Merry Monday – Christmas Crafting

Merry Monday - Christmas Crafting

Hi everyone! I hope you are all enjoying this time leading up to Christmas. I know my family has been in full holiday swing. In fact, we spent several hours this weekend creating new Christmas ornaments — several for our own home and a few to give as gifts. I thought it would be fun to share our creations with you today. I hope you enjoy seeing what we made and maybe even feel inspired to do a little crafting of your own.

Each of the ornaments below was created using clear plastic ornaments, acrylic paints, and various other additions as noted.

PhotoGrid_1544347540945
This first trio was painted by me.  Every year we create or purchase one new ornament per family member. We write the date somewhere discrete and add it to our tree. The two landscape scenes will be the ornaments added for myself and my husband this year. The snowman will be hung from white paper chains which we drape around our great room. 
20181209_003706
These snowmen were all created by my children.  They also stuffed the “snowballs” in the back. Stuffing materials vary from clear tinsel to “tiny fake snowballs” to that clear plastic confetti they sell as “fake snow.” The tiny fake snowballs were found at our local Dollar Tree and were the easiest to stuff into the ornaments, but the other two stuffing items were my personal favorites (despite their staticky resistance to being crammed into a small hole) due to their reflective qualities which gave them an ice-like appearance.  All of these ornaments will be hung from the white paper chains in our great room this year and will be brought out for similar purposes year after year from now on. I’ve added their names and the year to the bottom of each. 
20181209_002724
My children chose the faces from a photo I found on Pinterest and they chose the sock hats from an assortment I picked up at our local Dollar Tree. The rest I did myself. These four will be their contributions to our tree for this year. 
PhotoGrid_1544347353044
These three snowmen (shown before and after candy stuffing)  were painted by me and will be given away at a children’s gift exchange. 
47573284_10209976765775977_6709552232834007040_o
Lest the previous pictures have you thinking I some sort of crafting genius, let me assure you, I am not! Exhibit A:  My complete failure to create what so many have touted as the world’s easiest DIY ornament – inside-out espsom salt ornaments. I used Mod Podge and epsom salts inside these 8 ornaments hoping for beautiful snowball-like results and wound up with snowballs that looked like we’d made them from that snow parents warn their kids not to eat. (They look even more yellow in person.) I made myself feel better about this by sticking digital stickers all over them to express my feelings on the matter. LOL Eventually I am thinking to salvage them with a combination of white paint and clear glitter on the exterior, but I have yet to work up the nerve energy. We’ll see. 

If you’re looking for snowman face inspiration, you can try this photo and this photo.

If you want more details on how to make the sock-hatted snowmen (& other fun ornaments), this is a good video to watch.

Pro tip:  Make sure to use paints specially designed for plastic and consider adding a clear coat on top to protect your artwork.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into our holiday preparations. Being creative always reminds me of our Creator and how He has blessed us with the fruits of His creation. Spending the time listening to Christmas music and crafting with my children is a blessing I cherish.

To see more of my holiday craftivities, follow me on Instagram @KathleenDenly!

If you’re not already subscribed to this blog and want to be, CLICK HERE.

Also, don’t forget I’ll be releasing a free short story exclusively for my KRC Members this week! So if you’re not already a member, sign up today!

Promo - Runaway Wedding

Let’s Chat!

Do you enjoy holiday crafting? I’d love to know if there is a craft you do every year or if you’ve recently discovered a new craft that you’re excited about!

With All My … Mind

Blog Header - With All My

In today’s world of technology and accessibility, there is no shortage of ways people are forever trying to claim our time and attention. Whether it is through the ringing of our smartphones, the ping of an app notification, the reminder announced by the artificial intelligence devices we install in our homes, commercials between our favorite television shows, or the pounding of another delivery person at our door, the demand for our attention seems constant.

When I first bought a cell phone it stayed in the living room overnight to charge. Then my husband started traveling more and it made sense to keep the phone next to my bed in case of emergency. It wasn’t long before my nightstand became the usual place my phone charged at night.

Did you know your cell phone screen lights up every time it gets a notification? Mine does, anyway. In a dark room this can seem like a very bright light.

It wasn’t too long before curiosity would have me picking up my phone in the middle of the night to see what had caused the flash. The next thing I knew, I’d be checking my email for that reply I’ve been waiting for, responding to a Facebook post I had missed earlier, and … what in the world? How have I been awake for thirty minutes?

I learned to turn my phone face down on the nightstand.

But it was still on my nightstand.

So when the alarm went off every morning, rather than yank myself from the warm covers into the cold morning air, it became my routine to snag my phone and start my day by scrolling through my various social media feeds and email inboxes. This got me started thinking of my to-do list and everything I needed to accomplish that day.  I’d get out of bed, brush my teeth, dress, and eat breakfast – all with my phone in my hand.

In the back of my mind was this idea that I needed to read God’s Word and spend time in prayer. But that was something I had plenty of time to do. There was no deadline for speaking to God. No one would know or care if I didn’t squeeze in those verses I meant to read today. I could catch up tomorrow. God didn’t have a closing time. He was always there and always would be. But I had things that needed to be accomplished NOW or there would be consequences.

God could wait.

Until one day, I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I’d spent more than five minutes studying God’s Word. For too long, I’d let Him get squeezed into the spare moments left after everything else — everything more urgent — had been taken care of. God was getting those moments when I was so worn down and worn out I couldn’t think well enough to “be productive.” I was giving God the crumbs of my leftovers.

And I was starving.

I was worn out, stretched thin, weak, and breaking. I was overwhelmed and wanting to give up on everything. I couldn’t do it. What was the point?

Well, the point was that I was never meant to do any of this alone. The point was that I had my perception and my priorities completely backward.

If God is my source of strength and I haven’t spent time with Him, where is my energy coming from?

If God is my source of truth and I haven’t spent time with Him, from where am I getting my wisdom?

If God is my source of purpose and I haven’t spent time with Him, on what am I basing my plans?

If God is my source of hope and I haven’t spent time with Him, how do I expect to find peace in life’s trials?

It was like a light bulb suddenly shining bright on all the corners of my mind — one that had once shown brightly but grown dim from dust and neglect.

God can’t wait.

God MUST come first in our lives. He is THE reason we are alive. Without Him it doesn’t matter what else we accomplish or fail to achieve. It will all mean nothing if He isn’t at the heart of it.

Bible on Laptop

So I’m trying something new. I’ve moved my phone across the room — close enough for emergencies, but far enough to discourage temptation —  and I’ve begun the habit of setting my bible ON TOP OF MY LAPTOP every night before I go to bed. That way I am forced to physically move it each and every morning. It has become a tangible reminder that I need to pay attention to God before I pay attention to anyone or anything else.

Let’s chat!

What distractions have kept you from spending time in God’s Word? What methods have you found to help keep you accountable to maintaining your relationship with the Lord?

TWEETABLE:

Pay attention to God before you pay attention to anyone or anything else.

God is more important than my to-do list.

If God is my source of strength and I haven’t spent time with Him, where is my energy coming from?

 

 

 

Reading Challenges – Love ‘Em & Hate ‘Em

Blog Header - Reading Challenges

I confess:  I am a perpetual reading challenge loser.

I have started no less than a dozen (probably way more) reading challenges and I can only think of one I’ve successfully completed. One. Yet I keep signing up for them. Why? Well, I love books. I love checklists. It makes sense that having a list of books I need to read should be something I enjoy and rock at. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case.

So recently I’ve been wondering why I can’t seem to ever complete the reading challenges I sign up for.

Then it struck me:  I’m fickle.

I never thought I would say that about myself. In general, I am one of the most loyal people you’ll ever meet. Seriously, when people are asked to describe me, “loyal” is nearly always on the list.

It turns out there is an exception to my loyalty, and that exception is books.

What?! I know. But hear me out. My loyalty to books in general has never wavered. My loyalty to what I’ve said I’m going to read next … weeeellll.

Unless someone is counting on me to write a review in a specific amount of time, what I read is entirely dependent on the mood I’m in. That’s just the truth of it.

Right now, today, I might think reading that particular historical romantic suspense novel next week sounds like a fantastic plan and I am sincerely looking forward to next week so I can read that book. Then next week arrives and it turns out to be just a little more stressful than I expected, or I get my fill of suspense through the television series I watched Monday night and you know what? Now I’m not really in the mood for a historical romantic suspense novel. Now I’m in the mood for a contemporary romantic comedy. So I read that instead, telling myself I’ll read the historical romantic suspense novel next week. And so on and so on until next thing I know, months have gone by and that book I was supposed to read as part of that reading challenge is still sitting on my TBR list loooong past the deadline for the reading challenge.  *sigh*

I know this about myself. This always happens. So can somebody please tell me why I just spent the last twenty minutes picking out which books I want to read as part of the Author of the Month 2018 Challenge hosted by the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads?

Well, whatever the reason, here I am again, making a list of the books I want to read and giving myself rough deadlines for when I want to have finished reading them.

To further complicate matters (and make my chances of success that much less likely) I already have a very long list of books from my TBR pile that I plan to read this year. I’m hoping that by assigning each book a month, I’ll actually follow through on reading it and clear out some of these books from my backlog. (That makes it sound very negative, but let’s be clear:  these are books I’ve been dying to read and just haven’t found the time to get to them.)

Below is what I have so far on my list of books to read this year. Everything is listed by author name first, then title.

Christian Fiction Novels To Be Read in 2018

January

February

March 

April

May 

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Release date unknown:  Pepper D. Basham Next Door and Forevermore 

So as I was typing this and mentally mocking my undying optimism, I figured:

“Why fail quietly and alone in the privacy of my own home when I can fail publicly and, hopefully, drag some of you along to fail with me?”

What do you think? Anyone interested in joining me? You don’t have to read the same books or even aim for as many books. Just share your progress with me.

I’ve set up a special page here on my website just for this purpose.

By the way, that list up there? Yeah, that’ll change. I know I’m forgetting books I’ve been meaning to read and I’m always learning about new books I want to read so this list will probably grow. I’m going to try really hard to limit myself to only listing 5 per month, though, because these are only the Christian fiction books I am planning to read. (You can see I’ve already failed in March – just too many exciting new releases!) I also read general market and nonfiction books, but since that is not the intended audience for this blog, I won’t list those here (although I am listing some of those on my TBR page). I will keep my TBR page updated with changes so you can follow along with me to see which months I hit my goals and which I fail at miserably.

Please, leave me a comment!

Speaking of growing the list:  If there are any books you think I should add to my list, please let me know! Also, since there is just no way I can review all of these books and continue working on my own writing, I’d love to know which of these books you would be most interested in reading reviews about. 

I May Kill You

Blog Post - I may kill you

Like today’s title? Well, it’s true. I may kill you. Or at least part of you. In the very least, if I know you well enough to know your flaws, there is a very good chance I may steal them, magnify them, mix them in with someone else’s struggles, and make you part of my next antagonist (or any character, really, since they all have flaws). Whom I may or may not kill off in my next book. Consider yourself warned.

If you think that truth is frightening, you should probably stop reading now, because the even scarier truth is that all of my villains contain at least a small part of me. In order to write any character well, I have to be able to relate to them on some level. I have to understand their psyche, what motivates them, and why they feel and do what they do. This means that some part of who I am now or who I once was at some point in my life is very likely to be reflected in some part of each of my characters . . . including the philanderers, thieves, con-artists, and murderers.

So… who still wants to be my friend?

Please do not annoy the writer Mug photo
Today’s blog post was inspired by this photo of Elena Dillon’s mug which she shared on Twitter. (used here with permission) Elena writes teenage romance full of sass, suspense and swoon. For those interested: there is infrequent mild cursing in a couple of her books, but they are otherwise clean. Elena is a Christian and says her books have a faith basis but don’t meet CBA standards. You can learn more about Elena and her books HERE.

 

2017 – A Blog in Review

A Blog in Review 2017

At the beginning of this new year, I think it only appropriate to take a look back at what the past year has produced.

THE STATS

I wrote and shared exactly 100 blog posts (not including this one).

I wrote 30 book reviews, including 3 shared exclusively with my KRC members.

I shared 4 Author Interviews.

I wrote 4 posts on American History – including 1 shared exclusively with my KRC members.

I posted my first ever vlog.

I posted my first Mama’s Storytime video with my review of two children’s books.

I shared 10 giveaways. Of those 10, I personally provided the prize for 8 of them and of those 8 giveaways, 4 were open exclusively to my KRC members.

Through those 10 giveaways, I was blessed to giveaway 16 books (7 exclusively to KRC members) along with other prizes.

MOST POPULAR

My top ten most popular blog posts of this year were:

Top Ten MUST READ Historical Romance Novels for 2017

My Review & GIVEAWAY! – The Patriot & the Loyalist

Name That Book! – Win a Prize!

Summer Reading Roundup 2017 +GIVEAWAY!

My Review – A Lady In Disguise +GIVEAWAY!

First Line Friday – 11.17.17

My top ten most popular book reviews of this year were:

My Review & GIVEAWAY! – The Patriot & the Loyalist

My Review – A Lady In Disguise +GIVEAWAY!

My Review – Love at First Laugh

My Review – Such A Hope

My Review – The Thorn Healer

Rave Review! – Turtles in the Road

My Review – Heart on the Line

Mama’s Storytime – Made For A Purpose

My Review – The Scarlet Coat

My Review – Long Time Gone

MY GOALS AND GRATITUDE

I started this year with the goal of being more consistent with my blog posts and finding new ways to connect to both my readers and fellow bloggers. I am blessed to say that I have accomplished these goals.

I think most blog readers underestimate the impact their comments and likes have on the blog author.  I know I smile each and every time I see a “like” added to one of my posts and it just makes my day when someone leaves a comment. Honestly. It lets me know I’m not just writing to stroke my own ego, but actually providing something you find value in. That is, after all, the goal of all my writing:  to encourage, entertain, and inspire my readers.

Blogging can be a lonely, somewhat confusing activity, in which I put words out into the world on the hope and prayer that someone benefits from them in some way. It’s a bit like the cliche of throwing spaghetti at a wall and waiting to see which bits stick. Your likes and comments are the only concrete encouragement I have to tell me I am on the right track. So I want to take this moment to thank each and every one of you who has ever “liked” or commented on any of my posts. You are truly appreciated. 

I’d like to take this moment to invite you to join my Kathleen’s Readers’ Club, if you haven’t already. Through my quarterly KRC emails I share the highlights of my writing journey, exclusive content, book deals, exclusive giveaways, and more. Click HERE for more information.

Whether you are a KRC member, a regular visitor to my blog, or this is your very first time here, thank you for reading and Happy New Year!

Happy New Year - Numbers Scripture Image

I’d love to read about the goals you accomplished and the milestones you crossed this past year! Please share them with me in the comments below or by emailing me at writeKathleenDenly @ gmail .com.

First Line Friday – 12.15.17

first-line-friday-3

Welcome to a very special 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!

What makes this week so special? Well, I had mentioned in a post last month that one of my manuscripts was a finalist in the the Historical Romance category in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s First Impressions Contest, along with manuscripts by Dawne Beckel  & Savanna Kaiser. (If anyone knows of a better link to Dawne, please let me know! You can bet I’ll be following along with their careers and looking forward to their first published novels.)

So . . . I just found out that my manuscript has WON ! Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh! (Be grateful you weren’t here after I concluded my conversation with the person who called to inform me. My children have lost a bit of hearing, poor dears.)

I wish I knew how to convey in writing how stunned and honored I am. A bit ironic that I have no words, I suppose, but it’s true. I’m a bit speechless. Mostly, though, I am grateful. So incredibly grateful for the encouragement and the honor. I’m also deeply grateful for those who have sacrificed their time and efforts helping me to improve my craft. (I would list them here, but that could take all day to read and well, you know who you are. I couldn’t do what I do without you!)

 

As my way of paying forward the kindnesses shown to me, I’ll be celebrating this win with a very special giveaway open only to my Kathleen’s Readers’ Club members, so if you haven’t already joined, now is the time to do so! For those who are already members, keep an eye on your inbox this week for an extra special email.

The list of previous winners of the First Impressions Contest in this genre includes:

Abigail Wilson

Deb Garland (who apparently won 2 years in a row!)

Betty Woods

I’ll be keeping my eye out for books published by these ladies.

Now, on to the business of the day.

In keeping with the theme of new authors, I thought I’d share the first line from the prologue of Beneath the Heavens, Lindsey Barlow‘s debut novel which just released in October of this year.

Beneath the Heavens cover image

New Hampshire 1891

Esther looked down at the letter for what must have been the hundredth time.

This book was randomly stumbled upon while I was googling one day and is now on my TBR. I started reading the prologue and found myself all the way in and starting the first chapter before I knew what had happened.

about-the-book-2

A heart guarded, a secret revealed, a love discovered – When the beautiful and coddled Abigail Silvers is sent from her parents’ lush Texas ranch to the untamed wilds of Tall Pine, Colorado, her mother is hoping that Abigail will learn independence and self-reliance. What Abigail finds among the Colorado mountain people is a community built on hard work, faith, and family––she also finds the handsome Pastor Will who, much to her dismay, seems only to have eyes for Esther, the community’s midwife hiding from a dark past. Fiercely protective of her young son Michael, Esther’s determined not to let anyone ­close enough to hurt them––even if that means sacrificing true love. But when the Texas Ranger Joseph Silver, Abigail’s brother, shows up, Esther’s past is unearthed and her heart is exposed. Abigail and Joseph’s brash Texas manners rattle the people of Tall Pine, but ultimately the brother and sister may be an answer to prayer the townspeople didn’t know they needed.

Now it’s your turn to 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.