Release Day for Puppy Dog Tales (+ Our Quest to Find a Pet)

Okay, so guess what happens when you write a book titled Puppy Dog Tales? You end up being reminded of how sweet and adorable animals are and you talk your family into getting a pet! Well, kind of. As with any major commitment in life, there’s a lot to take into consideration. One, were we ready for a pet, and two, what kind of pet did we want? The first question was easy to answer. We had a dog for ten years who sadly passed away four years ago (here’s my “in memory” post about Sparkle), so we do have experience as pet owners and miss having a furry friend to love. When I say we however, I mean hubby and me because the munchkins sadly don’t remember too much about Sparkle, except for C’s traumatic memory of him snatching a waffle right out of her hand. And because of that memory, we thought we should get a pet for C’s sake, to help her get over her fear that all dogs are waffle snatchers. 😛 But we thought we’d go with an animal that would be less intimidating for her, which answered our second question; we decided to get a cat!

Fast forward to last weekend when we ventured into a cat cafe, a local hangout I found online where you can play with cats for an hour at a time. If you found one you got along with (and vice versa), you could apply to adopt him/her. Sounds great, doesn’t it? And it was … until we got home and E’s eyes were swollen and his nose was itchy and he started sneezing. And I realized how much easier I could breathe in the absence of felines. So, yup, we scratched* that idea. 🙁

The next day we decided to check out a dog adoption event at a local pet store. (You could say we had to settle for Plan B, but in reality, hubby and I were both happy Plan A didn’t work out because we’re both more dog people). 😉 I had looked through the profiles of the dogs that would be at the event and made sure there were some small dogs that C would like because if it were up to her, she’d get one like this:

Image courtesy of flickr.

Yes, it’s cute, but there’s just something not quite right about a dog that can fit inside your teacup. 😉 Anyhow, there were all kinds of dogs there waiting to be adopted. Big, calm German Shepherds, yappy lap dogs, and one tiny, trembling 4 month old puppy. And because there were SO many dogs together in one place, there were a lot of strong odors wafting in the air. I won’t describe them for you, but let’s just say that E and his sensitive nose couldn’t wait to hightail* it out of there! After literally five minutes, we rushed back to the car and drove home. And that, folks, was the end of Plan B. 🙁

I’m sorry to say we haven’t found the right pet for us yet, but I’m hopeful we will in the new year. But for now, I am super excited to announce that it’s release day for the book that started us on this quest: Puppy Dog Tales!

This story was one of the fastest ones I’ve written and it came together so well because it was just plain fun. It is a romantic comedy, by the way, and in case you need some convincing that it’s funny, let me assure you that hubby has said I’m much funnier in print than in person. LOL 😉 If you want a quick pick-me-up story with an opposites attract trope and some furry friends, you’re in for a treat* with Puppy Dog Tales! Get it today (click HERE) for only $1.99 or read it for free with Kindle Unlimited!

An animal hater and an animal lover’s paths collide the week leading up to Valentine’s Day.

Melvin Lai inherited the last thing he ever wanted from his favorite uncle: a cocker spaniel. Now he’s on the verge of losing his home to the unruly puppy and, much to his surprise, his heart when he meets Dr. Chu, Sparkle’s vet.

Vivian Chu loves caring for her furry friends, so she can’t fathom how anyone could think poorly of her new patient, especially his owner. To her, first impressions are everything, and the one Melvin left has her feeling disheartened and bruised–quite literally.

With a pair of matchmaking mothers and unexpected animal escapades, they encounter more trouble than they can handle. He longs to make her his valentine; she can’t wait to escape him. Can Melvin and Vivian pull together to find common ground?

And here’s the playlist I put together for the story! Enjoy! 🙂

*I couldn’t help using some punny, animal-related words in this post. 😉

What NFL Players & Authors Have in Common

The family and I took a weekend getaway recently for hubby’s and my birthdays (which happen to be three days apart). On one of the mornings, we were in line for the breakfast buffet (yum!) when my eyes zeroed in on the shirt of a man walking past me. In big, bold letters, I saw the words NFL Alumni. Three thoughts immediately crossed my mind: the first being, Wow, cool!, then, Yeah, he looks like he could be a football player, and lastly, Oh … that’s kinda sad. 🙁

Why the sadness, you ask? Well, if you have to wear a shirt to tell people you were in the NFL, that probably means you aren’t well-known enough to be recognized as an NFL player.

Aww. 🙁 I almost wanted to go over and say, I know how you feel, buddy.

But I didn’t because I’m an introvert and even if I weren’t, it would’ve been a very strange thing to do. 😉 Instead, I told hubby about the shirt and how it struck a chord with me. It also made me wonder if there are any “I’m a published author” T-shirts out there in the world. In case you were wondering, the answer is yup! (They have them in pink, too—see below!)

Image courtesy of zazzle.co.nz/https://www.zazzle.co.nz/i_am_a_published_author_t_shirt-235621872671373455

The fact of the matter is that while there are 1,696 football players in the NFL (thank you, Google!), most of them won’t be as popular as Joe Montana or Tim Tebow. Likewise, most published authors won’t ever become a household name like J.K. Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. (Hmm, maybe the key to success is to have initials in your name, haha?)

But that’s okay. Because most of the time writers write for the pure joy of writing. And writers publish for the pure joy of being able to see their name in print, hold their book in their hands, and to smell its pages—okay, maybe not everyone likes the smell of books*, but you get the idea. 😉 The bottom line is: Authors don’t write and publish books to become famous. We do so because we’re creators and we love to create and share our creations.

And, yup, there are a lot of us out there in the world, way more than the number of NFL players. Since you may not recognize a published author if you happen to pass by one at say, a breakfast buffet, it’d probably be a good idea if we made it easy for you. We could wear a shirt that tells you so. Hopefully if you see it, you’ll think to yourself, Wow, cool! She does look like she could write a book. I wonder what it’s about?  How did she get her inspiration?  Where can I get a copy?

If you do wonder about what it is that authors do, we would be more than thrilled to answer your questions. We’d love to hand you a business card. We could point you to our Amazon author page and show off our babies (the paper ones, not the human or furry ones). If you’d like to get technical, we could even talk about genres, story arcs, characters, and settings. And quite honestly, we wouldn’t mind at all if you wanted to ask for our autograph. (Kidding, not kidding!) 😉

After breakfast that day, I felt an odd sense of camaraderie with that NFL player. 🙂 Weird, I know, considering I didn’t talk to the guy, but I understood his passion for doing something he loved and was good at. Mostly, I admired his confidence and courage to share that part of him with the world—or at least, anyone who happened to see his shirt. Does that make me want to go order my own shirt? Sure … if it didn’t cost $43.50! 😛 Someone needs to let that company know that not every author has sold as many books as L.M. Montgomery. (Hmm, seriously though, I think I need to change my name to initials!) 😀

Take a listen to this cute song, “I Won’t Say I’m in Love”, from the Hercules soundtrack. I haven’t seen the movie, but I came across it on YouTube and it’s the perfect song for my next book’s playlist. 🙂

What would you want to share with the world about yourself on your T-shirt?

*Check out this nifty graphic for the chemical explanation behind the aroma of books.

 

 

Release Day! (+ The “Woe is Me” Tale Behind this Story)

It’s release day for A Spoonful Of Spice! I may get tired of writing sometimes, but I never get tired of hitting the “publish” button on a story. 😀 So yay, please celebrate this momentous occasion with me! Here’s a pumpkin spice latte for you and one for me, too. Cheers!

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In case you haven’t figured it out by now, A Spoonful of Spice is the autumn story in my “Seasons of Love” series. When I was brainstorming for this book, the first thing that popped into my head was the word “pumpkin”. Then the words “chai latte” because I love putting those two together when I go to my favorite cafe, Peet’s (sorry, Starbucks lovers!). But since pumpkin spice lattes are more popular drinks, I decided to include them in this story. Oh, and also an IT guy and an IT girl because it’s a love story between the guy and the girl (and possibly, the girl and her pumpkin spice latte). 😉

So that’s how this office romance started … but the finished product is actually a major revision of my original story. Like a total rewrite of half of it (something I’ve never done before!). Yes, that’s when I had a “woe is me” moment as a writer. 😉 Looking back, however, I’m more than grateful that one of my early beta readers (a trusted author friend) gave me some honest and insightful feedback on the story. After picking myself up off the ground, I took a good look at it and tried my hardest to make it better. And to my delight, I like the story a lot more now after rewriting half of it. I think I keep repeating that I rewrote half of it because I still can’t believe I rewrote half of it! Oh, but rewriting half of it was only the first part of my “woe is me” story with this book. I also had to redo the cover after I already did the cover reveal (you can read about that in this post here).

Oh, I almost forgot—there’s a part 3, too. 😉 This was the first book I formatted myself (aka. turning a MS Word file into a .mobi file for Kindle) and that in itself was an adventure. It took 8+ hours to figure it all out, but I did save $80, and hopefully next time it’ll be a lot easier and faster.

So, yes, for a 10,000-word story, there was a lot of work involved. Let me repeat that—A LOT of work. 😉 But it’s all good. All the rewriting and redoing made me appreciate how stubborn I am (haha!) and how any good thing involves perseverance.

Anyhow, you can buy A Spoonful Of Spice for $0.99 or read it for free with Kindle Unlimited on Amazon.com here. I hope you’ll enjoy it, especially with a cup of pumpkin spice latte! 🙂

ASOSFinal

And here’s my favorite song from the YouTube playlist I made for this book, Voctave’s cover of “Someone Like You”, featuring Jody McBrayer.

Cover Reveal: Take 2!

Sooo … after yesterday’s cover reveal for my story, A Spoonful Of Spice, a kind author friend informed me that my cover was the same one as a book by a well-known author! Cue the facepalm, maybe even a double facepalm!

I was torn when I heard this because I loved the couple on the cover! I had picked out the picture even before I started the story and had them in mind when I was writing it. Aiya. I shared my dilemma with the Facebook author’s group I’m a part of  (by the way, it’s called Clean Indie Reads and they are the most supportive people!) and got mixed responses. Some said there are many books out there with the same cover, so it’s no biggie; others said it could come across like I’m trying to ride on that author’s coattails (which is a funny image, don’t you think?). Anyhow, after some groaning and more facepalming, I decided to look for a new image … and by God’s grace, I found one I like even more! At least it looked good when I was up till 2AM making it. 😉

So, here it is!

ASOSFinal

Josh Pepper has one goal: to become the next manager in the IT department. But his career plans are sidelined when the first woman, bubbly Cin Thomas, joins his team. He now needs to keep everyone from being distracted by her presence, a task that appears easy to accomplish … until her piercing green eyes start invading his dreams.

I had asked hubby at 1:30AM when he got up to use the bathroom what he thought of it and he said, “Isn’t that the same couple?” Then this morning when he had his glasses on, he said, “You showed it to me last night? Oh, wait, I remember now. And no, that is not the same couple!”

Haha. So there you have it, a sneak peek into the oh-so crazy behind-the-scenes life of an author. 😉

Now, time for some caffeine. Happy Friday, everyone! 😀

Confessions of an IT Wife (And a Cover Reveal!)

I’ve shared about my secret life as an IT wife before (here) and now I’m going to share some confessions of an IT wife. 🙂 In case you don’t speak tech, IT stands for Information Technology (not the crazy clown from a movie that a friend told me about, haha). Ever since I met hubby, he’s worked with computers. This explains why we have a surplus of monitors, laptops, and tablets lying around the house, plus wireless routers and cables and other electronic doodads. E mentioned once that his friend had to wait for his dad to come home from work in order to use his laptop to play games, to which I rolled my eyes and thought, You don’t know how good you have it, buddy.

But along with all the perks of a tech job comes the stress. I’m talking about STRESS with a capital S. I like to think of the IT department as a company’s first responders to a technical problem. And in this day and age, especially when you live in the Silicon Valley, a technical problem is more like a technical emergency. Cue the sirens and flashing lights … or emails and texts and phone calls at all hours of the day and night! He used to be the one fixing the issues, but now as the Fire Chief, he’s the one overseeing three dozen different issues at the same time. Hubby’s job is so all-encompassing and critical, that he carries a lot of his stress from the job back home. As a (trying to be) supportive wife, I do my best to listen and share in his load as much as I can. After 18 years of listening to him speak tech, I actually understand most of what he tells me now. 😉 I didn’t realize though just how much I’ve been sucked into his world until I got inspired to write about it.

That’s right. I wrote a story about an IT guy. 😀 And since I write romance, I had to include an IT girl … and I bet you can guess what happens next.

I must confess though that I have had more than enough of the IT world, both the real and fictional ones. I’m sure I’m not the first IT wife/girlfriend who wishes her hubby/boyfriend spent as much time looking at her as he does his phone. 😉 Or that he could spend one weekend—or even a day—without worrying about something going down at work. But I’m thankful he has a good job and our family has the best tech support available 24/7/365 (although sometimes we have to share him)! Most of all, I’m grateful I get to walk side by side with my IT guy through all the crazy ups and downs of his IT career.

Now for the fun stuff … here’s the cover reveal for A Spoonful of Spice, the second short story in my Seasons of Love series!

*Updated Sept. 3, 2016: This cover is no longer the cover for my story! Go HERE to find out why. 😉

ASOS

Josh Pepper has one goal: to become the next manager in his IT department. But his career plans are sidelined when the first woman, Cin Thomas, joins the team. He now needs to keep everyone from being distracted by her presence, a task that appears easy to accomplish … until she starts invading his dreams with her piercing green eyes.

And here’s the playlist to give you a taste of the story. 🙂

 

What Makes Art Good?

I was watching WordGirl with the munchkins and was surprised to find the program had a lot of depth for a pint-sized animated show. In case you’ve never heard of this literary superhero and her monkey-caped sidekick, here’s the 411: WordGirl is the alias of an alien girl named Becky who uses her superpowers to catch bad guys, such as Chuck the Evil Sandwich-Making Guy. Since she came from the planet Lexicon, she has an extensive vocabulary and can define any word you throw her way. Fun show, huh? 🙂 Well, it’s not only fun and educational, it’s quite inspiring, too.

Image courtesy of pbskids.org

Image courtesy of pbskids.org

In the episode I watched, WordGirl was trying to catch a villain who stole artwork for an interesting reason. He wanted to stick the paintings and sculptures he lifted into a machine that would smash them into tiny bits and pieces so he could analyze them. The purpose? To determine what makes art good. Wow. That’s a pretty big question if you ask me.

WordGirl’s conclusion? Art is good because of the artist behind it.

I found myself nodding and shouting a silent, “You go, girl!” at the screen when I heard her answer. Why? Because she perfectly summed up something I’ve been trying to figure out for the past two years.

Ever since I started writing fiction, I’ve been reading more fiction, too. And what I’ve discovered with each book I’ve come across is that every author has a voice. Some are funny, even sarcastic, while others are warm and sweet. Then there are those who are more artsy and poetic and others that ooze angst and drama. When you can flip through the first few pages of a story and say, so-and-so wrote this!, then you know that author has found his or her voice.

Because who doesn’t want to be recognized for what they’ve done? But as we know, art is quite a subjective thing. What appeals to one person may not appeal to another—but that’s okay! Because as long as you, the artist, are being true to yourself, your voice will come through. The style and swagger that you inject into every chord, brushstroke or word choice, every pinch of this or that or every step and leap will leave your signature throughout the entire masterpiece. When your art is saturated with bits and pieces of you, it will scream YOU. Okay, maybe scream is not the best word to use (hm, what would WordGirl use?), but you get the idea. Whatever kind of art you desire to make, when you put your whole heart into it—your life experiences, your personality, and your quirks—it will showcase who you are. Your art will be good and unique and inspiring because of who you are.

While some may not appreciate it the way you hoped, there will be plenty more who will welcome the beauty your art brings. And if you can help brighten even one person’s day with your handiwork, then that’s art that’s worth making.

Take a listen to Lee Ann Womack’s song, “I Hope You Dance.” I hope you’ll be brave and share your voice today in whatever art form you can because someone needs to hear it. 🙂

How do you share your voice with others?

The Truth Behind Fiction

Post updated to add: The Kisses, Kids and Bundles of Joy boxed set that includes the novella I talk about below is now available at Amazon for only 99 cents! Buy it HERE.

So … the good news is that I finished my latest story! The bad? Coming this October, it’s going to be out there for all the world to read. Ah, the weird struggles of a writer. 😉

This story, though barely 20k words, has a lot of stuff in it. By stuff I mean the fun, flirty, falling-in-love bit and the happily-ever-after bit, but in addition to that, it has some of the nitty grittiest stuff I’ve ever written. Because I was crazy and overly-ambitious when I decided to write about a married couple going through a separation.

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Not only do these characters not feel the warm fuzzies of love, they are smack right in the middle of the sad and mad parts of love. The parts that no one likes to go through, much less talk about. And although this is a fictional story with fictional characters, there is a lot of truth behind the fiction. Truths that I’ve experienced and learned in my own marriage. Which is why it’s a little scary for me to lay it all out there.

But I did it and I’m very glad I did. Sometimes we need to read (and talk) about real life stuff. Because that’s the only way we’ll know we’re not alone. There’s comfort in knowing that all of us go through hard times (definitely some harder than others) and all of us struggle. That was my motivation in tackling this story head (and heart) on to try and make it the most realistic that I could, while weaving a thread of hope throughout (’cause I love happy endings!).

I can’t say too much more about it yet, but I’m excited to announce that my story will be part of a boxed set of winter-themed romance stories featuring kids. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to work with some awesome authors in putting this together for you all!

In the meantime, let me share the playlist I made for my story titled, “Tropical Kiss or Miss” (yes, it’s set in Hawaii!). Enjoy!

What are some fiction books you have read that contain a lot of truth?

When The End is So Close (But Not Close Enough)

Oh sigh! This is how I’m feeling this week …

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I’m at the point in my WIP (work-in-progress) where all I can say is, “This story is killing me!” The characters are getting tired of me, I’m getting tired of them, and we (yes, all the voices in my head, haha!) just want to get this book done. The finish line is so close, but not close enough. I’m on the second to the last chapter and it’s taking me forever—the same kind of forever the kids experience during a car ride longer than 30 minutes—and I am pooped. So pooped that one evening after we were done with dinner, I just fell over onto the dining room chair next to me and shut my eyes. Hubby watched me go down and promptly murmured, “Oh no.” Don’t worry, he’s used to my writer’s drama by now. 😉 After venting to him about my struggle to finish my book, he stated (a little too matter-of-factly!), “That’s normal. The last 5% always requires 95% effort.”

Argh. That is so true. And why is hubby always right?!

I can remember having this similar struggle during my firstborn munchkin’s birth when the nurse told me (after hours of intense labor!) that I STILL had to push him out. Years later when I ran a 5k with my (much younger and energetic) sister, I was the one pushing myself up that final hill to reach the finish line. These days, each time I write a book, I also have to push through the uncertainty and frustration of writer’s block to get to the last page. In all these situations, I wanted to give up even though I was so, so close. Why is that?

Fatigue is probably a good reason. Actually, it’s likely THE reason. When we start out doing a project or task, we have all the optimism in the world that what we’re doing is going to be exciting and worthwhile. But that’s before we face the bumps in the road and have to work hard to overcome those obstacles. So by the time we’re nearing the end, we’re weary and maybe very disillusioned. That’s why the last 5% requires us to give all we’ve got—and then some.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to do this with my writing. One thing that’s been helping is to tackle each 1% of this last 5% by itself. I’ve found that forcing myself to write in short 15 minute spurts keeps me focused and limits the amount of time I’m staring at the screen. I also reward myself after the 15 minutes are up with some TV (for research purposes, of course!) or a walk or a snack. There’s been times when I’ve been so focused and productive during the 15 minutes that I have no problem going over that time, so I keep on typing! And the more I can focus and type, the closer I get to the finish line.

All righty, all this talk about finishing is motivating me to go write! And here’s a song I’ve had on repeat to help me do just that. Check out Justin Timberlake’s new song, “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”, a catchy dance tune that will put a smile on your face. 🙂

What do you do to get through that last 5% of whatever it is you’re pushing to finish? 

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.

Pressing the PLAY Button on My Life Again

A few weeks ago I watched my youngest graduate kindergarten. Yesterday, I dropped off both munchkins at summer school in the morning and didn’t pick them up until almost six hours later. Yes, you read that right. Not one, not three, but SIX hours. That’s the most I’ve been on my own in almost nine years.

And it was glorious.

Cue the Carlton!

Cue the Carlton!

I went walking with a friend (four miles, baby!), shopped for groceries and guinea pig bedding, ate lunch and worked on book #3 without any interruptions!

Then today happened.

When I dropped off E and C at school again, I had this odd, unsettled sensation in the middle of my chest. It made me feel kind of lost like this …

One of the best shows ever, agree?

One of the best shows ever, agree?

… except without the island and smoke monster and cute doggie by my side. 😉

After some prayer and reflection on the drive home, I had an a-ha moment (which is a lot easier to do when you don’t have two kiddos fighting in the backseat). I realized that for the past nine years, I’ve poured all my time and attention (and blood, sweat and tears) into helping two people learn how to talk and walk, how to read, how to add/subtract/multiply, how to get along, and how to (insert countless verbs here) that I kind of put myself on hold. I pressed the pause button on my goals and dreams and ambitions. (Side note: Yes, it was a decision I made which I am (or have learned to be) okay with and am grateful for.) I just never thought the day would come when I would get to press the play button again.

Each year as the kids get older and more capable, I find myself with a little more time and energy. And with those extra hours and brain cells back, I’ve been finding joy in writing. If you had told me a decade ago that I would get to make up stories for fun, as well as write about real life stuff to encourage others, I wouldn’t have believed it. I had plans to work as a therapist and get licensed by the time I was forty. Instead, I ditched the internship hours I had earned, stayed home with my munchkins and am now heading down a completely different career path as a writer. And I’m turning forty this year.

Yikes. 😛

Whether it’s a mid-life crisis or a mid-parenting crisis, I am definitely feeling lost. Strange as it may be, as E and C are becoming more independent, I’m having to learn how to “walk” on my own again. It’s a new experience and a new chapter in my life, so I’m reminding myself that it’s okay to take baby steps. And it’s normal to stumble and fall. But as I’ve taught my kids, the most important thing to do is to get up and keep on trying.

And on that note, I’m going to be taking some time off this summer to “find myself” so I will be blogging about 1-2x a month instead of weekly. I’ll be posting on my Facebook page though, so you can find me there. 🙂

I think Kelly Clarkson’s song, “Catch My Breath” is a good song for this post. I feel like I’m catching my breath now that I have some down time, but also looking forward to what’s to come.

I would love to hear from you on how you’ve handled life transitions – I know there are all kinds! What helps you to find your way when you feel lost?