As I mentioned in my last blog, life has been rough for my family and me this year. In many ways it seemed like it was one shoe dropping after another. Some things the outside world witnessed and prayed for; many things they never knew about. And I know we were not alone, I was not alone. When looking in the eyes of another, you never know the secret battles they are facing, even if you know some of the external ones.
So, how do you survive? How do you stand when these larger than life moments seem to want to totally overwhelm you?
For me, the answer is simple (though sometimes difficult to remember). I survive with my faith, my family, and my friends.
Faith is a choice. It is believing without seeing, and it is knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that I will not walk my path alone. And faith is just as much a verb as it is a noun. It is something that must be practiced daily, not just something we say we have. There are moments I know I would not have made it through if I didn’t know God was in my corner already holding me.
Family is a gift. Now, I realize there are times when family drives you absolutely insane. There may even be times when a family member has hurt you beyond belief. And that’s okay. They are still family, but family exists beyond the blood family God graced you with and into the heart family you surround yourself with. I don’t know how I would have survived this last year without my husband, my mom, my sister, my Aunt Kaye and Uncle Gary, Patty, Dawn, Leslee, Katie, and Cherry. They are the ones that no matter what, no matter when, no matter how long since we’ve spoken, I can call and know they will be there (and I have relied on this with them more times than they probably want to admit!) They are the ones I can just simply be ‘me’ with, and the ones that love me for me, even if I’m frustrating them beyond belief!
Friends are a blessing. And for me, that blessing is often a blurred line between friend and family because so many of them fill my heart. The night of my father’s visitation is a blur in many ways. He was such a pillar of faith, and a strong member of the community, that many wanted to come and pay their respects to both him and the family. We were awed at the number of people who came. As the evening came to a close, and the crowd began to dwindle, I found myself standing alone near him for the first time in hours, feeling utterly empty, when I felt a soft hand on my shoulder. I turned to find the tear-filled eyes of a longtime friend and within a few moments was surrounded with a few more. We told stories, shared some laughter and tears, and I was filled with an indescribable peace at one of my darkest moments. These are women I grew up with, went to school, church, and youth with. We have celebrated weddings together, births, loss, and struggles. And yet, we do not always see each other often enough. Sure, we keep up with each other on Facebook, but we don’t regularly talk. But when needed, they don’t hesitate to make a trip if needed, just to be there; until now, I’ve never put into words what that moment meant to me. And that one moment is just the tip of the iceberg of describing how friends have carried me.
Faith, family, and friends. Three simple words, yet three forces I could not live without. These are what help me survive the seemingly un-survivable moments.
What helps you?
That unusual four letter word that remains more unpredictable than almost anything else we come in common with.
For me, that unpredictability came in absolute waves this last year. As an educator, I tend to think of "years" differently than the rest of the world. My year usually goes from August to July - in other words, the start of the school year. And this past year was a doozy! A move back home after being gone four years, an unexpected surgery, major complications from the surgery, finally seeing the light at the end of that tunnel only to be thrown into another one as we hospitalized my father, struggling to deal with his unexpected passing, and finally trying to determine what our new normal looks like.
Needless to say, when school started this week, I was glad to feel as if I could maybe, just maybe, move on from last year and start fresh.And starting fresh for me means stepping back in to some long-missed activities.
First - writing. I have missed writing more than I can say. It's always been a release for me. But, when life throws such crazy curve balls, even those good releases can be pushed to the side.
Second - health. Although it should be one of the most important, it's also one of the easiest to push to the side. Eating well and exercising become less critical when you are crawling out of that tunnel (though really they are even more important than usual). So, I'm committing to eating better and exercising.
Third - Faith. My faith is the one thing, besides my family, that has carried me through this past year. And, this year has reminded me that the daily faith is just as important, if not more, than relying on it when we are at our darkest.
As I step back into life this year, I also want to thank some of you who have stayed in support and contact with me. So, to my mom, Brandy, and Kim I want to give a huge shout out for trying to keep tabs on me and constantly supporting me. To Becca and Charlotte, I promise I haven't forgotten you! And to everyone else who has continued to send emails, buy books, and send messages, thank you, thank you, thank you!
This week's Fan Friday question comes from Jen. She asks:
When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I didn't set out to be an author. It was something that happened over time. In all honesty, I have had a love affair with books for as long as I can remember. The first book I remember reading was No One Listens to Andrew. I have no idea how old I was when I read that, I just remember reading it. Coincidentally, my parents told me I never read a book with that title until I found it on a shelf in my house!! (Apparently, no one listens to Marisa either!)
The first full-length chapter book I read was Gone With the Wind. It was the summer after my 5th grade year and I was staying with my Grandmother. I read the book in less than three days and was absolutely in love!!
Several years later, I wrote my first "story". It was the end of my 8th grade year and I wrote the beautiful historical fiction love story of Wade and Caitlyn set during the Civil War. This was the cumulative project I chose instead of the typical diorama or map. To this day, I credit Kelly Kerlick, my 8th grade US History teacher, for allowing me this option. (This was a cutting edge idea when I was in school!)
From that day forward, I fell in love with playing with the written word. I wrote poems, lessons for my youth group, short stories, and almost anything else I could delve into. I constantly had stories floating around in my head, but still never planned to be a writer.
It was not until my second year of teaching that I got the notion I could actually write a book. I was at a conference in San Francisco when I got the idea for Is Love Enough. From there, the words just poured out and the story was born.
I may never have started out with the intent to write, but I love every minute of it. And, now that I've started letting the first stories move from my head to the paper, the rest are begging to come out.
Our question this week comes from Kim. She asks:
So Always Trust is your romantic suspense? Do you have a summary description for it already?
Thanks for the question, Kim. It made me start thinking about a good summary. It may still change, but here is the tentative back cover blurb for ALWAYS TRUST.
Melissa Smith doesn’t ask for much. Children to teach, friends and family to rely on, and a quiet life to enjoy are all she needs. Unfortunately, finding that is harder than it seems. After stumbling onto a drug deal gone badly, Melissa becomes the target of one of Texas’ most notorious criminal. He will do anything to get her, including using her students as leverage. Soon, she realizes she only has one choice if she wants to survive – to trust the one man who let her down when she needed him the most.
Life never goes as planned; Detective Mark Hill knows that better than most. He never planned to be a cop. He never planned to be a single father. And he never planned to run into Melissa again. But now that their paths have crossed, he plans to do everything possible to keep the one who got away.
She was his first love and the first to break his heart. He was the one who destroyed her trust in love. Second chances can be a blessing but they aren’t as easy as they seem. Amidst the chaos and danger, can Mark and Melissa finally learn that when you love, you ALWAYS TRUST.
Here is our 2nd Fan Friday post. Remember - you can submit any type of question to me at any time. So, send them in!
Our question today comes from Amy. She asks:What made you decide to write clean romances?I'd love your thoughts - leave them here or on my Facebook page but let me know what you think!~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I’ve had several people ask me why, in the days post Fifty Shades, I would even attempt to write clean romances. According to them, people do not want to read about heartfelt romances. They do not want to read about meaningful connections and the trials couples can go through on the way to building a solid relationship. I disagreed and argued that is what life, what love, is about. They may eventually agree, but only with the huge caveat that reading about romance is only interesting with the sex.
To that, I say absolutely not.
Sex is a vital part of any healthy marriage. It is exciting, passionate, and necessary – and it was designed to be that way. I will not deny that, nor will most other people. But, I also think there is more to every relationship than sex and I firmly believe people can get lost in a love story without needing the intimate details.
But the unnecessary description of sex is not the only reason I chose to write clean romances. In fact, it’s not even the primary reason. No – that reason is sitting in the other room at the moment, cuddled up on her bed with a book. For nine years, this precious little girl has graced my life. I watch in awe as she experiences the world, learns to navigate friendships, and understands trust. My heart breaks as I realize how fast she is growing up and I anxiously and hesitantly wait to see what kind of woman she will become.
She is the reason I write clean romances. I want her to be able to talk freely about what Mama does, to be able to tell people about Mama’s books and never have to be worried. More importantly though, I want her know that while sex is beautiful, wonderful and even fun, it does not have to define her relationships. I want her to know that trust, love, commitment, friendship, and respect are just as equally important in a relationship. One day, my daughter will delve into the pages of my books just like she gets lost in the pages of Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and the Dork Diaries. When I write, I think about the basic truths I want her to know about romance and love and try to incorporate those into my books. It is part of my legacy to her.
Writing clean romance was never a lifelong goal I had. I’m not opposed to sex. In fact, if you look at my book list on Goodreads
, you will see I have a pretty eclectic reading list, including many traditional romances that have varied scenes. But I have been gifted with the responsibility of raising a precious young lady and I want the words I write to mirror the conversations I have with her and the hopes I have for what she will learn as she grows.
Every author has to write what they feel and what they think is best; nothing is necessarily ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. This variety is what makes the literary world so fantastically beautiful. This is just my contribution to that world.
Recently, I decided to start Fan Fridays - an opportunity for anyone to ask any burning question...techniques, characters, projects, what type of gum I chew, anything. So, if you have any questions, post them in the comments, leave a message on Facebook, or even send me an email. I hope ya'll enjoy this 'ongoing interview' as much as I will.
Our first question comes from Kim. She asks,
'Does Is Love Enough and Running Towards Love have a series name?'
The short answer is no. The right answer should be yes.
When I first started writing IS LOVE ENOUGH, I always intended it to be a standalone book. I truly felt as if Jason and Rebekah's story was complete and there was no reason to plan another story. After I released the book though, I started receiving comments and questions about Danny and Nikki. Readers wanted to know their back story...how did they meet, why were they so important to Jason, what did their future hold.
Thus, RUNNING TOWARDS LOVE was born. This novella allowed me the opportunity to answer some of those burning questions about Danny and Nikki while giving readers a glimpse of Jason and Rebekah in the future. Along the way, I explored so much of Danny and Nikki and really enjoyed telling their story. In fact, they keep nudging me and letting me know their story isn't quite complete. Maybe we'll have to explore that in the future.
I think at this point, I should probably combine the two books into a series, especially if Danny and Nikki have their way and a third book is created. The official name of the series will be THE LOVE SERIES.
Here's the first teaser from ALWAYS TRUST - Book 1 of the series Teaching the Heart. Hope you enjoy!
Turning on her heel, Melissa headed out of the club through the back entrance. The alley she stepped into was darker than she anticipated, and she was surprised to find herself shiver in the heat of the Houston August night. Hugging her arms to herself, she vowed to stand there for just a moment, grab a few breaths of fresh air, and head back inside. She’d had enough unwanted moments in dark places to last her a lifetime and she certainly did not desire another.
However, as she began to turn around, Melissa heard the unmistakable whimper of a young woman. Torn between the safety of the club and the unknown of the dark alley, Melissa headed towards the sound. She certainly refused to help someone if they were in need.
Cautiously, she approached the sound, noting as she did that the whimper was getting louder, as were other voices that surrounded it.
“This is the best there is, sir. I assure you.” She heard a voice laced with a thick Spanish accent.
“It better be,” a second voice chimed in. This voice, she noted, sounded American, possibly Texan. “If I’m going to be working with your boss, he’d better understand that I want the best, only the best, and that I always get what I want.”
“Si, senor. He knows. I assure you.”
Stepping lightly, Melissa placed her back against a wall so she could inch closer and get a better look. She knew it was stupid; but she believed she didn’t have a choice. She could still hear the small, choked out mysterious sounds and felt a pull to help the woman making them.
Peering around the corner suddenly brought the scene into full view. A black Chevy Suburban with deeply tinted windows was backed into the alley, blocking the entrance, its back doors open and a case of money resting in plain view in the back. An intimidating, large man stood to the left of the vehicle, arms folded across his chest, eyes scanning the alley. The moment Melissa saw him, she forced herself even closer to the wall, if that were even possible.
“What the hell is that sound?” the man with the Texas accent demanded. As the men surrounding him drew their guns and prepared to search the alley, Melissa stifled an intake of breath as she took in his appearance. Dark, chin length hair framed his face and in the moonlight she could see the outline of a tattoo climbing his neck, drawing even more attention to the scar running from his left eye to his chin.
“You assured me this was a safe location!” Instantly, he pulled out what Melissa could only surmise was a handgun, and forced it to the trembling man’s temple. She shut her eyes in haste wanting to block out every possible image of what she feared was coming.
“Si, senor. It is. We meet…” but the sentence was never finished as the sound of a silenced shot rang through the alley, followed by thud of what she could only assume was of the man falling to the ground; the entire incident seeming to take only seconds and at the same time, seeming to last forever.
Immediately, weapons were drawn from all men in the alley, no one knowing quite where to point.
“Man, what the hell is your problem?” Another Hispanic man screamed as he looked at the conniving white man in front of him. “There was no sound and there was no need to kill him.”
“I told you before,” he replied. “I am not a man who enjoys being made a fool of. You mess with my business, or with me, and I guarantee you will not live to tell about it.”
Guns still drawn, the white man stepped menacingly closer to the one who dared to question him. “What do you think you are going to do to me, ese?” he asked, purposely mispronouncing the Spanish word. “Are you going to shoot me? Do you think your friend here would do that for you if he were in your place?”
He glanced down the alley, satisfied for the moment. “Put your guns away and let’s leave,” he ordered the men around him.
At that very moment, the woman whom Melissa had initially been drawn to help whimpered once again. Quickly, Melissa reached her, crouched behind the dumpster and slammed her hand over the woman’s mouth, forcing her to be quiet. “That’s got to be Karen,” one of the other men whispered to the scarred man.
“She shouldn't be alive and she shouldn't be here! Do I need to finish your job before I finish you?”
“No sir.” He turned in the direction of Melissa and the woman but didn't make it two steps before all hell broke loose. Melissa wasn't sure where the shooting started, she only knew the chaos in the alley allowed her to stand and pull the woman with her back towards the club.
Immediately though, her green eyes met the coldest black eyes she had ever seen. For a moment, they stared at each other, memorizing the other’s face and in that brief second, Melissa felt her efforts were to be in vain. ‘Part of me died in the darkness before,’ she thought to herself, ‘and the rest of me is about to die now.’ But instantly, a glorious sound edged into her mind as she heard sirens in the distance.
“I will find you, I promise you that!” He shouted, pointing at Melissa before grabbing the bag of money. “Grab the stuff,” he yelled to his men, getting in the backseat of the suburban. Staring at the other men in the alley, he continued. “Tell Montez he will get no money from me until he can find healthier places to conduct business.”
The sirens grew louder as the unmarked vehicles drove away and Melissa turned her attention to the woman she joined on the ground.
Cover reveal days are exciting to me. They allow the reader to see the heart of the story through the author's eyes. Covers set the overall tone of the story and give the reader a small hint as to what might be anticipated.
In designing RUNNING TOWARDS LOVE, I wanted a cover that screamed romance because, in my eyes, that is exactly who Danny and Nikki are together; after being married for ten years, that romance still has not disappeared. But Nikki is just as cautious of good things in her life now as she was when they first met. Despite the fact that she trusts in Danny's love, she still has a tendency to run on occasion. She is definitely in the right career track; acting works for her because she cannot hide the drama!
I hope each of you enjoys the cover of RUNNING TOWARDS LOVE, as much as I did creating it. As soon as the novella is released, I'll announce locations and pricing information.
Here is the book blurb for RUNNING TOWARDS LOVE:
For ten years, Danny and Nikki Camarelli have shared everything until Nikki overhears a conversation leading her to believe his honesty has been nothing but a lie. When Nikki disappears for a few days, Danny is frantic with worry before he finds out she has traveled to visit their best friends in Texas.
Shortly after she arrives, Nikki confides the rest of the horrible truth to Jason and Rebekah Taylor, completely unsure as to what her future holds. But, Danny won’t give her up without a fight. Can Nikki remember all the reasons she should be RUNNING TOWARDS LOVE before it’s too late?
A novella based on the characters from IS LOVE ENOUGH.
I am so excited to participate in the Happy Endings blog hop which begins today. Not only is this my first blog hop to participate in, but it is always one of my favorite topics. I'm a sucker for happy endings and often get quite frustrated when I read a book, and become totally invested in it, only to have a sad horrible ending. Yuck!
In this post, I'll start with a link to the blogs participating in the hop. You can visit each of their sites during the week. Next, I'll share my personal happy ending story. Finally, I'll end with the giveaway for this site. Hope everyone has a fantastic week!
Here is the link to the blog hop.
So what is my personal happy ending? I have two that I tried to choose between, and of course, could not. Finally, I just decided to share both.
First - meeting and marrying my best friend. I was a freshman in college when we met. As a student at Texas A&M University, I was caught up in the excitement of building Aggie bonfire. My dorm was paired with a brother dorm and I met him during our first trek into the woods to participate in cut. Once that busy, busy day was over, we all went to Whataburger where he strategically placed my drink across from him so I would have to sit there. We had our first date that night and the rest is history. By February, we were engaged and we married a year and a half later. I was young and in love, and about a month before we got engaged, he offered me the opportunity to date other people; he said he knew what he wanted, but he wanted me to be sure. I made my choice then, and almost 17 years later, am so thankful I did.
My second happy ending was the birth of our daughter. After years of infertility treatments and heartache, we finally had a successful IVF treatment. We placed 3 embryos inside and she promptly kicked the other two out! But, in her excitement to meet Mama and Daddy, she kept trying to come too early. My asthma couldn't handle things well, so I spent the last 11 weeks of my pregnancy on bed rest. She was born a month early and it was one of the happiest moments of my life. This precious angel is the epitome of the happy ending that you get to enjoy over and over again and I am so thankful for her!
Readers and blog hop participants - enjoy the week by reminiscing about your own happy endings. Take time to reflect on those moments that have brought you pure joy.
Enter the giveaway below, either with your email address or your Facebook account for the chance to win a $25.00 Amazon gift card and a copy of IS LOVE ENOUGH and celebrate Jason and Rebekah's happy ending as well.
Sign in to the Rafflecopter ticket below to enter this site's giveaway.
Ahhhh….Friday – one of the most precious days of week! Everyone enjoys Friday, but sometimes I believe there is not a group who enjoys that particular day of the week more than teachers. This special group of people dedicates time and energy to more than simply teaching throughout the week. Not only are they teachers, they are moms and dads, counselors, therapists, janitors, managers, and a myriad other tasks we cannot even begin to name. Teachers are jacks-of-all-trades.
The heroine in my first novel is a teacher as are the heroines in my next two full length novels. This was not originally on purpose. I just found overtime that I enjoy writing about teachers. They have fantastic stories to tell (and have some excellent anecdotes from their students too).
Since I have started writing, I have given lots of thought to the teachers who helped me get here. Two of my most influential taught me during my 8th grade year. First, I credit my US History teacher. Although student-driven, alternative assignments are more common these days, they were very unusual when I was in school. Yet, here was this young, new teacher who was not afraid to allow us to spread our wings a little and have some choice in our assignments. The first official story I wrote was for her class – a historical fiction covering specific battles in the Civil War. One day, I might just have to brush that short story out and see if I can expand it! The other teacher who greatly impacted my love of reading and writing was my English teacher. She opened my eyes to the variety of literary genres out there and pushed my thinking as a young writer. I will be forever grateful for these two ladies!
Of course, I have had many, many teachers through the years that have impacted me in different ways; I honestly do not know if I could list all of them. But, I have definitely been giving them all a lot of thought lately. So, I would like to challenge each of you to do the same. Think of at least one teacher who had a major impact on your life and write them a thank you note. If possible, see if you can track them down to mail that note. Teachers are never told thank you enough!
Enjoy your fabulous Friday!