First Line Friday – 11.17.17

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Welcome to First Line Friday! Each Friday I pick a book and share the first line with you. In return, I hope you’ll share with me a first line from whatever book you have at hand!

This week I am sharing the first line from the book I am currently reading, His Frontier Christmas Family by Regina Scott. I’ll be sharing my full review of this novel on December 4th as part of a Prism Book Tour. Be sure to sign up to follow my blog so you don’t miss out.

His Frontier Christmas Family

Here’s the first line:

Near Seattle, Washington Territory
December 1874

Someone was watching her.

Here’s the description:

After taking guardianship of his late friend’s siblings and baby daughter, minister Levi Wallin hopes to atone for his troubled past on the gold fields. But it won’t be easy to convince the children’s wary elder sister to trust him. The more he learns about her, though, the more he believes Callie Murphy’s prickly manner masks a vulnerable heart…one he’s starting to wish he was worthy of.

Every man in Callie’s life chose chasing gold over responsibilities. Levi-and the large, loving Wallin family-might just be different. But she can tell he’s hiding something from her, and she refuses to risk her heart with secrets between them. Even as they grow closer, will their pasts keep them from claiming this unexpected new beginning?

Sequel to Mail-Order Marriage Promise and previous books in the Frontier Bachelor series set in pioneer Seattle.

Note:  Although it says “sequel”, this book may be read as a stand alone.

Now it’s your turn! Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating:

ACFW First Impressions 2017 FINALIST!

Exciting News

Every year American Christian Fiction Writers holds the First Impressions contest for unpublished writers. For the first time, this year I decided to enter one of my manuscripts and I am over the moon to announce that I am one of three finalists in the historical romance category!

I wish I could do a vlog so you could see just how excited I am, but I have a cold with a sore throat and you all don’t deserve the torture that is my voice right now.

Suffice to say, this:  I got the call yesterday afternoon as I was leaving my children’s dentist’s office (walking to our van) and the second I hung up the phone I was doing such a big happy dance my kids busted up laughing and said I was bouncing our van. This, despite having been on the verge of falling asleep in the lobby minutes before. Nothing like awesome news to brighten an otherwise miserable day and bring energy to the virus weary.

I also want to add a big congratulations to all my fellow finalists, especially those in the Historical Romance category:

Dawne Beckel  & Savanna Kaiser

You can read the names of the finalists in each category HERE.

The winners of the 2017 First Impressions contest will be announced on December 15th.

5 Ways I Handle Burnout

Burnout Blog Title Image

Burnout . . .

According to Google, burnout is

  1. the reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion.
  2. physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.

For me, that looks like exhaustion, impatience, productive procrastination, and – when it gets really bad – my impression of an ostrich. (Yes, I know the head in the sand thing is a myth, but the analogy still works.)

waiting for problems to go away

Burnout has been triggered by different things throughout my life, but the common factor is always that somehow I have wound up with more on my to-do list than I believe is possible to accomplish in the amount of time I have to accomplish it, combined with a sense of one or more factors relating to that list being out of control – and this has continued for an extended period of time.

For example, in addition to being a mother and author, I am also a homeschool teacher. I can spend weeks planning my children’s education and hours teaching them, but at some point it is up to them to actually do the work. Like all children, there are phases in their life when they “just don’t want to” and nothing I say or do will make them budge. You know that saying:  “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”? I am intimately acquainted with the full meaning of that idea.

Human to Knowledge

Now, if their “just don’t want to” phase happens to occur at the same time I am trying to meet an ambitious number of writing related goals, have an unusually high frequency of medical appointments scheduled (for me or my kids), I am not getting enough sleep for one reason or another, and I am in the process of planning another child’s birthday celebration … well, this can sometimes lead me to burnout.

I have learned to recognize the signs of my impending burnout, but I am still working on nipping it in the bud. Some of the things I have tried which worked are:

1. Start saying, “No.”  I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to say, “No” to awesome opportunities or friends who need help. I want to do it all and I want to be there for all the people I care about. The trouble is, if I try to do it all, something always suffers – everything is done poorly or a few things are done well while something else gets forgotten or simply doesn’t get accomplished on time. Trying to do it all never works out well. If I try to be there for everyone all the time, it leaves me nothing left to give to those most important to me:  my family. As much as I fight it, my time and energy are not infinite. Learning to say no is a constant life struggle.

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2. Reprioritize my to-do list.  When I feel myself spiraling toward burnout I am normally moving at the speed of light, running from one task to the next, going to bed late, getting up early, and trying to solve every problem at the same time. So I try to take a step back and reevaluate where I’m putting my energy. Are the things I am trying to accomplish really that important or urgent? The best questions I have found to help me with deciding how to reorganize or even trim my to-do list are:  What will happen if this doesn’t get done? Can someone else do this?

3. Try to delegate. This is a tough one. Most of the items on my list are things only I can do or things only I can do well. That last part is where I usually fight with myself to let go. I grew up with a grandmother who asked me to handpick pieces of lint from the carpet and from whose bathroom floor I would have happily eaten from dinner. Perfectionism runs in my family. Letting someone else do something, *knowing* they can’t do it as well as I can (and that’s not ego, that’s just fact with certain tasks), but that they can accomplish the task “well enough”, is tough. Very tough. However, I have learned that the consequences of full-blown burnout are far greater than a mediocre job.

Sorry I'm late I had to stare at the ceiling and question all my life choices.

 

4. Take a break. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how important the to-do list tasks are. I need to step back, set my list down, and take a break. I need to switch gears and get my mind off the things that are bothering me. Since taking a week-long vacation from life isn’t typically practical, this is when I will go see a movie, or read a book just for fun (not to review), or even spend two hours listening to a friend’s problems. Nothing gets your mind off your own trouble like listening to someone else’s trouble – especially if they’re in a tougher spot than you are. And there is always someone in a tougher spot than you are.

I need a time out Image

5. Rejuvenate. I find a way to re-energize myself. This always involves worship and Bible study. Nothing puts things into perspective faster and calms my worries more thoroughly than reminding myself of Who is truly in control. When I find myself entering burnout, I almost always have let my Bible study slip. After all, there is no deadline by which I have to “finish studying the Bible.” No one ever “finishes” studying the Bible. And then there is the lie that “no one else is affected if I don’t read the Bible today.” It’s easy to see that if I don’t take my daughter to her medical appointment that she will suffer. It is more difficult to see that she will also suffer if I let my relationship with my Lord fall to the bottom of my to-do list. Yet it remains true that everything in my life suffers when I don’t prioritize spending time with God.

In addition to Bible study and worship, I will do what I can to catch up on sleep, spend some time alone with my thoughts, and find a creative outlet that is just for fun. I love being an author, but taking it seriously means it sometimes feels no different than any other job – there are days I can’t wait to start working and days I’d rather do anything but. So I make a point to find alternate ways to express my creativity without the pressure of public scrutiny or deadlines. These things re-energize me and fill that emotional cup so that I have something to give.

These are the 5 major things which I have found to help me avoid and recover from burnout.

What about you? What situations lead you to experience burnout? Have you found ways to get yourself out of it? Please share your thoughts with me in the comments below!

My 2017 Christmas Reading List

Christmas Reading List 2017 Post Image

I admit it, I love reading Christmas themed romance as much as the next gal. It never gets old. So this year, I’ve been stockpiling my list of books to read during the Christmas season. Today, I’m sharing my list with you.

Bygone Christmas Brides – 6 Novellas

by Pamela Griffin, Jill Stengl, Gina Welborn, Ginny Aiken, Tamela Hancock Murray, Carla Gade

Bygone Christmas Brides

Light a candle in the window and sit down to a slice of fruitcake as you delight in six 19th Century romances that welcome love at Christmastide. Many traditions held dear today have their roots in the British Isles and have been practiced for over a hundred years. In these six delightful historical stories, romance is nurtured amidst baking Scottish shortbread and English mince pies, burning the yule log, and hanging kissing boughs. But each couple is also plagued by worries of the day. As Christmastide draws to a close, will faith and love endure for future celebrations?

Amazon | Goodreads

The Westward Christmas Brides Collection – 9 Novellas

by Wanda E. Brunstetter, Susan Page Davis, Melanie Dobson, Cathy Liggett, Vickie McDonough, Olivia Newport, Janet Spaeth, Jennifer Rogers Spinola, MaryLu Tyndall

 The Westward Christmas Brides Collection

Take the journey into the American west alongside nine women who are chasing their dreams—Cynthia, for security; Beryl, for a new family; Adeline, for freedom; Molly, for marriage; Beth, for a new start; Belinda, for a place to heal; Suzette, for adventure; Juliet, for peace; and Caroline, for a future for her children. Celebrate Christmas alongside these pioneers as love finds them in nine distinctly different romances penned by leading Christian fiction authors, including New York Times bestselling author Wanda E. Brunstetter.

Amazon | Goodreads

Mountain Christmas Brides – 9 Novellas

by Susan Page Davis, Mildred Colvin, Lena Nelson Dooley, Darlene Franklin, Debby Lee, Tamela Hancock Murray, Carrie Turansky, Gina Welborn, Mary Davis

Mountain Christmas Brides

A trusting heart / by Carrie Turansky
Home for the holidays / by Mildred Colvin
One evergreen night / by Debby Lee
All ye faithful / by Gina Welborn
A carpenter Christmas / by Mary Davis
Fires of love / by Tamela Hancock Murray
The best medicine / by Lena Nelson Dooley
Almost home / by Susan Page Davis
Dressed in scarlet / by Darlene Franklin

From a Wyoming ranch in 1880, to a logging camp in Washington Territory in the late 1800s, to Denver, Colorado, in 1913, meet nine couples who find that Christmas is the perfect time for climbing to the heights of romance. Watch as their faith and courage propel them through challenges that come with mountain winters to cozy fireside celebrations that lead to lasting proclamations of love. Penned by an exclusive selection of Christian fiction authors—including Susan Page Davis, Vickie McDonough, and Carrie Turansky—this collection of nine romances is one to treasure.

Amazon | Goodreads

12 Days at Bleakly Manor

by Michelle Griep

12 Days at Bleakly Manor

When CLARA CHAPMAN receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of one thousand pounds. That’s enough money to bring her brother back from America and reinstate their stolen family fortune. But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, BENJAMIN LANE.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar.

Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters. What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

Amazon | Goodreads

Cowboy Christmas Homecoming

by Mary Connealy, Ruth Logan Herne, Julie Lessman, & Anna Schmidt

Cowboy Christmas Homecoming

They’ve weathered a lot worse than winter. For widow June Harper, another cold front is about to hit. Most call him Hugh. She’d call him Scrooge, except as the man ensures her needs are met, June can’t help but wonder how to meet the needs of his heart.

Netty Lewis can take care of herself, has for a while now. Some hired help over the holidays doesn’t change that. And even if Roy does take care of her, that doesn’t mean he cares for her or that he’ll stay past Christmas.

Pastor Colton McCabe is having the opposite problem. He’s not sure he’ll make it through the holidays with his new housekeeper. Grace can’t seem to do anything right but love. Perhaps being a homekeeper will earn her a permanent residence in his heart.

And no one longs for a home more than Connie Lancaster. She’s determined to return to St. Louis, and no cowboy can change her mind. But if Isaac can change her heart, maybe Connie will see the homecoming she’s been waiting for isn’t to a place but a person.

Amazon | Goodreads

The Gift of Grace – Novella

by Julie Lessman

The Gift of Grace

She’s the Accident to His Prayers …

Pastor Cole McCabe isn’t sure he’ll survive the holidays with his new housekeeper and nanny. She’s caught fire to the kitchen, dyed his long johns pink, and scorched nearly everything she cooks. But he’s desperate, and she’s as destitute as they come.

Even though she’s no good with her hands, Grace sure has a way with her heart. She’s brought a warmth into Cole’s home, added color to his daughters’ lives, and broken down the wall he’s built up since his beloved wife died.

But when Grace’s past threatens Cole’s family, she’s given one last chance to be home for Christmas . . . if she hasn’t burned it down yet.

Amazon | Goodreads

Mail-Order Christmas Baby

by Sherri Shackelford

Mail-Order Christmas Baby

The Rancher’s Special Delivery 

The “package” is addressed to him, but rancher Sterling Blackwell certainly didn’t order a baby! More scandalous still, he and the town’s pretty teacher are named as parents. With gossip running wild, only a marriage of convenience can protect little Gracie and their reputations until her real family is found.

Heather O’Connor is content to be the spinster schoolmarm of Valentine, Montana…until Gracie’s arrival stirs her heart. She can’t keep the adorable child without Sterling’s help, though she promises not to interfere with his life. But staying aloof from her handsome husband isn’t easy with a tiny matchmaker in tow. A mistake brought them together, but love might just make them a family by Christmas…

Amazon | Goodreads

My Spillover List

The books above are on my Must Read List for this Christmas Season, but there are always more books that I want to read than there is time for me to actually read them, so I put the extra books on what I call my “Spillover List” which I turn to on those rare occasions I find an extra bit of time.

The books below didn’t make my Must Read List for no other reason than my particular mood at the time. In case one of them better suits your personal tastes or mood, below are my Christmas Spillover books. To keep this post from becoming five miles long, I’ve linked to the descriptions rather than posting them here (click the titles).

 

A Log Cabin Christmas Collection – 9 Novellas

by Wanda E. Brunstetter, Margaret Brownley, Kelly Eileen Hake, Jane Kirkpatrick, Liz Johnson

A Log Cabin Christmas

A Pioneer Christmas – 9 Novellas

by Kathleen Fuller, Vickie McDonough, Lauraine Snelling, Margaret Brownley, Marcia Gruver, Cynthia Hickey, Shannon McNear, Michelle Ule, Anna Carrie Urquhart

A Pioneer Christmas Collection

Colors of Christmas – 2 Novellas

by Olivia Newport

Colors of Christmas

The Snowflake 

by Jamie Carie

The Snowflake

Starring Christmas – 2 Novellas

by Rachel McMillan & Allison Pittman

Starring Christmas

If you still haven’t found the book for you, or simply want more, more more:

Check out my interview with author Terri Reed featuring her novel, A Family Under the Christmas Tree.

Visit ChristianBook.com’s Christmas Fiction Store.

By the way, if you were counting – Yes, I’ve listed a total of twelve books . . . for Christmas.   I may or may not be doing another post having to do with this number in the near future. To make sure you don’t miss it, make sure you sign up to follow my blog.

 

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What do you think of my list? Have you read any of these? Do you have any you think I should add? Please share your suggestions! There is always room for more books!

TWEETABLE:

12 Books for your Christmas Romance Reading List! #ChristFic

 

First Line Friday – 11.02.17

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Welcome to First Line Friday! Each Friday I pick a book and share the first line with you. In return, I hope you’ll share with me a first line from whatever book you have at hand!

This week I am sharing the first line from a book by an author I haven’t yet read, but am excited to try. It’s The Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter, and apparently it has even been made into a Hallmark Channel movie.

The Convenient Groom

Here’s the first line:

The red light on Kate Lawrence’s cell phone blinked a staccato warning.

Here’s the description:

She wrote the book–literally–on finding the right mate. But does she really understand what love’s about?

Five hours before her Nantucket beach wedding–and on the eve of her big book launch–celebrity marriage counselor Kate Lawrence has everything in place.

Everything, that is, but the groom. She might not have a career, either, when her nationwide audience finds out their marriage guru has been left at the altar.

Enter Lucas Wright, who offers to stand in for the missing husband-to-be and marry her. Kate’s desperate enough to agree–although she’s sure this Mr. Wright is completely wrong for her. But can they pull it off? And why would Lucas marry her in the first place?

Could it be that “Dr. Kate” doesn’t know the first thing about love?

An inspiring tale of enduring love set in romantic Nantucket.

Each Romance For Good™ novel offers a story of hope and love that positively portrays the eternal impact of relationships.

Now it’s your turn! Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating:

Name That Book! – Answers & Winners!

Name That Book Header Image - Answers & Winners

If you missed last week’s post, it’s not too late to play for fun! However, the deadline for entering to win has now closed and today I am sharing the answers and announcing the winners!

First, the answers!

 

Mystery Book #1

This book deals with racial issues present in 1875 Colorado Territory.  The primary themes are accepting forgiveness and learning to adjust when your dreams don’t turn out to be what you imagined they were.

ANSWER:  From a Distance by Tamera Alexander

Mystery Book #2

The way the author of this book grows the heroine from a self-absorbed, social-ladder-climbing, destructively selfish young woman, into an others-focused, humbly grateful, aid-to-the-poor-and-downtrodden, generous young woman, is something to be truly admired.

ANSWER:  The Thorn Keeper by Pepper D. Basham

Mystery Book #3

This book questions the definition of strength and courage. My favorite part of this book has to be the women. Man, I love these women! I just want to be their friends. And more importantly, I want them on my side in a fight!

ANSWER:  Long Time Gone by Mary Connealy 

Mystery Book #4

This novel dares to include sensitive topics which other books rarely include. It does so in a way that is not at all preachy, but instead feels very personal and real to the hero and heroine of this story. This book asks the reader to define true community and addresses faith in the face of tragedy and suffering, as well as the struggles of discerning God’s purpose for our lives.

ANSWER:  Such A Hope by Sondra Kraak

Mystery Book #5

While reading the first chapter of this book, I felt like a fish on a line being reeled in. And it just kept going. I did not want to put this book down. Instead of viewing the Revolutionary War from the distant, almost omniscient and impersonal perspective we were taught in school, this story takes us into the home and personal lives of just one family.

ANSWER:  The Scarlet Coat by Angela K. Couch

Mystery Book #6

This book is the third book in a series and features one of my Top 5 Heroes! The primary themes are prejudice, forgiveness, and the cost of hate.

ANSWER:  The Thorn Healer by Pepper D. Basham

Mystery Book #7

This book features quotes from Pygmalion.

ANSWER:  Twist of Faith by Pepper D. Basham

Mystery Book #8

This book is set in a women’s colony and features an atypical hero (also one of my Top 5 Heroes).

ANSWER:  Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer

Mystery Book #9

This book’s hero is a young Chippewa widow.

ANSWER:  Under a Blackberry Moon by Serena B. Miller

Mystery Book #10

This book featured everyone from a popular fairy artist to a retired missionary.

ANSWER:  Love at First Laugh – Eight Romantic Novellas Filled with Love, Laughter, and Happily Ever After by Krista Phillips, Pepper Basham, Christina Coryell, Heather Gray, Elizabeth Maddrey, Jessica Patch, Laurie Tomlinson, & Marion Ueckermann

And the winners are

Winner #1: JoyOfReadingWeb

Winner #2: PhotoJulia

Winner #3: NickiBishop

 

How did you do? Did you enjoy this game? Did you win a prize?

Don’t forget to tell your friends!

TWEETABLES:

 

I rocked the Name That Book challenge! How will you do? – Click to Tweet!

Can you name all 10 sweet romance novels? I did! – Click to Tweet!

I named all 10 books and won a prize at www.KathleenDenly.com! – Click to Tweet!

 

First Line Friday – 10.26.17

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Welcome to First Line Friday! Each Friday I pick a book and share the first line with you. In return, I hope you’ll share with me a first line from whatever book you have at hand!

This week I am sharing the first line from a book by one of my favorite authors, Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer.

Full Steam Ahead cover image

Here’s the first line:

Galveston, Texas
April 1851

Nicole Renard gripped her mother’s letter in her gloved hand as the carriage rattled down Bath Street, away from the docks.

Here’s the description:

 

Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston and finds her father deathly ill. Though she loves him, he’s only ever focused on what she’s not. Not male. Not married. Not able to run Renard Shipping.

Vowing to secure a suitable husband to give her father the heir he desires before it’s too late, Nicole sets out with the Renard family’s greatest treasure as her dowry: the highly coveted Lafitte Dagger. But when her father’s rivals come after the dagger, she’s forced to change her destination.

Darius Thornton has been a man obsessed since the fatal boiler explosion aboard the Louisiana that nearly took his life. He will do anything to stop such disasters. Even hire a female secretary. Sure he can ignore the distraction of her pretty face, he’s not sure how to proceed when drawn to her clever mind.

Nicole is determined not to let her odd employer scare her off with his explosive experiments, yet when respect and mutual attraction grows between them, a new fear arises. How can she acquire an heir for her father when her heart belongs to an unsuitable candidate? And worse, when her father’s rivals discover her hiding place, she will have to choose between that love and her family’s legacy.

Now it’s your turn! Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating: