Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I'm Ba-ack!

Image: Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
See, I told you my hiatus would be temporary!

So, God and I have been having some pretty serious chats over the last couple of weeks. Lots of personal revelations that I will probably one day write a book about (that's what authors do, you know) but the end result was that I am having to take everything in my life, item by item, and hold them up and ask God about it. Does He want me to keep it in my life? If so, what does he want me to do with it?

I am ecstatic to say that I get to keep pursuing my writing career. That was a really difficult one to offer up, I must say. I will be making a few changes, however.

Going Away

1. I will no longer be using a pseudonym. Some of you didn't know I had one in the first place. It's not a significant shift by any means - just add an -er to the end of my name. All of my reasons for selecting a pen name still exist, but God apparently has other plans for addressing those issues.

2. Sadly, Olivia and John are going to have to hang out in cyberspace limbo for a while. While I loved the idea of the series, it took a lot of time that I really couldn't afford to spend on it. For now, I have to put them on the shelf.

Coming Soon

So the question is, if those things are going away, what new things are coming? I'm so glad you asked.

3. Regency Reflections is a new blog I am participating in. It is a group of inspirational authors that write books set during the Regency time period. I am really excited about this blog and the ladies that are participating in it with me. We will be at www.ChristianRegency.com/blog starting TOMORROW! I'll post a reminder here in the Drawing Room whenever I'm posting over at Regency Reflections.

Image: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
4. I will still be posting here on Tuesdays and Fridays. I want to have some loose themes for the different days, but God and I are still discussing that. Until He shows me a direction, my weekly posts could be on anything under the sun. Doesn't that put you on the edge of your seat? ;)

I am also taking some positive steps in my pursuit of publication, but I've always heard it's bad form to broadcast what your' doing on that front just in case it doesn't pan out. So, I'll just tell you I'm "doing things" and ask you to pray for me and my stories as we seek to take the next steps.

I'm excited for the future! I hope you are, too.

Have you ever had God change something on you after you'd started down a certain path? I'd love to hear your story in the comments!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Temporary Hiatus

I am taking a temporary break while I get some personal business in order.

My blogging should resume next week.

Thank you for your patience and understanding!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Peek Into My Bookshelves: The Guy I'm Not Dating

Trish Perry is here today! Want to know why?

There are lots of wonderful sites and blogs that tell you about wonderful new releases and books that are coming out so you can plan you're reading future. That got me thinking, though, that there are lots of great older books that readers might have missed the first time around. In my room I have a small bookcase with my favorite books that I occasionally go back and re-read. Since these books are so fabulous I'm going to share some of them with you occasionally in case you missed them the when they came out.

Which brings me to why Trish Perry has stopped by for a spot of tea today. She wrote one of my absolute favorite contemporary Christian romance books ever. It's called The Guy I'm Not Dating and if the title itself doesn't intrigue you, the first line, "Yowza!" probably will.

This book was a sort of homecoming for me. I will make a confession. For a while I got a bit turned off by the available Christian romance. I know now that I kept picking up the wrong ones, but it seemed all I ever found was serious and involved at least one of the main characters getting saved. Don't get me wrong, that's great, but I was craving a funny story about people already walking with the Lord.

Enter The Guy I'm Not Dating which is just that. It's funny. It's laugh out loud funny. Even after multiple reads I still giggle. The characters are real and relatable. They have hearts to follow God, but they are still flawed. The Gospel is still shared because there is a conversion scene, but I'll leave you guessing as to which secondary character it is. You just might be surprised.

Here's the book description:

Kara Richardson has finally suffered one breakup too many. She's decided to go the no-dating route to romance, although she's not quite sure how that works.

She couldn't have picked a worse time to meet Gabe Paolino. Gorgeous men hardly faze Kara. A personal trainer, she works with hunks every day. But Gabe, the handsome young deli owner in town, proves way too available and way too challenging for Kara's vow of friendship. How will she adhere to her new lifestyle without scaring Gabe away?

Enter matchmaking friends, a strange elderly aunt, three demanding teens, and one hard-to-take vixen with eyes for Gabe. Add an overcrowded road trip and plenty of God's blessings, and Kara may discover that the guy she's not dating is the best boyfriend she's ever had.

And here's Trish Perry!

Q: As your first published book, I'm sure The Guy I'm Not Dating holds a special place in your heart. How do you feel when you look back on it? 

TP: Yes, although The Guy I'm Not Dating was the third book I wrote, it was the first one I published, so it will always be special for me. You know, I haven't read that book since I wrote it, back in 2005, but that's something I'd really like to do. I think it would feel like reading a book written by someone else. The distance of time sometimes allows for that, and I'd get a chance to see its strengths and flaws.

Q: I know you have carried some of the characters into other books already, but do you have plans to write stories for any of the other characters? I've always wondered what happens to Gabe's siblings. 

TP: That's how it is for the authors, too, as I'm sure you'll see, Kristi, with your own characters. Even though the characters come out of our own imaginations, after we move on, we feel as if their lives continue. But the decision about how long to carry a series ultimately rests with the publisher. Even though Harvest House and I decided to include Kara, Gabe, and their friends in Too Good to Be True and Beach Dreams, we didn't plan to look further into the lives of the secondary characters, like Gabe's siblings. Maybe someday  . . .

Q: All writers know the journey to that first printed book can be a long one. Do you remember how you felt the first time you held this book in your hands? What is one thing you know now that you would love to have known then? 

TP: I definitely remember how I felt when I received my first author copy of The Guy I'm Not Dating, and I've talked about it often, because it was kind of revelatory. 

Although I was pleased and should have been flooded with joy, I looked at the book and suddenly worried it wasn't good enough. My family could now read it and see I wasn't as talented as they thought I was. My friends would do the same. Strangers would read the book and post horrible comments about me online. Even my publisher would suddenly realize it was contracted with this total hack for another book. Maybe all of those things would happen because God needed to show me that writing wasn't really what He had in mind for me. I had a mini-panic attack, I guess. 

So I prayed about it, and rather quickly God put my mind at rest. I didn't hear His voice, but I felt it so strongly, I know it was Him. I knew that Heknew my heart. I wanted to serve and honor Him with my writing. Why would He throw that back in my face? Did I really think that was how He operated? If He wanted me serving Him in some other way, He would guide me in that direction, not stomp on my efforts at writing. As long as I dedicated my writing to Him each day and continued to feel drawn to it, I didn't need to worry about my writing journey. He would bless my efforts or lovingly draw me to something else. That's how He operates.

And that comforting awareness is the one thing I know now that I would love to have know right from the start.

Thank you so much for stopping by! 

You can buy The Guy I'm Not Dating at Amazon, BarnesAndNoble.com, and SignedByTheAuthor.com.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Free Fiction Friday - Installment 1.10

It’s time for Fiction Friday! How does Fiction Friday work? Well, kind of like those old Choose Your Own Adventure stories, but with a lot more room. Read the installment of the story below. At the end, you’ll find a question. You the reader will get to determine what happens next. Leave a comment. I’ll pick one at random.  You get to determine where the plot goes. So read, enjoy, and tell me what you want to happen next.  

Past Segments:  123456789

Air whooshed from Olivia’s lungs. She was actually thankful for the lack of air. It kept her from saying anything she might regret in response to John’s cutting comment.
I figured it would be the best way to prove to her that we wouldn’t suit at all.
She waited, expecting him to continue. He had to have more to say. Something along the lines of realizing his mother was right after all and they suited perfectly. Even that he was beginning to see her differently would work.
Silence reigned in the garden.
John strolled on down the path, not bothered a bit by his revelation to her. Given the way she reacted to him in London he probably thought she was grateful for his statement. Olivia focused on keeping her feet moving. If she allowed her hurt to freeze her in place, she would draw his attention.
“Of course,” she finally squeezed out. She winced slightly but didn’t think he noticed.
“Mother will have someone else in mind when we return to London, I’m sure, but by then the season will be approaching an end. I’ll have another year’s reprieve.”
“Do you intend to invite next year’s candidate on a tour of the country as well? You won’t be able to keep Minnie away from London again next year.” Olivia fought to keep the bitterness from her voice. She refused to allow him to strip her of her pride, even if inadvertently.
“I am aware of that, Olivia, but now have several months to think of a new plan.”
Olivia felt she had to make one stab at changing his mind. “You could get married.”
He looked at her from the corner of his eye. “I have nothing against marriage. I just don’t want my mother planning it for me. I would like to select my own wife.”
“So you would avoid someone just to spite her?”
She walked two paces past him before she realized he stopped short. Her skirts whirled as she turned to face him. His eyes were narrowed as they watched her closely.
“Miss Bedford, are you suggesting you would like me to consider you for the position of my viscountess?”
Panic filled Olivia’s stomach. What was she to do now? She couldn’t let him know that he’d hit the nail on the head. “Obviously you don’t remember our discussion while dancing in London. I believe I told you then I had no romantic leanings toward you and my own mother made me dance with you.”
Tense moments passed before a smile split his handsome features. “Perhaps our mothers should get together then, hmmm? They can form a club.”
“Mmm, yes. They can meet twice monthly and lament their disobedient children.” Tears began to burn behind Olivia’s eyes. She had to return to the house immediately if she wanted to keep the truth to herself. “I fear I am more tired from the journey than I first thought. I will leave you now and retire to the house. Enjoy your walk.”
She stalked past him and retreated the way they had come as quickly as she felt acceptable. Once she rounded a particularly large plant, she began to run.
“Garden blooms are pretty.” Mrs. Ruggiford sat next to her friend on the sofa in the drawing room that night. They were awaiting the rest of the party before walking in to dinner.
“Yes, I spent a great deal of time with the gardener the past year until we found the perfect arrangement. I like the effect.” Lady Mulligan was a sharp contrast next to her friend. Olivia would never have placed them together as close companions. Where Mrs. Ruggiford was sharp and rough, Lady Mulligan was grace personified.
“Went for a walk in them today.”
Olivia’s attention flew to the older woman. “You did?”
“Had to stretch my legs after traveling.”
Olivia waited to see if Mrs. Ruggiford was going to mention seeing her and the Viscount in the garden. It was possible she had walked in a different direction. The gardens were quite vast.
John entered and kissed his aunt’s cheek. “Aunt Lillian, I see you and Lady Mulligan haven’t lost a moment.”
“Of course not. I’m smarter than you.”
John paused in the act of pouring himself a drink. “I beg your pardon?”
“You heard me. You think I wanted to spend three days more than we had to in order to see the countryside on our way here?”
“Er, no.” John took a slow sip, watching his aunt with an odd expression, as if her were waiting for the sign he would have to haul her off to be committed.
“No. Family said it would be a good idea. Sure enough it was.”
Olivia felt her cheeks burn. It was a clear reference to her conversation with John in the garden. Mrs. Ruggiford was trying to get John to reconsider.
John, however, was made of sterner stuff. “I’m glad you feel it has worked out for you. Family can tend to be a bit blind to what you really need sometimes. Fortunately, that was not true in your case. “
The two stared at each other. The room grew more and more uncomfortable.
Lady Mulligan’s eyes suddenly lit up. She gripped her friend’s hand and smiled in a way Olivia didn’t begin to trust. “I have a wonderful idea!”

Okay, Alana, (or someone else if they want to challenge her!)what is Lady Mulligan’s idea? It’s going to be something to try to further her friend’s agenda at getting these two together. Are they going to put on a play? Have a scavenger hunt?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Life Lessons from an Area Code

I have a manuscript sitting on an editor's desk. It's amazingly exciting. The first day or two after I sent it in, I was all jumpy and excited, even though I knew it wasn't even there yet. After a couple of days, I settled down. I moved on and stopped thinking about it for the most part. Then I got a phone call.

My phone rang and I glanced at the caller ID. There was no name, just a phone number. But that phone number had a 212 area code. If you didn't know, 212 is the area code for New York City and for a writer I think it could be three of the most exciting numbers they will ever see.

My heart leaped into my throat, I ran out of the room, leaving the kids munching on chicken nuggets, and answered the phone in the most professional voice my excited breathlessness would allow. Nothing. The call didn't completely connect. I heard a clicking silence for a while and then the ominous *beep, beep, beep* of a disconnected call.
Photo by Dani_vr (Flickr)

I panicked. I tried calling the number back - it was busy and didn't go to voicemail, which started me thinking that it was probably not the editor, but a sales call of some kind. I did a Google reverse search on it and didn't really come up with anything except that the number belonged to a doctor fifteen years ago. Not much help.

Eventually I had to give up. But that made me start wondering. 212. A simple collection of numbers that got me as hyped and excited as I was when I first sent in the manuscript. Life needs more 212s. I need more things in my life that remind me of the simple joys and excitements and profound meanings that get lost in the everyday shuffle. I needs things that remind me how wonderful it is to be saved, how precious time with my children is, and how loving and caring my husband is.

What are your 212s? What are the things that just remind you of the giddiness and wonder that we lose after the initial luster of something rubs off?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Free Fiction Friday - Installment 1.9

It’s time for Fiction Friday! Sorry I missed the last two weeks - the end of the year busyness got me all caught up and I completely missed that it was Friday. 

So, how does Fiction Friday work? Well, kind of like those old Choose Your Own Adventure stories, but with a lot more room. Read the installment of the story below. At the end, you’ll find a question. You the reader will get to determine what happens next. Leave a comment. I’ll pick one at random.  You get to determine where the plot goes. So read, enjoy, and tell me what you want to happen next.  

Past Segments:  12345678

                Olivia forced a smile onto her face as she participated in the typical banal social chatter that accompanied parties such as these. She danced twice more, gaining nothing but a smile and a nod the one time she happened to pass John.  Thankfully, the dancing was quite short lived and the party broke up soon after.
                The occupants of the house moved to retire. Olivia made the walk across the great hall to the stairs take as long as she could. John was caught up in a business conversation with Lord Bromley and was apparently going to stay up for some time yet. With all the other ladies already ascending the stairs, Olivia had no choice but to follow them.
The next day found the ambling along the road, continuing their drive towards Birmingham. The confines of the coach were not private enough for her to lure John into continuing last night’s conversation. They stopped at a very nice posting inn for the night which excited Minnie to the point that she eagerly took Olivia’s hand and refused to let go for most of the evening.
“You’ll have to keep me from making a total cake of myself,” she said, gripping Olivia’s hand tightly.
“Have you never stayed in an inn before?”
The younger girl shook her head. “Never. Father has friends halfway between London and Cornwall. We stayed there on our way to London.”
Olivia glanced around the inn, trying to see it through Minnie’s eyes. It was obvious the girl found the wood planking and mix of characters exotic, but Olivia was at a loss to figure out why. It was probably because she knew that despite the better than average cleanliness and order of this inn, there was likely to be a rather uncomfortable bed waiting for her upstairs.
After dinner in the private dining room, she was pleased to find that the beds were much nicer than anticipated. She sighed. That meant Minnie was going to be vastly disappointed the next time she stayed in an inn.
The lost conversation ate at Olivia for the next two days. They saw several glorious sights and spent time in the coach reading to each other and chatting. Topics flowed easily one into the other. Olivia tried to share stories that she thought would help Minnie prepare for her season. John always sent her a secret, grateful smile when she managed it.
Olivia kept her eyes open for a chance to pursue his reasons for bringing her. She was amazed at how quickly her view of him had changed. Before he mentioned accompanying his sister on this trip he had simply been another man with whom her mother forced her to socialize. She thought him a bit full of himself when she’d dealt with him before. Now, after getting to know him and seeing his care of Minnie, she was beginning to rethink her opinion of him.
She stole a glance at him as the coach rolled through Birmingham’s high street. Was it possible he had seen her as something more while they were still in London? He said he had watched her before deciding to ask her to accompany his sister. What had he seen and, more importantly, had he liked it?
They reached his aunt’s friend’s house in mid-afternoon. They were shown immediately to their rooms to rest. Olivia didn’t feel the least bit tired. She took her pen and notepad and meandered out to the back gardens. She had several story ideas while traveling through the country and had not felt comfortable writing them down in the coach.
Crossing paths with John was an unexpected surprise.
“Oh, hello.” Anticipation filled her. This was the private moment she had been praying for. Now she had only to bring up the conversation without letting him know she’d been obsessing over it for days.
“You did not feel the need to rest?”
Olivia fell in step beside him and they wandered the garden paths, admiring the beautiful blooms. “We’ve taken such an easy pace on this trip that the traveling has not made me overtired.”
“I feel the same. Normally when I travel I get to my destination as quickly as possible. I’m afraid I’ve never taken the time to see the beauty in our country before. It was quite refreshing.” He glanced at the notepad in her hands. “Did you come out here to sketch?”
“No, write. I wanted to jot down a few things, memories of the trip so far.” She took a deep breath and dove into the conversational opening. “I was thinking back to our dance that first night. I don’t believe you ever finished that confession you said you had. Personal confession, if I recall correctly.”
He smiled. “And how long has that been bothering you?”
A gasp flew from her mouth before she could stop it. “Bothering me? Why I-“
“Do not bother, Miss Bedford, I shall tell you without embarrassing you further. You’ve been such a good sport and, indeed, a great help to Minnie. I felt the need to confess to you that I had an ulterior motive in inviting you on this trip.”
“You did?”
“Yes. You see my family had decided that it’s time for me to settle down. My mother has even decided who it should be.”
“She did?” Olivia mentally shook her head. She was a writer. Surely she could construct a more interesting sentence than that.
They walked in silence for a moment and finally curiosity won over pride and patience. “Who does she think you should marry?”
He looked over at her with a small smile. “You.”
“You. So I decided to bring you on this trip.”
She waited, breath held, to see if he was about to say that he found her as attractive as she was beginning to find him.
“I figured it would be the best way to prove to her that we wouldn’t suit at all.”

Okay, readers, is anyone going to give Alana a challenge on the story idea? Give me your ideas on how you think Olivia should respond to John’s statement. The options are endless.

Comments are now closed. Look for the next installment.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What's the good word?

When December started I was telling myself that this year I would NOT make New Year's Resolutions for one reason: I am notorious for setting huge goals for myself and then becoming literally depressed when I don't make them. I did not want to set myself up for that.

Then I read this post about focusing on a single word for the year in order to make changes in your life. I have since seen the concept in a few other posts attributing the idea to Debbie Macomber. I don't know who started it and really I don't think it matters. The point is that the idea is, in my opinion, a really good one.

The Concept

Here's the idea. Think hard about what you want to change in your life. Pick a word that encompasses the essence of that. For me, it came down to finding the root reason of why I wanted to change all the little things I could think of. Once you have that word, focus on it for the year. As you go about your daily life, keep that word in the front of your mind. Are the decisions you're making and the things you're doing helping you accomplish whatever that word means? 

It sounded simple and like something I could really do, so I'm giving it a go. 

The Plan
First, I had to come up with my word. After a lot of thought, I came up with this:


Your first thought is probably that this is a redressing of the age old resolution to lose weight. Partly, yes it is. I do want to lose weight. I want to be physically healthier. I also want to be emotionally, socially, financially, and spiritually healthier.  

I'm hoping that by focusing on this word, when I want to hit snooze on the alarm clock one more time, I'll have to consider which is healthier - snoozing five more minutes or dragging myself out of bed to exercise? When I want to splurge on something, which is healthier - the short-lived happiness of a frivolous purchase or a well-stocked emergency fund? Is it healthier to fret about my problems or pray over them?

If this works, by this time next year, I'll be in a much better state all around.

The Accountability

photo by Gumuz (Flickr), CC-BY
I'm sure there is a statistic or study about this somewhere, but people stick to things better when someone is holding them accountable. This, my loyal readers, is where you come in. Every couple of weeks I am going to report on my word. What things have I done to make myself healthy? Where am I struggling? If you don't see this post from me, feel free to check on me. (Doesn't this cat look like it's about to jump out of the screen and get you?)

I invite you to join me in this adventure. Come up with a word and post it below. When I give you my update, you can throw in yours as well. We'll hold each other up and together we'll make better people by this time next year. 

So what's your word going to be this year?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Fresh Start

Ah, January. The time of year when we all take a deep breath and try to start over. What is so magical about January First that gives us a clean slate? To a certain extent Mondays have this same elusive magic. How many times have you said I'm going to do better starting next week? Something in us craves that fresh start. We are desperate for the ability to draw a line in the sand and start over.

But there's nothing magical about January. There's nothing that happens when the clock strikes midnight that will suddenly turn you into someone who likes healthy foods, knows how to manage their money, and actually gets to places on time. You are still the same person at 12:01 as you were at 11:59. Don't get me wrong, people can change and sometimes that imaginary freshness is the catalyst it takes, but for most people it's a temporary high followed by the status quo low.

Did you know that you can actually have a fresh start? There is actually a way to take the mess of the past and leave it there? Jesus offers you a clean slate - forgiveness for all of your sins when you accept Him as your savior. If you haven't done that, every new year's resolution is futile.

If you have given your life to Jesus, ask him to take this mental imagining we have of the new year and make it a truly new beginning. In my regular Tuesday post, I'll tell you about my life change that I'm making this year. In the meantime, what about you? What are you asking Jesus to help you change?