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Get Back on Track!

Last night I took a walk with my husband, and it hit me that I’d been off track with my health plan for a good week. It’s crazy that it took me a week to even realize this!

 

I also set insanely high writing goals, ones I realistically knew wouldn’t work based on my writing style. This will come as a shocker, but I haven’t met those either. I don’t feel bad about it. I’ll explain why in a little bit. But all this getting-off-track stuff brought out my analytical side. Why, after months of steady progress with my healthy habits, had I slid out of them?

I had to identify what I was doing differently.

1. I stopped tracking my calories, my exercise and my water intake.

I use an app called MyFitnessPal on my phone to count calories (type in the food you ate and you can pick from a list) and track my exercise. Yet, I hadn’t logged anything since last Tuesday. To be fair, we were out of town for a good portion of that time, but still.

2. I stopped making exercise a priority.

Due to summer scheduling problems, my friend and I had to drop our twice weekly yoga sessions to one. I’d also been doing a mini cross-fit workout once or twice a day, and I really was noticing results with that. However, I wasn’t doing cross-fit either, and they literally take less than five minutes to do! Oh, and jogging twice a week? Had morphed into a long walk now and then. Ain’t nobody getting in shape with a weekly exercise tally of one yoga session and a random long walk.

3. More and more “junk food” snacks were edging out fruits and vegetables.

All the small choices I make add up over time. They were adding up, all right. Right onto my hips. The result? An overall feeling of fluffiness. Plus, my mood went from powerful to meh.

I’ve been here before, friends. And I’ve gotten back on track. I will this time, too.

How I’m getting back on track.

Stop doing what doesn’t work, and start doing what does.

It’s as simple as that.

Starting today, I’m:

1. Tracking calories, exercise and water intake.

I truly don’t mind doing this. It’s not difficult, and it keeps me focused.

2. Making exercise a priority.

Yes, this means deciding how many workouts and which ones I’ll do, but shouldn’t I be doing that anyway? Yes.

3. Eating fruit and vegetables before junk food.

I will never give up junk food. I love candy, chips, and soda. But I enjoy them in moderation. It’s time to get back to that.

As far as my writing goals, I don’t need to get back on track, because I AM on track. I set way too high of goals, and I know it. It takes me a lot longer to write the first three chapters of a novel than the rest of the book. I could rush, but I would just end up spending the same amount of time or more fixing them later. Since I track how many hours I write and how many words I write, I know I’ve put in my best effort.

How do you get back on track when you slide away from your goals?

Have a fun weekend!

 

We’re Talking Lighthouses with Jody Hedlund

We’re Talking Lighthouses With Jody Hedlund

Today, I have the pleasure of talking with Jody Hedlund about her lighthouse series, Beacons of Hope. The second story in the series, Hearts Made Whole, is available now. I loved it! My review is at the end of the post.

Let’s get to it.

 

1. Each of your lighthouse books is set at a real lighthouse that once existed in Michigan or still does exist. Tell us a little about the lighthouse in this second book.

 

In my first lighthouse book (Love Unexpected), the lighthouse was set at Presque Isle which is on Lake Huron on the north eastern side of the state. For the second book, I picked a lighthouse in a completely new location with the intention of giving readers a different flavor of climate, geography, and the population.

 

Windmill Point Lighthouse once existed on Lake St. Clair near Detroit, a much more urban and highly trafficked area than the remote wilderness of Presque Isle. Windmill Point Lighthouse was a strategic beacon that helped ships cross from Lake Huron over into Lake Erie as those ships transported raw goods from the Northwest states to eastern cities and seaports.

 

The lighthouse is named after the old ruins of a windmill where early frontiersmen brought their grain for grinding. Also, legends attribute the area to being an old battle field of a savage encounter between the early French settlers and Indians. As many as 1000 Fox Indians were slaughtered on the banks of Lake St. Clair. Later settlers to the area uncovered bones, arrowheads, tomahawks, and other gruesome mementos of the battle.

 

Today, all traces of the original windmill, lighthouse, and burial grounds are long gone. If you visit Grosse Pointe in the Detroit area, all that remains is a small conical structure with a white flashing light.

 

2. Many of the heroines in your books are inspired by real women. Is that true of the heroine in Hearts Made Whole? If so, what women provided inspiration?

 

The woman light keeper in Hearts Made Whole is inspired by Caroline Antaya. Caroline lived at the Mamajuda Lighthouse on the Detroit River a short distance away from Windmill Point Lighthouse.

 

Caroline’s husband served with honor in the Union army during the Civil War, losing several fingers on his hand at Gettysburg. Eventually after returning from the war, her husband was named as keeper of the Mamajuda Lighthouse, but he passed away of tuberculosis.

 

Part of what really impressed me about Caroline Antaya’s situation was that she had been doing a fantastic job as a light keeper. But the district lighthouse inspector trumped up charges against her saying that she was in ill-health and incompetent. He took away her position simply because she was a woman and gave it to a man instead. Fortunately, her community rose to her defense and enlisted the help of a Michigan Senator to help her get her position back and she went on to serve as a light keeper for another three years.

 

In those days, when women were regularly discriminated against because of gender, Caroline’s story is inspirational and an encouragement to persevere in the face of injustice. I admired Caroline’s will to stand up for herself and to pave the way for women coming after her to use their God-given talents and abilities in roles and jobs that had previously been closed to women.

 

3. Why lighthouses? What fascinates you about these shining beacons?

 

I’m fascinated with lighthouses for a number of reasons. First, my state of Michigan is home to the greatest concentration of lights in the United States. In fact, Michigan is noted as the state where the most lighthouses were erected. And now today, more than 120 remain compared to 500 total for the rest of the nation.

 

Not only are lighthouse beautiful and picturesque, but they bring back a sense of nostalgia, poignancy, and romance that few other historical markers do. They’re rich in historical details and stories. They’re wrought with danger and death. And they’re just plain fun to explore. Climbing the winding staircase, reaching the top, and peering out the tower windows (or in some cases going out onto the gallery) is breathtaking.

 

***

Thank you so much for sharing your fascinating lighthouse details with us today, Jody! I feel as if I’ve toured the lighthouses in book 1 and book 2 in the series. You brought them to life for us! And what better reward for a winding climb than a beautiful view of one of the Great Lakes.

 

***

Hearts Made Whole

 

Hearts Made Whole ~

After her father’s death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren’t supposed to have such roles, so it’s only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper–even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.

Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He’s been given the post as lighthouse keeper, and the isolation where he can drown in drink and hide from his past is appealing. He’s not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who’s none-too-pleased to be giving up her position. They both quickly realize he’s in no shape to run the lighthouse, but Ryan’s unwilling to let anyone close, ravaged by memories and guilt. Caroline is drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope…and possibly love?

 

***

Jody Hedlund

About Jody ~

Jody Hedlund is a best-selling and award-winning author who loves history and happily-ever-afters. She makes her home in Midland, MI with her husband and five children. When she’s not writing another of her page-turning stories, you can usually find her sipping coffee, eating chocolate, and reading. For more information, go to JodyHedlund.com.

***

My review 5 STARS!!
I’ve been a fan of Jody Hedlund’s historical romances since her debut novel. I always say, “This is her best yet,” because each book is SO good! The same can be said for Hearts Made Whole. I loved this book!

This is the second in the Beacons of Hope series, and the story takes place on the shores of Lake St. Clair in Michigan right after the Civil War. Caroline Taylor has her hands full keeping the lighthouse after her father’s death, and the board refuses to consider allowing a woman–however capable–have the job. Ryan Chambers is given the job, but not because of his experience. The war left him guilt-filled, maimed, in constant pain and addicted to alcohol and opium.

I enjoyed how Caroline’s strong, compassionate personality helped heal Ryan, but they both acknowledged only God can heal. It was wonderfully woven together. I wanted them to have a beautiful life together, and the obstacles they had to overcome were tremendous. I didn’t want their story to end–and I was so happy at how it all worked out.

Now I just have to wait patiently until the third book comes out!
**I received an advance copy of this book with no obligation to review it. All opinions are my own.**

 

***

Would you be willing to climb a tall, winding staircase in a lighthouse to see the amazing view? (I would!)

Have a wonderful day!

If We Were Having Coffee Together

If you and I were having coffee together, my end of the conversation would include the following.

 

Door

 

 

It’s been a very rainy spring/summer for us. On the plus side, our grass is a gorgeous, lush green. On the negative side? It’s also full of mushrooms. Yuck. 🙁

 

Flowers

 

Our front porch was dull and uninviting, so last weekend we gave our wrought iron chairs a fresh coat of black paint, tossed a few new throw pillows on them, and planted hanging baskets and two pots to flank the door. Much better!

 

Chairs

 

Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary! *swoon* My husband always, always makes me laugh, and we like to joke that we made it another year. The truth is, I couldn’t imagine even one day without him. He’s my better half!

We’re wrapping up another baseball season. We’re pumped up about the big tournament this weekend and can’t wait to watch the boys play.

My day planner ends in June. Maybe a trip to Barnes & Noble is in order to purchase a new one. Hmm… I also need to create a six-month plan of attack for my upcoming books.

I know, I know, I’m quite the conversationalist. Trust me, if we were having coffee together, there would be a lot of laughter throughout!

What’s going on with you?

Have a fabulous day!

 

How I’m Making Writing Work This Summer

I have always struggled with disruptions to my routine. My dedicated writing hours during the school year dwindle to snatched minutes with the kids home for summer. My kids aren’t even young! It’s just different having them home. They have places to be, stomachs to feed and various activities during the day and at night.

Taking the summer off from writing is not an option. In fact, scaling back in the summer horrifies me. I have goals, and by golly, I will meet them!

 

 

Here’s how I’m making writing work this summer.

1. Set the alarm.

I refuse to get up at 6:15am the way I do all school year, but 7:30 works just fine. This gives me quiet time to sip my coffee, read the Bible and pray before hitting the office.

2. Accept that the days will be chopped up.

This week my son had baseball activities two mornings and two nights. Both kids had running club. My daughter is in charge of getting to her own activities, but I still plan my writing around their schedules.

3. Set daily, weekly and monthly goals.

I set the monthly goal first, then break it into weekly goals. I look ahead at my calendar to figure out how to meet the weekly goals before setting daily goals.

4. I track my progress.

Last week I plotted a romance novel and wrote the synopsis for it. I also fleshed out two chapters of a nonfiction book in progress. This week I plotted another romance novel. I’m writing the synopsis this afternoon. I also spent hours researching and wrote two chapters. All the little tasks you do add up, but if you don’t track them, you might miss the feeling of accomplishment you deserve.

5. Switch tools.

My romance novels are strictly laptop only. I do everything there–plotting, research, drafts, revising. However, I work on short stories and nonfiction using Google Docs. Believe it or not, I do a lot of writing on my iPhone at odd places. Waiting in the car for baseball practice? Write a few paragraphs. Sitting on the couch at night with nothing on TV? Draft another chapter. Switching tools has made a HUGE impact on my productivity. It’s given me the freedom to make progress on pieces I’d been putting off.

6. Let go of guilt.

My family understands that writing is my job. We don’t have special activities every day. My daughter drives and makes her own plans. My son’s friends live nearby, and he can walk or ride his bike to see them. We take advantage of the fun things our area offers, but not constantly. If my kids are bored, oh well. Life is what you make it. What better time to learn this than as a teenager?

7. Take breaks and get enough rest.

If I’m exhausted in the afternoon, I enjoy a cup of tea and rest on the couch, or I might take a brief nap. Exercise has become vital for me. All the sitting takes such a toll on our bodies. Even a 10 minute walk makes a big difference to my body. Rather than cramming writing in all at once, I set mini-goals throughout the day.

8. Enjoy life.

Summer is the best! I love having my kids home, a less-stressful schedule, hot days, yummy summer food and outside time. I dream more in the summer. I read more, too. I don’t want to remember these precious weeks as being perpetually stressed out, so I try to approach each day with a good attitude. Whatever I get done is enough.

We’re all at different stages of life, with different responsibilities. You may have a full-time job, a part-time job, toddlers at home, no kids, a sick loved one–I don’t know! What works for me might not work for you, but that’s the point. You have to find how to make summer writing work for you. I’d love to hear how you do it!

How do you make summer writing work for you?

**There’s still time to enter the giveaway of Keli Gwyn’s historical Christian romance, Family of Her Dreams. Click on her post HERE and leave a comment before midnight Saturday, June 13 to be entered! US residents 18 and older only.

Have a terrific weekend!!

Writer’s Life: Keli Gwyn

Writer’s Life: Keli Gwyn

Welcome to another edition of Writer’s Life, my interview series with authors of inspirational or sweet romance novels. I’m so excited to have Keli Gwyn on the blog today! Keli and I connected online years ago, and she was the first person to ever interview me. Since then, we’ve met in person and kept in touch. I love Keli’s writing–her debut, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was one of my top picks when it released. Keli now writes for Love Inspired Historical, and Family of Her Dreams is out now! Keli is giving away a copy to one blessed commenter, instructions below!

Let’s get to it!

1. What about writing makes your heart sing?

Those days when my characters are chatting away, the words are flowing freely and the story is coming together fill me with such joy that I feel like singing, even though my singing voice leaves a lot to be desired. Sometimes I sing anyway. It’s a good thing my cats aren’t music critics, although I have caught the fellows flinging their paws over their ears when I’ve had a good writing day and burst out with some goofy ditty I’ve composed on the spot.

 

2. What is the biggest hurdle you’re facing right now as a writer?

I wage an ongoing battle with the Doubt Dragon. The pesky fellow loves to perch on my shoulder and whisper in my ear.

“What were you thinking? Surely you can do better than this?”

~or~

“Look at this dreck. And you call yourself a writer?”

~or~

“Egads! This is the best you can do? Why don’t you just call it quits?”

I really need to invest in a muzzle and slap it on the noisy naysayer.

3. What do you do to fill your creative well?

I walk. Strolling past the stately Victorian houses in my historic town of Placerville, California can transport me back in time and get the ideas flowing. If I’m working out a gnarly plot issue, my husband and I will often hit our wonderful hiking trail and brainstorm solutions.

Gwynly confessed recently that he likes to get me talking about my stories when we’re walking because I unconsciously up my pace when he taps into my passion for writing. Since he’s a foot taller than I am and has a much longer stride, he likes it when I cover ground more quickly. I’m glad he let me in on his secret. Now I can walk and talk writing guilt free.

 

4. What are you working on now?

I’m preparing the first draft of another historical romance set right here in Placerville. The story takes place in 1872. My main characters are reunited after many years apart. Each has endured loss due to the War Between the State. They both harbor secrets that prevent them from pursuing anything more than friendship, forcing them to fight their growing feelings for one another.

Thank you for hosting me, Jill. I enjoyed answering your fun questions. I’d like to end by asking your blog’s readers a question.

Do you enjoy singing, or are you hesitant to sing in front of others?

 

***

Keli, I fight the doubt dragon A LOT! I think it’s awesome you sing when you write! I’m not a singer. Well, I do sing in the car, but it’s not pretty. I would love to stroll past the Victorian homes you mentioned. How delightful! The architecture of yesteryear was gorgeous. Thanks so much for being my guest!

***

Family of Her Dreams

A Family to Cherish ~

Headstrong Tess Grimsby loves her new job caring for the children of a recently widowed man. But she never imagined that she’d fall for her handsome employer. Yet Spencer Abbott is as caring as he is attractive, and Tess can’t help but feel for him and his family. Though, for the sake of her job, she’ll keep any emotions about her boss to herself.

Between his stationmaster responsibilities in a gold-rush town and trying to put his family back together, Spencer has his hands full. He soon finds his new hire’s kind personality warming his frosty exterior. But could he ever admit to seeing her as more than just an employee?

Copyright © 2015 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Cover and cover copy text used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
or its affiliated companies, used under license.

Visit Keli’s Victorian-style cyber home (http://keligwyn.com/library/my-books), where you can find purchase links for Family of Her Dreams on many of the major booksellers’ sites.

 

***

Keli Gwyn

Keli Gwyn ~

Award-winning author Keli Gwyn, a native Californian, transports readers to the early days of the Golden State. She and her husband live in the heart of California’s Gold Country. Her favorite places to visit are her fictional worlds, historical museums and other Gold Rush-era towns. Keli loves hearing from readers and invites you to visit her Victorian-style cyber home at www.keligwyn.com, where you’ll find her contact information.

***

Keli Gwyn Giveaway!

Keli is giving away a copy to one commenter! If you’d like to be entered, simply leave your email address in the comments below. The giveaway is open until midnight, June 13, 2015 and is open to U.S. residents eighteen years and older. I will select a random winner and contact the winner via email.

***

Back to Keli’s question:

Do you enjoy singing, or are you hesitant to sing in front of others?

Have a terrific day!

What Writers Really Want

What Writers Really Want

After the annual mayhem known as the end of the school year, I’m recovering from shell-shock. There comes a point where even one more packed lunch or sound of a too-early alarm puts me over the edge into scary territory. My brain knows I have a writing to-do list eleven miles long, but my schedule won’t hear of it. Every waking hour seems to be filled with something, whether it’s school or sports related.

You’d think the first week of summer would be skipping under rainbows in delirious joy. Well let me break it to you. The first week of summer is never fun. It’s a dirty game of catch up.

With that in mind, I’m sharing what writers really want.

1. Ten hours of sleep. Make that twelve.

2. A week at a secluded cabin with a laptop, room service and a masseuse on call.

3. A pile of a dozen books to read uninterrupted.

4. Supersonic speed Internet that never loses service or buffers. Free would be preferred.

5. Someone to laugh at the genius line we just wrote.

6. Someone to cry at the heartbreaking scene we just wrote.

7. Anyone who ever reads our books to love every word, sentence and paragraph.

8. An endless stream of contracts. And royalty checks!

9. Our best writer friends to live in the same town so we can meet every week. We wouldn’t actually get anything done, but it sure would be fun!

10. The perfect first draft.

I could add many, many more items on my wish list, but I’ll leave it at that.

What would YOU add to the list?

Have a fabulous weekend!

Until The Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Until The Harvest By Sarah Loudin Thomas

Don’t you love it when you open a book and it alters your mood? Every time I pick up one of Sarah Loudin Thomas’s books, I just relax and enjoy the story.

Until the Harvest is the second book in the Appalachian Blessings series. This one is set in West Virginia in 1975 and 1976, and it follows Henry Phillips (readers of Miracle in a Dry Season will enjoy recurring characters) and Margaret Hoffman as they deal with personal tragedies, tough choices and trying to figure out their lives.

Each of Sarah’s books features a character who is blessed with some sort of healing power, and Margaret’s younger sister Mayfair has the gift here. She was one of my favorite characters, but I admired Margaret the most. She’s a hard worker, not terribly attractive, and as the story progresses, she explores what she wants out of life. It was refreshing to read about a heroine who doesn’t want a flashy career but a life of purpose on a farm.

Full of conflict, grace, and examples of Christian love, Until the Harvest is a gem.

 

***

Until the Harvest

Buy Until the Harvest!

Until the Harvest ~

When family tragedy derails Henry Phillips’s college studies, he’s left unmoored and feeling abandoned. The only things that can tamp down his grief are the family farm, his fiddle, and an unexpected friendship with sweet but unusual preteen Mayfair Hoffman.

Unfortunately, Mayfair’s older sister, Margaret, despite her spray of freckles and cute, turned-up nose, has a completely different effect. His grandmother’s helper, she’s always around, ready to push his buttons, and it seems at first that she doesn’t care about his troubles.

Henry soon realizes, though, that Margaret’s facing her own struggles. Mayfair’s health and unique gift sit at the heart of those worries. Henry and Margaret soon find themselves relying on each other as potential tragedy collides with growing hope in a warm story of family bonds and the surprising ways healing finds us all.

 

***

 

My Review: 5 Stars!

Until the Harvest is the second book by Sarah Loudin Thomas (the first, Miracle in a Dry Season, was one of my favorites!), and it centers around Henry, the son of Casewell and Perla, and Margaret, a plain but hardworking girl who works for his grandmother. The plot was rich with characters, and the West Virginia setting came alive. I identified with Margaret and her practical outlook on life, but I struggled to care for Henry because he made so many poor decisions. However, Henry’s growth and Margaret’s journey made for a satisfying ending.

**I received an advance copy of this book with no obligation to review it. All opinions are my own.**

 

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Sarah Thomas

Sarah Loudin Thomas ~
Sarah Loudin Thomas grew up on a 100-acre farm in French Creek, WV, the seventh generation to live there. Her Christian fiction is set in West Virginia and celebrates the people, the land, and the heritage of Appalachia. Her first novel, Miracle in a Dry Season, released August 2014 through Bethany House. Book #2, Until the Harvest, released May 2015. Sarah is represented by Wendy Lawton of Books & Such Literary Agency.

A graduate of Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC, Sarah once dreamed of being a marine scientist. But her love for words won out and she has spent much of her career in public relations and marketing. She currently oversees fundraising and communications for a Christian children’s home in Black Mountain, NC.

Sarah and her husband Jim live in the mountains of Western North Carolina with Thistle–the canine equivalent to a personal trainer pushing them to hike, run, and throw sticks. Sarah is active in her local church and enjoys cooking and–you guessed it–reading.

***

What author do you turn to for a unique tone/voice?

Have a terrific day!

 

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