Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Retro Blog: Fate, Fortune Cookies, and Faith

On May 30, 2013 I got the call from my editor at Entangled Publishing. This blog first aired June 5, 2013. Now I am poised to release my debut novel THE MAVERICK'S RED HOT REUNION on June 30th, 2014. It's a dream come true. Here's the story about what happened on May 30th, 2013. 

I got what we writers like to say is "The Call." In my case it was an email. And I was sitting in my trusty Ford Escape getting ready to go to my morning Zumba class when it arrived on my iPhone. So what did I do after my new editor at Entangled Publishing sent me the email that stated my manuscript was approved?

Frankly, I trembled. It was unbelievable, surreal even, after all these years of seeking a home for my stories.

I emailed her back-thanked her so much and then I forwarded it to the Physicist and my critique partners, Sharon WrayKaren Johnston, and Pam Mantovani. Sharon and Karen have worked with me since 2006 and they're talented writers whom I value beyond measure. Pam and I met through a contest that she was coordinating in 2009: the Maggies for the Georgia Romance Writers RWA Chapter. I finaled that year and the following year I wooed her to become my category romance writing partner. We haven't looked back. She's an incredible writer, a fantastic critique partner, and a dear friend.

I would not be the writer I am today if fate had not lead me to these women. Our relationships are special, and I love them all.

Fate also lead me to a fantastic writing group. The Romance Writers of America. My first manuscript was requested by an editor at Harlequin and then rejected. Rightfully so. It was a hot mess and I needed to learn a lot. But in that rejection, the editor encouraged me to join RWA. So I did. Then I found Karen and Sharon. Two years later, I found more writing chapters with my subsequent move to Alabama. Southern Magic, Heart of Dixie, Music City Romance Writers and Georgia Romance Writers of America have given me so much support throughout these long years. Fate also led me to a fantastic group called GIAMx4 (Goal in a Month) after I emailed the loop's creator about a PRO post. Amy Atwell is a dynamo and I adore her for including me in this group. They are so good to me. Finally, fate also sent me a multi-published author who literally took me by the hand and said she'd read the first three chapters of the book I just sold because she knew how hard it is to get published. I finally plucked up the courage to send her this book and she fell in love with it. Though it didn't suit her publishing house's line, it lead me down an interesting pathway. And her faith in my writing kept me going when times got dark and I wanted to give up writing for a shopping vocation.

But I couldn't quit writing because then I would be--as Sharon so wisely and gently said--rejecting myself.

This brings me in no clear way to Fortune Cookies. For some reason I like saving certain fortunes that come in the cookies. I've kept two in my jewelry box for at least four years. I used one in my short bio because it suits me to a T. I kept the other one because it describes my internal motivation. Here they are:

Your ability to find the silly in the serious will take you far.
Your skills will accomplish what the force of many will not.

There were days when I'd open my jewelry box to get my hoop earrings and heart necklace and I'd read these fortunes just to jump start my day and keep my motivation going.

I came home and showed the College Kid the email who then promptly hugged me three times in a row (a record!) and said she was proud of me. I still get all weepy when I recall that moment. Then it was off to PF Changs because the day I sold to Entangled Publishing, the Physicist and I had already arranged a SWG with one of our favorite couples at the restaurant to catch up. SWG stands for Scotch Working Group. The servers there keep The Marine and The Physicist's  favorite scotch on hand and know them by name. So one minute I was signing a contract and the next I was off to eat Chinese and hang out with friends while the College Kid started fooling around with my Tumblr account to make it look better.

When the Marine and his wife learned the news they were very excited. But really? I was so dazed, I was almost overwhelmed. They insisted on me tooting my own horn a bit. So we had a big piece of cake on the house (because the server was happy for me after they told her I had sold a book). After we ate the cake (which was super yummy and completely sinful) the fortune cookies arrived. We each opened ours and I'm saving them all in my jewelry box. Here's what they said:

You will receive a surprising gift very soon.
You should have a talk with a friend today.
Treasure what you have.
A small gift can bring joy to the whole family.

Somehow, in the dim glow of the low lights at PF Changs these fortunes reflected my entire day. I loved that moment when each member of the table read their slip of paper, then handed me their fortune.

Their friendship leads me to Faith. I could not have gotten to this point without the company of faithful friends and without faith in something greater than me guiding my destiny. My family, my dearest and oldest friends (two who read the first ill-fated manuscript and encouraged me to go forth), my new friends, my Zumba Sisters, my writing friends, my awesome critique partners, the mentors and teachers who have guided me (Mary BuckhamDianna LoveMargie LawsonMichael Hauge to name a few), the published authors who have given me so much encouragement--all of them have filled my internal faith jar with hope for the future.

And I have a real faith jar. Years ago someone gave me a prayer jar. You write down your prayers on slips of paper and date them, then you put them in the jar and let them sit there. When things change, you check the jar and pull out the prayers that have been answered. OK, so now I'm crying as I write this because this weekend I pulled out two slips of paper. Here's what they said and the dates they were written:

I  pray that someone will publish my works 2005
I pray for strength to write strong even when I'm not published. 2012

The top of my jar is inscribed with the following words:

Faith is the substance of things hoped for... Hebrews 11:1

It's been a long journey from that first tiny slip of paper to today's new slip of paper. The journey's not over, it's just different. I'm making new connections and finding new friends who are in this extraordinary world that I've just entered. But I'm so glad that the companions I have known throughout my life will be cruising on this pathway beside me. They are why I have the courage to sit down to write stories which believe in the power of love binding two hearts together.

A lot has changed since I first wrote this blog. I lost my dear friend Karen Johnston to an inoperable brain stem tumor in March 2014. I'm grateful that we were able to celebrate my sale last year. She was an amazing person, and I will miss her forever. Still, she's with  me every day in spirit cheering me on with her boundless enthusiasm. And there's been good news despite the sadness that has passed our way. Pam Mantovani sold her first book to Belle Books in July 2013. And Sharon Wray is a Golden Heart finalist for the fourth year in a row. 

One thing that hasn't changed is my faith jar. It still has prayers in it. Slips of paper with bits of hopes and dreams written on them.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

From My Pinterest Recipe Board: Tried It & Liked It

Moroccan Meatball Stew. So yummy!
I love Middle Eastern food and Moroccan food. When I saw this recipe on Pinterest, I knew I had to try it.

Moroccan Meatball Stew with a Christine Twist

Serves 4 - 6

Soak together:

  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used Planko crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used skim milk)


  • 2 lbs ground lamb (or beef)--I used Costco's ground turkey

  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Turkey Plops--Note the missing Plop. Feline naughtiness.

Mix well and form into 1 1/2 inch balls. Fry the meatballs in in olive oil to brown on all sides. Remove meatballs to a covered, oven safe pan.

Note:  I didn't make balls, the turkey was too soft. Plus I decided to bake the meat rather than fry it. So I basically had to drop plops of the turkey onto a lightly oil sprayed cookie sheet. I baked them for 35 minutes at 350 degrees, the brought them out to cool. Only one went missing because a naughty cat likes spicy food, too. Who knew?

Then I took my Dutch oven and put a little olive oil into it and cooked the following ingredients.
  • 1 diced carrot
  • 1 stalk diced celery
  • 4 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 diced red onion
  • Cooking the veggies. 

Saute together until the onions soften, then add this mixture to the pan with the meatballs along with:

  • 6 cups diced canned tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup currents -- my local Alabama grocery store didn't have currents, so I got golden raisins and regular raisins instead. Still yummy, but would love to have currents in my pantry.
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 small red chile minced or 1 tbsp chili paste
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • All the delicious ingredients combined. 
  • salt and pepper to season

Place in a 350 degree oven, covered for about and hour, then add:

  • 2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed

Return to the oven for an additional hour at 325 degrees F. In the last 10 minutes of cooking time you can add:

  • 1 cup olives (optional) I left out the olives. I didn't think they were necessary and might have overpowered the meal. Had I added olives, I would have added black pitted ones.

Serve over couscous.

I LOVED this recipe. So aromatic and delicious. And really easy to make. I might try to make it with lamb next time, but I liked the ground turkey plops just fine. Hope you try it and while you're waiting for the stew to cook through, check out my heroes on my Pinterest board here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Juggling Multiple Balls While Balancing on a Tightrope

Life has been crazy busy these past few weeks. I've always been self-disciplined about setting goals and personal deadlines. I have no problem working toward one that's given to me. Actually, I like to send requested materials earlier than the due date because that's how I roll.

And I bet that makes my editors at Entangled Publishing very happy.

But here's a secret: I love revising. I LOVE LOVE LOVE fixing problems on the page even if the solution isn't always an easy one to find. So revising is like playing with my words and it's fun.

First draft writing? Um. Well. Twirl toe in carpet and look away. Um.  I like to finish the story so I can revise it and make it stronger. That's been a bit of a problem lately because the first book has a release date (stay tuned--I'm sharing it today). I've got to wrap my brain around revisions on book B, copy edits for book A, and how I will market the debut so that it succeeds.

I can't do it all in one day. Each book deserves my full attention, but now they're queuing up in a different order. I did give myself permission to work on my sequel to the MAVERICK'S RED HOT REUNION through this Sunday. I wanted to get a good handle on Caleb and Hannah before I put them aside to work on another round of revisions for my prequel to the debut novel.

So here's how I'm juggling and walking a tightrope.

I'm not.

I have decided that I will dance to a different tune every day, but I have scheduled my rehearsals so I can dance efficiently. Some days the music will be fast, and I'll have to move quickly, working on the projects my editor at Entangled gives to me first. Other days the beat will be slower. I'll use the time to flesh out my next story, staying on course until I finish the first draft. Having a rehearsal schedule allows me to play every day with my words at the best time for capitalizing on my creativity. It also gives me time to organize my marketing/business life when my inner administrator takes over my brain.

Of course, I've only figured out how to dance to my new writing life's tune. The housework will simply have to suffer. It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make for my career. And now here's the debut release date for THE MAVERICK'S RED HOT REUNION!

Drum roll....  JUNE 30TH!!!  Super squee time!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lunch with Romance Authors Featuring Eloisa James

The 2014 Heart of Dixie's 17th Annual Readers' Luncheon featuring Eloisa James is open for registration. As a Heart of Dixie member, I've attended the luncheon and volunteered wherever I can to help make this luncheon a fun event for romance readers.

This year I am excited about attending the luncheon on Saturday, June 14th from 11-3 PM because I've got a brand new book releasing in June.

Oh. Not just brand new, but my first published book! My debut novel THE MAVERICK'S RED HOT REUNION is off to my Entangled Publishing editor as I write this post. And I'm waiting for my first cover art to be sent to me for approval.

It's a dream come true.

Even better, I am a big time Fan Girl of Eloisa James. Not only is she a fantastic author who writes rich, steamy and poignant historical romances, she is an amazing speaker. I heard her speak at my first RWA Annual Conference. She moved me to tears. After I returned home, I emailed her and thanked her for her beautiful speech. And she emailed me back! L'il ole me!

Fast forward a few years and Eloisa James is a 2013 RITA finalist. She had been a finalist before, but had never taken home the coveted statuette. I was a Golden  Heart date that year with the fabulous and talented writer Gail Hart. We dressed to the nines, got our bling on, and walked to our table where I saw Eloisa James' name.

I nearly fainted. Gail had never seen me without the power of speech. It was a powerful moment. And that night I watched Eloisa James win her first RITA. I'll always remember how happy she looked when she came back to the table with her golden RITA.

Now she's coming to Huntsville, Alabama to give a keynote speech during the 2014 Heart of Dixie's Annual Luncheon. It's as if I've come full circle. From the first time I heard Eloisa James speak when I was an unpublished new writer until now when I get to listen to her poignant words again as I attend the luncheon waiting for my first book to be released.

I plan on celebrating, and I hope to see you at the luncheon this year. You can register for the luncheon at or call 931-625-9355.

See you in June!