Sequel Title Reveal!

•February 21, 2017 • 2 Comments

For whatever reason…call it tactics…I have been keeping the title of the sequel to Shadow Eyes a secret.

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Well, those days of secrecy are over! Today, I announce to the world (or just the few people who read this blog…) the title that I’ve had in mind for this sequel almost since I started writing it. Which was a very long time ago!

Since the release date is set for March 10th, I figured I’d better get the show on the road and divulge the title already. So without further delay…

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BAM!

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The cover reveal will be coming soon, but as you can see, there will be some definite similarities. I fell in love with this font that I used for Shadow Eyes the moment I found it, and I love it in this title too!

For those who’ve read Shadow Eyes, hopefully you’ll understand the meaning behind the title. You know…based on what happens to Iris at the very end of the book…Ahem. (Have I mentioned it’s really hard to talk about the sequel without giving spoilers of the first book?)

I wanted the titles in this series to all be similar in structure and sound but also represent the main idea or plot of the story, as well as some deeper meanings. Every title does and will do that. (Yes, I already know the title for the 3rd book and have the outline ready, too.)

 

Stay tuned for the Tagline and Synopsis Reveal for Luminous Spirits coming soon!

Writer, Teacher, Mom – The Balancing Act

•February 7, 2017 • 2 Comments

First, let me preface this with saying that those titles are not in order of importance. In fact, they’re backwards. I’m sure most moms would agree – being a mom (and wife) comes first,  our careers come second, and our hobbies and passions come after that.

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Priorities, people.

But is having priorities enough to get everything done. Do priorities actually do my job for me? Do they write for me? Do they get the kids fed and taken care of? No. I do all that. Sometimes. And not always very well…

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Priorities may help me know which tasks to do first and which ones take precedence when others have to take the back seat. But that’s it.

So what’s a mom to do? How do you balance being a mom, working, and writing (or any other hobby/passion)? How do you manage it all and get everything done?

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(By the way, I don’t know why the mom is smiling in this picture…)

You want to know my secret? Shh. Come close and I’ll tell you. Are you ready? Here it is…

 You don’t.

And there it is. Thanks for coming, ladies and gentlemen. I’ll be here all week. Wait…actually I won’t. I have work to do…

But, seriously, “You Don’t!” That’s the big secret that I have painfully learned over the five years it has taken me to finally get the sequel to Shadow Eyes released.

Life happens! And that’s okay! Five kids happened to me, off and on, for four years. Now we only have two, which is much more manageable and leaves a little more time for my writing. But I’m not upset for the writing time I lost or for my teaching that may have suffered a little because I was busy loving on some precious kids who needed to be loved.

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Don’t beat yourself up over not being able to do everything you feel you need to do. Some things do fall to the back burner. And when you finally get around to checking on them, they very well may have gotten cold, hard, and nasty. But guess what. You can reheat those suckers and they will still be decent. Maybe not amazing. But decent. And if our kids have been taken care of first and we’ve been fairly successful at our jobs, then decent will be alright for everything else. 

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Knowing I have been a good mom, wife, teacher is the most important thing. With that knowledge, I can then work on my passion (writing) in the small amount of time I have left with more fervor and heart than I would’ve been able to had I not been a mom, wife, and teacher first.

But, if you mess up on the other side and forget to put those things first, don’t beat yourself up over that either. There have been deadlines I had to meet and then other times where I got carried away in my passion and ended up failing in those other important areas. But that happens. Kids are resilient. Husbands will still love you. Jobs won’t generally go away just because you don’t give 100% ALL the time. It’s a give and take. Not a strict, rigid order, but flexible priorities.

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That’s how we do it, ladies. So take a deep breath. Drink some coffee. And go punch your schedule in the face.

Avoiding Emotions – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

•January 31, 2017 • 2 Comments

Being a foster mother for several years, I’ve become an expert at avoiding my emotions. It’s easier to avoid the worry and anxiety of potentially losing kids than to deal with it. Most recently, when I had 4 kids and then 5, it was especially easy to avoid my emotions because I was simply too busy to think about them. I didn’t have time to break down and actually feel stuff.

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But that’s okay, right? I mean, you don’t want to dwell on things that you can’t control anyway…right?

This is where different personalities comes in, I think. From what I understand, I wouldn’t know – I’m not this way, some people feel too much. They tend to be on the opposite side, dwelling on their negative emotions instead of avoiding them. So, for them, sometimes a little separation from those emotions, especially over situations where they have no control, might be healthy.

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But for those like me, control freaks who want to be right and good and perfect all the time, we tend to avoid our negative emotions, thinking those emotions are “bad”  or it’s “wrong” to feel that way.

This was me. Is me. Although I didn’t realize it at first.

Since our 3 older foster children left, I’ve started to get this creeping feeling of anxiety and fear that we’ll lose our other 2 foster daughters whom we’ve had since 3 months old and birth. There’s really no basis for this fear given the current circumstances, but it’s there nonetheless.

As a Christian, I felt the duty to pray for the desires of my heart and for the girls, but I kept finding that the more I thought and prayed about it, the more I’d start to drown in that fear and anxiety. So I’d pull away and cut it short.

I could only take so much before it got uncomfortable. Before it started to feel “wrong.”

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Good Christians aren’t supposed to worry and have anxiety about things, right? We’re supposed to fully trust God for everything and give him total control. And what does that say about us if we don’t?

I’ll tell you, for those of you like me who need to hear this.

It says we’re human and completely normal.

Anxiety and worry doesn’t make you a bad Christian. God has shown me that I shouldn’t run from those emotions. Instead, He wants to use them to draw us closer to Him.

Instead of avoiding the sea of fear, jump in to the deep waters where Jesus is waiting with arms outstretched, ready to catch you and hold you close as you deal with the raging waters together.

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Because those emotions will always be there, threatening to drown us if we don’t learn how to swim in them with Jesus. Then, eventually, the waters will recede and we’ll find ourselves in complete trust and faith, with our eyes solely on Him.

But until then…it’s okay to feel the pain. The worry. The fear. It’s okay to leave prayer knowing you still have some work to do at fully surrendering your illusion of control so you can fully trust Him. As long as you’re being honest with Him about how you feel, you’re on the right track and that’s all that matters. It will take time. But the good news is God has all the time in the world for you.

You are loved.

He understands your fears.

And He’s waiting for you to take the plunge and meet him where the healing begins.

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THE SEQUEL and a Sneak Peek!

•January 19, 2017 • 1 Comment

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I have just finished doing some fairly major edits to the sequel of Shadow Eyes. (Yes, I know I keep holding out on officially releasing the sequel’s name…that will be next!) And I am super pleased with how it’s turned out!

We are fast approaching February 2nd, when the original version of Shadow Eyes was first published…5 years ago. 😦 Huge apology to my very first readers who patiently (or not so patiently) waited for the next installment of the Shadow Eyes series and never got it. My readers who have probably long since forgotten about poor Iris and her sad and then triumphant story.

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Well, my friends, the day is finally here! Okay, almost here. With final edits, getting the cover ready, and leaving time for a blog tour and some book reviews, I’m going to shoot for late February or early March at the latest for a release date. In the meantime, rest assured I will tease you with news and pictures and sneak peeks.

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For now, here’s a humorous scene of Iris and Patrick in their Family and Consumer Science class on the unfortunate day Iris is assigned the baby simulator.

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“All right, class.” Mrs. Bauder moved to the front of the room with a list in her hands. “I’ve got the names for today’s parents.” She waved the paper and smiled as though she were holding winning lottery tickets. She’d handed out the eight plastic babies to the first set of students last Thursday. I’d forgotten today would be the next round.

When I call your name, go ahead and get your baby, as well as one diaper bag and seven outfits.” She motioned to the row of carriers behind her filled with hard, lifeless dolls and then the long table with diaper bags and piles of clothes. “Meadow McClelland, Maria Malaveci, Brooklyn Gorman, Kaitlyn Posey, Cheyenne Clawson, Tori Compton, Erik Van Winkle – our only father for today…”

Erik, one of the only guys in our class besides Patrick, stood up and brushed off his shoulders. He strutted to the front as if his name had been called for the prestigious award of Coolest Fake Dad.

“And Iris Kohl.” She set the list down casually as though she hadn’t just delivered my death sentence.

My jaw dropped. Had I seriously signed myself up for this week? How could that have slipped my mind? Of all days, today could not be the day I was chosen to become the caretaker of a demanding imitation baby.

I hadn’t moved, so Patrick nudged me. “Iris. Go get your baby.”

I closed my mouth and stood up to shuffle to the front. There was one baby left. A girl. She stared at me with a fake smile as if to convince me she was a sweet baby and that we’d have loads of fun together. I wasn’t buying it.

Out of spite and to prove to the baby I wasn’t going to take it seriously, I grabbed the arm of the carrier as carelessly as I could without getting reprimanded by our teacher. Without even looking, I stuffed a handful of clothes into one of the diaper bags, and marched back to my seat.

“Congratulations on becoming a mother!” Patrick’s whole face brightened like an estrogen-charged woman at a baby shower.

“Shut up,” I spat as I slammed the heavy carrier down along with the bag and flung myself into my seat. “Gregory is so dead.”

“All right, new parents. Go ahead and get the baby out of the carrier so you can get used to holding it. These baby simulators are the same weight as a normal baby.”

I sighed as I struggled to unstrap the baby from the tangle of seat belts, clasps, and buckles. “Can’t we just leave it in this thing?”

“Here, let me.” Patrick bent over to the carrier and pushed two buttons. Instantly, the baby was free in his arms.

I gawked at him. “Do you have a child you’re not telling me about?”

He shrugged as he held the baby out to me, supporting the doll with his thumbs under the armpits. “I paid attention to her demonstration.”

“Uh-uh.” I shoved my hand in the baby’s face. “You hold it.”

“Hey, she called your name, not mine.”

I crossed my arms. “I seem to recall you saying we were going to help each other whenever the other one got the baby.”

“Yeah…” He eyed me warily. “But I’m getting the impression you won’t be holding up your end of the bargain.”

 

(Fun fact: The first two names of the students getting babies in this scene were winners of a contest a long time ago. The rest were students who helped act out some scenes from the first book for a trailer…that was sadly never made. But they did a great job and I wanted to honor them by including their names in the sequel.)

Forever Grateful – Saying Goodbye as a Foster Parent

•December 26, 2016 • 2 Comments

I saw our baby girl last night. I saw the 2 1/2 month old baby girl who entered our lives as our foster child.

Except now she’s almost 4.

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Yet, there she was. That baby face, hidden away in the kid that stood before me. That adorable baby with the cheeks and the dark curls had somehow morphed into a young, tall, beautiful girl with long, curly hair. But the eyes were the same.

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Those eyes that first looked up at me almost 4 years ago and saw me as her “mommy.”

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Her caretaker, yes. The one who got up in the middle of the night with her.

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The one who took care of her when she was sick.

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The one who played with her and loved on her and joyfully watched her grow.

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But it didn’t take long for that role of caretaker to grow deep roots and then flourish into the much more passionate and enduring role of mommy.

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Am I her real mommy? No. Does she have a real mommy that she knows and loves? Yes. And she’s going home to that loving mommy today after all this time. But do I still feel like her mommy in a way? Absolutely. Because that was my role. A role I took seriously and wouldn’t change for anything in the world, even now as we say goodbye to her for the third time.

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It has been a long, crazy journey being the foster parents for this precious girl off and on for almost four years and for her precious brothers off and on for two, who we’ve also helplessly fallen in love with.

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But this time, saying goodbye is different. Yes, we’ve said very tearful goodbyes before. But this time…this time they go home to their mother, a mother who loves them very much. A mother who, along with their Nanna, will take good care of these kids and show them the daily love that I won’t be able to anymore.

 

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And she is also a mother who has been so gracious in our relationship with her over the years, even expressing her desire of keeping our relationship with her kids alive after they go home.

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That’s why this time is so different. I will still mourn their absence from our home. I will still miss them terribly. And going from “mom” to  “Miss Dusty” or possibly “Aunt Dusty” will be an interesting transition. Still, I am forever grateful for the time we got to spend with all three of these precious kids.

And I will be forever grateful for every second we get to spend with them in the future.

 

The Christmas Season for Idealist Perfectionists

•November 25, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Perfectionism. Is it a blessing? A curse? A disease? For me, during the holidays, it can be simultaneously helpful and disastrous because I want…no I need everything to be perfect.

I’m also an idealist who sees Christmas as an opportunity, a small window of time, where the world comes together and decides to play nice for a change, where kindness and generosity is the norm, not the exception, and where Christmas spirit is a tangible thing. 

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Every year, when I find myself in this brief and fleeting moment in time, the idealist part of me tries to take over. I pause the movie reel of life, whirl around to catch the snowflakes frozen in the air, breathe in deeply the smell of fires in fireplaces, listen to the sounds of Christmas music and laughter, and feel the chill in the air melt away as the warmth of hot cocoa or a Christmas latte rushes down my throat and through my veins.

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Okay, so most of that is in my head, especially since we don’t get all that much snow in Oklahoma. But I like to think of it that way.

It’s a time where we idealist perfectionists want to relax and revel in the Christmas spirit, but we also very desperately want to milk the season for everything it’s worth by squeezing in as many Christmas outings, events, parties, get-togethers, and fun for the kids as we possibly can. Which tends to make the relaxing and reveling a bit difficult. If not impossible.

So, is there a happy medium somewhere? Is it possible to get the most out of the Christmas season without sacrificing the Christmas spirit? If so, how do we do it?

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We plan Christmas fun, but we stay open for spontaneous changes.

We fill the schedule with Christmas events, but we save time to soak up the Christmas spirit.

We spend time with friends and co-workers, but we enjoy time with family the most.

We shop and buy gifts for loved ones, but we don’t get consumed with finding perfect gifts.

And we try our best to slow our pace and enjoy the season, but we don’t beat ourselves up when life makes us rush.

Enjoy the flow of the Christmas season. Just take time to hop out of the river every once in a while to breathe, refresh, and focus. If we’re not careful, we’ll get lost in the overwhelming, rushing flood of consumerism. Instead of getting lost in the fluid music of Christmas that is the salve to our jaded souls.

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We’ve Reached 4.0 on Goodreads!

•September 21, 2016 • 2 Comments

4.0 Rating!

4starsI am super pumped to announce that Shadow Eyes has finally made its way back to 4.0 stars with 69 ratings and 38 reviews!

I learned early on from looking at several other popular books on goodreads that a 3.9 something or even a 3.8 something rating is extremely common. People leave bad ratings that drag the book down. That just happens. It doesn’t mean it’s not a good book. So I was okay with my 3.9 something rating.

However, I am thrilled to have surpassed that ceiling now! Shadow Eyes on Amazon has always been over 4.0, but after researchng those same popular books there as well, I’ve learned that having a higher Amazon rating than a goodreads rating is pretty normal too. Most people would argue that a goodreads rating is more true and unbiased since anyone can leave an Amazon rating, but it’s generally only book lovers and actual book bloggers who are on goodreads. So that’s why I’m so excited about this. 🙂

Goodreads Giveaway!

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In other news, I’m hosting a Goodreads giveaway of 2 paperback copies! I know I just had a giveaway, but a goodreads giveaway brings in a whole new audience. If you’d like to enter, click here! The giveaway lasts until October 18th.