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Writer’s Life: Olivia Newport

Writer's Life: Olivia Newport

Welcome to another edition of Writer’s Life, my interview series with authors of Christian or sweet romance. Today I’m excited to host Olivia Newport! I first “met” Olivia online, so I was delighted to meet her in person at the ACFW conference two years ago. What a treat! She has a smile that makes you feel right at home, and her intelligence makes for a fun conversation. Her new book, Meek and Mild, is a historical romance set amid a real Amish community in 1918. More information is below.

Let’s get to it!

1. What about writing makes your heart sing?

As long as we’re being metaphorical, I’d have to say writing makes my heart sing because each story has its own set of harmonies. I’m not always sure if the harmonies exist and I simply discover them, or if I actually create them. Maybe I need to ask a true musical composer how that works! Either way, I enjoy hearing how the moving parts become complex and invite me into their midst. Writing is like cranking up the stereo and standing in the middle of four speakers.

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

Balance. I’ve been writing fairly intensely since my first book came out in 2012, and I sometimes get too ambitious about what I can accomplish in what period of time and still have a life. As much as I enjoy writing, I don’t want to wake up in 10 years and feel like I missed my own life. Happily, I’m getting better at keeping real life in balance with my writing life.

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

That’s one of those many, many questions to which “Netflix” is an appropriate answer. (We’re being honest here, right?) A good field trip really helps—visiting a place that sparks a story or takes me into a time or place that tickles my imagination. Generally, when I’m out of creative gas on a particular project, it helps to just do something completely different—exercise, laughter, a favorite meal, worship. These things bring me back to balance, and that restores creativity.

4. What are you working on now?

I’m delighted that the late summer will bring the third book in the Amish Turns of Time series, Brightest and Best. Set in Ohio, this story will look at another turning point in Amish history—what were the circumstances that led to the Amish having their own private schools? It wasn’t always that way. I think readers will see something we take for granted from a fresh angle.


I love this, “writing is like cranking up the stereo and standing in the middle of four speakers.” I’ve never thought of it that way, but it’s true! Balance is not easy. I have too many days where I forget to take a break. Hello, glazed eyes! Yikes.

And, yes, Netflix counts! I borrowed several movies from our library last month. Just what I needed. Thank you so much for being my guest today, Olivia!



About Olivia ~

Olivia Newport writes historical (Avenue of Dreams series), contemporary (Hidden Falls, a 13-episode series available in digital formats), and Amish (Valley of Choice series and the new Amish Turns of Time series). Meek and Mild is her latest book. Married with two adult children, she chases joy in Colorado where daylilies grow as tall as she is. Find out more at


Meek and Mild ~

Suddenly shun has become a serious word for Clara Kuhn. As 1917 approaches, her Amish church’s aging bishop is coming down hard on members who dally in untraditional practices—like offering Sunday school for children—and Clara’s gift for telling Bible stories to little ones collides with new mandates. The young Pennsylvania Amish woman had always moved freely over the state line to visit family in the more progressive Maryland district, but now those visits are coming under scrutiny by some members of Clara’s church.

On the verge of accepting Andrew Raber’s marriage proposal, Clara is unsure what to make of his new hobby to rehabilitate an abandoned Model T. Just how ward can they push against the bishop’s wishes?

As the chasm widens between Old Order Amish and the Marylanders, and tensions rise between longtime friends and close-knit family, Clara and Andrew must look inward to examine their own hearts and consciences and, above all, seek Gottes wille—God’s will.


I love novels that blend true historical events. What book are you reading?

Have a wonderful day!!

Remember, all month I’m hosting a giveaway of a Small-Town Bachelor Gift Package! Go to my HOME page and scroll down for the easy entry options!!

4 Promotion Tool Improvements For Writers

4 Promotional Tool Improvements For Writers

I’m always looking for a better, faster and cheaper way to do things. The last four years have seen huge improvements in tools authors use to promote their books.

4 Promotion Tool Improvements for Writers

 1. Templates for business cards

Three years ago I ordered my first business cards. First, I browsed Vistaprint’s site. None of their templates could be customized the way I wanted, so I designed my own using free software, and then uploaded it to the print site. Let’s just say it took a while!

The other night I decided to order new business cards, and I was pleasantly surprised to see all of the customizable templates Vistaprint now offers.

What took me hours in the past took minutes this time around.

2. Graphic design software

When I designed my first website seven years ago, I wanted a pretty header that reflected my brand. I quickly learned it would be time consuming and difficult to do it myself. I didn’t own Photoshop, and the free software I found had a steep learning curve.

Now just about anyone can create free or inexpensive graphics for their blogs and websites with graphic design software such as PicMonkey or Canva. With the popularity of Instagram and Pinterest, it’s vital to have visually appealing graphics.


3. Giveaway Tools/Generators

Sites such as Rafflecopter, Giveaway Tools and PromoSimple make hosting a giveaway easy, AND they do the hard work for the author. In less than ten minutes, you can create a giveaway and set the guidelines for entries. If you’re trying to get more Facebook likes on your page, make it an entry option. Same for Twitter, Pinterest, subscribing to your blog, and more. These sites will collect your entries and randomly pick a winner when the contest ends. Perfect!

**Go to my Home page to see an example of Giveaway Tools, scroll down and enter my giveaway for a gift package!**

 4. Visual Social Media Widgets

Social media sharing has been around for a long time, but many of the top sites offer improved visual widgets to include on your site. I love that!

Goodreads allows authors to share a variety of widgets, from giveaways (see mine in the sidebar–I’m giving away four copies of Small-Town Bachelor this month!) to your available books.

Pinterest has widgets to show a collage of one of your boards. Examples are on my For Readers page.

Twitter has widgets to show your latest tweets. Facebook shows your fans. All of these things make it that much easier for readers to follow you.

Bottom line?

I’m VERY grateful for all the free, simple software out there. It saves me time and money, and I don’t have a nagging worry that my online presence isn’t professional.


What online tools are you loving right now?


Gift Package Giveaway

**Don’t forget to enter my March giveaway! Go to my HOME page and scroll down for the easy entry options!!**


7 Minute Workout Mayhem!

My wonderful neighbor is helping me get in shape (thanks, Debbie!!). I’m truly blessed to have her friendship. We work out together Mondays and Wednesdays, then exercise on our own the rest of the week.

She is more devoted to the whole exercise-on-our-own portion, but I’m trying to be more consistent. My son also motivates me to workout. The other night he and I didn’t have time for a full-blown session, so we tried an app for a seven minute workout.

Let me just lay this out for you. 30 seconds of high intensity repetitions followed by 10 seconds of rest. We did push-ups, lunges, crunches, wall sits, jogging with high knees, triceps dips–you name it, we did it!!

It was MAYHEM!!

I could barely keep up. My lunges were sloppy. I landed on my ankle weird and whined. My son actually fell over during the knee kick thing. We were both laughing so hard, we could barely get through. Then we found out my daughter videotaped us! My word!! Like we needed that!

I actually liked the workout and will do it again. Trust me, my muscles were sore the next day. My favorite exercise is power walking outdoors. However, the weather has been terrible. No way, I’m walking in negative temperatures and high winds!

Some other workouts I’ve done this year: Wii Just Dance (30 minutes worked up a good sweat!), a weight-lifting for weight-loss DVD, Latin dance, walking on the treadmill, yoga, and boot camp. It’s been fun to switch it up, and I’m best when I have someone keeping me accountable.

What are you doing to stay active? Have you ever done an intense, short workout and laughed at how bad you were at it? Or is that just me?

Have a wonderful day!!

This Is Love: Guest Kariss Lynch and a Giveaway!

Shadowed By Kariss Lynch

Today we have a special guest blogger, Kariss Lynch, and she’s sharing her thoughts on love. Please join me in welcoming Kariss!


We are closing out the month of love, but for me I think it has been a month of recognition and discovery. Recently I was asked to read and review several mainstream romance novels, so this month I’ve spent my nights giving them due diligence to provide an honest opinion.

I could tell you how well the authors painted scenes and used strong verbiage. I could tell you the characters were intriguing and attractive (every guy had washboard abs because that’s realistic). Or I could tell you how I felt when I closed the final page.

In one word: broken.

While everything about these novels met a good standard of writing technique, the romances fell short. Why? Because each author made romance about physicality rather than about relationship.

Somewhere along the way, our culture twisted romance into something superficial. So this month, I have been searching the scriptures to counter what I saw portrayed about culture in these novels. As we wrap up a month of hearts and flowers and an explosion of pink, I want to take it back to the basics.

This is love…

It protects rather than demands.

It seeks to meet a need rather than an expectation.

It is more concerned with the person than their performance.

It is lasting rather than passing.

It expands past feelings.

It trusts rather than responds defensively.

It fights rather than flees in difficulty.

It celebrates wins rather than responding in jealousy.

It asks what I can do for someone else rather than what they can do for me.

It begins and end with Christ.

I remember distinctly the moment last month when I wrote about Kaylan Richards and her boyfriend, Navy SEAL Nick Carmichael as I finished up my third novel, Surrendered, and prepared for the release of Shadowed on March 3. Kaylan realizes that she loves a warrior called to something greater than himself, and he is asking her to join him on that journey. She wrestles with fear that he won’t come home, fear of being alone, lack of trust in his ability and training, and lack of trust in the men around him as he leaves her to fight for his country.

But then she pauses for a moment and begins to think of all the times when Nick pursued her when she was unlovable, when she was struggling, when she was trapped in fear. She realizes that even when she can’t trust circumstances, she can trust him because he has faithfully loved her in spite of herself. It hit me. This is love. It pursues. It sacrifices. It seeks to be like Christ.

I don’t know how Valentine’s went for you, but I can tell you that there is a love deeper than you have ever experienced and the One offering it desires a relationship with you. It is a love that will transform all your other relationships. And like Nick, this One willingly sacrificed for you. Not because He had to, but because He wanted to know you.

This is love. This is the gospel.


Thank you, Kariss, for this beautiful message. I started out writing sweet, mainstream romances, but I felt something was missing–my faith. Your post really strikes home with me.


Shadowed by Kariss Lynch


Click HERE to purchase Shadowed!

About Shadowed ~

Nick Carmichael faces the demons of his past on a Navy SEAL mission to catch arms dealer Janus. Meanwhile his girlfriend, Kaylan Richards, must come to terms with loving a man who is often gone and in harm’s way. She is adjusting to life in a new city with new friends, new neighbors, and an internship. But she still wonders if she will ever find her place and wrestles to develop the strength for the future she wants to have with Nick.

As Nick and the SEAL team chase Janus, she turns the tables, attacking their families, which places Kaylan in harm’s way. When Kaylan begins receiving threatening notes and items begin to disappear from her home, Nick must learn to trust God with her life as he and his team fight for justice and answers to his past. Will light shine in the darkness, or will Kaylan and Nick’s love forever be stalked by shadows?


Want to win a copy of Shadowed?

Visit and sign up for my newsletter. I will choose one person to receive a free, signed copy of my new release, Shadowed, coming March 3!


Kariss Lynch

About Kariss ~

Kariss Lynch writes contemporary fiction about characters with big dreams, hearts for adventure, and enduring hope. Shaken, her first book in the Heart of a Warrior series, released in 2014. Her second book, Shadowed, releases March 3, 2015. A former freelance writer, she now works as the writer for a communications ministry in Dallas.


How do you describe love?

Have a wonderful day!

Catching Up With Jill Vlog

It’s been far too long since I’ve vlogged! I attribute this neglect to my see-through winter skin. Scary!

Anyway, I busted out the webcam so we could catch up. Yep, my author copies of Small-Town Bachelor arrived! Woo-hoo! Watch the video below to find out what I did when they came. 🙂

And guess what? I’m exercising REGULARLY again! Woo-hoo!! The downside to all this intense exercise is that I’m sore. Not fun, but worth it.

Catching up with Jill Vlog:


I’d love to hear what’s going on with you! Please leave a comment!

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The Love Behind Valentine’s Day: Guest Jessica Snell

Let Us Keep The Feast

The story behind Valentine’s Day, like many good old stories, is shrouded in the fogs of myth and legend. Some sources say that St. Valentine was a rogue priest who performed Christian marriage ceremonies for young soldiers and their sweethearts, breaking ancient Roman law. There are other hagiographies that say that he healed the blind and defied the emperor.

Even though there are many stories about Valentine (and even many stories about many different Valentines!), the oldest and most reliable account is clear about the important details: there once was a man named Valentine, and he loved the Lord Jesus, and he died for that love.

It’s a strange story to focus on in the midst of all the chocolates and roses and hearts that decorate our stores and our schools and our news sources during February.

Or is it?

At first glance, the sweet little crayon’d Valentines that my kids give me and the bloody story of the first Valentine feel like they don’t exist in the same world. The first belongs to my clean, easy, first-world life and the second to a life more primal, more real.

But the stories of our saints and martyrs aren’t disconnected from our day-to-day life.

The truth is that Valentine loved the same Lord Jesus that I do.

And the truth is that it is that great love, the Lord Jesus’ own love (because we only love him because he first loved us), that is behind all lesser loves – yes, even my love for my own children, for my own husband, and their love for me.

And so, when we look back through the mists of time at that first Valentine, the man who died for the Lord he loved, we shouldn’t dismiss the little, lovely trappings of his holiday, like declaring our love with cards and flowers and chocolates. Loving one another, after all, is what the Lord who Valentine served commanded us to do: Love one another. As I have loved you, so ought you to love one another.

Romantic love, in all its delight, is the good gift of God. So is the warmth of maternal love and so is the joy of true friendship. And love cannot keep quiet. It overflows in our actions and speeches and our smiles – and sometimes it also overflows in crayon-marked construction paper hearts made by seven-year-olds.

So the true story of St. Valentine doesn’t mean our paper hearts and pretty flowers are inappropriate. Instead, the story of St. Valentine can just remind us that those little signs of love have a far deeper source: in the love of God himself.


Jessica Snell

Jessica Snell is the General Editor of Kalos Press and she blogs about books, faith, and family at Homemaking Through the Church Year.  She and her husband live in sunny Southern California with their four children.

Her book, “Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home”, takes the reader through all the seasons of the Christian calendar, from Advent to Ordinary Time. Broken down into specific sections like History, Traditions, In the Kitchen, Ideas, and Resources, “Let Us Keep the Feast” is an easy, interesting read full of simple traditions and the rich meanings behind them.


Thank you so much for being my guest today, Jessica! I tend to live in a clean, happy, hearts & paper world, so this was a good reminder of how much people sacrificed over the centuries for their faith. Thank you!

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? What makes it meaningful for you?

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Valentine's Giveaway





Have a fantastic day!

Start a Fire

Valentine's Giveaway

Guess what? A few friends and I are offering a Valentine’s giveaway! Just enter your email below for the entry options!




I’m blogging today at Thoughts On Plot about the song “Start a Fire” by Unspoken. If you’ve been on autopilot, discouraged or just plain tired, stop by! See yourself through God’s eyes!

Here’s the link: “Start a Fire: Music Monday.”

And here’s the video:



Have a wonderful day!!

Puppy Bowl!

Sleepy Sophie

It’s Sunday and snowing, and I’m really excited about watching the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet! I’ve been enjoying this delightful program for years. Seeing puppies romp around a tiny indoor room set up to look like a football stadium makes me smile.

I think my Sophie would make a good Puppy Bowl receiver, even though she’s way past the puppy years. Just look at that face!


Sophie, Things I Love



She spends a lot of time napping, too. 🙂


Sleepy Sophie


This year Animal Planet is featuring goat cheerleaders (how cute is that??) and Catty Purry for the halftime show. I’m melting!

I just love cats! We’re without a kitty while we have our dog, but someday I expect to have another feline furball. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy pictures of kittens. 😉





Do you have any pets? Is there a pet you’ve always wanted to have?

Have a fun day and enjoy the Superbowl!

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