Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review of A Woman after God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George

I know this book has been around for at least a decade, perhaps longer. But when I set about looking for a book to use for the ladies' Bible study at our church, A Woman after God's Own Heart came highly recommended. Now after over six months of teaching through a chapter per week, we've finished it. Both I and the ladies who attended the Bible study loved it. Here's why:

1. It covers a wide range of Biblical subjects that pertain to married women. It has sections on growing spiritually, being a wife, being a mother, and caring for a home.

2. It teachings are rooted in the Bible. The author did a good job of backing up the principles she espoused with scripture. Plus there is a lot of encouragement for women to dive into the Bible on their own and not just use supplemental material.

3. It's written with by an experienced woman with a concerned heart. You can easily tell how passionate the author is about helping women become better wives, mothers, and Christians. You read about the authors past mistakes and triumphs, plus her warnings and advice.

Drawbacks: There are a couple drawbacks, though the majority of the book was so good I really have to be picky to point anything out. Some of the chapters are pretty practical in nature. Not that there's anything wrong with being practical, but suggestions for time management aren't exactly on the same level of importance as principles about caring for your children. As the ladies of my church studied the book, we delineated between what was a Biblical principle and what was merely a practical suggestion. Also, the author sometimes makes herself seem like Superwoman. Really. When she gets to listing everything she does in a certain area, one can easily get overwhelmed and think "Yeah right. It's not possible to do all of this stuff. If I even did a quarter of that, I'd be doing awesome."

Overall, this book was great. I can see why it's popular, and it's relevant to a large number of women despite their religious backgrounds. If you're looking for a book to encourage you spiritually and highlight the Biblical duties God has given married women, then this book is an excellent choice. It covers the basics of Biblical womanhood in a way that is fresh and relevant to our current times.

If any of you have read this book, I'd love to hear your opinions in the comment section below. Or if you've read another spiritual growth book recently that you really recommend, please share that as well.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Life Below Zero: A Glimpse at a Cold Day

I stepped outside this morning, and the snow squeaked beneath my feet. Not a crunch, a squeak. Squeaky snow means one thing: It's cold.

Two degrees below zero, to be exact. Though I don't know that until I reach my car and look at the outside thermostat reading. And by the time I reach the car, my eyelashes and the inside of my nose are frozen, and the cold has seeped through my dress boots and driving gloves.

Maybe one day someone will invent a car seat that you can actually buckle while wearing gloves. But until then, the gloves come off whenever I secure my two-year-old into place. So with my fingers nearly frostbitten, I slide into my own seat, and the floor beside the gas and brake pedals is solid with ice. This happens over a series of days and weeks during the winter months, when you get into the car with snow on your boots. The snow melts into a puddle beneath your feet as the car warms and you drive to your destination, then the moisture refreezes once the car's off.

Sometimes I wonder if the cold is worth it, if I really should be living in a place where twenty degrees is considered warm weather during the months of January and February and having below zero temperatures isn't uncommon. Sometimes I wish for snow my kids can play in--as opposed to snow that's so deep my kids would get lost in it if they played anywhere that hadn't been plowed a hundred times throughout the course of the winter.

But as I pull out of the driveway, I look around. The snow is bright and white against the silent woods, and the world is still, in a lovely frozen sort of way. Then I get to the end of my road and I see it: Lake Superior. The big terrible body of water that creates its own weather, causing most of the snow and wind and frigid temperatures me and my family endure during the winter months. On a cold morning such as this, the ice has blown into shore, and steam is rising from the lake into the sky.

Have you ever seen steam rise from an icy lake? It's beautiful. It's majestic. It's indescribable. And it only happens when it's very cold.

Sometimes in life, you have to endure the cold, freezing times before you can find the beauty. Have you endured any cold times recently? What beauty have you found hidden inside them? Or maybe you have a fond winter memory. I'd love for you to share your stories in a comment below.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Easy Peanut Butter Pie Recipe

I told everyone on my Valentine's post that I have an easy delicious Peanut Butter Pie recipe. It takes about fifteen minutes, doesn't require any baking, and happens to be my husband's favorite pie. Next time you need a quick desert, try this.

1 graham cracker pie crust
1/2 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 box French vanilla instant pudding mix
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tub Cool Whip

Using a fork (or your hands if you don't mind them messy), combine the peanut butter and powdered sugar in a bowl and mix until it forms little crumbles. Dump the peanut butter mixture into the pie crust, setting a few crumbles aside for garnish. Mix the instant pudding and milk, then pour into the pie crust over the peanut butter. Give the pudding a few minutes to set, then top with a layer of Cool Whip. (I don't like to use the whole container of Cool Whip or the pie seems too sweet.) Sprinkle garnish on top and refrigerate until ready to serve.

This recipe makes a rich peanut butter pie without a lot of hassle. It's why it's one of my favorites to make, and thankfully it's also my husband's favorite pie to eat. If you want to work a little harder at it, you could make a traditional pie crust from scratch, but my family likes the graham crackers with the peanut butter. So go ahead, buy the ingredients and surprise your husband and kids one night next week with your 15 minute recipe!

Quick Question: What's your favorite pie recipe? Leave a comment below to answer.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Photography Business Basics with Michaela Wickman

We're back again with photographer Michaela Wickman, and today Michaela is going to share some basics about photography business with us. For those of you who haven't entered our giveaway yet, Michaela and I teamed up to offer a $50.00 gift certificate to Canvas on Demand. To enter, visit the Interview with Michaela Wickman.

Thanks for coming back again today, Michaela. We're happy to have you. Let's jump straight in. On Monday you suggested those interested in photography to visit some photography forums and get the book Understanding Exposure. What do you advise people do after that?

I am a member of NAPCP (National Association of Professional Child Photography…, and it’s a great place for photographers and parents to discuss topics. Some of my other favorite forums to visit are,, and I also subscribe to Popular Photography and Photoshop User Magazine, where I’ve learned a ton of new tips and tricks and the latest news on camera gear.

At what point did you start getting professional equipment, like a nice camera and photography program?

I got equipment pretty soon after I realized this is what I wanted to be doing. I started with a Canon 40D and soon upgraded to the Canon 5dMarkii. As far as lenses, I have several, but I am definitely a prime lens kind of girl. My favorite versatile lens is my 50mm 1.4. I edit my photos with Adobe Lightroom 3 and Adobe Photoshop CS5.

How did you know you were ready to go from amateur to professional and start charging money for your sessions?

Once my portfolio was reviewed and I was accepted into a paid pro forum online, I knew I was ready.

I think everyone can see just how ready you were. The pictures above are beautiful! How much of photography is taking pictures, and how much is computer editing? Which part do you enjoy most? Why?

I’d say 50/50 for both parts of the questions. I enjoy both shooting and editing, and I spend equal amounts of time on each. It takes time to get ready for a session, and there’s lots of planning and prepping involved. My editing has gotten much faster now that I have a routine, but again, it still takes quite a bit of time!

What do you most enjoy photographing?


Anyone who stops by your website or facebook page will see how much you love snapping pics of little ones. You're so talented in that area! What aspect of photography gave (or still gives) you the most trouble?

Family sessions have always been a weak spot of mine, but I am learning to love them more and more. The trick is to pose everyone so they don’t look posed, if that makes sense! But, for the most part, we get a few posed family shots and then I let the kids be kids. You really have to just feed off of their vibes and go with what works. You can’t force a 2 year old to give their sister a kiss or a hug to their Dad, but sometimes they will do it and that’s when I am snapping away. Those moments in-between are precious.

I remember trying to get our nineteen month old to look at the camera for those family shots. It was rather interesting. You had some bunny ears that my youngest loved, but instead of simply looking at those bunny ears during the picture, he kept pointing or wanting to get up and go take the bunny ears off your head (like he's doing in the picture to the left). I was really happy with how our family photo (pictured above) turned out, but it did take a bit of work.

When did you start learning about photography, before or after you had kids?

I took a photography class in High School, but that was a long time ago! I really started becoming obsessive with photography when my son was around 3 months old. I woke up thinking about photography and went to bed dreaming about it.

I'd say that's a sign you're becoming obsessed. I'm the same way with writing though, so maybe it's not all bad. Do you have a college education? And if so, were your studies at all related to what you're doing now?

I have a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from St. Norbert College. It has helped me immensely with the business side of photography. But no, I don’t have an art degree or photo degree, just a lot of late nights studying the craft on my own!

Oh goodness, there are days I wish I had a business degree to help with the business aspect of writing. Mostly I just ignore the business and keep writing on a novel until it gets to a point where I can't ignore the business any longer. I'm sure you find your training really helpful. For younger readers interested in pursuing photography, are there degrees or certificates they can earn in the subject?

As far as I know you are able to go to a school for some sort of degree or certificate. But again, I am completely self taught and don’t know much about the schooling part of it. As I mentioned, there are some great associations that pros can belong to that are very beneficial.

I find it encouraging that people can work hard and achieve success in photography without necessarily going to school. Heading off to classes can be a really hard thing for a mom to do, both in terms of finding the money and taking care of her kids and house. Photography seems to give stay-at-home moms some nice options. Are there any last words of advice or encouragement you want to leave our readers with today?

If you are serious about becoming a photographer, practice, practice, practice! If you own a SLR Camera, switch it to Manual mode. This is the ONLY mode I shoot in because I have 100% full control of my settings. Oh, and read that camera manual! If you know your gear inside and out, you will be much more confident when the time comes to use your camera and get the shot.

Thanks for being with us today, Michaela. I'm sure our readers enjoyed hearing your story. For more information about Michaela Wickman Photography or to schedule your own photography session with her, visit her website at And if you're interested in seeing Michaela's most recent portraits, check out the MichaelaWichmanPhotography facebook page, which she keeps updated with her latest shots.

Also, I'm blogging today about foreign settings in books over at Craftie Ladies of Romance. Stop by and say hi if you have a chance!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Interview and Giveaway with Photographer Michaela Wickman

A few months back, shortly after I'd signed the contract for my debut novel, Sanctuary for a Lady, I found myself in need of a self portrait for promotional purposes. Not the picture I'd been using that my husband had taken with his cell phone one day. Oh no. I wanted the real deal. You know, the kind where you actually drive to a studio and pay someone to take it. In most places across the U.S. getting a portrait taken wouldn't be a problem, but considering I live in North-of-Nowhere, 60-miles-from-the-closest-fastfood-restaraunt, northern Michigan, I had a bit of a conundrum. How was I going to find a good photographer?

So I went to the internet, and looked at some of the pictures on Michaela Wickman's website.
Then my mouth fell open and I said, "She does NOT live only two hours from me. That's way too close. Certainly she lives in some major city where she charges an exorbitant fee for her wonderful pictures." But as I contacted Michaela, I learned that not only did she live within driving distance, but she also had two kids under five and worked from home. So of course, after she took the wonderful pictures you see below (plus a few dozen others) I had to interview her for Making Home Work.

My husband and boys

Hi! Michaela, Tell me a bit about your family. How many children do you have, and how old are they?

I have two kids. My son Lincoln is 2 1/2, and my daughter Sawyer just turned one.

Wow, two little ones so close in age must keep you really busy. Why did you choose to work from home rather than find a job elsewhere?

It’s a give and take. I enjoy staying home with my kids, but enjoy working as well. I wanted to work part-time, and finding a really amazing part-time job that also covers the cost of day care for two children is hard to come by.

It sounds like you found a good balance with your photography business. What is the most challenging aspect of working from home while raising children?

Time management! I try to get most of my work done while they are napping, but how long of a nap they will take is always a bit unpredictable. If I don’t get everything on my ‘to-do’ list done, I find myself staying up late in the evenings trying to finish.

Oh yes, I can relate to that. I except I'm the opposite and I get up early in the morning to catch up on my work. What challenges do working from home present to your marriage, and how do you compensate?

As I mentioned above, the time management of working from home has been my biggest challenge. I don’t have set office hours and find myself constantly doing some sort of work related task in the evenings when the kids have gone to bed. My husband and I make plans to hang out when we are both home. I stop what I’m doing at a certain time. I try to keep my work Mon-Fri and dedicate weekends to family. I often have sessions on the weekends, but none of the editing gets done until the week.

I struggle with the same thing sometime. You want to spend time with your family, but when you've got a pile of work in front of you, sometimes it's so hard to know when to draw the line and stop working. If you could start all over again, what would you do differently? What would you do the same?

I think I would have set up my own office area sooner. For a long time I’d use our dining room table as my ‘work’ area. No wonder I felt like I could hardly get things done! Several months ago I set up a working space in our basement. I feel very productive now. It helps having photos I love surrounding the desk space, a dry erase board with my ‘to-do’s’ on it, and all of my files and folders right next to me in my ‘own’ space.

Now I'm jealous. I've been writing for three and a half years, and I still work at our kitchen table. Enjoy that office space, Michaela! What keeps you home instead of having an outside career? Is it worth it?

It is SO worth it! I love what I do and am passionate about it. My ‘job’ never feels like work to me.

If someone is interested in getting started in home-based photography, what are the first two things you recommend they do?

There are so many amazing and FREE online resources for those interested in honing their photography skills. Just Google ‘photography forums’ and a bunch will pop up. There are some talented photographers who willingly dedicate their time and talent on these forums to help those just starting out. The book ‘Understanding Exposure’ by Bryan Peterson is a must read.

Thanks so much for interviewing with us today, Michaela. Michaela will be back again on Wednesday with some photography business basics. To see more of Michaela's photographs or learn more Michaela Wickman Photography and her photography packages, check out her website.

Giveaway: For our giveaway this week, Michaela and I teamed up to purchase a gift card to Canvas on Demand. This is an online photography site that puts a digital picture on a canvas backing, making your picture look like an oil painting. So if you want a new twist for that latest family photo before you hang it on the wall, this gift card might be perfect for you. To enter, head on over to Michaela Wickman Photography's facebook page and click 'like' (which you'll want to do so you can see all the great pictures she's constantly posting on there). Then come back here and leave a comment with your email address letting me know you liked Michaela's page. The giveaway will end on Saturday, February 25, at midnight.

Photo credits: All photographs taken by Michaela Wickman and used with permission. The copy of the canvas photograph came from Canvas on Demand and is used in under the "fair use" guidelines.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Unforgetable Moments: How Do You Correct Them?

Last Friday, after two days of driving and nearly two weeks of taking care of my mother who was recovering from surgery, I walked into my house, saw two cardboard boxes sitting on the floor of the kitchen, and ripped them open.

What did I find? MY BOOKS. Those wonderful tomes I've been waiting to hold in my hand for nearly a year.

Thankfully, I didn't mess up this moment. I didn't trip over the box on the floor, fall on my head, and give myself a concussion. Nor did I accidentally cut some of the covers when I opened the box. Then I got an email from my agent, saying her husband and daughter stayed up reading my book rather than watch a movie.

So even though I messed up my perfect "first viewing of book" moment (see this post for the whole story), I still had a chance to make it right. What about you? Do you ever get to correct those times when you make mistakes or when life doesn't go exactly as you'd planned? I'm grateful for the chance to dive back in and have a second try, and I'd love to hear some of your stories.

Winner: And the winner of my first-ever giveaway copy of Sanctuary for a Lady is . . . Rubynreba!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered. I'll be doing more giveaways, both here and on other blogs closer to the book's release date.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Top Ten Worst Valentine's Day Presents

Here it is, as promised, a little post-Valentine's Day fun.

10. A grill
9. A mattress
8. A vacuum
7. A set of pink tools so you can work around the house
6. Jewelry with cubic zirconia
5. Plastic flowers, instead of real ones
4. Windshield wipers and hubcaps
3. Anti-wrinkle cream
2. Breath mints
1. Weight loss equipment and diet pills

Thanks to Melissa Jagears for help with numbers three and seven. So, now I'm curious. What's the worst Valentine's gift you've ever gotten (or heard of)? Leave a comment below to share in the fun.

And if you haven't entered the giveaway for my coming novel yet, stop by this post to leave a comment. The contest ends tonight at midnight.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reversing Valentine's Day: Ideas for Women to Keep Their Men Happy on Valentine's Day

We've all had it happen to us before. We watch the calendar as the days approach February 14. We glance at the special Valentine's candies, stuffed animals, and flowers as we run our errands and wonder what special present our man has procured for us. We get a little mushy inside when that diamond earring commercial appears on TV, and we drool over those advertisements for romantic Jamaican vacations that keep popping up all over the internet. But when the day finally comes, we open our Valentine's present only to find car motor oil, an oil-change pan, and an oil-change instruction manual waiting in the box.

The evening ends in tears and hurt feelings and a husband saying "But honey, I thought you'd like it. You said just the other day that your oil needed to be changed, and you know I won't have time to get to it this weekend."

This year, instead of waiting for your man to do all the Valentine's Day work, why don't you take the initiative and do something extra special? Not only will he be pleasantly surprised, but I'd also wager the evening won't end in tears over your oil pan gift.

1. Keep the day about him. Women like flowers, candy, and soft stuffed animals holding big red hearts. But what do men want? I'm not sure any woman can say for certain, but if you've been in a relationship for any length of time, you should have some idea of what YOUR man likes. So follow the it's-better-to-give-than-receive rule and plan the day around his preferences rather than yours.

2. Dress Up. Men are visual beings. They like to look at their woman (or girlfriend) and know that she went through effort to look good for him. This doesn't even need to cost any extra money (though it could if you wanted it to). Look nice, eat your meal by candlelight or firelight, and he'll be a happy man.

3. Cook. You've heard a zillion times that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and it will probably always be true. You don't need to make some elaborate meal as much as make something you know he will appreciate. As for me, I'll be making steak and potatoes, and my husband's favorite desert, peanut butter pie. The pie recipe takes about fifteen minutes and is super simple (I'll share it next week).

4. Plan a weekend getaway. It's February. Just about every hotel in the U.S. is offering deals right now, and you don't even need to go far from home. For our last anniversary, hubby and I drove a whopping hour from our house and got a discounted room with a jacuzzi, in a hotel that also featured a pool, hot tub, and sauna. Really, just the night away from kids was wonderful, and it didn't cost much. Call and make the reservations today, then make up a little personalized gift certificate and stick it in his Valentine's Day card to tell him.

Hopefully these ideas will get you started on creating a special Valentine's Day for your man and showing him how much you love and appreciate him.

On Wednesday, we'll be having a little fun with Valentine's Day. I'll be posting on the Top 10 Worst Valentine's Gifts. Have your bad Valentine's ideas ready! Also, if you haven't entered the giveaway for my novel, visit this post and leave a comment. You have until midnight on Wednesday, February 15.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Stepping Back, Not Forward

You’re on the playground and your five-year-old son pushes another boy down while playing a game of tag. You see children being children, no harm done; the other mother sees a playground bully preying on her child.

As any mother can attest, situations like the one above are fraught with drama. If you’re the mother of the pusher, you can feel judged and embarrassed. If you’re the mother of the pushee, you can feel angry and scared for your child’s wellbeing.

Used with permission from
That scenario happened to me earlier this week, with my son being the one who pushed another child down while playing a game with a group of boys, all around the same age. Boys of a certain age tend to be play a bit rough. None of the boys were being mean or vicious—and I keep a close eye on my two boys to ensure their play does not stray into that territory. I know my oldest son can get carried away with his play and become too rough, and I try to nip that tendency in the bud.

I feel in general that we as parents, and particularly as mothers, have become oversensitive about our expectations for our children’s behavior and the behavior of other children. With the pushing incident, I felt the other mother wanted me to discipline my child for something I wasn’t even sure he had done. The other mother was visibly upset and angry, even though her son was back playing as if nothing had happened.

Sometimes, we strive too hard to please everyone with our parenting—and that can lead to us to make mistakes and not parent effectively. Sometimes, it’s harder to let children be children, and to let them work through their own squabbles without interfering.

My goal with my children has been to be as hands-off as possible, to let them figure things out on their own whenever possible, to train them how to resolve conflicts as they grow (and with siblings, there’s plenty of opportunity for that!), and to just be kids. Allowing our kids the chance to grow in their own can be a beautiful thing. That doesn’t mean we turn them completely loose, or that we ignore bad behavior, but that we step back from them more often than we step forward into their lives.

And keeping a little perspective on the playground, helps, too.

Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired@Home, a guide to unlocking women’s work-from-home potential now available on Kindle. Her stories have appeared in previous Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband and four children. Visit her online at, where she blogs about working from home.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Three Ways to Keep Romance Alive in Your Marriage and Romance Novel Giveaway

Good morning everyone, and thanks for stopping by. I'm super excited today, partly because we're joining author Noelle Marchand for her Fourteen Days of Love Contest, and partly because I'll be doing my first ever giveaway of my book, Sanctuary for a Lady. The book doesn't release until April, yet I'm anxious to get an early copy into the hands of one lucky winner. Before the giveaway, however, we're going to look at some real-life romance. Noelle has done a terrific post for single women facing Valentine's Day, while I've done a post for married women. So be sure to check out Noelle's corresponding advice here.

I love writing romance, and I don't think I could ever write a book that didn't have a love story in it. But in a book, I get to play around with the characters, write and rewrite scenes, and keep revising until the romance in the story is perfect. Real life isn't so easy. You can't use the delete button to erase the words you speak to your spouse, or rewrite your most recent argument until it ends in understanding and a kiss rather than tears and damaged feelings. So today I want to look at three ways to keep romance alive with your real-life prince charming.

1. Spend time together. You might think this one rather obvious. After all, at one point, you and your hubby spent a whole lot of time together . . . back when he was your future hubby or first dating you. But somehow, as the years pass, you each become busy with different things. Working, raising kids, buying a house, making improvements to the house, carting your kids to soccer and ballet, and the list goes on. Yet it's still important that you spend time together. Hire a babysitter for one night a month. Or feed your kids hotdogs and put them to bed early once every couple weeks. Then make (or buy, if you're me) a nice dinner for your husband.

2. Pay attention. Every woman wants to feel that her husband loves her. But on the flip side, women also need to ask themselves whether they make their husbands feel loved. Do you know when he has a bad day at work or a mountain of chores to do at home? Or do you let him live his own life until you needs something from him? One of the easiest ways to pay attention is to greet him when he gets home. Whether he's been at work or running errands, put down the phone, spatula or laundry basket, and call your kids away from their toys or the TV to greet their dad. If you make your man feel like he's important to you, I'm betting he'll reciprocate and show his wonderful wife how important she is to him.

3. Say thank you. Having a general attitude of gratefulness toward the man you married can do miracles for your relationship. Of course you're grateful that he pays some (or all) of the bills and takes the trash out on trash night. But do you tell him "thank you" or simply take for granted that he'll work endless hours? Now let's take the situation a step farther. Regardless of how wonderful a wife you are, there will always be those busy times when you ask for help with sweeping or putting the kids to bed or doing the dishes or any other number of household tasks. When your husband takes time out of his busy schedule to help you, do you thank him? Or do you look at the kitchen floor, see a dog hair in the corner, and tell him he didn't do a good enough job sweeping? Try to be grateful for the effort your husband puts into helping rather than pick out his imperfections.

Well, there you have it. Three ways to keep romance alive in your marriage, and they aren't even expensive or time consuming. Again, feel free to read the advice romance author Noelle Marchand has for single women on her blog.

Now for the giveaway. Married women, leave a comment below sharing one thing you're grateful for about your husband to be entered. If you're not married, leave a comment sharing one thing you're grateful for about your father or some other man that has impacted your life in a positive way. Be sure to leave your email address, so I have a way to reach the winner.

If you want your name to be added in the drawing a second time, go visit my brand new (as of yesterday) facebook author page and click like. (I have a whopping 11 fans as of this moment, and while I admit that the stress of being so popular is rather burdensome, I think I can handle a few more fans before I suffer a breakdown.) If you "like" my fan page, be sure to come back here and post another comment saying that you did so in order to be entered a second time. The contest will run until next Wednesday, February 15, at midnight.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Valentine's Contest and Sanctuary for a Lady Excerpt

In honor of Valentine's Day, I'll be joining with author Noelle Marchand for her Fourteen Days of Love contest. There are activities running every day from now until Valentine's Day on Noelle's blog. On Wednesday, I'll be blogging about keeping romance alive in your marriage (always a fun topic for me!). Plus I'll be giving away my first ever copy of my book Sanctuary for a Lady!!! (Which I still haven't held in my hand, in case you were wondering. See this post for that story.)

So, with a post about real life romance and a giveaway of Sanctuary for a Lady on Wednesday, I decided to let you readers have a little sneak peek at my novel, which releases in April. Here's one of my favorite romantic scenes, pulled right from the middle of the book.

“Go to bed,” he growled.

Hurt flickered in her eyes and held. His throat closed.Didn’t she understand his dismissing her now would save her from more pain when she left? He swallowed pathetically and stepped so close she shifted her head backward so she didn’t bump his chest, so close he need only lift a hand to tangle it in her hair. “Isabelle—”

“You arrogant oaf! I’m trying to help.” She spoke sharply but moisture glistened in her eyes. She shoved her palm against his chest. “You spent all night traipsing around in the cold and rain. You refused rest, barely ate and now you disdain my politeness. Why! You deserve to catch pneumonia for a month.” She all but sobbed the last words.

Being this close to her was a mistake. He couldn’t think, could barely breathe. A longing spread through him until his arms ached to hold her and his chest craved the feel of her slender form pressed against him. He clasped her wrist instead. “You don’t mean any of that. You’re just tired.”

She blinked, banishing the unshed tears from her eyes. “Unhand me.”

He would, but she was too near. Her cheeks too flushed, her mouth too soft, her eyes too defenseless. She stopped tugging on her arm, and like a drowning sailor locking his gaze on shore, his eyes fixed on hers. Rain pounded the ground. Wind whipped through trees and tore at their cloaks. Coldness circled them. But neither moved.

His gaze dipped to her mouth, the taste awaiting him there both explosive and sweet. She shifted subtly forward until her breath tickled his lips.

Oh goodness, I get all sappy every time I read that scene. Bet you can't tell I love romance! So, be sure to stop back and leave a comment on Wednesday to be entered in the drawing.

Also, some Regency authors and I (I separate myself from this group because my novel is set in France a smidgen before the Regency period) got together and started a Christian Regency blog, Regency Reflections. I'm doing my first post today, and guess what it's about? Marriage and Weddings. Head on over if you're interested in seeing what all those folk living in Regency England had to go through to get married. Some of the laws were almost cruel.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Unforgetable Moments: Perfect or Bungled?

I woke up this morning to an email from my agent. IT'S HERE! IT'S HERE! IT'S HERE! is written in the subject line. My debut book, Sanctuary for a Lady, arrived at her office yesterday and should be arriving at my house yesterday or today. Except I'm not home to get them! My mom had ear surgery at the beginning of the week, and I'm 600 miles away from my house--and my books--for eight days. So I'm sitting here wondering, "How on earth did I mess this up? I mean, I've been wanting to open that box and hold a book in my hand for FOREVER! I even have this vision of crying when I first see the book.

Then I remembered a little bit about myself figured out why I'm messing up my "first book moment." You see, I'm also the person who missed "the call" when my editor called to tell me her publisher originally wanted to buy the book. (My mom was visiting and took a message for me to call the editor back. Are you noticing a pattern here?)

And as if messing up my writing moments isn't enough, I'm also the woman who forgot to kiss her husband when he proposed. Seriously, he gets down on bended knee, pops out the ring, and asks the question. And what do I do? I say "Are you for real?" and then don't even remember to kiss him until we're walking back to the car.

So I've decided my personal life is probably part of the reason I like writing so much. I write all those perfect moments for my characters in my novels, because I can write them over and over again until they happen the way they're supposed to. On the flip side, I always seem to mess up the personal moments in my own life. Go figure!

What about you? Have you bungled any of your own "perfect moments?" I'd love to hear some perfect moment bloopers. Or are you the type to walk away from a proposal looking like a princess?

I'll post a picture of me holding my book when I get back home, just so all you wonderful readers can see it. Maybe since I have a week to plan out my hold-your-debut-novel moment, I won't bungle it quite so badly. Okay, that's probably a lie. I'll likely trip over the box of books, hit my head on the hard wood floor, and give myself a concussion. But I can still dream about that moment being perfect, right?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tips for Packing with a Family

It's travel time again. And gone are the days when you blissfully threw your clothes into a suitcase and left it in your room for your dad to get and take to the car. YOU are now the parent in charge of not only getting the luggage to the car, but packing that luggage as well. Besides just the clothes, shoes and socks, all of which your two year old may well drag out of the suitcase three minutes after you've put everything in, you also need to pack the diapers, road snacks, road toys (can anyone say portable DVD player?), port-a-crib, and the list goes on, and on, and on. So let me give you a few tips for getting on the road.

1. Clean your house early. Nobody wants to come home from being gone two weeks and walk into a house that looks like it just survived a nuclear holocaust. At the same time, cleaning your house and packing can be a little overwhelming (and impossible). So try cleaning your house earlier in the week, before the crazy packing starts. If you have the floors swept and vacuumed and the bathroom scrubbed, you can do a quick pick-up an hour or two before you walk out the door and know that everything is pretty clean. Not that your house won't have a stray toy littering the floor or a few books stacked on the stairway, but you won't return home to chaos and filth.

2. Take your clothes from the laundry basket and put them straight in the suitcase. The week before leaving, try letting some of the laundry sit until a couple days before you head out. Then do the laundry, drag those suitcases out of the closet, and put the clean clothes straight in the suitcases. Then you won't be folding clothes and putting them away one day only to drag them out the next day and refold them so they fit into your suitcase a little better. This is one of those rare cases where putting off laundry will actually save you time. :)

3. If you'll have use of a washer and dryer, only pack five outfits. Five. Yes, I know it's hard to limit yourself, especially if you have little boys with penchants for getting dirty often. But since I can do laundry every few days, I don't need to take more than five. Plus it's hard enough to make sure those five outfits get back into the suitcase for the return trip. Why add more?

So there you have it. Three tips for packing with your little ones. We'll revisit this topic again on Friday because, well, the more I think about it, the more I realize how many more packing and traveling tips I have. So until then, happy packing!

A special thanks to Melissa Jagears for filling in for the blog on Monday, when I was traveling 600 miles with two little boys. To read her post on living frugally, click here. Or you can visit her blog, where she has a ton of cool frugal tips.