First Line Friday – 12.15.17


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.


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.

Did You Know? – When Girls Become Women

Did You Know Chalk Board w Rustic Wood Frame & Daisy

“[Researchers] found that in 1860, the average age of the onset of puberty in girls was 16.6 years. In 1920, it was 14.6; in 1950, 13.1; 1980, 12.5; and in 2010, it had dropped to 10.5. Similar sets of figures have been reported for boys, albeit with a delay of around a year.” – McKie, Robin. “Onset of puberty in girls has fallen by five years since 1920.” 20 Oct. 2012. Web. 9 Sept. 2017

Additionally, studies have shown that malnutrition can cause a delay in the age of puberty onset.

Why am I sharing this? Well, because it directly affects my novel set in the gold rush era of Northern California.

I never directly state my heroine’s age in the novel. However, events near the beginning of the book are (more or less) triggered by visible signs of puberty in my heroine. This necessarily dictates her approximate age for the rest of the book. (Take the approximate age of puberty, use the current chapter date to calculate the time elapsed since she reached puberty in the first chapter and you have her approximate age).

In initial critiques, I got a lot of pushback that my heroine was too young because readers were associating her physical changes with the ages at which girls experience those changes today. Most people, it seems, are unaware (or don’t make the connection) that girls of the past were so much older when these changes occurred for them.  Nor were they aware that the poverty-induced malnutrition my heroine suffered might have delayed the onset of her puberty.

It’s amazing how such small pieces of information can dramatically change our perspective on a story.

#nowyouknow 😉

My Novel Ties For 2nd Place!



So I am sitting here with my fingers hovering over the keys trying to figure out what to type without sounding totally gushy and completely unsophisticated, but … I can’t help it!

My historical Christian romance novel, Waltz With Me, tied for Second Place in the Badge of Honor Contest at the Asheville Christian Writers Conference!

You guys, I am just so overwhelmed with joyful emotions! I am excited and giddy and happy and humbled and blessed and shocked and . . .

I just want to squeal with joy! Aaaaah! I just won a contest! Okay, so technically I tied for Second Place, but it feels like winning.

How awesome is it that out of all the people who entered they loved my story that much? I am so blessed! (Thank you, judges!)

Of course, I have already tweeted and posted on Facebook about my win, but I knew I wanted to post here as well because as I am thinking about this accomplishment, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all the people who have helped me get here. So I want to take this opportunity to thank them. (I know, I know, it’s not like I won an Oscar or something, but I just have to say thank you, so bear with me here.)

First, I have to thank my mom for believing in my talent even before I knew I was a writer.

I also want to thank Lexi Miller, Betty Hofman, Samantha Lurey, and Betsy Hamblin even though I wasn’t working on this manuscript at the time we were meeting, your encouragement kept me going and your critiques made me a better writer.

Of course, I have to thank the members of the San Diego Christian Writers Guild Poway and Santee Critique Groups for sharing their wisdom and encouraging me as I worked through the many revisions of this novel. And I must add a special thanks to Kathryn Hughes, my fellow historical romance author, for your invaluable feedback and encouragement, and to Tiffany Hanson, who doesn’t write in my genre, but whose keen insight and fellowship has helped to lift me up as a writer.

I want to thank my friend, Brett Burner, whose wisdom and encouragement helped me believe in myself at a time when I was truly struggling.

My Beta Readers. How can I thank you enough? Each one of you took time out of your busy lives to read my full-length manuscript and provide priceless feedback on the things you liked and the things that needed changing. It truly means the world to me to have your support.

Lastly, but most importantly, I need to thank my husband, Luke, without whose support, self-sacrifice, and undying belief in me, I would not be able to do what I do. From watching our kids so that I can get away to write, to physically acting out scenes with me so that I can figure out how best to describe them, you are my rock and I love you.

(No, I’m not forgetting God, but I’m pretty sure He doesn’t read my blog, so I’ve already thanked Him in prayer. Many times.)


Okay. So that sounded way too much like one of those Oscar speeches, and I realize it’s not like I have a book deal (yet) or that I even won first place, but this is still a very big deal for me, and a very great honor. This is the first book contest I’ve ever entered and when you have worked so hard and for so long on something, it is so, so good to have someone who doesn’t even know you say, “Yes. What you have done is good. We like it.” And so many people have stood by me and helped me get this far that I felt compelled to thank them.

This is nowhere near a complete list. If I wrote out the complete list, no one would read the whole thing, and although there’s no one next to me as I type, waiting to play the music that lets me know it’s time to stop talking (or typing), I am hoping this wasn’t too dreadfully long.

So to everyone who has encouraged and supported me, from the bottom of my heart,


Do you have someone in your life that has supported and encouraged you through the tough times? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


Have someone that encourages and supports you? Thank them today! #grateful #ChristFic

Waltz With Me by @KathleenDenly ties for 2nd Place in Badge of Honor Contest! #christfic

Back In The Saddle Again

Back In The Saddle Image

I know. My title is beyond cliche, but it’s too apropos not to use. After months of research, outlining, and backstory writing, I have at last begun the first draft of my next novel. It feels so good I could almost sing that corny song aloud. (Although, I’d be stuck repeating the chorus because that’s all I can remember, but that’s beside the point.)

My new novel starts with a bang so exciting I wish I could share it with you, but alas, it would not be wise. Despite my detailed planning, I know there will be many changes and surprises along this writing journey, just as there have been with my past works, and I would not wish to either promise you what may not end up making it through the final draft, nor spoil the surprise if it does. However, whatever surprises may lie in store for me as the author, I can promise you this story will hold adventure, danger, a little humor, perhaps some heartbreak, and, of course, love. So suffice it to say, this book will not put you to sleep.

Can you feel my excitement?

The Fog of Fear

Fog of Fear

I sat frozen with my fingers over the keys for several minutes before forcing myself to type this.  Where to start….

I came home from my first writer’s conference inspired and determined and just a touch terrified. I threw myself into developing my career over the next few weeks. Every spare moment was dedicated to some aspect of moving my career forward. One can only work that relentlessly for so long, however, and eventually the inevitable happened:   burnout. I didn’t think it was such a big deal. In fact, the timing was perfect. It was the Christmas season and everyone was taking a break. Why shouldn’t I?

What I didn’t realize was that the touch of terror which had followed me home from that conference had been silently growing in my mind until it began to mire my thoughts in a deeper and deeper fog of fear. My creativity was suffocating. In attempting to clear the fog, I experienced an epiphany:  I was an artist. Say what? Some of you may find this unbelievably, stupidly, obvious and can’t understand how this was an epiphany. Yet it was for me.

I had always thought of myself as a writer. I had always thought of writers as having rules. There are grammar rules and spelling rules and genre rules and word count rules, etc etc etc. Where there are rules, there are clear rights and wrongs. So I never thought of myself as a true artist because true artists didn’t have rules. Not really.

The value of the product of a true artist’s efforts was completely subjective. One group of people might think an artist’s work was amazing while another might think it was utter rubbish, and there would be no objective way of proving that either group was incorrect. This was just how the world worked for true artists – for painters, sculptors, composers, innovative/freestyle dancers, etc. Not for writers.

Or so I thought.

Writers aren’t artists. Artistic? Absolutely. Artists? Not really. Because we have rules. So as long as we follow the rules, our product must be deemed good. Right?

Wow. The number of flaws in that subconscious belief I’ve carried around all these years is staggering! I mean, the irony… The very first writing rule I ever remember being taught came from my third-grade teacher who told me, “Listen to your gut. If it doesn’t feel right in your gut, rewrite it. Try again.” Listen to my gut. Right. Because that is completely objective. Ummm no. No, it’s not. Everyone has a different “gut instinct.” If they didn’t, everyone’s writing would sound exactly like everyone else’s.  Clearly, that isn’t the case.

With the realization that I was a true artist and therefore my work was subject to the variant opinions of anyone and everyone who read it, came the realization that there was nothing I could do to absolutely guarantee myself success. And the fog grew.

Your Turn!

Have you ever experienced something like this? How did you handle it?

On to the Next One

On to the Next One

Now that my current novel in progress (NIP) is off to the beta readers, you might be wondering what I’m doing while I wait to hear back from them. Well, first of all, one novel is never all I am working on at one time.

While I’ve been working on my current NIP, I’ve also been honing my writing skills through copious amounts of instructional reading. I’ve been reading everything from how-to books, to magazine articles, to blog posts, and I’ve been practicing and applying those tips and techniques I’ve found useful. Many of these sources include exercises which I follow as well.

One particular area I’ve been focusing on is the craft of writing serialized fiction. I’m focusing on this because I have plans to write a serial novella which ties in with my NIP, but isn’t part of the main plot. I’m planning to publish the serial shortly before publishing my current NIP. Fans who read the serial will have the advantage of a sneak peak into an “off-screen” portion of the current NIP.

In addition to this, I am working on a few short stories and articles which I hope to find a publishing home for in the near future.

Of course, all of this is being done in addition to the hunt for my next novel idea.  I have a few seedling ideas germinating, but nothing decided yet. I am still knee deep in my favorite hobby:  historical research. I could slush around in that glorious world for ages, but never fear, I’m keeping focused on the goal and will emerge soon with my new plot in hand. On to the next one!