Sunday, December 21, 2014

What I've Learned as an Indie Author

This upcoming year (actually, it won't be until October of 2015) will mark my 4th year as an indie author. To say it's been exciting is an understatement! I'm thrilled to have made it through all these years, which I have to say are the best years since I began writing professionally. Besides having been a great ride, it's also been an awesome learning experience.

So here's my list, in no particular order, detailing what I've learned since becoming an indie author:

1. I don't need validation from publishers or editors anymore. HALLELUJAH! Back in my newbie writer days, my opinion of my work and of myself as an writer highly depended on responses from publishing houses or editors. You sent me a rejection? I must be the. Worst. Writer. Ever! Oh, so, the book IS "right for your list?" Yes! My work has to be worth something, right?!?!

Not anymore. Full disclosure: I DO still work with a few publishers (mostly smaller ebook publishers) that I will continue to work with, but that's because I enjoy writing for them and we have a great professional relationship. But I don't need validation anymore, and that's freed me mentally to be able to concentrate on honing my craft as an author. Being an indie--taking the reins in all areas, from writing to editing to promo--has also increased my confidence in my abilities. That's a very liberating feeling. That means you spend less energy rebuilding your faith in your own work and more in areas where your energy is put to better use, i.e. working on your WIP.

2. My journey isn't someone else's journey. Neither should I allow anyone to dictate how I should measure my own success. Some of my books do better than others; I write each book as if it is my all-time favorite  project. I doubt I'll ever make it rich. Doesn't matter. I'm already a success because I am still here, still productive, and still getting paid for my work. Best of all, I can honestly say that I am writing the books that I have always wanted to write, under each of my pen names. If my work brings joy or encouragement or just entertainment to someone else, that's more than I could have ever asked for, and I give the Lord the glory for that.

3. Publisher lines have come and gone. Heck, publishers have come and gone. But we writers are still here.

4. Knowing a book is definitely going to be published (as opposed to hoping and wishing some editor finds it "right for our list") is great motivation to finish a book.

5. Knowing a book is definitely going be published (as opposed to hoping and wishing some editor finds it "right for our list") is motivation to start planning promotion and causing some kind of stir before it's even out there.

6. There's been a lot of talk in the past couple of years about how giving books for free is not the great promotional tool it once was. I have to agree with that, though I will continue to offer the occasional perma-free book, as well as special promotions. I still have readers who have read GREETINGS FROM MY SANDY DREAMS or UNCONDITIONAL for free, then decide they want to buy one or more of my other books. Simply put, that rocks. Ultimately, it's not about individual sales anyway, but about building a readership that enjoys your work and looks forward to the new titles coming out.

7. Even as an un-techy, 50ish grandmother, I CAN learn how to create an ebook, a book cover, a paperback version, and seek out promotional opportunities. If I can at this age, so can any writer with the passion to get his/her work out there.

8. I've learned I'm having more fun as an indie author, and I also have more opportunities open to me, than I ever did when I wrote for traditional publishers. The world has changed since the mid- 1990s, when I first began writing professionally. I was never a "favorite" of the traditional publishers, so I wasn't trusted with the types of projects that I now entrust myself to work on. Neither were certain promotional opportunities open to me; now, in the age of ebooks and technology in general, there are marketing opportunities that have leveled the playing field for authors. As a bonus, those opportunities have provided me with the chance to meet and befriend other authors.

9. It takes an adventurous spirit to become an indie author.

10. Indie publishing is NOT for the fainthearted, the lazy, or the impatient. I guarantee you: There WILL be disappointing days.You WILL be taking on more responsibility and work (including editing, unless you hire an indie editor). If you put out ONE book, only one, with the expectation of seeing it on the bestseller list, you may become discouraged. I'm a person who happens to believe that nothing is impossible, but this doesn't happen to everyone.

I've learned it's better to have the attitude that you are basically starting your own small business. How would it be to open up your own restaurant? Besides working on developing an enticing menu, hiring the best chefs and wait staff you can afford, and decorating the place so it's welcoming to the public, you'd be concerned with building up the restaurant's clientele. That takes time and patience unless you're already a big name chef.

That's not very different from becoming an indie author. These are YOUR babies you're writing and sending out into the world. Treat them with respect, be gentle with them, pour your whole heart into them. Remember that there's a reader--a human being--on the other end of it. Make it worth the hard-earned money they put out for it. Expect the occasional disappointment and the bad review, and soldier on with as much passion, curiosity and enthusiasm as the day you jumped into the indie pool headfirst.

and finally,

11. What doesn't kill you really DOES make you stronger. It's not just a song by Kelly Clarkson!


My Goodreads Giveaway is finally here!

Three little copies of my latest Christian novel are available. Drawing is January 25, 2015--but get in on this soon. Click on the widget in my sidebar.

Good luck & happy reading!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

December in Pictures

Joining my granddaughter for the town's Christmas parade, celebrating her 6th birthday, a visit from our older son Joey (that was November, but posting here) and Lassie gets warmed up during winter!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Now in Paperback: Crystal Waves

Yet another post for December! It's a busy month in general, but also a busy news-on-the-writing-front month, as well.

I'm very happy to announce that CRYSTAL WAVES, besides being in ebook form, is now out in paperback. To purchase, just click on the cover to the right.

We're not finished with this yet, though. More news is coming out this week, as well as that character interview that I promised earlier this week.

And just a quick note, the topic totally unrelated to this new release: See those links to other pages right under my blog's heading? Bio, Series, Vintage, etc.? I will soon be creating one dedicated to the books that I'll be writing as Consuelo Vazquez, but this page will not include older works written under that pen name. Most of those books are now out-of-print and difficult to find--and besides, out with the old, in with the new! In other words, that page will be listing SEA SIREN (which is my only reprint from the past) and only BRAND NEW titles under Consuelo Vazquez. Just wanted to clarify that.

Hope that your month is also busy & happy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


It's hard to believe that 24 years--over two decades!--have passed since I first told my husband, "I'm going to finally try to do it: I'm going to try to become a published author."

At the time I was 30 years old, a young wife, and the mother of a 5 1/2-year-old and a 2-year old, plus a secretary at a brokerage house. We were living in Union City, New Jersey. Total newby, I didn't have any idea what I was doing, only that I'd loved to write and tell stories since I was a kid, and I really wanted to share my work with readers. I proudly bought my first copy of THE WRITER'S MARKET and used it daily.

For the first five years I sold nothing. Nada. Kept writing, collected oodles of rejection letters, some very impressive, cried a lot, got to know (and stalked) our wonderful mailman, Joe. I wanted to quit just about every other day, but by God's grace, I just kept going.

Then, in 1995, I sold my first story to True Confessions magazine. A sale to True Love followed. The writing bug really bit me then, and in total the magazines published somewhere over 100 of my short stories. I was later hired by one of the editors and became the Associate Editor of True Romance magazine, a job I loved and that ultimately prepared me for the day when I would become--well, getting ahead of myself.

In 1997, I got "The Call" from Avalon Books, which published my first book, RUMOR HAS IT. Two years later I sold AND THEN CAME YOU to Kensington Publishing's Bouquet line. The book was nominated for the 1999 Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Bouquet. I also was one of the first authors for Kensington's Encanto, their Latina romance line, as Consuelo Vazquez. SALSA KISS, the first of my Encantos, was serialized on SEA SIREN, which I have obtained the rights to and republished, was among my Encanto books, as well as LEADING LADY, SECOND CHANCE FIANCE and IN YOUR ARMS.

Along the way, I also became a YA author--seeing the publication of THE GHOST OF LITTLE BAY, a middle-grade ghost mystery, and SUBURBAN VAMPIRES, a romantic comedy with teenaged vampires. New Concepts Publishing published THE COP & THE MERMAID and other romances, and I also have had the pleasure of working with Melange Books.

Then, in 2011, I self-published GLIMMERS OF HEAVEN, my first Christian/inspirational romance. That was a turning point for me, the year I became an indie author/publisher. Since then, I have written and published 'TWAS THE SPY BEFORE CHRISTMAS, THE LARKSPUR VALLEY SERIES, CHAMPAGNE TASTE, ONE SWEET DAY and several other novels and novellas. With a lot more to come, too.

I look back at this journey that I began 24 years ago, at how much publishing has changed since I submitted my first story, and all the doors of possibility that indie publishing has opened to me, and I count myself as being very blessed to be a writer in this time in history. In retrospect, I wouldn't change one day of it, and I give the Lord the glory for bringing me this far. Looking very forward to writing and publishing much, much more, continuing to grow in my craft as an author, and hopefully bringing much reading pleasure to my readers!

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Paperback, Almost There, Plus Revisions

Happy to report, we're almost there with the paperback version of CRYSTAL WAVES.

It took a little longer because I also ended up revising the ebook version of my new novel. The updated ebook version has now been uploaded and is ready for purchase on Amazon. Waiting for the all-clear on the paperback, too, before announcing my Goodreads giveaway.

Speaking of Goodreads, click on over to this page, where you'll find an excerpt from CRYSTAL WAVES.

Would you believe there's more news, too? Drop by later this week--maybe even tomorrow--for a sneak peek at the cover for STEALING THUNDER, the first romantic novella by Consuelo Vazquez.

Sweet dreams!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What's Going On This Busy Christmas Season

My apologies! I'd hoped to have the paperback version of CRYSTAL WAVES out by Christmas, but it looks like that will be delayed by a week or two. The paperback is now in the final proof stages, so it should be available soon, to give as a gift to a friend, to your church library, or for yourself, of course!

Besides working on the paperback, I'm editing a book written under another pen name and preparing to bring back my pen name of Consuelo Vazquez in 2015. I *believe* I announced that a while back, but now I'm actually ready to do that, now that I'm clear as to a direction.

A few notes about my CV books:

* Since most of my Connie Keenan books have been Christian mainstream/Christian historical/ Christian women's fiction/ inspirational and/or sweet romance, I've decided to keep it that way. Books written under Consuelo Vazquez will be sweet romance, historical, women's fiction, fantasy, with often Hispanic characters/heroines.

* Consuelo Vazquez was the name I wrote under for Kensington's Encanto romance line, but she's all mine now!

* SEA SIREN, originally published by Encanto (the rights of the English version, which have now reverted to me), is the only previously published title. If you haven't already helped yourself to a copy, please do so! It is my gift to you, a perma-free title. Please note that SEA SIREN is a sensuous romance (tame by today's standards) and deals with adult topics. All titles to be published from here forward will be brand new, never-before-published books under the Consuelo Vazquez name.

* Kicking off CV's books will be that novella that I mentioned here previously. Please note: It WILL be sweet, so you can still share it with your daughter, granddaughter, niece, or other special young person.

* There IS a Consuelo Vazquez blog which I started up 4 years ago (!), and you can find it here. However, in the interest of keepin' it simple, I'll be making announcements for the books here, differentiating between CV and my inspirational works. Life is complicated enough without having two separate blogs, don't you agree?

* More news on Consuelo Vazquez books are on the way!

Though I'm planning on writing and publishing 2 titles for CV in 2015 , the majority of books to be published next year will be Christian/inspirational under Connie Keenan. I'm planning to begin writing the CV novella this week, in between editing another novella and preparing the CRYSTAL WAVES paperback. CRYSTAL WAVES will be my last book for 2014, and CV will kick off 2015.

The third and final book of the JOYFUL NOISE series will follow the novella (more news on that later, too), and I'm also planning to do a historical Christian romance with a mail order bride.

And that's all in between preparations for Christmas, which we love in this family.

Hope your Christmas is special, happy & blessed!

Monday, December 8, 2014


Most writers will tell you there's always a story behind the story. That's no less true with my newest Christian mainstream, the tale about a Jersey shore town where very strange and yet amazing things start to happen!

Here are a few fun facts, the story behind this particular story.

1. CRYSTAL WAVES was actually the first full-length novel that I wrote right before launching my career as first a freelance fiction author, and then a romance and YA novelist. This Christian novel was then never published, forgotten by me, and now that I've come full circle--once more writing Christian/inspirational fiction--it has finally been published, over a decade later.

2. The town is loosely patterned after Ocean Grove, NJ.

3. The movie theater where the character of Jessica "Jessi" Tipton works, the Cinema, is named after the movie theater in Union City where I would go faithfully to see movies as a teenager, often with my best friend, Linda. The Cinema is no longer there, so this was an affectionate namesake.

4. The character of Carissa Brilhart was renamed after my niece, Carissa. The reporter's original name was Cory.

5. I had no access to the original manuscript, and I believe it was lost during one of our moves, either from North Bergen to Union City or from Union City to here, in North Carolina. Here is an earlier entry I wrote regarding the rewrite.

6. In the original version, the character of Katie was named Cecilia, and she worked as a radio DJ in the town rather than a waitress at the local diner. There was a male reporter in the original who fell in love with Cecilia. Her radio station was at the top of a lighthouse, which never made an appearance in the new version.

7. The character of Marilyn is also named after a personal friend.

8. One of the miracles is based on a dream that I had some years ago; this same dream worked its way also into ONE SWEET DAY, my book about the rapture.

9. The JOYFUL NOISE SERIES was interrupted to rewrite and publish CRYSTAL WAVES.

10. It's not mentioned at all in the book, but the name of the town, Crystal Waves, is taken from a scripture: Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. - Revelation 22:1

11. The character of Pastor Lou DePalma is patterned after the late and beloved Pastor Nunzio Leggio of West New York Assembly.

12. The novel begins on July 8, 1972...the 8th of July being my late dad's birthday.

It's HERE!

I'm very excited to announce that CRYSTAL WAVES, my newest Christian mainstream novel, is available NOW!

For a limited time, this book will only be available on Amazon. Please do bookmark this blog, as I'll be announcing special offers on KDP Select.

Also coming soon: An excerpt AND a brand new character interview!

Want to know a little more information? Here goes:

Up until the summer of 1972, Crystal Waves had been just another Jersey shore town. A place to spend a day or a weeklong vacation, a place to raise a family. A town with its own beach, a boardwalk, an amusement pier, and the music of the ocean.

But then things begin to happen—events that some are calling modern-day miracles. The town’s most beloved pastor claims that what’s happening is an answer to long-ago prayers. Reporter Carissa Brilhart believes she’s there to investigate, discovering there’s even more to the story than meets the eye. The same, too, can be said of Katie Howard, the mysterious young waitress who works at the diner on the pier. Locals try to make sense of it all, asking if there is a logical explanation for what is happening to Crystal Waves. Or is it, in fact, a town that has received a rare and divine touch from Heaven?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Earrings? Latte? Cheesecake?

Finished the first draft of CRYSTAL WAVES this fine (but cold) Saturday morning. As soon as I'm done blogging, I'm heading out to "reward" myself with a little something for getting through a book that's just about 80,000 words long.

I have some Weight Watcher flex points available, so I'm thinking it's a good day for a sugary latte that would warm my Cuban, sugar-loving heart? Or something really decadent, like a slice of cheesecake?

How about something nonfattening (but also not too expensive) like a cool pair of dangly earrings?

Am I the only author who does that, or do other writers treat themselves to a little something after getting to write the words THE END?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Big, Juicy Book!

Looks like CRYSTAL WAVES is going to be an even bigger book than I originally expected. We're over the 75,000-word mark and I imagine it'll be even a bit more than it is currently by the time it's wrapped up. (1 1/2 sections to go, y'all.) I'm leaving the release date for about the same time, around Thanksgiving, but we could be seeing an early December release for this book, too. The paperback version may be later in the month.

So if you're a fan of chubby, longer works, this one's for you!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


For fun, here is the "soundtrack" (or more accurately, songs that are mentioned/"appear") for CRYSTAL WAVES. Since the book is first draft is very close to being done, I doubt any more will be added. VERY surprised that there were this many, too. CRYSTAL WAVES takes place from 1972 - 1973, so most of the songs are from that era or earlier.

If you happen to look them up on YouTube...enjoy!

"Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again" - The Fortunes
"What You See is What You Get" - The Dramatics
"California Dreaming" - The Mamas & the Papas
"The Wonder of You" - Elvis Presley
"Put a Little Love in Your Heart" - Jackie DeShannon
"Spirit in the Sky" - Norman Greenbaum
"Sweet Hour of Prayer" - Traditional Christian Hymn
"I'll Never Find Another You" - The Seekers
"Riders on the Storm" - The Doors
"White Christmas" - Darlene Love
"I'll Be Home for Christmas" - Bing Crosby
"O Come All Ye Faithful" - Traditional Christmas Song
"Be My Baby" - The Ronettes
"Take Me Home, Country Roads" - John Denver
"Day By Day" - Godspell
"Oh, Babe, What Would You Say?" Hurricane Smith
"Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque" - The Partridge Family

Sunday, November 2, 2014

October 2014 in Pictures

Enjoying the Blue Ridge during the onset of autumn

A field trip to a farm with my buddy (aka granddaughter, Aubrey!)

Relaxing at our church's fall festival

Our choir during the service for the Fall Festival

Aubrey's mom showed up for the field trip, too

And more field trip fun!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Recipe

You heard right.

Writers: Want an interesting "recipe" for writing a book? Here goes:


1 book
1 decade (give or take a year or two)
Twenty some-odd other books you've written over the course of that decade
10 years' worth of experience
A heaping of enthusiasm

1) Lose, deep-six, burn, leave on the New Jersey Path train (well, maybe you don't want to do that, but you get the picture) all traces of the original manuscript, leaving only the concept and a couple of memorable characters.

2) Combine the experience of that decade with what you've learned from writing the other books and pour it into a large heaping of enthusiasm.

3) Write and develop the new version of the original, bake well with love and generous doses of caffeine. As with any book, stir from Page 1 all the way to the words THE END.

4) Pray, pray, pray (to be done often during the whole process).

5) Edit, polish and publish.

Servings: Unknown, but it does go a long way. Absolutely no fat, cholesterol, carbs, or calories.

The result is a dish that is entirely new and uniquely different from the original. I haven't stressed about making it like the first book, which I don't remember as well except for certain events and, as I said, two VIP characters. One was a man in the original; she is now a female character and, in my opinion, readers will take to her even more.

It hasn't been easy. This has been a book like ONE SWEET DAY, which took longer to write, as well as more development because of the cast of characters. CRYSTAL WAVES has an even larger cast.

It's a journey that I never thought I would be taking again as a writer. I've enjoyed it and am really looking forward to sharing it with readers sometime next month.

So to the writers out there: If you've got a "lost" book like this somewhere, don't be afraid. Stock up on the coffee and jump in headfirst!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Shoes & Accessories for after 50

Up until this year, I've always been one of those women who LOVES jewelry. Especially the unusual kind or anything handmade or Bohemian! Usually, though, I end up picking up whatever's in clearance at Target or JC Penny or Belk. There are very few "real" items that I own--like my wedding band and the string of pearls to the right, a present from my husband that he recently had restrung for me. Everything else I own is costume.

But this year, I've started to pare down. Part of it, I think, IS being over 50. I had that discussion with my best friend, Linda, who agrees that there comes a time when you look around your house and realize you have TOO much stuff. A great part of it, too, is that this year (actually, it started happening last year), I would go into a store and *almost* pick up a necklace or another bracelet, and a familiar Still, Small Voice in my heart would ask, "Do you really need that?"

Does it look like I need more bracelets? This has been pared down, though it's taken a couple of years of doing so. It's taken being honest with myself, noticing what really gets worn, what just sits on this stand, and what has value because it was a gift. (Like my Pandora bracelet, which doesn't have a lot of beads yet, but it is of value to me as a gift from my husband, and most of the beads I do have are gifts from and representing my kids, daughters-in-law and grandchildren.

In case you haven't figured it out (and that's okay; I'm skirting around the issue anyway!), there is a scripture that keeps coming back to me. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Jesus, Matthew 6:19-21, NASB.

This scripture, and others, together with minimalist blogs that I've been reading over this year, have gotten me to take a good look at my little "treasures" that I've stored up in this house. More on all of that in another entry, but for now, I have found that less is more after 50 when it comes to accessories, too. Your tastes also change as you get older; what you absolutely, positively had to have, even at 40, now doesn't capture your attention or fit with your wardrobe or who you are now. pared-down I've gotten my necklaces! This has taken a lot of honesty, too. Yes, it was so cute when I bought it, and I had all good intentions to wear it...and then it rarely made it off my necklace shelf to see the light of day outside.

So this, plus my pearls, are seeing more of the light of day. I tend to add *very* sparingly to this. I'm opting for the elegance of simplicity, as well as wearing what I REALLY like. I really love flower jewelry, colorful beads, and understated, thinner necklaces with one pendant at the end of it, and I still love Bohemian. On the other hand, let's keep it simple: Let's have a few items I truly love on hand, something that will complement a dress or outfit, rather than accumulating stuff just for the sake of it.

Earrings have been a lot easier. Again, I only own one pair of "real" earrings--the pearl ones that go with my string of pearls. But at right are my current favorite earrings. Yes, I have more, but these are my go-tos, the ones I wear most of the time. The blue stone ones, especially, have garnered a lot of compliments! I consider those my Friday, Celebrate-the-End-of-the-Week earrings.

I know a lot of women like the bigger earrings, but at 54, I'm just finding the smaller, more understated and dainty earrings suit me. Those big, fun hoop earrings are some that I still love--but again, better to have earrings you really love than to buy out everything the store has in stock, clearance or otherwise.

And the daintier ones go soooooo nice with short hair!

Shoes have been more of a problem to pare down. First of all, you need a great pair of running shoes, for walking, for comfort, for work (if you're allowed to wear them). If you hike, you need a pair of hiking boots (like the ones peeking out in this picture). If you're a North Carolinian, how can you NOT have some flip-flops?! I'm sure some women, even after 50, can't do without their high heels.

Again, I'm at a point where I know what I love. Your clothes will rule what you have as shoes to a large degree, too. I've come to three conclusions:

1) I want to be comfortable
2) I prefer kitten heels to high heels


3) I really love boots. Cowboy boots, black boots, ankle boots, short boots (like these in the picture, still in great shape from last year). When the weather calls for them. Otherwise, I really love sandals, though I haven't managed to pare down in that area OR the boots.

Keep in mind when there are days that a colorful scarf (or one of those infinity ones that Linda rocks!) will better suit an outfit than a necklace, any day.

Full disclosure: I'm NOT a belt person. I only own 2. So I guess that's one area that's easy for me to pare down.

How about you? Have you gone through your accessories? Have you found what you love, what you use all the time, what was nice at 25 but now it's just collecting dust?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Health & Fashion After 50

Let's face it: Just because a woman isn't 25 anymore doesn't mean she doesn't want to look and feel her best. What worked at 25, fashion- and health-wise, may not always work at 50+.

In this entry, let's take fashion first. Now I'm not an expert on fashion by any stretch of the imagination. Yet as someone who is looking to simplify and pare down in all areas, including her wardrobe, I have come to realize that less is more. As someone who doesn't have a big budget to work with, I've come to appreciate the idea of staples.  As in, wardrobe staples. Something even designers advise women to have in their closets.

Before I mention my own choice staples--those go-to, mix & match clothes that I love and feel good wearing, let me point out that I've come to the conclusion that I'm happy with my size. Size 6 in Misses, size 7 in Junior, occasionally a size 4, depending on the cut/designer/store.

I mention this only because I've spent part of this summer trying to get down to smaller sizes until I came to the conclusion--and God impressed upon my heart--that happiness is not found in dress or jeans size. Neither is joy, and happiness and joy are not the same thing. Trust me, though: Neither the Misses nor the Junior sections in a store will give you self-esteem, confidence, poise, or well-being. All of those things should come from within. They don't come with a price tag attached, no matter what this consumer-driven society tells us.

Another thing, too: It's okay if we, as "mature" women, can't wear what we wore at 18 or even 30. I'm not saying that we have to dress like old ladies, either. In fact, women of our generation, those last few years of the Baby Boomers, have a more youthful style, more fun and bright and fashionable, than generations before us.

I like what a friend and former coworker once told me: "A woman should dress like an actress making an entrance onto the stage." She meant the clothes themselves; I believe it's about the confidence and healthy self-image the "actress" wears like a dazzling gown.

Now here are my "staples." These are all personal choices, but I found it interesting while surfing the Internet that others consider some of these to be their staples, too.

A comfortable pair of mid-rise, "skinny" (straight-leg) jeans
Remember the days of not eating a bite all day at college because you poured yourself into skintight Jordache jeans that morning? Yeah, um, no, those days are over for me. Let's go for fit, style AND comfort. And lunch, ya'll. Let's go for lunch that day, too! Look for the words "curvy" and "stretch denim." These look great with the legs tucked into boots, with kitten heels or ankle boots, high heels (if you wear them) and sandals.

A comfortable pair of mid-rise, boot-cut jeans
(Please see above for the skinny jeans comments, because they fit here, too!) Oh--and I prefer Levis, but Old Navy and Target have some great selections in these, too. In both, skinny and boot-cut, the dark denim just looks dressier.

A pair of black jeans; a pair of white jeans.
These can be dressed up very nicely. They're also both the Un-jeans of the jeans world.

Stretchy, long- or short-sleeved solid tops
Stock up on all colors! Dress up with scarves, necklaces, or just a cute sweater.

Tank tops, preferably solid
Yes, you heard right. Tanks! You can wear these under a shrug or another shirt. They look great with jeans, skirts, shorts, you name it. Make sure the fit is good.

Leather jacket
One that comes to your waist, no longer. It's a cool item, whether black or red, and it looks good with jeans, skirts, and pants.

Black skirt and black dress pants
I prefer both to be comfortable. And I also happen to be one of those people who believes you can never have too many black pants! Black is so basic, and it can be paired with a top or sweater of bold or multiple colors. If that's a black pencil skirt, even better.

I would also like to include a very pretty, very feminine and crisp, button-down white blouse. Something that pearls, real or bought at Target, would enhance.

Agree with my list? Disagree? What are your staples?

Tomorrow--let's talk shoes & accessories!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Quickie Notes, aka FYIs

Would you believe I'm blogging while cooking dinner for tomorrow, plus messaging Big Son up in New Jersey? Who says we 50-something grandmothers can't multi-task?

I meant to cook as soon as we got back from bowling tonight but then got wrapped up in working on CRYSTAL WAVES. (You might be wondering why I'm cooking tomorrow's dinner tonight. Wednesday nights are busy in this household, with hubby coming back from his ministry late, so we have to schedule dinner accordingly.) So while the Italian dressing chicken cooks and the potatoes and carrots brown, here are some quickie notes (or you can call them FYIs, since they're both). Just things I want to make clear before anything else comes up!

1) First things first: FOR THE LOVE OF SUMMER, the 3rd and final book of THE JOYFUL NOISE SERIES, will most likely be published in the first quarter of 2015. Sorry for the delay on that--CRYSTAL WAVES sort of took over the top spot in the publishing schedule!

2) CRYSTAL WAVES, which will be coming out in paperback, will be having its own giveaway on Goodreads. I'll be announcing that both here and on Goodreads when the time comes.

3) There will be a sweet romance novella in between CRYSTAL WAVES and FOR THE LOVE OF SUMMER, something light that will tentatively be coming out in January 2015. This won't be specifically Christian/inspirational, but it WILL be classified as a sweet romance, one that you can share with the young (teen or young adult) reader in your life.

4) Sometime next year, look for the return of Consuelo Vazquez (my other pen name), that will be a 20th Century Historical that follows a Cuban-American family. More news on that to follow.

5) By the time CRYSTAL WAVES is published, that makes 4 books written and published this year. Barring anything that comes up, I anticipate that 2015 will be just as busy, writing-wise. Nothing is set in stone yet, but I'm looking forward to at least one of those works being a historical. Check back here often for news.

That's it for now. Back to the Italian dressing chicken for me...and good night to you!

Monday, October 6, 2014


Here is a cover that I never thought I'd have the pleasure of sharing with readers. Even though its release probably isn't going to be until early November, the cover for CRYSTAL WAVES is making its first appearance here on my blog. As always, bookmark this page for more info and upcoming news on this new Christian mainstream novel. Hoping and praying it blesses you!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sleep, Health & Creativity

A relaxing cup of tea. A hot bath or shower. Spa-style music, unencumbered by words and voices. A book on my Ipad that I'll read until I can't keep my eyes open anymore.

Those are a few of the nightly rituals that send me on my way to a night of fitful, restful sleep. On lazy days when we don't go anywhere and we don't have guests, lounging out at home, I've also become a fan of the afternoon siesta.

I didn't always feel that way about sleep. Years ago, early in my writing career, someone told me and a group of other writers that "Sleep is overrated." The idea being, of course, that sleep takes time away from writing, writing, writing. For years I subscribed to that view--not always, because I've always worked a full-time job, besides being a wife and mother. Still, many nights I'd go to bed at 1, 2, and even 3 AM or later. I'd get up at 7 and function on only 4 or 5 hours of sleep.

It's not often that I do that anymore.

Maybe what you did at 35 or even 40 isn't as easily done when you're over 50. Really, it has more to do with the fact that, over the years, I've found that physical rest does more for health and creativity than insanely pushing yourself each and every weekend. According to studies, getting enough sleep at night also works together with exercise and healthy eating for losing and maintaining weight.

Getting enough sleep at night:

* Makes you alert enough to approach your WIP. There's nothing more miserable than trying to force yourself to work when you're either too tired or not feeling well. Maybe some writers report they work well under those circumstances, but it's not typically the time I've done my best work. Your energy also won't be tapped out earlier than usual, so maybe you can go an extra hour or two to write before going to bed. An extra hour or two...not the entire night.

* Gives you enough energy the next day to work out. Whether you walk, go to the gym, do yoga or ride your at-home exercise back, your workout has overall benefits that include clearing your head and relieving stress. In turn, that translates to an easier flow of creativity. Ever try to workout when you've had only 3 or 4 hours of sleep?

* Writing, writing, writing at a breakneck pace, and at the cost of your own health, doesn't guarantee your best work. It probably guarantees a LOT of work, but not necessarily your best. Can we take good care of ourselves and still give our best to our writing?

* There's a definite correlation between getting enough sleep and stress relief. As someone who has suffered with stress and anxiety, I have noticed the difference that getting enough sleep makes for relieving stress. With stress, like clutter, out of the way, creativity flows more smoothly.

So now, years later, I would have to disagree.

Sleep is not overrated.

So put on the chamomile tea. Listen to Sounds of the Ocean. Lie down on clean and crisp sheets and blankets, especially now that it's autumn and the weather is cooler, perfect for sleep, and pretend you're floating on the clouds, right into a deep and wonderful sleep.

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, oh LORD, will keep me safe. - Psalm 4:8

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Movie Review: LEFT BEHIND

Let me start off by saying that this isn't the highly popular and successful God's Not Dead, which--bonus!--featured the Newsboys. This movie also obviously had a bigger budget than The Encounter, though I'm not so sure it has as big a heart as that little film. It didn't have the emotional impact of The Passion of the Christ, nor the beauty and excitement of The Bible as presented by the History Channel. Both of those films, too, left Hollywood dazed and unable to comprehend their success with the public. I did find this version much better done than the original Left Behind, which was released 14 years ago, with Kirk Cameron (who, as most know, is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ) as reporter Buck Williams.
Didn't read the series the movie's based on? That's okay; I only read one, myself, and that was Glorious Appearing. Still, I was very excited about this new Left Behind coming out. I also know from surfing the Internet that some Christians were suspicious of the choice to cast Nicolas Cage in the role of Captain Rayford Steele. (Now how's THAT for a romance hero name! Ha! Sorry, I couldn't resist.) I had no such problem because my husband and I have always liked him as an actor. Yes, he plays some crazies at times, but Nicolas Cage has always had this knack for playing characters with a quiet sadness about them, a touch of sweetness. If you get the chance, rent Moonstruck, It Could Happen to You, or Peggy Sue Got Married, and see if he doesn't make you fall in love with his character. Even in some of his later works, that vulnerable and tender quality is there.
And it's there in this movie, too...once we get past the Captain Romeo of the Skies portion. 

Basically, this story is about an airline pilot whose daughter, Chloe (played here by Cassi Thompson) comes home to surprise him for his birthday. This family's been through a lot of changes, and it seems to have been brought about by Mrs. Steele's (the lovely Lea Thompson in that role) acceptance of the Lord as her Savior. She has only been a Christian for a year, and supposedly that has caused problems between her and Captain Romeo, though the writers don't do an adequate job of depicting that, since Ray Steele is very respectful when talking about his wife. He even got chuckles from our audience last night when he said (paraphrased), "If she had to leave me for another man, why not Jesus?" 

Mom's relationship with Christ DOES form a wedge between her and her daughter. We don't know what Chloe's actually majoring in; we're just told she's in college. At the airport she meets Buck Williams, who's catching the plane that Dad's flying. That conversation reveals some things about both characters and the plot. Chad Michael Murray did a great job in the role originally played by Kirk Cameron. As Christians, both I and my husband were taken aback by a scene at the very beginning involving a Christian woman looking to debate Buck about current events and how they relate to the end times. Chloe "defends" him, though both women come off as petty and trying to one-up each other, and for a supposedly Christian film, we're given a "crazy Christian lady" straight out of a Stephen King novel. It seemed mocking in nature, and just didn't feel right.

But anyway, Dad takes the flight and misses his b-day celebration, but he's really having a secret tryst to London with his middle-age crisis fling, Hattie Durham. (Buck Williams; Rayford Steele. Why does the gorgeous, flirtatious, young blonde have a name like "Hattie?" Do you know anybody with the name "Hattie" under 75 years old?) But let's go on. Chloe has an argument with Mom, who DOES come across as a sincere and loving Christian who wants her family to be saved, and all of us have had similar conversations with our loved ones, so that was very realistic. But Chloe is not ready to make that decision; she gets angry and goes out for a while, taking her younger brother (Ramie?) with her to the mall. Her brother's a little guy, she's about 20, 21 or so, and their brief relationship is loving and a sweet part of the movie. Dad's about 37,000 feet up in the air, and both he and Kirk--sorry, Buck! I still missed the lovable Kirk Cameron in this!--are on their way to London.

Then the Lord takes His bride from the earth, and that includes babies, kids and those believers who are ready. Incidentally, some non-Christian reviewers had a real problem with that, saying, in effect, "God takes all those goody-goody Christians and leaves the rest of us to fend for ourselves during the tribulation." I should also add, some believers don't believe in the Rapture, or they believe it will be mid-Trib, post-Trib, etc. Here's how to remedy all that: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and JUST BE READY. "So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!" -- Luke 21:28, NLT. Just in case, BE READY.

That's when Left Behind goes into full swing. I won't spoil anything for you, even if you've seen the original, because this doesn't totally follow the original. There are some light, humorous moments provided by one particular passenger, and one scene with Jordin Sparks that makes no sense at all, which seems to have been written in just to give Jordin Sparks something to do. She does look beautiful, though, and she sings the closing song.

All in all, I'm going to give Left Behind 3 1/2 stars out of 5. Despite some of its problems, it does entertain, Nicolas Cage does give a solid performance, as do Cassi Thompson and Chad Michael Murray, and the little that we see of Lea Thompson. As a Christian, it also does manage to make you take a moment from this physical world we're living in, with all its strife, suffering, and violence, and it reminds you to stand and look up, because the Lord is coming back. That makes it a movie worth seeing. One last note: It was, by far, MUCH better than the drippingly sweet and poorly done, Heaven is For Real.

And for a more in-depth review, which was also fair, funny, and well done, check out Christian Geek Central's video.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

In Praise of CHOCOLATE

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." - Charles Schultz

Yes, you heard right. I'm blogging about chocolate only days after blogging about this healthful year. Believe it or not, it does tie in together.


Not fruits. Not veggies. Not healthy smoothies that combine the two. Not lean protein or low-fat cheese or sugar-free this-and-that.


Not one of those fun-size, two-bites-and-it's-gone, baby bars, either. One of my friends recently claimed she's satisfied with one or two of those, and I'm no one to question her. At times, that's all I need, too.

But let's get real, ya'll: When I have my once-a-week chocolate treat, I make it worth my time. I have deliciousness in its full size, all 210 luscious calories of it, like the one above, aka The Great American Chocolate Bar.

This year, at 54, the same year I maintained my weight in the mid-120s, I also realized that I really enjoy having a candy bar now and then. Whether it's a Snickers, a Nestle's Crunch Bar, a pack of plain M&Ms, or a Hershey bar (seriously, I love them ALL), if I have give in to the desire to have one, I'm set for a week.

I know that sounds crazy, but it's true. I have my chocolate satisfies me and makes my tastebuds all excited...I get it out of my system, and the rest of the week I'm happy with fruits, veggies, nuts, lean means, whole grains, and all that other good stuff. For chocolate, I gladly--no, I passionately--give up the 6, 7, or 8 flex points from my WW weekly allowance of 49.

It's called everything in moderation. Not eating 5 candy bars, but being happy with just that one candy bar. And everything about it is pleasurable, too. Buying it is fun; holding it in its neat wrapper is fun; toting it around for a day or two in my purse, sometimes, until the urge to eat it really hits, is fun. Taking my time with it, to savor it, to give chocolate the chance to release whatever chemical magic it releases that makes the human heart all light and bubbly.

Chocolate is food, something to eat. We refer to it as "sinful" and "decadent," and when we have it, we feel guilty and say, "I was bad today and had a Milky Way bar." In reality, it's not sinful; it's food, it's a special treat, and it's delicious. We're not "bad" when we have it. Like Carrie Underwood has said, "Sometimes a girl just has to have chocolate!"

I don't apologize for my weekly chocolate. Sometimes, like this week, I'll have one chocolate bar...and then have one more, later in the week. I don't do that often. That's all right; I have permission to do that. From me. Permission to eat what I really love.

And I Really Love Chocolate.

"And it melts, God forgive me, it melts ever so slowly on your tongue, and tortures you with pleasure." - Yvette Marceau in Chocolat

"Eat chocolate every day and be happy." - Carolina Herrera

"Chocolate symbolizes, as does no other food, luxury, comfort, sensuality, gratification, and love." - Karl Petzke

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Free Ebook for ONE WEEK

If you haven't already read ONE SWEET DAY, my novel that spans four decades about a group of believers awaiting the rapture, it's going for FREE (the ebook version) from now until next Saturday.

I should add: It's free on Smashwords, and now apparently on Itunes and Kobo, too.

Very few of my books are in paperback version, but ONE SWEET DAY, which is a longer length book at over 70,000 words, happens to be one of the ones that is. So if you read the ebook version and would like to purchase it as a gift for a friend (Christmas is coming, just sayin' :D) or your church library, you can find it here on Amazon.

Enjoy! Hurry, because the ebook version returns to full price next Sunday!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Excerpt from ONE SWEET DAY

(Though this book has been out since January of this year, I realized I've never offered an excerpt. In anticipation of the release of LEFT BEHIND, starring Nicolas Cage, here it is.)

Why was he driving the hearse? That was Jason Nolan’s job. Tremayne worked in the office, consoling families and helping them with the arrangements. Mark Wagner had also been training him to do other things, but driving wasn’t one of them. Now, for some reason, he had the keys to the hearse.
“Tremayne, come here—look at this! Something’s wrong.”
He followed his boss’ voice to the rear of the vehicle. What was Mr. Wagner doing there?
Even stranger, the funeral director and three other people Tremayne didn’t recognize were surrounding an open casket, which had been tossed unceremoniously onto the floor. The carriage that was supposed to transport it to the grave was nowhere in sight.
“Oh, Lord,” Tremayne said as calmly as he could manage. “Where is the deceased?”
“He was in the casket.” One of the other men sounded nervous. “You saw him, didn’t you? I know I saw him. He was in there. Now he’s not. He’s not there, but he was…”
Tremayne squinted at him. What sort of roundabout, nonsensical talk was that? And who was the man, because he didn’t recall ever seeing him before?
Was this even really happening? Or was it a dream? It couldn’t have been a dream because a woman on a bike swerved just in time before colliding with him. A biker disrespecting a funeral procession? So, so strange.
“Hey!” he hollered. “Be careful!”
An older gentleman passing him stopped and pushed his hat further back on his head.
“Hurry, son,” the man urged him. “He’s coming, He’s coming! Hurry.”
“Who’s coming?”
Tremayne didn’t wait for an answer, and even if he had, the man was gone.
And he knew the answer. He knew it instinctively.
With the funeral forgotten, he followed the crowd. His heart beat faster with fear and anticipation. Anticipation, because he was starting to understand what was happening. Fear, because he couldn’t believe his eyes: Several of the graves he was passing had been disturbed. Headstones had been toppled over. Graves were open, revealing fresh, soft earth, with rocks strewn in between. Caskets, long buried, torn open.
Open…and empty.
This was it. Tremayne knew it in his heart. He moved from a fast walk to a sprint.
He recognized that hill. It was actually nowhere near the cemetery; it was the same hill that had been behind his childhood home, where he and his brother had been raised together. By his estimation, there were tens of thousands of people—or more—on that hill, hurrying to climb it. Even with all those people, he spotted Lita in the distance. She smiled and waved at him.
“Wait for me, Lita!” he cried. Her face was almost angelic, beaming, and she was dressed in a pristine white robe.
“The blessed hope, Tremayne!” she called back. “The rapture. Oh, Jesus, my Lord—”
For that moment, he looked away from her to the sky.
It looked like the heavens were opening like a scroll. That brought to mind the words of an old hymn: “And Lord, haste the day, when my faith shall be sight; the clouds be rolled back as a scroll…”
It was as if the clouds were pushed away by an invisible hand and ribbons of color appeared in the sky. Ribbons of gold, of red, purple, every shade of blue, green.
Tremayne couldn’t move. His feet might as well have been bolted to the ground. He had never seen anything so beautiful in his life as that sky.
The rapture. This was the rapture.
The blessed hope.
The day that had come, as Jesus had told His disciples, as “a thief in the night.”

Abruptly, Tremayne opened his eyes. He swallowed hard and found that his throat was dry. His right arm was hanging over the side of the bed, and Duke was licking his hand. The puppy wanted to be let out in the backyard to do his business.
“Okay, boy, okay. Give me a second,” Tremayne mumbled with a sigh.
He always wore his checkered pajama bottoms and a short-sleeved T-shirt, that one bearing the name of a local apple orchard, to bed. Tucking his feet into his slippers, Tremayne shuffled down the stairs with the dog in tow.
Opening the back door, he let Duke out and looked out into the backyard. He and Lita had talked about buying a grill for the patio, along with one of those outdoor table and chairs, so they could have friends and family over for hot dogs and cheeseburgers. Eventually, they’d put up a swing set when their children came along.
No rapture yet, he thought, surprised by that flicker of disappointment.
No rapture. Just that present life, with its pain and its suffering, with its wars and hunger and violence and hatred.
But that life wasn’t without its blessings, too. Life on earth had brothers whose big dreams sometimes managed to come true, and mouth-watering, seven-layer cakes were baked by loving, beautiful future brides. And a job that perhaps wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but which he enjoyed because it allowed him to help families, treating them with respect and kindness, during a difficult and heartbreaking time in their lives.
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend; even so, it is well with my soul.

“Not time yet, I guess, Father,” he prayed under his breath. “But maybe in our lifetime. Only You know.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

(Almost) One Whole Healthful Year

Around this same time last year I got a new pair of running shoes (replacing this funky, cute-but-highly uncomfortable pair. The intention was to start running--something I'd always wanted to do, and friends on Facebook who DID run at my age had just fueled that fire. Ultimately, I'm glad that I gave it a wholehearted try, but it seemed just a bit too high-impact for me. Afraid that I would injure myself and that would impede on running and hiking, I dropped running, and instead became more dedicated to walking. (And hiking whenever I can get to a mountain!)

A friend from work, one of our wonderful midwives whose passion is yoga, told me, "Connie, high-impact is good, but exercise doesn't have to be high-impact to keep you healthy and feeling good. It just has to be something you love." This is a woman who's been doing yoga for years; she even goes on yoga retreats. She's also healthy and in great shape.

I took her advice. And here is the result: a brand new pair of running shoes to replace the ones I've worn out, both on pavement and on mountain trail.

Something clicked this year for me. Besides making a point to walk--or do some form of exercise, including bowling, hiking, Zumba, or biking--three to five times a week, I've begun eating more healthfully. More mindfully. Despite what I said earlier on this blog, I did return to Weight Watchers for a few months and dropped a little over 12 pounds.

I sort of hit a plateau at that point. My weight got "stuck" at 124 - 127 pounds. It was frustrating at first, since I was doing "all the right things."

So I decided to just maintain. Just combine what I'd learned in the past, between Weight Watchers, Intuiting Eating, and even Intermittent Fasting.

What ensued was one whole healthful year. Almost one whole year.

To be continued...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Background on CRYSTAL WAVES

As promised, here is the background story for my upcoming book, Crystal Waves, which is a Christian mainstream novel.

A book that started out with a "what-if" premise, it also has the distinction of being the first book I wrote back in the early 1990s, when my kids were small and I was a secretary for a brokerage house, and I decided that finally I would try to get my work published. Before my YA books, before my romance novels and Christian inspirational novels, before my short stories published by the confessions magazines, I wrote a Christian novel entitled Crystal Waves, which was roughly about 320 pages long (about 80,00 words, I believe). Someone back at the time suggested I send it to an agent in Texas, a man I'd never heard of before, but remember--I was a total newbie at the time, a complete tenderfoot tossing my hat into the ring. There were a lot of people I'd never heard of. Neither did I think of researching the person to whom I was trusting my work.

Eventually, I was repped by two terrific agents whom I'm proud to have worked with: Jean Price, who is no longer in the business, and Meredith Bernstein of New York. Today I work on my own. This guy, whoever he was, basically kept my book for months on end (though I suspect he just tossed it upon arrival, even though it had been sent with a SASE), and when I worked up the nerve to call him he callously said, "Oh, did I not send that back to you? I'll do that."

He never sent it back. Surprise! Boy, do I miss those days now as a self-pubbed author. Not. Anyway, that's okay. At least I had enough common sense to keep the original, which was written on Multimate. (Yes, it goes back THAT far.)

Crystal Waves then languished in my drawer for a while. In the meantime, I received rejection after rejection on other books and stories, like most new authors Back in the Day of Traditional Publishing, with my YA projects that almost made it but then ultimately didn't. I lost faith in the project and then eventually was published in other genres including romance. At one point, I deep-sixed the floppy on which the book was written and the original hard copy, believing it was just an early work with no potential and no prospects of ever being published. Besides, I was finally a "pubbed" writer who'd found some measure of (slim) success as a midlist author working in other genres.

In recent years as an indie publisher, I've been able to come back to my roots: the Christian/inspirational and mainstream genres. It's been a real pleasure to work on two series, namely Larkspur Valley and now my current series, Joyful Noise. With two books done and one to go in that series, I found myself remembering my "firstborn" baby, Crystal Waves.

I believe the Lord put that on my heart, to remember this what-if story, this big, sprawling novel with a big cast that includes--well, I'm getting ahead of myself.

But I couldn't publish the book. I threw it out, floppy disk and all. I've even gotten rid of computers that USE floppy disks. Besides, it had its share of warts, as most First Books.

Which means the book would have to be rewritten...from scratch.

From memory.

With a 54-year-old writer's memory, no less.

Much of the book is lost to me. Again, it's been years since I first wrote it. I remember key points, even parts that I KNEW wouldn't fly (and have since been eliminated from this new version). And yet the desire to rewrite and publish the book, to share it with my readers, became stronger and stronger.

So I am now rewriting Crystal Waves. Every author, I believe, has a Beloved But Forgotten Book. This is mine.

I'm writing it with the skill I've gained over the years, which I didn't have as a tenderfoot. I'm writing it not timidly or with the will-it-ever-see-the-light-of-day fears of an unpubbed author, but rather with confidence and with love. I could leave it there, in the Past, in the Revolving File, with all the newer irons I have in the fire.

Yet there is something to be said about something that was forgotten by the world, even by the "parent", that is resurrected and is given a second chance, that truly makes me want to return each day to work on this project and to nurture it and see it to the words THE END.

I'm hoping to publish Crystal Waves sometime in late October or early November, depending on its length, which will determine not only its writing but editing time frames.

Now to any authors out there...have any forgotten babies out there you need to take a second look at?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 2014 in Pictures

With September right around the corner, here is my August 2014 wrap-up college. Here's to Awesome August! A visit from my best friend, Linda & her fun daughter, Hayley...vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina...the very first day of school for our granddaughter, Aubrey (she's growing up so fast, oh, my! Can't you stay little for a bit more, my sweet baby?) and a brand-new addition to our kitchen--a Keurig coffee maker.

Hope your summer has also been peaceful & joyous!

Thursday, August 21, 2014


You may have noticed, over on the sidebar of this blog, the little WIP bar for my next book, which now has a title. CRYSTAL WAVES will be my next release, with the third and last book of THE JOYFUL NOISE SERIES to be published after that.

CRYSTAL WAVES has a very interesting story behind it, one that I'll be sharing right here in the coming weeks. This is a Christian mainstream novel which I'm very happy to be sharing with my readers.

In the meantime, enjoy both Books 1 & 2 of my new inspirational romance series!

Monday, August 18, 2014

On Walking

It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker. - HENRY DAVID THOREAU

A pleasant morning walk in Myrtle Beach, SC
At some point in our lives, those of us who love to walk find that we no longer think of it as any old, mundane exercise. That's something I learned in the short time during which I flirted with running--that runners feel the same way about taking to the pavement. There comes a time when walking, like running, becomes a part of our lives.

I have a confession to make, and that is that I haven't been to the gym in months. That's not to say that I've been a couch potato for all this time, because I haven't. Anywhere from three to five times a week, I have tried to squeeze in anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour and a half of walking. Sometimes even more, if time allows.

The weather has just been so pleasant in North Carolina that I couldn't bare to spend my walking time indoors, on a treadmill listening to the mechanical sounds of machines around me. The outdoors, whether it was in the park or on the greenway, or even a long road in our suburban town, called to me each time. I listen to my music through headphones or I use it as my prayer time to meet with the Lord in silent prayer.

Or I listen to the sound of the birds or the wind rustling through the trees on the greenway instead of the sounds of gears moving within a machine.

Maybe that's why walking has become so important to me. Not that I have anything against the gym, either. I haven't quit my membership and I don't intend to, since I love catching up on my reading on the treadmill. When it's cold or rainy, the gym comes in handy.

And it's not that walking doesn't have amazing health benefits, way beyond just helping with weight loss and maintenance, because it does. A lower impact activity than either running or Zumba, walking also burns fat, builds muscle, strengthens the heart, and relieves stress. There have been studies done that point to walking as being beneficial to reducing the risk of cancer, including colorectal and breast cancer. Even, it's been said, walking can relieve constipation!

Those are all great reasons to walk. I think about those reasons sometimes when I'm deciding if I have enough time to tackle one more mile, either in the park or on a mountain trail. None of those are my main reasons, however, for walking.

I walk because I can. Because God has blessed me with good bones and muscles so far. Because I don't want to take my health for granted, especially because I'm not guaranteed it'll be there next year.

I walk because I have a little time to spare. A half hour, twenty minutes, or two hours. I can take my best friend or my honey (he's another best friend!) with me and share a great conversation along the way. Because my dog enjoys my company. Because the birds will serenade me. Because God is there, and I look forward to praising Him with each step.

I walk because I like the feel of my feet in my running shoes. I like the way my shoes feel when they hit the dirt trail or the pavement. Because I might catch sight of a pretty cardinal flitting from one branch to another or of happy kids whizzing by on their bicycles.

I walk because I love it. Because it gives me pleasure. It's great that, in the process, my heart is made stronger and my weight is maintained and my muscles are built up. But I'm really walking because it's something I do for me. Because it's ultimately more rewarding than sitting in front of a TV for that hour. Because inspiration will often come to me along the path and I'll mysteriously understand what happens next in Chapter Seven.

I walk because walking is a part of my life. Because it would break my heart to be told that I could never walk again, so I gratefully savor my physical ability to do so. Because it costs nothing and it is a blessing from God's hand.

Now...have you taken your walk today?

You can think of it as just physical exercise, as a chore, or you can let it become much more to you.

Happy Trails!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Special Offer

From now until this Sunday, get my most recent Christian mainstream, ONE SWEET DAY, for FREE at Smashwords.

Have you not read it? Here's its teaser. This is my novel about the rapture. May you enjoy it & may the Lord bless you!

In 1976, a precious baby is neglected and left to die in the trash...a young girl dreams of a better life for herself and her divorced mother...a funeral director is engaged to marry the love of his life...and a man sentenced to prison sends his confused and troubled daughter to live with his rancher brother and his family. They are strangers to each other, hailing from the mountains of North Carolina, a crowded New Jersey city, rural Montana and California, yet they are connected by their faith. Each one, in their own way, is struggling, also watching and waiting, through the span of forty years, during which some have had mysterious dreams and visions that are not of this world. They are about to be brought together by a day, an hour, a heart-stopping moment, that was foretold in prophecy over two thousand years ago. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Excerpt from DISTANT FIRE


That morning, in church, Drew thought he’d seen the same beautiful girl looking back at him with those loving eyes. And something else that had totally caught him by surprise; she had looked at him with yearning, even allowing her gaze to rake over him.
With desire. The way a woman hadn’t looked at him in so long.
He had only been standing there long enough to watch the next bunch of children and their parents board the carousel, in that familiar, mad dash to find a painted horse with a seat to fill. The breezes carried the unique scent of the ocean that he loved so much, mingled with the aroma of boardwalk pizza and other Jersey shore delicacies.
That was when Linda appeared, stepping lightly through a crowd of teenagers and young families. Drew could see that she was looking around for him, dressed in a long pair of brown shorts with a purple top, a mini purse dangling from a long strap wrapped around her shoulder. Her brown sandals dressed up her casual outfit.
Oh, boy. Here we go, he told himself, taking a deep breath and pushing away from the railing.
I don’t know if that’s really what she was feeling this morning, Lord, but she still brings up those feelings in me as a man.
Having admitted the truth about his thoughts, Drew pulled himself together and waved to get her attention.
“Hey, Linda! Over here!”
More as a greeting than anything meant romantically, Linda reached forward to initiate a hug. Drew let her fill his arms, unable to stop his eyes from closing, and probably holding her a second or two longer than he should have.
At the same time, unbeknownst to him, Linda was also closing her eyes. He’s the musical guy at church, she thought. I probably should let go now.
Yet, music director or not, he felt better than he should have, there in her arms. She’d hugged men since her divorce; men like Pastor and male friends at church, and also recently, her now-former boss. Those had been chaste embraces, greetings between believers, expressions of unfeigned affection for a man who had been a good, decent employer who had helped her put food on the table for her daughter and herself.
This was a different sort of embrace. One she hadn’t expected to enjoy as much as she did.
“The carousel,” she murmured as she reluctantly pulled away. “That was easy to remember.”
It was as if he had to remind himself to withdraw his arm from around her, at last dropping it to his side.
“You didn’t forget that,” Drew sounded surprised.
“No, of course not. Not since it was always our meeting place. Whenever we were at Seaside Heights.” She walked beside him, not sure of where they were going and not caring. “I haven’t been there since before Hurricane Sandy…and then there was that fire.”
“Is it still there? Because there were two carousels. But we always met by that one, the older one.”
“The newer one was destroyed in the fire. I read that in the paper. Our carousel survived.”
Our carousel. Linda hoped it didn’t sound too forward, but then Drew commented on it.
“That was our carousel, that’s right,” he said softly. “So many times meeting there. Riding it. Shame about the other one, though.”
“It is, yes.”
He stopped walking and handed her the gift in his hand. “That’s—that’s not much. Just a little something to thank you for coming out today. You probably had something else to do.”
“I had absolutely nothing else to do!” She flashed one of those playful smiles that were still familiar to him. “My Valerie has met a young man, so Mom is on her own these days. But thank you, Drew. I should have gotten something for you, too.”
“Nah. I wanted to do that. You can open it now or—”
“Oh, no, you know me and suspense.”
Linda had an inkling as to what was in the small, rectangular box, judging by its size. Undoing the bow, she opened it and found that she was correct. Inside was a simple red, baby rose.
Just like the one he had given her years earlier. It may have been tiny and delicate, but it emitted its sweet perfume, and she didn’t know why but she felt her throat tighten with a sudden urge to cry.
Lord, Jesus, what’s happening? She avoided Drew’s gaze, which seemed to be awaiting hers.
“That’s as beautiful as the one you gave me years ago.” Somehow, she managed to keep her voice steady.
“Uh-huh. I was happy to find a florist who had one.” He cleared his throat. “Anyway, want to take a walk? Catch up?”
“That’d be great.”
“Ride the carousel. Later, maybe.”
Whenever you’d like. After so long, she felt shy saying those words. As if shyness had ever been a problem for her, when it was in Linda’s nature to speak up for herself or others.
“Later, if we get a chance, that’d be nice,” she said. “But, okay, let’s walk.”
This was a date. She hadn’t been sure before, when he’d invited her to meet him on the boardwalk, but the carousel, the tiny rose, the tender looks—everything was pointing to this being a date.
“On the beach? On the boardwalk?” he specified, giving her the impression that he, too, was out of practice, date-wise.
“On the beach. It’s less crowded. Or at least we can make our way better.”
“On the beach, it is.” At the nearby ramp, one of many along the boardwalk, he turned to her.
“Leave our shoes up here, right? By the boardwalk?”
How strange, yet how familiar! They were behaving as if no time had elapsed between them. Doing what they’d done as young people.
Except she hadn’t kissed him. Or he hadn’t kissed her. Lord, she wanted to kiss him so badly, like a teenager in love, with that crazy, now-or-never urgency of a teenager.
This was the music director at church. At True Vine, her home church, with her pastor and Maribel, and her friends. Where she was fed spiritually, where she attended service and worshipped and fellowshipped. The place she would have to leave if things went awry this time with the man who’d been her boyfriend years ago. And finding a new church was always a daunting task.
“Let’s leave them up here,” she said and slipped off her sandals. “Andrew Lingerfelt…what happened to your guitar?”
Drew was bent at the waist, pulling off his shoe when he squinted up at her. “I told you. It got burned up in a fire.”
“Oh. Okay. Well, both of us know that’s not what happened. Now, if it’s something that’s none my business, Drew, then just say so. But don’t tell me something that I know in my heart isn’t true.”
Was he offended? And if he was, would he put an end to their first date? Unless he had changed, he’d always been even-tempered. Unlike her ex-husband, he had never been snippy, either.
“That must’ve been bothering you,” he grumbled.
“It has been bothering me. Again, if it’s none of my business—”
“I sold it. I didn’t get much for it, because someone had...put a lot of little flowers all over it. But I got a few bucks for it at a time when I needed money.” He had slipped on his sunglasses, which effectively hid his eyes, and lifted his chin in defiance. “So now you know the truth about my guitar.”
Or part of the truth. Because there was more to the story than what he was telling her. Linda began to walk beside him, both of them barefoot on the sand. She knew she couldn’t press him further.
“How did you used to do that? How do you still do that?” Drew sounded more amazed than irritated.
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s instincts after having been a mom.” Not a very romantic response, and she doubted it was what he wanted to hear on a romantic date. She decided to change the subject in an effort to lighten the mood. “So you know about where I’ve been these years. Tell me about you, Drew.”
“Actually, I have a question I need you to answer.”
They had been making their way down to the water. Linda watched a young family—a dad and mom in their late twenties, with two boys, toddlers, in the water.
“What's that?” She pushed past her fear to ask.
“Why did you leave me, Linda? Why did you marry someone else, a guy you barely knew, when we’d been together for years?”
It wasn't quite an accusation, though there was a trace of anger in those words. No—not anger, but hurt.
“Excuse me, but you were the one who broke up with me,” she reminded him sharply. “You were the one who left me.”
That wasn’t the conversation that she wanted to be having with him. What had happened to that carefree afternoon they were supposed to have been sharing? Chatting with an old friend, catching up with each other’s lives.
What they were doing was dealing with the proverbial elephant in the room. Questions that had gone unanswered for years. Linda turned to Drew, who stood with his hands in his pockets, looking out at the water. In the distance a party boat of leisure fishermen and women chugged along, past the waves.
“I can understand you wanting him,” he said without looking at her. “He was a young guy with a future. I was—I had no direction back then. I just wanted to play music—”
“My father pushed for that. And that ‘young man with a future’ got me pregnant. I was responsible for what happened, too, except he wasn’t the perfect guy my father made him out to be. He proved that by walking away from me and his child.” There was no bitterness there; it was only the truth. The truth wasn’t always pretty or neat.
Drew removed his glasses, nodding. “I would’ve married you. I wouldn’t have done that to you or the baby.”
“No? She was another man’s daughter.”
“She would’ve been my daughter, Linda. Or at least I would have raised her that way. I would’ve loved her. Because I loved you.”
His voice was hoarse. She pressed, “Still, it was you who said goodbye—”
“Because your father said I was a loser.”
My father? What he thought about you didn’t matter to me, Drew.” Linda tried not to raise her voice with emotion.
“That’s how you feel now. Back then, he controlled you, Linda. And we were also fighting a lot. I thought you didn’t want me. That you didn’t love me. And then I went to the church on the day of your wedding and I would’ve—”
Linda stared at him. “You were there?”
“Drew, you just said you were!” Her patience was dwindling. “Now which is it?”
“All right. I was there. And I was going to ask you not to marry him. To marry me instead. But I didn’t do that. I didn’t want to ruin your wedding. Or your life, Linda. It was June 11, 1988. It was a Saturday. About two in the afternoon. St. Joseph’s of the Palisades. West New York, New Jersey.”
Stunned, she touched her throat with her hand. “Oh. My Lord…you were there.”
Drew shrugged. “I just want you to know. And I wanted you to know that’s what happened.”
She didn’t know what to say. Apparently, he didn’t, either, though he gently took her forearm and led her down the beach along the wet, darkened sandy. On an impulse, more to see if he would accept the gesture of affection, she let her hand slip through the crook of his arm.

That was when he looked at her. Intensely, without rancor or anger.