the Cornerstone series

CORNERSTONEcoverweb
 
 
May has always been my month for releasing my books. In May 2014, my first novel, The Truth About Drew, came out. The following year it was Goodbye, Magnolia, and then last May I released Until Then. So when this May rolled around, it left me feeling a little sad that I didn’t have a new release for you. I am writing my next novel right now, but it might not come out until next May. I’d love to get it to you before that, but I’d be OK with another May release. And it takes place in the summer, so it’s going to be a nice beach read.

For quite a while now, I’ve been wanting to put all of the books in my Cornerstone series into a boxed set eBook. I loved the idea of having them all in one eBook so readers could gobble them all up at one time. ;)

One major change I made when putting this eBook together was to move the epilogue of Goodbye, Magnolia to the very end of the series. At the end of that book, we jump forward in time nearly a year and you see where Maggie and Simon end up. The second book, Hello, Forever, which is the sequel novella, then jumps back to the same night Goodbye, Magnolia ends and continues on for a couple months into the early days of Maggie & Simon’s relationship. The final book, Until Then, tells Michelle’s story, but also goes back even further for a glimpse at their college days and continues on through the days following Hello, Forever. So the epilogue from Magnolia really belongs at the very end of all of the books and that’s exactly where I put it. It felt right to have it end that way. It made sense to me, because my brain likes things to be chronological in order.

And since I hadn’t originally planned to write a series, making this big 3-book boxed set allowed me to put everything in its proper order. Yes, I am a little bit picky when it comes to my books.

Is this the end of the series?

I don’t think so.

I still have plans to write Emma’s story at some point. And there are some other side characters whose stories I would like to tell eventually. But for now, these three books tell a complete story and I’m fine with that. Other books that may come in the future will probably stand on their own, so you won’t have to have read the other books to read them. But I’m sure Maggie, Michelle, and Simon will make an appearance in those, because I love my characters and already miss writing about them.

The CORNERSTONE SERIES can be purchased HERE or read for FREE on KINDLE UNLIMITED.

spring break 2017 | part three


On our final full day in Florida, we visited Solomon’s Castle. Artist Howard Solomon, who passed away in August of 2016, built himself a castle and the art within using found and recycled materials – wood, aluminum, steel. You name it and he probably used it to create one of his masterpieces.


We enjoyed a delicious meal at the Boat in the Moat restaurant before taking a tour of the castle. There was live music while we dined under the big oak trees with spanish moss hanging from the branches. It was hot out, but it felt nice in the shaded yard next to the big ship and across the moat.

Then it was on to the castle for our tour.

The guide had us all laughing at Howard’s corny jokes during the tour. One of the first things we saw was his “Florida Keys” (upper left) and I knew that this was going to be some interesting art. That was an understatement. There were so many quirky, original displays. But one of my very favorite things was his art made from carved wood.

Especially his 3-d recreations of some of Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post paintings like this one above (bottom right photo) and this cool soap box racer creation below.

As much as I enjoyed the interesting and creative art, I think my favorite part of the tour was seeing where Howard actually lived. His home within the castle was quaint and lovely. Seeing his shoes/slippers under the piano bench was so sweet and sad (top middle). And the beautiful stained glass throughout the entire building was another favorite thing of mine.

This one especially since I am musical (piano) and a writer. :)

It was a really cool place to visit. Definitely worth a stop if you’re ever near Ona, Florida.

We ended our evening with a little shuffleboard. Jake, Mom, Dad and Chloe had played on another night, each winning a game, so they had to do a tie-breaker. Zach sat on the sidelines for a while with his poor hurt knee wrapped up and was the scorekeeper. But then he and I got in on the action and played a couple games. We lost both, but the last game was 109 to 110. So close. ;)


On our final morning of vacation, we went to coffee and donuts with Mom and Dad at the main clubhouse, had water aerobics in the morning with Mom, then floated around in the pool for a while before we headed out for a nice late lunch. Had to soak up as much sunshine as possible. After lunch, we packed up the car in 95 degree heat and headed for home.

Despite Zach’s knee injury, it was a wonderful Spring Break trip. So thankful we were able to go and enjoy this place and the people there that Jake’s parents have come to love so much. Looking forward to many more visits in the future.

facebook tutorial | see all my posts

I did one of these posts a while ago, but Facebook is always changing, so I put together a couple new updated graphics that will help both desktop users and smartphone users make sure they are seeing all of my FACEBOOK AUTHOR PAGE posts and get notifications if they want to when I post.

3 EASY STEPS FOR DESKTOP USERS

5 EASY STEPS FOR SMARTPHONE USERS
(used an iPhone for this example)

CLICK OR TAP HERE to go to my Facebook author page and get started!

sweet moments on Mackinac


The Mackinac Island wedding at the end of Goodbye, Magnolia is pretty much one of my favorite things about the entire book. Besides the fact that some very sweet, swoony moments happen there, I truly love the place and I just could not have imagined setting that important wedding anywhere else.

Get your copy of Goodbye, Magnolia FREE today for Kindle and journey with Maggie, Simon, and their wedding photography team to Mackinac Island.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UR69PI0/

spring break 2017 | part two


After a wonderful weekend, we started the week with water aerobics at the pool with Mom O. It was fun and I’m sure it’s part of why my muscles felt so much better by the end of our vacation. Low impact exercise in the water is so good for the body. After aerobics, I floated around in the pool while Jake and Mom went in the hot tub. The kids had been at the pool for a bit swimming and hanging out in the hot tub, but had gone back to the camper. Then Chloe came back suddenly and told Jake that Zach had fallen and hurt his knee. Jake went to check on him and discovered that he had reached for something up on a shelf in the camper, but his shoes (slides) were wet and his foot slipped sideways as he reached causing his knee to pop and he fell. I guess when he stood, it popped back into place. Ouch! So his knee was all swollen and we got him some ice for it, an Ace bandage to wrap it up, and some ibuprofen for any pain. Poor kid. Our plan for the day was to go to Myakka River State Park so he had to stay back and rest his leg. Felt so bad for him, but he didn’t complain.

Our visit to Myakka was nice. Hot, but nice. And we did see gators. Eeeeek!


Felt like we were in Jurassic Park all day … without the dinosaurs, of course. ;) We did the Canopy Walk, which loops through the park a short distance to these towers. You climb the shorter first one, cross this bridge, then climb the second one with lots of stairs that take you above the trees.

Totally worth the climb!



There is a longer hike that you can take through the park, but we didn’t do that one. It was a hot day. We did drive back and see the lake that is there, though. Very pretty area.

I was going to finish the Spring Break posts with this one, but then I started looking through all the pictures from the next day and I knew that one needed a post of its own, so that will be coming soon. :)

(Update on Zach’s knee: after we got back from vacation, our doctor was able to get him in last minute to check the knee. It had a lot of fluid built up in it from the injury, so he drained it right there in the office, right in front of me. I couldn’t look. Too gross. But he could finally bend his knee again. It’s been almost a month since vacation and he rode his bike the other day with no problems, so I’d say he’s healing up nicely.)

spring break 2017| part one


We weren’t planning to travel during Spring Break this year. Not at all. But Jake’s parents have become snowbirds this year and in March, they decided to stay a little longer in Florida than originally planned, which coincided with the kids Spring Break. So we decided rather spontaneously that we would go down for a visit. Best decision ever. All the details fell into place for us to stay as if it was meant to be. :)

So we hopped in our car on Thursday evening (an hour later than I hoped due to a random hail storm that prevented us from loading the bike rack onto the car!) and made the 20 hour drive south (took us about 23 due to stops and traffic and such). We arrived Friday evening and this is the beautiful night sky we were blessed with after the long journey south. Totally worth it for that and for the big hugs from Mom and Dad after not seeing them for a few months.

After a good night’s sleep, we took it easy on Saturday, visited Joshua Citrus for yummy ice cream (mine was pineapple/orange twist! Yum!), did a little shopping, picked up some groceries for the week, and enjoyed the Chinese buffet for dinner.

On Sunday, we ventured out to the Red Barn flea market in Bradenton. The guys ventured off one way while us girls went another. I don’t think we even saw half of the things offered there. It is huge. The kids picked up some souvenirs. I grabbed some fresh strawberries to nibble on. Mom treated us to some mini donuts made right there in the booth and iced coffee (lemonade for Chloe).

Then it was off to the Gulf of Mexico. We drove through Bradenton, which takes forever with all the traffic heading toward the beaches, and made our way to Anna Maria Island to find a place to play for the afternoon. We came across Coquina Beach and settled there. It was a really nice location and a beautiful day for some swimming.


OK. I really do like Jake even though this looks like I’m pushing him away. That’s just because he was soaking wet and I was dry. :D And Chloe had to do a little gymnastics on the beach, of course.

We ended our day in Sarasota for dinner and took some family pictures by this pretty tree that was behind the restaurant.



Need to go through the second half of my pictures and then I’ll share our further adventures from the week!

Happy Easter, everyone!

cornerstone series special


So excited to share that all three books in my Cornerstone series are on sale this week!
You can get the entire series on Kindle for only $2.98,
which is less than the regular price of Book 1. ;)
Get The Entire Series HERE

floating my way to a new book

IMG_0964sq
I really wish I could bottle up the feeling I had when we returned from Florida and give myself a daily dose. My entire body felt relaxed, more so than it has in a very long time. I realized that I had no aches and pains really, that I felt pretty darn good.

But now that we’ve been home for a couple days, I can feel the tightness in my right shoulder returning. I don’t know why my stress always focuses in on that spot. My neck and upper back are a little stiff. And all I want right now is to hop in the pool, float around on a pool noodle, and soak up the warmth of the sun. :)

It had been nearly three years since our last vacation and we needed it. Badly.

Before we left, I felt stalled as far as my writing goes. I’ve been editing the YA book for a while now, but I’ve longed to write something new, whether it was the next book in the Cornerstone Series (Emma’s story) or a new book idea I had been thinking about and researching for a while. But I just could not do it. Maybe it was the heavy reality we’ve been faced with this year with my Dad’s need for a liver transplant. All I know is I couldn’t really write.

I took the laptop along on vacation thinking maybe I would sit down and get something started, but I didn’t touch it. The only thing I typed was a recap of the things we did each day so I wouldn’t forget. ;)

But something happened while I floated around in that pool. My mind wandered through the beginnings of the new story. I had all these ideas and thoughts and conversations between the characters filling my mind. And I just let it all play out while I relaxed. It was just what I needed — to step away from our everyday life, away from bills and schedules and gymnastics practices and going to the gym, and let my mind take a break. And it opened up that little creative part of my brain again and let the ideas flow.

Yesterday, we were back to our regularly scheduled program (aka gymnastics practice) and I sat there with my coffee and wrote 3,000+ words of the new book. I love it so much already, and I’ve got that giddy feeling about writing that I haven’t had in a while.

Also, floating around in that pool, listening to all the snowbirds chatting about their lives (we stayed with Jake’s parents in an RV resort for retired folks), gave me lots of ideas for future characters in my books.

a prayer breakfast for my dad


This weekend was very emotional for our family as we had a special prayer breakfast for Dad, surrounded by his close friends, pastors from his church, and my grandfather, who is a retired pastor as well. It was a most amazing thing to witness as those men laid hands on my dad, anointed him with oil, and prayed over him for his health, for God’s will and timing in all of this. The presence of God could definitely be felt in that room.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20

Dad is trying to go about his days as normally as possible while he waits for a new liver. His options are basically what they call a CADAVER LIVER, which is when someone is on life support but has been diagnosed as brain dead and the family chooses to turn off the machines and donate organs, or a LIVING DONOR, which is when someone gifts a portion of their liver to save a person’s life.

In order for my dad to get a part of someone’s liver, there are many tests that have to be done — the person donating has to be similar in body size (make sure the liver will be the right size for my dad) and their blood type must be O (my dad is O+). They also must be 55 years of age or younger.

The coolest thing to me about living donors is that after they gift that portion of their liver to a person in need, their own liver will regenerate in a couple weeks, fully regenerating over a couple months (I believe) to a normal size liver. And the portion that would replace my dad’s failing liver will regrow to a full liver in a couple month’s time as well. That is the most amazing thing I have ever heard. The way God created our bodies to function is just mind-blowing.

If you feel led to gift a portion of your liver – a gift that could save my dad’s life – please let me know and I will put you in touch with them so you can get more information. There are many tests and things to consider.

And feel free to share about my dad’s condition. There just might be someone out there among your family/friends who God has chosen already to be a part of all of this, someone who is a perfect match who could get my dad the liver he so desperately needs.

Here is some information about being a living donor on the UNOS site:
https://transplantliving.org/living-donation/being-a-living-donor/

Of course, the very BEST option of all would be if God just healed the liver he has. :) What an amazing miracle that would be.

We know God has a very specific reason for all of this, and we trust Him and His timing in Dad getting a new liver or one from a Living Donor. Please pray for us through all of this. We need as many prayer warriors as we can get.

Thank you, my dear friends.

around here

Remember when I used to blog? Like all the time? Every week? Sometimes daily? I really did. I love blogging, always have, but I think now that I’m writing full time, my brain is more focused on my fictional stories than the stories of my everyday life. I started this blog to share pictures and stories about the kids with family and friends. It’s become much more over the years, now a place for me to share about the books I write. But I still want it to be a space where I can share about our life, where you can get to know me as a person, not just a name on the cover of some books.

• A TALE OF TWO JOB INTERVIEWS
When Jake lost his job in January 2016, we just knew that God had a plan in all of that. And I just have to share this story of his two VERY different job offers. Jake interviewed for a job in a town two hours from our home. Not ideal, but we were willing to relocate if it was the job God wanted him to have. All went well there. It wasn’t exactly what he had been doing before (running the eBook department), but it was still in his skill set in publishing. This company worked with many different magazine publishers and the guy who interviewed Jake told him that they sometimes work with Playboy. A job offer came in from them for 20% more than he was making at his previous job. Tempting, right?

He had another interview set up for the following week with a Christian publishing company much closer to home. This job was pretty much exactly what he had been doing at his old job – he would be in charge of the eBook department and more. He got an offer, which was much less than the “Playboy” job, as I teasingly call it, only about 5% more than he was making before.

When Jake and I were discussing everything, I told him it was like an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. One company that publishes wonderful Christian content and another that … doesn’t. The decision was a no-brainer really. We got to stay put, he got a job he absolutely LOVES – a job that clearly God had in the works for him all along – and he would not be part of a company that helps publish photos of naked women.

What I loved about the whole thing was just how clear cut it was for us. It was just another reason that we knew God had it all planned out. With the two offers staring us in the face, the choice was so obvious. Wouldn’t it be nice if all decisions in life could be that easy?


Last fall, Jake traveled to New Hampshire for a work conference, and I was able to join him and visit New England for the first time. It was such a blessing. I even took a little day trip down to Concord, Massachusetts and visited Orchard House, the Alcott’s home, where Louisa wrote Little Women. That was such an incredible experience for me. To walk through the rooms where she and her family walked and talked and laughed. To see the little table in her bedroom where she wrote Little Women and glance out the window she must have looked out so many times while writing. To hear the stories of so many of the little details of the house and learn more about their family. The entire trip was worth it just for that. But I also got to spend some time with my hubby and even take a little drive across the bridge into Maine one evening. It was a wonderful trip and all because of this new job of his.

• BACK AT GYMNASTICS
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you probably saw my post last year at the end of gymnastics season when we thought Chloe was done with it for good. Despite working really hard all year, she only medaled twice the entire season, which I think was a big disappointment for her. It just wasn’t fun for her anymore, so she said goodbye to competitive gymnastics.

Fast forward six months and she was really starting to miss it, but she did not want to go back to her old gym. She wanted to try someplace new. One of Chloe’s former teammates switched to Grand Rapids Gymnastics (GRG) a couple seasons ago and they had great things to say about it. So when Chloe started mentioning gymnastics again, I decided to give GRG a call. I spoke to Coach Emily, who invited Chloe to come try a practice with the team and see if she liked it. Pretty much from the moment we walked in the door, we felt welcomed and Chloe felt like this was the place for her. At the end of that first practice, Emily told me that Chloe fit right in with the other girls. No surprise there. She’s not shy and tends to make friends very quickly.

It took a bit for her to get back some of the strength she lost during those six months off and she had to basically relearn a lot of things that she was never taught properly at the old gym, but she has been improving on every event all season long. And out of 7 meets, she medaled at all but one, earning 11 medals.

Switching gyms was the right decision. Absolutely. :)


• 14
Our girl also turned 14 in February. Hard to believe. We spent the weekend at Heather and Jeff’s and brought along her BFF Jenna. Heather took us all ice skating for Chloe’s birthday. It was Chloe’s first time and she pretty much clung to Jenna or the wall the entire time, but we had a blast.

On that Sunday, we had a nice lunch and birthday celebration at my parents’ house. I just love Chloe and Jenna’s friendship. They are truly like bickering sisters sometimes, but they love being friends. And after all of last year’s middle school drama, it has been wonderful for her to find some new friends this year that get her and accept her and are drama-free for the most part.

This sequence of pictures makes me smile. :)

• COLLEGE PLANS
Zach will soon finish his junior year of high school, so we are all about discussing college lately. He loves architecture, so we’re looking at schools in Michigan that have programs specific to that. Looking back, he has always had a love of building and designing – from Legos to Minecraft to other computer games he’s played over the years.

This year, he took an architecture class and has really enjoyed that. Next year, I think he’s going to take an engineering class, so we’ll see if he changes his mind and wants to study that instead. Maybe he’ll follow in his grandpa’s footsteps (my dad is an industrial engineer).

• MY DAD
Speaking of my dad … at the end of last year, he fell off his tractor and broke a few ribs. He was in a lot of pain and had some swelling in his abdomen that was not going down. So the doctor called for a CT, which revealed that he has cirrhosis of the liver due to fatty liver disease, which he was diagnosed with a couple years ago. Looking back, mom said he was starting to show signs of it for a while now, but they didn’t know that’s what it was. We think the fall just made things worse. So in February, we traveled back and forth to the University of Michigan Liver Center for tests—-lots of tests—-and he is now on the list for a transplant.

I’ve learned a lot more about the liver and transplants over the past month than I ever thought I would. It could be a while before he gets his new liver. His place on the list is determined by blood tests taken every few weeks. On one hand, we want him to be able to go on with his daily life as normally as possible. On the other, we want him to get a new liver soon, which means his health would have to deteriorate so he can move up the list. I know God has a plan and it will all work out in His perfect timing. In the meantime, our family would appreciate prayers for us, for the doctors, specialists, surgeons, and the family of the person whose liver my dad will one day get.

• GETTING HEALTHY
For a really long time now, I’ve led a mostly sedentary life. I’ve sat for hours upon hours writing and editing my books, staring at my computer, not really getting up and moving as much as I should. And I have felt it in my body. I have been sluggish and tired, no energy to do anything else, moody. So at the end of 2016, Jake told me I should join the gym with him (he has been a member for a while). I said no at first. I didn’t want to spend the extra money each month. It was too far to drive. I made excuses. But then I thought that the small amount of money I would spend each month is going toward helping me to be healthier and happier and more productive in both work and home life. So I did it. I signed up at Planet Fitness.

Starting the first week of January, we have been at the gym at least once a week – most weeks 3 times – working off the fat, getting stronger, losing inches and pounds. I am down 14 lbs. now and have lost a combined 8 inches off my waist, hips, and thighs. It’s nice to put on my jeans and not have to squeeze into them anymore. And the amount of energy I have is so much more than I’ve had for many years now.

We’re also preparing weekly meals ahead of time. Chicken and veggies usually. We separate them into bowls so they are easy for Jake to grab for work or me for lunch at home. Just pop them in the microwave and voila. Easy, healthy meal.

This all seems even more timely now that we’ve learned of the condition of my dad’s liver. I was already on a path to a healthier life, and now I understand how very important that is.

• WRITING
Yes, I am still writing. Currently, I’m working on two very different projects. One is the young adult dystopian novel I wrote a couple years ago during NaNoWriMo. The other is still mostly in research phase, but I did write the first lines of chapter one recently, which was awesome! This one will be a historical romance. I’m excited to share more about both when they get closer to completion. The YA book will most likely release first, hopefully later this year, but I don’t have a set date for publication yet. There’s still a lot to be done on this one as I edit through it. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to get the novel out of your head and onto the page, so it’s very rough and needs a lot of filling in at this point.

For now, the pictures above give you an idea just how different the settings are for these stories. :)

Thanks for sticking by me through this long post. Hope the rest of your week is wonderful. This will be our first weekend in a month without a gymnastics meet. It will be strange not traveling somewhere, but also kind of nice.

Blessings,

AJAXed with AWP