Shop in Your PJs at the Black Friday Book Sale (Over 70 Books to Choose From)!

ICB_FBAdIf you’re like me, you’re probably having a turkey hangover right now and staying far, far away from any stores on Black Friday. It’s not that I don’t like sales (I LOVE sales!), but I’ve learned it’s safer for me to stay at home where there’s no chances of me bumping into another car in the parking lot of Fry’s because I got a little too excited when I finally found a parking space (the worst part is we didn’t even buy anything when we realized the line was wrapped all the way around the store perimeter!).

That said, I’ve discovered the joys of online shopping. 😉 But why wait till Cyber Monday to start on your Christmas shopping when you can start today? If you have any bookworms to shop for, I have the perfect event for you.

From Nov 27 (that’s today!) through Nov 30th, more than 70 independent Christian books are on sale at Indie Christian Authors. They have free shipping, $0.99 ebooks, package deals, and more! And if your budget is a big, fat, happy zero, they even have some freebies for you!

If you think 70 books is a lot to browse through, you can narrow the list down and find the perfect books for you or someone on your list by using this quiz to generate a customized book list (it’s pretty nifty!). You’ll also find all 3 of my books there for only $0.99!

So stay cozy and comfy in your PJs and head on over to Indie Christian Authors to start shopping today.

A note on the EBooks Only page. All books are listed as “Sold Out.” This only refers to paperback copies of these titles. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leah E. Good for her work organizing this sale, Gloria Repp for completing the time consuming job of uploading book info to the sale website, and Hannah Mills for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted at hmills(at)omorecollege(dot)edu for more information about her design services.

Giving Thanks with a Grumbling and Grateful Heart

Back in college, my roomie/best bud had a cool idea to write down one thing we were thankful for each day. Keep in mind, this was in the dark ages of the mid-90s, so there were no online articles touting the health benefits of gratitude or gratitude apps (I randomly did a Google search and actually found one!) to inspire her. Nope, she thought of it all on her own. 🙂

I wish I had kept the journal I used for the exercise so I could remember what I had recorded, but I’m guessing it was pretty ordinary stuff.

Monday – Good friends

Tuesday – Passed a test/finished a paper

Wednesday – Good church

Thursday – Food (even dorm food)

Friday/Saturday/Sunday – repeat, repeat, repeat

As a college kid I had a pretty easy life; my parents paid for all my expenses and my only “job” was to study and pass my classes (and have some fun in between). I don’t remember it being too hard for me to be thankful on a daily basis.

Now enter real life (AKA adulthood). My life two decades later is pretty different from my college days. There are a lot more responsibilities to handle, more challenges to face, and let’s be honest, more complaints to list. Those days of jotting down a reason to be thankful every day are long gone, along with my youthful optimism and energy. Instead, I often find myself giving thanks out of guilt and through gritted teeth, like when I saw this image on Facebook this week:

Grateful

Now I’m sure the mom who put this list together truly is grateful for her life. When I read the list, I was even encouraged to be thankful for all those things. But I’ll admit, I groaned a little, too (okay, a lot). 😉

It’s not that I’m not thankful. I’m constantly in awe of how gracious God is to me and my family. But maybe once in a while, I want to acknowledge the struggles of life, even – and especially – the small ones, instead of glossing over them. I want to admit I have a hard time keeping the house clean. I don’t like doing the mundane tasks of changing the sheets or vacuuming or cooking. I struggle every day with being patient and loving toward the kids. I feel and look tired when I go to bed and often times when I wake up in the morning. And I suspect life only gets busier and more challenging the older I get.

Groan, groan, groan. Mutter, mutter, mutter.

Ahh… okay, now that I’m done acknowledging all the hard stuff, I feel more authentic and a lot less like I’m lying to myself. 😉 Ironically enough, I can understand the image above better. When I first saw the equal signs in the phrases, I read them as “but …” in an effort to keep a glass half-full mentality, however, now I see them as “and …” in an effort to be real. And I suppose that’s what the mom who wrote them meant, too.

I’m learning it’s a matter of embracing that life is full of hard stuff and good stuff … all at the same time. It’s not an either/or thing; it’s all-inclusive. It’s about doing the hard work of being responsible and patient, and knowing that your heart and character are being shaped and molded during the process. It’s about persevering through the hard moments, and believing that the more you do, the more mature you’ll become and the fewer complaints you’ll have. Because sometimes a lot of the time, the hard stuff makes us appreciate the good stuff even more than if we only had the good stuff by itself.

So here’s to celebrating Thanksgiving with a grumbling and grateful heart, and thanking God for all the hard and the good stuff.

Here is a beautiful song by Pam Thum, “Life is Hard (God is Good)”. I love the truth of these lyrics: “Sometimes living takes the life out of you, and sometimes living is all you can do.” May this song bring encouragement and comfort to your heart through whatever hard stuff you’re facing today.

What hard stuff do you give thanks for, or hope to give thanks for one day?

Interview with Teen/YA Romance Author Ines Bautista-Yao

Calling all warm-fuzzy romance lovers, have I got a treat for you! 🙂

I’m excited to introduce you to teen/young adult romance author Ines Bautista-Yao. I met Ines through a Facebook writers group, and I’ll admit I was thrilled to meet another Asian author (’cause there aren’t many of us out there – I wonder why, haha). 😉 I got hooked on her sweet and upbeat writing style after winning a copy of her book Only A Kiss (which I loved), and wanted to help her spread the word about her new release Just A Little Bit Of Love (which I also loved!).

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Here’s the blurb:

Three short stories about three young girls: Anita, Ina, and Carla. Each one finding their lives disrupted by a boy. Maybe it’s because he wanders into the coffee shop where she works after school every Tuesday. Maybe it’s because he won’t leave her alone even if she has made it clear that she is crushing on his football teammate. Or maybe it’s because she’s spent one unforgettable afternoon with him—despite being oh-so-forgetful. Three small doses of love that serve up a whole lot of feels.

Don’t you just love the cover? It’s definitely a “what you see is what you get” image that perfectly encapsulates the sweetness and innocence of the stories inside. Even though the three stories are short, they are each complete in their own way, and more importantly, super big on feelings. Ines does a superb job of writing teenage characters. She has a knack for giving the characters realistic and relatable dialogue, thoughts and behaviors that reflect the wonderful awkwardness and earnestness of youth. This book will certainly satisfy any teen reader, as well as the teen inside all of us. 😉

Now that you’ve gotten a preview of this sweet collection of stories, let’s go behind the scenes and get to know its author. So, pull up a bean bag chair, grab some chocolate, and say hello to Ines Bautista-Yao.

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Me: Please introduce yourself and tell us about your background and daily life.

Ines: Hi, Liwen! First of all, thank you for having me on your blog. This is so awesome!

My name is Ines Bautista-Yao. I live in the Philippines and I am a wife and mom of two girls, a shy seven-year-old and a tornado of a two-year-old—polar opposites. I used to teach English but was lured into publishing, so I edited a teen magazine called Candy and a kids’ magazine called K-Zone. It was a really fun stint. I met wonderful friends, I learned a lot, and I got loads of freebies haha! But I wanted to go back to teaching. The problem was, I got pregnant so I stopped teaching (although I did go back for a few months till pregnancy complications made me stop) and I decided to edit and write freelance so I could take care of my family.

It was while my eldest daughter (then an only child) was napping for three hours that I wrote my first book. Now, it’s harder to write because I have two girls, but I try to squeeze it in every chance I get. In fact, the second story I wrote in Just A Little Bit Of Love, I wrote on my smart phone because my toddler pushes the screen of my laptop closed when she sees me writing!

Me: How did you get started as a writer? What genre(s) do you enjoy writing and/or reading?

Ines: I’ve been writing ever since I was small. I had notebooks filled with stories and I would read them out loud to my classmates underneath a huge, leafy tree. I guess it started with a love for reading then a need to come up with my own tales as well. I think it’s that way for almost all writers. I’ve yet to meet a writer who doesn’t love to read.

The genre I love is romance. Sweet, young, with lots of feels. I love writing it and reading it. I also love reading fantasy and mystery but I have yet to write stories like that. I hope to one day.

Me: What was your inspiration for Just A Little Bit Of Love and the characters in the stories?

Ines: Because I wanted the stories to happen simultaneously with events in Only A Kiss, I entered the world I created and thought of scenes or characters I wanted to revisit. These were the stories that came about. I asked myself, who else could have been there when they were in the coffee shop talking about Chris’s love life? Or who else could have been obsessed with Ethan besides Katie? And then there was Carla. I thought she was so adorable, she just had to have a love story of her own.

(Side note: You do not have to have read Only A Kiss to appreciate the stories from Just A Little Bit Of Love, but do yourself a favor and read it, too!)

Me: Is there one character in the book that you relate to the most?

Ines: I think I can relate to all of them a little bit. But the one I can relate to the most at this point in my life is Carla. Ever since I became a mom, all of a sudden, I can’t seem to remember anything! My life is such a mess – I have to write down reminders all over the place: in notebooks, on my phone, on my computer. I don’t have sticky notes tacked everywhere but that’s something I used to do when I was in school and when I was employed. I wish I had a Jacob who had perfect memory—but my husband is just as forgetful as I am! Haha!

Me: What was the most difficult part of writing this book? The easiest?

Ines: It was really easy to write all three stories but I think what was hard for me was writing On the Sidelines in the present tense. I usually write using the past tense, so I wanted to try something new. Using the present tense intrigued and challenged me. I hope I was able to pull it off! The easiest part was writing about when boy meets girl. Maybe because I enjoy it so much.

Me: What theme(s) do you like to include in your love stories? (ie. opposites attract, love at first sight)

Ines: I’ve realized that I like using the best friends/good-friends-to-something-more trope. I’ve used it twice already in two different books. But when I look at all the stories I’ve written, I’ve noticed that my guy characters are usually so smitten with the girls and the girls need to wake up and realize how wonderful these boys are. Maybe my next story should be the other way around. I like to try different things but sometimes, what comes out isn’t what I planned!

Me: What are you working on next?

Ines: Right now, I’m writing a prequel of sorts to Only A Kiss. It’s the love story of Ben and Regina. I’ve been working on it since last year and I need to finish it already! I’m also writing three short stories for three different anthologies (the reason Ben and Regina’s story still isn’t finished!). I seem to have too many ideas but not enough time to write them all down! I just pray the inspiration doesn’t go away!

Me: Thank you Ines for taking the time to visit with us! I can’t wait to read the prequel!

You can connect with Ines and her books at the following links:

Amazon: https://goo.gl/7dEUUh

Instagram: https://instagram.com/inesbyao/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/inesbyao

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/inesbautistayao/

In light of the teenage vibes coming off of this post (haha), I’ll sign off with One Direction’s teeny-bopper tune, “One Thing”. 🙂

What fun, emotional or regrettable memories do you have from your teenage years?

Faking it till You Make It (as an Author)

I saw this image on one of my favorite author’s Facebook page this week and had to smile.

Yeah, baby!

Yeah, baby!

I liked how such a successful author like her (we’re talking about the NY Times and USA Today bestseller status) could relate to the struggles of a way lesser-known, indie author like me.

In the four years since I started pursuing a writing “career” (I added quotes around the word career to show you how seriously I take it, haha), I have learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned how fragile my ego is, how much I base my self-confidence on what other people think, and how I do have what it takes to be an author.

Wait a minute, how did that last comment sneak in there? 😉 More importantly, is it true or is it just a lie I tell myself as I tend to my wounded ego?

The thing is, to be a writer (especially a fiction writer), you constantly need to make things real and believable (things you tell your readers and yourself). You create characters and settings and a plot line out of scratch. You add descriptions and dialogue and drama to give flavor and texture to the story. And you top it all off with a happy-ever-after, or some sort of meaningful ending, so the reader feels satisfied and fulfilled until their next meal, I mean, book. 🙂

If you were to condense my short time as a writer into a novel, it would be one of those “thrill of victory, agony of defeat” type of stories. The kind where the soldier rushes off into war with a youthful spirit and all the best intentions, only to emerge from the fight bruised and scarred and weary. But then, thanks to the pep talks of his loved ones, he goes into battle again with renewed hope and a belief that he can do it(!), and he comes out a winner.

Yep, like that soldier, I’ve been beaten down by rejection emails, gotten stuck in the trenches of writer’s doubt and considered giving up. But through the process, I’ve picked up lots of great tips from other writers, tried new techniques and developed literary muscles. And I’ve had to give myself one pep talk after another, talks that include just enough truth to keep me fighting.

Truth such as: “There was a lot good about this book, especially the life and faith lessons, but there were some problems, too. Head hopping was a major issue, because it went back and forth between different points of view so often. So much time was skipped in places it left the reader feeling as if they were missing out on too much of the story. For the first 60% of my kindle edition, there was a lot of thinking and second-guessing but little to no conflict. The tension picked up between 60% and 75% but then fell off again, and everything was resolved. The last part just tied everything up. I did like the book, but it could have been much better with just a little more work.”

That was a review left by a reader of my first book. When I saw it, I took a deep breath and swallowed the lump in my throat. Then I read it again and found myself nodding … because every criticism she gave was true. And because of her honesty (and those of my critique partners and beta readers), I know how to improve and what it takes to be an author.

The journey to becoming a writer is a bit like faking it till you make it. Faking it not by lying to yourself about how good you are, but by being truthful about the areas that could be better. It’s about showing up each day to do the hard work of a writer because that’s what you are. It’s about believing you have it in you to be a regal, strong and impressive white striped tiger, even when all you feel like is a tiny, clumsy kitty.

So, cheers to all of us kitty cats working on growing into big ‘ole tigers. Believe it, own it, and go for it.

I think the perfect song for this post is Katy Perry’s “Roar”, which I’ve shared before, but this time I’m sharing a cover of it by Olivia, a pint-sized contestant on The Voice Kids Australia (we need a US version!) who has one fierce roar.

What have you tried your hand at “faking it till you make it”? What did you learn from the experience?

 

The Secret Life of an IT Wife

Sometimes I feel like I’m married to a firefighter. Hubby may not drive around town in a big red truck putting out raging fires, but as an IT guy, he’s the one who comes running whenever something technical goes up in flames in the corporate world. He’s the guy who might have received a phone call during his honeymoon because rolling blackouts at home shut all the company’s servers down. He’s the one who may have gotten a call on Thanksgiving from an employee working in Singapore who forgot it was a national holiday in the States that day. He’s also likely the one who missed dinner with his family on his wife’s birthday because he was stuck at work trying to resolve yet another issue (but to put things into perspective, he was hours late for his own birthday dinner a few years ago due to work). 😛

Suffice it to say, being married to an IT guy can be challenging at times.

Image courtesy of dan/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of dan/freedigitalphotos.net

I don’t share all this to complain about hubby’s job, although I’m sure life would be different if he were in a calmer line of work. I also don’t share this to brag about how understanding and patient and supportive I am because if I had all those awesome qualities, I would be polishing my halo right now instead of trying to find it. 😉 The reason I’m giving you a sneak peak into the secret life of an IT wife is because I know there are couples struggling in their marriages right now with whatever issues they are going through, and the struggle is real.

I wish I had some great insight into how to better communicate with your spouse or how to keep your love burning strong, but I’m still learning “on the job”, too. But one thing I did realize this week while hubby was dealing with a company phone issue and later on, an email issue, was that I didn’t truly understand what work was like for him on a daily basis. It didn’t hit me until one afternoon during one of C’s massive meltdowns over a homework assignment. Thanks to E (and the power of sibling rivalry), she had gotten thrown off while counting for a math problem, and promptly began wailing at the top of her lungs in frustration. As if to prove she might one day consider a career as an opera singer, she raised her volume up two notches and her range another octave. By the time her cantata was over, my ears were ringing and my blood pressure was off the charts.

That evening when hubby was venting about the issues he had faced at work that day and feeling the pain of an oncoming migraine, I suddenly got a peek into his world. For a moment I understood what it was like to walk in his shoes. The overwhelming level of frustration, anger and anxiety I experienced during C’s “performance” gave me a glimpse of the emotional stuff he faces at work EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I told him, “I get it now. It’s like you’re constantly dealing with tantrums and meltdowns at work.”

He smirked and joked back, “Yes, I have a lot of kids to deal with.”

Boy, he sure does, and those “kids” aren’t even half as cute as ours are (even when they’re singing opera).

Sigh. Poor hubby. The struggle out there in the working world is real. So real, that it sometimes a lot of the times follows him home and places a strain on us, our family life and our marriage. But instead of letting the stress and busyness divide us, I’m learning to choose empathy. I’m finding ways to better support hubby as he fights fires. I try to make his life sweeter, even if it means spending half an hour with wrinkly hands submerged in a bowl of water in order to deseed four pomegranates, hubby’s favorite winter fruit (FYI, some people prefer the spoon method). We’re both learning to lean on God more and to rest in His saving grace. And we sneak in as much time as possible whenever we can to catch up and support each other throughout the day with a text message or two.

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All this yummy goodness, and hubby gobbled it up in like 2 days! 😛

The secret life of an IT wife may not be a glamorous one, but it’s the one I have and the one I’ll make the best out of … because the IT guy I’m married to is worth it.

Lastly, I want to give a shout-out to all the amazing wives of those in uniform who fight literal fires, chase real bad guys and put their lives on the line each day to protect others. You ladies have my deepest respect, admiration and gratitude.

Take a listen to Beyonce’s song, “Halo”, a reminder that we can all wear a “halo” and show grace to the people in our lives.

Who has been a source of strength and support for you? Who have you been there for?