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!

Thoughts on Going to Jail

The munchkins know to ask for approval before they download a game to play on the iPad. The process usually goes something like this: 1) Munchkin shows me the game; 2) I peruse the description, rating, and reviews; 3) I say yay or nay. It’s a pretty straightforward and quick process, and so far we’ve been able to keep the games age-appropriate and family-friendly. That is, until recently.

Lo and behold, I’ve discovered my mama brain doesn’t function too well during the summer. It could be that I don’t have enough me-time during the day, so I end up staying up way too late at night, and the gears in my head just don’t turn as fast when they’re tired. Or I could just be getting old. 😉 Either way, when one of the munchkins asked me to approve a game the other week, I inadvertently agreed to let them go to jail.

Yup. The game is all about trying to escape from prison.

What was I thinking?! At first, I reasoned it was a good game for problem-solving because breaking out of a locked establishment would require using your brain to come up with a plan and then to implement said plan. What I didn’t think through were the reasons why one would be in jail in the first place and how breaking out of jail would be a crime. Playing this game would in a sense make my child guilty of not just one crime, folks, but two! I had basically given a thumbs-up to illegal activity.

Sigh. Can we say, #mamafail?

All was not lost though! (There’s always gotta be a bright side to things, right?) 😉 Because life is all about trying and failing and trying again, I decided to make the best of this opportunity. We talked about what prison life is like (based off what I know from TV shows and books, not my own personal experience, mind you!), and also increased our knowledge of some key vocabulary words (e.g. warden). I also talked about my friend and former classmate who currently works as a therapist in prison. And get this, he’s not just a therapist for one jail, folks, but two! (Yes, he’s as awesome as he sounds!) And I even managed to share about how a large percentage of prisoners are from fatherless homes and the implications of that. Amazingly enough, I was able to use a game about jail to strike up some interesting and educational conversations about life. God’s grace, folks, God’s grace! 🙂

And to top it all off, I heard from my therapist friend recently that the Moodkins have become quite a hit in—you guessed it!—jail.

The therapists are using them for one-on-one counseling, as well as group therapy with the prisoners. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the cute therapy plush toys I created for kids to be helpful for adults, too. It’s been a huge blessing and affirmation for me to see them making a difference in schools, counseling centers, and now—prison. It just goes to show, you never know how God will use our small stuff for bigger purposes. 🙂

All this is to say that there’s been a lot of talk about jail in our home lately. There’s never a dull moment in parenting, is there? But thank God for His grace and providence in working everything out for good.

I hope you’ve had a good summer! We have less than one week of vacay here and then I’ll be back to my regular blogging schedule. As always, thanks for reading and sharing in my journey. 🙂

What have you been doing this summer? How have you seen God at work in your life? Tell me in the comments below! 🙂

Welcome to Romance, Oregon (And My New Younger Man/Older Woman Story)!

Get Ready to Fall Into Romance!

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What happens when you mix together a group of authors, add laughter, lovable pets, and a dash of pumpkin spice? The perfect combination resulting in ten sweet novellas that’ll have you falling in love all over again!

FIR Boxed Set

Surround yourself in the romance of the autumn season with 10 heartwarming, sweet novellas from the USA Today, national bestselling, and award-winning authors. Each story takes you inside the heart of a small town-its people-and features adorable animal friends in need of a forever home. Take a trip to Romance, Oregon, where falling in love has never been easier and happily-ever-after is guaranteed!

Available for Pre-order Now!
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Google

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Stories and Authors

Lost in Romance by Stacy Claflin

At Second Glance by Raine English

Blown Into Romance by Shanna Hatfield

Wired for Romance by Franky A. Brown

Restoring Romance by Tamie Dearen

Finding Dori by J.J. DeBenedetto

Katie’s Chance for Romance by Jessica L. Elliott

Chasing Romance by Liwen Y. Ho

Lessons in Romance by Kit Morgan

Finding Forever in Romance by Melanie D. Snitker

~*~

Welcome to Romance Facebook Page

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Like and follow us on Facebook! You’ll stay up-to-date on release news, author interviews, future projects, and more!

~*~

Chasing Romance

By Liwen Y. Ho

I consider it an awesome privilege to be part of this boxed set with so many amazing authors! I’ve read several of the stories in the set so let me assure you, they are all such engaging and well-written stories. My story, Chasing Romance, was my first attempt at a younger man/older woman romance and I had such a fun time writing it. I can’t wait for you to meet Chase and Izzy!

Izzy Sutton shelved away her own needs when her ex-boyfriend left town eighteen years ago, leaving her to raise their daughter alone. With Gracie away at college now, she has time to invest in her Bed and Breakfast, as well as her secret songwriting job. Trouble starts though when a handsome singer comes looking for a room, forcing Izzy to decide if it’s worth opening up her heart again, especially to a much younger man.

Pop sensation Chase Lockhart owes his overnight fame to one song penned by an anonymous writer. Desperate for more chart-toppers, he travels to Oregon to collect the other songs she owes him. Finding her is the least of his troubles; getting past her defenses, including her dog who hates him, proves to be the real challenge.

Can a shared love of music lead a young singer and a single mom to fall in love? Anything’s possible in the small town of Romance.

~*~

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Don’t forget to pre-order your copy of Fall Into Romance!  It’s just 99 cents!

When Parenting Feels Like Construction Work

I used to think raising babies and toddlers and preschoolers was hard. Oh, those years are long and wild and most of all, tiring, but the upside is that they’re simpler. Most of the time, you feel like you’re working in a production line, going through the same motions (feed, change, sleep, repeat) every single day, but a lot of it is “mindless” work. (Until the tantrums start. Lol) Raising a tween, on the other hand … THAT. IS. HARD.

I wish I could go into details about what we’ve been going through, but the munchkin who has requested to not be mentioned on social media ever again would not approve, so I must respect his wishes. 🙂 Suffice it to say, I told hubby the other day that I am seriously considering dyeing my hair because my white hair is doubling by the week. Groan … mutter … sigh!

Even as I’m praying and struggling through these new challenges, I’m reminding myself that this is all normal. Kids are supposed to grow up, “find themselves”, and navigate that fine line between dependence and independence. During this time, however, bad attitudes, hurt feelings, and mistakes will happen. Words will be said and things will be done that we wish could be taken back and undone. Most of all, this parent-child relationship will be tested time and time again.

Sigh (again)!

I was reminded this week of a show my kids used to watch when they were much younger called Bob the Builder.

Image courtesy of flickr

If you’ve never seen it, it’s an animated show that features a fix-it guy named Bob and his whole crew of construction vehicles. One of the things that Bob always says is, “Can we fix it? Yes, we can!” I thought of Bob and this slogan because lately, I feel like there’s a lot of fixing going on in our house. Our parent-child bond keeps on being tested—and broken. But for every time it does, we can be like Bob and ask, “Can we fix it?” Yes, we can!

Repairing a relationship is not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. We can’t use tools, such as screwdrivers, hammers or nails, to put things back together. Hearts cannot be mended with tape or glue. But you know what we do have that is stronger and more effective than any fix-it gadget? Love.

I can hear you groan (or maybe that’s me!). Yup, unfortunately, there’s no easy fix for a broken relationship. But I do want to encourage all the parents out there who are in the early stages of parenting: You can make it easier for yourself now.

The one thing I’m thankful for is that hubby and I have fairly close relationships with our munchkins. Over the years, we’ve worked to build up mutual trust and respect and, thanks to hubby, a sense of fun. For the most part, we enjoy one another’s company and are sensitive to one another’s needs. Because of this closeness, whenever there’s a disconnect between us, we can feel it. It makes us so uncomfortable that we can’t go too long without wanting to reconnect with the other person. Because of the bond we’ve built (and continue to build upon), it’s easier and more natural for us to repair the bond when it breaks. And this, my friends, has been our saving grace during this crazy time.

So, this is the advice I give to all parents of young kids: Be sensitive to your child and his needs. Love him the way he needs to be loved. And a decade from now, your future self—and your child—will thank you for doing so.

This is a song I’ve been listening to on repeat, Imagine Dragons’ “Walking the Wire”. Even though it’s a love song, I think the lyrics are very applicable to parenting through the hard times.

We could turn around and we could give it up
But we’ll take what comes, take what comes
Oh, the storm is raging against us now
If you’re afraid of falling, then don’t look down
But we took the step, oh, we took the leap
And we’ll take what comes, take what comes

What helped you through your teen years? Are you a parent of pre-teens/teens? I’d love to hear your advice!

It’s Release Day for On Waves of Wanderlust!

The family and I took a trip last week to our happy place: Kauai. We had a wonderful time, despite the fact that vacationing with kids is pretty much life in a different place. 😉 But life on a tropical island happens to be 100% more beautiful, fun, and soothing than life in the “real world”. Here are some photos to prove it …

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It was so amazing in Kauai that I actually disconnected from social media most of the time while we were there. Who wants to look down at a tiny screen when you can be looking all around at the amazing sights?! And breathing in the fresh ocean air. And smelling the sweet tropical smells. And tasting all the yummy fruit? Happy sigh! 🙂

But back to reality … and speaking of traveling … today’s release day for my newest book baby (and the last book in my Seasons of Love series), On Waves of Wanderlust!

YAY!

This story was inspired in part by a cruise we took to Mexico years ago with my in-laws when we only had one munchkin and one on the way. The one thing I’ve learned about cruises is that you’ve gotta be prepared to EAT. The food is amazing, not only in quality but in quantity as well. We’re talking a dessert buffet at midnight. Yup, craziness! The other thing about cruises is that you get to meet new people and go on new adventures … and maybe even fall in love, just like Macy and Jake did in this story. 🙂

If you’ve never been on a cruise ship before, here’s your chance to take a virtual one. It’s the perfect length for when you need a pick-me-up during the day or need to escape real life for a little while. And best of all? It’s calorie-free and you won’t get seasick!

Check out the playlist for On Waves of Wanderlust here!

Where would you like to go on a cruise ship?

When There Is No Finish Line

Hubby has been working out on a regular basis for a few months now . This decision pleased the cheap, ahem, I mean frugal side of me because it meant he’d finally be using the gym membership we’d been paying for on a monthly basis. I’d also be getting a more healthy, energetic and buff husband and who wouldn’t want that? 😉

Hubby’s efforts the first two months were jaw-dropping. He’d go to the gym before the sun woke up and go again before he came home from work. Two workouts in a day? Who does that kind of thing?! Apparently, according to hubby, a lot of people who go to the gym do. They must either really want to get their money’s worth or the happy hormones you get from exercising are a real thing. 😉 There’s likely a third reason though as to why people stick to a workout routine. Hubby explained it to me with a slogan he saw on a shirt at the gym. It read, There is no finish line. 

 

The thought is that in order to stay healthy, energetic and buff, you need to exercise, eat right, and sleep well on a consistent basis. That means every. single. day. Because once you stop, the laws of physics (specifically, the one related to gravity) take over and your body start drooping and sagging and not functioning as well as it could.

When I heard this slogan, I couldn’t help but cringe. Working out every single day? If only I had enough energy to do that. Well, the irony of it all is that when you start working out, you gain more energy which helps you continue the vicious, I mean, wonderful cycle. So once you get going, it’s easier to keep going. Exercising will still require effort, time and commitment, but as you continue to do it regularly, it will become a part of your routine. Which is a good thing because there is no finish line when it comes to staying healthy.

This slogan got me thinking about how so much of our lives requires daily maintenance. Our minds, hearts and souls need regular nourishment and “exercise” as well. I’ve been experiencing this need as I stay home with the munchkins during their summer vacation. Boy, whoever came up with that slogan must’ve understood what having kids is like because believe me, there is no finish line when it comes to parenting. This job requires you to get up, clothe, feed, and clean up after your kids every day. And that’s just the physical, “easy” part of being a parent. It’s the emotional and mental stuff—being patient, kind, forgiving and gracious—that really kicks you in the butt. Sigh. 😉 I’ve been reminding myself to work on listening well and keeping my expectations realistic. And making sure I get some me-time and good sleep so I can be on my best behavior for them.

We have one week of summer vacay under our belts now and ten more to go—whew! Fortunately, I find that the longer I’ve been a parent, the more I know how to keep going on a daily basis. Not that it gets easier, but it does get a lot more predictable and a little more manageable. And there are plenty of rewards—shared experiences, funny moments and silly stuff—to keep you going … and going … and going … 🙂

What things do you want to keep working at on a daily basis?