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. 


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 21, 2019

meet the hero of 'counting on you'

Blogger's Note: Let me take you behind-the-scenes of my latest release, Counting on You. In addition to introducing you to the hero, Ian Henning, I thought I'd give you a little insight into my plotting process by sharing the unedited character sketch of him I developed before I wrote the book. Some details changed while writing and others didn't come into play. 

Name: Ian Henning

Age: 30

Hometown: Originally from Omaha, has lived in Lincoln since college and stayed.

Who would play him? Brendan Penny

Physical Description: Brown hair that would go wavy if he let it get long enough—he usually keeps it cropped tight. (He doesn’t miss many appointments. It’s one of his guilty pleasures—going to one of those dudes-only places where you get a cranial massage with the shampoo and a close shave while ESPN plays on a big screen.) He has serious, clear blue eyes that crinkle around the edges when he’s thinking hard or amused. Strong jaw, which usually has whiskers by the end of the day. He has a little bump on his nose from getting it broken in a pick-up game of basketball in middle school. Though he plays in a Frisbee golf league and continues to play basketball or tennis with his friends, he wishes he made more time to work out, because he is a little self-conscious about how much attention he and the other founders are getting. He feels a bit scrawny, though he’s toned. He’s somewhere between 5-11 and 6-feet tall.

Style: Totally a T-shirts and jeans kind of guy. One of the perks of being a top-ranking guy at a booming young software company means getting to dress however he wants. He has a large collection of shirts with the company logo on it, but also favors plain shirts like Haleigh. He has one suit, which he wears for quarterly board meetings and the occasional fancy dress event that is becoming more and more frequent as the company grows. Has an impressive collection of tennis shoes and flip-flops.

Personality: Task- and goal-oriented, but more of a Type A-minus. He makes goals and sets out to finish them. But he also has dirty dishes in his sink, forgets to put boxers in his hamper, and can’t remember how long the jar of mustard has been in his fridge. Though an introvert, he makes a point to be social. He’s still friends with quite a few of his classmates back in Omaha and tends to make friendships easily. He’s not a natural leader, but has grown into the roll. Though he worries about his work a lot, he is cool under pressure and definitely embodies the role of problem-solver.

Habits/Mannerisms: He has the awful, disgusting habit of popping his knuckles—something his mother hated—when he is thinking. He also leans back in his chairs (which worries Haleigh, who as a teacher is a firm preacher of “four on the floor”).

Occupation: He is the lead programmer at a booming start-up software company. Though not one of the founders, he was the first intern as a college student and first official hire after he graduated college. He is now a vice-president in the company and oversees all of the programming and design. He takes his work seriously and will work overtime without noticing. (He once spent the better part of a month sleeping on a couch in their breakroom, because he wanted to be there to fix any glitches that came up during a new product line launch.) His hard work has recently garnered more attention outside of the company. He was listed in an article of “Thirty Thirty-Somethings to Watch” in the local newspaper and his programming team was listed as one of the top game-changers in a Wired-like magazine. He’s unaccustomed to the attention, being a self-described tech nerd, and isn’t totally sure what he thinks about it.

Hobbies/Interests: He plays some casual group sports, usually with some of the other programmers and employees at his company. He frequents Amarillo Sour a few nights a week and is considered a regular. He also usually goes there with a couple of his co- workers, but has made a couple of friends of sorts with other regulars. A proud nerd, he will watch any new comic book-based movie or TV show. He’s a hug Star Wars fan and one of his proudest moments was bumping into George Lucas at a coffee shop in California where he proceeded to completely fanboy in an uncool way. He collects Pop! Figures (those big-headed dolls) for Star Wars and comic book shows. As he and Haleigh spend more time together, he follows her into a Dr. Who and Torchwood binge- watch obsession. He enjoys travel and wants to see more of the world, but hasn’t done much yet. He’s hopeful his growth in the company will allow him to do so.

Education: He studied computer programming at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a member of the Raikes School of Engineering. Prior to his work with the software company, he spent summers interning at a couple of start-ups, one in the San Francisco-area and one in Austin. He recently completed his MBA to help give him more skills in the business-side of his work, even though his heart is in programming.

Family: He is the oldest of three boys. His middle brother is a reporter in Texas, and his youngest is a student at the university. He also has a couple of step-siblings who came around after he’d already moved out of the family house. His parents are divorced and remarried. All fairly cordial. He isn’t particularly close to any of them, but he isn’t estranged either. He and his brothers have a group text, where they keep in touch. He calls his mom—who lives in Denver with her second husband—once a week. He and his dad, who lives in town, hang out once a month or so.

Other Background: He always knew he wanted to be a programmer, but he figured he’d be one, somewhat invisible person on a big team. He came on board the company, because he was friends with one of the founders, and they needed some of his experience from other internships. He has dated casually most of his adult life. He had one or two girlfriends in high school and again in college. He hasn’t used that term to describe any woman since, though. He’s not commitment-phobic, but he’s never really felt that connection to another person to want to put in the time to build a relationship. (Like Haleigh, he has expended a lot of time and energy on building his career.)

Internal Conflicts: Though he isn’t scarred by his parents’ divorce, it has left him a little jaded. He also doesn’t want to repeat them and be in a relationship that involves a lot of yelling without ever talking anything through. He also lacks a lot of confidence. He really see himself as someone who was lucky—just in the right place at the right time. He doesn’t feel like he would have found so much success for himself in his career if he hadn’t been approached with the internship at the time he was. As such, he’s always surprised when something good happens for him. He’s always waiting for the bottom to drop out (kind of like it did with his parents’ divorce—which means maybe he was a bit more scarred).

External Conflicts: His job is requiring him to be out and about in the community more—attending functions and speaking at conference. Though he likes the travel aspect and seeing new places, he’s uncomfortable with his newfound bit of celebrity. (Term used lightly.) It’s strange to him when he’s occasionally recognized, and he’s starting to feel more and more of a sense of responsibility to do what is right. He’s putting quite a bit of pressure on himself to make sure he doesn’t screw anything up for himself, but mostly for the company and the employees who depend on him.

Usual drink: Zipline-like local brew. He should drink more water, which is something Haleigh tells him whenever she has the chance.


"Counting on You," the first book in my Amarillo Sour series
is on sale January 20-27, 2019. 


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 17, 2019

an interview with kathryn r. biel

Blogger's Note: This previously appeared in the January issue of my newsletter, "The Latest with Laura Chapman", where I will be featuring an interview with one of my friends each month.


Like so many author friendships begin these days, women's fiction and romance author Kathryn R. Biel and I met online through a writer/reader group.

When my publisher suddenly closed its doors in October 2016, Kathryn was one of the first writers in my circle to reach out to me and offer support. As I quickly learned how to format my own ebooks and paperbacks and how to list them, she was always an instant message away and quick to offer suggestions based on her own experiences. 


The day "The Marrying Type" topped an Amazon best-seller list, it was Kathryn who sent me the first message of congratulations. It was actually how I found out it had happened, because I was racing between an extended day at the office and an outing with friends. 


Since "meeting" years ago online, we've gotten to know each other better and discovered several shared interests.

We're both avid football fans. (She cheers for the Ohio State Buckeyes and I'm a Nebraska Cornhuskers girl all the way. Unfortunately, that means that about once a year we have to set our friendship aside for the good of our teams, but we keep the competition friendly.)


We're both cat mamas to critters with pretty clever names, if I do say so. (Hers are Butch and Sundance and mine are Jane and Bingley.)


To relieve stress, we both play with yarn. (She knits, and I crochet.)

In an industry that is often tumultuous and competitive, Kathryn has been and a constant source of support and a cheerleader. I hope you will enjoy getting to know her, and her stories, better.

Laura Chapman: Your story ideas are so clever and original. How do you come up with them?
Kathryn R. Biel: My ideas come to me as bits and pieces of flotsam and jetsam that I collect, mostly as I’m listening to the radio or perusing the internet. I usually start with one concept (in the case of Paradise by the Dashboard Light, it was the good twin/evil twin idea) and then combine different concepts along the way. Although for my current novel, a friend came up with the concept and said, “Can you write this story for me?” It was a great story idea, so I hope it lives up to her expectations. 


LC: You have been a great mentor to other authors (myself included). What is one piece of advice you’d give someone writing their first novel?
KRB: Get out of your own way. Just write the damn book. Don’t worry about sales or contracts. Get out of your own head and focus on writing a good story that people want to read.

LC: What kind of music do you listen to when plotting or writing your books?
KRB: Since my plotting tends to be random, the music is also. I usually have story ideas from songs I hear—like naming my main character in "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" Rio. It totally came from the Duran Duran song, which was on the radio as I was writing down my initial concept. I saw my “good twin” dancing in leather pants. I generally don’t seek out songs to fit my books. All of my book titles are song titles, but those songs themselves rarely have anything to do with the book. Some of my books have playlists with songs that remind me of the characters, but not most of them. I have a hard time listening to music while I’m writing though. 


LC: What were a couple of your favorite reads from 2018?
KRB: 2018 was the year of audio for me, as my time to read (without falling asleep) somehow disappeared. I really enjoyed "Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating" by Christina Lauren. When I needed light, laugh out loud reads, I read "Summer at Sea" by Beth LaBonte and "Big Sexy Love" by Kirsty Greenwood. I listened to "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas and was blown away by it. Very powerful. And I’m currently (cont.) wrapping up a two-book binge of Kristin Higgins, my go-to author. No one writes strong, deep but funny characters like she does. "Just did Now That You Mention It" and am almost done with "Good Luck with That." 


LC: What can readers expect from you in 2019?
KRB: I’m working on the first in a women’s fiction series that will have very strong humor and romantic elements. The series, "The UnBRCAble Women Series", tells the stories of women who have tested positive for the BRCA gene, which means they all have an incredibly high risk of developing breast or uterine cancer. Serious subject, but hopefully delivered in a humorous way (because if women going through this don’t need a laugh, then I don’t know who does). I’m hoping the first book, "Ready for Whatever", will be out in April. My other release for the year will be a women’s fiction drama with some psychological elements called "Suspicious Minds". Look for that in the Fall.

About Kathryn R. Biel
Telling stories of resilient women, Kathryn R. Biel hails from Upstate New York where her most important role is being mom and wife to an incredibly understanding family who don't mind fetching coffee and living in a dusty house. In addition to being Chief Home Officer and Director of Child Development of the Biel household, she works as a school-based physical therapist. She attended Boston University and received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from The Sage Colleges. After years of writing countless letters of medical necessity for wheelchairs, finding increasingly creative ways to encourage insurance companies to fund her client's needs, and writing entertaining annual Christmas letters, she decided to take a shot at writing the kind of novel that she likes to read. Kathryn is the author of twelve women's fiction, romantic comedy, contemporary romance, and chick lit works, including the award-winning Live for This and Made for Me.

Will a secret prevent Rio's second chance with her first love? Paradise by the Dashboard Light is available on AmazonFind Kathryn on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram


***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 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.***

January 2, 2019

a look back at the year of balance


A year ago, I declared that 2018 would come with one major goal: balance. Like many resolutions and goals, I fell short in completely achieving that. It's just how I roll! But as I looked back at my word of the year for 2018 and the goals and dreams I'd made for myself, I was surprised to discover I'd actually done better than I thought.

More, I'm happier today than I was a year ago. That's not to say my life is never-ending rainbows and sunshine, but overall, I feel happier with who I am and the progress I'm making to live my best, most fulfilling life.

While I still haven't achieved total bliss or balance, I learned a lot about myself, who I am, and how (and why) I function best. Here are some takeaways and surprise achievements from this year, beginning with my top three goals:

1: Be Present

I'm one of those people who is super guilty of doing too many things at once and thinking about what I need to do instead of being in the moment of what is happening. (For you Clifton StrengthsFinder people, my top two traits are Strategic and Achiever. Something else I learned about myself.) In 2018, I went to more movies, accepted more invitations for lunches and dinner, and did more crafting and baking. So much that I actually started another side project dedicated to crafts and baked goods. All of these activities are ones where I needed to be more in the moment. The result: I loved it. While the year was crazy hectic at my day job, I also managed my time better. I "worked harder not smarter." That meant adjusting my work hours a little to give myself more quality time at home. I still get hectic and crazy at times. But I'm also giving myself permission to be in the moment and enjoy it.

2: Reach a Healthier Weight

Thanks to my changes at the day job, I used my extra time at home to do more cardio and make more of my own meals. I also started weekly meal prep on Sundays. Though it took some adjustment at first, it's now one of my favorite parts of each week. I have lost a little weight (not a ton) but more importantly, I've taken fewer sick days. And, most of the time, I have more energy than I have in the past. I'm still working on this, but now it's more about lifestyle changes than expecting big differences on the scale or in the mirror.

3: Write an Average of 1,000 Words per Day

I totally blew this goal from the start. While it initially stressed me out (and made me feel like a complete failure) I eventually had an epiphany. It's so obvious, I can't believe I didn't realize it sooner. I'm not a daily writer. Not now. Though many authors I know and admire are, the pressure of producing daily word counts gives me performance anxiety. Instead, I do my best writing (and am most productive) when I approach my stories as short-term projects. That's why NaNoWriMo works for me. In between big bursts of writing (which extend for several weeks) I constantly think about and develop my story. So when I sit down to write, it happens faster. Maybe that approach will change someday, but right now I'm going to embrace rather than fight it.

These big realizations have been so important toward helping me feel more well-rounded. And (as a bonus) I also accomplished a few of the dreams from my bucket list. In some cases, I did so without realizing until I did my end-of-year evaluation.

In 2018, I:

  1. Took a real vacation. (Hey, Australia!)
  2. Launched a new book series.  
  3. Found an exercise routine I enjoyed.
  4. Read more. (Barely, but still.)
  5. Tried more healthy recipes.
  6. Saw more movies.
  7. Took lunches I enjoyed eating at work (thus ordering less takeout).
  8. Keeping it together when under stress. (I'm still work on it, but I have fewer meltdowns.)
So, in hindsight, even though there were times I felt overwhelmed and just plain over 2018, ultimately I can look back and find plenty to be proud of and happy about. I still have more I want to do in 2019 (check back tomorrow), which will keep me going and growing. Plus, I learned more about myself.

That's always a good thing.

How did your 2018 shape up? What were your favorite moments and greatest accomplishments? 



***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.***