What Contact Lenses & Q-Tips Reminded Me About Marriage

I had an eye-opening—quite literally!—experience recently. Midway through my bedtime routine, I found myself with two contact lenses stuck in my eyes. They were plastered to my eyeballs to the point that they wouldn’t come out, no matter how hard I tried to pull them off. I had stayed up quite late the night before writing so my eyes were dry, and it didn’t help that this pair of contacts were a few days past their lifespan. The lenses were stuck, stuck, stuck! It felt like my eyeballs would never breathe again.

What did I do? Call for back-up, of course!

I went running downstairs to where hubby was standing in front of his computer screens (yes, multiple ones because an IT guy can’t have just one) and told him my plight. He looked into my eyes and troubleshot the situation (did I mention he’s an IT guy?), suggesting everything from using eye drops, to moving the contacts around in my eye, to lying down and relaxing. After I’d done all of the above and my eyeballs were still trapped behind their round plastic prisons, hubby knew that desperate times called for desperate measures.

And that’s when he pulled out these babies …

and stuck them in my eyes. Yep, I’d never felt more vulnerable or closer to hubby than in that moment. There we were nose-to-nose, looking into one another’s eyes as he used two Q-tips to gently pluck the contact lenses from my eyes. Yes, it was as unromantic and scary as it sounds! In between my attempts at staying still and busting out in uncontrollable laughter, I joked that this was prime material for a blog post on marriage. So, ta-da! Here are some marriage truths I was reminded of that I’ll share with you today. 🙂

  1. Marriage is all about being close. Okay, so it doesn’t require you to literally be in one another’s faces (except when you kiss or need to do an emergency contact lens removal!), but your spouse is quite possibly the one person whom you know the best and who knows you the best. When another person lets you into their world and shares all his/her dreams, fears, longings, and regrets with you, it’s a big deal. It’s a privilege not to be taken for granted.
  2. Marriage is all about being vulnerable. Trust is such an essential part of a relationship, but it’s one of the basic foundations of a marriage. Marry someone you can be yourself with, someone who is your safe place from the craziness of the world. Someone you would trust your heart with (and possibly your eyeballs, too). And be someone who offers that same kind of cozy and comfortable haven to your spouse.
  3. Marriage needs to be fun. And funny. Because laughter, inside jokes, and memorable stories you’ll talk about years from now help keep the spark alive when life gets hard or mundane. You can bet I’ll never look at Q-tips the same way again.

I’m happy and relieved to say my contacts finally emerged from my weary, bloodshot eyes thirty minutes later. What worked? Thanks to Google, I found out the best (and easiest) way to get contacts unstuck from your eyes is to use two fingers, and place one on the upper lid and one on the lower. With the finger on your upper lid, press straight down. With the finger on your lower lid, press straight up. The lens should pull away from your eyeball and come out! Trust me, it’s much more pleasant than sticking Q-tips in your eyes. 😉

I’ll close with a sweet song I’ve been listening to on repeat: “Rewrite the Stars”, sung by Zac Efron and Zendaya, from the upcoming movie, The Greatest Showman.

What truths have you learned about marriage?

The (Not-So) Glamorous Life of an Entrepreneur (+ How to Add a TOC Page to Your eBook)

It occurred to me today that entrepreneurism runs in my family. Both of my parents were self-employed before they retired; my dad had his own insurance business and my mom did home loans and real estate. It kind of makes sense now that I also embraced the all-so glamorous life of an entrepreneur.

I’m so kidding about the glamorous part, if you can’t tell. 😉

If there’s anything I’ve learned about having your own business, it’s that you—and only you—end up doing everything to keep the business going. (That is until you make it big and can afford to pay people to do things for you.) I’m talking about a lot of manual labor and blood, sweat, and tears (especially the last bit!). As an indie author, this means learning how to do everything from making your own book cover, editing your story, formatting your manuscript for publishing, and marketing your book once it’s published.

Eeks. It’s so not a glamorous life. 😉

The boy in the photo is pretty much what I look like when I’m trying to do one of the above tasks. But (here’s the silver lining, folks!), I’ve grown so much in my skillset over the years that I could actually provide these services to other authors and charge them for it. See what a savvy entrepreneur I am?! LOL. I’m totally kidding though because I’m not a fan of self-torture and I still want to have time to write books (oh, and take care of my family, too!). However, since I’ve gained so much support from other indie authors and know how important it is to have “a village” as an entrepreneur, I’m more than happy to share what I’ve learned with other authors.

One thing I can do fairly well now is create a Table of Contents page for an ebook, which I’ll share below. There are several steps to navigate through, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to do it without too much moaning and groaning. Trust me when I say if I can learn how to do this, anyone can. 🙂

How to Add a TOC (Table of Contents) Page to Your eBook (for Microsoft Word documents):

  1. Insert a blank page in your document where you would like the TOC to go.
  2. Type “Table of Contents” at the top of the page and list the chapters and additional back matter pages underneath it. (See the image for an example.) 
  3. Go to Chapter One in your story and select the words “Chapter One” (place your cursor at the first letter and drag the mouse to the right until you reach the last letter).
  4. Go to the “Insert” menu and choose “Bookmark”. Type in a name (an abbreviation such as “Ch1” is a good idea since you’ll be doing this multiple times) and click “Add”.
  5. Go to the TOC page in your document and select the words “Chapter One”.
  6. Go to the “Insert” menu and choose “Hyperlink”. Click on “This Document”, then click on “Bookmarks”. The bookmark name you added in step 4 will appear. Select the name and click “OK”.
  7. The words “Chapter One” on the TOC page should now be underlined. Check to see that the hyperlink is working by clicking on it (it should take you to Chapter One in your story).
  8. Repeat steps 3 through 7 for the remaining chapters and any additional back matter pages.

Easy peasy, right? 🙂 If you have any questions at all or if anything I wrote is unclear, please leave me a comment and let me know. I’ll try my best to help and share a virtual tub of ice cream with you if needed.

Here’s a song by Jason Chen called “Blank Check” to inspire you while you work.

Are you an entrepreneur or know of someone who is? What pros and cons do you see about having your own business?

Love’s Choice is Born!

My newest book baby, Love’s Choice, has arrived! 🙂 I shared a cover reveal a few weeks back, and am so excited, anxious, and relieved that the story is out in the world now. It’s always a strange love/hate, thrill/fear relationship that authors have whenever we publish a new book. Will readers like the story? But more than that, will the message we tried to convey through the story be heard?

These are two big questions I have about Love’s Choice because, to put it simply, it’s not an easy story to swallow. It’s very different from my other books, which tend to be lighthearted and fun (it does have funny moments though!). This story deals with the tough issues of abuse and an unplanned pregnancy, and also gossip within the church. Not happy topics people usually want to talk about, right? But I felt strongly that these are things we need to address. And there’s no better way to do hard stuff like this than in a fictional setting. (That’s one thing I love about writing fiction.)

So, I hope and pray you will give Nate and Missy a chance and see what truths you pick up from their story. You can preview it below and buy it for only $1.99! And please support all the other authors of the First Street Church Kindle World. Melissa Storm wrote the core series and there are now 40 books in the Kindle World. Yup, that’s a lot of books, but you can take this nifty online quiz HERE to see which book may interest you more (besides mine, haha). The best part is that all the books are part of Kindle Unlimited, so you can read them for free with your subscription. You can even try Kindle Unlimited free for 30 days (click HERE)!

I’ll leave you with the playlist for Love’s Choice, which includes a High School Musical song I listened to on repeat while I was writing the story. (Yes, I’m such a teeny bopper at heart). 😉

What tough issues do you appreciate authors addressing in their stories?

Thoughts on Turning 21 (x2)

It’s November, which means it’s the best month to have a birthday. Any other November babies out there agree? 🙂

I’ll admit I hated turning 40. Thirty didn’t seem so bad (I was also too busy and hormonal being pregnant with my first munchkin at the time to care), but 40 just sounded old. (No offense to anyone over 40!). Now, 2 years later though, 40 doesn’t seem so bad. To be honest, 50 doesn’t seem as scary as it used to be either. The thing is, I’ve finally gotten okay with aging. Not so much with the white hair, wrinkles, and memory loss(!), but other than that, I don’t mind adding another candle to the birthday cake. Because the reality is, aging is a blessing and a privilege. To be able to experience one more year of life is HUGE. It means I get to spend time with the people I love and I get to do a lot of amazing things that I love. It doesn’t mean that each day is perfect or even “new” (’cause dishes, cooking, and laundry get old real quick, let me tell ya!), but over the course of days, weeks, and months, I get better. Better at trying, better at loving, and better at living. My physical body may be sagging and lagging, but my heart feels lighter and stronger and fuller. I’m reminded of these verses:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Yup. Age is just a number. Peace, joy, and love are timeless. In Jesus, we have the hope of eternal life. There’s so much to look forward to that outweighs all the human stuff that bogs us down today.

I hope you’ll celebrate each moment you have and each breath you are given. I know I will be as I blow out all 42 candles on my birthday cake (haha, just kidding; I think that might be a fire hazard!).

Here’s a video I’ve been grooving to (does using the word groove show my age? LOL), Kurt Hugo Schneider’s Evolution of Boy Band’s Mashup. It’s fun to see how many songs you know, which may or may not have something to do with your age. 😉

How do you feel about growing older?

Whose Life Will You Change For The Better? (The Pay It Forward Giveaway)

As an author, a lot of what I write is based off what I know. There may (or may not be, haha) references to real-life places, events, and products. My characters may (or may not be, don’t ask!) inspired by my family, friends, and even acquaintances I’ve met online. The thing is, I want my fictional stories to be relatable and realistic but always with a thread of hope woven into them. That’s what makes books worth reading, right? They give us the ability to escape for a little while, but also cause us to think about issues and problems and resolutions.

Well, one of my next books releasing in November is set in a fictional town of Sweet Grove, Texas. I’ve been to Texas once in my life, about fifteen years ago (eeks!) before I had kids, to visit a dear college friend. We spent the weekend watching the 6-hour version of Pride and Prejudice, drinking tons of boba tea, and we also swam in the ocean at Galveston Beach (the water was as warm as bath water!). I had a grand ‘ol time in Texas (did I mention this was before kids? haha), so when I was given the opportunity to write a story for the First Street Church Kindle World set in Texas, I went for it.

Fast forward a few months to when I had finished my story, Love’s Choice, and there was news that a major hurricane had hit Texas and its surrounding areas. The images I saw on the news of the disaster were heartbreaking. So many people literally standing knee-deep in filthy water in their own homes. They all needed help, but with us being over 1,000 miles away in California, it was hard to know how to offer support.

Enter Convoy of Hope!

I came across this organization online and was immediately impressed with their efforts and ethical standing, and most of all, their heart for the hurting. Just a quick glance at their website shows how they are in the midst of natural disasters, providing  food and supplies to people, not only to those in the U.S. but abroad as well. In a nutshell, this is what they do (as stated on their site):

As a faith-based, nonprofit organization Convoy of Hope has helped more than 80 million people throughout the world by sharing food, water, emergency supplies, agricultural know-how, and opportunities that empower people to live independent lives, free from poverty, disease and hunger.

Convoy of Hope does this through:

Mobilizing tens of thousands of volunteers each year.

Partnering with churches, businesses, individuals and other humanitarian organizations who are intent on doing good work among the impoverished and suffering.

Transparency — we have received the prestigious Four Star Charity Award from Charity Navigator for 14 years.

Their name says it all, don’t you think? 🙂 They provide help and hope to those who need it the most.

My hubby and I were thrilled to partner with Convoy of Hope and help in the little way that we could to hopefully make some people’s lives a little better in Texas.

I highly encourage you to think about whose life you will change for the better. Perhaps it will be through a partnership with a group like Convoy of Hope, or maybe it will be the kind act you do for your neighbor, family member, or friend. Whatever it is, know that God can use anyone to be a blessing! How will you choose to be a blessing today? Let me know in the comments below!

*This post was done in conjunction with my fellow Sweet Grove Books authors for The Pay It Forward Giveaway. To enter this giveaway for a free Kindle and a gift card, please go to this link: https://www.litring.com/the-pay-it-forward-giveaway/

Thanks for visiting my blog and for supporting the First Street Church Kindle World!

Thoughts about Nutella (+ A Cover Reveal)

So, author confession time. When I started out 2017, I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to join two boxed sets. Both releasing towards the end of the year. I had no idea, however, of the other things that would pile up on my platter this year, too—platter, because I need something bigger than a plate to fit all my responsibilities! 😉 Long story short, I’m helping with the PTA at the munchkins’ school; I’m blogging regularly at three book-related sites in addition to my own; I babysit my niece once a week, so my mom gets some time off—funny how the tables have turned!; I have a family to feed, clothe, drive around, and listen to; and I have books to write, edit, and market. I realized I was pretty stressed out when I had a dream the other night that I was buying groceries and I couldn’t pay for them, but when I finally got the money to pay for them, the groceries had vanished! It was crazy, folks, like heart-pounding crazy! 😉

I’m not complaining though (okay, maybe I am complaining about having to feed my family every day). 😉 The thing is, I’m a bit tired. Tired because there are a lot of things I want to do, but there’s so little time to do them. (I know I’m not the only one who feels this way!) But when you also add my perfectionistic mindset to the mix, you’ve got a recipe for … nutella!

Yup, you read that right. I have been trying to be nutella. You know that rich, creamy, nutty goodness that goes good with everything and makes everyone happy? Yup, that nutella.

The thing is, no one can be a jar of nutella. Because sooner or later, you’ll find yourself with chest pains and headaches and waking up thinking you left your groceries at the store!

Here’s the truth (and doesn’t it look good?!):

I’m striving to remind myself to breathe and to do my best, but not to demand the best. Because when I demand perfection from myself, I only end up stressed out and frustrated and not a fun person to be around.

The big lesson here for me is grace. We need to give ourselves permission to say no. To mess up. To take a day off for our mental health. To do something for fun, not work. To be nice and kind and gentle to ourselves. To extend grace to ourselves because we’re human, after all.

I’m not saying we need to slack off (that would probably be torture, haha), but it’d be good to take it easy once in a while. Doing so may be hard at first, but everything (including being an anti-perfectionist) requires practice. And remember, practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes better. 🙂

And oh, before I forget, here’s the cover reveal for my story that’s coming out November 7th in Winter’s Kiss, a new Christian romance boxed set.

Tropical Kiss and Tell

Micah Chan has loved Lucy Choi ever since they were kids, but life—and some regretful decisions—stopped him from pursuing her. Now he has a choice to make: Let her marry another man or break up her engagement to make this Christmas the most memorable one of their lives.

You may recognize Micah and Lucy’s names from two of my other books, Tropical Kiss or Miss and Drawn to You. They were kids in those stories, but now they’re all grown up and getting their own happily-ever-after. 🙂

Pre-order your copy of Winter’s Kiss today for only 99 cents!

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0767LWGCL/

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/winters-kiss/id1293778445

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/winters-kiss-elaine-stock/1127196238

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/winter-s-kiss-10

Google Play: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/winter-s-kiss-10

7 Fun Facts about Chasing Romance

Fall Into Romance, a boxed set of ten sweet romances, has been a project in the making for about half a year now. It’s been a fun journey and I can’t wait for its launch so you all can experience romance in the fictional town of Romance, Oregon. With only one week to go before release day (squeal!), I thought I’d share 7 fun facts about my story from the set.

7 Fun Facts about Chasing Romance

  1. I got the idea to make the main characters songwriters because I used to write songs waaaay back in the day (aka. college). I wrote the lyrics and my best friend created the melodies. It was something fun we did that took our minds off studying. Along with a couple of other friends, we came up with a song for our college fellowship group called, At the Crossroads. I believe they were still singing the song a few years after we graduated!
  2. I returned to my songwriting roots and wrote the lyrics for two songs in this story. Unfortunately, the words don’t have music to go with them, but that means you get to make them up as you read. 🙂
  3. The teenaged girl in me might have a slight crush on singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes, which is why Chase Lockhart is based off him. I also might’ve listened to his songs non-stop while I was writing this story.
  4. Izzy Sutton was inspired by Rachel McAdams and the strong and sassy characters she usually plays. While I was researching for this book, I found out that Rachel McAdams is actually Shawn Mendes’s real-life crush! Talk about art imitating life. 🙂
  5. Thor, the black lab/pit bull mix, that Izzy adopted in the story is based off my sweet fur-nephew of the same name. He went through some rough times (the injuries I wrote about in the story are real), but is now so happy in his forever home with my sister, bro-in-law, and niece.
  6. I’ve never been to Oregon before, which meant I had to do a lot of research to make it seem like I knew the area well. Thankfully, one of my beta readers who had lived in Oregon for a few years said I managed to fool her. 😉
  7. Why did I write an older woman/younger man story? Um … I don’t have a good reason, other than wanting to try something different. LOL. I personally don’t think I’d fall for a man eleven years younger than me, but it was fun to toy with the idea as I wrote this story. I made sure though to keep the romance believable and grounded in more than physical attraction. There is some of that, but ultimately, the characters’ shared passion for music keeps them together.

If you haven’t picked up your copy of Fall Into Romance, make sure to do so before the price goes up! This set of ten stories will for sure get you in the mood for pumpkins, apple pie, hay rides, and more! And if you love animals of all types—dogs, cats, pigs, horses, and even roosters—you’ll enjoy the ones featured in these books.

Welcome to Romance! Pies are baking and leaves are falling. This fictional Oregon town has plenty of love in the air. Fall Into Romance, a box set of 10 heartwarming romance novellas by USA Today and National Bestselling authors, will bring you the best of the autumn season. It releases October 5th. Order it today for just 99¢.

Kindle:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0749T1Z89

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fall-into-romance-stacy-claflin/1127045367

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/fall-into-romance

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/fall-into-romance/id1264676338

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=6mouDwAAQBAJ

9 Clues You’re a Parent of a Pre-Teen

I am now a parent of a pre-teen. And as a parent of a pre-teen, I have discovered it’s (cue the soundtrack from Aladdin) a whole new world, baby. What do I mean? Let me break it down for you with …

9 Clues You’re a Parent of a Pre-Teen

  1. There’s a taller person in the house. You can actually look this person almost in the eye, which is quite amazing considering he/she used to fit in the crook of your arm.
  2. This taller person has a much bigger appetite. Like an eat-half-a-large-pizza-by-himself appetite (and that’s only for a snack).
  3. You feel a lot less cool because there’s a lot of eye-rolling directed your way these days. The same kind of eye-rolling you might have done in the presence of your own parents before you realized they were cooler than you thought.
  4. You feel like you’re losing control. While there is no such thing as control in parenting, there’s a lot less of it when you can’t wrangle a kid who comes up to your nose and can also talk back.
  5. Your feet seem smaller. Only because the ones that used to follow you around everywhere are now the same size as yours.
  6. You find yourself praying more (refer back to #4). Mainly for yourself because you feel like you don’t know what the heck you’re doing anymore and need the patience and endurance of a saint.
  7. You reminisce a lot about the good ‘ol days, especially when old pictures pop up on Facebook, and you miss (almost) everything about the baby and toddler stages. But not enough that you’d want to do it again because you are TIRED.
  8. You’re constantly in awe of the fact that you’re helping to shape a child in becoming an adult. This fact also causes you great dismay because you’re still working on this adulting business yourself (refer to #6).
  9. Your hugs are often rejected (sniff sniff!) … but when they aren’t, the experience is unbeatably sweet and precious and amazing.

What thoughts do you have about parenting a pre-teen? What do you wish your parents knew about you during your pre-teen years?

Speaking of teens, here’s a new boy band that was put together on the show, Boy Band, and their single, “Eyes Closed”. A few of them are only a couple of years older than my munchkin! Yikes. 😛

When Opposites Attract and Write a Book Together

I recently saw an old friend I hadn’t seen in about fifteen years(!) and met her hubby for the first time. Within five minutes of our visit, I could tell they were a perfect match. Why? Because their personalities complement each other.

Yup, we’re talking about my of my favorite romance tropes, opposites attracting.

It’s no secret that my own hubby and I are opposites. If you’ve been following along this blog, you likely know that I’m the square one and he’s the fun one. I’m detailed, organized, and cheap; he’s … not. 😉 You’d think with so many differences between us, I’d have realized we were opposites when we met. Nope! It seems I’m still learning every. single. day. how differently we think, feel, and act.

Grr. 😉

Case in point. I don’t talk about this much, but for the past five years, hubby and I have been writing a book together. Yup, a book, folks. One with lots of words because hubby is so much more talkative than I am and a storyline that borders reality (because he loves sci-fi) and romance (because I love love!). And as you can imagine, it’s been quite an adventure. He’s cranked out the words during his work breaks and late at night, while I’ve been editing his words all the other hours of the day. Amazingly enough, by God’s grace, we are almost done. Well, he’s done writing, but I’m still editing (2 more chapters to go, baby!).

Now this is where our differences come into play—again. I mentioned to him, “You should start reading the story again from the beginning.” I mainly want him to see the changes I made and let me know if he likes them or not. His reply? “I already wrote it; I don’t want to read it.”

AIYA. This was me (minus the Star Trek uniform.)

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Seriously? What writer doesn’t go back and read his story after it’s finished (and even sometimes after it’s published because you like the characters so much)? It’s not just me, right? 😉

So, sigh. I think I know who holds the pen in this house (figuratively speaking because we both use laptops). And who’s more of the perfectionist when it comes to writing. Hint: It’s not him!

Yup, we are soooo different. Thankfully, it’s those differences that drew us to one another and keep us going and entertained, haha. And a very good thing I still like hubby and love him more and more every. single. day! 🙂

I’ll leave you with a song I’ve been listening to on repeat as I edit. It’s Kelly Clarkson’s new single, “Move You”. This is my aim with each book I write—to move my readers. I hope I can do justice to hubby’s story, too, and make it a worthwhile read (even if he won’t read it)!

How do you get along with someone who’s different from you? What do you learn from one another?

Cover Reveal: Love’s Choice

As an author I put a lot of my heart—not to mention, blood, sweat, and tears!—into my work. That’s why I need to feel passionate about what I write. I want my stories to not only entertain, but to bring meaning and value to those who read them.

When God opened the doors for me to join Melissa Storm‘s First Street Church Kindle world series, I jumped at the opportunity. All the books set in the fictional world of Sweet Grove, Texas are rooted in faith, hope, and love. The characters are realistic, three-dimensional, and most of all, flawed—emphasis on flawed. The authors writing in this world are actually encouraged to tackle messy issues that the church tends to shy away from, for example, depression, suicide, and addiction. As a former therapist, these kind of books speak to me. I’m very much about hope and change and growth, and what better way to address these issues than to tackle them head-on with my characters? This is the reason why I chose to write my book, Love’s Choice.

Here’s the official cover reveal!

Missy Clark left small town life and her first love when she went away to college. Five years later, she returns to Sweet Grove with a secret that’s sure to tarnish her reputation.

Nate Dawson never stopped loving Missy when she left home. Answered prayers have brought her back into his life, but the consequences she bears may destroy their future.

Can these high school sweethearts regain the innocence of the past and find hope and healing in the Lord to move forward?

I just finished Love’s Choice this week. It is a story unlike anything I’ve ever written, which makes me both nervous and excited to share it with you. The book, along with 19 other First Street Church books, will be released in November, so please stay tuned!