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 GRATTITUDE

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.

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.

just-say-no_o_1665245

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!

A Special Announcement

A Special Announcement

Hello! If you are new to my blog, please bear with me as this post is out of the norm for me. I am typically a very private person, but something very special has recently come to fruition for my family which I feel compelled to share with you all.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may have noticed my lowered rate of interaction with your comments in recent weeks. Here is why:

Our family has grown! 

Our family officially began the adoption process in 2012. We began by pursuing the adoption of a special needs girl in Russia. Unfortunately, Russia closed to adoptions by U.S. parents in December of 2012 while we were in mid-process. After a grieving period and much prayer, we worked for more than a year to become a resource family for our county. When our foster placement didn’t work out, the loss was too much for our three boys so we turned our focus back to international adoption. In 2015 we began the process of adopting a child in China. On August 15, 2017, we flew to China to meet our daughter. On August 21, 2017, she officially became a member of our family. When we returned to the U.S. on September 3, she became a citizen of the United States of America.

Public Photo of Ava

While we are over the moon to have this little girl join our family, adoption isn’t easy on anyone involved. Today, we are settling in and working toward a new normal.  This means I will be skipping next week’s Monday post as we work through the various appointments our girl needs to attend now that she is home and spend time bonding as a family. It also means that I may continue to be a bit slower in responding to comments for the next couple weeks, but I hope to play catch-up soon on what I missed while I was out of the country. I also hope to be back at my typical reply speed soon.

NOTE:  I fully understand that adoption is a controversial topic. However, this is not the place to get into debates on the issue. There are many other sites available online for those discussions. Any negative or politically oriented comments will be deleted. Thank you for understanding.

 

 

SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference 2017

SoCal Christian Writers Conference 2017

If you have been following me on Twitter or Facebook, you know that I attended my 5th conference last week:  the first annual SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference. Here’s a little taste of what it was like:

Biola Campus SoCalCWC17

I arrived early on Wednesday to check in and get settled in my room.

Dorm Room Pillow SoCalCWC17

Headed to Registration SoCalCWC17

After registration, I ate dinner in the cafeteria and then hung out with these two wonderful ladies:

New Friends SoCalCWC17

The next morning we ate breakfast in the cafeteria before heading to the chapel for worship and morning announcements.

Morning Announcements SoCalCWC17

They also introduced about one-third of the faculty at this time. They continued these introductions each morning of the conference. I really liked this unique feature because it was helpful for matching names and faces to those whose appearance didn’t exactly match their bio photos, and it gave us a chance to get a peek into each faculty member’s personality.

Next up was a quick break followed by my first continuing session. I chose the Intermediate/Advanced Fiction session with Tosca Lee.

Tosca Lee SoCalCWC17

I admit to some hesitation in my choice since I had taken similarly titled classes at other conferences and walked away feeling like I’d gotten little more than a review. Tosca’s class was nothing like that. It was original, intense, and interactive. It felt as though I were in college again. She even gave us homework at the end of each class.

Next up was lunch at the cafeteria where I got to spend time chatting with my fellow conferees as well as faculty. Meal times quickly became one of my favorite parts of the conference because of the great conversations and connections I was able to make.

 

Breakfast SoCalCWC17
My new friend Kara Swanson just debuted her first novella, The Girl Who Could See! Check it out!

 

After lunch there were two workshop sessions with a break in between. I wound up entirely missing the first workshop I had wanted to attend because it happened that my first two appointments were both during that class.

I met with Erin Taylor Young and then Miralee Ferrell. Both conversations were very enlightening and the resulting conversations were just what I was hoping for from the appointments.

I did make it to my second workshop, given by Sandra Barela on Keys to A Successful Book Proposal where I realized I’d misunderstood what the agent was looking for in one section of the proposal the last (and first) time I had put one together.

Successful Book Proposal SoCalCWC17

After the afternoon workshops we had another break followed by a Publishing Panel where they passed microphones around the audience and we had a chance to ask questions of the publishing experts on stage.

Publishing Panel SoCalCWC17

After that was another break and dinner. Then we sang more worship and a Keynote was given by Karen Ball. I have to tell you, I felt as though this Keynote was the reason God had me at that conference. Not to discount the many other wonderful conversations and classes, but I truly felt as though God were speaking right through Karen to me. That doesn’t happen all that often for me, but for some reason lately, He seems to be getting my attention in exactly this way.

Karen Ball Keynote SoCalCWC17

After Karen’s keynote, there was a break followed by a live blog radio broadcast by Parker J. Cole with interviews of faculty and conferees and a Story Tell-Off, where two authors went at it by trying to tell the best story.

I took advantage of the break to run back to my dorm room to retrieve something, and on my way back to the broadcast, I spotted Sandra Barela setting up her laptop in the lobby of the dorm. Since I had wanted an appointment with her, but she booked up before I could sign up, I took advantage of the opportunity to speak with her. (She had mentioned in her class earlier that afternoon that she would be available to talk that night in the lobby.) What I thought would be a quick 15-minute conversation turned into 70 minutes which only ended because another conferee showed up wanting to speak with her and I quickly excused myself. After all, I’d already taken over an hour of her time! But she was so easy to talk to and her genuine heart for writers and for God practically glowed from her. Although I was disappointed to miss the broadcast event, my talk with Sandra was definitely one of the highlights of the conference for me. Part of the result of that conversation is that I am now a member of the Celebrate Lit blogger team!

After my talk with Sandra, I headed to my room where I reviewed my notes on what was happening the next day and completed my homework for Tosca’s class before grabbing my Kindle and heading to bed.

The next two days went very much the same:  breakfast, morning announcements & worship, continuing session, lunch, afternoon workshops, and dinner.

Afternoon Workshop SoCalCWC17

Friday afternoon I missed most of the second workshop due to appointments with Karen Ball and Stephanie Alton. Both appointments were encouraging and enlightening. I was very grateful for the opportunity to speak with both of these women.

Kim Bangs Keynote SoCalCWC17

On Friday evening there was an agent panel followed by a Keynote by Kim Bangs and a concert given by Sally Klein O’Connor.

On Saturday evening there was an Awards and Autograph Party followed by a Keynote by Allen Arnold and the ceremony for the Excellence in Editing Award winners.

 

Biola Scripture Art SoCalCWC17
Ready to start the last day of #SoCalCWC17 and enjoying the various #scripture displayed around this beautiful campus. #writerslife

 

By the end of the conference, although incredibly grateful for the many blessings it had brought, I was ready to go home.

 

Dorm Bathroom SoCalCWC17
The glamorous life of a writer…trekking down the dorm hall to the shared bathroom in your bathrobe and flip flops. #youknowyourejealous #writerslife

 

I wistfully looked forward to sleeping in my own bed with a bathroom that was not down a very long, shared hallway and my brain was absolute mush. In fact, Saturday afternoon I had caught myself speaking to myself – a quirk I develop when I am very tired. So if you ever hear me saying things like, “Wait, where was I supposed to go next? Oh  right. … No wait, it’s this way. Where did I put that? … Oh here it is.” Well, you’ll know my brain has reached capacity and has no more room for thoughts so the overflow is just spilling out my mouth. I’m not crazy. Just overflowing with knowledge. Yeah. That’s it.

Below are some of my favorite quotes from the speakers and workshops at the conference. Please feel free to share them and don’t forget to tag me @KathleenDenly!

TWEETABLES:

“My identity isn’t being a writer. My identity is in Christ.” – Tosca Lee

“Make your marketing plan before you start writing. Update as necessary.” – Sandra Barela

“Stepping forward because the God of the universe whispered in your ear, ‘Write for Me.'” – Karen Ball

“Try to obey in a less worried way.” – Karen Ball

“Don’t get so focused on the destiny that you resent the journey.” – Karen Ball

“God has never called for shoddy work.” – Karen Ball

“Agents are like Yentas.” – Karen Ball

“The shortest path isn’t always the best route.” – Kim Bangs

“Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey.” – Kim Bangs

“We’re not all broken the same way, but we are all broken. Broken crayons still color.” – Kim Bangs

“We have to know God more than we know our circumstances.” – Kim Bangs

“God’s never failed anyone and He’s not going to start with you!” – Kim Bangs

“In perseverance, you find your story.” – Kim Bangs

“Is protecting yourself keeping you from obeying God?” – Kim Bangs

“Are you more fearful or more faithful?” – Kim Bangs

“Secret #5:  Bestselling authors lead with their strengths & manage their weaknesses.” – Tosca Lee

“Even bestsellers get one-star reviews.” – Tosca Lee

“Allow room for mystery in the process.” – Tosca Lee

“You waste a lot of time. We all do.” – Lindsay Franklin

“Distractions are productivity killers!” – Lindsay Franklin

“Use humor to lighten the heavy moments.” – Renae Brumbaugh Green

Which quote is your favorite?