - This book kept me up at night both reading and because it creeped me out so much. One of my favorite reads of 2018, this book about the then-unsolved Golden State Killer is a must-read for fans of true crime.
  • The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery - A longtime fan of the Anne of Green Gables books, I wanted to check out one of the author's books written for adult audiences. And oh. My. Goodness. I completely adore this story and will keep pushing people to read it until I find someone who will sit and obsess about it with me.
  • Tribute by Nora Roberts - One of my favorite romantic suspense novels, I included this one on the list because it has a home improvement element to it, like my very own Playing House.
  • The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M Walker - This was one of the books that inspired me to look for and recreate dishes in other books!
  • The Prize by Julie Garwood - One of my all-time favorite historical romances by one of the first romance authors I read.
  • Cravings by Chrissy Teigen - Not only Chrissy Teigen hilarious to follow on social media, but the woman can cook!



Movies


  • Sliding Doors - This was one of my first British rom coms and years later, I still think it holds up. We all have moments where we wonder "what if", and I love seeing that play out on screen.
  • When Harry Met Sally - One of the best rom coms ever, written by one of my favorite writers, and directed by one of my favorite directors. 
  • The Princess Bride - One of my all-time favorite movies. My siblings and I quote this movie all over the place and I remember watching it constantly as a little girl. I'll still drop everything to watch this one.
  • Sense and Sensibility - This is one of the best Jane Austen adaptations out there. Emma Thompson is wickedly talented as the screenwriter and star.
  • While You Were Sleeping - Another favorite rom com, this one features a favorite trope: character with amnesia. I'm sure science doesn't totally back it up, but I still love it.


TV


  • The Crown - Easily one of the best shows airing right now. It checks a lot of boxes for me: British, royalty, Claire Foy.
  • Victoria  - This is the British period drama I watch when I want to get that fluttery feeling in my heart. The romantic chemistry between Victoria and Albert in this TV show is SO good.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - This has to be one of the best written TV shows on the air right now. I devoured the first season and can't wait to watch the second.
  • 30 Rock  - I love Tina Fey. I love this show. It's one of the biggest influences on my writing. 


Other Items 


  • Thermos Funtainer 16 Ounce Bottle - I grabbed one of these at the store to take along with me on my travels, and now it's my favorite water bottle. It keeps the water cold and helps me log how many ounces of water I drink every day. And it really does travel well.
  • Hearth & Hand Measuring Cup Set - My best friend gave me a set of these for my birthday, and I adore them. Not only are they cute and functional, but I totally feel like I'm hosting my own cooking channel every time I use them.
  • Pentel Gel Pens - I picked up a set of these at the grocery store (of all places) last year, and now they're my absolute favorite pen to use. Comfortable in my hand, I particularly like how the gel ink looks on paper. This variety also dries quickly, so bonus!
  • The Happy Planner Box Kit - This is my second year using a Happy Planner. I love how easily you can customize it. Plus, stickers!


Click here to check out my shelf in the store.


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

January 10, 2019

meet the heroine of 'counting on you'

Let me take you behind-the-scenes of my latest release, Counting on You. In addition to introducing you to the heroine, Haleigh Parde, I thought I'd give you a little insight into my plotting process by sharing the character sketch I developed before I wrote the book.

Now some details changed while writing. Or maybe they didn't come into play. But I still thought you might find it interesting to see the thought process that went into developing this character. It's also unedited, because I wanted to give you the full impact of my rambling plotting mind.

(As a note, there aren't any real spoilers in here. If you haven't read the book yet, you should be good!)

Name: Haleigh Parde

Age: 28 going on 29, born April 12

Hometown: Born and raised in Lincoln.

Who would play her? Jessy Schram

Physical Description: Wavy mostly naturally blonde hair, which she does have some help with every 12 weeks at a salon, that just touches her shoulder. Light bluish/gray eyes that typically betray what she is thinking/feeling even if her face/posture does not. Wide, easy grin with teeth that she whitens periodically with strips and thin-ish lips that she wishes were plumper (but not enough to go in for injections. Minimalistic makeup that mostly includes foundation and bronzer to cover-up the light sprinkling of freckles she has on her nose and cheeks, and neutral eyeshadow and mascara to help her feel put together. A little bit of light pink or peach lipstick to try to help those lips, without drawing too much attention. She maintains a healthy diet and exercises regularly to maintain a trim, toned figure. She stands about 5-7 or 5-8. Style: For work days she sticks mostly to black slacks and an assortment of blouses—usually in bold colors like turquoise, royal blue, Kelly green, and fuchsia. She also has a couple of dark-wash denim jackets and black blazers for when she needs to bring it. She owns two dresses—one is the classic shift LBD and the other is a floral sundress she bought the summer before, hoping she’d someday have an excuse to wear it. On the weekends, she sticks mostly to plain t-shirts (in similar colors to the rest of her wardrobe) and jeans. She has a solid collection of boots (knee and ankle), ballet flats, plus a pair of tennis shoes for her five times a week runs. For workout, she wears basic black leggings with brightly colored compression tank tops covered by loose T-shirts acquired from school functions. She occasionally adds simple metal earrings when she is trying to dress up for special occasions.

Personality: In one word: driven. Haleigh works hard and works harder. (That’s twice the work.) She often becomes so focused on fulfilling her tasks—particularly when it comes to her commitments as a teacher—she forgets to enjoy the climb. She’s quick to say yes and slow to slow down. When she gets an idea—or sets a goal—it’s full steam forward. Super Type A. (No minus about her.) She’s a problem avoider. She’s a team player, but acts as the coach. Though she is smart and beautiful, she often feels awkward in purely social settings. Her natural introverted manner makes it challenging for her to step out of her comfort zone. When she is in a classroom or educational setting, she’s confident and cool. Great at leading the conversation and taking action. When she’s out in social settings, she gets kind of quiet. She’s still sharp-witted, but people tend to miss what she says, because she’s mumbling it. Her sense of humor borders on sarcastic without being totally jaded.

Habits/Mannerisms: She always carries a water bottle around with her and refills it. She keeps track of how much she drinks and monitors her fiber, sodium, and sugar intake with a mobile app. Part of that is control to help her avoid anxiety. The other is her wanting to counteract her addiction to Pringles and ice cream. She follows exact schedules. When she’s processing on the fly, she says a clipped, “Okay.”(Think Niles on Frasier.)

Occupation: She teaches high school math at the fictional Lincoln West High School. (Go Warriors.) She’s really good at it. So good she will win a teacher of the year award at the end of the school year. 

Hobbies/Interests: She is an unashamed nerd. She loves Dr. Who, Star Wars, and reading heavy/thick books about fantasy worlds. She was raised on Harry Potter, Narnia, and Middle Earth. She’s following the Game of Thrones books—and TV series—and reads Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. She also stays active by going for long runs on the weekend and using the treadmill at her house every morning before work. She does yoga/pilates in the evening and takes a Zumba class once a week with some of her colleagues. Most nights, she stays at school late as an adviser for Math Club, Girls Who Code, and a co-adviser of Engineering Club. She also serves on a couple of district and state panels to promote STEM education and interest for girls.

Education: She went away to college at the University of Minnesota with her high school boyfriend. After being homesick, breaking up with the guy, and changing her major (she started as pre-law in a moment of rebellion), she transferred to the University of Nebraska, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with an emphasis in mathematics. She underwent an accelerated master’s degree program and takes courses every summer to develop her skills.

Family: She is an only child. Her parents tried hard to have her and she is a miracle baby of sorts for them. She is close to her parents, who recently retired and are new snowbirds and are spending half the year at their home in Arizona and return to a condo in Lincoln for the summers. They exchange texts and Facebook messages almost daily. They are good—if a little protective—parents, who instilled a strong work ethic in her. She only wants them to be proud of her.

Other Background: Had a long-term boyfriend in high school (sophomore through senior year) and they broke up freshman year of college—while they were both at the same university. When she made it to her new school, she put most of her energy into becoming a “master teacher,” and catching up on her studies and making new friends. She went on a handful of dates, but never felt much spark and kind of gave up, instead focusing on her work at school and as a mentor. After a while, she realized she didn’t really know how to date anymore and the thought of doing so stressed her out. So she didn’t give it much thought.

Internal Conflicts: That’s one of her big internal conflicts—worrying too much and wanting everything to be perfect, even to the detriment of her mental health. She has dealt with anxiety most of her life and occasionally has massive panic attacks. She’s gotten better at managing them, but she occasionally slips and hits a big high/low. She really has good intentions, but puts too much pressure on herself. She’s so used to doing well and succeeding—at everything except romance—that when she does fail, it’s a great, devastating loss. She’s never totally gotten over how hard it was to fail at going away to college and making her high school sweetheart relationship work. Not because she wants it back, but because it was something she failed at. She comforts herself in stressful moments by setting new goals and making lists of menial tasks she can accomplish to feel in control. She also cares a lot about what others think of her—even if her natural introverted traits war with that.

External Conflicts: Her upcoming high school reunion, and the constant teasing from her co-workers, including a longtime acquaintance from high school, makes her realize just how long it has been since she’s dated. It also makes her feel inadequate and like there’s something wrong with her. That’s why she decides to go on a blind date. It’s also part of why she’s willing to cut Ian some slack after their initial misunderstanding. Of course, there are always issues with budget at school and she receives some blowback from parents and community members if students aren’t doing well at school or for her being such a proponent of women in STEM. She also has a weakness for Pringles and ice cream. She makes up for it with her otherwise healthy diet and regular workouts.

Usual drink: Not much of a drinker, she typically orders a glass of white wine with a tall glass of water. (She drinks two glasses per one glass of booze.)


Counting on You, is now available!

Is love worth the risk? 
Math teacher Haleigh Parde has no desire to change her single status until she receives an invitation to her high school reunion. With her ex spreading rumors she needs a date and fast. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Haleigh finds herself meeting a blind date at a neighborhood bar called Amarillo Sour . . . 
After watching Haleigh crash and burn, app developer Ian Henning makes her a proposition. If she’ll provide honest feedback on his new dating app, he’ll guarantee her a date to knock the socks off her former classmates. Even better, he—and the other Amarillo Sour regulars—will help her navigate the rocky road of dating. 
Through setups ranging from awkward to absurd, Haleigh discovers her matchmaker might just be better than the matches. And Ian wonders if she’s the answer to everything he’s worked for professionally. Or is she something much, much more . . .
Find It On

***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

January 7, 2019

the amarillo sour


When creating the fictional bar at the center of my Amarillo Sour series, I decided it deserved a signature cocktail. So I whipped up this recipe for you to enjoy as you read the books.

The first book, Counting on You, is now available!

Is love worth the risk? 
Math teacher Haleigh Parde has no desire to change her single status until she receives an invitation to her high school reunion. With her ex spreading rumors she needs a date and fast. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Haleigh finds herself meeting a blind date at a neighborhood bar called Amarillo Sour . . . 
After watching Haleigh crash and burn, app developer Ian Henning makes her a proposition. If she’ll provide honest feedback on his new dating app, he’ll guarantee her a date to knock the socks off her former classmates. Even better, he—and the other Amarillo Sour regulars—will help her navigate the rocky road of dating. 
Through setups ranging from awkward to absurd, Haleigh discovers her matchmaker might just be better than the matches. And Ian wonders if she’s the answer to everything he’s worked for professionally. Or is she something much, much more . . .

***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

January 3, 2019

the year of grace


I love the word grace and the meanings behind it.

Growing up, my family was super involved in our church. Mom taught Sunday School. Dad performed in musical ensembles. The rest of us participated in just about every other way. We never missed a Sunday School class or the service that followed. We attended every Bible School, youth musical, and potluck (except the one designated for singles only). There were a lot. Besides developing a taste for the grape juice they served at communion once a month (I was so disappointed the first time I drank real wine) I learned a lot about grace.

I remember my mom telling me that grace was our core tenant and belief. The faith in free and absolute forgiveness from a higher power, even to those who might not seem worthy of it.

That first definition of grace has always stuck with me through the years. The idea of complete forgiveness, no matter what.

Since those early days, I have learned grace's other meanings. Like simple elegance. The kind exhibited by the aptly named Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. And, of course, grace periods were totally appreciated when I received my first extension on a major project freshman year of high school. (Thank you, snow day.)

All these definitions wrapped into one simple word have always seem more aspirational than tangible to me. Yet as I looked back at 2018 to evaluate the year and consider what I want to strive for in 2019, that one word kept coming to mind.

I love the idea of focusing on simplicity (and maybe even adding a touch of elegance) in all aspects of my life. I want to continue pursuing my goals and aspirations from last year and expanding upon them. I also need to learn to cut myself some slack. To forgive myself--no strings attached.

So that has become my plan--my intention--for this year. To live it with more grace.



It won't be easy. But it's so important, it's worth aiming for it.

Especially when I look back at the past few years. While overall I'm happier today than I was a year ago and a year before that, I still lose the faith in myself. Particularly when it comes to writing or developing meaningful connections with others. For example, last year even as I found more pockets of happiness than in other years, I still felt all-to tempted to give up on my dream of being an author. Maybe I just wasn't good enough to be a writer. Maybe I'd tried long enough. Maybe it was time to find a new dream and bury this one once and for all. I mulled this over in my mind, slumping into a bit of a funk. But when I came out I decided I wasn't ready to do that. I just needed an extension time (grace). I needed to cut out some of the excess and get back to simple, classic aspects of writing (grace). And most of all, I needed to stop beating myself up and forgive myself for not living up to be a mirror image of my youthful expectations (grace).

That's why I need to make this my year of grace. In all its forms.

Like last year, I used Lauren Layne's "Life by Design" workbook to determine my word and my top three goals. I'm also using goal-setting (and achieving) techniques from Sarra Cannon's Heart Breathings website and YouTube channel to add action to them.

For full disclosure and accountability, here's my list of goals (or my Bucket List as Lauren calls it) for 2019. Some are business driven, others personal. All weave together.  The ones with asterisks are the top three areas getting the most focus now.

  • Make writing career profitable. *
  • Lead an active, balanced lifestyle. *
  • Build strong relationships. *
  • Reduce debt.
  • Strengthen friendships with empowering people.
  • Explore romance. 
  • Continue weight-loss efforts.
  • Read average of one book per week.
  • Visit more local vineyards, breweries.
  • Pursue a career as hybrid author.
  • Take another real vacation.
  • Be more effective with screen time.
  • Enjoy creative crafting and baking.

Big goals (though some overlap and fall under similar categories) and likely not all will be accomplished, but they're still worth trying.

Now it's your turn. What are your hopes and dreams for 2019?



***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***