June 27, 2019

falling

This month I fell in love. With Words. Again.

In some ways it took forever. In others it seemed to happen all at once. It also wasn't the first time I fell for Words. Still, it might be the hardest I've fallen, both in terms of the journey and how deeply it happened.

As some readers may have guessed, and others know from more private interactions, Words and I have had a rough couple of years. Most relationships go through highs and lows, and it was no different for us. It started as a reading slump. That moved into writer's block. What transformed into self doubt and fear radically changed into something so terrifying in myself that I wasn't sure I'd ever come back.

True story: About a month ago, I thought it was highly possible that Words and I might be headed for a divorce.

Then it happened. Not like diving head first into a pool, but more likely dipping a toe in the water and wading into a lake.

After being in a multi-year reading slump, I started this year determined to read at least 50 books. It didn't matter if they were new-to-me reads or re-reads, I just wanted to read at least one book every week. I started out slowly. I even stopped for a while in February after losing a close family member. In those first weeks of grief and depression, nothing I read or wrote had any life to it. But then I pushed myself to fulfill a few reading obligations, and slowly but surely I found myself enjoying stories. I still wasn't sure if I'd ever have my own Words to write again, but at least I was losing myself in books.

It seemed like it had been forever since I was lost in a book--either my own or someone else's.

That must be how I found myself reaching for a series I'd read and loved seven years ago. I picked up the first book, and I was quickly transported. Not just into the story, but into who and where I was mentally and emotionally seven years ago.

Seven years ago I was in a job I didn't like, but I'd found a way to make most days a little fun. That usually included organizing an office Olympics pool or bringing in treats from my latest baking experiments. (I was just learning to be daring in the kitchen at that time.) I read two or three books a week. I wrote every day--often for this blog. I'd finished writing my first two books, and I was just looking into querying. I was very much in transition, but there was one thing that was absolutely true: I loved Words with every fiber of my being.

Reminded of our better days, I continued to read the series. I also decided somewhat impulsively to take off a week from my current day job with a goal of seeing if I couldn't make something happen with Words.

On the Sunday of that week, I opened up one of my unfinished projects and made a list of all the scenes I needed to write. I set a timer and I wrote. After a few writing sprints, I ended the day with about 1,000 words. That's nothing compared to the words I used to produce back in my prime, but still, it was a healthy start. I started again the next day and came up with an even better showing. By then, I could see the end in sight for that novella. I woke up Wednesday, and for the first time in a few years, I felt excited to open up a blank page and fill it with Words. So I did. I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote. It wasn't always fun. It was never easy. But the Words came. And every time I finished a scene or a chapter, I overflowed with pride and excitement in what I was doing.

By the end of Tuesday, I'd set a new personal best for most words written in a day. I'd also finished that particularly story. I celebrated with a small bottle of champagne I'd bought myself as a prize.

On Wednesday, I opened up another story from the to-finish pile, and I realized I had even less to do on that than I'd originally thought. So I plugged away and by mid-afternoon on Thursday, I'd once again finished.

I've written somewhat intermittently since then, pausing to do some edits and to brainstorm and develop a few other stories. But the Words are always on my mind. Not as a looming reminder of something that was once great, but now eludes me. Now, they're on my mind as something that gives me excitement in waking and dreaming every day. The value comes from what I'm reading or writing, not in worrying what others might think about what I'm reading or writing. It's about doing the best I can while I can.

In a lot of ways I feel like I'm on a honeymoon again with words. It isn't always perfect. Sometimes it rains on the day we're supposed to go on an excursion. But they're a good part of my life again. And this time, I'm trying not to take them or this good time we're having together for granted.

February 7, 2019

a recipe from 'playing house'



When I briefly moved to Texas, I noticed a bunch of restaurants selling kolaches. Curious, my mom stopped by one of the stores and came with a few for us to try. We were a little surprised to discover that these were sausages wrapped in a yeasty dough, kind of like pigs in a blanket, rather than what we were used to having at home.

As a Nebraska girl (and one with family roots in the Wilbur-Claytonia area) I was familiar with the Czech dish. Pictured to the right, they use that same yeasty dough, though instead of being filled with savory sausages, they are topped with preserves like a danish (only not quite so sweet). The prune are my favorite.

While writing "Playing House," I included a scene where the heroine, Bailey, stops by her sister's with a bag of breakfast and coffee. Since they're Texas girls, I decided to have them dine on this savory dish while they gossiped about the state of their relationships.

I shared the excerpt of that scene on Tuesday (click here to read it) but you can try the recipe out for yourself.

Make Your Own Kolaches

Ingredients

1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3-4 cups all-purpose flour
Sausage links, preserves

Directions

1. Dissolve yeast into warm water and let stand for 10 minutes.

2. Scald milk on stovetop. Add butter and sugar. Allow to cool.

3. Add in salt and egg. Combine with yeast mixture. Stir in flour 1 cup at a time, kneading. Dough will be somewhat sticky, but it will come clean from fingers. Leave dough to rise until doubled in size (about one hour).

4. Cut dough into strips and wrap around sausage to make Texasstyle kolaches. Or roll into small balls and flatten, making a deep impression in center to fill with preserve of choice. Rise for 1 hour.

5. Bake on lined pan for 15-20 minutes at 375 F.


She’s a work in progress, and he’s a fixer upper.
Sparks fly when Bailey meets Wilder on the set of a home-improvement TV show.

Click here for more information about Playing House.


***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.***

February 4, 2019

#teasertuesday: an excerpt from 'playing house'


The past two days had been nothing short of spectacular. Even though Bailey knew this was temporary, she’d probably replay some of those moments forever. 

See? Thinking like that proved she needed a hard reality check from her sister. Otherwise, she was setting herself up for disappointment. 

Armed with two cups of coffee and sausage kolaches, she was about to ring the bell when the front door swung open. Her hand froze over the buzzer and she came face-to-face with a man she’d never seen in her life.

“Uh . . .” 

She stepped back and double-checked the numbers over the door in case she’d lost her mind and landed on a stranger’s front porch. Nope. She was in the right place. Who the heck was this guy? What was he doing on her sister’s porch with his fly undone and shirt half-buttoned? And why wasn’t he Felix? Not that Bailey wanted to see Felix’s washboard abs. Or lack of them—she hadn’t really considered what he was working with under those work shirts. But he was the one who should be doing the walk of shame from her sister’s house at this hour. Not some stranger.

Her heart sank. Had something happened between Paige and Felix? Wilder said Felix was making a trip back to Houston for the weekend to visit his parents. The last she’d heard they were going strong. If everything was fine, then . . .

Paige suddenly appeared behind Mr. Six-Pack. Wrapped in a robe, her messy hair was a tell-tale sign she’d just pulled herself out of bed. She offered a welcoming grin even as Bailey’s eyes turned to slits.

“What a nice surprise.” Her eyes traveled to Bailey’s hands, and her grin grew even brighter. “You brought breakfast.”

“Enough for two. Sorry.” Bailey directed a quick glare at her sister’s guest, who was still standing around half dressed. “I didn’t realize there would be a third.”

Check back on Thursday to get my recipe for Texas-Style Kolaches!


She’s a work in progress, and he’s a fixer upper.
Sparks fly when Bailey meets Wilder on the set of a home-improvement TV show.

Click here for more information about Playing House.


***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 31, 2019

shelfie: my january bookshelf

This year I set a goal for myself to read 50 books. I pledged it via the Goodreads Challenge, and I also created some printable inserts for my planner to keep track. Now, I'm sharing a rundown with you readers to keep myself honest (or something like that).

Quick note: There will be a few omissions this month and next. I am reading about half a dozen novels and novellas as a RITA judge for Romance Writers of America. As such, I'm not allowed to publicly share what books I have read as a judge. I'll include the page and book numbers in my totals while keeping the titles and authors a secret. Fortunately, with the temperatures dipping and the snow accumulation rising, I've had ample time to read otherwise this month.


Here's what I read in January:

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

For Better or Worse, To Love and to Cherish and From This Day Forward by Lauren Layne

My Two Husbands by Amanda Askel


I'm also in the process of reading No Safe Place by Sherri Shackelford. I'll have to give you an update on that one in my next monthly reading recap.

How about you? What did you read in January?


***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 22, 2019

teaser tuesday: counting on you

Blogger's Note: For this Teaser Tuesday, check out a scene from my latest release, "Counting on You." In this scene, Haleigh has agreed to let Ian set her up with a dating profile on his new app, XO On Demand. We will have a read along of this book in my Reader Group on Facebook beginning February 1. 


She must be crazy. While she’d cut someone out of her life for calling her that, it was the only logical explanation Haleigh could come up with as she downloaded a beta copy of XO On Demand onto her phone.

Only the day before she’d been set up on her first blind date ever. Now, here she was, giving online dating a shot.

What a difference a day made.

She’d been completely serious about never considering online dating. She knew people who had tried it—and successfully. Not that she judged, but it seemed like such a direct and confrontational way to meet someone. By putting your profile out there, you were proclaiming to the world that you were on the prowl.

In another five minutes, she’d be one of those people. After she finished the setup and the survey Ian assured her would be fun, she’d have her first string of potential dates. Brought to her through the magic of technology.

All because she couldn’t stand the idea of her classmates judging her.

If she was one of her own students, she’d tell them it didn’t matter. That after high school no one cared what people thought. And she’d be lying.

The download completed, and the app opened on her screen. She followed Ian’s directions to create her account. His play-by-play wasn’t entirely necessary. The directions were pretty self-explanatory, but he seemed eager to help. It eased her nerves. Some.

“This is where it gets interesting.” Ian clicked a button, taking her to the next page. “Instead of having you answer fifty questions about who you are and what you want, we’ve created a quiz of sorts. Would you rather go camping or stay in a five-star hotel? Which breakfast looks most appetizing? What—”

“I’ve got it.” She flashed him a grin to soften her tone, but she needed to concentrate.
There were so many questions. None of them were too complicated or earth-shattering, but she had to choose correctly. Her future lineup of men depended on it.

Question One: Which of these dishes would you order right now?

She selected a basket of chicken strips with fries.

“That’s what I’d pick, too,” Ian said. “What do you use for dipping?”

“Honey mustard.”

“Barbecue.” He shook his head. “I knew there had to be something wrong with you.”

At least his teasing made this a little less nerve-racking. “You guys aren’t going to use these answers and sell my information to restaurants now, are you?”

“Of course not.” But he tapped his chin thoughtfully. “It isn’t a bad idea, though.”

Question Two: Where would you rather spend a Saturday afternoon?

She didn’t even have to consider this one. She picked “Binge-watching TV in my bed.”

“What’s your go-to show?”

“You heard that one last night,” she reminded him. “Doctor Who. But I’ve been known to do a Lord of the Rings or Star Wars marathon from time to time”

“Which episode is your favorite?”

“Five.” That’s what everyone always said. There was probably something about the bad knocking down the good at the end of the Empire Strikes Back that made a person seem deep. After Greg had explained that to her years ago, she’d made it her customary response.

Only when she was being totally honest, she’d admit she liked Return of the Jedi best. She loved those Ewoks.

“Okay, you’re forgiven for the honey mustard.” Ian drank from the pint that had been delivered a few moments before. “But I’ll admit, I’ve never seen Doctor Who.”

She tore herself away from the phone. “Seriously?”

He lifted a shoulder. “It’s not because I’m opposed to it. I just haven’t watched.”

She muttered about how sad it was that some people never truly lived as she returned her attention to the quiz. It took her longer than five minutes—particularly with Ian chiming in on almost every question—but eventually, she reached the end.

Are you ready to get matched?

Was she?

If she was answering, “Do you want a date to your reunion so Nina and your former classmates can shut up and Greg can suck it?” the answer would be yes. Absolutely. With bells on. As for whether or not she actually wanted to date anyone . . . that was more complicated.

Was she taking the whole thing too far? It was one thing when it was an abstract idea, but this would involve real people. And not just a random guy a co-worker set her up with. She’d be auditioning men who were online looking for love. Or a hookup. They weren’t looking for drama and baggage.

Then she remembered one of the comments freshly added to the reunion event page today. “What’s the high-low on Haleigh showing up at all?”

She clicked “find me a date.”



"Counting on You," the first book in my Amarillo Sour series
is on sale January 21-27, 2019. 


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***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.***